Although I’m familiar with many of the Web 2.0 tools available to us as teacher’s, I found a few interesting qualities in a few that may help/hinder their implementation in the classroom. I’ve chosen one tool for each of the three major categories : Communication, Collaboration, and Publishing

Communication:

Diigo (http://www.diigo.com/)

Diigo was a tool a learned about in a previous graduate class, and I quickly saw that it stood out to me as a VERY useful tool for my classes (and many classes in general). Diigo is a very useful social bookmarking and annotation tool (in simple terms, it’s a place where you can organize content from the web, and key in on portions of websites).

Like many of the Web 2.0 tools, Diigo provides a very clear Terms of Service outlining what content is acceptable, what is considered appropriate use of Diigo, legal restrictions, etc. However, there is no parental or age verification upon joining meaning anyone can join (however, for what Diigo is used for, I don’t think it lends itself to inappropriate use).

Once joining, Diigo is fairly user-friendly. You essentially have two options (work off the Diigo site, or install the Diigo toolbar to use within your browser). I feel the latter is easier to use, and much more convenient since you can simply visit sites you want, add them to your bookmarks, add annotations, tags, etc, and it will automatically update your Diigo account on the main site. Diigo provides a great overview video to new users that details what Diigo can be used for (which is especially good for people new to Web 2.0). You can view the video here. In fact, that was one of the better resources provided to new users by all of the Web 2.0 tools I evaluated.

Research is a key component to much of what students do in school. It’s not uncommon to have students accumulate a wide variety of resources for various projects, activities, and research papers. Diigo provides a way for students to collect all of these resources into one central location, as well as key in on the important parts of a website (how often have we found a website that had a few key pieces of information, but the rest was full of “fluff?”). Diigo is simply an organization tool, and the more organized students become, the much more efficient the work becomes. If we’re attempting to develop real world skills in the classroom (remember PBLs), then organization is certainly one of those skills.

As for caveats for teachers, I don’t see the tendency of student’s to misuse a resource such as Diigo, except for possibly OVER using the tool. Just like with traditional research, it’s important to weed out the valuable information from that which is questionable, unreliable, or irrelevant. Part of proper organization is also making wise choices off what is to be included in the Diigo list.

Collaboration

Google Docs (http://docs.google.com/)

Google docs is a favorite of mine simply because I like Google apps since they seamlessly integrate with each other and other apps (Wikispaces for example).

Google docs allows you to create, upload, and share various documents. Additionally, Google docs allows users to edit in real time, and owners can invite other various users to collaborate as well.

Google provides a clear statement on their Terms of Use much like Diigo. There is no age requirement or parental consent to join, but Google closely monitors content publication on many of their apps. They provide a nice overview/tour of the application for new users, but I feel their “tour” is more an outline of features and what Google docs is used for rather than a “How-To.” There’s also a Google Docs In Plain English video that also gives a great simplistic breakdown of what Google Docs can do, but again, not much of a how to. However, a quick Google search for “Google Docs Tutorials” will reveal a variety of sites providing actual how-to tutorials on using the app.

I feel the usability of Google docs is a little less than desired. There’s a nice interface at the top for creating new documents, uploading, sharing, etc, but one thing that I found that might cause some issues for students is the sharing of the documents. The sharing process is a bit cumbersome in that you have to either have a contact list within google, or manually enter each email address of the person you want to share with. So that means in a classroom, everyone would need a google account, and probably the easiest solution would be to create a class group so everyone that was a member of that group would all have access to documents created by fellow members.

As far as the uses for within the classrooms, I feel that Google Docs is a GREAT tool for the planning stages of a project or unit activity. We all remember the concept of “brainstorming” from our days in school. Think of Google Docs as being an interactive form of brainstorming that can be constantly edited and modified at the group level in real time.

I could also see this tool being used to publish final forms of research projects and files. Students could then edit or comment on the document right within the document. English teachers could also have student submit rough drafts to be edited right within the application.

Caveats for teachers with this tool is a little more relevant than with Diigo. Although Google monitors the content that is made public, private documents are much easier to hide. Students would be able to set their documents to public or private access. It still would be necessary for teachers to make it clear what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable for content posting. Although I don’t think this tool is a susceptible to misuse as say, Twitter, there still needs to be caution when content is being published.

Publishing

Moonk! (http://www.moonk.com/)

Moonk! is actually one of the few Web 2.0 tools in the list that I haven’t had much experience with, but it caught my eye because of a need I have in the classroom. I need to find a way for my students to publish their projects from Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver. Although Dreamweaver files are going to need to be published on a web server, the other two (Photoshop and Flash) can be published via the free publishing tool, Moonk! Moonk allows you to upload photos, edit them, create slideshows, upload video clips, etc, and publish them for all to see. All of this, and it’s free! It’s a bit of a combination of web host and photo/video editing all in one.

Moonk, just like Diigo and Google, have a very clearly stated Terms of Service (noticing a trend, yet?). However, Moonk doesn’t have any tutorials available, nor do they have a “starters guide” of any sort. However, I feel this is most likely due to the fact that the software is so user friendly. There really isn’t much to it at all.

Upon creating an account, you are prompted with three choices (did I mention the pages are VERY simplistic with little extra content or ads): Slideshow, Videoshow, and Jukebox. Each of these are very easy to use, and each are broken down into three simple steps- Import, Edit, and Create.

You can upload files from your computer, pull files from an online storage/gallery, OR copy and paste an image URL for one that is already hosted. I found that this process actually was a bit slow on occastion regardless of file size. When I was uploading pictures, it seemed to take a while to load them up in the gallery, but they eventually did load.

The editing functions are a bit simplistic, but again, this a free ONLINE service. Something is always better than nothing, and for my uses, I wouldn’t want to use this tool for heavy editing anyways, since it’s more about the SHARING of content than editing of the content. I feel students could use this to share projects that were mulitmedia in nature before uploading (as in my case), or even to provide a multimedia visual as a project supplement. What’s great about this tool is that it provides a way for students to publish their work, and share. I’ve found that students become much more motivated when they know their work is going to be shared to the public.

As for caveats for teachers, this tool definitely needs to be approached with caution. Although Moonk clearly states what can and can’t be uploaded, there are still things that Moonk would find acceptable that a teacher wouldn’t. Just like any of the Web 2.0 tools, it’s important as the teacher to clearly state what is acceptable and what’s not, as well as the consequences if students don’t follow the rules. It might also be advisable to include a small mini-unit on digital ethics before entering into the use of a tool such as this one.

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