Monday, August 25, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools for Educators

Hard Hat worker holds sign saying Web2.0 Tools for Educators
These sites are web-tools that you can build with. If we can tame the 800 pound gorilla of time and apply our vision and creativity, there are hundreds of opportunities to connect curriculum with the dynamic world on the highly interactive Read/Write web.

Picking up the tools offered by Web 2.0 (and all of the editions after that) can help educators avoid being ‘dis-intermediated’. When a new technology cuts out the middle man, dis-intermediation occurs. Ian Jukes warns that the revolutionary-evolutionary progression of information technology is cutting out teachers by providing a direct supply of information to consumers.

The stark truth is our students don’t need us to learn how to collaborate online, create and broadcast videos, or become published authors. What they need to learn from us is how to evaluate and judge the information they swim in daily.

Becoming aware and versed in Web 2.0 technology will help us bring relevance and motivation to our swimming lessons!


Blogging is a writer's dream tool. There's an audience just a few keystrokes away. A blog is a simple website designed for sharing ideas. The blogger writes. The reader comments. Be it a a dialog or a one way manifesto, popular and free blogging tools have fueled use of the Internet as a Read & Write environment. In addition there are many commercial blogging systems that provide value added features.

  • Deeper: The Writer's Center Applied Blogging (Video Tutorials on how to set up a blog.) This free site is one of the original and most popular blogging services. Blogger is a relatively 'low-tech' system that's a good choice for those just starting out with the technology. A simple sign-up procedure, easy to use design templates, and compatibility with third party add-on software are positive attributes. Google now owns Blogger and will serve context sensitive ads on your free blog pages. You can pay a modest amount to upgrade to an ad free version.

Wordpress: Wordpress provides free blogging software and space for anyone who cares to sign up. This is an ad free service, with very rich and powerful tools. Design templates help you create an attractive looking site. Since Wordpress is very popular, you'll find many useful ad-ons as you elaborate the basic technology that comes free with your site. The popular is based on Wordpress technology and provides free blogs and wiki's to educators.

ClassBlogmeister: is a free classroom blogging system created by David Warlick and the Landmark Project. Classroom teachers can get a classroom blog and work in a sheltered environment designed to introduce kids K-12 to writing for an authentic audience. There are currently 3500 classrooms and nearly 36000 bloggers using Blogmeister.
Photo Sharing

Millions of digital cameras in the hands of the curious and creative mean billions of images which can be easily shared published via photo sharing services. Tagging photos, creating albums, and inviting friends to view the latest snapshots are a natural glue for a community of interest. Photo sharing sites like Flickr were among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of the read / write web.

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) has a huge community of users. This means there are also a great many free browser plug-ins and software packages to enhance Flickr shared photos. They offer both free and paid accounts. There is a 100mb per month bandwidth limit on free accounts.

Picasa This photo sharing and editing software if offered free of charge by Google. Picasa is powerful basic editor. The new WebAlbum photo sharing element makes Picasa a one stop solution for photo editing and sharing. For more about the possibilities see Google's Picasa for Educators information.

Tabblo provides free photo sharing via Online Tabblos. These are attractive, template driven photo pages. Other features like posters and books are available for a fee. This is an ad free service with with unlimited storage space.
Social Bookmarking

These tools let you store and share your bookmarks online. Once you’ve configured your account and customized your browser it becomes easy to bookmark, describe and tag your Internet discoveries. Just click the toolbar icon and you will be prompted to save your bookmarks (including comments and tags) to the online service you have chosen. Using social bookmarks means you can access your favorites from any internet linked computer. Additionally, you can network within the community finding others with similar interests. You can then link to their bookmarks, or add the sites directly to your own account. One crucial feature is the ability to create ‘public’ and ‘private’ bookmarks; there will always be sites you don’t want to share with the group. Social Bookmarking is a useful tool for collaborative research as well as online community building. Delicious was acquired recently by Yahoo! This means ongoing support and development for one of the first and most popular social bookmarking services. Delicious is designed to make sharing second nature. You can subscribe to Tags, and have the system auto-search and update bookmarks related to any tag of interest. You can also create a network of fellow users; just copy the screen name of another community member and they go into your network, making it easy to monitor those with similar interests.

Ma.gnolia: This site has a rich toolset with everything you’d expect in a social bookmarking site. They provide powerful import tools for importing bookmarks from Tags are separated by commas, allowing you to use multiple descriptive tags. Support tools include a wiki based Frequently Asked Questions option.

Blinklist: Blinklist provides you with quick click access to personal lists, watch lists, tag browsing and tag creation. It is easy to search all public bookmarks. Blinklist automatically provides keyword-tag suggestions. If you find a tag combination you like, and RSS subscription is available. You can import bookmarks from your browser as well as Delicious and Furl. Other attractive features are the thumbnail pictures provided for the more popular sites and a convenient auto-fill feature that lets you copy and paste snippets into the description field of your bookmarks.
Video Sharing

Video sharing sites are intriguing places to search for instructional video. Try the same keywords you use when looking for curriculum materials on the web. Additionally, if your students produce video, there is a world wide audience just an upload away. You can provide links back to your school or program site when you upload your video. This can bring the much desired Web 2.0 benefit of connecting you with an audience for your ideas.

Deeper: Edutopia: How to Use Digital Story Telling in Your Classroom

Google Video
Google Video: For Educators Try keyword searching Google video for academic subjects. The results will vary, but we guarantee you'll find some interesting and educational videos appropriate for your classroom or library. Using the little known Google Video operator genre: you can find video tagged for educators. Try searching for genre:: educational to find some useful results.

YouTube: This is the video sharing site that's been called the mineshaft canary for Web 2.0. Recently acquired by google for billions of dollars, YouTube features a huge array of videos about many different topics. YouTube definitely has a free range wildness about it that gives the user a sense of never knowing what they are going to see.

VideoJug: Life Explained on Film This is a clever site with a how-to angle. You'll find a variety of user produced instructional video. The Kid's section features a fun series of balloon animal tutorials.

Think of Wikis as specialized websites that promote collaborative writing. Wiki team-mates can edit documents at any time of the day or night. The wiki will automatically back up the original and present the newest edition of the document to the next team-mate to log in. You always have a revision history to consult, as you create a dynamic document that grows and changes under the attention of an audience of editors. Wikipedia is the best known Wiki at the moment. (See Doug Johnson's article Wikipedia: Ban It or Boost It in this edition of the Resource Kit.)

Deeper: Educause: Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not

WikiMatrix: This is a comparison site that helps a user compare many different features of a wide variety of commercial and free wiki services. If you want to make an informed choice this site is a great starting place. (Both pbwiki and Wikispaces are reviewed side by side and feature by feature.)

PBWiki With a slogan like: "Make a Wiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich" you can expect a clean streamlined design. Will pbwiki set you up in just 30 seconds? Try it and see. Learning the ins and outs of Wiki editing and navigation will take a bit more time. Other features include a discussion area where team-members (or any user) can comment on the wiki. If you outgrow the free version you can upgrade for a modest monthly fee.

Wikispaces Wikispaces is another educator oriented free service. You will find the easy to navigate discussion, history, and notification tabs useful. You can also set up email or RSS feeds to keep you posted on wiki activity.
Click-O-Rama: More resources than you can shake a mouse at!

We've presented a select number of sites to provide an overview of Web 2.0 Internet services. There are hundreds of innovative sites showing up on the web everyday. Many of these sites provide a golden opportunity to harness the energy of authorship and curriculum. The following sites give you click through access and thumbnail descriptions of far more sites than we can cover in this article.

Web2Logo Here you will find 10 pages of Web 2.0 logos. Click on a logo and you are taken to a community rating and review page. You will see the site's traffic statistics, and comments from users. Additionally, you are presented with a hot list of similar Web 2.0 sites, You have the option of subscribing to any of Web2Logo's description pages... and easy way to monitor the community comments about a site.

GO2WEB20 This is a less detailed , but more direct presentation than Web2Logo. Click any of the long scroll of Web 2.0 logos and see a thumbnail description of the site pop up in the right hand column of the page. You'll also find a hotlink that will open the site in a new window. This beta site still has rough edges but the developers are promising more revisions in the near future. For now it's fun for just clicking around!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Myth of the Google Generation

Do you believe in the Myth that kids know more about the Internet than you do? Many educators seem to assume that the current generation of ‘net-savy’ kids know what they are doing when it comes to internet based research. Now, scientific research has established what many of us have known all along: today’s kids don’t have a clue about how to find information online.

It was this insight that lead Dr. Carl Heine of the 21st Century Information Fluency project to call the net-generation, the Untaught Generation. In his series of articles: Five Things Today’s Digital Generation Cannot Do (and what you can do to help) Dr. Heine explains the skills today’s students need.

The following information was originally published by The Resource Shelf under the title The Google Generation is a Myth.

“A new report, commissioned by JISC and the British Library, counters the common assumption that the ‘Google Generation’ – young people born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most adept at using the web. The report by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an ease and familiarity with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web.”

Here is a link to a 35 page pdf of the full report: ‘Information Behavior of the Researcher of the Future’ 35 pages; PDF) Key findings are summarized by this telling statement: “…traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.” (Italics ours.)

We all know that vital 21st century skills like information literacy and information fluency have been elbowed out of the way by the drill and fill demands of a test pressured curriculum. Let’s hope the nation collectively wakes up to the realities that today’s kids (and educators) are in desperate need of training in the critical thinking skills needed to search, evaluate, and ethically use digital information.

Life Online: Teens and Technology

Life Online: Teens and Technology

Knowing your Audience? Or I should say, knowing the audience of your audience? In the first issue of our newsletter we begin a series about what the current crop of kids (i.e. digital natives) know and don’t know. Our research tells us they don’t know much about the formal strategies of searching. (See Five Things Digital Natives Cannot Do (and what you can do to help, coming soon!)

We as educators, do know a bit about this generation of students. I found this link on Gary Price’s Research Shelf to Lee Rainie’s March 23rd speech: Life Online: Teens and technology and the world to come. This speech was given to the annual conference of the Public Library Association of Boston. (Teens and Technology.pdf) Rainie describes our students as the Millennials (born 1982 – 2000). He then shares eight recent findings of the Pew Internet & American Life Project that he directs.

I will provide a few direct quotes from Rainie’s speech as a teaser! ~ Dennis O’Connor, 21CIF.

How Millennials Approach Research:“For your purposes, it’s important to note that Millennials’ devotion to the internet has greatly shaped the way they approach research process. In many cases, they start projects by going online and browsing around. When they have questions, they will often ping their social network for advice and guidance.

They approach research as a self-directed process. Those who want to serve them would probably do well to think of themselves as “info support” in the same way all our offices have “tech support”: on call and ready to deal with problems, but not in my face showing me every possible function and setting on my computer.”

Brave New World?The 21 st Century Information Fluency Project plans to adapt and grow to meet the needs and demands of ‘new workers and consumers’ in the coming age. It is a great feeling to be out here on the bleeding edge helping to define this reality.

“I can’t tell you precisely how different this work and research environment will be – and I would be very wary of anyone who claims to know for sure just how much change will occur.

I think it is safe to say, though, for the new workers and consumers coming of age in the 21 st Century, learning and research will be:

  • More self directed and less dependent on top-down instructions
  • Better arrayed to capture new information inputs
  • More reliant on feedback and response
  • More tied to group outreach and group knowledge
  • More open to cross-discipline insights, creating its own “tagged” taxonomies


  • More oriented towards people being their own individual nodes of production.

As a researcher, I see this new world as a fantastically target-rich environment for things to study.

Your role is much more complicated, scary, and exciting. You have the privilege of reacting to and shaping the new environment for these emerging workers.

As the parent of four of these neo-workforce participants, I would only ask you to be brilliant at what you do.”

~ Lee Rainie

So What Do You Think? Does Rainie’s description of the new generation jibe with your personal experience? Are the kids in your classes the fluid digital natives that the Pew Internet & American Life Project so richly describes?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Information Literacy Game

Here's a clever online 'board game' that helps reinforce basic information literacy ideas. The game was created by the University Libraries in Greensboro North Carolina.

A fun way to gain some basic skills!