Education Week has ranked New Milford High School eighth in its list of the top 13 high schools worth visiting.
This ranking was attributed to New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger and his embrace of Professional Learning Networks (PLN) to raise the bar of education.
A PLN is a group that an administrator reaches out to in an effort to extend the boundaries of their district and learn, through diverse groups of educators or social networks, to challenge their perspective on educational practices.
But what makes these 13 high schools extraordinary? According to Education Week, they challenge old assumptions associated with education and strive to do things differently and in the process, bring about true educational reform by creating a stimulating learning environment.
Although it may be hard to believe for those who know Sheninger, he admits that a few years ago he was adamantly against the use of social media in an educational setting.
What changed his perspective? PLN's. According to Sheninger, he began to leverage the power of PLN's "to effectively integrate an array of tools that I had never knew existed."
This paradigm shift brought him to his present philosophy on how schools can, and should, use social media to achieve success. For Sheninger, it's important to establish relationships through professional networks and through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
In conjunction with this, Sheninger stresses the importance of including students in this network since they are the ones who are fully engaged in the learning process. They, in effect, are the educational consumers.
Add to this, the importance of providing the teaching staff with meaningful professional development and training in web 2.0 technology, and the result is an empowered staff that feels as if they have a stake in the educational process.
Sheninger also listened to his students, a generation weaned on web 2.0 technology, and recognized that since their technology in hand is the world that they move in, the best thing to do to further engage them in the educational process was to embrace their technology as a learning tool.
Through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, Sheninger has been able to create transparenecy in administration by sharing the innovative practices he and his staff are engaged in--such as having students use their cell phones and other technology as a means of enhancing the learning process.
Sheninger's understanding that 'change' is not a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to education as a means to make any lasting impact has made him recognize that it is the small changes that occur over time that make a lasting impact on the relationship that students, and teachers, have to education.
It is those small changes that Sheninger encourages that will establish New Milford as an educational force in the 21st Century.