The latest news from behind the scenes at Firefly
Using YouTube and Kahn Academy videos in Firefly pages just got even easier. The address (URL) for any video can be found simply by right clicking on the video itself and clicking on 'Copy video URL'. Whether the video is on YouTube itself or even found on another site (like Kahn Academy), copying the address and putting the video into Firefly is very quick.
This is the second in the series looking at using charts and visualisations in Firefly pages. If you have an Excel spreadsheet, then Firefly can turn that sheet of data into some sort of visualisation with just a few easy steps. If you missed the introduction to using structured data it would be worth viewing that first, but if you're ready to work with line and bar charts, then read on.
This will be the first of a 'mini-series' of posts showing some of the possibilities and uses of the structured data component in Firefly.
One of the great benefits of using a Firefly page instead of paper or files is that the information can be visual and dynamic. Infographics & visualisations are becoming very popular ways of presenting key information.
For example instead of displaying school house points as a list of results, they can look far more engaging as a simple visualisation.
One of the exciting things about the using the web, is the access to almost unlimited resources and tools. Of course some of these are more useful than others(!) but one service that is gaining ground as a very credible resource for schools is Google Docs.
A key benefit of using Google Docs is that teachers can be confident that any document created can be read and edited by anyone with a smartphone, tablet, Mac or PC. They don’t need to be concerned whether a student has an office suite installed on their device, as long as they have access to Google docs they can create and edit presentations, documents and spreadsheets. No longer is homework stuck on a lost USB stick either as Google Docs are happily always available!
Submitting homework From Google Docs
Firefly can now accept any file in a students’ Google Drive as their submission. This means that teachers can confidently set homework knowing that every student can attempt it regardless of their access to expensive software.
When a task is set from the dashboard, simple file submission can be chosen in the usual way. The recipient students will now have the option of a choose from Google Docs button alongside their usual choose file button and gateway email address.
You can now annotate submitted work using any app on your tablet or mobile. Once students have sent their work to you in Firefly, it is possible to mark their work and return it with ease.
Annotating on an iPad
The example used is on an iPad, but the workflow is the same for any touchscreen device. Start from the usual marking screen in Firefly, click on the file you want to open. On the next screen choose "open in..." and choose the iPad app you would like to use to annotate the work. Apps like iAnnotate, Notes Plus and Adobe Reader (which is free) all work very well.
We're looking again for skilled and motivated people to help us maintain the very high standards of support that our clients have come to expect from us. If you feel you have what it takes to succeed in this role, we'd like to hear from you.
Week view: see your whole timetable and this week's homeworks at a glance.
Day view: mark homeworks as done and add new ones
Please note that the content of this page was updated on Monday 30 April 2012, to include amendments and clarifications that have since emerged regarding the legislation discussed.
We've had a number of clients ask about the new EU cookie law and how it affects their school website. I thought I'd put together some quick information on the cookie law and how it may or may not affect yours.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small pieces of information that are stored by your computer as a way of remembering a visitor between webpages. Cookies are often used for login, remembering settings, analytics and tracking and more.
What is the new law?
From May 2011 a new privacy law came into effect across the EU requiring all websites ask visitors for consent before using certain types of cookies. Note that cookies that are deemed "strictly necessary" to a particular task the user is performing - for example keeping track of what is in a user's shopping basket on an online shop - do not require prior consent.
As the law is going to create a lot of work for website owners and developers, the UK government has said that it will not be taking any action before May 2012.
How can websites get consent?
This is where the law is let down by practicalities (did that ever happen before?). In theory as consent must be given before cookies are used, websites using cookies that are not "strictly necessary" will have to place some kind of pop up or prominent message as soon as the user enters the site asking whether they give consent to cookies being used. This will result in every website displaying the same/very similar splash screens that users get used to just clicking "OK", scared that the site will not function correctly if they choose the "No thanks" option.
Is my school website affected?
You need to ask the developers of your website whether and how cookies are used. For Firefly schools, we only use one cookie out of the box for guest users, and this is a cookie managed by our web framework, Microsoft's ASP.NET, that tracks the visitor's session between pages but does not store any user identifiable information.
Tracking the session is necessary for any functionality that needs to 'remember' what the user is doing between web pages - eg adding items to your Firefly shopping cart. As this cookie is part of the underlying Microsoft framework, it's likely that it will be regarded as "strictly necessary". Indeed, that is the approach that the Information Commissioner's Office have taken on their newly updated website: "One of the cookies we use is essential for parts of the site to operate and has already been set" refers to the same cookie we use.
This cookie is also used when/if users, such as current parents or staff, log in to keep track of their login session. Further cookies are also used by the edit tools to remember recently inserted pictures, the position of the toolbar, and so on. Consent for these can easily be added to your terms & conditions/acceptable use policy/parental agreements that you already have before giving a login to school systems.
Do I need to do anything?
Find out more
The ICO has published further advice on the new cookies regulations.
Please note, we are not your lawyers! To find out more please seek legal advice from your school's legal team or solicitor.
Here at Firefly we realise that a successful Learning Platform or school intranet requires more than just a slick, easy to use software platform. We've now been working with schools for over 10 years, and have collected quite some experience about what works and what doesn't in terms of getting users engaged and using the platform.
So we've put together a Learning Platform Owner's Manual, sharing some of those tips - on structuring the system, content ideas, how to motivate staff and students to use the system, and more. At the moment it's targeted at the person or persons in charge of the learning platform at a strategic level within your school. We've kept it general so it should apply to anyone using a modern learning platform. Please do feel free to share it with your colleagues within your school and outside.
We're offering it to the school community completely free. All we ask is that you distribute it as a whole, with our attribution.
We intend this to be a living document, so please do send us any thoughts or suggestions you have so that we can add them in for the next version.