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In scoping out how Web 2.0 is impacting classrooms, I needed a way to track and return to sites of interest. Google is great for doing a wide sweep (or my new favorite, duck duck go) and social bookmarking sites like diigo (my all time favorite since it lets you annotate right on the page and highlight snippets that you can e-mail) are great for cataloging and sharing resources, but I still couldn't keep up. I often stumble upon blogs, columns, interesting news sites, or even activity calendars that I really like, so I save them—sometimes to diigo, sometimes to Internet Explorer’s Favorites, and sometimes to Firefox’s Bookmarks—and then try to remember to visit them later. My various lists of favorites are now littered with content that is over a year old and stale, having little relevance to what I need today.


So I've started this adventure with setting up some subscriptions to have stories delivered to me through RSS feeds. Why have I resisted all this time in trying RSS? I thought it would be too complicated or take too much time. Maybe I would have to download some software, configure it properly, maybe know how to do some coding or learn a secret handshake... Maybe it was the fact that no one can agree as to what RSS stands for that made it seem complicated. RDF Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication (the most common), or as one hip Web site chose to call it, Ready for Some Stories. In layman's terms, they describe RSS this way:

With RSS, you can "subscribe" to a website or blog, and get "fed" all the new headlines from all of [your subscribed] sites and blogs in one list, and see what's going on in minutes instead of hours.


© 2007 Thriving Media. Image used by permission.


But I think mostly it was the idea that I would have to have yet another program running on my taskbar (which isn't necessarily true). But I admit it. I need some organizational help. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be trying out a variety of methods of subscribing to blog and news feeds: the RSS built into Internet Explorer, dedicated RSS readers (Google Reader, bloglines, newsgator), and some "start page" resources that do more than just read RSS subscriptions (symbaloo, netvibes, iGoogle, and Pageflakes).


If you haven't tried one or more of these RSS readers, I invite you to experiment with me. Or, do you have a RSS reader that you just love? Either way, please share your experiences.


If you need some help in getting started, take a look at my how-to article that focuses on RSS: Using RSS to Enrich Your Life.


If you have not read the previous article/blogs that introduce Web 2.0, you may want to start at the beginning of this series.

Web 2.0 Overload

Posted by judiyostCA Apr 22, 2009

Although I feel I have somewhat of a handle on wikis and blogs, I do feel that I’ve somehow fallen behind in the rest of this Web 2.0 business. I am as enthusiastic as it comes in regards to cool gadgets and great Internet resources that make your life--maybe not easier--but at least more interesting. But somehow, I haven't kept up with the explosion of Web 2.0 resources that can potentially help make our personal, academic, and professional lives more connected, organized, informed, and maybe even more fun. Even the terminology has gotten away from me. Do you tweet with your colleagues and students to share your favorite mashups? I do have a Twitter account, but actually doing something with it...well, no.


That's not to say that others aren't--or that educators are not increasingly finding new tools to connect with their digital native students. Classroom 2.0's Introduction to Web 2.0 gives a glimpse as to why:


Early adopters of blogs, wikis, and podcasting have talked about the value of these tools in education for a few years, but now there is a growing swell of regular educators beginning to discover their power. As Web 2.0 tools in education gain wider adoption, they look less and less like a passing fad. Why are they becoming popular? Perhaps because the inherent ways in which these programs encourage collaboration and engagement resonates so highly with the pedagogical aspirations of teachers who are trying to meaningfully involve every student in something that is personally engaging...





So over the next few weeks, I'd like to try and jump back in the pool and see what's currently going on with Web 2.0 and education, what people are doing in their classrooms, what's working--and try things out myself. About as fast as the pace of the video below (it’s still my all-time favorite), the Internet is changing. I'll try to see if I can catch up--at least to where we were yesterday...


As I map out a self-guided tour of the Web 2.0 world for myself and whoever else wants to join, I hope some of these side trips will be interesting for you to try out, too. Where/what are you interested in exploring? Maybe we can take a few of these trips together and compare our experiences.


In the next article, I'll look at ways we can "keep up with the Jones"--or at least keep up with their blogs.


If you have not read the previous article/blogs that introduce Web 2.0, you may want to start at the beginning of this series.

In my previous blog, I introduced podcasting and how you might use existing podcasts that you find on the Internet with your students. I looked at several types of podcasts that are generated “out there” by someone who (hopefully) has something worthwhile to say on an interesting subject--and special thanks to Glen for providing a great list of his favorite podcasts! The exciting part about this particular Web 2.0 resource is that you don’t have to simply be on the receiving end of podcasts: You and your students can become podcasters yourselves.

Creating Podcasts Yourself

A handy list of instructional uses for podcasting is available in the step-by-step guide, Teaching & Learning with Podcasting (Engage, University of  Wisconsin, 2007). Teachers can create podcasts to

  • Prepare or motivate learners for learning new content
  • Recall and integrate previously learned material with new content
  • Provide high-level overviews
  • Provide a lead-in to an assignment or learning activity
  • Elaborate on and further explain a complex concept
  • Provide learning guidance and strategies for understanding new content or solving problems
  • Provide content to encourage analysis
  • Provide some variety in the learning environment



Another resource for beginners, the Creating a Podcast section of Podcast FAQ, has steps and links that I found to be very straightforward and helpful. I absolutely love one of their recommended sound recording/editing applications--Audacity, which is free and easy to use.


Another free tool I came across that helps you create flawlessly executed podcasts is CuePrompter. This fun and cool little Web 2.0 application turns your computer screen into a teleprompter, scrolling your text at a speed you designate so you can focus on your delivery, not the medium.

Having Your Students Create Podcasts

Educators are beginning to see how student-created podcasts can improve their students’ vocabulary, writing, editing, public speaking, and presentation skills. Dan Schmit, creator and host of the online community, KidCast: Podcasting in the Classroom, identifies some best practices for student podcasts in Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom (Edutopia, Nov. 2008):

Student-created podcasts reinforce course concepts, develop writing skills, hone speaking ability, and even help parents stay current on classroom activities… The best student-created podcasts go beyond isolated episodes to engage in sustained academic conversations. They are focused on a real audience and explore grade-appropriate questions that are both interesting to students and important for them to understand. …Podcasting is much more about inquiry, analysis, and articulation [than it is about technology].

You may want to check out some award-winning student-created podcasts at KidCast. You don’t need any special software—or even an MP3 player. You can listen to them from within the Kidcasts’ blogs.


Those of you near the heartland of America and interested in podcasting may want to consider attending Podstock in Wichita, Kansas, May 1-2, 2009. As an added bonus, our own Senior Trainer, Dyane Smokorowski, will be presenting on using Web 2.0 tools with collaborative projects at this conference.

How do you see podcasts being useful in the classroom? Are you using/creating any podcasts yourself? What's the benefit of doing all this sharing online anyway? If you are already creating podcasts in your classroom, we'd love to hear about your experiences.


To view the first article of this series on Web 2.0 resources and their use in the classroom, read, "What's All the Hype about Web 2.0?"

For more on the topic of Web 2.0 resources, continue to the next blog in this series, Web 2.0 Overload



Podcasting 101

Posted by judiyostCA Apr 8, 2009

Think of podcasting as online radio shows. Podcasting allows creators to "broadcast" their ideas to the world--and listeners to download, listen to directly, and/or subscribe to these "broadcasts" through the Internet. Once this broadcast is captured, subscribers can listen by

  • Playing the file on their default media player
  • Using a program like iTunes to automatically receive and play the podcast
  • Burning the files onto a CD
  • Loading the files onto any mp3 device or mobile phone with mp3 capability (like the iPhone),


or even…

  • Playing the podcasts on their iPods!

View one or both of the presentations about podcasting—the one below is a 3-minute video that explains the basics of podcasting; the second is a more in-depth look at podcasting in education (click link to view; 11 minutes).




Considering that 74% of students ages 12-17 own some type of MP3 player (Pew Internet & American Life Project, September 2008), it makes sense for teachers to turn the tables and put these often distracting toys to good educational use. In education, I see three general uses of podcasting:

  • Using podcasts from others to bring experts and other voices into your classroom for your students’—or your own—edification
  • Creating podcasts yourself to provide out-of-class or supplementary content for your students
  • Having your students create podcasts to meet specific learning objectives


Using Podcasts from Others

Teachers can direct students to listen to podcasts created by others to support

  • Second language learners who are learning English


See resources at English as a Second Language Podcast

  • World language learners who are learning a second language


See resources at: Languages Podcasts

  • Subject knowledge—as a supplement or reinforcement for important concepts



NASA Podcasts

Dan's Math Podcast

Great Speeches in History Podcast

Literature Podcasts


Many ongoing podcasts can be found in Apple's iTunes library—and most are free, although to set up an account with iTunes, you will need to provide a credit card, PayPal information, Apple account, or AOL account. However, sites like the Education Podcast Network, Podcast People,, podcastalley and others have also become important resources for podcast creators and listeners. In my next blog, I’ll take a look at teachers and students creating their own podcasts.


What podcasts do you subscribe to? If you have one to recommend to someone who has never ventured into the podcast pool before, which one would you choose? If you have never listened/subscribed to a podcast before, I encourage you to browse some of the links in this blog and/or any recommended podcasts from your fellow trainers that may get posted as comments. And then try one out. Come on in. The water’s warm.

To view the first article of this series on Web 2.0 resources and their use in the classroom, read, "What's All the Hype about Web 2.0?"

For more on the topic of Web 2.0 resources, continue to the next blog in this series, Podcasting for Teachers and Students

Wikis 101

Posted by judiyostCA Apr 1, 2009

Wikis, like blogs, allow authorship, but in a collaborative way. The most open wikis allow anyone to edit and create new content. A simple "edit this page" link--as well as the ability to track and revert to previous versions--opens a whole new world to Web publishing. The best known wiki, Wikipedia--a free, open content encyclopedia project--explains that a wiki

...enables documents to be written collaboratively, in a simple markup language using a Web browser. ...A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted. Many wikis are open to alteration by the general public without requiring them to register...






Wikis traditionally contain more fact-oriented content, rather than personal reflection, although the line between wiki and blog blurs more and more every day. View this video that gives a quick overview of how a wiki works:







Wikis can be very useful tools in education for collaborative writing or knowledge sharing process--whether by teachers for their own professional development and peer collaboration or by students for building knowledge on a subject, collaborating on a project, or developing creative writing skills. Stewart Mader, a consultant on how to improve productivity using wikis, discusses the benefits of wikis in an interview, The State of Wikis in Education:


The biggest benefits of wikis are fast, efficient collaboration, recording tacit knowledge to make better use of it, collaboratively building projects, papers, and websites, and gathering input in an inclusive way. Students like them because they make group projects easier to coordinate, teachers like them because they can interact with students throughout the course of a project or assignment, see their progress, and give them feedback along the way.


But the way I’ve seen them used—for the most part—are for teacher-driven and directed activities: posting assignments, providing study guides and links for projects and homework, showcasing finished student work, compiling facts about a subject, and so on. Not that these are bad things. It’s wonderful that we can provide resources for our students and their parents so easily, but after all this time, I was hoping for more.


In Barbara Shroeder’s blog, “10 Best Practices for using wikis in education,” she gives ten tips for successful wiki use (abbreviated below):


1. Include detailed wiki instructions or a link on the home page and provide time for practice

2. Post wiki conventions and require participants to abide by them

3. Be patient with students and realize they may require technical assistance as they learn how to participate in a wiki environment

4. Create a culture of trust within the wiki

5. Provide clear and explicit course expectations

6. Assign meaningful, authentic activities (emphasis mine)

7. Include a common goal for collaborative activities - Usually wikis work best in a problem-solving environment…

8. Define and identify student roles, activities, and assessments

9. Remind students of course deadlines and schedules

10. Model examples of collaborative activities



Any other “best practices” that you would add to this list? What’s the future for wikis in the classroom? How have you seen the collaborative process supported—or stymied—by the use of a wiki? Have I just missed the creative wikis that exemplify student-directed learning? Post some outstanding wiki sites that you have come across that support the project-based classroom and the collaborative process.


To view the first article of this series on Web 2.0 resources and their use in the classroom, read, "What's All the Hype about Web 2.0?"

For more on the topic of Web 2.0 resources, continue to the next blog in this series, Podcasting 101

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