Are You Current?

I really enjoyed Shannon in Ottawa’s recent post entitled The Millennials Are Googling Us.

In the posting, she did a great deal of research about the internet presence that her school has, how they’re using it, and how perspective teachers are using it to do a little research before applying to be part of the school staff.  The message is pretty much what you would expect – people are reading their web presence whether it be applicants or parents and they are enjoying and using what they read.

I suspect, though, that this school may well be in the minority when it comes to having an updated web presence.  I spent some time today just wandering around looking at other schools sites and noticed the following…

  • School sites that don’t have the current principals name on them;
  • Sites that have the “last updated” date on them (a good idea) but it was over two years since the last update;
  • Some of the most bizarre colours and formatting;
  • Sites that are just a collection of PDF files generate by word processor;
  • Things that are spinning and making noise to distract the viewer.

It’s a shame but I suspect that some of the following might have taken place.

  • was created by a teacher who has left the staff with nobody willing to pick up the slack;
  • was created by students who did a great job but then graduated;
  • was created by a teacher who had some time allocated to the task but no longer does;
  • someone took it on with enthusiasm but life got in the road.

There could be millions of other reasons as well.  So, what is the solution?  After all, particularly in Ontario, you have access to some of the best products available for web creation in the Ministry of Education licensed Adobe Creative Suite.  Well, maybe we’ll buy some other product that will provide easier design like FirstClass or Drupal or Moodle.  There may well be some initial enthusiasm but it takes a great deal to maintain a contemporary website.  Let’s make it so that you’re in a templated world then.  Our site will be red and your site will be blue.  Repeat after me “we are all creative and independent thinkers”.  Just fill in the blanks with your own PDF files.

It seems to me that the when you get to the bottom of all of this, the answer is time.  Time devoted to learning how to create and post content, time devoted to collecting content, and a recognition of time allotted to do the task.

The reality is that it requires a school based interest to have a workable digital footprint.  It may well be that you use WordPress or Moodle or whatever but it need to be a collective desire of the staff to put its best digital foot forward.  The one thing that often goes missing in all this is that it takes a great deal of time and devotion to keep this all together.  As I take a look at W. Erskine Johnston, they’ve made a commitment with an installation of WordPress and their own domain name.  The principal appears as a regular contributor and there are lots of pictures celebrating the school.  It was a pleasure to view the site.  Will they be able to sustain this over the years?  I hope so.

I had a colleague once who was a school webmaster.  Because of “security issues”, he was the only person who was allowed to post content to the website.  He did a great job and took great pride in doing so.  But, after a while, he tired of always being the go-to person for web content.  Right about that time, we were doing a lot of work with wikis and he came up with an idea that was genius.  He moved the website to a wikisite and gave every teacher in the school their own login, password, and responsibility for maintaining their own presence.  I think the idea was genius.  The solution wasn’t about working harder, it wasn’t about spending all kinds of money on yet another tool, it was about everyone working and pulling together.  The result – a website that always has fresh content with everyone pitching in.  Isn’t that what collaboration all about?

How are you maintaining an online presence that you’re proud of?

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