Building, maintaining, and redesigning school district Web sites come with a host of issues unique to the K-12 system. That’s why a new national organization is seeking to bring those who do the job together to share ideas and advice.
Education Web Professionals grew out of a loosely knit group of school Web site managers who wanted to learn from one another, says co-founder Chris Noonan Sturm, who also manages the Montgomery County, Md., school district Web site.
For several years, she was part of a local coalition of site experts who had been talking regularly, and similar conversations had been occurring with a group in Pennsylvania. Now, they’ve joined forces, and Education Web Professionals held its first national conference in Rockville, Md., last year, attracting about 80 participants from across the country.
“Our job is at the sweet spot where technology and communication meet. We’re using both sides of the brain,” Sturm says. “Everybody is figuring it out as they go and being transparent about sharing what they do.”
So many issues that school Web professionals deal with are exclusive to the public education field, Sturm says. Everything from whether to post pictures of students and what kinds of links to allow to student and teacher blogging and the use of advertising are all important matters, she says.
Brigitte A. Bagocius, the Web development specialist in Pennsylvania’s Souderton Area School District, had been working with local Web professionals for several years before the national organization was started. “Very few of us, if any, have departments. It’s like you’re on an island,” says Bagocius, who also serves as the president of the Pennsylvania Schools Web Developers Association. “This is like having a department to collaborate with.”
Helping One Another
Tony Byrne, the founder of CMS Watch, an Olney, Md.-based company that independently reviews and evaluates technology products, spoke at the conference and says he believes it is valuable for people who have the same basic goals to get together. Though these people might meet at a conference on another topic, at a gathering like the one for Education Web Professionals, “there’s a higher energy level than when people have just been smooshed together regardless of industry,” he says.
Though Byrne says he heard some of the same technology discussions and questions at the conference that he has heard at other ed-tech conferences, “the way they get asked and answered and the dimensions of them are very different” for school district Web professionals.
A 2009 conference is planned for Philadelphia in April, at which the group will launch a Web awards program recognizing K-12 sites that will be judged by K-12 Web managers.
A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as Ed Web Experts Form Network