Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Social Media as a Professional Support System for Educational Leaders: Our Google+ Hangout Journey

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Social Media as a Professional Support System for Educational Leaders: Our Google+ Hangout Journey

Article excerpt

We needed to change our practice to meet the needs of our learners.

ONLINE TOOLS ARE COMMONLY USED on college campuses for both student learning and socializing; we set out to purposefully use these tools to support our graduates in the field. We planned for and implemented the use of Google+ Communities and Google+ Hangouts for mentorship, collaboration, and reflection with a cohort of aspiring educational leaders. There were challenges and successes in using Google+; our results have encouraged us to continue along our journey exploring the use of digital tools.

The impetus for this initiative was a grant received by Hamline University's School of Education in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) grant was awarded to address the performance and retention of teachers and administrators in Minnesota schools. Recognizing that university faculty have limited access to their working graduates and acknowledging that faculty knowledge and regular use of digital tools for learning was lagging, our dean of education proposed incorporating technology into the new program. We selected Google+ Communities as the program's platform since social media is widely used for both professional development and networking. In planning for the paradigm shift involved in embracing social media as a tool for learning, we had to confront mind-sets around technology, incorporate technology training, and revamp the pedagogy used in working with graduates. Basically, we needed to change our practice to meet the needs of our learners.

BACKGROUND

In this age of accountability for K-12 educators, there is an emerging need to ensure that licensed graduates can indeed perform as effective teachers and leaders in U.S. schools and districts. CAEP, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (2013), recently revised its standards for the accreditation of education programs. These changes require licensing institutions to collect data from the schools and districts that hire their graduates; universities desiring accreditation by CAEP will be held accountable for their graduates' performance. Therefore, it would be wise for institutions to plan for and help implement graduate support systems in the schools and districts where their licensure graduates teach and lead. Technology can and should play a large part in this effort.

Our university recently implemented a new program to better address teacher preparation; because of CAEP standards, we now closely monitor effective practices and students' achievement outcomes during their year-long teacher internships and beyond. The need to develop a similar support system for licensed administrators became of great importance to the dean of the School of Education and the faculty coordinator of Hamline's administrative licensure program. As a result, the MDE grant dollars were earmarked for planning and implementing an induction program for new educational leaders.

DEVELOPING THE PLAN

The MDE grant authorized us to plan and mobilize supports for schools and educational leaders. Our goal was to develop an induction program to validate that our newly licensed administrators were well prepared and supported in their new leadership roles. Planning efforts began with a literature review of district, state, and organizational principal support systems and induction programs across the nation. Research continued by exploring current and past district programs for new leaders in and around the Twin Cities area. The emphasis was on specifically identifying aspects of effective induction programs for new administrators. To continue these efforts with greater focus, we eventually contracted to work with a former facilitator, coach, and mentor who had been involved with administrator development programs throughout the metro area and greater Minnesota for several years. Our grant consultant provided significant insight and guidance in planning our program; he also helped us implement the program in its first year. …

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