We still have 2 weeks to go!
This is a great time of year for any school or district to look at how they are communicating; evaluate methods used, analyze effectiveness and longevity of communications, and assess audience reached. The ultimate purpose of these communications is to not only share information but to promote engagement within the school, the district, and the community.
Traditionally, schools and districts have used things like the notes home, weekly packets, phone calls and/or emails to communicate throughout the year. While many of these still are valuable and have their place there are new and not-so-new mediums like social media that could be used to deepen the engagement with the community or do something entirely different. These mediums can be a quick and easy way to not only share timely information but moreover tell the wonderful stories that exist in your buildings.
Here are some new and new ways of thinking when it comes to improving School:Home Communications.
Twitter: You might not think that 140 characters provides adequate space to convey one’s message but Twitter can be a powerful medium to engage with parents and the community. In 140 characters one can share a powerful idea, reminders of upcoming events, and notes of encouragement. Twitter is continuing to grow as a popular place for parents and community members. Hashtags can also be powerful to increase a district’s or school’s reach. Today, many schools and districts are creating and using hashtags on Twitter as a means to unify conversations. Those hashtags can be used by parents, students and the community to share as well.
Ideas for Twitter:
- Share a daily quote or message of encouragement.
- Post links to resources or sites for parent engagement or curriculum resources.
- Promote the use of the school or district hashtag to encourage parents, students and the community to share stories, pictures and video from their point of view.
- Share links to any of the other ideas below.
Instagram: Pictures can better help us tell a story or capture what’s happening in your building. Parents and the community like to see their students in the classroom or athletes on the field. Instagram has made it easy for anyone to become a professional photographer and the sharing of those images simple. Using Instagram in schools or to tell the district’s story can be another way to get parents and the community involved providing a window into the school and showcasing the learning and accomplishments that take place.
Ideas for Instagram:
- Share a student of the day or images of what’s happening in the classroom.
- Images from athletic events, clubs, or concerts highlight the student involvement in the district.
- Images or short videos to help parents better understand curriculum, standards, or where to go for help.
- Give students a voice and let them take over the account once a week or month and let them decide on the story they want to tell through images.
Snapchat/Instagram Stories: You might not think that Snapchat or Instagram Stories have a place in the classroom or school but they can be very exciting and an easy way to broaden your audience. The premise for both is the same. You add images and short videos to your story. They stay a part of your story for 24 hours and after that they are gone. (On Snapchat you can explore Stories there to get an idea of how it’s used for events or holidays or other celebrations.)
Ideas For Using Stories:
- A Day In The Life of A Student or Staff Member
- A Day In The Class. What are different classes in your building like on a typical day?
- Share images and video from a specific event like a Career Fair or assembly.
- Create a story around the big game, concert or arts event.
Periscope/Facebook Live: Video can be a great way to engage the community when the community can’t get to the school. In the past, broadcasting videos and events from within the school was a difficult process that used expensive equipment and needed a high level of expertise. No longer! The phone you carry or the tablet you’re using to read this post can all be used to help you broadcast video in real-time. Periscope and Facebook Live are two easy ways to do this, no special equipment needed. With Periscope, videos are archived and can be shared via a link, posted to your Twitter account or published to platforms like YouTube. Facebook Live requires the use of a Facebook account but the video is instantly archived and shared in your News Feed. Both services include ways for commenting and sharing as the video as it’s being broadcast live.
Ideas For Using Live Video:
- Broadcast Back-To-School Meetings or other meetings throughout the school year for parents and community members who can’t attend.
- Weekly message from the Supt. or other leadership team members about what’s happening in the district.
- Broadcast sporting events or have students provide commentary from events.
- Doing a science fair, geography fair or other student celebration of work? Broadcast it and have students provide the commentary.
Finally Use Your Website: I know this post is supposed to be about innovative ways to improve School:Home Communications but let’s be real. The school website is still a vital and valuable tool to communicate to your parents and the community. Many still visit your school website to find information, contact numbers, and resources for helping their student at home. Increase the duration of a viewer’s stay by blending educational news with posts that share a story. Posting pictures, video and news stories that capture what it’s like to be a student or a staff member in your school or district can be a great way to let the community to know what’s happening there. Your website becomes less about the static information that’s posted there and more about the stories. And remember, many of the tools we’ve listed here can be embedded on your site. So you can put your Twitter feed or Instagram feed right there where everyone can see.
Ideas For Your Website:
- Post the morning announcements via a video or if you’re using Google Hangouts On Air you can embed the video archive.
- Recognize a Student/Staff/Volunteer Of The Week. Give them a short questionnaire that you can post the responses to.
- Have a contest where you post baby pictures of students/staff have in the comments have folks guess who they are building school culture and community.
- For high schools, run stories in the Fall of where staff members went to college to get Juniors and Seniors thinking about where to apply.
The key takeaway with any of these is that communications are ever changing. There is this dynamic ebb and flow of communication with stakeholders that needs to always be considered. What works for one may not work for another. Therefore it is vital to keep evaluating the methods and tools used and measure their effectiveness. Analyzing metrics and surveying parents and the community can give you valuable insight into how effective you are engaging and perhaps also, provide a new path to take when it comes to improving your School:Home Communications.