Now more than ever, people and youth, in particular, rely on web-based media to stay informed. Therefore, a strong web-based presence for your out-of-school time program is more important than ever. Here we will review the different social media and web-based services you can use to promote your program and special considerations you may want to take. No matter which platform you are using, consider who your audience is in developing content. For example, you may use a social media platform like Snapchat to blast fun images to youth and a service like MailChimp to put together a professional newsletter for parents.
Social Media Platforms
There are numerous Social Media Platforms available that serve different purposes and are more attuned to different audiences. The advantage of most social media platforms is that you can create quick updates instead of more formal, time-consuming messages like crafted parent letters. Many out-of-school time staff find the easiest ways to use social media is simply to keep the apps on their phone so they can share highlights from their program as they are organically popping up. Most of the social media platforms are integrated so that you can easily post the same content across multiple platforms with the click of a button.
Creating unique hashtags are a great way to build momentum for a specific event, idea or as a way to incorporate advocacy into your program. For example, images from your Lights on Afterschool event can be posted to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and/or Twitter with the use of #LightsOnAfterschool, adding your voice to the greater trend.
Be aware of your organization's policies on the use of social media. Pay particular attention to ensure that youth have written photo/media releases that give permission for you to use pictures of them in promotions and be aware of any youth who are not permitted. Additionally, most social media accounts require a minimum user age, often 13 years or older.
Afterschool Tech Toolkit
From the National Afterschool Association, with support from Google, The Afterschool Tech Toolkit aims to empower afterschool professionals and educators with strategies and training so they can provide students with powerful access to technology outside of classroom hours. The available toolkit modules can help you reflect, plan and prepare to embed technology into your current programming so you can support all the students you serve. Professional Development trainings are also offered.
More Technology-Based Communications
Parent and Youth Communication
Bloomz: A multi-functional communication app designed for educators that allows OST site directors or instructors to directly text-message parents and send e-mails of pictures and videos. Users can create program calendars, set up meetings, and request volunteer support. Additionally, Bloomz has behavior management that can be shared with parents. https://www.bloomz.net
Mail Chimp: Mailchimp is a marketing tool that can be used by educators to send mass e-mails and beautifully crafted newsletters. Users with 2,000 or fewer subscribers can send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. https://mailchimp.com
Remind: A text-messenger designed for educators to send messages, such as reminders, to whole groups or to individuals and can include images and files. Users can communicate without sharing phone numbers and messages can be translated into over 70 languages. https://www.remind.com
Edublogs: A WordPress powered tool, primarily used for classroom blogs, designed specifically with themes, and plugins that are just for education. Additionally, there is a community of educators that offer articles on how Edublogs has been successfully utilized. https://edublogs.org/
Weeby: A beginner-friendly website builder that uses a drag and drop design. Weebly offers Weebly for Education, a free tool specifically designed for teachers to create classroom sites, as well as allowing for students to make sites and submit projects. https://education.weebly.com
WordPress: A free, widely employed website builder that can be utilized by both novice users and technology professionals. Websites can be hosted by wordpress.com or you can self-host on wordpress.org. Use a variety of templates and plugins to customize your website. www.wordpress.com https://wordpress.org