Archive for October, 2009
Google Calendar Versus Tandem for Schools

Edutopia has an article about using Google Calendar as your school calendar titled Online Calendars: Virtual Schedules Help Busy Educators.

“The first tool I’d like to explore is the online calendar. Keeping an electronic calendar is nothing new, but you’d be surprised at how few people use one. It took me several years to let go of my paper-based day planner, but once I settled into the digital-calendar world, I never looked back.”

Google Calendar is a great improvement over a static page that lists key dates for the school year, which may or may not be accurate. Google Calendar is a free online calendar web application that is easily accessible to parents, students, and staff by going to the designated web page. It can also be embedded directly on a web page. In short, it is a quick and easy solution for a basic web calendar.

While Google Calendar is a good basic calendar, it lacks a lot of functionality that schools needs to manage school events and facilities. Tandem was designed specifically with schools in mind, so it performs several functions that help make school administrators jobs easier and helps communicate school information more effectively to staff, students, and parents.

Making School Administrators Jobs Easier

Tandem for Schools goes way beyond Google Calendar, with a built in request system that streamlines facilities requests. School staff simply logs in and clicks on “Submit Event Request” from the “Requests” section of the dashboard. The administrator in charge of the calendar simply receives the requests and can approve or deny it. There’s no paperwork or phone/email tag needed. Tandem automatically checks for any schedule conflicts, avoiding double booking of facilities. This system makes it much easier to coordinate the multiple sports teams and other school groups.

It is also  very simple to make changes to the calendar, when times change, and parents and students see those changes reflected right away. Schools have reported much fewer phone calls because there is a simple real time source of information for parents.

Tandem for Schools has a dedicated support staff that will help you get up and running fast and answer any of your questions.

Communicate More Effectively

While Google Calendar is a good basic internet calendar, it can be hard to read at times, since the name of the event often gets cut off. Google Calendars boxes are a fixed size so it can quickly get cluttered and unreadable. Tandem for Schools has a better design and layout from a usability standpoint with boxes that expand dynamically so that you can easily read all the event names. It is also easy for viewers of Tandem for Schools to filter the calendar to show only events that are relevant to them. Since Tandem for Schools is much less cluttered than the Google Calendar, you can fit a lot more events on the Tandem for Schools calendar. This helps everyone get a big picture of everything that is going on at the school, which encourages students and parents to get involved in extracurricular activities.

An example of a school using Google Calendar:

Tandem for Schools Calendar:

Interested in learning more? Sign up for a free 1 on 1 demo on your computer (via Go To PC) or sign up for a free 30 day trial of Tandem Plus.

Useful Tools For School English Projects

English classes generate some of the more complex pieces of homework students are assigned during primary and secondary education. Between book reports, essays, creative writing challenges, and research papers, English demands a lot of time and effort be put forth in both the actual crafting of meaningful paragraphs and the research behind each assignment. Technology has presently caught up with the challenges issued by English teachers and several exceedingly handy tools can be utilized by students to expedite and organize their English assignments no matter the scope.

Finding a wide variety of credible sources for a research paper can be a daunting task for the best of students as many basic internet searches can pull up results that are either mostly irrelevant to the particular topic or do not contain enough verified information. Ultimate-research-assistant.com helps clear through some of the clutter by compiling the results of a search in an easy to read summary format in addition to providing a list of clickable links for additional research. A tag cloud featuring the search results is also presented in the right hand margin of the page and can provide insights into additional keywords to search out or topics to explore.

Zotero.org features a handy tool to expedite crediting sources used while writing a research paper. Zotero is a Mozilla Firefox extension that can be utilized as sources are gathered online. The extension will help compile data and create a properly formatted Bibliography in several different styles. By progressing with the bibliography as research material is acquired, students will not have to frantically scramble to identify which source provided what information from where. When the research paper is done, a simple copy and paste will suffice for creating a well-structured Bibliography.

Rhymezone is a fairly basic web-site as far as an online dictionary and thesaurus goes, but its real shining point exists in the assistance it provides for creative writing tasks or research papers. The site features a robust rhyming dictionary to help find the perfect word to close up a couplet, and the synonym and antonym feature brings up a variety of words to use when avoiding redundancy is key.

Simplifying some of the more complex components of a research paper or creative writing assignment using the educational tools presented above can help any student get a step ahead in English class.

25 Essential Teacher Blogs

Here is a collection of useful and interesting blogs by teachers.

1. Cool Cat Teacher
2. Bud the Teacher
3. Christopher D Sessums
4. Hip Teacher
5. NYC Educator
6. The Daily Grind
7. Dave’s Educational Blog
8. Bionic Teaching
9. 2 Cents Worth
10. Making Teachers Nerdy
11. Teachers Count
12. The Dream Teacher
13. 21st Century Learning
14. PE for Children
15. Artichoke
16. Creating Lifelong Learners
17. The Elementary Educator
18. Teachers at Risk
19. Think Like a Teacher
20. Free Technology for Teachers
21. I Want to Teach Forever
22. Learn Me Good
23. Epic Adventures Are Often Uncomfortable
24. Sustainably Digital
25. Dangerously Irrelevant

Useful Wiki Application For School Note Taking

Springnote is an free full-featured virtual notebook sure to inspire students and educators to greater levels of task and time organization, which in turns enhances learning. Anyone can create a Springnote account with a minimum of information.

The site allows members to enter a unique name which will then become a personalized URL. For example, “your name” would become http://www.yourname.springnote.com. At these personalized URLs a member’s notebooks are viewable to the individuals selected. Notebooks can either be private, shared with selected people, or entirely public. Each notebook can also contain numerous pages which can be assigned individual sharing rights.

A student could use one Springnote notebook to keep a detailed to do list of tasks for both home and school and make this list private while collaborating with a friend on a separate notebook page for a science project. Teacher’s could also use the service in a similar fashion and create virtual notebook pages for each school subject taught and provide a handy online assignment list for each course. The contents of these subject pages could be shared with the entire class with a few clicks of the mouse.

If a multitude of notebook pages exist, then the Springnote tagging feature will help ease clutter. Users can assign specialized tags to each notebook page to group like materials together. An additional organizational feature sure to help out is the ability to link any item on a list or notebook page to another page within Springnote. A general class assignment, like a term paper, would appear on the English class assignment list and can link to a “Term Paper” notebook page full of additional requirements or preliminary notes.

Springnote users can also accomplish several other necessary tasks like attaching videos, pictures, or files to a specific notebook page with a couple of clicks. Formatted tables, equations, and maps can also be inserted in a snap from the notebook page header.

When any assignment or task is completed the notebook owner can either strike-through the entry, highlight it in a variety of colors, or simply use the delete or backspace key – any option will work. Springnote is full of unique options for students and teachers. The site can easily become a virtual notebook, agenda, and planning desk in a matter of minutes for any user.

Tweet How To Save The World For A $10,000 Scholarship

It’s fascinating to see how people are finding ways to use social tools like Twitter for good works. Drew Carey has pledged $1 for every Twitter follower of @drewfromtv until the end of 2009 up to $1 million to be donated to LiveStrong. Now, CollegeScholarships.org is giving away $14,014 in scholarships for the best 140 character “essay” on “how we can use Twitter to improve the world”. See the following article from Open Education for more on this.

Are you still new to the Twitter process? Ever wondered if that Tweet-texting your son or daughter was doing would ever amount to anything useful?

Well, now you just may see some possible value in what that college-age son or daughter has been up to. Given our love for all good things free, we could not help but point folks in the direction of CollegeScholarships where the site supporters are offering $14,014.00 in scholarships for the best in Tweeting.

It is a contest that would make any English teacher proud, as in how can one say something extremely profound in just a few words. Given that “Twitter is Connecting the World,” the assignment is simple, “in 140 characters or less, write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world.”

OK, so it’s not so easy.

But it is a helluva an idea backed by some serious generosity.

And yes, it looks like there just might be a theme here: the total prize money, $14,014.00, seems to highlight a certain three-digit number.

The details on the 140 Scholarship can be found here.

This post has been republished from Open Education. Photo from Smashing Magazine

A Simple School Schedule System Solution Software

Tandem for Schools is a simple school schedule system solution software. If you have ever had the daunting task of managing a school’s event schedule that accommodates the tens or hundreds of different school groups, it’s enough to make your head spin. Today’s schools have more sports and clubs than ever before, and a paper solution just isn’t practical or effective.

Simple Request System

Tandem simplifies the scheduling of school events through a simple request system. A staff member can log on to the school’s calendar and request a time and place for an event. The school administrator receives all the requests and can approve or reject each one. Rejected requests get sent back to the requester so they can modify the request if they choose. Approved requests are published to the main calendar.

Centralized Online Calendar
Centralizing all the school’s or even a district’s events on a central school calendar provides several benefits:

*Reduced Phone calls
Parents can see when and where events are taking place by viewing the online school calendar.

*Easier Planning
Administrators can get a big picture view of what is going on at the school.

*Calendar Personalization
Users can filter the calendar to get a personalized view of only the school groups they are interested in.

*Real Time Updates
When there are any changes to an event, such as a cancellation or rescheduling, this is immediately reflected on the online calendar as soon as the administrator changes the event.

*Better Communication to Parents and Students
Parents and students can more easily find out about extracurricular activities and become more involved in the school.

Sign up for a 1 on 1 demonstration of how Tandem for Schools can help your school.

School Management System Software

School management system software is a tool that can more effectively manage a schools events, facilities, and school groups. School administrators have a difficult job of managing all the logistics of school events with the countless school groups and constantly changing circumstances. School management system software like Tandem for Schools makes this job easier.

Simple System For Planning and Managing School Events

Firstly, Tandem for Schools is a management system for all the schools events and brings all the different school group’s events onto a main school or district calendar that is viewable to everyone online.

It simplifies the scheduling process through a simple request and approval system. School staff send requests for a school facility at a certain time, and the school administrator approves or denies it. Once approved, the event is posted on the school’s online calendar, communicating the event to staff, students, and parents. When a proposed event conflicts with an existing event, the administrator is automatically notified and they can send a notice back to the requester to change the time and place or they can override it.

Jody Stephan from Boardman Schools liked how it made planning easier for school staff.

It allows all departments to see what is scheduled within the building so there are no surprises…We are able to see the whole picture of all building events in one place.  This prevents conflicting events being scheduled. I love the feature of not being able to schedule a conflict unless you override it.


Reduce Phone Calls to School

In addition to making it easier to plan school events, Tandem for Schools is a powerful communication medium. When events are published by administrators to the school calendar, they are visible for reference for parents. Changes are reflected in real time so parents can find out if the game time is moved back an hour, or if the baseball game has been rained out. This also prevents routine calls to the school about dates and times for school events such as early dismissal or teacher workshop days, because the parents can easily access this information by going to an easy to remember web address.

Terry Foster from Bellevue Christian School says Tandem has sharply reduced calls:

If you think about it, if we changed one game, then we’d have to communicate this to 15 – 20 players, as well as 40-50 parents. Each of them would call our office asking for the same information. That’s more than 50 calls regarding just one game change. Sometimes we would cancel 2-3 games a day. Our office just wasn’t equipped to communicate this information quickly enough.


Improved Communication Throughout School

Having an accessible online calendar is more effective than a paper calendar because changes and new events are reflected immediately. Instead of having a calendar for each group, all the events are schedules are consolidated onto a main calendar, which can be filtered or customized to an individual’s preferences.

Vicki Storey from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

This is the greatest communication tool we have on campus. It saves me hours a week. The program itself is easy to use and the information is instantly available to our community. What more could you ask for?

If interested in learning more about Tandem for Schools, you can sign up for a 1 on 1 demo with a Tandem expert.

Using Technology To Build School Communities

If your school leadership is interested in building a larger and stronger community around your school, there are many online tools that can help.

Facebook
Facebook is the largest social network in the world with over 300 million active users and growing. Students have widely adopted Facebook as a tool to communicate with their friends, while the 35 and over age group is the fastest growing group on Facebook. A Facebook group for your school can be a place where students and parents can go to connect with other members of the community. Facebook groups also have a discussion board where members of the community can discuss topics.

Tandem
Tandem for Schools is an online school calendar that displays all the school’s events in one place. Parents and students can go to the real time online calendar to find out what events are going on, which increases participation. For instance, if parents know when and where PTSA meetings are being held, it is much easier to plan on attending. It also helps students find out about clubs that are meeting so they can participate in the extracurricular events they are interested in. When parents and students are more involved in school activities, it strengthens the school community.

Blogs
Blogs, which originated as online journals, have become powerful communication tools which can also be used by schools to build community. For instance teachers typically have a distant relationship with parents. They may talk a couple times a year at a parent-student conference. However, this is an important relationship that can be developed through online social tools like a blog. A teacher can post on their blog to explain what concepts they are studying, what students should be working on, and how parents can help. Parents can post comments on the blog posts, to provide feedback or discuss topics.

Twitter
Twitter, like many of the other tools, is a one to many communication tool. A principal can send a Tweet that will be read by parents, teachers, and students. It can also build community because of the retweet feature. Say you are following the principal who retweets (RT) a message by the PTSA (parent teacher student association) that they need volunteers. Followers of the principal can now follow the PTSA’s tweets and a new connection is created in the community. Twitter is most useful via SMS on your cellphone, where you can follow what people are talking about in your community and join the conversation, even if you are away from your computer.

Useful School Application For Creating Mind Maps

MindMeister is a neat web application that provides a set of tools any school, teacher, student, or parent could use on a daily basis as well as for planning special projects and assignments. MindMeister puts a technological twist on the classic English class staple known as brainstorming or cluster mapping while allowing for more collaboration.

The basic features of MindMeister are free and allow for up to three Mind Maps to be created and utilized at any given time. A Mind Mapper with an iPhone or iPod touch can also install (for $4.99) an application that allows them to brainstorm on the go.

The educational possibilities of MindMeister are really limitless. An English teacher can suggest mind maps to facilitate students’ brainstorming or outlining for a research paper. If a student is conducting a significant amount of their original research online, the MindMeister map bubbles will allow for easy storing of “notes” which can include URLs or attachments. Students can also create a mind map for a subject that they are learning to create a visual representation of concepts and how they connect like a mindmap on the Civil War or the cardiovascular system. Students can also search delicious and Wikipedia for topic tags that relate to the content of any bubble on their map.

MindMeister can also be utilized in classes that rely heavy on group projects, like social studies or science. Students can share Mind Maps with each other and collaborate. Changes are automatically saved, so students will never be working over each other, and MindMeister provides a list (at the bottom of the window) of users who are accessing a MindMap at any particular time.

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With An Online School Calendar

An online school calendar can be very beneficial for a school, parents, and students. Here are 5 things you may not know that online school calendars can do.

1. Subscribe to an RSS feed

Online school calendars can have an RSS feed which will allow you to receive updates in any RSS feed reader such as Google Reader, MyYahoo, Bloglines, etc.

2. Sync your personal calendar with school events

Chances are that you use some type of online calendar or desktop based calendar client like Outlook. Wouldn’t it be great if you could automatically populate the calendar you already use with important school events? Additionally, with Tandem for Schools, if you are only interested in the High School Varsity Soccer schedule, you can filter and sync only these events to your calendar.

3. Get automatic email updates and reminders

You can request to receive an email if there are any changes to an event. In Tandem you would click on the event on the calendar and when the details come up you would click on “Email Me Updates”. You can also click on “Set Reminder” to receive an email reminder before an event.

4. Reserve a facility for a event or meeting

If you are a coach, club leader, PTSA leader, ect, you can request a school facility for an event. Once the calendar manager approves the request you will have the room or gym reserved. Tandem for Schools automatically ensures that another party doesn’t book the same facility at the same time. Also, school facilities could be better utilized by the community and the school could even raise money by renting out facilities.

5. Create a custom personal school calendar

You may not be interested in all the groups at the school. Tandem for Schools makes it easy to create a custom calendar that tracks only the groups that you are interested in. For instance if a parent has a child that participates in soccer and jazz band, and they want to be involved in the PTSA, they can create a custom calendar with only events from those groups.