Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where is Your Class Blog?

I can't remember the last time I looked in the physical phone book for a phone number, opened an encyclopedia, only got my news from TV/newspaper, or had a land line phone in a house I've lived in. 
...and I'm not complaining.

I now have several devices that allow me to do all these things and more no matter where I am.  Not only do I look up business information on Google to get a phone number...but I read what other people say, read detailed lists of their services, and click one button which will transfer me to my 'GPS' app and give me instant directions from wherever I happen to be. 

Like I would waste my time finding all of this out from a phone book...
In fact, I often feel I'm caught in the middle of generations. I grew up doing all my research for papers in the library, dug through card catalogs, wrote endless amounts of note cards, and had to have my parents drop my friends and I off at the public library just to complete homework for middle school.  But I also remember when the library at school first got a couple of Encarta CD's...and magically we could type in what we wanted and have our answers! (Naturally there were many library arguments over those CDs.) By high school...I don't really remember ever going to the library to do research.  It was necessary in college somewhat, but mostly because it was a quiet place with lots of outlets for laptops.  My point is...I was old enough to learn the "old ways", that my predecessors constantly remind me of, and yet young enough to be in with all the "new ways".  This gives me the choice as to how I will get information.  Will I be old fashioned and stay true to my roots or use the newest Internet and technology tools?  That's a rhetorical question of course.

Who says you can't have a "virtual" Friday Folder?
So how does this apply to the dissemination of information in schools and school districts?  As a student at any age in school today from kindergarten to high school I can tell you I would prefer you to have some sort of electronic/Internet based information system.  So why do we keep giving them paper?  Parents.  Some parents will naturally prefer something they can stick on their refrigerator (although I would argue most have a perfectly good printer), while others are more on my side as to how they get information.  For instance, I'm at the store and I just remembered I think it's my child's snack day at school tomorrow.  How do I check to make sure?  What if I just went to the teacher's blog/site and looked it up?  I will tell you one thing...when my future yet-to-exist children make it to school I better be able to check everything from my iPhone or I won't know what is going on.

I've always felt education as a whole system tends to be a couple steps behind on technological advances purely for reasons of the process for purchasing things in districts.  However, the Internet is here now, we all have it at school, and there really is no excuse not to be getting your classroom information online. 

Here are  my thoughts about the pros for an online classroom blog/newsletter versus the typical format:
  • Save Paper
  • Be more dynamic - instead of 2 pictures, a slideshow of hundreds
  • Feedback/commenting instantly
  • Customizable, creative, and fun!
  • Parents can subscribe in many ways, like choosing to be e-mailed when updates are posted
  • Something changes? No need to re-print, just re-post.
  • I'm not aware of paper being made yet that can play videos...
  • Add-ons are endless and growing: calendars, slideshows, "apps" for students (i.e. dictionary)
  • Easier consistent access.
Just keep in mind, you can't make a classroom blog and expect all parents to instantly go there to get information.  While we've been teaching their students how to read and multiply fractions, we've been conditioning parents to go through those Friday folders with a fine tooth comb.  Do both for a period of time, always encouraging parents to check out the "online version".   Allow parents to opt-out of receiving the papers once they get used to other options.  We do know that not everyone has access at home to computers and/or Internet, but they are now in the minority.  As we start to shift how we get information in our lives, it's time to start shifting how we disseminate it for our classroom as well.

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