Social media tools have transformed the way Timberview Middle School Principal Carrie Jackson does her job and enhanced the school experience for students, parents, teachers and community members.Now Jackson is sharing her knowledge with educators from around the world since she was named a 2013 Digital Principal by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).“There is nothing more important in schools than developing those really strong positive relationships,” Jackson said.Social media can help educators make connections with parents and colleagues when face-to-face meetings are not possible.Jackson shared her experiences with other principals last week through a “webinar,” a live online presentation that allowed participants to view her digital report and post questions.While traditional school outreach methods (websites, newsletters, emails, phone messages and mailers) all have value in transmitting information, they also share the same shortcoming of being one-way communications, Jackson said.Through a school Facebook page and Twitter, Jackson has found ways to have two-way interactions.Jackson and other Timberview officials frequently post photos and notices on upcoming events on the school Facebook page. Parents and others can make comments and ask questions.About a year ago, Jackson started a weekly online meeting via Twitter called #TMSHawkChat. Every Tuesday night while school is in session, Jackson or another Timberview educator moderates an online discussion about a specific topic.Recent Hawk Chats have covered school organizational skills, best apps for education and questions from families of incoming fifth-graders. Anyone on Twitter can follow the discussion and post questions by including #TMSHawkChat.“It’s been a great opportunity to interact with parents I didn’t know personally before,” Jackson said. “Hawk Chat builds a connection with people that we might not otherwise have.”The success of Hawk Chat prompted Jackson and other educators to start a #Keller ISDChat, which occurs at 8 p.m. on Sunday nights.Jackson has chatted with educators from as far away as Australia, but the biggest benefits are to parents.One of the best things about the Twitter chats is that parents can follow the discussion from wherever they happen to be, even from their child’s soccer practice or waiting in the drive-through line at McDonald’s.“It’s huge to be able to check in from wherever, to know that hour is consistently there every week while school is in session,” Jackson said.In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Jackson uses Instagram and Pinterest to connect with families. Most of the followers on Instagram are Timberview students while Pinterest draws a lot of moms.By showing positive interactions online, Jackson wants students to learn responsible online behavior.“I hope they learn to be as kind to one another on social media as they would expect to be in person,” she said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland