Friday, August 07, 2009

Brainstorming about eCommunication

Just saw a tweet about this article from eSchools News "Ten Tips for Building eCommunication." (Thanks @kylepace!) I'm thinking about their list and how it could be applied to a school district as well as an individual teacher's website but also about how these tips are really about creating "community." So I'm going to take a stab at brainstorming a few ideas for each of these and perhaps you might add more of your own in the comments.

1. Start Tweeting: We're seeing that school districts are jumping on the Twitter technology and using it as a way of communicating with parents. Wouldn't it be great if the district tweeted to:

  • welcome new teachers to the district
  • keep parents up to date with school curriculum nights
  • reminders about vacation dates, half days, testing dates, etc.
  • congratulate teachers or students on their accomplishments
  • communicate regularly with staff
  • point out outstanding classroom projects
2. Tell stories: We have a staff newsletter that comes out at certain times during the year. Instead of a printed newsletter giving us bullet points about new teachers, why not ask them to write a short story about themselves? Instead of bullet points about teachers retiring, why not have them write about their experiences as teachers and their plans for the future? How about featuring students telling stories about things they're learning in their classrooms?

3. Add more people: eSchool News refers to this as bringing a human dimension to communications. How about creating and sharing a VoiceThread about things going on in the district? It would probably take as much time for someone to record a message as it would to write, revise, print and distribute.

4. Keep it fresh: I think my school district's website does a good job with that but individual teachers don't always. People who are considering moving into the district almost always begin with the district website and then move on to look at what teachers are doing. Simple tools can help to make the updates easy to do and keep the pages fresh. How about enlisting older students (in an elementary building) to buddy up with students who are younger and help them choose pictures or class work that they'd like to display on the teacher's web page?

5. Survey your audiences: While eSchool News points out the use of online tools such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang "for less than $50 per year", Google forms provide a free way of surveying people quickly and gathering the results together in a spreadsheet for further analysis.

6. Use new tools in new ways: The article talks about building in feedback loops.
  • Seems like Google forms would be easy to use. It could be embedded in a teacher's webpage for parents to visit with ease. A survey form could be used for gathering names of parents to help with field trips or special events or for students to gather data to be used in Science, Math, Social Studies, etc.
  • How about presenting a math problem to be solved, then have a chat room such as Today's Meet set up for other classes to contribute their ideas and/or chat about the possibile solutions?
7. Start blogging, podcasting and video streaming
  • What if student's doing a Reader's Theatre were streamed live to other classrooms?
  • Blogs are easy to set up. Classblogmeister and Edublogs are pretty standard for classrooms and they're free.
  • Video streaming in-school events, evening concerts and other events would be a great way to bring the school and community together
  • Put a virtual bookshelf, such as GoodReads, Library Thing and others on your blog or website and invite others to talk about the stories you're reading with your students - your memories, what connections those stories have to your childhood, etc.
8. Free control of web sites from IT.
  • Does your network administrator or IT team know what's going on in your classrooms? Now is a good time to help them see what they're supporting. Send them regular emails, tweets or whatever linking them to class projects, blogs and other instructional work where the technology is key.
9. Improve site navigation: I like the site search engine idea...I don't think we have one. That would be a great addition to every school website.

10. Learn from the kids: Many of the teachers I work with have said that they feel like the kids know more than they do. So what? We can take advantage of that. We can create expert groups among our students to buddy up with younger kids or with other teachers for assistance. That would be a great way to promote community in the school.

Well...that's what I've come up with. Anything you'd like to add?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Art of Possibility

Since attending the Building Learning Communities conference put on by November Learning in Boston last week, I've been working to make some final edits to a wiki I'm working on to support a workshop on Digital Tools and searching for just the right way to present the information. Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra was the first keynote speaker. His point of view and philosophy about life and work and everything else was refreshing to me and I immediately found the inspiration I was looking for to move on with my workshop planning.

On Wednesday evening of the conference, we were able to see him demonstrate how his philosophy becomes performance when he conducted the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. I've been to a number of musical performances in my life but this one...this one was...absolutely wonderful!

I picked up a copy of the book he wrote with his wife Roz and just finished putting it on my "currently reading" shelf at GoodReads. If you haven't seen GoodReads yet, I'd recommend it highly.

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander

I need to give an "A" to more people in my life. Read the chapter 3 to learn more.

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