I was working for a Head Start organization at the time of the 39th Annual National Head Start Association Conference in Quality Assurance. One of my job duties was to research problems within the organization and provide feedback on how to correct those problems so that the program would be of higher quality. My boss and I quickly realized that communication between our centers was a problem, since we were completely spread out over 11 locations and two counties within a major metropolitan city.
Trying to drive to all the centers wasted too much time. Conference calls were hard to coordinate and even if everyone could be on the conference call, many of them felt it hard to participate since they couldn’t see the presentations and sometimes had difficulty hearing. Plus we were in the field (i.e. at preschools) a lot and needed to update data on-site in real time.
We (my boss and I) developed a talk that helped to correct these issues, presenting a talk entitled Enhancing Program Quality: Using Technology to Assess Data and Communicate Efficiently.
We discussed various technology tools that helped made our lives easier, figuring that other agencies may be running into a similar predicament.
Some of the Google products we discussed were the Google Calendar, Google Documents (now called Google Drive), and Blogger (while simultaneously showing WordPress).
When we used our calendars at work, we realized that we had to be on a work computer in order to update and to check them. This was nearly impossible though if we were out in the field visiting a preschool. So Google Calendar was a great solution. Since many people have smart phones today, we could easily log on using our smart phones and update the calendar as to where we are and what we’re doing, as well as see what other colleagues are doing so we know how to reach them. Everything can be color coded as well, so if you want to put different people in different colors, have a particular color for meetings or specific school locations or vacations–it’s all possible and is rather intuitive.
Google Drive is a place where you can go and upload documents. This was extremely important for us, because it allows the users to update data in real time. Moreover, you can check to see who the last person was who updated data and when they did that, so it was easy to determine how new/relevant/complete the data was. Moreover it’s secure, as a password is required in order to log in and the person running the drive can determine who has access to the drive (and can add or remove people whenever they choose to do so).
Then we described how using blogs (through Blogger or WordPress) could be beneficial for the agency to self-promote itself to the parents, teachers, and the world about the great work that they’re doing. We also described how we used it as another medium, much like Facebook or Twitter, to inform parents about school closings or delays.
In addition to Google products, we also introduced the audience to Ustream, which is like Youtube, except that you can record for however many minutes you need to (while Youtube limits you to under 15 minutes of recording time per clip). We used this in trainings, so that if someone missed a training, it would be recorded live and they could go back and view it whenever they wanted. However, we also used it on conference calls, so people that were in another location could see us live, as we presented the material and therefore be more of a participant. This is tremendous, because now audience members could participate with us, watching us actually give the presentation rather than just hearing it on the phone. Naturally we had to grant them access, but that is easy to do once you read a little about Ustream and how it works.
We also realized that with conference calls, people often felt leftout. That they weren’t getting the same experience as being in the room, and let’s be honest, often did other tasks (i.e. playing with email) while on the conference call. Well now we had a solution. Since our centers were so spread out and not everyone could make it to the meeting place, we actually saved the company money (in not having to pay for people to waste gas), while saving the employees time (on not having to commute back and forth and therefore stay at their center in case they were urgently needed), while making them feel like a participant by introducing them to join me. Join.me is a free site that allows you to do two things: screen share and conference call. So by signing up, they send you a “phone number” that you then pass along to anyone that you want to join the meeting (i.e. email the phone number to the participants). Then they click on the link and they are a part of join me, where you can talk to them and they can see your screen–so as you move through your presentation, they can follow along, seeing all the visuals, and hearing everything you (and others) say during the conference call.