Connect your School with Remind

11 Mar Learn more at www.remind.com and use texting as a way to connect with your students.

After using the Remind texting app with my students to connect my classes, I had a thought to connect my entire school in the same way. I’m constantly hearing from students that they are uninformed and don’t know what is going on at school. So, I set out to get my kids connected on their phones using Remind.

I targeted two groups year one, the freshmen and seniors. I knew that I would have those groups together, and that is key. If kids feel they have a choice to signup, most won’t. However, if all the kids are there at the same time and you instruct them to signup to get updates, they will see their friends signing up. That, and the kids get excited when the teacher tells them to take out their phones and do something with them. So, at freshmen orientation and at senior sunrise the first week of school, I had about three hundred kids sign-up for text updates. My students brought out a giant sign with the info needed to sign up and we parked them in front of the crowd as we explained how and why to signup.

Over the next two years we had all four classes signed up. Now, I had the ability to advertise dances, share deadlines, remind kids to bring books for library check in, and remind kids about spirit days (we started getting a better turnout). I would use the app for spirit give-a-ways (hide items on campus or have kids line-up by a certain door, first ten there get a spirit item).

One tip, have your students sign-up by class. For example, my current list is the Class of 2015, Class of 2016, Class of 2017 and the Class of 2018. This way, I can send a text to all groups, or, if it’s just seniors, I can send the text to just the Class of 2015.

How will you use Remind? 

Top Tips to Remind your Students

10 Mar Learn more at www.remind.com and use texting as a way to connect with your students.

Over the past five years I have played with a lot of technology to keep in touch with students and make sure that the kids were connected and informed about school. With everything I have done, texting is the most effective method to connect with kids. If a student has a phone it will always be on his or her person and they will be tuned in waiting for  the next update or message that has relevancy to their world. With that I recommend Remind as a tool to help you stay connected. This is a teacher friendly app that safely connects you to students or parents to share information and content relevant to your class.

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Have your class sign-up together as a group on the first day of school. I explain that text rates apply, kids get that, and that you want your kids to stay connected and informed.
  2. Make it Interactive right away. My first text that night is a question. The first ten kids who show up at class with the secret word or the answer to the riddle get a giant candy bar or similar prize.
  3. Tell kids to save the number you are using to sign up for the reminders as “School Reminders”. This way, if other teachers use the app, they won’t confuse Mr. Smith’s updates with Mrs. Jackson’s updates. This also goes back to not over texting kids especially if multiple teachers at your school use Remind.
  4. Encourage kids to get the app if they are able. There are additional features in the app, such as the new Chat feature from Remind, that goes beyond simple texting. Kids can use the app to communicate with you directly. This is a feature you can turn on or off.
  5. Put Remind up on your white board or screen, let kids see your admin panel, ask them when they want a reminder for an assignment. This will build trust as your kids see what you are doing and how you are managing the text messages.
  6. Create groups for each class. As hard as we try, first period and fifth period may not be on the same pace and updates may vary.
  7. Send out extra credit questions via text or leak test questions. The goal is interaction, that is more important than a point on a test.
  8. Attach handouts, resources, photos of the agenda or notes taken on the white board. Send out photos of great projects or historical events relevant to the course of study. In my class I send out video tutorials the kids can use on projects.
  9. Be aware of times. With high school kids, I target fifteen minutes before school, when the bell rings at the start of lunch, when the bell rings at the end of the school day or between 7-8 at night. I know that is when kids will have eyes on their phones and I will get the most interaction with my text. If you are middle school, I would target before school or after school. If you are grade school or below, find out when your parents are most receptive to getting info for your class.
  10. Sync your Remind account to Twitter. Now, you can group text and update Twitter with one push of the button.

Get started using Remind with one of your classes today. What are some ideas you have for using Remind in your class?

Teach Film Concepts Through iMovie

1 Dec

Learning how to create films was a challenge; but teaching others to create good film is a bigger challenge. Every day is a battle between getting people to understand the value of a good story and match that with the technical skill to pull it off. Most of the time, I can sell the idea of a good story – though it takes practice – it is easy to learn the value and appreciate a well told story. It’s the technical side of film that often scares most people away. My students – or adults – see what the editing panels in Final Cut or Adobe and tend to panic as they are unsure where to start.  Thanks to apps like iMovie on the iPad and iPhone the process has been simplified. Now, I can teach the basic concepts of story telling without creating a fear in others of not being sure what to do next.

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Achieving Zen with Social Media

27 Nov

If you live in the world of social media, you too have felt the sting of living in multiple worlds: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, PearlTrees, Evernote, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Podcasts, Google Reader or any RSS feed. You have all of this great content and you need to get it out to people, but who wants to visit all of those sites and publish multiple times. In comes If This Then That. This is a great service that will allow you to stream line your social media networks.

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New Apogee Mic

24 Nov

My Apogee and iPad Set-up for a mobile podcast

I recently purchased the new Apogee Micfor the iPad and iPhone. It runs $200 on Amazon or in the Apple store and connects through the 30 pin adapter or through a USB port on your computer. I was skeptical, but since my goal was to get as minimalist as possible and podcast on the go, this seemed like my tool. Plus, in reading reviews, this seemed like a great device to capture acoustic recordings for my students guitars and ukeleles.

Here is a sound test I did using Garageband dry with no effects and with the telephone filter.

I have found recording in Garageband to be easy and amazing. I have a more professional set-up with AKG Perception 420  which was twice as much as the Apogee mic that includes a sound board with xlr to USB inputs. If you would like to find out about my sound set-up for podcasts with the AKG, you can check that out here.

So far, I like the mic. As you can hear it does a pretty good job on sound. Now, I did shut off all of the vents and fans in the house as well as all other electronic devices and made sure I was the only person in the room. The device does have a button on the side to to adjust gain, so you can control your level of input. The mic also comes with a stand that has an adjustable head, so you can angle or position the mic just about wherever and however you want.

Overall, if you are looking for an inexpensive mic for your iPad or iPhone, this is a good choice. From experience I would say this is way better than a snowball mic, so if you want to use it for your Mac as well I would say go for it. If you have an iPhone 5 or an iPad 3 I don’t have any solutions for you, but I’ll keep working.

I do love recording on my iPad in Garageband. The simple filters make it easy to do great voice over for story telling and narration while recording using live instruments or using the smart instruments is very intuitive and easy to use. I’ll update this post once I get some instrument recordings and vocals.

If you are curious about podcasting, then check out some of my previous posts on how I learned to podcast and what equipment I like to use.

Eliminate the Excuse

21 Nov

One of the first lessons I got in teaching was to develop strong classroom management procedures to handle the problems that I did not want to deal with. For example, passing in papers, I have my students do “School Olympics” where each class passes in papers to the back, then to the right, then into their box. I do this activity in the first week and again several more times to keep it fresh. This way, when I say pass in your papers, the kids know which way to go and where the box is to turn papers. No more questions on where papers go, no more kids, “here” instead of passing it in to the box, just a smooth simple procedure. Technology is the same way for me, I developed my resources for the sole purpose of eliminating problems in class: forgetting assignments, forgetting work, not doing work because the student needed help, forgetting books, losing a handout and much more. By adding technology resources to my classroom I am able to build stronger connections with my students while at the same time eliminating the excuse for not doing what is expected.  Continue reading

Working with Invisible Students

2 Sep

I recently took four students down to Chino Hills HS to see Janet Roberts and her high school put on an amazing rally. If you have not been, it is worth the visit. A connected and spirited campus is a high academically performing campus. What got me the most excited is not the rally nor the great conversation with my spirit and rally commissioners, it was a text from my ASB president, “We are going to have a picnic next Wednesday during lunch, easier to explain if you call.” So I did call, and what I heard was slightly short of amazing.

One of my students was walking across the common area when she saw many students sitting and eating alone. She came back to class rather upset where the kids had a conversation about inviting students to have lunch in the ASB room each Wednesday. The kids thought this was great, then another student suggested, “why don’t we bring some blankets and just invite people to sit with us each day on the grass?” We have four large grass areas in our common area, and all of the kids thought this was great.

So, every other Wednesday we are going to have an ASB picnic where all students are invited to sit in an area. The brilliance of the idea is its simplicity as well as the execution each week. Kids show up, take out blankets, sit and eat while we play some music and hang out. At the same time, our students, mentors and other leaders on campus are invited to go out and invite kids who normally do not have anyone to sit with out to our grass area to sit with other students.

This year my students have a strong sense of reaching out to kids on campus and improving the culture and climate. The old saying, “if you know someone’s story it’s hard to hate them,” is holding very true. We brought this idea up and one of my kids said, “if you know someone’s story it’s hard to forget them.” My kids dont’ want to forget any one on our campus.

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