After participating as a panelist for the School Food Nutrition Foundation’s recent webinar, “School Lunch 2.0 How Websites like Facebook and Twitter can Revolutionize your School Nutrition Program“, I received a follow-up e-mail from a frustrated school nutritionist who had registered but was unable to participate. She had sent the e-mail announcement about the webinar to her district’s IT Director in their small district to inquire about why she was unable to connect to the session through a popular webinar platform. (By the way, the complimentary webinar is archived at SNF in case you missed it.) His response - upon seeing the topic – was to dismiss her entirely with the following one line e-mail;
“We are not going to be opening Facebook or Twitter in our Internet filter. This would be a waist (sic) of your time.”
For those of us who work with emerging tools and see their potential to improve outreach and communication efforts, not to mention how the same tools can positively impact the classroom, this response was a wake-up call that there is still much work to be done. The Technology Leadership Network knows that new tools sometimes face resistance by IT departments and administrators who initially dismiss them without having a thoughtful conversation about how they might further the district’s goals and that’s exactly what happened to this educator.
The district’s web site is largely a “Web 1.0″ product that exhibits little vision for using interactive tools. As an example, it offers no way for the public to e-mail board members, yet, the superintendent’s welcome letter talks about how they will need to engage their community’s support to pass an upcoming levy. It doesn’t appear they are very interested in making it easy to establish that kind of a two-way dialogue! Other districts are finding that thoughtful use of their web site or social media tools can build bridges and create credibility that is helpful when issues are put to a vote. As for building relationships with the community through social media, the fastest growing age group on Facebook is 35-54 exactly the age group of many parents and local voters!
The Technology Leadership Network urges leadership teams think about these tools. NSBA has hosted the T+L Conference for 23 years to help districts make sense of new technologies as they emerge. The conference often provides just the spark that is needed among board members, innovative district administrators, teachers, and the IT staff to start a true dialogue of collaboration about how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning, streamline administrative operations, and facilitate communications.
And just in case you think only big districts can leverage their web site and modern tools, you’re wrong!! NSBA works with the Center for Digital Education to rank the top district web sites each fall and will be announcing the 2009 rankings next month. In the meantime, take a look at the list of the top-ranked, “small enrollment” districts from the 2008 Digital Districts Survey that focused on how technology supports their operations and communications, with special attention paid to ease of access and interactions. With today’s education challenges, there’s no room for rigid, one line answers from a dictatorial IT Director who is more interested in controlling his network than supporting his customers. It’s time for a new conversation!