Schools: Take control or forfeit your profile

Who is controlling your school’s online profile?

In my presentation to educators I usually say:

You need to take control of your online presence, because if you don’t…someone else will!

Do schools have someone looking after their online profile?

Do we need to create a new position in the communication office?

I just got done editing my school’s wikipedia entry where someone had put false information on the site. It was brought to my attention today by a teacher who was told by a student about the edits made to the article.

Funny enough as I’m writing this blog post I go back to the page to find more edits made that are false. I quickly go to the history page, see that the person editing the pages is logged in as user: shanghai12345, and quickly undo their edits again.

I’m loving this! They make an edit I click on the history, click undo, write a quick summary of my edit and click Revert. The real information comes back.

Schools need to understand where students go to get information about their school.

Schools need to understand that if you don’t control the school’s profile students will.

How is your school represented on Facebook?

How is your school represented on Wikipedia?

How can your school leverage these places as communication avenues?

How can your school leverage these social-networks for learning?

If someone at your school isn’t asking these questions…isn’t actively creating and managing your school’s online presence then the school is allowing students past/present/future to create it for them.

If school’s are not going to adopt and take these spaces seriously…then they will allow these social places to run the school’s image. Someday I have a feeling that will ruin a school, an administrator, or a teacher. We are only at the beginning of the use of these tools. Take control now or forfeit your online profile to others!

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. I never really thought about our schools online image, but after reading your post I did a search on wikipedia and found some incorrect facts.

  2. An interesting observation. The “digital footprints” that students leave has been a hot topic…it’s a good idea to apply this conversation to schools, as well.

    The issue may be more complicated, though, than in the case of an individual. I can imagine schools coming under criticism for top-down, authoritarian attempts to manipulate their images in a democratic forum. Will a system’s wikipedia-spinning be looked upon more favorably than when corporations try to shape their Wikipedia footprints, or less? I don’t know.

    One thing for sure, though, is that you’re right: these sorts of information are growing in importance, and we need to start thinking about what that means.

  3. Hi Jeff,

    This a really interesting post and a real concern.

    What actual steps do actually thing schools should be taking to monitor their online “profiles?” At first glance, it sounds like an endless, time-consuming task. How does one make changes on privately controlled online spaces like personal social networking sites, newspaper blog posts, “rate your teacher” sites, etc? Wikipedia seems to be the easy one, here.

    And at what point will online profiles be considered factually suspect by most information seekers?

    Inquiring minds need to know!

    Thanks,

    Doug

  4. When I talk to principals in our school district about their web presence, most are still thinking in mid 90’s terms of what can best be described as “brochureware”. They want to take their paper handbook and put it online, maybe with a slide show or two. Their web site is strictly one way.

    If I ask about what should be on their Wikipedia page or about the possibility of establishing a Ning site for their community, they give me very strange looks. When I suggest they should be writing a blog, they think I must be from Mars (or a student who has just gotten around the filter).

    Most school administrators don’t really see the web as a valuable communication tool. And they, along with the people in our admin PR office, actually believe they can control the district’s image, even online. We have 5th graders who understand that’s not possible.

  5. Excellent points, Jeff. I created a page for my school on Wikipedia a couple of years ago, follow changes regularly via rss – you know, the stuff a responsible open wiki contributor would do.

    What concerns me are a couple of things:
    1) is anybody else keeping an eye on my school? I sure don’t think so…
    2) is there any administrative support or direction to be certain schools get put there (say Wikipedia) in the first place? Don’t think so…

    What gives me hope is our small example of a school wiki – that will soon replace our tired, very web 1.0, school web page. It has been wide open on wikispaces for over 2 years. Sure we’ve had some vandalism, but there are now enough stakeholders to maintain it and revert when necessary, etc. Biggest (besides me) stakeholders? Parents. They get it. – Mark

    (Arbor Heights Elementary School, in Seattle – look us up. Yikes, I better check out Facebook right now…)

  6. Great food for thought. This stood out for me…

    “Schools need to understand that if you don’t control the school’s profile students will.”

    Ideally, schools will take control of their online presence by including students in the process of monitoring/editing sites like Wikipedia. We’ve recently run into this issue and I’m thinking of the best strategy to take inclusive control – i.e. teachers, students, parents, etc.

  7. Jeff,
    This is a great post every Principal and school leader should read. I was leading an administrator session in Illinois last week and challenged small groups to find out how their school was being showcased online. After the initial shock of exploring http://www.youtube.com, flickr and more there was an amazing discussion. Tim’s comment about the 90’s “brochureware” is really true.

    Collaboration and PR is more critical today than ever and many school leaders need a new lens to look through.

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