#SchoolofTweet (Learning 2.0 Workshop Takeaways)

L2-world-logos-7xI recently had the great opportunity to attend the Learning 2.0 conference in Asia for the fourth time. Since attending the first one in Shanghai, China in 2007 where one of the first activities the conference organizers had attendees do was to sign up for and use Twitter, I’ve greatly benefited from Twitter being an integral part of my PLN. My personal learning has grown immeasurably because of it by bringing me resources and ideas I would have likely not seen and I have a network of experts and colleagues just a tweet away who can help when needed. I wrote about how my PLN has helped to shape me in the past here.

Jumping forward 8 years, I’ve come to see how important social media can be for the personal learning of individuals. For the last few years, I’ve realized how crucial it can be for the learning, branding, and communications needs of a learning institution. Learning doesn’t just happen between the walls of the school anymore

Image licensed from Shutterstock

Image licensed from Shutterstock

and a school’s footprint doesn’t only run through its immediate community. In both of these instances, learning and learning institutions are part of a global landscape, and this is because of technology. Recognizing this is easy, but getting social media like Twitter established into the whole culture of school can be very difficult. Though many schools now have Twitter accounts, not many schools have it embedded in its culture for the combined purposes of learning, branding, and communication. This is why I attended the #schooloftweet workshop at Learning 2.0. I wanted to see how a school got to where they are in its institutional use of social media.

The presenter of the workshop, Tosca Killoran from NIST in Bangkok, Thailand, has been instrumental in getting Twitter off the ground as a branding and communications tool for the school. I won’t summarize the NIST case study since Tosca has already done that on this website, but I’ll just summarize a few takeaways from the session.

Does branding and social media belong in schools? Yes. With so many international schools coming into existence, we can’t sell sameness. We have to show how our school is different in regards to learning from others. We have to make it clear what our mission and values are and what those look like in action. Stating these on a website isn’t enough anymore. We have to tell our story in real-time. How do we tell our story? Social media. This can help promote the essence of who we are and the perception of how people view us from the outside. At the same time, the more consistent we are in using social media for the purposes of branding, learning, and communication, the easier it is to convince people of who we are. Brands have real value, but in the context of international schools, Brands rise and fall with their employees. Establishing a dynamic and consistent use of social media into the culture of the school is critical so that the process and brand lives beyond any individual(s).

So, who does all of this? Tosca said that she took on the school Twitter account to start the process, but confessed that she was doing that for 3-4 hours every evening at home. She also said that was single, so she didn’t have family responsibilities. This isn’t the ideal approach to get started. Getting started is an issue each school will have to tackle since people are already so busy. Over time, once the process had been established more in the culture of the school, the time she had to put into it lessened since other people were sharing the process. To start spreading the use of Twitter, she suggested having some pre-written tweets for teachers with hashtags. She also said the main school account should follow top universities and other international schools since that will grow the school’s presence among these other important institutions. Lastly, she also recommended that school account have a personality. Though not an easy thing to accomplish in 140 characters, it is an essential part of the branding process.

For further detail that nicely supplements the workshop takeaways, discussing the difference between social media IN schools versus social media FOR schools, check out these blog posts here and here.

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This post is cross-posted here.

There Is a Line

If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m liberal and progressive-minded in pretty much all aspects of life. If you read through all of my posts in this ToGa Learning site, which mostly focuses on issues in education, you’ll recognize that I’m an ardent supporter and practitioner for innovation, change, and  transformation in teaching and learning. I’m not a fan of the industrial model of education as I feel it does a disservice to how students need to learn in order to be successful in today’s world. I’m not a fan of the pervasive use of standards and benchmarks and standardized tests and I’m not a fan of policies like No Child Left Behind and Common Core.

Upon some personal reflection, I think part of this passionate attitude for innovation, change, and transformation was developed from being a huge fan of alternative and independent music from my youth in the early/mid-1980s until the present (You can read this post I wrote a while back about my life-long passion for music). My favorite musicians and influences have been those that have done things differently in music, upending the system in some way, being irreverent at times, and creating some controversy along the way. As Jack Black teaches the kids about rock-n-roll in the movie School of Rock, they “stuck it to the man!” Some of these influential musicians of mine are: Johnny Marr and Morrissey of The Smiths; Robert Smith of The Cure; Cocteau Twins; The Doors; Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz; David Bowie; Death Cab for Cutie; XTC; Jeff Buckley; The Pixies, and Radiohead.  These musicians and bands are ones people still talk about today, while other bands who played the status quo or mainstream style of the time have withered away.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock.

Image Licensed from Shutterstock.

Recently, U2, another very innovative band that has constantly evolved and pushed musical and social norms over the years, released a new album. Even though I was never a huge fan of U2 and I own only  few of their albums, I did always respect their innovative approach to making music. The Edge’s guitar style was like no one else’s before him, and I’ve always admired that. The way they released their new album, Songs of Innocence, however, pushing it into millions of unsuspecting iTunes users’ music libraries, crossed a line in my usually liberal opinion. In a recent article, Bono referred to their approach in releasing this new album as “punk rock.” I don’t think it was “punk rock.”

I’m all for the punk rock DIY ethic and attitude of sticking it to the man, but this manner in which they pushed their album into iTunes users’ accounts was a blatant invasion of privacy. As far as I know,  punk bands in the 70s and 80s didn’t break into people’s private houses uninvited, setting up their instruments and blasting out a set of music. This would have been illegal, considered an invasion of privacy, and the band would have been arrested. Also, as far as I know, no band has ever shipped out millions of cassettes, records, or CDs in the mail to random people around the world who didn’t ask for it. The investment of time and money to do such a thing never would have come back to benefit the band/label financially. Just because we now have the technology to push an album into people’s computers at little or no cost to the band and their label, it doesn’t give a band the right to make us receive the thing without wanting it, taking up space on our devices. It’s an invasion of privacy to do this. It’s really not any different than a hacker that pushes a virus or bug into your technology without your knowledge. Hackers that do this are usually arrested and tried as criminals if caught.

I’m not arguing here for U2 to be arrested. Apple is to blame for this, also. I just think the band needs to reconsider their action, apologize, and stop referring to it as being “punk rock.” If U2 want to give their album for free, that’s great. That’s their artistic choice, but let the people who actually want it go to iTunes or wherever to download it on their own free will. Many other bands have released an album for free in this more ethical manner.

U2 will never lose their place in history as an innovative and transformative alternative rock band. They’ve made some great music over the years and support some very important social causes. I also recently read that they are apparently working on a new digital music format with Apple. I’m very curious to see what this is and I hope it will be something awesome. As an educator and technology learning coach who works to instill ethical digital citizenship practices in my students, I hope this action U2 took doesn’t set a precedent for other bands and artists, both now and in the future. It will be a very slippery slope if it does, and I feel more problems than benefits will ensue.

If you want to remove U2’s album from your iTunes, follow this link.

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