Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms

"Tim Berners-Lee had a grand vision for the Internet when he began development of the World Wide Web in 1989. "The original thing I wanted to do,' Berners- Lee said, 'was make it a collaborative medium, a place where we [could] all meet and read and write'." This the opening two sentences for this really valuable book. The book is dated somewhat by the constant development and diffusion of new social technologies. However, for a teacher, or anyone for that matter, that's interested in learning about the fundamental tools, that sometimes are called collectively, Web 2.0, this is a great book. He not only describes the tools and their applications, he specifically tells the reader how to get the tool and use in simple step by step language.

So why get all excited about these new tools? Aren't they just incremental changes to the existing ways of doing thinks? Not at all. These tools collectively are disruptive to our ways of teaching, learning, working and living.

"No matter how you look at it, we are creating what author Douglas Rushkoff calls a "Society of Authorship' where every teacher, every student, every person will have the ability to contribute ideas and experiences to the larger body of knowledge that is the Internet. And, in doing so, Rushkoff says, we will be writing the human story, in real time, together, a vision that asks each of us to participate."

McLuhan warned us 40 years ago, that the new information technologies were going to alter our perception and ways of thinking. " ... William D. Winn, Director of the learning Center at the University of Washington, believes that years of computer use creates children that 'think differently from us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It's as though their cognitive structures were parallel, not sequential.' In other words, today's students may not be well-suited to the more linear progression of learning that most educational systems employ."

Unlike their students, most teachers have not been brought up with these altered ways of thinking. Many try, but are like foreigners who speak with an accent. And, the educational institutions are even slower to change.

The toolbox that this book is based on is:

1. Weblogs (or blogs)

2. Wikis

3. Rich Site Summary (RSS)

4. Agregators

5. Social Bookmarking

6. Online Photo Galleries

7. Audio/video-casting

"In large measure, it is blogs that have opened up the Read/Write frontier for content creation to the web, and millions of people have been quick to take advantage of the opportunity. Remember, a new blog is being created every second, and that shows no sign of slowing down." Blogging in its truest from engages people in a "process of thinking in words, not simply accounting of the days events or feelings. '

" ... Fernette and Brock Eide's research shows that blogging in its true form has a great deal of potential positive impact on students. They found that blogs can

• Promote critical and analytical thinking

• Be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking

• Promote analogical thinking

• Be a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information

• Combine the best of solitary reflection and social interaction."

Richardson takes time to teach how teachers can help students identify the quality of the information that get from the Internet. He correctly points out that this skill is part of the new literacy,

Wikis provide easy collaboration for all. Perhaps the most successful wiki to date is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia based on the wiki platform. "the first wiki was created by Ward Cunningham in 1995, who was looking to create an easy authoring tool that might spur people to publish. And the key word here is easy, because plainly put, a wiki is a website where anyone can edit anything at any time they want."

RSS, rich text summary or really simple syndication, is a technology that allows you to syndicate your work just like newspaper columnists do, so that is published around the world. It also allows you to draw information from the web around the world to you on topics that interest you, automatically, and almost instantaneously.

Aggregators are tools used with RSS and other forms of syndication to aggregate information for you.

Social bookmarking is a way the web “learns” from us. When we bookmark a web site or web page, and categorize it, we are telling others that this is valuable information. It’s the Dewey Decimal System of the Internet.

Online photo-galleries are a way to share photographs with others.

Audio/video-casting are not broad casting, but narrow casting, providing the equivalent of radio and TV over the Internet. Although services like You Tube have millions of viewers for a video.

This is a great book for a beginner to learn about and how to use web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and in your professional life.

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms
Will Richardson
Corwin Press, 2006, 149 pages

The authors blog is a rich source of material for understanding web 2.0 tools for education

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