Communications Built on an Ethic of Care
Our Digital Communication Ecosystem
Building a new school brings with a number of exciting opportunities to develop practices from scratch and rethink a number of status quo parts of the educational ecosystem. One of the areas that we think about is that of communication – including all permutations of digital connections between students, parents and school staff. The ability to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders is infinitely possible in this technological arena, but choosing tools wisely and using the right tool for the right kind of communication is a good challenge.
Creating an ethic of care, which is a core structure of the SLA schools, requires a robust amount of communication between all the stakeholders. The digital communication infrastructure that we rely on to support the students, families and staff is outlined below.
An open educational student information system (SIS), narrative, standards-based, and interim reporting, student and class blogging, progress notes, and integrations with tools such as Google Apps for Education, Moodle and Canvas. The progress note function, which allows for a note to be generated and emailed out to all teachers, parents and staff attached to that student’s education, is a critical piece of the infrastructure. The ability to not only easily email all stakeholders, it creates an archived record of all communication related to that student while they are enrolled.
Inside this suite of tools, we use the calendaring function to easily communicate with other faculty members for big project deadlines, so as not to overwhelm the students will too many big deadlines all at once. Additionally, the email and drive tools are used daily to have a continuous flow of information related to coursework, professional duties and communication with parents.
Our choice of LMS allows for enrollment of students in virtual spaces for each of their real time classes, thus having a mirror of the real space in this digital platform. Additionally, we created a staff ‘course’ and enrolled all teachers and staff. This space serves as a collection ‘bin’ for important links, documents and information. Additionally, there are a number of asynchronous discussions flowing throughout the year to increase access to and participation in school-wide issues. This course allows for conversations to continue and bridge the space between face-to-face meetings. Finally, this staff course structure also creates an archive of the conversations and information for future reference.
The world of texting is often the easiest way for teachers to reach out to parents and students for timely updates. We use Remind with our grade level and advisory groupings, to quickly communicate information related to altered schedules, upcoming events, and important updates.
While this is not a comprehensive retelling of our evolving communication structure, this is an overview of the basic structures we are utilizing. This communication ecosystem will continue to evolve as the school evolves. We believe strongly that each school needs to frequently evaluate their communication methods and think about how to share information and engage in meaningful conversation. The goal is to transparently engage more voices in the conversations impacting the individual path of a student as well as the larger conversation about the progress of the school, as a whole. After sharing all of that information about the digitizing of communication, it is important to note that these digital tools serve as enhancements not replacements to the important face-to-face conversations that drive meaningful relationships. When you partner a range of communication methods, more is shared, more is learned and communities strengthen.
What are the basic structures of your school communication ecosystem? What is working well in that ecosystem? What would you change about your current communication ecosystem if you had the opportunity?
Diana Laufenberg is a Social Studies Teacher, Project Based Learning Implementation and Author, Science Leadership Academy
The Science Leadership Academies are progressive science and technology high schools in Philadelphia, PA. The Academies are inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop schools and considered to be one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement nationally and internationally. The first Science Leadership Academy was recognized by Ladies Home Journal as one of the Ten Most Amazing Schools in the US, has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School from 2009 through 2013 and has been written about in many publications including Edutopia Magazine, EdWeek and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In September 2013, we opened the Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber campus, the second campus in the SLA model.