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Friday, November 24, 2006

I am Thankful for these Websites!

a simulpost with the TechLearning blog.
Note: I don't usually post the same thing in both places, however, I've spent three days on this post and want my readers to have a copy! This is my Thanksgiving Present to You!

As I sit with my morning coffee stuffed bigger than yesterday's unfortunate aviary creature, I have been spending a day being thankful. Today, that mood carries forward as I am thankful for my "birth" into this new blogosphere and thing we call "Web 2.0." I think it is important that I share with you the websites that I am the most thankful for. I've also asked some of my friends on the blogosphere about their favorite websites as well.

(If you'd like to take a "virtual" tour, I've made a trackstar page with annotations so you can click and read. Trackstar is a great tool from 4teachers.)

1 - Wikispaces

I teach in a wiki-centric classroom. Wikispaces gives free online accounts. If you want to learn more about how I use wikispaces, you may view the presentation video and papers that I published at the K12 online conference. There are other free wiki tools that educators are using. For now, I find this to be the easiest ways to link together the many digital artifacts created by my students.

2 - Google and their Suite of Services

Google has changed my life and my classroom. Now I can subscribe to Google Searches of News, Blogs, Maps, Financial Information, Scholarly Works, and even the sales for Christmas.

Gmail, the free google e-mail service allows me to e-mail usually large files and has some handy plug ins like Google Talk which allows me to chat with others via google (and leave them voice mails.) It also has a spam filter that can't be beat! I love the fact that I can search through all of my old e-mails and archive instead of deleting them so they remain searchable. And it is FAST! I use it with the Google deskbar and GoogleTalk as well as GoogleDocs. And where would I be without Blogger? It is so closely integrated with Google search that my Cool Cat Teacher blog is easily found! (If you blog and cannot be found, you don't exist!)

Google Video is the best source of educational video I've found because most college lectures are downloaded here. (Youtube only gives 10 minutes of time per video.)

There are so many things you can do via Google it is unreal! You can see all of them at Google Help.

3 - Odeo

I publish my podcast here because it is so EASY! My students use it to record podcasts because you can record the podcasts directly into Odeo without having to create, upload, and go through the entire process of typical podcasting. It is very easy and I like it. You can also upload files that you create in audacity.

Remember, this is a place to use but not necessarily surf with your students. I have them bookmark their podcast and go directly there! You can also post your Odeo podcast to the ITunes Store. (Again if you have a podcast and aren't listed in ITunes you don't really exist because no one can find you. I'll tell you how to do this on my blog in the next several days.)

4 - Airset

This is my new favorite calendar. Although we use rsscalendar for our school website, I've moved to Airset for managing all of my family activities and will be migrating the school to it over the summer.

There are a couple of reasons:
  • Airset lets me synch with my Palm and Outlook
  • Airset has RSS feeds which allow me to set my children's start up Google Page (a nonthreatening RSS reader) to show their calendar for the day and week.
  • Airset lets me manage groups - my personal calendar, family calendar, school and church groups that I work with.
  • Airset will send cell phone text reminders and reminders via e-mail to group members! This saves me a lot of time.

My husband says that it reminds him a lot of sharepoint server that he uses at work. It is a great tool for busy Moms and teachers. My students have created group calendars to put their tests and homework reminders. They update it together and have it text message them their homework as created by the group at the end of school. (I taught a government agency about this site over the summer and they automated their whole office, they said it saved them the $2000 they were about to spend on software.)

I've written an article on using Airset at my blog.

5 - Feedburner

Feedburner is a must use for any serious blogger or manager of a school website. Here is why:

  • You can "burn" your feed from your blog. You can then have Feedburner create HTML code and paste it on your website. Now, at my school, the school secretary posts to her blog and it updates on the home page. The counselor has a blog that "feeds" into her counselor web page. (See my article: Save Time Webmaster)
  • You can then use Feedblitz to e-mail your blog posts to anyone who is "afraid" of RSS. People can subscribe to your school news or counselor's update, etc. (Feedblitz can be activated within Feedburner.)
  • Feedburner has so many other features that serious bloggers will appreciate.

6 - Statcounter

Although I am toying with the idea of switching to Google Analytics for my burgeoning blog, right now statcounter does the trick for me. I can see where visitors are coming from, what websites link to me, how many visitors a day, and even a map with their location. (I describe how to use it in my most Popular Post: Ten Habits of Bloggers that Win.) This is a great tool to use in classrooms to provide feedback and awareness to your students of the global audience of their work.

7 - Technorati

Love it or hate it, technorati is really the place that most bloggers use to keep up with those linking to their blog and talking about their subjects.
  • I use their watchlist service to watch references to my name (some people don't hyperlink which is just plain rude!)
  • I use their search to see who is linking to my Cool Cat Teacher blog so I can respond as appropriate.
  • I can look at my ranking, but some advice from someone who moves up and down continually - don't get overly hung up on the ranking. It depends on how many link to you AND know how to ping technorati. Bloggers must blog because they want to join in the conversation because popularity is a moving target.
Note: I don't take students to Technorati unless I have a specific purpose. It is a great tool for professionals and college level students but NOT for casual browsing by high school students.

8 - EdTechTalk

EdTechTalk from Worldbridges is a new website in my life. It is chock full of great educational listens and I always tune into their stream while I am grading! It helps the time go faster and keeps me up on my learning. (They are also the sponsor of the weekly WOW2 broadcast on at 9pm EST where I co-host on Tuesdays!)

I believe EdTechTalk should be a must include as a part of any educator's Personal Learning Network. (PLN)

9 - Classblogmeister

Classblogmeister is a great free tool that I use for my weekly questions of the week. As part of the effort to integrate writing into my content and practice, I post a question of the week here for students to answer on their blog. I do pre-approve all posts and comments but it allows me to give feedback prior to posting.

There is no problem with students remember to look, because I use the RSS feed from this page on the homepage of my wiki. Students check the wiki to see if there is a new question of the week.

10 - Bloglines

Bloglines remains my perennial favorite for reading RSS. My students use Netvibes. Superbloggers David Warlick and Will Richardson use RSS- and Blog-friendly web browser, Flock. I've tried Google Reader, but I still come back to bloglines.

You can see what I'm reading at: http://www.bloglines.com/public/coolcatteacher

11 - Gliffy -

This incredibly easy to use drawing tool is great for creating organizational charts, flow charts, and for arranging furniture. My students convinced their spanish teacher to let them use gliffy for a genuine assessment project where they had to lay out their dream home in gliffy and label every item with its correct spanish name.

Network administrators will find it easy for laying out network schematics. I used it to lay out my new computer lab over the summer.

12- Creative Commons Searching

I use Flickr to feed the photos onto my school home page. Other educators like Bubbleshare for searching photos. I've also used Photobucket for photos that I use as graphics on my blog.

I use Google Image Search which lets me find images. But by far the coolest, most useful innovation this year is the Creative commons searching capability that lets me search free and usable audio, pictures, video, text, software, and YES -- now Lesson plans, textbooks, and other educational materials using the creative commons licensing phenomenon of originator Lawrence Lessig.

If you are teaching intellectual property, you must include creative commons licensing! This is a must use resource for bloggers and podcasters alike!

13 - PowerSchool

Our school implemented PowerSchool ASP version this year. They maintain our server along with the upgrades in California. We use it to manage attendance, gradebooks, etc. and will be giving parent access in January. Along with ExamView Pro Test Center this helps me greatly.

I believe that before students go to college that they should understand how to:
  • Check and manage grades online.
  • Communicate with instructors online including turning in electronic work.
  • Take tests and assessments online
  • Submit electronic data online to their professor an confirm its receipt.
  • Take classes online. (In Georgia, we use the Georgia Virtual High School to supplement our schools.)
  • Enroll in classes online.
Kids without exposure to these techniques often discount the importance of electronic interaction with their school and professors to their dire harm!

14 - Skype

I am an advocate of using skype in the classroom. (I've created a training video and blog posting on this topic.)

It also helps me communicate with educators around the world, listen in on amazing skypecasts, and communicate with my students when they need me. I use skype at least 5 times a day.

I also love that I can call my sister for free in Orlando. I often take my laptop and set it on my counter and use it like a "speakerphone" on my wireless network as I talk to her. Video skype is great because I can see her too!

I heard Will Richardson talk last week about how teachers are no longer Content Deliverers but rather Connectors. Skype allows me to connect my classroom with other educators with common curricula and objectives.

15 - NewsMap

Newsmap is how I read the news. This incredible graphic organizer of up to the minute news is a great tool for social studies, cultural literacy, current events, and debate preparation.

It aggregates the most recent postings from Google news to show you by size (larger means more coverage) and color (brighter means more recent information has been posted) (colors are separated by topic) to give you the news literally at a glance.

This is a powerful way that I stay on the cutting edge as I blog, teach, and research for conference presentations and in service training. I cannot believe that Google has not copied this idea, but until then, I watch newsmap daily!

Links from other educators

I encourage you to write about the websites you are most thankful for. This is for two reasons:
#1 We so often forget that so many beginning edubloggers are emerging this time of year at the conferences and we assume that they all have the same knowledge base. How can they know unless we tell them?
#2 These services are free. I feel that it is the least I can do to talk about the services I love. For in promoting the services we like, we in essence fund their continuing existence and credibility.

I asked several people I admire in the edublogosphere to give me their favorite links -- here they are:

David Warlick

Web 2.0 Education Leader
http://hitchhikr.com (that's mine)
http://citationmachine.net/ (that's mine too -- but I use it all the time)

Jennifer Wagner,

TechnoSpud Projects

Chris Harbeck, Canadia Educator


Jeff Cooper
TappedIn HelpDesk Extraordinaire (and the person who gave me the idea to use trackstar.)
http://snurl.com/collaboration - for his hyperlinks including info on TappedIn, another new place I really like!

What are yours?

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