I have previously blogged on two occasions about how I am fascinated with online data and what it tells us as educators. With what we send out or publish, there are just tons of opportunities to see what people are doing and how they are doing it. For most of my educational career, data and school were a poisonous combination. Data was tedious, most times ending up in a quagmire of educational gobbledy-gook. It also didn’t help that, while the data was always there and accessible, nobody really knew how to read it. Eventually, I did learn one key piece about data itself–you can spin it to make it look fabulous in almost every situation. While not ethical to blatantly make it appear to be something else, using a few keywords often help soften the blow if the data is a hard punch to the gut. Don’t be fooled, though; data is sometimes needed to be that punch to the gut.
While some of my favorite data goldmines have been the analytics offered through Smore and WordPress (the host of this blog), my most recent data goldmine has been the social media website LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of or don’t use LinkedIn, think of Facebook, but for business and professional networking. LinkedIn is very business- and employment-oriented. You can post your resume, share updates on your job, and be introduced to new professional opportunities. LinkedIn boasts that it has “over 500 million members where you can manage your professional identity, build and engage with your professional network, and access knowledge, insights, and opportunities.” (LinkedIn, 2017)
Back to the data. Not only can I see what people are looking at, I can also see who is looking at me, their job, and even what company they are from. While one can enact some privacy enablers, it operates on different levels. I can still see the business or the job title they have, and then I can click and see a list of people (more often the list that populates you know the person than not). Not only can this tell me who is looking at what, it can prepare me for an upcoming sales call or an upcoming opportunity, or even help me pinpoint who is talking to whom so I can address whatever is being talked about.
Recently, I have been using LinkedIn to thank those who are donating or doing business with my district. While a letter or a tweet is great, saying thank you on a forum that is used for professional purposes is, well, professional.
Why is this important in schools?
If school systems are not cognizant of the brand they are producing or the reputation they are creating among stakeholders, they are at a disadvantage. We, as educators, have more tools than ever to communicate and solve problems, especially image problems. Even today, there are districts, schools, and individuals who do not embrace the free tools that we have that are used by stakeholders. If we are not meeting where our stakeholders are in today’s times, we are doing a disservice to everyone associated with it. We are no longer paralyzed by the gossip mill of aisle 5 in the supermarket or the soccer field. We can be proactive instead of being reactive. Harness the power of social media and such analytics to tell your story, or others will, and you most likely won’t like their version.
Data today is free and easy to understand. Why not use it to help you? Having a mind at ease and working smarter, not harder, can help you grow, learn, and move forward.