Category Archives: Web 2.0

Google Earth for Teaching

I’m in the second session of Edubloggercon. Our focus is using Google Earth for teacher curriculum and student projects.

Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching described a project based on Whirligig. He mentioned he would like to see Google Earth integrated into the curriculum, specifically geography and history. It can be an “interactive 3-D notebook” that can really help students see places and events. He also mentioned using Swivel.

I had never heard of SketchUp until it was mentioned in this session. Vinnie Vrotny shared Fred Bartels’ work with SketchUp.

Lucy Gray mentioned her Google Earth Meme.

I’m interested in figuring out ways to integrate Google Earth into English. Any English teachers out there using it? How?

[tags]edubloggercon07, ebc07ge [/tags]

Expanding the Circle: Facilitating the Introduction of Educators to Web 2.0

I am Edubloggercon 2007 here in Atlanta, and I am in the first session — Expanding the Circle. How can we draw educators, reluctant or otherwise, into using Web 2.0 tools? Some educators are not just reluctant, but outright hostile about using these tools.

Some teachers do not see the value in using these technologies. Julia Osteen pointed out that in many cases, using Web 2.0 conflicts with some teachers’ beliefs about teaching. It doesn’t fit their style.

A huge issue for educators is time. When I presented a session on using blogs and wikis to my own colleagues, one of the first questions they asked me was how much time I spent doing this each day. The question inferred that these technologies take up so much time — is it really worth it, Dana? I gathered that they had already concluded they didn’t have time.

Steve Hargadon mentions that we are dealing with a wide variety of audiences — administration, teachers, parents, and students.

Tim Stahmer mentions that we can introduce teachers by showing them how many of the practices they are already buying into, i.e. journaling, are perfect for Web 2.0. He also adds that many teachers are afraid of allowing students to comment on their blogs. Is this insecurity?

Jim Gates asked how many of us have blogs blocked in our schools? Tim Stahmer mentions that Blogger is blocked in his. I don’t have as much of a problem with issues like this, as I teach in a private school, and I believe that many of these blanket blocking issues seem to crop up in larger schools and school districts, whereas smaller schools (like mine) still enable access to these sites. MySpace and Facebook are blocked at my school, mostly because the sites are seen as a distraction. Actually, when our educational technology teacher sent us an e-mail informing us of some blocking, he asked that we e-mail him if any sites we used were blocked. I found that Bloglines and my hosting provider were both blocked, so I e-mailed him, and he allowed access. Of course, I realize that with larger schools and districts, this involves much bureaucratic red tape. I think we initially blocked access to some sites when the big MySpace scare happened last year (and to be truthful, my husband contributed to our administration’s decision to block these sites because of a presentation he gave about being safe online to our students and faculty).

Our session ended on an open note, and it’s clear these issues are not resolved. Like Steve Hargadon said at the beginning of the session, however, I think many of us feel obligated to try to draw educators into Web 2.0 technologies because we ourselves have been transformed by them. I know my teaching practices have been transformed by the interactivity, feedback, and networking I have been able to do with other educators. I would like to draw my students into Web 2.0 even more next year.

[tags]edubloggercon07, ebc07ec[/tags]

UbD and Digital Literacies: A Challenge

Clay Burell of Beyond School, who is reading Understanding by Design as part of UbD Educators, mentions a “hole” in the authors’ presentation:

I look forward to more time with UbD in the coming weeks. But I’m reading it with an eye toward a blind spot in their book (so far, anyway — and maybe the 2d edition remedies this) that only edtech geeks would notice: there’s no attention paid to how digital literacies can promote the types of understanding and unit design they so brilliantly advocate.

The challenge? As educators, we need to think of ways to apply the ideas behind UbD to digital literacy. I would like to challenge each UbD educator to come up with at least one unit plan that incorporates digital literacy as part of the unit.

[tags]Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, digital literacy, UbD, Understanding by Design[/tags]

UbD Update

I have been quiet for a couple of days as I finished up the school year and did some planning for a summer course I will be teaching the end of July/beginning of August. In the meantime, Grant Wiggins commented on the UbD Wiki post and offered up a nice bit of encouragement for those of us who are reading Understanding by Design and collaborating at the wiki, which Wikispaces has generously agreed to host ad-free. We are just getting started, so it is not too late to join up!

More tomorrow after I have rested from education for a bit.

Update, 5/30/08: Thanks to Grant for allowing UbD Educators to access his online course this year.  The course is no longer available for free.

[tags]Grant Wiggins, UbD, Understanding by Design, Jay McTighe, wiki, assessment, education[/tags]

UbD Educators

Understanding by DesignBased upon some discussion about my re-reading of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design, I created a wiki for those of you who are interested in exploring this book together this summer and sharing our UbD lesson plans. As the authors say in chapter one, “Backward Design,” “In addition to using the UbD Design Standards for self-assessment, the quality of the curriculum product (unit plan, performance assessment, course design) is invariably enhanced when teachers participate in a structured peer review in which they examine one another’s unit designs and share feedback and suggestions for improvement” (27). I am really excited to try peer review, but I am not sure my colleagues at school would be on board. Let me rephrase. My department head would be interested, and one other member of our department might be, but the final member would consider it a personal affront.

I’m excited about this! Come join us if you are interested in this collaborative project.

Update, 5/30/08: Please read important new information in the comments.

[tags]UbD, Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, peer review, curriculum, assessment, education[/tags]

How to Get Something out of Education Blogs

Though I have been blogging about education for almost two years, I still do not flatter myself with the notion that I’m an expert; however, in those two years of blogging and reading others’ blogs, I have learned a few things that I think make the experience better for everyone, whether you blog yourself or not.

How to Find Blogs

The best method I have found to find blogs that you like is to check out blogrolls. Most bloggers keep a blogroll, or list of blogs they link to, in a sidebar to the left or right of the text on their own blog. If you find a blog you like, chances are you might like some of the blogs listed in their blogroll.

Another good method for finding good education blogs is to visit the Carnival of Education every week. EdWonk’s blog is the home of the Carnival of Education, but he has encouraged other bloggers to host it on many occasions.

Read Blogs Written by Teachers in Your Field

Two years ago, I would have to say that the edublogosphere was somewhat dominated by English teachers. It is, I suppose, our natural inclination to write, so that is perhaps not surprising. Today, however, bloggers can be found in every discipline, whether K-12 (elementary, middle, and secondary) or college, math, history, English, foreign language, social studies, science, and more.

I would encourage educators to read a few blogs written by someone who teaches the same subject matter for the same reason that we all have departments and department meetings in our own buildings — we share ideas with one another and our shared subject matter means we will be teaching the same things, more or less, so we would do well to listen to one another.

But Don’t Neglect Blogs Outside Your Subject Matter

Just because the blogger teaches science and you teach history doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from his or her blog. Whether it’s commiserating over the teaching craft and the shared hurdles all teachers face or just branching out and learning how someone else approaches his/her subject, you can learn a lot from bloggers outside your subject.

Engage in the Conversation

Don’t be afraid to leave comments and ask questions. If a teacher describes a lesson that you want to try, but you’re not sure you understood all the particulars and want more information, just ask! I think edubloggers as a whole enjoy the conversation on their blogs. At the same time, if you disagree with an edublogger, go ahead and say so, but stay within the bounds of civil discourse, or the blogger won’t listen to you. I know I wouldn’t. Would you?

Don’t Worry Over Bloggers You Don’t Like

Time for me to fess up. Two prominent edubloggers get on my last nerve, as they say here in the South, so I don’t make myself more furious by reading their blogs, even if they link to me. I won’t go so far as to link them or tell you who they are. If you have a blog, don’t feel compelled to link to or read bloggers you don’t like just because other bloggers do. This bit of advice might seem like a big no-brainer, but I can remember actually reading the blogs of these two edubloggers I don’t like for some time, my dislike intensifying all the time, just because I was sure I was missing something since everyone else linked them. With all the choices available today, trust me, you’re not missing anything.

Use an RSS Aggregator

I mentioned using RSS aggregators or feed readers in a previous post, and won’t rehash all of that here, but suffice it to say it will make it easier for you to keep up with your favorite blogs.

Try Technorati

If you’re looking for posts on a certain subject, you can discover new blogs through Technorati. You can search for certain tags. For instance, let’s say you want to read about Geoffrey Chaucer. You can search for Geoffrey Chaucer at Technorati and find out what bloggers are saying about Chaucer. You might run into lesson plans, comments from readers about Chaucer’s works, or even Chaucer’s own blog, but the point is that you will most likely find interesting blogs through Technorati.

Follow the Links

Bloggers link to sites within their posts for a reason — whatever they linked to will help you get more out of their posts. Again, this might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother to check out the links.

Try is an online bookmarking system. In the early days of Firefox, I noticed that my bookmarks would mysteriously disappear every once in a while. I love Firefox, but I hated having to find my links again. Plus, I didn’t have the same links saved on my work and home computers, so I sometimes got confused looking for sites. solved all of that. I have all my favorite links stored at Try browsing for education links, and you will find some great new blogs. If you find a user with a real knack for finding great education websites, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for their education tag and be notified when they add new links.

[tags]education, blogs, RSS,, Technorati[/tags]

Classroom 2.0

I was invited to join the Classroom 2.0 community by Nani. I wanted to try it out for a few days before I wrote about it here just so I could be sure it would be something I’d stick with. Several familiar “faces” have joined up with Classroom 2.0. One of the interesting things about Classroom 2.0 to me, however, is the number of unfamiliar faces. The community is built around the subject of using Web 2.0 in the classroom, and I think it could be a good resource for anyone who wants ideas about integrating blogs and wikis (and other similar applications) into their curriculum.

[tags]Classroom 2.0, wikis, blogs, education, technology[/tags]


PBWiki has recently removed all ads from educators’ wikis. You can read more about PBWiki at a recent post: Wikis for Educators. Consider giving PBWiki a try. They have nice templates and great customer service, as I mentioned in the previous post. Now that they are ad-free, they’re even more educator-friendly than they were in the past. In addition, you can access educator videos.

[tags]PBWiki, wikis, education[/tags]

What Can You Do with a Wiki?

When I gave my presentation about using blogs and wikis, one astute question a colleague asked was “why?” Why indeed? I don’t think educators should use wikis because it’s trendy. Educators have rightly been accused of dumping good educational practices in favor of trends before. Why should educators add one more thing to the already-full curriculum and take the time to learn and teach their students the technology?

Many answers probably exist to that question, but my reason for using wikis is that it enables students to connect with the world through their work. It makes classrooms flat and enables students across the world or across the country to work together on projects. When we English teachers have taught the writing process in the past, we have given lip service to the final step: publication. We tried to convince our students and ourselves that posting work on a bulletin board or hallway wall, or even in a literary magazine distributed to the students at school was publishing. Was it? I suppose in a narrow fashion, it was and is. But we have the technology to do so much more. Wikis and blogs enable students to truly complete that final step in the writing process and publish their work.

Once you are sold on the idea of using wikis, and it’s possible many of you aren’t there yet, the next question you might ask is what you can do with a wiki. What can you publish? Let me start with some examples of things my own students have done with wikis:

Keep in mind much of this was created because I was experimenting. My students were happy to follow along and see where it went. What you can do with a wiki is limited only by your imagination. Some ideas, admittedly oriented toward English, as that’s what I teach:

  • Create a literature circle where students can discuss a book they’re reading.
  • Book reports can go to a whole new level.
  • Online book discussions.
  • Writing portfolios.
  • Sharing links and information.
  • Reading journals.

If you know of a really cool wiki used for educational purposes, please share in the comments.

[tags]wikis, education[/tags]

Teachers and RSS

I would be willing to bet there are three teachers at my school who know what RSS is — the two IT‘s and me. My colleagues are intelligent, capable teachers, but like many teachers, they are neophytes when it comes to certain aspects of technology. As far as I know, I’m the only teacher blogger at my school. A few other teachers are beginning to use wikis after my presentation, but my wiki usage is most extensive. I’m not bragging; I have simply had more exposure to blogs and wikis than they have. I have been writing online, in some form or other, for nearly six years now.

Lorelle recently posted about RSS feeds via e-mail; she quoted a statistic from FeedBlitz which indicated that only 11% of web users use RSS aggregators (link). I’m not sure where this statistic comes from, as the most recent study I could find with a similar statistic dates to October 2005, which is ancient in ‘net terms (pdf). However, I think it is safe to say, judging by my personal experience, that lots of people use RSS, but don’t realize they are doing so. They use My Yahoo, My MSN, Google Personalized Homepages, or a similar homepage to collect their favorite websites, bookmarks, games, news sites, weather, and more. All of this is dependent on RSS.

When I gave my presentation on using blogs and wikis in classroom to the faculty at my school, our IT was giving a presentation on RSS. I was really excited because I think teachers can really benefit from using RSS aggregators. When I asked faculty members about his presentation (which, unfortunately, ran concurrently with mine, so I couldn’t attend it), they told me he told them about Google Personalized Homepages. They didn’t seem to have a clue what I meant when I mentioned RSS. It’s not his fault, as I’m sure he was measuring his audience and decided to do the most helpful thing he could for them.

I think teachers could save a lot of time if they used RSS aggregators to keep up with content on the web. Before I started using an RSS aggregator, I checked my favorite websites for updates every day, which can be time-consuming. As a result, I know that I followed fewer websites and probably missed out on some interesting information. An RSS aggregator allows you to gather all the websites you follow in one place, and it even tells you when they’ve been updated. News on Feeds has a list of web-based aggregators (same things as RSS aggregator, different term). I think the most popular aggregators on their list are Bloglines, Google Reader, and My Yahoo. Subscribing to an RSS feed using any one of these aggregators is really simple in Firefox: you simply click on the orange square in the right side of the location bar (address bar). You will be asked if you would like to use Bloglines, Google Reader, or My Yahoo to subscribe to the feed. You may need to login to your RSS aggregator if you haven’t already done so during your surfing session. In Internet Explorer 7, you will notice the same orange square near the address bar. If the website you are viewing has an RSS feed, you can subscribe to it using Microsoft’s feed reader. I don’t much like this option, as I think it’s a perfect demonstration of Microsoft’s propensity to make things more difficult for users who don’t want to use a Microsoft product to do something. My suggestion is to copy and paste the feed URL into your own favorite RSS aggregator, which is not as easy as Firefox.

When you login to your RSS aggregator, you can see a list of feeds you follow, and it will be easy to see any that have been updated with new stories or posts since you last logged in. My personal favorite feed reader is Bloglines. I have organized all the feeds I follow into folders labeled according to the types of blogs in that folder (for instance, Education is one of my folders). I don’t have to visit all 93 (!) feeds that I follow every day. I just visit Bloglines and look at the ones who have updated. Can you imagine how much time it would take to check 93 sites every day to see if they’ve been updated?

Most blogging software programs come bundled with RSS feeds, so you are probably publishing one, even if you don’t realize it. If you aren’t, you can easily create feeds for your blog or site by using Feedburner. I would suggest that you allow your users to read the full post or story in their feed reader. My husband won’t do this because he feels it cheats him out of website visits. I contend that if a user wants to visit your site to see the pretty template you made, then they will. If you force your reader to visit your site to finish reading what you’ve wrote, you might put some RSS readers off. Ultimately, it’s a decision you have to make, but you should ask yourself this question: Which is more important, accessibility to readers or hits on your website? If readers feel compelled to comment upon what you’ve written, they will visit your site to do so. I know how cool it is to see those high site statistics, but it’s also pretty cool to see the number of feed subscribers go up. One thing you know about your feed subscribers is that they are reading what you say. Visitors who Google something and wind up on your site, only to find the information they were looking for isn’t there (most likely because the majority of people don’t know how to search wisely) aren’t reading anything. Those site statistics can be misleading. In my opinion, what you really want to do is develop a loyal readership, and RSS feeds make that easier for some.

RSS also makes it really easy for you to find out what others are saying about your blog, business, or product. Technorati makes it easy for you to see if anyone new has linked to your site. Technorati runs on RSS. When you update your blog, you can use its tagging system to allow Technorati users who are looking for information to find your blog. For instance, at the bottom of this post, you will see one of my Technorati tags is “RSS.” This will enable Technorati users who are interested in reading about RSS to find this post easily. Of course, this will help you increase your readership, too.

RSS is a good thing. Try it out.

[tags]RSS, education, RSS aggregators, Bloglines, Technorati, My Yahoo, Google Reader, Feedburner, feeds[/tags]