Friday, May 12, 2006

School Communications

In the past couple of years I have had the hair-pulling experience of having to deal with email attachments that come from schools. My wife is a teacher and my sons high school students but this phenomenon started when they were in elementary school.

Let me tell you why schools make parents (and fellow teachers and administrators) nuts.

For some reason, school secretaries have decided that Microsoft products are the best way to communicate. So they send the Word document based on the latest, greatest school version of Word, say, Word 2006. The trouble is that most parents and students haven't yet "upgraded" to that version so the student or parent can't read the file. That is, unless they know where to get a special reader or go out and spend hundreds of dollars on the upgrade.

But wait, even assuming you can read the file, Word email attachments are notorious for carrrying viruses and malicious stuff in them. And schools are great places to launch such things. So many saavy parents won't let such attachments be open out of fear that the computer itself is compromised.

The best way for schools to send attachments is by PDF file, a much safer alternative, for reading files.

Unfortunately, the State Department of Education often sends PDF files that have to be filled in with data. Without a PDF editor this is a nightmarish experience.

The recommendation I continue to make despite it falling on deaf ears is to send documents to be read only as PDF files. All others should be OpenOffice documents.

Why? Because OpenOffice is freely downloadable to the school, the parents, and the teachers. And, generally speaking, a less risky medium than Word.

Is anyone listening?


Chris Lehmann said...

I'm all for the old fashioned way... just put the text into the message.

Why do so many people think that downloading a document that just contains text is better then sending the text in the email?

And yes, school folks are particularly guilty of this.


Tom Hoffman said...

What amazes me is when attachments are used when just some text in the body of the email would be sufficient.