What is the purpose of a school web site?

This is the topic of a meeting I have today with the other technology teachers in my district. So I thought I’d prepare for the meeting by taking some time and writing my thoughts down.

I’m glad we are stopping for a moment to look at what is our objective with a school web site. What is it we are trying to communicate and to whom?

I can’t help but continue to look at the school web site Tim Lauer has produced for his school in Portland, OR. The Meriwether Lewis Elementary School web site is a great model that I think we should take a close look at.

Lewis Elementary School

I have built and maintained my fair share of school web sites over the years but with the invention of blogging software and Web 2.0 there is a new revolution that is happening on the web and I think Tim has captured it rather well on his school’s page.

What I think is a very important concept, is that Tim is the principal of the school and is in charge of maintaining the web site. Why not? The principal is the main communicator of information coming from the school. I feel they should be the web master of the schools web site. The problem is how many principals out there really have the knowledge to create and maintain a school web site? (Maybe we need to review the qualifications of a principal?)

This is where I think open-source software comes into play. Tim Lauer uses Movable Type, a free blogging (although you can pay for added features) software program for his web site. He doesn’t have it set up as a blog, but he can easily and quickly post articles that reach the audience he wants without having to do a lot of work. Write and publish…a simple two step process for getting information to the school audience.

Tim also does a great job of using free programs to benefit his school. The ‘lost and found’ pictures are kept on flickr.com a new and great place to share photos. Parents can visit the photos and see if something their child is missing is in the school’s lost and found. And how about that calendar program he is using that is easily changeable and everyone can stay up-to-date with what is happening in the school. I can see a great use for this online calendar system as this month alone there have been three changes to our printed calendar. Those changes are then e-mailed to all the staff and then a paper copy is send home with all the students talking about the changes to the calendar. Think of the paper we could save if everyone used the online calendar to confirm when events were?

So back to the question I need to answer: What is the purpose of a school web site.

A school web site’s purpose I feel is simple: To communicate what is happening in the school. To allow parents, our clients, to see deeper into what is happening in the school they are sending their child to everyday. Tim is the only principal I know who expects his teachers to post at least once a week to the web site. Every teacher must post what is happening in their classroom. What a concept! To have everyone communicating the same way via the web in one easy to find location for parents. Now that’s the purpose of a school web site!