Shrewsbury EdTech

Tech resources for Shrewsbury Public School educators


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Auto-Posting to Facebook via Twitter

Do you use social media for your classroom as a communication tool? If so, this tech tip is for you! On my team, we primarily use Facebook and Twitter. They tend to serve the same purpose: communicate with parents and students. Unfortunately, most of the parents are on Facebook but not many students have an account. Many students are on Twitter, but most parents are not.

For most of this year, I’ve been trying to post updates to both places, so we reach as large of an audience as possible. I recently discovered a setting in Twitter though that makes this much easier. In Twitter, if you click on “Settings”, you will see a screen very similar to what is posted below. On the left, click on “Apps”. It will prompt you to give Facebook access to your Twitter account. Once you do this, you have a few options for how you want to share you tweets on Facebook. We have a Facebook page for our team. As you can see, I checked the box that says “post to my Facebook page” and selected the 8 Gold page.

twitter2Now, whenever I want to send a quick update, I post it on our Twitter account. It then immediately gets shared onto our Facebook page! In the images below, you will see how my tweet looks on both Twitter and Facebook.

twitter Facebook

The one drawback to this still is that not all parents and students are reached. Our Twitter timeline is embedded on our team website, but it requires parents/students who don’t follow us on social media to check the website, which I’m sure many do not. Another possibility, which I’ve been meaning to learn more about for a while now, is a service called “Remind”. It allows you to send notices to students and parents via a private text messages. I received the email below just this morning from my colleague Meredith, who is a big fan (I’ll be chatting with her soon.) It looks like a really cool service, especially if you are not currently using other methods to send out updates/notices to student and parents.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 9.09.25 PM


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Finding My "Teacher Voice" on Social Media

As I get rolling with my 10th year of teaching in Shrewsbury, I have been reflecting on my use of technology and how it has changed over the years. Some of you know that my team has had a pretty awesome website (www.8gold.org) since the beginning, and this site has evolved over the years. We embedded a team Google Calendar, converted many of our handouts and nightly homework into Google Docs, inserted an Animoto video, and even added a Google Translate button for families that do not speak English at home.

Recently, the focus has been on social media. It seems like whenever a new social tool emerges, it promises to reinvent education. I have been to a few “ed tech” conferences where there is a feeling by many that if you’re not using social media in class, you’re not a good teacher. I don’t agree with that idea at all. However, like many of you, I have been trying to trying to wrap my head around how (and even if) I should use sites like Facebook and Twitter. Since Shrewsbury public schools seem to be hopping on the social media bandwagon, I figured now is the perfect time to share my thoughts.


Facebook

I started an official 8 Gold Facebook page two years ago. This format allows me to share information without having to “friend” students and parents. I would NEVER recommend for a teacher to “friend” students or their parents. A general rule many teachers I know follow is we will accept friend requests from former students once they graduate high school, no earlier. Our team website has a button that lets parents and students “like” our Facebook page, which allows them to see team updates in their Facebook News Feed. 
There are two primary purposes for the team Facebook page: 
  1. Communicate with alumni (students and parents). This is a great way to let them know about upcoming team and town events such as road races or hiking trips up Mt. Monadnock.
  2. Share pictures and videos. I created a team photo gallery for last year’s students and added pictures from different events throughout the year. ALL students and parents can access the pictures, even if they do not have a Facebook account. They can “like” photos but comment and tagging are both disabled. I set up a new photo gallery for this year’s class. 

Twitter

While the Facebook page came naturally, I have had a tough time embracing Twitter. In fact, I downright hated it for the longest time. Again, I will go back to one of those ed tech conferences I attended with Derek. We were the only two teachers with name tags that included our actual names. Everyone else wrote their Twitter handles instead. Really? The whole thing seemed very pretentious to me.
I’ve always thought Twitter had potential for sharing news in “real time” but wasn’t sure about how to utilize that in an educational setting. Just this past weekend, I sat with a friend in a bar in Boston before the MixFest concert. We thought we could stroll up fashionably late to the Esplanade to see our new favorite band from Iceland, “Of Monsters and Men”. At one point, there was confusion among people at the bar whether the gates had already been closed off to more people. I pulled up Twitter on my phone and searched for “MixFest”. Sure enough, the very first tweet was by the Boston State Police. (see below) As upset as I was that I wasn’t about to get inside the gate, I was secretly impressed with myself that I was able to find an answer to our question in about 20 seconds. 
I started a personal Twitter account about a year ago (@mrmularella). The toughest part was identifying my audience. Who would care about what I tweet? Who do I care about enough to read their tweets? I now “follow” a few friends but primarily use it to follow experts in the field of education. There are some scientists, teachers, principals, and leaders in the ed tech field. I mostly lurk in the background, reading their tweets and occasionally retweet something. Very rarely did I post something myself because I kept thinking, “who cares what I have to say?”
Over the summer, it all finally made sense to me. I could use it as a communication tool with students and parents. I did not want them to follow my personal account so I made a new account for our team (@8goldteachers). I shared the login infomation with the other 8 Gold team teachers so all of us could tweet out under this name. This then led to the most recent update to our website. I embedded the team Twitter feed into our main site so anything we post to Twitter also shows up on the website. This allows us to share team news and events in “real time”!. 
So, how am I using Twitter to communicate with parents and students? 
Here are some of the things tweeted during the first few weeks of school: 
  • Links to online resources (bullying, social media, cross country signups, etc.)
  • Quick reminders and notes like “Great to meet you all at Curriculum Night”)
  • Pictures from class labs
  • Links to team YouTube videos
One of my potential favorite aspects of using Twitter as a communication tool is the act of “retweeting”. The @8goldteachers account is “following” school and district administrators, as well as others in the community. See the full list here. If Dr. Sawyer tweets something I think our parents should know about, we can retweet his thoughts, which add them to our Twitter timeline. 
As of right now, we have thirteen students/parents following us on Twitter, but I’m hopeful that number will grow throughout the year. Other those thirteen, I honestly have no idea how many people are looking at these updates on the website. The parents seemed very receptive to the idea on Curriculum Night, but I may find out I’m still not reaching my desired audience. The experiment continues!


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Creating a "Facebook" with ClassTools.net

Social media has become an integral part of our students – and our own – lives.  Along with this, it has become a classroom tool – many teachers have kids design fake Facebook pages to demonstrate their understanding of a fictional or historic character.  Take this example for A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

 This profile wasn’t done on Facebook, however – it was created using a template on ClassTools.net — a very simple interface that allows anyone to create a profile page quickly and easily.  The page can be saved, printed, downloaded… allowing students to focus on the content, not the layout.

You can view a brief video that explains the tool here.

While you explore Fakebook at ClassTools.net, take a look at some of their other templates —

Post It allows you to upload any image and turn it into a label-type quiz, useful for any time you need kids to learn the parts of something – regions of a country, anatomy, elements of a structure, etc.

Telescopic Topic lets you import any outline / bullet point list and make it collapsible – so students only see the main topics, then can click on them to get more information / detail, and even add in new facts as they learn them.  This could be useful for outlining a paper, letting students see just the main ideas and how they relate to one another, and then revealing details and analysis that support each point.

Beyond this, they have all the usuals – venn diagrams, fishbone, hamburger… even a plagiarism checker for essays.

The site has a number of great templates — give it a look, and give some a try!