Friday, August 6, 2010

Principal who used to block, now offers guidance to skeptical admins in social media use

With barely a handful of other principals participating in social media environments principal Eric Sheninger feels rather lonely and is extending an offer to lead others into the digital age of interactivity. In his latest post Building Momentum, Mr. Sheninger puts out a call to action to educational leaders to join him in online environments or, as I like to say, become a part of his personal learning network.

Administrators who are skeptical about utilizing social media have a lot to learn from Eric or NMHS_Principal as he’s known in the Twitosphere. He was in the same boat just a little over a year ago, and his ship was sinking. He blocked sites and banned mobile devices to an extreme all in an effort to do what he thought was best for his students and staff. Today he says, “Boy was I wrong!” and realizes the error of his ways.

Sheninger now advocates to empower educators to effectively integrate technology combined with best instructional practices and takes any chance he gets to discuss his transformation with skeptical administrators. His motivation is simple. He says, “I now have the confidence to clearly articulate how social media has enabled me to become a more effective and efficient administrator in many areas.” He adds that, “I stress the fact that this phenomenon is not going away and is a major component in the lives of today’s society.”

Sheninger’s advice to educational leaders is that we should be modeling, supporting, and collaborating with our respective staffs to create a vibrant school culture that fosters risk-taking and innovation. Learning environments that are structured in such a way will not only help students think critically, problem solve, and master the content, but also teach them how to be digitally responsible.

He explains that his motivations are partly selfish too. He needs other administrators to join him saying that he finds it depressing as he looks around his own state of New Jersey as well as the country and globe in general and notices the lack of an administrative presence in the world of social media and other areas of educational technology leadership.

I understand Eric’s frustration. We each have personal learning networks numbering in the thousands, yet there are only a handful of principals participating. We pretty much know the same five guys who I also mentioned recently in my post Want to help a principal start a blog? These 5 principals can provide inspiration. He adds a name new to me Deron Durflinger to the list as well. So there are six guys. As a female, I can’t help but notice they’re all men and add, that not only do we need more school leader voices, but some females would be great too!

In his post Eric cries out to his five principal buds who are all working hard to do their parts to lead in the digital age, but he asks for their help to build momentum pleading, “Can ya help me out with this one?” We need leaders to step up and into these worlds for the sake of our students. As Eric points out, he’s learned a lot, but there is so much more to learn about educational leadership and facilitating sustainable change. He knows from his participation in online networks that the best way for learning to occur is when it happens with other experienced leaders in the trenches that can share their knowledge, strategies, successes, and failures. Like most, this is how he learns best and he confesses that he needs their help, support, ideas, and advice on all aspects of educational leadership, not educational technology. He knows that when educational leaders move together they can all collaborate to grow, lead more effectively, and move towards substantive reform.

To entice his peers, Sheninger offers five facets of social media that truly assist educational leaders to become more effective and efficient. They are 1) Communication, 2) Branding, 3. Professional Development/Growth, 4) Opportunity 5) Collaboration

You can find out how social media plays a part in each of these in his post Building Momentum.

Thank you to Eric Sheninger and the fabulous five George Couros, Patrick Larkin, Chris Lehmann begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting, Deron Durflinger, Dave Meister for being the pioneering voices of school leaders today.


  1. As a district-level administrator, I'm trying to get this message to the building admins in my district. One problem I'm running into is that they don't see any professional value to social media, so I tend to get a "yeah, sure, enjoy yourself, but I'll be fine" kind of response from most. Anyone have suggestions about how to get over that hurdle and help them start even hearing the message?

  2. Awesome post, Lisa. Thanks. I'm going to forward this to my district admin.

    Hey Gerald, I've been battling this for years. I have used Web 2.0 and social media tools for years and shared what I do with colleagues and admin. The higher-ups are afraid of Internet predators and students sharing inappropriate material, and colleagues love it but are "too busy" to learn.

    We need real PD from people who use Web 2.0 in the classroom -- not so-called experts who are not teachers. It all starts with people like you and Mr. Sheninger.

  3. Lisa,

    I couldn't agree with you more about we need more female voices that we can learn from. I know that in my school division we have about 50% female administration and they are all amazing! I would love to hear more from their voices through social media.

    Recently I started this website for principals connecting and sharing best ideas. We have had a lot of principals join with me but we still need a female voice so it doesn't look like an "all boys club".

    If you know of anyone that is interested I would love to hear from them.

    Here is the site:

    Thanks for this post!