Thursday, February 04, 2010

Oh Yeah, I made a Move

Due to ongoing problems with the current service I was using to host the blog and podcast and the fact that I am underutilizing my MobileMe account with more storage anyway, I have moved hosting to MobileMe. I am still working to get the old media off of the old site and will post it here eventually, but this is kind of a fresh start, once again. Yes, I still create a lot of run on sentences. Yes, I am still cross-posting at So if reading there, carry on.

Schools, Promote Yourselves!

I open with a quote from someone whose work I admire quite a bit.

I'd like to see schools showcase the wonderful learning artifacts of students in the same way that school athletic departments do. –Matt Montagne

Matt tweeted this out about 11 months ago. I kind of filed it away, but have thought a lot about it. As we have started this new district, I have tried to notice this more. I have come to a conclusion. Our schools really need to promote themselves and particularly their student’s work more. I know this is not particular to our district, but needs to happen nationwide.
Nearly everyday in the newspaper now there are stories about our athletic teams. How often do other accomplishments in our schools get covered by the mainstream media. I am not looking to disparage school athletics, and the coverage they receive, but isn’t that really some of the least important work that goes on in our schools.
Now once a week or so another program or a student from a school may get some coverage in the media, (and I am not even going to start on about all of the negative press our schools and education in general receive) but there isn’t a lot of coverage about 95% of the great things that go on in schools. I am talking about old school, old media type coverage of course.
The crux of the matter and the purpose of this post is to emphasize that schools don’t need this old school, old media coverage. They can create their own coverage and promote a lot more of the great things that happen in their buildings. That was the point of Matt’s tweet. The showcasing of learning artifacts should be and is more important than showcasing what happens on the field or court. Also why in today’s landscape would we want the media to be the ones shaping the public’s view of our schools (like they currently do). Why would we not want total control over that. We have the avenues to do that now.
A couple of examples. A week or so ago, one of our schools was featured on a local news for a stranger danger type program they are running. A nice piece, but a couple of problems. Problem number 1, the name of the school was not mentioned until the piece was nearly over. Earlier in the report the referred to the school twice by the name of the city it is in. Problem number 2, we have another elementary that carries the city name. Therefore anyone not paying close attention would think that the program was being run at the other elementary. I have seen this kind of thing happen many times over the course of my career. A school gets some good push for something they are doing, but not identified well.
One of the best examples of this that I have ever seen is the PS22 Chorus. This elementary chorus has exploded into notoriety. If you haven’t heard of them, where have you been. This chorus from an inner city New York School have been invited to perform at the White House, and all over New York city. They have sung songs to the artists who originally recorded them and had them it tears. They have recorded with artists . Their videos have been viewed on YouTube over 15 million times. 15 MILLION! How have they done it. They put the great work they were doing out there for people to see. They put the videos on YouTube and celebrities and others used Twitter to get the word out about them. I think this is an incredible story.
Now I am not saying that every school needs to have this kind of push, but shouldn’t they at least let their patrons and communities have the ability to see what kinds of great things are going on in classrooms. Wouldn’t we want people moving into the community be able to see the great things the students at the school are doing, so that they choose our school.
So what should schools do. With an online presence I think schools need to be tapping in to the myriad of resources that are out there. Where are more and more people going to find out information? Wherever those places are those are places that schools need to be out promoting the great things that are going on in their learning communities.
I believe every school needs is a dynamic, growing website on which they promote the heck out of everything great that is happening there. Too often our school websites give basic information, that tells us how to get there, when the kids will be there, when they’ll eat lunch and so on. They don’t really tell us much about what goes on in the school, what the kids are doing. This should be the starting point for our school showcases. The new problem now becomes how do you drive traffic to the site so that the showcases are actually viewed.
This is where social networking comes in. Twitter is fairly simple to set up and more and more people have heard about it. So set up a Twitter account for the school and get your patrons using it. Then when you have something happening tweet it out. Tweet often about updates to your school website. How about a podcast talking about or showing great things that are happening on your campus? A YouTube channel? A Facebook fan page? The opportunities are many. What if these services are blocked in your district or school. Then start a campaign to show the value of unblocking them.
Coming back to Matt’s quote, the trophy case is an anachronism today. Who even ever sees those things anymore. We have the ability to shout from the rooftops as it were the accomplishments of all of our students. Why don’t we do it? We need to do it?