Tag: web 2.0 (page 2 of 6)

The PLN, Twitter, and You

For those who don’t wan’t to invest the full 9 minutes or so involved in listening to my latest podcast, here is my 5-step plan to growing a PLN using Twitter.

  1. Get started. Sign up and get set up to use Twitter with whatever tool you like best. That might be using the Twitter website, a mobile app (I use Echofon at this time.), or a desktop app (e.g. Tweetdeck, Echofon, Hootsuite, Janetter, etc.). Use whatever you find best suits you and enables you to read or post quickly when you have a few minutes.
  2. Learn those hashtags. Some great, general education related tags include #edchat, #education, #edtech, and #txed (particularly aimed at Texas educators).
  3. Read. Search for posts with the specific tags you’re looking for, then read a few. You’ll quickly find someone talking about something that will interest you.
  4. Respond. Talk back to them, and when you do, include their @username and the #hashtag for the conversation.
  5. Follow. Click that button and start receiving regular tweets from folks talking about the things that matter to you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many immediately follow you back, especially if you post good questions and are willing to share.

If you will do these simple things, you will quickly have a burgeoning, online network of educators ready to engage in important conversations.

As an afterthought, a few other little tips came to mind. First, be sure to create a reasonably detailed description when you set up your account. That helps convince profile viewers that you are a professional worthy of following. Secondly, don’t “protect” your tweets. If other educators are window shopping for their own network, they need to see what types of information or questions you share in order to make an informed decision. If you’re primarily talking about teaching and learning, why would you not want someone reading it, anyway? Finally, reply. Unless you are Shaq, you will likely never have more followers than you can reasonably expect to respond to. If they’ve taken the time to address a tweet to you, it is discourteous not to respond. It’s not a conversation until more than one are talking, is it?

 

6 Outstanding New Tools Worth Exploring

The following are some fantastic new resources I’ve stumbled across lately. Each has the potential to be very valuable tools for the teacher wanting to promote critical 21st century skills in the classroom.

Collaboration

GroupMap–Ease of use and high levels of collaboration make this mind-mapping tool a valuable resource. It does require registration to begin a map, but contributions can be added simply by sharing a link and password. The site also offers useful reports of participants’ contributions and activities. The image below is a screenshot of a GroupMap I started by simply posing a question, making it public, and sharing via Twitter.

GroupMap

Mural.ly–This site features a fantastic set of features for brainstorming, collaboration, and collecting and sharing resources. Mural.ly requires registration for all participants. A user creates a mural, adds content via click-and-drag (including images, links, media, documents, etc.). There are also text, shape, and sticker tools. A “spaces” tool allows the mural to be partitioned into separate sections based upon content. Collaborators can be invited by email or username. Think Pinterest, only with greater flexibility and collaboration and less nonsense, such as forced following. Murals can be shared via social media, embedded, or downloaded as images.

Creativity/Innovation

DoSketch–Just a simple drawing/painting tool, but with several key advantages over many other resources. First of all, drawings can be shared via link or downloaded. Many drawing sites do not have the download feature, particularly for free. Secondly, it is written in HTML5, not Flash, and works in any modern browser. Lastly, it requires no registration–just draw, share, or download.

DIY–DIY is a very cool site for kids that challenges them to do creative and innovative tasks. Students get a portfolio page to show off images or video of the tasks and challenges they have completed, and can earn kudos in the form of Skills. Projects can also be shared with DIY’s mobile apps. There is also a very useful parent portal, which allows parents to monitor their children’s activities and achievements. Challenges cover a vast array of subject areas, such as engineering, electronics, biology, cartography, astronomy, and many more. The site could be a valuable tool for teachers looking to give students more control over their learning or for parents wishing to provide valuable learning opportunities at home.

 

Communicating Ideas

Easelly-Infographics are great tools for communicating ideas in a visual manner. They are quite challenging to design and require students to have a high level of understanding of a topic, if they are to be effective. Easelly is one of several recent tools that allow users to focus more on the content and presentation of ideas, and less on the creation of custom graphics. Users can create infographics using pre-designed themes, or by choosing their own backgrounds and graphics. Users can upload their own graphics and text or choose from a selection built into the interface. 11 categories of graphics are already available, including people, animals, icons, landmarks, and more.

Easelly

Deeyoon–Deeyoon is a brand new site that allows two participants to take part in a debate via webcam. Each person offers opening statements, provides evidence of their position, and offers closing remarks. Viewers can vote on which point of view they most agree with. The interface is pretty straightforward–create a debate, open it up to the challenger (I’d have both parties registered and logged in so random challengers don’t jump in.), and start talking. Debates are saved for future viewing and discussion, and they are arranged into “rooms” by topic. This could be a fantastic tool for fostering critical thinking.

Deeyoon

5 Most Impactful Technologies of 2010-2011

As the 2010-2011 school year comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on the technologies that have had the biggest impact on teaching and learning this year in our district. Some are primarily teaching tools, while others have had a huge impact on the way kids learn and demonstrate their learning. In no particular order…

  • iPad &  iPod Touch. I’ve owned an iPod Touch for sometime now (1st generation), and I love the device. Still, the first time I got my hands onipad aniPad, I was somewhat, but not overly impressed. It was shiny and from Apple, something I am admittedly susceptible to as an official cult member. However, the earliest apps I tried were somewhat less than dazzling. What turned my opinion quickly 180° was what I observed when I took the iPad home and put it in the hands of my then 6- and 9-year old children. The little digital natives snatched it eagerly and set off to exploring, needing no instructions from their digital immigrant father. They navigated, opened, and mastered apps with incredible ease and enthusiasm. A similar experience has occurred in an increasing number of classrooms in Birdville, and schools are using Title 1 and grant funds to add the powerful tools as viable solutions in an economic climate that makes traditional computers (and their pricy software, especially) less so. As an elementary computer, especially, there is nothing out there as perfectly suited. As an example, my first grade teacher wife uses 2 iPads in her literacy program. Students read along with interactive Dr. Suess books (and others), practice writing words and constructing sentences, test their spelling knowledge, and create stories. Her only lament is that she has just the two, and she has plans to add more as soon as possible. Oh, and I should mention that the apps have become more amazing, as developers have figured out the best ways to take advantage of the iDevices’ capabilities.
  • Interactive Whiteboards. Some in the educational technology world lament (even loath) the use of IWBs as being too teacher-centric, proposing that money would be better spent on student devices. While they make strong points in support of their case, such an argument stems from the misguided belief that the teacher should never be the central focal point of the classroom. Reality is quite different, and there is a vital role for teachers to play, at times, as the “expert” sharing knowledge. It also fails to recognize the ways IWBs can be used by students as active participants in lessons, simulations, games, etc. In Birdville, the numbers of IWBs is currently fairly small but growing, with at least 4 elementary schools now having them in every classroom, and numerous other campuses making plans for similar implementation. Teachers frequently say that the boards have increased attention and engagement, and that they have become critical tools used every school day.
  • Cellphones. This technology continues to be controversial, but it’s impact in many classrooms is beyond debate.ipower Teachers are taking advantage of the ever-increasing numbers of students coming to school equipped with pocket-sized computers more powerful than what was on our desktops just a few years ago. They are already Internet-capable and have text-messaging abilities, offering another tool for communication. And, as an added benefit, today’s phones have still and video cameras that exceed most of the available cameras from only a few years back. These features make cellphones useful for information gathering, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The knock on cellphones in our district continues to be their role as a disruptive force, as students in many cases have yet to discern what appropriate, educational use looks like. Because of that, many teachers still ban their appearance in their classrooms. Still, the numbers of teachers embracing their use is steadily growing. For more information on our efforts, visit our mobile devices blog.
  • Blended Classrooms/Online Learning. Birdville has had online courses for several years now. These were typically the traditional, 100% online type, however. More recently, we are experiencing a steady growth in the numbers of teachers who are finding ways to take traditional, campus-based courses into the online world. Tools being used range from district-hosted Moodle servers to online resources such as Edmodo and Facebook. Students engage in discussions, download notes and assignments, view teacher-created videos or playlists, and more.
  • web20croppedWeb 2.0. This overlaps a little with the category above, but it is much broader. The biggest distinction here is the way that our students’ use of Web 2.0 has enabled them to created endless amounts of content on the Internet. Students are telling stories, using tools like Storybird, VoiceThread, and Animoto. They are collaborating using tools such as Wallwisher, Todaysmeet, and Google Docs. Wikis and blogs are giving students the opportunity to share their knowledge and their writing skills with an authentic audience, adding meaningfulness and motivation to their learning. YouTube is being embraced as a tool for creativity, sharing classroom/campus events, and knowledge-gathering. What is truly exciting is that such tools are really no longer seen as novelties. Rather, they are becoming as commonplace as pencils or textbooks in many of our classrooms.

TCEA Areas 10/11 Conference Presentation

The following are a Prezi I’ll be using on Saturday, March 26th, when I present the keynote address at the TCEA Areas 10 and 11 annual conference and a Google document with additional resources. The theme of this year’s conference is “Going Global”. I’ll be discussing the importance of fostering global awareness in our students and sharing online resources and tips for teachers to use in the curriculum. The Google document is editable, and I would welcome additional resources to be added.

Google Document

Web 2.0 in BISD: An Amazing Impact

Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.

In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.

Web 2.0 Introduction & Workshop: Lumberton, TX

I’ve updated my introduction to Web 2.0 handout and wanted to share it here. Feel free to download, modify, and use it as you see fit.

Web 2.0 Handout 2010

Live Blogging from ISTE 2010: Learning with Mobile Devices

Session title: Mobile Devices + Web 2.0 = Engaged and Empowered Learners

Click Here

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