OK….so the title made you click and read this post…and that’s what I’m hoping will happen with our student body. I got a brillant…stupid idea the other day to see if I could engage the student community in using Facebook and FourSquare to promote our up coming Softball Spirit Night (I’m Asst. Coach to boys varsity softball….we play softball instead of baseball at school…so don’t judge me!)

I’m sure there are going to be people that read this and think I’m insane, think I’m putting kids in danger, or a host of other reasons why this might not work…but I do have to say on this one I actually got it approved through the school admin and our very switched on Atheltic Director is in full support. (In full disclosure our Dean of Students, Dennis Harter did my job before me…and our Atheltic Director Andy Vaughen is a COETAIL graduate and a huge user of technology in both Atheltics and Physical Education)

Here’s the plan: Spirit Night is this coming Friday as the softball team takes on the International School of Kuala Lumpur

I first made a special on the school’s FourSquare page (see this post about using FourSquare at our school) that you can see in the image above that outlines how to win a prize if you attend Spirit Night. 

Basically kids have to do two things.

1. They have to check-in on FourSquare between 7-8pm (during the game)

2. They have to post on their Facebook Page a status that reads “I’m at Spirit Night are you?”

Monday morning the first 10 students to come to my office and show me that they accomplished the two things above in the time frame win a prize donated by our PTA via our Athletic Director. 

Next step….how do I get the word out to kids? Sure I could have put it in the bulletin that not every student reads, but instead I decided that using the network fully would be an interesting test. So I found 5 very active ISB Facebook groups, joined them and posted a message outlining the details of the compitition to get this in front of kids and get them talking about it.

That’s it…we’ll see what happens tomorrow night…I’m excited to see if this works…or it might be a total flop as kids will look at this and think “There goes Mr. U again and one of his crazy ideas.”

Either way….I’m having fun! 

This is something I’m pretty passionate about and something I think most schools don’t fully understand yet. In a socially connected world where communities trump content schools need to continue to monitor and adjust where their community is moving to, what tools are they adopting, and what content they are creating, talking about, and using to connect to each other.

It use to be you only had to worry about your school website

Then it was the wikipedia entry

Then came videos that kids were uploading to YouTube and Myspace

Next came Facebook

Shortly after that Twitter

and now location services (Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla and Google Latitude )

Your school does have a presence on all these sites right?

At the end of last school year I was the only one checking into ISB (Foursquare link) via Foursquare. The Mayorship was all mine! Then somewhere around September I get a notice that I was bumped from being the mayor of our school. A little investigation found out that it was an 11th grade girl at our school. Over the next couple of months we battled it out for the Mayorship…I leave for winter break only to come back and find that Foursquare had taken off at our school.


Click to Enlarge

Seeing that the community was building here it was time to make it official as there were a few different venues floating around for our school. So I followed the steps on Foursquare to claim the venue…a pretty easy process. After I officially claimed the venue for our school I could add information such as the correct address, link to website, link to twitter account, and even offer specials to students. 

I ran a special that if students checked in 5 days in a row I would buy their lunch (attendance taker?). I gave away two lunches in January and then started thinking about other specials you could run for parents, students and the community. You really could have some fun with this. (i.e. Check-ins during sporting event give-aways. Attendance check-ins, daily give-aways…..free lunch from the school to a random person check-in.)

Of course you also need to understand that you can’t control everything…especially location based services like this one. We have the school as the official venue on Foursquare. But kids have gone crazy and you can also find:

ISB Library

ISB Cafeteria

ISB Dance Room

ISB Weight Room

ISB Field B

ISB Field A1

ISB ES Playground

ISB HS Art Room

ISB Tennis Courts

For those school leaders who think they can still control the content of the school…let this list speak for itself. You can’t control where the community goes, what tools they decide to use or not use. All you can do is go with the community and engage them, or at the very least let them know you have a presence there. The worse thing you can do is put your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. “We didn’t even know this was happening” isn’t a very good stance when talking to parents or community members. Schools need to become more social-network savvy. It’s time that we create a position in schools to communicate and engage the community where they are at in these growing social-networks. 

The days of having full control over your content is gone! The sooner we realize that the sooner we can move on to finding ways to use these social connections to drive dialog, discussions, and even learning and engagement around our schools.

Other Blog Posts On This Topic

Taking Control of Your School’s Profile: Where to Start

Schools: Take Control or Forfeit your Profile

Who’s Controlling your Profile?