The Other End of The String – Thoughts from this week’s EdChat

Some thoughts and tips from this week’s EdChat, having a positive digital footprint

This past week’s EdChat was about best practices for increasing parent/teacher communication. Lots of great tips, resources, and ideas were shared as always. How effective is the digital communication between school and home? How great is the digital divide in your school or district? I need the proper PD to do this well, I don’t want to do it half way. These were just a few of the topics that came up during the evening edition of EdChat. If you weren’t there or haven’t yet had a chance to read the archive, check it out here.

Teacher ambition is always so high during the infancy of  implementing a digital communication tool. I know some districts, such as my own, offer teachers space on the web server to store their classroom/team/department/grade level web site. I realize this is not the case in every district. If you do have this option though, I recommend taking advantage of it and invest in the initial training necessary to create a web site for your classroom. Not only is it an excellent way to communicate with parents, but it can also provide resources for review, remediation, and enrichment to supplement the instruction that occurs in the classroom.

No matter which way a teacher chooses to communicate digitally with parents, choose one tool and stick with it. Consistently update it. If you post something that’s relevant for November, don’t still have it posted in February. Decide how much time you want to invest up front. Quite often the ambition quickly fades to update and maintain a classroom web site. Which, of course, easily happens with the one million other things that classroom teachers have on their plate at any given time.

If a district hosted site is not an option, blogs and wikis can be of use nicely and are easier to maintain when it comes to content and overall design. There are also many free web services that will walk you through building a professional looking site. I recently tweeted this resource, “45 Web Builders to Create an Insanely Awesome Free Website“. Definitely check out the tools there.

Our students also need to know about creating and communicating a positive, professional presence on the web. I call it “having a positive digital footprint”. I spoke this week to students at the Missouri FCCLA State Conference about this very topic. I wanted to help students understand that the way they communicate on the web now can either have a positive or negative impact for when they enter the workforce after college. I shared with them tools and strategies that will help them have a positive digital footprint. Universities are starting to look at a student’s web presence when determining whether to accept or deny entrance into the school. Potential Employers are certainly looking at a job candidate’s web presence when deciding whether to hire someone or not. I shared this recent study by Microsoft in regards to why your online reputation matters. Be sure and check out the statistics and watch the video “What does your Online Reputation say about you?” Whether we like it or not, teacher or student, Google is quickly becoming one of the “silent references” on our resume.

Creating any kind of classroom website, blog, wiki, or Twitter account can be a great way to keep in communication with parents. Some of those allow for two-way communication, but some don’t. The teacher has to evaluate and plan exactly what type of information and resources they want to provide to parents via the web BEFORE any creation starts.

Thank you for reading.

5 thoughts on “The Other End of The String – Thoughts from this week’s EdChat”

  1. I missed #edchat this week- looks like it was a good one. The possibilities for increasing the school-home connection through wikis, blogs, websites, LMS, email and other collaborative tools on the Internet are huge now. We need to continue having an open mind and explore these possibilities. By using them we are also modeling life skills for our students.

  2. I too missed #edchat this week. I’m going to have to read through the transcripts and catch up some time this weekend. I think that many people, especially young and adolescent students do not understand the importance of creating a positive digital footprint. It’s like talking about using age as an advantage to save for retirement – the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be.

    I have younger siblings who I try to warn about the effects of a negative online reputation, but they don’t pay attention. They’re purely living in the now, and I think that’s what makes it harder to get them to really start thinking about their future.

    You make a good point about sticking with one tool, in regards to creating a classroom blog or website. It’s important to think of the long term when setting up something like this – What is its purpose? How frequently will it be updated? Who will be doing the updates? Is the chosen platform easy to use? Does it provide good customer support? Thinking through some of these questions before going full-on with a website can eliminate a lot of the problems in the future.

  3. Really was pumped up for this #edchat! The art of communication…school/district to parent, teacher to parent is so critical to the success of our children and the school community. In my career as a teacher and then principal, I have found the lack of this communication just appalling! So appreciate the wonderful way you crafted suggestions for making no excuses to communicating. You have a great writing style…thanks for this piece. 🙂

  4. Parent communication is such a vital tool and piece of the bigger school picture. Websites have been a great tool for me. This year, we also added Facebook and Twitter to the mix. A few weeks ago our FB fan page had more than 2000 hits within a few days. (We had to close the school unexpectedly and most parents said they heard about it via FB).

  5. Parent communication is always something that is a concern to me. I have a website for my students and parents that offers them a chance to see what we are doing or what we will do in the future, but parents don’t want to go and check it. I find it tough to lure the old school parents into checking the site for information. If it helps one parent, I guess that makes it worth it. Twitter has helped with communication as well.

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