Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google Calendar to Twitter – How to get the most out of your Google Calendar

When I created our new school website over the summer one of the goals I had was to communicate with our audience in as many ways as possible. We now have news articles on the home page and we have an embedded Google Calendar. I also set up a page for the daily bulletin in written and video form as well as an RSS feed from two of our school Twitter accounts (LGHSCalendar & LGHSCafe) on the bulletin page, one to tell you coming events and the other to tell you the cafeteria menu for the day.
Communication in many forms was the primary goal, however a secondary goal was ease of maintenance. I did not want to personally tweet the cafeteria menu daily or the daily events. Automation was the key, but how? I decided the easiest solution was to find a way to send our daily reminders from our Google Calendar of school events and cafeteria schedule to Twitter. How to do this was the problem. I tried SMS-to-SMS and even RSS-to-SMS but could not get the accounts to talk to one another. The answer was With this free service I was able to have Google Calendar send out an email reminder of an event to TwitterMail, TwitterMail in return would then post that reminder as a Tweet on our Twitter accounts. The only thing I need to do is keep the calendar up to date. As an added bonus Twitter has an RSS feed for an account profile, meaning that I can use that feed with an RSS reader gadget to post it dynamically on our website.
Again, communication was my goal and I was able to accomplish a big portion with a couple of calendars that were created already. Using these existing calendars we now are able to communicate in many ways with our audience.
Several people have asked me how I was able to set this up. I decided to create a screen capture of the process to help them out.

This is the step-by-step version with instructions.

This is a quick animoto version.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What would Google do if they ran a school?

I have been reading a book written by Jeff Jarvis, "What Would Google Do?"" The book is very good and it has inspired me to write this blog post and ask the question, what would Google do if it ran a school. I hope Mr. Jarvis is ok with me expanding on his thoughts and topic of his book.

The first idea that I think Google would implement in a school would of course be the twenty percent rule. Just like how Google encourages their employees to work on a project of their own design during 20% of their work schedule. Students would be allowed to use 20% of the week, one day, to work a product of their choosing. Now of course they would need to have the project based on the topic they are studying, but we would be encouraging creativity, self instruction, and self work habits, not to mention teaching the idea of being a life-long learner. The students would not be the only with 20% of their time available. Teachers would also be encouraged to be creative during this time. Imagine the outcome and possibilities that could come out of this time.

The next thing that would be encouraged on campus would be networks. Now education has encouraged networking before. This not a new thing and teachers have been collaborating to improve student learning. This is networking to the next level. Networks between not just teachers but students, parents, staff, and administration. Remember it is not just the teachers job to teach a student, but the whole village. Google Apps would be the tool of choice in the case of this network. A way to build collaboration on a grand scale, not just on the school site, but in the community as well. I can only imagine what the next Wave will bring (pun intended). Google Wave will allow even more interactivity and hopefully make it easier for this network to excel. It was introduced as the future of email but it is also the future of collaborative document building and networking.

Distributed learning would also be key to a Google run school. Google does not wait for its costumers to come to them; they go to their costumers. They have their information everywhere and allow others to put the information on their own websites. Google also allows individuals to use their services to make their websites better. Just think of the possibilities when schools and teachers start sending the information to the students. Students would not have to go to a teacher's website; the information the students need to complete an assignment would come to them. This could be many forms: subscriptions to RSS feeds, a YouTube video feed, or even as simple as emails. The students would have it there where they need it, in front of them.

Great companies do a great job of listening to their costumers. They find out what their costumers need and want out of products. They monitor the web for information about their products, good or bad. They take the criticism and accolades of the product and monitor and adjust. What if we took this practice into education. Google would implement this process. Allow students, parents, teachers and administrators to give their opinion on the process. This could be very scary to the average teacher or administrator. What if we get crushed with criticism or negative feedback? Then Google would monitor and adjust. Of course a company could not fix every tiny glitch, but they could try, and a school should too. Of course we should instruct our students on how to be responsible citizens and criticize in a constructive manner and not just rant. This is simply building a community that can only build a stronger school.

I know some of these things are happening already by early adopters, forward thinking, and tech savy educators. Some or all of these things could help change education for the positve. It cannot just be done by one or two individuals at a school. The entire school or district needs to make these changes.

Please tell me what you think in the comments. I would like to hear the positives and negatives. I am only half way through the book so I hope to have a second post with more ideas and thoughts later.