I devour any communication that comes from my son’s school. He is in Senior Kindergarten, so school is still new and exciting for us all. Admittedly, I also read the communications to fulfill the voyeuristic urge to see what goes on in other schools. My son’s principal follows the school-home communications playbook to the letter. The newsletter has clipart, important dates,thank-you’s and permission forms. He tries to use Twitter and the school website is updated regularly. The only problem with this script, that he and MANY other principals follow, is that all of the communication is one way. Parents are informed but rarely consulted.
Traditionalists would argue that parent councils provide a forum for such consultation. I argue that this model is broken and highly undemocratic.How many parents actually attend these meetings?What percentage of the parent population is actually responsible for policy? 5 %? less maybe? Large segments of the school community become marginalized and the disconnect between home and school grows wider. If we want parental engagement then we have to engage the parents. Social media provides the perfect platform to involve a larger percentage of the parent community in school events.
Rather than present events to parents as a done deal, principals can use social media to consult with parents during the development phase. Crowdsource ideas with your community. Float ideas out on Twitter and solicit feedback. Create networked brain-storming sessions. This concept is nothing new in the private sector and it has helped energize many brands as well as broadening their base of support. I really believe that this approach can have an even more powerful impact on schools.
This video from Digital U shows some of the ways the private sector uses crowdsourcing. The translation to the education system would not be a difficult one.