Category: Blogging (page 2 of 6)

Too Much to Moodle to Ignore?

As an advocate of free, online Web 2.0 tools, I have spent a great deal of time and effort in reading and Moodleresearching, trying to keep up with the latest, greatest sites for my teachers or presentation attendees to use to transform their curriculums into the 21st century. I must admit that I’ve been neglectful of some other areas of technology, not so much because I failed to see their importance, but rather that the read/write Web has simply captured my imagination. One particular tool that I wish to gain a greater familiarity with is Moodle. Moodle is a learning management system (LMS), defined by Leonard Greenberg as “a high-level, strategic solution for planning, delivering and managing all learning events within an organization.” (2002) Among other things, Moodle is a powerful tool for creating online content and e-learning opportunities.  It has become an amazing force in the education world. It is a free, open-source tool that is putting a serious dent in the sales of for-profit tools in the field, especially in the current economic climate.

Miguel Guhlin is one of the foremost advocates of Moodle in education in the state of Texas today. In his blog and numerous trade publications, Miguel offers insights into implentation of Moodle, its applications, and justifications for its use. In an article written for the magazine On Cue and cross-posted in his blog this week, Miguel gives a good, general overview of the tool and some suggestions for its implementation. One thing that caught my eye was that  “Moodle comes replete with blogs, forums, RSS feeds, wikis and more that enable it to be seen as an “absolute good” that opens the door, that enables powerful ideas to slay the fears our IMHO – slay the fears that leaders hold.” I’ve been told many, many times that schools cannot utilize the tools I’ve shared because of restrictive filtering policies, so if Moodle is a step to overcoming this, I’m definitely listening.

Moodle Tools

Miguel does a great job going into more detail on some of the applications of Moodle in education, but I’ll summarize briefly what he describes.

  • Online learning environments. Users can create and utilize online groups, such as literature circles, create online quizzes and other instructional resources, build wikis for group collaboration, display student work, keep writing journals, develop online lessons, and more.
  • District/campus communications. Leaders can create book studies, disseminate news, engage staff in discussions using online forums, etc. All of this can be created in a private setting, accessible only to invited members.
  • Supporting district initiatives. Moodle’s discussion forums, questionnaires, and synchronous tools (Such as a Dimdim module!) help schools and districts implement initiatives in a manner that is on-going and as needed, rather than the typical isolated and infrequent way that it too often is presented.
  • Professional development. Moodle has the ability to make professional learning opportunities an anytime, anywhere affair. Teachers can login, take a course, complete a questionnaire, share a lesson plan, and earn needed professional development credits, such as ESL or G/T hours. All of this accomplished in a format that is both cost-effective (no transportation expenses) and fits into already busy schedules.

Breaking Down Barriers

Miguel also offers some helpful tips for overcoming administrative hesitation in implementing Moodle (and Web 2.0 tools) in schools:

  • Take the time to list the reasons you need the tools.
  • Share the reasons with administrators.
  • Create a petition and enlist the support of like-minded educators.
  • Explain the need for a person to be the administrator of the computers on which the tools will be used and volunteer to be that person.
  • Cultivate a relationship with the people in “power” over technology and access to resources.

I would add to this list:

  • Do your research. Administrators generally love data. Be able to support your ideas with evidence.
  • Educate the leaders at the top of the hierarchy. Show what other schools are doing. Teach them the tools and encourage them to try them out. I know from experience how powerful this can be.
  • Emphasize the cost-effectiveness of your ideas. The tools are free, but will require some costs in terms of servers, support, etc. Regardless, they are certainly more efficient than many pay-for-use tools.
  • If those in charge are reluctant, emphasize the ability to create resources whose use and access is totally controlled by the school/district.

Want More Information?

I plan to be experimenting with the tool in the coming months, and I will be sharing my thoughts and experiences here. In the meantime, if anyone is curious enough, you can learn a great deal through Miguel’s writings on his blog and elsewhere. I’ve also found him to be very willing to offer insights and answer questions through Twitter (http://twitter.com/mguhlin). Additionally, Moodle has a very active community of users, and you can tap into this community through the Moodle forums at http://moodle.org/login/index.php.

BISD 12 Second Tech Challenge #11!

We’re getting down to crunch time. The big prizes will be announced next week, but for now, intrinsic motivation will have to do! For today’s challenge, you’ll need to create your own blog, using the site Posterous.com. Now, before you click back to the Cartoon Network site just yet, hear me out for a second.


BISD 12 Second Tech Challenge #11 on 12seconds.tv

Posterous is a site I recently shared that allows users to post using just an email message, even one that includes pictures or videos. You can even read and reply to comments via email. Accounts are free, of course, and you can blog about anything you like to talk about: family, sports, work, children, movies, food, etc. I want you to see how addictive they can be, and the best way to ensure that is to write about what you know and care about. Just be sure to share your blog’s address here once it’s set up!

Blogging, Revisited

Why We Need to Be Blogging

First of all, I’ll admit the obvious–I am biased. Blogging has become something that I cannot imagine doing without. It has given me a creative outlet, challenged me to test the validity of my ideas and educational beliefs, and expanded my network of peers. It has met and exceeded my expectations. The platform has continued to become more powerful, as well, giving me and my readers new and exciting ways to interact, such as threaded comments, video and audio comments, etc. It is enjoyable, challenging, and very, very rewarding. Blogging has become entrenched in society, with over 184 million users creating blogs worldwide, ever-increasing readership, and a continual move into more traditional mediums, such as newspapers, television stations, etc. The video below, by Rachel Boyd, does a great job of illustrating some of the benefits of blogging.

For these reasons and more, our students and teachers need to be both readers and creators of blogs. They are powerful tools for reflection, outlets for creativity, and foster critical reading and writing skills.

Ideas for Getting Started

Choosing a blog service

There are many blog services available to students and teachers, some of which cater specifically to the education crowd. Some services are free, while others require yearly or monthly subscriptions. Usually, the pay sites offer certain features that are not available on the free sites. Edublogs (the host of this blog), for instance, offers many extra plugins (such as video/audio comments, threaded comments, etc.) when you subscribe, and the cost is not exorbitant. Discounts are available for bulk subscriptions on Edublogs and many other sites, as well. For most users, though, free blogs are very valid and satisfactory tools. Some sites to check out are listed below (an asterisk indicates blogs specifically catering to educators).

Another option, and one that Jim Hirsch describes as the best option for schools, is to host their own blogs. WordPress is an example of a blogging platform that may be installed to a school or district’s own servers. This allows for far greater control over safety and content, and is much more likely to relax over-worried administrators.

Subjects

Beginning a blog does not have to be a taxing or overly time-consuming process. While many advanced features exist, and many more are constantly being developed, the basic blog is nothing more than a tool for writing. Subject matter should be personalized, and topics can range from professional issues to hobbies and interests to issues facing schools or society. As Frank Catalano states, bloggers should ask, “Why are you going to do it? To reach individuals with critical information, to express opinions, to teach students writing skills, or simply as an outlet for personal frustrations?” The key is to pick your passion. Some possible topics for teachers might include:

  • Lesson ideas
  • Professional learning experiences
  • Sharing class/school news with parents and communities
  • Classroom management
  • Subject-related topics
  • Class discussion starters
  • Personal hobbies
  • Family happenings
  • Book studies

Student topics might focus on:

  • Sharing classroom creative writing
  • Summarizing daily learning
  • School news/issues
  • Personal interests
  • Book reports/reviews
  • Social issues and events

Finding an audience

An important next step for student and teacher bloggers is to actively seek readership for their blogs. While the act of writing in and of itself is worthwhile for many reasons, the power and importance of an actively reading and responding audience cannot be overstated. Will Richardson describes blogs as never being actually finished, because the conversations between authors and readers leads to revisions and refinements of ideas. Catalano echoes this, describing the positive effect on student writing of “the power of audience.” Having an audience provides incentive to continue writing, to write better, and stimulates ideas for future writing. Some suggestions for creating an audience for a blog are:

  • Communicate with friends, family, and associates, telling them about the blog and asking for their input. Use opportunities such as school parent-teacher nights, PTA meetings, etc. to spread the word.
  • Read and respond to others’ blogs, including the URL of your own blog when you do so. Many times, when comments are thoughtful and well-written, readers will click on the link to see what else the writer may have to say.
  • Use other tools, such as social networks, Twitter, etc. to inform visitors of the blog and new posts.
  • Register the blogs with sites such as Technorati, which allow visitors to search by topics.
  • Use tags. Tags categorize blog entries by topic, and they allow search engines to find blogs based on their subject matter.
  • Write about interesting topics and don’t shy away from controversy. Blogs are powerful mediums for expressing opinions and generating discussions.
  • Write frequently. Don’t let the blog sit idle for weeks or months at a time. Loyal readership can’t develop in a vacuum.

A good list of tips by professional bloggers for bringing in readers can be found on the DailyBlogTips site.

Ensure safe and responsible blogging

Before diving in, students (and teachers) should be educated on the rules of the blogging world. Safety and ethics are critical for all bloggers, but for children in particular. Some important concepts to cover include:

  • What information is/is not okay to share. While blogs may be very personal in terms of subjects, personally identifying information should never be shared by children bloggers.
  • How to manage comments. Identifying spam, responding to dangerous/inappropriate comments, etc. are skills students should learn, and the teacher should play an active role in modeling this and monitoring students’ comments.
  • Don’t make personal attacks. “Flaming” is an unethical practice, and, increasingly, it is being viewed by courts and law-enforcement as illegal. Teach students how to express differences of opinions or make revision suggestions civilly.
  • Observe copyright laws. The availability of vast resources of shared materials via Creative Commons licensing should mean that students never have to use video, images, etc. that lack the required permissions. Flickr, for instance, has a library of tens of millions of images that contributors have licensed for use, free of charge, by others. Also, teach them how to paraphrase and use quotations and how to credit sources.

Now, get to writing

Once these preparatory steps have been taken, the student or teacher simply needs to get started. Don’t worry about readership lacking in the beginning. As content and quality grows, the readers will come. In the meantime, critical literacy skills will be strengthened, and confidence in the medium will grow. As I can attest, it can be quite addictive. I recall vividly the first comment I received from a complete stranger, and the sense of excitement, validation, and empowerment that it gave to me even at my age (very young, of course!). Imagine the same powerful experiences for our students!

References: Catalano, F. (2005). Why Blog? Retrieved March 26, 2009, from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/17616_1.

Hirsch, J. (2006). Is Student Blogging the New Social Disease? Retrieved March 27, 2009, from http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=6071.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

State of the Blogosphere (2008). Retrieved March 26, 2009, from http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere/.

Blog Via Email with Posterous

When I first read about the blogging site Posterous, I will admit that I was not overly excited. The site allows users to create blog posts by simply sending email messages to post@posterous.com (Try it–the site will automatically create a page for you with your first email.). Certainly easy enough, but not particularly exciting. After giving the site a test run, however, I have changed my opinion completely. Posterous is not only as easy as advertised, but it is a remarkably powerful and intuitive blogging tool with a surprising number of useful tools.

Posterous screenshot

Some of the more notable features of the site:

  • Blog via email to a single, easy address. Blog administrators can add additional bloggers simply by adding additional email addresses.
  • Add images by inserting as attachments. Multiple images will be turned into a custom gallery, as seen below.
  • Add video by either uploading or (even cooler) by simply including the link from YouTube or other video hosting site. Posterous will automatically embed the video.
  • Attach documents, .pdf files, PowerPoint files by attaching to email messages.
  • Receive and reply to comments posted through email.

Image gallery

There is very little I don’t like about Posterous, now that I’ve tried it out. It would be nice to be able to choose from a variety of templates for a custom appearance, but the site claims to be working on that very feature. The biggest challenge, to some, is that it does require email addresses for student participation. However, given the availability of free, monitored student email through sites such as ePals and Gaggle, this should be an easy issue to overcome. Ultimately, the site’s creators have done a very nice job putting together as  user-friendly a blogging tool as I’ve encountered to date.

Test of Scribblelive at TCEA

I just sat in on a session at TCEA and thought I’d use the opportunity to try out this new live blogging site. The blog is embedded below. I need to do some more playing with the site to form a complete opinion, but my first impression is that is is easier to use than the grand-daddy of live blogging sites, Coveritlive. I can’t speak for the feature set, though, but I’ll try to give more information as I work with it.

TCEA 2009: What’s New in Web 2.0?

Doing two sessions this year at TCEA. The first one was this morning, and we (co-worker Jon Norris, geeky aunt, Connie Tubbs, and myself) shared the basics of setting up and using the Nintendo Wiimote as an interactive whiteboard. This afternoon, the session will be on Web 2.0. I did this session at TCEA last year, and it is one of my favorite topics. This year has given me a great deal of trouble, though, as I try to narrow down a list of several hundred of my favorite sites to about 25, in order to be able to let folks out in under 5 hours. Here is the list I have compiled, tentatively (I still have a couple of hours!), of the sites I will be sharing. Actually, the sites preceded by an asterisk are the first priority sites. The others may not make the cut, especially if time runs short. If I have neglected to include any of your favorite, new Web 2.0 sites, please share them with me!

Student/Organization Tools

*http://www.rememberthemilk.com/ (Tool for creating to-do lists, reminders, more; access via phone, work offline, use with Google calendar and iGoogle, and more.)

http://notestar.4teachers.org/ (Online note-taking tool from the creators of Rubistar; teacher and student features.)

http://www.mynoteit.com/ (Versatile, social note-taking and organization tool.)

*http://evernote.com/ (Very useful note-taking and organization tool; write notes, upload images, send text/pics from phones, clip websites, more.)

Filesharing/Collaboration

*http://drop.io/ (Very easy filesharing tool; share via web, email, phone, etc.)

http://collab.io/ (Simple tool for creating collaborative, online work spaces using participant emails.)

*http://www.remobo.com/ (Create private, virtual networks between computers.)

http://usend.io/ (Send files up to 100mb via email.)

http://www.fileshaker.com/ (Free online file storage up to 10 gigs.)

http://www.docstoc.com/ (Online document sharing with the ability to tag documents for search engine recognition and embed documents into websites.)

https://www.yugma.com/ (Free desktop sharing tool for up to 20 participants.)

Mind-mapping

*http://www.mindmeister.com/ (Create and share mind maps online.)

*http://www.mywebspiration.com (Online version of the popular Inspiration software; great tool for collaborative brainstorming, planning, more.)

Bookmarks

http://www.bookmarkg.com/ (Fairly simple and straightforward social bookmarking site.)

*http://www.diigo.com (Social bookmarking site with lots of great features, including ability to mark up sites, share with groups, friends, etc.)

Videoconferencing

http://www.palbee.com/index.aspx# (Free video-conferencing tool.)

*http://mebeam.com/ (Probably the easiest, most basic video-conference site on the web; create a room and invite friends.)

Video

*http://www.viddler.com/ (Shared videos plus ability to leave time-specific comments, tags.)

http://keepvid.com/ (Useful tool lets you download videos in multiple formats from a variety of sites.)

*http://www.selfcast.com (Create live streaming video channels; chat with viewers.)

*http://www.mogulus.com/ (Create live broadcasts with lots of extras, such as embedded images, text, etc.)

*http://qik.com/ (Live video streaming from a wide variety of phone models)

*http://www.stickam.com (Live video streaming, video chat for up to 12 participants, slideshow and music sharing, plus mobile streaming for some Nokia phones)

Images

*http://www.snapily.com/ (Create photo prints that are 3-dimensional or display motion.)

http://photosynth.net/Default.aspx (Cool tool from Microsoft creates fantastic panoramic images from multiple pictures.)

*http://animoto.com/ (Create beautifully animated slideshows, complete with musical accompaniment; free full version for educators.)

*http://pixelpipe.com/ (Allows users to upload images to many sites through one portal.)

http://280slides.com/ (Create/share multimedia slideshows, upload existing PowerPoint shows, search for images/videos while working in the site.)

Office Apps

*http://sliderocket.com/ (Flash-based, online slideshow creation tool.)

http://www.slideboom.com/ (Slideshow sharing site)

Website Creation/Wikis

*http://www.weebly.com/ (Great, free website creation tool; features standard and blog pages, drag-and-drop interface, more.)

RSS

*http://www.tabbloid.com/ (Use RSS feeds to create a printable, pdf newsletter.)

Miscellaneous

*http://www.verbalearn.com/ (Students create custom vocabulary study lists and mp3 files.)

http://www.weblin.com/index.php

*http://forvo.com/ (Site that is attempting to create audio files with pronunciations of all of the words in the world in their native tongues.)

http://www.popfly.com/ (Free online game and mashup creation tool from Microsoft.)

*http://cloudo.com/ (Cloud computing platform; access files from any web-connected computer.)

*http://tikatok.com/ (Student book writing and illustrating tool; students can order hard or soft copies for about $20.)

http://fo.reca.st/surveys/home (Create embeddable surveys, complete with multimedia elements.)

*http://mystudiyo.com/ (Create interactive, embeddable quizzes; include graphics, video, images.)

*http://www.flowgram.com/ (Exciting tool for creating interactive presentations incorporating images, audio, video, and PowerPoint.)

*http://www.thebroth.com (Collaboratively create works of art, chatting with collaborators as you work.)

*http://www.bookglutton.com/ (Site where users read shared materials and participate in discussions; users can upload own content, too.)

SMS/Microblogging

*http://www.yammer.com/ (Create private, corporate microblogging networks.)

*http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/socialmedia/edutwitter.html (List of educators using Twitter)

Blogs

http://www.backtype.com/

*http://posterous.com (Create a blog using email messages. Include images, video, links, more. Can also be used for groups, simply by adding members’ email addresses.)

Website Tools

http://embedit.in/ (Allows users to embed documents, videos, and text files in web pages.)

Dwight’s Google Apps Link

http://www.birdville.k12.tx.us/instruct_tech/googleapps.html (List of some great applications by Google.)

Presentation Video

New: Threaded Comments!

I just activated a new plugin that will better facilitate our conversations by creating threaded comments. This means you can reply to comments left by other users, and they will list them underneath the original replies. Hopefully, this will be yet another way to make our conversations more engaging and powerful. Thanks to the folks at Edublogs for the great, new tool! Give it a try!

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