When some teachers in the Harrison County Public Schools wanted to start blogs to communicate with students and parents a few years ago, nobody imagined that it might turn out to be something big.
But that changed after Melissa Shepard, the schools' technical coordinator, came across a computer program that made it simple for the teachers to set up their own blogs on the district's central server.
In 2006, Shepard began training small groups of teachers in how to create blogs and they were soon blogging away. Other teachers joined in. Then, Roy Woodward, who was the Harrison County school superintendent at the time, made it mandatory for every teacher in the district to have a blog.
Now, Harrison County teachers from elementary through high schools use blogs every day to distribute classroom assignments and information, communicate with parents, post exercises for students to complete online and countless other purposes.
"We have a French teacher at the high school who even uses her blog to communicate with a teacher in France, and their students are communicating back and forth using the French language," Shepard said. "I honestly don't think we expected anything like this."
On Friday, the Kentucky School Boards Association presented the Harrison County Schools with its PEAK (Public Education Achieves in Kentucky) Award in recognition of the district's use of blogging to combine "cutting-edge technology, students' inquisitiveness and parents' desire to know what's going on during the school week."
Shepard said all principals and assistant principals in the school district now have blogs, as do all librarians, sports department members, central office staffers and parent-teacher organizations.
"At first, teachers just wanted a way to keep parents and students informed about what was going on in the classrooms, but now they're doing a lot more," Shepard said. "Blogs provide two-way communication. Parents can communicate with teachers Students can answer questions. Teachers can do surveys through the blogs.
"They've really changed everything that we do."