School communications, public sentiment, and brand perception have never been more crucial. Their importance echoed throughout last week’s FACTS Elevate 2023, one of the biggest education conferences of the year. The event, which brought thousands of attendees to sunny (and a bit rainy) Lake Buena Vista, Florida, attracted schools from diverse backgrounds and communities across the country for three full days of learning and collaboration. This year’s event was all about making magic and we at Class Intercom were thrilled to join the fun. In case you missed it, here are three key takeaways from our time at FACTS Elevate 2023.
1. Technology in the Hands of Great Teachers is Transformational
Elevate 2023 attracted an impressive lineup of speakers and experts. The event’s keynote was none other than lifelong educator and author George Couros, widely considered one of the sector’s leading voices in innovation, leadership, and learning. Not surprisingly, the room buzzed as he set out to explore innovation in the context of school cultures and communities. Couros narrowed in on technology, acknowledging the pace at which new advancements like generative AI (ChatGPT, anyone?) and mobile platforms are changing the classroom environment for both teachers and students. In some ways, the sector has seen huge leaps in learning environments in a very short time. But Couros’s message is one of empowerment over avoidance. As he put it: “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.”
The diverse range of sessions in the days that followed aligned, covering topics such as advancement, finance, educational technology, enrollment and marketing, school leadership, and teaching/learning. Thought leaders included Class Intercom’s Ben Pankonin, who spoke on the importance of building trust through social media teams. His take? Schools have to start thinking about social media as a collaborative process, using technology to build systems that make it possible to source content from a variety of perspectives by empowering students and staff. Doing so surfaces stories that build an inimitable level of trust, and one that contributes to everything from increased enrollment to better learning outcomes for students who build skills and experience across digital channels. What’s more, when students and staff collaborate to share real stories about real people in their school community, their schools become extraordinarily well-positioned for recruitment, retention, and even combating negative coverage.
2. Be Loud & Proud about the Positives
Elevate’s highly regarded speakers and breakout sessions dominated the schedule, helping private school leaders recognize and manage the challenges of safely coordinating students, managing the ever-changing landscape of finances, and learning new marketing and communication strategies–all of which can be driven and reinforced by strategic storytelling.
It was another key point in Couros’s keynote: Schools simply must share the positives. In his words: “Make the positives so loud that the negatives are almost impossible to hear.” Sessions outlining generational differences and evolutions in school and district operations made clear that the school experience has evolved substantially over the last decade, especially throughout and in the aftermath of COVID.
Schools, parents, students, and communities communicate differently, share information differently, and frankly, run differently than they have in decades past. As the sector evolves, parents lose touch with the day-to-day experiences of students and educators and the gap between their own school experiences and their children’s school experiences widens.
“It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day of school operations with so many crucial priorities,” notes Ben, whose session harkened back to the importance of proactive positive communications that reflect the unique and inspiring things happening in the school setting. “This is where social media really shines–when schools are able to empower students and staff to contribute content to it that is a genuine and authentic reflection of student experiences and moments that are a part of it.”
3. Empowered Students Engage
Engagement is a crucial undercurrent in every facet of school operations–including enrollment, curriculum, safety, funding, public relations, staffing, and retention. Schools need engaged administrators, engaged teachers, engaged students, engaged alumni, engaged community members. And when they have them, the benefits are seemingly endless and certainly compounding. But Couros argued that engagement is an outcome of something else.
“I focus on empowerment over engagement,” he explained, noting the causal relationship between the two. “If students are empowered, they will be engaged.”
This is especially crucial when thinking about fundraising, which a number of sessions discussed in depth. Nonprofit veteran and edtech leader Randy Hawthorne, Product Manager at FACTS (a K-12 solution for tuition management, student information, and fundraising), lended his unique experience and expertise to the subject. From walkthroughs of the technology that can streamline things like donation requests and payments to strategic donor management and stewardship, his session and others took a holistic approach.
“I focus on empowerment over engagement, because If students are empowered, they will be engaged.”
–George Couros, Speaker, Author, Educator, and Innovator
Empowering educators, admins, staff, and students pays dividends at every level, because projects large and small require contributions from multiple areas of expertise in order to be successful.
When it comes to storytelling, the best way to empower individuals across the school community is to invite them into those moments–as the subjects of those stories, the storytellers, and the audience that relates to them.
Interested in learning more about how technology can help your school or district more effectively empower members of your school community? Follow the link below to get in touch.