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January 24th, 2009:

Transparency and Change

President Obama’s first day in office has been one of change and transparency.
The Whitehouse web site that was completely reformatted the day Obama took office promises communication, transparency, and participation. School administrators should look closely at the new Whitehouse site to see how they could change their districts web presence to include those three elements. The web site is great and holds a lot of promise. President Obama is also posting his weekly talks to YouTube.com. This is a major change from the Saturday radio broadcasts used by other Presidents.

We can use President Obama’s strategies in education to bring about change and to make what we do more transparent to our parents and community. We have the technology. We have the skills. We have all we need to change how we communicate. We need the same sense of urgency that the economic crisis has brought to the White House. It will take leadership by our administrators and a commitment from your staff, but it can be done and it won’t cost money. As they say in the Nike ads “Just do It!”

Where do you start?

  • Set up an administrative blog with all the central administrators as authors. Post all news items and events to the blog. Be informal and avoid jargon. The blog is a place to bring people into your school. Make them feel welcome not ignorant.
  • Use more than text. Include audio, videos and images whenever you can. They are more interesting than plain text. Learn how to create “podcasts” that can be attached to your blog or featured on iTunes.
  • Keep your post short. The Japanese have a philosophy that less is more. That is true with communication also. Tell one story or make one point per post. You can always write about another idea or event the next day. By keeping the post short, it won’t seem like a large task to add something new.
  • Involve students. Parents attend school events that feature their children. Post pictures of students who earn awards, do community service, or participate in great classroom projects. One superintendent featured videos of him being interviewed by students.
  • Use your traditional communication tools to advertise your blog. After a year, decide what “old ways” you can give abandon.
  • Model how you want your principals and teachers to use technology.