New website for Unit 4

I have been invited to beta test the new website that Unit 4 is currently polishing in anticipation for the “big reveal” in the very near future.

There are a number of goodies and characteristics that help launch the school district’s web presence into the modern times. A majority of my comments in this post are going to be positive; I have submitted constructive criticisms already and we will see what Unit 4 will do with them.

  • Search: You can now simply search for keywords without having to go to google first. Very handy! 🙂
  • More navigation options; aside from Search and a couple more menu items to navigate from, the sitemap is now located at the bottom of every single page (easy to miss if you don’t scroll down)
  • Schools are now plotted via google maps
  • New directory mechanism that provides contact information and a brief profile (including space for a picture), with its own search and filtering buttons. Also very handy.
  • RSS feed for the “News” page
  • New Calendar system – filters allow one to see individual schools in addition to the district. I have asked if has an open/public API
  • Twitter feed right on the front page

It looks and feels like a fresh website. There are still some minor things they are working out (ie, content), and I have asked questions about navigation.

Once it opens up in the near future, I would be curious to hear what you all think.

Highlighting some Unit 4 news

Unashamedly unoriginal

First, I was amazed (in a good way) that Unit 4 is offering free food to any child under 18 years of age. Wow! Don’t believe me, go read the announcement. I know of at least two families that could benefit from this, and I think it is a wonderful way for the community to reach out and help families in need. Especially given all the doom & gloom economic news. It is cool how the food is being offered at not only a couple schools, but also some local churches and outreach centers.

In a completely different direction, Unit 4 points to a Channel 17 news story about Barkstall making AYP (one of the few). I have not listened/watched the entire segment, but what I did observe is that those at Barkstall believe it is the environment and the “culture” of Barkstall that is the key factor. Interesting take overall – my own thoughts about standardized tests are not private. Dr. Alves would have us believe that we should use Barkstall as a role-model and attempt to “raise up” the other schools. I am thinking that is not going to happen. AYP is a slipperly slope, in my opinion. But nonetheless, I am glad for Barkstall and their current notoriety.

Lynn Peisker continues to publish lots of goodies to the Unit 4 website, including her weekly news. I have asked her about RSS feeds, and I dearly hope the Unit 4 IT folks can implement that soon – would be a big help for those of us that are online often and consume news in that fashion.