Friday, 6 February 2009

Facebook provides an emergency solution

It has been one of those weeks! It's never fun being between a rock and hard place - but I guess that, at times, it goes with the territory. Having made the relatively straight-forward decision to close the school on Monday and Tuesday, I was faced with an overnight 3" snowfall and a dilemma whether or not to close our doors again this morning. Having been told that the buses would run, encouraged by an improving weather forecast and empowered by a blitz spirit to make the best of the day, I decided that we should open - only to discover that the School Website had crashed.

One of the problems of technology is that one comes to rely on it. So we resorted to "old technology": the jungle drums beat, the phones rang and we did our best to let everyone know that we were open. However, the website remained down [a technical fault beyond our control!] and it was clear that we needed an effective way of communicating with pupils and parents.

That solution was to create a Facebook group for the school. Staff were informed of its existence by email, a handful of pupils were told over lunch.

It has been a fascinating study in viral behaviour. It began with a trickle of staff joining the group; but the exponential power of Facebook took off from about 5:00pm when the first pupils made it home. Friends, inviting friends, inviting friends: ten pupils have joined the group in the past minute. 150 pupils have joined the group in the time that it has taken to write this blog post.

We are on course for over half of our school community to have joined the group by 6:00 a.m. when I have to make a call about whether or not school will be open tomorrow.

Update the next morning:

The school is closed - Facebook provided an excellent emergency communication network.
The growth of the group was as follows:
1545 38 members
1645 80
1745 170
1815 262
1845 337
1945 444
2030 501
2115 531
0630 600
0815 683
0945 722
1045 760
Today we are closed, so the teachers are using Facebook 'Discussion Posts' to set work for pupils. Not a perfect system, but an effective solution to an emergency situation.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote this up to emphasize the problems of Facebook being used as a communication tool and thought you'd like to see the case in point -
    I don't think a 'solution' exists yet, but a debate must be had..