Archive for the ‘issues’ Category

Should Students Blog?

There is some debate on whether younger students should be encouraged to blog in school. Opponents may object to the student’s personal information being published online and have concerns for the safety of students. Proponents might say that the web is an increasingly important communication medium and students should learn how to use these new tools to better prepare for the future.

According to Wesley Fryer thought leader and author of the blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity,

I definitely think middle school students should be blogging, as well as elementary and high school students. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, students need to practice their writing skills regularly, and blogging is an excellent way to do this. We get better at things we practice regularly. It is common for kids to be required to read regularly during and after school, but regular writing assignments are less common. Blogging provides a way to both encourage and empower students students to write regularly.

The second main reason I’d argue students (including middle school students) should be blogging is so they can learn how to properly and responsibly use hyperlinked writing. Hyperlinks are one of the foundational technologies of the Internet. Students use hyperlinks by clicking on them, but far fewer create their own hyperlinks as part of their class assignments. Certainly the prevalence of social networking platforms has increased opportunities for students to use hyperlinks in their writing, but voluntary student use of social networking platforms does not necessarily result in students learning about hyperlinking and responsible use of hyperlinks.

Students should be encouraged to blog responsibly so they can discover their own voice. This is not the case for everyone, but some students are able to really discover their own voice via writing. The encouragement and positive feedback which young writers can receive through writing on blogs and other social websites can play an important role in defining identity for a young person. Students can and do often discover the power of their words, and the importance of sharing thoughts as well as ideas.

I personally think it is great when students blog. A blog is like a individual’s personal newspaper column. Blogs require updated content, which encourages a blogger to think critically and write often, an important skill in the workplace. Student’s can also learn about publishing online and if they are really ambitious they can learn about HTML code to customize their site. The great thing about the web, is that anyone can publish. It doesn’t matter if they are a Pulitzer prize winner or a student. If you write great stuff, people will read it. Who knows, a student who starts a blog today could become the next William Shakespeare tommorow.

What do you think? Should schools encourage students to blog? Is there educational value in blogging?

Photo by torres21

Tandem – A Great School Calendar for a Tight Budget

We have all been hearing the latest news of financial disasters, tightening budgets, and families that are keep a much closer eye on their spending.  The latest money news hits all of us.  And it hits your school. What the future holds is uncertain.

Will lower home pricess drive lower assessments and thus les money from bond levies, if they pass as people think more about where their money is going?  It’s hard to say, but we have solutions that inform, update, and build your school community, even during the potentially tough times ahead.

Tandem for Schools is a comprehensive calendar tool for schools and districts that offers the following benefits:

  • Very simple event and calendar management with less paper.
  • Easy, and FREE, school master calendar creation with flexible electronic distribution options.
  • Registered users (parents, students, etc.) get updates when events get changed or cancelled, potentially saving wasted trips and gas.
  • Very low cost system that will cost no more than $499 per school.  No per user license costs.
  • Low cost of ownership.  We host Tandem on our servers and maintain all the technicalities.  All you do is get started entering and managing your events.
  • No additional costly and complicated training necessary.

Tandem for Schools will save you:

  • Time
  • Paper
  • Money
  • Gas
  • and Grief!

Check out Tandem for Schools today to see our easy, inexpensive and green solution that will help you make the most our of your school or district budget while strengthening your school community.  Get started with our FREE version, Tandem Basic, with absolutely no cost or obligation by clicking the button:

Or try a FREE, 30-day trial of our complete calendar system by clicking here…

Or fill out this demo request form to have one of our experts walk you through Tandem for Schools with a live web demo.

Budget Cuts Ahead

In a new survey (PDF) by the National Governors Association, budget cuts are ahead for many school districts throughout the nation.  That means cutbacks in many areas for schools, and the need for more efficient spending in the budgets that remain.  You can read a summary here of how these cuts will be felt by everyone, not only schools.

How can Tandem for Schools help when budgets get tight?

For one, it can offer technology that won’t break your bank with software license fees or expensive ongoing training needs.  Plus, it will enable efficient and easy calendar planning that will free up your valuable staff to manage other key needs.

And if you opt for trying out our Tandem Premium tools, you will be able to manage transportation and its budgets with great ease and financial efficiency.

Tandem can definitely help your school or district, but it will help parents too.  What if that baseball game gets cancelled, or the PTA meeting moved to another day?  Tandem is great at keeping your staff and parents informed so they don’t go driving to events that aren’t even happening.  Plus, you will avoid getting slammed by a bunch of phone calls in your office by parents wondering what’s going on.

All in all, Tandem can help make life easier, all the while saving your school or district money and time. What a better way to help manage your school in these times of tight finances.

We’d love to personally show you how Tandem can help your school enhance it’s limited resources.  Schedule a personal demo now, using the form, and we’ll get with you right away to show you Tandem benefits.  Or call us.

Tandem, Eco-Friendly??

In this day and age of environmental awareness, everyone is talking about small carbon footprints, recycling and sustainability.  Well, we’re no ones to leverage the cause du jour into a crass business purpose, but there are very real ways Tandem can impact the environment positively:

– Tandem may help you reduce significant paperwork in your calendar planning and approval process.  It’s all online, and event approvals using our system don’t require paper sign offs.  This may be of minimal impact in just one school.  But think of the implications if an entire district uses Tandem.

– Tandem may help save gas.  If parents are aware of canceled events via email, they can avoid unnecessary trips.

– Tandem may help reduce paper calendar handouts to students and staff.  Say the choir has a practice schedule filtered through Tandem.  Students can view this online and print a calendar out at their discretion.  And that’s just the choir.  Just think about how the athletic department could reduce their paper output by using Tandem.

These are just some basic ideas.  We want to help schools steward their resources more effectively, both financially and environmentally.  Tandem may just be part of the solution.

Do you have other ideas?  Feel free to post them here.

Creating and Connecting

The National School Boards Association underscores the need for thoughtful policies regarding online social networking within school communities in an excellent study.  With the exponential upsurge of sites like MySpace and Facebook, it is clear that reactive responses don’t work — students will still be typing away after hours, keeping in touch with friends.

Some stats:

71% of students use social networks at least weekly.

59% of online students talk about educational topics online.

50% of online students talk specifically about homework online.

All of this online social networking tech is still shaking out.  People still don’t know what to do with it, or what to make of it.  It’s an untamed beast.  But it shows powerful potential to connect with students and parents in new and efficient ways.

Imagine connecting with your local school community (and beyond) with online calendar updates, event invitations, etc. through MySpace or Facebook.

At Intand, we are looking to drive technology in these areas, especially in the event communication arena.  Look for more in the future.

A School Calendar Manifesto – The First Go

1. True calendar power = Maximum technology + Minimal Costs.
2. If you need more than a day of training to use it, you won’t use it.
3. Custom applications will waste your time, money – and your sanity.
4. If you can’t find an existing tool to get the job done, anywhere, use a custom application. If you can, see #3.
5. If your calendar does not drive higher participation, it is only providing part of what you need.
6. Effective communication of school events empowers parents and students.
7. If need to go to ComplicatedProduct University for a week each year to keep up with the technology, it may be just a little bit too complicated.
8. Centralized database-driven, web-managed calendars = decreased staff burnout rates.
9. Built-in conflict checking really will help you from pulling out your hair as you build and maintain schedules.
10. Just because someone is comfortable using an existing process, does not mean it is most effective.

More to come…

Social Networking is Not Going Away

With over 80 million users on MySpace alone, social networking is not going away. And that National School Boards Association report said that 50% of students using these services are specifically talking about schoolwork using these social networking tools.

There is a compelling article at discussing the proliferation of social networks amongst kids. Of course, much of the press has been bad — cyberstalking, online porn, etc., etc. But, social networking is not going away. And kids are definitely using tools like MySpace and Facebook to keep connected. The above stat is huge: 50% of kids use social networks to chat about homework.

So then, how can it be used to keep kids, and parents, connected to the school community? And how can it be used to drive higher participation? These are huge questions. And we are working hard to try and answer them.

Imagine school events being added to calendars which then automatically feed the information to students on Facebook or MySpace. Students use these sites incessantly, much to the chagrin of parents. And parents should be discerning. But we’d love to help schools use these technologies for the benefit of the school community, which will hopefully filter out the bad.

PDF Calendar on Your Website Enough? Likely Not.

Jon Udell made some interesting points in his blog about the importance of calendars and data feeds. He call syndication of data feeds “transformative technology”. Syndication? Data feeds? Gobbelygook?

He is right. These two technologies are important, but what do they mean? Syndication allows internet users to grab information (usually in the form of RSS, or Really Simple Syndication) and consolidate it in one place rather than going to multiple web sites to gather their daily info dose.

Simply put, at many web sites, you can subscribe to a feed, and read all of your subscribed feeds from one place using a reader tool (Google Reader is a good and simple one). And Viola! Every time new posts are added, or information is updated, it shows up as new in your reader. Easy, and cool!

You will be interested to know that Tandem for Schools provides RSS feeds of calendar events. Users can filter events by group to track events and updates. So there is nothing for users to do except review their feeds on a regular basis. If events are updated in the system, everyone has the updates immediately, easing communication and office logistics.

So, the PDF you may be posting may be working for you for now. But what happens if the staff member that updates it is out? How do change requests get communicated? Tandem for Schools gets around all this. Your entire staff can be empowered to manage the calendar. And your parents and students will be drawn in to higher involvement. That’s the goal anyway.

Sexy Technologies…Low Faculty Morale??

A recent post at Weblogg-ed exposes a problem: technology for technology’s sake. It seems that a Alexandria, VA school spent $98 million on new facilities and tech, only to find that faculty morale was still low and cynicism ran high.

It’s a shame, because technology can empower everyone in the school ecosystem — from parents to students to faculty and staff. It’s clear that there are a lot of bloated technology solutions out there that give minimal empowerment for the costs incurred.

Some questions might be in order which may help determining if the tech you need is actually the tech that will help your school or district:

  • Will this save you and other staff time?
  • How long is the learning curve? Remember that most technology has two main competitors: pen/paper and the old way of doing things. If the learning curve is perceived to be higher than these two “competitors”, your cause is lost.
  • Does the tech you are looking at implementing build your school community and drive higher involvement, or not?
  • What is the total cost of ownership (TCOA)? What is the cost per student?
  • How long does it take to implement the new tech, and once it is up and running, how long before it actually drives efficiency and community?

There are other criteria of course, but it seems that the above questions are forgotten rather quickly.

What it’s all about…

The NSBA (National School Boards Association Blog) had an interesting post this week about community engagement with schools.  It linked to an opinion piece about the importance of teaching kids critical skills, but noted that community engagement is critical.  We would agree.

We hear frequently from our customers that they desire more involvement by parents and kids.  But how?  It all comes down to communication and connecting the community into the goings on at the school.  With all the myriad programs and events at schools, parents and kids start to lose track.  Communication is the tough part.  Without the right tools to keep parents updated on their kids’ involvements and events that pertain to them, driving community is a huge challenge.

A good centralized school calendar is key, in our estimation, allowing parents and administrators alike to communicate with ease.  With all the personal devices people are using to manage life, simple updating and school calendar integration is the next killer app.  When people know what’s going on, community will grow, and participation will flourish.