The article below was featured in the Florence Mining News (Vol. 131-No. 26) and the Iron Mountain Daily News (July 9, 2012).
Leaving a Digital Footprint
By Justin Cowen, IT Technician
School District of Florence County
Walking through one of the local forests gives many the opportunity to see various footprints left by previous passerby. It can often be easy to track a deer moving through the forest or to find the swaggering path of a porcupine. For some, the ability to track these prints is the difference between telling the story of the one that got away and a freezer full of venison.
During this past year, the employees of the School District of Florence County have worked hard to establish their digital footprint. The school started a social-media presence on Facebook (www.facebook.com/florencecountyschooldistrict) and Twitter (@florenceschools). Through this digital footprint, the school was able to share updates, events, and pictures faster and to more people than ever before.
The school district team has decided to leave its biggest print yet by re-launching its website on July 9. The school’s new homepage can be found on www.myflorence.org. The process of getting this new website off the ground started back in February of 2012 when the School Board approved the updating of the website. Since that board meeting, a Webpage Advisory Group has been formed in the district, and students helped chose a new name for the district’s webpage. The new name, myflorence.org, helps showcase the idea that education goes beyond the walls of the classroom and that students truly play the most important part in their education.
The new website will allow the district to help create a unified and aesthetically-pleasing look across all the website pages. Staff members will be able to get announcements and resources out faster and in greater frequency to everyone in the area. Using the new website, teachers will also be able to strengthen their own digital footprints. Florence County School staff will be able to create their own websites to share their classrooms with students, parents, and the community.
If you travel to the district’s old homepages any time after July 9, you will be redirected to the new website. The school district team is excited about the opportunity to expand further its footprint this year and to use that footprint to strengthen and to improve student learning.
In this weeks 3 Minute Tech, I take a look at BigHugeLabs.com. BigHugLabs offers various project ideas for educators and students. Also, many of these projects can be used for more then one kind of lesson, unit, or even subject! One of the benefits of BigHugeLabs is that they offer a free educator account. Using this account teachers can pre-create student accounts without requiring emails. Another benefit is that teachers have access to the awesome creations their students make!
If you have used BigHugeLabs in the classroom, please share some of your student creations in the comment sections!
To see all the videos in the 3 Minute Tech series, please be sure to visit the 3 Minute Tech Playlist on YouTube.
In today’s 3 Minute Tech I discuss Linoit, which is one of my all time favorite websites! It allows easy and simple classroom collaboration and feedback. It can be used by students without requiring them to register, which can be a plus for those elementary teachers. It is basically a corkboard where yourself or students can post ideas, pictures, videos, links, and more. The ‘canvasses’ can then be shared via a url or embedded into a website. I have also done two previous blog entries about using Linoit, Using Linoit for Class Discussion, and Zoo via Minecraft.
I was recently re-introduced to the idea of Google Treks by a fellow educator. Previously for some unknown reason, I thought they were useless. Luckily, I have seen the errors of my way and couldn’t wait to show everyone else in my district the awesomeness of Google Treks! These are really super easy to make and even easier to share. The lesson plan possibilities based off these are endless! To help introduce my fellow teachers about Google Treks, I created a brand new 3 Minute Tech video. If you have yet to try making one of these, go to Dr. Alice Christie’s Google Trek website for outstanding tutorials and examples.
On a side note, if you are someone getting married this summer, or the parent of one of these lucky newlyweds, think how awesome it would be to share a Google Trek with your wedding guests! You could show family and friends neat places in your town, location of the wedding and/or reception, and so much more! If you create a neat Google Trek, please share the link. I would love to see your creations.
3 minutes will be all I ask of teachers and staff in my school district. I recently started a new tech training titled, “3 Minute Tech.” As the name implies, the training will take no longer then three minutes. These training’s will be brief YouTube videos highlighting useful websites for students, teachers, and staff. You can view the first video in the series here, The End of Picnik. If you enjoy the video or the idea of 3 Minute Tech, I would love to hear your ideas for future topics! Please send me your ideas via this blog or find my contact information on my official homepage, justin.cowenonline.com.
Below is a copy of a recent artice I wrote titled, “Getting Cloudy.” This article was printed in the Florence Mining News on April 11, 2012. It is discussing how technology is having a big impact on both students and teachers at the Florence County School District.
If you were to walk through the classrooms in the high school and middle school you would find it to be “cloudy.” Of course there isn’t a fog settling in the rooms, but we are talking about the tech buzz term known as “Cloud Computing.” Cloud Computing allows students and staff to access their programs and files no matter where they are or what type of computer/smartphone they are using. This past summer the school district implemented a cloud computing program referred to as the FSD Cloud. Students and staff are able to log in to this single website and gain access to their files, grades, email, calendar, and more!
Students have been able to access this cloud by using netbooks provided by the school district, through the 1:1 initiative. Another buzz term, 1:1 means every student, in grades 7-12, have access to a netbook for classroom use. This puts students in a position where they can take direct control of their education and teachers in a position where their lessons can be interactive and student driven. In a recent survey a student stated, “(the netbooks) help make understanding in classes better and helps people focus on what’s being taught, and just makes classes better.” Also, the 1:1 initiative has allowed teachers and students to access material and information that otherwise would have been inaccessible. Students are now able to access up-to-date information on the fly and staff are able to provide students with relevant meaningful material.
It is truly the interaction of these two programs that have made a big impact on the school district. In the words of a teacher, the FSD Cloud and the 1:1 initiative “Expands lesson possibilities and can make learning more engaging and motivating.” These programs also prepare students for a world that has technology integrated into everyday life. The school district looks forward to further expanding these programs with the use of Google Apps (a cloud based productivity suite), our new interactive website (currently in development), and further training in Web2.0 websites for all staff and students!
Getting Cloudy, Florence Mining News, 4-11-12.
I am a sucker for neat infographics and couldn’t help but share this one, http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2011/11/23/infographic-get-more-out-of-google.html. This infographic gives some awesome tips on better ways to find information using Google.Hopefully you find a useful nugget of learning
Looking for some other awesome infographics? Check out the handy links below: