Where to Learn More About Digital Communications Tools

Lifelong learning and professional development is just as important to school public relations professionals as it is to teachers, principals and superintendents. Even with a limited budget, you can learn more about using social media and other digital tools by attending conferences, tuning in to webinars (many of them free) or taking in-person or online classes. Here are some good resources if you’re feeling left behind at the 21st-century station:

The NSPRA Seminar:

The National School Public Relations Association, as many of you know, holds its annual conference — an important event for anyone in school communications and leadership — each July. This year’s seminar, to be held in Baltimore July 13-16, is a must for anyone trying to sort their way through the complex social media landscape. Dozens of related workshops are on tap for this year’s seminar, and you can still register. You can also register for day-long pre-seminar workshops on Saturday or Sunday, including Shane Haggerty‘s “Strategic Social Media: Taking Your Social Platforms and Content to the Next Level,” or Jake Sturgis’ “Video Boot Camp.” Go to the NSPRA website to register for the Seminar.

NSPRA PR Power Hours:

This popular series of audio and webinar workshops is held throughout the year by NSPRA and almost always on Fridays. This year’s topics have touched on many topics, including social media and mobile apps. They offer an economical and convenient way to continue your professional development and provide a conversational and interactive forum for learning best practices from top experts in school communication. What’s more, registration is just $59 for NSPRA members. For another $10, registrants can get audio files from the PR Power Hours. 


The organization is not exactly geared toward school communications professionals, but rather technology directors, teachers, school librarians and superintendents. But many communications colleagues who have attended the annual ISTE conference have come away with mountains of great information about technology, social media, mobile apps, website maintenance and other issues that some of us confront every day. A whopping 18,000 educators and education leaders attend the ISTE national conference every year, so if your superintendent has room for you, it might be worth asking about. The 2014 ISTE Conference and Expo will be held this year at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta from June 28-July 1.

National School Board Association:

The annual conference of the National School Board Association just passed us by, but this year’s event was held in early April. Again, you may not be a school board member, but you can tag along (if finances permit) and learn. Just a sampler from this year’s workshops prove that digital communications remains a hot button: “Digital Citizenship in the Age of the Common Core,” “Engaging Stakeholders: Paperless Agendas are a Win-Win Solution,” “Branding and Marketing Your School With Social Media,” and “In the Cloud: Demystifying the Journey to the Cloud.” What’s even better about NSBA is that you don’t have to attend the conference to reap the benefits. The organization has put all presentation handouts on its website, where you can look through them and print them out. Here’s the handouts link.


Just want to take a class on your own time? Then visit MediaBistro, one of the best lifelong learning portals around. More than a decade ago, I took an online MediaBistro class about social media that changed my life. The great thing about MediaBistro is that it offers a multitude of options, including on-site classes (only applicable if you live in New York), and everything from one-time online sessions to full multi-class courses. If you’re a social media newbie, then MediaBistro can help. Upcoming classes and workshops include a five-session course called “Social Media 101,” a six-session Twitter Marketing class, a four-session Writing and Editing for the Web class, a two-session class called “Pinterest: Market Your Brand,” and and a four-session course, “Public Relations: Build Your Portfolio.”


EdSocialMedia is an organization of technology directors and communications professionals at private, independent schools that has been around for some time. I frequently visit the EdSocialMedia website to learn more about how social media is being used in private education. Even though the group hosts numerous social media boot camps each year, those events tend to be geared toward private schools (some of the best in the nation, by the way). But I like this group because they’re happy to share the knowledge and make many of their webinars and workshops available to watch online for free. I once watched a live, free webinar taking place in Boston, on what ended up being snow day for me in New York. For a taste of EdSocialMedia offers, take a look at webinars like “Instantly Actionable Ways to Leverage Twitter”or “What’s the Interest in Pinterest?”

2 Replies to “Where to Learn More About Digital Communications Tools”

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