Activity Guide

Using External Networks for Collaboration and Support

Educators can harness the power of social media to improve communications, enhance job-alike and role-alike collaboration, create and sustain external partnerships, increase student engagement, and establish a personal learning network (PLN). NASSP Digital Principal Award winner Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford (NJ) High School, presents a webinar with accompanying slides on the many ways teachers and school leaders can use social media effectively in their schools.

This activity can be used in a faculty meeting or with the school improvement team and is designed to spur discussion about the need to tap into the collective intelligence and experience of colleagues outside the school walls and to identify the compelling reasons to use social media to create external networks.

Readings and Video:


  • Computer with Internet connection, projector, screen
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Sticky notes


This activity will use the following strategies: Ink-Pair-Share, Active Listening, Writing, Jigsaw, and large group discussion.

  • Divide the faculty into groups so that there are four, eight, or 12 teams. Assign each team the task of leading the whole group discussion in one of four topic areas identified in the Sheninger webinar. Task each group with a number as follows:
    1. Communication—Identify eight ways that social media can be used to enhance communication.
    2. Public Relations/Branding—Discuss the advantages of using blogs and video to enhance the perception of the school in the community.
    3. Professional Growth—Define a personal learning network (PLN). Discuss the five benefits of using social media to create a PLN. Identify the benefit that the group views as most significant and explain why.
    4. Student Engagement—Identify tools and resources that correspond with the six dimensions of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Inform the groups that this is an Ink-Pair-Share activity and that each group will take responsibility for one of four sections of the article. While watching the webinar, each person in the group is to pay particular attention to his or her assigned social media focus.
  • Watch the Sheninger webinar.
  • Ask each participant to review his or her notes and to write (Ink) a short, concise statement or “elevator speech” that relates to his/her assignment. The leader should circulate to ensure that each participant is engaged.
  • Each member of a group should find a partner (Pair). They will have 10 minutes to discuss their notes and to prepare an “elevator speech” to be read to the entire group regarding their assigned area.
  • One member of the pair should record his/her key points on chart paper headed with the section title. (Put a star by repeated points. Do not list duplicates.) The other member should read his/her recorded notes (Share) for the full group.
  • Post the chart papers around the room. Have all groups participate in a Gallery Walk noting the key points made in each section of the full article.

Extend and Apply

This can be used as an individual or group activity and as homework for a follow-up session.

Each participant (or participating group) will create his, her, or their personal learning network (PLN). A PLN is a group of people with whom one connects, communicates, and collaborates in the sharing and exchanging of information and ideas, and through whom one increases one’s knowledge and understanding of topics of interest. Depending on your interests, members of your PLN may be known or unknown to each other and may have a set of disparate or similar interests or ideas. Most often, they are an extended community of people that stretches across the globe. A key feature is that members of your PLN meet your specific needs for information, knowledge, and ideas.

Task each participant to work with his or her group to accomplish the following assignments:

1. External Communication

  • Micrno-Blog — Ask each participant to create a Twitter and/or Facebook account
  • Blog — Ask each participant to identify and follow at least two blogs from the following:

2. Public Relations/Branding

  • Blog — Have the leadership team identify bloggers for a collaborative discussion to create a school blog. Select any one of the blog publishing tools available, such as WordPressEdublogs, or Blogger, and start publishing your own ideas and thoughts.
  • Create a YouTube account

3. Professional Growth

4. Student Engagement

  • Create a Google account and begin using Google Drive to promote student engagement.
  • Visit Classroom 2.0, create an account, and identify two or more classroom tools that will help you engage students in learning.