By Sara Ahern
In honor of the upcoming MassCUE/EdTechTeacher spring conference, Leading Future Learning, I thought I’d write my first blog post.
This year, the theme of the Friday, March 11, 2016 conference is “Leadership and Social Media”. If I’m going to be an effective leader in the area of social media, I thought I should start by modeling best practice.
Without a doubt, communicating through social media has become a necessity for today’s educational leaders. A large portion of our stakeholders gets its information predominantly through social media. Therefore, we use social media to communicate student accomplishments, notices about upcoming events, progress on initiatives, to answer questions, thoughts on teaching and learning, employment opportunities, and more.
In addition to communication, social media presents powerful opportunities for teaching and learning. For years, educators have been connecting through social media to develop professional learning networks in order to connect and learn more broadly together.
Connections through social media also have direct applications in the classroom. Applications I have seen:
- Classrooms video-chatting with authors to learn first-hand about what it means to be a writer.
- A high school senior developing a mentoring relationship with a university scientist in Texas on a capstone senior engineering project.
- Students monitoring social media in real time to political debates or leadership speeches, thereby participating actively in current events.
- The modern equivalent of pen pals, educators from across the world going global — connecting their classrooms with each other through social media –fostering cultural proficiency, language development, and global awareness.
However, pitfalls abound including privacy and safety issues related to students and personnel; copyright matters; the permanency of the Internet; and the time-consuming (sometimes overwhelming, often emotional) need to monitor, in real time, social media activity in order to be knowledgeable of the messages circulating about your school(s) and community.
All of these areas – using social media for communication, professional development, and student learning — and more are going to be highlighted at the upcoming conference.
Caitlin Krause and Mike Klein will share their insights on innovative learning models as the MassCUE keynote speakers. Over 25 breakout sessions by talented and experienced practitioners will follow, allowing for deepened professional learning on the savvy application of social media to improve teaching, learning, and communication.
So if I believe that social media is powerful, and believe that the opportunities outweigh the pitfalls (so long as we pay careful attention to them), why is this my first blog post ever?
I suppose it’s fear getting in my way. To model something someone advised me recently, I’m going to write down my fears to acknowledge and then set them aside. I am afraid…
- of making a silly grammatical error.
- that no one will read this.
- that someone will read this.
- that people will think this is (and therefore I am) boring.
Fear of social media (and technology in general) can hold us back but with this blog post, I resist. Leadership requires courage. “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain.
I hope to see you on March 11 at Holy Cross in Worcester for #LFL16 — Leading Future Learning 2016!
About the author: Sara Ahern is the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Holliston, MA overseeing curriculum, instruction, and technology integration. She began her educational career as a high school science teacher. She is passionate about global education, coding, and STEM. She is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors and is the Co-chair of MassCUE’s Communications Committee. Twitter — @saraeahern