Learnist Grows as a Pinterest for Educators

I discovered Learnist recently, and since joining, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed puttering through it and learning from educators who are using the site with a vengeance.

Learnist works like Pinterest, and is another way to curate and catalog online resources on a variety of topics and share them with your social network. It looks like a virtual bulletin board with visual links, much like Pinterest, and it connects to your Facebook account. In fact, Facebook membership is required to use Learnist.

Currently in closed beta form, Learnist is primarily being used by teachers, college professors and other educators. These same users might be turned off by Pinterest’s wider variety of users and topics.

You’ll find boards on Learnist that include mythology, literature, the Common Core standards, the Pythagorean theorem, flipped classrooms and more.

Students also can create study boards on Learnist, and their boards will be seen by friends of their Facebook pages.

If you apply to become a member, know in advance that Learnist will take its time vetting your online activities and inviting you. I waited about a month to receive my invitation. But so far, it was worth the wait.

Create social content with the help of apps

One of the best ways to create unique content for your social media platforms in a fast, professional way is to take advantage of all of the apps out there that allow you to be creative without actually being a creative.

Recently I have been taking advantage of several apps on a daily basis to create visually appealing content for many of my clients for their Facebook pages. Here are the ones that I am using the most:

  • Over | Over is a great mobile app that allows you to add typography over photos. By using Facebook Insights, measurements have shown people respond most to photos on many of the pages I manage. By writing copy over photos, this is a new way to spread key messages in a visual way that people respond to. The app is easy to use and offers the ability to adjust fonts, colors, tints and more. Right now, it is only available on the iPhone and is free. If you want more fonts, it is a $.99 upgrade.
  • PicFrame | According to their own description, “PicFrame helps you combine multiple photos into amazing looking frames and share them with your friends and family via Facebook, Email, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr.” Again, it is easy to use and is available on iPhone and Droid operating systems. This is a free app.
  • Collage Creator Lite | I downloaded this on my MacBook Pro and use it frequently to create Facebook cover photos with typography messages. It easily allows you to enter the required dimensions to meet this need. I have also used it to create photo collages for various content pieces. There is a paid version that allows you to do even more.

These are just several of an abundance of apps that are out there that can save you time and provide fresh ways to create content! Which ones are you using?

Another Good Idea from NSPRA: First-Day Photos on Facebook

bike first day photored pants first day photoSomebody at the NSPRA seminar gave me a great idea, and I can’t remember who it was. Perhaps one of my MOSPRA buddies can post a comment to jog my memory, so I can give proper credit. We’ve all been implementing this idea this week in Missouri.

The idea is simple: Ask parents to submit first-day-of-school photos for you to post on your district Facebook page.

This was a huge hit on the Park Hill School District page – we received 78 photos and tons of interactions. Parents loved seeing their own kids and their neighbors’ kids, and they are even taking the time to look around at other content once they are on the page.

We posted the pictures throughout the day as they came in. Even though this got a little hectic with our already busy schedule on the first day, it generated excitement and motivated others to submit photos.

We continue to add photos to the album, even three days later, as parents see the page and decide to contribute.

A Fiber Future: How Will High-Speed Fiber Networks Affect School Communication?

I’m very lucky.

Remember a while back, when Google had cities across the country competing over who would get their new Google Fiber network? The one with speeds 100 times faster than our current broadband speeds?

Well, they picked my town.

For the last year, they’ve been building their fiber infrastructure here in Kansas City, Mo. and across the state line in Kansas City, Kan. Recently, my friends and neighbors and I watched with great anticipation as Google announced how they would connect Kansas City neighborhoods to this network.

We found out that the neighborhoods that showed the most interest would get the fiber first, and the public services in their neighborhoods (like schools) would get connected for free. Fortunately for me, my neighborhood will get Google Fiber. Unfortunately for my school district, it is in a part of the city that has to wait for the next round of installations.

This gives us some time to understand the implications for our schools. The Park Hill School District has a fiber network between its buildings, so we already benefit from these top speeds in our communication between schools. But will a fiber connection to the rest of the world open up new opportunities?

Fast connections will allow easier, more reliable video conferencing, which not only presents opportunities for classroom collaboration and professional development across distances, it also enables virtual town halls for community engagement and live streaming of district events.

Google Fiber is offering an option for low-cost connection and free internet. There might also be possibilities for increasing the availability of free WiFi hotspots. This could help us bridge the digital divide, connecting low-income families so that their children can use online learning tools and so that we can more easily communicate with them.

What else will be able to do when Google Fiber comes to my district? I’m still brainstorming – do you have any ideas?

Three ways to use Skype for school PR

I am learning a lot from my 13-year-old this summer. How to sleep in. How to make a perfect s’more. And best of all, how to use Skype.

Skype is a social media tool I’ve wanted to try for many months, and once I finally sat down to figure it out, it took me five minutes. Five minutes to sign up, search for contacts and place my first call.

It’s easy, it’s fast and it’s free! Now I’m excited by the possibilities for school PR. Here are a few ideas that will make Skype a must-have tool:

Include out-of-town school board members in public meetings:
Worried about an absent board member missing an essential vote? Set them up on Skype before they depart, and then have them participate in the public meeting via video chat. By pivoting the laptop, the absent Board member can watch all the proceedings as a full participant.

Connect parents with your multilingual outreach team:
If your bilingual staffers are geographically scattered or few in number, use Skype to quickly connect an interpreter or outreach specialist with newcomers in any school or office. Training school secretaries on Skype makes every school a welcome center, and starts new families who don’t speak English off on the right foot by connecting them with a friendly staffer who speaks their language. This strategy could be used any time you need an interpreter, especially in an emergency situation.

Interact with your NSPRA chapter:
Need to share advice with distant colleagues? Want to start an APR study group? Hoping to save travel costs for an expert conference presenter? Just dial them in via Skype. The free version of Skype enables easy audio conference calls with up to 25 participants. And for as little as $5, Skype Premium lets you host a multi-person video chat with up to 10 participants.

A Teaching Moment: Karen Klein and Social Media

Karen Klein (bullied bus monitor) and Max Sido...

Karen Klein (bullied bus monitor) and Max Sidorov (indiegogo campaign creator) on CBC (Photo credit: k-ideas)

Karen Klein, better known as the bullied bus monitor whose abuse unfolded on YouTube and other social media sites back in June, reminded me a bit of my own late grandmother. Somewhat forgotten by society in her later years, navigating a world that was moving way too fast, and unable to defend herself with any ferocity.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” was the best she could muster when a group of students from Greece Athena Middle School in upstate New York pummeled her with epithets, poked and prodded her, and even made a veiled reference to what must have been the greatest tragedy of her life – the suicide 10 years ago of her son.

The Karen Klein incident also once again focused a 10-times magnification mirror on the wide spectrum of human behavior that exists out there. And it reinforced what we already know in the 21st century – that social media has become the lens through which we often see ourselves and others.

“This is a glance into the heart of darkness of the human spirit,” said Syracuse University media professor Robert Thompson in an article published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in the weeks following the incident. “But it’s not a serial killer, it’s our own kids.”

As if bullying Ms. Klein wasn’t enough, one of the students on the bus that day shot a YouTube video  of the incident, titled, “Making the Bus Monitor Cry.” That’s where social media stepped in, and when a hard-to-watch bullying incident that would never have come to light in another decade spiraled into a phenomenon.

Everyone loves an underdog, in this case Ms. Klein, so an incensed 25-year-old Max Sidorov posted a link to the video on Reddit, a popular social networking site, announcing that he’d created an account on Ms. Klein’s behalf at indiegogo.com, a “crowdfunding” website.

Once the link was posted on Reddit, the YouTube video went from getting a few thousand hits to 8 million hits, in little more than a week.

Sidorov’s fundraiser, called “Let’s Give Karen H. Klein a Vacation,” set a goal of $5,000, but much to his surprise, donations far beyond that goal poured in. More than $703,000 was donated to the 68-year-old grandmother, who earned $15,000 a year as a monitor. About 32,000 people from all 50 states and 25 different countries donated to the cause, the vast majority with $10 and $25 donations. Mrs. Klein has since announced her retirement.

Sidorov, who is now trying to raise money to help the victims of flooding in Russia, recently quoted Anne Frank in a post on his Facebook page: “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

While it can be argued that the funds contributed to Ms. Klein could have been used to help bullied young people (those arguments were raging for a while online), the fact is, that’s not how the events unfolded here. What did happen was a series of incidents that trained an important lens, through social media, on the issue of school bullies.

That can’t be all bad.

Five important metrics for your district’s Facebook page

With any good social media strategy comes a way to measure its success. What do you consider the success of your school district’s Facebook page? Simply having a presence on Facebook is not the point of the platform. Much like any other PR or marketing effort, your Facebook page should show solid growth and engagement. With Facebook Insights, the analytics system tied to every Facebook page, measuring your page’s progress has never been easier.

Here are five important metrics to track on your district’s Facebook page:

1. Demographics. The overall number of “likes” or fans on your page is easy to track, but look inside that number. Is your page dominated by a female presence? What age groups tend to follow your page? These numbers are important when planning content.

2. Geographics. Where are your fans from? Of course, your page is going to be “liked” by some people not affiliated with your school district, but if most of your fans are from Australia or India, for example, your page is likely not hitting its geographic target.

3. Reach. Facebook measures anyone who has seen content associated with your page. This means that your page has a reach many times bigger than just those people listed as fans. You can discover how many unique people have seen content from your page (and many times you will be surprised at this large number).

4. Talking About Your Page. Facebook tracks people who have created a “story” about your page. A “story” includes liking your page, posting to your wall, commenting or liking a post, sharing a post, answering a question, etc. This is how your page continues to grow and become known. You want people to talk about your page!

5. Content. If you are simply recycling content from your website, please stop and develop a strategic content plan for your Facebook page. This becomes easier to do when you know what content appeals to your audience. You can find this out by measuring your content. What are the most popular types of posts? Probably photos and videos. Facebook Insights allows you to see individual posts and how they perform. Use this data each month to set what kind of content you are pushing out.

By taking the time to utilize Insights within Facebook, you can start to show your leadership team results from investing in social media.