Tag: email

Two New Tools Poised for Big Impact in BISD

Much of my existence at work at the moment is preoccupied with the implementation of two new tools. The first is a subscription-based school website service, Schoolwires. The second is a new student email service from Microsoft, Live@Edu. Both tools hold a great deal of promise for facilitating and enhancing communication within the district and beyond. The task for my own department at the moment is to provide support and training for the implementation of each and to provide guidance for the most effective use of both tools. I’ll be sharing more about the latter topic in the weeks ahead, undoubtedly.

For those unfamiliar with these tools, a brief synopsis is in order. I’ll begin with Schoolwires, as it has been my primary focus for the past month or so. At its most basic level, Schoolwires is providing our district with an online website-construction platform. Our users can login from any Internet-connected computer and edit their designated sites. The interface is relatively simple to learn, with many of the familiar, Windows-esque icons found in typical Office applications. Teachers can easily add text, links, images, videos, etc. Feedback has been almost universally positive, particularly from a convenience standpoint. In addition to basic content, what has me most excited about the service is that teachers can easily incorporate several Web 2.0 tools in their sites. Schoolwires has a tool for creating blog pages, for instance. This tool is very simple and streamlined, and includes capabilities to moderate discussions or to allow only specific categories of users to view posts (teachers, parents, students, etc.). Additionally, teachers can very quickly and easily add podcasts to a dedicated page, complete with buttons to subscribe via RSS or iTunes. RSS icons appear on other pages, as well, such as assignments pages and class calendars. Using these types of tools has been much more labor-intensive or required using sites outside of the classroom pages previously used in the district, so the potential is there for much greater implementation and impact.

Microsoft’s Live@Edu is a relatively new, free (yes, free…from Microsoft!) service from the company. Although I referred to it as a student email service, that really sells the product short. In addition to email, Live@Edu provides students with online versions of Office applications, which can be used collaboratively, similar to Google Docs or Zoho. Also, students each have 26 gigs of online storage, eliminating the need for thumb drives or burning work to CDs. Files may be private, public, or shared. These features hold great promise for making learning collaborative and anytime, anywhere experiences. It should be mentioned that Live@Edu works with our existing Microsoft Exchange service, meaning that updating accounts will be faster and easier than with previous tools we’ve tried. We will be continuing to refine our district standards for the use of the tools, and I will share these refinements as they come about. At the moment, we will be focusing on equipping teachers and students to utilize the Live@Edu tools in the most effective ways possible. Suggestions are, as always, very welcome!

Blog Via Email with Posterous

When I first read about the blogging site Posterous, I will admit that I was not overly excited. The site allows users to create blog posts by simply sending email messages to post@posterous.com (Try it–the site will automatically create a page for you with your first email.). Certainly easy enough, but not particularly exciting. After giving the site a test run, however, I have changed my opinion completely. Posterous is not only as easy as advertised, but it is a remarkably powerful and intuitive blogging tool with a surprising number of useful tools.

Posterous screenshot

Some of the more notable features of the site:

  • Blog via email to a single, easy address. Blog administrators can add additional bloggers simply by adding additional email addresses.
  • Add images by inserting as attachments. Multiple images will be turned into a custom gallery, as seen below.
  • Add video by either uploading or (even cooler) by simply including the link from YouTube or other video hosting site. Posterous will automatically embed the video.
  • Attach documents, .pdf files, PowerPoint files by attaching to email messages.
  • Receive and reply to comments posted through email.

Image gallery

There is very little I don’t like about Posterous, now that I’ve tried it out. It would be nice to be able to choose from a variety of templates for a custom appearance, but the site claims to be working on that very feature. The biggest challenge, to some, is that it does require email addresses for student participation. However, given the availability of free, monitored student email through sites such as ePals and Gaggle, this should be an easy issue to overcome. Ultimately, the site’s creators have done a very nice job putting together as  user-friendly a blogging tool as I’ve encountered to date.

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