Can Web 2.0 be a little more intimate?

Posted by jackdrolet on April 18th, 2008 filed in Questions, Web 2.0

As an ESL teacher, my primary objective is simply to foster communication. Many web 2.0 sites, such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, VoiceThreads, Mindmeister, and countless more, have great potential to facilitate meaningful communication when integrated with the classroom. However, undertaking course objectives on the world wide web is like taking a class outside. It may be nice for a change, but it’s too distracting to actually get much done. Even more importantly, students have a right to privacy and it’s unethical to force students to publish their work on the internet where anyone can see.

What I hope is that these great sites that manage user generated content soon allow for small groups of users to form private webspace. Teachers could set up a Twitter page or a VoiceThreads account for a group of students who are automatically linked to each other. This may even make it easy for classes to make contacts and start up conversations with other groups of learners in other parts of the world.

I know that with most web 2.0 applications, there are certain choices the user can make for privacy. It would be possible to put a video on YouTube and make it viewable to only the other students in a class, for example. However, when orchestrating multiple accounts, usernames, and passwords for a group of students, there’s always going to be some who fall through the cracks. I hope that in the near future, many of these sites create applications with teachers and student privacy in mind.

Does anyone know of any good sites that allow for groups of users to be easily created? I suppose Blogger is one example that is appropriate because it’s pretty easy to set up a single blog with multiple authors. Any others?

Replacement for Standardized Testing?

Posted by Aaron Smith on April 3rd, 2008 filed in Podcast, Questions
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I’ve been inspired … maybe.

(By the way, This is cross-posted from Academic Aesthetic.  Teachers 2.0 is a much larger community, as evidenced in more than one significant way, and I really want to hear people’s feedback.  You can comment here or there, although to be honest more people might read your response if you post it here.)

Ok, on to the heart of today’s episode.  In the past I’ve expressed mixed feelings about high stakes standardized testing.  I feel that our goal as educators should be to prepare students to be successful in the “real world,” and that teaching to the test (which seems to be an inevitable outcome of this kind of assessment) does not do this - especially if and when the test itself is not assessing skills that will be required in the real world.

People in the U.S. reading this now may immediately think of NCLB, but I was teaching before that legislation passed I recall high stakes assessment  being disproportionately emphasized back then, too.

Now in the past every time I expressed this opinion, I added that while I dislike tests like this I feel I can’t complain too much because it’s difficult to think of another way to compare schools from year to year across a district, county, or nation without some sort of one-size-fits-all non-subjective bar with which we can measure student achievement.

But the other day, I put two and two together.  What’s our goal again?  To prepare students for the real world.  So how should we assess them?  How about by looking at how they perform in the real world, or at least in response to real world situations.

What if, instead of subjecting our students to tests that stress out everyone involved, we created some form of rubric to evaluate how they do after they stop calling themselves students? The rubric could include things like salary, job satisfaction, and any one of a number of variables that we apply to ourselves when we ask ourselves if we think we’ve been successful.

Of course if we adopted this system there would still be some problems.  True assessment would not be able to be measured until they were no longer our students, thus keeping us from correcting discrepancies that a well written standardized test may have caught.  Maybe a combination of the two?  I don’t know.

I’m not saying this is the perfect solution.  I’m not even saying I’ve thought this completely through yet, but it is something I’ve been mulling over, and I’d love to hear your opinion on the whole thing.  What have I overlooked?  Why would or wouldn’t this type of assessment be a good idea?  If it was your job to create the real life rubric, what would be the core variables worth measuring?

Inquiring minds want to know.

icon for podpress  Academic Aesthetic 156 [6:12m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Now running on Wordpress 2.5!

Posted by Aaron Smith on March 30th, 2008 filed in Site News
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When this guy says we should upgrade, I usually upgrade.

And he’s right, it’s interesting.  They did change the interface around a lot, but I think it’s for the best.

Too much distraction?

Posted by LindaH on March 29th, 2008 filed in Questions
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When I create or select resources to use as teaching aids I often look for things that I consider “child-friendly” or “visually appealing”. This often means sites or presentations that are bright and colourful, maybe use cartoons and striking visual images. When I make a screen cast I usually add a voice over and think that seeing my mouse move, or being able to zoom in on one area will help the learner. I just might be wrong! I found this set of very clear pictorial tutorials. They are in black and white, task based and very easy to follow. I liked them instantly. I decided to have a look at the reasoning behind their approach and found that it was research based. They started off designing tutorials for people with special needs and then were surprised to find that other people found them easier to use too.

In Pictures Approach to Computer Learning
# The simpler, the better.
Tutorials should be as simple as possible. Multimedia animations may look nifty, but they can be hard to follow. Thats why these tutorials use static screenshots.

# Black-and-white is better than color.
Color screenshots can create a “kaleidoscope” effect that makes it difficult to focus. Black-and-white doesnt. That’s why these tutorials use black-and-white screenshots.

# Tasks are more important than features.
Most computer learning aids concentrate on features—the things a program can do. But most people care about tasks—the things they want to do. That’s why these tutorials focus on common tasks.

So maybe these are things to keep in mind when we are designing or choosing materials for students. What do you think?

Back to the Brick and Mortar

Posted by dlaughey on March 21st, 2008 filed in Questions


I am a HS English teacher for a large Virtual School and I teach from home. I am returning to the brick and mortar school for several reasons. The local salaries are better, I miss face-to-face interaction with students, and the environment is quite corporate. I miss the autonomy of creating curriculum. Working from home can be very lonely and podcasts (fascinating and informative) talk at me, not with me. I do some live teaching with Elluminate but it is mostly grading and calling. I have procured a great job starting in August but do not yet know my schedule. My Virtual School job entails me to stay within the course and its tools. My year has wound down so I have the luxury of 4 months to think about this. Here is my challenge (and it is exciting). So, Teachers 2.0, what would you bring into the classroom with you. My first task is to make this journey into a blog. Which blog site is best for me? The teachers in the district I will be joining use Typepad. Should I sign up for a free blog there or go elsewhere? Thanks for your help. New to Twitter. dlaughey

Using the “Discuss” tool in Google spreadsheets | ICT in my Classroom

Posted by LindaH on March 20th, 2008 filed in Web 2.0
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My friend Tom has been exploring the use of Google Aps in  the Primary (elementary) classroom on this side of the pond:

Using the “Discuss” tool in Google spreadsheets | ICT in my Classroom
We have been using spreadsheets from Google quite considerably this year. The main strength over Excel is the ability to share the data that is generated and benefit from a pooling of efforts and results. One of the most recent uses in my Year 5/Grade 4 class was during a History lesson, in which we were exploring why the River Nile is so important to Egypt. I posed the question quite openly and asked the children to explore some climate data about different world cities in order to refer it against some of the major cities in Egypt

Tom concludes that using the google ap was a clear winner over  using an offline tool. He thinks it will be particularly useful when it comes to doing some formative assessment.

GO read his post :-) and while you are there have a look at the other great stuff he’s doing with Google Apps.

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

Posted by Aaron Smith on March 17th, 2008 filed in Web 2.0

I have been silent for far too long.  There is a device, a little technological innovation, that is potentially extremely dangerous to our students, our children, and perhaps even ourselves if we’re not careful.

This device was originally intended for the purposes of communication, and that’s where most of it’s danger lies.

  • It can be used to send notes secretly between students during instruction and exams.
  • It can be used to organize clandestine meetings after school without adult supervision.
  • Because it’s a communication tool, many teachers actually require its presence in the classroom. Some teachers have even distributed it to students who didn’t already posses one.
  • This loathsome item has even proven to be physically dangerous.  Why, I myself once accidentally stabbed myself with the sharp edge of this item and had to go to the nurse for medical treatment.  When the principal heard what had happened, he admonished me for keeping this item in my pocket.

Have you figured out what this item is, yet?

OK, that’s all  rather amusing in the grand tradition of the movement to ban water, but I do have a point.  Students are allowed and in most cases expected to bring pencils to school because:

  1. They’re convenient,
  2. They’re used in the “real world,”
  3. Some tests are impossible to take without them, and
  4. We teach students how to use them, so they’re really not that dangerous.

Let’s shift the topic towards your favorite Web 2.0 technologies. Blogs, wikis, Flickr,, and so on.  All are potentially harmful or inappropriate for students, and many schools block them and deny their use for just that reason.

The potential.

At the same time, they are denying the potential good that can come from students using these very things under supervision, so that they don’t stab themselves in the leg.  (I’m still embarrassed about that, really.)

So I think we should allow students to use these things, because:

  1. They’re convenient,
  2. They’re used in the “real world,”
  3. Some tests types of social interaction are impossible to have without them, and
  4. We should be able to teach students how to use them, so they’re really not that dangerous.

Those are my thoughts.  What are yours?

About us: Linda Hartley

Posted by LindaH on March 15th, 2008 filed in Introduction
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LindaHHi I am Linda Hartley, sometimes known as lindiop (twitter & or LindaH (flickr) I am based in London and work on various educational projects including writing magazine articles, professional development and training with primary school (elementary) Teaching Assistants and other school staff.

I worked as a TA and Research Assistant in a Primary School for many years before moving into training and resources.I’m interested in blogs, wikis and social software in educational professional development, both formal and informal.

One of my main projects at the moment is developing resources for working with Teaching Assistants on my own wiki. I’ve been working hard this weekend on a page about Teaching Assistants training for ICT (technology)

I blog about informal learning, internet technology and action research at Acting to Improve . I also blog about Classroom Displays and Bulletin Boards and run the Classroom Displays group on Flickr.

I’ve been involved with Teachers2.0 ever since The Art Guy set it up and I find it a small but worthwhile community. Although I no longer work with children all the people I work with do. The community is invaluable for finding good resources but I’d like to see more discussions develop. Maybe this blog will help that to happen. It’s not as big as some of the Ning groups I’m involved in but I actually think that might be a strength! I mostly use the Classroom 2.0 community via twitter and I’m intrigued to see what we do with this Wordpress blog :-)

About Us: Aaron Smith

Posted by Aaron Smith on March 15th, 2008 filed in Introduction
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Wow, less than 12 hours after I put out the call for writers and we already have several people signed up! Of course it’s possible that not everyone reading this blog knows who we are (I have a lot more people following me on Twitter as teachers20 than at theartguy, for example…) I I would love it if each of us took a moment to introduce ourselves in one of our first blog posts.

paperplates02.JPGHello, my name is Aaron Smith, but most of my students call me The Art Guy. It’s a rather pretentious name to use when surrounded by other artists, but it was a nickname given to me by a student and it just sort of stuck. (It was either that or “Mr. Teacher Dude.” I think I chose wisely.)

You may or may not have seen me before. I suppose I should spend most of my time here, but I’ve found some places like here tend to suck up a lot of my creativity. (Although I must say I enjoy this place a lot better.) If I or one of my students takes a cool looking photo, I’ll often post it here. Although student photos also invariably end up being blogged about here as well.

I’m also a member of this thing here, although I’m not as active with them as I used to be.

So that’s my somewhat ambiguous yet informative introduction … who’s next?

Technology has my vote

Posted by Pat Wagner on March 15th, 2008 filed in Introduction, Questions
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I work with a middle school in the Bronx, N.Y., but I do most of this work from Australia. Not only does technology allow me to ’see inside’ the school, but it has also accelerated positive school change.

Despite me being 10,000 miles away, our communication and collaboration has never been better. We started with a wiki, but we now make excellent use of Skype and the abundance of Google applications: Gmail, chat, Groups, Docs, Spreadsheets, Sites, Calendar, Reader, Analytics, iGoogle, and Blogger.

Having good systems in place has improved teamwork and transparency enormously. I’d love to take this same approach to every classroom (with available equipment, of course) and encourage teachers to imagine themselves removed from the classroom.

If they still need to teach, to set activities, to facilitate these activities and assess students’ understanding, how could this be done without their physical presence in the room? What tech tools would be most useful? How would you ’see into’ your own classroom? Now picture your physical presence back in the room as just an added bonus.

Okay, I’m only hypothesizing, but I think this mindset does wonders for encouraging creative and effective use of systems in the classroom, and great integration of technology.