Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Livebinders Contest

In celebration of 100,000 binders created, Livebinders is having a contest to find the most popular. So shameless plug time again. I have 2 that were nominated. The first was my Twitter binder and the other is my QR Code binder. Wanna show some love and vote for them? Click the binder below and check the box for my 2 and any others you want. (Mike Fisher's iPad binder is pretty awesome too.)

Nominations for Your Favorite LiveBinder

Rock On!

(Oh and I promise, no more shameless plugs for a while.) 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Twitter In Schools-A Getting Started Guide

The end of the school year is upon us however many are looking forward to next year. You may be thinking what can you do differently next year? How can you stand out above the crowd? How can your school become a larger part of the school community?

While Twitter is beginning to catch on with many educators, schools are lagging in their adoption of the platform. But let's think about it. Twitter is a quick and easy tool to let the entire school community know whats going on with you and your students. Updates can come from anywhere and users don't have to have a Twitter account to follow along.

But where do you start? What are some things to consider? Here is my primer and some advice for schools (and districts) that want to start using Twitter.

Think First-There are a few questions you and your team (and it should be a team) will want to ask and answer before you jump in:
  • What do you want to do with this account? What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want to communicate? So, you are going to have a Twitter account. Great! Why? What do you want to tell people? The possibilities here are really endless. But think beyond the basic stuff like picture day and what's for lunch. Consider taking pictures of kids doing collaborative projects or highlighting staff of the month. It can really go beyond all the regular communication and show the community what your school (or district) is all about.
  • Who will be in charge of the account? Will there be just one person who will post or will you have multiple people who post? This is all situation dependent. I would say more than one person is great but too many and things can get out of hand and duplicate information could easily be posted. Keep it simple and experiment to find what works for your group.
  • Will you follow anyone? Again, this is situation dependent. You may want to follow other schools and the teachers in your school but will you follow parents? Students? Community members? If you are just going to be broadcasting following becomes less of an issue. If you want to facilitate interaction then following is important and your group will need to decide some guidelines on who to follow.
  • If someone sends you an @ message, will you respond? Often times your account will get mentioned or someone will send you a question. Your group will need to decide how to handle these questions. My district has a Twitter account but it is a one way conversation. It rarely will respond to questions from the general public. I believe it should be interactive. So take time to get back to folks who need information from you. 
What's In A Name-Now you are ready to set up your account. You will need an email address that is not already associated with a Twitter account already. If you can have a generic email set up by the district that is the best way to handle that. Otherwise you will have to find an email address to use. (You could always set up a dummy gmail address as well.) The email address is used to confirm the account and sent notices of DM's and new followers and such. You will want to pick a name that is easy to remember and is your school's brand. This is the point where you will define who your school will be on Twitter. Remember though, users only have 140 characters to tweet with and if your user name is @RonaldReganHighSchool that doesn't leave a lot for others to tweet with. So maybe you go with @RRHS. Adding your location like town or state doesn't hurt either. Just keep it simple. And remember, there are several hundred million Twitter users so don't be disappointed if your first choice for a username is taken. Get creative and find something that can become your brand.

Who Are You- A profile will go a long way in letting people know who you are. This is the place you can put in your full school name, location, description and link to your school website. You will also want to put in a picture, either of a mascot or school symbol. That helps other users identify, quickly, who you are.

Hashtags- A good idea is to also come up with a hashtag. This will allow you to track conversations even if your account is not mentioned in a tweet. So for example we use in our district, the initials as our hashtag, #wsfcs. The hashtag is good because classes and teachers can send tweets and still reference your school with out mentioning you in the tweet. You can then collect them and retweet them as you see fit. And you don't have to follow everyone either to see what folks are saying. If you have monitors set up near your entrance you can use a program like Twitterfall to display all the tweets coming in on your hashtag. That might also entice folks to check out your Twitter account and learn more about your presence there.

Promote- The account does no good if no one knows about it. Let everyone know. Put a widget on your website so every time folks visit they see your updates. Tell parents about it in mailings home. A simple "Follow Us On Twitter" and a link will go a long way into getting folks to see what you are saying. You may also want to make some videos on how to find your updates and what you will be using your account for.

But I Don't Want To Be On Twitter-You may find resistance to the idea of a school Twitter account because folks don't want one of their own. That's cool. They don't have to have one. The easiest way to follow updates is to have their own account but they can also subscribe via the RSS feed found on your profile page, subscribe through SMS (text) messages on their phone (they have to have an account for this) or they can add the Facebook widget to their page and see the updates every they visit. And remember, you should have the widget on your school webpage so there are many ways to see the updates without actually your community using the service themselves.

There are some other basics you will need, especially if you haven't Tweeted before. Check out my Twitter In Education Livebinder for the basics.

So this summer, if you haven't already, take the time to get a school-wide (or district-wide) Twitter account set up and help connect your school to the community. And if you can think of other things to consider or something I might have left of leave me some comments below.

Image From Flickr CC spencereholtaway

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From The Shamelss Promotion Department

I don't often promote my own stuff but in this case I am going to do a little shameless promoting. Tomorrow I am doing a free webinar for Simple K12 entitled, Navigating Social Media Policies, One Schools' Journey.

I get asked a lot about what policies schools should have about social media and what guidelines they should have to teach their students about social media. I have spent the better part of this school year working with an elementary school in my district to develop social media guidelines for the faculty, staff and students. In this webinar I will walk everyone through the rationale, the process and where we will go with things next year.

The webinar is free and open to anyone. So head over to this link, register and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making Connections

Take a look at this short video.

So I saw this video on Twitter yesterday (thanks to Alec Couros and Steve Ransom).

It really spoke to me. Connections are so important. Watch the video again and look at the different emotions on the faces of the folks. Some think it's a joke. Some are just happy-go-lucky. Others genuinely needed the connection and were glad to make it.

Now take the idea of connecting and turn it virtual. Social media has made it so much easier to connect with others. Many people can attest to the life-long friendships formed because of connections made through social media (be it Twitter, Facebook, Nings, etc). What is so unique and fascinating is that many times, these people don't meet in real-life for an extended period of time. Take my good friends Shelly Terrell and Tom Whitby for example, I didn't meet until almost a year after we found a friendship through our creation of #edchat. There are countless others I have had the honor of meeting like Kyle Pace or Nick Provenzano or Bill Ferriter or Kelly Tenkley, so many to name.

The point is social networking is less about networking and more about social. I encourage educators (and others) all the time to use Twitter. Many people know my thoughts on that. There are so many great resources out there waiting to be found and you can get them any time you want to.The people that you "meet" and the relationships you form can be life-changing. But the only way that happens is to move from lurking to to participating, contributing, reflecting and conversing.

Twitter isn't the only way that happens. Other places like the EDU PLN or Classroom 2.0 where asynchronous conversations take place. Or in live, on-line learning environments like the Reform Symposium where people gather from all over the world to learn and grow with each other.

The point is, we can't go through our professional careers alone. Well, we can, but what fun is that? And how fresh is the content in our classroom that we are teaching students? And how are we learning and growing to be better? The connections that we make help stretch our thinking, open doors to learning and so much more. But it's hard to do if we don't jump in or we just stand in the crowd.

So take a risk like the folks in the video.

Go out and hug the bear.