Celebrating Teachers – Jim Fitzgerald

As I mentioned in my last post what I love about this COETAIL program is it allows me to see education across the grade levels. Earlier this week I was in Jim Fitzgerald’s Higher Level Year 1 IB English Class (11th Graders), where students were working on a Semester Long Unit on Ekphrasis. Students are using their blogs as a way to document their learning (creating e-portfolios). We have a few teachers in the high school using blogs with students and I had an opportunity yesterday to chat with them in Mr. Fitz’s class about their blogs. You have to love an English teacher who takes every opportunity to teach. He explains the naming of his netvibes page this way. The name of my page is Quarks. I take the name from the elementary particle that is a fundamental constituent of matter; it is also an allusion to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The name “quark” was taken by Murray Gell-Mann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Gell-Mann )from the book “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce. The line “Three quarks for Muster Mark…” appears in the fanciful book. Gell-Mann received the 1969 Nobel Prize for his work in classifying elementary particles. Overall the students enjoyed having a space that belonged to them. A space on the web that they could customize and arrange how they wanted. Some students have put mp3 players on their blogs with their favorite song of the day, others have links to their favorite sites (One student had links to his favorite rugby teams). Another student loves watching movies and writes movie reviews on his blog in his free time. “I like it, it gives me a place to jot down what I’m thinking.” I thought that was a good quote and what we want these blogs/e-portfolios to become, a place for students to feel free to express themselves as people. A place for them to think out loud, and share that thinking with others. All of this is great…but the real reason why I want to celebrate Jim is because he listens to his students. Jim was looking for a way to communicate with all the Juniors he had in his 3 different classes. He didn’t have a system to communicate to all of them instantly when things changed, like the due date of an assignment. So, Jim asked the kids….what system would work and without hesitation the students said Facebook....

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Netvibes.com in the classroom

Netvibes.com has been my aggregator of choice for years now. So much so that thinking of changing to another platform at this point makes my head spin. I’ve tried Pageflakes.com for a time and even Google Reader/ iGoogle. To each their own and I’m obviously a netvibes guy. Last summer I wrote a post comparing different aggregators as I was thinking there might be something better. Today thought I wanted to take Netvibes one step farther. While in Shanghai the 5th grade teachers there set every student up with an account and was able to push content to them by sharing whole tabs of RSS feeds and widgets. Our 5th grade teachers here in Bangkok are now in the process of setting every student up with a blog for reflective learning. The teachers and students needed an easy way to find and read each others blogs. Netvibes was the perfect solution. It allows you to share specific pages of your RSS feed to the public. Giving you a public URL that can be accessed by anyone. Even better, each tab is it’s own URL so you can link to that specific tab in the site. Here’s how I did it (click on a picture to enlarge): 1. Create an account at Netvibes.com 2. Create a new tab for your class and name it something that is easy to remember. I used the last name of the 5th grade teachers. 3. Next it’s time to load in the RSS feeds into the tab. There are two ways to do this. You can copy and paste the RSS URL from each blog into the Add a feed section under Add content Or you can install the FireFox extension that allows you to add feeds right from the FireFox toolbar. 4. Once you have your feeds on the page the way you like (you can simply drag and drop each widget), the next step is to make your page public so that you can link to it from your blog or anywhere else you put the hyperlink. The nice thing is you can name your public page what ever you like. I named the 5th grade page isbg5: http://www.netvibes.com/isbg5 5. That’s pretty much it. There are also other fun widgets you can put on your page. You’ll notice that I’ve embedded another web page that the students and teachers use to share...

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The wheels are spinning at SAS

We all know what happens when you get administrators that understand this Web 2.0 stuff. Shift happens! Andy Torris a good friend of mine, fellow Gourmet Geek, and oh yeah Deputy Superintendent at our school has the wheels a spinning on what Web 2.0 can mean for a school community. We had a great conversation starter today. What Andy and I really need is a day or two to talk through how this stuff will/can work….and we both believe it can. “I know there is power in Twitter!” he says has he starts talking about the Twitter account he set up for our school. We have some ideas on how our community can use Twitter to stay up on what is happening within the school. The school can use it to point to recent or updated information. Think of the following as Twitter updates: Practice for softball has been canceled today do to rain. Don’t forget to vote in the board election this week. Latest posting from principals can be found here. Fund raiser this week for Habitat for Humanity remember to support our clubs! As Andy and I continued talking today we both started talking about marketing and communication and how these tools could be very powerful for a private school such as ours in Shanghai. We also talked about Facebook and having more of a presence there. “I’ve already created an account.” he says with a smile on his face. Our conversation goes even deeper about how we need/can engage students at this level. We also talk about the new site I launched today for our school. A Netvibes Universe page that has all our feeds in one place. You can go to www.saschinaonline.org and you will be redirected to our Universe (check out my Universe via the new link at the top of my blog). This type of site I think has some great power for larger school districts. Could you imagine being in a school district of 20 or 30 schools and have one site like this for the community that brings the district together? I’ve been reading a lot about marketing lately and I think that’s part of all this. We need to market our schools to our students, our parents, our communities. How do we do that? What tools can we use? If you’re not already following Andy I would add him to...

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My aggregator of choice

Pat Kennedy left a comment yesterday on the RSS in Plain English post. Which aggregator is conducive to a classroom environment Bloglines or Google Reader? Organizing feeds by disciplines is important to me. Are they advertisement free? There are a lot of great aggregators out there finding one that is right for you and your students is like shopping for a computer. You need to check out the options and see which one ‘fits’ Bloglines: A great ad free RSS reader. Easy to use and set up and I believe the easiest place to get people started when first learning about aggregators and RSS. It was the first to really take off and is still a great basic aggregator of content. You can organize feeds into folders. Google Reader: Coming on strong as they do the Google thing and continue to add options and features. It loads quickly and has some features that Bloglines doesn’t have. The best thing about Google Reader is you can import it to your iGoogle page to become more like Pageflakes or Netvibes. If you’re school has students create a Google account (which I’m thinking schools should do!) than this is a great option. You can organize feeds in folders. Pageflakes: Coming on strong as one of my favorites. It differs from Bloglines and Google Reader in that it has “Widgets” which are other items you can add to your page other than just plain RSS feeds. Pageflakes has a great little Podcast player that you can add and use to listen to podcats, you can add the weather, news, a search and other widgets and really customize your start page to be the information center you want it to be. If Netvibes continues to be slow in China when I return after this summer, this will be where i move to. Quick loading and clean easy design. You organize feeds by tabbed pages. Netvibes: My personal favorite and a quick look at what people are using to subscribe to the blogs that I run show that more people are using Netvibes now than Bloglines. Netvibes was the first to use widgets to really make a customized start page on the web that allowed you to import your own RSS feeds. They continue to add widgets that allow you to add functionality to your page. They have also done the Web 2.0 thing and...

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