Sunday, May 20, 2012

4 Social Media Listening Strategies for 21st Century School Leaders

In their book Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age authors Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes argue that for school leaders to use social media effectively, they not only use it to communicate out information, they must also engage in listening to what stakeholders are saying.

"Listening online gives leaders insight into their communities in a way that face-to-face meetings and surveys do not."

It is through social media that people sometimes reveal their true feelings. If they do not think you are listening, they may say things quite unlike those occasions when they think you are. Using social media to listen to what your stakeholders are saying is another way for you to get in touch with what they really want. To do that, Porterfield and Carnes suggest establishing a listening strategy for your school or district. So how does one establish this? Here's some suggestions I've paraphrased from their book, Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age.

  • Decide how much time will be spent listening. Will it be once a day? Once a Week? Portfield and Carnes suggest that school leaders need to listen to their school or district's social media channels at least once a day. If a crisis occurs, obviously it will be necessary to listen more often. For example, during a contentious school board decision or during a well-publicized event involving a staff member or student, listening to social media channels needs to be much more often than once a day.
  • Designate personnel who will do the listening and report back to administration. These individuals are charged with the task of listening to your social media channels. Large districts can perhaps charge their communications teams with these tasks. Small districts may have to select current district staff to serve on a listening team.
  • Portferfield and Carnes suggest developing a "Social Media Collection Tool" to report out what was found from listening. This gives the district or school a physical record of what others are saying on social media sites. School leaders need to have a record of what conversations are occuring about their schools or districts, and this tool satisfies that need.
  • Develop a plan on how the school or district will respond to what is heard on social media. School leaders need to evaluate the influence level of those engaging in conversations on social media. Answers to such questions as the following are also important: How will you respond to inaccurate or incomplete information being shared about your school or organization? What offical media channels will you use in your response if you decide to do so?
The perception that most school leaders seem to have of social media is a tool for making announcements to their stakeholders rather than a means to engage that same group in larger conversations about how we're doing our jobs. It is imperative that 21st century school leaders establish a social media listening strategy for their school or district in age where people are talking about us through social media whether we're listening or not.

Next Up: Social Media Listening Tools for 21st Century School Leaders

Finally, Definitive Manual for School Leaders on Engaging in Using Social Media

Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital AgeIn their new book, Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age, authors Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes write:
“Skill in communication is a key ingredient for school leaders’ success in today’s complex education environment, and this communication now includes social media.”
As these author’s suggest, school leaders “can either learn to use these powerful tools or stand hopelessly by and the information---good and bad---swirls around them.” School administrators are still spending too much time trying to decide whether social media is an enemy or an ally. What they don’t realize, that choice isn’t really up to them. Social media is here to stay. It’s not a fad to be waited out. It’s not gimmick to avoid, and it is not a piece of contraband that can be stopped at the schoolhouse door with policy and Internet filters. Social media is 21st century communications, and school leaders would be guilty of mal-practice not to both learn about its power and place in our modern society.

Portfield and Carnes' book Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age, is an excellent starting point for school leaders to begin the journey or learning about the power of social media. I’ve read several books on social media written for school leaders this year, and this book is the best by far. It is a no-nonsense, easy-to-read manual on social media. I would  place it on top of my Ed Tech Book List for 2012.

Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age begins by offering readers, specifically school leaders, a view of social media for what it is, a 21st century form of communication. This is a slightly different perspective from other books I’ve read this year, which have focused on its power in the classroom and in developing professional learning networks. Portfield and Carnes zero in on the very arguments and ideas that interest me as a school level principal:
  • Why is social media so important to me as a school leader? Why should I care? What happens if I stay on the social media sidelines? How do I get started and what tools should I start with?
  • How can I plan a social media strategy for my school or district? What tools do I need to be engaged in using in my social media campaign? What place do these same tools have in my classrooms and schools?
  • How can I make the content of my social media messages effective? What should I communicate through social media? How do I set up a dialogue through social media with my stakeholders? What kinds of guidelines do I need to keep the conversation productive and focused on issues so that I don’t appearing to be censoring honest criticism?
Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age is not a book that offers strategies for implementing the media in the classroom. It isn’t just a book about engaging in social media for the purposes of creating and sustaining online professional learning networks. It is a perfect manual for school administrators wanting to maximize the use of social media to communication with parents 21st century-style through engagement in on-going conversations that aren’t one-way, but multi-ways. This volume needs to be required study and reading in school administration classes everywhere.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Send and Receive Text Messages on Your Android Tablet

You can receive free text messages on your Android tablet by installing the Google Voice app on your device, and by setting up a Google voice number on your Google Apps account.

Once your Google Voice app is set up, you can do any of the following with this application.
  • Receive and send free text messages from your Android tablet.
  • Access your text messages from your PC with your Google Voice inbox. This also means you can send text messages through your Google Voice number from your PC.
  • Use the Google Voice mail to channel your voice mail to your inbox.
  • Set up Google Voice so that when someone text messages you, you get the message in your email inbox too.
  • Consolidate your phone numbers so that all your calls go through your Google Voice.

Google Voice Web App Screenshot

Google Voice is a powerful free app from Google and offers school administrators quite few features they may wish to explore.

3 Lessons Schools Can Learn From an Obsolete Hometown Newspaper

Today, I was attempting to read an article from our local newspaper's website. I was trying to access an article through my RSS Reader, when I got the following pop-up:

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Our small town newspaper, The Hickory Daily Record, is a mediocre newspaper at best for a number of reasons. First of all, I was once a subscriber, but I stopped home delivery because there would be stretches of days I would not receive it. I would then have to call their office, and the paper seemed content to just give me a credit when I did not receive it rather than find a way to deliver a paper. They inevitably did this rather than resolve the issue of delivery. Secondly, there's not a been a great deal of content in its pages for quite sometime. The paper edition is primarily advertisements, and the paper has had to cut its reporting staff back so much, they aren't even capable of providing the news, except what  news comes to them. Finally, the Hickory Daily Record has become irrelevant as a news source in our region. I can access free news channels such as our local TV stations, and the Charlotte Observer's site and get more information about the happenings in my hometown  than I can in my hometown newspaper. In all honesty, The Hickory Daily Record has become little more than a neighborhood newspaper with absolutely no impact on the community. It is a dinosaur that is still trying to avoid extinction. In some ways, I think public education is trying to avoid the same fate.

As you can see from the pop-up message I received, I could continue reading the article I wanted to see if I paid them $4.95 a month, but I won't pay them and I won't read the article. The whole problem is, the content offered by the Hickory Daily Record isn't worth $4.95 a month to me. You can scan their web site in less than 5 minutes. Unlike the larger newspapers, there isn't a wealth of content, certainly not 5 dollars a month worth. All this brings me to my point, "Newspapers basically still do not get it." While I have no idea how profitable the Hickory Daily Record's efforts to charge for online content is, it can't be sustainable. A glance at their site tells your they offer no amazing exclusive content you can't find elsewhere. A lot of the articles are from news wire services that offer the same text free. And, there is so little news content to begin with, in comparison to larger news sites. The bottom line is my small town newspaper is still caught in 20th century ways of delivering content and appears to be doing little to change. I can't help but wonder if our schools are still caught in the same time warp. We still try to deliver education the way we've always done too. So what can schools learn from my small town newspaper's predicament? Here's three things for thought:

1. In a digital age, we can't simply take what we've always done and post it online or digitize it and call it education. Our technology is clearly disrupting how we do things in our schools, and we'll not contain that force by trying to simply package what we're doing into 21st century packages. We need to fundamentally re-think and re-engineer everything we do in schools and take full advantage of the possibilities of the digital age.

2. We need to fundamentally re-think our digital content which is student learning. If newspapers want to have a hope of surviving online or off, they have to focus on content. People will only pay for content if they see it as engaging or useful, and if they can't get it elsewhere. As schools in the digital age, we must focus on our own "content" which is student learning. Everything we do, from front office procedures to instructional strategies in the classroom need to be about student learning. We need stop being distracted by everything that is not about student learning.

3. Twenty-first century schools need to acknowledge the competition. Newspapers like my small hometown paper haven't done this very well. They are still holding on to the belief that they offer something readers can't get elsewhere. They haven't acknowledged the competition. Whether charter schools, private schools, or virtual schools are better at raising student achievement is still debatable. That argument probably will not be settled any time soon, and most likely it will never be settled. The reality for public schools is that we have competition. Instead of expending large amounts of time discrediting the competition, let's use that energy to make our public schools better. Let's focus on what is most important.

Everyone knows newspapers haven't fared well under the onslaught of web content. Most barely survive. Some have learned that users will pay for content, if that content is of high quality, and if users can't get that same content from elsewhere. My hometown newspaper is still caught in an old paradigm that believes they can approach web content like they did paper content. They can simply post the same content from their newspaper online and people will pay for it. Of course they have tried to add some unique content like videos and information data bases, but its hard to say they've changed their content delivery model very much.  Maybe some will pay 5 dollars a month for this content, but I won't and I am sure many others won't as well. The newspaper is losing me as potential customer and I am sure there are others. If they want me to click that "Pay $4.95 Month" button they need to give me something I do not already have. Public schools would do well learn from this too. If our students aren't getting the education our parents want them to have, they aren't going to keep paying for our schools either. We have to give them the kinds of student learning they can't get elsewhere.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

17 Must-Have Android Tablet Apps for the Administrator

The administrator who just purchased an Android Tablet can easily get lost among all the apps available for the device. While having experience with using an iPad helps, it is important to keep in mind that many of the apps available for that device are not necessarily available for the Android operating system. With that in mind, when I started loading apps on my Galaxy Tab this week, the first apps I wanted were those that give me access to my web tools and files across devices. Those apps included: Evernote, Dropbox, Powernote, and now Google Drive. I then searched for apps that allow me to engage in specific tasks like read my RSS feeds, access my Diigo bookmarks, and sync my Google Calendar. In the end, I have been able to settle for what I consider to be a solid app lineup on my device. Here’s my list of must-have apps for the school administrator using an Android tablet such as the Galaxy Tabs, Toshiba Thrive, or Asus tablet.


Click here for more information.
This app is a premier note taking application. It allows users to take notes, collect web data, and even upload files (premium users). Multiple apps for iPad, Android, desktop and web make this an excellent way to take notes and have your information follow you across devices.  The app is an excellent way to get organized. This is a free app, with more features if you purchase a premium account.
Power Note

Click here for more information
Power Note is another power note book app that links to your Diigo account, giving you access to your social bookmarks. It actually does much more than that too. With Power Note you can organize text, notes, photos and bookmarks. You can identify web pages to be read later and then access on your other devices with Power Note.  This is a free app.
1 Calengoo

Click here for more information
This app allows access to my Google Calendar. There are several of these products available, but this one has been the most reliable, crash-free app for me. I can view my calendar and enter and edit events. This app does require a purchase.
Tweetcaster Pro

Click here for more information.
This app is my Twitter app of choice. I like the interface and the way it displays messages. The Tweetcaster Pro version is available for purchase while there is a free version too.
Reader HD

Click here for more information
I searched through several RSS readers in the process of finding one that is easy to read, easy to navigate and that allows me to share out the items I am reading. Reader HD does all of those things and more. I purchased the app but there is also a free version available too.

Click here for more information
There just is not a great of choice for blogging clients for Blogger for the Android operating system. This app is about the best of two. The problem is, it is still a bit buggy, but it does allow me to post from my tablet.

Click here for more information
This app completely ends the need for thumb drives and similar devices. It allows users to store files in cloud, and then access them from any device and through the web. This app syncs the contents of your Dropbox folder across devices. It is like having a file cabinet that follows you everywhere.
Google Drive

Click here for more information
Google Drive is another cloud storage solution that syncs across devices too. One added benefit for this app and Google Drive is that it includes you Google Docs in the storage. With this app you can access your Google Docs across devices.

Click here for more information
This app is a quick to take notes, and edit those notes. Currently the app does not sync to the cloud, but the web site says the app will do that soon. This is a very easy to use note taking app.
Amazon MP3 Player

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This app gives users access to their music stored in the Amazon cloud. This app is easily used.

Click here for more information
This is the Kindle app. Now I have access to my Kindle library on my Android tablet too. Users can highlight text, take notes, and even upload documents to your Tablet to read later.

Click here for more information
This is the Nook app that allows you access to your Barnes and Noble ebook library.
Adobe Reader

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This app allows users to read, highlight, and comment on text in PDF documents.

Click here for more information

This app gives you access to your gmail account. It allows for multiple email accounts/

Click here for more information
This is the app for accessing Facebook.
QR Droid

For more information click here
This app allows users to QR codes.

KeePass Droid

For more information click here
This app is a password storage app that allows you to store passwords and access through a single password. If used with Dropbox, users can edit and update their KeePass data and it will sync across devices.
This list is a good starting point for school administrators looking for apps for their Android tablet. These apps include those that sync across devices, and those that help administrators carry out some of the many tasks they face.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why I Purchased an Android Tablet and Not an iPad

 One of the biggest reasons for purchasing an Android tablet as opposed to an iPad was my Amazon cloud products. I have my music uploaded to the Amazon cloud, and unfortunately, there is no Amazon music player app available for the iPad. Of the course, the pure OSers would point out I could store my music in the iCloud, but then I could not access my music on my Kindle Fire, which I sometimes do while reading. To be honest, I would have been perfectly content with my Kindle Fire as a tablet except for the lack of 3G, soon to be 4G capability. There simply were too many times I wanted to check my email, Tweet or Facebook, but could not because there was no open WiFi, which is the only way to currently connect with the Kindle Fire. Bottom line, my Galaxy Tab with its Android operating system, allows me to access my music.

Another reason for purchasing an Android tablet as opposed to an iPad was the size. I was attracted to the slightly smaller 7.7 Galaxy Tab. It will fit in one hand, at least my big hands, and its just a bit smaller size means I can easily hold it while standing outside during parking lot duty. That means I can check email, read my RSS feeds, and even write a blog post while making sure some of my students do not abscond from campus during lunch. Its small size means I can hold it in my palm. The smaller size means I can easily access my favorite apps while doing many of the tasks principals find themselves doing. With the 3G, soon to be 4G capability, I do not have to worry about wireless access in some of those places I find myself performing principal duties, and believe me, there are those places.

Finally, I got an Android tablet because I like new toys. I have a Wifi-only capable iPad issued by the school district. I have my WiFi Kindle Fire. I just wanted a new toy to experiment and play with. I had read several posts about the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and the 10.1, and I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience, as well as take advantage of what I had learned by having an Android smartphone. I enjoy the challenge of learning how to use new devices.
In the end, I have been more than satisfied with my purchase. I bought the docking keyboard that goes with the Galaxy Tab 7.7 too. That key board is amazing. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has proven already that I did not make the wrong choice.