When to Wall off the Garden

My National Writing Project colleague, Eric, has been thinking and reflecting upon when and how to protect students when they are writing on-line, which is something I do all the time, particularly with the launch of our big (six schools, 15 teachers, more than 200 students, and four Weblogs) project called Making Connections.

I liked what Eric wrote and so I don’t think he will mind if I share it here:

High Level of Safety

  • Completely “walled garden” where all student interaction is monitored, occurs on a school-affiliated website, and is not open to the public.
  • Any podcasts, videos, or images are also hosted only on this site and require approval before uploading.
  • A single class blog, forum, and wiki, all linked to a student account and inaccessible by any public visitors.
  • Students are not encouraged to read blogs, keep an aggregator, or access/use sites like Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs, and the like.

Medium Level of Safety

  • All interaction is monitored, occurs on a school-affiliated website or service designed for educational purposes (elggspaces, learnerblogs, ClassBlogmeiter, etc.), and some sections are open to public viewing, but not interaction (no way for visitors to leave comments, etc.)
  • Students create and upload podcasts, videos, and images to the school site, but prior approval is not required and can be viewed by the public.
  • Class blog and individual student blogs, forums, and wikis are all linked to a student account and are accessible by public visitors, but no interaction is permitted.
  • Students read blogs selected by the teacher and learn to find and cite resources through Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, and the like.

Low Level of Safety

  • All interaction is monitored, but may occur mainly or exclusively on open-source services (though likely those designed for educational purposes). All sections are public and open to interaction.
  • Students create and upload podcasts, videos, and images to open-source services and link or embed them in their own blogs, wiki, or forum.
  • Class blog and individual student blogs, forums, and wikis that students modify and determine access levels on a post-by-post/page-by-page basis.
  • Students read blogs selected by the teacher, as well as those related to their interests and research. Students also access and use services such as Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs, and the like.

I find it helpful to first consider what are the aims of the project and then what level of security do you need. Our Making Connections project is completely sealed off from the public, primarily because of the large number of students but also because teachers felt they had a better chance of getting administrative support that way.

Still, part of what we are doing with our project is teaching Internet safety and even with the “virtual garden” walled off, we stress that students should not give out personal information and remind them that these protocols are something they should also be following in their lives outside of school (You should have seen the faces on some of my students when I talked about tracing IM messages, email and how every computer has a distinct IP address).

Peace (with information),
Kevin

35 Tech Tips from TechnoSpud

I got home from school yesterday and found a new book waiting for me — it’s called 35 Tech Tips for Teachers and it is written by an old friend (we met through GlobalSchoolNet last year) Jennifer Wagner of Technospud. Jennnifer does some wonderful collaboration projects for teachers across the disciplines and is always sharing what she has learned with a larger audience (like me).

The booklet, which is published by Lulu, is a nice guide to using technology for learning in the classroom, ranging from introducing spreadsheet to using Powerpoint to creating vector letters in Paint Shop to beginning HTML coding. The lessons are simple to understand and are all connected to the National Educational Technology Standards for Students. She also offers to email out additional templates for some of the lessons.

Somewhere, I think I read that the proceeds from the book will help offset some of the costs of running her collaborative projects.

Peace (with teaching tips),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Mid-Year Reflections

I took part in another Skypecast conversation lastweek with other teachers who are using blogs, wikis, podcasting and other technology through Teachers Teaching Teachers site (which is wonderful — check it out!). The conversation is now being podcast through the site, too.

Take a listen.

The conversation was a bit crowded for a deep and rich conversation but it is still very empowering to be part of a larger community and I appreciate the efforts of Paul and Susan to keep this forum alive and thriving. Their topic was reflecting on how the school year has been going and what is ahead for us.
One interesting aspect was a visitor to the conversation from China, who is not a teacher but still had some things to say about education in China in comparison to education as we were discussing on the skypecast.

Peace (with multiple voices),
Kevin

Another Excellent Resource

I stumbled upon the Teaching Hacks Weblog this morning (via the so-called Top 100 Education Blogs list from something called Online Education Database) and there is a free resource at Teaching Hacks for teachers wanting to integrate such Web 2.0 tools as RSS feeds, tagging, social networking, etc, into their toolbox. The booklet seems like a nice companion to Will Richardson’s book (Weblogs, Wikis, Podcasts, etc).

Check out the PDF file called Web 2.0 for Educators by Quentin D’Souza

Peace,
Kevin

 

The Digital World

Wesley Fryer (one of those folks whose Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog should be securely fastened into everyone’s RSS Aggregator) just posted a great article that builds upon the concept of digital natives/digital immigrants (as put forth by Marc Prensky).

His idea is that there are more than two layers of people and their comfort level with technology. Fryer suggests that the world might be split into Natives (young people fully immersed from birth into tech); Immigrants (those who are finding their way into tech possibilities); Refugees (those who see tech and don’t want to touch the start button); Bridges (the sort-of undecided about whether tech is good or bad, but keep a toe in the door); and the Undecided (really perplexed about tech).
Here is his concept map to help explain these ideas in a very cute way:

Our Digital Landscape

(from http://www.infinitethinking.org/2006/10/digital-refugees-and-bridges.html)

Peace,
Kevin

Writely is Transformed — for good or bad?

This summer, I discovered the joys of Writely — the online word publishing program run by Google — and quickly jumped into its collaborative nature. I have been using it to begin writing a Monograph Book for the National Writing Project and I have been planning out a book about technology and composition in the classroom with two colleagues. I have collaborated on songwriting and lyrics, and used Writely in a bunch of ways.

So, like others, I was surprised to wake up one morning this week and discover that Writely had been merged into the Google family completely, and reborn as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I already use Google calendar and have a gmail account, so it does make sense to me on some level to have all my Googleness in one zone. I also know it is not much more than an interface change (all the old features still seem to be there) and I know I will quickly get used to the new design (which my friend Troy points out is not quite as warm and friendly as the old Writely design and poor Troy designed his blog banner by using the Writely interface as his design template).

Still, some warning would have been helpful, other than the little notice the night before that said they were going to be working on Writely. Maybe they were too busy closing the YouTube deal …

Peace,
Kevin

NetDay SpeakUp

I am continuing to find ways to not only introduce technology and writing to my sixth grade students, but also to engage them in some critical thinking. For example, the other day, I showed them a funny mashed-up photo circulating the ‘net, and then we discussed Photoshop and how nothing is quite what it seems in the wired world.

So I am interested in this project called NetDay, which seeks to gauge student understanding and knowledge of the digital world as a collective research project in the month of November. Here is an overview of guiding questions the group hopes the data can help us answer:

  • WHO are today’s students?
  • HOW are your schools supporting the teaching and learning of 21st century skills?
  • WHERE are students and teachers accessing technology and learning technology skills?
  • HOW are teachers using technology for professional activities, both for teaching and for their own learning?
  • WHAT are students’ ideas and concerns about technology use for their education?
  • WHAT are teacher’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their professional goals?
  • WHAT are parent’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their children’s education?

from http://www.netday.org/speakup/

There is also an invite to have parents participante in the surveys. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare data from parents to data from students?

Speak Up logo

Peace,
Kevin

K-12 Online Conference

Everywhere I go as I wander through my Bloglines account, there is a mention of this upcoming conference, so I finally traveled to the site for the K12 Online Conference myself to see what it was about, and it seems interesting. Certainly the names of people that I admire in education and technology seem to be represented and the call is for all teachers to participate and learn from others.

Here is a blurb from the homepage:

The “K12 Online Conference” is for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 and will include a preconference keynote. The conference theme is “Unleashing the Potential.” — from http://k12onlineconference.org/?page_id=2

So, why not enter the conversation in the coming weeks and get involved. Who knows who you will meet and what cool ideas you may pick up?

Peace,
Kevin

The ABC Book of Blogging

I came across this very wonderful resource put together by a group of fifth graders from Conyers, Georgia. They created an ABC guide to Blogging for Kids and it is a wonderful production that not only provides great information but also, as a project itself, showcases some wonderful inquiry and presentation by young writers and researchers (including the use of idioms). The entries include illustrations by the students. All around, this project is very nicely done!

The ABC Book of Blogging

Some examples from the students’ work:

  • From the Letter A: The anticipation we feel just before opening our blogs is awesome. We’re “all ears” listening to Mrs. Anne Davis and each other as we begin the day discussing what we will be doing during our blogging session. Some times we have our articles ready to post. We are most anxious to hear from our internet audience and can’t wait to answer comments. We’ve got a good attitude because this is “A Place to Be Heard!”
  • And on to Z: After good discussions full of dialogue from everyone we really get good ideas to use while blogging. Of course, that’s after we omit the zany comments. Derrick told us about Zaxlies, who don’t always project their voices. We have learned to project our voices and zero in on the writing. Sometimes Mrs. Davis tells us to zip our lips and blog away! We zip to the lab and zoom in on our computer screens. We have a lot of zest when we are writing on our blogs.

— from http://www2.gsu.edu/~coeapd/abc/index.html

Peace,
Kevin

Considering Elgg

Last week, I joined an online conversation with folks through Teachers Teaching Teachers that explores the convergence of technology and teaching in its many varied forms. I have been curious about the concept of Elgg communities and jumped into the conversation with some questions (for my own benefit and for my wife, who is a high school teacher). As far as I can tell, Elgg offers the possibility of a safe online community that links members together through shared interested and through related “tags” that they create in their profile. It mirrors Facebook and MySpace, but without the advertising and mess of those sites. Dave Tosh provides a good overview of Elgg at his site.
You can listen to the podcast of that conference through the Teachers Teaching Teachers site. Or you can find that link here:

microphone Listen to the podcast

Meanwhile, I notice that the authors of one of my favorite blog sites — Bud the Teacher — is posing his own inquiries into Elgg, so I hope to follow along that conversation, too. And I have joined a teacher Elgg, too, just to tour around and get familiar with the tools that are there.

Peace,
Kevin