Dear Tony


Dear Tony,

(An open response to a parent who shared some great questions/concerns in the comment section of this blog.)

I want to thank you for sharing your concerns about social media and its potential impact on foundational learning.  When I first read your comment on my blog I was struck by your authenticity and the importance of what you were asking.  My visceral response was to craft a comprehensive (and maybe even eloquent) reply.

In attempting to do so, I quickly realized that I was prioritizing my own answer over your very valid concerns.  If I’m being honest, I think that I was trying to insert my “expertness” (perceived or otherwise) into a reply because I wanted you to be as confident about the learning experiences we are trying to facilitate as I am.  This prompted me to pause.

When our answers become more important than the questions others ask we will have done a disservice to the very nature of learning.  Please know that I will carry your questions and perspective with me to conversations we have as a school about Vision, pedagogy, and student achievement.  Most importantly, I will never lose sight of the hopes, dreams, and expectations that parents have for their children and their children’s schools.

One day many of our children will have social media accounts of their own.  I can only hope that the modeling that you, Tony, have done by showing integrity, inquisitiveness, and concern in your original blog comment to me helps our kids understand the potential value of social media and other important communication tools.

I believe that the questions you’ve asked should also be part of a larger conversation about the nature of foundational learning.  For this reason I’m inviting others to join us in the conversation.  If at any point you’d like to connect directly please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail.



About Dr. Brad Gustafson

I am an elementary principal and author in Minnesota. You can connect with me at or on Twitter via @GustafsonBrad

Posted on October 27, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Tony and Brad,

    I want to thank you both for participating in the type of productive discourse we as educators hope to model for the students in our schools. When we voice and struggle through concerns together, we are able to provide a greater experience for students. Cannot wait to see what your conversation leads to.

  2. Brad –

    Thanks for not “just answering”.

    We need to talk about the “whys” of the changes we are leading in education – and parents need to feel free to engage us in deeper conversations – truly, we are better together.

  3. Tony and Brad,
    This is a great conversation and a topic all schools and parents are having to navigate their way through. As a site principal, I found the parent-school partnership in modeling how to use social media the best way to keep our children safe and to teach them about digital citizenship. By engaging students and their parents in interactive demonstrations and conversations using social media, we are able to teach them how to use this medium to build people up and report bullying when they see it, just as we do with day to day playground behavior. We also have the opportunity to teach students how to harness the power of social media for learning, how to connect and have conversations with authors, NASA, with other classrooms around the world. It can be a little scary as a parent, as this technology is new to us, but it’s also exciting to see the opportunities that are available. As a parent, I keep a close eye on my son’s social media use and we talk about our different accounts, what we post and what we see other’s posting several times a week. I see how responsible my own son is with his use of social media and Tony, I suspect your son will be the same way having a good model at home and at school.

  4. Brad,
    When we grapple with the difficult questions…we not only enhance and create capacity, but we build bridges of understanding. Which is much more important than any simple or eloquent answer. The process is much more important than the destination, especially when we are willing to travel it together.

  5. Brad,

    This is an important conversation. We are in new, unchartered territory – not only in education, but in the world. The truth is that it seems our students and future professionals will continually have to navigate a more sophisticated, complicated and complex world. Their success will be largely influenced by not only their skills, talents, passions and work, but also by how they use digital tools to positively connect with their many partners worldwide and also continually shape their on-going digital portfolio/presence. I believe that if students can learn early, be modeled appropriately to by adults and have opportunities to see the real power of tools like social media in positive professional ways, they can learn to maximize these tools. Our world is going to be more competitive, not less…and we need to train kids to use all of their technology and tools to better themselves and the world. It’s really our only mission and our only hope. Thank you.

    – Michael Niehoff

  1. Pingback: Voices in the Village (2015) | Read Write Respond

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