links for 2008-11-02

November GEC Computers in the Classroom Newsletter

It’s an exciting time to see all of the teachers and classrooms wishing to develop a digital footprint. There are a lot of good reasons why. It is a terrific opportunity for communication and some of the tools are great for collaboration. It’s also great for the environment to direct students and parents to a digital copy of a resource rather than a paper one. Of course, there are also issues that mean you need to go into these things with eyes wide open.

A common question that I get is “which one should I use?”

Thedecision, of course, depends upon what you want to do with it. You need to ask If it just for information, are you looking for feedback, are you looking for collaboration? The answer to these questions will direct you down the right path.

This is probably the oldest web based solution that falls into the mode of a contemporary educator and classroom. For the most part, webpages are static and exist to dish out information, resources, and links to other web resources. In GECDSB, you actually have a couple of options. The first is to create a traditional webpage using Dreamweaver and have your school webmaster post it to the school website. The other option is to serve your webpages through your FirstClass account. This gives you total control over how easily you can perform your updates. No more going on bended knee to the school webmaster – just do it yourself.

In terms of content, the sky’s the limit with webpages. Because we have the Ministry of Education licensed Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash applications, think of a webpage as starting out as a blank slate and it’s only limited by your time, abilities, and creativity.

As an example, at Malden Central Public School, Mrs. Ostrom’s Kinderkids is served via webserver and Mrs. Betteridge’s Grade One class is distributed by the FirstClass server. Both are great resources and give parents and students resources for use anywhere they can get online.

A blog is an interesting form of digitial identity. A typical blog consists of a series of topics designed to spur interest from visitors. Unlike a webpage, though,visitors to a blog are encouraged to react to certain topics by way of reply. This two way engagement brings the reader right into your digital identity and lets them have an opinion about the topics that you have identfied. Blogging is all the rage and reinforces the notion that one person may not know everything and that together we’re smarter.

LNST Sherry Doherty has a blog where she is engaging visitors to talk about the Writing Process and regularly posts thoughtful entries about various aspects dealing withthe teaching of writing. Like good web resources, it is rich in itself but also points to similar resources on the web.

In the classroom, Mrs. M’s Super Seven’s at Talbot Trail are never without a reminder of homework. It’s all on the web for students to make reference to at home.

Wikis combine the best of the above. A wiki (Hawaiian for “quick”) lets you create a website for all to visit. The difference between the page creation, however, is that a wiki doesn’t require a local program like Dreamweaver to create the pages. You do your editing online and work within a template environment.

So, why would you want to use a wiki?

The biggest reason is the control and access levels that you can apply to your wiki website. I’m a real fan of PBWiki which has the ability to have public and private wikis and you determine who can access them.

They can range from just you (what’s the point?) , to your class, to any group you wish, to the world with a wide open wiki. Probably the best known one would be wikipedia.

Education friendly, PBWiki lets you create accounts on the wiki without the requirement for users to have email addresses. This is very helpful for schools.

So, you could set up a wiki and invite all your students and parents to become readers, or even writers. This sort of collaboration brings everyone into the creative process. But, what if someone makes a mistake or accidentally changes something? No problem each page has a history and you can always roll back to before the mistake.

Check out Mr. Bontront’s Grade 12 Chemistry wiki for an example of what can be done in this environment.

So, building your digital footprint is desirable. Which one is best for you? Well, think your way through it. There are a great deal of good reasons to go that route and lots of wonderful tools to make it happen.

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