My Principal Has More Twitter Followers Than Me :(

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Could you imagine a student actually saying that? Well a student at Burlington High in Massachusetts is very likely to say that as are all teachers. Patrick Larkin has over 3000 twitter followers and an avid readership to his blog.

Mr. Larkin is obviously a technology advocate who is pushing his district towards a one-to-one program. However, that is not what caught my attention about tech savvy Mr. Larkin.

What really got me was two things:
a) He has a “Cell phones are welcome in class” policy
b) He has 3000 frickin’ followers on twitter

Cell phones in class?
Mr. Larkin essentially said that kids are using mobile devices to cheat anyway. Why not incorporate them into the classroom and make them a teaching tool. Ok, I like how that sounds. Only in my experience, most kids use their mobile devices to either cheat, text friends or check Facebook. I highly doubt most kids are using their fancy, and incidentally expensive mobile devices like the iPhone for spreadsheets, organizers or other practical tools. “Oh sir, I was just researching Nigeria” Sammy says as he continues to text his girlfriend in room 102.

He does bring up an interesting point. Teachers could quickly send out a poll or a quick quiz to gauge understanding. However, the logistics to get that to work are beyond me and I’m a techy. First you need all the kids to have mobile devices that have operating systems that can handle such applications. Next, you have to make sure your polling app is not OS specific and works on all carriers and data plans. What if a student has a powerful laptop but a standard Nokia that has basic functionality?

I love technology and I love using it in classrooms. But we also dont want to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s not immerse students and ourselves with so much technology that we drown. If we find a very good reason to use a tech resource, then use it. But let’s not just embrace technology for the sake of embracing it. Let’s teach our students good tech practices, teach them how to use certain tools and help foster an understanding that technology is here to stay and we need to be comfortable with it to survive in the real world. Technology in itself is not a tool. It is like a tool chest with various tools in it that have very specific functions and if misused, can lead to some wonky builds. What do you think of cell phones being accepted in the classroom? WHere do you draw the line?

Rockstar status on Twitter
The other thing that really struck a chord with me about Mr. Larkin’s story, and the more prominent one was his blog. He had started a blog after years of not being allowed to by his district. Why not? What was the district afraid of? Good news is, he got to start his blog. However, he does not use it as a tool to simply communicate with students and parents but he uses it to communicate with administrators and educators across the globe. Think about it. He has the ability to open discussions about whatever topic that is plaguing his school and he can get the perspective of dozens of people around the globe who have probably dealt with similar situations. He no longer has to wait for the next regional conference.

Note: As an international teacher, educational conferences are harder to access because there are fewer and are usually involve flying to another country.

I believe that all principals should have a blog. Why email blurbs to teachers when you could post it on your blog. Post information about school events, initiatives, changes, warnings, etc right on the blog for parents and teachers to read. Kids too will be able to log on and see what Principal X has to say about the Prom this year and whether or not he will allow them to go with the Lady Gaga theme.

It completes the School, Parent and Student trifecta. It consolidates the dissemination of information and is environmentally friendly as well. IT also fosters a sense of community because people can comment and react to posts. Principals can provide external resources/links that may support whatever point he or she is trying to make.

And, coming full circle, if kids are allowed to use phones in class, they can receive RSS feeds for pincipal X’s blog and be updated as to whether or not Thursday is crazy hair day or not.

Please follow us on Twitter so we too can join the ranks of elite edu-stars alongside the likes of Mr. Larkin. Rawk On!

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About Omar Ghosn

I'm a tech teacher who enjoys long walks on the beach, cries when he sees dolphins and is highly successful...oops, wrong profile. Anyway, I'm a geek at heart who enjoys helping out teachers integrate technology in the classroom
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