Three tools to turn graduation slide shows into fun videos with ease

We know students and their families will enjoy seeing their pictures, but what about the pictures of everyone else? Many aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins fall asleep during the graduation slide show.

There are tools available to help us save time, money and brain capacity. Using resources (free or not) can be a life saver.

1. Animoto. Animoto is one of our all-time favorite resources. It turns our photos, video clips and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Uploading pictures to Animoto is as simple as uploading them to Facebook. In fact, you can even import them from your Facebook account. Add text (student names, quotes, stories, fun snippets from the year, etc) in between photos. The biggest key to adding life is uploading video to your video. Choose from hundreds of tunes available or upload your own. Sharing your video is very easy via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or email. You can even download your video to a DVD. HD upgrades are available for all plans and are included in the pro plan. Plans range from free to $20.75 per month or $249 billed annually. View example put together for advanced medical graduation two years ago.

2. Prezi. “Make your presentations zoom” with Prezi. Think of Prezi as a big white drawing board. You can place images, link to YouTube videos, add text and create graphics on this board. You can make the images really large so another image can be “hidden” within or keep them standard. The more creative and outside the box you get, the better. Prezi gives you the ability to collaborate in real time, so it’s easy to share the responsibility of creating the video with staff members and teachers. Adding a storyline uses frames and a path to create the “cinematic journey.” Prezi is free to education professionals with educational emails, or you can pay $59 per year for the pro account. Prezi can be presented online or downloaded to a desktop for presenting. View Social Media presentation example from December 2011.

3. Photodex. This is very similar to Animoto. It’s a simple and creative way to organize and share photos. Photodex helps you create unique slideshows that transform digital memories into something special. View example put together in less than 5 minutes.

I’m sure there are many more available. Do you know of any you can share with us?

Five ways Facebook can boost teacher morale

Layoffs, budget cuts, large class sizes and the news media’s war on education means morale is plummeting for school employees. How can PR professionals change the conversation, and demonstrate the many ways teachers continue to go the extra mile?

Facebook is a tool you can use to publicly celebrate, reward and appreciate teachers and staff across the school district. Here’s how:

1) Tell a story: Give parents, students and staff a glimpse of some of the magic moments happening in your classrooms. Shine a light on an amazing turnaround story about how a teacher helped a single student or a group of challenged kids succeed. Describe the innovative projects teachers use to engage students in learning.

2) Post award nomination links: Give parents, students and educators the chance to nominate teachers and staff for awards, and watch the number of employees who win recognition build. From radio station and bookstore contests to professional associations, a win for any staff member makes them all stand proud. In addition to that, you’ll draw Facebook tributes from current and past students of the honored teacher.

3) Showcase moonlighters: Do you have staff members with hidden talents? The campus monitor who wrote a mystery novel? The history teacher who climbed K2? The counselor who’s a professional photographer? The dragon boat team from the payroll department? Post photos of them in action, and tell the back story even their co-workers don’t know.

4) Announce appreciation weeks: Take advantage of designated weeks to celebrate classified, certified and administrative staff, as well as school board members, school nurses, volunteers and secretaries. Ask fans for examples of how they are celebrating these events in their school, or ask them to share how one of the week’s honorees was a special help to their child. Remember, you can’t say thank you enough, especially now.

5) Show staff you’re listening: Likely, a good number of your district’s Facebook followers are employees. When you get them engaged in a conversation around a proposed change, show them you’re listening. Answer their questions promptly, and let them know you’ll forward their ideas, concerns and suggestions directly to district leaders. Then take what you learn and use it in your internal information campaign.

Five ways to engage in content marketing for your school

If you didn’t get the memo in this light speed world we are living in, social media is so yesterday. Today, it is all about content marketing. What does that mean? According to the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

So what does that mean for you? Well, it means that by now you should have the social platforms in place to communicate with your audiences with a strategy that engages those audiences with the ultimate goal of being able to mobilize that audience into action. Content marketing must be relevant, must be engaging, and must be valuable to your audience.

Here are five quick and easy ways to do it:

1. Photography. Not just photos of kids receiving awards or posing with oversized checks, but photos of students in the classroom engaged in learning, of teachers showcasing strong lesson plans, of community service, of creativity, of athleticism and on and on. Better yet, give the students and teachers access to cameras and let their images do the visual storytelling for you. Better yet, use the filters of Instagram on your mobile phones!

2. Video. Right now video has never been so relevant and easy to produce. You can create video fast and inexpensively. Keep your videos quick and relevant. Aim for 30 seconds to no more than two minutes.

3. Exclusivity. When creating content for your social media platforms, whether it is Facebook, a blog, or Twitter, make sure that you promote it as exclusive. What better way to make your Facebook page relevant than to post content that can only be seen there?

4. Infographics. Have you seen these yet? If not, check out some on Pinterest. These are the hottest new way to share complicated data or information in a fun, graphic, visual way. They also attract a lot of attention. So next time you are getting ready to create a three-panel brochure to educate your community on a topic, consider creating an infographic that can be shared across multiple social platforms. Here’s some more information.

5. Twitter. Don’t just create a Twitter account for your district where you post links to your website or repeat something you just posted on Facebook. Instead, empower your staff to tweet and showcase what’s happening inside the classrooms on a daily basis. Allow your staff to utilize mobile phones to take pics on Instagram and send them out on your targeted Twitter accounts (elementary, middle school, high school, etc.).

These are just five quick ways to start engaging in content marketing. What are your ideas?

Using Issuu to ‘Animate’ Your Publications

My staff at Southern Westchester BOCES and I discovered Issuu several years ago, and we have been using this tool for the districts we represent to “animate” their publications ever since.


issuu (Photo credit: ThemaTisch)

The reason? School district websites are already cluttered with PDF documents, forcing our readers to download documents to their computer hard drives and often to print them out. Why force readers to take those extra steps?

For most newsletters, annual reports, calendars and even Powerpoint presentations, we now provide our readers with two choices: to read the “animated” Issuu version of a document, or to download a PDF.

If they choose the Issuu version, your viewers will see a document with pages that can be turned as they’re read and tools that allow them to zoom in and out while reading.

Here’s how to use Issuu:

  • Create a free account for your district on Issuu.
  • When you’ve completed a newsletter or other document and have a PDF version, sign on to Issuu and look for the “upload” button.
  • Upload your PDF (it will take a few minutes to load).
  • Once you’ve successfully uploaded your document, it will appear on a virtual bookshelf in your Issuu “library.”
  • Cllick on the “open” button and your document will open for you.
  • Once that document is open, you’ll see a series of icons at the bottom.
  • Click on the < > icon, and you will see a long html embed code. Copy that.
  • Paste the html code on the district website page where you’d like your publication to appear, and you’re done.

To see Issuu in action, check out the White Plains Public Schools Issuu site. To view how it works on a school website, check out how we used it to display our annual SWBOCES Services Guide.