Sunday, September 14, 2014

Four Features of a Better Blog

With millions of blogs, and millions of blog readers exchanging information across the world wide web, what are enhancements that can turn the ordinary into extraordinary with respects to blog appeal? Here are a few suggestions for building a blog that offers greater functionality while also standing out from the ordinary. This post will focus on features provided by Blogger. However, excellent platforms such as WordPress, EduBlogs, and Weebly offer similar enhancements for educators and their students to create attractive, engaging blogs.


Google Translate


Why? - Increase the chances that your blog will be appreciated by world-wide audience. Google Translate will convert your words into other languages.
How?  - Google Translate can be found in the Blogger gadgets menu.

  1. Sign in to Blogger
  2. Click on your blog title
  3. Click on "Layout"
  4. Click on "Add A Gadget"

Blogger has about thirty "gadgets" built into their main menu. 900 others may be found through their web menu. You can also create your own gadget by searching the Internet for the HTML code, then copy / paste this code into the HTML/Java Script gadget.


"Share To" Buttons



Why? - Readers are liking what you have written and want to share it out to other people in other locations on social media.




How? - By default, Blogger provides a menu of "share to" buttons that are included in the post window. However, accentuated "share to" buttons can be found in the gadget menu.


Attribution


Why? - Let readers know what is permissible with respects to your intellectual property. Provide notice of legal protection against commercial exploitation.
How?  - Blogger has an on board attribution gadget, but I prefer the Creative Commons license that can be customized and added to the blog tool bar.

  1. Go to the Creative Commons license site
  2. Use the radial buttons to choose the license that fits the needs of your site or blog.
  3. Copy the HTML code
  4. Go to the blog "Layout" page, click Add Gadget
  5. Choose HTML / Java Script gadget
  6. Paste copied code into the HTML window - click SAVE

Photos


Why? - Media such as photos and videos add visual appeal and help reinforce the message of the post. Not all images on the Internet are free to use. Images that are not created personally must be free to use and share, and / or modify.


How? - Use your own images whenever possible. Otherwise, I like sites like Photopin which provide commercial and non-commercial images from Flickr along with the HTML code for attribution so credit can be given to the provider.


  1. Insert the image at the desired location on the page. 
  2. Copy the attribution code and paste into the HTML editor for the page as either a credit or as the image caption.

With good reason, more educators and their students are sharing their learning with blogs. There are many helpful tools available to make blogs more interesting and interactive. Knowledge and use of these tools can help turn an ordinary blog into something unique and engaging.

Related Reading



Tips For Better Blogging - The Edublogger

Blogging Resources For Classroom Teachers - Center for Teaching Quality, Bill Ferriter


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Three Cool Uses for Remind

Remind, one of my favorite apps, is becoming a communication stalwart at our school. Free, easy, and effective, Remind (formerly Remind 101) provides versatile one-way correspondence between teacher and students, or teacher and the students' parents. With nearly everyone having a cell phone, and because email is becoming "old school", Remind offers a terrific solution to keeping students and their parents informed, and best of all, in real time. Here are three ways in which Remind is used at our school.

  1. Announcements - Our principal, created a class for our faculty and staff to receive announcements that are timely or urgent in nature. For instance, school was closed during a few instances of extreme cold or heavy snowfall last winter. Those of us who subscribed to Mr. Steiger's class received a school cancellation announcement within a minute of his notification. Otherwise, the message could take up to an hour to receive through conventional methods such as email, or our emergency phone tree.
  2. Professional Development - Like my principal, I have a Remind class set up for our faculty and staff. Subscribers get a daily tip pertaining to instructional technology, or classroom pedagogy. These messages can include attachments, hyperlinks, and voice clips. Our teachers appreciate getting bite-size pieces (Tweet-style, 140 characters) of information that doesn't clutter their email inbox. Messages from Remind are typically received via cell phone, but this versatile application can be used on any web-connected device.
  3. Reminders - Makes sense doesn't it? A growing number of our teachers are using Remind to share timely reminders to students and their parents. Upcoming deadlines, field trip forms, and special events are examples of things that no longer rely on a student bringing papers home to be signed and returned. Parents and students can acknowledge receipt of the message through a simple yes or no poll (stamps) attached to the message. Remind is also integrated into Schoology, our LMS application. Remind provides important communication while removing excuses for missed messages.





One can easily get started using Remind in just a few short minutes. Here's how to create your free account...


  1. Go to Remind.com and click on "Sign up" button
  2. Choose either the "Teacher" or "Student or Parent" button
  3. Complete the form requesting name, email address, and password
Yes, it is really that easy!

Are you a teacher using Remind? If so, what creative uses do you have for this easy-to-use, and effective, communication tool?





Related Reading






Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning With More Punch



Comedian and entertainer Howie Mandel uses fist taps instead of hand shakes as a coping strategy for his mysophobia. Years before this became a popular greeting method, I was using fist taps to connect with my G343 Psychology students. Early in the course, we would use our hands as models when learning about human brain anatomy. The hemispheres and lobes of the brain were represented by both hands and the position of the fingers and knuckles. To promote our psychology learning club, or learning community, we would touch fists when entering or exiting the classroom, and to acknowledge each other when outside the classroom. This gesture became a symbol of connection for a few hundred psychology students. This year, I am using a similar theme to promote connected learning at our school.

During our summer institute day, I introduced my fist, specifically the four knuckles, as symbols for improving learning at our school.

  1. Knuckle of index finger - put learning first. 9 out of 10 people report enjoying learning, yet fewer than 50% of students surveyed enjoy school. Schools no longer hold a monopoly on education, but they can still be the epicenter of learning by making personalized, connected learning a priority. Educators who embrace the role of lead learner, or co-learner, help to establish a collaborative, results-oriented tone in the classroom.
  2. Knuckle of the second finger - become connected. Educators readily acknowledge that relationships matter. Web-based technologies are accelerating and personalizing learning through ubiquitous access to information and to other learners. Educators making contributions to PLNs, and PLCs are reinvigorating their learning, and modeling enjoyment of connected learning for their students.
  3. Knuckle of the third finger - share your story. Scrapbooks, journals, and file cabinets held a certain degree of significance in the analog world, but where's our personal record in the digitized world of today? Digital portfolios and blogs are tools that educators can use to reflect upon and communicate their learning stories.
  4. Knuckle of the little finger - get a little better each day. Everyone wants to improve, but few of us formulate plans, or goals, for doing so. Adopting a growth mindset and constructing a plan for incremental self improvement fosters intrinsic motivation, increases general satisfaction, and contributes to both personal and organizational growth.
It is my hope that the practice of fist-tapping will grow at our school. Not just a greeting, fist tapping could also serve as a reminder to learn, connect, share, and improve. In addition to being a gesture for promoting community spirit, I hope that it will also become a symbol of our commitment to building a culture of connected learning. Pound it!

Related Resources


Promoting a Culture of Learning - Edutopia, Terry Heick

How to Create a Personal Learning Portfolio - Online Learning Insights, Debbie Morrison

The Limitations of Being a Disconnected Nomad - A Principal's Reflections, Eric Sheninger



photo credit: CJS*64 via photopin cc