Monday, May 14, 2007

The 'i's" Have it!

iGoogleSome people call them "Webtops," others "start pages" and still more "personal homepages." The latter is what Google called its until last week when it officially launched "iGoogle ."

Let's begin with a (very) little Web 2.0 mumbo-jumbo jargon: RSS, AJAX and Y-O-U.

RSSMost know RSS as "Really Simple Syndication" and fellow Infinite Thinking Machine blogger Mark Wagner has written a great intro on the subject of RSS. Suffice it to say that RSS feeds the latest content from news sources and blogs directly to you. Many of us use Bloglines as a feedreader but this requires a separate browser window with log-in. Wouldn't it be cool if you could simply surf your RSS feeds right from the place you do most of your online work? Hold that thought until we chat about...

AJAX"AJAX" stands for "Asynchronous JavaScript and XML" which can be translated as "hunh?" Let's just say that two cool bits (JavaScript and XML) have combined to make what can happen in a Web browser much more interactive and powerful. To quickly "get" this, try to remember life before Google Maps. To navigate beyond the edge of the current map or to zoom in or out on a location, you had to wait for the next image to reload. Wasn't it amazing the first time you could simply drag or scroll across the map and have it happen immediately? This is thanks to AJAX. To get a feel, take these for a quick spin:
No, this isn't some Web 2 nomenclature, it's "you!" What iGoogle and its many brethren do is combine RSS feeds into very slick interfaces that bring YOU everything you love. Go ahead, them a try:Now let's take these great applications and integrate them into the classroom to create what I see as the next revolution in supporting Real, Rich and Relevant learning. Anyone who has seen one of my presentations in the last ten years is likely to have heard me heap praise on the Child Slave Labor News Web site. For over a decade Miss Fantina's students have posted their exposés of multinationals' mistreatment of children in the workforce. ClassActPortal A Google search on the key words "child slave labor" will show you how much the world appreciates these students' efforts. Because they finally launched their own site after years on geocities, you'll see that the top three results point to the efforts of these New Jersey high school students. What if every class chose a topic and made it their own? If this interests you, read Why ClassAct Portals? How could students easily begin building expertise on their chosen subject? How could we facilitate this growing knowledgebase? How about a Webtop, startpage or personal homepage?

Here's a quick shared page of RSS feeds I made for our MyPlace Project using PageFlakes. The best thing about iGoogle and Pageflakes is that both are very smart applications that you and your students will really have fun using. Now, connect these RSS AJAX pages to your Class Blog and...