Don’t Let The Good Stuff Go Away


This is another “Post From The Past” that is very appropriate given that we’re approaching the end of the school year here in Ontario.  You and/or your students have been blogging all year.  Will you just abandon your efforts?  Or, will you make a copy of it to save, use as an example, email to parents, give to students to keep, or use for any other of a myriad of purposes?

BlogBooker is an awesome service.  It will take the entire contents of your blog (with a little work) and create a PDF file that you can tuck away or otherwise repurpose so that you don’t lose the effort that went into it’s creation.  Here from August 22, 2010 is my post “To do more with your blog“.

Hey, you might even want to turn it into “A Flipping Blog“!

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Yesterday, George Couros asked for a little input through a Twitter message.

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My first reaction what that this might be a step backward in the goal of integrating technology for students.  After all, if you have a blog, why would you want to revert to a newsletter format?  In its simplest format, it could be a paper document that’s sent home to parents.

But then, I started thinking.  There are a lot of reasons why it might be desirable to have a blog in newsletter format.  Some that immediately come to mind are:

  1. Not every parent has internet at home for any of a wide variety of reasons;
  2. The blog might be private with only student access for privacy concerns;
  3. Access to blogs might be blocked at school but the teacher blogs from home;
  4. The principal of the school wishes to have paper generated for whatever reason;
  5. The blog might be part of a project where a culminating document detailing everything is desired;
  6. The blog is reset for a new year or new unit or
  7. You just want a copy of your blog in another format …

Yes, upon further review, I can see where there may be reasons for a blog to be in a different format for a specific use.

I think that the other thing about a solution would be that it needs to be easily re-purposed by a teacher to the differing format.  Typically, blogs have considerable effort in their creation and who has the time for yet another creation?

I then thought about BlogBooker.  I had blogged about its use in the past here.  At that point, I was thinking about using it as a way to create a backup for a blog or a permanent record of thoughts.  I’ve actually used it to create a couple of backups of my entire blog.  It works very easily when I want a book of everything (including the graphics and pictures that I embed in posts) but would it do the trick on a more flexible basis?

The procedure is pretty easy.

  1. Export your blog content from your blog  (it’s in XML format but most people wouldn’t care or need to care about the format);
  2. Upload the content to Blogbooker;
  3. Wait a minute of two;
  4. Download your book in PDF format.

Conceivably that PDF could be filed away for posterity or printed if it absolutely had to be.

But, what about content of a shorter duration?  I never really paid close enough attention when I did the steps above to see if it was customizable.  So, I went through the process and actually paid attention this time.

Now, I use WordPress as my host and so went to my dashboard and the export tool.

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Well, I’ll be.  There are configuration options!  I can set a start and end date.  In terms of the content, I could choose just the posts or all content.  I’m thinking that just the posts would suit my needs best.  Click on the “Download Export File” button and it’s on my hard drive.  That was easy.  The only limitation that I could see was that the export was done month by month.  Probably not a big issue as the newsletter might well be a monthly one.

Now, it’s over to BlogBooker.

Step one is to let BlogBooker know what type of Blog this comes from.  It supports WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.  That’s a good selection.  Then comes the WOW moment.  There are a huge collection of formatting options for the output.  The preferences are customizable for any purpose.  I elected NOT to use “Footnoted Links” because my blog entries have a great deal of links in them.  If the ultimate goal is to send it to a printer, then you’re not going to want each entry on a separate page, I hope.

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Give BlogBooker a few moments and voila!  There’s the nicely formatted book in PDF format that you can download or view right in your browser.  I really like the fact that I could customize further the start/finish dates of the publication and the images are intact.  I really like the concept and it was so simple to do.  Plus, the headers and footers put a nice finishing touch on the whole product.

It even includes pumpkin shirts!

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Thanks, George, for the question and the opportunity for me to revisit this very powerful application.  Thanks, also to Aviva and Peter for keeping the conversation going.

 

Signing Off


There’s nothing like learning something new and I had it happen to me on the weekend.  My newest teacher, Sharon, needed me to sign off on something and forwarded me a PDF file to sign.

Sigh, I thought.  I was in the mobile office here at dougpete labs.  It has a relaxing chair and a television in it.

So, in the worst Web 1.0 thinking, I figured that I’d have to get up, go to dougpete labs on the other side of the house, send the PDF file to my printer (hope that I have ink in it), sign it, and then fax it in.

But, Sharon said that the easiest way would be to use HelloSign.

Huh?

Well, she obviously knows what she’s talking about so off I go to download the HelloSign app for my iPad.  There also is an Android version.

This, my friends, opened a whole new world for me.  I launched the application and saw the option to import a document.  In fact, I could import from email or Google Drive.  Could it be this easy?  It turns out that it is.  Once the document is in HelloSign, you have these options for adding new content.

How sweet is this?

I have the option of writing (using my finger), typing, inserting a check mark, or inserting the date.

So, you doctor the document and a Send button at the top right of the screen attaches the document to an email message ready for sending.  The biggest time taker in the whole process was waiting for the application to download.

This is definitely a utility that I’ll hang on to.  Until now, when I stumbled upon a PDF file, it has always meant moving to a traditional computer with a traditional application.  Now, I can do it from mobile?  Again, sweet.

As it turns out, HelloSign also had a website offering even more functionality like team members, creating reusable documents, etc.

And I have my teacher Sharon, to thank for all of this.  Thank you so much, Sharon.

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Digital Citizenship and Creative Content


 

I think that many people would like to address the topics of Digital Citizenship and Creative Content and they absolutely should.  I know that we had worked on the concept at my old board and I would provide a link to the resource but it has been taken down.  Working with colleagues, we worked towards what we thought would be the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understandings that we felt were important.

By its nature, I think that a document of this type would be a never-ending product.  Just when you think that you have it nailed, something new comes along.  But, if you believe this is important (and I personally do), it’s an exercise worth pursuing.  Every spring, the document would be revised.  It was a task but certainly an important one.

Now, we started working our document from scratch but if you’re just starting out, Microsoft has you covered at their digitalcitizenship website.

Here you’ll find four curriculum units:

  • Creative What?
  • By Rule of Law
  • Calling All Digital Citizens
  • Protect Your Work; Respect Your Work

The units are incredibly complete.  Written with an American perspective, you’ll want to work your way through it before going live with your class.  For example, there is a part to a unit that talks about “fair use”, a very important concept in the US.  You’d want to do some research about “fair dealing” because there are significant differences between the two.  Microsoft recognizes that there will be differences from country to country and give a feedback mechanism for that purpose.

However, for the most part, the lessons, assessments, and activities would serve very nicely in anyone’s classroom.  Designed for Grades 8-10 but it’s indicated that, with modification, they could be used 6-12.  You wouldn’t use all the resources in any one grade but spread it out through the years so that students get the whole effect.

I know that many teachers already address these issues.  For them, these would be wonderful resources to confirm you’re on the right track and perhaps inspire some new activities or discussions.  If you have students from a Faculty of Education, make them aware of what’s available.  They’ll definitely thank you.

Registration is required but what you get is totally worth the exercise.   Do it, get access to the four PDF files and start addressing these important concepts with you students.