Building whole school communication webinar – the debrief

A picture of a trilby hat, cup of tea and laptop showing the RGS Worcester Remote Learning Panel Event

“Wow, what a webinar!” were the words I spoke out loud after pressing the end button on our very successful webinar. The scheduled hour had flown by and we’d got nowhere near delivering the content I had prepared. I say we, because I was joined by a fantastic panel of TrilbyTV education customers representing Primary, Secondary, Independent and FE schools. I didn’t want the webinar to be just me sharing my thoughts, I wanted those entrenched in education every day to be sharing real strategies and content ideas.

Why has historical digital signage lacked impact?

I started by asking our panel why they thought digital signage in education had historically lacked impact? TrilbyTV was originally developed from our previous experiences as education trainers, sitting in school receptions looking at digital signage screens turned off or playing uninspiring content.

So it was great to garner such honest feedback from the panel with Dan Oakes telling us that previous solutions seemed archaic. So much so that staff gave up meaning content stopped being updated, noticed, and then eventually screens being turned off. Feedback from John Jones was really thought provoking, highlighting that historical digital signage predated the more recent technological revolution. It’s only in the last 10 years that the creation of digital content has accelerated because of tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad. It’s a great point that maybe now more than ever, education is ready for sharing and showcasing and building whole school communication.

Considerations for a digital signage project?

We moved onto thinking about considerations for a successful digital signage project. Our years of delivering Vision and Plan training for Apple and writing Google’s Transformational Planning workshop taught us the importance of having structure and a plan. So I was keen to find out from the panel what key things they thought need to be in place to grow whole school communication successfully.

A lightbulb icon on a digital signage screen

Dan representing Primary talked about the importance of well thought out and regular training as well as the need for a simple to use digital signage platform. Gavin from Clevedon Secondary School stressed the need to have the right stakeholders in place to support such a project and growing those stakeholders over time. He also explained the need for guidance around content so that screens are not full of text when viewers only have seconds to engage. With over 30 screens in place, John Jones from RGS Worcester group of schools, talked about the need to monitor the quality of content and to check for spelling mistakes. We also talked about the need to think about where screens are located, who your audience is in those locations and being mindful of the time they have to ingest the content. With Chris from Portsmouth College, I talked about hardware and the need to take remote controls out of the equation. They use smart plugs to time screens on and off, meaning it’s no one’s job to do this manually and screens always come on, ready to be showing great content.

A picture of a smart plug

Hardware definitely needs to be a consideration and there will always be the balance between consumer and commercial devices usually coming down to costs and budget. Of course, we designed TrilbyTV to work across all platforms so many of our education customers use low cost devices, like an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Chris talked about the marketing department at Portsmouth College seizing the opportunity to order such a device having it delivered the next day, set up within minutes and being used to promote a student open evening. Ease of use and set up definitely should come into your considerations. Again this was fantastic input from the panel and I also promoted our ‘5 considerations for digital signage’ PDF that can be downloaded from the TrilbyTV website full of useful ideas and tips to start your digital signage journey.

Where, when and who?

I was then excited to explore with the panel, content ideas for different screen locations. We started with the traditional screen in reception which for me is all about impact and promoting your fantastic school or college. A point backed up by Dan who talked about local competition from other schools around him being fierce, consisting of four other primary schools and one academy school. Dan’s reception screen is all about beaming out why you should choose ‘St Barts’ showing the schools branded vision and values slides as well as videos made by the pupils to reinforce the values. Pupil voice and ownership is something we have always been keen to promote and a key reason we developed TrilbyTV. One of my favourite examples of content from the webinar was the Alumni slides from Clevedon. All part of boosting the drive of the students who were attending 6th form and also inspiring Year 11 students who are new to the school. Not rocket science as I said in the webinar but a great idea with lots of impact.

A picture of two teachers on a staff board slide at Clevedon

With John, I talked about the importance of brand at the RGS group of schools. John promoted the TrilbyTV Twitter feeds as one of his favorite features and a great way to promote the RGS brand and messaging in a very easy way. Once a Twitter feed is added, content can be updated on the screens almost instantly and from anywhere. It’s certainly one of my favorite TrilbyTV features and perfect for digital signage. Remember digital signage is an art and all about gaining viewer interest. With a small amount of text mixed in with rich content and animations our Twitter feeds feature is perfect for this. At Portsmouth College, there is currently no screen in the reception area so we moved on nicely to discuss content ideas for the staff room. Chris talked about the ‘We are amazing teachers’ slides used as staff returned from a Covid-19 lockdown and how the focus was all about building a positive community at a time of uncertainty. Using the TrilbyTV ‘Announcements’ feature, this simple slide made with Adobe’s Spark Post App was also beamed to all screens around the college as a calming and mindful reminder. Chris highlighted how he felt this had been the single most powerful use of digital signage for creating community at the college so far.

A slide from Portsmouth College's digital signage saying 'we are amazing teachers, you've got this' with a picture of the college in front of a sunset

In the staff room at RGS Worcester, they use the @AppleSupprt Twitter feed as a lightweight CPD mechanism. The school has a 1:1 iPad roll out so this is a great way to remind staff about the technology journey they are on as well as providing useful tips and ideas for the classroom. The staff room is also a great place to share best practice and with Dan and Gavin, I wanted to ask if it created competition between staff and even between schools? They both absolutely agreed and at Clevedon School, Gavin uses the staff room screen to post Apple Teacher certification results and congratulation messages. These results are also aligned to house competition points so there is fun pressure from the students for teachers to gain their certification and again this is all promoted and celebrated on the screen in the staff room. Dan also talked about the competition aspect, highlighting how, if a piece of work appears on the screen from Year 3 and a Year 4 teacher sees this, then it gives them further appetite to have their class content shared as well. Dan also talked about how showcasing examples of teaching practice cements what he is asking his teachers to deliver at times.

An Apple Trained Educator congratulations slide with an iPad and a laptop

Ongoing impact from digital signage

And just like that, time had flown by. We were five minutes from the end of the webinar with only half of our prepared content covered. That’s how fantastic the conversations had been and so to wrap up I asked the panel what outcomes they were seeing from their whole school communication? Dan talked about using TrilbyTV to promote a world outside of Wootton Bassett where the school is located. Gavin focused on the buzz his screens help create for Clevedon School’s amazing house competitions, such as the yearly house darts tournament. Personally, I don’t know of any school that runs house competitions like Clevedon School and what a great way to advertise them. John highlighted sharing success and building a strong community at RGS, and Chris finished with giving students ownership of their digital signage to promote focuses such as mindfulness and well being.

A fantastic webinar all round, with some great strategies discussed and content ideas suggested. The video recording of the webinar can be found here and The Padlet Wall here includes content examples to download and view, as well as a digital signage plan document kindly shared by the amazing team at Shirelands Collegiate Academies Trust.

As we didn’t get to discuss all of the topics, we’ll be running another webinar soon covering other uses for signage in schools like live streams! So keep an eye out for that, but in the meantime, what are you waiting for? Start building your ‘Whole School Communication’ project today and of course get in touch with TrilbyTV – the #1 Digital Signage Platform MADE for Education 🙂

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