Connecting with teachers and parents in real time on social media
Leadership Insights Updated August 29, 2018

Using Social Media to Be a Better Education Leader with Top Tweeting Principal Eric Sheninger

By The Room 241 Team October 10, 2012

The conversion from social media doubter to believer wasn’t hard. In 2009, Eric Sheninger, then New Milford High School principal, believed there was no place in education for social media. Then he read an article that persuaded him to try Twitter. Quickly, Sheninger saw this was a must-have tool for education.

“It was a complete 180,” said Sheninger, who in 2014 became a senior fellow and thought leader on digital leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education. Nearly every class has a social media component now,” he said. And nearly every site on the web is available on every school computer. Sheninger even used Twitter to collaborate on his first book, Communicating & Connecting with Social Media.

Sheninger is now writing his fourth book and says that he’s become a better educational leader by connecting on Twitter, blogging, and using other social media tools. It improves learning, helps prepare students, and allows his school to increase involvement. Let’s look at some of the ways he strategically uses social media.

Communication

“Parents, teachers, other stakeholders, everyone is on Facebook. Everyone is on Twitter,” Sheninger said. Schools should take advantage of that.

“Why not connect with them in real time and give them information?”

Public relations

Using social media, schools can get their message out — and brand it with school colors, mascots, and logos. It can be empowering.

“We are generating our own content,” Sheninger said. “In this day and age, when we only hear about the negative, social media allows educators to share the positive things that go on between our walls.”

“If we don’t tell our story, someone else will,” he added.

Student engagement and learning

Social tools and technology help learners of all kinds, Sheninger said. And, through social media, educators are able to conquer one of the great problems of education today.

“The challenges for leaders today is the difference between the school world and the real world,” Sheninger said. “This helps bridge that gap.” That’s because students can access information as they would at home and they can add to the conversation.

Professional growth and development

Social media allows educators and leaders to create their own professional learning path. “Being able to learn anywhere and at any time is powerful,” Sheninger said.

Have a question? Ask your network. “With social media, we can create our own education networks. It is a human-powered search engine,” he said.

Opportunity

“When you put yourself and your school out there, you are telling your story. People hear that,” Sheninger said. The social media push at New Milford High School and social networking have led Sheninger to real opportunities. Companies hear about them and donate equipment. Conferences are hosted on campus. Social media raises a school’s profile.

“The benefits of social media”, said one-time doubter Sheninger, “are clear when educational leaders look with an open mind.”

SXSWedu and EdSurge

In March 2016, Sheninger participated in the mentor program at SXSWedu. Sheninger also spoke with Mary Jo Madda of EdSurge about EdTech and his impressions of his first SXSWedu.

His key points:

  • Technology is important, but should always follow pedagogy.
  • The pedagogy-first mentality made his former school so successful.
  • Technology should be used in the classroom to make teaching easier, which means limiting the number of tools in the classroom.

“Teachers and administrators have to understand there is a time and a place for technology,” Sheninger said. “Allow the kids to choose the right tool, for the right task, that’s the glory of technology.”

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