Virtual schooling’s popularity challenges policy makers

Because assumptions vary based on individual perceptions of the role of virtual schooling in K-12 education, school officials need to invest more time and effort communicating about these issues, not less.

With student enrollment increasing rapidly, virtual schooling is experiencing some growing pains. From high dropout rates to concerns about academic rigor, virtual schooling is generating a litany of complaints and unintended student consequences.

Recently, for example, high-flying students at a suburban high school in North Carolina were shocked to discover that their class ranks had dropped unexpectedly, just in time for many major college application deadlines—and scholarship opportunities.

The culprit? Students dually enrolled at the traditional school and in online classes offered through the state’s virtual high school earned enough credit to move from the top of the junior to the top of the senior class.…Read More

How to engage parents online more effectively

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has teamed up with North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools to make its digital content and interactive learning tools accessible at home as well as at school.

Parenting is the toughest and most important role most adults will ever have. Yet, far too many feel ill equipped to handle the job. Others are simply too busy making ends meet, or so overwhelmed by life that parenting simply takes a back seat to more pressing concerns.

As someone raised in a “survival of the fittest” family, with few rules, multiple crises, and modest expectations, I can relate to other parents who feel inept when confronted by the litany of things educators expect parents to know and do.

It’s as if teachers and other suspiciously together parents have a secret codebook that tells them how to handle every situation and explains educational mysteries. Surely all parents are not born knowing why it’s important to read to infants, even though they are clearly not interested in books—or that teenagers who seem to hate your very presence really covet more time with caring, competent adults.…Read More

Using QR codes for school communications

Because creating and sharing QR codes takes little time and no money, experimenting with this technology is low-risk and sends positive messages about your ed-tech prowess.

Quick Response (QR) codes—those black-and-white squares that look like a cross between supermarket bar codes and postage stamps—have real potential for school communications.

Created by a Japanese corporation in 1994, QR codes act like print-based hyperlinks to websites and social media networks. The codes are gaining traction because they allow on-the-go consumers to access websites more quickly from their mobile phones.

Found in newspapers, magazines, local TV news broadcasts, business cards, billboards, brochures, t-shirts, consumer product packaging, and just about anything else that can be printed, QR codes work by encoding URLs, contact information, geography coordinates, photos, and other text—in any language.…Read More

Five tips for digital communication in the new year

It’s important to match social media sites to audience preferences and needs.

With a new year approaching, it’s a great opportunity to re-evaluate what’s working—and what’s not—in your classroom, school, or district communications program. Here are five tips to power better communications and community relations in 2012, plus some thoughts to ponder as we enter a new era in public school choice.

1. Start using QR (quick response) codes for lunch menus, schedule changes, parent-teacher conference reminders, professional development announcements, contact information, website addresses, and other simple communications. Growing in popularity, QR codes—those goofy-looking bar-code squares you’ve been seeing everywhere lately—can be created and read using free online applications and are perfect for today’s mobile generation.

The codes can be distributed via digital and broadcast media as well as fliers, newsletters, and other printed publications. Students, parents, and teachers can then use their camera phones to scan the code and get the content. Only download codes from reputable sources. In some cases, security hasn’t kept up with hackers’ ability to attach malicious code to unsuspecting consumers.…Read More

FCC opens access to social media sites for e-Rate users

In August, the FCC clarified an earlier ruling that led to widespread blocking of social media networks by school districts receiving discounted internet access through federal e-Rate dollars.

Now that even the staid Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has loosened its tight rein on social media networks, it’s time for more educators to use these tools to improve classroom instruction and home-school communications.

In August, the FCC clarified an earlier ruling that led to widespread blocking of social media networks by school districts receiving discounted internet access through federal e-Rate dollars.

According to the ruling, “Although it is possible that certain individual Facebook or MySpace pages could potentially contain material harmful to minors, we do not find that these websites are per se ‘harmful to minors’ or fall into one of the categories that schools and libraries must block.”…Read More

Ten tips for using social media in school communications

A few tips can help educators tackle social media.

With social media networks ubiquitous in American life, it’s time to shift the debate from whether it’s a good idea for educators to use this new medium to how to use it wisely and well. Here are 10 tips to help get you started in social media for school communications.

1. Use social media networks as a research tool.

To quote a well-known advertising campaign, “Get out there.” Social media are easy to use, and most sites don’t charge a penny. If you do nothing else, find out what others are saying about you, your school(s), and your profession.…Read More

How schools can get better media coverage in the digital news ecosystem

School leaders must learn how to navigate the new digital news ecosystem, Brookings researchers say.

According to a new study by the Brookings Institution, Americans want more news coverage of their public schools. But to improve the media’s coverage of public education, school leaders must learn how to navigate the new digital news ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, given the federal policy shift in favor of performance pay for teachers, Americans say they want more information from the media about teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

The media’s obsession with school crime and violence—currently at historic lows—also shows its power to shape public opinion about public education: According to the Brookings study, Americans want to see more news stories about school crime and violence, as well as more information about teaching and learning, finances, and school reform.…Read More

How to fight back against devastating budget cuts

At least 34 states are making yet another wave of cuts to K-12 education.

With 34 states making yet another wave of budget cuts in K-12 education, school children and their families are increasingly vulnerable as the Great Recession leaves the social safety net in tatters.

Soon, even more public school employees will likely join the ranks of the unemployed. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 44 states plus the District of Columbia are eliminating, freezing, or cutting their workforces.

States and school districts are also mandating time off without pay, increasing insurance co-pays, and enacting a host of other stringent cost-cutting measures.…Read More

Recognizing the warning signs for teen bullying, suicide

School officials need to do more to make parents aware of the stress that today’s teens and tweens face.

Mainstream media outlets have coined a new term to describe the rash of student suicides committed in the wake of persistent school bullying and harassment: “bullycides.”

The issue has spawned significant new research to determine whether the phenomenon is really new, or simply being reported more often. Either way, school officials need to do more to make parents aware of the stress that today’s teens and tweens face.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 12 percent of all deaths among youth and young adults in the U.S. result from suicides.…Read More