Plans afoot with diigo and skype

Over the next few weeks in school I’m beginning to push out in some new areas with regards to using technology in the classroom. I’m beginning to feel relatively comfortable and proficient with podcasting, through the use of audacity. I hope in the future to start the process of getting other teachers in my school involved in doing this – currently I seem to be the only one.

This is only one of the elements I want to focus on playing with in my school. I remain incredibly excited about the possibilities of using SKYPE in the classroom, video-conferencing with other students around the world. I’ve noticed that a lot of the schools taking part seem to be American or Australian. Can anyone help me locate some UK schools that are doing this? It would be useful because I’m already worried about the opposition my school might have about using a webcam in school. That’s not intended as a criticism of my school either, I just feel that in British education there’s such a mistrust of these kinds of technologies. Nevertheless, I shall begin the process of delicately asking people there thoughts on whether I could be allowed to do it in my school!

Onto something I will definitely be using with one of my classes next week, Diigo. I have waxed lyrical about this website on here before; I think its wonderful and solves a lot of the problems that we associate with students researching things on the internet. So next week I’m going to get students logged on with their usernames and accounts. My page for my Year 12 English Literature Group currently looks something like this:

y12

 The group page on Diigo for my Year 12 group.

The idea is that tomorrow I will give them two challenges (once we’ve got past the logging in and installing the diigolet feature). Firstly they are all going to have to look at one specific page I have bookmarked for them on W.H. Auden. I will have already highlighted key points on the webpage using Diigolet. They must also leave annotations, using the ‘post-it note’ feature, which we then review later. Hopefully this will introduce them to the annotating features on diigo and encourage to use them on other websites they find. They then need to find a few other websites on Auden and bookmark those too, which the rest of the group will then be able to see.

I shall report back on how it goes; am really excited about it!

 

 Other things I’ve been using this week and discovering that I like them:

  • TinyUrl – ok, so I’m like *well* behind here (and slipping into the voice of one of my students), but I’ve discovered that this is a great time saver. Remember when you write a link on the whiteboard and it can take ages? Especially if you have a HTML extension on it, or lots of dots and slashes. Well TinyURL solves this problem very easily, by condensing the link into something much smaller and much easier to share with your kids. Good stuff!
  • Twitter. Having signed up and been fiddling a few weeks (ahem), jury’s still out on this one for me. Can it genuinley be used for educational innovation? This article would seem to suggest so. I can’t help but get the feeling of it being a little bit ‘cool toy’, but not much else at the moment. That said, a lot of teachers seem to be doing interesting things with it, particularly the really enthusiastic article I just pointed you in the direction of. My username on twitter is ‘andywhiteway’ if you want to add me.

Share Tabs

With thanks to langwitches for pointing me in this direction.

Share tabs seems to follow on neatly from my previous post on Diigo, because it is another website that deals with making the internet more accessible, with the added bonus of being of great use to teachers.

The idea of the website feels like one of those ‘Why hasn’t someone done this before?’, type ideas, and yet to my mind, I can’t think of something that has done it this well. To use share tabs, you give the website a list of sites that you want it to show. It will then display them in a format similar to this, where pictures of the website are there for students to see straight away, all in one place. I picked newspapers as a media teacher. I like this emphasis on seeing all the websites together – in my case it would be great because it could mean that students begin comparing the difference in features, layout and presentational devices, all at once.

What is also smart (and useful for students) is that the links for the websites are then tabbed within the same window, so once students can see the visual impact of the websites, they can then take a closer comparative look whilst keeping the same window open.

For me this makes our jobs as teachers a lot easier. Imagine giving students one of these ready made URLs with all the websites they need to look on – straight away you are eliminating the process of “Sir, I can’t find the address!”, (Alright, so they might still spell that one wrong, but hey, at least its only one to get wrong). What’s more, we’re making sure they get to focus on the important part of the lesson, as opposed to opening 4 different windows and quickly feeling unorganised when they accidentally close the wrong window (Guilty as charged).

Using this and diigo together has almost got me wishing I was teaching right now, instead of it being half term and being on holiday. Almost.

This

http://www.sharetabs.com/?mrw

Diigo.com

The subject of this week’s blog is diigo, a website that I have been getting to grips with in the past week or so. I think it offers a real chance to change practice within the classroom.

Firstly, its features: Diigo is a free service that allows you to trawl the web and bookmark websites in a social sphere. Essentially, if you find a wesbite you like, you bookmark it (similar to adding it to your favourites). The difference is that you can then share that link with others who are part of the site; this is the social element and where the phrase ‘social bookmarking’ seems to originate from.

As good as this is on its own, it doesn’t take into account the functionality of Diigo. There are numerous tools that can allow you to reflect on the website you’re using, which again, can be accessible to other members of the site. For example, you can highlight parts of the webpage and leave ‘post-it’ note style annotation on the highlights, meaning that others can then access your experiences/insights of using the website.

Never mind that this is a useful tool for all the trawling I do with journals for my masters, I quickly began to consider the implications that this website could have for teaching practice. One of the biggest concerns with students using ICT is how effectively they are using the internet. Many are comfortable using search engines; far less get into the regular habit of adding good websites they find to their favourites.

If Diigo was used with students they could quickly begin to see the usefulness of such an approach. If a student found a website they liked, they would simply bookmark it. Because of the social networking part of Diigo, that link would then be passed onto other students in. Furthermore, the student could have left annotations, reflecting on what they consider to be the most salient parts of the website.

 diigo2

A still taken from the test group I have set up. Notice how the ‘notes’ I have left for the website are accessible before having to view the website.

 

Things don’t necessarily end there either. Having signed up as an educator on the site (an easy, vital part), I have created a test ‘group’ for one of my classes. They then have access to a message board in which they can discuss what they’ve found and a space where all the bookmarks are listed and summarised.

For a long time there has been a feeling in my school that students, particularly those taking the jump from GCSE to sixth form, struggle with processes of research and the independence that comes attached with this sort of study. Given that students are increasingly doing their research on the internet, this seems like a powerful tool for shaping that experience for them in a meaningful, significant way.

Wii’s and social gaming

I was watching my girlfriend’s nephew today try and get his Wii to work. I suppose I’ve missed out on this current generation of games machines, mainly because I know I don’t have the hours in the day to play them (and memories of being very, very addicted to Final Fantast VII).

Anyway, to get to the point of this blog. When you first load up a Wii, you are confronted with many menus, one of which is where you can load up a ‘space’ where all the avatars that can be used in some of the multiplayer games are (I think it was wiisport). Inside this very cute virtual space are the avatars, each customisable and nameable. As if to underline how precise the whole thing was, we looked at the avatar of my girlfriend and her mother, both done at sepeate times, but with the same facial features.

I was struck by the interactivity of the experience – how this boy had made an image of his family and friends in a small place. It was another social use of technology and what I also thought was significant about it was that everyone in the family was then talking about how they’d come to create avatars and how they’d used them in playing the various games on offer.

Its marvellous to see videogames becoming much more of an overall experience for all. I’m not sure quite what this has to do with education or my own teaching, but it struck me as somehow being linked to the two. It’s something I intend to turn over in my head over in the next, rapidly approaching, working week.

Eduism and Audacity – Open Source

 

So, as I see it, the term ‘Open Source’ seems to mean something that is free and can be developed and added to by anyone who downloads that. I find it remarkable and incredibly promising that such an idea exists. I know I’m sounding all airy-fairey and preachy there, but I do find it remarkable and affirming that such a culture continues to permeate the internet. Microsith still has the ultimate dominion, particularly over the ICT technology we use in school, and yet, this stuff is out there.

Do teachers really have the time, the inclination and the ability to find it and use it effectively,  though? I guess that’s why this is here and I guess I want to start meeting with that question on a regular basis.

My first two pieces of software that I have been curiously prodding are audacity and Eduism. Both are free and both are very different, but ultimately, I see them as very social uses of technology, that which at its core, I don’t see enough of in the use of ICT in schools. Over the next few weeks I intend to blog about my use of them and the varying degrees of sucess I have with them.

As this is my first blog I suppose I should end by saying something witty and erudite: How about something like, ‘using big words at the ends of sentences won’t necessarily endear you to others?’

Yes, I suppose that’ll do.

 A still from Eduism