Friday, November 9, 2012

Social Media Sessions at AMLE

Howard and I are speaking at the 39th Annual Conference For Middle Level Education sponsored by AMLE (Association for Middle Level Education) and formerly the National Middle School Association in Portland on November 8-10. Two sessions will focus on the use of social media in schools.

Fri Nov 9 - Social Media: Schools in the Digital Age - Access PPT Here
10 - 11:15 am - A107 Convention Center

Sat Nov 10 - Social Media: School Leadership in the Digital Age - Access PPT Here
8 - 9:15 am - A103 Convention Center

We're looking forward to the opportunity to talk with middle grades teachers and school leaders about the use of social media in their schools. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Favorite Apps for Education

I don't know about you but I'm always looking for new apps. Because it's easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer number that are available I'm always looking for suggestions that can help guide my decisions.  One of my favorite online publications is e-School News. Recently I found a story from last April where they recommended some apps. I've created a link to their article so that you can see what they recommend.

As always we'd enjoy hearing from you about your favorite apps. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Tools and Strategies Help Prevent School Bullying and Violence

"Is it possible to identify and address bullying and other negative behavior at schools before it erupts into violence?

School bullying is now at crisis levels in the U.S., and it’s one of the primary challenges that school leaders face in managing the learning environment and ensuring that students feel safe and ready to learn. As school leaders look for ways to deal with this problem, some are turning to a promising new technology platform for help.

Before high-quality curriculum or pedagogy can foster student achievement, schools must establish a positive climate where staff, students, and parents all feel accepted and respected and where learning—not safety—is the main focus, experts say. Feeling safe and respected can be critical to students’ motivation to learn. It’s not hard to imagine how a student’s academic goals would come second to making it through the day without being bullied." 

The quote above is from an outstanding report that promises to help principals, school staff and communties not only prevent bullying and other forms of cyber-violence in their schools, but actually use the technology as an intevention in the prevention and mitigation of cyber-bullying and related forms of intimidation. The secret is to maintain a comprehensive school climate that promotes safety and learning rather than power and intimidation.

A new platform from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt helps track important information about school climate and the ways it either promotes or mediates violence.  The report not only describes this new tool and how to use it, but also provides solid resources on bullying and other forms of school violence that can be managed effectively with digital tools. 

You can see the entire report on the eSchoolNews website:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Social Media for School Communication

It’s easy to dismiss social media as a fascination of young people but to do so minimizes one of the fastest growing trends in technology. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that over 71% of teens have a Facebook profile and 75% of adults have one too. Social media tools have become the way for a school or business to quickly and efficiently disseminate information. Because of the almost universal access to social media across all demographic groups it often reaches people that traditional forms of communication miss.

The online presence for many schools has moved beyond the school website. It now includes a Facebook page (, a Twitter account (, blogs by teachers, principals or the superintendent, and YouTube ( and Flickr ( for sharing videos and photos about school events.

Seven Reasons to Pay Attention to Social Media

  1. It Builds Relationships – Creating relationships is important for leaders and social media is a new, and very effective, way to build support among your stakeholders.
  2. It’s About Customers – Parents and employees often come from a different generation, one that wants to work differently and to be involved in the educational process. Social media is a way to engage them in the life of your school.
  3. They’re Already Talking – Check out the Internet and other online sites. People are already commenting about your school and about your leadership.
  4. Listen as Well as Share – The principal is responsible for maintaining the school’s image. Use social media to interact with parents and community. Use it to both hear from them and to share information. It can provide a way to detect rumors and allow you to respond quickly.
  5. You’ll Be Well Received – Almost everyone we’ve talked with reports the positive reception they get from having a blog, a Twitter feed or a school Facebook page.
  6. It Builds Community – People commit to things they care about. As we described earlier, the public is less trustful of schools. Social media promotes community by inviting people to be part of the conversation.
  7. It’s Here to Stay – While the forms of social media continue to change the evidence is that our use of the tools will only accelerate. Increasingly the expectation is that schools stay connected to their families and their community. Social media is the tool. (Adapted from: Porterfield & Carnes (2010), AASA Online)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fake e-Identities

Recently there have been several cases where teens created fake Facebook or Twitter accounts as a way to bully peers or to make it appear that the principal was sending offensive comments. These false accounts are forcing schools to deal with the behavior. In many states these false identities would violate the law and are a form of identity theft or cyber-impersonation. Thirty-eight states have laws against "electronic harassment" and fourteen ban "cyberbullying."

In most cases, the victim is unaware that the false identity has been created and in some cases must deal with the negative response to the posts.

There is murky legal guidance about the extent to which schools can police off-site social media accounts and fake social media profiles. In two separate cases, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled punishments of students unconstitutional (J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District; Layshock v. Hermitage School District). The most prudent approach may be simply to refer the case to local law enforcement agencies who have far clearer opportunities for enforcing state law in this area.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Social Media: School Leadership in the Digital Age

Our presentation on "School Leadership in the Digital Age" takes place on Saturday March 10 at 7:30 am in Room 5 of the Tampa Convention Center. We'll share tips that principals can immediately use to use social media to improve their schools. Topics include social media and school safety, social media and school management, and social media and enhanced learning. The presentation can be downloaded HERE.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A School Wide Plan for Student Achievement: the J. Lloyd Trump Lecture, NASSP Annual Convention

Howard Johnston is presenting the J. Lloyd Trump Lecture at NASSP's Annual Conference in Tampa on March 9, 2012.  The topic is on creating a school wide model and plan for boosting student achievement and test performance. From here, you can download Howard's Power Point Presentation and access the other resources he uses in his presentation:
(1) Powerpoint -- Raising Student Achievement: A School Wide Model and Plan.  The J. Lloyd Trump Lecture. (2) School Wide Culture Assessment Guide.
(3) Timeline for Principals -- Promoting Culture of Achievement and College-Going

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Unfriending---a New Trend?

A new study (Madden, 2012) from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found a growing trend among social media users---unfriending. Managing your online profile comes at a time of greater concern for privacy, concern about how one is portrayed online, and concern that "oversharing" can negatively impact business and social contacts.

While social media sites continue their exponential growth, a growing concern about privacy has resulted in 63% of users reporting that they have deleted people from their friends list, an increase since the last study in 2009. The study also reported that 58% of users share their profile with only a close group of friends or relatives while only 20% make their profiles public.

This trend reflects concern with privacy and the amount of information easily available about an individual through their online profiles. As sites like Facebook launch new features such as Timeline, that put historic data "front and center" on the profile, people are concerned about what they've posted and how they may have been "tagged" in the postings of others. Privacy concerns were greater among women. Men were more likely to report that they regretted something they posted on a social media site. Thirty-seven percent of people regularly scan other sites and "untag" themselves on those sites.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project is one of the most respected research centers on use of social media technology. Their study suggests that people have begun to simplify their online identity management and increasingly recognize the costs associated with personal content that may be available online.

We'd enjoy hearing from you about the issue of social media and privacy. What do you do to monitor your online profile?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Technology and Teacher Observations

A growing trend is for principals to use iPads and other mobile devices to gather information when they observe teacher. A number of apps are now available, some customized for individual school districts. They make it easier and more efficient for principals to gather information and share it with teachers. We have not used, nor recommend, any of these apps but we have talked with principals who routinely use them in their work. Note that not every app is compatible with every mobile device.

Here are just a few of the observation apps on the market.
We'd enjoy hearing from you about your use of mobile devices to gather and share information during your classroom observations.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

US Supreme Court and Student Online Speech

The US Supreme Court recently declined to review two cases that involved the discipline of students based on student speech on the Internet. One appeal came from the 3rd Circuit. In these cases the Appeals Court said that students who ridicule their principals online cannot be disciplined by school officials because the speech occurred off campus and did not "substantially disrupt" the school. It's a reminder that just because we don't like something that a student might say, it doesn't mean that it can be restricted, particularly if it took place off campus and outside of the school day. Another case the Supreme Court declined to hear involved a student who created a MySpace page about another student. In that case, the lower court concluded that the speech was disruptive and upheld discipline of the student.

Together the two cases remind us of the uncertainty about how to respond to student speech on the Internet. It is clear that students' do have free speech rights. Principals must consider where the speech occurred and must be able to demonstrate a disruption to the school environment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Laptops Improve Student Learning

The NY Times recently reported on the success of East Mooresville Intermediate School (NC) using technology to dramatically change instruction. Mooresville has seen steady gains in student learning since adoption of their program and graduation rates have climbed to 92%. About 88% of students now meet proficiency standards on state tests in reading, math and science. The district freed up money in many areas and provided each student with a MacBook Air leased from Apple. Old computer labs were eliminated and teachers were provided professional development on the integration of technology. For example, "who needs globes in the age of Google Earth?" The Mooresville story is a fascinating example of the way technology can positively impact students' experience by making learning more engaging, more flexible, and more relevant. You can read the complete story about Mooresville's success here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Teens' Social Media Experiences

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shared data about the social media experience of teenagers. The study looked at teens' behavior and experiences using social media. Among the findings:
  • 95% of teens 12-17 years of age are online;
  • 80% of those online teens use social media.
Teens also shared their experience on social media sites.
  • 69% of teenagers who use social media say their peers are mostly kind to one another on the sites;
  • 88% report witnessing people being mean or cruel on the sites;
  • 15% said they were the target of mean or cruel behavior.
  • 90% said they ignored the mean behavior;
  • 80% say they defended a victim of meanness and cruelty;
  • 70% say they told someone to stop being mean; and
  • 21% say they joined in the harassment of others on social media.
Thirty-six percent of teens sought help about online problems. Most (53%) asked for help from friends and peers while 36% talked with their parents.

Most teens (62%) of teens reported that they keep their privacy settings on private so that only friends can see content. Twenty percent keep their site semi-private and 17% keep their site fully public.

These data provide interesting insights into the online experience of today's teens. The full report from the Pew Research Center is available here. We'd enjoy hearing from you about your experiences with teens and social media in your school.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


First it was cyberbullying. Now it's cyberbaiting. That's an emerging trend where students taunt their teachers to the point that the teacher reacts. Then students capture the outburst on their cell phone and post a video online. It's another example of using social media inappropriately.

According to a recent report from the Norton Online Family Report nearly one in five teachers has experienced cyberbaiting or knows a teacher who has. So, what do you do? First, talk with your teachers about the phenomenon. Awareness is perhaps the best strategy for assuring that it won't happen to you. Second, work with your students on appropriate use of social media. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that educating students, and their families, about responsible use is the best way to deal with cyberbullying and cyberbaiting. Finally, review your school's discipline code to make sure that it is up-to-date and provides explicit guidance about how to respond when cyberbaiting, or other forms of cyberbullying, occur.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Free Digital Tools Help with Tight Budgets

eClassroom News recently shared ways that schools can access free digital tools that will help stretch tight budgets. High-quality resources can be found online at little, or no, cost. The dilemma is that there is so much available, educators need help in making decisions about the tools that are most useful. The article discusses several valuable online resources but we'd like to highlight just a couple.
  • First is, a site managed by a nonprofit foundation in California. Originally designed to provide materials to students in impoverished countries, its mission has recently shifted to serving American schools as well.
  • Another resource is run by the Khan Academy that provides over 2,700 videos each linked to assignments, tools for keeping track of student progress, and other tools for teachers. The Khan Academy recently received funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.
Other sites providing free teacher resources and ways to stretch your technology budget provide other ways to improve your instructional program at minimal expense.

We'd enjoy hearing about other sites you find useful and ways you're using technology to stretch your school's budget.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A new article by Laura Devaney in eSchoolNews reports that 'School leaders play an important role in guiding educators as they strive to improve student achievement. School principals, charged with so many tasks already, also must be confident instructional leaders who can help teachers organize instruction, comprehend standards, and develop curriculum.

During a Jan. 12 Education Trust webinar about how principals can be strong, positive, and effective leaders, three school principals shared their tips and strategies for creating a school atmosphere in which instructional leadership thrives.

“Instructional leadership is one of the hardest things for principals to bring about in their schools, because of the historical nature of teaching [as] a closed-door profession,” said Ricci Hall, principal of University Park Campus School in Worcester, Mass.

“I think the notion of instructional leadership being led by the principal and carried out and enhanced by teachers is one of the hardest jobs to really get into the culture of the school,” said webinar leader Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.

Click on the following link to read what these thoughtful school leaders have to say about leadership, and pick up some of their best strategies.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bad Online Behavior and College Admissions

A recent study by Varsity Outreach reported that many colleges are using Facebook as a recruiting tool. Over 80% of responding schools said they used Facebook for admissions purposes and 89% said that Facebook is "very or somewhat" important in their process. But many of the same colleges are also using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to learn more about applicants. Education Week reports that a 2011 survey by Kaplan Test Prep found that 24% of colleges said they viewed publicly available pages to get a better idea about potential students. 20% used Google. 12% said they found evidence of bad online behavior like underage drinking, vulgar language, and other behaviors. The Washington Post reported on a study conducted by SafetyWeb where 38% of college admissions directors said that "an applicant's social profile 'negatively affected' their views of the applicant.

These data remind us of the importance of teaching students about responsible online behavior including information about how easily accessible most of their online postings are to others. It provides an opportunity to discuss online safety, and how to set controls on their accounts.

It raises some interesting questions. Should college's be prohibited from searching online to learn about applicants? What should families do to monitor their children's online profile? We'd enjoy hearing from you about this subject.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tips for Use of Digital Communication

We're always looking for useful tips about how school leaders can use social media technology tools. The January 2012 issue of eSchool News includes an article with tips on the use of social media technology to enhance communication with families and communities. Nora Carr from the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina describes five tips. I was fascinated with the use of QR (quick response) codes for lunch menus, schedule changes, reminders about parent-teacher conferences and other information for parents and families. QR codes are those "goofy looking" bar code squares that are popping up everywhere. You use the camera on your phone to scan the code and retrieve the information. This can be particularly useful for the new generation of parents who are much more comfortable with technology. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that more than half of US adults use social media and more than 6 in 10 say they use it to stay in touch with family and retrieve useful information.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Changing the Culture of Low Performing Schools

Changing a school's culture is one of the toughest jobs a principal faces -- especially if that culture has supported low performance and diminished achievement.  Culture, or "the way we do things around here," is one of the most powerful forces operating in a school, and it is deeply embedded in all aspects of the schools operations, from the way we teach to the way we participate in faculty meetings or work with parents. Eschoolnews has published an excellent article on how principals can begin to change school cultures, especially those that foster poor performance and low expectations.  Best of all, it showcases some things that principals can use social media tools to achieve.   This is a great way to start thinking about the New Year in your own school, so be sure to check it out at

Monday, January 2, 2012

Internet Etiquette for Students

My granddaughters (ages 6 and 8) each received an iPod Touch for Christmas. I was fascinated at how comfortable they were with each of the technologies included on the Touch and how adept they were at communicating with their parents, friends, siblings and their grandparents. But I was also reminded about the importance of Internet etiquette and of learning how to use new technology in a safe and responsible way. I've included a link to a recent article in USA Today about how schools recognize the importance of teaching "digital etiquette" to students. It describes initiatives underway in several schools to address this issue. One principal described the importance this way. "Handing a kid a computer without safety training is a bit like handing over a car and expecting a driver to emerge." The article reminds each of us of the need to help the "digital natives" in our classrooms learn how to use these marvelous technologies in productive and appropriate ways.