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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Closer look at SchoolE District Profiles

We've been putting in some hard work into the SchoolE Awards site and I wanted to give you all a good overview of the changes we've made and things we've added so that you can really take advantage of them!

Here's a quick overview of the brand-spankin'-new District Profiles pages (Click on the screen shot to view district profiles for the top nominees):

  • How many nominations needed to move up to the next rank: this stat is in red in the top left-hand section of the page
  • Recent Activity: this is the percent of nominations the district received on a given day: This stat is relative to the total amount of nominations received for that day.
  • Association Nominations: The percentage from which nominations are coming from (i.e., administration, students, staff, parents, teachers, alumni or the community),
  • Nomination Types: what type of nominations have been made through email addresses, Facebook and Twitter
  • Category Rankings: ranking in the district's respective category (also shows the district's total number of nominations)
  • Overall Rankings: the district's ranking overall
  • District Profiles include: a screen shot of the district website, a link to the district site, and a short excerpt about the district
  • Comments: a place for district stakeholders to leave comments


Friday, January 28, 2011

SchoolE Awards Update for Week 1/22 - 1/28

SchoolE has some very exciting news to announce this week - A new prize for the District Winners!

Nick Denardis, one of the SchoolE Awards Judges, has graciously decided to donate his time to do a video review of the winners in each category - so he will be reviewing the top district in each category. As host of his EDU Checkup video blog he reviews higher education websites through the eyes of a first time visitor, while critiquing the design, information architecture and code of the sites. He's never reviewed a K-12 site on his blog so the video review for the winners will be the first of their kind.

Nick is only one of the eight judges on the panel, so you can go to the SchoolE Meet the Panel page to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they were chosen to judge the SchoolE awards. On that page you can also find the grading criteria they will be using to judge the best 15 districts from each category of nominees.

Although there were many active schools this week, two really stood out. Upper Darby from Drexel Hill, PA has been the most active school this week having 47% of the nominations for Thursday alone. Groton School District has been voting non-stop all week to account for 25% of the votes and moved themselves to 2nd place in the Medium School districts.

New to the race is Oxnard Union High from Oxnard, CA. Although they're a bit behind the other schools, they're starting out strong. They've been the most active so far today, with over 50% of the nominations!

Go cheer your district on or leave questions, comments or suggestions on the SchoolE Interact page. You can see what other people are saying, asking, and suggesting or even leave a comment about what you think makes you're district's site is the best! And don't forget to use the #SchoolE hashtag on Twitter!

The races are close and every nomination counts. Keep your eye on the prize and get to nominating!

Friday, January 21, 2011

SchoolE Awards Update for Week 1/15 - 1/21

A landslide of nominations from Independence 30 this week has placed them at the top of the Medium School districts once again. This school district accounted for 70% of all votes for the week. They also were the most active district - getting at least 30% of the nominations for every day this week.

We've also received our first nomination from West Virginia. Welcome to the competition Randolph County School District from Elkins, WV.

The Top 5 in total nominations includes 2 Small districts, showing that even the smaller districts are keeping up with the larger ones in terms of nominations.

The Top 5 are as follows:
Brownville ISD from Brownsville, TX
Independence 30 from Independence, MO
Danville Independent from Danville, KY
North Allegheny SD from Pittsburg, PA and
University Academy from Kansas City, MO

The SchoolE site also introduced something new this week - A social media toolbar at the top of the site. On the toolbar you can see recent activity and "like" SchoolE on Facebook, view the most recent blog posts, and catch up on what people are saying about SchoolE on Twitter. You can also see the most active school districts for the day, nominate you district, and view the most recent comments - all from the toolbar. It’s a very cool feature to keep you updated on everything SchoolE, check it out on the SchoolE Website now!

Keep up the nominations!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Focusing on the goal, not the task.

"Don’t let education get in the way of your learning." - Mark Twain

Work can be pretty boring. Doing the same things over and over makes for a very mundane 9-6 day, 5 days a week. I think a lot of things can get this way - just think about your New Year's Resolutions: eat healthy, work out, lose weight, etc. (Don't lie, I know you've all pledged those at least once.) A lot of kids - and adults - say they 'hate school' or 'hate class.' It's boring, and they're not getting much out of it - and for the most part, they're probably right. None of these sound fun, right?

But they can be.

And it's our fault if they aren't.

The key to keeping things interesting and exciting is focusing on the goal - not the task - at hand. For example, the next email I send or phone call I make, could lead to a completely new project with someone new. The next workout I make up could actually be fun - and not something to dread. And the next lesson you teach can inspire.

It doesn't have to be the every-day mundane - especially when you're focusing on the big picture. Sure, I hate searching for 5 minutes trying to find contact information that buried within a website. You probably hate to run. And your students probably hate writing papers.

But when you can find that glimmer within something that takes your mind off the task at hand, it's not so bad. It won't feel like such a drag anymore. You might even learn to love it.

That's the philosophy we need to take when it comes to education.

And with everything we do, for that matter.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mobile App Revolution

Back in the early days of social media, I remember getting on Facebook and Myspace from my laptop and “socializing” online. It’s funny to think about how far social media has come in just a few short years. Many new social media innovations coincide with the popularization of smart phones like Blackberries, Android phones, and of course the iPhone. In the beginning, users would just hop onto their small-screened mobile web browsers and squint their eyes to read content and struggle to click around. I’m sure many users experienced a similar experience I did, such as accidentally “like”-ing something on Facebook while trying to navigate on my phone’s web browser.

Thankfully, someone came up with the wonderful idea of social media mobile applications. These apps are an amazing tool that have certainly broadened social media horizons. With so much time being diverted to social media it would only make sense that users would access social media from anywhere possible, especially their phones. Obviously many location based social media sites are actually best used on mobile phones, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, because users can check in using the GPS on their phone. Other social media sites are becoming more and more popular on mobile phones. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently announced that 40% of all Tweets come from a mobile phone. That’s up from 20-25% from a year ago.

Phone manufacturers have even realized the fact that many are using their phones for social media. Phones are beginning to become more focused around social media and staying connected (Remember the Kin?). Microsoft, for example, introduced the Windows 7 Phone, which is all about social media. On its “people hub” not only can you view your Facebook feed or contacts from Facebook, but with the “Me Card,” you can even update your status and change your profile picture across multiple social networking sites. For many phones, social media apps are pre-installed. Smart phones and social media seem to be a perfect combination. Phone manufactures like to market on social media sites, and social media sites love to be on cell phones - it’s a pretty mutually-beneficial relationship.

Another great thing about mobile apps for social media is the fact that different apps are being developed every day and if you don’t like one, another is probably on it’s way. With the abundance of twitter applications out there you can basically choose what information you want coming to you from Twitter, from only the latest tweets, to full site functionality, or even Twitterfeed, which offers to automatically tweet posts published on a blog using RSS.

It’s amazing to think where social media and cell phones will be in only a few more years, but for now, I’m content with social media apps.

What do you access you social media from, phone or computer?
Any thoughts on what phones best incorporate social media?

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Monday, January 17, 2011

7 Ways to Effectively Use Social Media in the Classroom and Examples

To say that social media has become a vital part of today’s world would be an understatement. But social media is no longer just a fun way to connect with friends; it has become a learning tool with endless possibilities. K-12 education is most certainly gravitating towards these 21st century tools because lets face it, if we want today’s children to be educated and ahead of the curve, we need to give them the most current tools to learn. Just as the times are constantly changing, so should schools and their teaching methods because adapting is the only way to assure that students do not fall behind the learning curve.

Here are some exciting and engaging ways to incorporate social media in the classroom:

  1. Connect with other classrooms: collaborative learning can be fun for students and extremely beneficial. Facebook allows for a class to connect with another class in the building or a class across the world to collaborate and learn together. Try Facebook groups to create class discussions - you can even live chat with other group members - no matter where they are.
  2. Keep up with current events: Part of educating students is keeping them up to date with what is happening in the world. What better way to keep students up to date than by using twitter? By using twitter, students and teachers can be instantly updated with the most current events of the world. Reading current event tweets in class can start a class conversation about various real world issues. Students can even contribute to discussions using their own accounts and perhaps a unique hashtag for the class.
  3. Connect with parents: Technology has without a doubt become an integral part of people’s lives. By using social networking sites or Skype, teachers can stay connected with parents to ensure that parents are aware of how their children are progressing in the classroom. Skype can even become a tool to host parent teacher conferences quickly and easily without the necessity to schedule face-to-face meetings.
  4. Facebook book reports: Students can use Facebook to create interactive projects such as book reports and engage other students with what they have learned. Creating Facebook pages for characters is a great example of how students can use today’s technology to communicate in the classroom.
  5. Encourage class participation: Teachers can use Twitter to engage students in class discussion. Learning really takes off when students are engaged with one another, but for some students speaking up in class is difficult. Shyness in the classroom can result in a timid student never sharing what could be great insight. Twitter gives students the opportunity to tweet comments or questions to teachers during a discussion.
  6. 100% student created projects: One Tucson, Ariz., science teacher used Facebook to spread the word about a community service project that was important to students. Students chose a relevant problem in their community and used Facebook to get the word out to make the necessary changes to better their community.
  7. Facebook and twitter as a tool to learn a foreign language: Facebook pages have been created to facilitate conversations in different languages in order to help students practice with native speakers. Here's an example:

By keeping up-to-date with new social media trends, teachers can enhance their classroom and create a supportive, engaging learning environment. The time has come to allow social media into the classroom rather than fear the possible repercussions of opening the door to social media. We only fear what we do not know—so teachers need to be knowledgeable when it comes to social media to be the best educators they can be.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

SchoolE Awards Update for Week 1/8 - 1/14

Yet another great week for SchoolE awards. Nominations just keep flying in; this week marks a big milestone: we've received more than 3000 nominations! The number of nominations was astounding. For the most part we've been getting one nomination at least every 10 minutes, and at a few points throughout the week we were receiving one nomination per minute.

Not only was there an astounding number of total nominations but the competition is really gearing up. Forty-five districts, old and new, have been bringing in nominations all week. They sure are making this a competitive race.

Two new states have joined the race, Chatham County Schools in Savannah, GA was the first state to join from Georgia and Salem City School District in Salem, OH was the first in Ohio.

Out of all the schools this week, two really stood out in voting. North Allegheny School District from Pittsburg, PA, had 27% of all nominations this week, quickly taking over the #1 spot for Medium districts. Brownsville ISD from Brownsville, TX kept up their voting to maintain the lead for Large districts, by accounting for 18% for the nominations this week.

The majority of the nominations are still coming in through E-mail, but remember you can also vote through your Facebook and Twitter accounts - meaning you can really nominate a district up to 3 times. Just choose either Facebook or Twitter under Step 2 on the SchoolE nomination page, log into your account and nominate! Using Facebook and Twitter also helps spread the word of the contest to ensure your district gets the most exposure possible - and increases its chance to move up in the rankings!

Happy nominating!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowfalls and New Years

We woke up to a winter wonderland here in Lawrence, Kan. today! Luckily, my pup loves the snow (and so does my car) - so I probably had an easier morning than most - stay safe out there!

As for the new year - this is going to be a special year for AllofE. With so many new friends, new projects and new products that arose over 2010, the whole team is energized and inspired to start this year out with a bang. Here are just a few of the things that are being introduced over the next few weeks -
  • The New Milford Holocaust Education Program website - a very inspiring project that has been a blast to work on (what a great district!) that shares an awesome message.
  • nuCloud Interactive Maps - we are working with the nuCloud team on the development of the second version of the nuCloud Interactive Campus Tour mapping platform - pretty sweet, right?
  • New University SMASHUPs - in the works!
  • edYOUcator lesson plan search engine - just what it sounds like - can't wait to share with you more of the details!
  • Matrix - a district assessment analysis tool
Whew - and that's only the beginning! What an awesome year to look forward to!

Happy new year to you and yours - & here's to this year being better than the last! Cheers!


Friday, January 7, 2011

SchoolE Update (Week of 1/1 - 1/7)

It's been an exciting week for SchoolE votes! There are now two new leaders for both the Medium and Small categories, new states, and a record number of votes!

In the Medium category (districts with 7,000-25,000 students enrolled), a landslide of votes from Independence 30 in Independence, MO, has secured them the lead. In the Small category (districts of up to 7,000 students enrolled), not only did newcomer Danville Independent from Danville, KY, break into the top 3, this district also manged to overcome University Academy or Kansas City, MO, for the #1 spot.

These two districts accounted for 75% of the votes this week, but many other schools are starting to rack up the votes also. The competition is really taking off! It will be interesting to see what next week brings.

Five new states have joined the SchoolE nominations with districts from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Bringing the SchoolE nominations much closer to the goal of receiving a nomination from every state!

What a great way to start off the new year, keep the votes coming in!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Location Invasion

Twenty-ten was a huge year for social media. There are more and more users, more and more sites, and endless amounts of benefits. However, the biggest boom in social media was probably location based social media. Many existing media sites, such as Facebook, have added ‘check ins’ to their sites, and sites like Foursquare and Gowalla have grown astronomically. So what’s in store for 2011 and location?

One new social media site that launched its beta site last month is Broadcastr. The site uses interactive maps to let users record or listen to stories based on location. Users can discuss anything, and according to the site, stories will cover a lot of ground: “from the historical to the hysterical, the hilarious to the anecdotal, Broadcastr amplifies all our voices.”

Location based social media brings a whole new element to the social aspect of social media. Many have argued for years that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, take out the socialization of “real” life. But with mobile smart phones becoming more common than not, users don’t need to be sitting at home in front of a computer to take advantage of using social media and location based social media even encourages being out and about.

Although there are cons to updating your whereabouts, including stalking and robbery worries (Anyone remember, you don’t even have to be an active user to benefit from some sites like Braodcastr and Foursquare. Even without signing up for Foursquare you can still search for stores or places and read “tips” or reviews about them. I’d imagine this would be very handy if you’re new to a location and would like to find a good restaurant or bar to hang out at; a good indication of the business might be how many people are “checking in”. With Broadcastr, you could listen to stories and experiences people have had at different places, possibly giving insight to what places to avoid. You could even learn more about the city by taking “walking tours” with a virtual tour guide you listen to.

Location-based social media is a world that AllofE is immersed in. In December, AllofE partnered with nuCloud to assist in the development of a new version of nuCloud’s Interactive Campus Tour mapping platform . Mapping platforms are essential to many location based social media sites, but can also be beneficial to all sorts of sectors, especially universities. Interactive campus maps not only can help students find their way around campuses but could also help the university in its recruitment efforts by allowing potential students and parents tour the campus without even having to visit. Students could also see who’s “checking in” at their favorite campus spots.

So look out for the invasion of location in 2011. It’s going to be another great year for not only social media sites, but users of social media as well.

What would you like to see location based social media sites do this year?

Monday, January 3, 2011

SchoolE Awards Update for Week 12/25 - 12/31

One district really stood out in the voting this week; Lexington City Schools from Lexington, NC. This district has received nominations every single day for the past week, doubling their overall votes. It seems like they are beginning to start some fierce competition versus the rest of the small school districts.

Maybe it's all the snow, but districts on the east coast accounted for 84% of the votes for the week. Sounds like other states really need to get in gear!

Is your district represented? If not, make sure to nominate your district now at

Keep the nominations coming in as we roll into the new year and a new semester!

Happy New Year 2011!