Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WikiSpaces for Teachers

There is a free wikispace for teachers. Teachers can connect with their students and other educators and use their wikispaces to post their lesson plans, create classroom notice boards, etc.



I found the following blog to be very interesting. A first year teacher was up late one night lesson planning when the thought crossed his mind that there were other teachers doing the exact same thing. He created a wikispace to post lesson plans, reproducibles, links and presentations. He hopes that other teachers will create a wikispace so that there will be a virtual library of resources available to educators.


What is a Blog?

A blog is a website where entries are written in chronological order. Blogs typically provide information on a particular topic. I created this blog to discuss Web 2.0 technologies. A blog contains text, links to other blogs and web pages. It can also contain video and images.

A few examples of blogs are...
Video: vblog
Links: linklog
Sketches: sketchblog
Photos: photoblog


Blogs have many educational benefits. A teacher can create a blog and use it as a web page for his/her classroom. Students and teachers can post to the blog and comment on the postings from other classmates. A teacher can use the blog to post assignments and valuable web resources for students to access from home or school.

More Information about Google Docs & Spreadsheets

I found several blogs about Google Docs & Spreadsheets, but I wanted to read reviews about the program from technology experts so I searched the PC Magazine online and found a short article.

Wikipedia also has an in depth definition and even includes a picture of what a Google Doc page would look like to the user.


Google has several blogs that discuss Google Docs including a new feature called Presentations where you can create slide shows. This is a great tool to use in the classroom for lessons and even for Back to School Night presentations for parents.


Another Google Docs & Spreadsheets blog: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/better-together-docs-spreadsheets.html.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication". According to Wikipedia, "RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts". Users can view web pages in an 'automated manner' instead of checking them manually.


Most newspapers have RSS feeds so that you can view articles relating to the your topic of interest. I subscribe to the New York Times Education RSS Feed.


Classroom 2.0: A Social Networking Site for Educators

During my research, I discovered a social networking site for educators who are interested in incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their classrooms. The site is called Classroom 2.0 (http://classroom20.ning.com/). I created an account so that I can use this site to learn more about Web 2.0 technologies for the K-12 classroom teacher. There are forums, blogs, links to Web 2.0 tools, and Groups. Like most social networking sites, you can invite friends to join the network, upload pictures and edit your profile.

In the short time that I have navigated this site, I found useful links to resources for the K-12 classroom teachers. For example, http://www.kn.att.com/wired/fil/pages/listweb20s.html, is a site that links to several Internet resources that offer information on how to incorporate various Web 2.0 products into the classroom.

On of my favorites, is a site created by a man named Brian Benzinger who has compiled and grouped Web 2.0 products that teachers and students can use. Most of the products that he describes are free. On his site you will find Web 2.0 organizers for students (calendars, schedules, grade trackers, etc.) In addition, there are grade books for teachers, note taking products, resume builders, group organizers (clubs, etc.), mathematics teaching tools, learning and research products, media sharing (examples include: Google Video and YouTube) and much more. I find this to be an exceptional resource, especially since I have the desire to continue to use many of these technologies in my classroom.


Social Networking

Social Networking on the web takes place when computers are electronically linked and as a result individuals can form relationships based on common interests, activities and acquaintances. Social Networking services such as MySpace and Facebook are free. Users can create a profile for themselves, upload pictures, create groups, and add friends.


I have an account with both MySpace and Facebook and, in my opinion, Facebook is far more valuable. I feel that MySpace is too open and although you can set your profile to private, there are still facts that are viewable to the public such as your name, age and location. Although MySpace works with law enforcement to identify predators, I still feel a little uneasy with the service and I occasionally get the strange person wanting to be my friend. I do not see any educational purposes for MySpace. The only thing that a student may want to use MySpace for is to locate other students at the same school or to join a group that they are particularly passionate about such as "College Democrats".

Facebook has a lot of applications including: a Visual Bookshelf where you can add your favorite books for your friends to see and borrow, you can grow a virtual garden and have virtual pets, have your horoscope displayed on your page, share recipes, share photos, play games, join networks and much more. I also find this to have more educational aspects than MySpace. For example, you can publish notes from class discussions as well as homework assignments. In order to do this, you must make a Facebook profile that is accessible to all of your students. If your students do not have a Facebook account they will not be able to view your profile. In addition, you can use your classroom Facebook profile as a center for discussion. Students and teachers can post questions or topics for further discussion on the Wall application.


Both of these social networking sites have their downfalls. Privacy is obviously a big concern. If you are a member of these sites, it is imperative that you post appropriate material so that it does not come back and hurt you later. I found an article from USA Today that discussed evasive issues pertaining to these sites. There was one case where a student was denied admission to a school based on the content of his blog. In today's world, it is not safe to assume that the only people viewing your profile are your friends.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

What a great feature that, until now, I knew nothing about and it's free! Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a web-based word processing and spreadsheet program. A user can allow other users to make changes to the documents from their work or personal computers.

A user can use Google Docs & Spreadsheets to create new files or upload existing files from a word processor or spreadsheet file. It is extremely easy to navigate, it's as if you are using your old trusty word processor. I love that I can choose who can access my files. This will be a wonderful feature when collaborating with teammates at work. We can upload our existing files that may include lesson plans and reproducibles. This will allow each of us to edit these documents. An even better feature is that we can all do this at the same time! I would also use Google Docs & Spreadsheets to share my sub plans with my teammates.

My students can use Google Docs & Spreadsheets to submit papers to me. It would be an easy way for me to edit a draft and provide input to my students so that they can make changes from home. I can even upload papers from previous classes to use as examples in the future.

Another great feature about Google Docs & Spreadsheets is that it allows you to organize information in folders and save the documents in your own files on your computer. A user can publish their work as a web page (and control who views the page) and use Google Apps (there is actually an Education Edition!) to publish only within a group. I can use this feature to create a web page accessible only to my students and their parents. I can also publish newsletters this way to save time on copying and distributing.

For more information on the Education Edition of Google Apps you can visit the following web site: http://www.google.com/a/edu/.

I used Google Docs to upload a newsletter that I used in my third grade classroom. I plan to keep this newsletter on Google Docs & Spreadsheets so that I can modify it to meet my needs in Howard County. This newsletter can be found under the Web 2.0 Examples section of my blog.