When an event happens at a school, what do parents, teachers, and sometimes even students always do? The answer to this question is, of course, take a lot of pictures. With the arrival of ubiquitous cell phones that everyone seems to have these days, everyone now has the ability to capture pictures of everything that goes on at a school. This has created a problem for schools: what are they going to do with all of these photos that show what's going on at the school?

Currently, almost every school district has websites for their schools. However, there is something missing here. A school district is a collection of schools. The school district sets the policies that all of the schools follow and the schools have events and collect information that is important for the school district to know about. What's missing here is that the websites that the schools and the school district are using are not supporting this flow of communication. The websites that are currently in place don't talk to each other. What is needed is a network of school websites that can freely and easily exchange information.
I don't know about you, but I sure do like silver bullets. You know, a quick solution to a difficult problem: your computer starts acting up so you solve the problem by turning the power off and then on again, something is too high on a shelf to reach so you throw something at it and it falls off into your hands, etc. When it comes to making sure that our children get the best education that we can provide them with, there for awhile it sure seemed like handing out technology to schools like it was a party favor was going to solve all of our problems. The bad news is that this does not seem to have worked.
Being a school district superintendent is a challenging job. You are responsible for a lot of students who are moving through your school system. Each one of those students has a parent, set of parents, or a guardian who wants the best for their child and they'll be quick to tell you about it. Perhaps the most vocal of these parents will be the parents of special needs students -- the students who are enrolled in the school district's Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program. If these parents don't think that you are doing everything that their children need, they will quickly speak up and you won't soon hear the end of it.
So let's say for just a moment that you were a school district superintendent. As with any school district, there would be a lot of different things going on at any given point in time. One of your biggest challenges would be to understand what was happening and to then pick out the #1 most important thing that you were going to have to focus your time and energy on. Got any guesses as to what this #1 thing might be?

The reason that a school or a PTA has a website is because they want to communicate with parents, guardians, and students. It can be all too easy to forget that what we really want to do via these websites is to have a two-way conversation with them. Sharing updates on what is going on at the school is pretty easy to do -- just add new content to your website. However, how can you get feedback from your website visitors? It turns out that the answer is "forms".

A website exists to display web pages, right? If you are a school principal, school superintendent, or just a parent who is active in your child's school, you probably view your school's website as being a place where you can create yet another web page whenever some event is occurring at your school. However, have you ever really sat back and given this any thought? I mean, do this often enough and pretty soon your school's web site is going to be littered with a lot of pages that may no longer have any meaning for you. What's a school website user to do?

Why Is A "Free Website" Never The Right Answer For A School?

What You (Don't) Get With A Free School Website

Man, do I love getting things for free! That's why my attention got caught last summer when the FCC was talking about changing their E-Rate program to no longer pay for school websites. During that discussion, someone was quoted in the press as saying that "... schools can just go out and get free websites these days…" Hmm, if that's true then it sure sounds like a great way for schools to save some money!
Every school has one. Nobody is really in charge of it. All of the students unwillingly contribute to it at one time or another. Nobody really wants to go looking for it or in it. What am I talking about you ask? Why it's the lost & found service that your school provides. If I asked you where you store all of the items that are in your lost & found, where would you point me? I suspect that it's all be stuffed in a box somewhere in the school's main office. Is that any way to make sure that what's been lost finds its way back to the student who lost it?
So let's start things off right: no, the Ebola virus is probably not going to come to your school district (unless your school district is located in Western Africa). However, all the talk about the Ebola virus and the images of the devastation that it's causing that we're seeing on Television and in the paper should serve as a wake-up call to school district officials everywhere.

Teachers Have No Reservations About Using The Digital Bell Service

It turns out that teachers actually wear many hats. Sure, their primary job is to educate their students. However, there is a lot more going on than just the time that teachers spend in the classroom.

Teachers need to communicate with parents in order to ensure that they know how their children are doing in school. The thinking is that with both the teacher and the parent working in tandem, the student can be kept focused on the school work that they need to be doing. Teachers have many different ways of getting information to parents.
Let's face it: the schools in your school district use their websites to connect with their student's parents. If you take a look at your existing website, you might not be so happy with what you see: old, out-of-date content, links that no longer work, etc. What your school district needs is a modern content-management system that will create great looking websites for each of your schools. If your school district has had the foresight to implement the school district’s websites using GSL Solutions’ The Digital Bell service, then you are already on your way to creating the websites that your schools need. However, first you need to make sure that you have the correct content…
Here in the United States, it is once again time for our schools to start a new school year. What this means is that reluctant children are dressed up for school, given lunches, put on busses and waved at until they disappear down the road as they once again head off to school. Soon after this event, something amazing happens: a forest is cut down, turned into paper, and then all of this paper is sent to my house.
Having a modern, responsive website is a great thing. If your school district has been wise enough to select GSL Solution's The Digital Bell service to drive their official website, then they've got the best solution in the business working for them already. However, as we all know because we are living in the amazing 21st Century, a school district does not just use one piece of software to accomplish all of its tasks. Rather, we assemble a best-of-breed collection of digital tools that we use to do all that we do. Wouldn't it be great if our tools could talk with each other?
Every school would like to have a shiney new web site. If a school district selects GSL Solutions’ The Digital Bell service, then not only the school district, but also every school within the school district can have their very own responsive web site that will allow better two-way communication with parents and students. However, in all of the celebration about receiving these shiny new websites and the effort that has gone into training staff and teachers to use the new online tools, is it possible that someone has been overlooked? What about the school district’s facilities team?