I’ve been working on and off for a little while in the off hours on re-configuring how announcements are delivered at schools. We currently have an incredibly convoluted process that Paul Hatala and I conjured up when we were building the secondary school landing pages in the HUB (our LMS). Looking at it now, it seems like perhaps we were trying to see how many different pipes we could connect together before reaching our destination.
- Teachers submit an announcement through a Google Form
- That Google Form feeds a Spreadsheet
- The Spreadsheet is running a Google Script add-on called FormEmailer
- FormEmailer sends an email to a secret email address set up on a WordPress blog running Jetpack
- Jetpack has Post By Email enabled, and takes the #tokens# from FormEmailer, and converts them to a blog post
- The RSS feed from those blog posts feed widgets in the HUB created on http://feed.mikle.com/
- All steps from Version one except the widgets from step six
- When posts arrive at the blog, they are converted to a reveal.js Slide using this plugin and a custom bit of code to change the post type from post to slide
- While that is happening, back on the Google Form, it was determined that pulling announcements from the spreadsheet was difficult, so another Google Addon, DocAppender, came to the rescue, to make announcements more legible for reading off the PA
- An IFTTT.com recipe is sending each Slide as a Tweet in a few instances
- Someone needs to be deleting the slides once the announcement is no longer applicable
And then sometimes it breaks. We never know which cog in the gears is the offender, so fixing it is always an adventure.
Enter Version Three
- It’s a blog on the Commons.
That’s it. One piece of software (with multiple custom bits built into the theme). So when it breaks, it’s easy to fix, and when a school wants to start digitizing their announcements, we don’t have to pull out the two pages of documentation created to build version one and two.
It still uses those beautiful reveal.js slides from version two, which can be embedded in different places (like the HUB, and school homepages, or on websites like this). It looks great on monitors hanging in hallways, and is responsive, so it looks nice on your phone too.
Panic Inc. has created an app called Statusboard, that provides a widgetized interface for creating displays. This one includes a feed from an Outlook calendar with the rotary days on it, a feed of Tweets from a Twitter Account, a Countdown widget, the Announcements Slideshow, the Weather, and the Time. You can develop your own widgets for the board, so students could expand on the functionality I’m just scratching the surface on here:
I’ve created an instruction manual that lives on the site, along with a couple of videos to explain how it all works. Schools interested in adopting this new system can reach out to the 21CL team for assistance:
Why Go To All That Trouble?
One of the new strategic directions at the school board this year is about communication. This method of announcement delivery takes what was once private on the PA system in the school and presents it to the parent community. It also makes it available to students who couldn’t-hear/weren’t-listening/missed-something/were-absent while the announcements were being presented. It gives caregivers an opportunity to help get students involved in their school (Hey, you should go out for that play/team/club/thing).
Many of our schools can now boast having a digital projector in every room. Phase two of the master plan is to eliminate the PA system announcements all together. Why not display and read the announcements in your classroom at a time when students are ready to consume them, rather than when they are still struggling in the hall with snowpants or locker combos. What could an English class do with the concept of being communication managers for their school? What makes a good slide? A good Tweet? What other multi-media could we use to disrupt announcements (Props to SJAM-TV on forging a path here). There are companies who pay for social media managers to help support their digital footprint. What role could our students play in this at a school level?
We want students to do real things, and real things are necessary to help a school run. This is a small example with what I believe has a lot of potential. I look forward to seeing where people can take it.