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?
What 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?
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.”
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?
How many of your students own a digital camera? Is a digital camera a toy or a tool? If your students own a cell phone, is it equipped with a camera? Teachers should welcome the digital camera as a learning tool. Time to hop in the way back machine… remember when pictures were taken with film cartridges, sent to the photo lab, and half the printed photos were rejects after waiting a week? OK, fair enough you can still use film and receive your photos in an hour. My fascination with photography began in 1983 while attending Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, Maine as an 8th grader, when I learned the entire film processing workflow. Snap, develop, and print.
Understanding the true wonders of film photography can only be experienced by breaking a film canister open in a darkroom, rolling the film onto a spool, inserting the spool into a canister, and then turning the lights on to add developer. Pay attention to the time now — rinse, and then the moment of truth… unfurl your negative. If you are successful, you can immediately see the negative image of your shots. Once the negative is dry, cut into workable strips, and then the fun really begins. Turn the overhead lights off, turn on the funky darkroom light, and insert your negative into an enlarger. Open the baffle to shine light through the negative and adjust the focus. Close the baffle, align a piece of photographic paper on the base of the enlarger, open baffle — timings everything – let’s try 10 seconds. No picture yet… immerse the paper in developer solution rocking the tray back and forth and watch as the ghostly image appears. Another chemical bath, rinse, and it’s off to the drying rack.
While this was quite a time consuming process, each step provided ample opportunity to make adjustments by carefully monitoring each step. For example, if I shot in bright sunlight, I would leave my negative in developer for additional 15 seconds. The extra time would result in more silver depositing onto the negative increasing contrast. The real artistry entered the process at the enlarger, masking parts of the photographic paper burned in sections of the image resulting in greater contrast. The benefits to abandoning this somewhat ancient process to the digital domain is two-fold, (1) elimination of toxic chemicals into the environment and (2) increased time devoted to creativity and innovation. Students can now spend time in the virtual darkroom using desktop programs such as Adobe Photoshop or its Web 2.0 cousin, Express to perfect their images.
What happens when Adobe Photoshop meets Web 2.0? Answer: Photoshop Express (psx). Two of the central tenets of Web 2.0 are an ability to move content to the web and then provide an easy mechanism to distribute the content to others. Psx is a free beta program that provides 2GBs of storage with the ability to perform Photoshop style edits through the web. For the last year, I’ve used Flickr to post my images to the web. Each image has a unique web address (URL) that can be used to insert a link to the image. The image to the right was taken at the Chihuly exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco. The image is stored on my Flickr site and a placeholder is created on this Edublogs post that says, go fill this rectangle with whatever sits at the end of the link provided. Here’s the link as a web address. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3145/2703276751_e717c90cdd.jpg?v=0
One of the most difficult concepts for teachers first dipping their toes into the web pool, is to understand that web pages are assembled from diverse streams of content. Web 2.0 requires users to manipulate these streams of content to build web pages that pull content from many different sources. I choose one site, Flickr, to organize my photos which appear on three different blogs and several wikis. I’ll continue to use Flickr as a central storage site. What’s different about psx is that photos can easily be manipulated with Photoshop editing controls through the browser. In edit mode, you can perform basic adjustments such as resizing and exposure level and red-eye correction. There are also a number of tuning and effects tools that are familiar to any Photoshop user. Teachers will quickly find that Photoshop Express provides a nice first-step for students to dive into the world of photo editing. Another benefit that the program’s Web 2.0 nature affords is the ability of students to photo edit at home for school projects.
My flower slide show was produced with images taken on May 11, 2008 during Lilac Sunday held at the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. The HTML embed code is automatically generated by psx.