Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Post:: Web Rant from an Old Geek

Today's offering is a guest post, by South View Middle School Art teacher, John Kraus. John and I have participated on a couple of Communities of Practice over the years, and today, when he sent out this as an e-mail to staff, I asked if he wouldn't mind if I shared it with a wider audience. John graciously agreed! You can learn more about his Web presence here, and/or view his blog here or follow him on Twitter.

It has been a couple of weeks since I have wasted your time and filled school server space with an email rant.  

What is the purpose of having a website for every class and teacher?
Why do it, how does it work, who cares?
Do I need to learn to do it myself – shouldn’t I be trained?

I think if you are a professional in our society you need a good Web presence.

To create an effective Web presence you must know your target audience for all the different Web tools – I think Webpages are not really just for students – we have Moodle for them.  And parents can always access Moodle with their child.  So the target audience may not really be Parents or students at all since they have access to inside information via SchoolView and Moodle.  If all you have is a link to your Moodle page you are not really putting your best foot forward online.  Especially if once the person goes to the Moodle page they can’t see it without a key.  

A Website is partly for visitors to the Edina District site on-line.  Families who move into the district and wonder about our staff and course offerings.  Other schools and teachers who would like to know what is going on in the Edina Schools.  Former students who look in on their old school.  Etc.

You may say it is not your job to educate people who go to the site if they are not connected to a current student.  But as a professional it is best that you control some of the flow of information about you online.  For some of you the only place you are online is at places like ratemyteachers.com (the school Internet will not allow you to go there – we do not want our students all getting easy access to site like this… right?) As an individual I think the district is offering, and expecting, me to use Google Sites as a place for me to present myself to the public in a professional way.

At the opening workshop this year Will Richardson spoke how every teacher should be “searchable”, or was it “Googlable”, in a positive way.  Go ahead search for John C Kraus see what you came up with.  Below is the link:


Let me know if you have any ideas how I can improve on my Web presence.

I know many of you are thinking that you can’t do “one more thing”.  I get that – I have better things to do too.  But If you plan on being in the profession for a few more years (and even I will stick around for a few years or so) - and want to be seen in a positive way - it can’t hurt to spend some time controlling the main source that most people use to get their information about things – including you.  You want to be viewed as being someone who is on top of things.  Having a positive online profile is part of doing just that these days.

Search for yourself – if you can not easily find something you want people to see – then chances are your web presence could use some updating.

And remember - Edina Public Schools is a brand.  I think the district would like people to go to our website and gain a little insight in what is going on at our school/classes.  No one can do a better job of putting information about you online – it really is something that would be better if you did it yourself.  I know some of you will say you are not trained to do this.  But considering how much we expect students to do online I would suggest you seek out the help you need.  Lets face it if we expect our students to work online we should be proficient at it as well.

If any of you would like help with a webpage there are people who are on staff that can work with you.  I know our Webmaster is swamped, If you want just some simple things you can even come to me – I am far from being an expert but I may be able to help.  I know all of you know some geek you can go to for help.

Before coming to Edina I did some training sessions for staff on how to use an old program called “Hypercard” (this was over 20 years ago).  At one of my workshops a veteran staff member was having trouble because they kept trying to put the disc in backwards “I thought the silver part was the handle” was her response.  But she got the hang of it eventually.  We all have things we needed to learn over the years to keep up with the kids.  And for most of these things we needed to learn it on our own.  And there are some things I spent hours learning only to see it quickly became obsolete as a new, better, way took over.  No one uses Hypercard anymore – too bad since I was really good with that program.

For me, some of the new technology I have had to figure out over the years, with very little training, has been not just computers but: VCRs, DVDs, Copy Machines, Digital Cameras, Phone Systems, Webtools.  How I long for the days when I used 16mm film, large posters and mimeographs.  I did not need to use all this tech stuff back then.  If I wanted to contact a parent I could mail them a letter (wait a week or so for a reply) or keep calling them till they answered (there was no leaving messages since few homes had that technology back then).  And I could not call from my room since it did not have a phone.

This week I have been trying to figure out SchoolView.  It is perhaps the tenth grading program I have used over the years – I hope it will be my last, but I am not counting on it.  At home I got my first HDTV this week.  Now if I can only figure out how to use it effectively.  Why can’t I just plug in my new TV and adjust the “rabbit ears” doing that worked fine in the old days.  

Have a great weekend.    

-Kraus
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