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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

5 Posts to Jumpstart Your Classroom Blog

The arrival of August always makes me think about the first few weeks of school. Using their blogs more consistently is one of the things that many teachers will be doing as the new school year begins. It can be a challenge to get parents to check classroom blogs consistently. One of the ways that you can get them into the habit is to provide them with information that they will find valuable. Here are five things you can blog about early in the school year to provide value to your students' parents when they visit your classroom blog.

1. How to supervise your child's web use at home.
2. Privacy settings on school-provided laptops/ Chromebooks/ iPads/ tablets. Consider adding a PDF of screenshots illustrating those settings.
3. Tasty and healthy snacks to send to school with your child (Pinterest is a great source for ideas, just make sure you give proper attribution).
4. How to talk to kids about bullying.
5. A glossary of Tween/ teen slang vocabulary.

My upcoming course, Classroom Blog Jumpstart, will cover topics like this one and many more. The course begins on August 17th.  Click here to learn more about the course. 

How to Create Diigo Groups

A couple of weeks ago Diigo introduced the option to play videos within Diigo groups. Since then I have had a couple of folks ask about creating groups within Diigo. The video embedded below provides an overview of how to create a Diigo group.


Applications for Education
Diigo groups provide a good place to share resources with students and have them share with you and each other. Diigo groups can be private. I ask students to add notes to the links that they share in a group. Those notes should provide the rest of the group with an explanation of why the link is useful.

For more information about Diigo take a look at Beth Holland's post on using the Diigo Outliner tool. Click here for a tutorial on using Diigo in Firefox.

WixED Teaches You How to Build a Website...on Wix

Wix is a popular DIY website creation tool. They claim to have more than 63 million registered users (source: CrunchBase). To help those 63 million users and anyone else who wants to build a website, last month Wix launched WixEd.

WixEd is a free online course all about building and maintain a website through Wix. The course has three sections, but first section is the only section teachers will need. The other two sections are about ecommerce and business development through websites. Each section of the course is comprised of a series of short videos followed by "homework" assignments.

Applications for Education
WixEd is clearly focused on business customers, but some teachers may find it helpful as they try to create classroom websites.

Put a Planetarium in Your Web Browser

Planetarium by Neave Interactive is a website on which you can specify your current location and it will show you a map of the night sky based upon your location and the date. You can also use Planetarium without specifying your location and instead explore the night sky from any place on Earth. For Google Chrome users, Planetarium offers a Chrome Web App that you can add to your browser.

Applications for Education
Planetarium could be an excellent website and Chrome App to use in lessons about astronomy. Students can compare the constellations they see at home with those of people in other parts of the world at the same time. When students place their cursors over a star in the virtual planetarium they can see the star's name and the name of constellation that it belongs to.

Monday, August 3, 2015

SimplyCircle Helps You Organize Communication With Parents

Last year I featured a school-to-parent communication service called SchoolCircle. Over the summer SchoolCircle changed its name to SimplyCircle and added some helpful new features.

At its core SimplyCircle is a free service that is designed to help elementary school teachers organize communication to the parents of their students. SimplyCircle offers many of the features of Google+ Communities without the need for parents to join Google+.

Through SimplyCircle you can create an online community for parents of students in your classroom. You can use SimplyCircle to send messages, organize tasks for parent-volunteers, and post updates about things happening in your classroom and in your school. Parents don't have to sign into SimplyCircle daily because you can choose to send a daily digest of updates to their email addresses.

Just in time for the new school year SimplyCircle added some new features included an integrated calendar that teachers can use to plan and organize events for multiple groups in one place. SimplyCircle added a one-click volunteer sign-up function. The volunteer function includes the option to send reminders and details about volunteer responsibilities. And you can now send individual messages to parents instead of just group messages.

Learn more about SimplyCircle in the video embedded below.

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