Schools (and parents)

With social media, free and easy-to-use publishing tools and a cultural shift toward creating and sharing information, it can be an exciting time to be engaged in one’s local community. Where better than in the local schools? And where better than in Howard County?

Howard County schools, teachers, staff, booster clubs, PTSAs, student government associations, honor societies and others are keeping parents, students and the community informed by blogging, posting videos on YouTube, tweeting and using a number of other (mostly free) tools.

At HoCoBlogs, we support the community by helping people, organizations, businesses and government be more connected and able to share information. Shared interests can help strengthen relationships, trust and collaborative problem solving. Technology, and in particular, social media tools, can support this type of connecting and collaborating. We’re all about “social” and we welcome your participation.

Help us get your school’s blogs listed on HoCoBlogs

Your school probably has a blog. Maybe even several. It’s free to be listed on hocoblogs.com and takes but a few minutes to do. Our aim is to create a schools and education category on hocoblogs.com, and we need your help to get your school’s blog(s) listed. Some schools have sites that are easy to recognize as blogs. Some don’t. Most sites with a feed work for us and our system, so the “latest news” section of your school’s website can be a “blog,” so to speak. But also look for blogs from booster clubs, student newspapers, sports teams, PTSAs, student government associations and more. We’re interested in small and niche blogs, though probably not an individual teacher’s blog for a classroom, though a department or grade-level blog is fine.

Here are some school blogs we’ve found so far
Create a directory of your school’s social sites

How many social sites does your school have: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, RebelMouse or others?  You may be surprised to discover a dozen or more. But where are they? Are they all findable? Wouldn’t it be valuable for each school to have a directory of all the blogs and social media accounts managed by the school, booster clubs, PTSAs, honor societies, resource teachers, SGAs and more? You can help. Start by listing all the social sites you can find and include the links.

To publish this information, if a website or blog isn’t available to you, you can use Google Docs to create a free and shareable web page. Or try your hand at Smore.com. Once you get the list made, your school will probably appreciate the list and  post it on their own site and share it with parents. Not sure you have all the social accounts? You probably don’t, but who else will do this if you don’t? The wealth of information out there is great, but people need to be able to find it to read/watch/get it. You can help start that ball rolling. 

Here are some beyond-the-norm social tool use we’ve found   
School websites

Each Howard County School has a website. Yet few of those websites reflect the intelligence, passion and commitment found in the teaching staff, admin, parents and student body. Unfortunately, many of the HoCo School websites appear outdated, are challenging to navigate and could use some content management restructuring and a design makeover. That’s not a problem that’s going to be solved overnight, but as more engaged parents, tech-savvy teachers and community members rally to help the school’s publish and share information better, the various school websites are bound to get better in time. For starters, some of the schools using Google Sites are here:

#HoCoSchools on Twitter

HCPSS has done a great job opening the path for each school to be on Twitter. Twitter can function as a very effective broadcast and engagement tool, and the more parents who are 1) on Twitter and 2) actively managing their Twitter streams, the better it will be for all. For starters, the @HCPSS has a Twitter list of all the HoCo schools and a growing list of staff/groups/offices;  @HoCoBlogs has a Twitter list of schools, booster clubs, principals, PTSA’s and any and all HoCo Schools-related Twitter accounts.

Things you can do to get more involved
  • Follow any of these lists above on your own Twitter account or with a free tool such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck.
  • Follow Dr. Foose at @SuperHCPSS and @SaraAToth, the education reporter for the Howard County Times, Columbia Flier and Laurel Leader.
  • Follow your specific school (for teachers/admin), or your child’s school (for parents) on Twitter. If you can find them, follow the principal, the booster club, the school newspaper and so on. Retweet their content.
  • Create your own tweets about the school’s activities (replete with photos and links if you can) to help support events, PTSA info, important dates, fundraisers and more. Add in local hashtags. Here are some of the more likely hashtags you’ll use:
    • #HoCoKids – for local news and events related to kids in Howard County
    • #HoCoParents – helpful local info for parents
    • #HoCoEvents – for events open to the wider community
    • #HoCoSchools – for general school news, updates, commentary
    • #HoCoArts and #HoCoMusic – for any HoCo art shows, concerts and events
    • #HoCoGives – for fundraising events, for charitable and volunteer work done by the kids/teachers at the school
    • #HoCoMd, #ColumbiaMd, #OaklandMills (and so on; use location tags to direct your tweets to a more specific audience)
  • Take a look at this list of local hasthags and use them when relevant.
  • Get a Twitter account if you don’t yet have one. If nothing else, use it as a news feed.
Be The Blogger

Do you have your own blog? Perhaps a family-, food-, hobby-focused blog? Are you listed on HoCoBlogs? (It’s free.) Once your listed, any time you write about local concerns — from promoting a school fundraiser, to pics of your daughter’s concert, to your thoughts on school redistricting … or anything else local (restaurant reviews, concerns about speed bumps or your excitement about a band coming to the Columbia lakefront) there are a number of specific terms you can add to your blog post to reach a more directed and specific local audience.

Connect with other bloggers

Get to know other bloggers, many of whom you can find on HoCoBlogs.com and/or meet at  local blog parties. Currently, the primary blogger who writes about education is Lisa B, Mrs. S., who mixes in some HoCoSchools-focused posts among her otherwise mostly personal-life blog. But perhaps more importantly, you’ll want to find out who else at your school is blogging. If a handful or more of you are connected, you can share important news and help promote and cover your school’s good news, events and concerns for a wider network. Bit by bit, change happens. The school’s leadership, admin and teachers have a lot on their hands; if you and a cadre of other parent bloggers can help with school and community communication, then more development is possible.

Share your lists with us

If you do create (or find) a list of all the social sites your school has, please share it with us.

Share your news!

Read this page for more tips and help on how to share your news with Howard County bloggers and social media activists and enthusiasts.

Thanks for the wonderful kids you’re raising,
your commitment to your community and
all the good work you do, seen and 

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