How school websites can become relevant in the era of social media.
Welcome to the world of instant information, constant data, and direct connections in education. We educators have arrived in the frenzied environment of social media and we love it. But as we have embraced this new mode of communication and collaboration we have pushed the school website to the brink of extinction.
By its nature school websites have been repositories of static information, lists of activities and some pictures. Most made it difficult to find information or navigate between locations, and pages had no continuity. It would be easy to transition most of what has been traditional school website material to social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook. However, with the advent of social media use in education the school website has an ability to come back from the brink of extinction.
Recently, my school district launched its new district website with a goal of making information readily available to our school district community in a clean and organized environment. Although we did not build the site from scratch, instead opting for a provider, we assured it had key components that created a springboard to relevant and important information, while staying current. The key aspects of this conversion included:
Immediate Access to Information through Quick Links to the most popular pages on the original site. This is in a prominent location on the district’s home page and includes Quick Links for parents, staff, and the community. Instead of having to filter through categories you can quickly get the lunch menu, your email, look for available positions or connect to the district’s Twitter or Facebook sites.
District News Feed – All of the district news items posted on the website can now be filtered into one location and set to “expire” in a specific time period.
School News Feed – Just like the district news items the school news items are brought to the district page for quick reference. They too “expire” in a specific time period. Both assure news from months prior doesn’t hang around the front page.
Social Media Feed – Let’s be honest, many people get their information first from social media. So providing the feed on the front page allows for constant updates to the website. Daily a minimum of two tweets are posted for the district. These posts include a listing of events for the day and the athletic schedule. Beyond that I’ve used it as an additional resource when closing school. This use has been very effective:
Sort-able District Calendar Link – Nothing was more frustrating in the old static calendar system than having a day filled with events that you had to scroll through to find what you were looking for in a particular school. By allowing the calendar to be sort-able by school this eliminates a complex and difficult to read calendar. It also helps parents with children in multiple schools identify which event happens in which school on a particular night.
Website App – The final key to the revisions was having an app for the website so parents, staff and the community could download it to any of their personal devices for quick access that was formatted properly to that particular device. This, of all of the above, helped move the district website back from extinction.
There’s no reason our district websites should become extinct in the era of educational social media. Instead, like many of us, the websites need to adapt, adjust and become relevant to the needs of the people it serves. In this period of time that means having quick access, updated information, and an app that provides access on any device. If you would like to see what we’ve done please go to www.spotswood.k12.nj.us and leave let me know what you think on the comments below.