Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Superintendent Wants Your Input

As I posted about last time, my superintendent is really reaching out to schools trying to learn more about what we do day-to-day, as well as what we could (and should) be doing in the future to help prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century (successful in both the professional and the personal sense). Today he sent me an email asking about ways we could solicit input from our stakeholders. He is thinking of different ways to organize face-to-face conversations with students (and others), but also wants to utilize some of the technology he has seen us use with students to further the conversation between him and our students, staff, parents and community.

I have some ideas on this (I always have lots of ideas, occasionally even a good one), but I wanted to pose this question to my “learning network” through The Fischbowl. So I would love to hear not only from students and teachers in my building and district, but from the rest of you out there. What are some good ways that our superintendent can use technology to carry out this conversation (in addition to the face-to-face meetings, not replacing them)? A Blog? A Wiki? A Podcast? Skype? Others? And not just the tech tool, but how would we organize and structure it? How do we make it useful to all involved without being too wide-open and free-wheeling? How do we supplement the face-to-face discussions in a way that doesn’t become overwhelming, repetitious or unhelpful? As we’ve seen with other superintendents who’ve tried something like this, things can get out of hand quickly if this isn’t structured well and the norms laid out in advance. And, like all superintendents, he’s incredibly busy, so this also needs to be as defined and efficient as possible.

So, if you’re a student or a teacher, a principal or a superintendent, a school board member or a parent, a web 2.0 guru or a newbie, or just somebody with a great idea – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please keep your comments focused on the method, not on actually providing feedback.


  1. I would wonder if it would be appropriate to limit yourself to just one particular medium. Each of the methods you mention have such varying capabilities, as I know you know. I would sort of posit that an entry web page (not wiki or blog-based) providing clear-cut directions (sort of a colorful site map) to the various pieces of the pie wouldn't work best. I would say to limit it to Wiki and to Podcast, because one can allot for interviews with voice and the other works so well for collaboration. I would recommend a strong navigation for the wiki, decide ahead of time the categories to which you're going to solicit feedback (be it student involvement, district filters, etc) and then create a page allowing folks to add their input. This prevents too much forking and keeps in line with your desire to maintain structure. Bravo to your Superintendant for asking for this feedback! I wish more did!

    Chris Craft

  2. What I've been considering is setting up a MySpace or Facebook for our entire school - Euclid Middle School.

    MySpace has received negative press and I doubt we could ever get beyond that issue in our fair city of Littleton, Colorado. (My principal and I have discussed this in some detail - how to reach kids through an on-line means.) Yet I still like the general idea of reaching kids and parents through this medium. (actually did you know the average age demographic for MySpace is like 30-40 years old?)

    So Scott, if you're reading this comment: how about a district-wide "Facebook site"? Perhaps this idea could drive a redesign of our school web-sites and that would be the way to go too.

    Here's another idea: Use Google's Apps for Education project (currently free) to issue & administer a free email account and other collaborative tools to every student in our district (parents too). For more info go to: https://www.google.com/a/edu/
    There are on-line webinars that explain more about it.

  3. I guess it depends on your/his goals. In my opinion, podcasts, wikis and email are less likely to create a communal conversation which would be my goal. I'd want a site that allowed the community as a whole to feel they had a voice and were engaged in an actual conversation.

    As simple as it sounds I like blogs for this type of thing. I think you have to set them up in a fairly open fashion though in order to create that feeling of communication.

    I wouldn't require accounts so everyone can participate (parents, students, community members).

    I would moderate comments to control conversation, foolish/obscene comments and, of course, spam.

    You can take comments that you feel are important and turn them into posts to give them more focus and to allow a detailed and public reply.

    I use a wordpress plug-in to poll visitors and then respond to the results. Things like that can be pretty powerful.

    I can still include audio or video in the posts so I don't feel I lose anything there.

  4. As a techno-savvy LPS parent I use all of the vehicles mentioned in my personal and professional lives, so any would work for me. However, I think a blog with RSS feed would be easiest and most heavily used. I would stay away from MySpace or Facebook -- I just don't see the need to utilize them when open websites are probably more accessible and definitely less controversial. Podcasts are great but you can't skim through if time-challenged and so are more likely to be skipped entirely. Wikis are wonderful for some applications but I'm not sure this would be one.

    PS- I'd love to see something like this developed in any format and look forward to the opportunity to participate.

  5. I'm going to go a different route:
    I think video conferencing has tangible advantages over text-based collaborative media. Non-verbal clues often reveal more than the spoken (or blogged) word. It's often easier, for me, to gauge an idea's impact by looking at faces rather than listening to reactions. I know that video conferencing is still in its infancy, and picture and sound quality can vary, but it reinforces the human aspect of collaboration.

  6. After sharing your powerful and famous PPT with my administration, our Principal has us on the same track as your Superintendent. We're going to kick off this "search for best practices" tomorrow, and we'll definitely share our thoughts and findings.

    I've signed up for the Google accounts, considered many things (Google Video for Literacy sounds so cool), but trying to stay open. What I'm struggling with is the approach to tech-savvy folks for answers, when what I'd really like to do is hang with teachers as they describe their ideal room, and allow me to get the tech to support it. I guess I need to expose them to the infinite possibilities first.