Wired for engagement – the Schoolwires blog

Our Blog Is Moving to Blackboard K-12

Posted by Debbora Woods on 8/12/15 8:00 AM

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On Tuesday, September 1, 2015, this Schoolwires blog site will no longer receive posts. However, we will continue to keep the previous posts available for your reference.

 

Connect with us on the Blackboard K-12 Blog to access news, client stories, trends, community engagement information, teaching and learning information, and product updates.

 

Make sure you subscribe to get updates via email when new posts are added.

 

We'll see you there!

Topics: K-12, Blog


K-12 partnerships: We're better together!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 10/16/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Lisa Schmucki, Founder & CEO, edWeb.net

edWeb.net was just nominated for the Digital Innovation in Learning “Better Together” Award. The idea of working “better together” is the underlying philosophy of edWeb.net, a professional social and learning network that helps educators connect and collaborate with each other, and also helps companies building better solutions for schools and educators to work better together, too!

The idea of working better together extends to parent involvement and community engagement. Schoolwires has created a community on edWeb.net to help school leaders learn how to improve parent communications and better involve their communities as partners in school decisions that affect students and families. This new online community, Parent Involvement & Community Engagement in K-12, gives district and school administrators, teachers, and parents a forum to post questions, start discussions, and get feedback from peers and experts on all aspects of family engagement and its positive effects on student achievement.

edWeb was founded 7 years ago and just surpassed 100,000 members on October 5th, World Teacher Day. The site is completely free for educators and educational institutions, and edWeb members have formed over 1,200 communities on the site for collaboration. One thing edWeb has learned is that educators need help and support building active and engaged online communities.

That’s where companies like Schoolwires can step in. Schoolwires has created an online community on parent involvement and community outreach, then brings in their team members and experts to host free webinars, lead online discussions, and provide valuable resources for the educators who join their community. Administrators and teachers are so thankful for this kind of free online learning and support. Most schools don’t have the time, money, or expertise to provide the breadth and depth of knowledge teachers need to stay current and learn how to integrate technology into learning.

edWeb has over 35 professional learning communities covering wide range of topics such as parent involvement, game-based learning, autism, school gardens. The communities host free webinars that are exceptional live learning experiences. Most of all, educators like to interact and share with each other in real-time, and edWeb makes that easy and fun. Here is a comment typical of what teachers say on edWeb every day, “New to edWeb…this is my 3rd webinar and I LOVE the professional development opportunities here. ADDICTED! My co-worker hooked me onto edWeb.”

edWeb has been called a PD Buffet by Rachel Langenhorst, a Technology Integrationist, who is a big user of edWeb for PD in her district. Rob Furman, a school principal, also finds edWeb to be a tremendous resource for his teachers.

Come join the PD Buffet on edWeb. Join the Schoolwires Community!

Topics: K-12, Professional Development, PD, Partnerships


Communications mix meets K-12 parents' expectations for information 'here and now'

Posted by Debbora Woods on 9/25/14 9:30 AM

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Today’s digital parents have a common expectation. “It’s all about getting communications here and now. We’ve evolved from a culture of being patient to one of expecting information to reach us where we are right now and when we need it,” said Steven Anderson, former director of instructional technology at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

However, the form of K-12 communications that parents want is varied. Some parents prefer videos; others gravitate to article postings, and others opt in for automated phone or text messages. That’s why Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools uses the many digital tools within its Schoolwires® Centricity2™ website and CMS to communicate with parents and engage them more in their child’s education. These include:

  • Teacher Web pages – every one of the district’s 4,000 teachers has a Web page to give parents a look inside the classroom walls.
  • District website – provides access to a broad range of information and resources to deepen parents’ understanding of school and district challenges and successes, and demonstrates transparency
  • Mobile access –the Schoolwires Web app lets parents view information and resources on the district website from their smartphones

“Winston-Salem/Forsyth county schools delivers information in different formats to meet the preferences of its large and varied parent base. We live in an information consumption culture, and the Schoolwires platform makes it easy for us to deliver information in a way that meets the expectations of our digital parents" – Steven Anderson

Read the entire article to learn the details of their success.

Topics: K-12, Teacher Web Pages, District Websites, Centricity2


Boosting school-to-home communications

Posted by Debbora Woods on 9/4/14 9:00 AM

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Last week we sponsored a fantastic webinar with guest speaker Dr. Jill Gildea, Superintendent of Fremont School District 79 in Illinois. It was titled, “Boosting School-to-Home Communications: Proven Strategies and Tactics.” Based on the level of interaction by our attendees during the live event, this is a hot topic for K-12 districts across the country! Here’s a brief recap of the highlights:

Successful initiatives for boosting school-to-home communications:

  • Summer e-newsletter
  • Meet the Teacher / Back to School night
  • Family Nights focused on reading, science, and technology
  • Partnership events such as Fitness Festival

Tips and tactics:

  • Incorporate student-directed presentations at school board meetings
  • Use your website to showcase student achievement, the learning environment, community engagement, and district finances
  • Incorporate visuals on your website and in social media – people like pictures, video and multimedia
  • Push out positive, student-centric, inspirational stories and photos to the media and on social media sites, such as Facebook
  • Use technology such as a mobile app to personalize and target communications
  • Don’t forget the importance of telephone calls and face-to-face meetings

Best practices:

  • Prioritize projects – urgent, pressing, exploration
  • Include parent education and/or communication in all project plans
  • Recognize achievements of students, teachers, staff
  • Conduct focus groups throughout the year
  • Get involved in community programs and outreach

Important technology to have in place:

  • District, School, and Teacher websites
  • Learning Management System
  • E-blast notification
  • Virtual backpack
  • Social media

Want to dig deeper and explore the details? Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and watch the event for yourself. Trust me, you’ll find some great tips to implement in your district today!

Discover more school-to-home communications best practices with these additional resources:

Article: Teacher and classroom web pages that drive family engagement

Success Story: The key to Noblesville Schools community engagement? Third time’s the charm

Infographic: Building capacity for home/school partnerships at the district, school, and classroom levels

Topics: K-12, School-to-Home Communication, Community Engagement


Need to improve parent engagement? There's an app for that!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 9/2/14 9:00 AM

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Schools have already started, or will be soon, the 2014/15 school year. This means the calendars get loaded up with athletic events, PTO meetings, music performances, homework assignments, school closures due to inclement weather, and more. If you're a parent, you know the drill! How do you keep on top of it all and run and organized household? If you're an educator, how do you keep your parents informed and engaged in a timely manner? Well, Schoolwires has the win-win solution: we offer an affordable mobile app that will save district parents time and clicks when getting the information that's relevant to them! And, district staff can update website content via their smartphones when they're on the move.

Over the years we've seen schools' channels of communication evolve from backpack fliers and home visits to group emails and text messages. From folded and stuffed envelopes mailed to homes to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Parents want information now - they don't want to hunt for it. It all comes down to real-time information -- easily available when your K-12 community needs it, where they are.

Many of our K-12 district clients realize the importance of having responsive websites that adapt automatically to the various mobile formats - laptops, tablets, smartphones - to provide the best user experience for their website visitors. And these beautiful responsive sites are being rolled out all across the nation. However, here's one thing to consider -- those websites can't do everything that a mobile app can do. That's why your district needs both a mobile app and responsive website template to ensure you're reaching your stakeholders and increasing parent engagement through all possible channels.

In our research, we've found the following are some most-needed pieces of information on-the-go parents want to access from their smartphones:

  1. Check lunch menus
  2. View athletics and extracurricular schedules
  3. Monitor student grades
  4. Receive weather alerts
  5. Locate school addresses and maps

Sure, they can find this information on your website. But, a mobile app provides this information with one click from the palm of their hand. There are benefits for both parents and your district.

Benefits for Parents:

  • Choose from which schools in your district they wish to receive information
  • Quick, easy access to information they want and need
  • Notifications of events, news, and critical announcements
  • One-touch access to school contact information
  • Directions to your location from wherever they are
  • Save time and effort from visiting separate web pages and drilling down to information

Benefits for your District and Schools:

  • Build engaged relationships with parents
  • Increase your visibility and accessibility
  • Connect with on-the-go parents
  • Enhance your social networking strategies

A mobile app will save your parents time and clicks when getting the information that's relevant to them. And, a mobile app is the most affordable and effective way for your K-12 district to reach out to parents these days! Click here to learn more and schedule a mobile app demo today!

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Parent Engagement


Dreams in the K-12 cloud: Part 2

Posted by Peter Weyandt on 8/28/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Peter Weyandt, Sr. Manager of Hosting and IT

I recently vacationed for a week on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Quiet evening walks, long morning runs, coupled with daytime fun in the surf and sand occupied the bulk of my week. Before I knew it, the arduous drive home was staring me in the face. Each year at the end of my vacation I think to myself, "That was too fast! How can this be over already?" It never ceases to amaze me how fast time moves when you are busy doing things you enjoy.

And so it was with the close of the 2013 calendar. Our Hosting Operations team had just completed an almost perfect start of school. The satisfaction of our recent accomplishment was starting to fade. The planning for the year ahead was surfacing on the horizon like a summer sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

In the late fall, I found myself sitting with my technology management colleagues to plan our 2014 objectives. I was pleased to be joined by newly promoted Hosting Architect, Cliff Moten. We were cognizant that a large number of improvements were needed to replicate and improve on our successful 2013 start of school. And, we were up for the task! In fairly short order, we amassed a list of four large projects that would position us for an even better start of school in 2014. Here's a disclaimer - this is written in tech speak:

  1. Total redesign and implementation of our database environment. This will be an enormous task. Technology gains over the past few years will allow us to move from physical SQL clusters connected with fibre channel to virtual SQL clusters backed by pods of physical hosts.
  2. Add new physical servers to our Web hosting clusters we built last year. This will give us N+2 redundancy. This is the ability to drop two physical hosts in a physical pod and still be able to have our virtual clusters deliver Web pages. For our Schoolwires Hosting Operations team, N+2 = peace of mind. For our K-12 school districts, it means fast delivery of their Web content even during high volume times, like the start of school.
  3. Network modification in one of our hosting centers. This will improve our speed of delivering content.
  4. Redesign of our mail servers. This will provide needed performance improvements and stability for our e-Alert system.

Needless to say, the implementation of these projects took a herculean effort on the part of our Hosting Operations Team. It was a common sight over the past seven months to walk into our area and see Michael Struble, my top Hosting Engineer, and Cliff Moten looking like they were in the middle of a battle that seemed to have no end. My hat is off and I take a deep bow to Mike and Cliff for completing these projects on time. We recently had a small sample of the fruits of their labor when conducting pre-start of school load testing of our hosting environment. All systems passed with room to spare!

We are highly confident that our hosting environment is set for another successful start of school for our clients. We should not only see 100% website uptime again, but more consistent website performance as well. Even this week, we are already seeing the start of school traffic build. While we are not yet at the peak, we see the wave building and know the crest is soon to come. All signs point to exceeding the results we saw in 2013.

Once we are through with start of school, I need to talk Mike and Cliff into taking a well-deserved week long vacation. In fact, with what we've put together for our clients this year, maybe two weeks is in order!

Want to discover why our clients are so happy and satisfied - returning year after year? Check out our Services & Support Web pages >>

Topics: K-12, Website Hosting, Website Reliability


Dreams in the K-12 cloud: Part 1

Posted by Peter Weyandt on 8/26/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Peter Weyandt, Sr. Manager of Hosting and IT

Dreams are a wonderful thing. Especially when you can set goals and make plans that can bring those dreams to fruition.

As this summer winds down and our client K-12 districts and schools start ramping up for the new school year, I can only envision the amount of preparation that happens in order to successfully reach their dreams and goals. I imagine those goals start off with a successful "Back to School" program that engages parents, students, and teachers to get them excited for the new year.

About two years ago, I sat down with my technical management colleagues here at Schoolwires to do some dreaming of our own. I was new in my position managing our Hosting Operations team and was wondering how I could really have a positive impact and bring some innovation to an already highly functioning hosting operation. One area we identified for improvement was our uptime for start of school. My dream was to have 100% uptime for our clients' K-12 district websites and school websites during this hectic time of year. This is the time when K-12 districts and schools need reliable hosting for their websites in order to roll out the enormous amount of communications to parents, student, teachers, staff, and their community. And, it's no coincidence that as a result, our servers and network get a marathon-like workout at the start of the school year!

If you are a CTO or IT specialist, you know in the technology world that high utilization of systems can lead to downtime. And, server downtime - especially during the start of school - is a concern for districts. In order to ensure minimal to no downtime during the stressful, high-usage start of school period, we focus on our K-12 districts as our #1 goal.

I sketched out some dream ideas and turned to my Hosting Engineers, Cliff Moten and Michael Struble, to start identifying the critical goals we needed to make this happen, including:

  • Re-designing systems that had given us problems in the past
  • Recognizing ways to stabilize possible fail points
  • Ensuring we can quickly and effectively communicate issues - both internally and externally
  • Testing our new designs to ensure they meet the expected demand at the start of school

With our objectives lined up, we began to execute our plan. This may sound too technical for some of you, but IT types will love this...We replaced our existing world-class firewalls and load balancers with new state-of-the-art equipment that greatly increased our capacity. Then we replaced our existing Web clusters by creating them on new modular physical host pods. We also clustered virtual utility servers off of these physical host pods to isolate utility jobs away from our Web servers. Concurrently, we rewrote our communication processes and emergency procedures. Finally, we moved all our clients from the old environment to the new, while minimizing downtime. Here's the exciting news: when we conducted a computer simulation to load test our new creation at 140% of our expected start of school load, the results were successful!

A lot of hard work by my hosting team, combined with terrific guidance from my managers - and a little luck thrown in - resulted in a dream come true. 100% uptime for the start of the 2013 school year! As that school year came to a close, my team met again for our annual dreaming session, which of course included 100% uptime for this 2014 start of school season! Come back here on Thursday to read Part 2 and discover what we've been putting in place for our clients in 2014 to ensure we all have another successful start of school experience.

Updated 8/28/14: Check out Part 2 to this great story!

Want to learn more about our hosting operations? Visit our Services & Support Web pages today!

Topics: K-12, School Websites, Website Hosting, District Websites, Website Reliability


Free webinar: K-12 strategies for boosting school-to-home connections

Posted by Debbora Woods on 8/21/14 8:28 AM

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Join us for the next Parent involvement & community engagement in K-12 webinar!

Wednesday, August 27 at 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Presented by Dr. Jill Gildea, Superintendent of Fremont School District 79 in Illinois.

In this webinar

Engaging parents and boosting school-to-home communication is a priority in Fremont School District 79. And creating the environment that celebrates collaborative practices is central to the district's vision and promotes home-school connections.

In our edWeb community's next webinar, Dr. Jill Gildea will share how they've implemented best practices in K-12 parent communications for future-ready schools. She will also address the challenges and hurdles to effective parent engagement via communication strategies, as well as juggling the many demands of preparing today's child for tomorrow's world.

Learn about the four strategies Fremont has in place for building their Home/School Partnership:

  1. Implement proactive programs to foster positive interactions with parents.
  2. Offer opportunities to become involved.
  3. Inform parents of classroom management and instructional activities.
  4. Make accommodations to meet the needs of families of diverse backgrounds.

You will also receive tested tips and tactics that work -- that you can use right away! Attendees will be able to ask Dr. Gildea questions and participate in polls during this interactive session.

This is an event you don't want to miss -- Register today!

Topics: K-12, School-to-Home Communication, Community Engagement, Communications


Homework assignment for you...sharing stories

Posted by Chris Buecksler on 8/14/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Christopher Buecksler, Schoolwires Director of Marketing Operations

Anyone who has ever had their written work edited has gotten the feedback: "Don't use three words when one will do." Easier said than done, right? Most times when we have an idea or thought we want to explain it in a way that everyone understands it. And, we tend to use more words than necessary trying to get our point across.

Last year, I had the good fortune to attend the MarketingProfs annual conference and was struck by one of the keynote presenters. Larry Smith presented on SixWordMemoirs.com, a method of writing about a topic and sharing stories using six words -- no more, no less. It's a fascinating exercise to force oneself to be not only concise, but very selective with the words chosen to tell the story.

So, I challenge you to employ this practice to tell the following story: In six words, tell us how your K-12 district website and/or school websites positively impact your K-12 community. Leave your six-word responses in the comments below. Visit the SixWordMemoirs website for inspiration, and check out why - in six words - we at Schoolwires do what we do:

  • Inspiring school districts to connect better
  • Driving better school to home connections
  • Engaging community better; higher student achievement
  • Supporting different K-12 connections; driving results
  • Achieving better parent engagement with websites
  • Driving inspired parent engagement, improved communication
  • Engaging community better so students succeed
  • Engaging K-12 community better; student thrive
  • Engaging parents differently so students achieve
  • Helping students achieve through community engagement

Topics: K-12, School Websites, District Websites, Storytelling


K-12 website training: Luxury or necessity?

Posted by Debbora Woods on 8/7/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Dave Thompson, Senior Training Specialist

Too often, training is viewed as a luxury, not a necessity. The question we often hear is, "What if we train our employees and they leave?" And our response is, "what if you don't train your employees and they stay?"

Schoolwires understands all too well the challenges K-12 schools face. In keeping with our mission to connect K-12 communities to the information, services, and people they need, we offer a suite of quality professional development programs designed to equip your content editors with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully manage their websites. Our training programs deliver on the promise of helping your entire school community effectively use their websites to energize learning and foster teacher-parent-student interaction.

Districts that invest in Schoolwires training services report tangible benefits such as increasing user adoption, strengthening their professional development programs, and fostering community engagement. Our high-value, cost-effective programs delivered online, on-site, in-house, or via video conference will equip your staff with the skills need to create engaging web pages.

Here's a brief overview of your training options:

  • Online Training. These 2-hour sessions will provide you with an in-depth working knowledge of individual modules and features.
  • Onsite Training. Delivered at your district location, these intensive sessions include addressing your specific objectives in a customized agenda. It's an open-dialogue type of training where you're provided with fully supervised, experiential learning.
  • In-House Training. We're fortunate to have a state-of-the-art training facility at our corporate headquarters in State College, PA. This is a great option for you if you seek individualized training away from the distractions of your daily work environment.
  • Site Launch Consulting. During this personalized, intensive three-day website transition, our team will work with you to lay the foundation for the structure of your content on your new website. We include the design of page layouts, development of section configurations, structure of information hierarchy, website navigation, and migration of your content from your old website to your new Schoolwires platform.

Offering professional training for your staff is a strategic necessity -- but don't just take our word for it. Check out what our clients have to say:

"I really appreciated our trainer's willingness to work with individuals on their specific problem areas. I drove 2 hours to attend the regional training and it was worth it. I've been to many trainings over the years, and I would rate our trainer in the top 5%. I hope our ESD will bring him back again. I'll be there!"

Omak School District 19 (WA)

"Our trainer did a great job. I felt like he was prepared to answer all of my questions, and he also provided good insights to think about for future design sessions."

Upper Adams School District (PA)

Want to learn more? Check out our Training Web Page>>

And, stay tuned for more training-related blog posts in the future!

Topics: K-12, Training, Website Training, Professional Development


K-12 communications: Keeping the focus on positive storytelling

Posted by Debbora Woods on 8/5/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Bernie Rhinerson, Education Marketing Consultant

This summer more than 600 K-12 communications professionals from across the country gathered at the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) conference in Baltimore. There were common themes that recurred in the many sessions that ranged from crisis communications, parent engagement, new technologies, and mobile communications. But it was the theme of storytelling that seemed to rise to the top of most discussions.

District and school communicators work hard to focus on the positive by sharing the upbeat stories that occur everyday. Storytelling—sharing encouraging stories about students, teachers, and programs—is the best way to build connections with parents and school communities and build support for public education.

Unfortunately, K-12 communicators are often overwhelmed by negative news and have little time to focus on positive storytelling. All too often the news of the day is dominated by teacher misconduct, union conflicts, student misbehavior, budget cuts, bullying incidents, personnel issues, or the angry parent who complains first to a news reporter. These negative stories can stay in a local news cycle for several days, or longer, and stretch the districts' communications resources thin.

To counteract the media interest in negative news events, K-12 district and school communicators need to strategically focus on a positive storytelling program. With limited time and short-staffing in communications offices, you may find my article helpful: The Three Essential Steps for a Successful Storytelling Program.

Download your free copy today!

Topics: K-12, Communications


6 summer cleaning tips for your K-12 websites.

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/31/14 9:00 AM

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I can't believe the new 2014/15 school year is already upon us! As you clean your buildings, set up your teacher classrooms, and prepare for students' return, don't forget to update your district, school, and teacher websites too!

Here are a few tips we've heard from your peers about how they clean up their K-12 website and school websites that you might find helpful:

  1. Make it easy for families to find your location. Ensure your address, phone number, email address, map, and directions are all updated and accurate.
  2. Update your staff directory. Oftentimes, summer is when new staff members join the team and others retire or move to different opportunities. Make sure staff names, titles, locations, and contact information are up-to-date.
  3. Share important upcoming events. On your district calendar, make sure you have events such as first day of school, standardized testing, and board meetings listed. On your school calendars list orientation days, PTO meetings, Parent-Teacher-Student conferences, sporting events, and music performances. On your teacher page calendars, keep students and parents informed of field trips, volunteer opportunities, and curriculum test dates.
  4. Ensure links aren't broken. It can be frustrating to parents and students accessing resources on your pages if the links are broken. Make sure all links are working correctly.
  5. Update downloadable documents. The first part of the year seems to be the time that information home is at an all-time high! Make sure those student/parent handbooks, class curricula, sports physical forms, etc. are all up-to-date and can be easily downloaded.
  6. Venturing into the social space? Make sure your Twitter and Facebook feeds show up on your website. Afterall, your website should be your communities' one-stop hub for communication.

Of course, there are many more ideas that I could list, but I'd rather hear from you the best practices you use to update your district, school, and teacher web pages. Reply to this post with some other ideas for your peers - let's share!

To learn about other Schoolwires clients' successes with their websites, read their stories here>>

P.S. Happy cleaning!

Topics: K-12, School Websites, Teacher Web Pages, District Websites


Does your K-12 district need a responsive website AND a mobile app?

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/24/14 9:00 AM

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If you’re like many K-12 district leaders we’ve chatted with, you struggle with whether your district and schools should design a responsive website that works across multiple devices – such as desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone – or focus on building a branded, native mobile app. It can be a difficult choice to make, but here’s something to consider. Two very popular social media sites, Facebook and LinkedIn, feature responsive websites that render well on multiple devices. And millions of their users choose to access their accounts via their mobile apps too because it’s quicker and easier to get the information they’re looking for while on the go. Both options are important and available to their users.

The truth is your district has different audiences that access your website content for a multitude of reasons. For example, internally you have various website content editors, such as teachers and school administrative assistants, who update their web pages on a daily basis in order to keep parents and students informed with announcements, events, homework assignments, test dates, etc. Externally you have community members who may be new families looking for the right school for their child – yours, of course! Or, voters that you want to update on the latest bond needing their support. In essence, they are all your “consumers” needing access to your content. So in this constantly connected world, what do consumers say about their web browsing experiences on mobile?

According to this Google blog post:

  • 67% of website users state, “A mobile-friendly site makes me more likely to buy a product or use a service.”
  • And 61% state, “If I don’t see what I’m looking for right away on a mobile site, I’ll quickly move on to another site.”

Let’s stick with this “consumers” analogy for a bit. As mentioned above, you have internal and external consumers as unique audiences with diverse needs. Here’s how both a responsive website and a branded mobile app provide the access to your website information that they need…

Native Mobile App. A native mobile app is software developed specifically for mobile devices that users download from an app store, like iTunes or Google Play, and install it on their mobile device. Your district serves loyal “customers,” also known as parents, students, teachers, and staff, who want to be able to quickly access the information that’s important to them while they’re on the go, such as school closings, weather notices, and more. A mobile app keeps your district family informed and up-to-date with alerts and access to information from their smartphones. And, the Schoolwires Mobile Communications App allows your website content editors to update and publish content straight from their smartphones, including photos, podcasts, alerts, and more!

Responsive Web Design. In order to capture the attention of your entire audience and give them an optimized experience no matter what device they’re on, a responsive website delivers. Want to grab the attention of new families or potential staff in your district and ensure they have complete access to the information they need, no matter what device they’re on? A Schoolwires Responsive Web Design displays properly on any device or screen size and helps to promote your district’s brand.

As you can see, both options play a critical and different role in your district’s mobile strategy. So, why choose between one or the other? Consider both to provide the ultimate user experience! Check out our latest informational document hot off the press this week: Why your district needs a Responsive Web Design AND a Mobile Communications app.

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Responsive Web Design


What we heard at NSPRA 2014

Posted by Bernie Rhinerson on 7/15/14 2:19 PM

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By Bernie Rhinerson, Public Education Advocate

The Schoolwires team joined hundreds of public school communicators in Baltimore, Maryland this week for the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Seminar. What did we learn? What was the take away?

We learned that the job of school communications professionals is harder today than ever before. We learned that public education in our country is still misunderstood and sorely in need of more public support.

We learned that school communicators and all of us who are dedicated to public education must come together to tell the positive stories that happen every day in our schools. We learned that we all need to get involved and support national campaigns like Stand Up 4 Public Schools by the National School Boards Association.

We were inspired by the amazing stories being told by schools across the country like the Clovis Unified School District and their Believe video. We were energized by hearing from districts like West Lafayette Community Schools and seeing their national advocacy documentary, Rise Above the Mark.

It was an outstanding experience to spend time with hundreds of professional communicators at NSPRA, professionals dedicated to telling the story of public education. The Schoolwires team is proud to help support the storytelling and the community engagement that will help turn the tide and continue to build support for schools and public education.

CLICK HERE to learn how Schoolwires supports school districts in sharing their success stories.

Topics: K-12, K-12 Education, Community Engagement, Communications


How to build the worst K-12 website in 6 easy steps

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/10/14 9:00 AM

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Guest bloggers: Chris Buecksler, Cari Rhoades, and Kristi Gottwalt

Our Marketing Operations Team got together to brainstorm for this post, and we feel it’s a pretty great list! Enjoy…

  1. Make the content on your website hard to find. Bury it if you have to -- everyone loves a challenge! Who doesn't want to spend countless hours searching for updates from the board meeting, finding the school lunch menu, or learning where sporting events are located? Site search, bologna. Why would you want to add site search? It's just going to take the fun out of finding the content you've worked so hard to bury.
  2. Make sure it's hard to update content on it. After all, the fewer people in your district that know how to make changes, the more job security for you!
  3. Absolutely do not pay attention to enhancements that surrounding districts, charter schools, private schools, or online academies are making to their websites. It’s not like you are competing with them for anything.
  4. Just have one person update your whole district's content. Nothing builds character like going it on your own, and your website visitors will hardly notice the lack of updates or frustrating user experience.
  5. Don’t consider mobile users. Assume everyone will be viewing your site from a desktop computer. If by chance someone stops by your site from their phone or tablet, they’ll still be able to find what they need -- eventually. Even if more than 60% of Americans own a smart phone, and smart phone traffic is expected to grow by 50% in 2014, it’s probably just a fad. No need to worry about that!
  6. Ignore your audience. This is YOUR website. Make sure you only post about what you care about. If you are interested in the arts, focus on that! Make sure you keep everyone up-to-date on the latest performances and exhibits. Who really cares about student achievement, outstanding teachers, curriculum updates, or athletic events?

Okay, let's not really go to those extremes! We want to ensure your K-12 district and school websites are informing and engaging your stakeholders with content that's easy to find, when they need it. So, we asked some of our clients to give us tips to help your K-12 community tap into the vast potential of your district's website.

Download Your Copy

P.S. If you're attending the CGCS Annual Public Relations Executives Meeting this weekend, check out the Schoolwires-sponsored Closing Keynote on 7/13 at 10:00 AM with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. Get a copy of "Content Rules" and meet Ann at her book signing afterward!

Topics: K-12, School Websites, Website Best Practices, Community Engagement


Mobility Series: Part 3 – Don’t Settle When Choosing Engagement Sol'ns

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/8/14 9:00 AM

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This is the final post on our Noblesville Schools story. We definitely saved the best info for last!

So, did they find that perfect mobility package they needed for K-12 community engagement? We can answer with a resounding, YES! The third website and mobile solution was the charm. Here are just a few of the results the district is ecstatic about:

  • They’ve received numerous compliments on their responsive website
  • Site traffic is averaging nearly 120,000 views per month on the main page – with no stability issues
  • Staff members whose trust and confidence were lost due to past issues from previous providers love how easy it is to manage their content
  • They can proudly say they are among the first in Indiana to have their own school mobile app available on both Apple and Android devices

Noblesville Schools is coming up on their one-year anniversary with Schoolwires. Teachers are sharing content with parents and students through their teacher pages. Students and parents are downloading the mobile app to stay informed and engaged with their schools and the district. And the community comments about how they love the new solutions and how easy it is to find the information they need, when they need it. It just doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Want to learn more about our “mobility” solutions for your K-12 community? Visit our website today>>

Topics: K-12, Mobile Communications App, Community Engagement, Mobility, Responsive Web Design, Communications


A Checklist for Your K-12 Website Success

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/24/14 10:00 AM

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Last month I was reading a great MarketingProfs article entitled "Is Your Website Dead or Just Sleeping? A Vital Six-Point Checklist for Your Site." Although it was written with B2B marketers in mind, it provided some great tips that educators can use to ensure your K-12 websites are informing, engaging, and communicating with your community the way you need them to. Here are the six tips to follow:

  1. Is it usable? Here’s an obvious point – if your students, parents, staff, and community can’t navigate to the information they need, they won’t use your website! So, use headings, bullet points, a search function, keywords, and readable font sizes, just to name a few.
  2. Is it responsive? The majority of people access your website on a mobile device. Does your website give them a great user experience, eliminating the need for pinching and zooming? Or is it causing frustration?
  3. Is it focused? Students want to know when assignments are due and when the next test is scheduled. Parents want to know about district news and events. Give them what they want in a concise, clear manner.
  4. Is it sociable? People typically would rather look at photos or watch a video over reading a bunch of text on your website. Show off your student graduation with a video. Post photos of students enjoying a field trip.
  5. Is it direct? Ask your website visitors to interact with you. Need to know their support on a bond issue? Have them take a survey. Want parents to enroll their kindergartners early rather than waiting last minute? Encourage them to enroll online.
  6. Is it fast? Parents need to know critical info in a short amount of time as they run from music lessons to sporting events to the grocery store. They are in a hurry. Make sure your website pages load quickly – compress your page assets as much as possible, use a reliable hosting site, and ensure the platform is a solid content delivery network.

Is this a lot to consider? Yes! And Schoolwires is here to help, from designing easy-to-navigate responsive websites, to ensuring integration with your technology tools already in place, to creating a downloadable school district mobile app, to providing reliable hosting – we’ve got you covered!

Topics: K-12, School-to-Home Communication, School Websites, Website Best Practices


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