While written with the Northern Territory in mind, the thoughts conveyed have traction in all situations where communication is important. Don’t overdo the technological alternatives or skip on primary communication opportunities.
ONLINE COMMUNICATION HAS ITS LIMITS
The NT. Department of Education (DoE) has a website. It can be found by simply googling ‘NT Department of Education’. That brings up a home page with links to all current initiatives, policies and everything else that relates to education. All it takes is locating the home page, perusing links and going to the information sought. Opening some links will reveal others that either extend a particular topic or point to sub-links for further elaboration. There are options for online reading, or opening and printing documents for later study.
Nearly every school in the NT has a website. A great deal can be learnt about our schools by googling school names and following the links. Included on the websites of most schools is information about their interpretation of Departmental policies. Priorities, processes and procedures are included. So too, are details about financial health and NAPLAN test outcomes.
Most questions people have about educational matters have answers that can be quite easily found by going online. Notwithstanding this source of information, questions often remain unanswered. One reason may be that answers to queries are not satisfying.
On occasion, what is written may be in language that is hard to understand because of terminology, acronym usage or jargon. Things need to be written in a clear, understandable and friendly genre. This may help minimise confusion. A good example of clear written communication is that of general information included in the NT News ‘Back to School’ supplement (22 January). Included were details about term dates and the ‘Back to School’ Vouchers. There is often ambiguity within the community about dates, school funding and parental assistance schemes. Clear statements in print clarify things far more quickly than an invitation to go online and explore issues requiring answers.
Old Fashioned Contact
While the Internet can add a dimension to communication, I do not believe it should replace the more traditional methods schools use when making contact with parents and community. Neither should the Department rely solely on web based contact . It is wrong to assume that people will, automatically seek answers to their queries by going online.
Online communication options have their place. However, the web places parents, schools and the Department at distance from each other. Online communication is impersonal. I believe there is a place for print media and conversation to be part of the way we discuss education. Traditional school newsletters, memos and letters retain their value as methods of communicating. Using the telephone to make contact is far more personal than receiving email advice about issues.
Nothing takes the place of face-to-face conversation. That should always be a feature of the way we interact with each other.