These are my notes from Dean Shareski‘s breakout session, “Beyond the Bake Sale: Building Social Capital in our Schools,” at the Mobile 2013 Conference in Tucson, Arizona, on September 18, 2013. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

An older (Feb 2013) version of Dean’s slides are available on SlideShare:

This session is borne out of my own experience working at a district level in schools
- in 2009 our district didn’t have a communications person on staff
- I was the guy that looked after the district webpage
- if you look at when districts just started with webpages, they were pretty crude, not well designed, lots with MS Frontpage, etc.
- I saw a district in Michigan used their website not to tell people when the next baskeball game was, but to tell stories about learning
- I though that made a lot of sense: to hightlight and share cool things happening in our schools
- from that, schools started to send me things to share

Many schools don’t think of social capital for their websites, they generally just share events

Thinking of leaders as narrative champions
- for some leaders, thinking of themselves as storytellers is a new idea
- that actually IS part of your role as a school leader

Why?
- the landscape has changed within our schools
- not just with technology
- also with trust: parents trusting what the school was doing was right, very little questioning of what was going on at school
- now we don’t have that, lots of questions from the public: “What are these teachers doing?”
- community

A brief history of the term “social capital”
- from WikiPedia

In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea “that social networks have value”. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a university education (cultural capital or human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.

- social cohesion and personal investment in the community
- tend to share the core idea that ‘social networks have value’
- anything that facilitates…

Great book I read from 2000: Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
- this really looks at social capital
- patterns of social participation
- after WWII, rebuilding and rallying together, suburbs growing
- decline happens as people become more self-sufficient

From Slide 16

Understanding and Building Social Capital

Showing Google Map of where Dean was “free to roam” until 6 pm

Teachers are felling very beat up, like they are doing it wrong
- press, administrators, more… there is a big decline in morale from the teaching population

the narrative has been all about the scores, the metrics

“If your tests are telling you 50% of the story, who is telling the other half?

Richard Axelrod: “Universities come to know about things through studies, organizations come to know about things through reports and people come to know about things through stories”

Thomas King: “The truth about stories is that is all we are.” (First Nations author)

Great question: What’s something interesting and exciting happening in your classroom or school?
- if you don’t have those stories, that’s a problem
- follow-up question: Who knows about that story?

Example of student doing community service

Publishing has changed
- Clay Shirky:

Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done.

(quotation linked here)

We have the ability to do this, to tell these stories with clicks of buttons

The world as your refrigerator
- where student is doing community service
- great example that needs to be shared wider!

Your story is being told with or without you
- they are talking about your school whether you are or not
- they might be saying wonderful things, or they might not

Classic CBCnews example: Bullies force 5 year old off school bus
- before we had time to respond, it was on the local news

Next scene: teens who were blamed responded: “We’re not bullies, Sask. school bus students say
- we posted about this on our site and left commenting open, this was a brave thing to do

Facebook group: Concerned Parents of PSD (Parkland School Division 70)

Using our website to tell stories, to have conversations
- I did google search or our school division
- comparing to a school division 5 times larger than ours: we had 214K hits, they had 22K hits
- one thing this points to is that we were intentional about making sure our stories were heard
- we encouraged our teachers and principals to be active online

We have an obligation to share what we are doing, we’re public institutions as schools!
- think about doctors: a doctor who finds a cure for something and didn’t share it… that would be malpractice!
- it’s a moral obligation

John Willinsky: The Access Principle
“A commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who my profit by it”
- shared by @jonbecker

Rushton Hurley: “If kids are sharing with the world, they want it to be good. If they are sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough”

Those are reasons why we do it…

We are in desperate need to build and maintain social capital at all levels

stories about kids asking: Can I throw this assignment away now that’s been graded (perception that their work has no value outside of the classroom grade)

Blog “Culture of Yes” by Chris Kennedy
http://cultureofyes.ca
@chrkennedy

Message of his blog as a superintendent: He highlights people in his district that are doing GREAT work

Another Example: The Open Office
http://brian-harrison.net
@bharrisonp

No question: showing is better than telling

Tim Lauer
http://lewiselementary.org
@timlauer

THe newsletter doesn’t build trust
- don’t stop using newsletters

@dustinswanson does a weekly video update for parents
- he started by reading the newsletter
- but he IS the principal
- and now he’s going to different locations in the building to record this

Steve Dembo talks about “ambient intimacy”
- these are little touches that happen

“Merely looking at a stranger’s Twitter or Facebook feed isn’t interesting, because it seems like blather. Follow it for a day…

Memory and Cognition
May 2013, Vol 41, Issue 4, pp 481-489
“The type of ‘effortless chatter’ that tends to be posted on the social site is better at tapping into our mind’s language capabilities due to human evolution…”

Involve others

Having a district hashtag
#sd36learn
- “but what if people say something nasty”
- it’s community owned, however
- so almost always it represents a great collection of messages, teachers engaging in professional conversations

Others: #EIPS (Elk Island in Edmondton)
- students using the tag on Instagram and YouTube
- get a diverse community of people

Giving people use of an account
- Sweden gives citizens access to the Twitter account for a week at a time
- doctors, farmers, teachers, get access
- @sweden

their idea: we want to tell the story of the people of Sweden

Digital Citizenship at its Finest
- movie from school in Iowa about Jerimiah
- founder of @WestHighBros

Transparency trumps gloss
- we want to know what is going on behind the scenes
- have to be careful it’s not always self-promotion

McDonalds Canada is letting people ask questions via their YouTube channel
- they answered it via YouTube

Great example of a school principal doing this
http://www.dfsd.org/
@YoleBrady

Make a list of the controversial questions you know people are asking, and then respond to them

Lisa Brady started a book club for parents
- used Tony Wagner’s book, “The Global Achievement Gap
- got together and talked about
- I would recommend “Why School” by Will Richardson for this
- super idea for moving parents ahead about a topic

http://paper.li/ESCD35
- creates an aggregated newspaper of content
@EMSCarlson

Idea from Kyle Pace: Easter Eggs
- 4 Square Checkins

Dan Pink: “My challenge to you: only speak like a human at work”

Many public school systems just use twitter as a place to push out information
- people expect a conversation on Twitter
- it is a platform and a place to talk
- when they can’t talk to you, that’s frustrating
- I expect to be able to chat with you

Chris Lehmann
- Philadelphia principal, very intentional about sharing personal and professional
http://practicaltheory.org/blog/
@chrislehmann

story of modeling and sharing your purpose
- janitor at NASA said his job is: “To put a man on the moon”

we’re all about learning
http://shannoninottawa.com
@shannoninottawa
- riffed on the idea of learning in public, learning to play the clarinet
- what we are as an institution is a learning space, that’s what I am as a person

184 Days of Learning blog (George Couros‘ district)
www.psdblogs.ca/184
- get a wide variety of people from the district to blog something that they are learning
- shows “we are an institution about learning, and we provide evidence of this constantly”

WHAT A FANTASTIC SESSION BY DEAN! I LOVE HOW HE BROUGHT IN IDEAS FROM SHIRKY AND MANY OTHERS IN THE CONTEXT OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL. I’M CONVICTED TO DO A BETTER JOB BEING SURE TWITTER ACCOUNTS I SETUP FOR GROUPS ARE MONITORED AND INTERACTIVE. I’M MOTIVATED TO TRY AND USE OUR PTSA WEBSITE, CLASSENSAS.COM, MORE AS A SPACE FOR SHARING GREAT STORIES OF LEARNING AT SCHOOL. WHAT A FANTASTIC IDEA. THIS ALIGNS WELL WITH THE IDEA OF STUDENT STORYCHASER CLUBS / NEW MEDIA JOURNALISM CLUBS.

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  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Thanks Wes. Always a treat to get to spend time with you, pick your brain, share a few giggles and learn together. Take care.

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