Podcasting has become so simple that I think its time for it to replace the good old newsletter. This was first suggested to me, and is demonstrated weekly, by Kurtis Hewson, an elementary principal in Claresholm, Alberta.
Every Sunday, Kurtis makes a few notes and then sits down in front of his computer for 10 minutes and simply narrates the events of the week that has past and what is upcoming in the week ahead. Then, with a couple of clicks the video is posted to the school web site, where parents know they can go for the weekly news. Its simple, its engaging, its far less work than a newsletter, its green and it never gets lost on the way home.
This idea could be easily adapted by Classroom Teachers, Coaches, Superintendents, Trustees and others for their communications.
So what are the caveats? There are lots of “problems” one can think of, but problems are not reasons to stand still. Hands up everyone who thinks printed newsletters are an elegant and effective communication device. I don’t see many hands! Of course not. Newsletters are just a habit, and habits are hard to change because we gloss over the problems in the familiar present and get fixated on imagined challenges in the unfamiliar future.
Not everyone can get onto the internet at home. What to do? Set up a terminal in the library and invite parents to use it when they drop the kids off? Does the public library have such an access point? Burn a few DVDs that can be borrowed from the office? I’m not that creative, but I am certain that others who want to solve this problem could do so – or at least they could find a response that ‘satisfices’ as much as current practice.
They say that public speaking is one of most people’s greatest fears so will principals be brave enough to go on the internet for all to see – forever. Not much to say here, except “get over it.” You can’t hide forever. Once you try this you’ll love it.
Of course, some things may not fit in this format. Some print or graphic notices would can be put on the web site in the same area as the podcast. And perhaps parents do need to post some papers on the fridge with schedules or phone numbers or some such durable information for which they prefer not going to the school web site. If so, send home a notice – and then mention it in your podcast. I’ll bet you don’t have to do that more than a couple of times a year.
This is an entirely practical idea that could be very much more effective than newsletters. But you know what be even better? Get the kids to do it! That would not only get us dipping our toe into the technological pool and thus gaining skills and confidence that can migrate into the classroom, but it would also be a way to start letting go of hegemonic adult control – and that’s an equally important part of the change that is required for 21st Century Learning.