Google Apps, WP Blogs, Moodle

View from my place in bangkok Still trying to remember where my summer went, I find myself back in Bangkok and preparing for the year ahead. This could be a big tech year for my school. Things are in place to start really using technology in some innovative ways. Not that we haven’t in the past, but the systematic changes we’ve made this year will definitly add some ability to use technology in much more authentic ways.  We continue to roll out our 1:1 program this year with all 6-8th graders getting a MacBook Pro to start the school year off. Next year will be 9-12 and what excites me is we have 5th and 4th grade teachers already asking ‘how about us?’.  We’ve continued with our stratagy of building our online communication and blended learning enviornment around three key tools. Google Apps, WordPress Blogs, and Moodle. Google Apps: We’ve just finshed rolling out Google Apps to all teachers on our main domain so all students and teachers are now officially on the Google Apps platform making the ability to use calendars, docs, and sites that much easier and much more powerful. What is also great is the resources around Google Apps for Education, Google has done a good job of getting videos, handouts, etc out there for others to use…and at the same time keep innovating with their apps. Speaking of which another Gmail Lab extension hit sometime last week I think. It’s called Preview Pane and basically gives you the 3-column view like Outlook. Another great feature to help those who are use to this view make the transition. If you’re a long time gmail user this might not be a big hit…but for teachers transitioning from a desktop client it could be a stepping stone.     WordPress Blogs: I’m excited each year now as we continue to grow how we’re using blogs at our school (download the free PDF to the right for more info). This will be our 4th year using blogs. What I love most is that the blogs and blogging has never been a focus of the tech team or the school yet this year every 3-12th grader will have their own blog. My school does have a definition of learning though: Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where...

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Blogs Beta 3

After 3 years I still feel that the blogging platform is one of the best web-based portfolios tools available to schools…and now kids are thinking so as well. We’ve only really been using the blogs in our high school the last two years with this year more classes using them for student reflection and meaningful research. One of our seniors recently wrote this as part of his reflection in his senior seminar class: This year in Mrs. Corning’s Senior Seminar class, blogging was a very important part of the criterion.  Since I already knew how to navigate through my own blog, I was able to successfully update my reflections and to astutely deal with any electronic errors that occurred while I was on my blog.  The video posting posed a new challenge, though, but I greatly enjoyed filming it and sharing my own video with my peers.  Whenever I scan through  my blog, I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I review my past assignments.  In a way, my blog acts as a time machine as I am able to instantly view my work from the past two years. It is satisfying to examine my growth as a person and as a writer whenever I compare two different works from varying time periods in the latter of my high school career.  I believe that schools all around the world will soon adopt the use of blogs due to their convenience and practicality, especially when educating students on a global level.  Through blogs, I can exhibit my writing to people all over the world, and I am also able to learn from other student’s blogs. Here at ISB we’re in our 3rd year of using blogs as web-based portfolios. You can learn about our approach and setup in the free PDF I created and that can be downloaded from the sidebar of this blog. It excites me to see that the students are starting to understand what the blogs purpose is. Having a space to be able to call your own, create your own content, and from time to time do an assignment gives the kids the autonomy, purpose and ability to master they need to be motivated (all three of which are mentioned above).  It’s not perfect…we’re still, as a school, defining the blogs use. What school work should go on the blog if any, how to grade it…if it should...

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Understand RSS and make the Web Work for You

I’m a few hours away from calling a taxi and starting the 17 hour trip to Portland, Oregon (via Seattle of course) for the ITSC11 Conference e. I’ll be doing three sessions. Blended Classrooms, Blogs as E-Portfolios, and 10 Digital Tools for Digital Educators. It’s this last session that I always have the hardest time with. What 10 digitals tools should educators know about? There are so many and depending on the attendees, you never know what people really want. That’s why this session usually ends up being a great discussion starting with “What do you want to know about?” and off we go. As I’ve been thinking about the session I keep coming back to how important RSS is to the web. What seems like a such a simple piece of the larger web, this little bit of technology pushes and pulls information around the web behind the sense so gracefully that you probably use it in one form or another everyday without realizing it. Yet, if you can understand it, it becomes a very powerful way to push and pull information around the web where you want it to go.  Apple, iTunes and Podcasters have made a living off of RSS. Ever wonder why most podcasts are on a blog? Because blogs come with RSS technology built in and iTunes Podcasts run off of RSS feeds. When you “Subscribe” to a podcast in iTunes you’re just subscribing to that podcasts RSS feed. iTunes simply delivers the content to your computer.  RSS is a push and pull technology. It allows you to push and pull content around the web with ease. Many people don’t use RSS Readers anymore with them being replaced by Twitter streams, yet the use of RSS goes beyond just pulling content to you. Here are some ways that I’m using RSS at my school and in my professional life to make things easier and to tie things together.  COETAIL: COETAIL is a 5 graduate class certificate program that Kim and I run here in Asia (more on the explosion of this program soon). For each cohort we run we set up a blog such as this one I set up for the cohort in Taipei. Part of the problem I was having was when I found content to share with the participants I needed a way to push that information to this blog without...

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Blogs as Web Based Portfolios Part 1

(Part 1 of a series of blog posts to be made into a free PDF. Your feedback, ideas and thoughts are critical!) The Purpose The purpose of this PDF is to help schools looking at adopting Web Based Portfolios (WBP) as a form of assessment with students over a period of time. By adopting a web-based platform as a container in which to house portfolio content, schools give students a web-based vehicle with endless possibilities to create, collaborate and communicate their learning to the world. All-In-One Assessment Vehicle Web Based Portfolios have been gaining ground in recent years as the skills needed to create digital content have become less complex. Remember the days when a digital portfolio meant courses in Dreamweaver or some other programing language? Those days are behind us as the tools of the web have taken over and simplified things to a point where a true Web Based Portfolio is possible. In the past, schools, teachers and even students had to decide what their portfolio was going to reflect. Was it going to be a portfolio that showed assessment for learning or assessment of learning? The decision had to be made because in a paper-based world you just did not have enough space to physically hold all of the content to show both. In fact, in a paper-based world many teachers and schools started out envisioning their portfolios as a way to reflect on assessment for learning. In many cases, due to physical requirements in holding the amount of paper it took to show the learning process, many teachers and students ended up creating portfolios that showed assessment of learning. When a choice has to be made because of limited space to keep a rough draft or a final copy students will keep the final copy, and so will teachers. WBPs if nothing else, solve this age old portfolio issue. With the cost of servers and web storage continuing to drop, creating endless storage space for students to show the learning process and allowing teachers to assess for learning is cheap and getting less expensive every day. When students have endless space, a WBP not only shows assessment for learning, but also assessment of learning. We now have a vehicle that has the space to allow students and teachers to have the best of both worlds all in one place and the ability to track learning...

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What's Your Container?

What I love about presenting is how themes emerge within my presentations that I was never thinking about before the conference begins. But somewhere in the process of doing 6 presentations at the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference a theme in my sessions emerged. What is your container? We talked in many of my sessions about having a container to house all of your web “stuff”. What that contain looks like really doesn’t matter as long as: A. It works for youB. It allows EVERYTHING to be embeded When you create a “class container” think of it as not just a place to actually put stuff, but a place that allows you to pull in information from other parts of the web. It should allows you to the following: 1. Embed YouTube Videos2. Embed RSS Feeds3. Embed Slideshare Slides4. Anything else that has a standard embed code. Using the above criteria your container could be: 1. A Blog2. A Wiki3. A Ning4. A Moodle Course5. Netvibes.com6. Pageflakes.com7. Share your container in the comments All of these above containers work. Find the one that fits your needs and either is unblocked at your school or your school has adopted system wide and start creating your online classroom. At our school we’ve adopted two formats school wide. Our Elementary Teachers are using blogs and when you view them as a container you can see what I’m talking about. Here are a couple of good examples: Chrissy Hellyer’s 5th Grade Blog Robin Bulsza’s 5th Grade Blog Cheryl Terry’s 4th Grade Blog Mary Bellone’s 4th Grade Blog There are others, but I think these four when viewed as “Blogs as Containers” make the point clear. In our Middle School and High School we’re using Moodle. I can’t show you any examples as our Moodle Courses are password protected but within Moodle you can embed all of the above and put RSS feeds in the sidebars. A Moodle course can easily become your container. Once you view your class website as a container it allows you to think outside the walls of that container and ask yourself: What can I pull into my space to enhance the online learning landscape for my students? You don’t have to create it all….you just have to know/understand that you can pull things into your space to create a rich learning environment. The Netvibes page we are using with all...

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