Why all Schools Should Storytell.

It is indisputable that we are in the greatest information distribution age of all time.  Cost of entry into the content market has never been lower.  It seems each and every year there is a new platform that revolutionizes how people tell their story.  Myspace, Youtube Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, and the list goes on.  For much of the last decade, schools have steered clear of this topic for fear of what may pop up on a feed or in a comment section.  While there are those that deliberately engage in social media for the sole purpose of causing trouble, we must not let fear govern our action as trouble makers are hardly new to schools.  The major difference in the case of the online world is that these people operate in a “gray” area that typically lies outside of school and thus it’s jurisdiction.  Though fear can be a powerful motivator, I believe that we must shake this fear and become our own storytellers for some of the reasons I will address in this blog post.

  1. Trust: As the face of education begins to change more rapidly in an attempt to better prepare our students for the future, we are leaving behind long withstanding traditions about what school is and what it looks like.  This can be a very unsettling feeling for many people, especially when we ourselves don’t necessarily have all the answers.  The comment that I have heard over and over again from parents and even some teachers is, “this was not how I learned!”  This comment typically comes from a lack of understanding and trust for the systems of change being put in place. Building trust amongst all stakeholders is critical for any change; without trust, buy-in can be slow or virtually nonexistent.  With such a cheap and easy entry point to digital storytelling, via social media platforms, schools can help build and create a sense of trust that was once not possible.  Social media can provide a digital window, into which all stakeholders can view change in action.  Developing a social media strategy can provide a valuable way for schools to begin to build trust with their stakeholders.
  2. Emotional Connection:  Going as far back as Cavemen, people have always had the desire to tell their story.  Though the platform by which we storytell has evolved a bit from cave walls to mobile devices, there can be a strong emotional connection when we connect through storytelling.  From social media to biographies, to reality TV, the underlying theme here is that they each tell a story.  So what happens if we tell a story about our school?I’ll take this argument to a personal example.  Last week the Game of Thrones caused a huge stir amongst its fans some plot twists that resulted in the loss of one of the original characters of the show.  The result was a firestorm of feedback across several social media platforms.  Though this character was not real, the reaction was as if the character was, and this can be directly attributed to the strong emotional connection that develops through the act of storytelling.

    Is it not plausible that a strong social media strategy would stand to create an emotional connection with the stakeholders that create a school’s community?  I would argue a resounding yes.  Though there may be a cost of time, there are virtually no other barriers that stand between a school and digital storytelling.  Pictures, videos, anecdotes, all can provide a view into the lives of our students and build an emotional connection with those who have a vested interest in the future of our schools.  I think worth mentioning here is that the story of our schools has for too long been in the control of those on the outside looking in.  Social media creates an opportunity for us to tell our own story.

  3. Community Building:  With the world becoming increasingly transient, communities that may have once been virtually untouched by the outside world, may now be in the throes of unprecedented change.  The district that I currently work in is one such example.  The prevailing dynamics of the past are all but gone, and to a great degree that has changed the community dynamic.  How can storytelling create a community?Digital communities exist all around us and in some cases, these communities are even more tightly knit than their physical counterparts.  Leveraging the power of storytelling through social media platforms has and will continue to create strong digital communities. The emotional connection that can be associated with digital communities can and will continue to compel action in some cases, and if such a community can be established online, it is entirely possible that these communities can transcend the digital world and exist in our physical world.

If we don’t tell our own story, who will?

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