Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Friday, June 06, 2008

Tech Tips for Teachers: Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is the next generation of websites. It is defined by techies as any website where the user not only can access information from the web but can easily add their own content. Some popular Web 2.0 sites are Facebook where users can add pictures and messages, Youtube where you can upload videos, and podcasts where you can upload audio episodes that can be easily downloaded to an Ipod using ITunes. As you can imagine, there can be many beneficial applications of Web 2.0. I will focus on 3 such examples that might be worth researching over the summer as you prepare classes for the coming school year.


The first is creating a Blog. A Blog or weblog is a web-based diary where you can easily upload date stamped messages containing pictures and hyperlinks and comment on other messages. These Tech Tips are posted online at my blog techrav.blogspot.com. Blogs can be used to create classroom assignments where students comment on a piece of literature or a discussion topic posted by the teacher. The students can also comment on each other and even create postings themselves. This year one teacher even created a blog in partnership with a sister school in Israel. Both our students and the Israeli students were able to comment on the same assignments and communicate with each other over the web, a truly impressive Web 2.0 application. The best place to get started is at blogger.com where I host my bog. Here is a quick tour of how to create a Blog: http://www.blogger.com/tour_start.g.


The second idea is to create a Wiki. A Wiki is a quick and easy way to create and edit web pages. Wikipedia is the most famous example of a Wiki but you can create your own using a free wiki site like wikispaces.com. For a class project, the Wiki becomes the box to put all of the materials in. You can use a simple text editor to add text, pictures, and hyperlinks to your wiki and can even add files like Word documents, and PowerPoint and Smart Notebook presentations. The wiki can be setup so that only your students can view it with a secure username and password and students can be allowed to edit certain pages of the Wiki. The best part is that a history is created of every edit so you can easily reverse anything and track who is making which edits. Wikispaces is giving away free password protected, ad free Wiki sites for K-12 schools as a part of their project to create 100,000 school wikis.


To create a free wiki that is password protected click here on this picture: .


My final idea is to use Google docs which can be accessed at docs.google.com. I used to think Google docs was merely a poor man's Microsoft Office with free versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, I now realize that it is a full-fledged Web 2.0 application. What makes Google docs truly amazing is that anyone can edit the same document at the same time from anywhere in the world. For example, I can be working on a document together with my project members in Pittsburgh, Florida, and Israel. This is a great improvement over emailing documents to group members and tracking revisions. You can literally all be working on the same page at the same time. The potential classroom application for using Google Docs is obvious. Plan a project next year where students will collaboratively create a paper or presentation using Google docs. This will not only teach students the material they research but will allow them to creatively learn the vitally important skill of working together as a group.