Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Social Media worth the effort?

What is the ROI on using Social Media for your school?

While this is a tough question to answer, without metrics in the form of page views, an increase in your application pool, increased enrollment, or an increase in giving by the alumni, sometimes the effort pays off in ways one could never imagine.  At St. Christopher's School, we have multiple twitter accounts(@stcva, @stcvafootball @stcvatrack), a facebook fan page, a youtube channel, and now a Google+ page. Yes all of these avenues require TLC, time, and a dedicated team that ensures that the content is current, because our constituents expect it.

So has the effort paid off? 

It's not easy maintaining multiple social media outlets but the payoff in this particular instance was incredible.

Check this video out and see for yourself.  ESPNHS Video picked up our playoff game which is on our YouTube Channel.

Special Thanks to Stephen Lewis, Asst. Director of Electronic Communications & Sports Information  for taking our social media footprint to a whole new level and Cappy Gilchrist, Director of Electronic Communications, and Susan Mistr, Director of Marketing and Communications  for investing the time to promote our school using Social Media.

7 Myths About BYOD Debunked

Earlier this month, Lisa Nielsen tweeted for assistance on an article she was writing about myths associated with BYOD.  Having just deployed a BYOD program(laptop form factor) in our upper school, I could not resist the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic.  The result was an article posted in THE Journal.

The Myths:
  1. BYOD deepens the digital divide
  2. BYOD will result in lessons geared toward the weakest device
  3. BYOD will cause students to be distracted
  4. Teachers need to become expert in all the technology students own
  5. BYOD will result in students engaging in dangerous activities
  6. Cell phones are not that powerful, so we should not waste our time with them
  7. BYOD will necessitate the standardization of apps and software across all devices
To view and read the reasons behind each myth, please go directly to THE Journal Article here.

A special thanks to Lisa Nielson for giving me the opportunity to contribute to her article. To read more of her posts, please check out her blog The Innovative Educator and follow her on twitter @InnovativeEdu

Our School-Wide Migration to Dropbox

As our school's technology access model continues to evolve(1:1 school) so must our infrastructure and strategy for backing up faculty and student work.  Prior to our 1:1 initiative, all faculty and student computers(labs/carts) were synchronized on our file server.  With the introduction of an additional 240+ computers to our campus, some changes to the file server were made to accommodate the increase in users and load but it came at a cost-synchronization was failing.  There was a work around but it required us to touch every single computer on the domain.  Needless to say, our tech department aka the tech squad was not happy with that option and a few faculty members were not pleased when some files were lost during the migration.  So the tech squad examined the options and we decided to recommend to the administration that we move to Dropbox.

Why Dropbox?

Recognizing that change is difficult, we focused on what the value adds were by going to Dropbox. The table below summarizes the differences between our file server and Dropbox and it is pretty clear what the value adds are.  See table below

Next Steps:
  • The tech squad provided instructions on how to install Dropbox and migrate files from the file server to their dropbox folder.
  • Referral strategies were encouraged/created so each teacher received a bit more than the allotted 2 GB.


The faculty loves Dropbox and all of the value adds it has over our local file server. It also provided many of our faculty and staff with additional access now that smart phones are becoming more prevalent on campus.

Summary of File Server versus Dropbox

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When you hire someone you hire their network!

As schools prepare their budgets for the new fiscal year, the time comes when either new positions or vacancies must be filled. In most instances, the hiring process can be quite labor intensive.  Assistant heads, division heads, teachers, and students are often involved in the process but in an effort to reduce load, I simply propose that your school consider this, when you hire someone you hire their network.  While the concept of networking is not a novel one, I would emphasize that my definition of network is better suited to the personal learning network.  If your school is serious about developing 21st century skills, developing relationships with other schools, and making better global citizens, then it is essential that those doing the hiring recognize the importance of the network potential employees can bring to their school.

After reviewing resumes, like many organizations, I head to the web to see what kind of digital footprint the potential candidate has. Essentially, does the candidate Google Well.  If things go well for the candidates, they are present in some of the following digital arenas: 
  • they have a blog or they post comments regularly
    • preferably about their educational philosophy or activities that convey that philosophy
  • they have an active twitter account with useful tweets
  • they actively participate in educational nings
  • they have their own website
    • an ePortfolio of activities
  • their Facebook page does not contain questionable material

Will one miss a jewel in the rough? Possibly, but one can certainly glean a great deal more from a candidate who participates regularly online.  While this method works when looking for instructional technologists, tech directors, and tech coordinators, it is time for schools to be more selective and expect candidates to Google Well because it is no longer good enough to simply know the material.

from the Atlantic Monthly

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Professional Development: When 1 size doesn't fit all

Like many schools around the country, our doors were closed for school on Columbus Day.  Our faculty and staff on the otherhand were required to come in and participate in a professional day.  The day was broken up into a couple of parts but for the puposes of this post, the focus will be on the edtech related PD.

Before the faculty and staff were sent off to their discussion groups, we asked them to fill out a google form so they could select the classes they would like to take during in each of session.

Things we remembered to do before they filled out the form:
  • provide netbooks for the faculty/staff that only work on desktops so they can participate in the workshops
    • we have COWS(computers on wheels) which made this possible
  • send/post the link to the Google Form via email and post on the website
    • provide multiple ways of accessing links
  • When the faculty and staff returned from their breakout sessions,  the sessions were tallied, room locations were set, and we emailed the information to the faculty
 Send them on their way:
  •  We were off and running with our tech sessions but the really valuable information would be realized a couple of days later.

What worked and what didn't. Some comments from the faculty and staff:
  • thank you for giving us the opportunity to sign up for sessions we are interested in exploring
    • choice is important!
  • sessions should be longer so there is time to tinker and play with someone to guide
    • learning through doing!
  • add a 3rd block-I wanted to learn more
    • maintain and foster passion!
  • track the sessions so there is a novice and advanced track
    • I am well beyond how do I reply in gmail? I wanted to learn how to apply filters and labels
    • provide differentiated instruction
      • provide enrichment and remediation opportunities 

Lastly, we certainly didn't hit a homeroom, but it does seem like we managed to hit at least a double.  The constructive criticism was great feedback and if the end result is that our faculty and staff in effect wants more and more levels of PD, then our students are the real winners!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Announcement: Backup up your work

The following announcement was posted on our 1:1 Blog for our families.

6 weeks have past since the start of school.  Have you backed up your files yet?
If you haven't, here are some recommended strategies:
Be smart and be proactive with your data.

Much To-Do About Laptops

One of my former 8th grade students, Nicholas Horsley, is now the junior contributor for our school's newspaper, The Pine Needle. This past summer we had an opportunity for some Q and A about our new 1:1 laptop program and the following article is the result.

*On a side note, there is nothing better than seeing a former student develop their skills and pursue their passions.

LAPTOPS!! They're all the buzz this school year since St. Chris has decided to move to a 1:1 computer model. I caught up with Mr. Cuevas, who is one of the faculty spearheading this transistion, and asked him a few questions:
Many people are asking a lot of the same questions and while the laptop blog is helpful (http://blogs.stchristophers.com/1to1/) it can be confusing and not quite clear.  Over the summer, many of the faculty went to Memphis for a conference that was centered around laptop programs.  Mr. Cuevas was kind enough to chat with me about the new program:

In which grade does the 1:1 computer model start?
A: St. Christopher’s is using 2 different approaches.  In the MS, we are using a standardized model. In this model all students have the same computer and the computer is purchased and serviced through the school.  It is the most common 1:1 strategy deployed in schools.  The 7th grade will be part of this model.  The Upper School on the other hand is using an open model or a Bring Your Own Device strategy(BYOD).  This strategy is gaining in popularity and the Tech Department felt it also provided the greatest flexibility for our families in the Upper School.
Q: Will the school adopt its own basic laptop option as an option for the program? 
A: Essentially we have for the standardized model.  There are no options and we also purchased the same computers for the faculty who were due to have their computers refreshed.  In the Upper School, we’ve made recommendations and we’ve also made arrangements with MacPro Solutions and HP to provide families with options and some discounts. Families in the Upper School were also given the option to use a laptop that they may already own so long as it satisfied our minimum requirements.  See the blog for the minimum specs.

Q: What will happen to the computer labs and carts of netbooks if everyone from 7th grade and above is getting laptops?
A: In the Middle School, we moved away from computer labs last year and replaced them with netbook carts. There are four carts that will be used by the 6th and 8th grades.  In the Upper School, Dr. Smith has a laptop cart in his room to accommodate the juniors and seniors who were not required to participate in the laptop program.  The following year, the netbook carts will be reallocated to other areas on campus and some of the netbooks themselves will be used as spares because grades 6-12 will be part of the 1:1 program.

Q: What did the faculty learn from the Memphis conference? 
A: We had a great cross section of teachers and administrators in attendance at the Laptop Institute in Memphis, TN.  While we all came away with different pearls of wisdom that could be used in our respective areas, I think it is safe to say that the conference validated many of the steps St. Christopher’s has taken to prepare for this initiative. From a pedagogical perspective it was clear that taking small steps to design and integrate technology in effective and constructive ways into the curriculum is the best approach.  Also, ongoing professional development is a must!  Attendees: Mrs. Mayer, Mr. Tune, Mr. Szymendera, Miss Pohanka, Mr. Spears, Mr. Zollinhofer, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Boykin, and Mr. Cuevas.

Q: How will you cope with the Mac vs. PC compatibility issues (especially with St. Catherine's)?  
A: In theory, this is the beauty of the Open Model in the Upper School as compatibility becomes more of a nonissue.  As part of our technology coordination with St. Catherine’s, both schools are now Google Apps for Education Schools.  This essentially provides communication and collaboration tools in the cloud so it becomes platform independent. In addition to Google Apps, we are encouraging teachers to continually seek web based apps rather than clients that need to be loaded onto each computer.

Q: Will there be any file sharing options between laptops and the network computers? 
A: Student laptops(Middle School) that are part of our domain will have access to our file server to backup some of their work.  Students in the open model will not have file server access but are encouraged to backup their work.  Examples are listed in our blog and more info will be shared during the opening weeks of school.  Becoming a Google Apps school essentially eliminates the need for a student file server because all of their work can be saved to the cloud providing them not only with a superior redundancy and security but also access from any computer so long as it has an internet connection.  As for printing, students will have access to our print server and further instructions will be provided during the opening weeks of school.

Q: I noticed the publications office received new iMacs. Is the student center going to have iMacs as well? 
A: Yes, we are including iMacs for the digital arts classroom in the Luck Leadership Center.

Q: What has the school done to prepare?
A: We have done incredible amounts of preparation for the 1:1 program.  We’ve increased our wireless footprint, increased our band width, increased the electrical load in our buildings, installed new lockers in the Middle School, become a Google Apps for Education School, and conducted an extensive professional development workshop this past summer.  I would also be remiss if I did not mention the many conversations that took place last year in the Middle School and Upper School.  

Q: Will the network be able to handle the extra few hundred computers
A: We’ve been pretty aggressive about upgrading our network infrastructure… Let’s just say from a wireless perspective, our campus is glowing. The school’s backbone is set to 1 Gb/s, we have 3 internet pipes to handle traffic. … Moreover, the construction of the Luck Leadership Center has required that the tech department be proactive with regards to the day to day needs of the curriculum and its impacts on the network.  This fall will be a great test of the steps we have taken to prepare for this increased load and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the needs as the Luck Leadership Center comes online.

Q: Plans for use/ changes to necessary school supplies? 
A: If anything, students won’t need to purchase thumb drives or CDs for their work because of their access to Google Apps.  As we move forward with the program, I am confident that we will start to see more eBooks.  Moving to eBooks will in some cases reduce the cost of books, decrease the weight of the backpacks, and it’s green.  

Q: Will students have to use it over pen and paper? 
A: I would say it is up to the individual instructor. However, if an activity requires the use of technology then it is safe to say that a student will most likely have to use their computer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bring Your Own Device Interview

As I was catching up on some posts on Google+,  I encountered a thread by Miguel Guhlin (@mguhlin) inquiring if there was anyone who might be interested in doing a hangout on BYOD.  Having just deployed this type of program in grades 9 and 10 at our school, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share our experiences while being able to explore a hangout with a fellow GTAdmin. Our conversation lasted over 30 minutes and I felt as if we could keep on discussing this model for another hour as it provided me with the opportunity to do some reflecting on the successes and challenges we have encountered.

Miguel posted the interview on his website Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org but I've included a direct link to the interview below.  I encourage readers to visit Miguel's site as he has a real gift for bringing educators together to engage in conversations on pedagogy, academic technology, and learning to name a few.  In addition to his website, be sure to check out the Texas4TEE or Texas for Technology Enhanced Education on Facebook. 

To listen to our conversation regarding BYOD, please click the following link:

#Texas4TEE Podcast - BYOD with Hiram Cuevas @cuevash

Thank you Miguel!


Google+ in Schools...Some early thoughts-a repost

While this is a repost from William Stites, "Blogger in Chief" at EdSocialmedia, I was excited to have my opinion included along with this list of fine educators. 

We asked the edSocialMedia contributors to respond to the following question based on the article “Behind The Numbers Of Google+’s Monumental Rise To 25 Million Visitors” by Greg Finn at Search Engine Land.
“Google+ surpassed 25 million unique visitors faster than Facebook or Twitter.  How do you see Google+ fitting in with your school social media and educational strategy?”
The following are the responses from our contributors.  Their thoughts span all aspects of school life and while Google+ is in it’s infancy it is surely something that will remain on everyones radar for the time being to see if it going to be around for the long haul or just stirring the social media pot.
Alex Ragone – Director of Technology – The Collegiate School – @alexragone
I’m finding it’s growth amazing, but at the same time, for the basic user, I’m still hearing that there aren’t enough people to get it to work well.  For the EdTech connector’s out there, it’s working well and fixes many of the limitations of Facebook and the all-out openness of twitter.  I love the hang outs and the photo galleries are amazing.  We’ll see how it grows, but my sense is that it’s going to be serious competition for Facebook and Twitter.  For me, it’s a matter of being sure of the use of each network and I’m still most comfortable with Twitter.  That may change soon, though.

Basil Kolani – Director of Information Services – The Dwight School – @bkolani
Google+ has to fit into a school’s social media and educational strategy the same way that Google, in general, does. This isn’t a separate product, something like Google Social or Google It’s-Better-Than-Orkut-Was — it’s Google PLUS, a better Google, the way we’re all going to be interacting with Google’s services moving forward.
Whether your school is using them for email, document collaboration and sharing, or just searching, Google is a large part of how we do business on the web. It would be a mistake to not get on board with Google+, though our schools will have to wait until Google allows organizations to have their own pages. The fact that Google wants organizations to have a different kind of presence on Google+ already differentiates it from the one-size-fits-all approach that Facebook and other outlets are taking, and the fact that the steady growth that both Facebook and Twitter have been seeing is now slowing down means that Google’s entry into social media can’t be taken lightly.
Peter Baron – Founder – edSocialMedia & CEO – AdmissionsQuest- @peterdbaron
Since I’m not at a school on a day-to-day basis, I think it makes more sense from me to consider this from the perspective of search.
It’s a bit too early to determine how it’ll impact their search returns, but it’s hard to imagine that Google Plus won’t play some sort of a supporting role. Start with the ease in which Google has made it possible to embed their button on your site (encourage clicks) and then look at how they’re weaving Google Plus into their search page (it’s literally next to each return). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that it will play a role in their ranking algorithm.
Like I said, it’s early, but I’m willing to bet that content actively shared on G+ will enjoy an advantage. It’s definitely worth watching.
Richard Kassissieh – Director of Information Technology – Catlin Gabel School – @kassissieh
Has Google+ taken off so quickly because it’s so great, or because a lot of people now know what a social network is and how to use it? Or has the pesky integration with Search and Picasa Web Albums also contributed?
At the moment, we are waiting to see what other smart institutions do with Google+ before giving it significant time. We still have a lot of potential to realize in other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to take a serious look at this new platform. Our use of Google+ might be limited to communications to alumni, parents, and prospective families, or it might find a niche in the instructional program, depending on how well it integrates with Google Apps for Education and whether students show interest.
Drew Millikin – Director of Recent Graduate Relations – Groton School – @drewmillikin
Quite frankly, I don’t think it will last.  I really like the interface, the functionality, the intuitiveness, and the lack of ads/marketers in Google+.  I don’t, however, see the daily traffic like I do on Twitter or Facebook.  I wonder how many of the 25 million are one-and-done users?  How many of them are actively returning +out with those of us looking for an alternative to Facebook?  My guess is that most are on, checking it out, and then finding there’s not a lot of traffic and forgetting about it.  I’m willing to ride the Wave on this one, but I’m not optimistic about its longevity.
Steve Ritchie – Founder – edSocialMedia & Chairman – The Proof Group – @steveritchie
I haven’t spent enough time with Google+ to feel confident in any assessment. That said, in my brief exposure, two things seem safe enough to say: first, it will be a long time before Google+ touches Facebook as a vehicle for external communications. I have trouble finding an argument for a communications, development or admission office investing deeply in it at this point – 25 million early adopters is great, but a huge percentage of a school’s target audience is already part of the 750 million on Facebook, and I have trouble imagining that balance changing any time soon.
Second, the circles concept and easy to manage and target content sharing seems like a very natural fit for internal groups (classes, departments, parents, etc.). I can imagine a school that uses Google services for email (and Docs, and…) making great use of Google+ within the community. Google will have to make the service available to organizations using Google Apps before that makes sense, though.
Brendan Schneider – Director of Admission & Financial Aid – Sewickly Academy – @schneiderb
While I might have been a little premature, and harsh, with my initial assessment of Google+ in my blog post, “10 Reasons I Hate Google Plus,” my frustration stems more from people’s reaction to this new social media channel and not necessarily from the tool itself.
There are many potential applications of Google Plus but I tend to focus on using social media as part of an inbound marketing strategy for schools. With that in mind, Google Plus is not currently ready for the marketing primetime for the following reasons:
  1. I don’t believe there are enough of the correct eyeballs yet on Google Plus. Yes – 25 million people is a lot but compared to Facebook and Twitter it is a much smaller pool of potential parents.
  2. With regard to my correct eyeballs comment, I would argue that the majority of people who have Circled me are early-adopter, social media types. The second most common group are my old students.
  3. Google Plus currently only allows individuals to have G+ accounts and until Google launches business/organization accounts G+ will be left on the social media sidelines. I believe that Google’s implementation of organization accounts will make or break Google +’s mainstream adoption.
  4. While I’m a big fan of Google and their products, I also remember Google Wave, Google Buzz, and Orkut. Enough said…
Only time will tell where Google Plus ends up or ends. In the meantime I’ll enjoy playing with G+ and hope to find you in my Circles soon.
Marisa Peacock – Freelance Writer  – @marisacp51
Different parts of my life are lived out across social media platforms. While I like to think I am the same person no matter where I go, the types of people I interact with on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are quite different. There is some overlap, but mostly Facebook is a place where close friends and family gather; Twitter is for sharing among my industry specialities and interests; and LinkedIn is for colleagues (past and present) and business contacts. Google+ however is a weird combination of all of them. Some people I don’t know very well, and some I am related to. I have remained somewhat quiet, not intentionally posting, but instead clicking the +1 button on a few articles here and there.
Recently I came across an article which sought to highlight the ways that Google+ may impact education. A few are obvious — no real privacy issues or age limitations; a few made a lot of sense and got me excited to experiment. The article, Why Google+ Is an Education Game Changer by Liz Dwyer says that circles will give teachers the ability to segment information easier, while creating Hangouts will help students and teachers collaborate easier. Of course, the biggest hurdle for educators is that it’s another tool that can help. Those who are proactive technologists will likely experiment, and as usual those who are not as technological savvy are likely to shy away, overwhelmed and skeptical. Change is hard for any industry, but particular for education. Even for independent schools, where it’s perceived that innovative technologies are more accepted, social collaboration is a hard sell.
Regardless of how Google+ is adapted by educators, it’s more important to keep it flexible. Google+ will is not the first, nor will it be the last tool touted as the “best new thing” to revolutionize teaching.
William Stites - Director of Technology – The Montclair Kimberley Academy & Blogger-in-Chief – edSocialMedia – @wstites
When I got my Google+ account I was excite to play around and explore, curious as to what it would offer and how the site would differ from Facebook or Twitter.  The big question would be who would I would be connecting with as my circle began to grow.
Google+’s growth has been both explosive and impressive, but when I look closely at the people that are in my circles along with the demographics referenced in the article I see a lot of people that look like me.  I don’t yet see a lot of our students, our parents, our school’s constituents.
Given the internal resources of many school I would be hard pressed to recommend that a school invest any serious time in Google+… yet.  I still need to see the number for Google+ plus grow and grow in the right direction for our school.  However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t start exploring, experimenting and playing as this is Google and you never know what will happen in the future (remember Google Wave?).
Andrew Shelffo – Director of Communications – Williston Northampton – @shelffan
I’ve been on it for a few weeks now, and I have to say that every time I go in there, I have this feeling of loneliness because no one else seems to be there.  I realize that I’m probably guilty of trying to replicate Facebook in Google+ when they’re definitely not interchangeable, but it makes me wonder if that’s how other people see it.  It’s experiencing phenomenal growth, but I don’t know how many of our constituents tend to be among the early adopters of any technology like this.  And as I look around at what others are saying about Google+, I see a lot of information trying to explain exactly what it is.  Meanwhile, we have enough trouble keeping up with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, social media that is more clearly defined.
So, long story short, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach, as Google adds new features and people become more familiar with it. I’m sure at some point we’ll jump on board with our school, but we’re not chomping at the bit to do so now.

Steve Valentine - Assistant Head of Campus:Upper School – The Montclair Kimberley Academy – @sjvalentine
In all honesty, I sometimes buck at the notion of asking how a “hot, new” anything fits into our school lives. The question seems premature to me, even with the numbers that Google+ has posted. I guess I like to see if an app or technology will actually last — and I like to give it some time to settle into my own habits and practices — before I start to advocate for its use in schools. (And, yes, I feel like asking the question is a form of advocating.) I also like to see how kids use it, and take some of my cues from them.  I guess I’ll know better around November or December — if the phenomenon truly takes root and if my students seem drawn to it in some way.
Madeline Senkosky – Community Manager – edSocialMedia – @madelinesen
I’m still on the fence as to where I will integrate Google+ into my social media streams, but I can see great value in its potential. However, I think it will take several years before we can consider using Google+ to market our schools or businesses.
According to a study done by comScore (source: http://www.thechromesource.com/a-closer-look-at-gs-demographic/), “The American user base of Google+ is predominantly male, with men making up 63% of unique profiles on Google’s new platform. Consequently, visitors aged 18-34 make up 58% of Google+ in the States.” On top of that, the United States and India make up more 10 million of the 25 million users.
To me, Facebook is the winner if we are comparing two social platforms. Facebook has finally penetrated the middle-aged (slightly older) demographic, which allows schools to reach the parents and perspective parents of our schools. My mother doesn’t know what Google+ is, and it will take her several more years before she even considers joining. I’m sure she’s not the only one.
I can see, however, how Google+ could become the home dashboard for our communicative strategies. It might continue to progress to create a valuable starting point for communicators each morning, centralizing all their social platforms and messages. However, that being said, I don’t think it will kill off any of the other social platforms we are currently using.
I’m going to continue to experiment and utilize the platform to see if I can find greater use in the tool, and it might turn out to be the saving grace for some schools. As we all know, what works for one school might not work for another, and Google+ certainly might fit into that category. Who knows — time will truly tell!

Mandy Wynn –
Director of Annual Giving – Rodeph Sholom School – @mrs_wynn
Personally, I think google+ can be an asset for internal communications.  With a small target base  – the English department, Senior Administration, etc you can set up systems that in a way force people to use new technology.  But from a Development perspective we wont begin to think about Google+ as a platform for communication until most of our constituents adopt it on their own.  We go where the donors are, and talk and listen to them where they are.  Time will tell.
Hiram Cuevas – Director of Academic Technology - St. Christopher’s School - Guest blogger – @cuevash
I have been fascinated by the growth Google+ has been experiencing and I believe its growth speaks volumes about its potential. Personally, I have found myself using Facebook and to an extent Twitter less.  For me, Facebook seems a bit stale, cluttered, and is having a bit of an identity crisis as it hits adolescence.  Twitter on the other hand is still a fabulous tool but what I’m finding is that its brevity is sometimes its greatest weakness.  This is where I find Google+ to be truly unique.  Google seems to have made great strides to leverage its user base and resources to provide a robust experience.  From circles, huddles, and hangouts, Google+ is positioned quite well to provide educators, particularly those schools that are Google Apps for Education Schools, with incredible resources.  I envision circles that can be designated for individual classes, advisory, and student organizations. Huddles for mobile messaging, and hangouts to collaborate and communicate not only with students within the class but from other schools.  And all of that can be accomplished without a 140 character limit or the privacy issues plaguing Facebook.
Prediction: A revamping of social media policies for K-12 schools if Google+ becomes available to Google Apps for Ed Schools

Should you feel the desire to post a comment, please do so on Bill's post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

QR codes in EDU

During the Laptop Institute, I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Utech present on the relevance of QR codes in society and he has predicted that 2011 will be the year of the QR code.  Now I must admit that I've been puzzled by these 2 dimensional barcodes, but it wasn't until Jeff asked the audience to discuss how we could use QR codes that I started to see the light.  Fortunately, I was sitting near @sarahhanawald and @mmhoward  discussing the potential and experimenting with these little buggers.  We came up with some neat ideas but it wasn't until much later in the day when I had my Eureka moment. I've been giving it lots of thought ever since and have come up with a few ideas which I would like to share. But more importantly, I would like all of us to share potential uses of QR codes in edu via twitter.  @sarahhanawald suggested we use the hashtag #QRinEDU and I think it is a fantastic idea.

#QRinEdu examples:

A link to your homepage on admissions materials.

A teaser in an announcement to introduce the School's new mobile site.

Or how about using QR codes on signs at athletic events so spectators can download rosters & go to team pages. It's green and it can provide considerably more content than spectators can imagine.

So, how will you use them?
Use hashtag #QRinEdu

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Create, Reflect, Revise

This is a big summer for St. Christopher's School.  We have a 1:1 program launching in the fall, our school will be celebrating its centennial, and we will be opening the Luck Leadership Center in January 2012. So in the midst of all of the excitement, I find it is critical that as we create new and engaging activities for our boys, we must also be mindful to reflect and revise as needed.

A true master teacher/learner will reflect on the outcomes of their lesson or activity and will take the time to revise the approach to maximize learning.  At a recent PD activity on Google docs for the faculty, I opted to share my notes with the attendees rather than give them hard copies.  In so doing, I was able to augment the notes with their ideas and suggestions after the class.  It was quite easy to amend the notes and best of all, I didn't have to resend an updated version because the document was shared. Having done this 2x and with several more PD sessions remaining throughout the summer, my latest reflection has prompted me to give the participants editing capabilities so we can truly benefit from our collective efforts.

We've been using this approach in our tech dept meetings to collect minutes and document action items so why not extend it to the classroom. It's like a wiki on steroids with the benefits of concurrent users.

While most of us are in the business of creating, let's not forget to take the time to reflect and revise.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Assessments that end up being Lost Learning Opportunities

Exams, finals, standardized tests, and final papers are common assessment tools used at the end of the school year but they often short change the learning process.  While many of my peers in edtech would say it is the tools themselves that shortchange student learning, my issue is not with the tool but with what happens after the assessment is given. Too often, assessments are given, graded, and reported without an opportunity for student reflection or checking for understanding. As a result, students regrettably look for the grade rather than consider the review as an opportunity. Assessments are an opportunity to explore misunderstandings or engage in discussions about questions that were specifically designed to push students to demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem solving.

So maybe it's time we discuss this issue with our respective schools because in the end, a final assessment does not have to mean the end of learning.


Friday, May 27, 2011

LargeDocument.com: a great web based solution for sharing large files

If you are looking for an easy way to email large files, look no more.  LargeDocument.com is a fabulous web based application that allows users to send huge files via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.  

In a nutshell, largedocument.com stores your file temporarily and sends a link to your file to the recipient.  For me, the best feature is that it requires no login or userid in order to use this service.

Does this sound to good to be true?  Check out some of its features.

From LargeDocument.com
Largedocument.com features:
  • Up to 2 Gigabytes can be uploaded on a 32-bit machine.
  • Up to 8 Gigabytes can be uploaded using a 64-bit machine.
  • Largedocument creates the upload URL before the file has uploaded which allows you to send the download link without having to wait for the upload to complete.
  • If someone attempts to download the file before the upload is complete the user will see a message telling them that the file is still being uploaded and to check back later.
  • Supports all browsers and platforms.
So how can you use this?
  • Send info to parents who constantly send images or video files to your email and fill up your quota
  • Students can send large projects to teachers or other students

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chatting has value? It's much more than iChat or Google Talk.

When discussing chatting with parents and teachers, the reaction is almost always negative.  I get comments like, that's a waste of time, it's a distraction, or I don't have time for it. So rather than dispute their claim, I've taken the approach of sharing the types of conversations I experience using twitter. When I describe the deep conversations surrounding professional development, curriculum, the role of libraries, and digital citizenship  to name a few, the response is almost always one of surprise.  Followed by comments such as "I had no idea twitter could be used beyond what an actor was having for breakfast let alone professional development."  With that misconception temporarily on hold, I offer the following primer on how to participate in the conversations.

So how does one get involved?  First, join twitter, follow a few tweeple in your field and look for a hashtag that matches your interest. A hashtag for example, is a category within a twitter that can be followed or searched. The hashtag #isedchat is a conversation among independent school educators. Some tweets are bits of information but the real value is on Thursday nights at 9pm.  This is when many educators participate in a topic that was voted on earlier in the week. But don't worry, if you miss a chat session, @lcarroll94 archives the stream.

How do I find people to follow on Twitter? Start by looking at who other educators follow. Read their posts and lurk for awhile, ask questions, and reply. As one finds tweets of value, your list of who to follow will start to grow.  Most importantly, be patient it takes time to develop any relationship.

Are there other chats specific to my discipline or division? Absolutely.  If you don't follow @cybraryman1 on twitter, you should.  He is a wealth of information and his website is full of resources.  Be sure to check out his webpage on educational chats and the schedule of twitter chats.

How do I filter out tweets into chats? There are a few ways to accomplish this task but I tend to use tweetchat.  Tweetchat allows one to insert a hashtag #isedchat so tweets containing the tag of interest appears in a single channel.  One can also adjust the refresh rate if the conversation is steady and has lots of participants.

So as we wind down the school year, at least in this hemisphere, and you are looking to do some exploring, research, or reflection on  issues surrounding education, why not dip your toe into a twitter stream and connect with others who are passionate about bringing out the best in our students.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

St. Christopher’s is now a Google Apps for Education School

http://www.googlerjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/google-apps-logo.jpgIn December 2010, St. Christopher's became a Google Apps for Education School. This program provides educational institutions with a suite of tools that will provide our students and teachers with greater opportunities for communication and collaboration internally and also with students and teachers from around the world.

Why move to Google Apps? With the pending 1:1 laptop program in the MS and US, the tech department believed this would provide our students and teachers with tools that supports the list of Essential Skills for the 21st Century developed by the thinking task force. In addition to supporting those skills, Google Apps is a web based product that doesn't require the installation of software or a specific operating system(OS) to run. And best of all, using Google Apps for education comes at no cost to the school.

Beta Testing Google Apps: We currently have over 200 students and teachers using Google Docs in each of the 3 divisions.  Google Docs is 1 of 6 applications available through Google Apps.  Essentially, Google Docs is an office suite that provides word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings.  File storage is done in the cloud(on Google's servers) and students and teachers can share files easily. NO MORE THUMBDRIVES and hopefully less paper.

Will STC be abandoning Microsoft Office in 2011? No.  We plan on phasing out Microsoft Office for students and teachers but the tech department needs to evaluate if Google Docs will satisfy all curricular requirements.

Will STC start using Gmail? Possibly. Email is a very complex server application and we have intentionally steered clear of interrupting service during the school year because of the complexity. Serious consideration however is being given to providing students with Gmail perhaps as early as the Fall of 2011 but additional research needs to be done.

Please revisit this blog to see what other tools we are using to support our boys.