Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finding the Right Tool

Every year, our school runs two three-day trips. Our seventh grade students have a three-day trip in the fall to a YMCA camp in upstate New York and our 8th grade students take their senior trip in May to Niagara Falls and points north. For the past few years, I have taken upon myself to blog both trips, with the thinking that this will give parents the opportunity to hear about what we are doing and - more importantly - to see pictures of their children having a great time.

With our 8th grade trip coming up, we are making a change. Instead of blogging, we are going to report from our trip via Twitter. There are many reasons for the switch, and I feel that they are instructive for teachers and administrators who are beginning to use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and Twitter.

1) Blogging takes time and was best done at the end of the night on a laptop. Twitter is tailor-made to be done via smartphone.

2) Regular blogging was best for providing end-of-the-day updates. Twitter will allow us to post updates from wherever we are, and can even serve in place of the phone hotline that we have used in the past to update parents about the trip and when we are arriving home (although I think that we will keep the phone system in place for at least this year - transitions have to be gradual).

3) Our blog was not part of a larger school blog, and therefore did not have a natural following. Our school's Twitter account already has a significant number of followers.

3a) Once parents decide to follow our Twitter feed in order to follow the trip, they are likely to continue following us.

4) We can still post pictures via Twitpic, so parents can still see their kids getting drenched at the Falls.

Web 2.0 tools are fun, they are flashy, and they can be cool and make you be seen as cool. But if you use the wrong tool, its utility can wear off quickly and you may waste a lot of time before you realize that you are broadcasting to no one. My advice is to try out as many of these new tools as possible, but heavily monitor how their are being received. Ask me in two weeks how the Twitter experiment worked out.

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