Monthly Archives: March 2011

Two Unique and Innovative Ways to Use Twitter

There are tons of innovative ways of using Twitter but I am only going to touch on two ways. First is the use of hashtags. Whenever I am in a webinar talking about hashtags, I am always asked what to explain what a hashtag was. A hashtag on Twitter is a word or phrase with the # symbol in front of it. It is like a keyword to help filter Tweets. We use ‘liveclass20′ when referencing our Classroom 2.0 LIVE webinar series on Saturday mornings. If a conference is happening, people use a term to represent that conference like ‘ASCD11’ that referred to the recent ASCD conference.

I was reading a blog post by Meg Wilson about educators using Twitter. She shared this about Twitter,

If you are a new teacher, I highly recommend that you be a part of the Twitter community. If you aren’t comfortable tweeting just yet, you can still make great use of Twitter searches. You can locate some excellent resources just by searching hashtags like#EdReach#EdChat#EdTech#IEAR, or #SpEdChat (just to name a few, but there really is a search for almost every topic out there… Jerry Blumengarten has a fabulous list here). Once you experience the wealth of resources that are available on Twitter, I am positive that you too will want to be a part of the conversation.

On certain days of the week, you can participate in a group chat using the specified hashtag. #edchat occurs on Tuesdays at 12pm EST and 7pm EST. This is a great article discussing ways you can participate in a group chat on Twitter. You can use any of the desktop Twitter applications, like Tweetdeck, to follow a group chat. Tweetdeck is great because you set up different columns and follow group chats on designated days of the week.

The second use of Twitter that I think is so innovative is when teachers or students have a Twitter where they portray a fictional character, famous historical person, or trending topic from current events. Lots of people set up fake Twitter accounts trying to be celebrities so Twitter resorted to putting the label of verified informing other Tweeters that the Twitter account is actually who the bio says they are.

Civil War Sallie is actually Jim Beeghley’s daughter, Sara, who blogs and posts Tweets from the viewpoint as a traveling bear that visits classrooms. The classrooms take the bear on a variety of field trips and then mail back to the bear Civil War Sallie. The bear shares her travels with everyone via a website at Civil War Sallie. Sara was our guest on Classroom 2.0 LIVE and she shared the wonderful adventures Sallie Ann had been on that month. You can view the archived session on #liveclass20.

There is a website, and I can’t think of the name right now, where someone acts as a historical figure and answers questions from students as the historical figure is still alive around the time the person died – kind of like freezing time for the figure or someone turning ’29’ for the 12th time. Seriously though, you can do the same with Twitter. I have come across Twitter accounts that do just this and it is really interesting to see the content posted from the Tweeter.

fdfYou can follow Shakespeare and see what he has to say about the plays he wrote way back when. One really hysterical Tweeter is @BronxZoosSnake.  If you just came out from under a rock, or been away from your TV for awhile, you may have just learned that a Cobra snake from the Bronx Zoo escaped from his cage in the reptile house and is loose in the Bronx Zoo. In a few days’ time, the snake has over 111,000 followers and increases every hour – especially since the snake’s Twitter account has been shared on several television shows and newscasts.  The @BronxZoosSnake has not been found I am loving the adventures the snake has experienced and the people he/she has encountered.

To Discount or Not to Discount

This is a big week for Texas legislators regarding bills before the Business and Commerce Committee members. There is a lot of debate about extending discounts from the telecommunication companies.

In 1995, the legislature deregulated the telecommunication industry in the state of Texas. They created incentives in the legislation (HB 2128) that relaxed some of the rules for the telecommunication companies who voluntarily wanted to take advantage of the incentives. In exchange, the telecommunications companies had to provide services to schools, libraries, and hospitals at cost plus 5% or 10% profit. These discounts will end in January, 2012, if they are not extended during this legislative session.

The telecom companies claim not extending the tax cut would negatively impact their companies. This isn’t the case.

The law allows them to charge the cost of delivering the service to a school district plus a profit of 5% or 10%. They are allowed to build in the cost of the construction and spread it out over the life of a contract.

The telecom bill has been heard by the Senate but hasn’t been voted out of committee yet. There is a similar bill before the House that will be heard this week in committee.

It is important that we let legislators know that we want the telecom bill to be extended so that schools, libraries, hospitals, etc. will receive telecom services at discounted rates. If the the bills cut the discounts, budget cuts will negatively impact Texas public schools that much further. Time is of the essence and it is imperative that we let legislator’s constituents know how and what to say to Texas legislators to limit budget cuts related to Texas public schools.

Dropbox vs SugarSync

I recently saw a tweet mentioning the use of Dropbox. I have used Dropbox for several years. While I continue to use Dropbox, I used to use Humyo to specifically share and host audio and video files from recordings of our Classroom 2.0 LIVE webinar series until Trend bought them out.  I still have my account and keep files previously linked to Classroom 2.0 LIVE blog posts.

Dropbox gives you access to 2GB of storage for free and there are several services, including a desktop client, that you can download and use with Desktop. “Sendtodropbox” is a great way to email files to your dropbox account. You can view the apps that are compatible with Dropbox at this website – https://www.dropbox.com/apps.

Dropbox allows you to customize who and how you share files/folders with others using their email address. When sharing files, you don’t have to make everything accessible to those that you share dropbox files with as you can share individual files with different individuals.

Back in 2009, I started using SugarSync on my iTouch. Sugar Sync is a similar service that is free but gives you 5GB of storage instead of just 2GB. Like Dropbox, both apps have mobile apps so that you can use most types of mobile device to remotely access your files. You can share and email files to your SugarSync account much easier than you can with Dropbox.

Both services have great interfaces but I prefer the look of SugarSync a bit better. Since I have different Dropbox accounts I found it difficult to figure out which files were associated with which Dropbox accounts. SugarSync makes viewing the location of desired files much easier for me to find than Dropbox.

Both services allow you to receive extra storage space for referrals that sign up for the free or paid accounts. Dropbox gives additional MB for each referral with a .edu email account. SugarSync gives you 500 MB for each referral and Dropbox gives you 250 MB per new account.

**Blog Author’s note: URLs for Dropbox and SugarSync are links that will give me additional MB of space so please use the referral links.

Dropbox – http://db.tt/574H7Dh
SugarSync – https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=fbx70zhi76g5f

Looks like the Pressure is Working

Educators throughout the state of Texas are putting pressure on state legislators via email, petitions, phone calls, blog posts, and rallying on the steps of  state capitol in Austin. Prior to the “Save Texas Schools” rally on March 12th, Governor Perry was asked about education funding recently, his response was that Texas will ‘not throw money’ at schools.

Perry also decided that the state would not compete in the Race to the Top grant funds in 2010:

Texas will not compete for a potential $700 million in federal grant funding for schools, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday, because it could give Washington too much say in deciding what the state’s students should learn. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6813774.html

The rally held on March 12th was extremely successful and educators throughout the state had a large presence at the rally. The legislators know that this issue will remembered the next time Texas educators go to vote – especially if Perry runs for president. By avoiding committee meetings, extending tax relief bills that would generate millions of dollars or distancing himself from negative items and leaving things to local school boards, Perry can state that while running for presidency that he is not responsible nor made the financial decision.

The Rainy Day Fund, made up of deposits from oil and gas taxes, is expected to have more than $9 billion by the end of the next budget period.

Rally participants are also asking that Perry sign the paperwork that will allow schools to receive about $830 million set aside by Congress for Texas schools. The money has gotten caught up in political maneuvering with Washington and Perry has refused to sign the application that he says has too many strings attached.

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/top_stories/Texas-Teachers-to-Rally-against-Budget-Cuts-20110309-ktbcw?obref=obinsite

Recently, Perry and staff cancelled several meetings with state legislators serving on Texas funding committees and refused to meet to discuss using the state Rainy Day Funding to fund Texas schools. When money was flowing and budget constraints weren’t as tight as they are now, there were school district employees that misappropriated funds. If a gasoline/oil company donated items to schools, I don’t see that as throwing money at a school. I appreciated and loved those donations – regardless of their motives for ‘donating’ items to schools. In my opinion, that is a cowardly move and to say that money will not be thrown at schools, insinuating that money has been ‘thrown’ at public schools in the past, indicates further that Perry is ‘not good for Texas’ – as the political sayings go. Looks like the pressure is working – it is up to us to help make the Rainy Day Fund ‘good for Texas’.

Help Save Texas Public Schools – March 12th Rally

On behalf of all educators in Texas that work on a campus facing the Texas budget shortfall, I invite all Texas legislators to attend the ‘Save Texas Schools‘ rally on March 12, 2011 at the State Capitol in Austin.

Save Texas Schools – Fund Public Education Now!

Our Schools, Our Kids, Our Future

Texas students are tough, but they’ve never faced a crisis like this. In every school district across the Lone Star State, the same grim headlines repeat: campus closures, teacher layoffs, drastic cuts to core academic programs.

The culprit is a $27 billion state budget hole, which some say could have been avoided. But casting blame now doesn’t help. The challenge is to keep our schools open for all students.

There is help for Texas students if our leaders have the courage to use it.

Tell your elected officials to:

  • Keep Texas smart – make education a top priority!
  • Use the $9.3 Billion Texas “Rainy Day” Fund to support schools
  • Sign the paperwork for $830 Million in federal aid for teachers
  • Fix school funding laws to be fair to all districts and to our growing student population.

These tools can save our schools. Call, write or email today!

Find your elected representatives here: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

Contact Governor Rick Perry here: http://www.governor.state.tx.us/contact/

In hard times, we must invest in Texas students…our future depends on it!

Across the state, thousands of concerned citizens are taking the Save Texas Schools pledge and many have signed up to come to the rally on March 12. Contact us at info@savetxschools.org to connect with folks from your area, including supporters from the following school districts:

Abilene ISD, Alamo Heights ISD, Aldine ISD, Aledo ISD, Allen ISD, Angleton ISD, Aransas County ISD, Arlington ISD, Austin ISD, Avalon ISD, Azle ISD, Birdville ISD, Brewster ISD, Brock ISD, Burleson ISD, Carroll ISD, Carrolton ISD, Cedar Hill ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Cleburne ISD, Coldspring-Oakhurst ISD, Comal ISD, Conroe ISD, Coppell ISD, Corsicana ISD, Crosby ISD, Crowley ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD. Dallas ISD, Decatur ISD, Denton ISD, DeSoto ISD, Diboll ISD, Eanes ISD, Edinburg ICSD, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Everman ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Galena Park ISD, Garland ISD, Gilmer ISD, Gladewater ISD, Goodrich ISD, Goose Creek CISD, Graford ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Gustine ISD, Hays CISD, Houston ISD, Howard ISD, Hudson ISD, Humble ISD, Huntsville ISD, Irving ISD, Judson ISD, Katy ISD, Keller ISD, Klein ISD, Lake Worth ISD, Leander ISD, Lewisville ISD, Liberty-Eylau ISD, Little Cypress- Mauriceville CISD, Lorenzo ISD, Lufkin ISD, Madisonville CISD, Magnolia ISD, Mansfield ISD, Menard ISD, Mesquite ISD, Midway ISD, Nacogdoches ISD, Needville ISD, New Braunfels ISD, New Caney ISD, North East ISD, Northside ISD, Northwest ISD, Paducah ISD, Pasadena ISD, Pearland ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Plano ISD, Quinlan ISD, Randolph Field ISD, Round Rock ISD, San Antonio ISD, Schertz Cibolo ISD, South San Antonio ISD, Spring ISD, Sonora ISD, Sweeny ISD, Tidehaven ISD, Tomball ISD, Tyler ISD, United ISD, Waelder ISD, Waller ISD, Weatherford ISD, Willis ISD, Wills Point ISD, Wimberly ISD.

Click here to become a supporter of Save Texas Schools.

Help Keep Texas Public Schools – Legislative Update

Taken from the AFT Legislative Update. The latest doesn’t look good and saving Texas public schools doesn’t look favorable. Even though the state has a fund set aside for a ‘rainy day’, the weather forecast looks beyond rainy – more like an impending hurricane with the strongest of winds that hit the Texas Gulf shorelines.

Senate Budget Chair Says Education Funding “Decimated”: Sen. Steve Ogden, chair of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee, spoke for many yesterday when he said that the budget bill as introduced in the Texas Senate would pretty much “decimate” public education funding. Ogden, a Republican from College Station is on record in support of using the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s self-replenishing reserve fund, which will have $9.4 billion available to help close a revenue shortfall of $27 billion for the 2012-2013 biennium.  Ogden also has said the state must revisit the newfangled business tax passed in 2006, because it has not produced nearly as much revenue as originally projected. If lawmakers fail to marshal needed revenue, he says, school districts will face the next two years more than $9 billion short of the amount they need to maintain current services.

Not coincidentally, the botched 2006 tax package is falling about $9 billion short per biennium of the amount needed to replace the local property taxes that lawmakers cut that year. This structural deficit, combined with the cyclical revenue loss caused by the worst recession since the end of World War II, has jolted many lawmakers into the realization that cuts alone will not work as a budget strategy.

More Lawmakers for Common Sense:
Sen. Robert Deuell, Republican of Greenville, came out strongly today for using the Rainy Day Fund, closing tax loopholes, and raising some taxes to make up for the collapse of state revenue. In an interview with the Quorum Report today, Deuell said, “I’m advocating using the Rainy Day Fund—all of it. I also think we should raise the gas tax 10 cents and close loopholes in the sales tax.”

Meanwhile, over in the Texas House, the newly filed bill by Rep. Jim Pitts to use $4.273 billion of the Rainy Day Fund has drawn support from across the political spectrum. The Waxahachie Republican’s HB 275 has attracted as co-authors Republican Reps. John Otto of Dayton, Debbie Riddle of Tomball, Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, and Drew Darby of San Angelo, plus Democrat Helen Giddings of Dallas.

The outbreak of such commonsensical ideas at the capitol has shocked some anti-tax zealots into action in opposition. One such group, calling itself Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, has ginned up an education-focused campaign of robo-calls to residents of key legislative districts, claiming that the danger of budget-driven mass layoffs of teachers is a myth. But it’s no myth, as increasing numbers of legislators are coming to realize.

I find it so incredulous that there is continued discussion when a ‘bail out’ is available. If a bail out is a good remedy offered by the federal government to save the economy of the larger United States, then a bail out with the Rainy Day Fund is definitely warranted. What do you think?

Help Save Texas Public Schools – Buyout Offered

In this article posted in the Austin Statesman newspaper, continued discussion about the best way to fund the budget shortfall facing Texas public schools for the 2011-2012 school year.

Last week, Shapiro saw a way to fix a much-maligned component of the complex school finance system while also saving more than $5 billion over the next two years: eliminate the so-called target revenue provision.

That provision was part of school finance legislation enacted in 2006 in response to a Texas Supreme Court ruling. Lawmakers reduced local school property tax rates by one-third and dedicated more state money to the schools to replace the local money.

So no school district suffered as the balance of state and local money changed, lawmakers essentially froze the level of per-student revenue at what each school district was getting in 2005-06, the target revenue amount.

But that provision has exacerbated some funding inequities among districts, and Shapiro sees a chance to change that.

“If we have an opportunity at a time like this, I think we should avail ourselves of it,” Shapiro told fellow senators.

Last week, Shapiro saw a way to fix a much-maligned component of the complex school finance system while also saving more than $5 billion over the next two years: eliminate the so-called target revenue provision.

That provision was part of school finance legislation enacted in 2006 in response to a Texas Supreme Court ruling. Lawmakers reduced local school property tax rates by one-third and dedicated more state money to the schools to replace the local money.

So no school district suffered as the balance of state and local money changed, lawmakers essentially froze the level of per-student revenue at what each school district was getting in 2005-06, the target revenue amount.

But that provision has exacerbated some funding inequities among districts, and Shapiro sees a chance to change that.

“If we have an opportunity at a time like this, I think we should avail ourselves of it,” Shapiro told fellow senators.

Until recently, Eissler said he had not expected to make the full $9.8 billion reduction included in the proposed House budget. But now he has to follow through on that legislation, and deciding how to exact those reductions is weighing heavily on him, Eissler said.

The severity of the needed cuts hit him last week when the Texas Education Agency laid off scores of employees, he said.

“Those are real people losing jobs, and that’s depressing,” Eissler said.

Devastating doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of the situation.
Two large Texas cities are offering a buy out to those who indicate now they will resign or retire at the end of the school year. This is an attempt to layoff educators at the end of the school year. Up and down the highways, I have friends who have already been notified they will not have a position next year due to a lack of funding. Having had technology positions that lost their funding, I know first hand how devastating this can be. It takes a toll financially, emotionally, physically, etc. when one finds him/herself in this predicament. Knowing that this could be remedied by using the Rainy Day Fund to cover the financial deficits should be a no brainer. It is time to tell our representatives that their constituents will give the legislators that vote against using the Rainy Day Fund and instead allowing these layoffs to occur.