Who tells the story of Google? Who tells the story of Apple? Most companies and organizations have public relations departments who work with their marketing departments to create and shape their brand. A brand that tells their story. To understand this better, just close your eyes and see what you comes to your mind when you think about Disney World. For most parents, long lines, stress, and empty wallets come to your minds, but for the vast majority of people, things like family, Mickey Mouse, Epcot, rides, Frozen, among so many other positive images, come to your mind when you think about Disney. That is their brand and it’s one of the best brands that exists in the whole world. Disney controls their narrative, their story, and it’s a great one.
Now, close your eyes and think about public education. What comes to your mind? Is it positive? Does what you are thinking about, the story you hear, come from educators or is it coming from those outside the profession? I ask this question to the teachers in my district regularly. They know their story and the story of other educators is not being heard. The great work, creativity, innovation, and learning happening in their schools, in their classrooms, are not seen or heard by the public at large. They know they have lost the narrative, and their story, for the most part, is being told by media, politicians, philanthropists, corporations, and other organizations and individuals. Many in education feel this story does not depict the reality of what they do, the challenges they face, and the great learning and innovation happening in classrooms across the country.
Nothing is stopping us from telling our story except ourselves and there is a lot to share and learn from one another. For the past few months, I have written about this after attending the National Writing Project at Rutgers University. More than writing, I have taken action at my school, encouraging the teachers to “control the narrative.”
Here is what I have done with many of the other passionate and committed educators who want to begin to “control the narrative” in our profession. We have held several connected educator learning opportunities for teachers showing them how to get on Twitter and embed their Twitter feed on SchoolWires. We have had our teachers who are piloting iPads and Chromebooks share their learnings on Google Plus and the Google Plus communities we created for these initiatives. We have begun to “flip the classrooms” at the middle school to differentiate instruction for students and share these lessons on YouTube.
I’ve shown teachers how to download Twitter to their iPads and showed them how to take pictures of and tweet about the learning they see happening in their classrooms. Many are beginning to use our district hashtag, so we can curate on Twitter the great learning going on in our classrooms. It is beginning to really take off.
World Language teachers are creating how-to videos using Show Me and tweeting them, which wind up right on their district website Twitter feed without having to log into SchoolWires. Check that out here!
Other teachers tweet about the learning going on in their classrooms and take pictures of students, the work they do and/or create. Check out Mrs. Moore’s Twitter feed here! See how she is telling a story, a story that a local parent and friend of mine, Brad Currie, has noticed and blogged about here.
The middle school principal in our district, Bob Castellano, started a school YouTube channel that provides learning and instructional videos from science to home economics. These videos help students better understand concepts as well as how to make and create things. You can see some of that below.
There still is a lot to learn for many of us in education, but teachers, in my district, are inspired and motivated and want to start telling their story of learning, innovation and technology integration. They are beginning to “control the narrative” and letting the stakeholders in our community as well as the larger communities that exist in social media and on the internet see and hear a story that they don’t usually hear. This story provides a window to the classrooms and the learning happening in schools today. It’s positive, exciting and reflects the growth and learning happening that we do not hear about. At the end of the day, educators from all over must understand that if they don’t start telling their story, someone else will tell it for them. Control the narrative, know and promote your brand and celebrate the success we all see daily.