Wired for engagement – the Schoolwires blog

K-12 teacher web pages: The key to engaging families outside the classroom

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/12/15 9:00 AM

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When Cabarrus County Schools’ (NC) website vendor went out of business, the K-12 district was prompted to look for another provider and joined the Schoolwires family. During the transition, the district created Board policies and administrative guidelines for school and teacher websites. In order to maintain quality control, safety, and security of information and also ensure efficient, up-to-date school-home communications, teachers must maintain web pages within their schools’ websites. Their web pages include a welcome page, teacher picture and contact information, calendar, course syllabus, handouts and notes, and photos of events and activities.

Recently, we noticed activity in social media around the teacher web pages of Ms. Sloane Wood, music teacher at Cox Mill Elementary in the Cabarrus district. She is going beyond the district's teacher web page minimums and really using her pages to engage and connect with her different audiences she serves. When asked who her different audiences were, Sloane replied, “My main audiences that I appeal to with content on my website are students, families, and my peer teachers. And each audience requires different content, in different formats, that is relevant to them.”

So, of course, we needed to learn more! We collaborated with Sloane to write about her family engagement goals and tactics. We learned her challenges:

  • Provide good customer service to students and families
  • Be a responsible citizen
  • Preserve what students have created
  • Incentivize good student behavior
  • Archive years of teacher work
  • Integrate music curriculum with other teachers' curriculum
  • Share education and professional training with peers

If you want to explore the solutions Schoolwires was able to provide, and discover her outstanding results, you'll definitely want to read Sloane's success story -- Teacher web pages: The key to engaging families outside the classroom.

Want your students more engaged?

Do your parents feel knowledgable and involved?

Are your school-to-home communications efficient and effective?

This story has the tips you need!

Download your copy today!

 

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Teacher Web Pages, Family Engagement


A K-12 student’s perspective: Website user experience

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

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Guest Blogger: Destiny W., High School Junior

My mom and I were chatting last weekend about how my high school has really improved their teachers' school-to-home communications. Then she asked me if I would write a short blog post from a student's perspective about my experiences. So, here goes...

As a junior in high school, I’ve come to the realization that the "easy way" does not always mean better outcomes, but it sure does when you're talking about user friendliness on websites.

From personal experience, I can attest to the statement that one website that has everything we students – and our parents - need, including teacher lecture videos, planbooks, assignments, and homework submission is the best route to travel (and the easier way). This is for a couple of logical reasons:

  1. Having everything needed by teachers, students, and parents on one website avoids the frustration of trying to memorize multiple URLs, multiple logins and passwords, and posting to multiple sites. Talk about a fractured and frustrating user experience. Been there, done that last year – and hated it! I had seven classes with seven different websites to check each night. Sometimes I missed assignments, which didn't go over well. And my mom had to write down seven different URLs and logins on a sheet of paper she kept next to our keyboard. I know, it wasn't safe at all, but it was better than forgetting all of them!
  2. Accessing everything needed in one central location, from lecture videos to homework assignments and the class calendar of events is a huge convenience factor. This year, my school's one-stop-hub makes everyone’s lives much easier! My classes each have their own teacher web pages linked to our school website. They provide critical information families need, such as links to grades, forms needing signed, dates for upcoming tests, and resources for studying. Now, I don’t miss any assignments or updates, and my mom can stay in the loop with what's happening in my classes. How easy is that?

We’re all busy and it feels like life is pulling us in multiple directions all at one time. When our schools provide one-stop websites to access the information we need, when we need it, then we all win!

Want to learn how Schoolwires provides one-stop communication hubs for your K-12 districts?

Learn About Centricity2

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, School Websites, Teacher Web Pages, District Websites


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


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


Introducing: A better video experience!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/29/14 9:00 AM

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Effective and engaging online school-to-home communications is critical for keeping digital families connected to what’s going on in your district. And, with a variety of website content to share, making visitors always just read a bunch of text can get boring. That’s not the way to keep your website visitors engaged! Excite them with some video content!

This month we’ve introduced the new Schoolwires Premium Video App. It’s a simple and affordable way to add video to your website. And here’s even better news – your videos can be created in any file or format, they can be viewed on any device with the click of a button, and viewers don’t have to install plug-ins to watch! (Does it get any better?)

Our clients are loving it – we’re thrilled with their enthusiasm! But, some of you might be thinking right now, “Why would we want this? I can’t think of too many ways to use it.” Wait! What?! Let me share with you some ideas on how to tell your story…

  • Superintendent, Principal, and Teacher Messages: What a great way to welcome students and parents back to school for the new year! It personalizes the message when they can see your happy faces.
  • Athletic and Extra-Curricular Event Highlights: How many students, parents, and other community members would love to see your football team score the winning touchdown? Or how about showcasing your school choir performing at a standing room only event?
  • Flipped Learning Content: Do your teachers “flip” their classrooms and provide video lecture content online for their students? Wouldn’t it be great to provide that one-stop location on their teacher web pages for students?
  • Highlight Student Achievement: Spotlight your students’ successes. Talk about winning the hearts of families!
  • Share Special Occasions: Do you have teacher of the month awards ceremonies? What about breaking ground for a new school? You don’t want to forget about graduation at the end of the year.
  • Board and PTO Meetings: Parents and involved community members can’t always make it to monthly meetings. Wouldn’t this be a nice touch to provide recorded meetings so they can keep up-to-date?

Recently, we’ve had new customers provide “welcome to our new website” videos on their home pages explaining where visitors can find the information they need. Nice touch! I’m sure there are many more ideas you can think of, now that we’ve got those creative juices flowing.

It really is all about connecting your K-12 community and keeping those communication lines open. So, want to learn more?

Download the Schoolwires Premium Video App information sheet today.

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Community Engagement, Premium Video App


Product Release: Update your Mobile Communications App

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/22/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Kristi Gottwalt, Product Marketing Manager

We are very excited about the changes made to the Centricity2 Mobile Communications App. Wondering what’s included in the new release?

Photo Gallery

Add photos to the app or to your website from your mobile device! This update will allow administrators to pin photos to their newsfeed and share galleries while on-the-go. Simple captioning makes it easy to share your story quickly.

Getting Started

Not only is there a new site tour, but users are able to select which schools in your district they want information on regularly. Once selected, those schools can be included in their news feed and in the sidebar to make finding relevant information simple.

MyView Integration

MyView Integration continues to make it easy for parents to get relevant information they need, when they need it!

Download the newest version of the app from the iTunes or Google Play store today! If your district doesn’t have an app, our app can help increase community engagement and make school-to-home communication easy. Also, users with admin rights can update the app and their website right from their mobile device, bringing content management to the palm of their hands.

Learn More

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Community Engagement, Product Release


Don’t quit! Improving K-12 community engagement & communication is possible.

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/17/14 9:00 AM

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Ever feel like no matter what you try, you keep hitting a brick wall and can’t seem to get a break? For example, your district has tried to build its own K-12 website in-house in an effort to save money. It works okay for awhile, but then the webmaster that built it leaves the district and no one else understands the coding. So, you try a commercial solution, but the site keeps crashing and the hosting is unreliable. Parents, students, and teachers are frustrated – they can’t find the information they need and school-to-home communication stalls. What do you do next? Do you give up?

Well, you aren’t alone. In the past seven years, Indiana’s Noblesville Schools has tried three different website solutions in an effort to expand their community engagement. They didn’t quit, and their third solution was a charm!

In the past year, Noblesville Schools has realized some exciting results from selecting a Responsive K-12 website in addition to a district mobile app:

  • District home page site traffic averages 120,000 views per month with no stability issues
  • Leery, distrustful staff were quickly won over, and now managing their content is easy
  • Only three support tickets in the past year -- all resolved within the same day
  • Post contract signing experience has been great -- haven't been abandoned by account reps

They've got a great story to tell about their journey, and we're excited to share it with you!

We’ve invited two of their district administrators, Andrew Swickheimer and Michele Turner, to join us for a free webinar where they will share firsthand about their experience finding and implementing a responsive one-stop portal for their district. Their results have been fantastic! Increased website visitors, no hosting or stability issues, happy staff members, and “plugged in” parents, students, and teachers. Does it get any better than that?!

At the end of their presentation, you’ll be able to ask Andy and Michele questions about their own school-to-home communication and community engagement challenges. So, join us on Wednesday, July 23rd at 4:00 pm ET to learn directly from your peers how to find the best community engagement solution for your district.

Register Today!

7/30/14 Update: The webinar was terrific, packed full of helpful information! You can watch it at your convenience here>>

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Community Engagement


How-to Tuesday: Schoolwires Mobile Communications App

Posted by Debbora Woods on 7/15/14 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Kristi Gottwalt, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

Here are some interesting stats about websites and mobile apps:

  • 46% of mobile users report having difficulty interacting with a web page, and 44% complain that navigation was difficult. (Source: Keynote)
  • 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. (Source: MarginMedia)
  • More than 9 out of 10 respondents (95%) agreed with the statement that "good user experience just makes sense." (Source: Econsultancy)

So, with this being the case, keeping your K-12 district and school websites up-to-date can be a daunting task, especially in the digital age. Your school community is used to updates as they happen, on a variety of devices. As a site administrator, it can be difficult to keep current content on the site while you are busy with the day-to-day aspects of your job. That’s why with the Schoolwires Mobile Communications App anyone with rights to edit their content can make changes to the site and the app right from their phone!

How can you do that? It’s easy! Simply select the Site Manager option from the sidebar of the mobile app. Once in site manager, administrators will be able to add, remove, or edit announcements, the photo gallery, or podcasts right from their mobile devices. Once saved, the changes will appear immediately on both the app and the district or school's website.

Just consider the possiblities:

  • The webmaster can add graduation pictures to your home page as they are happening
  • The athletic director can make an announcement about winning the big game
  • The teacher can update homework assignments while waiting in the grocery line

Editing content while on the go will make life easier for all users of the Mobile Communications App. Want to learn more about how our mobile app can make school-to-home communication simple in your district?

Learn More

P.S. Are you at NSPRA? Check out our presentation, "Does your mobile app play well with your district website?" today (7/15) at 4:15 pm where we'll be demonstrating our exciting new mobile app! See you there!

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Mobile Communications App


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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