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Friday, November 15, 2013

How to Set Yourself Up for Classroom Blogging Success

My friend Joe Cummings recently sent me a nice Facebook message thanking me for the suggestions about classroom blogging that I sent him last summer. This semester Joe and his middle school social studies students are having a great time using their blog as a forum for discussion. Joe’s message to me prompted me to write this post which hopefully helps some of you have as good a classroom blogging experience as Joe and his students are having this year.

1. Just ship it. Don’t spend too much time worrying about how the blog looks from a design standpoint because you can always tweak it later. When you’re getting started any of the standard templates from Blogger, WordPress.com, KidBlog, Edublogs, or Weebly will do. The important thing is to get the blog started. As one of my bosses at FedEx used to say, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

2. Send out a blogging mission and permission notice to parents. Your school may not have a policy about student blogging, but it’s still a good idea to send a notice to parents about why their children are blogging. If you work with students under 13, you will want to explain how their privacy will be protected (no faces posted, no last names, pen names, etc). Jen Deyenberg shared a good blogging permission form here. A quick Google search for “blogging permission slips” will generate a bunch of other samples to evaluate.

3. Review Internet safety and etiquette protocols with your students. Planet Nutshell offers an excellent set of cartoon videos on Internet safety.

4. Create guidelines for how the classroom blog is to be used by students. If you’re planning to use the blog for active discussions with students, talk with them about tone. You might make it a classroom activity to develop online discussion norms. If you’re planning to use the blog as place for students to showcase their work, talk with students about how to offer constructive criticism. If the blog is going to include a widget through which students submit assignments, talk about file types and formatting so that you don’t pull your hair out converting a myriad submitted file types.

5. Expect that something will go wrong. You can plan until the cows come home, but there is always something that doesn’t go according to plan. In the case of classroom blogs that could be a mistake you make in posting a link or an inappropriate comment that a student writes. Treat these mistakes like any other mistake that happens in a classroom and turn them into teaching opportunities. If you made a mistake in posting a link or you posted a video that didn’t play correctly, explain what happened to the students so that you can all learn together. If a student posts an inappropriate comment (you should have comment moderation enabled to grab it before it goes live) use that opportunity to review Internet safety and etiquette with the student.

The Half-life of Links and What It Means for School Communications

I am currently reading Randy Krum’s new book, Cool Infographics (disclosure, he gave me a copy). This morning I came across an interesting statistic on page 151 in the book. According to research done by Bitly (a popular URL shortening and sharing service) the half-life of a link on Twitter and Facebook is 2.8 and 3.2 hours respectively. The half-life of a link refers to the amount of time it takes for a link to reach one-half of the number of clicks it will ever receive. Krum notes that those half-life statistics were calculated in 2011. Two years later far more people have joined Twitter and Facebook. In turn, the half-life of links posted today is likely shorter than it was two years ago.

Applications for Education
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with schools. If your school has a Twitter account, Facebook page, and or Google+ page then your school is ahead of many that don’t use social networks at all, but you could still be reaching more students and parents. If your school’s social media updates are only going out once per day, you’re probably not reaching as many students and parents as you could be. Think of it this way, when was the last time you scrolled twelve hours back in your Facebook timeline or in your Twitter feed? A solution is to post to social networks through a free service like Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to publish updates on a schedule to multiple social media accounts.

Guy Kawasaki, former chief product evangelist at Apple, repeats posts on Twitter four times per day using eight hour intervals. Schools could adopt a similar schedule for distributing announcements and reminders through social media. A good schedule for schools to update their social media accounts would be to publish an hour before school starts (7-9am), shortly after dismissal (2-4pm), shortly after supper time (6-8pm), and late night (10pm-12am).

Registration Open for Practical Ed Tech Webinar - How To Use Google Drive In School

I've been fortunate to receive excellent feedback from participants in my Practical Ed Tech webinars and many people have asked if when I'll offer How To Use Google Drive In School again. The next offering is in December. You can register for it here.

A couple of the nice things that I've heard recently about my webinars:
Very good Webinar yesterday. One of the few I've heard that was so well organized!
Your workshop was so informative and got me going as well. A big "thank you"!!

How To Use Google Drive In School is a three hour interactive course for educators who want to learn how to use Google Drive (Google Docs, Presentations, Forms, Spreadsheets). This course covers everything from the basics of document creation to using scripts to automate workflow in Google Drive.

Registration is limited to 25 people per course. For only $87 all participants receive digital how-to guides, access to three hours of live webinar training, access to all webinar recordings, and access to a dedicated course discussion forum.

The cost of the three part course is $87. While the webinar series is not free it is significantly less than cost of flying me to your school for the day or the cost of attending one of the Google Apps Summits. Click here to register.

The next section is scheduled to meet on December 3, 10, 17 at 7pm Eastern. Registration is limited to 25 seats per section. Click here to register today!

Course Highlights
*Creating and sharing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.
*Using Google Documents and Presentations for collaborative writing and reading exercises.
*Using Google Forms and Spreadsheets for collecting and analyzing data.
*Using Google Documents as a publishing platform.
*Managing the flow of files in your Google Drive.
Registration is limited to 25 students per course.

This course is designed for educators who:
*Are new to using Google Drive/ Documents.
*Have previously used Google Drive/ Documents but would like a refresher course.
*Would like to learn how Google Drive/ Documents can be used to help their students meet ELA Common Core Standards.

A Short List of Thanksgiving Lesson Resources

American Thanksgiving is now less than two weeks away. Thanksgiving-themed lessons will be taking place in classrooms all over the United States next week. If you're looking for some Thanksgiving lesson ideas, take a look at the following resources. (I'll be adding to this list over the weekend and into early next week).

Voyage on the Mayflower is a nice resource produced by Scholastic. Voyage on the Mayflower has two parts for students to explore. The first part is an interactive map of the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Students can click on placemarks on the map to read and hear about the journey. The second part of the Voyage on the Mayflower takes students "inside" the Mayflower to see and hear about the parts of the ship.

You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving is an interactive exploration of the facts and myths associated with the story of the First Thanksgiving. Students can explore the facts and myths through the eyes of a Native American child or through the eyes of a female Pilgrim. Through the eyes of each character students discover the culture of giving thanks in the Native American and English cultures. My favorite part of the investigation is "The Path to 1621" in which students hear the perspectives of Native Americans and Pilgrims about events prior to 1621.

The First Thanksgiving: Daily Life is another online activity produced by Scholastic. Daily Life is comparison of the lifestyles of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Students can click through each aspect of daily life to see a comparison of housing, clothing, food, chores, school, and games.

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.

If you're looking for a writing activity to do with the students in advance of Thanksgiving, National Geographic Kids offers a Mad Libs-like story writing activity. Funny Fill-In generates a funny Thanksgiving story based on the words that kids write in response to Thanksgiving prompts. Quiz Your Noodle is another fun Thanksgiving game available on National Geographic Kids.

Map Your Recipe is a neat use of Google Maps that allows you to enter a recipe and find out where the vegetables in that recipe were first domesticated. According to the creator of the site the purpose of doing this is to show how few truly local ingredients go into many of our favorite meals. You can try Map Your Recipe with one of the sample recipes or you can enter a recipe of your own. Map Your Recipe could be a fun tool to have students use to see where their favorite Thanksgiving foods originally came from.

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