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Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Schoole Awards Recap

Below is the video for the 2010 Schoole Awards recap. Enjoy!

Reflections on the 2010 Schoole Awards

by Katie Brosious

As the craziness of the past few weeks for the Schoole Awards subsides, I find that it's important to reflect on the past few months that were the Inaugural Schoole Awards.

In January, we started accepting nominations for the best school district websites. We received more than 1,600 total nominations. Districts began to get more and more excited about the contest, and we started receiving questions, suggestions, and excited messages from people making nominations. 30 districts with the most nominations moved on to selection.

In March, our Industry Expert Panel chose the top 15 school districts that would represent the Schoole Awards finalists. Ken, Steven, Tom and Shelly offered some great feedback about the sites, and were able to identify the district sites that represented best practices for district websites.

The last two weeks of the contest were quite a whirlwind! More than 26,000 votes poured in from across the country over a two-week span, and comments crowded the contest website. People left suggestions, questions, motivational messages and it was clear how much passion people shared for their school districts, regardless of vote count.

In the end, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD came out on top, with Clear Creek ISD in a close second place. Friendswood ISD rounded out the top three. Districts have been receiving a ton of recognition, as the top three and the rest of the 15 finalists have received a badge to display proudly on their district website, and news sources like eSchoolNews and Education Week have featured stories about the Schoole Awards.

Some of the biggest and most common feedback points we can give to the semi-finalists is that use of Web 2.0 (and social media) along with great design and organization can really bring a site closer to its full potential. Design, organization, and interaction with the audience makes it easier for the audience to navigate the site and engages their attention throughout.

Some of the biggest questions and suggestions people had to improve the Schoole Awards was that student count should be considered. We listened to comments, answered questions, and are taking into consideration everything that happened this year in planning for next year's Schoole Awards. For example, we realize the need for categories based on student count, which will be one change made in next year's awards.

I'd personally like to thank everyone involved in the awards. All of your involvement, support, questions, comments, suggestions--you name it!--is what really made this year's contest a success. I look forward to all of your involvement in next year's awards, and beyond!

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Jump on the Bandwagon!

The debate as to whether or not social media sites have an educational benefit seems to be never-ending, but as studies continue, there is more and more reason to believe that there is a lot to learn from social networking/media. Sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, and YouTube are teaching students the kinds of 21st century technology skills that professionals are expected to exude in the real world.

"Students are developing a positive attitude toward using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout,” said Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher at the University of Minnesota. “They're also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology. The websites offer tremendous educational potential."

Colleges spanning the country ranging from Stanford to Duke are choosing to use popular social media sites as part of their curriculum. The following is a list of schools that are using social media in a new and innovative way:

At the City University of New York, Professor Jeff Jarvis is teaching a class that focuses on the use of social media for newsgathering. This is a class only offered to graduate students in the Graduate School of Journalism and it teaches students that they can find breaking news with the use of real-time searches.

There have been numerous times throughout my college career when I’ve been given an assignment, but just can’t get the creative juices flowing and can’t seem to get an idea together. But luckily for the students at Stanford, that will never be an issue for them. Faculty and student projects can be found on the school’s Facebook page, so if you find yourself looking for inspiration, the page is filled with videos, pictures, and other previously done works.

The use of Twitter and Facebook is one thing; though incredibly useful, neither requires much effort. But the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found a way to take things to the next level. They created their own channel on YouTube and packed it tightly with information and educational videos. These videos relate to topics such as health care, medicine, business, and information technology, all of which serve as aids in the classroom.

Colleges and universities aren’t the only ones hopping on the social media bandwagon. Chris Copeland, a Birmingham language arts teacher at Vestavia Hills H.S., uses Twitter to tweet his lesson plans. Not only does he feel that his tweets make it easier to keep up with what’s going on, but he also feels that sharing lesson plans on Twitter can help other teachers get good ideas for their own lessons. Furthermore, tweeting keeps a record of what has been happening in the classroom, which proves to be extremely beneficial for absent students.

Although there is no doubt that these social media sites can prove to be more than beneficial, some teachers would argue that they can be incredibly distracting. A recent and very popular trend has been to live tweet in the classrooms. Some say that it is engaging and encourages students to take part in interactive learning who might otherwise sit in the back corner of the classroom and not say anything. However, others say that Twitter is too fast paced; everyone must fully understand it to make it work, and the extreme multi-tasking can be unhealthy for students.

“Students have to ‘get’ Twitter before live-tweeting,” Kris Aylett from Ocean Springs, Mississippi said. “I found it a distraction in class. Students would tweet two times and text or use Facebook the rest of the time.”

The debate will continue to rage on, but where do you stand? Are you a socialite?

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, Clear Creek ISD and Friendswood ISD Win School-e Award Contest for Best School District website

The top honors for the School-e Awards contest for the best school district website were announced today, based on the amount of nominations and votes received and quality of their district website. The School-e Awards showcase the best K-12 district website design and strategy.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, the winner, Clear Creek ISD, the first runner-up, and Friendswood ISD, the second runner-up, will receive recognition and exposure through social media and news outlets, online plaques to display on their website, and feedback about the quality of their site. The top two district websites will also receive cash donations.

Nominations began in January, identifying districts whose stakeholders care enormously about the district and its website. Thirty semi-finalists were chosen based on the amount of nominations received and were then evaluated by experts in education and the web, Ken Royal, Tom Whitby, Shelly Terrell, and Steven Anderson on a broad set of criteria to identify the sites that follow best practices.

Fifteen finalists were chosen by the panel of experts in educational technology, which were voted on to elicit the feedback of the general web audience. The winners were chosen by the amount of votes the district received to recognize school district pride and passion. Anyone with a valid e-mail address could nominate or vote for a district’s website.

A school district website is an extremely important aspect of a school district brand, and as a communications tool between the district and its constituents, said K-12 Product Manager Tracy Kemp.

“The district website is really the most important vehicle for overall communication and branding,” Kemp said. “We really wanted to recognize school pride and passion, which is the reason vote counts decided the winners.”

District employees, students, and community members should go to to find out more information about the winners and the contest.

Monday, April 5, 2010

School-e Voting Opens, Finalists Announced

LAWRENCE, Kan.— Fifteen finalists for the School-e Awards contest for the best school district Web site were announced today. Finalists were chosen based on the amount of nominations each district received and the design, content, and overall quality of the district Web site.

The School-e Awards, hosted by AllofE Solutions, showcases the best K-12 district Web site design and strategy. Anyone with a valid e-mail address can now vote for a school district site by going to

The contest began accepting nominations for the best district Web sites in January to identify districts where constituents such as district teachers, staff, students and community members care enormously about the district and its Web site. Of more than 1,600 total nominations, the top 30 most-nominated district Web sites were then evaluated by experts in education and the web on a broad set of criteria to identify the sites that follow best practices.

After judging the sites based on design, content and overall look and functionality, the panel was able to narrow down the top 15 district Web sites for the public to vote on.

District employees, students, and community members should go to to vote starting April 5 and to find out more information about the contest. Winners will be announced on the School-e Awards Web site on April 19th, 2010.

The list of School-e Awards finalists is as follows in alphabetical order:

1. Beaufort County Schools

2. Brownsville ISD

3. Clear Creek ISD

4. Friendswood ISD

5. Godfrey-Lee Public Schools

6. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD

7. Leavenworth USD

8. New Castle County Vo-Tech School District

9. Orange Schools

10. Polk County School District

11. Southwest ISD

12. Spearfish School District

13. University Academy

14. Van Meter Community Schools

15. West Fargo Public Schools

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