Communication is the purpose

Reece Lennon wrote a comment to my posting yesterday on ‘What is the purpose of a school web site?’ I thought I’d take this one step further and answer some of Reece’s questions.

Principal As webmaster?

Why not? Part of a principal’s job description is “Communicate with parents, community members, and the larger school community effectively.” In the past this has meant creating and distributing monthly or biweekly newsletters, or an article in a local paper. Principals are already communicating with their clients, all I’m suggesting is maybe we look at changing how they communicate. I agree Principals don’t need more to do, but what if they could do what they already are doing only save them time and in a different media. With a web site like Tim Lauer has set up, a principal would need to know little more than cut and paste. Yes Tim has some cool integrated programs, but in its basic form his web site is just writing. Just another blog program manipulated to do what he needs it to do.

I suggested in my original post that maybe we need to revisit the qualifications of a principal. Maybe the job description needs to be rewritten for the 21st Century. Maybe it should read: “Communicate with parents, community members, and the larger school community effectively using electronic media.”

After all it was technology that allowed principals to write those monthly newsletters and it was technology that allowed them to put together an e-mail list and e-mail the monthly newsletter to parents, so why can’t technology once again change a principal’s way of communicating and make the information available to everyone on the web. It’s not something that will change overnight, but I bet over time we will see technology skills be part of the job description of a principal.

Mandatory Publishing on the web:

Reece commented on the “terrible concept” of making teachers have to post on a weekly basis on the school web site. Tim’s approach is quite simple. He allocates time at the weekly staff meeting for teachers to sit down and write a short paragraph of what is happening in their class. Not detailed lesson plans, or even a schedule, just a paragraph of the large concepts that will be covered. Take a look at the classroom notes and then ask yourself: “What is easier, writing a short paragraph that the principal sets aside time for you to do, or writing a weekly/biweekly or monthly newsletter?

“Communicating effectively with parents” is a standard job description in any teaching position so the fact that administrators make teachers communicate is nothing more than holding them to the job they signed on to do. I think Tim’s approach is much easier on teachers. I would be interested to hear from the teachers at Tim’s school to see what they think about the change. I know the 5th grade teachers at my school who have started using their blog sites as their communication vehicle with parents have found that posting information on their blogs saves them up to an hour a week having to find time to sit down and write out their newsletters and then dealing with the formatting and printing issues. The blogs allow them to simply write small chunks of information at a time and not have to worry about formatting issues. 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there now becomes productive time as teachers use it to jot down thoughts and post them to the web in an instant.

Reece sounds like many frustrated teachers who are feeling over worked and under appreciated for the work that they do. He’s not alone in feeling that technology is ‘one more thing I have to do’ instead of ‘one more things that can help me be more productive as a teacher’. It is a mind shift that needs to happen in teachers, but we are our own worst enemy because we ‘teach as we were taught’ and we were not taught in teacher school how to use these new technologies to help us be more productive and use our time more efficiently. Our only hope is that pre-service teachers today are learning that it’s not what you know that counts but if you can find the information and communicate successfully to others when you need it that counts. Only after this mind shift occurs will teachers truly become a facilitator of information not a dictator of it.

1 Comment

  1. HWG 😉
    Principal As webmaster? Why not? Jeff, in your response, you write “Part of a principal’s job description is “Communicate with parents, community members, and …school community ….” which I agree with but then you go on to say “it was technology that allowed principals to write those monthly newsletters and it was technology that allowed them to put together an e-mail list and e-mail the monthly newsletter…” Do you actually know Principals who personally collected email lists or personally put together and formatted newsletters? Sure principals usually add their two bits to the newsletter but isn’t it usually a secretary or a teacher volunteer who ends up collecting all of the data and putting it together in a nice neat package? I agree that a website is a great way to get information out to everyone who is a part of the school community, I just don’t think the principal is the appropriate person for the job.
    You also suggest that ” Maybe the job description (for a principal) needs to be rewritten for the 21st Century” so that it includes “Communicate with parents, community members, and the larger school community effectively using electronic media.” Great idea but don’t you think understanding the power of the internet is enough of a prerequisit, rather than insisting principals understand how to create, list and post websites on the net? The exception would be schools offering online learning, in which case the needs of those particular school would be different from the traditional model.
    Finally, regarding the “terrible concept…” you have misudnerstood my concern surrounding the insistence of “weekly newsletters.” I don’t have a problem with communicating what is going on in my classroom when it serves a purpose. I agree it is part of the job description. Nor am I feeling that technology is ‘one more thing I have to do’ instead of ‘one more thing that can help me be more productive as a teacher.’ It isn’t the technology I have a problem with, it is the “busy work” that is dumped on teachers that sounds good in theory but does not actually live up to expectation. What makes it worse, it becomes policy for all teachers when administrators (like teachers) should know that people need choices just like our students so that we can make the most of our time and efforts. No doubt posting online every week would be one way to keep parents informed, but is it the single best way for every teacher in every class? I doubt it.

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