Friday, August 31, 2007

Classroom 2.0, Social Networking, and Diigo

I'm really enjoying being a member of Classroom 2.0, a community set up by Steve Hargadon, an ed tech person, using Ning. This is a community of teachers interested in using technology, and they are from all over the world. When I first signed up, my first friend request came from a teacher in Germany. There are lots of interesting topics being discussed there. I drop in when I have a chance, and read a few posts.

For example, tonight I went to the homepage and looked at the new discussions. Steve started several to get people to talk about what kinds of sites they use and like for various things. I checked in to the social bookmarking discussion, and read a really interesting post by Dave Ehrhart. I thought everyone would be talking about Delicious, but no. Dave is using a site called Diigo with his students. Not only can they bookmark sites, but they can highlight pages that they read and write notes on them. Dave, their high school history teacher, can look at their highlighting and notes and add comments of his own to help direct their inquiry or sharpen their insights.

Dave posted a screencast that explains exactly how he uses this tool with his students. After I watched it I understood Diigo and started thinking about how it could be used with adult education students. So I clicked on Dave's icon and went to his home page, left a comment there, and sent a request to add him as a friend. I want to see what else he has discovered!

That's social networking. Steve Hargadon has also created another community on Ning to help teachers set up and use communities. Today I proposed a workshop for CATESOL on Social Networking for Professional Development. I swore I wasn't going to do more than one workshop next year, but this topic I couldn't resist. I have the privilege of having time to surf around and see what's new, and I see part of my job as sharing what I learn, so there you go. Leave me a comment if you like or use Diigo, of if you have other social bookmarking sites to share.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Will Google Be Replaced by a Different Kind of Search

I watched with interest Robert Scoble's video presentation about why Google and similar search engines will eventually be replaced by a "social networking" kind of search, like Mahalo, where real people locate and aggregate information, not algorithms. His idea is that there is so much gaming of Google by Search Engine Optimization (SEO), i.e. companies and bloggers trying to get links to their sites in order to make money from ads on their sites, that Google won't be able to stay ahead of the SEO people. But social networking is becoming so much more developed now that people will be able to use a network of people they trust to find the information they want. He uses Mahalo, Techmeme and Facebook as examples. It's interesting, the idea of a trusted network.

Twitter kind of works like that, too. I follow certain people on Twitter, not because I know them but because I've read their blog posts, or articles, or seen them on Twitter because other people that I'm following follow them. So if one of these people posts a link to something, I'm likely to follow it and see what they are talking about. That's how I saw Scoble's video, which isn't linked to anything, he says, except social networking ways of getting the word out, so you can't find them on Google.

It sounds possible to me. But his presentation has prompted a firestorm of controversy, with posts such as the one on Wired, trashing Scoble's ideas. Such are the ways of the blogosphere, I guess. I would prefer to have heated discussion without a lot of disrespect and namecalling, but it doesn't seem to work that way.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wiki Scanner

There's been lots of press recently about this young German guy, Virgil Griffith, who created a program to figure out where anonymous wikipedia edits come from, Wiki Scanner. The results reveal many corporate and individual attempts to slant articles one way or another. For example, someone at Wal-Mart changed the line "Wages at Wal-Mart are about 20 percent less than at other retail stores" to "The average wage at Wal-Mart is almost double the federal minimum wage."

Examples are listed from a Wired article linked off the Wiki Scanner page. There is also a link to a Stephen Colbert segment talking about Wiki Scanner, in which he calles Wikipedia "Second Life for corporations," i.e. corporations can create their fantasy of reality there.

Wouldn't this make a great lesson in critical thinking about wikipedia articles?!

WSJ Article about Google Docs for Homework

The Wall Street Journal is talking about parents helping kids with homework compositions even when they are in different states using Google Docs.

How did I hear about this? On Twitter!

Vokis from ESL Students

Kristi Reyes, who teaches VESL at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA, is also a technology mentor, and does so many creative projects with her students. I discovered Vokis a few months ago and posted my Voki here. Kristi had her students create their own, and you can view them on her blog.

She has also posted student slideshows and other projects - definitely worth checking out for examples of how to integrate technology in the classroom.

Other great projects by Kristi:

  • Using Bubblr to create comic strips using Flickr photos. She links to an example that one of her students created to practice using a number of idioms.

  • Using Bookr to create a book for the end of her summer class, also using Flickr photos.

  • My favorite - she got tired of her students watching YouTube videos in the lab, so rather than banning YouTube, she created an assignment using Zentation where they had to write a description of the video, that plays as a set of slides coordinated with the video. This one cracked me up!

You can read Kristi's article in the MiraCosta ESL Newsletter. Scroll down to page 11.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 15 Most Blogged Words

For some reason this struck me as very funny. Bloggers Blog reports about Oxford University Press monitoring 70,000 blogs to keep track of new words that should be added to their dictionaries. They also published this list of the 15 most frequently used words in blogs. You know that blogging is in a way a very personal and self-centered activity if three of the top six words are me, myself and my! What does it mean that the third word is stupid? I guess bloggers like to trash things, in the name of me, myself, and my personal opinion about everything in the universe. And - lovely? Must be a British thing.

15 Most Frequently Blogged Words
- blogger
- blog
- stupid
- me
- myself
- my
- oh
- yeah
- ok
- post
- stuff
- lovely
- update
- nice
- shit

Friday, August 17, 2007

100 (+35) Top Online Tools for Learning

This Web site surveyed 101 "learning professionals" about their favorite tools, and compiled a list of all those mentioned at least twice. The top four are Firefox,, Skype and Google Search. Most of the list is familiar to me, but there are some I need to check out. Compare this list to your list. Are there any you would add or delete?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

Just came across this video by Lee Lefever explaining social bookmarking in simple terms. It could be a great aid to explaining Delicious and other sites (he mentions Magnolia and furl) to teachers, students and even your relatives who haven't experienced this approach yet.

I'm interested because we are currently working on converting the OTAN My Resources area from the old files and folders model to the new tags and tag clouds model, and should have this up soon. We have about 1,000 people who have saved links in their Resources area, and I anticipate that all will not be thrilled with the change, as all never are. Maybe we can send out a link to this video to help explain what social bookmarking is. What do you think?

He has posted some other videos too, like RSS in Plain English and Social Networking in Plain English. Check him out on YouTube or at the Common Craft Show.

Monday, August 06, 2007

What Makes Teachers Technology Users?

I'm in Ann Arbor this week for the Project IDEAL conference on distance learning in adult education. One advantage of traveling is time on the plane to read the stuff that piles up on your desk because you want to read it but you don't have time. This morning I read an interesting research article from the Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, by Peggy Ertmer of Purdue and two grad students, that surveyed 25 teachers who had won awards for using technology effectively in their learner-centered classrooms.

The goal was to find out what these teachers perceived as the supports to their success, and whether they thought intrinsic or extrinsic factors were more important. Extrinsic factors were things like access to computers, software, administrative support and tech support. Intrinsic factors were things like attitude towards technology, confidence and previous success with technology.

The interesting thing about the results was that teachers rated intrinsic factors as more important to their success than anything else. Even if they had limited computer or Internet access, or a lack of support from their administration, if they felt confident and committed, they found a way to overcome the barriers. So if you believe that using technology will help your students, and you have a strong commitment to helping your students, you will find a way to use technology in your classroom even if it is not well-supported in your program.

To me this indicates support for the mentoring model. Mentoring builds confidence and successful experiences with technology through support from a peer mentor. Workshops, seminars and conferences are great for introducing new ideas, and 76% of the teachers surveyed identified these as their preferred approaches to professional development. But workshops and conferences don't necessarily create positive attitude and commitment. Mentoring has a role to play in cheerleading, building confidence, analyzing challenges and celebrating successes.

The highest rated success factors were inner drive, personal beliefs, commitment and confidence. How do we build and support those qualities? There were differences between genders (good tech support was more important to women, and to teachers who had been teaching longer, perhaps because they were less familiar with the technology.)

I can't find the article online right now, maybe the ISTE server is having a hiccup, but I will keep trying.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Surface Computing

If you haven't watched this video about MicroSoft's surface computing project, you need to watch it. It's pretty amazing. Not available yet, and will start as a kiosk kind of thing for companies, but it will be interesting to see where it goes.

And after you've absorbed that information, watch this parody.