Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Leveraging the iPad for School Announcements

Guest post by Matthew Dillon

The iPad and YouTube serve as the tools for the daily announcements to the staff, students and community a
t a public elementary school in Ohio with 1,100 students in grades K-5. The process of how this endeavor began, what we considered other than the iPad and YouTube, and how we put things into place can be viewed here.

There have been many successes and challenges using these technologies in the past five months. This is an example of outcome of this work.

Here are a few things we have learned, and a few things to consider as you explore using the iPad and an online video site such as YouTube to conduct school-wide announcements.

Consider Privacy
It is crucial to make sure that you've considered privacy with regards to showing videos of students on the Internet. We consider the privacy of students and families very important. To protect students and allow families to prevent having their students highlighted in the announcements if they do not want them to be shown, we distribute a media opt-out form at the beginning of the school year. The media opt-out form requires a parent or guardian signature to prevent students from being displayed on the announcements. The opt-out form does not focus simply on the daily YouTube announcements, but rather all digital media where a student might be pictured. It was much easier to have parents opt-out on the form rather than obtaining permission from all families to have their students be shown on the announcements. While every effort is made to respect the privacy of our families, the photo opt-out form does state that students may be pictured in candid group shots such as class activities or assemblies.

Signed opt-out forms are submitted to the district office and the superintendent's administrative assistant enters the information into a shared Google Document. The document is shared with office staff so that we can easily check to ensure which students do not have permission to be featured on the announcements. The document contains the names, grades and guardians of students who are not permitted to be individually shown in digital media. The opt-out document is important as it helps us respect the privacy of families and students.

Comment Control
The daily announcements are a one-way stream of information. The goal of the announcements is to share what is happening in the school with stakeholders. To prevent YouTube from becoming a public forum, we lock the YouTube channel so nobody is able to leave comments. The only thing we do allow on the channel is for others to subscribe if they wish. Other than that, we limit all feedback and comments on the actual YouTube page.

We decided that we did want to share our announcements publicly with all of our stakeholders such as parents, community members, other schools, etc. An alternative to sharing videos publicly is to consider sharing videos only among staff and keep them unlisted from the web. It is possible and relatively easy to share videos privately or unlisted. Unlisted videos can be accessed by anyone that has the URL, and unlisted videos do not publicly appear on the YouTube channel.

I dedicate at least 20 minutes each night to putting the finishing touches on the daily announcements. I could technically do this in the morning before school, but meetings, managerial tasks, and technical difficulties often make that impossible. It is much easier to cross off the task list if the video is published to YouTube the night before it will be shared. The link to our YouTube channel is included in our daily announcement email to staff members. Teachers click on the link and display the announcements to their students via the projectors in their classrooms.

Sharing announcements in this manner provides teachers greater flexibility. Unlike an announcement via the old-fashioned PA system, teachers can incorporate the daily announcements into their classroom's morning routine. They can easily pause and rewatch parts if needed.

Feedback regarding the daily video announcements has been generally positive. Students love seeing their teachers in a medium that they often use daily. Students can access the announcements on their home computer and share them with their families. The announcements not only provide daily updates, they also provide a means of establishing a positive school culture. They have been an outstanding tool to recognize students for their achievements.

Parents have been appreciative that we are relying on technology that they use on a daily basis as well. Rather than request that parents adapt to our method of communication, we have attempted to share our message in places that they already frequent. There have been some who express concern about using YouTube, but people (specifically our students) are using these technologies daily inside and outside the walls of our school. It is much better to embrace these technologies in positive ways rather than avoid them completely. We must model appropriate use for our students if we want them to learn appropriate use.

Additional Information
Check out this link for more details about how we got started and the technology we use:

Matt Dillon serves as the assistant principal of a large K-5 elementary school in Ohio. Prior to working as a school administrator, he worked as a high school language arts teacher and professional school counselor. He is passionate about finding ways to improve learning and engage students with technology. Feel free to contact Matt on Twitter if you have any comments or questions.


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