Monday, April 6, 2009

Wikis, Blogs, and Diigo

Web 2.0 has changed the way we as educators look at technology integration in our classroom. I used to think I was so tech savvy, because I had a website and my students made Power Point presentations. Web 2.0 tools opened my eyes to a whole new way to use the world wide web to make my students not only more tech savvy, but global collaborators. Below I will tell about two tools that are ever present in my arsenal and one more tool that I haven’t opened up to my students yet, but plan to now that I know the possibilities.

I discovered wikispaces about two years ago at a conference, and since then I can’t believe I ever lived without them. Wikispaces can be used as an easy website interface, as a place to provide links for students, a place to provide information for parents and a place to showcase student work. There is no html code and ftp uploading or any of the other things that make web design so awkward. An example of a wiki acting as a website would be Mrs. Abernethy’s Global Gorilla Wikispace.

Wikis are much more than glorified websites, however. They can be used to collaborate. Students can work together to create a website even if they’re not on the same computer, in the same room, in the same city or in the same country. My first experience with interactive wikispace work was on Project Lemonade, an international collaborative project my students participated in last year. As a part of the project, my students worked together collaboratively to create their own interactive wikispace called Project S.C.A.T. The collaborative nature of wikispaces is what makes them a true web 2.0 tool.

Here is a great video on how and why to use wikis in a classroom.

Wikispaces provides their own interactive tour on how to get started. Included is an introduction and how-tos on personalizing your wiki, adding files and pictures, and personal settings. Wikis can be as open or as protected as you choose. For use with young students, it’s best to set up the privacy settings for them to be sure they are safe.

Blogs can be used in a multitude of ways. They don't always have to be for typical journaling. I create new blogs for topics we are learning about. They make it simple to embed student projects or provide a place for students to interact with each other's projects by leaving comments. This year we have created blogs for our class election, for the Revolutionary War, for Literature Circle projects, for Science, for Pi Day, for PSSA Preparation and more! The students enjoy being able to share their work with family and friends. They really love it when someone leaves a comment on their blog!

When first setting up a blog, it is important to set up the correct comment protection. I choose comment moderation and allow anyone to comment. That way you are not shutting out opportunities to collaborate globally with people who may read your blog. On the other hand, no comments can be viewed on the site unless you approve them first.

Allowing students to blog creates another set of concerns. Gaggle provides very safe blogging that can be opened up to the public or closed off to just the classroom or the school. Regardless of what avenue you take for student blogging, it is the teacher’s responsibility to approve or reject all posts before they are made public.

Here are some tutorials (one for Blogger and one for Word Press.)

I have been using Diigo for about a year to accumulate, highlight, and code websites for my own consumption. Only recently have I realized the possibilities for classroom use. Creating a group with my students can change the way we collaborate and share resources on research projects. Jennifer Dorman is an expert at using Diigo in the classroom.

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

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