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So you have a plan to unveil a school blog page for the start of this academic season. . .

The Eastwood School Blog

Now your question might be:  What is the best way to inform our families that it will be our primary communication portal?

Well, here are a number of strategies you could employ:

  1. Word of Mouth.  Have a few contests where the kids login and answer some questions in the mornings.  The info they need to answer can only come from the blog.  Better yet, have them leave their answers on the blog as a comment and award a few winners each morning for a couple of weeks.  This will wear off eventually so be careful with the carrot at the end of this stick.  You want the reward to attract them to the blog and once there the information has to be rich in order for your visitors (parents and students) to want to come back.
  2. Get a digital club together and make sure the kids are talking the talk.  Have them adorn the hallways with posters.  Make sure there is a Digital Club blog to go with the school blog so that kids are attracted to the work of their counterparts.  Make sure you are embedding Dig. Cit. into your days as someone will test the boundaries and make some faux pas.  That is okay.  It is all about the learning.  Careful…don’t want to scare them away with punishment, on the contrary you want to attract them with learning.
  3. A Facebook and Twitter account with a brand page or school page helps and be sure to link both to your blog.  Facebook will get your blog in parent circles the fastest.
  4. Decide on a strategy ahead of time for dealing with comments.  Moderating comments maybe the best way to go in the interest of preserving everyone’s Digital Footprint.  Better to have a moderated comment to talk with a student about rather than a public one.  After a meaty discussion on Dig. Cit. allow the student to then make the decision about whether the comment need be public or edited.  Interpretation learning is always so rich.  When students and parents see their comments they are empowered to join the conversation.
  5. Use the school sign to advertise the blog address all year!  Order a large banner from the school photographer if you don’t have access to a school sign.  They offer these for free with your yearly contract.
  6. Send a newsletter until January and advertise the blog in every issue on the front.  Let the community know the timelines.
  7. Give the Whys of the Blog: eco-friendly, fiscally responsible, up-to-the-minute, always available, more interactive, read/write, etc.
  8. Keep your posts up to date.  The longer they are stagnant the more readers you lose.  Keep your posts short and tidy.
  9. Don’t be afraid to move beyond information items and include some important stuff on the blog with decisions to be made.  Increase the value of the visit.
  10. Add pictures to all of your posts.  Make sure all consents are up to date and signed! Call parents when you are showcasing or naming a student.  This double redundancy is so appreciated by parents and puts safety and courtesy first.  Adding the Flickr widget is a great help especially when combined with the iPhone app!
  11. Add polls to some of your posts.  Let the community vote on some items.
  12. Add video to some of your posts.  Keep them short and to the point.  (My first couple “From Mr. Cowper’s Desk” were dreadful!  Too long and wordy.)–you need a safe YouTube channel to do this right.
  13. Allow students to contribute writing to the blog.  This increases your word of mouth traffic.
  14. Enable the Post from Email function.  This allows you to update from anywhere with no app required.  Make sure parents can subscribe to the blog via email.
  15. Install the WordPress App on your iPhone.  This way you can quickly and quietly fix spelling errors or delete posts.
  16. Put the blog address everywhere.  Let the community know that this is where the stuff is and if they aren’t reading it they are missing out……not in these words of course…you get the point.
  17. Use tags!  This will help your readers find the blog when they lose the address.  They will lose the address.  Make sure the blog has the school name in the address and make sure you tag with the school name each time.
  18. Change the phone message and have the message state the blog address for the most recent and up to date information and “goings-ons”
  19. Think Multimedia: video, pics and audio.  Audioboo is another great little iPhone app that lets you add real-time conversations and audio from around the school with three clicks!
  20. Add a Clustr-Map widget to the blog to track visitors.
  21. Get the staff Blogging!  The more familiar it is to all stakeholders the more it will “stake a hold!”

I hope these ideas help you increase your communication level with your school community.  Enjoy the analytics that WordPress offers.  This will help you track the most interesting posts and the times that your blog is used the most.

Happy school blogging in 2012-2013 everyone!

If you have other ways that you have increased the school blog use please comment!

Thanks.

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A video that was inspired by @Johnwink90 ‘s 136 character tweet.

On Saturday, July 18, I participated in #satchat.  I had some time while the kids were playing Plants versus Zombies (the “Cowper Game App of the Summer!”).   I had a coffee and my partner was reading beside me.  I figured….why not.  The topic of the day was “Back to School” and leading us was @DCulberhouse.  I knew that the majority of the educators were West Coasties and I was interested in their take on Back to School.  Of course there were many other participants from all over North America.  Until the spammers got ahold of the hashtag things were going great.  Of course the infiltration of spammers has nothing to do with the good people leading or participating in #satchat.  On the contrary.  The fact that we were trending a topic on a Saturday morning across the continent (and warranted the most inappropriate spam) speaks volumes about the quality of the 140 character content.

As @dougpete explains in What does Twitter for PD Mean; Twitter can be a launching pad:


The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

After reading @dougpete’s blog entry and considering many conversations with incredible learning leaders like @kellypower and @globeandtims I continue to rehash the essential question:  Is Twitter a Professional Learning tool?

Well, in this particular instance,:

  1. I participated in the chat on Saturday with a group of like-minded educators passionate about learning and opening the school year (from all over North America).
  2. I learned of a myriad of ways other leaders are handling logistical issues that are ever-present in the first weeks of school.
  3. I grabbed a few nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me.
  4. I learned of many ideas, best practises and innovations for having a successful Back to School Night.
  5. I learned of one Principal (@JohnWink90) making “How To” videos for his parents and community.
  6. I made the committment to “give it a go” (thanks for the lingo @jessmcculloch) myself with an iPad, iMovie and our Eastwood Eagles YouTube account.
  7. I filmed the entire video using my own children and a few adult helpers as “actors” on the very same day.
  8. I then sent the video to three individuals (@avivaloca being one), I have never met face to face, for their perspective and assistance (as well as an administrator in a neighbouring district.)
  9. I also sent the video to two Vice Principals in my district for their perspective and assistance.
  10. Finally I uploaded the video to our school blog and mailed it directly to our faculty (we have some new faces)

I have captured the moment I got the idea with this image:

This endeavour involved professionals, learning, technology tools, acting (doing) and reflecting.  I will undoubtedly get feedback from the community, other school leaders and the kids.  Granted there is not a direct impact on student achievement.  I still believe firmly that the reason I engaged in the entire process was because I am a member of an ever-expanding professional learning network through Twitter.  Again, in this instance the power of social media lead to deeper learning experiences.

For me Twitter has not been the best professional learning I have ever engaged in.  I believe that saying this is hyperbole.  On the contrary I have had some incredibly moving learning experiences with one, two or three people in a room making dialogue over work, learning, dilemmas or successes of our profession.  These are the professional learning experiences that have been the most riveting and influential.  Funny thing is. . . without Twitter I may not have had the opportunity to have these conversations with the likes of those mentioned above (not to mention the 34 #UnPlugd12 -ers from last weekend!).  Twitter has turned me on to some individuals who have led me to question, bolster, appreciate, act on and essentially change my perspective on just about everything I have learned to this point.

Thanks good sir.  I hope it helps our school community this September.  I am going to have some fun filming a trailer for this academic year next!

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I have embarked on a major project as part of my NSDC Academy Class of 2011.  I am working with 20 other elementary administrators like myself in some ways and very different in some ways.  We are engaging and learning together with a critical friend from another jurisdiction on the continent.  Our critical friend is a fellow learner, administrator and a skilled facilitator of adult professional learning.  The goal of my work is to enhance, develop or initiate the facilitative leader in all of us.  We are building on leadership skills that we all have.  We are building on the facilitative skills that lie in the realm of pressure and support.  We are working in the realm of relationships and protocols for engagement.  We are working so we may harness the true power and expertise of our teachers for improved student achievement.

First things first.  I am using technology to engage with my counterparts.  Using Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Wikis and Google proved to be far to complex for many of my colleagues.  The learning curve was simply too steep for many.  I went to the one stop shop for professional educators:  The School Improvement Networks, PD360.  This on demand professional learning experience is tailored for educators.  It combines almost all the components of the above mentioned network tools in one place.  There are limitations however.

I look forward to updating this blog entry regularly as it will serve as my journal for my work with colleagues.  So far…14 of 22 have signed in for the first time.  Not bad.  We have two different physical meetings scheduled including our first….how to….coming up soon.  In all we will be working through protocols for PLCs from the School Reform Initiative and Michael Fullan’s newest Motion Leadership.

There is work to be done.  I am doing the work alongside my friends and colleagues.  I am engaged in and implementing the learning simultaneously.  Exciting and tiring.  Our kids are worth it.

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In my defense re: Twitter 
 
I am of an age where the time I need to invest in learning to use technology is overwhelming. I also have a personal bias against the inanities of the “twitterverse”. I feel we are raising a generation so introspective that they really do believe the world should care about what they had for breakfast. So much introspection breeds delusions of grandeur; this world needs more inflated egos like I need a hole in the head. I concede that situations like the Haiti earthquake were covered in the first person by Twitter and that kind of direct communication did contribute to the global action in support of the survivors, but each week, alongside the news topics, are just as many followers for pop culture like Justin Bieber or LOST. That self-referential “digital noise” really turns me off. After reading the article, I would also concede that the author feels his Twitter network keeps him motivated. As I seem to be in a bit of a rut right now, I guess I can understand that.
 
By the way, the Dec. 2009 issue of WIRED ( yes, I do read a variety of periodicals- even those on technology on occasion) had a very interesting article about Evan Ratliff who decided to shed his identity one month to see if it were possible to hide in plain sight in the digital age. For one month he travelled around the U.S. with those who were trying to find him close on his heels. They set up networks, FACEBOOK, blogs and Twitter etc. to share information; “where is Evan Ratliff?” In the end, his Twitter posts were his undoing and he was found on day 25. What connected for me was that an institution sprung up instantly to solve a problem. Members did not compete, they collaborated (Vanish Team). I found this saga to be a parable for how knowledge will be disseminated and shared in the future and what we need to prepare our students for. 
 
 

 

Wired Magazine: Where is Evan Ratliff?

Just blathering on a Sunday afternoon. I need to pay my bills electronically so I am using email as a task avoidance strategy. (<~~ yes I realize the irony of ending this with a self-referential statement).  

Cheers
Your Friend

 

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My Friend,  

I so badly wanted to send this to all of my administrative colleagues but fear my rant will land me more empty seats at my table at the monthly Principals’ meetings, more jokes about the “techno-guru” that can fix the LCD projector or the PowerPoint show and certainly even less interest in “picking up what I have been laying down” since the technology workshop with David Warlick in August. I am gonna lay off on the “Join Twitter chatter”. I am losing real life friends faster than I am gaining virtual followers. So I decided just to send it to you (and my few Bloggings Readers). So go ahead……hate away.  If you decide to join and follow and need some guidance drop me a line or send me your @.   See the email below. 

Friends,

 An article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership endorsing the use of Twitter for professional learning for teachers. Check it out.

 Why_Teachers_Should_Try_Twitter

Educational Leadership by ASCD

Just think, If you got on Twitter you could start ignoring my annoying “pleas” that come with these emails. If you want to talk about it…..just drop me a line (or your Twitter name).

 Tweetly Yours,

 Cowpernicus

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A recent Blog by dougpete  (How Time Changes)  helped me continue an internal dialogue where I am attempting to support my Elementary Principal counterparts in joining me in the Twitterverse once a week  as their time permits.   As an NSDC academy class of 2011 I have determined personal learning networks are a great place to  begin the conversation about helping my Principals become the facilitators of professional learning in their respective school houses .  I will actually use a portion of his post here.

“One of the other topics of discussion for us dealt with having administrators lead and model this new approach so that teachers and students are encouraged to do their best.  Why isn’t this happening everywhere.  I hypothesized that it’s because of the level of transparency that the new approaches requires.  In the good old days, when your creations were a project or a document,  you had total control over who sees and, more importantly, comments and evaluates it.  As educators, we all grew up in a system where there were clearly right and wrong answers.  Taking the results of these tools and publishing for the world (or at least a portion of it) to see is a big risk.  What if I make a typo?  What if someone vehemently disagrees?  What if I blog and someone posts something inappropriate?  What if I post something to Twitter and draw the ire of everyone with a keyboard?  It’s not so easy.  It’s not so comfortable.”  (dougpete)

The conversation does continue dougpete….. I have noticed with Twitter alone the professional adults I am surrounded by daily ask “Is that like the social networking thing?”  Trying to qualify the applications (or their lack of participation) with one singular definition.  I have started saying “No, it is a 4 dimensional social learning tool which allows you to participate in conversations far beyond your current 3D world.”  They then look at me kind of funny.  I am going to have to come up with a better sales pitch. 

I believe you are right when you talk transparency.  Transparent to a “twitter native” means exposing your life because mainstream media has coloured the picture of social networking with the brush of “Hollywood.”  The real power of twitter is for our colleagues to publicize their learning and then invite other colleagues into that conversation in an effort to do the same.  I had a wonderful quote in my session at NSDC two days ago. . . “Outside ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field, meet me there.”  Rumi.  The field is the PLN and all educators will eventually find their way there.  Lets continue to point to that place when people come to us for directions. 

Sitting here this morning in the lobby I walked to “the field” with Crystal from Buffalo.  She is a staff developer (and an Academy Class of 2011 member) and looking for a way to communicate with her teachers.  I presume that the new 4D world of twitter will generate some new learning.  Keep it up Crystal.

Are you a Principal with the GECDSB?  If so….join me.  Lets learn.

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