Saturday, April 16, 2011

Keeping the channels of communication open

This weekend I was contacted one of my former students and asked for help with a university assignment.  I taught her for geography in my last year in Thailand - she is now in her 3rd year of university and studying journalism.  The interesting thing was the way she chose to communicate with me - she sent me an invitation through Facebook to an event about coltan - if I accepted it meant I knew what it was and could help her.  What happened as a result of this was a very interesting 3-way communication between her, myself and another of her former teachers who also accepted the invitation.  We all communicate in different ways and this is her way - it was very effective for what she wanted to do.

Later I started reading a blog post by George Couros about Leadership and the Internet.  He writes about his reasons for blogging as opposed to communicating through a traditional school website.  I have had this sort of conversation with some of our administrators too - and what it really comes down to is what George mentions in his blog post:
Effective leadership is often amplified by our communication skills.  When we use the term “communication”, many default to the belief that leaders are great speakers. Communication though is a two way practice and we often talk about the art of listening as essential.  Do we provide our stakeholders a forum that they can communicate to us their thoughts?
I doubt I would ever have come across George if it wasn't for his blog.  Certainly I would never have visited his school website.  And this started me questioning how effective our school website is.  We have one, which I feel is great as a marketing tool for new families or for information that will not change such as the school calendar which is useful for our current families to be able to access.  It's also the "gateway" to our parent portal with information about the classes the students are in, subjects they are studying and so on (but which as a parent I have never used as it is way too clunky).  We also have a student website where we add links to resources for our students to use to support their learning and where we showcase their work.  This year I have also helped individual teachers to set up their own class blogs - this is where the real communication is taking place. One of our PK classes has had almost 2,000 visitors to their blog this school year, others have had comments from families, friends and other students around the world.  If I was to count up the total of the visitors to each of the class blogs I'm sure it would add up to much more than the total visits to our school website.  This is the way people want to communicate.  George goes on to say:
We need to go to where our stakeholders are and provide them different opportunities to communicate.  As I listened toMichael Fullan a few weeks ago, he mentioned that effective leaders are both able to send and receiveOur communication tools need to be able to do this as well.
Recently I have been working with our Grade 1 and Grade 3 students on comments - how to write effective comments on a blog post.  It has been a great opportunity to bring up many issues related to digital citizenship.  We talked about how to stay safe online.  We hope that by teaching the students how to do this in school, they will stay safe out of school too.  Last week we were discussing Fakebook and whether or not to use this as a tool for our Grade 3 students to create imaginary profiles of famous explorers for our Where We Are in Place and Time unit.  Some of our teachers were very enthusiastic, others felt it was too much like Facebook, and since our Grade 3 students are only 8 or 9 years old was it appropriate to create something that might prompt them to ask for a real Facebook account?  Some of our  Grade 3 students already have Facebook accounts, however, despite the fact that they are well below the age limit.  Should we be teaching them how to use this safely, or should we just assume this is their parents' responsibility?  The important thing for me was that we were having these discussions, we were communicating our ideas, we were listening to others' perspectives, including the perspectives of parents who had been invited to a meeting about social networking last month.

George highlights this as another plus point for blogs over websites.  He says:
Giving parents the opportunity to give feedback on initiatives within the school and how they can best serve learning will only make our schools stronger.  We do more together than we ever could alone.  School blogs that get feedback through the comments are a great way to build stronger, collaborative environments.
Next year my intention is to do very little on the static student website and to move much more towards blogging for all the primary classes.  The teachers are ready for it, the students are ready for it, the parents are ready for it - and the channels of communication are wide open.

Photo Credit:  2/365 Communication by Daniel Horacio Agostini

No comments:

Post a Comment