The Best $25 Your School will Spend this Year

Of course I’m talking about a Flickr Pro Account. Flickr has to be the one website that I would say is definitly worth the $25 you’ll spend and can benefit every teacher in the school. There is no way, I don’t care how big or small your school is that for $25 you can create, maintain, and support: Unlimited uploads and storage Unlimited sets and collections Access to your original files That word unlimited is where it’s worth its weight in gold. We’re in our second year of using Flickr here at ISB and we’ve found it so useful that we bought three accounts one for the Elementary, Middle School, and High School. Yes, that’s right we’ve spend a whopping $75 just to keep the levels separate. Of course the elementary teachers are using it the most and training them to create a set using their name was easy….much easier than teaching them how to resize a photo for their blog or newsletter. But of course that’s not all you get with Flickr. Once the pictures are on the web you can then push them out to any website you want using their embeddable slideshow. So for example you can have the latest pictures from PreK filing your website. In the Elementary each grade level team has created a set called “Grade Level Slideshow” any pictures put in this set when uploaded end up in the slide shows they have embedded on their class blogs. Some teachers have done this just for their class as well. And if unlimited space, and the ability to show photos in numerous ways on numerous web pages isn’t enough for you. How about allowing parent access to download the size and quality of picture they want to keep. Parents can access the pictures and download them to their computer for safe keeping. No longer do you the teacher have to send home a CD of pictures for the year. The parents are now in control of that throughout the school year and only keep the pictures they want. Know Your School Rules:Of course right away if you visit our Flickr accounts above you’ll notice we have all our pictures open to the public and we show student faces. If teachers are following the rules you shouldn’t find any names however. This of course leads to understanding and knowing your school rules for picture...

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The Stick turns 3!

I told this story as my 10 minute TED talk at Learning 2.008. As September 19th was The Stick’s 3 year anniversary. The Thinking Stick turned 3 a few days ago and it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 3 years since I installed WordPress and just started writing. As I started looking back through those first posts I started thinking about the journey that this blog has taken me on. My first blog post was about a 5th grade classroom called the Polar Bear Class. The website no longer exists but this was my beginning into blogging. Talking about a class that was creating there own website. The website was not another subject, but was just what they did. It was apart of their classroom, it was a part of their learning. My first comment came on post #10. Made by a good friend who at the time was teaching in Dubai. It was at that moment that I realized people where reading, even if only my friends….people were reading. Post #14 Titled: Microwave Popcorn. One of the great first posts. Those of you that blog you know this post. The one that is going to get lots of comments. The post that will make people want to write, want to respond, want to engage in a discussion. The post talks about how technology works it’s way into our daily lives. How in 1982 I remember my father driving a combine in the Palouse all summer to save enough money to buy our first microwave and how today it is a part of every kitchen. My wife and I just moved to Bangkok, Thailand and our first major purchase…..a microwave. The post was great, well written, well scripted. Guess how many comments……0! Post #21 The Stick gets its first comment that is not from my friend Reece. The comment was left by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Little did I know at that time that Sheryl would become part of my learning network and over the next three years I would learn more from her about building virtual communities on the web than from anyone else. You see, The Stick was the start of our connection. Post #25 I recieve my second comment from someone other than my friend Reece. This one left by Dean Shareski. My favorite part of the comment was this: PS. Did you know your flickr zietgiest...

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Communicating from the classroom

As a technology person you don’t always get to decide where you are going to start with teachers. In fact, most of the time the teachers tell you where you are going to start. Hence my focus on parent communication. Many teachers are looking at using blogs as a way to communicate with their parent communities. Now, before I go any further I say they “use blogs” but that doesn’t mean they are blogging. I do believe there is a difference. Teachers find the ease of which you can setup a web site and post new content using a blogging program simple and straight forward. So blogging and using a blogging program as a website…are to different things. I do believe, however, that you can start using the blogging software as a website for communication and as you get comfortable with how it works, how to create conversations, and how students/parents can and will respond that you can move from a blog as a website to a blog as an actual blog…..does that make sense? I saw teachers make this transition at SAS: kpower, spower, adecardy just to name three who starting out using a blogging platform and ended up blogging. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been working with the 1st grade team here at ISB in creating a portal for their parents. Vu, the technology leader, has really embraced the digital tools with the rest of the 1st grade team. They use a Google Doc to plan their meetings, and a blog to communicate with parents. We talk about making it easy for teachers to use these tools so when I walked into Vu’s room the first day and he told me what he wanted to do I said: “OK, we can do that….and what if we can do it all from your desktop? You, and the team, won’t have to remember passwords, or sites….you can just put content where you want it.” Needless to say the Smartones are off and running! So here’s the setup on the first grade teacher laptops. ScribeFire: Still my favorite client for blogging. It’s simple, straight forward and teachers pick it up quickly. I showed Vu how to install it and connect to the blog and he helped the rest of the team get theirs set up. Google Calendar Sync with iCal: This is different than just subscribing to a...

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Parent Communication: From Print to Digital

Over the last couple of years I have helped numerous teachers set up blogs, wikis, and just plain old html pages to be used to communicate with parents. As some point teachers always ask: “So, I can just copy and paste my newsletter right here?” You can, but you shouldn’t Newsletters do not transfer well to the web. Well, as in the amount of information people expect and will pay attention to in digital form. For example: Most parent newsletters are two pages long (or front and back). Parents will read a two page newsletter that comes home in the Friday folder, but they won’t scroll for two pages worth of information on a single web page. You’ve seen those web pages….the ones that seem to go on forever and you know that feeling you get when you see those pages thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time to read all that!” Starting a digital communication site for parents will also mean rethinking how you post information. Many teachers are finding blogs to be a great tool for creating such a site. Easy to use, easy to update, and looks pretty. The three things every teacher looks for in a web site. 🙂 So, how do you change your communication style when you move from print communication to digital communication? 1. Shorter is betterThink about the length of your posts. I’m not saying that you need to leave stuff out. But don’t include math, reading, writing, science and social studies all in the same post or on the same page. 2. Increased FrequencyWe expect digital print not only to be shorter but to be updated more frequently. So think of it this way. Don’t write about all subjects in one post, or even in one day. Do shorter posting over multiple days. For example: Reading report on Monday, Update on Math on Wednesday, Weekly reflection on Friday. Instead of giving parents all the information in one long sitting. Give it to them in shorter more frequent bursts over time. Many teachers also find this easier then having to write the complete newsletter in one day. Take a bit of time every day will make those newsletter blues slowly disappear (I can still remember doing my newsletters during library time. Frantically trying to create and print the whole newsletter in 45 minutes). 3. Images, Images, ImagesParents like nothing more than...

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Three Gems for the day

I use to look over people’s blogs that had del.icio.us post linking to all the things they bookmarked that day. I use to think that this was a waste of my time, that those links are just links. Then I actually started reading some. Which lead to clicking on some. Which now has me waiting for people like Dean and Tim to post their next round. The great part is I know I don’t have to read them everyday. I wait until I have five or six days worth of links from Dean and Tim and then I go at it clicking and opening tabs. Basically I’m using Dean and Tim to be my search engine of great educational and technology links. I let them do the leg work and I just sit back and reap the benefits of two guys who love to bookmark sites they find…thanks guys! Of course I do it as well using Diigo. You can find my daily links (many of them the same…but not always) on my U Tech Tips blog. In fact, you could sign up for the newsletter there and each Friday find all my great links for the week in a newsletter in your e-mail box…or grab the RSS. It’s up to you! So that leads me to my first gem of the day from Tim. It’s called Simple CC flickr Search (Thanks Tim for the link). Basically it searches flickr for Creative Commons photos. But the cool part comes when you click on a photo. It gives you the embed code with the appropriate Creative Commons attribution. So the above photo looks like this with a simple copy and paste. Photo by phitar Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License Now that’s pretty cool! It will even left or right align it for you and you can choose a small or large picture. You never have to worry about attributions again! (On flickr photos anyway 😉 ) The Second gem comes from a good friend, Alicia Lewis, who I worked with in Saudi Arabia and is now a consultant for Rubicon Atlas. My last three school’s all used Rubicon and now they have a podcast. Might be helpful if you are implementing curriculum mapping and Rubicon Atlas in your school. And finally from Will’s blog comes this must watch TED video about the next 5000 days. Use it all by itself as a PD...

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