May 14, 2012

How to use social media for students & schools

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PTA conference: Embracing community outreach while protecting student privacy

JD LasicaOn Friday I flew down to Anaheim to give a 90-minute presentation, “Communicating in a Networked World,” to a packed room of about 250 attendees at the California State PTA Convention.

We had a great give an take about how social media can be used, by Parent Teacher Associations and other organizations, to advance schools’ and school districts’ business goals. I present at a lot of workshops and it was great to see the amount of interaction throughout the session — not just questions to me but PTA reps pitching in to help their colleagues.

Topics covered Facebook, Twitter, storytelling, Pinterest,, community strategies and more. More than half the workshop was spent on Facebook — probably 80 percent of the PTAs in the room had a Facebook page, compared with 20 percent that had a Twitter account.

Business reasons for using social media

Why use social media if you’re a PTA or educational association? I suggested these reasons as a starting point:

    1. Enhance the educational experience at your school (this needs to be the main reason, and one that you revisit time and again)
    2. Promote your PTA, school or school district
    3. Involve the community in decision-making
    4. Feedback loop with community
    5. Enlist volunteers

  1. Build an online community of supporters
  2. Raise funds for a cause or campaign
  3. Get people to attend your events
  4. Enhance existing communications programs
  5. Connect with peers at other PTAs or potential partners.

A fair chunk of the workshop was spent addressing issues of student privacy and legal liability. Legal waivers, understandably, are a part of life in the social media trenches at local PTAs. The best solutions I heard were these:

• Get students’ parents to sign a waiver form when you’re at an event where you capture images of the students for use on Facebook or elsewhere.

• Make sure the waiver doesn’t just cover the school but also the PTA, which is in most cases a separate legal entity.

• But I also pointed out that a fair amount of outside content can be shared on Facebook and Twitter, including student groups like Hiki No Student News, a network of more than 70 public, private and charter schools, from elementary level through high school, in Hawaii. There are a number of interesting student-run citizen media outfits whose updates are worth sharing on Facebook — without a waiver of any kind.

A resource page for PTAs

I created a PTA landing page on Socialbrite to help PTA reps and educators access resources and tutorials on how to monitor key terms, how to create media and tell stories, how to strategically use Facebook and Twitter, and how to enlist the community on behalf of your organizational mission. Feel free to download the presentation on SlideShare.JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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3 thoughts on “How to use social media for students & schools

  1. I am totally agree with you social media is really helpful for us in enhancing the existing communications programs.I would like to read your more updates.Keep it up.