Wired for engagement – the Schoolwires blog

Our Blog Is Moving to Blackboard K-12

Posted by Debbora Woods on 8/12/15 8:00 AM

BbK12Blog

On Tuesday, September 1, 2015, this Schoolwires blog site will no longer receive posts. However, we will continue to keep the previous posts available for your reference.

 

Connect with us on the Blackboard K-12 Blog to access news, client stories, trends, community engagement information, teaching and learning information, and product updates.

 

Make sure you subscribe to get updates via email when new posts are added.

 

We'll see you there!

Topics: K-12, Blog


Trends in K-12 Digital Learning

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/30/15 8:00 AM

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Hot off the press! We're excited to share our new K-12 Digital Trends Report released by Blackboard and Project Tomorrow.

 

And we've written a blog post that showcases the 2015 Speak Up key findings of digitial learning in an easy-to-read infographic. Here's a sneak peek:

  • 45% of district administrators say their implementation of blended learning is already achieving positive results
  • 61% of students say they collaborate more with their classmates as a result of using technology to support their learning
  • 53% of teachers in blended classrooms say their students are more motivated to learn

 

Check out the rest of this informative infographic today>>

Topics: blended learning, Project Tomorrow, Digital Trends


How do you keep your K-12 community in the loop? Take our survey!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/25/15 1:17 PM

 FamilyEngagementSurvey

We want to know how you’re keeping families engaged.

 

At Blackboard, we’re eager to understand the tools and strategies that you use to keep your K-12 community members and families on the same page.

 

Can you take a moment right now to take our very brief survey on your approaches and preferences when it comes to communications in your school or district?

 

With your answers, we can do more to help your school or district keep parents and community members engaged—something that’s so critical to student success.

 

We know how busy you are, and we truly appreciate your time!

 

Take survey now >>

Topics: K-12 Communications, Survey


Back-to-school action plans for K-12 websites and teacher pages

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/23/15 9:00 AM

ShareTour

Our Technical Communications team has been working diligently to build out some self-help web pages that provide K-12 administrators, teachers, and other editors with action plans for preparing your K-12 websites and classroom pages for the upcoming school year.

 

The team will be refining these pages on a regular basis and adding more action plan pages centering around other events and trends within districts during the 2015-16 school year.

 

Check them out here, and feel free to provide us feedback! Are you getting the information you need? Do you have other items you'd like added? Don't be shy - let us know in the comments below!

 

Back-to-school action plan for:

  • Site and Subsite Administrators. Summer is the busiest time of year for those supporting technology in schools. We have designed this page as a guide to help you as you organize your tasks and prepare for back-to-school!
  • Editors. Summer is a great time to plan what you will include in your section of the website. Take advantage of the action items outlined here for inspiration as you develop pages for departments, athletics, clubs, nurses, libraries, parent/teacher organizations, and more!
  • Teachers. Relaxing summer days can quickly become hectic, full of preparation for the return of students. So prepare early. A well-structured website that offers students and parents the information they need is an essential communication tool in today's digital world. We're happy to help you build a teacher section that looks great on any device!

 

Vist the SHARE COMMUNITY  

to connect with the people and information you need to succeed!

Topics: Self-Service Assets, Self-Help Resources


K-12 educators invited to join us for Teaching & Learning Day

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/17/15 9:00 AM

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Have you heard about the Teaching & Learning Day at BbWorld this year? It's a don't miss event!

 

K-12 educators are invited to join us on this special day! We will open with an inspirational keynote from TED speaker Adora Svitak. Check out the K-12 program highlights for the rest of the day's sessions:

  • Featured Speakers: Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams on Flipped Classrooms
  • Session: Competency based digital learning
  • Session: Transitioning to blended learning
  • Panel: Parents and school-to-home communications
  • Panel: The flip side - a flipped learning panel
  • Panel: Powerful professional development to prepare teachers for digital learning

 

Want even more exciting news? The Teaching and Learning Day Pass is only $199 and includes access to all BbWorld onsite programming on Wednesday, July 22. Access your special day rate today and use the code BBW199 at www.bbworld.com

 

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Topics: BbWorld 2015


Why Blackboard? K-12 Communications Leaders Share Real Results

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/27/15 9:00 AM

WhyBlackboardEBook

We're excited to announce our new eBook, written just for K-12 Communications Leaders!

 

You know parents and students are driving change in your schools, demanding that education keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. So, take some time to read through this new eBook to explore what K-12 experts say about keeping your community informed and safe with a comprehensive communication plan that includes web hosting, a district mobile app, social media management, and mass notification system.

 

In this new eBook, you'll discover critical information about:

 

Parent Engagement

"When we talk about being linked to learning, we're talking about engaging with families in a way that will support the learning process for each student"

Karen L. Mapp, Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education

 

Website Services and Hosting

ST-WhyBb-1a


District Mobile Apps

"The mobile app is a way that we can send updates without parents asking. We're being proactive, and that is how we want to keep our parents involved."

Treva Emter, Supervisor of Instruction in Charge of Technology, High Prairie School Division #48

 

Mass Notification

ST-WhyBb-1c


Social Media Management

"Since implementing Sociability, our parent and community following have both increased. Parents have noticed the difference in the response rate, it's much quicker, and our school admins and principals are much more comfortable using social media."

Annette Eyman, Communications Director, Papillion La-Vista Public Schools

 

And much more!

 

We believe engaging family and community members leads to creating successful students and stronger communities. To explore more of your peers' success stories and discover how they've created comprehensive communications strategies that keep families and their K-12 communities informed, download your eBook copy today!

 

 

 


 


 

 

 

Topics: K-12 Communications


Toyota and National Center for Families Learning Announce Grants

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/26/15 9:00 AM

ToyotaFamilyLearning

Does your K-12 school district have the desire to provide a great community engagement program, but you're short on funding? This may be a great opportunity for you!

 

Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) are now wecoming community programs across the nation to submit initial applications for the prestigious Toyota Family Learning grants, which recognize innovation in engaging families in learning, community service, and mentoring.

 

Click Here>> to read the entire press release. If you enter, best of luck - we'll be cheering for you! And if you win, please let us know so we can help spread the great news!

 

To learn more about how Schoolwires, a Blackboard solution, supports family and community engagement, visit our website >>

Topics: Grants


Kelli Price Named 2015 MOSPRA Professional of the Year

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/21/15 9:00 AM

JoplinPublicSchools

We're so excited to share some wonderful news with you this week about Joplin Public Schools (MO)!

 

Recently, Ms Kelli Price, Joplin's Communications Director, was named the Missouri School Public Relations 2015 Professional of the Year. The primary criteria Ms Price was selected on was that she has made a valuable contribution to either her district or MOSPRA in promoting school PR or has made a difference in the lives of students. To read the entire MOSPRA press release, click here>>

 

According to MOSPRA President, Michelle Cronk, "MOSPRA is proud of the outstanding work Kelli does on behalf of the children of the Joplin Public Schools and it is a pleasure to recognize her with MOSPRA's highest award. Kelli not only serves the Joplin Schools well, but she is an active and important member of our association."

 

Congratulations, Kelli - keep up the great work!

 

Discover more about Joplin Schools today by downloading their Success Story >>

Topics: Client Awards


Share Help Center is open 24/7 and is just a few clicks away

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/19/15 9:00 AM

ShareTour

Guest bloggers: Kathe Craig, Sr. Manager of Self Service Assets, and Jennifer Gray, Community Support Manager - Schoolwires Technical Communications

 

It’s a Sunday evening and you’re adding the details of an upcoming class project to your K-12 website. You have a vision for how to arrange the content on the page but you can’t decide which app to use. During the school day you would have a few options for seeking help. What can you do now? The answer is just a few clicks away.

 

The Help Center on Schoolwires Community & Support Network (Share) is designed to guide you to the information you need 24/7. Share’s easy-to-use search function is available to you from desktop and mobile devices to help you locate written and video materials.

 

We know teachers don’t work a 9-5 schedule so Share is here for you when you need help. Here are some materials you’ll discover in the Share Help Center.

  • APPs Showroom—Apps are your content building blocks. Each app is designed to display in a way that is consistent with the type of content contained within the app. Use this as a guide to harness the power and flexibility of apps as you design pages to display your content.
  • APPetizers—APPetizers are a fun way to learn about Schoolwires Apps. Each APPetizer highlights a Schoolwires App. It includes ingredients, directions and flavor enhancers you’ll use to serve up pages that visitors will drool over. The APPetizer even shows what the app looks like on a page.

appsshowroom

 

As you explore Share, you will discover a wealth of resources to help you build K-12 webpages rich with content designed to drive engagement.

  • Share Tour—Take a brief tour of Share to learn how to access the information you need.
  • Help Center—Use this go-to location for help materials and resources to guide you as you create your web pages.
  • User Groups—Find out how User Groups allow you to join with other clients to learn and collaborate.
  • Training—Understand more about resources and services offered by the Training Team.
  • Creative—Appreciate the value of great design through the services provided by our Creative Team.
  • Join the Conversation—Connect and collaborate. Locate the channels of communication that are the best fit for you.
  • Suggestions and Ideas—Share feedback, suggestions and ideas on what we should build next with UserVoice®.

Share is designed to provide you with the support you need to meet your goals. We partner with you to drive engagement in your classroom, with your parents and within your community. From User Groups to UserVoice we are sure you will find something that is just right for you.

 

Share the good word! Encourage your colleagues to take advantage of the growing resources and community. Visit by clicking the Community & Support link at the top of your Site Manager window or go to http://help.schoolwires.com.

 

To learn more about Schoolwires, a Blackboard solution,

visit our website>>

Topics: Training, User Groups, UserVoice, Help Center


Project Tomorrow Releases SpeakUp 2014 National Research Data

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/5/15 4:21 PM

SpeakUp_Data_2014

On April 30, 2015, Project Tomorrow released the report "Digital Learning 24/7: Understanding Technology - Enhanced Learning in the Lives of Today's Students" at a Congressional Briefing held in Washington, D.C.

 

Key findings from this year's report include:

  • Many administrators are finding that blended learning environments hold great promise
  • Students in blended environments use technology more frequently than their peers in more traditional classroom settings
  • When students have access to technology as part of their learning, their use of digital tools is deeper and more sophisticated
  • Only 27% of high school principals reported they are not yet offering online courses for students
  • Almost 3/4 of students agreed that every student should be able to use a mobile device during the school day for learning
  • Students connect the use of technology tools in learning to the development of college, career, and citizenship schools

To download this report along with other resources, go to the SpeakUp Congressional Briefing website >>

Schoolwires is proud to be a sponsor of the SpeakUp survey!

Topics: SpeakUp, Project Tomorrow


Georgetown ISD turns a password problem into a single sign-on solution

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/27/15 9:00 AM

GeorgetownPKM

Georgetown ISD (TX) was facing some challenges with third party systems, usernames, and passwords. For nearly 11,000 students, the district’s IT staff was looking at over 121,000 third-party student accounts. How would they make it easier for younger elementary students to use the systems? And how could they ensure students and teachers were aware of and using they systems?

 

Read their great success story to discover...

 

Their challenges:

  • 17 instructional technology systems with unique login requirements
  • Concerned about online safety and security of students
  • Needed to ensure parents, students, and teachers could access systems from computers away from schools

The Schoolwires solution:

  • PassKey Manager single sign-on

Fantastic results:

  • Adoption of programs and systems has increased, providing the district a good ROI
  • Students are becoming responsible digital citizens and researchers
  • Happy parents, students, and teachers

Download your copy today >>

Topics: Centricity2, Single Sign-On, PassKey Manager


BbWorld 2015 - It's official. You can start getting excited!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/23/15 12:00 PM

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We’re excited! And Schoolwires customers should be too!

 

Because it’s a whole new BbWorld focused on best practices for teaching and learning and communications.

 

July 21 – 23 will mark a convention unlike any other. Education industry leaders from around the globe will join Blackboard in Washington, D.C. for BbWorld 2015. Together, we’ll discuss the future of education and solve for challenges coming between students and the success of their education.

 

Registration is open – sign up today to take advantage of early-bird pricing.

 

Call for presentations is open – teach others about how you use your Schoolwires Centricity2 website for family engagement and community outreach.

 

We’ll see you there…

Topics: BbWorld 2015


BbWorld 2015 - You don't want to miss it!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/21/15 9:00 AM

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Schoolwires clients – you don’t want to miss this event!

 

Dates:                   July 21 – 23

Location:              Washington, D.C.

 

BbWorld 2015 will be filled with rich discussions about the future of education and how technology will help us get there.

 

Participants will:

 

  • Network with district leaders, industry thought leaders, and peers
  • Take advantage of professional development opportunities
  • Experience an innovative digital and in-person event
  • Get a sneak peek into how Blackboard is reimagining education through product and solution innovation

 

Interested in attending? Register here >>

 

In fact, we would love for our Schoolwires clients to present at BbWorld! Share your thoughts and experiences in these specific areas:

  • Conscious communications
  • Maximizing web presence
  • Establishing district/school brand
  • ROI success

 

Present at BbWorld 2015 and receive a discount on registration! Learn More >

Topics: BbWorld 2015


Websites not mobile-friendly can expect 60% less visitors

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/17/15 11:00 AM

RWDandMCA

Have you heard? Websites that are not mobile-friendly can expect to receive 60% less visitors starting April 21.

 

Why? Google is making mobile-friendliness a ranking signal so all search results are optimized for all devices. That means if your K-12 families or community members are searching for your district or school websites on a smartphone or tablet, and you don't have a mobile-friendly responsive site, your K-12 websites won't appear in their search results.

 

But don't worry! We have you covered with mobile solutions that please all your audiences, even Google.

Download Free Infographic >>

 

Topics: Responsive Web Design, K-12 Websites


Don't miss these free PD events!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/9/15 9:00 AM

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We're excited to be launching our "Lunch 'N Learn" semimonthly webinar series this month! These free PD events are designed for our Centricity2 clients where we'll provide quick tips and tricks for using the tools and functionality provided in your website platform. So, grab your lunch and join us for 20 minutes to learn some fun stuff!

 

Upcoming Lunch 'N Learn events...

 

April 15 at 1:00 pm EDT - "Mastering the Minibase" Register Today>>

The minibase is a fantastic tool you can use to store and display many varieties of information on your website, from a searchable directory to an organized table or list of information. We'll show you how to do some cool things and showcase a couple great client sites creatively using minibases: Houston ISD (TX) and District 49 (CO)

 

April 29 at 1:00 pm EDT - "Alerting Your Allies" Register Here>>

E-Alerts are messages sent to parents and community members by a district or school. There are two types of E-Alerts: Broadcast and Content. Are you using them effectively to increase communication and support across your district? We'll show you how and showcase Barrington 220 (IL) broadcast e-alert newsletters.

 

Do you have other  Centricity2 features you'd like for us to cover? Let us know by replying below. Thanks, and we'll see you soon!

Topics: Centricity2, PD


Webinar - Global Community Engagement for K-12 Students: Lessons from Greenleaf

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/7/15 9:00 AM

Pamela_Livingston

Communities can be as small as a family and close friends or as large as the whole world. Children today are inheriting our global world where they can interact and work with people nearly anywhere. In this webinar, learn about the free Greenleaf Program, an online virtual community with students halfway around the world, that will give your students a unique insight into children and culture. Each participating Greenleaf classroom in the U.S. is paired with a classroom in China. The program is entirely free for U.S. teachers and includes bilingual support, the classroom matching service, an online platform, and curriculum.

Presenter Pamela Livingston has interviewed U.S. Greenleaf teachers, synthesized interviews with Chinese teachers, and traveled to Beijing. She will be speaking about why understanding a larger community helps broaden students' perspectives of other people and cultures, and what important and deep lessons are learned when they get to know students in China who are learning along with them.

Join us on Wednesday, April 22, at 4:00 pm EDT for this live, interactive session to find out how you can provide global community engagement for your own K-12 students with the Greenleaf Program. Pamela will field questions from attendees after her presentation.

Register Today >>

Topics: collaborative learning, blended learning, cultural exchange, Greenleaf


Congrats to AZ Ed Foundation's A+ School of Excellence Winners!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 4/2/15 9:00 AM

HighlandParkElementary

We continually research about state-based programs that recognize and celebrate K-12 districts and schools that focus on parent and community involvement to improve and/or sustain student achievement.

We recently read about the Arizona Educational Foundation's "A+ School of Excellence Program." According to their website, "The A+ School of Excellence Program is a comprehensive school assessment program that celebrates outstanding schools and brings to light the positive stories and successes happening in public schools every day."

Isn't it wonderful to hear about the great things happening in our schools?

So, how does the A+ School of Excellence Program work? Schools submit applications that provide information about demographics, programs, practices, parent and community involvement, leadership, and more. The selection panel includes award-winning principals, teachers, and community members who conduct site visits and choose award winners.

Check out the round-one list of 26 winners below. We've included links to 12 schools that are also Schoolwires clients (we're so excited to share their great news!).

And you can read more about the A+ School of Excellence Program here>>

If you know of other K-12 parent involvement and community engagement awards programs that we can feature in our blog, please respond to this post. We love to showcase the great things happening across the U.S.!

Want to discover how Schoolwires solutions meet your K-12 family engagement challenges? Visit our website today!

Topics: Client Awards


It’s official: Schoolwires joins Blackboard

Posted by Chris Crawford on 3/20/15 9:12 AM

061914-headerIn February, we were excited to announce that Schoolwires had signed an agreement to be acquired by Blackboard pending regulatory review and the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. We are pleased to announce that the transaction is complete and Schoolwires has officially united with the Blackboard team.

Both companies are committed to continuing our dedication, hard work and passion for the K-12 school market. Schoolwires’ technologies and team will contribute to Blackboard’s winning K-12 business strategy and overall portfolio of solutions.  Schoolwires will play an ever growing role in Blackboard’s K-12 content and community management strategy moving forward, including getting parents more involved in the learning experience.

Our customers, employees and the K-12 market can look forward to what the future holds as a result of this powerful combination of market leaders. Schoolwires customers will benefit from greater access to integrated solutions for community engagement from a single provider. Schoolwires employees will benefit from expanded career opportunities in a larger, growing company. And, the entire K-12 marketplace wins with a strengthened Blackboard portfolio of solutions for teaching, learning and community engagement.

In the coming weeks, more details about how Schoolwires’ products and services will fit into Blackboard’s larger K-12 solutions and services strategy will be shared. For more information, see the official release.

Topics: Company News


eSchool News Article: 10 data safety principles every school should be following

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/19/15 9:00 AM

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Have you read this eSchool News article yet?

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the Data Quality Campaign just released a set of 10 principles to help guide schools in protecting the student data they store. According to eSchool News, these guidelines are the first of their kind. Briefly, here are the areas they cover:

  1. Student data should be used to support learning
  2. Student data is most powerful when used for personalized learning
  3. Student data should be used as a tool for informing, engaging, and empowering families and educators
  4. Families and educators should have timely access to student data
  5. Student data should be used to inform professional judgment of educators
  6. Students' personal information should only be shared for legitimate educational purposes
  7. Educational institutions should have clear rules and guidelines for how they handle student data
  8. Educational institutions should only have access to minimum student data required
  9. Everyone who has access to student data should be trained on how to use, protect, and secure it
  10. Any educational institution that collects and maintains student data should have a system of governance in place for it

Want more details on these 10 principles? Take time to read the article>>

Then, let us know what your thoughts are by responding below. Do you agree with these principles? Would you offer more? Are these good guidelines for schools? Share your feedback...

Topics: K-12 Student Data, Data Privacy


When K-12 website outsourcing really means webmaster empowerment

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/17/15 9:00 AM

WebmasterArticle

K-12 district webmasters lead a busy intersection of information that serves a cross-section of important needs: school board minutes and superintendent messages, weather and emergency alerts, school calendars and lunch menus for families, and information for prospective community members. Your audience is a populace of parents, students, education advocates, and educators alike who are savvy and expect to be informed.

If you ask any parent, the information at their fingertips is the most valuable information on the planet. How can you not only maintain and keep pace with the growing workload demands, but also lead the branding and voice of your community?

Check out our new article hot off the press: When website outsourcing really means webmaster empowerment.

You will discover:

  • Using CMS tools and functionality to share responsibilities of content publishing and editing
  • Catering to your needs, such as website design, implementation, hosting, staff training, and mobile communications
  • Delivering reliable solutions that allow you to share real-time, credible information with your K-12 community
  • And much more!

Download your copy today!

Topics: District Websites, Centricity2


K-12 teacher web pages: The key to engaging families outside the classroom

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/12/15 9:00 AM

CabarrusSchoolDistrict

When Cabarrus County Schools’ (NC) website vendor went out of business, the K-12 district was prompted to look for another provider and joined the Schoolwires family. During the transition, the district created Board policies and administrative guidelines for school and teacher websites. In order to maintain quality control, safety, and security of information and also ensure efficient, up-to-date school-home communications, teachers must maintain web pages within their schools’ websites. Their web pages include a welcome page, teacher picture and contact information, calendar, course syllabus, handouts and notes, and photos of events and activities.

Recently, we noticed activity in social media around the teacher web pages of Ms. Sloane Wood, music teacher at Cox Mill Elementary in the Cabarrus district. She is going beyond the district's teacher web page minimums and really using her pages to engage and connect with her different audiences she serves. When asked who her different audiences were, Sloane replied, “My main audiences that I appeal to with content on my website are students, families, and my peer teachers. And each audience requires different content, in different formats, that is relevant to them.”

So, of course, we needed to learn more! We collaborated with Sloane to write about her family engagement goals and tactics. We learned her challenges:

  • Provide good customer service to students and families
  • Be a responsible citizen
  • Preserve what students have created
  • Incentivize good student behavior
  • Archive years of teacher work
  • Integrate music curriculum with other teachers' curriculum
  • Share education and professional training with peers

If you want to explore the solutions Schoolwires was able to provide, and discover her outstanding results, you'll definitely want to read Sloane's success story -- Teacher web pages: The key to engaging families outside the classroom.

Want your students more engaged?

Do your parents feel knowledgable and involved?

Are your school-to-home communications efficient and effective?

This story has the tips you need!

Download your copy today!

 

Topics: School-to-Home Communication, Teacher Web Pages, Family Engagement


The digital classroom: Your answer to snow days and student extended absences

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/10/15 9:00 AM

PascackValley

Snow may be blanketing the streets. Buses may be unable to travel. School is closed for snow days.

Or, you may have a student who has to take an extended absence due to illness.

When school is closed, there is one thing that will still work for you: eLearning in the digital classroom.

Learn about Pascack Valley Regional High School District's (NJ) success with implementing digital classrooms to enhance education in the district.

Download the article today!

Topics: Centricity2


Creating K-12 engagement gold by getting social on all fronts

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/5/15 9:00 AM

SantaAnaUSD

When Deidra Powell, Chief Communications Officer of Santa Ana Unified School District (CA), arrived at the K-12 district in 2012, she immediately noticed an unkempt website, very little electronic communications, no social media presence, and not even informational brochures. She was told by staff that the district had a poor relationship with local media - they viewed it as a "problem district" and gave it negative coverage.

According to Deidra, "People were unaware of the great stories within the walls of our schools."

How would the district make a comeback?

Well, we've got their amazing story! And here's just a few of the great results they're realizing:

  • 80 media partners
  • 200 business partners
  • 2,500+ Facebook fans
  • 660+ Twitter followers
  • 5,000+ parents attending meetings about student success

Want more family engagement in your district? Discover the communications and public relations strategies, tactics, and relationships that turned Santa Ana USD around in their brand new success story -- it's hot off the press and a copy is waiting for you!

Download Santa Ana's story today!

Topics: Community Engagement, Communications


Top 7 free video tools for K-12 teachers

Posted by Debbora Woods on 3/3/15 9:00 AM

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Guest Blogger: Terry Smith, blogger, software developer, and former IT teacher

A decade ago, using a video in a classroom solely meant to show a movie to students with the help of a DVD or even VHS player. Today, video takes a more prominent place in the educational process. With different video content that's easily accessible, teachers can add visibility to the explained material and diversify learning tasks. In contrast to traditional printed training aids, video generates a greater amount of interest among students. Thus, video is a powerful instructional medium that can enhance both teaching and learning.

However, video preparation may take a long time without the necessary video software. Not all teachers can easily work with professional video processing software like Adobe Premier or AfterEffects. In fact, very few teachers can afford to buy such tools. So, I've researched good free software alternatives that can be a huge help. Here is a roundup of useful free tools, which allow teachers to create, edit, play, convert, download, and burn video files.

Windows Live Movie Maker

This time-tested video editing software offers enough basic features to get the job done fast. With it, teachers can create and edit videos for their classes. Being a part of Windows Essentials, Movie Maker offers many video and transition effects and lets you compile a movie out of camera footage, video clips, and photos. Users can delete undesired video parts; add effects, music, and narration with ease. This is the best option for teachers dealing with video presentations and self-shot movies.

VLC Media Player

This is one of the most successful open-source programs. With it, teachers can play videos of almost any format with no special codes needed. In contrast to other video players, VLC is even capable of playing damaged and incomplete files, e.g. those which are being still downloaded via P2P networks. The other helpful features include the ability to stream and convert video files, add subtitles from the Internet, record video from your desktop, take snapshots, and many more. In short, VLC Media Player is a Swiss knife, which can do almost any video-related tasks.

Freemake Video Converter

This is a popular video conversion software, which supports over 300 input video formats and can convert them to AVI, MKV, MP4, MPEG, WMV, FLV, SWF, DVD, and Blu-ray. So teachers can easily prepare videos for playback on any school devices, including projectors and student tablets. The advanced preset editor allows users to customize conversion settings. The converter can join several video parts into one, cut video parts, and rotate videos clockwise. The tool also features the ability to create photo slideshows with background music and music visualizations and upload them directly to YouTube.

CamStudio

This is a simple video capturing tool, which teachers can use to record their computer's screen to create video tutorials. The software screencasts video and audio activity and outputs all this into AVI and SWF video files. There are numerous cool features in this intuitive, open source app, namely the ability to highlight the cursor path during a recording session, define the desired a region of the screen to be captured, automatically adjust the frame rate, annotate and append videos with comments, a time stamp, and a territorial watermark.

YouTube Video Editor

Teachers can upload their educational videos to YouTube and edit them in real time. YouTube Video Editor allows users to combine multiple videos and images to create a new video, trim clips to custom lengths, add music to videos from a library of approved tracks, customize clips with special tools and effects, and much more. This is an ideal option to prepare videos for teachers who prefer streaming live videos in the classroom.

Prezi

Prezi is a nice tool to create stylish presentations on any topic. The tool is web-based and offers several paid options like enhanced photo editing and custom branding. Still with a basic free account, you can really create wonderful presentations with text, video, images, and lists. Prezi has a huge collection of ready-made colorful templates, which you can easily customize. Presentations can be shared online or downloaded to your PC as an archive file.

GoAnimate

GoAnimate lets teachers create animated videos in a simple manner. Choose a theme, plot, characters, and start adding your content. For example, you can create an animated video where animals or cartoon characters are explaining the Pythagorean Theorem or Newton's laws. Your students will really appreciate your efforts. However, some templates are for a fee and you should sign up to save your video.

About our guest blogger:Terry Smith is a former IT teacher from Geneva. Terry is now a self-employed software developer and blogger. He loves testing new software and reviewing them for popular technology blogs. Follow Terry on Twitter @TerrySmith226.

Would you like to be a guest blogger? Email us your blog ideas for review! wired_blog@schoolwires.com

Topics: Teacher Resources


Engage Your K-12 Audiences

Posted by Debbora Woods on 2/18/15 9:00 AM

barrington_small_4

Guest Blogger: Suzanne LaForge, Graphic Designer, Schoolwires

For several years, Schoolwires has had the pleasure of working with Barrington 220 School District in Illinois, delivering innovate Made-To-Order website designs that encourage engagement, increase involvement, and reflect Barrington 220's community. And we had the opportunity to be part of the development of their brand new user experience, which just launched in January 2015.

Think outside the box.

Our partners at Barrington 220 were looking for a K-12 website design that would tell a story and engage their audiences. As their creative team, some of the challenges we faced were to deliver a user experience that is innovative, effectively uses video, enhances usability, and maintains a focus on content that matters most to their website visitors.

So, what did we do?

When you visit the website home page, a large video - We Are Barrington 220 - fills the browser. A simplistic design approach enables users to easily find popular items. Google Agenda View and Google Calendar integration streamlines their content, creating a central location for users. Use of eye-catching infographics support why Barrington 220.

Why_Barrington220

But wait.

With our simple, yet sophisticated approach, our Barrington 220 partners were able to take these ideas and run with them. They created an instructional video to present the new website to visitors to ensure maximum usability. Well done, Barrington 220!

And, it's always nice to receive thanks straight from the client: "Suzanne was so willing to go above and beyond the 'standard' template options and incorporate custom options for our website. We are very excited to incorporate Google calendar and video into our home page!"

-- Mandy Fischer, Print & Web Design Coordinator, Barrington 220 School District

Check out Barrington 220's new user experience for yourself. We think you're going to really like it!

Want to preview more striking Made-To-Order website designs? Check out our Customer Portfolio>>

Topics: K-12 Website Design


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