Last October I announced a bold new CASTLE initiative. Because of what was clearly a lack of presence by school principals in the blogosphere, we set an ambitious goal for ourselves of getting 100 principals up and blogging in 100 days. Dean Shareski at Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech expressed skepticism that we'd reach our goal. It's now the 100-day mark - how are we doing?
Obviously we're not doing as well as we had hoped. As the chart above shows, we've had 54 principals request a new blog. We've set up all those blogs, 5 in just the past few days. Of the other 49 principals, 25 are actively blogging (if sometimes infrequently) and 24 have never posted. I said in my comments to Dean's post that I anticipated this project would be interesting. Here are a few thoughts on what has occurred so far with this initiative:
- Reaching principals has been a challenge. Most principals are not active readers in the blogosphere and we have neither easy access to nor the budget for advertisements in the print publications that they do read. Nor do we have easy access to principals' e-mail addresses for electronic communications. We thus are dependent on others to help us spread the word about this project. To date we have seen clear 'bumps' in the number of requests that we get after each online update and/or conference presentation that we've done.
- We have discovered a few principal blogs that we didn't know about. As word of this project has spread, principals have been e-mailing us their blog URLs. Right now we know of 21 principals who are blogging that did not start because of this project. You can access their blogs at our list of known principal blogs (they're the ones in red). It's possible that there are other principals using tools like edublogs, November Learning Communities, or blogging software provided by their school districts and we just don't know about them.
- Although we haven't yet done a systematic survey of our active principal bloggers, my informal interactions with these folks have been uniformly positive. Several have been quite surprised at the positive reception that their blogs have received from parents and community members. Also, apparently several have been just dying for someone to offer them the opportunity to blog. As soon as we made the offer they not only started to blog quite frequently but also began asking for header graphic, clustr map, and myChingo modifications. They're really getting into it! It makes me wonder how many other principals would jump at the chance if they just knew about our offer. The principals that began blogging because of us clearly are finding value in doing so.
- We have encountered difficulties with district and/or personal e-mail filtering systems. A significant percentage of our principals have not been able to receive the invitation e-mail from TypePad to set up their guest account because their districts block anything to do with TypePad. Others are finding that the TypePad invite goes straight into their junk mail folder. Either way, they never receive the information they need to get started. We also have heard from a couple of district technology coordinators and/or principals that they would like to do this but can't because of district restrictions on usage of outside tools.
- I passed out cards with information about the project to nearly every attendee at the big educational administration professors conference in November. The idea was that we could reach local administrator and preservice administrator populations across the country through the professors that work with them. Although I can't say for sure, I'm fairly certain that we received only a handful of blog requests as a result of that work. I'm not sure why. Perhaps my educational leadership faculty colleagues at other institutions are not supportive of the project or perhaps they don't understand the potential of blogs enough to make it worth forwarding our information to their local educators.
- We've also set up blogs for five central office administrators. They were interested in blogging and asked, so we said sure!
So has this project been a success? No and yes. No if we judge it by our initial ambitious goal of getting 100 new active principal blogs within 100 days. Yes if we recognize that we've already doubled the number of known principals in the blogosphere.
Here are our next steps:
- I'm going to track our requests for another 50 days and report out on how we're doing. After that the project web site and our offer to create free blogs for principals will remain open but I'll quit reporting on our progress. Why the additional 50 days? I still am hopeful that we'll get some more folks to sign up because...
- Earlier this week we sent out informational e-mails about the project to every state educational technology director in the country. We also sent out e-mails to the executive director of each state's superintendent association, secondary principal association, and elementary principal association and have notified CoSN, ISTE, SETDA, and others about the initiative. We asked these folks to pass the word along to their membership. We're already starting to see a surge of requests as a result.
- Because word of mouth is the best advertisement, we will ask our active principal bloggers to tap one of their local peers and suggest that he or she start blogging too. Our active bloggers are in the best position to describe the benefits that they're seeing from blogging. Other principals will be best persuaded by one of their own who's already doing this.
- We also will get some testimonials from our most active principal bloggers and put those up on our project web site. Maybe hearing from other principals will help persuade a few folks who hear about the project but are undecided.
- If I can find a spare moment, I would like to write a brief article on principal blogging and submit it to a print publication that principals read. I think we would get some additional requests if we could get an article written up and published. This won't happen within the next 50 days, though, both because of my schedule and because practitioner magazines don't turn stuff around that quickly.
- I will continue to present about the project, either live at conferences or virtually via videoconferencing, as much as I can (first folks have to ask!). I have a couple of presentations coming up that may net a few requests.
We're open to suggestions, comments, or other feedback that anyone has for us. We are extremely thankful for all of the support and publicity folks have given us to date. I am confident that eventually we will reach our goal of creating 100 new, active principal blogs. It just may take us longer than we had hoped.