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Monday, July 27, 2009

Schoonoodle - Content For Teachers by Teachers

Schoonoodle is a new website for K-12 teachers that is part lesson plan depot and part social bookmarking service. The intent of Schoonoodle is to be a place where teachers can find lesson plans and other resources that align to state standards. To build this collection of standards-aligned resources whenever teachers submit a new website they can fill in a form explaining which standards that resource aligns to.

The concept is a good one, but unfortunately I did not see any bookmarklet or browser add-on to make it easy to submit a site to Schoonoodle. Instead you have to manually enter the website's url into the Schoonoodle form.

Applications for Education
Schoonoodle could become a good place for teachers to find and share lesson plans and web-based resources. The idea of aligning each submission to state standards is a good one as it could make searching for lesson plans more efficient than just a topic-based search.

Yale Open Courses Added to iTunes

Last week I posted a link to Open Culture's collection of free college courses and lectures available in audio and video. Yesterday, Open Culture updated that collection to include fifteen free open courses from Yale. You can also find the Yale Open Courses on Yale's website or on iTunes U. Speaking of iTunes U, I forgot to mention in last week's post that iTunes U is another great place to find free university-produced content.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
100 Awesome Open Courses
Academic Earth - Videos of Top Scholars Teaching

Want To Use Jimdo Pro?

Last week I posted a review of the website building service Jimdo. Jimdo is one of the more flexible website builders that I've reviewed. Jimdo offers free and premium services. Today, the folks at Jimdo sent me five 33% discount coupons for the premium service. The resulting discount brings the $60 price down to $40. If you're considering upgrading to Jimdo Pro please send me an email and I'll pass the code along to you. My email is richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com. While the free service is adequate for most educators the premium service does offer some nice additions that you may be interested in.

For the record, I do not have any affiliation (commercial or otherwise) with Jimdo, and do not accept offers for paid posts. This is the first time a company has contacted me with discount codes and I have not yet developed a policy for handling similar offers in the future.

Jeff Gordon Can't Change His Own Tires

Okay, Jeff Gordon probably could change his own tires if he had to, but that doesn't really matter in his job. It doesn't matter because that's not what he's paid to do. Jeff Gordon is paid to drive a car faster and better than anyone else on the track, he doesn't have to change the tires. The pit crew on his team changes the tires. To be good at changing tires does not require you to be a good driver. Likewise, to be a good driver does not require you to be able to change the tires on your car. Besides, if Jeff Gordon were to try to change his own tires, he'd lose every race.

In school districts there are technology integration specialists and network administrators. Separating the two jobs is the preferred formula for success because having a good understanding of how to fix network and hardware problems doesn't mean a person will make a good technology integration specialist. Likewise, a good technology integration specialist doesn't necessarily have to be great at fixing network and hardware problems.

So when you're looking to add someone to your school's technology department what are you really looking for; a good driver or a good mechanic? Can you get one person to do both jobs? Perhaps, but too often the person you try to have two jobs cannot do both well for the same reason that Jeff Gordon cannot change his own tires and still win the race. To do both jobs well requires more time than one person has in a given work week. Unfortunately, too often schools try to get someone to change tires and win the race. For proof check out the study mentioned in Scott McLeod's presentation at NECC 2009.

School Rack - Website Builder Designed for Teachers

I received an email this morning from School Rack informing me of some new features and free services that they have rolled out just in time for back-to-school season. School Rack now offers a free service for teachers to build and host their own classroom websites. Unlike other free website solutions that are targeted toward a general audience, School Rack has features designed specifically for teachers. On your School Rack website you can post assignments with full descriptions, expectations, and deadlines. This is an integrated feature, not an add-on page that you have to create yourself. See the screen capture below.















Not only can you post assignments to your School Rack website, you can also collect assignments through your School Rack account.

School Rack offers students and parents free accounts to communicate with teachers. Once your students and parents have activated their accounts, you can directly message individuals or send messages to groups that you have created.

In all School Rack offers a very good service for teachers. I have only two concerns about School Rack. First, the user interface is a little cluttered when you're getting started. Second, the free version limits you to thirty group members and limits the number of files you can upload in a month. The group limit of thirty members is probably large enough though for most elementary school uses.

Applications for Education
School Rack could be a very good choice for creating your classroom website. If you're looking for a system for posting assignments and communicating with parents, this may be just what you need.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
8 Ways to Build Websites (Not Blogs) for Free
Moogo - Create a Free Website
Jimdo - Great Option for Building Your Website

Why Aren't You Having a Bigger Impact?

"Why Aren't You Having a Bigger Impact" was the opening slide of a breakfast presentation given by Scott McLeod at NECC 2009. I attended the session because I enjoy reading Scott's blog and because, as someone who would like to help my school's students and teachers become effective users of technology, the topic interested me.
If you were not able to attend the presentation, you can now watch it on Learning.com. You can also access the slides from the presentation here.

If you serve your school in any type of leadership role, but particularly if you serve in a technology role, the presentation is worth your time.

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