Web 2.0 Tech Tool Briefing

1. Twitter

https://twitter.com

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service where users can post tweets, or messages up to 140-characters. The ‘tweet’ is made up of four items: text, links, hashtags, and/or mentions. Text is self-explanatory, words. A link can link to an external website, an internal tweet, a video, picture, etc. A hashtag (#) will tag a tweet and group it with other tweets also tagged with the same hashtag, allowing anyone to search that hashtag and find similar content. And a mention allows a user to send a public tweet to another user using the @ symbol. Twitter also include private messaging to talk to other users without having to tweet.

That being said, Twitter is awesome. I have used twitter for just about everything; personal use, following TV show conversations, live Q&A sessions, conference tweeting, and of course, to extend the classroom. A class of 100+ students is perfect for such an example. A teacher can create a class-specific hashtag, and start a conversation on twitter during class. That conversation can then be continued outside of class using the same hashtag, which allows students to blend their in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences. I have also jumped into other class discussions and have experienced other people jumping into my class discussions as well. It’s a unique experience and the external party doesn’t always have the full scope of what is being discussed, which can provide a fresh set of eyes and new perspective to a certain topic. Twitter can also be an invaluable resource to reaching out to professionals and experts in your field of study and asking them questions that you wouldn’t normally be able to ask.


2. Flipgrid

http://flipgrid.com/info/

Flipgrid comes in a close second, also neck and neck with Google Docs & Google Drive. As Flipgrid’s landing page indicates, Flipgrid is simple. Teachers create grids, or virtual spaces, of short discussion-style questions that students respond to through recorded videos.

My first experience with Flipgrid was during my first graduate level course, Design Studio. Our teacher sent us a custom url that led to a question. We then recorded our answers via video and they automatically post to the grid. It adds a unique experience to a face-to-face class, one that extends the pass the four walls of the classroom and in my experience, engages the students. It would also be a phenomenal asset to online learning. It would put a face to each student in the class, and instead of trying to memorize names, you will be able to see what they look like — and then that person becomes real to you. That’s an experience that has been lacking in online learning and Flipgrid is helping to change that.


3. Google Docs & Google Drive

https://docs.goggle.com & https://drive.google.com/

Google Docs and Google Drive are fabulous tools. Docs allows for collaborative writing amongst a group of people. And Drive allows you to store these Docs in the cloud, or any file, and access it from any computer. I believe the current limits are up to 50 people can edit a document at the same time, and up to 200 email addresses it can be shared with. You can also share it with the public too, and turn off editing rights.

This can be a great tool for any classroom. I used it last semester for a group project in which we were tasked with “Re-imagining 313 Keller“, a classroom at Penn State. We were given a budget, a few guidelines, and then we were off. We used Google Docs to collaboratively list our ideas and create a live document as we worked. It was a great experience that fostered collaboration and allowed creativity to run wild. And since it was created in Google Docs, it is stored in each member’s Google Drive for easy reference.


4. Pinterest

http://www.pinterest.com

Okay, Pinterest is pretty sweet. Imagine a wall. And on that wall you have several different cork boards. And on each cork board, you pin related items. This is exactly what Pinterest is, but virtual. Users create boards and name them. And on each specific board they can pin their ideas or re-pin other people’s ideas. You can pin anything from an idea to an article to a video or a picture, and even a recipe or a DIY project. It’s very fascinating, and quite addicting. If you’ve never experienced Pinterest before, I suggest you head over there now and check out all the hype for yourself!

Now Pinterest in education is a whole other can of worms. It’s great! There are endless opportunities for you to use in your classroom or for your classroom. I have a handful of close friends who have just recently graduated and obtained elementary and high school teaching jobs. Their most useful resource: Pinterest. One of the big uses I keep hearing is to extract ideas on how to decorate your classroom. Another useful part of Pinterest is sharing and retrieving lesson plans. From science projects to art projects, all the way to creative writing prompts and health exercises, Pinterest is full of lesson ideas. The final use I will cover here includes the students. There are teachers everywhere beginning to incorporate Pinterest into their lessons. My girlfriend, who is studying to be an elementary ed teacher, just had to create two education boards last semester for her “Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary Grades” course. It was a required assignment for each student, and when I heard about it, I was super interested and excited about the concept.


5. Codecademy

https://www.codecademy.com

Codecademy is an online, free, interactive school that teaches coding. It also utilizes badging by providing badges for milestones and completing coding courses and projects. Codecademy currently covers six of the major coding languages available: HTML & CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

Coding is becoming more and more important in today’s society. The Industrial Age was replaced by the Information Age, and what drives the information age? The internet. And what drives the internet? Code. And that is why all of these start-ups are popping up: Khan Academy, Coursera, Treehouse, all with the intention of teaching coding. My professor chose to use Codecademy in my Design Studio course. There is where I was able to move through each language I wanted to learn at my own pace, and learn to code. While in the classroom, I was able to ask questions to the teacher about certain concepts I didn’t understand. Outside of the classroom, I searched forums and asked the Codecadmey community board, and was easily able to find answers to my questions. Codecademy offers a flipped classroom model to help teachers easily teach coding concepts to beginners and intermediate users.


Honorable Mention: Diigo

Before this class, EDTEC 467 (Emerging Web Technologies and Learning), I have never even heard of Diigo. A social bookmarking tool? What? Even after the first assignment incorporating Diigo, I still didn’t understand why. I usually have an open mind, but this one kept knocking on the door. It wasn’t until I visited Amazon with Diigo enabled and saw a floating post-it note. It was a product recommendation from 2011! That’s when it clicked – the power of sharing websites and creating public notes for others to see. It’s starting to grow on me and I’m continuing to explore its uses and applications for both personal and educational use.

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