4 Keys for Successful School Sites

It’s great to see so many schools wanting to connect with their staff, parents, students and wider community in an online environment. I think many are now seeing the potential for the web to form genuine connections in a fast paced, digital world. But, how do we make sure that our digital strategy will be really effective?
Here are four keys to successful sites for schools that I think are an important element for online sites for your school or classroom.
1. Keep it local and in-house.
When schools first started tapping into the online world the internet was built on complicated and time consuming webpage programmes. Most schools hired an outside agency to design and build their website and relied on them to upload any changes. It’s only natural, however, that as time has developed and the online world easier to navigate, so too have the ways that we can publish online become simpler and uncomplicated.
With a basic online understanding we can create web pages using tools like WordPress, Blogger, Google Sites and others that are easy to use, free! All you need is someone of your staff to have some time and patience to persevere and ask for help when they need it. Having a third party handle your site can slow the process down and make us less likely to keep things current. I think it’s much better if we can develop these skills within our own staff.
I wrote a post about the benefits of having a school site with up to the minute information
2. Keep it current and fresh!
Things online can become stale and boring if not updated regularly. Having the last change to a site with a date of 6 months ago also reduces the credibility of your site. If we can see that things are up to date then we will be more likely to return to it! It’s also time for schools to realise that they can upgrade their school website from what is essentially an online brochure. They can be engaging, interactive and fresh!
3. If it’s important to you – give it some resources.
One of the keys to success with anything online, whether it’s a class blog or a school website, is having the discipline and structure in place to maintain it. The cost of this will most certainly be in terms of time and sometimes this can be expensive. Can we allocate some release time each week, for example, for a staff member to spend up-keeping a site or can you diary in some time every couple of days to post on your class blog? As a wise eLearning sage once said (@nickrate, yes, you are a sage), ‘If it’s really valuable to you then you should spend the time on it.’ Great advice. I also ask teachers, when they ask how I find the time to do all of this digital stuff… ‘How much time do we spend watching T.V?’
4. Use the right tool for the right job – and then link them.
One of the mistakes I see all the time is when people use an online tool to do things it was never designed to do. They all have their uses – from wikis, to blogs, to websites, to social media sites etc. The trap can be easy to fall into when we have several purposes for a digital site and try to use only one tool.
We might, for example, want a school site for
sharing photos of special events, posting

Its newsletters, encouraging feedback from parents and sharing files between staff. Instead of using a blog for all of this we can easily link a wiki, a blog, a google calendar and a flickr account page using url links and embedding tools. Each tool will appear as a page that can be part of one central site – like this site for Salford School that uses the flash based Wix site.
Is there anything you’d add? Do you have some examples of sites or schools that cover all four keys?
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