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 …
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?
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?
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?
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
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:
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.
The emergence of technology as a source for user-generated writing, audio and video files is intriguing to me as an educator, but I still wonder about how everything will pan out in a few years. Will it all become a commercialized jumble of incoherence? (MySpace is an absolute mess that began with promise, I think). Or will we find a path to utilize these resources to generate critical learning and collaboration for our young student writers and creators?
Last semester, I took a course at UMass
and wrote a final paper about my thoughts on the integration of the Read-Write Web (also known as Web 2.0
in some circles) into classroom practice and so I share it here for anyone who might be interested in what I wrote. Will Richardson continues to explore the possibilities of these technologies in education in interesting ways and his Weblogged site
is always worth a gander. My own paper and inquiry remains a work in progress for me and a piece of writing I will return to at a later time for more reflection and work.
Read Kevin’s Seminar Paper
I found this wonderful resource that focuses in on the educational aspects of blogging in the classroom and thought I would share it with you. The site is called SupportBlogging
(of course) and it is a Wiki site. It provides many resources, best practices and information that seems both practical and thought-provoking.
This is a nice summary of how blogs can be integrated into the classroom:
In a broader and more educational system, blogs are about communicating. You observe your experience, reflect on it, and then write about it. Other people read your reflections, respond from their perspectives by commenting or writing their own blog article. You read their perspectives, often learn something through their eyes, and write some more.
— from Supportblogging