I am trying to get my head around various web 2.0 technologies that can and are being used very effectively and creatively by you all to enhance learning in the classroom. There are a number of tools, for blogging, making wikis, RSS feeds, communication, social networking, and so on. You know better than I! Although I and can see their value I am overwhelmed by two things at the moment and, to avoid reinventing the wheel, I would welcome a helping hand, please:
1. Web 2.0 Tools - Blog, Wiki, Social bookmarking, Social networking, ....There is such a vast array of choices. Some are dedicated purely to one aspect. For example, Wikispaces is just a Wiki, Edublog is just for blogging. With other products there are varying degress of overlap and some combine many tools into one product, like Ning and Gaggle. My question, in short is, what is the best solution - separate tools or an integrated product? How have you addressed this issue yourself?
2. Effective Classroom practice. As I get to grips with the various tools and I also wrestling with how each tool can be dovetailed into everyday classroom practice to enhance learning. That will clearly be an ongoing process and I know I have a steep learning curve ahead of me. Any specific examples would be most welcome. For example, I found the Wiki Walkthrough http://www.teachersfirst.com/content/wiki/ on Teachernet to be really excellent.
For me - just as there is no one perfect textbook there is no one perfect Web 2.0 solution! I want several tools in my toolbox. I have a Moodle course for each Year group at school - that's great for providing them with lots of resources in one handy place. For any sort of collaborative project for students I would choose Wikispaces - it's free - it's easy to learn and use - and their are no age issues as teachers can use the user creator to sign up young students without the need for an email address.
Then I want all my other favourites as well - Wordpress for myself - all my own blogs for students and teachers, Diigo for all the bookmarks, Evernote, Storybird, Wallwisher - the list goes on!
I put links to the various tools and examples of classroom use here for staff at my school (a WordPress blog!)
Sorry for the delay in replying and thanks for your comments. Flooding issues here in Bangkok are making life interesting at the moment.
I am particularly pleased to discover you are from the UK and curious to know how you came down this path. I have/had the impression that most of the web 2.0 technology users were from the US and I have been wondering how widespread their use are in the UK.
I had also reached the conclusion that Wikispaces seems to be the best starter tool so I am pleased to be reassured. Problem for me at this stage is that there are so many other tools to consider - I am overwhelmed. I guess it is a matter of taking the plunge and seeing where it takes you. I am a firm believer in the philosophy - adopt, adapt, innovate. I suppose what I am looking for is a tried and tested template, something to adopt to get me started, if there is such a thing.
What does strike me as odd at this stage is that you use Moodle as well as Wikispaces. I came to the conclusion that one would negate the need for the other?
Student blogs, for me, are the primary tool I find myself going back to over and over again. I have tried wikis and various other applications, but as an English teacher, a blog makes the most sense for me. So I guess my answer is that I separate, not integrate.
I have used 21classes and teacherwebit. I like these because both provide a portal to your classroom of bloggers, and both allow you to keep your classroom of bloggers private. Students go to one page to log in and then the entire classroom of bloggers can be accessed through the student listing tab. It makes it very easy for students to navigate to their peer's blog to make comments or collaborate, as well. Both cost $$. 21classes is 9 dollars a month and offers more options than most teachers could ever want, and teacherwebit is 4 dollars a month, but is easier to use by design.
I think a great tool to keep all the technological applications that you use available in one spot is by using a RSS feed like Pageflakes or Netvibes. It has been a while since I've used these, but you can essentially create a page where all your favorite tools are visible and easy to navigate to. You could create a classroom Pageflake or you could allow each student to have their own feed--depending on the ability and age of your students.
As for specific classroom practice, I use blogs for everything. I may post a blog page with the assignment on it where students must read and respond in the comment page--then I can easily grade. I may pose a Socratic questions and students must answer through blog posts and commenting. I've used blogs to post writing and to have students share videos that they produce (Animoto!). Most recently, I had my students respond to 7 character blogs I set up from the novel we are reading. It was a little work, but the kids liked the idea of communicating directly with a characters blog. Blogs are also great for group activities and jigsaw type activities.
My go to technology tools are blogs and Animoto. Have fun!
Thanks for your comments. Thanks to your description I can see how a blog could be used effectively by you with your students as a discussion and communication vehicle and I appreciate the specific details you provide. As a matter of interest, did you ever try Edublogs which seems to also be able to offer important security protection?
Out of interest, what turned you away from a Wiki? As a novice it seemed quite a good starting point.
Andy, Moodle does have features like Wikis but I do not think they are as good and user friendly as say Wikispaces. With Moodle we have all the storage we want - so all the resources for students can be kept there - the free Wikispace wikis have storage limitations.
I do like Wikis for collaborative projects by students, it is easy for them to work together and they feel more ownership than with Moodle which is more something that is provided by teachers.
You might want to look at MaxClass, a set of tools that you can use in a virtual classroom. It's similar to social media with but a lot simpler and designed for education. It includes a wall, calendar, forum, online storage and photo sharing and easy messaging between pupils, parents and teachers. I won't say anything nice about it as I'm one of the founders :-) http://www.maxclass.com