wasting bandwidth since 1999

Why Do We Have a Web Site?

When it comes to web publishing, every school in our overly-large school district is an island.

Every school (and most offices) has someone called a “curator” who has an extra duty as the sole gatekeeper for what appears on their little part of the web.

As a result, the quality of content on our sites varies wildly between each building, and chaotic is probably too lenient a term for the overall look and feel for our system’s web presence.

In a post on his blog, Seth Godin presents a long list of questions that need to be answered before renovating a web site.

While his target is corporate and marketing sites, I wish our curators would ask some of the same questions of their principals and staff, not to mention themselves.

Of course, they include the usual/obvious ones like “What is the goal of the site?” and “Who are we trying to please?”

However I think two of Godin’s suggestions are among the most important for schools to consider.

  • Are we telling a story?
  • Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?

I hope the answer to both is yes.

School web sites should be telling the many different stories of the kids and teachers that happen every day inside the classrooms.

And they should certainly be places where people can come to “watch and learn”.

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6 Comments

  1. I helped design my former school’s website, and we tried to tell stories and help the school community learn. If you want to see what we did, please visit the link below.

    I think that if you poke around the Virtual Trinity section, you will find quite a lot. It has been about two years since I was the school’s webmaster, so there is a lot that has changed.

    http://www.trinityatl.org/virtual_trinity/index.aspx

  2. Susan Socha

    Most of the people doing the websites are assigned this job as an extra duty with no pay and no glory. They have to answer to parents, administrators and teachers for every error, mislabled picture or slight. They have to go to training during the school day and miss teaching their own students, and somehow, they are expected to maintain the website to everyone’s standards. They are given pictures to post, bell schedules, announcements and calendars, all that have to fit somewhere, with no standardized template to work from. I say….quit picking on them!

  3. I find so many school websites lacking; just yesterday I sat down with a colleague who wanted to show me her daughter’s school website, and it was lacking in so many respects. Poor HTML, no picture of the principal, and hardly any teacher had their own presence on the Web.

    @Susan – it’s hard to keep up a webpage when you’re not passionate about the power of having a great site that isn’t just there for one audience. It’s a rich tool that can be embraced by parents, by the students, and by the teachers to rise beyond an informational tool for visitors and an instructional tool in and outside the classroom.

    @Willy – you had the passion and the know-how.

    @Tim – I’d blame not the folks who have been assigned this task but schools and districts in more general terms. A school that is really embracing “21st century skills” ought to be using some of our best “21st century tools” and putting the investment in the website that holds their name. I think the best way of doing that is to empower each employee to carve out their own niche and feed the monster… it’s only from everyone’s investment that the site will fully be realized as the amazing tool it can be.

  4. Tim

    John and Susan: I certainly don’t blame our curators. When it comes to our district web presence, our administration has been trying to get by on the cheap since the first day the site went up. We are just now trying to get everyone to design their sites around CSS but, as you might expect, there’s no time or money for the necessary training. A modern content management system? They don’t even want to pay for open source.

  5. So, what story do we tell to the world at large when our overly large school district wants “cookie-cutter” template sites? I understand there is a need for consistency but I agree with your idea that a website is more than just a listing of information. A school’s website should provide a snapshot of that school. Parents can get the statistics from a school district site.

  6. I agree that most of teh schools websites are laking inforamtion. I think that they should give info about the school and information about the activities that the school offers.

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