Web 2.0 tools and communication expectations?

Thanks to Greg Carroll from New Zealand for the link. I’m talking more and more in the staff room and off the cuff comments about the social medium of web 2.0 at staff meetings these days. There seems some tensions around this in schools!

I recently thought about a “communication problem” at school and thought web 2.0 solutions – just post it on your blog, use your parent email distribution list, create a class parent wiki about the topic but all this requires some pre-thought about why and time management.

Why should we communicate this stuff, is it worth the effort, whats the purpose, are we discriminating against those who don’t use web 2.0 tools etc…

In the “old” days we principals “protected” teachers e.g. by vetting letters that were sent to parents. This usually slowed the whole parent communication process down – but with web 2.0 tools who would do this protection? This is a challenge.

On the other hand this ease of access can start another issue where a teacher is feeling bombarded with parent feedback and communication and take valuable time away from planning say – the next days differentiated maths or writing lesson – by feeling obligated to respond to emails in depth? This is a challenge.

Does this ease of communication create unrealistic expectations by us as parents of being told “stuff” constantly?

Am I or are we as a community just adding to the already overloaded bucket expected of teachers? Not just teach students with a differentiated curriculum, instruction being informed by the analysis of student achievement data, using technology as an instruction tools to enage and inspire youth etc……………….. now share it constantly.

More and more I’m thinking we cannot leave this communication stuff to chance, nor leave what might seem to some as constant parent demands for communication to chance either. A communication policy and practice that sets some guidelines based on the schools capacity to support teachers doing it – where most is done by teams of teachers at the point of logical connection, it seems to me.

We are trialing some forms of this communication policy that sets a framework of expectations that includes teacher phone message banks as well as emails? I feel more on this topic needs to be talked about before we get the tension between usefulness, time management and skill development vs need and want. 

A work in progress – inspired by Greg”s link to this video.

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5 Responses to Web 2.0 tools and communication expectations?

  1. mwalker says:

    You make a valid point here – lot of information is collected and communicated without being vetted by the principal including classroom helpers.

    I was more thinking about official documents, reports, communication channels from school like websites or school blogs need to be of the highest standard.

    However in reflecting on all this I think it should be the collective responsibility that we collaborate together so that whatever we do the standard we set in rooms [supported through peer observation or coaches] and in published format is the quality we seek – value for efforts it my current phrase – how can we get the best value for your efforts.

    PS : We are also in the people business where we encourage risk taking and making mistakes is part of the process and the trust we have through the parent teacher partnerships is hopefully strong enough to support this – I think that’s a point you make.

    Thanks for the contribution.


  2. Liz Ash says:

    I’ll throw my hat into the ring with this one and suggest how different would Web 2.0 and Blogs be to parent helpers in your classroom everyday?

    Being a junior school teacher, classroom helpers are just an everyday part of the community. We have informal chats about the progress of their child, comparisons are made between other students, observations are made about the various comings and goings of other teachers in the room (as a coordinator this is a regular occurrence) and parents go home and report to other parents and their spouse about the performance of their child’s teacher. None of this is vetted by the Principal, spelling errors, raised voices and mishaps in lessons are all just part of the program.

    Is this not Ultranet in action in the real world – rather than the virtual?

  3. mwalker says:

    Thanks Ross and Dean for your comments.

    I was challenged a long while ago to say when we take something new on we must learn to drop something off [change theory]. So it is with communication – in this case parent communication. If we take on blogs [prep class blog an example it should be a team that shares the responsibility for maintaining it] otherwise its a burden and so what drops off??? Parent letters??

    Who take responsibility for checking?

    It’s easier with years 3-6 students who can write in their diaries and get parents to sign it – notifying of a post on a blog or is this just shifting the burden?

    As for student report comments on the Ultranet – when anyone reads a text [this case a parent reading a teacher note or comment] they bring to the text their prior knowledge, their reading between the lines etc…. so writing is a craft that needs practice.

    Communication is often laced with political implications – I say political in the widest sense. So if a teacher makes a typo on the Ultranet parents might be tempted to think is this the standard we set – for ourselves and students – when we publish?? This will be a challenge.

  4. Dean Banova says:

    You raise some interesting points, Mark particularly considering when viewed in light of the pending implementation of the Ultranet. What some principals found very challenging during the Ultranet trial in 2006 was the notion that teachers would be posting comments/evaluation/reporting without it going through rigorous proof reading. Glen Waverley SC have the approach of encouraging parents to be ‘proof readers’ explaining that because of the nature of their system some typo’s and miscommunications occur. We hope that the immediacy and richness of info available will promote the Ultranet as a system, that with some small errors will present a broad picture of a student as a learner

  5. A thought-provoking post, Mark, and a very relevant issue. Unless the communication coming from a school matches what parents and students normally utilise for their own communication and information gathering eg social media, mobile phone etc then its a fair chance that the message won’t get through.

    As you rightly point out, boundaries, guidelines and rules are required to ensure that any new communication channels are only used for the right purpose.

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