Building Your School’s Likeability

www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comSo, this summer, my goal has been to increase the school district’s likeability on facebook.com.  I have used several strategies which seem to be somewhat successful:

First, I specifically posted a request for people to like the page.  I also invited friends from my contacts to like the page.  My hope is that alumni will like the page and be able to keep up with happenings in the district.   I also hope that people in the community will be more aware of positives that are happening.

Second, I started a series of features about teachers in the district.  I sent a list of questions to various teachers with a request to send me the answers, along with a picture.  The list of questions is here:

Facebook Bio Questions for teachers

This feature has been very popular.  It’s gotten the most likes and comments of any of our posts.  Parents have commented how much they appreciate the chance to get to know their child’s teacher before school starts (and their child also likes it!)  It’s been fun to see what teachers’ answers are, too!www.mrsfenger.wordpress.com

The third thing I started this summer was a Throwback Thursday post.  I’ve posted pictures from old yearbooks and asking people to post their own oldies.  People seem to really enjoy these posts, too.

Fourth, I asked people to finish the sentence: the best thing about our school is: _______

www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comFinally, I added a chance for people to take a trip down Memory Lane:  I asked people to comment with their favorite memories of elementary school, then middle school, then high school.  This has brought up some fun memories and it’s also been wonderful to see what people remember about their school days years later.  Something to keep in mind when planning that oh, so wonderful grammar lesson (which could be forgotten oh, so quickly!)

 

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Increasing Your School’s Likeability

Using Facebook to increase your school's likeability

Using Facebook to increase your school’s likeability

Here are some thoughts I’ve had about using the school’s facebook page to increase community support:

First, try spotlighting a different teacher each week. Maybe start with an elementary, then a middle school, then a high school teacher.  Put a short post about them with a picture.  Towards the start of school, focus on the teachers who will be transition people: kindergarten, 5th or 6th grade, 9th grade.  That way, parents and students who are nervous about starting a new school see a face and information about their teacher(s).
Second, how about doing what some places do: ask people to like the facebook page.  A lot of times, I’ll see someone post when they’re getting close to a milestone number (like 500) and ask for more likes.  We could also ask people to pass the facebook page along to alum who have not liked the page.  The more alumnae we can get watching what we’re doing, the easier it will be to ask for money later on.
Third, maybe a contest here and there?  Ask people to post a picture showing their school pride.  Pictures of people on vacation wearing a shirt showing the school mascot or school colors could get people talking.  The more pictures you post on the page, the more people will want to come back to the page to look at it.  That makes it easier to broadcast other things about your school and get noticed.
What do you do to publicize what your school is up to?

Awesome Podcast to Listen to

I recently discovered a podcast called BrandEd.  It is wonderful!  The episodes are engaging and filled with great ideas.  I often find myself listening to an episode more than once; each one has so many good ideas, it’s hard to remember everything the first time through.

 

If you haven’t listened yet, you should.  These podcasts basically are a how-to manual on getting your school noticed.  They give all sorts of easy ways to use social media and electronic communication to get the word out about what you are doing.

Having held student led conferences lately where my students create a powerpoint about their work and progress, using the smartboard, I’m here to tell you: parents have NO idea what is happening in the classroom.  They are astounded when their child gets up to use the smartboard to take them through a powerpoint.  The more we can open up the classroom walls and show them what’s going on, the better.

In addition, I think it’s important for the community to see and hear what’s happening in the schools their tax dollars are supporting.  This podcast can help us do exactly that!

branded

Branding Your Classroom

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/branded-telling-your-education/id784146884?mt=2

 

You can also check out the website: http://www.bamradionetwork.com/

How I Use Social Media

I’m finding social media to be the newest version of the Great Divide.  Some people are all over it, couldn’t live without it, live their whole lives on it, while others don’t want to even consider a facebook page.  It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with age or gender, either.  I’ve seen young adults who embrace social media, while others remain skeptical.

Since it’s such a big part of life in 2014, I thought I’d share how I use it.  Feel free to chime in with your thoughts, strategies, or opinions.  We can all learn from each other!


Facebook_logo_(square)

First, www.facebook.com: This mostly functions as my personal account.  I have family on there, friends from high school (long ago!) and people from the town I teach in.  This is how I keep up with what’s happening in my family/friends’ lives.  I don’t tend to see a lot of drama on here (I understand others do), and when I do run across a post I disagree with or one I don’t feel like getting involved with, I keep scrolling.  I tend to do the same IRL (in real life for those not on social media), so it makes sense to me.  I also find, since the small town I live in and the small town I work in tend not to make the news much, when something is happening, facebook is where I get the deets (details).  When there was a fire downtown a few years ago, facebook kept me updated.

Our district also has a facebook page which has been invaluable.  This single website allows us to put out positive press (again, the local media ignores our town and school district), as well as post bits of information people might need.  I wouldn’t want to go back to the pre-facebo0k days, it’s just so much easier to communicate now.  We’ve even had people report incidents to us through the district facebook page which have allowed us to avoid bigger discipline problems.  Parents can also post questions like what time is an event happening, allowing us to respond quickly and easily.

twitter logoSecond, www.twitter.com:  I find this to be even harder for people to accept than facebook.  For me, twitter works as my professional account.  This is where I have been able to connect with teachers from all over the world.  It’s allowed me to find mystery skype partners, get answers to questions my students have and learn about new and exciting ideas in education.  Simply by following people on twitter, I am able to stay up on the latest trends in my field.  I don’t check twitter obsessively, but I try to scroll through tweets a few times a day.  I don’t see every tweet in my feed, but I have found anything worth seeing is tweeted, then retweeted multiple times, which means I will see it eventually.  Because the tweets are so short, it’s easy for me to skim over what’s going on and move along.

I also have found a number of good blogs to follow from twitter.  I’m able to find these blogs, thanks to my tweeps.  I’ve also found a number of articles which were worth reading.  Whether I’m reading the article to stay current on world events or it’s more focused on education, I find this is a great way to keep up with information.  I may be an old teacher, but I’m often more current on trends than the younger teachers.

1024px-Pinterest_logoThird, www.pinterest.com: This one gives me a little of everything.  I have boards on pinterest that I keep pictures of home decor I like.  I also have several boards to keep track of sites to use in my classroom.  Since I used to tear pages out of magazines (and then have trouble finding the right one when I need it), this seemed like an easy fit for me.  I pin with abandon.  Periodically, I scroll through my boards to remember what I found that I want to use.  I also will add a reminder on my calendar if it’s something I want to use at a future date (knowing I’ll have completely forgotten about it when that date comes along).

instagram logoFinally, www.instagram.com: I have used this less than the others, so far.  I just got an iphone last week (yes, I finally made the leap to a smartphone!) so now my goal is to make better use of instagram.  I’m trying to think about taking pictures more often.  Trust me, I’m in no danger of being that person who spends so much time taking pictures that I never actually enjoy an event.  I spent 10 days traveling in Switzerland when I was in high school and I think I took a grand total of 6 pictures.  I just don’t naturally think that way.  I’m trying to do more, since it is fun to look back on those later.

How do you use social media?  Do you use it with your students?  If so, please comment and tell me what you do.  My goal is to use it more next year, so any ideas are VERY welcome!

Recording Students’ Music

musicThe school held a rock band show a couple of weeks ago.  We had a “garage band” of middle school students perform which got me thinking that it would be fun to record and publish their music.

The band director and I discussed it and we plan to have his band students record their music, then my gifted and talented students will publish it, using http://www.soundcloud.com.  I’m really looking forward to our students having an authentic audience for their work.

Do you use soundcloud?  Do you record students’ music?  If so, I’d love to know how you do it and how it goes!

Genius Day Part 2

We are getting ever closer to our first ever Genius Day!

Student workLast week, we had the students create a plan.  We had them fill out a form with three ideas they would like to pursue (trying to push them to think beyond the first idea that pops into their head).  Each student was asked to list the big question they are trying to answer, the reason they would like to learn about that subject, the planned final product and the materials they will need.

Another example

Another example

This was a very interesting exercise.  Helping students generate a “big question” was not easy.  They have gotten very used to those standardized, multiple choice test questions which have one right answer.  Opening their minds to the idea that a question can have multiple answers and lead to more questions was not easy for some of our students (some took to it like a duck to water!)  In fact, I’ll be revisiting some of their plans after spring break to help them reframe their ideas.

Student workAsking them to explain why they would like to learn about this topic was also a new task for many of our students.  I work with a gifted and talented program during our intervention time, and during that time, I have pushed them to do this sort of thing for the past year.  For those students, this was not too difficult, but for the rest of the students, we might as well have asked them to pull out their own teeth! I definitely enjoyed seeing some of their reasons.  It gives insight into them as students.

Student workThe other place where creativity has taken a definite nosedive is the final product spot.  They pretty much filled in the uniform answer: a poster.  This is another area that I’ll need to push them on.  While a poster is a fine way to display your work, it’s not the only way.  Hopefully, I can convince them of that.

Student work

We invited our fifth grade students, as well as the principal and superintendent to view the results on our Genius Day.  We hesitated to invite the school board, media, etc, since we’re not sure how everything will turn out (this will take some doing for the students to learn and complete a display in one day).  Once we see how it goes, we can expand our guest list.

This student only listed 2, but he definitely gets a prize for most out-of-the-box for his build an app idea!

This student only listed 2, but definitely gets a prize for most out-of-the-box for the build an app idea!

Check back in a few weeks to see how it all went!  And let us know what Genius activities you are doing.  We all need to learn from each other!

Here are the forms we have used (and one we plan to use after Genius Day):

My Genius List of Things to Learn and Do

Genius Hour Self Evaluation

Genius Hour Evaluation

We also used several websites – these definitely helped us prepare.  Sorting out exactly how we wanted to do this was tough, so these websites are worth checking out!

http://geniushour.wikispaces.com/

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/829279

http://geniushour.blogspot.com/

 

The Widening Technology Gap Between Districts?

So, February 6 is Digital Learning Day.  That sounds like a great idea for educators.  However, it raises an important question:  what about the gap between the haves and the have nots?  I have noticed, on various social media sites, that there is a distinct difference between my district’s finances, along with the families’ abilities to fund technology within those districts and other, neighboring districts.

Often, I see suggestions for the newest iPad apps to use in your classroom to support learning.  Our district can’t afford to purchase iPads for the students.  Then, I see suggestions for “if you only have one iPad in your classroom”.  That ignores the fact that many districts don’t have wifi available.

I also hear suggestions for groups of students to use the several computers I have in my classroom to access the internet.  What if there is only one computer – a teacher computer that students are not allowed to use?

Next comes the suggestions to use the computer lab (apparently some buildings have multiple labs for their classes to use).  Our building has one lab for 4 grades to share (400 students using one lab!) and that one had a water main break over Christmas and we’re still waiting for the insurance to help us purchase new computers for it.

Of course, many will tell me that the school district could purchase a laptop cart, iPods for the students to use, the list goes on and on.  While I appreciate the well meaning ideas, our district and our students can’t use them.

Finally, there’s the idea of writing grants.  Unfortunately, most corporate grants are for towns which include a storefront for that business.  What if your town is made up of small hometown businesses without corporate grants?

Here’s what I deal with on a daily basis:

one computer in my classroom – hooked up to a projector and interactive whiteboard.  (The projector is dying and there are no plans to replace it)

my own personal iPad, but no wifi and no plans to put it in the building

A VERY old iPod nano that used to belong to my daughter (10 years or so – the old silver rectangular version – Apple employees were shocked when I brought it in for some work to be done)

An oldish iPod touch – also abandoned by my daughter when she bought her own iPhone

one computer lab, used to teach computer class (not every year, though – it depends on where we need to place teachers and school board members’ whims)

Students whose families can’t afford smartphones and tablets and all the other electronic wonders of the 21st century

households which have no internet access, or only dial up (yes, dial up!)  Here in rural America, not everyone has access to multiple high speed internet providers

My worry is that teachers in these other districts can’t seem to conceive of a school which has such limited technology.  It’s hard for them to believe we could have this sort of limited internet access, when we are only 30 minutes from the state capitol.

When our country has some students working with iPods, iPhones, iPads, laptops, wifi, etc and others who aren’t even able to open a Google page, what will the future bring?  Is it okay for us to continue merrily on our way, leaving a large portion of our students in the dust, assuming they will “catch up” some day?

When will these students catch up?  How will this happen?  How are they to compete for jobs with technology savvy students from other districts?  How are they to succeed in college, in an ever advancing digital society?

What are we doing to these hard working students and families?  Are we dooming them to a life of minimum wage jobs?  Are we creating a new class of people who can never hope to achieve the American dream?

It’s a question worth asking.