Sunday, July 7, 2013


For this week’s self-exploration of the best web classroom tools, I chose to look into Dropbox.  Jeff Dunn wrote about Dropbox in the article, The 100 Best Web 2.0 Classroom Tools Chosen By You, stating, “I have shared many files with this and have accessed my files from a myriad of computers – even when out of the country!”
A Dropbox account is simple to generate, all you need is an email address.  Dropbox is like an online folder saving all your important documents so that you can access them using a variety of devices.  Your work is saved to the web making it accessible anywhere!  Dropbox syncs work across all devices – you can access work on a personal computer, phone, or tablet.  Files are backed up and you can return to older versions or restore deleted files. 
Dropbox keeps your work safe.  You can share documents securely with your team/classmates, access older versions of your documents, and restore deleted files.  The best part of Dropbox is that you do not have to worry about email attachments!
I have a student that recently began using Dropbox to access his assignments on his school computer, home laptop, and iPad.  He loves it and is able to access and make changes to his assignments where ever he is. 
Using Dropbox within the classroom keeps students connected to each other, giving them easy ways to work with together and share documents & pictures, collaborate on projects, and form study groups.  Dropbox also allows students to socially construct knowledge by working together to create documents and share resources.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Social Networks

Fran Smith explains social networks as, “software that allows people to come together around an idea or topic of interest.  A school could use software to bring together anyone who's writing about politics, computing or Greek literature.”   
The world is changing, we use the internet more frequently to gather information and collaborate with peers.  Schools need to keep up to date with the ever changing world – including the World Wide Web.  Social networks are increasingly popular and students need to be taught effective ways of collaborating responsibly.  Social networking can have enormous benefits in the academic world.  “Too often, schools use computers as little more than glorified workbooks, and that's criminal,” says Chris Lehmann, principal of Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy in the article, How to Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning.  Unfortunately, I see this in my own experience traveling to different schools and classrooms.  The readings this week mentioned administrators having to facilitate change with social networks, I completely agree.  One teacher can try to do it, but it's difficult to sustain.  Administrators have to set the tone for the whole school community, and they have to give teachers time, freedom to learn, experiment, and implement.  
Using social networking within the classroom keeps students all connected to each other, giving them easy ways to work with together and share timelines, collaborate on projects, and form study groups.  Social networks are and continue to become part everyday life.  It is vital for teachers to stay connected to social networks to motivate students to create/participate in activities and projects to build their content skills and computer skills.  As with any online tool, teaching student responsibility is key.   

Social Bookmarking

How did I miss this?! I didn’t know some of these social bookmarking sites even existed and now that I do, I’m sure I’ll be using them! One of the sites new to me is Delicious. O’Neil writes in, So Delicious: A Must-Use Bookmarking Tool, “Delicious is, by bare description, an online bookmarking tool: You find a site you like, and you bookmark it so you can return later. Delicious takes your computer-based bookmarks and puts them online. That way, no matter where you are, you have access to all of them.” I guess I have been stuck in the old days as I have always emailed myself links that I need to refer back to at a later date. When saving a site to Delicious, a link appears that refers to how many other people have saved that link as well. If you click on it, you can see who else has bookmarked that site, and the other sites they bookmarked. Delicious makes it easy for the user to organize the sites with keywords. When you save links using Delicious you are sharing your bookmarks with the world of other Delicious users.
This social bookmarking website can be extremely valuable for students. Students can follow their teacher’s page to link to important resources. Students can also create their own pages and save useful sites for when they are researching. For example, students could research specific aspects of a project then collaborate with the rest of the group. By doing this, the entire group can refer back to the useful sites whether they are at home, in school, or library. Students are making thinking visible by sharing the sites that they found and justifying why they were useful.
Social Bookmarking sites allow students to socially construct knowledge by referring to others sites and utilizing saved links for relevant information. Social bookmarking sites require discipline to stay focused but, are amazing classroom tools for teachers and students. The biggest benefit is how they make it easy to collaborate and refer back to saved resources.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Podcasts and Vodcasts

Within the article, Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom, Maya Payne Smart defines podcasts as “simply audio recordings stored as MP3 files or another file format.  The creator syndicates the recording via the Internet, and the listener plays it using a digital music player on a computer or a mobile device such as an iPod.”
Podcasts and Vodcasts are increasingly used in the educational world.  Typical classes require listening to a professor lecture then having limited time for activities to reinforce or practice the new skill.  Podcasts and Vodcasts are extensions of the classroom.  Students can view material prior to class and then have ample time to participate in activities that reinforce what was taught in the podcast or vodcast.  By viewing material in advance, students have time to digest and revisit material at their leisure.  This also allows students an opportunity to gather questions they may have and bring to the teacher before implementing the new skill. 
Podcasts and Vodcasts can be alternately used by teachers and students.  Teachers could require students to post material they have learned to ensure understanding.  For example, students could demonstrate how to complete a math problem or a science experiment.  This could be completed as a group, encouraging cooperation and collaboration among classmates.  These videos can also be referred back to, if necessary.  Shamburg states, in Student-Powered Podcasting, “Through creating podcasts, students learn to connect with the world around them both by developing relevant content and by learning to responsibly use content created by others.”    
Within the article, Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom, Smart states, “Web distribution of their work motivates students to put their best foot forward.”  Multi media presentations have a deep impact on those who create it and those who watch it.  Watching and listening to the action happen, makes the learning come to life.  This type of format is beneficial for a wide audience.  Those with special needs may find watching and replaying the demonstrations extremely helpful.    
Web distribution of student work has pros and cons.  Students must be taught internet safety and ethical responsibility.  Students may have the best intentions but posting information online has inherent risks.  It is vital that content posted online be supervised by parents and teachers. 

Friday, June 21, 2013


Who knew Twitter could have so many uses within the world of education? I, honestly, had never thought about using Twitter within the classroom. However, after this week’s readings my eyes are opened to a new classroom tool.

Within the article, 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom, author Samantha Miller spells out simple ways a teacher can begin integrating Twitter into classrooms around the globe. Simple ways of making student thinking visible include, posting assignments, problems of the day in vocabulary or math, sample questions for an upcoming assignments to encourage students to research and gather information.

Twitter allows students to socially construct knowledge. Ways of collaborating with others include connecting with other classrooms to work collaboratively, engage parents to keep them abreast of activities, or connect with google earth. The networking possibilities on Twitter are endless. Educators can not only connect with their students and parents but can also connect and collaborate with other educators.

One of the major drawbacks to Twitter is its constant updating. If a student does not have regular access to their account, the frequent posts or “tweets” can be overwhelming to review. This problem is directly related to how many people or organizations the student is ‘following’. It may be beneficial for the students to only follow course work through one account to maintain organization and not miss important information. The 140 character limit on each post may be a challenge for some who have much more to share!

As Miller said, “Twitter’s classroom capabilities are limited only by an educator’s imagination” (p.4).


“A wiki is a free expandable collection of interlinked webpages, a hypertext system for storing and modifying information, a data base, where each page is easily edited by any user.” (Leuf and Cunningham)

A wiki helps make thinking visible by allowing students to post and edit one or more pages at a time.  This is a great way to collaborate with classmates.  Wikis also allow the users to track changes allowing all users to identify what changes have been made along the way.  While users are collaborating, teachers can monitor content and participation.  

Wikis have a variety of affordances for education.  Many school systems would love that they are free!  They also have student friendly interfaces and can be accessed anywhere students have an internet connection available.  They do not have a specific structure thus can be used for a variety of applications.  

Wikis have been gaining momentum in the education world as they are ideal for collaboration with teachers and peers.  Teachers can share documents and media files with their students, this is very beneficial for students who need consistent review of information.  The wiki allows the teacher/student to remain in class for an extended period of time reviewing presentations in addition to handouts.  

Wiki’s help cultivate social interaction with peers.  It was interesting to learn that students could post assignments and have others review and edit them before submitting to the teacher.  This reminds me of a virtual “Ask 3 before you ask me.”  Some teachers use this quote in class to encourage students to ask 3 classmates a question related to class material before asking the teacher.  Similar to blogs, wikis allow parents to become involved to see what is going on in class and if their child is participating consistently.  

One of the challenges with a Wiki is all students can see what others have posted and could utilize others work when completing their own.  This is why it is essential that teachers explain copyright issues, plagiarism, and ethics.


“A blog is a frequently-updated personal online space (a type of web-page) where an author publishes a series of posts, engages others in discussion about her posts, and collects and shares resources.  These posts are searchable by categories and archived sometimes over a long period of time, usually in reverse chronological order thus presenting the most recent work first” (Nardi, Schiano, & Gumbrecht, 2004).  

Students typically display their thoughts by speaking, writing, or drawing.  Blogs give students a platform to share their thoughts in these manners on a large platform.  Others can comment and share their own thoughts, contributing to the discussion.  Blogs also encourage research and digital skills.  Blogs help to combine these skills within one task.  Blogs can be journals that provide an opportunity for self-reflection.    

“Blogging can be an avenue for participation aligned with this new mindset, and, as such, it can provide students with new forms of participation, new and broader learning resources and, therefore, a new form of engagement that offers the potential of unique learning opportunities.” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006)  Blogs cultivate social construction of knowledge by allowing students to research, reflect, and discuss with peers.  Blogs are an interactive platform for a variety of topics.  Blogs are easy and convenient and you are not losing the discussions and idea sharing that one would receive in the classroom, you are gaining another venue for such interactions.    

There are many benefits to using blogs in the classroom for teaching and learning.  Students enjoy blogging; it’s the latest and greatest.  Providing students the opportunity to blog can motivate them to participate and reflect.  Blogging gives students ownership of their thoughts and opinions by allowing them time to articulate their thoughts and express them in writing as opposed to quickly answering within the classroom without having time to digest material and process their response thoroughly.  Blogs can also be followed by parents, allowing parents to stay abreast of what their child is learning in school.    

A draw back to blogging is privacy, its accessible by the general public.  Teachers must be aware of privacy settings to keep students safe.  While blogging is great for discussions and sharing ideas, it could never replace face to face conversations.