One of the great things about working in education is the opportunity to start anew every fall. No matter how tough the previous school year was, we get to go back to school with new school supplies, new students, and new hopes.

After a school year marked by massive budget cuts and teacher layoffs, it’s kind of nice to think about something relatively simple and stress-free, like better school communications. So, with hope springing eternally, here are 10 tips for boosting your eCQ (eCommunications Quotient) during the new school year.

1. Start tweeting. Social media is changing the communications landscape in new and sometimes challenging ways. Now’s the time to start experimenting (responsibly, of course) with Twitter, TeacherTube, and other approved–and not-so-approved–social media sites. Eventually, school districts are going to unleash this new medium and find a way to make it educational. Get ahead of the game by learning how to use these sites now. Many leading universities have Facebook pages, and the president of the United States routinely deploys social media to get his message out. It’s time we got on board.

2. Tell stories. Find ways to tell more stories about the people who make your school or district so compelling. School and district web sites are so packed with information and education jargon that the narrative about what is really going on inside classrooms often gets lost. Educators tend to write at a graduate-school level, yet parents and the public often read comfortably at an eighth grade level. A series of photos with captions highlighting a typical student’s day communicates more than text-heavy and often incomprehensible curriculum guides.

3. Add more people. As Rich Bagin, the executive director for the National School Public Relations Association, likes to point out: “When facts and emotion collide, emotions win.” Stories are emotional; facts are not. Find a way to bring more human dimensions and emotion to your electronic communications by posting digitized video interview clips and testimonials, and adding photos. Photos or video of real kids and teachers are more compelling than stock photographs that are used so often on the web that every school web site starts looking the same.

4. Keep it fresh. I hereby empower all school and district web masters to take down any outdated material posted or created by others without asking permission first. Stale, outdated content defeats one of the web’s primary premises: 24-7 access to timely news and information. Let’s not start another school year with outdated phone numbers, deadlines, staff listings, addresses, welcome pages, and policies. Keep it current, or take it off!