WHITEHOUSE.gov Web Design Features

Web design features of the new WhiteHouse.Gov site.It was interesting to turn to the Ideas section of today’s Boston Globe where freelance writer, Matthew Battles, compared the Obama and Bush administration’s design of the WHITEHOUSE.gov website, Extreme Makeover  WHITEHOUSE.GOV EDITION.  My last blog entry on the inauguration recommended that teachers use the new site as a way to teach the basic principles of Web 2.0 to their students.  Let’s examine a few more design features that make the site worthy of study.  Click on the picture for a larger view.

1) The main toolbar cleverly conceals plenty of content with submenus that popup when your mouse cursor hovers over them.

2) Simply type in your email and push the Get Updates button to automatically receive emails whenever new content it uploaded.

3)  Displaying a rotating stack of pictures is a popular technique to share content without forcing users to click through tabs.  Only four featured headlines is just right in my opinion.

4)  That little RSS icon may be small, but it’s quite powerful.  Saving this feed to your browser means that updates come to you as soon as they post to WhiteHouse.gov.

5) Search is definitely the center of attention.  It invites users to the content.

6) Leaving these “breadcrumbs”  help users know exactly where they are.  Spread some breadcrumbs by visiting a few pages.

Citizen Penguins Attend Presidential Inauguration 2.0

The inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 promises to usher in a 21st century overhaul of the United States government.  I was fortunate to have attended the inaugural ceremonies with what was estimated to be a crowd of over 1.8 million people.   While standing with my fellow citizens in what can only be described as a scene reminiscent of March of the Penguins, we huddled together for over four hours in sub freezing temperatures on the National Mall.  Spirits of course were high and everyone just made the best of the situation.  There has been plenty of talk of the 21st century lately, from the need to transform every area of our society from energy to education, and oh yes, financial regulations.  Let’s use Wordle to examine President Obama’s inaugural address.  [Learn more about Wordle from a previous post] The most frequent words used in President Obama’s address were Nation, America, New, Must, and Every denoted by the larger font sizes in the image.  The phrase “21st Century” was not spoken in President Obama’s address.  Visit the new White House dot gov website to view the transcript and watch a streaming video of his speech.  The inaugural address page actually contains two of three of what I like to remind teachers are the big three when it comes to Web 2.0. — Blogs and YouTube — the third being a Wiki.  The address is posted as a blog entry and contains a streaming video similar to those found on YouTube.  WhiteHouse.gov has even gone one step further allowing anyone to download and save a high quality mp4 version of the video.  Great for teachers and students who may be interested in creating multimedia presentations.   While the blog does not have the ability for readers to post and share comments, I’m sure that will evolve in the near future.  If you are new to the Web 2.0 world it might be interesting to monitor WhiteHouse.gov over the next several months to see how it grows into a fully mature 21st century communication infrastructure.

Now back to the Washington Mall…  One of the hallmarks of the Web 2.0 world is the ubiquitous nature of digital recording and communication devices.  Unlike our penguin brethren, we occupied our time texting, calling friends and family on the cell phone, and taking pictures and videos while we waited for the ceremony to begin.  My inauguration photo slideshow was created using Adobe’s Photoshop.com.  Photos were uploaded using a free account, added to an album, and then I copied and pasted the embed code into this blog post.  Photography sharing sites like Photoshop.com and Flickr are the life blood of creating media rich blogs.  As we learned on the WhiteHouse.gov site, sharing video is another good way to communicate.  Watch the citizen penguin’s stir as they watch Obama take the presidential oath of office.  The embedded video recorded using a FlipVideo camera streams from Google video NOT YouTube so it should work in school districts that block YouTube.  How can Web 2.0 transform the American Government?  Hey teachers, does this sound like a neat student project?

How to Guide to Ferryway 2.0 – Part 1

Most schools are members of the web community by virtue of the fact that they have a website developed as part of a district site.  Each school uses a template that they fill in content based upon their individual schools information.   What does it take to transform a school into a web 2.0 community of learners?

First, teachers and administrators have to understand the difference between a web 1.0 and 2.0 school.  I explained this difference during a recent early release professional development session at the Ferryway School.  Read the blog entry, Early Release Launches Ferryway 2.0 Tech Plan. Most teachers learned that Web 2.0 is a two-way street when it comes to the Internet.  Second, schools need to build out a web 2.0 infrastructure.  It sounds complicated, but really it just involves knowing how to assemble content inside a framework that anticipates that students, teachers, and community stakeholders will participate in the 2.0 version of your school.  For instance, the Ferrway School has been profiled in several movies by the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia site.  Visitors to the Edutopia site can leave comments about the videos, but if they want to learn more they can check out the Ferryway school website.  The current Ferryway site is a traditional web 1.0 site since visitors simply browse the content that was posted by a few teachers with the magic keys to update the page.   The Grazr box below is an example of using a web 2.0 tool to display those Edutopia comments.  You can read the latest comments without leaving this blog post by clicking on the titles.  Go ahead, try it!

I’m helping manage a team of Ferryway teachers serving on the school’s technology leadership team to build a web 2.0 presence with a blog and wiki.  The blog was actually launched in December 2006 as a way to collect and share feedback for a grant we worked on to expand the school day.  Recently, the blog was repurposed to communicate and share our progress implementing a school technology integration plan.  The Ferryway 2.0 wiki was launched to provide training materials for six digital media workshops.   I’ll be modeling how a wiki is used as a collaborative web space by having teachers actively contribute content to the Ferryway wiki.The third, requires that teachers actually practice using web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.  The best way to accomplish this last one is through well designed PD, direct support to each teacher focused on meeting their instructional needs, and making sure the computer hardware actually works. I’ll revisit this third point in part 2. Is it worth the time and effort to transform your school into a web 2.0 learning community?

Flat Books, Books Meet Web 2.0

Hot, Flat, and Crowded web 2.0 explanationWhat do you get when a book becomes web 2.0?  The answer is a website that is used to sell the book, but more importantly allows readers to share their responses to the book’s content.  A great example of this phenomena is the publication of Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. [September, 2008]

Friedman is best known for his 2005 book, The World Is Flat.   The book was a major influence in the world of educational technology since it effectively outlined the connection between education and the ability to prepare people (especially students) for 21st century jobs.  There was an explosion of “flat” references in education journals and magazines, and education conference sessions.  I created a Apple Keynote presentation, Malden Could be Flat, to introduce educators in Malden Public Schools to the major concepts in the book.  The presentation was converted to run in Flash and streams from an Adobe Connect Pro server account.  The first slide includes a brief audio introduction and then it’s up to the viewer to click through the content. The World is Flat is currently available as a 3.0 version.  Friedman uses the same version protocol favored by the software industry to provide updates to his books.

Back to Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  As I try to explain the world of web 2.0 to teachers, it is important to understand the major shift occuring in the world of book publication.  Namely, books must adapt to new patterns of information consumption.  Teachers have increasingly experienced this shift when they open new boxes of textbooks to find multimedia DVDs and instructions to access online content.  Like Friedman’s new book, modern textbooks have entire websites backing up their static, printed content.  What types of web 2.0 examples are found on Friedman’s site?  If you don’t have time to read, but would like to listen to Hot, Flat, and Crowded while stuck in traffic you can download an audio version of the book.  An audio preview is provided as an mp3 download.

Chapter two makes the distinction between “fuels from hell” and “fuels from heaven.” How is your life fueled by both categories? What would it take to transition completely to “fuels from heaven”?    -Hot, Flat, and Crowded discussion guide

Teachers will appreciate the Discussion Guide that provides thought provoking questions about each chapter.  High School teachers could turn these questions into a web 2.0 assignment by having students read the book and share their responses with international students.  [The flatclassroom project is great model.]  The right sidebar contains the most relevant web 2.0 content since it appears based on the actions of people that Friedman doesn’t control.  At the top of the page, Steps in the Right Direction are links to sites supporting the themes in the book.  I still can’t believe that you can wash a load of clothes with a cup of water!  The article titles are most likely selected based on a set of filters Friedman uses to consume RSS feeds.  The Chapter 18 comments are posts from readers who have been asked to contribute ideas for the 2.0 version of the book.  I would like to see students post comments here.  The final web 2.0 example involves embedding what is known as a widget to display the top five web-based articles under the topic of the environment.   Digg is one of several popular social bookmarking sites.   What ideas do you have for helping students make their own web 2.0 books?

Bookmarks are Tasty with Delicious

Annotated delicious bookmark page.One of the more popular social bookmarking websites is delicious.  There are two good reasons to consider using a social bookmarking website.  1) Store your bookmarks on a website in order to access them from anywhere, and 2) Share websites with people that have similar interests on topics you care about.  For instance, in my annotated example to the left, 5 other people bookmarked Tim Berners-Lee Short bio.   If you were researching the history of the Internet and needed to find additional sites, you could investigate their list of bookmarks by clicking on their username.  My delicious username is neochem03 and anyone can view my bookmarks by visiting http://delicious.com/neochem03.  Another method for finding sites is to analyze the common tags associated with a saved bookmark.  A good rule of thumb is to look for bookmarks that have at least 3 tags and a comment.  My comment attached to Berners-Lee was “Please, if you use the web, understand its origins.”

Example of social bookmark tools on Education Week article.Delicious was known for having a unique web address; del.icio.us, but was recently relaunched by Yahoo and the extra periods were dropped.  There are many more social bookmarking services available.  Bookmark tools are now standard on many online journals and newspaper sites.  When I click on Del.icio.us a pop window appears to add the article, my comment, and tags to my delicious directory of tasty links.  You can register for a free Delicious account.  Teachers who are in school districts that prevent bookmarking links on school computers should consider social bookmarking as a way save sites.  Of course you need to check that the site is not blocked by filtering software.  How do you save your bookmarks?