Social media–saving education?

Dramatic statement?  Maybe.   But a must-read article in May’s issue of American Libraries, “Will Social Media Activism Reverse the Fortunes of Besieged Libraries” started me thinking about all the ways social media has made the invisible “visible” and how that visibility saves education in more ways than one.

Certainly, social media activism can be credited for preserving library positions and teaching positions.  Prior to the use of social media tools, cuts were local news, but it was hard to get the news out even within the locality, much less beyond it.    Now, for example, protests to cuts to L.A. teaching positions can be followed via Facebook, and the Spokane Moms can rally legislators to save library positions via Twitter.

The ability of these tools to quickly mobilize the public is powerful.  And because everything is “public” it’s easier to hold local school boards, tax entities, library boards, etc. accountable.  And all of those entities are suddenly realizing (sometimes in painful ways) what a public world this now is.   This democratizing force of social media is without parallel.

However, not only does using social media allow information about budget cuts(or additions) to be easily shared, it also allows us to share the story of what we do with a larger public, allowing them an “insider’s” view.     What better way to counter negative stories about education or about libraries than to read the constant stream of positive stories, cutting edge ideas, and mindful discussions about the directions of our profession?

This can provide as much advocacy for the profession  as do Facebook campaigns to save positions, because it provides more of a bedrock understanding in the public arena and helps us build connections with our patrons/parents/students.   Being more public about what we do connects us as partners in education and librarianship, rather than as just adjuncts or worse, adversaries.

When teachers or librarians or administrators wonder why they should be using social media, this visibility is a very significant reason.  If we want to change perceptions of our profession, we start with telling our story, over and over again, from one community to another, around the world.   That is how change happens.

3 thoughts on “Social media–saving education?

  1. Carolyn–great post!
    For me, your last paragraph really speaks volumes. In my world, our district admin is beginning to dip their toes into the waters of social media (they now have a twitter account for PR, and they’ve recently purchased a private label wiki for district use), but at the same time, they have scared the building level administrators to death! During our FERPA training for the past 2 years, we were told that there is “never an acceptable professional reason to communicate digitally with a student or former student.” That’s in quotes, b/c I wrote it down this year as my admin said it. Both years, I’ve tried to open the discussion about how ridiculous a statement this is, since gagglenet accounts are provided to 3rd-12th graders, and we have several 1-to-1 schools as well. I have been sternly told that this is the advice of the district legal team, and that it is a crucially important policy, supported by the superintendent and board. Obviously, this is not entirely true–my principal is not an irrational or alarmsit person–but the training that building level admin is getting scares them into making these ridiculous statements.

    I note this because your last paragraph really turns that “panic first” mentality right on its head! Admin should EMBRACE social media and make it their own–and encourage teachers to do the same thing! If we really expect to foster meaningful school change, we in the field cannot do it alone. We should be taking charge of our profession’s online “footprint” by making sure that all of the stupendous things that students, teachers and administrators do in the course of a school year are foremost in the search results when someone googles our school name. You’re exactly right. This is how change happens.

  2. In this day and age, social media is such a powerful tool, that it won’t surprise me if it can change/save the tenants of traditional education. Like all things worth doing, all we need is a strong foundation of our goals and vision, and the proper resources to make it to a reality!

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