Friday, April 27, 2012

Early steps

I had 25 students create blogs, and submit their URLs via a google survey I set up. From that spreadsheet of addresses, I created a folder in my google reader and subscribed to an RSS feed for each of their blogs (renaming them so I could keep track of the authors).

Subscribing to the RSS was a little time-consuming. I first installed a widget from Reader that puts a shortcut on my taskbar that imports the feed to Reader, then I opened each blog, one at a time, and using that widget, subscribed to it. Then, in Reader, I had to change the name of the blog and drag it into the assigned folder.

It took about an hour to do 25 blogs....doable for this trial, but not at all for next year's rollout of 200 blogs. Additionally, I don't forsee 85 teachers all learning to manage Reader so they can control the subscription to the blogs (homeroom, a class, etc) that they choose to follow. I still need to think about that.

I also need to find an aggregator program that will host the URLs in a nice format, and find some management program (or write the code) for a subscription program that can read from the google survey and keep the aggregator updated.

This is going to be a challenge, but I suspect when the dust settles, what I will have learned will far outweigh whatever product I come up with, and that product will be somewhat streamlined and manageable.

I hope.

Hey, I found a great solution. I am creating a field in our school LMS where the kids can input the URL to their own blog. Then any stakeholder (classroom teacher, homeroom teacher, club leaders, etc) can see all their kids' blog addresses in one location. One person can download them and put them in a folder, then bundle them and send them around. Even though this is much of the same process as before (subscribing, renaming, putting into a folder), it is MUCH faster than going to an external site and subscribing: teachers can just copy the URL from the LMS site and paste it into the 'subscribe' window in google.reader. It only takes about 10 seconds per blog, so someone can subscribe to a class set of 20 blogs in only a few minutes.

Watch for a future post explaining this in detail, with pictures and a video.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Next Big Project

One of the challenges of being a tech facilitator at a HS with 800 kids is economy of scale: there's no opportunity to meet meaningfully with everyone; in small groups, it takes too long, and in large groups people's attention wavers. So I have to find ways to facilitate change through other means.

Next year, we are going to require our Freshmen to begin to keep blogs, and my next challenge will be to roll this out for 200 Freshmen in the first week of school. So far, along with the other members of the committee, we have made some decisions:

-The blogs will be public. This is important...the essence of a blog is about broadcasting your thoughts to a public audience. So rather than try to maintain some sort of overarching control over access, we will work with the kids in counseling groups throughout the year to help them learn about voice, audience, appropriate digital behavior and digital security.

-We will make Blogger available, but not require those with previous blogging experience to use it. Since Blogger is under the general umbrella of our school google.apps account, it will be easy to set up some standard settings and create digital resources to help first-time bloggers get started. But if someone is already a blogger, they can continue to use their own blog.

-I will introduce the blogs, and guide the kids through setting them up, at the pre-school orientations. In early August,  I meet with the kids in groups of 20 (ten different meetings over a couple of days) and help them map their network drives, set up accounts, school folders, etc. I'll lengthen the meeting times from 30 minutes to 45, and also help them set up their blogs.

-I will leverage my Student Digital Leadership Team. The SDLT are an empowered and enthusiastic group of kids who run a help desk, teach parent sessions and pitch in wherever there is a digital need. I'll have them work with the Freshmen in the orientation sessions to ensure that they get their settings correct and are able to get started.

-I'll spend time this year creating a digital archive of 'helpy files' for assistance. The SDLT will be starting their own blogs in a few weeks, so they can assist with this. My intention is to have a well-populated resource bank before school starts in the fall.

Watch this space: I'll keep everyone updated as this project moves along. If any of my millions of readers have any good resource files on how to get kids to blog successfully, or how to set up blogs for groups of 200 students, pass them along!