Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Find and Share National Parks Stories

A buffalo I saw while hiking in
Grand Teton in 2006.
Find Your Park is a U.S. National Parks service website. The purpose of the site is to help people discover the National Parks near them and the activities they can enjoy in the parks.  To that end, Find Your Park offers tools for finding parks according to location and or activity type. You can search for a park or public land by name, location, or activity. When you select a park from the search results, you can dive into more information about that park.

If you do visit one of the parks, Find Your Park encourages you to share your pictures and stories of the experience. You can do that by uploading your pictures and stories directly to the Share Your Experience section of the Find Your Park website.

Applications for Education
As the weather warms and you start to think about outdoor activities for your children or your students, take a look at Find Your Park. Find Your Park could help you discover educational programs happening in a national park near you.

Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for School Announcements

Today at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp I was asked for my opinion about using Facebook as the primary tool for posting information for the parents of your students. Answering that question reminded me of an article that I wrote a few years ago on the same topic. An updated version of that article appears below.

When used correctly social media can be a fantastic aid in spreading the good word about your school. As I wrote in my post about socializing school events with social media, social media can be very helpful in building a positive feeling of community around your school too. On the other hand, social media isn't always the best way to share news about your school. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements.

The social media networks you might use:
In an effort to be concise this post will deal only with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Unless otherwise specified the pros and cons here will deal with all four networks as category rather than breaking out the pros and cons of each network individually.

Pros of using social media for school announcements:
  1. The likelihood of students checking their favorite social networks frequently is much higher than that of them checking email frequently. 
  2. You can quickly post concise messages with visuals that grab the attention of students and their parents. (I've been testing using large images into my Tweets lately. Each time I do I get more favorites and reTweets than I do with the same message that lacks a visual). 
  3. It is easy for students and or parents to share the announcement through a reTweet, tag or share on Facebook, or a tag/mention on Instagram. 
  4. It is easy for students and parents to reply to announcements. 
  5. A small archive of recent announcements is automatically created for you. 
Cons of using social media for school announcements:


  1. You must convince students and parents to follow or like your school's social media account. 
  2. Students and parents who follow a lot of social media accounts can easily overlook yours. This is especially true on Facebook because Facebook tends to hide posts from people/pages that haven't been interacted with on a frequent basis. (In other words, if you click on a lot of "cuddly kitten/ puppy" stories on Facebook you're more likely to see more of those than you are stories from sources that you don't click frequently). 
  3. You, your school administrator, or some committee within the school needs to decide who will be the "official" social media voice of the school. In other words, decide who gets to post on the school account. 
  4. Someone has to monitor and moderate conversations that arise from announcements posted on social media. On a Facebook page or Instagram account you can delete inappropriate comments. On Twitter your only option is to block, mute, or report the offender. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Chrome Extension That Shows You the Value of Your Time

Time Is Money is a free Chrome extension that can help students see what the expression "time is money" means. Time Is Money will display the number of hours a person would have to work in order to have enough money to purchase any product that has a price listed on a shopping site. For example, I went to Cabelas.com and found a couple of sweaters that I might like to buy. With the Time Is Money extension activated, the price in dollars is displayed along with the price in hours I would have to work in order to buy those sweaters. Time Is Money can be customized to be based on your hourly wage or your annual salary.

Applications for Education
High school students who have just gotten their first jobs may find the information that Time Is Money reveals to be an eye-opener. It's also a nice little extension that I will integrate into my hands-on economics lesson, Life on Minimum Wage.

My only criticism of the extension is that it doesn't appear to account for taxes and Social Security contributions being withheld from a paycheck.

How to Use Feedly

I'm often asked how I keep up with what's new in educational technology. Part of the answer to that question is social media and part of the answer is press releases. The biggest part of the answer is Feedly. I use Feedly to subscribe to a couple hundred websites and blogs. I've been using it daily since 2012 (prior to that I used Google Reader for six years). Feedly's interface is simple. Simple interfaces appeal to me. The service works in essentially the same way in my browser as it does on my phone. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the basics of getting started with Feedly.


Applications for Education
If you have students creating and maintaining their own blogs, you could use Feedly to keep track of their blogs.

Subscribing to blogs through Feedly is a great way to keep up with new ideas and trends in your field. Following just one dozen blogs is a good way to get started.

Zip Tapestry - Demographic Data and More, Mapped

Zip Lookup is an interesting use of the ESRI mapping platform. The map allows you to enter any US zip code to discover demographic data about that area. Whenever I see something like this I am skeptical of how well it will work for very small towns like the one that I live in (South Paris, Maine). I was pleasantly surprised to find that Zip Lookup was quite accurate.

The site will give you graphs of the demographic data for a zip code. It will also give you a little blurb about what the data graphs mean in terms of the characteristics of the town or city represented by the data.

Applications for Education
Zip Lookup could be a neat tool for students to use to discover how people in other parts of their counties, states, or country live. A short research activity based on Zip Lookup would be to investigate what draws people of a particular demographic to an area.