Curating Groundhogs


It’s pretty hard to keep a secret on the internet when you’re transparent.  That came to bite me this morning.  I’ve been working on something and had a couple of people uncover what I was doing.  One actually tweeted about it.

So, I guess I’ll have to come clean with it.

One of the big events in primary classrooms is Groundhog Day.  All kinds of activities happen in classrooms and crafts, drawings, songs, science, etc. all make the day for the big event.  I’ve always maintained a list of resources for this day that I update.  This year, I thought that I would migrate the otherwise boring website to one of the online sites that I’ve been using to curate things.  But, which one?

I was just monkeying around when Tim happened to stumble on it.  He must have been looking at my Scoopit account and noticed that I had this work in progress.  It’s a collection of my resources for Groundhog Day – scooped.  But, I don’t think he’s seen the others!  I’ve also started to curate the same resources at Pinterest and LiveBinders.  I was looking for the best possible scenario.

Scoopit
This was one of the sites. I have the Scoopit bookmarklet stuck in my bookmarks bar and adding resources was just as easy as going to the page and bookmarking it.  Scoopit identifies images on the page as well as a short descriptor.  To use it, just click the title and you’re at the target site.  For this purpose, Scoopit did a nice job although one of the sites wouldn’t allow the bookmarklet to work.

Pinterest
Pinterest similarly has a bookmarklet for finding and bookmarking resources.  You get to choose up front which of the images will be the face of the pin. Rather than the two column format of Scoopit, Pinterest takes a pin to wall approach so that none of the sites are lined up.  It’s an engaging approach.  Sadly, Pinterest absolutely requires an image on the page in order for the pin to work.  So, not all of the sites ended up getting pinned.  But, find a story that looks good, click it, and you’re there.

LiveBinders
LiveBinders takes a different approach.  Instead of giving you one of the catchy images on the target website, you get the entire website embedded in the binder.  The URL is presented at the top and a click leaves the LiveBinder and takes you to the actual website.  Since the actual website is embedded each time, everything that I wanted to include appears in the binder.

In all three cases, there are more resources than would fit on an entire computer screen.  Well, unless you had a big honking screen, I suppose.  Scoopit and Pinterest scroll up and down to see all of the resources.  LiveBinders requires that you click the navigation arrows to move left and right unless you organize the tabs by categories.  I suppose I could have all the Wiarton Willie’s in one tab, the Punxsutawney Phil’s in another, science in another, arts and crafts in another, and so on.

LiveBinders also has the advantage of the presentation mode so that you can visit the sites and not lose the curation page.  That’s handy if you are browsing your way through everything.

Anyway, all three did a nice job of bringing them together into one spot.  Feel free now to use or share with anyone who might take advantage of the resource this Thursday.

OTR Links 01/31/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Pathetic Internet Speeds


Have you ever noticed that there are some times that I make a blog post and there are no images contained in the posting to spruce it up or to illustrate the point?  It’s not that I’m lazy; there are some days that I swear that I have the worst internet service provider.  Yesterday was a day when I was bemoaning the fact that modern laptops don’t have built in modems.  Even on the worst days, dialup at 300bps was like blinding speeds compared to bad days now.

Yesterday was just brutal.  I spent over an hour on the phone with technical “support” only to walk away frustrated all to pieces.  The determination on her end was that it was just network congestion.  Grrrrrr.

How bad was it?  Well, a common way to test your network speeds is to use Speedtest.net.  I tried to give it a test over the net and here’s what I got!

It’s so slow that I couldn’t even load the test!

Thankfully, the iPad version was a little more tolerant of slow speeds.

Try it on your current connection and please feel sorry for me!  Later in February when I host an OTF Webinar, I’ll be doing it on the road.  There’s no way this type of connection would be suitable.

At least I can watch the Pro Bowl game without the internet distracting me!

Fortunately, things are better in the early morning hours and that does let me do some reading and online work.

OTR Links 01/30/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Keeping Tabs on the Blog


There are probably a lot of ways to do this but I think that it’s the responsible thing to do when you’re a blogger. You need to keep tabs on what’s happening on and around the blog.

WordPress has created a Google Chrome extension that does a nice job of that.

Once installed, it just sits in the browser and checks for any activity.  If something happens, a little badge with the number of events appears on the icon.  That’s a visual to let you know that something has happened.

Prior to this, I would admit that it might be a while between checks to the WordPress dashboard.  Now, it’s addictive to look and hope to see a notification!

But, there’s more than just that.

The extension includes a “Press This” button if you’re interested in blogging on a particular page.  Plus, if you visit another blog, you’ve got the option to follow that it right in the extension.

If you’re a Chrome user, it’s a very useful extension to have.  Download it here.

I keep thinking that I would go in and add all the Ontario Educational Bloggers to it but that list has grown so much, it would take a Herculean effort.  But, if I was having a class full of students blogging, I should be able to monitor everything right in one spot while I go about everything else that I’m doing on the web.

OTR Links 01/29/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Your school doesn’t need a webmaster


Ever since there was an internet, there’s been a desire for schools to have a website.  And, roughly a month after that, there were dated websites.  For many schools, having a website was something that was created and done.  Fini.  A volunteer goes to a workshop on Dreamweaver or Frontpage and then enthusiastically pulls together a webpage or, hopefully, a website for the school.  There might be an announcement of an upcoming basketball game or a fundraiser and it draws the educational community in to get the details.  Your website URL appears on the district’s directory, on school letterhead, on the sign outside the building, and anywhere you can post http:www.heywegotawebsite.ca.

As the basketball games or the fundraiser becomes a memory, for many schools, it still remains posted on the front page of the website.  Why?  Typically, webmaster is a volunteer job done with the very best of intentions.  But then, life gets in the road.  Time can’t be found to make the necessary changes to keep things current.  Or, the website was created as a project for a course.  Or, the website was created by students for class marks.  Or the eager teacher transfers schools taking the necessary skills with her/him.  Or, …  I’m sure anyone at a school level can fill in their own blanks.

It’s one thing for a corporation to have a dynamic website.  They have the resources to hire someone or a team or to farm it out.  That’s typically not so for schools; having a webpsite is a desirable thing and becomes a volunteer job.  There are some who do a great job as volunteer.  You will see some great websites but others, not so much.

How can we fix this?  It’s not really a hardware or a software problem.  You can go out and implement the best open source content management system or buy the best commercial one but that’s just going to move the problem to a new platform.  You could hire a webmaster.  Yeah, right.  Or, you could rely on so and so’s husband, because “he knows computers”.

I would suggest that there’s a better way.  You don’t need a webmaster much.  In fact, if you look at your existing website, there’s probably a lot of good material that needs to be there and is valid from the first of September to the end of June.  You know, things like bell times, exam days, professional learning days, parent/teacher interviews.  Those types of things could be installed once and maybe even be a project for a summer AQ course.  Or, just share a template from another school.  Instead of their purple and yellow colours, change to your red and white, change the school logo, and you’re good to go.  Unless someone holds them up side by side, they are two different sites for all intents and purposes.

It’s the dynamic day to day content that is the challenge.  If we remove the webmaster from the mix for any of the reasons above or other, how can it be done?  That’s where the webmaster replacement steps in.  You don’t need a webmaster; you need a community manager.

The rest of the content can be created daily or, in fact minute by minute, with the right social tools.

Consider all of the great social media tools that are your fingertips.  More and more teachers and classrooms are using the independently – why not bring in your community manager to make it work for you.  In addition to the static things that you’ve already posted, leave some room to;

  • incorporate your class, student, and teacher blogs into the mainsite via RSS.  A link takes the visitor to your content;
  • incorporate your class wikis or indeed a school wiki in the same manner.  Unlike a webmaster who is the sole guardian of the password and content, build a learning resource with everyone contributing;
  • use Twitter widgets devoted to each classroom (even with their own hashtags) and every class can update the world 140 characters at a time;
  • got some great pictures from an assembly or other event?  Encourage the audience to take the pictures and post them to Twitter with your school/class hashtag instead of waiting until someone needs to clean out the school camera and finds them;
  • need to post notes from a meeting or a guest presenter?  Embed a Coveritlive session and post your notes as they happen.  You could even do a play by play of a basketball game this way;
  • got some bandwidth?  Consider live streaming and recording graduation so that all can enjoy.

The list goes on and on.  There’s a not so subtle shift happening.  Instead of updates happening when the webmaster can get to it or even if she/he can find and talk to the right person, it’s posted the minute that it happens.  Everyone, principal, teacher, student, parent, can be content creators to show how vibrant and dynamic the school is.  

Imagine, no more dead websites.

OTR Links 01/28/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Village Gets Bigger


Remember the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”?  I’m happy to note that the Ontario educational blogging village got bigger this week.  Check out the LiveBinder or the Scoopit page for the latest.  From the Scoopit page, you’ll see the entries in LIFO (Last In, First Out) format.  i.e. the latest additions at the top.  If you check the LiveBinder site, you’ll notice that there’s a new tab.

This is a new category.  While we are all advocates at our various level, there was a whole group on the Ontario scene who had been excluded.  With the advice of @ShannoninOttawa, I’ve opened up this new category to recognize the blogs of people who aren’t directly employed by the educational system and yet have a deep interest in making sure that students in the province receive a superior education.  Please welcome them to the fold.

OurSchool.ca
Lorna Costantini was keeping an eye on my old stomping groups – the Avon Maitland District School Board and Director Ted Doherty’s inclusion of parents in their strategic planning.

All school districts struggle with all kinds of issues.  What a progressive concept to reach out in this manner to invite parents in the process.  After all, it only makes sense – they provide the student bodies that make the district what it is.

Safety 4 our Schools
The latest issue here revolves around school districts that don’t require background checks for volunteers in schools.  The body of a message from the Minister of Education appears in the latest post and there’s a table identifying which school districts require and which don’t require background checks.  Interesting.

SheilaSpeaking

There’s more about parent involvement in schools from Sheila Stewart’s blog.  Her current entry is Part II of a series examining the state of Parent Involvement Committees in the province.  They are legislated; but how effect are they?  Do they even have a significant existance?

I think that the addition of this new group of bloggers will enrich the messages that we have the opportunity to read regularly.  Please welcome to the group and certainly feel free to head over to their blogs and comment on their messages.  They have some pretty strong messages as advocates and may well be our political friends at some level in the future.

OTR Links 01/27/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.