Monthly Archives: March 2013

There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Life – Second Life

Have you ever tried a virtual world such as Second Life? It was recommended that I check it out. I signed up and tried it out. I can’t imagine using it for my students. You are in a virtual world. Sort of like the Wolfenstein 3D that we used to play as kids. (Did I just date myself – What games did you play as a kid?)  You can move around wherever you want (No evil Nazis) and interact with the world. There are other people who are logged into that same world and you can connect with them. It is sort of like a strange social network.

It seemed to me that there were too many distraction and places that I did not want to visit. Every other world seemed to be for the purpose of meeting people and doing things that you would never do in real life. Why would you want to interact with a strange person who hangs out in make believe worlds, of whose gender you have no clue. You haven’t an inkling of their true appearance. They are trying to be someone who they are not. At least in Facebook and Twitter the people you meet are purported to be who they say they are. It is possible that there are people on Twitter who I am following, but are not teachers, yet they act and seem like teachers. I grant you that it is possible, however they need to be able to communicate coherently in the ongoing conversation. If they can fake it that far then let them say their piece. In Second Life, the people are purposely trying to be people whom they are not. I do not want my students using something like this. There is too much “bad” that could happen. Stick to your real life. There is nothing wrong with your life!

That is my opinion. Is there a way you envision using Second Life in your classroom. Would you send it home as a homework assignment? What are your thoughts about Second Life in general? Please comment below.

Blogging: More Than Just Writing

I once had the opportunity to go personally to a talk by Tammy Worcester and chose instead to go to a different session. Tammy is a popular presenter at and the author of over a dozen books on Educational Technology. Her website, Tammy’s Technology Tips for Teachers is a great destination for teachers who are looking for a Web 2.0 trick to spice up their classroom. At the time, I had not heard of her and chose to go to a different session that I imagined would be more worthwhile. A colleague went to Tammy’s session and came back so excited about the different web tools that were demonstrated. I remember being so frustrated at missing something that was so good.

Recently, my assignment for my Ed Tech course was to watch one of the available videos from ISTE 2011. You can imagine my excitement when I saw that one of the videos available was a presentation by Tammy Worcester. Her topic, Go Digital, focused on the myriad of ways that a blog can enhance a classroom. Her presentation was engaging and the topic was fascinating. Here is the link to her presentation: http://www.isteconference.org/ISTE/2011/program/search_results_details.php?sessionid=60706747&selection_id=82647615&rownumber=18&max=54&gopage=15

Tammy showed many nonconventional ways to post to a blog. I didn’t know I could post from an email. You write the post and email it to an address that is known only to you and it posts automatically. Many schools block Blogger and WordPress and suddenly you have a way to post even though the blog is not accessible.

She also spent a lot of time showing how you can embed any web 2.0 tool that had the option to give you HTML code. If you have a YouTube video or Google document, it is very easy to embed them in the blog. Just copy the HTML code and when you post to the blog you click on the tab to add HTML and whatever you created on that website is automatically stored on the blog. For example I am putting in the HTML code of a YouTube video that I created:

For the same price I can embed a Google doc in my blog. The neat thing about embeding a document form Google is that when you edit the document on Google Drive, the newly edited version will appear on you blog. Imagine if you would embed a Google spreadsheet that is linked to a Google form. You can ask a question on the form and email it to the students and then have the results show up on an organized spreadsheet. Here is a sample form I created. Feel free to put in a fake name. After you submit the form, look below and see the spreadsheet that automatically recorded your answer. (You might need to refresh your page.)

Fill out the form.

And here is the spreadsheet.

Imagine that you have the students do this at night for homework.

Tammy stressed that you can put any embeddable page into your blog and then they will automatically update as those websites get updated. You can have a dynamic changing blog that does not rely on you to publish new information.

What would you embed into your blog. Please comment below with your ideas.

The Wiki and the Dodo

Several years ago, a colleague showed me how he uses a Wiki in his class. I remember being impressed with the collaboration between the teacher and the students, as well as the interactions between the students themselves. It was technology at its best. Being used to enhance the learning. The students gained and the teacher gained. It appeared to be a powerful, well thought out use of technology. I even set one up, but never ended up using it live.

If you’ve read my blogs, you know that I am taking an educational technology course. Each week we’ve been working on a different Web 2.0 tool and learning how to use them in an organized manner. This week we revisited Wikis. I started to think of the Wikis that I use regularly. There is Wikipedia. Then there are … um… I think I bought a Bluetooth once and the help page was on a Wiki. So I started to look online for popular Wikis. There are definitely some that do pop up on a Google search. But many of them are old and out of date. I saw Wikis that were not updated in since 2010!! I googled “Best Educational Wikis of 2012 and the list was surprisingly sparse. Of course there were some. When I browsed through them I found that although many were well done, they often reflected the work of an individual rather then celebrating the collaborative nature of a Wiki. A sort of personal website.

The truth is that many of the reasons to create a wiki are outdated. Wikis were touted because of their collaborative nature, their ease of use, and change tracking. There are newer, more effective ways to do that. Google Docs comes immediately to mind. I can create a document that people can edit and add to and track changes through my Google account. What am I gaining by creating a Wiki? The ease of use of a Google Doc is at least as easy, if not easier than the editing tools available on a Wiki. Plus, I can embed my Doc into any website for public viewing. If it is collaboration through discussion that I am hoping to get, there is Facebook and Twitter. I can get instant feedback to whatever I want to know. If my goal is just to get my point out, then a blog or website is the way to go. In class, I would much rather used a closed social network such as Edmodo than to assign them a page in a Wiki. I am hard pressed to come up with a specific situation where I would want to use a Wiki at all.

I am sure you are wondering how I am going to answer Wikipedia and similar sites. I would claim that those were created when Wikis were the best tool. They achieved global recognition and are now firmly planted there as a sort of status quo. I would be surprised if a new wiki popped up and gained popularity to the levels of a Wikipedia.

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Am I missing the boat on this one? Is there still a place for wikis or is it going the way of the dodo? Are there other popular tools that will not be around much longer? I would love to hear what you think.