Erika Daggett, Chief Information Officer with Sycamore Community Schools in southwest Ohio, will present Storytelling-Engaging Family and Community during the Annual Statewide Education Conference Nov. 1-2. Today, she shares some insight on the issue.
Q: Why are teachers reluctant to share their stories?
A: I think many teachers are humble and they either feel they are just doing their jobs or they don’t even realize the uniqueness of what they are doing with students, so they don’t realize it’s a story that others would be interested in hearing.
Q: How can they do a better job sharing these stories?
A: Teachers should be “proud out loud”! What warrants a call to the communication department?: Unique projects, photo opportunities, lesson plans that meet state mandates or district goals. These things help share the district’s story and provide residents with an inside look in to schools so they feel connected to local schools and also better understand how their tax dollars are used to educate youth. Every taxpayer is not able to visit a school or has a child in school, so electronic communication (via stories, videos, websites, and photos) is an invaluable and flexible tool we can use to show others what is happening in our classrooms.
Q: What are two tools available to teachers to help them engage the community?
A: Electronic communication is a must-have tool that comes in many forms. It is a must as the 21st century world is a mobile and tech-savvy environment. More and more people are using handheld devices to obtain information on-the-go. People want “any time, anywhere” access to information. Two electronic tools that I believe should be priorities for districts are interactive, dynamic, and responsive websites (websites that allow people to have an individualized experience on a variety of different devices such as iPads, personal computers, laptops, and cell phones) and social media. Interactive websites serve as a one-stop shop that provide statistical, general, and archival information, as well as tell the stories of a district through news articles, photos, and videos. Websites can store a breadth of information that is searchable, allowing people to find the exact information they are looking for and determine for themselves how much information they want to know. When people are easily able to find information they need or want, a feeling of trust develops and people become advocates for education by sharing what they have learned. Social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, allow communicators and teachers to share quick snippets of information directly with their audiences in the exact way the audience wants it, whether it be on a cell phone or iPad, via email or text messaging, or with verbiage or video. Social media also allows a two-way conversation to develop which fosters relationships. Both tools also allow information to be shared across a variety of audiences, which is helpful when trying to reach the masses.
Q: What experience in engaging the community do you bring to the conference?
A: My career in school public relations began in 1996. In that time I have held community forums, worked on levies, conducted surveys, produced videos, taken photos, worked with media, created magazines and newsletters, and designed and managed websites. All of these tools can be strategically used to engage the community. Most recently, I launched a social-media integrated website that also features videos highlighting the diversity and culture of my district. Perhaps most important to successful engagement, was that my district’s social media was launched in a way that made all members of the school community feel included and excited about the project, a complete turn-around from the beginning of the project when there was much fear and discomfort. This feeling of comfort and inclusion allows me continue my social media efforts with plans to launch district Twitter accounts this fall. The Twitter launch will provide the opportunity to strengthen communication with district audiences and empower district staff to become “citizen journalists” to “show and tell” a story of student achievement and staff commitment in real time.