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Schools are Wired. Are You?

by Wendy J. Woudstra   


A few days ago I received my copy of the Iconocast Newsletter, a great source of information about who is using the Web and why. This particular issue focussed on Internet access in schools, and noted that the U.S. K-12 educational system, about 90% of schools have some form of Net access, and more than 50% of classrooms have online access - a little less than half of those have high bandwidth connections.

So what does this mean for you?

If you've got a book, software or other product that is or can be used in K-12 schools, you need to get a Web site. Not just any Web site either. You need more than just descriptions of your products, more than online ordering, and more than just a few excerpts to entice teachers to stick around, or even bring their class for a visit.

Start with the teachers.

Bring the teachers that use your book, or are considering it, to your site by supplying lesson plans, classroom activities, links to related sites, a newsletter with new ideas and resources, and any other information or interactive element that would be suitable for your topic matter.

Add a guestbook and/or message board. You'll want some place for teachers, librarians, parents and anyone else to post their comments about the book. Bribe people, if you have to, to post the first comments. The impact that a page full of positive, unsolicited comments can have on a teacher considering your book for their class is significant.

Add stuff for kids.

This can be as simple as adding a guestbook and some kid-friendly links, but if you can, make this as interactive an experience as possible. Perhaps let kids add their own reviews of your book, or post their artwork to the site. Games, printable coloring books, crossword puzzles, word searches, and quizzes are all fun for kids, and will also be used by teachers if you make them available.

Definitely include a way to contact the author, if it is at all possible. Kids love to communicate, and getting a message from a 'famous author' can be the highlight of the school year. My business partner's 12 year old son, at my urging, emailed the author of one of his favorite books last summer. The author was kind enough to respond to him in detail, and that response became a very memorable event. He still talks about it a year later. By responding publicly on a message board or guestbook, an author can encourage more kids and teachers to write and participate in discussions.

Let the world know about it.

Once you've set up your site with all the information and interactivity for educators and kids, you'll need to announce it. Along with the usual search engines and directories, be sure to submit to kid-focused search engines and directories like Yahooligans, and Ask Jeeves for Kids.

According to Media Matrix, the top K-12 education Web site is FamilyEducation.com. If you have a site with parenting resources, learning activities, homework help or other education links, you can submit your site to be included in the featured links section by visiting their submission page.

There's no need to stop there. There literally are hundreds of newsletters for teachers, web sites for kids, homeschooling parents, librarians and more that you can add your link to.

by Wendy Woudstra