Monday night there was a great conversation going on in the Chat in the Parents as Partners webcast. Shannon Smith was giving a great presentation about using social media in schools. We were talking about using Twitter as a way to connect parents to the conversations at school. The issue of challenges and solutions emerged as we discussed the reasons why parents, teachers and administrators shy away from using Social media tools. It is natural that with any conversation there are two sides of a story each based on personal experiences, roles and perspectives.
I went back over the recording to review and reflect on the comments. Openness, transparency and trust were cited as key reasons conversations can become constructive rather than destructive. Getting to a level in which conversations build rather than destroy is not an easy process.
In my years as a trustee I know personally what it is like to be “attacked”. No knifes involved but words slanted to create public impressions usually to advance a political position. I have also watched parents stand on the sidewalk carrying placards calling for the removal of a principal. I heard the comment “nelly-negative parents” and my mind said oh ya!.
I squelched that thought because also I know what it like to be on the other side of the conversation petitioning against actions and policies that ignored the input of parents; what it is like to be ignored and patronized when decisions are made before input is sought; what it is like to work hard to support students and not being recognized for the efforts. I am sure you can understand that I often find myself on the teeter-tooter of educations issues.
Recently I listened to Darren Kurpotawa in his presentation at Educon. He talked about the use of social media and mentioned Twitter as a vehicle for sharing information. He described a twitter conversation about an employee considering changing jobs to work with a large tech company. The individual talked openly on twitter about reservations with joining a company whose position on issues were not the same. The twitter conversation got back to the tech company and the company responded that they were interested in discussing the reservations. A conversation ensued and twitter world got involved in the conversation to the point comments on the website were shut down. My description here might not be totally accurate but I think you get the idea. The very openness and transparency we seek can bring out some very strong emotions and destroy credibility of those involved. I have found that as the conversations expand the negativity takes over the positive and has everyone goes away with a bad taste. Would school boards and principals want to put themselves in a similar situation? Of course not.
I listened to Aaron Puley in the chat share his advice about using social media in schools. He talked about increasing positive comments, sharing information, responding to comments so that negative comments looked out of place. He also said that there are times when sharing information or responding to comments can provide answers to others who may be thinking the same thing as an individual making a complaint. Although I agree with Aaron I wondered if parents might perceive this as creating a pretty picture that might not reflect their reality? Nevertheless he is right when he says –
“A negative comment could be a perception as well and may not appear as negative to someone else – a public answer could also help others that have the same thoughts”
Marc Carbone shared –
“I think there is a growing understanding of the benefit of SM tools, but there are also responsibilities too.”
That is a really good point about being responsible for what you say and do. I wonder, who is the watch dog that keeps conversations focused on issues and not personal problems? Is there a way you are responding when tools like Twitter go beyond transparency and dig deep into an individual’s performance? Will we ever be able to engage all teachers in giving parents a window into the classroom? Will they feel like they are under constant performance appraisal? How are you building the trust factor between parents and schools?
If you listen carefully, what do you hear?
image by JASON ANFINSEN