Apr 232013

Permalink: http://goo.gl/ZRrzu

Training Checklist:

  • Download your Posterous backup, and extract it by double-clicking on the .zip file
  • Create a new WordPress account, using your @ironmail.org email account. Choose the free WordPress.com option by clicking the ‘Create Blog’ button at the bottom of the page.
  • Fine tune your settings
    • Settings –> General from the left menu. Update the time zone to ‘Denver’, pick the date and time format  that you prefer, and save changes at the bottom.
  • Select a theme for your site
    • Appearance –> Themes from the left menu
    • Appearance –> Customize if you’d like to tweak the colors and other settings
    • Appearance –> Widgets to add some cool functions. Add the ‘Links’ widget, and we’ll customize it later. You may also want to add Authors, Calendar, Category (or Tag) Cloud, Follow Blog, & Twitter (if you use that service). You could remove the Recent Posts and Recent Comments if you’d like.
  • Add any other grade level teachers as Administrators to your blog
    • Users –> Invite New from the left menu
  • From your new blog dashboard, let’s import your Posterous content
    • Head to ‘Tools’ on the left side of the page, and choose ‘Import’
    • Click the ‘Posterous’ option
    • Click ‘Choose File’, and then browse to your Posterous back up folder. Select the WordPress export .xml file, then click the ‘Upload file and import’ button
    • Assign users to the proper Posterous posts on the next screen.
    • Wait patiently as your content is brought into your new site!
  • Add new Pages to your site, just as you had in Posterous: Pages –> Add New in the left menu
    • Link back to NES Home – http://north.iron.k12.org/
    • Upcoming Events – We’ll bring in your Google Calendar
    • How to Help
    • Expectations
    • A page for each teacher
  • Add Links
    • Links –> Link Categories and make a new category called ‘Sites I Like’
    • Links –> Add new from the top or left menu, and add links to the sites you’d like your students and parents to have access to. Add them to the ‘Sites I Like’ category
    • in Appearance –> Widgets, change the ‘Links’ widget to display only the ‘Sites I Like’ category.
  • Add your Google Calendar to the Upcoming Events page
  • Add other features you may have used in Posterous
    • Post via Email: Dashboard –> My Blogs from the left menu. Click ‘Screen Options’ on the top right of the window, and make sure that ‘Post by Email’ is checked. Now, click ‘Enable’ under the ‘Post by Email’ heading beneath. Record the email address listed there – this is the address you’ll need to send your new posts to.
    • Publicize: When making a new post, look for the Publicize options within the ‘Publish’ box on the right. To start, it will say ‘Publicize: Not Connected’ Click the ‘Show’ link and connect your blog to the services you’d like to share your updates to. These settings can be changed on a per-post basis.
  • Now that you have a new WordPress site, you may want to add new information to it!
    • Add a new post: Posts –> Add New from the left menu
    • Edit pages: Pages –> All Pages, and click on the name of the page to update
Apr 222013

What you’ll need:

  • A backup of your Posterous site. Instructions for this are below the video.
  • A Dropbox account: If you don’t have one, create one here.
  • A Google Site: Instructions to create a Google Site are below the video as well.

Note: This process will not import individual posts from your Posterous site. I’m only showing the steps to embed the content of your Posterous site as an accessible archive. If you’d like to have each post imported, use WordPress.

All you need to know about archiving your Posterous blog/site/space in a Google Site:

If you have not done so already, you’ll need to request a backup of your Posterous site if you do not want to loose the posts, media and content you’ve uploaded to it. The steps to do this are:

  1. Go to http://posterous.com/#backup.
  2. Click to request a backup of your Space by clicking “Request Backup” next to your Space name.
  3. When your backup is ready, you’ll receive an email. Each time I’ve done this and everyone I’ve talked to have never received an email notification. Just move on to #4 after a few hours.
  4. Return to http://posterous.com/#backup to download a .zip file.

Creating a new Google Site is easy. If you do not have a Gmail account, you can sign up for one here. Once you have a Gmail account and are signed in, follow the steps below:

  1. In Gmail, look for a black bar of links near the top of the page. Click Sites in this bar.
  2. Click the red Create button.
  3. The Blank template option is chosen by default, and I would recommend sticking with that.
  4. Name your site – this will become the site title or banner text.
  5. Google will automatically give you a Site location, but this can be altered or shortened if you’d prefer (for example, sites.google.com/site/yoursite) as well as an optional description of the site. The URL you choose can’t be changed after you create your site, or used again if the site is deleted.
  6. Pick a theme for your site.
  7. Explore the More options choices and include this information if you wish.
  8. Click the red Create button near the top of the window.
  9. Now that you’ve created your site, you can create a new page by clicking the Create page button.

Google Sites for Teachers

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Apr 182013

Take a look at my Demo Site which shows and describes the types of pages you can create in your Google Site. Be sure to check out the Google Sites Help Center to help make your site great!

We will also take a look at a wonderfully visual bookmarking site called Symbaloo. It’s free to sign up, and you can create custom ‘Webmixes’ with tiles linking to your students favorite and most used sites. Here’s my Webmix of my recommended educational iPad apps.

So Long Posterous… Hello WordPress!

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Mar 132013

I’ve been a strong supporter of Posterous ever since I sent my first email to create my Posterous site way back in 2008. It was just about the most amazing thing I’d seen at the time. Super simple site creation and updating – an amazing tool. I’ve trained more teachers that I can remember how to use it to create an easy-to-update and maintain teacher web site, and now this service is going away as of April 30 due to the purchase of Posterous by Twitter. This saddens me quite a bit, because I have 5+ years of content on my Posterous site that I just can’t loose.

My blog has moved to the WordPress platform. I’m using the self-hosted version that is downloadable from WordPress.org, but I think that a free WordPress.com site is more than sufficient for most teachers. The main reason for the move is because I was able to import ALL of my Posterous posts and images to my new site with the help of an import tool. Also, with the help of some good tools and plugins detailed below, I can get my new WP dog to do the same tricks I loved in Posterous. Unfortunately, my embedded videos and documents that I’ve uploaded did not come over, so I’ll loose some of these until I go back and fix each effected post, which could take some time.

To help other teachers in this circumstance, I’ll point you to some good help to make the transition as easy and painless as possible.

  • Import from Posterous to WordPress – these instructions will walk you through how to backup your Posterous site data (which you should do regardless!) and then import it to a new WordPress.com blog or site. The WordPress Importer PlugIn worked for me on my hosted site.
  • Post by Email – this was one of my favorite features of the Posterous platform, and you can do this with a WordPress site as well.
  • Publicize – One of the features of Posterous that I really liked was that it would automatically update my Twitter account and Facebook Fan Page when I published a new post. The Publicize tool can be configured to do this on a WordPress.com blog. If you are self-hosting, the Jetpack plugin will add this feature and much more.
  • Ultimate Follow Me – this is an easy to set up plugin that will give you a sidebar module with quick links to any or all of the social sites you may use to make it quick and easy for people to follow you.

I will update this post with more of the tools and plugins that I’m using and liking on my new site. Now, back to work!

May 032012

Permalink: http://goo.gl/kltfg

Yesterday, Google facilitated the Education On Air Conference, a virtual conference for educators focused on and around Google Apps for Education, featuring their master teachers. I sat in on a few sessions – Managing Digital Portfolios w/ Google Tools from Kern Kelley, and The Paperless Classroom with Google Docs from Eric Curts. Both sessions were great, and both spelled out and reinforced a great process or workflow for teachers and students to easily and successfully use Google Docs for every day work, for group projects, and for digital portfolios.

I have a few teachers that have gone down this road of using Google Docs exclusively for student work, and their Docs/Drive inboxes have exploded with student work – and has been a struggle for them to manage. What I learned yesterday, and what I’ll outline below will make their lives easier, and will help me make the lives of the teachers that will follow this path much easier from the start.

Here’s the bullet points for success, and then I’ll explain each in detail below:

  • Digitize student work, and store it all in Google Docs/Drive
  • Students create collections or folders for their work, and share that folder with their teachers.
  • Teachers create collections or folders for documents to share with students
  • Teachers create an ‘Assignment Hand-In’ Form for students to submit both information about the assignment as well as the link to the assignment.

With this workflow in place, it’s fast and seamless for students to turn in their work, and for teachers to manage and grade the mountain of student work.

Now, let’s see how it all works…

Digitize Student Work

No matter what a student does, it needs to end up in a digital form, and then saved in their Google Docs/Drive space. All of your students will obviously need a Gmail account – either directly from Google or through a school/district Google Apps domain.

Digitization is a breeze for any sort of document, presentation or spreadsheet by working directly in Google Docs, but what about math homework or artwork? Enter the cell phone camera or a web-cam connected to an accessible computer! Students snap a photo of the work, and save that file in Google Drive/Docs. If it’s a skill in PE, acting in a play, or any other physical activity, capture a video and upload it to YouTube. Anyting that a student does can be quickly and easily digitized with the right tools.

Student Folders/Collections

With all of their work available in Google Docs, students will have a complete record of their own learning. Their best work can/should eventually end up in a Digital Portfolio, but let’s just stick with the Paperless Classroom workflow for now. Students create a folder or collection for each of their subjects (which can be later organized by school year) with a standard naming scheme: Subject/Period – Last, First or something similar. Then, they share this folder with their teacher with edit rights. Now, when it comes time to ‘hand in’ their homework, all they need to do is to drag the file/document from their Google Docs list to the appropriate folder. Since the folder is shared, the file is automatically shared with the teacher!

On the teacher end, they can organize these shared folders in Google Docs however they’d like – by school year, subject, or period. Just create a folder, and drag the shared student folders into it – since you used a naming convention, it’s all automatically organized alphabetically by the subject or student name. No more long, long, long list of student work!

Folders/Collections for Teachers

Obviously, teachers often need to hand out assignments or documents to students. To help make this instant and paperless, teachers should make two folders to share with their students.

The first is a ‘Hand Out’ folder with View Only rights. Here’s where you’ll put documents and/or assignment templates for students to access and view – and you don’t need to share it with EVERY student EVERY time. If it’s an assignment template, the students can use ‘File –> Save a copy’ to save the assignment outline to their own Google Docs to edit. Make sure that if you do share a document this way that students rename it from ‘Copy of Assignment 1’ to ‘Last, First Assignment 1’ to make viewing/grading easier later.

The other folder is a folder that will contain editible documents for collaborative papers and presentations that you’d like all of your students to be able to access and edit. Share it with your students with their email addresses, and give full Edit rights. Now, any document that is in that folder, students will automatically have access to!

Assignment Hand-In Form

This last step is an extra step for your students, but it is the last piece to really making management and grading easy for teachers. Create a new Form in Google Docs with the following items:

  • Class Period or Subject (You can make a new form for each class, or use a ‘choose from a list’ question type for this for all of your classes)
  • Quarter/Semester (optional)
  • Last Name
  • First Name (If you teach elementary, you may want to add all of your students in a ‘choose from a list’ question type)
  • Assignment Title/Name (Can be a text type, or a ‘choose from a list’ type if you are that organized)
  • Link/URL for the Assignment

Assignment link/URL? Students can publish their work with a copule of clicks so that anyone with the link can access the document. They do this by clicking on the big blue ‘Share’ button on the top right of every Google Doc. The document will list ‘Private’ for access, and the student below as the owner. Click the ‘Change..’ link next to Private, and choose ‘Anyone with the link’ and save.

Students will still need to ‘turn in’ the assignment by adding it to their shared class/subject folder with you, so why you need the assignment link in this form? The form will allow you to sort the contents by any of the fields or questions asked, and the link will allow you to quickly access that assignment right in the form spreadsheet – without needing to go to each students folder, finding the correct assignment, and opening it up.

With the Assignment Hand-In spreadsheet, you can sort by name, assignment, class – whatever to group the work as you like, access the student’s work with a single click to make your comments or edits, close the assignment and instantly access the next one. You can even add in your own information in the cells to the right with notes, grades or scores – as long as you don’t add columns to the left or change the information gained from the form, you’ll be fine.

This form/spreadsheet brings this whole process and workflow together and wraps it with a bow.

Student Digital Portfolios

With all student work digitized, available and easily shared in Google Docs/Drive, the creation or showcase of a student’s best work is now a relatively simple task. Using free online tools such as Google Sites or Posterous, student can share and link to their very best work for this year and for the school years to come. This portfolio can not only serve as a showcase for students, parents, and teachers but could also be quite useful when student apply for a job or attempt to get into the college of their choosing. All of the hard work of collecting and organizing student work is done naturally in th
e process outlined above. All that is left is to identify the students best and linking to it on their own web site.

Going Paperless with Google Docs PowerPoint:

Going Paperless with Google Docs Presentation in PDF:


Again, I have to thank the fine folks who presented at the Google Education On Air Conference. Below are links to the resources and information that they shared with myself and the other conference attendees to help them both make Student Digital Portfolios something easy to accomplish and to get us to the promised land of the Paperless Classroom.

Apr 242012

Today we’ll take a look at two super-simple tools to create and easily maintain a web page for your class. We’ll go down the path to create both a site on Blogger or on Posterous (you’ll probably need your Ironmail as well). Below is the presentation for our session today with all of the steps and instructions you’ll need to get up and running!