Communications and Community in School
Schools are not just a room with a roof where students go to take steps – for these young scholars, school is their entire world. School is not an avenue in which one-way information dissemination takes place. Schools have a huge impact on our personalities, outlook and often are the foundation of our future selves.
Schools thus play a key role in shaping who we are. A large portion of this is done through the sense of community a school builds. With multiple moving parts, stakeholders, and new crises every day, this community-building aspect of the school to student relationship often takes last priority. Communications is not given much thought even though it is the very tool by which this community is built.
What does this look like in our schools?
It looks like lacklustre efforts towards outreach, ineffective community building attempts, and an overall missing sense of camaraderie between schools. Once students graduate this looks like a lack of loyalty or that missing school spirit. A sad turn of affairs to be sure.
What would successful communications look like instead? It would be outreach that is relevant, personalised and engaging. These are not anonymous notes tacked up on a bulletin board that everyone ends up ignoring. Nor are they monotonous school announcements that just become white noise over the course of the school year. Instead, they are dynamic, engaging and meaningful to students, making them feel more than just cogs in the educational machine.
Effective communications results in a sense of well-being and belonging for each student – whether it’s because they have received information that is helpful to them in their scholarly pursuits or they have finally discovered a community or hobby group that makes them feel at home.
What is traditional signage?
You have seen signage all your life, even if you do not realise it. In your school, this would look like a poster for the annual day put upon the public bulletin board. It’s the weekly schedule put up in your classroom pinboard that informed students about what subject periods were coming up next. It could be a sign-up sheet for the school play.
What is digital signage?
Very simply put, digital signage is this very form of communication, but in digital form using newer technology. Digital signage can be a screen that displays text, videos, a slideshow, dynamic announcements or even something more interactive, using newer tools like touchscreen and voice recognition. Schools are only limited by technological capabilities.
Why do we need digital signage? Isn’t traditional signage enough?
With the advent of newer technologies, engagement with a viewer has completely revolutionised. Studies show that traditional methods (such as a chart paper announcement for an upcoming school debate) do not seem to resonate with students as much – leaving efforts in building a school community go to waste.
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What are the advantages of digital signage in schools?
1. Dynamic Design
Digital signage can be infinitely more dynamic than static traditional signage simply by virtue of how it works. A presentation with dynamic characters, video, and viewer interaction is likely to create a lasting impact, unlike something boring that students would just end up ignoring.
2. Long lasting
Unlike the wear and tear traditional paper signage naturally go through, digital signage lasts as long as the lights are on and the bills are paid. There is no wear and tear of the actual material in digital signage and their shelf life is quite long.
3. Environmentally friendly and cost-effective
Unlike paper signs that can rarely be reused and involve a lot of overheads and wastage, digital signage doesn’t rely on a finite resource like paper or trees for raw material. Digital signage is a one-time investment that can be used over and over for a variety of purposes. No need to tear down and throw away traditional signage every time it is no longer relevant – instead just play the next video.
4. More Visually Impactful
Research shows us that the younger generation is no longer engaged by traditional pen and paper. Instead, visuals like photos and videos are more likely to capture their imagination. It does not just end with their interest, however. What also matters is the recall of the content they have just consumed – which is most definitely better with dynamic digital signage rather than traditional methods.
5. Builds student skills
It cannot be denied that we are firmly living in a digital world. Computers and how to really use them are no longer just an option in the workplace. And what is a school doing but prep its scholars for the working world? Digital signage in schools gives students an opportunity to experiment and create information that must be effectively communicated to their peers. It helps them understand not just the creative process, but also the technical methodologies of information communication. These are invaluable skills every scholar must acquire as soon as possible. So why not start them off young with digital signage?
6. Creates business opportunities
Schools have a captive audience of young thinkers and trendsetters that a lot of businesses are eager to capture. Digital signage can also become a revenue source for an educational institution. Partnering with brands and services to display their content on school digital signage would be a low hanging fruit for funding that schools can easily capture. A word of caution here: while the potential for funding here is high, schools have an ethical responsibility to ensure that the content they allow on the school campus is useful, relevant and not exploitative of their charges. For example, advertising sugary soda to a young population that is still learning how to build nutritious eating habits is unethical. However, advertising external tutoring support or one-on-one counselling services available locally to students who might be seeking that kind of mentorship and support is useful. Monetising digital signage in schools is all about walking that fine line well.