Tag Archives: tools

Wallwisher

I discovered Wallwisher when I came across Wallwishers created by Nik Peachey and Ackygirl through Ackygirl’s link.

Wallwisher

Looking through the FAQs, I discovered the following information about Wallwisher:

Wallwisher is an Internet application that allows people to express their thoughts on a common topic easily.

A wall is basically the ‘web page’ where people actually post messages.

You don’t need to sign up to use the Wallwisher, but you do need to provide an email address. A temporary account will be created for you using your email address so that you can come back and make changes to the wall.

Have a look at FAQs for more information about how to use Wallwisher.

You can also share the Wall, embed it in a website or organise an RSS feed for Wallwisher.

I like the collaborative aspect the best,  the fact that it looks better than a list, it links to things easily, and you can even embed a video.

It would be an excellent way to brainstorm ideas and collaborate for students and teachers alike.

What are your ideas on the potential of Wallwisher?

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Filed under 21st century learning, technology, Web 2.0

Best online collaboration tools 2009

Robin Good has published Best online collaboration tools 2009.  It’s an enormous mindmap, difficult to read even if you shrink it.  If you hover over the central title you get two links. The first is a note which says

Collaborative map idea by Robin Good of MasterNewMedia.org realised during the Learning Trends 2008 event with the cooperative contributions of over 150 people on November 16 2008 and during the following weeks. You can email Robin Robin.Good@masternewmedia.org if you want to add to it.

The second link takes you to Robin Good’s website.

In an attempt to get an overview, I looked at the mindmap as a linear text in a word document; it’s enormous.

Here are the headings:

event-scheduling; chat; instant messaging; audio-conferencing; screen-sharing; video-conferencing; large audience webinars; web conferencing; co-browsing; whiteboards; web presenting; multimedia presentations; work grouping; document-sharing wikis; file-sharing; mindmapping and diagramming; collaborative reviewing; collaborative writing; project management.

The tools for each of these headings are hyperlinked. I’m overwhelmed by the number of tool here. Still, only one way to explore them – one at a time.

Here’s one of the many tools under the heading of Workgrouping. I wasn’t sure what that was when I read it, but the first tool listed is a ning, and I know what that is – an online platform for the creation of a social network. I chose randomly, and here’s what I found out about Yammer.

Yammer is a private communication tool for a company in which you can control privacy settings (very much like a ning).  The formatting reminds me of Twitter and Facebook: there are status updates, information shared on a discussion board, groups formed, and members have profiles/bios with layers of background information. Its attraction to commercial companies? The same as what would (or should) attract nings to schools. It connects people within the company in one place, allowing this to be divided into the required spaces within that company. Members share news, information, questions, links; bios provide valuable background information, such as the information provided in Facebook and nings. You look up a person, and you can follow them, as on Twitter. That means, if you think someone is interesting, you can keep updated about what they’re working on or what they’re reading (as on Twitter, Facebook). This kind of knowledge sharing reduces redundant questions asked by people. I think it also gives a good measure of control to the individual member, allowing independent research into people or projects, and allowing them to take the initiative of forming public or private groups.

I wonder if commercial companies will embrace these online tools before schools do?  And if so, will schools finally sit up and take notice when they see that the world of work is taking them seriously? Or will schools become the innovators?

By the way, for a while now, when I mention a ning, I get some sort of guffaw as a response, and then the inevitable question: ‘Why is it called a ning?’ Well, I decided to look it up. According to Wikipedia, the word ‘ning’ is Chinese for peace.

Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks [2], launched in October 2005.[1] Ning was co-founded by Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini. Ning is Andreessen’s third company (after Netscape and Opsware).

The word “Ning” is Chinese for “peace” (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: níng), as explained by Gina Bianchini on the company blog, and it is also a surname in Chinese.

Still, I think, to attract more credibility, they could have gone with a name which didn’t allude to a nonsense poem by Spike Milligan.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, network literacy, Web 2.0

Siftables – the toy blocks that think

David Merrill is the creative inventor of Siftables, small computer blocks that interact with each other, offering a myriad of learning possibilities using physical manipulation and play.

I’m so inspired by people like David, and by the way he talks just as much as what he does. His passionate explanation of his new discovery reveals  creative and innovative thinking. He says “I started to wonder… what if…?” And that’s the point where you  know something great is going to happen. ‘What if…?’ is something I think we should do more often.

So he thinks ‘What if, when we use computers, instead of having a single mouse cursor, we could reach with both hands and grasp information physically, arranging it the way we wanted it?’

David’s idea came from watching kids play with blocks, and understanding that through this physical play they were learning how to think and solve problems by understanding and manipulating spatial relationships.  He argues that spatial reasoning is deeply linked with how we understand the world around us.

From this idea, David, the computer scientist, came up with a concept and developed a new tool – Siftables; you could grab information physically and arrange it the way you wanted to. Siftables, according to David, are an example of a new ecosystem of tools for manipulating information, for exploring new and fun interaction styles. The blocks are somehow aware of each other, aware of the nuances of how we move them, and respond accordingly. The examples he showed were language and maths games, as well as musical composition, but he hinted that there were many more applications.

The game aspect is appealing. As David says, you don’t have to give kids many instructions – they work it out for themselves by playing around with the blocks. Discovery.

The music was my favourite example, and I immediately wanted to have a go.  The Siftables enabled you to inject sounds into a sequence that you could assemble into the pattern you wanted.

David says, ‘My passion is to make new human computer interfaces that are a better match to ways our brains and bodies work… we are on the cusp of a new generation of tools for interacting with digital media that is going to bring information into our world on our terms.’

A powerful statement.

I like the way he’s thinking about matching digital tools with our brains AND bodies. I often think about how traditional education, with its expectation that students sit still and listen for prolonged periods of time, or work on teacher-prescribed work which focuses on text, doesn’t match the way adolescents function, and definitely doesn’t take into account their need for physical activity.

Siftables may have been created for young children but I think there is much potential for adolescents too. This is an excellent example to underline something I’ve been saying for a while: technology is not an end in itself. Technological tools are just tools, but they can enhance learning, and with the learner in mind, and particularly with the learning aims in mind, they can enable creative and innovative activity.

 Thanks to @marciamarcia for this link.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Education, learning, teaching, Web 2.0

Making parents our partners in 21st century learning

If we want to shift learning and teaching into the 21st century, there are a number of people we need to take with us. Apart from teachers and school administrators, we can’t ignore parents in this move, and we really should be thinking about how we do this. The K12 Online Conference 2008: Kicking it up a notch tackles the subject of parents as partners – Parental Engagement in the 21st Century – Leveraging web 2.0 tools to engage parents in non-traditional ways – giving much food for thought, as well as practical suggestions of ways to move forward.

Lorna Constantini and Matt Montagna connect from afar online and ask how we can move forward from teachers’ and parents’ fear of the internet. They remind us that parents haven’t been brought up on the internet, so it’s natural for them to fear something that is foreign. The question is, what can we say to parents that will influence them in a positive way about their children’s online lives? I like the way Lorna and Matt have brought it back to what parents can understand – that we are all social beings, having an innate desire to connect with people and develop relationships, and that social networking is just a new form of traditional social connections.  As Matt points out,

 although online networks can be playful, they can also be powerful, enabling people to meet others with similar interests, solve problems together, create software programs together, participate in social and professional discussion with people we may not know in the physical world, etc. Our kids do this instinctively and fluently, posting content, interacting with content posted by others, learning from and teaching one another, having conversations with people all over the world – the opportunities to learn are tremendous. If we look at this new focus for young people, we should realise that they’ve moved away from what has long been the criticism of passive television viewing, and found new engagement in an interactive environment. If parents understand the positive aspects of social networking, they will realise that this shift is enormously powerful.

A major concern for parents is safety on the internet. Matt and Lorna talk about reassuring parents that young people are better at warding off potentially harmful situations than we give them credit for. They also ask a serious question, one that we need to discuss in schools: Who is guiding and mentoring our young people online now? Who is rolemodelling ethical and effective online interactions? And the answer is, apart from isolated individuals, nobody.

Schools may think they are by using filtering software, but it doesn’t encourage responsible use. All it does is encourage kids to find ways around filters, and it also blocks valuable and educational content. On the whole, parents don’t know what their kids are doing on the internet, so they are unable to provide guidance. This needs to change! Why? In every aspect of kids’ lives, parents provide key guidance that their kids need.

Here’s the best suggestion for parent PD that I’ve heard – why not get parents to set up Facebook accounts, blogs, and interact with some of the other Web 2.0 applications. This is a great way demystify their kids’ online socialising, enabling parents to shift from policing to mentoring their kids. Rather than lecture parents about the theory, we should just urge them to give it a shot.. give the example of email, which was new once, but we’re now used to it and depend on it.

And what a great idea to use new tools and platforms to reach out and connect to parents. Parents as partners is a Facebook group set up for parents – an online forum for questions and support which also models new technologies. I think modelling is the best way to teach someone. Just as important as modelling, transparency is a great way to let parents in on what their kids are up to. Have a look at the live video broadcast of kids away on an excursion, where parents can chat with their kids. Lastly, the NING network allows ongoing communication and collaboration between parents and teachers. Interestingly, the parents who were involved in the NING are the ones who were not involved in school in any other capacity – another example of the power of online tools.

We might feel isolated in our schools in advocating mindset change, and connecting with each other, either online or in person, is a powerful thing to do. But we’ll be banging our heads against the wall if we don’t find a way to effect a mindset change in all members of the school community. If we get parents on-side, they’ll be our partners in supporting students in 21st century learning. As it says on the Parents as partners blog, students achieve better when parents are involved in their child’s education.

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Filed under Education, parents, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Animate your language lessons


This is a nifty little application I can imagine would make language learning fun.

Joe Dale (October 11) put me onto the Animate application for language learning on Jose Picardo’s blog

In the About section of his blog, Box of Tricks, Jose Picardo explains the role of technology in student learning:

Technology has been demonstrated to be a powerful motivator, helping to increase confidence and thereby encourage learning. Technology catalyses pupils’ interest, helping to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning and achieving.

Knowing how to make the most of the available technology is an essential skill for teachers to acquire in an age where pupils’ learning expectations are changing radically. Technology ensures that education remains relevant in our students’ increasingly digital lives.

Box of Tricks is full of great ideas for language teachers. Apart from ‘Animate your homework’ some of the many ideas include:

Using Animoto to promote speaking;
Podcasting in 5 easy steps;
Assessing with video: giving students control;
Edmodo: microblogging for the classroom;
Seeqpod: the easy way to take music to your classroom or blog;
Top 5 tips for creating resources for the interactive whiteboard;
Top 10 tips for using technology in your classroom;
Using Voki and a blog in a sequence of 3 lessons;
Wordle: using word clouds in a lesson;
Free comicstrip-creating website …. and much more!

Another great blog for language teachers is Nik Peachy’s Learning technology teacher development blog. Just have a look at his topics in the right-hand navigation. You’ll find exactly what you need for enjoyable and engaging language learning lessons, whether it’s a 5 minute fix or a new application you can add to your repertoire.

If you’re a language teacher and you think that you can’t use much technology in your lessons, think again!

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Filed under Education, humour, photos, play, Web 2.0

Web 2.0 supermarket – let’s go shopping!

There’s a veritable cornucopia of Web 2.0 goodies on this site. It’s the Web 2.0 comprehensive directory to a TON of social networking sites presented by Jake McAuley from GO2WEB20.net THE BOOK. This is version 2 updated 16/09/2008.

Here are some applications I thought might be useful just from the first few pages.

1K: Read and Write Short Stories
1000Keyboards is a website created for writers to submit, share, critique and communicate in an environment tuned to promote growth and exposure.
http://1000keyboards.com
Tags: share,create,communication

12 seconds : Share Short Videos
12seconds.tv allows friends and family to record and share short video updates about what they are doing or where they are. You can use a webcam or a cellphone. It’s a free, easy, and fun way to stay in touch.
http://12seconds.tv
Tags: video,TV,webcam,mobile

22 Books : Create and Share A List of your Favorite Books
22books is dedicated to the creating, sharing, and viewing of book lists. Start out by browsing some of the featured lists to the left and then open a free account and start creating lists of your own.
http://www.22books.com
Tags: book,share,list

280 slides : Create & Share Presentations Online
Create beautiful presentations, access them from anywhere, and share them with the world. With 280 Slides, there’s no software to download and nothing to pay for – and when you’re done building your presentation you can share it any way you like.
http://280slides.com
Tags: presentation,create,build

3D Package : 3D Box Maker
3d package is a 3d-box graphic generator. 3d package lets you instantly create 3d-boximages online, free. Just upload pictures for cover and sides and then get 3d-box in you favorite imageformat (JPG, GIF, PNG supported). Post them in your blog or anywhere else.
http://280slides.com
Tags: generator,3D,package

5min : Life Videopedia
5min is a place to find short video solutions for any practical question and a forum for people wanting to share their knowledge. 5min aims is to create the first communal Life Videopedia allowing users from all over the globe to contribute their knowledge by sharing visual guides covering variety of subjects.
http://www.5min.com/
Tags: knowledge,video,share,tool,Israel

99 Polls : Free Online Web Polls Generator
99Polls offers a simple approach to making Web Polls, which you can post nearly anywhere on the Web. 99Polls.com poll-creation tool requires no knowledge of HTML or coding, and once made, the poll can be posted on blogs, Web sites, and social-networking profiles such as: MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Xanga and more…
http://www.99polls.com
Tags: poll,generator,social,Israel

All That : The Search that Never Stops
Allth.at will keep looking for your item on the sites you select and report new search results back to you. You can also choose to have new results emailed to you or, you can subscribe to the RSS feed and have your new search results delivered right to your RSS reader.
http://allth.at
Tags: search,engine,track

Alltop : All the Top Stories Covered all the Time
Alltop is a directory of stories from the most popular blogs on the Internet. Updated constantly.
http://alltop.com
Tags: content,link,aggregator

And I’m only selecting from the A list. This list will boggle your mind, distract you from the task at hand, and possibly ruin your relationships. Browse at own risk.

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Filed under Education, photos, Web 2.0

21st century learning

‘Our students are changing … but schools are not.’
This is a leitmotif of a professional development program, Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) run by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson, which will run in Australia soon, and in which our school has the privilege of participating.

As stated on the PLP website, ‘Powerful Learning Practice offers a unique opportunity for educators to participate in a long-term, job-embedded professional development program that immerses them in 21st Century learning environments. The PLP model is currently enabling hundreds of educators around the country to experience the transformative potential of social Web tools to build global learning communities and re-envision their own personal learning practice’.

As a result of our participation in the Web2.0 program through School Library Association of Victoria, we were invited by Jenny Luca, who is organising the Australian contingent of the 100 educator-strong global cohort , to join the 7 or 8 Australian teams of 5 educators per school. We almost jumped for joy, but remembered our respectable standing and did some mental leaps instead. After all, how long had we been passionate about transformative learning environments, recognising the potential of emerging web technologies in engaging students and creating global learning communities? And how difficult it is to create a voice that is heard above the clatter of the old school machine? How helpless and ineffective we often feel, like door-to-door evangelists in our own schools, with the door being slammed in our faces, people telling us they have their own god, or that they have no time to listen. At best, we’ve ‘converted’ small, isolate pockets of educators but not had any significant effect on the school community.

Now we have the opportunity to take part in a program based on a highly successful pilot carried out in Alabama and supported by internationally recognised practitioners of 21st century learning technologies. Not only has this given us the opportunity to formulate our thoughts in a proposal to the principal class, but it has also created interest from staff, led to conversations where we have had to explain and justify the cause, and opened up planning for a collaborative team. Suddenly we had something that was worth doing across the school, that was supported both from the top and the bottom. We weren’t isolated any more!

Two of us were able to attend the initial talk by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach at Toorak College this afternoon. I was excited to meet Jenny and Sheryl, and they were as passionate and inspiring as I had expected. Sheryl was amazing – stepping off the plane and straight into the talk, her body clock still at 3am, and engaging the audience with her passion and ideas. I asked her how she managed to deliver an hour-long talk after travelling halfway across the world, and she said that her tiredness was evident in her slower than usual speech, which, for us in Australia, was a comfortable speed to follow.

I thought I’d mention some of the things that stood out for me as I listened to Sheryl’s presentation. Firstly, she emphasised that 21st century learning, although based on technologies, was primarily a human network. These technologies enable global connections and wisdom of the crowd. Sheryl gave the example of Twitter as a means of finding the best information about buying a new car. I suppose it’s an extension of the network of friends and colleagues people turn to when looking for a good car, or finding a good plumber, only the global aspect facilitates expert knowledge more effectively. In a fast-changing world, where the information today will be outdated tomorrow, rather than teach memorisation of content from a single text, we need to teach students how to work collaboratively. As Sheryl said, ‘don’t think computers, think innovation’. Our students need to be able to be productive, self-directed and effective communicators, understanding digital communications, and not be overwhelmed by the fast pace of change in their lives. It’s not about the tools, the technology, but about learning.

Sheryl challenged us about the relevance of school education, and spoke about the low percentage of students who thought that what they had learned at school would be relevant to their future lives. She spoke about the learning that takes place outside of school within the networking communities of young people. We saw Darren Draper’s film that asked educators if they had been paying attention to students in their classes, if they had been watching them or listening to them, and challenged educators to use the technologies that these students loved in order to teach and engage them.

What inspired me, towards the end of the talk, was Sheryl’s prediction that members of the PLP cohort would eventually have the courage to be bold and challenge the status quo. How true, that, in order to inspire change, we have to model it. As Sheryl said, ‘you can’t give away what you do not own’. I’m ready to share what I’ve learned. I’m not learning to keep. It isn’t much, and so I’m also ready to keep learning. We need to keep up with the pace of change. We hope to help diminish the digital divide – between those who know how to collaborate digitally, as the world shrinks through global connections, and those who don’t. Our job is to prepare students to be responsible, global citizens. We need a change in pedagogy, playing to students’ strengths instead of their weaknesses (ie. what they don’t know, what they’re not good at). We need to cater for different learning styles. We must become 21st century educators. These are the main ideas from Sheryl’s deep-reaching talk today.

What I’d like to say to teachers is what I read on Darren Draper’s excellent blog, when he talked about Kevin Honeycutt and one of his ‘favorite quotes regarding teachers and our relationship to our students: “We’ve got to be willing to play where they play… even if we don’t feel comfortable.” ‘

I’m looking forward to an enriching, collaborative, global PLP experience.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0