Ok, so you’ve got a Twitter account. You’ve got Facebook. Your class have a blog. Your school has a website. Oh and don’t forget the VLE as well. That’s potentially a lot of places to be writing information. But let’s not forget the traditional format of the paper newsletter to parents and the other ways such as texting parents. Which website or format do you point them to? All of them? I know I’d get confused with that! What you need to think about is a way of writing once and getting that to feed to other sources to reduce your workload and make it all a bit more familiar for visitors.
(Just read this paragraph back and it sounds like a bad American TV ad. I think it’s because we had American TV on holiday and I watched too much of it on a rainy day. Are you fed up with small cupcakes? Do your muffins never come out correctly? You need Bigtop Cupcake!) Anyway, I digress…
There are so many different ways of getting these formats and sites to crossover and talk to each other, but I’ll just talk about some of them and the ways I will be doing it at my new school.
We will be blogging with our school and with this there are two main choices. Well, there’s the choice of which system to use (mainly Posterous, Blogger or WordPress) but then the choice is between quick, easy and free (wordpress.com) or a self-hosted blog which costs about £10 a year for hosting but gives you more control. I went for the latter. We have set-up a site that will contain each class blog. The teachers will have logins and then they can blog and it will appear here. But I want it to go further. I could use a plugin on the blogs to tweet automatically, but purely for the reason I;ve been using it a while, I’ve gone for Twitterfeed. It’s quick, easy and free.
To use Twitterfeed, you will need a Google account (it accepts others too, but you’ve probably already got a Google one) Once logged in you simply click new feed, give it a name and paste in the RSS feed. What’s an RSS feed? Well it’s the system that sends out updates from sites such as blogs, news sites or sport sites. The kind of site that updates regularly anyway. You then use an RSS reader such as Google Reader, Feedly, or your VLE to read them and turn this into text/links. If you can’t find your blog’s RSS feed, in the address bar at the top of your blog, there will be an RSS icon like this one (unless you’re using an old browser like Internet Explorer 6. Shame on you if you are) or the star will be yellow in Firefox.
Click that and you should be asked to subscribe, you’ll also see a link for the RSS. The RSS for this blog is http://ianaddison.net/?feed=rss2 Unhelpfully, not all RSS feeds follow the same format. I showed teachers how to use RSS feeds when training on the VLE and every one seems different, some end .xml, some have rss in the address and so on. Trial and error sometimes comes into play. Luckily, Twitterfeed has a check facility so you can see if you’ve found the right bit!
Under the advanced Twitterfeed settings I changed my time to every 30minutes and for it to just post the title rather than title and description. I only did this because it made the tweet a bit shorter and a bit easier to retweet should anyone want to. You can also choose a prefix and suffix. I went with a prefix of ‘New blog post:’ Not very exciting, but sometimes you need simple and obvious!
On page two, you can then choose a twitter account to tweet with e.g. my school blogs will tweet through the school account and my personal blog will go through my own twitter account. You can set it up to post as your status on Facebook too. I did for about 4 blog posts but then turned it off as most of my friends thought I was a geek/loser (delete as applicable) So that’s blogs and Twitter linked…
Our VLE, Studywiz has a built-in RSS reader too so when we have our VLE set-up properly, the blog posts will also feed into this.
Our website is setup using a system called Joomla. This is a content management system which means that you don’t need to know much about websites and the code behind them to get it to work. I can also include little plugins to show things like maps, video or in this case, tweets. On the left-hand side, it will show the 6 latest tweets from my school Twitter account – @stjohnswaltham – The tweets will mainly be about our latest blog posts, but I will be investigating setting up our Google Calendar to tweet key events too. At the bottom of our twitter plugin is a link to follow us too.
As one last thing I have also put the links to our blogs on our school website on their own tab so people can find them that way.
So what will I be telling visitors and parents? Go to our website. From there you can see our website (obviously) our tweets and our blogs. We might also share our Twitter name but I’m not currently planning to share the blog addresses with everyone, I’d rather they found them through our website.
It does take a bit of time (maybe 2mins per twitterfeed) to set this all up, but once it’s done you’re away. Please do have a look at what we’ve started to do on our school site: http://stjohnthebaptistprimary.co.uk/ but bear in mind term hasn;t started yet so the blogs are empty!