#TLAP: Tone Makes a Difference

It’s been a crazy time, and last week school started for staff in Fluvanna County. Ever since Monday, it’s been a flurry of activity, but I have had time to begin incorporating new ideas and projects into my work already. One thing I have already done is changed how I present to staff, and the results were fantastic. Let’s travel back to August 1st…

On August 1st, I was at the high school to attend the opening day faculty meeting. I had been scheduled by the principal to present since the end of the previous year. Over the summer, I had developed a Slides presentation to introduce FlucoTech, and later I’d tweaked it to add in stuff about my role as an ITRT. My presentation already used Bitmoji images, as they are fun and draw the audience in. The only thing left was how I would present all of the information.

After meeting both Dave Burgess and George Couros in the early summer, I realized what a difference the way information is presented makes. This was further demonstrated by the Bowtie Tech Guys at WVSTC. How we share that information is just as important, and after this summer, anyone who tells me that students should simply learn the information because they have to should think again. As Burgess discusses in Teach Like a Pirate, we’re competing for students’ attention from so many outlets. If we can’t go with the flow and hook them on our material, we have lost them and we have lost out.

As teachers, we have attended professional development sessions where we loved hearing the presenter, and others where we’d rather gouge our eyeballs out because it was so boring. Think of how those sessions were presented though. Did they engage you? Did they draw on stories, jokes, imagery, videos, or some other form of showmanship? Think of how the “boring” sessions were presented now. Was it simply a presenter speaking in a bland manner while referring to some kind of slide presentation?

For my presentation, I grabbed my pirate flag and hat. This alone had folks curious. The image on the title screen of my slide was a bitmoji that said “Let’s taco about it”. My presentation was the last one scheduled on the agenda… over two hours into the faculty meeting. By this time, people are ready to go, they’re done, they’re bored. My teachers were high school ones, and they were quite a large group.

I immediately start with “Ahoy there!” and get a lackluster response. I remark to the principal that his crew must be dead, and then do it again. This time I get a much better response, and from there we are off and running. I’m loud, I’m animated, I’m working to get them to laugh. The information itself is not the most interesting to many of them and I know that, so I draw them in in other ways.

When I was finished, I heard many compliments from my teachers, and how they enjoyed the presentation. Some told me it was the best one of the morning, others appreciated the way I made them feel comfortable. I have since heard many more compliments, which lets me know I’m on the right track with engagement. I also had a lot of teachers reach out to me for help after that, which really contributed to my busy schedule at the high school last week.

In contrast, I have yet to do such a presentation at the middle school, and I do feel this has made a difference with the staff I have interacted with so far this year. The principal has mentioned having me present at a faculty meeting next week, but this is not set in stone just yet. We will see what happens when I do though.

Overall, I have found that tone and showmanship make all the difference. I am definitely heading in the right direction with my work, and will keep building on it throughout this year. All it takes is a small spark to make a big difference!

Social Media & Feedback

The school year is winding down here in Fluvanna County. Our students only have a 1/2 day to attend tomorrow, and they are out for the summer. Staff have 3 days next week, and I have more beyond that. My mind is wrapping things up for this year, and beginning to make plans for next year. I have received my contract for next year, and am happy to be returning to the district. I have plans to improve on what I’ve done, and am working with leaders in the school board office to try and make some of it happen.

As many of you know, social media was a focus of mine this year. In fact, I’m going to be presenting on it at the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference. I believe that social media branding is very important for schools to take part in, and that more schools need to tell their stories. Alas, not everyone feels as though it is a necessary task when added to the other bits and pieces of work for school, but it does pay off and parents do take notice.

Because I am presenting, and because I want to make improvements next year, I needed to turn to our main viewership base- families of the students. I needed to get their feedback on their thoughts about social media, and I needed it to be honest so that improvements could be made. I know our first year really pushing it didn’t go well in some areas, while it excelled in others. Reading over the responses so far, I see many parents who agree with the observations that I have made.

However, first years never go as planned, and are usually meant to be ways to work out the kinks and problems for the next year. If professional development is my main passion, then school social media branding is my second one.

When it came time to develop my survey for parent feedback, I considered the following:

  • It needed to be anonymous
  • There needed to be a separate survey link for each school
  • It needed to be quick and easy
  • It needed to ask the few burning questions on school media

The anonymous part is pretty obvious, but I stated it anyway. The reason a separate link was needed for each school was so that parents with students in multiple schools could separate their comments based on the school’s page, and give feedback regarding both schools if they wished. Quick and easy was a point because no one wants to spend forever doing a survey on anything. Rating scales were key to making it quick. Finally, it needed to ask my target questions and get written feedback from parents. That way I might gather some specific topics or points to address when preparing for the next year.

Here are the questions that were decided on for each survey:

  1. Think back over the school year. What types of posts do you recall seeing on [School]’s Facebook page?
  2. How often do you feel [School] utilized their Facebook page?
  3. How satisfied are you with the frequency that [School] posted to their Facebook page?
  4. How did adding school stories, identified with #flucostories on the Facebook page, impact your overall view of the school?
  5. How satisfied are you with the frequency that #flucostories appeared on the Facebook page?
  6. How satisfied are you with the types of #flucostories that appeared on the Facebook page? (clubs, classroom activities, sports, events, etc.)
  7. Please provide any suggestions you have to help [School] improve the Facebook page for next school year.

With the exception of Question 7, all questions were based on a 1-5 rating scale, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. The survey was designed in Google Forms, and handed off to each school. If your school uses social media and wants to get feedback from families, feel free to borrow the questions I’ve listed above.

I am looking forward to analyzing the data and determining the weakest areas for each school. I am also looking forward to (hopefully!) developing a more uniform plan for the district, instead of going on a school by school basis.