Make online flipbooks with Flipdocs

The Park Tudor Story FlipbookHave you been wondering how to make your print publications available online? Flipbooks are a great alternative to posting PDFs of your magazines, brochures or catalogs.

Our communications office realized a couple years ago that we needed to find a solution for making our alumni magazine available online, so that alumni anywhere in the world could access it at any time. After much searching, I came across Flipdocs, a service that turns your PDFs into interactive flipbooks, and I haven’t looked back since.

Top features of Flipdocs:

Customization – You can give your flipbook a title, add a table of contents, and customize the background. If needed, you can add password protection. They also give you a variety of options for linking to your flipbook, including embedding it seamlessly into your site.

Easy to use – Flipdocs is not only easy for me to use, but also for our site visitors. When viewing a flipbook, you can turn through the pages, navigate through the table of contents, or view thumbnails of each page. Viewers can also print pages, download the PDF and e-mail to a friend.

Video – One of the top reasons we chose Flipdocs as opposed to other flipbook services was the ability to easily add video into the interactive flipbook. Using the link editor, you just add the URL of your YouTube video. You can also add Flash.

Analytics – Beyond just giving me the total number of views for each flipbook, Flipdocs also provides analytics for total views per day and total clicks per link.

SEO – The content of your flipbook is SEO juice. Search engines can read the text of your publication, which can boost your visibility in search engine results pages.

Pricing:

Pro plan – $350/year. You can pay a flat fee and convert as many PDFs as you want. This is a great cost-effective plan if you plan to upload many publications. Our top reason for choosing the Pro plan was the ability to replace flipbooks at no additional cost when corrections are needed. This is really beneficial for our summer school catalog, so that we can add classes or note which classes are full.

Pay as you go – $30 for 20 pages + $1 per additional page. This is a great plan if you plan to use it only for a few publications, such as your alumni magazine that only comes out 3 or 4 times a year.

Where do tech tools fall in your school’s academic vision?

Booking a LookHas academic vision been lost? Are we getting too caught up in the possibilities that are flashed at us every day with new technologies? Where’s the line between “ooh this looks cool” and “this looks useful”?

I started my day with a blog post from fellow Hoosier blogger Erik Deckers – Tools Don’t Make the Expert, Knowledge Does. I’m going to quote the quote that he used from Chris Brogan:

No one ever asked Hemingway which pencils he used to write his books. The tools aren’t the thing. The effort and the content and the promotion and the connection and the networking and the building value are the thing.
(From Chris’ post “Hemingway’s Pencils“)

In the education world, you might say, “The tools aren’t the thing. The learning and the thinking and the knowledge and the understanding are the thing.”

Are we pursuing tools without looking at the bigger picture of our schools’ academic visions? What Chris said is very similar to a core principle of education today – it’s not about teaching kids how to read and write; it’s about teaching them to think critically and solve problems and develop their character.

There has to be a balance between that push for progressive education and the pull for traditional excellence. My school is currently in the process of searching for a new head of school, which has spurred great discussions among our faculty about this tricky balance. On the one hand, as an independent school, we should be leaders in innovative education, but on the other hand, we are deeply rooted in tradition. How do we find our place between these two opposing forces? And where do we see these ideologies taking us into the future?

If we are pushing for innovation, then we need to create balance by pulling back a little and critically evaluating the tools that we are using in schools. It’s not enough to say “I read about another teacher at another school using Twitter in her classroom and it sounded like a good experiment.” You have to know the benefits (and the risks) of each tool that you use. When your students assemble a portfolio at the end of the semester, does it matter if their most thoughtful responses were in a written essay or a blog comment?

Technology tools can be very useful assets in a classroom, but they are merely different ways of looking at the class material and initiating discussions. At the core of education is the idea that we are developing students to think for themselves. Don’t let some flashy tool distract you from that purpose. Keep in mind the bigger picture. Don’t lose sight of the academic vision.

Photo credit: alexanderward12 on Flickr

How to survive a website redesign

For the past 3 months, I’ve been buried in a website redesign project for our internal login portal for students, parents and faculty. Last week, the new design was finally published.

Let’s just say I’m looking forward to going back to normal work hours and getting a full night’s sleep again.

For this redesign, I took on the roles of researcher, project manager, designer and developer. Those of us who work in independent schools or small shops are all too familiar with taking on multiple roles. I had some help from my colleagues – our graphic designer, director of communications and director of technology – but this was pretty much my baby. I stepped up to the challenge and tackled it head on.

Prior to this project, I had a pretty good knowledge of HTML and that was about it. Since then, I’ve learned CSS and worked with ASP.NET and javascript. Entering into this project, I was told that it could mostly be done via drag-and-drop in a WYSIWYG editor (not that I believed it). In reality, I never once dragged-and-dropped anything. For 3 months, I was fully divulged in code, code and more code.

(Oh, and I was also trying to fulfill my daily job duties and prepare the start-of-school information to be posted online.)

So, how did I do it and come out of it with all of my hair still attached to my head?

1. Research, research, research. I would guess that about half of my time was spent researching what other schools were doing, determining what our audiences needed out of this website, and finding solutions to make it happen. Thanks to the collective wisdom of the Internet and the geniuses who share their knowledge on niche blogs, I always found what I was looking for (and often times found solutions that I never would have thought to look for).

2. Learned new things. I knew that I would need to learn new skills – and learn them fast – to be able to complete this project, so I kept my mind open and accepted it as a chance to expand my horizons and learn new things.

3. Played around. I’ve always learned new technologies by getting my hands dirty, so to speak. I played with different colors and graphics, moved stuff around and tried out several scripts. Some things worked, other things made the design go haywire. I kept notes of what I did, and backed up my work to text files regularly so that I could always change it back.

4. Accepted criticism. One of the hardest challenges with this project was that I encountered a lot of criticism from one of my colleagues along the way. But through a lot of communication with each other and lots of late night e-mails back and forth, we were able to work together and come up with a solution that everyone agreed on.

5. Made modifications. When I thought the design was good and ready just in time for the first week of school, I got a big, fat, red “REJECTED” stamp. It was time to go back to the drawing board and find out what needed to be changed. I came up with some different options and eventually, everyone involved agreed on a design and it went live!

Here are the before and after screenshots:

MyPT Before

Before

MyPT After

After

Shop online for smart solutions to your goals

Shopping Online (Photo credit LuMaxArt.com)I love shopping online. I’m not talking about eBay or Amazon or that great pair of red stilettos on Overstock.com here. I’m talking about shopping online for solutions.

We all face problems in our work. We all have hurdles that we have to get over and obstacles we have to cross. They wouldn’t call it work if there wasn’t a challenge involved. The fun part is in finding solutions to those problems. This is where the shopping comes in, and who doesn’t love shopping?

Say you want to start integrating your print and web content more. There are many solutions to this – flipbooks, photo galleries, videos, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, the list goes on and on. You need to drill down a little more and figure out what you want to focus on. Then, you can start shopping. Shop around for ideas – look at competitors, read blogs, watch YouTube videos. Start making a list of services that provide the solution you’re looking for.

Once you have a solid list, start comparing. They say that with the age of the Internet, consumers have become comparison shoppers. I don’t know about you, but I fall into that category 100 percent. I compare everything before I decide on a purchase. When I’m at the store, I often pull up my RedLaser or Amazon app on my iPhone to see if there’s a better price out there. When I’m shopping online, I search for coupon codes, or I find another website offering the same product for less. I want the best value for the right price.

An amazing aspect of the digital world we live in is that if you learn how to use the tools available, you can save lots of money. Take social media for example. Want to expand your market reach online? Marketing on Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other social media sites is FREE. Just keep in mind that the service has to be useful – it has to fulfill a purpose in your organization. Many web services will let you sign up for a free trial so you can test it out before you invest any dollars. But don’t go blazing around the Internet signing up for stuff because it’s free. Evaluate how you can use it, and if it’s not very useful, move onto something else.

In the July issue of BriefCASE, an article pointed to a study saying that advancement professionals feel they lack the financial and staff resources to use technology effectively. It shouldn’t be this way. The resources are right in front of you. You have a computer. You have Internet access. You have goals. The Internet is full of possibilities. Make it a priority to use the resources you have to achieve your goals. You don’t need a gigantic budget to find solutions. You do need time, but if you spend your time wisely, researching solutions that will save you time and money, then that is time well spent.

Ready to get going? Here’s your shopping list:

  • Focus on your long-term goals and determine a timeline for each.
  • Prioritize your goals and figure out how each one can be achieved with technology.
  • Start your research. Use Google (or Bing if you so choose). Try different keywords. Scan the results for relevant information.
  • Compare features and prices. Determine what will work with your budget.
  • Do a trial run if you can. Get in there and mess around, and find out if it will work for your goals.
  • If you need to, get out that shiny credit card and put an investment into your goals.
Photo credit: LuMaxArt.com/Dutch Open Source on Flickr