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10 Tips to Market Your HVAC Business Using Social Media

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The HVAC business in the United States has seen unprecedented growth in the last few years. Innovative new products, government- backed tax rebates, and a renewed focus on indoor air quality and energy conservation are some of the main factors that have contributed to this growth. In addition to these factors, consumers are using the Internet to educate themselves about HVAC-related purchase decisions. They research different products and use social media to talk to other consumers before they make a purchase decision.

As an HVAC business owner, the increased use of social media by your customers and potential customers has opened up a lot of opportunities for you. You can use social media to do research as well as lead generation.

In terms of research, you can use social media websites to find out the following:

  1. What your current customers are saying about you.
  2. How people perceive your competitors.
  3. The types of offers that your competitors are offering.
  4. Who your potential customers could be.
  5. What your potential customers are looking for in a new HVAC system and after-sales service.
  6. How to reach potential customers.

The information that you gather from your research is very important. While it could take some time to get more educated about your customers and your competition, the knowledge that you gain can be used to create more effective messages for your traditional as well as your online advertising. For example, if you see a lot of people looking for proper after-sales service, you have the opportunity to reach out to them with effective service coupons that not only meet their needs, but also beat out offers from your competitors.

Once you have gathered all the information you need and are ready to start lead generation, you can use a number of resources to reach your target audience. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Online coupon sites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com: These sites have a large following and having your business featured on these can help you generate a large number of leads for a low cost. Since these sites promote themselves very well, you don't need to put in any additional efforts to promote your offers.
  2. Coupons on local newspaper, radio and television websites: Local media websites have started to promote a lot of local businesses recently because of tough economic times and the tendency of consumers to look for deals online.
  3. Facebook and Twitter: Use your Facebook and Twitter networks to promote special offers. A good offer can go viral very quickly.
  4. Your own website: Make special offers prominent on your website home page. Most of the time, visitors to your site already know what they want. Making offers more visible just aids them to make a faster decision to use your services.
  5. Yahoo and Google Local: Both Yahoo and Google Local are very popular sites to list your business. Most of the people searching for services related to your business will go to one of these sites and do a search. If your business listing shows up, it will drive more traffic to your site, where they can see special offers.
  6. Email: As you provide services to more people, try to collect their email addresses. Then, send out special offer emails to them about once a month. In that email, you can ask them to forward the offer to their family and friends. However, do not email them more than once a month. You don't want to be blacklisted. Another good way to collect email addresses is to have a signup form on your website. Ask people to sign up to receive monthly special offers.
  7. Local websites: If you do a search, you will find a number of blogs, forums and websites for your local area. These sites are very popular and people tend to talk about local businesses and special offers. Make a list of these sites and see how you can promote yourself there. Some websites will promote you for free while others may charge a nominal fee.
  8. Craigslist and Backpage: Both these sites are very popular for local deals. They are free to use. Post your special offers here about two times per week.
  9. Tracking: It is essential for you to track all your social media offers. Try to promote one offer at a time so that it is easy for your business to track them. If you track all your offers regularly, you will soon have a list of sites that are more effective than others. Then, you can focus your efforts on those sites.
  10. Offers: Another essential thing for you to remember is how you structure your offers. Make the offers relevant to the season and what people are looking for. You should also have your phone number and expiration date on all your coupons.

By using these methods, you can refresh your online advertising efforts and continue to generate leads for your business more efficiently. The HVAC business is very competitive but if you are organized and willing to use online marketing efficiently, you will see high returns at a low cost.

World Backup Day - make sure your data and files are backed up!

Friday, March 30, 2012

CopyBackupFiles Want to backup files? Here are 8 free web applications that can help you

Tomorrow is World Backup Day!

Everyone needs to have their files backed up. It is very easy to have your flash drive, hard drive, or computer crash, get damaged, or have your flash drive or laptop get lost or stolen. And it always happens at the worst possible time.

There are many different ways to backup your files. You can use an external hard drive, backup to a flash drive, or backup your files to the cloud. I use a mixture of both.

1. External Hard Drive - an external hard drive is a great way to back up your files locally. This proves very useful if your computer goes down and you have no internet. Many of them come with software build in to set up automatic backups and Windows and Mac have automatic backup apps. You can even make an image of your hard drive so that you don't have to reinstall software if you need to start from scratch.

2. Flash Drive - a flash drive can also be used for backup, but they are more expensive than hard drives for similar storage capacities. I do use a flash drive as a backup at school of my main files.

3. Cloud based backup - this is my favorite way to backup my files because it is automatic, free, and I can sync my files to multiple computers which means I have access to them locally. They also allow me to access my files from any computer, or even smartphone, via the web (and smartphone apps).There are many different ones available. They all have some sort of free plan and many allow you to get extra free memory through referrals. Here are a few of my favorites:

Dropbox is a service that allows you to sync your files on your computer with their system as a backup. This also allows you to access the files anywhere. You can also sync the files across multiple computers. This means that you have automatic backup of your files and 24/7 access to your files. I have it set up to sync a folder on my home computer, wife's computer and school computer so I don't have to worry about having multiple versions or forgetting a flash drive.

There are also Dropbox apps for iPhone, Android, iPad, webOS and Blackberry. You can also access the mobile site from any web-enabled phone. Imagine being able to access all of your files on your smartphone!

You can also share files with others. I teach EMS classes (EMT and Paramedic) and the course coordinator shares files on it with instructors through one folder and students in another folder. It makes things very easy for all of us.

Dropbox is a great service for teachers and students. Access to all of your files anywhere, backup of your files, and the ability to share files.

SugarSync - Sugarsync is another powerful sync and backup service. You can have it back up your files on their server, and sync the files among multiple computers. So, my files on my home computer are synced to my laptop and my school computer. You can also access these files through any web browser, and there are apps for smart phones. You can even access them with a mobile web browser if you don't have an app. You get 5GB for free and there are fee based plans with more storage. I can access my files anywhere, on any device, which makes it very convenient. You select the directories that you want to be backed up. The "Magic Briefcase" is the directory or folder you pick to be automatically backed up and synced. As soon as I save a file to that directory, it is uploaded to their servers.

The Websync feature is also nice. If you are accessing your files through the website, you can select "Edit with websync" and a Java program will download a temp copy of your file, allow you to edit and save it and then upload the new version. You can also share files with others through email or the web.

Sugarsync came in very handy for my wife. 1 week after setting it up on her computer, her hard drive died. Completely dead and no data was recoverable. If it wasn't for Sugarsync, she would have lost over 2 weeks of work (since her last backup). The automatic sync and backup is wonderful.

Box - is similar to the others. The free version only has 5GB of storage, and you can purchase more storage.  Box has been giving out free 50GB accounts to many people (HP TouchPad, iOS 5) too. The only downside is that the free version does not sync your files. 

Mozy.com is another online file storage, sync, and backup service that offers a 2GB free account. I haven't used it, but it seems to work the same as the others.

Uploadingit is another file sharing and syncing service that I found. It has free and fee-based plans, allowing you to upload, sync, and share files.

The file manager works like a desktop app and is simple to use. You can upload multiple files at once, drag and drop, move, rename, and organize files and folders.

The free plan offers 10GB of space and 10GB of daily bandwidth. It does have a 200MB max file size limit and advertisements, but it's free. You can upgrade to paid plans to increase disk space, bandwidth, get rid of ads, ability to hotlink files, and also increase your priority download.

It is another, free file syncing and sharing service that is very useful for teachers and students.

Google Docs - you can upload any type of file (up to 250MB each) and you get 1GB of storage free. You can purchase additional storage at $0.25/GB/year, which is a good deal. There is no automatic sync built in. There are some 3rd party applications that you can use (like GDocBackup, which I use.) It doesn't sync to your desktop or backup automatically, but it is still very useful. 

Amazon Cloud Drive is another way to back up your files. You get 5GB of free storage, but it does not sync your files, it is just on online storage service. 

CX is a new file sync, share and backup service, similar to Dropbox or Sugarsync that I just learned about from the Education Technology Blog.

CX allows you to backup your files, sync them across multiple devices, share your files and collaborate on them with others, and even discover new ideas and friends.

A free account starts off at 10GB of storage, which is more that the other services offer. Like the other services, you can earn more storage for referring others to sign up (to a maximum of 16GB). There are also paid plans with more storage (50GB, 100GB and custom amounts).

It is currently available for iOS and Android is coming soon. No mention of other mobile OS's.

What is unique is that every file you share has a comment system so you can share it and collaborate with others on it.

Pogoplug, a company that already has streaming and sharing devices, announced a new service: Pogoplug Cloud.

The Pogoplug Cloud service provides 5GB of free storage and allows users to store their files online. They can then access, share, or stream the content from their mobile device. You sign up directly from any mobile phone, web browser, or tablet. You can purchase additional online storage also. 50GB is $9.95 per month and 100GB is $19.95 per month. Pricing is similar to many other cloud storage systems.

One thing that is different is that you can host a private, unlimited cloud for no monthly fees by purchasing a Pogoplug box ($99) and connecting it to your network.

Pogoplug will automatically upload photos and videos from your mobile phone to your Pogoplug cloud with no syncing required. (I have Sugarsync set up to do this on my Android phone). You can share anything in your cloud through email, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and even create shared folders. You can also stream videos, photos, and musics to your phone.

There are free apps for iOS and Android.

SpiderOak.com - Online Backup, Storage, Sharing and Sync

SpiderOak is another free backup, sync, sharing and storage system. It works on Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

There is a free 2GB account and you can earn up to 50GB of free storage by referring friends.

It's another great way to make sure that your files are backed up and available to you any where.

I do a lot of work online and in the cloud and find it very convenient and useful to do so. But, I also know that there can be internet connection issues and those cloud services can crash or have problems so I backup all of my cloud based data to my computer too.

I use Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Sites, Blogger, iGoogleEvernote, Aviary and more. Web based computing allows me to have access to my data and files anywhere that I can get internet access, including on my smart phone. It also allows me to share data and information with others. I also like web based apps and data because it is platform independent - Windows, Linux, Mac - it doesn't matter. The web based apps also, in my experience, seem to run better on older, slower computers than native applications.

I'm also a believer in being prepared and having backups of my data. The services I use have great data centers and backup, but sometimes their servers go down, and sometimes I may not be able to get internet access.

I backup all of my work and data in multiple places so that I always have access to it, even without an internet connection. Here's what and how I do:

Google Docs - I use GDocBackup to backup my Google Docs. I also have Google Gears installed so my files are synced with my computer that way too. You can also export your Google Docs to your hard drive.

Evernote - I have Evernote's desktop application at home so all of my notes are backed up on my home computer. I also export the data once a week to an html and txt file for backup.

Google Products - I also export my Blogger blogs, iGoogle Settings, Google Reader subscriptions, Calendar, email, tasks, and bookmarks once a week as a back up. For each of them, go to settings and look for the export command. Here's more information on how to export data from Google's services.
(I use Google Chrome so my bookmarks are synced between my two computers.)

Google Sites - I use HTTrack Website Copier to make a backup of my website.

All of the backup files are in a directory that is automatically backed up to SugarSync and then kept in sync on both my school and home computers. Sugarsync does this automatically, so it is no effort for me. I also have really, really important data (financial, digitized paper records, etc) on a flash drive in my fireproof safe. Just in case.

My Android smart phone automatically syncs with my Google Calendar, Google Contacts and other Google services and I have my Evernote notebooks synced to it as well. I can also access all of my files on the cloud services through my smartphone.

This may all sound like overkill to some people, but I feel more comfortable knowing that my data is safe, backed up, and easily accessible. 

Free Teacher Guides from Microsoft - great resources

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Microsoft has some great Teacher Guides available for free. The guides have teaching tips and step-by-step instructions on a variety of topics and tools and technologies.

The guides are all free and downloadable in PDF form.

Topics include: Critical Thinking in web searches, Windows Movie Maker, Free tools from Microsoft, Digital Storytelling, Microsoft Office, web apps, OneNote, Bing and Mathematics, and Accessibility in the Classroom.

The guides are easy to use and read and a great resource.

NASA Rockets Educator Guide - updated and free - great resource

NASA is an excellent resource for educators with sites, lesson resources, and more available.

One of the resources I really like, and use each year, is the Rockets Educator Guide. NASA has recently updated it with some new information and materials. It's available as a free PDF download here.

Cover of the Rockets Educator Guide+

The NASA - The Rockets Educator Guide includes lesson plans and activity ideas. This guide has some great activities like rockets using film canisters, baking soda, and vinegar, paper rockets, altitude trackers and more. There is even a part on the history of rockets.

I use this at the end of the year in a project on Rockets, combining topics from throughout the year in a fun project.

Here's more on the project: http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2011/05/rockets-great-project-for-end-of-year.html

More NASA Resources:

Quickly find free NASA educational resources
Here are a lot more great, free Educational Resources from NASA

PDF - interesting infographic and lots of resources for using them

PDF, Portable Document Format, files are ubiquitous. They are everywhere. They are a great way to share and publish files since they can be locked, watermarked, and viewed on pretty much any device or OS. Most office suites allow you to save files as PDF formats and there are some other great tools for creating them.

Here are some great resources for working with PDF files and an infographic about PDF files and the format.

Lots of PDF resources - print, markup, convert and more

PDFBinder - simple tool to merge PDF documents into one

BabyPDF - Edit PDF documents for free
Crocodoc - markup PDF files for free

Fill Any PDF form - fill out, sign and send forms

I Love PDF - merge or split PDF files

Adobe Digital School Collection - supporting creativity and digital literacy - includes Adobe Acrobat for creating PDF files

Google Summer of Code Student Internships applications open

Google Summer of Code

Google is once again hosting a summer internship for students called "Summer of Code." It is a paid internship for students who will work on open source projects. Organizations submit proposals for projects, students apply to work on those projects and then Google gets them connected to code over the summer. Student applications are now open with a deadline of April 6th. There are 180 projects for students to chose from. 

More information is available here:

Evernote Android App gets Speech-to-text built in

Evernote, one of my favorite and most useful apps, has an update for Evernote's Android app that now includes Speech-to-text. The speech recognition allows you speak and the app will create text into the note. This is also a great way to have transcribed notes without the transcriptionist.

This can also be useful for students and teachers as a learning tool, note taking, and even for students with disabilities to be able to take notes by voice instead of by hand.

The Evernote blogs says it only works on Android 4.0 (ICS) and some other devices, but it works great on my Droid Incredible 2 running Android 2.3.4. I dictated a few notes and it only had one error out of a full paragraph (it missed one letter).

You can get the updated app in Google Play

Source: Evernote Blog: http://blog.evernote.com/2012/03/27/evernote-for-android-update-speech-to-text-and-big-widget-enhancements/


Evernote for Educators - resources for getting started and using Evernote in Education

Android Smartphone and Apps I use as an educator

Android for Education resources and apps

Understanding the Special Education Process

Whether you choose private or public education you need to be assured that your child is receiving maximum support in school. Often procedures and programs are overwhelming. In order to make informed decisions, it is important to understand the special education process and to know your rights. Although schools differ slightly when identifying children who qualify for special education services the process is fairly consistent between states. If your child is experiencing difficulties in any area of learning, your involvement benefits your child in many ways. The better informed you are as a parent the more effective the interventions become. The types of concerns addressed may include academics, behavior, social/emotional, and health issues. You may be the first to express a concern, or the school might notify you. Before your child can be identified as having special education needs, however, schools must follow certain guidelines. Pre-referral is an important part of the special education process.

Pre-referral helps to make certain that your child is provided with appropriate modifications and accommodations before being referred for special education testing. These strategies may include, but are not limited to, physical placement in the classroom, presentation and modification of materials, as well as individualized behavior plans. Often the modifications and strategies that are recommended provide your child with enough support that academic performance is improved and special education services are not required.

Different states refer to the child study team by different names. In some states the team is a function of general education, in others, the team is a part of the special education program. In any case, it is a school site committee whose primary function is to ensure that each child receives the most appropriate classroom support. The meetings are usually held in your child's classroom or in an office at the school site, before or after school, allowing your child's teacher to participate. By providing early identification and intervention for students who are experiencing difficulty in school, the child study team serves as a problem solving forum. The team works together in order to determine your child's strengths and areas of difficulty. Your participation is very important. This is your opportunity to ask questions and provide critical information about your child. Members of the team will brainstorm in order to develop strategies and an action plan. Later the members will monitor, assess, and discuss the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan that was developed by the team. You have the right to ask questions and call additional meetings, if necessary. Team meeting notes will be taken and copies should be distributed to all members of the team. This documentation demonstrates that the school is providing your child with the legally required general education interventions. Team members vary depending on numerous factors. Often the general education teacher will be involved, as will a counselor, school psychologist, and/or an administrator. Teams may also include special education and related service providers. As the parent, you are an integral part of the team. While the school has the responsibility to invite you at a convenient time it is not absolutely required that you attend. It is however highly recommended as you have a wealth of information regarding your child's preferred learning styles, health and educational history, behavior, personality traits, areas of difficulty, and strengths.

Typically a meeting is scheduled when there is a concern regarding behavior or academic performance. Anyone who works with a child may make this referral, frequently in written form. Often it is the classroom teacher who requests the meeting. As a parent you also have the right to request a meeting by contacting your child's teacher or the school principal. Each team member may provide information and make suggestions. The team begins by discussing your child's strengths and interests, information is shared, and specific concerns will be addressed. The team will review interventions that have already been implemented and how successful they have been. The team will then brainstorm possible additional interventions and will determine which strategies will be put into action. Team members will then be assigned tasks that they will help implement or research. A time-line will be determined by the team. There will be a follow up meeting in order to assess the successfulness of the strategies. The team may determine that sufficient progress has been noted and that testing for special education is not needed at this time. It may be determined that the team will reconvene in order to implement new strategies and monitor progress. If insufficient progress has been noted, a referral for special education assessment may be recommended in order to evaluate whether or not your child may have some type of learning disability.

The pre-referral process is one step in the special education process. It provides an excellent opportunity for you to collaborate with a team in order to insure that your child receive the most effective instruction designed to meet his or her unique needs. The process is most successful when it identifies and utilizes all available resources in order to appropriately support your child.

The administrator or designee supports the team by presenting the agenda, directing the meeting, answering questions, providing information, and offering support to you and other team members. The general education teacher provides up to date information regarding your child. They will listen to information, help to clarify concerns, and participate in the development of behavioral and academic interventions.

As the parent, you are a vital member of the team. Your presence at the meeting is invaluable as you will be asked to provide information pertaining to your child. These areas may include academic history, health and development, family matters, and social/emotional concerns. The information that you provide is confidential.

Having your child attend depends on the appropriateness and relevance to the meeting. Your child may share his/her own perspective regarding areas of difficulty and specific needs.

Special Education (SPED) support staff members may participate in both pre-referral and IEP meetings. During the pre-referral meetings, SPED and support staff members often participate due to their training and experience. Team members may include a school counselor, psychologist, nurse, speech pathologist, occupational and/or physical therapist, adapted physical education teacher, behavior specialists, and members from outside agencies. The team members may differ depending on the school but are available to provide information, answer questions, and gather resources that are designed to support your child. The gathering of information may include obtaining and reviewing records, consultations with you or staff members who work with your child, other teachers, and outside agencies. They may also observe your child in the classroom or outside on the playground. School support staff members make recommendations regarding strategies for designing and implementing interventions and modifications. SPED team members may also share information about eligibility, referrals, and documentation.

While the special education process differs from state to state, the procedures are designed to help you and your child receive the maximum benefit from the educational system. Please check with your school and district to find out more about the specific procedures followed in your state and remember that you are your child's best advocate.

Note: There is a great deal of information available regarding special education resources and special needs education on the internet and in local bookstores.

Glogster Earth Day Contest - great education project with prizes

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Glogster EDU

Glogster Edu and the Go Green Initiative are hosting an Earth Day Contest. The challenge is to investigate the water, energy and food systems in your community and come up with ideas to make those systems greener or more sustainable and create a Glog with text, images, audio and video.

The contest includes $2500 in cash prizes for students and $7000 in prizes for classrooms and schools. Prizes include a FlipCam, organic garden, full-service BBQ, stagecoach ride and more.

Entries must be submitted by Earth Day, April 22, 2012. Entry is free and open to all K-12 students.
Contest page: http://edu.glogster.com/contest/Go-Green-Initiative-Earth-Day-Contest/

Join now!


Glogster - multimedia tool that's great for educators and students

Great Earth Day Resources for Educators

Three Ring - free app to create educational portfolios of student work

Three Ring is a free app for Android or iOS that allows teachers to quickly digitize and organize student work into portfolios. You use the app to create the digital portfolio (take a picture) and then the photos are uploaded to the Three Ring site where you can organize the student work, create digital portfolios, share work and examples, and even use it for formative assessment. You can even tag the photos before you upload for easier organization.

This is a great resource for teachers to use to collect and organize student work.

Google Play Android Market: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.threering.threering
Apple App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/three-ring/id504311049

Take a picture with the app...
...and find it stored on the website, where you can sort and share it.

Source: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/


Android for Education resources and apps

Android Smartphone and Apps I use as an educator

Using Evernote for ePortfolios - great idea

OrangeBook - easily create online portfolios of student work

Free Science Fiction Classics on the Web (books and audio)

OpenCulture, a great resource for lots of things, has a great list of free science fiction classics available online, in both text and audio formats. 

The books include classics from Asimov, Huxley, Orwell, Orson Welles, and even the Chronicles of Narnia.

This is a great resource for teachers and students to get free copies of the books, and the audio books can help ELL and struggling readers.


Other resources from Open Culture

National Geographic releases images of Titanic site

National Geographic has released new images of the wreckage site of the RMS Titanic. The images are mosaics, made up of thousands of images from sonar and photos, in high res. It shows everything as a whole, versus small individual areas.

The images are available in the print edition of National Geographic, on their website, or in the iPad edition of the magazine.


These images are a great resource for teachers and students studying the tragedy.

At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the “unsinkable” R.M.S. Titanicdisappeared beneath the waves, taking with her 1,500 souls. One hundred years later, new technologies have revealed the most complete—and most intimate—images of the famous wreck.

Photo: The ghostly bow of the Titanic

Source: The Verge


Wind Power interactive - great resource from NatGeo

National Geographic Education - teacher resources

Sea Monsters - Nat Geo - ancient sea creatures

Animal Facts from Nat Geo - great resource

Hojoki - make all your cloud apps work together - very cool & free

Hojoki is a new service I just learned about from the Hojoki team. It's a very cool idea - it takes all of your online productivity apps and turns them into a newsfeed and collaborative space to work on projects.

I played with it a little today and will be using it more this week. It looks like something that could be very useful for education.

It' is in Beta now and free and there will always be a free plan available.

Here's more information and a video about it:

Teachers utilizing the cloud: Hojoki is your collaborative newsfeed for Google Docs, Calendar, Dropbox, Evernote and more

Hojoki’s basic idea is very simple: they offer one newsfeed for productivity apps. It connects to apps like Google Documents, Evernote, Dropbox, Mendeley and Google Calendar, building you a newsfeed and a collaborative space for your work.

Anytime an activity in any of your connected apps occurs, Hojoki informs you. You can share your activities with others in workspaces, where you can discuss events and manage whatever projects you’re working on. You never miss important changes from co-workers and have all your content in one place.

Why this is so interesting for Teachers?
Some of the tools Hojoki integrates are very powerful and established tools for education:

Google Documents for classroom collaboration
Google Calendar to share calendars with colleagues and classes
Dropbox for sharing and syncing files
Evernote with lot’s of uses prior, during and after class
If you and your colleagues use more than one of those tools, you know the problem. It’s almost impossible to manage communication and collaboration across all the apps efficiently. So both teachers and students spend a lot of time logging into lots of tools, checking for updates and informing each other on changes and updates.

Hojoki solves that fragmentation problem as it brings all the tools and all people involved in one browser tab and allows the creation of workspaces for collaboration.

How to use Hojoki in Education
Hojoki brings teachers and students and, most importantly, their tools together on one page. Here are three suggestions from the Hojoki team for educational use:

Creating and sharing teaching materials    
When creating and sharing teaching materials, teachers often use Google Docs, Dropbox and Evernote. As long as everyone is using the same app, everything is fine. But as soon as content spreads across apps, things become confusing. Everyone needs to log in, check frequently for changes and give feedback on other channels, like email. With Hojoki, you can connect all relevant content from lots of apps to a workspace to get instantly notified if someone updated or added something. Besides that, you get a full searchable history of changes in your teaching materials. Here’s an infographic that shows a typical workflow in Hojoki: http://blog.hojoki.com/post/20002424193/teaching-in-the-cloud-infographic

Online Classrooms
If you share and update content from Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs on a regular basis for a class, create a workspace with your students in Hojoki and add the relevant content. By doing this, Hojoki shows every activity as a newsfeed - who updated a document in Google Docs, created a note in Evernote or uploaded a file to Dropbox. Hojoki connects even to Google Calendar to view class events. Everyone in the classroom workspace can comment immediately and discuss issues. Hojoki saves time by making it easy and keeps everything in one place, so over time you get a fully searchable knowledge base on top of your tools.

Workspaces also work great to provide supervision on writing and student projects which utilize more than one cloud app. Teachers can keep informed on the progress of either one student or a group of students. Students get instant feedback and guidance from their teachers and that extra boost in motivation. ;)

Hojoki www.hojoki.com is free, so give it a try!  http://hojoki.com/  

A Case For Bilingual Education

Monday, March 26, 2012

According to a 2006 report by the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science and Education in France, "[B]ilingual education based on the mother tongue is the basis for long-term success." Citing many of the known and accepted benefits of bilingualism and biliteracy, the Committee makes the case that bilingual education should be supported whenever possible, to help minorities retain their native language - and moreover increase their potential for higher levels of academic achievement in the process.

Concerns that children who grow up with two languages will either fall behind academically because of it, or are at risk of not mastering either language well, have largely been disproved by research, the committee stated.

"The language which is the vehicle of instruction has a crucial role in that command of it is the key to classroom communication and consequently to pupils' acquisition of knowledge. A great deal of research has confirmed that types of education based on the mother tongue significantly increase the chances of educational success and give better results," they concluded in their report.

What is Bilingual Education?

Bilingual education programs teach speakers of other languages academic subjects in their native language while gradually transitioning them into English-only classrooms. The majority of these programs in America teach to native speakers of Spanish, Chinese, or Navajo. Bilingual education is different from ESL because ESL programs are meant only to teach speakers of other languages English, while bilingual education programs are meant to encourage further retention and development of the native language while teaching English, enabling the child to develop fluent bilingualism and biliteracy.

What are the benefits of Bilingual Education?

Bilingual education teachers generally transition students from the bilingual classroom to the English mainstream classroom over a period of 1-6 years. This can be beneficial for one because it allows the students to continue their own academic advancement while learning the dominant language, whereas students who must learn a language and other academic subjects in that language often fall behind. By teaching children academic subjects in their native language while acquiring English, the students learn the language while continuing to progress academically. Furthermore, they become fluent and literate in both languages.

Studies have shown that quality bilingual education can be an effective approach for teaching second language learners. Successful programs have found that developing and maintaining the student's native language does not interfere with English language acquisition, but instead enhance it.

The advantages of bilingualism are not highly debated. Some of the advantages plurilinguals have, cited by the Parliamentary Assembly, include:

• An enhanced faculty for creative thinking

• More advanced analytical skills and cognitive control of linguistic operations

• Greater communicative sensitivity in relation to situational factors

• Improved spatial perception, cognitive clarity and analytical skills

Furthermore, bilingual programs encourage the preservation of a minority group's linguistic and cultural heritage. Children who are put into English-only schools from a young age will greatly lose their mother tongue and culture unless it is taught and frequently spoken at home - however it is all too common for second and third generation Americans to lose their heritage language.

If the benefits of bilingualism are not highly disputed, why is bilingual education highly disputed?

Common arguments and sentiments against bilingual education in America include the following:


The argument is that if a person is not totally immersed in the new language, they will not learn it - that immigrant children should be totally immersed in the language and therefore be taught entirely in English right away, instead of learning gradually, because they will not learn as well with a gradual approach. Critics of bilingual education often believe that retaining and developing the first language inhibits the child's ability to learn English. However, bilingual education supporters maintain that retaining the first language will facilitate learning in the second. Opportunities for immersion, moreover, are all around, whereas quality bilingual education opportunities are not.

Insufficient mastery of the English language

Some express doubts about the success of bilingual programs in teaching language-minority students mastery of the English language, citing low test scores and poor reading skills in both English and the native language as a result of the programs. However, low scores can be attributed to the child's social context more than to the effectiveness of bilingual education, according to the 2006 report by the Parliamentary Assembly.

Furthermore, according to a 1987 study commission by the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), children in "properly designed" bilingual education programs learn English quickly and meet grade-level standards in English and mathematics in three to five years. The report used data collected from 25 schools in seven California districts to dispute the claim that bilingual programs slow the acquisition of English and keep children out of the mainstream longer.


Spanish as well as other minority languages have not historically been valued as highly as they should be due to prejudice and xenophobia. One and two generations back it was not acceptable for immigrants or natives to speak a language other than English in school, and parents did not teach their children for fear they would not excel or that it would hold them back. This prejudice still haunts us today.


In 2010 Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) banned Mexican heritage and cultural study in their high schools. They claimed that the courses were teaching Mexican-American children to resent white Americans and encouraging them to want to overthrow the US government. Although the school was seeing rises in academic achievement, the program was teaching minority students about their culture and not the mainstream one, and so the programs were cut. This closely mimics the battle bilingual programs have faced in America as well.

Insufficient research
Moreover, it does not help that research on bilingual education presents its own set of problems. "Research on the effectiveness of bilingual education remains in dispute, because program evaluation studies - featuring appropriate comparison groups and random assignment of subjects or controls for pre-existing differences - are extremely difficult to design," wrote James Crawford, researcher on bilingual education. Crawford, however, maintains that there is strong empirical support that native-language instruction does not inhibit or slow the acquisition of English, and that well-developed skills in the native language are associated with high levels of academic achievement.

A 1997 press release from a committee of the National Research Council formed perhaps a more well-rounded conclusion. They stated that political debates over how to teach children with limited English skills have hampered bilingual education research and evaluation efforts. The committee recommended that research focus on identifying a variety of educational approaches that work for children in their communities based on local need and available resources. And indeed this availability of resources can be a major concern when talking about constructing quality bilingual programs, as well as the scarcity and demand for quality bilingual teachers.

"In recent years, studies quickly have become politicized by advocacy groups selectively promoting research findings to support their positions," said Kenji Hakuta, committee chair and professor of education at Stanford University. "Rather than choosing a one-size-fits-all program, the key issue should be identifying those components, backed by solid research findings, that will work in a specific community."

If bilingualism has an educational advantage, why don't our schools support this advantage?

Another often disregarded advantage of bilingual education in America is that native English-speaking children can enroll and acquire a second language. America is known for being one of the least dual-tri lingual countries in the world, with a bias toward English-only, while most other countries in the world teach many languages from a young age. The interesting thing is that most Americans would recognize the benefits of speaking two or more languages, although bilingual education remains a highly debated topic.

Bilingual education programs have the potential to help encourage and support plurilingualism in America and ultimately improve our nation academically.

"The view that bilingualism or plurilingualism is a burden on pupils is... incorrect - they are assets," the 2006 Parliamentary Assembly Committee reported. "'Strong' bilingual educational models which aim to equip the future adult with real bi/plurilingual proficiency and, in particular, bi-literacy, have many advantages over 'weak' models which treat bilingualism as an intermediate stage between mother-tongue monolingualism and official-language monolingualism rather than as an end in itself."

Most popular posts on Ed Tech Guy this past week

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The last week has had wonderful weather here in Connecticut, with temperatures hitting 70, with a beautiful breeze. It's going to get chilly again next week, but it was a nice break to have the great weather.

State testing is also done (yeah! now we can get back to learning).

Here are the most read posts from the past week: (and don't forget to check out the posts from Friday. They don't usually have time to get to most read status.)

Have a great weekend!

1. Real World Math - ideas for using Google Earth in math class

2. TED Launches TED-Ed "education lessons worth sharing"

3. Knovio - turn PowerPoint presentation into multimedia video

4. Ahead - create zooming multimedia presentations

5. Free Animated Tutorials for Science Classes

6. Interactive Biology - free videos, quizzes and study guides on Biology

7. Why I'm a Teacher and what I like and dislike about it

8. Edcamp - teacher run, awesome, free educational conferences

9. Free Project Based Learning resource available

10. Jog the Web - create webquest-like guides to web pages

Don't forget to check out the permanent pages at the top of the site too!

I am also available to speak at your school or conference and to run professional development sessions. 

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Effective Methods of Social Media

I know it can be overwhelming at times. We have our business to run, our family to interact with and friends to connect with in reality and yet we know we need to virtually connect with as many people as we can around the world. In fact, without social media the way it is today, my business would be half of what it is.

Yet how can anyone keep up with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Klout and the hundreds of other websites where we're all told we "must" keep an active account? How much time should we spend on social media before it becomes a hindrance rather than a benefit? How often should we be actively posting, pinning, connecting and tweeting?

There is no right answer, it varies by what you are trying to accomplish. First, if you want to get your name out into the world as an expert in your field, it requires a great deal of exposure. If your goal is to be a local expert, it will take a lot less of your time and focus. The minimum rule of thumb is one post a day in each of the top sites mentioned above. Some very active social media experts post three to five times a day, but in my opinion, I don't need to hear from someone that often and it becomes more irritating than engaging.

One of the helpful tools I found is Hootsuite. You can add up to five social media accounts at no charge, post a single message and it will show up on every one of those sites. It is a major time saver and what I like about it the most is I can write out my posts for the week and not think about it for another week because of their delay scheduling option next to the message box.

There are virtual assistants who can manage your social media presence for under a hundred dollars a month. They are adept at going through your website to know how to write messages that sound like you. They will work two to four hours a week to give you a broad exposure through the entire social media arena.

I use social media primarily to meet joint venture partners. I have been able to conduct no less than 100 experts I have interviewed. I use the interviews to build my collateral material on two of my websites. Interviews consist of the interviewee providing me with questions pertaining to their expertise. They are educational, informative and interesting. Some of the interviews I have done have been from India, Australia, England, Canada, Spain and Mexico. There are no limits when you can connect with those who share your interests.

Quite of few of my interviewees are for my radio show for authors educational purposes. Those interviews will also become a part of my new membership site. But what is amazing is a number of the people I interview ask to interview me so I get cross exposure to their database too. I've been able to produce teleseminars and webinars jointly with some of them and have even been booked for major speaking engagements through those connections.

It's not enough to be active in social media; you must have a plan and stick to it. Model your activity after successful people in your field. They will probably have a team of social media experts doing the work for them, but you can see what frequency they post, what they are talking about on their profile, group and fan pages. Join the groups they belong to and watch how actively they leave their input.

And track what you are doing. That way, if it's not working you can change what you are doing. I take at least one teleseminar or webinar pertaining to social media every week and am constantly learning from the experts. If I pick up one bit of wisdom or a new technique from the event, I feel it's worth my time.

Don't let social media overwhelm you, but be sure to establish your presence and keep up a consistent presence. It will pay off for you in time!

Pearltree - Ben's Guide to US Government - great resource for K12

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pearltrees is a great, free site I wrote about in January that lets you organize web content in a visual pattern. There is a Chrome browser extension that makes it easy to add sites to your tree. Trees can be shared and even worked on collaboratively.

A member of my PLN (sorry, can't remember who now and I forgot to make a note of it) just shared a great Pearltree: "Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids."

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

The resources are sorted by grades: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and there is a page about Ben and a Parent and Educator section. Each section has information, links and resources about the US Government. This is a great resource for anyone teaching, or learning, about the US Government and how it works. 

Here's the main page for 9-12:

This is a great example of how a tool like Pearltrees can be used to create educational resources for students (or even have students create them as a project)



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