Random Thoughts

Your School’s Profile: Are you keeping up?

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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.


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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?


I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Hi Jeff,

    Playing the devil’s advocate for a moment, has ISB expressed any concern over the fact that services such as Foursquare may be exposing students to issues such as privacy concerns, stalking (real or cyber), and the establishment of patterns in their days and activities?

    I realize these concerns may be viewed as holding back progression and the opportunity such services may potentially offer, but can I ask what purpose Foursquare and/or other location based services serve for students in your opinion? (what would be a positive reason for pushing this type of service)

    On a personal level as you know I’ve been on twitter for 4 years, blogging since 2002, and am quite enthusiastic about tech integration, but have yet to sign up for Foursquare, so I can’t speak from experience in using it. But on the educational side, I do have reservations in helping students to establish patterns in their locations and activities (especially here in the Philippines), so I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

    Sounds like your class trip went well.


    • Hi Brandon,

      The simple answer is: no

      I like this article that came out today about students and how they view Twitter. I think for many Foursquare would be viewed the same way.

      You bring up some great concerns and the problem is I don’t know of any school that is taking these concerns seriously even realize this is a concern to have with kids.

      So…my approach is to bring awareness through using the tools. I’ve already talked to two girls who I noticed are the Mayors of their bedrooms…and that’s exactly the kind of thing you bring up. I can only help if I’m in the space and can engage them in the space. I’m not going to get a 16 year old girl to stop using Foursquare, but I can make her think about where she checks in. I personally never check in at my house. Hotels yes, school sure, but my house is private and that’s not information I want out…although you probably could find it somewhere on the web if you really wanted to.

      This is just one concern of many we do not address in schools A) Because administrators and school leaders don’t even know they exists. B) It’s a touchy subject and parents don’t even know it exists. So as long as it’s only us geeks who understand the “new privacy dangers” we’ll never get it into the curriculum. Something horrible will happen and that’s what will bring attention to it….sad to say but all to often true. We live in a reactive world not a proactive one.

  2. Great post, emailing this post to many in my school, this one of my goals at Nanjing International School even with the great firewall in the way. I will say, I’m at the stage where I’m the Mayor all the time and my hope this will change soon. I like the idea of making special spots in four square within the school. If you don’t mind I’ll be borrowing that idea.

  3. I hear you! We’ve yet to have anyone claim the free lunch at our school. It’s been on offer for months. I walked into the local mall before Christmas and while the mall itself was registered with FourSquare, all the stores I visited were not. Montreal is lagging behind the rest of the world and needs to wake up.

  4. Love the way you engaged the students that were participating already. Couldn’t agree more though, anybody who thinks that these aren’t issues schools need to be tackling head on is completely delusional.

  5. In light of some recent discussions within the teacher-librarian ( who, despite sterotypes, are usually leaders and innovators in their schools) community and their corresponding exchanges within Social Media, I assume your question is addressing a school’s penetration into the digital community? The perspective of the teacher-librarian is very interesting in contrast to the ancient stereotypes of sleepy bookminders that still persist. You outline the evolution of communication platforms and technologies requiring profiles- all of which have attributes. I hear from school librarians that they are so busy teaching students and staff how to adapt to rapid change and filter volumes of content they cannot afford to invest limited time and resources into any single transient platform. They are investing in understanding and using and teaching a process. The INQUIRY process often implemented in PLN’s. I know of many K-12 school’s that are trying this approach.
    For any educator, your post’s simple question ARE YOU KEEPING UP has deeper issues to ponder. Take no offense but my teacher colleagues, especially librarians, are being asked each year to do more and more with less and less. They are continually having to learn platforms or skills that have little to do with learning. They have little time, frankly. I’ve been considering and implementing web presence for years and I have a small footprint.
    Are you keeping up? if we feel we must….

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