Teacher Hacks: Share What You Know

Teacher Hacks is a wonderful blog written by Jackie, a middle school science teacher and learning consultant. In addition, she is also a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Science. Jackie recently attended the Yahoo! Teachers NYC Workshop and is a brilliant, insightful and bleeding edge educator.

Reading blogs is an easy way to "tap into" others knowledge and share what you know. This process-–known as legitimate peripheral participation (LPP)—moves the newcomer deeper into a community of practice leading them closer to acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be an expert.

If you're not already reading Teacher Hacks, why not start?

Social Media + Gen Y Learning

The use of current and emerging social media technology is clearly moving us in the education community closer towards Tim Berners-Lee’s ideal of using the web as "an information space through which people can communicate…by sharing their knowledge in a pool.

In this world of increased web-based social interaction, meeting the unique needs of Gen Y learning styles is the bottom line.  In the 21 Century classroom, the ‘always on,’ student will control the how, what, and when a task is completed.

Gen Y students expect interactive, engaging content and course material that motivates them to learn through challenging pedagogy, conceptual review, and learning style adaptation. This approach offers Gen Y learners flexible, self-paced, customizable content available on-demand (via RSS feeds or Pipes).

Interactive and engaging content motivates students to learn through the course materials and apply them according to their own intrinsic needs and learning goals.

However, educators should be careful not to use social networking for the sake of using social media, rather they should keep in mind how the use of any type of technology element can support student learning--individually and as a collective group.

Social media engages the user in the content and allows them to be included as an active participant as they construct a learning landscape rooted in social interaction, knowledge exchange, and optimum cognitive development with their peers.

mynoteIT: Social Notetaking

mynoteIT is an extremely powerful social search utility for students. Since mynoteIT is web-based, you can store all your class notes and other information in one place, and access it anywhere in the world instantly. It's like del.ic.ious for your notes.

One of the coolest features of mynoteIT are the Workspace Utilities which "allow you to lookup the definition of a word, and translate words or sentences between languages, all in real-time while taking or editing notes." How slick is that? And a time saver too!

mynoteIT also provides a way for students to search and share your notes with friends and/or other members of their collegiate community. You can e-mail your notes, send them through mynoteIT, or use an unique URL link to your notes. Some other cool mynoteIT features include:

  • Upcoming assignment reminder
  • mynoteIT Groups
  • Track comments on notes
  • Make notes private or public
  • To-do lists
  • Grade Tracker

All in all mynoteIT is a fantastic new social search learning tool and one that I'm sure a lot of students--both in high school and college--will be taking advantage of this school year. It would be great to see mynoteIT's social notetaking application mashed-up with a student social networking site like Facebook, Univillage , or StudentFace.

It's important to note (no pun intended) that mynoteIT is still in beta and is subject to tweaks, bugs, and changes. It looks like the mynoteIT team and their social notetaking service is off to a fast start, and undoubtedly will find many friends and admirers in the education community.

RSS 101: Using RSS in Education

What the heck is RSS?

Rich Site Summary (RSS) technology is an XML based format that provides the backbone for the distribution of weblog, podcasting, and other content.

RSS allows users to easily syndicate or publish their content for use by others. And conversely, it provides a way for users to easily subscribe and read content (blogs, podcasts, news, photos) published by other people or organizations.

And these days, most social media applications provide users with an RSS feed to publish their content on the web. This includes most blogging, podcasting, social bookmarking, and photo sharing social networks and communities.

After a user subscribes to a RSS feed, the content (blogs, websites, online community groups) automatically updates and is displayed in a RSS feed reader. There are several free news readers (also called aggregator) available, including Bloglines, My Yahoo!, and Rojo. The new Yahoo! Mail allows you to read RSS feeds right in your Yahoo! mailbox.

How do I use RSS to support instruction?

A key benefit is the users ability to pick and choose (subscribe) to a particular RSS feed and then have the content updated in real time. In this manner, RSS is an important educational media tool to facilitate and support the “always on” learning styles of millennials.

RSS readers allow students to self-publish and share their content feed with members of their learning community. The use of RSS further supports millennial learning styles by allowing the user to select which content is relevant and then have it delivered directly to them for "on demand" viewing at their convenience.

As an assessment tool, RSS feeds provide teachers with several benefits. For example, instructors can subscribe to each students RSS feed and have their homework delivered directly into their aggregator, saving them the time consuming task of entering each student’s URL in order to view their e-portfolio or blog.

A Modest Proposal: RSS @ University of Oklahoma

In her recent blog post, RSS and a Modest Proposal for OU, Laura Gibbs threw out a challenge to the academic community at the University of Oklahoma to fully embrace the use of blogs and RSS technology in the classroom.

While some OU departments are already using RSS technology to distribute and share information, for the most part the academic ecosystem at OU hasn't readily embraced RSS, blogs or other types of social media.

At the core of her her modest proposal, Laura feels that "every college on campus should have a blog with an RSS feed. That way we could all subscribe to news and actually know what is going on here at OU, something more than just football. Personally, I think every tenured faculty member should be required to keep a blog..."

Amen Laura. I couldn't agree more!

So as a new school year begins to unfold, why not follow Laura's example and issue a modest RSS and blogging proposal to your community of practice?

If you haven't already, go ahead and set up a class blog and RSS feed. Then help others in your department or school do the same. It may not seem like much, but it's a start...

RSS Resources

eLearning Toolbox: Nuvvo Tutorial

Did you know that you can integrate social bookmarking services like MyWeb2, Blinklist, or del.ic.ious into your Nuvvo course pages?

Yep, it's true!

Most "Web 2.0" services provide users with the HTML snippet (sometimes called a badge) to embed content on another web site or blog. This means there are endless possibilities for you to weave interaction and on-demand resources into your course.

How about using Slide to insert a slideshow in your course? Or embed a Google, YouTube, or SelfCast video into your curriculum. The human voice is a powerful teaching tool, so why not try using a YackPack audio group into your course?

Enough talk. Time to get down to business. Here's how you can add a HTML snippet into your Nuvvo course:

All you have to do is create a LearnPage (or EvalPage) and insert a Rich Text area. that will bring up a mini word processor into which you can directly insert HTML code. Look for the HTML button in the top right corner. 

Easy peasy! So give it a try!

Thanks to John Green over at Nuvvo for the directions on how to integrate the HTML badges into course pages!

Rollyo: Personal Search

Released in beta last week, Rollyo is the latest product to venture into the burgeoning social software marketplace. Rollyo allows users to create and share their own personal search engine.

In a nutshell, here's how Rollyo works:

  1. Create a Rollyo "Search Roll" (this is Rollyo speak for "search tool").
  2. Pick and add up to 25 website url's to your Search Roll.
  3. Your customized search engine (powered by Yahoo! Search) is ready to share (or mark private)!
  4. Use your Search Roll to find targeted results, based on the URLS you listed.

Since this product was just hit the web, I haven't had time to really get a feel for it, but so far it seems like their are a couple obvious ways Rollyo can be used as a constructivist-based learning tool.

  • Teacher's can use Rollyo to create and populate a Search Roll with websites that are relevant to course content and then place a Rollyo Search Box on the course blog, or website. Or if the teacher is using a LMS or LCMS such as Moodle or Tapped-In, they can add a link to their course Search Roll.

  • Students can create topic-based Search Roll(s) and then utilize the search results in research papers, group projects, or as reflective entries on course weblogs. In addition, students can share Search Rolls with their learning communities. Students can also venture outside their peer group and explore the larger Rollyo community for relevant Search Rolls.

It's also important to note that Rollyo Search Rolls can be marked "private" or "public"--this is particularly important for student Search Rolls. In addition, Rollyo users can add tags (keywords) to their Search Roll to make it easier for others in the community find your directory.

Rollyo, like other social search tools BlinkList and My Web 2.0, is still in beta and is subject to tweaks, bugs, and changes. But it seems like the Rollyo team is off to a fast start, and undoubtedly will find many friends and admirers in the education community.

So as they say in Rollyo-land: Get Rolling!


Academic Research on Tagging

The Structure of Collaborative Tagging Systems (pdf)
Scott A. Golder, Bernardo A. Huberman

In this paper Golder and Huberman, researchers at the Information Dynamics Lab at HP Labs, analyze tagging patterns, user behaviors, and the public structure of tagging systems.

Scott Golder also has a pdf available of his Tag Tuesday presentation, Personal Meaning and Public Structure in Tagging Systems, which is available by clicking here.


A Cognitive Analysis of Tagging (html)
Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D

In this weblog essay Dr. Sinha, a cognitive psychologist by profession, outlines her hypothesis on the cognitive process that takes place when users tag an item, and how tagging differs from categorization.

Designing for students with learning difficulties

Today I was looking at the public MyWeb 2.0 pages, and discovered this very good article covering web usability/accessibilty design issues for users with learning disabilities.

via Juicy Studio: "When people think about accessibility of web content, there's a tendency to concentrate on people with visual impairments. People with cognitive impairments and learning difficulties are often overlooked.

This article by Roger Hudson, Russ Weakley, and Peter Firminger, examines the types of problems visitors may encounter when using the web, with insightful and practical suggestions on how to develop websites that are inclusive for people with cognitive impairments and learning difficulties."

I agree with the authors that this is an area that online educators and course designers often overlook. Hopefully this article will serve as a reminder make sure online course designers take the needs of learners with cognitive imparments and other learning difficulties into consideration as they design e-learning websites.

H2O Playlist | Academic Social Bookmarking

"H2O Playlists, developed by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, are more than just a cool, sleek technology -- they represent a new way of thinking about education online.

An H2O Playlist is a series of links to books, articles, and other materials that collectively explore an idea or set the stage for a course, discussion, or current event." (via)

Additional Resources

Social Interface & Web 2.0

There is a great article in the current edition of the MIT Technology Review about burgeoning social web technologies, and how people are increasingly using chat rooms, blogs, and wiki’s to collaborate.

The constant connectivity of the Internet has changed what it means to participate in a conference, classroom, or any other social gathering. This article is very timely given the big buzz about social software and bookmarking.

Yahoo! Audio Search

Audio Search in the Online and Blended Classroom

Yahoo! Audio Search (YAS) is a new Yahoo! product that allows users to scour the web for a myriad of audio files including: music, podcasts, speeches, e-books, and interviews. Y! Audio Search also displays related content such as video, websites, Wikipedia pages, and images.

These constructivist-based design elements allow users to both discover new content as well as self-regulate their experience based on their own
intrinsic needs and interests.

For example, a student who enters a query for “
Neil Armstrong” will also have the video version of the Moon Landing listed in their search results. This way, if a student is a visual learner they can utilize the media that best suits their learning style.

This is a nice integration of Yahoo services and one that makes the student user experience, not only easier, but also more productive.

In addition, web-based audio content can be easily saved to
My Web 2.0 with a just click of a link on the results page.

Once audio files have been saved to My Web 2, you can add tags, share your audio files, and organize your content. Members in a “My Community” group can then search their
community knowledge pool adding yet another layer of relevance to the social bookmarking space.

Y! Audio Search Curriculum Ideas

  • Teachers can create original audio content (such as lectures) and then upload them to Y! Audio Search for download by students onto their computer or mp3 player. In addition, teachers can link to the audio content (or “podcast”) from their web-based course syllabus, web-based group, weblog, Flickr group, or wiki.
  • Learning communities that have formed a Flickr group can link relevant audio files to the pictures in their group photo pool. For example, an American Studies teacher with a series of Mississippi River photos can post an audio link in a Flickr discussion thread to a dramatic reading from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

    Or a history teacher can start a discussion thread in a Flickr group about the Civil War, providing a link to Abraham Lincoln’s
    Gettysburg Address in her pool of Gettysburg photographs. This application provides both audio and visual elements, thereby appealing to the differing and multiple learning styles of students.

    In all of the aforementioned examples, teachers are doing more than combining different types of media to
    support student learning. They are also providing “on demand” learning opportunities designed to meet the “always on” learning styles of today’s students.

  • Listening to content in its original context is also an effective situated learning tool that provides an avenue for students to actively participate in their learning. Instead of reading about Albert Einstein’s scientific contributions in a textbook, students can use Y! Audio Search to actually hear Einstein himself explain his Theory of Relativity.

    Moreover, having students listen to period news reports about the
    fiery crash of the Hindenburg, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Robert F. Kennedy’s news conference announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, or Eleanor Roosevelt’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights speech helps them make emotional connections to shared cultural experiences.

  • Audio Search also has the potential to provide educational resources for teachers in underserved areas by providing them access to low (or no) cost audio content they can integrate into their curriculum. For example, teachers could burn multiple audio (mp3) files onto a CD-ROM and then distribute audio ‘resource discs’ to students.

Y! Audio Search provides students with an opportunity to research, replay, and reflect on their own learning experience.

More importantly, as students incorporate different types of social media into their collaborative project-based learning activities, they develop the critical
problem solving, web, knowledge management, and technology skills they will need to succeed in the 21st Century.

And in that regard, Y! Audio Search is an important milestone in the evolution of online learning, social software, and self-publishing on the web.

Flickr + BlinkList | Dynamic Duo

Do you need to create a technical help sheet or “how to” guide? Here’s an idea that provides an avenue for users with multiple learning styles to utilize two social software programs-- Flickr and BlinkList--to meet their learning or training needs.

The Flickr Part: Use Flickr to create a (private) group, and then place a series of instructional screenshots in your group pool to assist users learn a new software program (for example Dreamweaver MX). Members of your group can use the Flickr group threads to discuss the configuration process, troubleshoot, and leave tips for others.

The BlinkList Part: Tag Dreamweaver MX articles and/or other web-based resources with a specific BlinkList tag, which now becomes an URL of resources related to that software (in this case Dreamweaver MX).

The Social Part: Now post the tag link in your Flickr group and the BlinkList tag list becomes a specialized, organic, shared knowledge pool--a vital component for any online community of practice. Members of the learning community can also search the global BlinkList community tags for additional resources.

The Learning Part: What you have created is an (online) community that is able to draw from multiple social web resources to meet a learner’s intrinsic needs, while still providing opportunities to participate with their peers in a collaborative, social exchange of information. In a variation, you could use both ideas and link to Flickr and BlinkList from a course webpage, weblog, or learning management system (LMS).

Blinklist | Learning in the Blink of an Eye

The passionate crew over at MindValley have joined the social software party with a new web-based rapid bookmarking and knowledge-sharing tool named BlinkList. A curious name that accurately describes how quickly and easily you can manage, add, share, tag, or syndicate your links in—well…in the blink of an eye!

BlinkList, like other social bookmarking applications, is based on
social networking, tags, folksonomies, and collaborative knowledge sharing. As BlinkList users search the web they can easily save their web searches, tag them with keywords and/or descriptions, and then depending on whether they have marked the links private or public, share their cache of knowledge with the BlinkList community.

Simply stated, MindValley recognizes that online community hinges on the users ability to easily access their information without frustrating them to the point they won’t use the software (a point which is—surprisingly--often overlooked).

Rooted in
constructivist theory, BlinkList is designed to act as a facilitator, providing users with the tools to chunk, scaffold, and organize knowledge in a format that best suits them. In a nutshell, BlinkList opens the path to knowledge instead of being a digital pothole on the e-learning super information highway.

Here are just a few of the unique features in BlinkList (with just a twist of learning theory thrown in for good measure!):

Knowledge Tags

As you store and tag more content, it becomes more and more difficult to remember what tag you used for similar content. But don’t fret! MindValley Labs has come up with a slick way to help you to maintain tagging consistency.

Here’s how it works: as you add links and other content to your cache BlinkList auto-magically suggests tags you have already used. This simple step makes it easier to find content at a later date, prevents user frustration with the technology, and allows students to focus on their learning.

Ready for another neat
techno-constructivist BlinkList feature? When you click on a tag, BlinkList shows related tags, thereby allowing users to easily find topics and resources related to their search. But wait. There’s more! By using the tag filter you can drill down even deeper into the BlinkList community knowledge reserves to locate the resources most relevant to your particular needs.

Think of it as the MindValley version of
Legitimate Peripheral Participation.

Social Learning Tool

BlinkList allows users to make notes before they save their links to a list. This feature could be especially useful for a collaborative project wherein groups conduct research on the web, saving, tagging, and organizing their content in a BlinkList, and then adding annotations in the link description field.

In this example, BlinkList not only works as a tool to support project-based learning activities, but simultaneously assists students develop crucial information and technology skills--all in a ‘real world’ context.

The process of collecting research and creating the annotation not only develops writing skills, but also provides the teacher with an opportunity to assess the learner’s level of understanding, and review content with their students.

neo-millennial, and Generation C students begin to flood classrooms, they will expect activities that allow them to pick and choose multiple types of social media (blogs, wiki, gaming, social bookmarking) to support their digital learning styles. Recent studies in online course design have shown that the integration of web-based communities and collaborative assignments into the course design has a positive influence on learning and student retention.

Save Research in a Blink

Have you ever done research on the web, saved a bunch of links in IE Explorer “Favorites” folders, and then had a heck of a time finding them again? Well, BlinkList simplifies the whole process and lets you focus on your needs instead of spending time scanning those IE folders looking for your content.

By simply (there’s that word again!) adding a tag or two, you have created a list that can be accessed at a later date. Since each tag has its own URL, you can link from your blog, course syllabus, research paper, or even
Flickr account to that specific tag list. Now you have a powerful cache of resources that work in tandem with your other social media tools.

What? Not easy enough? After you save a site, just click the star icon and the link will be added to your Favorites list in the tag manager (hold on, that’s up next!), and highlighted with a bright yellow star!

As the
Naked Chef would say, “Easy Peasy!”

Tag Manager

The MindValley crew has taken in consideration that end users have differing ways of understanding (
multiple intelligences) and organizing information. The ingenious Tag Manager provides users with multiple ways to organize and view their BlinkList.

But who decides which tags to use? BlinkList? No. You!

The BlinkList folks describe tags as “multiple mental notes that might make sense, depending on what it is that you are saving.” Since only you know what tags will help you find your data, you get to decide how to label and organize your content. BlinkList will auto-suggest tags, but ultimately the user (that’s you!) has the final word. In effect, BlinkList starts thinking like you do, making it easier for you to locate your links when you need them!

The BlinkList Tag Manager sorts your links in three categories: Favorites, Most Popular, and Most recent. As you build up a cache of links, Blink List puts your most used tags in a little pile—they call this a tag cloud. As you begin to use your tags, the tag cloud begins to change. Larger font, gradient bolding, and different colors--all to help you quickly scan the tag cloud for your most used tags.

The Social Web

A click on a tag from the community tag cloud or a quick tag search allows you to find others who share common interests. You can then see what resources they are sharing with the BlinkList community and add the ones you find most relevant to your BlinkList. And vice-versa. Because BlinkList is a web-based tool, you can access your links and those of others in the BlinkList community from any web-enabled computer or mobile device.

Just a simple click of the "BlinkRSS" button allows users syndicate tag content to a classroom blog, student portfolio, school website,
aggregator--or any other site for that matter! BlinkList even provides the HTML snippet for you to pop into your website.

MindValley vs. The Giants

The MindValley folks are clearly on the verge of something big with BlinkList. To be fair, it’s still in an early beta stage and will require some tweaks. Moreover, at this point, all of the social interchange is asynchronous. It would be nice to see BlinkList integrated with some “real time” synchronous capabilities.

And while they are more than aware of the fight ahead of them, their infectious enthusiasm (in conjunction with their terrific product) is sure to propel them to the front of the pack. By now it should be clear that BlinkList is so feature rich (the “scary” part is that they’re just getting warmed up!), and full of possibilities they can’t all be discussed in one post.

Tag! You’re It!

MindValley has created an impressive product with so many applications that
learning communities--from grade school to corporate training—will be looking for ways to integrate BlinkList into their curriculum.

For the last several months there’s been a lot of buzz about a
renaissance on the web. And with the arrival of BlinkList, the optimistic, passionate team over at MindValley seems to be shouting, “Enough talk, let’s get this party started!

Game on.