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Chicago Offers Social Media Tips to Principals

by guest blogger Mike Bock

A new website created by Chicago's public school system aims to help principals engage the school community through social media, in what appears to be one of the first such resources of its kind developed by a large school district.

The Social Media Tool Kit was launched to provide tips and guidelines for principals, teachers, and staff members to help connect with community members, said Alex Soble, the digital director of Chicago Public Schools.

Soble and the Chicago school's communications department identified a number of teachers and staff members to help come up with effective practices for the site. Many of the ideas were used to create the "Social Media Trailblazer" series, an online video collection that offers recommendations on social media topics like maintaining Twitter feeds and social media etiquette for principals. For example, one video includes a tutorial for sending out mass text alerts via Twitter and Facebook.

The social media toolkit also contains links to resource guides for various social media sites, and exercises designed to help principals organize and execute social media strategies at their schools in the 404,000-student district.

In addition, the school district recently lifted its ban on Youtube, as the administration recognized the site's potential for 21st century learning opportunities, staff members said.

Education Week has written a number of articles about social media strategies educators are using to connect with students and parents, but Becky Carroll, chief of communications for Chicago Public Schools, said the social media toolkit is among the nation's first social media resources designed primarily to help administrators.

Though not every principal will use social media for the exact same purposes, Soble said one of the main goals for the page is get principals thinking about best practices for social media engagement among the school community. Some principals are already posting weather alerts, volunteer opportunities, and pictures of school events, with "very positive feedback".

"If you're not using social media to communicate with stakeholders, then you're missing such an important part of the conversation," said Soble.

"Parents are surprised and pleased when (Chicago Public Schools) is using the same tools to communicate as their friends do," he added.

You can check out Chicago's social media toolkit here.

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