Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blogs I've Commented On

I've had the privilege of visiting the blogs I follow and have found several interesting Web 2.0 tools being shared by others.  I've spent some time looking at the tools and have commented on quite a few of them.

Stephanie's Web 2.0 Blog  - Bubbl.us

Wonderful Web 2.0s - Claco

Cheryl's ET 630 Blog - Ed Canvas

Lisa's Web 2.0 Tools Blog= Storybird

Liz's Web 2.0 Tools Review = Doodler

Hagler's Web 2.0 Technologies - Edmodo

Schleup's Web 2.0 Blog - Penzu

Jesse's Web 2.0 Blog - Vimeo

Natalie's Web 2.0 Blog! - Google Forms

Sarah's Web 2.0 Blog Wordle

Jessica's Web 2.0 Blog - Tagxedo

Becky's Web 2.0 Corner - Prezi

Monday, February 18, 2013

Could Share Documents be the answer?

As I mentioned I would yesterday, I did go on a merry hunt for an alternative to Google Docs.  One tool that appeared promising is Show Document.  It seemed to have all the features I was looking for, and allowed users to work on multiple document types.  Below is a screen capture showing the various options the site offers.  Naturally the ones with the dollar sign in the upper left hand corner cost money, but the others seem to be available free of charge.  There are some good options here.

I don't mind saying I was thrown by the video on the homepage showing how to use the tool.  When you take a look at it you will see some older students collaborating about a slide show and making changes on the spot.  However the students were not only making the changes on the slide show, they were also using their cell phones to discuss the changes they were making.  Something about that nags at me.  If they have to be describing what they're doing over the phone then maybe it isn't exactly online collaboration.  Oh well, it still serves the purpose.  I don't see any free option for collaborating on a slide show on the site but I'm primarily interested in the document sharing and co-editing.  I went ahead and opened a free account and created a document.  Just to try it out I created a second email address and then invited myself to collaborate.  It may have gotten too confusing but when I was operating as host I could edit the document.  When I was operating as a guest I could click on the document but I couldn't type a thing.  I guess that calls for some troubleshooting... and coffee.

I gained some insight by going to this website http://gigaom.com/2009/05/20/show-document-easy-no-signup-live-document-collaboration/ where I found some helpful information that allowed me to correct the problem with allowing another person to edit the document.  One feature I like is that in order to invite someone to collaborate you simply have to send them a link by typing in their email address.  When you do, you get a screen that looks like this:

They will get a get a screen that looks like this. 
They will simply need to click on the button to join the session.  Then they simply wait until the host invites invites them in.  This indicates to me that it must be real time collaboration.  It doesn't seem to work quite the same way as Google Docs where a guest can simply log on when they want to collaborate and get started.  Here is a very simple document I created as a simply test.  I've changed the color of the text to indicate that there are two different people writing on the document.  A very small cursor appears toward the bottom of the page with the name of the person who is currently writing.
I gave the collaborative white board a try as well and was pleased with the ease of use.  In general I find Share Documents to be a helpful, easy tool to use.  I'm more familiar with Google Docs and prefer to use that tool, but as an alternative, Share Documents would work well for allowing students to work collaboratively on a document.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Google Docs

Lately I've been on the hunt for a way to allow students to collaborate on a documents for group projects and home based projects using a web 2.0 tool.  My first instinct was to look at Google Docs which I've used successfully during my coursework at Loyola.  (In the event you aren't familiar with Google Docs yourself you can take a closer look at its features and the way it works here http://www.google.com/google-d-s/intl/en/tour1.html.)  I actually even set up an email account and created some collaborative biography documents for my students.  With the permission of some parents, some of my students in one of my language arts advanced learner groups jumped at the opportunity to work with me on a biography project.  For approximately the last two weeks we have been working together on the biographies.  To be honest, normally students are working on the biography project as a homework assignment and I've been logging on from home and making comments about their writing, details they might wish to add and changes they might make.  Almost none of this collaboration has been taking place in the school setting.  It has been productive and helpful.  I can see changes as the students make them and I can also see the progress they are making on their biographies. It is practical and purposeful.  Except for the troubling realization that I am spending a lot of time at home working with students on these biography projects, I am very pleased with how well it is working.  I do have a few parents who are reluctant to allow their children to log on using a gmail account so we continue to pass actual paper back and forth. 

Unfortunately when I attempted to use Google Docs at school I couldn't access the student document I was hoping to work on.  I checked with our school technician and she claimed that Google Docs is not blocked by our school system, but it is frequently down for one reason or another.  Strangely enough it is never "down" when I attempt to use it from home.  At school I get some error message advising me to download a newer version of a flash player or some such activity that I'm unable to complete because I don't have administrator privileges on school computers.  That's the typical pickle I find myself in when trying to do something productive with computers at our school. 

Our technician also seems to think that using Google Docs is not a good idea because it is susceptible to viruses and other hazards of online activity.  I wondered about that and did a quick google search.  I guess the results could generate a critical literacy project on their own, but there does seem to be some merit to the concern.  Here's a link to some information about the potential threat.   http://answerguy.com/2011/05/31/google-security-phishing-virus/.  I can't vouch for the accuracy of "the answer guy".   I also found some additional information at similar sites but nothing that appeared to be from a more authoritative source.  To my knowledge I've never picked up a virus through my own personal use of Google Docs.  However I know from experience that if the technician has reservations about something I want to use at school I'm going to have difficulty getting support as I work through the glitches in the program.  I can pretty much give up on getting that flash player downloaded any time before the biography project is complete.  So I am off to see if I can find any other web 2.0 tools that will offer similar features and be accessible from both school and home.  Stay tuned.  I am looking closely at http://www.showdocument.com/ and it just might work.  I'll know and share more tomorrow about that particular site/suite of tools. 

Alternatives to Dipity (and a lot about Tiki-Toki)

After several tries on many different days I decided that Dipity was not going to serve my purposes for creating collaborative timelines with my students.  I began to research several other web 2.0 tools that are designed for creating timelines.  Some of these timelines were Preceden, XTimeline, and Capzles.  Although all of these were usable, they weren't exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted something very easy to use, visually appealing, and practical for use with my students.  I discovered many tools and attempted to watch as many tutorials as I could.  Finally I settled on www.tiki-toki.com/ as a good alternative to Dipity.  I must be honest, I am looking for a good balance of functionality and visual appeal.  I rejected several tools because they lacked visual appeal.  After choosing Tiki-Toki based on the promise of beautiful web-based timelines I took a moment to create my own timeline to test the tool for ease of use.  In about ten minutes I was able to create a timeline that I could share with my students during college week about my post high school education.  I read through the FAQ http://www.tiki-toki.com/faqs/ and zipped through the creation process quite easily.  I will go back later and add photos to my timeline.  (Finding creative commons images to use was more time consuming than creating the timeline).  Here you can take a look at the "beautiful web-based timeline" that I created in less than ten minutes.  ( I tried to link to my timeline here but that did not work at all.  I'm also unhappy to discover that if I wish to embed my timeline into this blog I have to upgrade.  I don't have any intention of plunking down $100 to do that so I'll have to post a screenshot instead even though it doesn't really get the entire picture across.)

 I do intend to go back and delve a little deeper into the sight.  I want to add photographs to each individual event or "story" and I'd like to see if there is a way that I can condense the time between events so that I can minimize the need for horizontal scrolling.

I'm not particularly pleased to discover that I'll have to pay $100 a year (choke) for a subscription to use with my students, but it may be worth it in the long run.  There seems to be some user security and protections built in that might be wise to enable.  I could set up a series of accounts where students could create time lines without paying this fee, but in order to provide them the opportunity to collaborate, it looks like I'll have to pay the fee.  Here's some useful information captured from the site about setting up a Teacher account.

Although I haven't entirely given up on Dipity, this tool may prove to be a practicable substitute worthy of further consideration.  I plan to keep researching tools of this type and perhaps I will find one where students can collaborate without cost.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Recently I received a copy of my Nea Today Magazine in the mail.  I sat down in my ample leisure time to peruse the articles.  Imagine my delight when I discovered an article on teaching with today’s Tech.  One of the interesting web 2.0 tools that was recommended was a site called dipity at www.dipity.com where you can make your own timeline online.  I thought this might work well for a biography project my students are trying to complete.  Initially I had trouble creating an account but was eventually successful.  I was able to create a bit of a sample timeline about Chief Joseph but unfortunately much of my work did not seem to be saved.  When I went to research further and show it to my students the site did not seem to be working correctly. I decided to prowl around youtube for a video that could explain how to make things work properly.  There are many videos available, but this one explained things the most clearly.

It looks easy enough.  My hope is that students can use this site to create their own timelines for their biography project.  I am also hopeful that students from other 5th grade classes in our school might collaborate on the timeline.  I think it is a beneficial tool and look forward to seeing the site operational so that I can use it with my students.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Wallwisher (which is now Padlet)

It seems there's been a bit of a change to Wallwisher.  The site is now calling itself Padlet.  I wonderered how these changes would impact the site and the truth is, very little has changed.  Here's a link to an explanation of the change if you're interested: http://blog.wallwisher.com/2013/02/a-new-beginning.html#!/2013/02/a-new-beginning.html.  I've given my students an opportunity to use the site and here's what I've discovered.

 One thing is for sure, if you don't give students clear instructions then they likely won't meet your expectations.  I shared information with students about logging on to Wallwisher and was hopeful that they would use it to post their photographs.  It seemed like a good time saver and I didn't think it would be too complex for them.  So far I only have two students out of 20 who have made an attempt. Luckily for many of the club members, failure to follow directions does not have an impact on their grade.  So far I've only been able to persuade Griffin and Colin to upload pictures.  Griffin seems to have experienced some success but Colin tried to upload a PowerPoint presentation which the website would not accept. Actually it could work if he could upload it to another location and link to it from Wallwisher. I'm not sure if this is practical though.  I had hoped for a much easier and straightforward upload of the photographs.  I should have also recommended to Griffin that he add text to his photographs indicating which rule of photography he had followed. That possibility exists and would helped him reflect on the purpose of posting each photograph.

I am beginning to think that Wallwisher might not be the best web 2.0 tool for this purpose though.  One week's photography assignment completely fills a wall.  I am tweaking this and considering creating a wall for each student.  Organization may become an issue though and the number of walls to keep track of might get a little out of hand.  I'm also on the lookout for a Web 2.0 tool that would meet the needs of my photography group better.  I like the ease of posting to the wall, but I don't like the lack of organization. 

I think the ease of use and ability to access this tool from school and home would make it usable for a telecollaborative project, but not in a very sophisticated way.  I'll certainly have to give more consideration to what I'm going to do for the project and then see if this is a good tool to meet the needs of the project.  I'm fortunate to have the low risk opportunity to try it out with my photography group and discover the limitations and possibilities before trying to use it during the project. 

I've taken a bit of time to explore Padlet (Wallwisher) more and have been blasted with a bit of midnight insight which woke me from a very sound sleep.  I don't want to dismiss Padlet for telecollaboration because it is very easy to use.  I have been scrolling around in the very useful Padlet blog http://blog.wallwisher.com/ and I am going to try using the tool with advanced language arts learners tomorrow.  If I can get my students into the computer lab at all (and this is a big if because sometimes teachers like to hog the computer lab by bringing their children in for hour long drill sessions) I am going to have students post comments about a Touchpebbles lesson.  How great this would be for everyone to have a voice - even my child who is a selective mute! Here you can visit the wall my students created for the ALPS assignment. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to my Exploring Web 2.0 Blog.  My name is Julie Maine and I am a 5th grade teacher. I enjoy using technology with my students.  I like to use technology in intentional and deliberate, and dynamic ways to enhance learning for my students.  I am excited about the prospect of using more Web 2.0 tools to meet the needs of all members of the learning community.