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Monday, August 18, 2008

Increasing Teacher-Parent Communication. Part III: Widgets and More

In the first two parts of this three part series about increasing teacher-parent communication we looked at creating blogs and websites as a means of sharing information with parents. In this segment we will look at how to make those blogs and websites better through file hosting services and content creation widgets.

Using a file hosting service and linking to it or integrating it into your blog or website is a great way to make large files available online. These files could be large documents like school or classroom policies or a video or an audio recording. Speaking of audio files one file hosting service, Dropio, makes it very easy to create audio files using your telephone.

Adding a content widget from a third party is an easy way to add interesting information to your class blog or website. Many popular websites like CNN, Reuters, and Digg provide free content widgets. Some widgets like Digg's allow you customize the type of content delivered and displayed on your website. If you scroll to the bottom of the front page of Free Technology For Teachers you can see an example of a Digg widget in action. Putting a content widget on your website or blog can be one way to keep parents and students staying on your website longer and coming back more often than they otherwise might. Digg's content widget will even allow users to specify that only stories related to education are displayed on your blog.

File Hosting and Sharing Services for Education
Scribd is a free service that makes it possible for users to host or embed any type of large document. Using Scribd you can take any document, a copy of your course curriculum for example, and embed it into your blog. Alternatively you could post a link to the url of your document as it is hosted on Scribd. The other outstanding feature of Scribd is the option of having visitors comment on the documents you create. Scroll down to the bottom of this blog post to view a short video introduction to Scribd.

File Dropper
is a very simple free service for hosting and sharing large files. In two steps you can have your files uploaded and shared on your blog or website. Simply upload your file to File Dropper, File Dropper gives your file a specific url, then you can share the link on your website or via email.

Drop.io is my favorite free service for sharing files on the Internet. Drop.io allows users to create a custom url for sharing files. Once you've created your custom url you can add as many files as you like up to 100mb. Drop.io provides each custom url with an upload widget that can be placed on your blog or website. Place that upload widget on your class blog and students can upload their homework assignments to the url you've created. Using that upload widget is a great way to collect homework assignments electronically without clogging up your email inbox. Beyond hosting your files Drop.io can help you create content. Each custom url is assigned a phone number which you can call to record a voice message to be played on the Internet. Scroll down for a video introduction to Drop.io created by Allen Stern of Center Networks.

Here is a video introduction to Drop.io.


This is a video introduction to Scribd.


There are other file hosting and sharing services available for free. The ones I've mentioned above are those that I've used with my classes. If you have a free file hosting service that you've used with your classes, please leave a comment and let us know about it.

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