10 Digital Tools For Enhancing Your Communication

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a fellow administrator in Sydney, Australia, asking for permission to re-publish a recent blog post for their executive newsletter.

Image Credit: JeffBullas.com
Image Credit: JeffBullas.com

Although he and I are literally sitting on opposite sides of the globe from one another, we were able to share ideas and thoughts as quickly as I can with school friends in my own building.

Connecting with educators is just one benefit of using technology like blogging or social media. The other benefits include communicating with teachers, students, parents, and your community. What are other practical ways that technology can enhance service and communication with others?

Here are 10 ideas from my own digital toolbox that may help you in reaching-out or connecting:

1. Promos from your school using Powtoons

If you visit the website page for my school, you will see a short video/music montage posted there. It was created using Powtoons, a free service that allows users many different formats for creating catchy slideshows.

You can play these during events, send a link to prospective hires, or display them at teacher job fairs. Educators may not have formal training in marketing and design, but free programs like this one give you some good tools for showcasing your school.

2. PowerPoint Announcement Slides
One simple way you can enhance communication with your school community is by sharing daily announcements in easy to use formats like PowerPoint.
Our high school commons area has a large flat-screen mounted so that students can see announcements we display throughout the day. You can begin the year by starting a running draft of these slides and assign a staff person or student to update them daily. (One of my senior boys updates ours.) Then email a copy of this to your teachers and staff.

Once you’ve emailed out the slides, teachers can play the PowerPoint on the SMART Boards in their rooms. Not only do we repeat these announcements during our daily updates over the school speaker system but also students can see visual reminders throughout the school on classroom screens and in our cafeteria area.

3. Mailchimp Email Subscriptions
mailchimpnewsletterOne of the most powerful free tools I use is the bulk-email service available through Mailchimp. I began using Mailchimp when our school email system was limiting bulk-emails to 500 addresses only. Although I still have my normal school email address through Gmail, I use Mailchimp as a way to reach all my subscribed parent contacts with weekly emails.

Switching to a free email service like Mailchimp will help you have an online platform for bulk-emails, and Mailchimp doesn’t change your existing email host or interfere with your normal email options.

Also, parents can use Mailchimp online forms to subscribe in advance. I have over 800 parents on my school subscription list. I also keep a separate Mailchimp account for Principal Matters subscribers.

Check my previous post 6 Tips For Setting Up School Email Campaigns for steps and visuals for setting up your own.

4. Desktop Publishing For Weekly Newsletters
In addition to parent emails, we include a weekly newsletter. This year students taking Desktop Publishing help put ours together.

When you create an online newsletter, it is easy to convert it to a PDF and link to your school website. Here’s a recent edition from our school. Check out my post 10 Steps For Publishing Weekly Student Newsletters for more information on how to create your own.

5. GarageBand for Mp3 Announcements
Oklahoma has a long-standing tradition of loving Friday night football. During football season, our students enjoy jazzing up announcements through pre-recorded audio announcements. When we play these on Friday, our students and teachers comment about how much they like them.

If you want to create your own, you can use a simple recording platform like Garageband and a good microphone to convert the recording to an Mp3 for easy sharing.

Here’s a sample of one of last Friday’s announcements if you want to listen:

6. WordPress for Blogging
Almost three years ago, I decided to begin posting weekly blog posts for school leaders on my website using BlueHost to support my content and WordPress as an easy format for publishing.
And I’m a contributing author for ConnectedPrincipals. I keep these posts separate from my school website.

As a result of blogging, I’ve connected with tens of thousands of readers whom I would otherwise never have met before. Even though it requires time and money to host and maintain your own site, blogging can create many open doors for you in connecting and growing with other school leaders. Other options like Weebly are free. If you enjoy writing, blogging is a good way to use that skill to share your ideas with others.

7. Movie Maker & Youtube

I wish I was stronger at creating captivating videos, but occasionally I’ll use audio and text via and compile via MovieMaker as a way to celebrate victories or brag on student achievement. This is one we did last year when were preparing for a state championship. 18 or so football boys crowded in my office to work on this one.

Most Windows users can find an easy MovieMaker option in your programs. That’s what I used on my first attempt at video-making. Mac users have iMovie. Both can be easily edited by adding in pre-recorded video clips, music, or audio recordings. I like to use voiceovers or the voice recording technology via Garageband to capture student voices.

8. Podcasting

Spoiler Alert: I have just began playing around with idea of creating my own podcast, but more info to come in later posts on that idea.

There are lots of options for podcasts for educators and school leaders. Jethro Jones hosts Transformational Principal, a podcast where I was able to share about my new book, Principal Matters. (Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 for out conversation.)

Jessica Johnson has great links for principal-focused podcasts at her website.

Another podcast for education leaders is Justin Baeder’s Eduleadership.

The benefits of podcasts are many. You can digest information while you commute or work on projects that involve being active but mentally free to listen and think. I love listening to podcasts as a way to find free information on so many different topics. You probably have a podcast app on your Iphone. If you don’t you can download one for free.

9. Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus
There as so many different ways you connect with others via Social Media. Sometimes the choices are overwhelming, but find a few that work best for you and stick to regular, scheduled communication via those outlets.

When you do, you will find yourself connecting with other school leaders around the world! Don’t look at Social Media as something that is primarily time-consuming; it does take time to connect, but it’s so worth it.

10. Remind
Lots of educators have discovered the convenience of reminding students and parents of upcoming events with text-in subscription options like Remind. These are simple to use and safe for one-way communications. Remind has also created options for chatting with users so some back-and-forth conversation can happen as well without having to text or email.

This year we set up a Remind account for all of our concurrently enrolled students so they have weekly reminders from the school we couldn’t deliver to them any other way since they take classes off-campus.

Whether it’s through Promo-shows via Powtoons, Powerpoint announcements, Mailchimp email subscriptions, weekly online newsletters, jazzed-up audio blurbs, blogging, Movie-Maker, podcasting, social media, or Remind–all of these tools can be leveraged for improving the way you share the good news of what’s happening in your school.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some other digital tools you would add to the list of ways to enhance communication?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker