Wikispaces Extends Free Education Wikis to Higher-Ed

Wikispaces who has always been a great supporter of wikis in K-12 Education giving away some 980,000 free ad-free wikis for classroom use over the years will announce next week that not only will it continue to support K-12 Education, but will also be opening up it’s free service to higher education as well. The features in these free educational wikis normally cost $50 per year, but are completely free for educational use. The announcemnent will be made on the wikispace blog next week.  Last year at ISTE 2010 I led a discussion at EdubloggerCon titled “Are Wikis Dying” it was a great conversation and the comments on the blog post added some value as well. Adam, and the team from wikispaces, was there as we discussed the future of wikis in a Google Docs, sycrounous editing world. Wikispaces continues to add functionality and I do think there is still a place for wikis…..just not sure where. Personally I haven’t started a wiki or been involved in a wiki project for over a year. The wiki projects that I’ve worked on with kids have been about adding value to wikis and to the greater good. But then again my school has adopted Google Apps for Education and I think Google Docs and Google Sites has replaced much of the funtionality that my school use to use wikis for. This might not be true of all schools and there are still cases in which I think a wiki is the best tool for the task…..we just have more tools. I think that wikis are getting back to what their orignial purpose was…to create collabertive content. There was a time when we used wikis for anything and everything because they were easy to create and edit. Teachers used them as webpages for classrooms (and still do). We used them to plan sessions or take notes (and still do). But as the Web 2.0 world continued to develop other tools made for those specific purposes have filled those niches and we’re seeing wikis return to their orignial purpose…collabertive projects. So are wikis dying? No…their just returning to their orignial purpose which means we’re using them better and their purpose is becoming more clear…which in a connected world of infinite choice it’s good to see something become clearer. Thanks Wikispaces for your continued support of...

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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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A Great Day in St. Louis

A big thank you to Elizabeth Helfant for inviting me into St. Louis for a chance to spend a day with the staff of Mary Institute Country Day School. I was the last in a string of one day workshops that Elizabeth put together for her staff. Being the last of the summer was nice as it allowed us to talk about how tools such as Google Earth, Blogs, and Wikis can be used in the classroom. We spent the first part of our time not talking about the tools but looking at examples of how they are being used in the classroom. We spent some time searching and exploring the Google Earth in Education section. Where teachers can download some amazing layers into Google Earth to teach with. From there we looked at some high school examples of how wikis and blogs are being used in different high school classrooms. We spent some time discussing Welker’s Wikinomics still one of my favorite class based wikis. What’s great is that Jason Welker freely shares his rubric for grading the wiki and his rules of conduct for students. Teachers appreciate seeing exactly what the student expectations are for such a site. From there we talked about WikiBooks.org and how teachers could use this site to not only study, but create the textbook of the future with students. I’ve yet to hear of a teacher actually doing this…but still feel it has some potential in the classroom. Next we looked at some examples of blogs. My two favorite student blogs Theory of Knowledge and Chemical Paradigms where perfect examples of just how introspective high school students can be. Teachers were shocked at how personal and in-depth some of the posts from students were. How they took pride in their work and how having an authentic audience engaged the students in meaningful ways. After spending the first half of the day discussing how these different tools might fit into their classes we took the second half of the day and just allow teachers to start and build their wiki or blog or play with Google Earth. The history department got together and laid out some ground work for a wiki they want to use this year. Others explored the use of Nings from previous presenters in the summer. In the end we just gave them time to work….the kind of time teachers...

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Wetpaint Wikis add some great features!

(Full Disclosure: I am the Educational Ambassador to Wetpaint.com) Over the past couple of weeks, Wetpaint has rolled out some features that for me are just more reasons to use Wetpaint.com. Some of these features are just wiki madness! You can now choose different “Layout Zones” for each page of your wiki, there are “Content Modules” that allow you to embed some cool wiki widgets in your site and a whole new way to apply for Education Ad-Free status right from within your wiki. Let’s look at each of these new features and how they might apply to your site and the educational environment. Layout Zones The new layout zones are a great way to split any given wiki page into a two column layout. I used this feature for the first time on a wiki I built for a conference. What I really love is that only when you edit do you know you have two columns. When someone is looking at your site they would never know. Secondly the feature is on individual pages so you have the flexibility to choose different formats for each page of your wiki. This new layout feature opens the door to new ways of displaying data, quick notes to your class, or the use of the new Content Modules to show what’s happening on your site and make your page more dynamic. I have no insider knowledge on what Wetpaint is planning or working on, but I hope they expand on this idea and allow other types of page layouts. Content Modules I’m most excited about the new content modules that Wetpaint has added. When I first noticed the new features a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure how they would be used for education. But as I played with them, the two modules that I could see having the most impact are the Top Contributors and Hot Discussions Modules. Top ContributorsThis module has a rotating wheel of who the top contributors are on a wiki. If you have a class wiki it’s a great way to highlight those students who contribute the most to it. Some students love to see their face or avatar on the home page as being a top contributor and I could see this module being used to motivate some students Hot DiscussionsA great way to show off where the conversations are taking place on...

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Welker's Wikinomics: Firewalls can't stop learning

Yesterday the Edublog Award winners were announced and what a proud moment for Shanghai American School, Jason Welker, and the 140+ students who over the past two years have helped to create a fantastic wiki. There’s a story here that I believe needs to be told and one that makes me very proud that I get an opportunity to work with teachers like Jason who are not only open to new ways of teaching and learning, but that once that spark hits, they take off and leave me playing catch up. I’ll never forgotten the first time I visited the Welker’s Wikinomics Wiki. It was about 6pm one night last year when I got an e-mail from Jason asking me to take a look at the wiki that he was building with his students. I headed over to the wiki and was greeted by a Gabbly Chat window with 4 people in it. I stopped and watched for awhile as Jason and three of his students talked about economics. It was one of the help sessions that Jason ran after hours for his students. They could come to the wiki, have a chat with Jason or any of the other students there about homework, that days lesson, or about the pages they were creating, changing, manipulating on the wiki. I was completely taken back. I chatted with Jason through the Gabbly Chat window for a bit talking about the site and about wetpaint wikis. At one point last year I stopped by Jason’s room where he was finishing up a lesson and told the students about a funny econ video that he had found on YouTube. One of the students in the class asked Jason to play the video for them. Jason just smiled and said, “You’ll have to watch it when you go to do your homework tonight.” I talked to Jason about posting YouTube videos on his wiki and he told me he found it a great way to get students to go to the wiki. He would play some of the videos in class and others he would just embed on the wiki itself and give them the teaser in class. Jason had tapped into their world. Using their love of YouTube and videos as an incentive to go to the site and get their work done. As the site grew, Wetpaint picked it up and...

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