Packrati: My road to super-productivity!

Posted by Susan Gilley on March 16, 2014

PackratMy motto is,  “It’s not what you know, but what you share!” People who know me know that I make no secret that almost all of my shared resources come from Twitter. Twitter is all about finding the right people to follow that will allow you find the resources that will help you do your job better. That’s the key to me as to why Twitter is such a valuable social media tool.

In order to make Twitter successful and productive for me, I needed a way to get what I had tweeted to my bookmarks. I use Delicious as my bookmarking tool.  My old school way was once a week or month, I would copy and paste each tweet over to my delicious account as a bookmark with tags.  This was a horribly inefficient process.  Then I discovered Packrati.  Packrati works with my Twitter and Delicious accounts to automatically bookmark and tag anything I tweet.

Here’s how it works:  If there is a URL in my tweet, it automatically gets posted on my delicious web page.  Any words within that tweet that have a hashtag (#) are added as Delicious tags of the bookmarked page.  Welcome to the world of super-productivity! To start setting up accounts for yourself, visit the following websites and create accounts:,, and If you are interested in seeing all of the resources I have gathered, check out my bookmarks at or follow me on Twitter @uniqsuseq.



New Year’s Challenge: Jump In!

Posted by Geoff Belleau on January 1, 2014

Logos in mortar boards: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, RSSMost of us entered a career in education because of the students.  The rapidly changing, technology-driven, mobile world is changing those students. They are still children—or young adults—but they have access to an unprecedented amount of information, and their social interactions have changed. In addition to Facebook, they use social tools like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Kik, and Vine among others. Gone are the days when schools could easily restrict access to such tools; now they’re as close as the mobile device in each student’s pocket. Our challenge is to model appropriate social interaction using tools most educators are just plain unfamiliar with.

How?  Just jump in.  For starters, if you haven’t joined Twitter, do it. Twitter can be used to log into and share on many of the tools listed above. Next, as you make your way around your school building or district every day, make at least one day a “follow me” day. When you see an amazing lesson, snap a picture and post it along with a short note for your followers to see (yep, that’s called tweeting). If you see an orderly lunch line with a smiling food service employee, tweet it. Follow the good example of Kris Corey (@coreykrisc), superintendent in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District. Those stakeholders who follow her on Twitter know when she’s visiting schools because she is sharing lessons, student work, special events and even the Chipotle fundraiser flyer. Several of her administrators have followed her example and share the daily activities of their schools:(@kristenwitt13, @crystalmiddleca, @annakyleelem, @principal439).

Recently, Twitter launched Vine. Like Twitter, Vine is microblogging (140 character limit), but with an added feature: 6 second videos that loop. Create a Vine video by simply touching the screen. Then add a short description and post. Since Twitter is used to create the Vine account, your post goes to both Vine and Twitter automatically. Many have said a picture is worth a thousand words; a video could be worth a million words!

Outside your office post your Twitter, Vine, and Instagram username, plus any others you may have such as Facebook and Pinterest. Next add these usernames to email signatures and newsletters going home. Let your followers build naturally and don’t worry if the count only goes up slowly.

If you are more inclined to share graphically, use Instagram to share the amazing things going on at your building or district. Instagram is a favorite because it makes those artistic looking square pictures with filters and borders. By linking your Twitter account on setup, you can automatically share on twitter whenever you post to Instagram.

One common element across all of this social sharing is use of hashtags(#) to code posts and call them out for attention from a specific audience.  Start using hashtags as part of your New Year’s challenge.  You could start with one I use: #makingheroes. When you post, add #makingheroes to your tweet, Vine video, Instagram picture or other post. Also start using a hashtag that relates to your building or district. That way when you click on those #hashtags you will start to see all of the sharing that is going on!

It’s easier than you think! Take this 5 minute challenge (modified from @digitalroberto).

  1. Take a picture of student work and post it on Instagram (Twitter). (1 minute)
  2. Shoot a Vine video showing active learning or a special event and post it on Twitter. (1 minute)
  3. Tweet about something amazing going on by describing it (1 minute)
  4. Share one of your colleagues posts from one of their schools with your followers on Twitter (2 minutes) If you at a site try to do this once a day, if you are a central office, try to get out and do this once a week. Set a reminder on your calendar.

Unlike our students who are digital natives, we are digital immigrants.  We need to become digital colonists and model good digital citizenship. If we are to help students be great digital citizens, we must be citizens in the same digital world.  Jump in!


Hacked—It Stings!

Posted by Tim Landeck on July 14, 2013

Just when I thought it was OK to leave the safety of my district’s content filter and venture into the growing realm of social networking (SN), I was stung by the mighty SN wasps—my Twitter account was hacked! Before I knew it, I was advertising a weight loss program to all of my Twitter followers. To add to the confusion I actually had just lost some weight and won the “losers weight loss contest” at the district office. Many were aware of my improving health and thought I was endorsing a specific weight loss program! Even if you haven’t been hacked yet, find out how to prevent it.

Wasp face on.
Photo credit: Wim van Egmond. Used by permission.


How I knew that I was hacked

One morning I began to receive emails from friends and colleagues asking if my Twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked. When you receive multiple versions of these emails within a couple of hours, it’s time to check it out as quickly as possible. I looked on my Twitter account and sure enough, I was advertising for a new weight loss program. It’s embarrassing to have your account hacked, especially for a “techie” like me; I wanted to stop the unauthorized posts as soon as possible.

How to secure your Twitter account

  • Step 1: Change your password ASAP. Usually this is how your account was hacked so changing your password will bring the addition of new, unauthorized posts to a halt. You can increase security by making your password long and complex,  such as IhateGetting365Hacked!
  • Step 2: Disable unnecessary third party applications.  Log into your Twitter account and under settings (look for the gear in the top right hand side of your web browser window) click the Apps menu. Look through the applications that are presently authorized to post to your account and make sure that you truly need and want each of those applications to have access to your account.  Revoke access for all the apps that you don’t recognize.
  • Step 3: Remove any saved passwords to your Twitter account that you may have on various computers and mobile devices.
  • Step 4: Run an antiviral software program on all computers that you use regularly to be sure that you don’t have a virus or keyboard logger on any of your computers
  • Step 5: Reset your password again.

Although being hacked and sending unwarranted posts to hundreds of your followers is a horrible thought, don’t let it prevent you from utilizing social networks. Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites provide excellent tools for educators. Just play it safe by following the steps above.

For more information, visit Twitter’s Help Center.





Classroom Visits Inform and Inspire

Posted by Devin Vodicka on November 22, 2012

After 13 wonderful years with the Carlsbad Unified School District, I made the leap to neighboring Vista Unified as the new Superintendent in July.  Vista Unified is the fourth-largest district in San Diego County with over 22,000 students (25,000 when charters are included) and 32 school sites.  To help me to understand the new setting I made it a goal to visit every classroom within the first two months of the school year.  While I still have a few to see, I have managed to see hundreds of classrooms within that timeframe.

Though the duration of each visit was relatively brief, I saw amazing consistency in many respects and I also observed some unique and innovative practices.  In all, it has been a tremendous learning opportunity and I wish that I could share the experience in great detail.  In the spirit of brevity, here are three examples I doubt I would have seen even a few years ago.

High School

At Rancho Buena Vista High School the students in an English class had worked in small groups to create posters with content that would be used in an upcoming test.  In lieu of having each student copy the documents, the teacher invited students to take photos using their smartphones and then share the images with peers.  Brilliant!


High school students using cellphone in English class.
Rancho Buena Vista High School student uses phone to capture image of documents in English class.

Elementary School

In a primary classroom at Beaumont Elementary School, one teacher asked students to compose messages that could fit in a 140-character Twitter post to share their impressions of the classroom with me.  This was a great cross-disciplinary idea that required students to use a sentence frame and their writing skills.  Counting the characters required some number sense and application of mathematics.  Who knew that a Twitter assignment could be used as a prompt for first-grade students?


Twitter messages to the new superintendent.
Twitter messages to the new superintendent.


Tablets absolutely are  beginning to transform the educational experience for students.  In this photo from Temple Heights Elementary School the teacher was able to replay the work that a student had done on a particular math problem to better understand their reasoning and problem-solving approach.  The ease of use, portability, and flexibility of the tablets seem to be leading to higher levels of use than the computers that have all-too-frequently been left alone in the corners of the classroom.  I saw tablets being used for independent work, guided activities, and direct instruction in conjunction with LCD projectors.  I suspect that what I saw was simply the tip of the iceberg.


Elementary student using a tablet computer.
Elementary student using a tablet computer.


In reflecting on this experience, here are two quick insights:

  1. This is an amazing time to be in education.  New and innovative options for teaching and learning are emerging daily.
  2. Any educator in need of inspiration should find a way to visit classrooms.  The enthusiasm of the students—and the adults—is absolutely contagious.

I am already looking forward to the next round of visits!

Stay connected and follow our progress ….

Editor’s note: Here’s one of Devin’s recent Twitter posts.



Facebook & Twitter Revisited

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on September 13, 2010

The mere mention of Facebook makes some of us administrators cringe.  Talk about Twitter and eyes roll.  But I say to you, think again.

Facebook now has 511 million active users worldwide, 57% of whom are in the United States.  Establish your school or district on Facebook and you have an instant public relations and communication opportunity.

You have options.   You could start with an official community Facebook page for your school, accessible to anyone in the Facebook world.  It’s easy to add photos, links, discussions, notes, events, and more.  And it’s a multi-way communication tool because people can post messages on your “wall.”  One challenge with a community page is that updates don’t show up in the News Feed.  Also, community pages are limited to 5,000 “followers,” but isn’t garnering that much support a problem we’d all like to have?

A Facebook group is an alternative.  What’s the difference?  For one thing, their size is smaller.  Intended to be places for people to get together and share information, groups are limited to 1,000 members.  But a more important distinction is that groups can be closed.  People who want to participate need your prior approval.  With a closed group, you may feel more comfortable posting pictures or videos from events, working online with your PTA or School Site Council—or even Robotics or Dance Team parents.  You might also like the feature that lets you quickly send messages to group members.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for pushing information out to parents and the larger community about your events, programs, themes, and more. For example, if you have recognize character traits each month, such as caring, respect, or resiliency, you can share and reinforce examples on Facebook.  Its also a great way to publicly thank parents and other volunteers who support your events.  After all, don’t we all love to see our name in lights?

Twitter is another social networking tool that may seem silly to some but can be a loyal ally in your communication campaign.  Each day, some 190 million users send out more than 65 million 140-character “tweets.”  Why not you?  Again, this is not about letting your friends in on what you had for breakfast; this is about building community and connecting with those who you want to know about your programs in your school or district.  Some schools even use it for fund raising.  That’s right: Tweet for dollars!

For both tools, here are some tips.  Think “down to earth.”  Be personable.  Add smiley faces on Facebook—and, yes, copious exclamation marks!!!!!  These touches make people want to follow you and tune in.  Don’t just communicate when something goes wrong or when you need people to act.  Share the fun in school and the accomplishments.   “Wow!  400 students joined me at flag salute today who had perfect attendance for the month of September!  Next month we’re shooting for 500!”  Then sit back and see how many people click, “Like it!”

Too busy to mess with both a Facebook page and a Twitter account?  Not a problem.  You can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that when you update Facebook, the information is immediately shared on Twitter, and vice versa.  I prefer to post to Facebook because I don’t have to worry about Twitter’s 140 word limit.  My Twitter followers get a truncated tweet, like a headline, that links to the full version on Facebook.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not just for the kids.  These easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools can help you build more of a sense of community and share the message you want others to hear about the work you do.  Learn more from these TICAL resources!