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For all of you who have been following the “Back-to-School” blog – Thank you!

And finally, Part 3 of the “Back to School with Web 2.0” series is here. During the last few weeks Brian Benzinger ( has researched possible scenarios and real case studies of Web 2.0 in education in hopes to show others where we are with today’s education and where it could be.

The article covers: educational blogging, photo sharing, educational podcasting, wikis, video sharing, Web 2.0 courses, School 2.0, and more. Also, if you are new to the series, don’t forget to circle back to Part 1 and Part 2.

Educational Blogging

Blogging has quickly become one of the most effective learning tools in education today. It introduces students with new methods of communicating, improving their writing, and helps motivate them to find their voice. Dare I say it even makes learning… fun? Educators generally blog about school news, philosophies, and class activities. On the other hand, students tend to write about current events, personal beliefs, and topics related to their education.

In blogging, there are no set standards, no boundaries, no restrictions confining you to conform your thoughts to any given set of rules and regulations. You don’t have to worry about getting points taken off for not using the default: 12 point font size, Times New Roman, with 1” margins. You can write freely, and at your own pace. Also, bloggers can gain an audience from their writing. Unlike a school paper, blog posts can receive feedback from students, teachers, parents, and ultimately, anyone in the world. (gasp)

Things I’ve noticed with student blogs

I often found, and many teachers have noted this as well, that the students would publish to their school blogs even when not instructed to. Students really enjoy reaching out to the world and they are so motivated by it that they want to write even more. They would describe how their day was, what they learned in class, or even things they learned or read on the news that day. It’s amazing.

I also found that many students became so attached to their blogs that they made it a responsibility to keep consistent. When they found they have been lacking in posts or that they haven’t been instructed to post for class in a while, they would often apologize and feel as though they deserted their readers. It’s pretty interesting, although expected, to see that kind of connection with students and their blogs.

Also, I see that many students refer to other posts by other students in their writing, but do not appear to take advantage of trackback or pingback functionality. I personally feel it is essential that all bloggers understand the use of trackback technology, especially in this scenario, as it makes for communication outside of normal commenting. Not only that, it feels very rewarding receiving a trackback. So, I want to explain briefly how it works and what it means. In simplistic terms, you make a pingback by linking to the post that you are referring to in your post. This will notify the writer of the blog, adding a pingback “comment” to their post automatically, in turn continuing conversation. This is a great way for students to communicate back and forth rather than only commenting. If they have something to say and feel it’s worth a post rather then a comment, pingback or trackback it.

Student Testimonials and Reflections

“Blogs are revolutionizing this country, and many people are completely oblivious to even what a blog is much less what it can. So, thank you Mrs. Vicki for convincing me what a viable resource a blog can be. Thank you for not letting me be ignorant to something so revolutionary.” – kyli

“At the beginning of the year when we started blogs, I didn’t really feel like doing these, and I thought that they were just a waste of time, but I was WRONG! I have loved having these blogs and I learned a lot about writing, people, things happening with my friends, I met new people, I have learned ALOT about things going on in the world, and I learned that I can be free to write what I want, and I like how people would disagree with me, because it just encouraged me to write more.” – Xoxo-Hillaryy-xoxo

“I love my blog so much! I like writing in it, even if there isn’t anything to write about! Ha-ha. When i get bored, my blog says ‘Ashley, come write in me.’ I’m just joking, but it gives me something to do. I am so happy that we are doing blogs this year!” – Ashley

“I love my blog so much I can write what I want when I want except when my mom or sister is on the computer. My favorite part about having a blog is that it can be due on a Sunday and you cannot forget it at home or at school. I also like how you can write on it even if it is not for homework. The thing I worry about with blogs is that its world wide and if I say something to offend them then they will get mad at me and I wont no why. Other wise I think blogs are a great idea.” – Joey Girl

“When I wasn’t in the weblog group I would still be writing one paragraph essay. Now I’m writing a page essay.” … “Weblogs are helping me a lot.” – Jhonathan

General Testimonials

“Never in 25 years of teaching have I seen a more powerful motivator for writing than blogs.” … “And that’s because of the audience. Writing is not just taped on the refrigerator and then put in the recycle bin. It’s out there for the world to see. Kids realize other people are reading what they write” – Mark Ahlness

“Even when they’re out sick, students work on their blogs.” – Carol Barsotti

“I’ve got 6th graders coming in during their lunch and after school to add articles to their blog and to respond to their classmates’ articles.” –Al Gonzalez

“The response has been tremendous. Students seem so much more willing to blog in their own space and time. They seem less inhibited and more enthusiastic.” – Beth Lynne Ritter-Guth

Where to Start

So, where do you start? As a first stop, I highly recommend reading SupportBlogging. It will explain what educational blogging is all about, what it means for students and educators, and how you can setup a blog. I also recommend Blogs for Learning which is a new site containing in-depth articles on educational blogging and fantastic screencast tutorials showing the ins and outs of various blogging platforms (including WordPress and Blogger). Be sure to look over the article, “Student Blogging – What You Should Know,” and the case study, “Rocking the Cyber Canoe: Blogging in English.”

For teachers and students, I suggest using for blogging as they provide you with a free, hosted WordPress blog, a Wiki powered by Wikispaces, and Yacapaca assessment tool from the Chalkface Project. Or if you prefer, you can install a copy of WordPress manually on your own server or register for a free and hosted WordPress account at

*Also, check out TOPYX
social eLearning software. It includes blogs, forums, and even chat option that help students work together on class materials - worth learning more about!*

Photo Sharing with Flickr

Flickr is a free photo sharing site which has made its way into education providing teachers and students with an easy way to upload and share photos on the web. Students can search for photos to help with research and projects and educators can upload photos for classes, school events, and so on. I can also see Flickr being used in photography classes allowing students to keep an organized collection of their work, share their photos with the world, and receive commentary from viewers and classmates. And who knows? Maybe all it takes is a comment or a couple views of a students work to inspire and motivate them in continuing with photography.

One feature to take advantage of is Flickr’s photo annotation, or note functionality. In short, it allows you to add boxes around specific parts of a photo which you can add notes to. For example, if something was hard to make out in the background of a photo, one could place a note around it to explain what it is. What’s more is that other users can annotate your own photos. Say you are a teacher and you uploaded an art piece that you want your students to critique. Have them browse to the art piece and add notes around parts they want to comment on. Some great examples of this are as followed:

academic eLearning

Beth Harris of the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, has used Flickr with her art history course so students can label and discuss paintings online (example above). Similarly, Ewan McIntosh has uploaded the painting, “Ivory, Apes and Peacocks,” where users then labeled and discussed the art.

academic software

Alan Levine has also shown that you can use the notes tool to create what he calls, “hot-spot learning objects.” As an example, he created a volcano diagram with each type being a learning object on the photo. The example is a simple chart showing the explosiveness of an volcano. If you are to hover over one of the volcano’s, a Flickr note will appear containing more information about it. Nice work!

Educational Podcasting

Podcasting is a powerful medium that many educators and students are beginning to pick up that not only delivers rich educational content, but enhances student/teacher communication. As I student, I could download educational content and take it around with me where ever I go. I could also download daily lessons and school news created by educators. Likewise, I can produce my own podcast and publish it for the teacher, classmates, and the world to hear.

Take Stanford University for example where they have created Stanford on iTunes U for their students. Students can navigate to this site to subscribe to the Stanford U podcast on iTunes and receive faculty lectures, interviews, music and sports automatically on their computer and iPod. This allows the university to easily communicate and update students on school related events and content. What’s also great is that anyone can open the page up on iTunes and listen, whether they are a student or not. Try it out and listen to some of the podcasts. There’s great content, especially in the “Technology Ventures” area of “Heard on Campus”, including speeches by Guy Kawasaki on entrepreneurship, Evan Williams of Odeo on podcasting, and more. (Note: Berkeley University also has Berkeley on iTunes U).

Apple also supports educational podcasting in multiple ways. For starters, anyone can access the Podcasts section in the iTunes Store and navigate to the educational category for free lessons and educational content. Secondly, schools interested in creating a podcast site similar to Staford University can apply for iTunes U where iTunes will work with you in making your own iTunes U (Note: I have no information regarding costs). Apple also provides a section called, Podcasting in Education, where you can learn more about podcasting, what it means for educators and students, and how you can create and manage them with Apple products.

For educators in K-12 education, I recommend looking over a great site called, “Podcasting in the Classroom”, created by Nathan Shelley. The website gives a brief introduction of podcasting and provides an overview of benefits to the students in creating podcasts. The site also provides educators with an example lesson plan where it instructs the students to get into groups to brainstorm, plan, and produce a student podcast on a specific subject.

DreamExtreme Podcast is an excellent podcast produced by, believe it or not, 6th graders! The student-produced podcast is by David Cosand’s Kennedy Elementary class of Medford, Oregon, and I must admit, it’s pretty impressive. Students plan and produce full podcasts covering class news, movie reviews, fashion, sports, and more. Another podcast that I’ve recently come across is Edupodder, produced by Steve Sloan. Edupodder has a nice mix of educational content, interviews, and student podcasts – the latest covering upcoming student podcast projects. Some of you may also be interested in an Edupodder Podcast with Robert Scoble speaking to a journalism class about the impact of blogging.

Wikipedia & Wikis

While researching about wikis in education, I came across a Wikipedia article for educators called, “Schools’ FAQ,” covering the ins and outs of Wikipedia and how schools can benefit using Wikipedia. The article led me to Wikipedia’s School and University Projects, which I found to be very interesting. In short, Wikipedia encourages teachers and professors to use Wikipedia in their classes providing students with hands on exercises involving editing and publishing content on Wikipedia. Wikipedia suggests that students participate in exercises such as working on existing or requested articles; linking orphaned articles to appropriate places; fixing spelling, factual, grammatical, and other errors in articles; and even translating articles from other languages. It’s a great idea and is beneficial to both the student and Wikipedia. Students can learn about the topic as well as improve on their writing while Wikipedia gains more content. Wikipedia even provides teachers with a syllabus boilerplate to hand out to their students. If you are a teacher, think about giving it a try with your class, maybe as a project. I feel it would be a very perceptible and comprehendible variation of learning. I will also add that these projects may be more suitable for college and university students rather than K-12 students.

Perhaps one of the most impressive cases of wiki use in education is the Westwood School Wiki. Vicki Davis and her students manage the wiki and use it for just about everything. Listening to an interview with Vicki and Adam Frey, I was able to grasp exactly how she and her students use wiki technology. One scenario presented was after teaching a lesson, her students would go to the class wiki and summarize the lesson, in turn making it easier to take in the information. Vicki also explained how her students work on notes collaboratively in the wiki before an exam to study. During this process they all add their notes, correcting what’s wrong, and review the wiki. Another example she gave was with introducing concepts and exploring class projects. She has the students research, add notes, organize information, and even add videos to their wikis so they end up with a mass of information about the topic (example project: Security and Privacy). Vicki stated during the interview, “Students really become content producers and not just receivers.” She makes a great point and it shows that allowing students to work hands on with a wiki really strengthens their learning experience. Being part and contributing to what you are learning is much more effective then simply taking it in.

I also came across this great question from a Vicki’s blog about Pluto no longer being a planet: “How long will it take for the Pluto decision to filter to the average classroom?” She then continues, “With information changing at an accelerated pace, I think the case for wiki-supplementation and wiki-publication can be made. This could ensure that more accurate information is included but could also make student’s heads spin as a chapter changes while they are studying it.” It’s a very interesting question and thinking back to my High School education, textbooks were dated as much as 6-10 years. Some even having my parents signatures in them! How long will it take for school systems to replace old books with new ones containing accurate information? It’s funny. I’ve come across multiple claims online where teachers tell students not to use Wikipedia because information may not be accurate when anyone can edit the information, but at the same time, the school may not even own up to date prints.

Video Sharing

To many school systems, video sharing sites are evil. They are blocked from students in an attempt to hide non-educational material and explicit content. Well I say, big mistake! I will admit, I have seen many hilarious, pointless, painful, and explicit videos on video sharing sites, but I can also say that I have learned a whole lot from them. Google Video offers some of the best educational videos you can find on the Internet. You can pull up their educational category and search for specific topics ; watch hour long NOVA videos (highly recommend – I’ve watched many of these during my free time); and even view captioned videos. Additionaly, YouTube offers a new service called YouTube College where students can join their college and share videos only with students from their college. On the down side, YouTube does not offer an educational category making it harder to find educational content. I also recommend giving VideoJug a try as a source of how-to videos. It has a great kids category containing fun science experiments and arts and crafts.

Video also appears to be the new PowerPoint for some educators. Jeff Utecht has taught his 7th grade students of Shanghai American School to produce and publish video presentations on YouTube for a class project. You can find the presentations in Jeff Utecht’s profile. I watched a couple of them and I’m very impressed. It sounds like the students were pretty excited, especially once they learned about YouTube’s audience. You can find more about the project and student reactions on Jeff’s blog.

James Madison University has also taken advantage of video sharing by using YouTube to deliver an orientation video for faculty teaching in technology classrooms. They created a video that shows educators how to operate the technology used in the classrooms including laptop connectors, projector screens, and the control system used to operate the projectors. You can watch the video and read the article about it on their technology website.

*This is another area in which TOPYX
academic eLearning software can help modernize your classroom. There are many easy to use features to allow for all types of content upload and sharing, including videos.*

Web 2.0… Courses?

I never really thought about the possibility of there being a Web 2.0 course in college, but apparently it’s happening. IBM and The University of Arizona are teaming up to teach about Web 2.0 and Social Networking to give students skills in creating and managing online communities. What’s interesting is that it’s not just a presentation or learning event – it’s an actual full course! From what I understand, students from The University of Arizona will learn about Web 2.0 products and social networking from a business standpoint to give leadership, communication, and community-building skills.

One UA student in a Digg comment thread provided readers with the official course description from the university website:

“Online social networking and communities have become a big role in how organizations interact within themselves as well as with external partners. Developing a healthy community can lead to new business opportunities, improved customer relations, as well as improved communications to the world. Online social network sites already claim over 300 million members worldwide in public sites that are starting to turn into a new generation of b2b and b2c business collaboration and brokerage sites. This course investigates the technologies, methods and practices towards developing online communities, and how this knowledge and these skills are applied to businesses. The course will involve lectures facilitated by the instructor and corporate representatives. Also incorporated will be experiential exercises and skill development assignments”

The press release also states, “The class will culminate in a final project where each student from the class will work with their own separate group of students from Howenstine High School in Tucson, Arizona, to organize into many micro-communities.”

Sounds like a fun and informative class. And according to Torrentfreak, The University of Arizona will be the first to offer “Web 2.0 courses”. It will certainly open up a new world of technology to students. Great going, IBM! Sign me up!

School 2.0

School 2.0 is an interesting brainstorming tool designed for schools and communities to help envision the future of education. The tool is a diagram showing various possible scenarios or visions of the future with example student, teacher, and parent conversations, class room activities and technologies, and more. The School 2.0 site states, “While School 2.0 depicts a variety of educational and management scenarios that utilize technology, the examples, information and ideas included are designed to serve as prompts for discussion and should not be construed as a recommendation of any particular technology or scenario.”

“Can you IM that to the virtual whiteboard?”, says a teacher. A parent talks to his child, “I looked at your grades online today. You really aced that test!” “There’s a virtual frog dissection going on now,” one student said to another holding a mobile device.

Academic solutions

It’s an amazing vision. Can “School 2.0” actually happen? Maybe not all of it, but perhaps some elements. For example: viewing student progress reports online, submitting permission slips online, and receiving class documents and files from anywhere. I can’t imagine “School 2.0” happening in the next couple years, but the possibility is there and it’s nice to see a brainstorm tool such as the School 2.0 project.

More Cases of Web 2.0 in Education:

Google Docs, formerly Writely, has quickly jumped into the educational field actings as a free and collaborative alternative to Microsoft Word. Mostly used by K-12 Education (from what my research shows me), I assume it’s just not ready for college or university scenarios where page structure has stricter guidelines. However, feedback from students show that although they like Writely (now Google Docs), they find more use in Microsoft Word because they know how to use it better. They then continue by saying that in time, they will likely prefer Writely because it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection and can be worked on collaboratively.

Feed Readers and RSS are slowly making its way into education teaching students the methods of subscription and publication. I found that most schools that take advantage of educational blogging briefly teach about RSS so students and teachers can more easily keep track of school updates and postings. It also appears that Bloglines is the feed reader of choice (PDF by Will Richardson) for many educators, mainly due to it being accessible anywhere. However, some educators are beginning to notice other options that are simpler and more useful for students, such as the personalized homepage, Netvibes. “I used to teach bloglines, however this summer, I began to use NetVibes. It is just easier for beginners to understand,” said Vicki Davis of Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

It may sound odd, but some students are now learning in their SecondLife. Harvard Law School has recently started a new course called, CyberOne, where students actually log into their SecondLife account and learn in the massively popular virtual world. The CyberOne course website states, “Enrollment to the Harvard Extension School is open to the public. Extension students will experience portions of the class through a virtual world, known as Second Life. Videos, discussions, lectures, and office hours will all take place on Berkman Island. Students from anywhere in the world will be able to interact with one another, in real time.” Sounds a little extreme to me! I will admit though, I am curious as to how it all works.

For those of you interested, head over to the CyberOne website and watch this video trailer(YouTube) that can give you an idea of what to expect.

Have fun with all of this new information!

So, now that we have everyone off to a good school year, next week I am taking on “iPad Tips, Tricks & Techniques for Business”. I can hardly wait to see your comments on that one.

Jodi Harrison
VP, Business Development and Partnership Programs
Interactyx Limited

*Information added after original posting*

Check out how you can easily and affordably enhance your classroom by leveraging an all-in-one, turnkey
academic eLearning software solution, TOPYX. Request a demonstration so you can experience social learning firsthand at

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