“We need to go online”.
Most of us have said it. A lot of us have done it. All of us are still learning it.
We decided to go “all in” this past year and I would have to say that, in my nine years of advising, it has been the most frustrating and rewarding year of my tenure. Along the way, I’ve jotted down some observations, tips, frustrations, etc. to document our first year of going online:
- Start blogging. – Do it now. Seriously. After you’re done pecking around on this site, sign up for a blog over at Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr. Write regularly and write about something you’re interested in. I have my own blog (about running) and I contribute to another (about my Beloved Huskers). Not only am I writing on a regular basis, but blogging has taught me how to insert pictures, embed videos, link to other blogs/sites, mess around with HTML code, etc. When we jumped to WordPress for our site, that experience was invaluable.
- Buy your own template. “Free” is the best word in education, but we found that when it comes to templates for your ite, you get what you pay for. Usually, when you fork over some cash (we paid $50), you get 24/7 support, online forums, etc. Again…invaluable for a startup.
- Write a Mission Statement – What’s your website going to accomplish? Are you reflecting what your paper/broadcast/in-depth team is putting out or are you going to be different? Have the staff create a mission statement to give them…and yourself…some direction. When you’ve written it, frame it and put it up in the classroom. And in multiple locations.
- Promote, promote, PROMOTE! – Students need to make going to your website a habit. We worked with our DECA/Marketing class and came up with some ideas. We even did some trading. They have a store where they sell school gear and we promoted it with our site. In turn, they helped us promote our site. Also in our school, t-shirts are to our students what coffee is to journalists. They can’t get enough. Find a local printer that can trade a small ad space on your site for some t-shirts with your logo.
- Use your school to your advantage – Along with DECA, we went to our magazine class and they helped design our logo. We also asked to kindly borrow some HTML books from our computer programming teacher. We’re going to hit up our design teacher next year…he just doesn’t know it yet.
- Be Patient – Last be surely not least, be patient. Tell your staff to be patient. Things will go wrong. Count on it. Maybe a photo gallery gets lost for all eternity. Maybe a certain adviser inadvertently crashes the site. Maybe your internet connection goes down when breaking news hits. Things happen and you learn from it. If the kids know this ahead of time, they’re a lot more likely to be understanding and patient if you are.