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Web Development Thread, Promoting school blogs to parents et al in Coding and Web Development; I supply school Weblogs. Based on Userland's Manila, heavily customised by myself. I'd like any thoughts as to how I ...
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    Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    I supply school Weblogs. Based on Userland's Manila, heavily customised by myself.

    I'd like any thoughts as to how I can make them better. Here are a few examples:

    http://craigydon.educatr.com/
    http://www.croft.walsall.sch.uk/
    http://walsallwood.walsallschools.org/
    http://www.salisbury.walsall.sch.uk/
    http://www.kings-hill.walsall.sch.uk/

    My object is not VLE, it's getting the school's local community engaged. Friday luchtime blog clubs and school news is getting kids posting and commenting evenings/weekends/holidays, but I want more parents.

    Thoughts include:
    'News letters home' based on the blog's posted news items, but with links (the post's metadata) below each news item. This replaces current photocopied newsletters, same format, but with that metadata.
    Leaflets, or other coloured promotional handouts posted through neighbours' doors, and sent home.
    Local newspaper/magazine PR items.

    Other ideas include more local news (gossip :-)) and perhaps contentious political discussion.

    How do you promote your school website to your parents? How do you get them to come and post, comment, discuss?

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    webman's Avatar
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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Why do they all look the same? 8O

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al


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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    To the schools they don't look the same. They're in the school colours, and with their own logo/badge. Some have their own art work or school in the background.

    I use a Photoshop template to make the CSS templates which make the HTML templates. With Photoshop CS and Imageready it's a painless five minute process.

    Obviously, with Photoshop I can do what I want. Just haven't had the inclination nor budget to design each site as a individual one-off design.

    Beeswax is right http://blackwhitetwo.educatr.com/ is a different, plainer look, based on an idea that 'the kids' would use it as a base for a project to design their own look, which I would then 'knock up' into a finished professional design.

    I offer to the schools the Photoshop template, in the hope that someone will want to customise their look themselves. Change the typeface, colours backgrounds, styles of buttons... To me it's really easy, to a teach, it's rocket science (thus far).

    As Manila is a templated CMS, or themes, it's easy to add snow, or Summer, or Autumnal Photoshop effects, and switch for the season or holiday. I hope to build up more themes for each school then if they do look similar, at least some will look like they're celebrating St Davids Day or Eid.
    http://www.walsallschools.org/create/themes

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    I should disclose that my Photoshop design structure is based on http://www.iskcon.net.au/food/ and http://www.iskcon.net.au/ One of my clients.

    Which was in turn based on an intranet for the Gov Office of the West Midlands, which I can't point to.

    Getting a CSS to work across browsers is a PITA. I keep the structure, but make it look as different as possible within Photoshop and within budget. It's not a matter of being uncreative.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    The pages all look a bit cluttered in my opinion.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Webman, you are right, they are packed with information. As they're blogs, the information continually changes. Most places can be reached directly from the front page.

    May I say that your site looks plain and lightweight, lacks an interesting real voice, and that providing news in pdf form goes against accessibility requirements. Your most recent news letter, September 2005, makes your site look abandoned.

    My opinion.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    I accept your opinion, Steve.. thanks for that. I feed off constructive criticism. The abandoned look it may have in your opinion is probably down to staff not forthcoming with information. If I don't have anything to update it with ...

    The newsletter is in PDF format for a reason. I have an adequate news feature that slots into the pages, but since I don't get given any news to update it with, it would seem pointless showing it. We have a new newsletter, but guess what? No one's given it to me in digital format yet (yes, I have asked).

    Plain and lightweight? As opposed to cluttered, heavy and over-crowded? I know which one I prefer.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Cool, it's in the eye of the beholder :-)

    Getting news off teachers is tricky. But, in my experience with a blog front end, the glory of having someone comment on a news posting brings excited shivers to teacher. This makes them feel important, and makes them want to post more. Blogging, as evidenced by the massive numbers (20-40 million now?) is addictive. I find it cathartic and better than shouting at the telly.

    Have you thought about a blog? There's plenty of scripts and platforms to choose from.

    I know that some schools are scared of real people telling real stories, some comments maybe negative, but as we live in a world where the http://www.cluetrain.com is a reality, I see all comments as welcome (though some would be deleted, obviously).

    People of earth...

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Very tricky indeed, it took over a year to get the info from subject departments. A year. And if that's not lazy I don't know what is. As far as blogs go, I don't believe it's something they'd grasp fairly easy at our place, plus with teacher training restrictions it gets even more complicted. It's a good idea in theory, and probably works well in lots of schools.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Teacher training restrictions? Could you elaborate? In my experience training to post a blog item is trivial. If they can send an email, they can post an item.

    One of the sly sales tricks I use to to appeal to the narcissistic side. The desire for fame, all be it a small fish in a small pool, but most proud Heads should see the benefits, straight off. Though I've spoken to a few failing schools and they've got nowt to be proud of, so I'm told.

    I feel for you webman, a year to wrest content out of the stones! Ouch!

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveHooker
    If they can send an email, they can post an item.
    There would be our first problem

    As far as training goes, I don't fully understand the issues as I Am Not A Teacher. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong... Something to do with Teacher unions, and that they are allowed so many training days/hours a year and any other times it must be paid for. I don't know.. something like that. But I remember the last time we wanted to show them something (of great benefit to them) we had to make it voluntary. Guess how many people turned up? Two.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Quote Originally Posted by webman
    Very tricky indeed, it took over a year to get the info from subject departments. A year. And if that's not lazy I don't know what is.
    I had 3 faculties reply within the first week (the English Dept. wants to change the way the site looks as well...) I'm still waiting for the rest 3 weeks later. When I spoke to a deputy head way back in November about when it would be ready and he suggested easter...The site's ready to go, but it would just be a collection of blank pages apart from headers and footers.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    I did say IF they could send an email :-( It isn't funny. From there to VLE? Phoot!

    Again I feel for you—two people turning up. Pearls to swine.

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    Re: Promoting school blogs to parents et al

    Beeswax... I guess then I've been lucky. All the schools I've created sites for have had a prospectus or old website from which I've converted to editable webpages. Once these are up, and editable, the Head or someone sees it and edits it to bring it up to date.

    These pages then grow dusty as they're dull. Uniforms, rules, classes, staff lists, times, etc. these types pages that don't draw the crowds.

    It's the pictorial blog postings that get co-workers, kids, parents ooohing and ahhing. And they're the easiest and most forthcoming of content pages.

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