Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Eric Sheninger is the Principal at New Milford High School and used to be a social media opponent. After reading an article in his local newspaper, Eric changed his tune and is now one of the biggest advocates of social media and technology in the classroom.
“Eric is the Principal at New Milford High School located in Bergen County, NJ. He is passionate about establishing and fostering learning environments that are student-centered, collaborative, flexible, and prepare all learners to succeed in the 21st Century.
As an educational administrator he firmly believes that effective communication, listening, support, shared decision making, and the integration of technology are essential elements necessary for the transformation of school cultures. Eric has emerged as an innovative leader in the use of social media and web 2.0 technology as tools to engage students, improve communications with stakeholders, and help educators grow professionally. Eric is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward’s Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012), Google Certified Teacher, Adobe Education Leader, ASCD 2011 Conference Scholar, co-author of “Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals” and “What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science”, writer on education for the Huffington Post, co-creator of the Edscape Conference, sits on the FEA Board of Directors, and was named to the NSBA “20 to Watch” list in 2010 for technology leadership. He now presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders embrace and effectively utilize technology. His blog, A Principal’s Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.”
Eric fell into education by accident. He was planning on becoming a marine biologist and was working on his masters while he began teaching at the graduate level and he realized that teaching was his passion. He then went back to school to get his credential and became a full-fledged high school teacher.
After five years, Eric made the shift to become an administrator because he thought he could have a larger impact. As a teacher, he saw many things that he would like to change and that’s one reason why he decided he wanted to become an administrator.
As a teacher and educator Eric really wanted to promote student-centered learning where students are actually in charge of the learning process and teachers try to facilitate the learning process. As an administrator, Eric tries to develop a system of learning that relates directly to the students and aims to make them successful.
Eric explains that teachers would use direct instruction to where teachers would lecture to students and that’s how education was handled in the past which was great for an industrial society, but as we shift to this new economy in the 21st century, it becomes essential to alter the way we teach. As technology develops and becomes a part in the majority of lives, why not adapt the teaching styles to make it easier for everyone. As marking tests and assignments is a large responsibility for teachers, having them look into a free online grader, to help them through the assessment process. From scoring papers, scanning forms and giving individual feedback, a large portion of the teacher’s work is pushed along by the help of technology.
Another aspect Eric advocates is having students involved in activities that involve critical thinking skills, team work, problem-solving where students create their own solutions and the teacher assists them along the way to help promote the learning process.
Eric was a social media opponent.
Prior to becoming involved in social media, Eric read an article in the The Staten Island Advance, his local newspaper that changed his career path forever. Prior to reading the article Eric thought Twitter was a place where celebrities competed to see who could get the most followers and the people who were on there were posting meaningless things like what they were eating or what they were up to.
Eric realized that he could get real-time information to stakeholders and update them on what was going on at his school. He then began to see what other people were doing in the educational community and began to alter his ideology in regards to the type of education he wanted to take place at his school. Once he opened his eyes to social media, Eric then began to find more and more uses for Twitter.
Eric has created what he calls as the six pillars of leadership 2.0.
- Public Relations
- Establishing a Positive Brand Image
- Professional Growth Development
- Student Engagement and Learning
- Discovering Opportunities for His School
The ideas, the strategies, the feedback, the discussions and conversations that we’ve had with a global education community has forced us to look into a mirror to ask us if we’re doing the best that we can. It’s led to positive changes and positive transformations in the education community.
Prior to using social media, Eric had not achieved any recognition for his work as a principal, but after infusing himself in social media, Eric has achieved accolades, written books and all because he was able to use the tools of Twitter to create a better school for his students. Through social media Eric was able to share the story of his school and staff which helped gain the school recognition.
Eric has learned some personal best practice tips, has developed a strong global presence for his school, and has improved his school.
Eric’s been able to create a strong digital footprint for New Milford High School in the global education community. Anything he puts online is creating a brand for himself as a professional and for his school.
Sometimes Eric gets really excited about some things and has rushed to get the word out about it and he’s learned to make sure to tell people in person first before he posts things to the Internet that should be discussed with shareholders first.
Everyone is connected to one another via social media tools and the disconnect you face will make your business and your role more and more irrelevant if you’re not engaging with your stakeholders in the spaces that they’re in. Everyone is in social media spaces for businesses or professional purposes in some form or another. It’s about forming positive relationships where at the heart of those relationships are conversations on how we can do what we do better.
Eric thinks there needs to be more autonomy in the educational system today. School districts and states should be able to create learning environments that focus on learning skill sets like communication, collaboration, creativity, global awareness, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, and technological proficiency. And to create those structures to use those essential skills, you can’t do it when you’re in a system that you don’t believe in. There’s a big discrepancy in resources devoted to schools. The more oversight there is at the federal and state level, it moves us further away from the country we used to be.
Eric would recommend you not be a social media opponent.
Engaging Discussion Questions:
- What changes would you like to see in our educational system?
- What do you think about social media? How valuable is it?
Links to Great Stuff:
- Eric Sheninger – “Eric is the Principal at New Milford High School located in Bergen County, NJ. He is passionate about establishing and fostering learning environments that are student-centered, collaborative, flexible, and prepare all learners to succeed in the 21st Century.”
- New Milford High School – “Welcome to New Milford High School. Our mission here at NMHS is to provide your child with the best education possible in a way that is engaging, authentic, student-centered, innovative, integrates technology, and promotes an appreciation for life-long learning. We are an academic institution committed to excellence. This commitment requires not only respect for the differences in students and staff from widely diverse cultural, economic, social, racial, intellectual, linguistic, and educational, backgrounds but also a sustained effort to use that diversity to achieve this commitment.”
- Staten Island Advance – SILive.com is Staten Island’s largest local website for news, sports, entertainment, jobs, autos, real estate and information. In addition to serving as the online home of the Staten Island Advance, SILive.com offers forums, blogs, and business listings on where to go and what to do on and around the Island.
- Welborn Social Media –
- The Tutoring Solution – Q & A with Eric Sheninger – Here is an interview I conducted with Eric Sheninger which I posted on my tutoring blog back in February 2011. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in such a short amount of time.
- “Success is defined as doing one thing extremely well, better than anyone else before moving on and trying to tackle another initiative.”
- “The more people that get into social media spaces and have conversations about how we can improve our professions, the sky is the limit.”
- “If you can engage one more person through social media that’s a win for me.”
- “I want to be the best Principal I can for New Milford High School.”
- “Extend my ideas out there to the world, to pick apart, to reflect upon, to borrow, to adapt and . . . we are now able to share all the great things that we’re doing here at New Milford High School.
- “I firmly believe that (social media) has made me more effective at what I do.”
- “Social media has really been a catalyst for change here at New Milford High School.”
- “I had not had any significant achievements or accolades until I developed a social media presence.”
- “Look at the world around you. Social media is the world.”
- “I was adamantly opposed to social media, not just for professional purposes, but personal as well.”