Tucked away in the last segment of the most recent issue of The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” was a note about their new release of the magazine designed specifically for the iPad. The short column is worth reading in its entirety, but if time is short, I found this statement particularly well said:

“The one thing we are sure of is the purpose of the magazine. The New Yorker will always be about free expression, about the written word, about reading. Technology, the means of delivering this writing, is a very important, but secondary, matter, and we intend to keep providing the magazine in whatever form seems to work.”

I’ve always been curious about how staid publications like The New Yorker would respond to such dramatic changes in the publishing landscape, a word which when combined with “print” may as well be emoted as RIP. From my hometown, the Baltimore Sun careens along a cliff of bankruptcy, and there’s always a whisper of doom surrounding even much larger mainstays as the Boston Globe and the New York Times (though if there’s a news website worth emulating that’s the one). But those are newspapers, not magazines, a medium which the New Yorker describes as a “beautiful, portable, storable, slide-it-in-your-bag-able technology”, something finally (and also) enabled with the iPad.

 

It is easy to get lost in the blitz that is social media (though it can be pretty, like the attached) and to focus on the icons and buttons as the end point, and find support for the feeling that you’re “doing something”. We see it all the time at our schools where, in a tough economy, there’s a fairly common finger-crossing, “hope this helps” mentality. The New Yorker reminded me that in the context of this blitz, you must always hold fast to your mission.Clarity will come automatically after that.

 

Schools are no different. It’s not the tweet, the like button, the blog post, the nested RSS. These communication gateways and technologies are indeed “secondary matters.” And the “primary matter” for schools and their mission isn’t much different than good news and good writing, bringing those stories — inside and outside the walls — to life, with the right tools to deliver it. The alumnus working for UNESCO, the 7th grade orchestra, the English teacher giving a reading: all schools have great stuff.

 

I’m starting to see that the best Communications Directors, in my mind, are the ones that get out of the office, build rapport with the storytellers, and who have an administration that supports both notions. They know there’s a tool for job — pick a leaf on the graphic flower. It’s the job of organizations like edSocialMedia, Silverpoint and others to help you figure those tools out. To embrace these technologies, good schools keep their eye on the mission and the stories that talk about it.

Angelo Otterbein

Angelo Otterbein

Chief Innovation Officer at Finalsite

Angelo Otterbein graduated from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD for which he later wrote their 150-year history, and from Princeton University where he graduated as a certified teacher, with a degree in English Literature, and having taken a variety of courses in the computer science department. He founded Silverpoint in 1996 when he also held a faculty position teaching advanced digital media and web design to art majors at Villa Julie College in Baltimore. While at Silverpoint, Angelo has given dozens of presentations across the country and overseas for associations and school conferences about web design, trends in digital media and web development, and the role of the Internet in education. While there is no connection between his last name and the Otterbein neighborhood in Baltimore, don't be afraid to ask him about the Otterbein cookies, which are scattered far and wide throughout the city.

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