Going Paperless

Stopping by here to share one of the things I love about digital communication: the ability to still exercise your creative design muscles but also improve the efficiency and expense of communication and event planning!

Btw, I’m not going to turn this into a rant about the totally inappropriate ways that school administrators around the world are requiring their teachers and schools to be “paperless” – I mean, really, how does dictating the ways in which teachers communicate with students and students submit documentation of their learning really promote agency and a cohesive learning culture? It doesn’t. Sometimes, there are reasons for paper. And sometimes it makes sense to go digital. Think about the why.

This is a quick reflection of my experiences with how “going digital” made my event-planning life a little easier. I was recently approached by Paperless Post to share my thoughts on their service and I’m happy to do so here, because I see many uses for the posts in both personal and school-based contexts.

If you’re a parent of a school-age child or you are a teacher or administrator who regularly plans school events, you’ve likely found yourselves behind photocopiers duplicating event fliers or trying other services to reach as many of your school constituents as possible. If you’re confident in your ability to reach your recipients digitally, check out Paperless Post.

My children attend a small, local school, and thus the responsibilities of organizing school events fall on a handful of parents. Fundraising is an important part of our home-school association goals, and we have to make the most of the time and each event we plan. This spring we’re holding a community basket raffle event and we need donations from local businesses. We also need to advertise to school families and get the word out to the greater community so we can encourage the greatest participation!

Honesty alert: My “checking-the-school-backpack” skills are quite lacking. My email checking skills, however, are on point. Same for my Facebook and Instagram scrolling tendencies. So to reach the most parents and community members, it makes sense to communicate digitally, at least in part, to make sure everyone knows about our upcoming event. We use email groups to communicate with our families frequently, so the idea of using a digital invitation works well for our community.

There are many digital invite services to choose from, so why choose Paperless Post? No matter the occasion, they have you covered. New interactive flyers, invitations for professional events, birthday and wedding-related gatherings, and all the rest. Invites are fully customizable (color schemes, images, typography) and can be emailed directly to guests, or shared via link. There are various pricing options as well, all based on Paperless Post’s coin currency, however there are many *free* invitation options!

I designed both a flyer and an event invitation for use with our upcoming school fundraiser, and I can’t wait to see which design the committee chooses to use!

I also am in love with the kids’ stationery sets in Paperless Post. I had no idea how beautiful these cards are! I’m forever sending thank you notes for birthday and holiday gifts, and this would be such a special way to personalize the experience. Using the speech-to-text tools on my device, my kids (ages 3 and 6) could even “write” their thank you notes themselves!

How are you embracing digital communication in your life? Or are you a believer that paper is best? I was committed to sending paper invites for my family celebrations in the past, but after trying Paperless Post, I am convinced it’s an equally special form of communication! If you want to try it yourself, use my referral link and you’ll receive 25 free coins to get started!

This post is sponsored by Paperless Post. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal views.

Questions about communication.

CC Licensed Photo Shared by Melvin Gaal
CC Licensed Photo Shared by Melvin Gaal

One of my district’s recent projects has been thinking through and seeking to transform the way we communicate via digital means. These are some questions that come to mind when I contemplate digital age learning and communication.

Dear Superintendent,

If I were a parent moving into your district, would I be able to access quality information about your schools online? Not just test scores and state report cards – but a real, true, authentic look into the classrooms and learning in your schools? Would I be able to Like your school’s Facebook page and follow your district on Twitter, and receive timely updates in my own social media streams or through a district app? Does information from your district come to me? Or do I have to go out and find it myself? Can I comment on and re-share district news?

Are there methods in place for informing me about issues in times of crisis? Is it clear where and how I should be locating that information and/or how the information comes to me? How can I easily find out about your district’s policies and procedures? Are directories readily available so I can contact who I need to, when I need to? How do you collect, store, and protect my child’s data? Who do you share it with and why? How can we access our child’s data at any time?

Are you proactive in publishing critical news and updates to community members or reactive after stories hit the local news?

Do your communications clearly share your vision for learning and the resources, concepts, programs, standards, and instructional techniques used to help students achieve? Do I know what your leadership team hopes to accomplish this year and beyond, in five years? Ten years?

Are all subgroups and populations equally represented in communications? Can I find as many stories about learning in the primary classrooms and emotional support classrooms as I can about high school sports achievements?

How do you accommodate for families who do not have Internet access available at home or Internet-enabled devices? Are your communications able to be easily translated for speakers of other languages? Are your district’s facilities opened up to the public to allow those without access to stay current and engage with your online spaces? Are paper communications used to reach all stakeholders in the absence of connectivity? What are you doing as a school leader to help local and government leaders get access for everyone in your community?

Do you have an online presence as a learner? How do you model for your staff and students that you continue growing and learning as a leader? Do you communicate efficiently, effectively, and consistently with your staff?

Am I a welcomed visitor on your campus? How will I feel that I am welcomed?

Dear Principal,

I want the best for my children, as I know you do. When I want to learn more about your school, can I go to your school’s blog or website and see learning taking place? Does your online presence demonstrate to the public why your school is a special place to learn? Why are your teachers special? Students? Staff? Community? Who are they? What do they believe in? Does your school’s vision and mission shine through in all of your communications? What events and activities are being shared to spark excitement and interest in your school community? How are your postings and your online presence modeling respectful and powerful online communications? Can I see photos of learning in action? Do you use Instagram or Flickr or similar to allow glimpses into daily school life?

Does your district respect the demands on my time as a busy, working parent, offering various structures (online and offline) and opportunities for learning and for parent involvement? Are there Twitter chats or Google Hangouts or live streams of events that I can attend virtually if I can’t attend in person? Are things archived for easy access after events? Are there regular opportunities for parents to provide input on various aspects of school life?

Can I find common forms on your website, things I can access quickly and easily? Schedules, handbooks, menus, bus information, directory information, policies, procedures? Do you report daily or weekly happenings in the form of school news or interactive bulletins? Do you offer the same benefits for your staff through consistently-maintained information processes?

Am I met with smiles when I enter your school’s doors?

Dear Teacher,

You spend countless moments day in and day out creating stimulating learning environments and designing learning experiences for our children. Do you communicate the ideas shared in class with your students’ families? Do your students’ families know what your class values and admires and works to achieve? If my child was in your class, would snapshots of the week’s learnings be available to me through your class blog or website, or your class’s Twitter feed or Facebook page? How can I communicate my questions and concerns with you? How do you involve my child in the communication process? How is my child expected to share his learning with you, with me, with his peers, and with an authentic global audience?

Do you share what you do with other teachers who are looking to bring the best they can to their students? Do you freely share resources, ideas, content, and time with your both your local and global colleagues, knowing that in the spirit of reciprocity you, too, will benefit from what others share? Do your students know you are a learner first?

Is my feedback welcomed and encouraged? Can you help me understand the difficult work that you do in a way that helps me best support my child?

Am I met with smiles when I’m welcomed at your classroom door?

Dear Parent,

Don’t settle when it comes to your child’s school’s communication methods. You deserve to understand the full breadth and depth of your child’s learning experiences and to be embraced as part of the learning community. Your voice deserves to be heard and acknowledged. You should expect not only to be involved with your child’s school, but to be engaged.

 

What else should we be asking ourselves about the way we communicate in school communities?