Thursday, March 29, 2007

ITM 6: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

A quick overview of how social networking sites and online communities are impacting teaching and professional development.

> Quicktime MP4 (19 MB)

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Show Notes:

Well, Steve and I couldn't have coordinated it any better. His great post yesterday is the perfect lead-in to ITM 6! Obviously, "social networking" has the tech world buzzing, but we tried hard to find examples where it was really making an impact in K-12 education. And even though "online communities" have been around for a while, there seems to be some new momentum in school districts around the country as the tools become less expensive and easier to use.

So, let us know what you think. Is this all just a fad? Or can these tools really improve classroom instruction and professional development? And what other tools do you use to help break down the walls between the classroom and the real world?

Here are some of the examples highlighted in the show...

Social Networking & Online Communities for younger kids:

> Club Penguin is a safe, fun online environment for elementary kids to play games, chat with other kids, and take care of your own virtual pet. Dangerously addictive for 6-9 year olds!

> Whyville is very similar to Club Penguin, but without the cute little penguins. Instead, kids play and communicate in a virtual city where they engage in "constructive educational activities while promoting socially responsible behavior."

> Imbee launched in 2006 to "provide a secure, dynamic environment where children can safely explore online social networking." It's specifically geared to 8-14 year olds.

Social Networking & Online Communities for teens and adults:

> MySpace is one of the world's most popular Internet sites. Because it's not controlled, teens use it as a way to express their personalities, share media, and communicate with friends. Although there has been a lot of controversy over the site (and many schools block access to it), there are a number of teachers and students that have found positive ways to use the tools available on MySpace. The Weber Institute's "Weber's World News" is one great example. See more details below.

> Sconex is a school-friendly version of MySpace where high school students can "read about your classmates, share stuff with your friends, and communicate with people from your school and nearby ones."

> Second Life is a "virtual world" & community with over 5 million "residents" who collaboratively build the world together. Joining is free, but it takes money to buy land and other items. Many colleges are experimenting with "virtual schools" in this environment, but some people think it's not a "safe" environment for kids. "Teen Second Life" was created as a "gathering place for teens 13-17 to make friends and to play, learn and create." Restriction is limited to teens, and some additional monitoring takes place.

> FaceBook is more of a straight-forward "social network" where teens, college students, and adults can find people with similar interests. You can share your bio, photos, and thoughts on your personal homepage, and then decide who should see it.

A huge "shout out" to the students at the Weber Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Stockton, CA, for their help explaining MySpace to us. More importantly, you have to check out Weber's World News - a MySpace group run entirely by the students after school. Through this online forum, they share their views on a wide range of current topics. Keep up the great work Mr. Hall, Tony, and the whole crew at Weber!

TakingITGlobal "is an online community that connects youth to find inspiration, access information, get involved, and take action in their local and global communities. It's the world's most popular online community for young people interested in making a difference, with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month."

Moodle is a free, open source, course management system that helps educators organize and facilitate classroom instruction.

Blackboard offers a wide range of web-based tools to support learning, communication, and transactions at schools, districts, and universities.

The Acalanes Union High School District is a great example of how Blackboard can support professional development throughout the district. Special thanks to Acalanes Tech Coordinator, Cheryl Davis, for sharing their story with us. Feel free to contact Cheryl via email for more insights on how to get your teachers on-board!

Google Groups is a FREE tool that teachers and students can use to communicate and collaborate. Groups can be public or private, but each member needs to have a free Google Account to participate. Features include discussion boards, easy to create web pages to share pictures and links, and a place to store files.

Special thanks to the students from the Student Technology Showcase at the CUE Conference for their shout outs!