Tag Archive for edsocialmedia

You need a really large network

The charities that raise a lot from social media vary widely in size and budgets. But each has an average Facebook following of nearly 100,000, more than 15 times the norm, according to the NSNB report. They also now dedicate lots of staff time to social media and have carefully followed the success of their fund-raising.

Source: The Economist

Is this simply due to the low rate of return on social media fundraising appeals, or does a crowd effect exist, so that individuals are more likely to give because they see their friends give?

Visual Website Design

Our admission, website, and communication teams have worked together to reorganize the admission section of the school’s website. Not only did we want to simplify and clarify navigation, but we also wanted to present information in visual ways.

Our website is very text-heavy, much of it written eight years ago and only edited since then. In much of the site, we present all of the important content as text and then add some photos for aesthetic or emotional effect. In today’s media-rich culture, people have a lot of practice consuming information visually. We can actually communicate content, not just feelings, through photographic badges. This also forces us to distill the “landing page” message to three key ideas.

In recent years, affordability has become increasingly important to families. Our website statistics show a rise in page views in the tuition, financial aid, and scholarship pages. We respond by both providing easy access to the information people are seeking and by promoting the response that we wish to convey.

Before


After

Moodle 2.0 not a slave to fashion

Moodle somehow continues to fly under the radar. Its features have consistently been designed and developed for teachers and learners, making it one of the pieces of software best matched to education. The latest version eschews recent Internet fashion trends — no social networking or microblog here. Instead, Moodle 2.0 focuses on sharing and accessing content.

On playing with a test installation, I find that three of Moodle’s new features really stand out.

Community hubs

Call this “sharing courses.” The hubs allow one to publish courses to the web or import courses as templates. This makes it possible for our school to be part of a community of schools sharing courses. It also lowers the bar to teachers getting started with Moodle, allowing them to start from a populated course template rather than a completely empty page.

Repository support

The “add file” and “add link” interfaces have been supercharged. Users can directly access local files, network volumes, Google Docs, YouTube, Flickr, and more. This is a major development! Users can create content in the tools of their choice or search for publicly available content to include in the Moodle. This greatly expands the range of learning activities that Moodle can handle. The interface is so easy to use. Bravo!

Portfolio support

Same idea here. Users can select items from Moodle to publish in external portfolio systems. This just makes sense. Use Moodle for the daily work of a class and then publish exemplary pieces of work to the portfolio system.

What doesn’t stand out? Graphic design and layout. Moodle will apparently always look like Moodle, notwithstanding the new themes that have been created for version 2.0.

Arts Classes Publishing With Flickr

Arts teachers have embedded two Flickr slideshows (1 | 2)  on our public-facing website. I like how students and teachers may contribute to the photo sets, constantly changing what appears on the site. Does a way exist to add a group pool to one’s Flickr favorites without actually joining it?

It’s all about social media, except when it isn’t.

I led a training session the other day to further integrate social media into our admission and development work. We considered a range of new uses: student bloggers, a dedicated Facebook page for applicants, Flickr and YouTube channels. Some potential initiatives were certainly exciting to consider.

Here’s the problem. None of the new ideas made the cut when we listed priority tasks for the upcoming year. I asked what were each department’s primary communication goals for the upcoming year, without presupposing the solution. In all cases, the identified goals suggested changes to our existing website, not our social media strategy.

Why? While we have a successful website, it has more room for improvement than does our social media strategy. The main website receives 3,000 visits each day. Our Facebook fan page has about 500 fans. Improvements to the main website will reach far more people.

Also consider that our main website allows users to more meaningfully transact with the school than does our social media pages. For example, you may sign up to volunteer, make a gift to the school, apply for admission, or comment on a student blog. Our Facebook and Twitter pages primarily push content out to people who may be listening and offer some opportunities for interaction. Our main website may have limited opportunities for social interaction, but it offers more opportunities further up the engagement pyramid.

I am glad that we  developed a social media strategy and voice. A small and growing proportion of our audience maintains contact with the school through that vehicle. It improves our ability to engage in a personal way with constituents. However, we will continue to parcel out our time and effort based on the audience size and quality of interaction with the school. We will be able to adjust these efforts as we track the growth in social media page membership and interactions.

How many fan pages do we have now?

As a result of Facebook’s new “Community Page” feature, our school now has two fan pages, one which we control, and one which we do not. Do you think this will confuse users? Why isn’t the community page feature just a tab on our fan page?

Sharing Is Good

In my previous blog post, I shared a video produced by second grade teachers and students about the brain study project they just completed. I also posted a link to the article to Twitter. Two days later, I received a comment from the All Kinds Of Minds CEO congratulating us on the video! She shared it with her organization’s leadership staff and board, bringing our school a lot of attention and rekindling our relationship with All Kinds Of Minds. We circulated the notes around our school, giving the teachers who worked so hard to assemble the project deserved recognition and building more excitement for brain-based curriculum development.

Publicly sharing student work can lead to unexpected, positive consequences!

Facebook fan page launched

We launched the Catlin Gabel Facebook fan page today. We are launching the tool to provide a strong community discussion space, using a technology that is already common. If it also helps us get the word out about news from campus or attract new applicants to the school, that would be nice too, but that’s not the primary goal. As a result, we decided to launch just a single page for alumni, students, parents, and employees instead of launching a separate page for alumni.

To build momentum, we have asked a number of people to make a deliberate effort to post in the next two weeks, so that visitors see some useful content. We also opened our wall to all fans to post content, in order to amplify the community aspect of the page. Our main web site will remain our main one-way communication portal. Facebook will be for community connections and conversations.

Catlin Gabel on Facebook

New Catlin Gabel web site launched!

We launched the new Catlin Gabel web site yesterday morning! The first day went very smoothly. Thank you to those who sent feedback (especially the two with constructive comments). Most first reactions have been about graphic design and navigation. I’m sure that people will have more to say about functionality once they use the site to get things done.

We timed the launch for the very slowest week of summer, so that we could see how the site performs as the load increases up to the start of school. A handful of teachers and staff members are updating new sections of the site, such as Sustainable School and Global Education. Other parts of the site are missing content at present and will need to be populated before the start of school. I created an introductory video to call attention to some aspects of the site.

Far from being done with the site, I have a very long list of items to address, most notably continuing development work on our custom modules. Many remaining to-do items are to customize aspects of the Drupal interface that aren’t quite the right match for our needs. Nonetheless, it feels great to have cleared a major hurdle!

Some of the recent posts on this blog describe the site’s features and development process in greater detail.

new web site

Web Site Strategy

Here is a quick run-down of some key ideas underlining our new web site strategy.

Site goals

The site has two overarching goals:

Provide timely, useful information that school constituents are seeking.

Regularly transmit the key messages that drive our communication strategy.

Guiding Principles

Authenticity: our target audiences are sensitive to the authenticity of our message. We benefit by demonstrating transparency in our communications and providing a “window” into daily life in the school. Ruth Catlin envisioned the school as a “lab” that would share its teaching accomplishments broadly.

Timeliness: web site visitors expect site content to be up-to-date and useful in the present moment. Many visitors come to the site expecting to find information to help them meet a deadline, attend an event, or find out what just happened in the school community.

Engagement: community members once gained entrance to this community. The site should attempt to move individuals up the “engagement pyramid.” It should provide tools for users to provide information to the school, communicate with employees, and network with each other. Highly engaged members of the community contribute to the school’s success through attendance at school events, volunteerism, financial contributions, and spreading the good word.

Excellence: our school attempts to perform at a high level in all its pursuits. The site should itself demonstrate excellence in design and function and also communicate examples of excellence that take place within the school. Admittedly, this desire for excellence sometimes rubs up against our equally strong desire for authenticity.

Site objectives

Develop a graphic design and user interface that conveys the vibrancy and excellence of this institution and is also easy to navigate and use. Choose colors to pay tribute to the classic Catlin blue but make central use of the new, Crane-provided color palette.

Broadly publish photos of everyday life and special events at the school. Most schools only display carefully staged, professional photos on their home page. We deliberately publish shots of everyday life and special events in order to convey the vibrancy of school life, the authenticity of our communications, the informality of our school culture, and to provide motivation for repeat visits. We will also convert the random-select home page photo into a proper slideshow and retain the current grid view for photo galleries elsewhere in the site.

Limit the cash cost of the new site to less than $10,000.

Make athletics schedules and driving directions easy to access and subscribe to.

Make lunch menu information easy to access and subscribe to.

Make it possible for many people at the school to contribute content to the web site. “Content managers” will receive training and maintain the core pages on the site. Teachers will have the ability to post classroom news, which will be aggregated into division-level news pages. Teachers and students will also have individual blogs, in order to publish examples of their work should they choose to do so.

Launch our social network and media initiatives at the same time as the new school web site. Continue to develop our Facebook presence to share highlight news items, audio and video captured at school, and community-contributed content. Further develop and call attention to our LinkedIn presence, so that it takes over as our primary “career network” tool. invite parents and students to join the network (currently only alumni are involved). Launch new Twitter and YouTube channels in order to reach our constituents where they are, exert more influence over messaging about Catlin Gabel in those spaces, and create the opportunity for a viral media success.

Broaden the publication of News feeds to the entire site. News items will appear on the home page as they do at present, but they will also be archived permanently (unless deleted), allowing users to get a sense of the rhythm of school life over weeks and months. Newsflash items will automatically appear in other relevant sections of the site (e.g., alumni, arts). Each program, department, division, and classroom may have its own dedicated news feed, which will show both Newsflash and staff-contributed items. This will increase the timeliness of these content sections and “unbury” new content items. The web site manager will be able to select and promote smaller news feed items to the home page Newsflash if desired. Allow users to set up customized news subscriptions by RSS or email.

Provide forms to collect important data from constituents, increasing usability, accuracy, and efficiency. Users will be able to complete online forms to start the admission process, make an online gift, apply for a job, or update their contact information. The school benefits by making life easy for its constituents, receiving accurate data, and not having to collect it through more time-consuming processes.

Provide an opt-out alumni directory that alumni, employees, parents, and students may search. Provide employee and student photo directories to other employees and students only. Automatically generate directories and contact lists from our core school databases, eliminating the need for manual data entry of this information by school staff on the site.

Broaden the visibility of Caller articles on the site. Cross-list them in relevant sections through the site (e.g., a Caller article on sports also appears in the Athletics section of the site). Use Issuu.com to embed a Flash-based version of each Caller in the site, increasing readability of the articles, allowing the user to print an issue, and leveraging the school’s investment in graphic design and layout services for this publication.

Get All School News and division newsletters out of PDFs and into web page and email format. Retain the distinctive, individual character of division newsletters.

Provide a straightforward process for parents, alumni, admission applicants, and job applicants to create a login on the site that gets them access to relevant content and tools.

Enable the posting of comments by employees, students, and parents. Limit the viewing of comments to these same groups. Do not enable comment moderation queues but rather follow comment posts closely and intervene in exceptional cases.

Provide a clear navigation pathway for people new to Catlin Gabel to learn basic information about the school and receive key messages.

Improve site navigation for parents, who have provided feedback that the items of interest to them are scattered all over the site.

Provide “quick links,” so that many programs may have a ubiquitous link for them without cluttering up the primary site navigation.

Create a “schoolwide” or “all school” top-level section to draw attention to the many, growing schoolwide programs that mark the distinctive nature of the school (e.g., sustainable school, global ed, the arts).

Make it easy to post and sign up for volunteer opportunities. Make it possible for a user to see all available opportunities in one place.

Perpetuate the distinctive qualities of our four divisions by providing separate top-level sections and news feed categories.

Reduce the number of email list errors by providing central [email protected] listserv addresses automatically synced to our school databases.