Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Connecting through Web 2.0

Web 2.0 has some great tools for education in an increasingly digital and global world, but K-12 teachers have understandable concerns about security for their students and academic usefulness. No one has time to waste these days. Patrica Deubel in THE Journal provides a great round-up of helpful guides to Web 2.0 and a summary of some of the great and mostly free tools available in a format meant to help already-busy teachers at all levels and with all levels of technological expertise and experience.

Deubel points out several online videos and quick start guides that explain terminology, such as what RSS feeds and aggregators are, and provide links for free online web applications for "bookmarking managers, file storage/transfer, productivity, collaboration, and internet/network tools like Web-based e-mail, online fax, online chat, and more." There are lists for open source software and guides for using Web 2.0 tools in your classroom. Some tools that seem most useful for middle school teachers trying to connect students to the world outside the classroom (and also to some homeschoolers looking to connect) include the following:
  • For a fee, teachers can sign up for Ed.VoiceThread, a more secure and safe version of VoiceThread. Ed.VoiceThread is private and made "for creating digital stories and documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices." Student work can be made public to share and make assignments more meaningful. (We know how publishing work can alter student effort and motivation.)

  • Elgg is free, open-source software for creating social networks that comes with "blogging, networking, community, collecting of news using feeds aggregation and file sharing features." Access controls allow work to be shared and tags make it easier to categorize and search for work. If security is still a concern, Elgg can be installed on a school server and controlled by a system administrator or a teacher.

  • Ning is also a great, free social networking tool. (Classroom 2.0 is a fabulous Ning group page for teachers wanting more information or feedback on using collaborative technology.)

  • is also free and has password-protected online environments for K-12 students and teachers. At, students can collaborate with others on projects, create Web pages and hold online discussions. Teachers can monitor the spaces they create for student work and collaboration. is also ad-free and has spam filters.

  • TIGed from TakingITGlobal has free teacher-controlled online environments for project-based learning and collaboration, safe social networking and galleries, podcasts, blogs and an online magazine for student publishing. Membership at TIGed is free but there are fees to create virtual classrooms and to access activity databases and teacher discussion groups.
At the end of the article, Deubel provides a link to a booklet by Terry Freedman that has advice for using Web 2.0 applications effectively and purposefully in education. There's also a list of links for all the resources mentioned in the article ranging from AltaVista's Babel Fish translator to Engrade (a free online grading package) to Scratch (student art-sharing on the Web) to Whyville (a virtual world for ages 8-16).

SOURCE: "A Taste of Web 2.0" 03/2008
photo courtesy of kevindooley, used under this Creative Commons license

No comments: