Staying Connected

For several years my district used Teleparent as a means for us to stay connected to parents.  It took us awhile to get used to Teleparent because of the lack of PD.  I guess it still shocks me that with all of the research and studies out there that state the importance of sustained PD if they want teachers to adopt and effectively use technology that districts do not realize the importance of offering on-going PD. 

And just when we were getting used to Teleparent, my district switched to School Messenger.

I’m not sure whose opinions where taken in account when making the switch, but I don’t recall any surveys coming out asking us our views on Teleparent and whether we should switch to another company.  But the fact remains, the district dropped Teleparent and adopted School Messenger.

Sure, there were a couple of workshops and webinars on School Messenger, but anyone who has been in the classroom knows how hectic the beginning of the school year is.  No one has time to attend workshops.  For me, I figured webinars were the way to go.  But true to form (in my district) the webinars could only be accessed from the school wifi.  It makes one wonder, why bother?  “They” have made it so difficult for us to learn how to use this tool that I’m sure they are paying a pretty penny for.  When I asked why the webinars were only accessible from within the district network, I was told because it was proprietary material.  Really?  Knowing how to use a technology tool that other districts across the nation are probably using as well is somehow proprietary?  Geesh.

Bottom line is…I can’t figure out how to use School Messenger.  In fact, my whole department (and quite a few members of our staff) has given up on using that tool.  Needless to say, we weren’t as connected to home last year as in years past.  But this year my department is ready.  We’re going to use Remind 101.  No, it doesn’t translate messages into Vietnamese or Spanish like School Messenger, but we’re also not going to be sending long messages either.  The purpose of using Remind 101 is to send text messages to students and parents reminding them of important dates, etc.  It may not be as “robust” as my district claims School Messenger to be, but at least Remind 101 is intuitive.

We’re very excited to be able to connect to parents using this accessible tool.  In this connected world, text messaging is common-place.  I think that parents and students will like this kind of communication tool.  And better yet?  Neither party has to exchange cell phone numbers.  Parents and students have to sign up with a code and then we can send them messages from Remind 101.  But the best is…yep, there’s an app.  Wow.  What did we ever do before technology?

Exploring New Frontier

Today I finally took the plunge and purchased a domain name for my class website.  I’ve had a class website since 2007 and it’s been hosted on a variety of sites, but since I didn’t want to pluck money down to purchase a domain, I always had a url with a company’s name within it.  Normally I didn’t really care except last year when I had to move from MobileMe.  My department and I decided to move our sites to MacMate which seemed to be fine but like other sites our urls included “macmate” within it.  Truth be told, it’s just way too long of a url for students to type in…especially those who don’t know how to bookmark a site.

This summer I decided to move my website to Weebly so that it was cloud-based instead of dependent on where my iWeb domain file was.  I love it.  Weebly is easy to use  – sure it had its quirks – what site doesn’t?  But it only took me about three hours to move everything over.  I’m still toying with the idea of purchasing the PRO plan because then I can password protect certain pages which would come in handy when posting pictures of students or student work.  I’m going to table that for now.

The other thing I did this morning was purchase Evernote Premium.  =D  I’ve spent the better part of today organizing all of my files between Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and my MBP.  And even though one can’t easily see the progress…believe me, I’ve done quite a bit of work.  I’m almost ready for the school year to start.  No, I haven’t done any lesson planning, but I’ve spent a good deal of time looking over the reading and writing literacy skills for history; grabbing any an all information about DBQs and the DBQ Project; and of course rebuilding my class website.  My work laptop has been fixed and it’s almost ready to go.  The next item on my list is to download Reflector so that I can be ready to roll out PD to my staff and students on how to use iPads.  This is a very exciting time for me!  I love technology, but I also love getting organized.

Now it’s time to do what summers are best for…napping and relaxing.  Two more weeks…….

A little About.me

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t like to be the center of attention and I don’t especially like to talk about myself.  But I was prompted to create an About.me profile for an assignment for the LEC Digital Educator.

It always feels a bit weird to me to list one’s accolades.  I mean, I had no problem doing that for my vitae, but to me that’s different because my vitae only goes to specific people whereas my About.me profile seems to be instantly public.  I tried to figure out how to make it relatively private…I mean, I don’t need random people to see who I am.  This is my biggest issue with social media and social networking.  I think there should be more control over who sees what.  Sure there are people out there who have no qualms about sharing details of their personal life with the greater world but there are also those of us who are not so comfortable.  I can see why district administrators are worried about giving students access to social media tools.  Sure, we can teach students netiquette and the rules of digital citizenship.  We can caution them on what not to share.  But we can do very little if social media tools do not give individuals the right to determine how much we share and to whom we share that information (Facebook is a perfect example – every change they make seems to revert my privacy permissions).  You might ask, “Then why post information on social media sites?”  My answer, “Because we need to establish a digital presence.”  It’s important in this day and age.  Period.

Believe me, I have no problem with social media tools and social networking.  I just find it frustrating that there aren’t more ways for us to control who sees what.  I don’t regret creating an About.me page, but I don’t see myself keeping my About.me page after this certification course is over.