Monday, August 04, 2008

School home, 2.0?

A few hours ago I handed off my school web site. To my school - well actually, to my school community.

For 14 years I've been the webmaster for one of the very first elementary school websites on the Internet. It is certainly the oldest elementary (and possibly the oldest secondary) school website still operating out of the same URL. August 14, 1994 was launch day.

New School Site The school site is now a wiki. It is not a web site. Let me clarify a little. The web site will live on - but it will not be added to. As I said earlier today in a post the the PTSA email list and the district allstaff list, the school site (now a wiki) is a hybrid blend:
with wiki links on the left side, live rss feeds on the right, and our school information in the center…. Scroll down and you’ll see the familiar little icons from the old school home page – they still connect to the same web pages.

So we can't call it a web site anymore. Wiki sounds so out there and scary for a school home on the Internet. Even using the words web page brings up the wrong connotation. I guess it's a school home, 2.0.

The wiki has been wide open for over two years. Anyone could edit it. The vast majority of the content has been added by 2 parents and me. We had a few minor vandalism incidents, which we took care of in short order. I had hoped for a much faster buy-in by staff and parents. It just never happened - people weren't ready.

So this summer I started reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. This (plus just the end of reasonable patience) was the tipping point. Well, actually, the tipping point was some vandalism that prompted me to lock the wiki down just as summer started. I had fought really hard to keep the wiki wide open - mostly, to encourage contributions from our school stakeholders, to make it ever so easy to add/edit.... Well, that never happened. What did happen was this....
  • I locked the wiki, and I let staff and parents know
  • I individually invited all staff members to join the wiki
  • I came up with a way to include our old homepage in the wiki (imagemap was the big hurdle)
  • I changed the domain forwarding of to point to the wiki, and not the web site
My biggest immediate hope is to get enough active stakeholders so that we can open up the wiki to anyone.

This will then truly be a School home, 2.0.

Here it is, Arbor Heights Elementary School



GB said...

The wiki looks great. I poked around for a few minutes. Your school's footprint on the web is outstanding. My guess is that you have 3 or 4 teachers that are on board with the "web thing" and the rest are not really into it?
GB, Hamilton

Mark Ahlness said...

GB, thanks so much for the feedback! In terms of teachers being on board with our web presence, I'm really hoping the wiki will lead to more participation. It's been a one man show so far... Mark