Monday, May 6, 2013

5 Things I Like About Building a PLN on Google+

Due in part to the fact that anyone who has a Google Acccount has a Google+ account, Google+ claims more users than Twitter. But based on the response when I speak at conferences about personal learning networks and social media in general, it appears that Google+ is one-tenth as popular as Twitter among educators. I hope this changes over the next year because I think that Google+ has some features that many educators will enjoy.

One of the things that educators often say to me about Twitter is that they don't know who to follow or how to find people to follow. Twitter does make suggestions about who to follow, but the suggestions made to the first-time user who is looking to connect with other educators are non-existent. Twitter also gives you the option to connect with people in your email contacts too. That's about where it ends for obvious, built-in discovery tools on Twitter.

Google+, of course, will pull-in your Gmail contacts for you to use to connect with other people using Google+. To get beyond the people to whom you are already connected, hit the "communities" button on your Google+ homepage and search for a community to join. For example, search for "education," "teaching," or "educational technology" communities and join an open community. Then start to connect with others in that community. In just a few clicks you can be involved in a community of dozens or hundreds of other educators on Google+.

You can create your own private or public community on Google+. You could create a private community just for your colleagues to discuss matters important to your school community. You could create a public community for parents and students to join to keep abreast of important information about your school.

I have a half-dozen or so circles at the moment. Creating circles allows me group my contacts according to any criteria that I like. For example, I have a circle of just my family and a circle for just friends in Maine. There are some things, like pictures of nieces, I don't want to share with the whole world so I'll share just with those in my family and close friends circles.

Following conversations:
One of the things that I often hear from teachers who have tried Twitter and given up on it is, "I couldn't keep up with what was happening."

I find it far easier to follow conversations on Google+ than on Twitter. I don't spend all day and night on Twitter which means that sometimes people reply to something I said hours or days ago and I have lost the context for their messages. In fact, this happened to me this morning. Someone replied to something I Tweeted on Friday and another person jumped into the conversation. This all happened two hours before I was awake so when I got on Twitter I had to go back through a dozen messages to find out what they we're talking about and why I was mentioned in their Tweets.

On Google+ when people reply to something that I've posted I always see what prompted their comments. It doesn't matter if what they're responding to was posted two hours ago or two weeks ago, I always see their comments tied directly below my original post.

This goes along with following conversations. If someone posts a picture or video as part of a message, that picture or video appears directly in my stream of messages. I don't have to click a link to see the picture or video. This may be a minor thing to some, but to me it's huge because it means that I don't have to open a new tab or window in my browser.

Visit the official Google+ help pages for a complete guide to getting started with Google+.

5 Videos About Crafting Strong Passwords

When was the last time you changed your email password, your Facebook password, or your online banking password? Hopefully, you're not using the same password for all of your accounts. If it has been a while since you changed your passwords, think about doing so as part of digital spring cleaning. The videos below provide some guidance on creating strong passwords.

Here's a set of three videos to get you started. The first video is a fun look at the ten most commonly used passwords, don't use these.

Here's a video from Mozilla about password security.

Here's Secure Passwords Explained by Common Craft.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Send a Message to Mars In the Form Of a Haiku

NASA's MAVEN mission will launch later this year. Earlier this year NASA hosted a student art contest through which students could have their work sent to Mars. Last week NASA opened a MAVEN Haiku contest. The contest will select three Haikus to send on the MAVEN mission.

Applications for Education
To enter the contest you have to be 18 or have a parent or teacher make the submission on your behalf. This could be a fun poetry-writing activity to combine with a lesson on space exploration.

Three Ways to Turn Your Blog Into a Book

The end of the school year is quickly approaching. If your students have been blogging all year one way to show them, their parents, and others how much they've written is to turn the blog into a book. Here are a few methods for turning a blog into a book.

1. If you have a relatively small number of posts (25 or so) you could just copy and paste the text into a Word, Pages, or Google Drive document. Then you can export it as a PDF and or print it.

2. BlogBooker is a free service that allows you to turn your the contents of your Blogger blog into a PDF. Using BlogBooker is a fairly straight-forward process. BlogBooker walks you through each step of the process except for the very first step which might sound a little too "techy" for some Blogger users, but it's actually quite easy. The first step in using BlogBooker is to export the contents of your blog as an XML file. This is actually easy to do in Blogger. Step one is to open the "settings" menu of your Blogger blog. Step two is to select "export blog" under "basic" menu. Step three is to click "download." Don't worry, exporting the contents of your blog will not remove any content from your blog. After you've completed the export process, jump over to BlogBooker and follow their directions for completing the transition from XML file to PDF.

3. Anthologize is a free WordPress plug-in that allows you to take your posts and arrange them into an ebook. Anthologize features a drag and drop interface for arranging the layout of your ebook.  Anthologize will only work for self-hosted blogs not on blogs.

Some Seats Available In My New Course - Blogging for Teachers and School Leaders

Blogging for Teachers and School Leaders is a new webinar course that I'm offering. The first class meets tomorrow evening at 7pm EST. There are still some seats available.

Blogging for Teachers and School Leaders is a three hour, two 90 minute parts, webinar series in which you will discover the many ways that blogs can be used in school and through which you will develop a strategy for using blogs in your school. Blogging for Teachers and School Leaders will also cover the nuts and bolts of how to create, develop, and maintain a blog on Blogger and on WordPress-based platforms like Kidblog and Edublogs. And because we’re talking about blogging in the context of schools, we’ll take a look at common questions about privacy and digital footprints.

The cost of this Practical Ed Tech course is $87 per person. Click here to register today.

Blogging for Teachers and School Leaders is a three hour course divided into two 90 minute sessions. Enrollment in the course is limited to twenty-five people. The course does cost $87 per person. Downloadable recordings of each webinar will be available to all participants. Between each meeting participants will be able to participant in a discussion forum to ask questions and exchange ideas. Click here to register today. The course meets May 6 and May 13 at 7pm to 8:30pm EST.