Ann Arbor’s public schools are thinking like the web

As I review and improve the elmcity hubs in selected cities, I am again reminded of William Gibson’s wonderful aphorism: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Yesterday we saw that the future of community calendars hasn’t yet arrived at the University of Michigan. But today I was delighted to see that it has arrived, in a big way, for the Ann Arbor public schools. Almost all of them, it turns out, are making good use of Google Calendar to publish machine-readable calendar information. This morning I rounded up thirty of those calendars and added them to Ann Arbor’s elmcity hub, bringing the total number of feeds from 194 to 224.

Here’s the breakdown of the 309 events from the grade schools:

Abbot Elementary 8
Allen Elementary 13
Angell Elementary 7
Bryant Elementary 29
Dicken Elementary 118
Eberwhite Elementary 19
Haisley Elementary 25
Mitchell Elementary 23
MLK Elementary 12
Pittsfield Elementary 5

And the 322 events from the middle schools:

Clague Middle School 28
Forsythe Middle School 71
Scarlett Middle School 15
Slauson Middle School 181
Tappan Middle School 33

And the 966 events from the high schools:

Community High School 67
Huron High School 396
Pioneer High School 294
Skyline High School 210

Among grade schools, Slauson is notable not only for the number of events but for the exemplary self-categorization applied to them. When you click the Google Calendar subscribe button on the Slauson calendar page here’s what you’ll see:

This is a best practice I wish everyone would adopt. It illustrates the seventh of my seven ways to think like the web: #7: Reuse components and services. The Slauson calendar is both a user of other services (the district-wide calendars) and a provider of services. And as a provider, it understands the idea of componentization. In an era of abundance it costs no more to create and manage a dozen calendars, using free services like Google Calendar and Hotmail Calendar, than to jam everything into a single calendar. The benefits are manifold. They include:

Delegation

In most schools and businesses, maintenance of “the” public calendar is one person’s job. That person becomes a bottleneck. When you recognize that logically there isn’t one public calendar, but instead several or many, each with its own appropriate maintainer, then you can break that bottleneck.

Precision

A parent who subscribes to a single undifferentiated school calendar may be overwhelmed by the flow. Parents of kids who are in music programs, or on sports teams, or who are going on the Chicago trip, should be able to focus on those activities.

Scope

Slauson Middle School is part of the larger Ann Arbor community. When Slauson’s calendars are self-categorized, they can align with community-wide views. Here’s a picture of some sports-related activites in Ann Arbor on November 17th:

Slauson’s publication of a set of self-categorized machine-readable calendar feeds enables it to represent its sports activities on a city-wide timeline that includes, in this particular view, events from the Ann Arbor Triathlon Club, the Wolverines basketball teams, and Ann Arbor’s kickball Meetup group.

Well done Slauson! And kudos to all the Ann Arbor public schools. You have become web thinkers. I hope schools everywhere will learn from your example.

11 thoughts on “Ann Arbor’s public schools are thinking like the web

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