Snow Days and Webinars

nominate-meThere’s nothing like being sent home early, because of a thick and growing blanket of snow, because I can get back to learning more about social media at my kitchen table.

Today’s learning experience was provided by the EdSocialMedia Summit, a conference held in Chestnut Hill, MA, for private school officials centered squarely on the topic of using social media to promote your schools. Because I have two important presentations coming up in March and July, I tuned in. And, surrounded by falling snow and with a space heater aimed directly at my frozen toes, I learned.

Jesse Bardo of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, located in Mount Hermon, MA, walked us through that school’s Facebook page and presence. Among other points Mr. Bardo made:

— Use Facebook Insight for your fan pages to track and analyze your hits, your fans, and they visit and use your site. The free Insight tool allows you to look at your fans based on gender and age range, for example.
— Plan out how you will post to Facebook and other social media sites; don’t just post in a haphazard way.
— Get your fans involved in the site by providing them with richer browsing experiences. Always link to other places when you have that opportunity. (Your district’s Flickr account, Wikipedia, etc.)
–Pur your Facebook fan page address everywhere, including on your website, the school’s business cards and in your email signatures.

Travis Warren, president and founder of Whipple Hill Communications, noted that you can monitor mentions of your school or district by searching Google this way: -site: nameofschool.org. That simple query will bring up mentions of your district and other sites created on behalf of your district. You can dump that information into a PowerPoint presentation, for example, and show it to your superintendents/heads of school.

Warren also noted that even though your school is mentioned elsewhere, try to refrain from slamming down other sites. Instead, embrace the fact that think well enough of your school to devote a website or a blog to it.

Another tip from Warren, and one that I can predict could become unwieldy for small PR offices — create a Wikipedia entry about your district and regularly update it. If you have well-known alum, you should list them on your Wikipedia page, with a link to their own Wikipedia entry. You can also go in and change their Wikipedia entry to make sure it mentions that they graduated from your school. In the White Plains City School District, one of my clients, we are bound to find well-known graduates we can add to the district’s Wikipedia entry.

A tip from Warren that I am likely to emulate: Using Flickr, the photo sharing site, as a place to build a photo archives collection. At Southern Westchester BOCES, we’re about to embark on a history project — and that will include wading through a basement full of old records, publications and photos. It will be a huge endeavor, but partly because of the social media possibilities, I am now looking forward to it.

To watch some of today’s EdSocialMedia Summit presentations, visit WhippleHill Live and learn something new. That’s what snow days are for!

What Happened in the Year You Were Born?

My page on What Happened in my Birth Year?
My page on What Happened in my Birth Year?
I’m old, and a birthday at the end of January reminded me of this cold, hard fact.

So I decided today to check out What Happened in My Birth Year,a cool, new site that simply asks you for the year of your birth. In a few seconds, as the years count backward from 2010 and the screen grows darker, you’re presented with a typewritten narrative.

In my case, I learned that Peter Pan was one of the movies playing at “the cinema” that year, there were no DVDs or VHS tapes, and that President Harry Truman announced that we’d developed the hydrogen bomb. It was also the year that Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed.

Check out the intuitive little site when you get a chance, or perhaps if you’re in the mood to learn something new. It’s also a great idea to pass along to friends of the same age.

Immaculate Reception — Vatican Goes Video

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 08:  Pope Bene...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t be sacriligious about this.

But you have to admit, it’s pretty Web 2.0-cool when the Vatican launches its own YouTube channel, and that’s exactly what happened on Friday. Pope Benedict XVI joined President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II in launching his own channel, the latest effort by the folks in Rome to reach out to the digital generation. (It probably won’t work on my college-age kids, however.)

At a Vatican news conference, an executive of Google Inc., parent company of YouTube, joined with the Catholic clergy to announce that the Vatican had posted its first 12 videos on the pope’s new YouTube channel. The Church hopes to publish three new videos each day.

“This is in particular directed towards the young, but not exclusively,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See. “This is a step toward better communication. The pope encouraged us to adopt new ways of communication in order to reach out to the people who are interested in the pope’s message.”

Initially, the new YouTube channel will post videos in four languages — Italian, English, German and Spanish — and more languages will be added later.

Way to go, Ben!

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A Long Break and Brain Mush

Call it holiday bliss, call it writer’s block, call it whatever you like. But a month-long vacation from this blog has been psychically healthy, financially disastrous, and a boon to my free time.

Still, I walked around New York City; Wilmington, NC; and other places I visited during the holidays with a guilty conscience. What about the blog? What about the blog?

Suffice it to say, School Communications 2.0 fell by the wayside while I scrambled through department stores looking for gifts, did the annual Yankee Swap with my work colleagues, decorated the tree, baked pecan pies and red velvet cupcakes, entertained friends and family, drove to North Carolina, and soaked in quality time with my college kids and my extended family.

There were several highlights during this break, a few of them bordering on the surreal:

I joined with the townspeople of Kure Beach, NC, as they gathered together on New Year’s Eve to welcome 2009 with the annual dropping of “the lighted beach ball. ”

I toured a gorgeous home in Wimington that whispered “retirement,” “golf and tennis,” and “quality of life” into my all-too-eager ears.

I wrote a piece about tracking Santa Claus on Google Earth.

I ran out to buy “just one more thing” for my kids at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and was the only person in the store. Then I walked out empty-handed.

I played Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture with my kids, and came in last.

I did virtually no work for two weeks.

    But alas, all good things must end. The vacation is a distant memory already. And I’ve returned to the thinking, working world. My body has, anyway.

    So yes, my next post will return to the subject of education and technology — I promise. That is, if my brain hasn’t turned to mush from inactivity.

    Visit Ancient Rome via Google Earth

    Ah, Google Earth. One of my favorite distractions, along with Trio, a little game I installed on my iGoogle page.

    Google Earth, which I once used to “fly” along the southern Italian coastline with my son, has unveiled the remarkable Google Earth view of Ancient Rome.

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    The three-dimensional simulation painstakingly reconstructs some 7,000 buildings of ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Circus Maximus.

    The program also hosts a new layer that allows you to see how Rome might have looked in A.D. 320, a city of about 1 million people under Emperor Constantine. Ingenious pop-up windows provide information about all the monuments, and you can “enter” some of the sites, including the Senate and the Colosseum, to study the architecture and marble decorations.

    Bernard Frischer, who heads Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, told eSchoolNews that experts worked for about a decade to reconstruct ancient Rome within its 13-mile-long walls. Now Googler Earth Rome can be used for broader educational purposes and Google is sponsoring a competition for U.S. teachers, offering prizes for outstanding curriculum using the new tool. Here’s the video introduction about Google Earth Rome:

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    Thinking of Not Voting? Google Says Think Again.

    OK, so while I sift through the dozens of Obama emails I’ve received today asking for my help calling voters in one last push, Google has done another great video meant to encourage anyone out there who still might be apathetic about voting (could there be people like this?) to get out there and pull the lever in the most exciting landmark election I can remember.
    Again, they’ve called on well-known faces (and some apparent help from Steven Spielberg) to make a fun, well-paced video that’s the sequel to the “Don’t Vote” video released earlier. Check out the latest installment here, and tell me that Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t crack you up:

    Happy voting. I hope to see you there on Tuesday.

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    Don't Know Where to Vote? Ask Google

    While working on a Hubpages article tonight called “10 Ways to Protect Your Vote,” I stumbled across Google Vote, the latest foray by Google into making our lives easier.  The site allows anyone with the basic questions about voting — who, what, when and where — can discover the answers to their questions with this handy little tool.

    Google notes that of the people who failed to vote in the last presidential elections, 10 percent said the reason was that they did not know where to cast their ballots. Now, thanks to the wisdom and foresight of Google, there are no more excuses. Think back to 2000 and even 2004, now think about how much the Web is having an impact not only on the presidential election, but in our knowledge of the candidates, the issues and the controversies.

    Here’s the quick tutorial Google provides for using Google Vote:

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