James Rea, Deputy Principal at Russell Street School , describes the benefits of using a blog post format within Google docs to create a paperless newsletter. He explains the process they went through to set it up, and some of the opportunities it has created for students' learning.
We talked about some of our goals, some of our charter goals, and one of them was to go to a paperless newsletter. It’s part of the philosophy of the school. We’d explored a couple of platforms and decided on a blog post type format within Google docs. And, then worked with admin staff who’d been in charge of the newsletter, made sure they were happy with it, they would be capable of picking it up and running it, because they’d be ultimately responsible for it. But then, growing that and getting more people contributing to it so, I post directly to it, the principal does, other teachers do, and then we’ve got students posting to it as well. So everyone is contributing to it, and the office is just overseeing it and they just make sure it looks tidy and presentable. The way that it’s online and ongoing, it’s on time. It has a huge advantage. We don’t have to wait ‘til Thursday to communicate with the parents about what’s going on. And the ability to put in pictures and you don’t have to make them black and white. When we print them out, they’re colour. We put movies on. It looks quite inviting and engaging. There’s audio files on there now. There’s links to the sports - you don’t have to do the sports draw all the time. The links there they go straight to the administrative site and they can see the draws. When we set it up, we trialled it. We went dual platforms to start with. We made sure that the news was getting out there. We kept telling them, its, the paper’s going to go, if you need paper and you want to hold onto that then you need to come and communicate with us.
So, we have a 2degrees SIM card that’s in an old cell phone, a really old cell phone, that’s connected to one of our computers. And so, on the Thursday, at the end of the day, the admin team type a short notice in saying, “Don’t forget to check out the TNB”, put a link to it for anyone that’s got smartphones so they can just click the link and it’ll take them straight there. So, ten dollars a month it costs us where it was costing us about fifty bucks a week. So, it’s a lot more cost effective and better for the environment.
The response from the community has been very quiet but they’re all very happy not to have paper. We were printing about 300 - 400 newsletters a week and I think we send out about 20. We’re getting less people coming in going, “What’s going on? I didn’t get the information about that.” They know that if they want to know what’s going on they check the newsletter, the online newsletter. It’s searchable. So, if it’s not in last week’s one you don’t have to go dredge through a big pile of paper. You just search keywords – so, you’d look up assemblies or athletics or swimming sports, and it will come up with the relevant posts and any return forms that we’ve got there, they’re attached to it.
We’ve got a group of children that showed an interest, they said we want to do a radio station for the newsletter. And so, they’ve started trialling a pilot programme this year about going through all the week’s posts and then they turn them into little newscasts. They read David’s post and they devise a little interview, a set of questions, and they go and interview David rather than just regurgitating what he’s got. So there might be something about player of the day and they’ll go and interview the child and ask, “What do you think you did to become player of the day? Or the highlights of the game you played.” It’s quite neat and catchy. So, sustaining that I think is really important, and then promoting that again. There’s some real benefits in it. Just through that audio newsletter, seeing the girls go through and read the news, summarise it, and synthesise it, put it into interesting way. They’re forever doing little jingles and catchphrases. They’ve developed little sections that they can see that come through the patterns in the newsletter.