Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Major Improvements in Communication

Dear HA Family:

Earlier this year, after I finished meeting with all of our HA teachers, I posted a blog in which I noted what our teachers thought were HA’s greatest strengths. Foremost among these strengths was our sense of family. As a part of the same conversation, the faculty shared with me the areas that most needed to be improved.  In short, our teachers consistently indicated that our most significant shortcoming was a lack of communication.

Since July, our leadership team has been working assiduously to remedy that shortage of communication to parents and staff. Today, we officially launch the Tandem Calendar as a major step towards keeping all our stakeholders informed. The directions for registration are linked here, but let me briefly outline what this amazing technology will do for the HA family.

The Tandem Calendar updates school events in real time. You can find our calendar linked at the top, right-hand side of the main page of our HA website. Just click on the “calendar,” and it will take you to a monthly view. You may then click on any given event to get driving directions, details, contact information, etc.

The most convenient feature of the Tandem Calendar is the notification feature. Parents may register and set up your account with Tandem to receive:  
  •  text message alerts,
  •  HA calendar updates on your personal calendar (Outlook, iCal, Google, etc.), 
  •  email alerts when ANYTHING is put on the calendar, and
  • any changes made to events that are already scheduled on the calendar.

In addition, you can choose which activities and events to track so that you will not receive information in which you are uninterested. So, for example, if you register to “track” JV baseball, and Coach Ryan wants to notify the parents that a game is cancelled, the calendar will automatically be changed.  If you are registered, you will be notified via email and/or text message that the game has been cancelled, and you will also be notified if and when the game is rescheduled. Your e-calendar will automatically change as well if it is also tied to Tandem.  For more information on the advantages of the online calendar, I encourage you to read the FAQ from the Tandem calendar website

I should emphasize to those of you who might have concerns about internet privacy that your information will not be used by anyone for marketing purposes, and the calendar does not link you to social media or internet search engines. Tandem calendar is only for your convenience.

Also, to keep everyone informed of the activities and accomplishments of our students at HA, we are now using social media and our web page in place of the traditional PTO weekly email. We are doing this for a number of reasons. Our first reason for this change is that Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter (@HARaiders) allow us to link articles and videos about our students that appear in the local media and on the world-wide web. Our second reason is that social media has a unique ability to reach EVERYONE who is interested in the happenings at HA; plus, it has the added bonus of being able to promote our school and students to the larger Wiregrass community (and beyond). The third reason for using social media is that email does not reach all of our stakeholders (former parents, alumni, grandparents, etc.), and email addresses change—sometimes, frequently. Furthermore, while email is a one-way conversation, social media allows a multi-directional conversation. Parents and students can comment, post pictures, promote events, and congratulate each other. You may have already noticed that we have posted videos, segments from local television news stories, and links to live streaming of our events. All of that would have been impossible with email, and much of the information parents received might not have been very timely. Finally, research that tells us that our younger parents do not even use email on a regular basis. One statistic I saw indicates that less than 40% of people ages 18-27 check email, daily. In fact, ask someone in that age demographic, and they will probably tell you that email is passé.[1]

Keep in mind, too, that you do not need to be a registered Facebook user to look at our Facebook page for updates on our students. Registering for Facebook does have the advantage of allowing you to receive instant messages and updates from Facebook on your smartphone, but you can click on the Facebook link on our webpage and find out what is going on at HA without being actively engaged in social media in any way, shape, or form.

Truly, though, the digital age is here. We can either embrace social media and teach our kids how to use it responsibly, or we can attempt to ignore it. I firmly believe, however, that we ignore social media at our own peril. Students need our guidance and support more than ever in this increasingly interconnected world. Moreover, as a college preparatory school, we need to prepare our students to use the social media outlets they will be expected to use in college and in the 21st century workforce.  

Our hope is that our HA family and the Wiregrass community can use the Tandem calendar, social media, my blog, our counselors’ blogs, our video streaming, PowerSchool, and our MacBook and iPad programs to keep informed and involved in Houston Academy. We also hope we can use our technology inside and outside the classroom to provide a truly global education. It is not enough for our program to be 1-to-1: we need it to be 1-to-world.

If you have any difficulties with the calendar, or if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me (phillippss@houstonacademy.com) or our technology staff of Melanie Woodcock (woodcockm@houstonacademy.com ), Aaron Beeson (beesona@houstonacademy.com ), and Joey Keener (keener@houstonacademy.com).

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what other feedback has been, but after using the Tandem calendar for about a week, I have to say I love it! I'm still figuring some things out, but it's so wonderful to have an up-to-date, comprehensive place to go to for all school activities. The email updates about changes are a great reinforcement as I learn to incorporate "check calendar" into my daily routine. After 20 years of checking email, I can't imagine not doing that, so the integration of more than one platform for scheduling and communication is ideal.