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13 Posts authored by: judiyostCA

Wave Hello to the Future

Posted by judiyostCA Sep 21, 2009

Every once in awhile, you recognize--or at least consider--that something new could have significant impact on how we will live in the future. I remember the first time I saw Web addresses included on TV ads--several in one evening. I thought, "Wow, this Internet thing is going mainstream." I didn't have the foresight to really see how the Internet would change how we do business--or that in the future, I would buy 75% of my family's non-grocery items online or through online resources, but I had a sense that the Internet just might change the way we do things. I had that feeling again...when I saw Google Wave being demonstrated.


Google has posted a video taken from the Google I/O Developer Conference at the end of May, demonstrating a new product they are working on called Google Wave. The underlying question they started from was What would email look like if it were invented today? Google Wave rethinks how we communicate, collaborate, and share online. As one of the developers in Google's official blog puts it, "A ‘wave' is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more."


As an educator, I was blown away by the impact this product/platform could have on collaboration and writing in education. I was most impressed by these features:


  • Seamlessly convert from "email" to "IM" type of communication depending on whether your contacts are online
    • When you are communicating in real time, you see the message as it's being typed--no waiting to click send
  • Instant translator in 40 languages
    • Again, when communicating in real time, you see the message translated word by word as it's being typed. The translation adjusts as the sentence develops.
  • Edit your "Wave" like a document or a wiki with full accountability as to who contributed which edits
    • Add comments to individual sections of the Wave
  • Re-play a Wave to show how the conversation or document developed and changed over time--again, showing who contributed what
  • Simultaneously update and integrate other applications and extensions--like Twitter, blogs, games (Sudoku and chess being played in real-time were demonstrated--and the ability to playback the game), and polls/surveys that immediately present results visually in the Wave
    • More of this is sure to come since Google Wave is Open Source and developers were invited to start creating integrated applications for it now while it's still being developed
  • Easily share, integrate, and comment on multimedia resources such as video, photos, and maps
    • Drag and drop images from your desktop into a Wave. Thumbnails of the images immediately appear on the recipient's Wave--even before yours have fully uploaded.
  • Collaborate concurrently that is leaps and bounds beyond Google Docs
    • Real-time editing allows you to see edits as they are made--character by character--along with moving icons for the individuals who are making them
  • Spell check your content in context


As an English teacher, electronic spellchecking was always a blessing and a curse--if you didn't know the right word to begin with, a correctly spelled word that's wrong for the context won't help. The spellchecker integrated into Google Wave watches as you type and corrects obvious errors and suggests words based on the context. That doesn't sound all that impressive until it's demonstrated. The following sample was used:


Do you have been soup? It's bean a long time.


These two sentences came up "clean" in my word processing spellchecker, but in Google Wave, "been" was underlined and it suggested "bean." In the second sentence, "bean" was automatically changed to "been."


I think Google Wave has the potential to significantly change the way we communicate and collaborate on the Web--as well as improve our ability to integrate resources and research into our writing. The question is will teachers and school administrators be as excited as I am? Or will they fear it--and block Google Wave from their students' reach? I'm afraid I can see the future a little too clearly on that one.


Blog originally posted at:

Filling Up a Homepage

Posted by judiyostCA Jun 24, 2009

Now that I have chosen a homepage (well, I still really like Pageflakes, but I’m with Google for now), it’s time to fill it up. That was the point of all this after all: I wanted to find a way to keep up with my favorite blogs and Web sites and keep current on what’s happening in today’s classrooms. So here are a few of my favorite blogs that I try to follow.


A Teacher's Tale

A fifth grade teacher’s blog about her classroom and a hodgepodge of other interests

NJ Tech Teacher Musings

K-8 computer teacher’s blog about integrating technology into projects

The Literate Child

I wish he would post more often, but I love his enthusiasm about what’s happening with his second grade class.

Weblog-ed:  Learning with the Read/Write Web

I enjoy Will Richardson’s reflections on how technology--and Web 2.0 resources in particular--is making positive changes in education. He tends to have thoughtful commentaries on other educational blogs/conferences of note as well.

A Piece of My Mind

I just started following this blog of Scott Floyd, a district Technology Curriculum Specialist, but it’s an interesting, eclectic look at all things tech and education.

Bud the Teacher

Bud Hunt is an instructional technologist in Colorado. A hit or miss blog that talks about a variety of things, including his daily podcast. But he also has links to 168 other educational blog sites of interest (at last count), in case you’re interested in browsing.

Infinite Thinking Machine

This blog always includes a huge amount of interesting online resources for teachers—and how to use them.

And for something a little different:




Newly Ancient

A blog written by a 16 year old whom I used to follow when he was writing a bit more thought-provoking blogs about education and politics and other articulate essays on various topics. I wrote a blog myself on his self-imposed exile after a "twitter incident."

Speaking of which, I do also follow our own, Clarity Innovations Staff Blogs.










I hope you’ll add your favorites, too—I’m sure I’m missing some good ones. I’m particularly interested in finding some international blogs (in English) that you find insightful and interesting. I look forward to seeing your lists.





If you're just jumping in to this series now, you may want to start at the beginning where I talk about what RSS is and the different ways you can subscribe to Web sites that you like to visit frequently. Or just go back to the last few blogs where I talk about one great way to tie everything together--Customizable homepages.

I almost didn't try Pageflakes beyond a quick look, but then I saw the blog previews. Yes, that's what I want. I want to be able to scan a page quickly and see if there's anything interesting. Sometimes (oftentimes) titles are catchy and cute, but they don't really tell you what a story is about. I appreciate the ability to view a few lines of a story without having to click on something. Even mousing over linked stories is better than having to click. Pageflakes does both. So I had to take a look, and Pageflakes does quite a few things well.



Pageflakes - Last minute contender with impressive results


  • Great preview of latest articles/blog entries--See several sentences of most recent story and mouse over the next links to view their preview
  • Many well-designed widgets that are streamlined and very functional--I was particularly impressed with

o    A to-do list widget that includes click boxes and due dates

o    An e-mail widget that actually works--listing the newest five emails in your POP e-mail inbox

o    Widgets from which you can view, write, or edit your Pageflakes' blog, Facebook site, Twitter account, and so on--without leaving your Pageflakes homepage

o    Site-specific search widget for such sites as wikipedia, a dictionary, Amazon, ebay, and so on (many of which iGoogle also has)


  • The widgets that aren't there that I really miss:
    • One-click access to any Google tools--your Google docs, gmail, Google Reader, and so on
    • Mapquest (it does have Yahoo maps--it's just not as clean an interface and I just prefer Mapquest)

After using both for a few weeks, I have to say that it's a tie. It all comes down to which widgets and features are the most important to you. Following is a comparison of the widgets I use the most--with my preferred widgets highlighted in yellow.




Quick links to sites I visit frequently are ok, but Pageflakes does this better--and this particular widget is having some technical difficulties...


Quick links to sites I visit frequently are easier to
create/edit (add all at one time) and are more


Provides links to my specific Google docs


Doesn’t have Google docs widget

Favorite feeds are not previewed


A quick scan of my favorite feeds gives a better


Has Mapquest – keeps your starting address


Only has Yahoo Driving Directions—doesn’t
have Mapquest (just a personal preference)







Grade: A

(Rating based on personal opinion)

So, although I really like both Pageflakes and iGoogle, for the moment, I'm using iGoogle as my homepage--but I might go back to Pageflakes. I'm not sure how much time it's really saving me because either of them takes some time to load, but I do feel that I have a good start out of the chute when I start my browser. I'm more informed--and staying up with the sites and blogs that I am most interested in...and that was the point of this whole experiment anyway.

Are you using a homepage? Which one did you choose? Is it helping you...or annoying you?

I have to admit that I am a bit biased when it comes to Google. I find their resources easy to use and nicely integrated. So I definitely see some significant advantages in using Google as my homepage. If you use Google docs or gmail or any of the other long list of Google resources, you could easily have access to them all from one place: iGoogle. In fact, I created a how-to article on setting up an iGoogle homepage because of this obvious advantage that Google has over the other sites--plus the fact that it's not likely to go away. Of the four sites, I've used iGoogle the most, so let's look at the pros and cons.



iGoogle - the heavyweight in this contest





  • Seamless integration with other Google tools, such as Google docs
  • Gadgets:
    • Gadgets seem to be more user friendly and easier to find than those on Netvibes (and certainly better than Symbaloo).
    • Gadget directory provides detailed explanations and large screenshots of gadgets
    • Users rate and comment on gadgets
    • One-click "add it now" buttons quickly add gadgets to your page
    • "Bookmark" gadget is great—I like it much better than Netvibes’ version
  • Most sites have a one-click "Add to Google" button to subscribe to their site so you don't have to go to your iGoogle page to paste the RSS URL. add_googlehp.jpggooglebutton.jpg
  • "Pretty" themes--and lots of them--to spice up your homepage
  • RSS article titles change color once you view them
  • Easily share a gadget or a whole page with a friend--and your friends are probably more likely to have some type of Google account, and that's all you need
  • You can minimize gadgets to save space
  • Very quick start up. As Google says, "create a homepage in less than 30 seconds"


  • On RSS feeds, you can only scan the article title names. You have to click a + to view the first paragraph of the entry. No dates or "last updated" information

Grade: A

(Rating based on personal opinion)






Yep, Google has some pretty smart folks working there to make sure things work together seamlessly. iGoogle would definitely be a good choice for a homepage. If you want to try it out, this short tutorial might help. I hope you'll share your experiences with iGoogle.


But stay tuned for the last in this series. Pageflakes has been patiently waiting in the wings for its turn in the ring.


If you're just jumping in to this series now, you may want to start at the beginning where I talk about what RSS is and the different ways you can subscribe to Web sites that you like to visit frequently. Or just go back to the last few blogs where I talk about one great way to tie everything together--Customizable homepages.

In my search for the perfect homepage that will allow me to easily access my RSS feeds, I spent a lot of time with Netvibes. Here is a brief look at this very versatile homepage.



Netvibes - very customizable homepage--but still easy to use "out of the box"




  • Very quick start up and easy to search for content
  • Lots of very usable and versatile widgets (over 180,000 at last count!)
  • One-click minimization/expansion of all widgets
  • Nice design--lots of customization possible
    • color code your widgets by content type (the only homepage that allows this that I know of—which I love)
    • collapse boxes to save space
    • customize the number of recent stories/blogs and how much content to show
  • RSS feeds:
    • Identifies how many hours, days, or weeks it has been since an article was posted
    • Title changes color when you have read the article
    • Settings can be customized to either preview article when you mouse over--or show a few lines
  • If you want to switch from another homepage site and keep the same widgets and RSS feeds, you can


  • When viewing Web sites that you want to subscribe to, you don't often come across RSS buttons to automatically add that feed to Netvibes (like iGoogle, Pageflakes, and others)
  • Preview of widgets before adding to your page is nice, but a little time consuming
  • Widgets automatically added based on your interests are awful--just do it yourself

Grade: A-

(Rating based on personal opinion)





So, Netvibes definitely gets a thumbs up from me. Like so many of the other homepage sites, it's very quick to get started and you don't need to sign up for an account to play around with it. One nice feature about adding content is that you can choose a different country than the United States when searching for widgets—which makes it more applicable to your needs if you live outside of the U.S. Click the Add Content button at the very top left of the page and see where it takes you.





I'd love to hear how you like the features and use of this homepage.


If you're just jumping in to this series now, you may want to start at the beginning where I talk about what RSS is and the different ways you can subscribe to Web sites that you like to visit frequently. Or just go back to the last few blogs where I talk about one great way to tie everything together--Customizable homepages.

Well, I have to admit that these new Web 2.0 homepages are really interesting--and a black hole for your time if you let it. Trying out the different features, seeing how quickly one can build a useful page, finding easy-to-use widgets, and testing out the RSS feeds on four homepage sites (igoogle, netvibes, pageflakes, and symbaloo) was pretty time-consuming. I have realized, however, that trying to figure out which one has the best features really depends on what you are looking for, so I'll just sum up what I've learned.



What they all do: All of these sites allow you to quickly and fairly easily add little tools and resources that pull Web content in to your single (or multi-tabbed) Web page--rather than you linking out to content that you have to go find. Dragging and dropping gadgets or "boxes of content" is the standard on these Web 2.0 homepages. No one can view your pages unless you want them to--they are password protected. However, you can make one or more pages public, or share a full page or just a single gadget with your "friends."



First up, just to get it out of the way is Symbaloo. On this homepage, each widget "box" is exactly the same size--almost square--with a large box in the middle for content to show up (or not) when you click an appropriate box.



Pro: Provides a fun, very different format for a home page.

Con: Very few widgets available, customization of boxes are sometimes difficult--obviously a site that is just starting out

Grade: C-

(Rating based on personal opinion)




default "home" page



"News" page where current stories link from boxes depicting the story. Mouse over picture to get the first few lines of the story.

So, although it was fun--and I enjoyed seeing the most current news stories in such a visual manner, I wouldn't recommend this new-kid-on-the-block. It's just too limiting--although an exception would be if you want students to have an interesting method of accessing news-breaking, current event stories. This homepage might be an engaging means to provide access to a variety of news sources.


But try it out yourself--you don't even need to sign up for an account to play around with the blocks. What do you think?

If you haven’t been following this blog, you may want to view the previous discussion about RSS (Really Simple Syndication).


It's been an interesting trip heading down various RSS paths. The easiest path, although not terribly inspiring, was simply using the RSS subscription that is built into most browsers. Whenever you happen to come across an interesting site that offers RSS subscription, you just add it like you are creating a favorite.



The drawback with this method is that you have to remember to check your list of feeds and it doesn't offer a preview of the latest entries. One of the main reasons for using RSS is to save you time and be able to keep up with new content on a variety of sites--this method doesn't really help you do that very well although it does tell you when new articles are available.

Next I tried different readers. I chose not to try readers that require the installation of special software--although many reasons exist for using a desktop reader. However, I felt that teachers in particular would appreciate and desire the flexibility of using a reader that was available from any Internet-connected computer, so I tried bloglines, newsgator, and Google Reader. I really didn't like the layout of bloglines--even though it has a huge fan base. It felt too cluttered. Newsgator I liked because of its simple layout, multiple display options, and easy use. It felt comfortable with a folders-type structure on the left of the screen. But still, the preview of the articles were not very helpful since you couldn't really take a glance at all (or most) of your RSS feeds. Again, not a real time saver in my mind. Google Reader also has a clean look, but in addition, it has a nice preview of the most recent entries of all your feeds.



Click a particular subscription and you can view either the full articles or see them in list view with a single line that previews the title and first sentence. I also liked the easy way to note your favorites, share with others, and tag the articles with key terms. And uncharacteristically, I appreciated the recommendations of other blogs based on the ones I chose to add to the reader. In a separate article, I explain how to set up and use Google Reader.

Last, I explored the use of customizable homepages that allow you to quickly add useful tools and resources to your page called widgets or gadgets--as well as RSS feeds.



The difference between these "homepages" or "start pages" and a regular Web page with HTML code to create links, text, and images are these moveable "boxes" of content. No longer are you creating static Web pages that simply link out--instead you are pulling content in. Although I found six resources for creating these types of homepages and tested them briefly, I created and used the homepages provided through Netvibes, Pageflakes, Symbaloo, and iGoogle.

Before I post my experiences with these homepages (I’ll be looking at Symbaloo first), I encourage you to try one or two of these sites yourself. What features do you like the best? How would a start page like the ones offered by these sites help you stay on top of the information you're chasing? Do you use one of these homepages already? Do you see any obvious applications for the classroom? (Note: You can create your own gadgets/widgets, too.) Have some fun...but be forewarned: you can easily get sucked in and not emerge for several hours.



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?"

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

Blogging 101

Posted by judiyostCA Mar 25, 2009

In Steve Hargadon’s Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, “Moving Toward Web 2.0 in K-12 Education,” he identifies the following educational benefits of Web 2.0 (more fully defined in his post):




  • Engagement – act of content creation
  • Authenticity – creating for very real audiences
  • Participation – being a contributor to the world’s body of knowledge
  • Openness and Access to Information – a greater willingness to share information
  • Collaboration – the building of and participation in personal learning networks and communities
  • Creativity – increase of creative capability
  • Passionate Interest and Personal Expression – creation of online portfolios of which people are passionate
  • Discussion – environment for learning how to talk about things
  • Asynchronous Contribution – ability to contribute to discussions over time
  • Proactivity – participating actively and independently
  • Critical Thinking – using critical thinking to evaluate content


Considering these aspects of Web 2.0, the potential for educational use of the blog in particular seems quite strong.

According to Blogger, which has provided blog space for users since 1999, a blog is...


A personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not.


"Blog" is short for "weblog" since blogs first started out as logs of links to other Web sites. Linking to and commenting on others' blogs or news stories are still important components to many blogs. However, blogs have branched out to include any type of personal commentary, reflection, or journaling, usually written by a single person. The other important component to most blogs is the ability for visitors to leave comments on the blog entries.


New blog entries are often created every day. Keeping up with one's favorite blogs could be a chore (especially blogs for a whole classroom or multiple classrooms), but through RSS (Real Simple Syndication), you can subscribe to blogs and get updated content all in one place. We'll explore the topic of RSS in depth in the future--so be sure to check back.

Take a look at this short video on how blogs work and what they're used for:




In regards to using blogs in the classroom, Will Richardson discusses ideal blogging: "students using their blogs to really try to connect with their readers around the topics that they are reading and writing about. To do more than reflect, but to really articulate new thinking or understanding in the writing." Like any meaningful learning, it takes a lot of effort and time to get students to be thoughtful writers and commentators.


Are you currently using blogs in your classroom? Are authentic conversations and critical thinking actually occurring in the blogs you see students write? What ideas do you have for making blogs be a more effective medium for thinking, learning, and sharing? We'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts.



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, Wikis 101.

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