Content is King in Education

In 1996 Bill Gates wrote an essay saying “content is king.”  Although Gates was not talking about content in the web 2.0 era, he was on target.  In recent years the trend for successful companies on the internet has been to create meaningful content that will lure and retain visitors to their site.


Here is Ice Giant’s take on content for the web:

“They want information. Their ultimate objective might be to buy that solar-powered hairdryer you’re selling, but before they hand over the cash, they need to know what it is, how it works, and why they should buy it from you instead of Amazon. And that’s exactly where content comes in.”

“Content informs your visitor; it builds a rapport with them; it conveys your website’s reputability. And if you’ve written, and structured your content right, it also gives your visitor a load of ideas how he or she can put whatever it is you’re selling to new, interesting, and essential uses. In short, content is crucial for turning a visitor into a customer.”

One of the challenges for education is creating meaningful and engaging assignments.  The recent shift to Project Based Learning (PBL) as an educational model gives teachers, along with the 1:1 movement, a platform to create content that engages our students to fashion meaningful content in their assignments.  We must look at developing our curriculum so that we can take advantage of 1:1 to focus on creating meaningful content.

For example, imagine you are teaching about the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979.  Traditional classrooms would put the teacher at the center of the learning by spewing the data to the students, students taking notes, and then taking a test.  In the PBL model, students in the classroom are made aware of American hostages in Iran.  What is the responsibility of the American Government to those Americans?  What are the government’s options to free the hostages?  In this model, students would be at the center of the learning, providing options and solutions to real world problems. There is currently an American hostage in Cuba. Students could develop content that would provide solutions for returning the hostage back to America. The Iran Hostage Crisis gives us a framework in which to begin the conversation.


Bill Gates introduced us to “content is king.” It is time for us to introduce this phrase to our students.

What type of assignment can you create in your classroom that will engage students to create meaningful content?

iMovie in the Classroom

The emergence of technology in classrooms creates amazing opportunities for our students to create meaningful content.  Apple computers come with content creation tools already installed.  Some of the more popular are:  Pages, Keynote, iPhoto, Garageband, and iMovie.  The iLife suite that is included on Mac computers includes iMovie.  For a quick overview of iMovie, check out the following link from Apple:

imovie student pic

The two most viewed items on the web today are pictures and videos.  According to eMarketer, “87% of U.S. brands and agencies leveraged video for their content marketing programs.”  With the emergence of video as an essential tool for business, this is a great opportunity to train our students on how to create meaningful videos.  To create effective and meaningful videos from iMovie there are five essential steps:

1. You need a focus question or assignment that will allow students to focus on content that tells a story or is meaningful.  The direction you establish here is essential.  The assignment must lend itself to the creation of a good story and movie.

2. In looking at the focus question or assignment, students should research the data they need to answer the question or the material they will need to complete the assignment.  This step involves outlining the content or data.  A good outline will allow for a much smoother step 3.

3. This is the most important step, a strong script.  Like hollywood, the script phase of production is the most important.  If the story is not powerful or meaningful, the movie will suffer.  Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, says a powerful or meaningful story is essential for good movies.  Students need to have multiple edits of their script using either peer editing or teacher revision.

imovie student pic 2

4. The next phase involves student’s Storyboarding their script.  Like Hollywood, students should begin looking for archival footage or ideas for videoing that will align itself with the script.  The video, or even still images, provides “eye-candy” for the viewer.

5.  Finally, we are able to start working with iMovie.  If the previous four steps are followed, this is the easiest and most fun part of the journey.  They will now start to build their iMovie.  Students can use multiple tools to record their scripts or narration.  I have found that Garageband gives the most flexibility and works well with iMovie.  There are a multitude of resources about using iMovie on the web.  There are also some amazing resources on YouTube.

What kind of assignment or projects can you create for your classroom that will allow your students to create amazing iMovies?

Using Pinterest and Instagram as a Presentation Tool in the Classroom

Using Instagram and Pinterest as a Presentation Tool in the Classroom

Students today have multiple options when they are considering tech tools to use for presentations.  Some of the standard tools students use are PowerPoint, Keynote, Haiku Deck, and Prezi.

If you are looking for tips on effective presentations check out the following article:

Design and Presentation Skills for Students

Students are currently studying World War II in my classroom.  One of the elements we look at is how the World War II Generation, the Greatest Generation, was able to endure and succeed in this era.  Students look at one particular character from Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation.  They are required to tell their character’s story from the war era using a tech tool in their presentation.

A few students have begun thinking outside of the box in regards to presentation tools.  Students have been using Instagram and Pinterest as their tech tool.  Here is a screen shot of a student using Pinterest.

molie presenting pinterest for webMollie Collins using Pinterest for her presentation.

Students are required to show artifacts from the World War II era in their presentation.  For the Pinterest users they “pinned” their artifacts to a board for their World War II character.  Here is a screenshot of Mollie’s pins.

pinterest for presentations


One student used Instagram as his tech tool for the presentation.  To use Instagram, Kevin found his World War II era artifacts, saved them to his camera roll on his iPad, then uploaded them to Instagram.  Here is a screen shot of Kevin on his iPad using Instagram.

instagram for presentations


Here is a screenshot of Kevin’s Instagrams.

instagram for presentations


In what ways can you and your students use Pinterest and Instagram in the classroom?

Design and Presentation Skills for Students

keynote example slide

Every teacher and student can create appealing and effective presentations.  There are a number of tools available today to create stunning presentations.  Three elements are essential:  Layout and Design, Presentation Skills, and Handouts.

Layout and Design

Our brains are wired to perceive visual data faster than any other input data.  The images we choose for our presentations are important.  A full screen image is a great way to gather your audience’s attention.  I am a big fan of Haiku Deck which only allows you to use a full screen image per slide.  If you are using Keynote or PowerPoint you can still use a full screen image.  Even if you do not use a full screen image, I would suggest using only one image per slide.

In regards to text on the screen, use only one phrase or word per slide.  You should not include information you are going to discuss in your presentation on the slides.  Keynote, PowerPoint, or Haiku Deck are tools for your presentation, not content delivery systems.  Again, Haiku Deck does an amazing job with this by limiting the amount of words you can include on each slide.

Haiku Deck Sample ImageSample Haiku Deck Slide

Presentation Skills

There are a few elements we should teach our students in delivering their presentations.  First, their physical position in the room is important.  They should find a spot in the room where they can engage the entire class. Roaming the room or not making eye contact with their classmates are not effective presentation skills.  Secondly, there is nothing wrong with using notecards, or something similar, outlining the data for their presentation.  As a presenter you should rehearse your presentation three to four times before presenting.  They should not be reading from their notecards but merely using them as a reference to keep them on track with their presentation.

Handouts for  your Presentation

I would suggest giving the students a copy of the presentation after you have finished.  Doing so prior to your presentation will lend itself to them looking through the slides and not focusing on the presenter.  In the 1:1 environment giving students a link after your presentation is simple and effective.

Layout and design, presentation skills, and handouts are important elements for our teachers and students to create effective and meaningful presentations.

Cloud Based Applications and Storage for Education

I am writing this article on Cloud Based Storage for Education using Evernote.  I have been writing this article using multiple devices and cloud based solutions to access the content from multiple locations.  This is a great opportunity to discuss the best options for teachers and students who are looking to create content using the Cloud.

Cloud Based Storage

There is some confusion as to what the cloud is and where it is located.  Jonathan Strickland, from How Stuff Works, gives a great explanation.

“While cloud storage sounds like it has something to do with weather fronts and storm systems, it really refers to saving data to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party. Instead of storing information to your computer’s hard drive or other local storage device, you save it to a remote database. The Internet provides the connection between your computer and the database.” Jonathan Strickland  (

Here are three applications that are great for Cloud Based Education:

dropbox logo

Dropbox is a free service that lets you store your documents, pictures, and videos.  You can share them with people or download them across multiple devices.  You can access these files from anywhere.  You can work on an assignment at school, send it to dropbox, download the file and work on the file from home.  Dropbox does not have any applications that let you manipulate or edit files.  It is primarily a storage solution.  Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free.  You can upgrade to larger storage for a monthly fee.

google drive logo

Google Drive is a free service that lets you create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and drawings from web based applications.  Google Drive also offers a storage solution in the cloud.  Aside from the files you create, you can also save other files to your Google Drive.  Most of the applications Google Drive offers are simple to use.  Students will have few problems learning the applications.  However, there are limitations of the apps.  Google Drive offers 5GB of storage for free.  You can upgrade to larger storage for a fee.

evernote logo

Evernote is a free service that lets you create notes and store them in notebooks.  At its basic level, Evernote is a great tool to organize ideas and notes.  You can then share those notes with other students and teachers.  With its web based apps you can also save webpages and articles to your notebooks.  This is a great feature for research.  Check out my article on Evernote Clearly for Education.   Evernote will also let you store voice messages and pictures in your notebooks as well.  Evernote offers 2GB of storage for free.  You can upgrade to larger storage for a fee.

All three services offer great solutions for education.  How can you use Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote in your classroom?

Evernote Clearly For Education

Evernote is a great application to create, organize, and share data across multiple platforms.  If you are looking for a great overview check out Brett Kelly’s guide to Evernote:

Evernote Clearly Icon

Teachers and students have begun using Evernote on a daily basis in classrooms.  It is a great tool to take and organize notes for various courses.  Students can organize their classes into different notebooks, adding notes on a daily basis.  Evernote is also a great tool for collaboration.  One new feature is an add-on app called Evernote Clearly.  Currently you must use either Google Chrome or Firefox as your browser.

If you are using the iPad you can use the Dolphin app.

Evernote Clearly takes an article or a web page and sends it to your Evernote Notebook of choice.  Evernote removes the distracting content from the web page sending the article content to the notebook.  If your device has been synced then you can read the article offline.  As a student, this is a great tool to organize your research and data for your classes.  My students are currently researching World War II topics for which they will create a documentary using iMovie.  Evernote Clearly is a great tool for them to organize their research and share it with members of their group.


screen shot of article before viewed in Evernote Clearly


screen shot of article after viewed in Evernote Clearly

In what ways can you and your students use Evernote Clearly in your classroom?