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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Leaving a Digital Footprint

The article below was featured in the Florence Mining News (Vol. 131-No. 26) and the Iron Mountain Daily News (July 9, 2012).

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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.

Google Trek – 3 Minute Tech

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

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 Minute Tech

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

SLATE 2010

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Today and tomorrow I will be tweeting live for the SLATE 2010 Conference in Wisconsin. Please follow me at http://twitter.com/jepc71.

1st Quarter….Check

November 9, 2010 4 comments

1st quarter of the school year is on the books and three left to go!  It was a busy quarter in many ways.  I implemented some new policies, introduced students to Edmodo, gutted and redid my school homepage, became more active on Twitter, and managing the middle school yearbook club.

Somethings went smoothly and others were a tad bumpy.  Edmodo has been a interesting twist in my classroom.  Not only has it replaced email, but has actually made me get organized!  I post my lesson plans everyday for students to see, I use it for collecting homework, and sharing files/links.  It has really changed the way I do my class.  Recently I was honored to teach other teachers how to use Edmodo at our last district in-service.  You can see an example of what I taught teachers by following this link: http://bit.ly/bvRvxH.  It was a pretty successful in-service and many teachers are now interested in Edmodo.

On the bumpy side my homepage revisions have not been as smooth.  I am a little happy with some new additions and changes, but I do not stay on-top of it enough.  The time I should be spending on it has been used tweaking Edmodo.  I am sure there is a way I can integrate the two, but there is just not enough time in the day.  One other problem is I do not have a way to monitor page views/visits right now.  Since the page is hosted through the school, I do not have access to the information.  Also, to view my page a person has to go through a complicated process, which I feel hinders parents visiting it.  Sometime in December I will  do a survey and see how much of an impact the website and/or Edmodo has.

Changing Gears

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This year I challenged myself to use more and new technology.  It was a slow start in the beginning, but I have made some big changes lately.  One large change was switching from email to Edmodo as the means of classroom communication.  This has been a beneficial change and one that the students have embraced.  When I originally stated last year to a tech committee that I decided to stop using email some people did not agree.  It seems now though they would have to reconsider their opposition when looking at comments recently made by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, that only 11% of teens email daily.  Edmodo has also allowed me to stream line my grading and classroom discussion.  Here is an example of a classroom discussion that was held via Edmodo, “Leave it on or Turn it off.”

While using Edmodo I found I needed a better way to get my instructions to students with little interruption from me.  I finally decided to start using my school issued website and got my butt in gear.  I found that I could use a built-in calendar function and PDFs to tell students what they need to do in a fast and productive manner.  So far this has been working pretty well and students seem to be catching on.  You can see what I have so far by clicking this link: Assignment Sheets.

The last thing I have only recently started doing is screen capture videos.  This past summer I found myself doing tech trainings for my school district on how to use Microsoft Office 2010 and our new Microsoft network.  It became apparent I needed to do something more then just printouts of instructions and looked into screen capture software.  I came across a program called Jing from a fellow educator and have found it to be excellent!  The free version (which I have been using) creates video screen captures with audio in 5 minute segments in ShockWave Flash format.  It has worked seamlessly so far and is easy to use.  I only recently created a video for more students on how to create Block Style Letters.  This seemed to make a big difference in class and students seemed to really like it!  I am polling them next week in Edmodo, so numbers to come soon.

Well, that is about all I have achieved so far in the first 3 weeks of school.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything keeps going smoothly.

Learning Through Technology

Today I get to rejoin the world of technology!  Recently I was enjoying the 4th with family in a place where no internet was available.  Throughout the week I had many get discussions with family about education and technology.  One that I am still mulling in my head is about students learning through technology.  It seemed ironic that when I checked my RSS Reader that David Warlick posted about having a conversion about this at ISTE. 

I think we are moving to an era when many people think technology can replace teachers and/or many traditional education methods.  At a conference I attended hosted by Infinite Campus, the founder talked about a world where all lessons would be delivered through a “lesson plan warehouse.”  The vision that was stated was that students would pick lessons they were interested in through their smartphones. 

It seems we believe that students have the ability to turn on their iPads and learn through their own methods.  Yes I believe some students could accomplish this, but mostly only if the topic interests them.  What makes school tough for many students is the process of learning something they do not care about.  When a student enjoys something they will try to soak in as much as possible and that is where the technology comes in.  I have seen students search out information on topics that interest them but I do not see them do the reverse.  Lately it seems many people try to keep students in their comfort zones, but does this really prepare them for life outside of school?

Also, many students have not yet had the life experiences to take what they are learning and apply it to the real world.  This is where teachers can go above and beyond a Wikipedia or a blog such as this.  The student has the opportunity to sit face-to-face and have a discussion about how to intergrate their learning into the real world.  Yes, this conversation could be done via a wiki or blog, but by having the converstation within the classroom it also teaches the student to work with peers and leaders.