During my riveting (wink, wink) MAP testing training this week, a middle school colleague asked me a fabulous question brought about by her attendance at the FLNW unConference session the day before. She asked:
Kim, how can I connect my students to other students all around the world?
Ah, the joy of getting to respond to that one question in a room full of teachers! One tactic I’ve found that gets teachers interested in using new technology in the classroom is to give them a chance to “overhear” a conversation with a third party, so they can absorb some information without feeling put on the spot. I shared a few ideas with her and got a conversation going with a few others – all in a day’s work, of course.
A nice follow-up would be how to select which tool to use. There are so many of those available, I find some folks have trouble deciding.
And then, yesterday, I was a guest presenter in Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s graduate class (using Elluminate) where a teacher asked me:
Given the fact that we have state-mandated standards we need to meet, how do you find a technology tool that lets you bring in exciting collaborative elements?
I like the metaphor of the toolbox for a few reasons:
- There is a specific tool for every job, but you might be able to make a different tool work if you tinker enough.
- You might require several tools to complete a larger task.
- You should always have a small selection of tools at your disposal in case of emergency.
- If a new tool is invented that does the job better/faster/easier, a professional would use that one.
- You only get the full effectiveness out of some tools if use them together (like a hammer and a chisel to carve a sculpture).
- There are more tools than anyone one person could use in a lifetime, but some will become indispensable to your practice.
The thing to remember with any toolbox is that you need to know what you want to accomplish before you choose your tool. I find lots of teachers often try to make one tool fit many purposes because that’s the tool they’re comfortable with, or that’s the tool they hear other teachers talking about. The most important feature of the toolbox is picking the right tool for the job at hand.
Given that there are so many tools available, I made a basic web 2.0 comparison chart to help determine the right tool for the task:
For most readers of this blog, this is old news, but I thought it might be helpful to have everything listed in one place, as an introduction to those new to web 2.0 tools. I’m sure I’m totally reinventing the wheel here, as this most likely exists somewhere else, but with the questions being asked one after another this week, I figured I might as well have a go!
Please keep in mind that this is just a basic starting guide – there are so many new tools added every day, that there’s no way I could even hope to keep up, and there are much better, and far more detailed descriptions of why and how to use these tools in many different books (Will Richardson’s Blogs Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom is my favorite), but here’s my intro list:
The best use of a blog is for an individual seeking feedback – this could be an individual student or an individual teacher. We love blogs because they promote interaction between author and reader, however it is the author that determines the content/discussion focus – not the reader. Therefore, this option works very well when an individual (or even a group of individuals posting to the same blog) are seeking feedback or comments on their ideas and thoughts.
Features of a blog:
- entries posted in consecutive order, newest on top
- comments from readers extend classroom learning
- personal learning journal
Ideas for classroom blogging:
- a teacher blog to share learning with parents and resources with students
- a classroom blog where all students can contribute but there is one blog to maintain
- individual student blogs linked to a teacher blog to allow individual reflection
The best use of a wiki is for collaborative knowledge building. A wiki allows for shared ownership for all members, meaning that together the authors of a wiki determine what information is posted online. Because a wiki is a great place to share and document information, it can be thought of as an easy-to-create collaborative website.
Features of a wiki:
- Easy to create website
- Easy collaboration beyond classroom
- Extend discussion beyond the classroom
- Trackable page edits
Ideas for classroom wikis:
- a resource for all assignments, rubrics, deadlines and resources to increase home-school communication
- a “home-base” for bringing multiple tools together
- a presentation format to demonstrate student learning
The best use of social networking is for connecting students (and teachers and parents). A social network allows for a variety of tools to be directly embedded within your network (like blogs, podcasts, groups and forums) so it is a great venue for bringing people together and allowing them to select the tool that suits their learning style. Social networks allow users to communicate with all members in a variety of formats.
Features of Social Networks
- Create groups of learners
- Facilitate forum discussions
- Personal reflection space within a community
- Members take ownership of their learning
- Easily upload multimedia
Ideas for classroom social networks:
- to begin a dialogue with differentiated groups of learners
- to private space to connect students
- to help develop independence in leading discussions or planning projects
The best use of collaborative multimedia is to allow for creative representation of ideas. When a blog is too text driven, or a social network is too complex for your needs, or your students would benefit from video or audio presentation, you might want to try a multimedia format. Collaborative multimedia lets you bring together voice, audio, and video into one product and allows others to comment and add on to your work.
Features of multimedia tools
- Integration of multiple media
- Subscription service (podcasts)
- Collaboration on digital storytelling (VoiceThread)
Ideas for collaborative multimedia:
- to add a new dimension to digital storytelling
- to start asynchronous voice conversations around learning topics
- to engage the more creative learners in your class
The best use of VoIP is when you want to connect and communicate with your personal learning network on a personal level.
Features of VOIP
- Audio/video e-mail
- Audio/video chat
- Recording discussions
Ideas for VoIP:
- connecting with a primary source
- real-time communication with a partner class
- developing personal connections on a one-on-one basis
What do you think? What else should be added to this list to make it an easy place to start for beginners to web 2.0 tools?
Image from Saffanna