Sunday, November 28, 2010

Online reputation management for kids

I'm beginning to understand that, while our kids respond well to Internet-based lessons, they don't necessarily understand how the Net works.

They remind me of myself and cars: I get in and drive. When that thing breaks down, I'm whipping out my Triple A card faster than a gunslinger pulls his six shooter. I take cars for granted to a degree, without stopping to think about things such as structure and mechanics.

My class website has been projected every day, all year so far, in all of my classes. As the site is projected onto the large Smartboard, a student will sometimes ask, "What's our class website?" He hasn't taken the time (.5 seconds) to glance up at the URL posted atop the web page.

When I tell the students how I can make websites appear high up in Google search rankings, they have no idea how I am pulling off such a feat. Similarly, they've given little thought to their own "brand" names, and how they appear in search rankings.

I'm taking this issue head-on in SAT Prep. We are going to take control of our online reputations, by building simple websites using Blogger (the same platform this blog is built with).

As part of a career / college success unit, students will build real, live blogs - for the purposes of marketing themselves, their work, and for showcasing their passions. In the process, they'll be manipulating search engine rankings, so their carefully planned website appears in a Google search return for their name well ahead of that not-so-flattering Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to watch YouTube at school

First, why YouTube? Well, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 Billion (with a B) for a reason other than a catchy name ... YouTube has incredible content. TeacherTube is great; however, YouTube is the undisputed king.

How To ...

First, use Firefox, not Explorer, to browse the Net.

Second, google "video download helper" and install that add-on to Firefox. Now, whenever you land on a page with videos, you can instantly and easily download the video to your home computer desktop. Click on the revolving circles (see below), and then click "download."

Then, just drag that video file onto a flash drive, and pull it onto your work desktop. Clicking on the file should open it automatically in any media player you have installed.

That's it! I make things more complicated by then embedding these videos into my classroom website. That's another can of worms, for another day.

I'm enjoying kicking off or enhancing many of my lessons with short, relevant, catchy videos - and I'm sure you and your students will as well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An engaging guest speaker

Kids are jaded when it comes to marketing messages: They see 10,000 ads a day and know when they are being sold to. That's why I liked the approach from the presenter from The Art Institutes.

She came in and basically said, "My school isn't cheap - but you'll get hired. Here's the cool stuff we do." Her entire presentation was visual, and relevant - and the students who chatted away during her talk were discussing her material.

She had the formula for connecting with kids down cold: Be honest, visual, relevant and real. Nicely done!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poverty simulation day

My school just had a faculty wide poverty simulation: It was very well thought out, and pulled off with the help of key school and community staff and experts.

It was intense. The simulation was designed to create frustration; my role was a 40-something single father, and I quickly realized my resources, and what was coming "in" was substantially outweighed by my obligations and all that was going "out."

So still in character, I turned to dealing drugs. Some teachers thought I was being funny or just weird, but I was falling back on what I know - as a drug and alcohol treatment center employee. Working in the heart of Akron, Ohio, I know that any poverty situation is radically compounded by the variable of addiction.

I can spend hours honing my teaching craft, and becoming proficient at preparing dazzling, tech-centered lessons. But life is more than smartboards, high speed Internet and perfect lesson plans.

This simulation drilled home the reason I became a teacher: To make positive connections - and hopefully instill positive changes - in our young people. And, I get to grow as well in this process. What a gift - this job, this career, this chance to make a difference. What a gift.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Internet - simply ingrained in our youth

I was doing research this weekend and came across an article listing the top 100 most useful websites. The article, published online in 2008, mentioned casually how much has changed in the 15 years they've (PC World) been making this list.

Fifteen years. That made me stop and think. My students have never not had the Internet. I polled a few of them today, and some vaguely remember the funny noise the dial up connections made ... and how you couldn't be on the phone and the Net at the same time.

But it's always been a part of their experience. During any given session online, the average person must click dozens - or even hundreds - of times. Is it any wonder our worksheets bore them, and our lectures almost confuse them? "What, I'm supposed to just sit here and keep listening to you - for several minutes? Why would I do that ... that's so long!" To today's teen, ten minutes is enough time to get and receive 20 texts, download three songs, watch two YouTube videos, and "like" about a dozen friends' posts on Facebook.

Shakespeare must seem the very definition of irrelevant to many of today's students. I am having success with Macbeth, thus far, by 1. kicking off our lessons with videos, 2. summarizing the action before we read, 3. reading / listening along, 4. summing up what we just read once more, and then finally, 5. recapping the action with a final activity.

Five steps. But then I think about my college professor's style: 1. Go read this. 2. Now I tell you what you just read. I'm not sure if I'm holding their hands too much, or if my college prof held our hands too little. I'm not sure I care - because I'm after results. It worked for Beowulf, and I have every reason to believe it will work for Macbeth.

If it doesn't, I'll honestly reflect, adjust, and probably update my Facebook page ... noting my frustration!