Social Media Use in the Superintendency

by Michael Redmond, Superintendent, Goodhue Public Schools

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hat does actual data say about Minnesota superintendents’ familiarity with and use of social media?

First, is there a difference between the level of familiarity with and use of social media and the age of the superintendent, gender of the superintendent, and/or size of the school district led by the superintendent? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Superintendents aged 30-59 were more familiar with and use social media more frequently than their peers age 60 and above. There were no significant differences among superintendents ages 30-49 versus superintendents ages 50-59.

Superintendents leading larger school districts are more familiar with and use social media more frequently than do their counterparts leading smaller school districts.

The most surprising result from my research was the discovery that female superintendents were significantly more familiar with and use social media more frequently than male superintendents. This finding held true even when accounting for differences in age of the superintendents and the size of student enrollment in the district being served by the superintendents. Also, the self-reported frequency of use of social media tools was also greater for female respondents than for male respondents.

In terms of familiarity with and use of different types of social media, respondents were asked to self-report their awareness and use of fourteen types of social media:

  1. Productivity Applications: Survey Monkey, Yahoo!, Google Docs, Gmail, AOL, or Acteva
  2. Search Tools: Google, Yahoo!, EveryZing, Ice Rocket, or Metatube
  3. Interpersonal: FaceTime, AcrobatConnect, AOL Instant, Messenger, Skype, or Go To Meeting
  4. Video: Google Video, YouTube, Metacafe, Brightcove, Hulu, or Viddler
  5. Social Networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendter, MySpace, Ning, or Orkut
  6. Audio: iTunes, PodBean, Podcast.net, or Rhapsody
  7. Microblogging: Twitter, Twitxr, or Plurk
  8. Publishing Tools: Blogger, Constant Contact, Joomla, Knowl, Slideshare, Wikia, Wikipedia, or WordPress
  9. Aggregators: FriendFeed, iGoogle, My Yahoo!, Reddit, Yelp, or Digg
  10. RSS: RSS 2.0, PingShot, FeedBurner, or Atom
  11. Livecasting: BlogTalkRadio, Live 365, TalkShow, Justin.tv, or SHOUTcast
  12. Gaming: EverQuest, 4×4, Evolution, Entropia Universe, or World of Warcraft
  13. Mobile: airG, AOL MOblie, CallWave, or Jumbuck
  14. Virtual Worlds: Active Worlds, Kaneva, Second Life, There, or VIOS

There were significant differences among superintendents’ familiarity and use of the 14 types of social media. Productivity applications and search tools were determined to be the forms of social media superintendents are most familiar with and using the most. They are least familiar with virtual worlds, mobile, gaming, and livecasting.

The research shows some fairly predictable results. It’s likely not surprising that gaming is near the bottom of the familiarity/use ranking, but some may find it surprising that so few, 13 superintendents, have reported ever participating in online gaming and only two report regular participation. It’s also probably not unexpected that productivity and search applications are the dominant forms of social media being used by superintendents. Even though 100% of superintendents reported having heard of productivity and search applications, there were still two respondents who reported never having used productivity applications, and seven who reported never using search tools. Similarly, nearly four percent report not being regular users of productivity applications, and 7.7% do not regularly use search tools.

It was also remarkable that familiarity/use of social networks ranked fifth and microblogging ranked seventh. Digging into the data, 60.2% of superintendents use social networks, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, regularly in their personal lives. This is only slightly higher than the 56.2% who use these social networks in their professional lives. All 201 superintendents completing this portion of the survey report having heard of microblogging such as Twitter. Slightly over half of these superintendents, 50.2%, use microblogging professionally. However, 57 superintendents still report never having used microblogging or Twitter.

Organizational social media literacy is fast becoming a norm. It is interesting to reflect on the presence of social media in our professional lives and compare it with that of our staff and students.

Mike Redmond’s interest in how superintendents use social media was the basis for his doctoral research, the findings of which were published in the spring of 2016. As he was working on his dissertation, colleagues often inquired about his findings, so he has offered to share them via the MASA newsletter.

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