Friday, March 14, 2008

What is a blog?

What is a blog really? When asked this question, I direct people to the CommonCraft web site for this video:



Blogs clearly show the creation of the read/write web (or web 2.0). No longer do we simply gather information from the web, now we interact. Just take a look at the USA Today. Every article is now a blog, just scroll to the end of the article and post your comment. Think about it, a political leader or sports figure (or anyone) is no longer at the mercy of the newspaper writer. We can debate comments and dispute observations. Right there on the front Page!
Educators can learn from other experts in their field and share activities and educational theories. Go to alltop.com to see an extensive list of blogs from educators (RSS feeds from educational publications).
Blogging offers many other opportunities for teachers to deliver content or for students to share their work. I will gladly help anyone that desires to investigate publishing their own blog. I create my blog through Blogger, and I would also recommend 21 Classes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ideas for a Web2.0 Beginner

As I pondered a post with ideas for teachers to utilize technology either for their own benefit or for that of their students, I came across this post from a blog that I follow. Cool Cat Teacher is Vicki Davis, chairman of the Computing and Technology Department at Westwood Schools in Camilla Georgia. She is one of many bloggers that I follow and some of them are linked on this page.
Her most recent post, Baby Steps for Beginners Part #1, is a wonderful resource for teachers interested in taking better advantage of the resources available on the Net. She has a catalogue of websites that demonstrate best practices of teachers and administrators. She organized these sites through her del.icio.us account, which is social bookmarking site. Social bookmarking is the next step up from the Google Bookmarks that I described in a previous post. Set up a del.icio.us account to quickly save (complete with notes about each website) your favorite sites and access them from any computer. You can easily share your bookmarks, and you can access the shared bookmarks from experts within your field of research. You can even use the site create a network of teachers within your content area. You can view my bookmarks and Cool Cat Teacher's bookmarks and add both to your network.
Please check my companion wiki for more directions for creating your del.icio.us account (soon to be posted).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Google Toolbar and Bookmarks

We are all most likely familiar with the idea of marking internet websites as favorites. This is a feature contained within your web browser. The problem I used to encounter so often, is that I work on many different computers. I now have 2 home computers. I have a work computer, but there are many times when I am working on a computer that is not my own. Since I have converted to using Google Bookmarks, I now have access to those favorites on any computer. If the computer has the Google Toolbar loaded, those favorites are immediately accessible (although I can still get to them through my start page on computers without the toolbar).
First, lets change our terminology from favorites to bookmarks, and then we can set up our bookmarks through Google.
Click on Settings within the Google Toolbar, and click Options (You may have to sign in first). Place a check in the box next to bookmarks and click OK. Now Bookmarks appears in the toolbar with a blue star beside it. When I am on a website that I wish to save, I simply click the blue button. But wait there is more. A second click (on the now filled in yellow) blue star allows me to label (or TAG) the website. I can create many different labels to help me organize my bookmarks. It is kind of like folders but better - each website can have more than 1 label (or TAG), meaning it can reside in many different "folders". To access my bookmarked sites, I simply click Bookmarks, highlight the desired label and then highlight and click the desired page.
If Ido not have access to the Google Toolbar on a particular computer, I added Bookmarks to my start page. This requires some copying and pasting, but I am still able to capture and recall websites from any computer.
Please check my companion wiki for resources and step by step instructives for many Google features.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Google Reader and RSS

To me, the beauty of the read/write web, is that it is much easier for most anyone to publish what they know to the internet. Although we will continue to gain information through traditional means, like books, research papers, reputable web sites..., we now have immediate access to articles written by knowledgable people within our fields of research (Although we should address methods to validate this information). These articles could come from newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs or wikis. Many of these sites are set up to send out, in the form of an RSS feed, any new articles as soon as they are posted. We no longer have to go out and check the sites for new information, instead we subscribe to these feeds using an RSS feed reader (See, the terminology is not so difficult to follow). There are several readers out there, but I prefer the Google Reader.

What is Google Reader? Google Reader gathers automatic (RSS) feeds from sites that I have subscribed. New articles or postings are automatically fed to me. Using the reader, I can read as much or as little from the article as you please. I can choose to only read the headline, read the first paragraph or read the entire article. The reader also allows me to "star" items that I deem valuable and/or share these articles with others. I can also keep every article sent to me (forever?) and my reader allows me to easily search them for information I wish to recall. I can also tag the articles which allows for better organization.
For more information about RSS, watch this video from Commoncraft:




Follow this link to set up your Google Reader (Remember to use your existing Google Account). Please check my companion wiki for step by step instructions for creating a Google Reader account as well as directions for subscribing to RSS feeds.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Google has so much to offer

Over the next several posts, I will discuss many of the tools available free through Google. Although Google Gmail is not required to utilize these tools, Gmail will enhance your ability to take advantage of all extensions of the tools. If you are not interested in giving up your current email service, Gmail offers a couple of options. You can forward your Gmail to your current inbox, or make use of your current email with the Gmail account.
Follow this link to set up your Gmail account. If you are sharing this with students, this is a good time to let them know that email addresses are in the form of lastname.firstname are preferred over soccerstar98, etc. Note that our Acceptable Use Policy permits the use of email for educational purposes. Encourage students to keep an email that they use only for school.
Once you have set up your Gmail account. I suggest you set up an iGoogle start page. You can get to it from any computer (and many handheld devices) with Internet access. My homepage includes a view of my Google Calendar, my email, my Google Reader (I address the Google Reader in a separate post), the local weather forecast, quotes of the day, the latest sports scores and blogs about my favorite teams. Add features to your start page by clicking on the Add Stuff link. You can quickly access your start page by clicking the Google icon in the Google Toolbar (and signing in).
This is also a good time to download the Google toolbar at home. I will discuss this feature in yet another post. The Google Toolbar is loaded on all of the computers in our district, and allows quick access to information held within your Google tools.