Remember how Principal McGee would make the announcements at Rydell High School in the musical “Grease?” Take away the secretary’s xylophone, and you wouldn’t be far from the actual way many schools made announcements in the past.
For years our school, like many others, had done announcements over our intercom system. Last school year, we stopped reading announcements over the intercom and started emailing announcements and posting them online. Change isn’t always easy in education, and this change wasn’t fully supported by all of our faculty and students. In the end, the benefits of going with digital announcements exceeded reverting back to announcements being read over the intercom.
In our first year of digital announcements, we made three mistakes.
announcements written to read are different from announcements written to be published.
At first, we kept writing announcements like we wanted them to sound over the intercom. Spoken announcements do not always translate well to written announcements. If we have rigorous demands on our students written communication skills, our morning announcements should reflect these demands.
EVEN THOUGH WE USED A DIGITAL FORMAT, WE DIDN’T ADOPT THE DIGITAL FORMAT.
Our second error was that we failed to take full advantage of the digital format. Our announcement remained exclusively in text format. Even though we had the capabilities to include pictures, audio, video (school YouTube channel) and so much more, our announcements remained exclusively in a text format.
Our announcements were announcer-centered not student-centered.
Our third error was that even though we wanted our students to know what was occurring in school, we didn’t send out announcements until 90 minutes into the school day. Even though we are a BYOT school, students rarely had time to check their email, school website, or school social media sites to learn about the announcements. We would post a printed copy of the announcements on a bulletin board in the main hallway, but with only three minutes between classes students didn’t have time to stop and read announcements.
Our new approach
This year we have made some significant changes that have not only improved student’s awareness of school events, but has fostered better communication skills between students and faculty.
Our first goal was to get the morning announcements out to students, faculty, parents, and the community prior to school starting each day. Our second goal was to take advantage of the digital format and to make the announcements something students wanted to read. To accomplish our goals, our faculty and staff only had to do two things.
- Submit announcements by 7:45 AM
- Write announcements for print
Along with these two requirements, we encouraged faculty, staff, and students to submit photos and videos of events at our school. Our morning announcements are now more appealing and engaging. Our delivery of announcements focuses not just on the announcements, but also the design of the announcements.
Our present day announcements
Our teachers have been great about sending me announcements throughout the day (or even a few days in advance). As I receive announcements, I paste them into a Google Doc. Within the Google Doc, I format the announcements, add photos and external links. Any PDFs that the school would like distributed are uploaded to our school website and then a link to that file is included in the announcements. I make it a habit to not include attachments.
At 7:45 a.m. each school day, I email announcements to all students, faculty and staff. I then copy and paste our morning announcements on to our school website, and our school Facebook page. Finally, I tweet out a link to our announcements via our school Twitter account.
Gone is the bulletin board
This year we are in a new building. Gone are the old main hallway, the bulletin board and the practice of posting a printed copy for students to read. Replacing the bulletin board is a flat screen television in the cafeteria. Announcements are now displayed on a television using Rise Vision software and a Chromebox.
Going one step further
We recently included a survey within our announcements with goals of:
- Learning the students’ preferred way of receiving announcements (school email vs. school social media vs. school website).
- Learning what the students wanted to have included in the announcements.
The results of the survey were that students preferred reading announcements via school email over our website or social media. Getting students to check their school email accounts routinely was a huge win for us and has resulted in faculty being better able to communicate information to their students.
Students also told us that in addition to school events, pictures and videos, they also wanted their announcements to include:
- Information regarding colleges
- Tips on being a better student
- Technology tips to be more productive students
We’re making plans to include this additional information in further improving our lines of communications. Now that we have made these changes to our digital announcements going back to announcements being read over the intercom would be a huge step backwards.