Friday, December 8, 2017

How to Quickly Create a Virtual Conference Room

Whether it is to host an online tutoring session or to connect with colleagues to plan a school event, from time to time we all can use a free and easy way to create online conference rooms. You could use Google Hangouts, but more times than not at least one person has trouble signing into the Hangout (BTW, the cause is usually found in having multiple Google Accounts open at the same time). Other virtual conference room platforms are expensive, you should see my bill for GoToWebinar as the first example of that. This fall I found a solution to both of those problems in WebRoom.

In the following video I demonstrate how quick and easy it is to create a virtual conference room on WebRoom.



My Favorite Resources In One Place

Last week during Practical Ed Tech Live I was asked if I had one place that people could go to see an organized collection of my favorite resources. I was happy to answer that I do have just such a collection. It's found in my Practical Ed Tech Handbook. You can find it on my Practical Ed Tech website or you can see it as embedded below through Box.com.


If your school blocks access to Box.com, you won't be able to access this document. Please send me an email to request a PDF copy.

Smithsonian Learning Lab Announces Most Popular Resources of 2017

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a great tool for organizing collections of resources available through the Smithsonian. Through the Learning Lab you can search for and then gather together documents, images, videos, interactive animations, and lesson plans. This playlist of videos will show you everything that you need to know in order to use the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

This week the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access released a list of the twelve most popular resources of the year. This list was based on the number of times a resource was favorited by users. Within the list you will find the Apollo 11 Buzz Aldrin Mobility Experiment and the Wright Brothers First Flight at Kitty Hawk.

Zapier - Connect Your Favorite Tools

Zapier is a fantastic tool for improving your workflow between the services that you use the most. For example, let's say that you're a devoted Evernote user and a devoted Dropbox user. Zapier will let you connect the two so that you can send your Dropbox files to Evernote. Or maybe you use Twitter all the time and you want to save some Tweets in an Evernote notebook, Zapier can help you do that too.

I recently used Zapier to create an automation between Google Forms and Google Calendar. By using Zapier I was able to automatically add Google Forms submissions to events on Google Calendar. I did this so that I can create a Form that people use to register for an event and then have their email addresses added to the event on my Google Calendar. That way I can send a quick reminder to everyone who signs up for my event.

Applications for Education
Zapier supports more than 750 tools that you can connect through "zaps" in Zapier. With support for that many tools, there is probably a "zap" that can help you improve your workflow. Perhaps you use Office 365 and you need a way to quickly add parents' and students' email addresses to your contacts, Zapier offers a zap that will automatically add submissions to Google Forms to your 365 contacts. That zap might be helpful for managing things like extracurricular club rosters.

How to connect the disconnected pieces of G Suite for Education is one of the modules in my G Suite for Teachers course. Detailed directions on using Zapier are included in that module. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Promoting School Events Through Social Media

My personal Facebook and Instagram feeds are starting to be filled up with pictures from holiday concerts that my friends' kids are performing in. Seeing those pictures reminded me of a blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago in which I outlined strategies for promoting and sharing school events through social media. What follows here is an update of that post.

In Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick's book The Art of Social Media there is a chapter all about incorporating social media into physical events like conferences. When I read it I thought, "this could apply to school events."

Here's the general outline of how this could work:
1. Let's say your school's music program is having a fundraiser event like an auction or a costume contest.

2. Pick a hashtag for the event and let people know about it. Print it out and plaster it on posters with prompts like, "remember to tag your pictures, #myschoolrocks."

3.  Use a tool like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to monitor the hashtag and to reTweet, Pin, reGram, tag, and otherwise help the event's hashtag grow.

4. After the event is over go through and choose a bunch of pictures and or Tweets to create a collage of highlights of the events. Tools like Pic-Collage and Canva make it easy to build collages. (Remember to ask for permission to re-use another person's pictures). Post the collages on your school's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. Of course, you'll also want to use the collages in your school newsletter too.

Why do this?
1. Your students and their parents are already likely to be using social media during after-school events.

2. By encouraging the use of and tracking a hashtag you can have a better sense of what is being said about the event.

3. People love to see pictures of themselves (the selfie stick is the new symbol of narcissism) so by including their pictures in news about the event they're more likely to share news about the event.

4. If the event went well, people had fun, and money was raised (or whatever the event's goal was), you now have a small army of people who have positive feelings about the school that they are sharing throughout their communities. Sharing good feelings and comments about your school is always a good thing.