Your school doesn’t need a webmaster

Ever since there was an internet, there’s been a desire for schools to have a website.  And, roughly a month after that, there were dated websites.  For many schools, having a website was something that was created and done.  Fini.  A volunteer goes to a workshop on Dreamweaver or Frontpage and then enthusiastically pulls together a webpage or, hopefully, a website for the school.  There might be an announcement of an upcoming basketball game or a fundraiser and it draws the educational community in to get the details.  Your website URL appears on the district’s directory, on school letterhead, on the sign outside the building, and anywhere you can post http:www.heywegotawebsite.ca.

As the basketball games or the fundraiser becomes a memory, for many schools, it still remains posted on the front page of the website.  Why?  Typically, webmaster is a volunteer job done with the very best of intentions.  But then, life gets in the road.  Time can’t be found to make the necessary changes to keep things current.  Or, the website was created as a project for a course.  Or, the website was created by students for class marks.  Or the eager teacher transfers schools taking the necessary skills with her/him.  Or, …  I’m sure anyone at a school level can fill in their own blanks.

It’s one thing for a corporation to have a dynamic website.  They have the resources to hire someone or a team or to farm it out.  That’s typically not so for schools; having a webpsite is a desirable thing and becomes a volunteer job.  There are some who do a great job as volunteer.  You will see some great websites but others, not so much.

How can we fix this?  It’s not really a hardware or a software problem.  You can go out and implement the best open source content management system or buy the best commercial one but that’s just going to move the problem to a new platform.  You could hire a webmaster.  Yeah, right.  Or, you could rely on so and so’s husband, because “he knows computers”.

I would suggest that there’s a better way.  You don’t need a webmaster much.  In fact, if you look at your existing website, there’s probably a lot of good material that needs to be there and is valid from the first of September to the end of June.  You know, things like bell times, exam days, professional learning days, parent/teacher interviews.  Those types of things could be installed once and maybe even be a project for a summer AQ course.  Or, just share a template from another school.  Instead of their purple and yellow colours, change to your red and white, change the school logo, and you’re good to go.  Unless someone holds them up side by side, they are two different sites for all intents and purposes.

It’s the dynamic day to day content that is the challenge.  If we remove the webmaster from the mix for any of the reasons above or other, how can it be done?  That’s where the webmaster replacement steps in.  You don’t need a webmaster; you need a community manager.

The rest of the content can be created daily or, in fact minute by minute, with the right social tools.

Consider all of the great social media tools that are your fingertips.  More and more teachers and classrooms are using the independently – why not bring in your community manager to make it work for you.  In addition to the static things that you’ve already posted, leave some room to;

  • incorporate your class, student, and teacher blogs into the mainsite via RSS.  A link takes the visitor to your content;
  • incorporate your class wikis or indeed a school wiki in the same manner.  Unlike a webmaster who is the sole guardian of the password and content, build a learning resource with everyone contributing;
  • use Twitter widgets devoted to each classroom (even with their own hashtags) and every class can update the world 140 characters at a time;
  • got some great pictures from an assembly or other event?  Encourage the audience to take the pictures and post them to Twitter with your school/class hashtag instead of waiting until someone needs to clean out the school camera and finds them;
  • need to post notes from a meeting or a guest presenter?  Embed a Coveritlive session and post your notes as they happen.  You could even do a play by play of a basketball game this way;
  • got some bandwidth?  Consider live streaming and recording graduation so that all can enjoy.

The list goes on and on.  There’s a not so subtle shift happening.  Instead of updates happening when the webmaster can get to it or even if she/he can find and talk to the right person, it’s posted the minute that it happens.  Everyone, principal, teacher, student, parent, can be content creators to show how vibrant and dynamic the school is.  

Imagine, no more dead websites.

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8 thoughts on “Your school doesn’t need a webmaster”

  1. I agree that schools could more easily update their sites via technology, if they choose. However, I’m not sure the real problem with school sites is outdated information. I’m more inclined to think a far more serious problem is failure to provide taxpayers with information they want and need.

    About a year ago, I invited me a education commissioner gave me a list of every publicly-owned educational institution in his state. I probably looked at websites for a couple hundred schools in his state.

    Of those, I’d say maybe a dozen were good public school websites.

    Most school sites I visit appear to be designed only for students, parents and staff. They seem to ignore the members of the public who do not already have a connection to the school. Nationally, somewhere around 70 percent of households have no school-age children. Even if you substract those who work in schools, that’s still a huge group that gets most of its information from media stories about education and observing the teenage clerk at the grocery store.

    I don’t think school sites have to have outside webmasters; I do think they need to be run by someone who can bring an outside perspective.

    Like

  2. Wow, what a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?
    I’m not the current ‘webmaster’ of our school site, but your post still has me thinking.

    One thing I am already thinking about is a comment/question my administration would certainly ask (and how I would answer their question): “How do we control the content that appears?”. I think the trick would be convincing administration that it may not be necessary to control it.

    Like

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