Web 2.0 – A Bit of Ingenuity & Cooperation

Original Posting: http://www.masterteacher.com/blog/client/index.cfm/2010/6/14/Web-20–A-Bit-of-Ingenuity-and-Cooperation

Incorporating Web 2.0 into your classroom requires just a bit of ingenuity and cooperation from those that handle your school’s network, firewalls and filters.  The rest is up to the teacher to make sure that all students have access to a computer either in school, at home, or at the city/county library.

So, how can this become part of the school’s culture, a commonplace bank of knowledge that is assessable to all teachers and students?  First, there needs to be a board and administration commitment on implementing a plan to disseminate the knowledge to all teachers and an expectation of the school district that teachers must utilize external web resources to reinforce the subject matter that students need to learn.

Let’s think of this as a recipe for Grandma Hannah’s special cheesecake or potato pancakes.  Although it is not an exact science, it takes the right ingredients, mixed together, with the correct temperature for the end product to be enjoyed by everyone.

First, we must not think of Web 2.0 just as technology but as an adaptation to the cultural change that puts our young learners in closer communication with the vast resources at their fingertips.  It is part of the collaborative learning process which transfers to the life skills and "team player" mentality that higher education and workplace leadership is seeking.

The Ingredients:
  • The School Board
  • The Superintendent
  • The Principals
  • The Curriculum Coordinators
  • The Teachers
  • The Technology Directors
  • The Students
  • The Parents/Guardians

The first two ingredients – the school board and the superintendent – must provide the leadership and ensure that the technology and acceptable use policies incorporates all the language and legal protections for teachers in order to allow students to be creative in the use of special websites.

This is then followed by the principals that must model a culture of change.  After all, if teachers are expected to mix technology with traditional teaching practices there needs to be some demonstration of document sharing and use of animations to convey the message for motivating others to come on board.

Most importantly, teachers have to see, feel and understand the vast resources available to them at their fingertips.  This will not work by sending out a memo or providing websites to teachers.  It will only occur through hands-on experiential learning – by putting teachers in front of computers and having them alternate stations to try some of these Internet resources.

Ok, I guess I can share a few of these gems for you to try on your own, however you need to think in terms of your lesson plans and how these excellent programs can enhance teaching and learning.

To get you started go to:

There are hundreds of other sites that are grade appropriate.  Many tie into: Digital Text Resources, Educational Support Resources,, Special Education Resources and Video Resources.

Now think about how your students are communicating to each other these days.  Text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Cell Phones.  We must begin to incorporate the students’ world into the new reality of teaching.  We have to challenge our own comfort levels and be willing to explore new avenues, and we must carefully determine the correct mode of communication for the relationships that we have and are trying to begin or enhance.  Why?  Because the world continues to change and evolve and self-learning is key for educational advancement.


Web 2.0 & Beyond

Web 2.0 is more than a menu of “cool” and new technologies but rather ideas that are changing the way many people interact online.  It is a collaborative learning process that transfers to the life skills and team player mentality that all children must adapt to as they advance in their education and quest for knowledge. Web 2.0 is a term that is a mix of familiar and emergent technologies that encompass various tools and learning strategies utilizing cross-media, participatory involvement with auditory, verbal and kinesthetic programs.

Today, Web 2.0 is the popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking. These technological advances are enabled by Ajax, RSS and Eclipse.  These applications can empower teachers and students in the construction of their own learning.  They allow for multimedia sharing services, content syndication, podcasting and content tagging services.

Ajax is short for Asynchronous Java Script and XML and is a group of interrelated development techniques used on the client-side to create interactive web application.  It allows the user to interact with information presented and provides a method for exchanging data asynchronously between the browser and server to avoid full page reloads.

RSS is most commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication however others refer to it as Rich Site Summary and is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works such as blog entries, news headlines, audio and video in a standardized format.  It benefits readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

Eclipse is a multi-language software development environment comprising an integrated development environment and an extensible plug-in system.  It is written in Java and can be used to develop a variety of applications.  It is an open source community whose projects are focused on building an extensible development platform for building and managing software programs

For the past few years there has been an explosion of new ideas, applications and start-up companies working on ways to extend existing services and to be more practical and relevant within education. According to Paul Anderson in an article titled: “What is Web 2.0? – Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education (JISC Technology and Standards Watch 2009), there are six categories of Web 2.0 services including:

  • Social Networking
  • Aggregation Services
  • Data "Mash-ups" Tracking and Filtering Content
  • Collaborating
  • Replicate Office-Style Software in the Browser
  • Crowd-Sourcing

These six “big ideas” are based on concepts that build on the global information space.  In fact, these ideas revolve around the social and collaborative opportunities that can enhance teaching and learning.  Students become more engaged in their learning process as they develop a storyboard, cartoon, word art or photo story.

We have seen the excitement of students describing their field trips to museums by constructing the pictures they had taken on the trip and adding in video, music and posting it on their school website for anyone to view by utilizing a program called www.animoto.com.   We have also seen how students creatively develop an avatar, working in small groups and developing a dialogue between two fictitious characters pertaining to a topic assigned by the classroom teacher and then presenting their work to the class.  Parents are able to see the final projects and support their children in the creative learning process.

Drawing on the “wisdom of crowds” discussion, Web 2.0 consists of words that users generate and attach to content.  It involves somewhat more constrained yet easily collaborative projects that involve writing, spelling, storytelling, making cartoons, and digital pictures while drawing on the creative thought processes that students incorporate into their learning projects.

Now, let’s take a look at several Web 2.0 applications that can be used in the classroom.

  • One of my favorites is www.animoto.com.  You can sign up for Animoto for Education and begin to incorporate digital pictures and music into a presentation of an event with your students.  One of our 3rd grade teachers took her students for a nature field trip to an arboretum.  The students loved putting their pictures and some video clips into the program and had to build consensus on the music.
  • Another is www.pixton.com.  Pixton lets you create your own comic strip without having to draw anything by hand. Select from a ton of pre-made characters, customize them as you see fit, and put them in different poses and add text to make a coherent storyline.
  • Go to www.voki.com.  Voki is a talking voice character, a computer-generated version of oneself. The more generic term for  Voki  is a speaking avatar, a digital representation of a person. Teachers can use Voki  to introduce a course or topics. It can also be used to aid in instructing those who are more audio/visual learners. Voki is also a great way to get shy students involved or to share comments with students in other locations.
  • www.xtranormal.com is aText-to-Movie (TTM) that gives you a choice of “showpaks," which consist of a setting and your choice of one or two actors.  You can write a script, and then drag various "action icons" into the script for things like camera angles, facial expressions, gestures, and animations. I found that you can utilize small groups of students to produce a movie pertaining to a particular subject matter.  It is quite fun and engaging.
  • www.wordle.net is an application that many teachers are using.  You can have students go to a computer lab and have them type in as many words and concepts they can think of pertaining to one of your lesson plans.  It will reinforce words and thoughts and help with student recall of educational content.

These are a few Web 2.0 sites to get you started, however there are hundreds of others.  It is important that your technology coordinator allow these websites to come through your filter so make sure you do that first. After all, Web 2.0 is an adaptation to the cultural change that puts your learners closer to state-of-the-art resources.  It encourages collaborative learning, creativity and the incorporation of differentiated learning styles.

Below is a partial listing of other Web 2.0 resources you can begin to explore.

Education-Based Blog Sites
http://writeboard.com http://www.daypop.com
http://feedster.com http://blogpulse.com
http://bloglines.com http://wordpress.org


News Sites
Video Sharing
www.news.google.com http://www.youtube.com
www.digg.com http://www.teachertube.com
http://memorandum.com http://www.eyespot.com
http://en.wikinews.org http://ourmedia.org
Photo Sharing
http://www.flickr.com http://btpodshow.com
http://snapfish.com http://www.audblog.com
http://www.ourpictures.com http://odeo.com
http://fotki.com http://ourmedia.org


Here are some fun Web 2.0 sites that you may also wish to explore and determine their applications in the classroom. Some of these might be a stretch, but those teachers that can think outside the box can make good things happen:


http://bodyswitcher.com http://fakemagazinecover.com http://sillyscenes.com
http://scapbookgenerator.com http://spiffytext.com http://fototrix.com
http://askmethat.com http://imagegenerator.org http://sillywebcam.com
http://text2logo.com http://signgenerator.org http://chatphobia.com


Have Fun!

Michael Bloom provides educational technology training for schools throughout Ohio and Arizona and provides “hands-on” workshops for teachers in areas of school improvement, technology integration, grant writing and strategic planning. Michael was awarded the technology coordinator of the year for Northeast Ohio in 2005 through eTech Ohio.

Contemporary Literature and Professional Development Communities

A review of Literature and how technology contributes to school improvement

Professional learning communities are rapidly taking hold throughout this country as an effective strategy for raising student achievement. Many school administrators that have transformed their schools have done so by embracing learning rather than teaching as their school’s mission. They have shared how their teachers work collaboratively to help all students learn and how the formative assessment process focuses on results to foster continuous improvement.

Educational Service centers have endorsed this strategy and has facilitated workshops to present the primary components of professional learning communities. Smart Solutions participated in a Book Talk featuring “On Common Ground” by Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker and Rebecca DuFour. In this book talk, there were 32 school and business leaders who read the text, reported out their findings and interpretations in small groups, and discussed the merits and challenges in establishing the practical strategies for moving forward with school improvement efforts.

What ensued were dynamic discussions followed up by a second presentation by Mr. Douglas DeLong, superintendent of Berkshire Schools in Northeast Ohio. Mr. DeLong was part of a “Distinguished Administrators Series” and he presented how his school adopted the DuFour and Eaker Professional Learning Community model three years ago. What is unique about the Distinguished Administrators Series is that it was videoconferenced to school locations throughout the State of Ohio. Seven site locations participated and 52 school leaders attended. In addition, the session was web-casted (video streamed) and hosted on Lake County ESC’s web page. www.lcesc.k12.oh.us.

There are several dynamics going on here. First, is the topic of professional learning communities as a contemporary model. Second, is the sharing of this with educators throughout the State of Ohio. Third, is the incorporation of interactive technologies. Fourth, is the hosting of the presentation with all of the power point attachments for the world to view. Fifth, is the follow-up presentation featuring Dr. Paul Kapostasy focusing on the development and use of Data Teams. Sixth is the accompanying literature that provides the glue for implementation such as: “Asking the Right Questions” and Getting Excited about Data” by Edie L Holcomb, “Evaluating Professional Development” by Thomas R. Guskey, “Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace” by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt and “Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms by Camille Cole, Kecia Ray and Jan Zanetis.

Smart Solutions supports ongoing professional development but to make it great there must be a continuum of training. There must be a strong connection to the utilization of technology and how we adhere to the principles stated in Michael Fullan’s book “The Moral Imperative of School Leadership” whereby we share our knowledge and expertise for the greater good of education everywhere and can be accessed by anybody, any time, and at any location.

Now, throw in another book by Thomas L. Friedman “The World is Flat”. It reinforces how important professional learning communities are, not only in education but also in business. Education needs to acknowledge that globalization with out-sourcing and out-shoring is moving faster than a speeding bullet and that collaboration with other countries and cultures isn’t just desirable but essential. Isolationism no longer works and the utilization of technology is vital to a country’s survival as a leader in economic and educational innovation.

As we examine some of the contemporary literature such as “Good to Great” by John Collins or noteworthy literature such as “In Search of Excellence” by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. we can learn the key concepts that move organizations forward. Today, we need a blending of best practices from both private and education sectors. Education leaders need to pay attention to what is going on throughout the world and we must learn to adapt.

We need to incorporate emerging technologies so that we can compete through work-flow software, open-sourcing, and supply-chaining. We need to understand what is going on in China, India, the Soviet Union and other countries. As stated by Thomas Friedman, “What the flattening of the world means is that we are now connecting all the knowledge centers on the planet together into a single global network which – if politics and terrorism do not get in the way – could usher in an amazing era of prosperity and innovation.”

Building Learning Communities goes far beyond common assessments and common planning time. It now becomes part of cyberspace where members depend on each other to achieve the learning outcomes. Learning becomes active in a distance learning environment. Teachers and students are not only responsible for logging on but they must contribute to the learning process by posting their thoughts and ideas to the online discussions. A network of interaction is established in which instructors and other participants become part of the process of knowledge acquisition. Outcomes are evidenced by deeper understanding of concepts, collaborative learning , and critical thinking skills.

Professional Learning Communities and the use of technology brings in traditional teaching and learning models with the electronic tools that are available at our fingertips. Teachers begin to understand asynchronous communication which can occur at any time and at irregular intervals, meaning that people can communicate online without a pattern of interaction. We see this today in e mail, user groups, bulletin boards, websites, and streaming video.

We also see videoconferencing that occurs between two or people at two or more distinct site locations by using large monitor systems or desktop computers to receive audio and video in real time. Educational content providers throughout the world offer rich content that supplements grade level content standards or classes can meet regularly to enrich educational content and to structure meaningful group interaction. This type of collaborative learning is synchronous which is happening in real time. Another example of this is instant messaging or chat rooms where people are typing at the same time.

Now that we know that professional learning communities are working and that technology further enhances enriched learning, we must move our teaching methods to the transformation stage. As learners begin to feel and acknowledge an increasing sense of empowerment, they will understand the learner-centered process and develop a foundation for future learning experiences. They will be better prepared for the globalization that is occurring and will maintain the competitiveness that is necessary in the on line economic, educational and political world.