Is Web 2.0 a Relevant Term?

On the third day of NECC, I attended a panel discussion led by Steve Hargadon the founder ofClassroom2.0. The panel consisted of 6 educators who are pretty well known in the educational technology world.

The general theme was to explore the topic of Web 2.0 and how effectively it’s being used in schools. Each of the panelists, along with many people in attendance are heavily involved in social media, using blogs and wikis, and belong to a huge Twitter community of educators. The discussion was met with some push back from an attendee. The panel was asked to define Web 2.0 and was chastised for focusing on the backchannel. It became quickly apparent that not everyone that not everyone was up to speed with the terminology and the impact on education social media has made. I’m not even sure if anyone who would be considered a “newbie” got the point of the whole discussion.

It’s the push back that helped me learn. Those of us who have been involved in social media, blogs, wikis, Nings, Twitter…have to understand that the terminology is confusing and the concept can be overwhelming. One doesn’t learn Web 2.0, and there is no real definition – only characteristics. The fact of the matter is at this point in time, the web is the web user created content so prevalent that anyone who uses the Internet uses Web 2.0.

Here are a few examples:
  • Check your email using Yahoo? Yahoo news features articles that have had the most “votes” and accepts comments on articles from the readership.
  • Purchase anything from online stores like Amazon or Target? Other shoppers can create lists and comment about and rate comments.
  • Looking for recipes? All Recipes is an extremely popular website that accepts recipes from members of the site along with allowing it’s users to organize their favorites.
  • Do you have family members that share photos online? Sharing photos online is a great example of a practical use of social media.
  • Have you ever seen a YouTube video? As of earlier this year, YouTube has 100 million viewers. That amounts to about 15 millions videos a month.
  • Have you used Google to research any topic, particularly pop culture or current events? If you access any Wikipedia article, you are accessing a site that is based on the “wisdom of the crowds”.

So here’s the thing: The term Web 2.0 has been used since 2004. Five years later, the Internet has transformed to include user created content, connectedness, collaborative writing, consensus building, and the wisdom of the masses. So it might be time for us to retire the term Web 2.0 – it’s just a confusing term anyway. It’s time to understand how we are answering the question, “How are we getting our children involved in opportunities to create content on the Internet and use Internet tools to collaborate and share information and media for instructional purposes?”

The To-Do List

Summer is supposed to be a time for educators to regroup, reorganize, clean out, and do a little preparing for another school year. I have to admit I’ve been a world class slacker when it comes to cleaning up my digital life. As I’ve said before, I am a real digital packrat – meaning I love to collect stuff. I collect links to websites, blogs to read, and tools to use. I sign up for everything. Everytime a new tools is mentioned by my friends on Twitter, Plurk or a blog, I add it to my collection. In addition, when I meet an interesting educator online, I subscribe to their blog. A couple of weeks left to my summer (since I go back in the beginning of August) and I’m feeling like I need a plan to do some serious reorganizing.

When it comes to my real, meaning physical life, I love to purge. Nothing is more gratifying than pulling a garbage can up to a closet or cabinet and filling it several times. I’m thinking I need to purge my digital cabinets as well. I need a plan though. I don’t know where to start. Here are my big issues:

Google Reader is where I keep track of all the blogs I want to read. The problem is that I don’t get back to it often enough because I also use Pageflakes to keep track of blogs I want to read during my daily 15 minutes of professional development during the school year.


 is where I keep my bookmarks. With over 1600 websites, it’s been difficult to keep the tags effectively organized. In addition, I’m quite certain, many of my bookmarks are ones that I could probably delete, since I’ve been using for so long, I’m certain that there is quite a bit of overlap and dead links.


On the advice of my twitter friends a while back, I imported all of my bookmarks to Diigo. I know Diigo has some wonderful features such as annotating, sharing, categorizing, and discussion. I need some time to get to know Diigo well enough to organize my bookmarks. I have several friend requests, but since I rarely visit Diigo, I’m afraid I’d be a very uninteresting friend.


 Evernote is another cool tool. I clip pieces of websites and tag them for future use. Right now I’ve reserved the use of this tool to keep track of student work samples and specific strategies for teachers in my district.  

I need to prioritize this work, because eventually, I have to improve this blog. I have some wonderful resources for teachers, but there are far too many, making the lists overwhelming. Not to mention, there are probably a number of dead links. Most importantly, a bunch of website links is really useless unless they are annotated so the site’s best features are identified for the user.



Anyone have any tips or tricks. How do you organize your digital life?

What Students Want

It was exciting to take advantage of an invitation on twitter from Ryan Bretag to look in on a discussion with a group of students on the impact of technology in education. It was a broadcast on Ustream TV. During the broadcast there many other educators in the chat room listening in and commenting on the conversation. As an educator who rarely gets the opportunity to have such rich conversations with students (other than my own three kids) I was really interested in what they had to say.

In the broadcast, Ryan introduced them to a few tools such as Twitter, social networking (specifically Ning), and google docs. I wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t heard of any of these tools. Although we give digital natives a lot of credit for knowing everything, in reality, they only know the tools they use in their personal or academic life. They don’t have any more time than us grownup to go out there and seek out what’s new and interesting. That’s our job as ed-techs. The thing that really impressed me, to the point of smiling from ear-to-ear, was the thoughtful questions and comments in terms of how the tools are valuable. Twitter, for example wasn’t met with much enthusiasm at first, as far as a tool that fits in to school. When examples such as being able to use twitter to communicate with others at different schools was offered, then the students were interested. The students really focused on the value for school. How would this be used in the context of the classroom? I was really impressed that the students focused on the value of the tools in their learning environment.

Ning made them nervous. Social networking is viewed as something they do in their free time. Networking with teachers? Not so much. When Ryan made it clear that Ning is a more professional tool, than the students could see the value in using it as a tool for communication and collaboration. They could wrap their heads around the value of the tool as they separated the concept from their own “facebooked world”.

Google Docs was really met with a lot of enthusiasm. Many students brought up specific examples of how they would use this tool as they worked in groups. The described scenarios where emailing documents back and forth to team mates really failed, or kept them up until all hours if the message didn’t arrive right away.

While I was listening in on this conversation, I was forming a plan to have a similar type round table discussion with the middle school students in my district. I run a risk because middle school students are not quite as focused and insightful as they will be in a few years. The I thought about having this kind of discussion with the teachers. With the teachers, I run the risk of getting a great deal of resistance. “Who has time?” is a question I get a lot. Also, unfamiliar tools tend to get a lot of resistance from non-digital native because we can always find fault with something that seems really new and different. In addition, in the case of elementary school, if only some teachers used the tools and most others didn’t, would all of the students get an equitable chance for exposure or utilization?

Ryan blogged about these discussions this weekend. He really hit the nail on the head here:

Bottom line: Despite growing up in a digital world, they aren’t as familiar with the tools or use the tools as much as we believe. However, the difference is that they are open-minded compared to some of an older generation.

A lot of time, we give these kids credit for knowing more than they really do, but we don’t give them credit enough for having the same kind of sense of urgency and same recognition of value of their own educational experiences.

Thinkature – a very cool tool

One of my favorite ways to surf the net is to start with the and click on popular. I come across some of the coolest tools that way. I almost always save at least a few of the popular sites on my own list. I have over 1200 links that interest me. Once in a while, I come across something that I feel like I must use immediately. Today it was Thinkature. Thinkature is a really cool collaboration tool where you can create mind maps and brainstorming visual organizers. The other mind map tools that I’ve found include WiseMapping, Mind42, and MindMeister. Naturally, my favorite will always be the offline version Inspiration. (I wonder if they are developing an online version with all the cool features?) Thinkature’s features are really powerful. They include chatting and the use of images, either from your hard drive or imported from the web. Wow! It’s so cool! Here are a few ideas on how to use this in the classroom or as a professional tool for teachers.

  • With an interactive whiteboard
  • Recap a field trip
  • Create a timeline
  • Connecting ideas as a study guide
  • Prepare to write an essay or report
  • Prepare a presentation

I started a workspace, just to get a little practice. Feel free to add to edit it.

Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction

I’ve been following Vicki Davis’s blog and projects for quite a while. It was really cool to have her present at the Illinois technology conference. The presentation that I attended was Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction. I’ve done a great deal of research about differentiated instruction. My master’s thesis was a study on effective professional development strategies in order to implement DI into teaching and learning. I’ve read research by Carol Ann Tomlinson, who is the foremost expert on the subject. This workshop presented the content with a new twist. DI is a very complex topic and generally pretty difficult to do well at first. Vicki’s presentation provides some very specific recommendations for the use of web2.0 tools in the classroom and how the process, the product, or the content can be differentiated based on the teaching and learning experience. I need to take a look at her slideshow a few more times to get my head around the information. Pairing the implementation of web2.0 tools with DI is so overwhelming. I think that first teachers have to be comfortable with one concept or the other first before the two are paired. Clearly, Vicki has well developed technology integrated classroom, globally connecting her students using blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other tools. None of the teachers I currently work with are using web2.0 tools.

Here’s the slide show, and my big three.

  • Find a way to use – I saw this site at Beth’s workshop too. It looks like a cool application for interactive white boards
  • Blog regularly – even if I can’t implement any of these “big three” lists, continue to write about what I’ve learned
  • Write a Big Three for the workshops from IL-TCE
  • Organize Intentional R&D – Use this name for the list of stuff I want to look at, learn, implement, inspire other with. This seems like a way to make the time I spend with new ideas and articles much more productive.

Welcome to F.R.E.E. Fantastic Resource for the Enthusiastic Educator

From Beth Buke’s presentation, which was hilarious. How fitting that it was held in Zanies. Her very energetic presentation had a smattering of technical issues, but she kept it moving. Beth worked very hard to put together an extremely informative presentation. Her presentation wiki can be found here. Her list of resources is very nicely organized and annotated.

Here’s my “Big 3”

  • Use googledocs. I already use google docs in a very limited way. My boss loves the idea of posting our curriculum maps to google docs and giving all the teachers access to make them living documents. I want to really develop the use with students and teachers.
  • Animoto: take photos, upload them and animoto – 30 seconds is for free, would be a great alternative to those very hairy iMovie projects
  • Jing: already use Jing regularly for screen shots, but to demonstrate how to do something in a movie, I should use this more often, turn off the mic, since I don’t like my voice.
  • – similar to powerpoint not quite as fancy very easy – maybe this would be a good tool to teach powerpoint challenged teachers
  • Screencast-o-matic – you don’t have to create an account, record what you want, and download it, check this out!
  • Voice thread – example Mrs. Joe’s class. Upload pictures and users make comments, Ridge has to use this!!! The power is the comments (different settings for privacy), public but keep it off of the browse – great idea, students create their identities within identities within her account to keep it safe and controlled, planning is extremely important – use a story board! Focus on the content.

I’ve heard of all of these resource and even signed up for every one. Beth has motivated me to get moving and use them.

Why Web2.0 Is Critical to the Future of Education

The first session I attended at ICE was Steve Hargadon’s spotlight session at IL-TCE (Illinois Computing Educators annual conference). Click here for more information about his session. The highlights of his information are the ten web 2.0 trends that will have an impact on education and the shifts based on those trends. I hope that Steve annotates this wiki with more information. He was extremely passionate in the delivery of his message, I couldn’t take effective enough notes to really tell the story effectively. I’ll start with my Big Three and my Intentional R&D List for this session.

For my “Big Three” for this session, I’d like to do the following:

  • Check out diigo – Steve recommends this site as a way to keep bookmarks, annotate them, and collect information to use for collaboration
  • Use twitter – already looked at this and belong – kinda don’t get it, but I started using it a little during the two days of the conference.
  • Get the rest of my family to use Flicker
  • Start a Ning group for ICE – COLD (Steve is a consultant for NING. I belong to his Classroom2.0 NING.)
  • Use chatzy – create a chat room during at least of my parent workshops.
  • Look into using Skype in the classroom – can I find another class to collaborate with?
  • MedlinePlus Videos of surgical procedures – This is really cool, but might be a little much for elementary school.

(That’s more than 3…I’ll have to prioritize these.)

That list seems kind of weak, based on the compelling information that Steve explained during his presentation. My notes had a few good quotes, one of which is, “The Internet is becoming a platform for unparalleled for creativity. We are creating the content for the web.” The potential is there, but with few exceptions, we are not connecting content creating on the web to the educational experience of our students. Those teachers who provide those types of experiences are really the exception. One of the big reasons is because social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace were the first social networking sites. Educators didn’t get the jump on the whole phenomenon before social networking got such a bad rap. People who are producing content on the web are doing so with no guidelines and no rules.

“Web 2.0 is the cause of this tidal wave. Web 2.0 is the solution.” – another good quote from Steve. Examples of this are using social bookmarking sites to tag and share information with others. Another example is using a wiki to put together information about topics and collaborate with others to compile information and manage content.

Another example that works for me is tracking and reading bloggers. I follow about 25 bloggers and reading those blogs on a regular basis is the single most important professional development activity that I engage in. That’s how web2.0 helps me with the tidal wave.

Here’s something to look up….knowledge about career is obsolete in 3 years, meaning that the knowledge that one acquires for their profession is out of date in just a few years.

Wikipedia is not the Enemy, and neither is Flickr

In November, there was a lot of buzz about a particular librarian in New Jersey and her anti-wikipedia campaign. I read about it in one my favorite blogs, Dangerously Irrelevant. Around the same time, I was up against a very small battle with teachers regarding wikipedia. The argument against wikipedia is valid. The articles can be modified by anyone, creating an opportunity for inaccuracies. Teachers who are against Wikipedia want to take the extreme position that the site should be completely avoided. I find that once we discuss the format of the site including the features of wikis in general, safeguards put in place to prevent all out vandalism of articles, and the Nature Magazine study comparing the results to Britannica the tone of the discussion usually changes. I can usually convince teachers that Wikipedia is a fine place to start gathering information, particularly if one needs some basic background information. After all, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia never intended for the site to be used for “serious research”.

When teachers complain that students should never check Wikipedia because the content is created by “anyone”, they are missing the point. “Anyone” includes experts in the fields, graduate students, professionals (like teachers), and people who care a great deal about the content of the article because the subject matter is their passion. Just as we would never want students to use an encyclopedia article as the only source in an essay or research paper, we could recommend that if Wikipedia is used, the student must add a resource to their list of sources sited. In addition, high quality Wikipedia articles include a bibliography, from which further research can be done. I can make a really good case for using Wikipedia and I’ve even had a few workshop attendees sign up for an account and begin an article about their own school or parish.

Here’s the weird thing – with lots of discussion about how “dangerous” it is to ask the community or the public to write articles for one of the most widely used online encyclopedias, why don’t we hear an equal amount of caution about asking the community/public to tag and comment on the photos from Library of Congress’ Flickr collection? I see no caution that the public will negatively impact the integrity of the project with inappropriate comments or irrelevant tags. By the way, Library of Congress sounds ecstatic over the results of their pilot so far.

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Library of Congress Goes Web 2.0

I’ve been a big fan of the Library of Congress for several years. We’ve used many of their collections for writing and social studies projects. With more than 10 million primary sources, the resources that can enhance a lesson can be very overwhelming. A good place to begin is The Learning Page which includes a database of lesson plans and activities using various collections. Examples of units and lesson plans that I’ve been involved in using the American Memory Collections include the following:

The collections from the Library of Congress are vast. For anyone studying American History, they are essential resources. The challenge is to find the right resources to help in the study of a particular topic. There isn’t an effective way to search through the millions of pictures to access the appropriate group that illustrate a period in our culture. It takes a great deal of time and familiarity with how the Library organizes the collections to select the images. Students, particularly those in elementary school, or even the general public would find navigation impossible. Perhaps recognizing this, the staff at the Library offices have posted thousands of images to Flickr, the world’s most popular photo-sharing site. The plan is for the the Flickr community to tag, comment, and make notes on the images. Flickr users use 20 million unique tags to categorize the hundreds of millions of photographs on the site. That’s the idea. The Library wants us to go th the collections on Flickr, called Commons, and add information to the photographs to make them easier to find. The whole concept is amazingly innovative and I for one am looking forward to years to come, when every one of the 10 million images are tagged, commented on, and easier to find and use because of the contributions of the Flickr community.

Read more about this project on the Library of Congress Blog.

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We Have to Know

Clarence Fisher of Arapahoe High School in Colorado made a presentation to his staff in August 2006. His PowerPoint presentation was on his blog that week and I found it really compelling. His purpose was to get his teachers to really think about what students need in their learning environment to be prepared and to be successful in the 21st century. The message of the presentation is that we need to pay attention to factors such as the growing importance of India and China and globalization that has made our world “flat” provides tremendous opportunities for our children as our society shifts. We need to reflect on our own teaching practices and attitudes in response to this change.

During the next several months, the Shift Happens presentation was seen all over the edu-blogosphere. They call that “going viral”. In the past year or so, estimates of over 10 million people viewed various versions of the presentation. See the shifthappens wiki for information about the presentation.

Clarence Fisher
Anne’s Description of Clarence Fisher’s keynote on K12 Online Conference

The video

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