Who Chooses the Communication Tool?

   by Florian SEROUSSI Over this past school year my wife and I have slowly been watching a change in the way her Middle School students communicate with her. It has me thinking that we no longer get to decide the communication tool for a conversation.  It started back in September when my wife received an e-mail from Facebook via a student. My wife is not friends with any students on Facebook but that didn’t and hasn’t stopped them from sending her messages about school. The first time it happened we laughed and my wife was a bit freaked out. But over the course of the year it’s been happenings more and more. Kids, who are always on Facebook, and using it like e-mail decided it was OK to contact their school counselor that way…and is it? A counselors role is to be available to their students in time of need and crisis. Do we really care how they contact their counselor? What program or method they use? I sure don’t and even though at first it freaked my wife out she’s coming to terms with the fact that this is e-mail for the kids, this is how they have decided to communicate and we no longer control the communication tools. Then a couple weeks ago…on a Sunday….she gets a text message from a students (our school directory lists cell phone numbers of admin and counselors). Now, forgetting your homework for the weekend and texting your counselor about it on Sunday night really does not qualify as a crisis, but the fact remains that this student decided that was the communication tool they were going to use. Are we going to see more of this as well? Time will tell. All of this has me thinking about schools and what are the communication tools we set up and are they the right tools? Do our schools need a Facebook profile so that students and increasingly parents can contact the school in that way? I keep thinking about all the places I carry on conversations. Some initiated by me, in which I choose the tool, but most by others. Some conversations are in Twitter, some on Facebook, others in text messages, and yet others in e-mails. Sometimes a conversation crosses platforms other times it stays in the original form factor.  So the question becomes should every counselor be required to...

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Communicating from the classroom

As a technology person you don’t always get to decide where you are going to start with teachers. In fact, most of the time the teachers tell you where you are going to start. Hence my focus on parent communication. Many teachers are looking at using blogs as a way to communicate with their parent communities. Now, before I go any further I say they “use blogs” but that doesn’t mean they are blogging. I do believe there is a difference. Teachers find the ease of which you can setup a web site and post new content using a blogging program simple and straight forward. So blogging and using a blogging program as a website…are to different things. I do believe, however, that you can start using the blogging software as a website for communication and as you get comfortable with how it works, how to create conversations, and how students/parents can and will respond that you can move from a blog as a website to a blog as an actual blog…..does that make sense? I saw teachers make this transition at SAS: kpower, spower, adecardy just to name three who starting out using a blogging platform and ended up blogging. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been working with the 1st grade team here at ISB in creating a portal for their parents. Vu, the technology leader, has really embraced the digital tools with the rest of the 1st grade team. They use a Google Doc to plan their meetings, and a blog to communicate with parents. We talk about making it easy for teachers to use these tools so when I walked into Vu’s room the first day and he told me what he wanted to do I said: “OK, we can do that….and what if we can do it all from your desktop? You, and the team, won’t have to remember passwords, or sites….you can just put content where you want it.” Needless to say the Smartones are off and running! So here’s the setup on the first grade teacher laptops. ScribeFire: Still my favorite client for blogging. It’s simple, straight forward and teachers pick it up quickly. I showed Vu how to install it and connect to the blog and he helped the rest of the team get theirs set up. Google Calendar Sync with iCal: This is different than just subscribing to a...

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Parent Communication: From Print to Digital

Over the last couple of years I have helped numerous teachers set up blogs, wikis, and just plain old html pages to be used to communicate with parents. As some point teachers always ask: “So, I can just copy and paste my newsletter right here?” You can, but you shouldn’t Newsletters do not transfer well to the web. Well, as in the amount of information people expect and will pay attention to in digital form. For example: Most parent newsletters are two pages long (or front and back). Parents will read a two page newsletter that comes home in the Friday folder, but they won’t scroll for two pages worth of information on a single web page. You’ve seen those web pages….the ones that seem to go on forever and you know that feeling you get when you see those pages thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time to read all that!” Starting a digital communication site for parents will also mean rethinking how you post information. Many teachers are finding blogs to be a great tool for creating such a site. Easy to use, easy to update, and looks pretty. The three things every teacher looks for in a web site. 🙂 So, how do you change your communication style when you move from print communication to digital communication? 1. Shorter is betterThink about the length of your posts. I’m not saying that you need to leave stuff out. But don’t include math, reading, writing, science and social studies all in the same post or on the same page. 2. Increased FrequencyWe expect digital print not only to be shorter but to be updated more frequently. So think of it this way. Don’t write about all subjects in one post, or even in one day. Do shorter posting over multiple days. For example: Reading report on Monday, Update on Math on Wednesday, Weekly reflection on Friday. Instead of giving parents all the information in one long sitting. Give it to them in shorter more frequent bursts over time. Many teachers also find this easier then having to write the complete newsletter in one day. Take a bit of time every day will make those newsletter blues slowly disappear (I can still remember doing my newsletters during library time. Frantically trying to create and print the whole newsletter in 45 minutes). 3. Images, Images, ImagesParents like nothing more than...

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