Web2.0 Tools – Paddles for the NETS Canoe

The NETS listed on the ISTE site are something that I have referred to often in my coursework and also in my teaching and my support of teachers integrating technology into the curriculum. There are so many Web2.0 tools to choose from but the value of the tool is best judged by its ability to help teachers and students better meet these national standards.

One of my favorite Web2.0 tools is student blogging, and in my case the platform is, developed by David Warlick as part of his Landmarks Project. Giving students the opportunity to blog certainly provides the opportunity for students to “communicate and collaborate” (standard 2). Blogging allows students to see that they are part of the global community and publish their writing for a global audience. Participating in the Student Blogging Challenge is a way to open to the door to interaction with students around the world and develop cultural understanding and global awareness. The student’s individual blog page can also be a place to showcase his or her creative projects. Through this challenge my students have had the opportunity to participate in Blog Action Day held on October 15. The 2010 theme is “water” and the 2009 theme was climate change. Becoming aware of global issues affords students the opportunity to read about current problems and think about possible solutions and share those solutions with others. (standard 4).

thomas a becket glogFor creativity and innovation (standard 1) my thoughts jump to a number of Web2.0 tools that allow students to showcase their knowledge in creative ways, such as Glogster EDU. It has been my experience that students love the platform and will spend a great deal of time designing their glogs. They can follow a logical thought process and explain their concept or newly acquired knowledge with others by sharing it via this creative digital tool. Students can also use digital tools for collaboration and “use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues” (standard 1c)  in many of the projects showcased by Discovery Education such as Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.  This again fits well with standard 4 as a platform for critical thinking and problem solving.

The theme of Digital Citizenship (standard 5) needs to be present in all our work with digital tools. I have often relied on video sharing sites such as YouTube to open up discussion on Internet Safety, and I am also hoping to be involved in the Digiteen Project which will focus on Digital Citizenship. Students involved in this global collaborative project will rely on such tools as wikis and Skype and Google Docs to accomplish the project goals. I do have one eighth grade student who will not be thirteen years old until January 22, but I am hoping that will not be an issue in the first weeks of the project.

Although there are many other wonderful tools that could fill a book (and many writers have done just that) the tools that I have mentioned above have become rather standard fare in today’s classrooms. These basics can be enhanced with tools that showcase student work and allow diverse groups to come together to collaborate and appreciate each other’s similarities and differences.  These tools have helped and continue to help both teachers and students navigate the 21st century global seas. We just need to keep paddling.


canoe paddle
Thomas a Becket glog
Blog Action Day badge

Around the World in
(One Hundred)Eighty Days

What a wonderful opportunity we have as educators today to help our students develop a “respectful mind” with the many possibilities that exist for reaching out to students around the globe.

Currently my students, especially the older ones, are becoming excited about communicating with other students through blogging. Though the majority of the students participating in the Bloggers’ Challenge come from USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, there is still a sprinkling of other countries around the world. There are so many avenues to explore with this. We are working on being “respectful” commenters, and addressing the writer’s thoughts and goals, rather than noticing their misspellings or bad grammar (and of course aren’t WE the perfect ones…now that deserves an LOL if anything does.)

I have made connections with a third grade teacher in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her students, like mine, are new bloggers. We are planning to work together on some shared activities, though we are both feeling our way at first. I have communicated with her (Leah Dewhurst) via Skype and email and so far we are giving each other time White_tailed_deer_in_Saskatchewan__Canada___mediumto get the students adjusted to the blog site, but hope to try VoiceThread in the near future. There is so much my students can learn, not only about Canada, but about the native people to that area, the climate, even variations in the English language. We are all excited at what may unfold during the year. I only have one web cam, but I hope to make use of it during our interaction with the Canadian class, which is 2 hours behind us time wise.

Another project that would help in cultural understanding with our Canadian friends is creating a digital story about our school and our routines, our town and local attractions. That was an activity mentioned in the Julene Reed post, and one we could certainly take on. Sharing this with students in another country and having them share with us would be enriching, not only for the students, but for us as teachers as well. Students first instincts may be to laugh at something that looks totally different than what they are used to. But that reaction could lead to some interesting discussions, and the chance to appreciate that there may be no best way, just many different ways.

Ms. Dewhurst adds much more media to her posts than I do, so I will be trying to learn some new tools to use as well. This Thursday, October 8, I plan to take my third graders on a little “trip” to her posts from this school year, such as her post on Elders that visited their classroom or field trips they have taken. We will discuss things that we can share with our soon to be Canadian friends.  I am at a disadvantage in this situation since Ms. Dewhurst is their regular classroom teacher and I see my third graders for 45 minutes per week. Therefore, this is a project in which I need to enlist their homeroom teacher as a partner, so that they get the full benefits of this interaction. I cannot be a world unto myself in the computer lab, and I shouldn’t be. What I need to do is support their curriculum and so the scope of this project will widen as the third grade teacher comes (is dragged) on board.

A_menorah_in_Jerusalem__Israel___mediumAfter following the link to the Global Dreamers Webquest, I am anxious to discuss with the 6th grade teacher how we can get involved with this class from Israel. I need to spend some time reviewing the possibilities on that site, but with the sixth grade studying ancient civilizations in the Middle East and studying the Israelites in the Old Testament in their religion class, there is so much potential for increasing their awareness of this region of the world and the culture of young people who turn out to have much more in common with them than they may imagine.

One sixth grader wrote:

Hi, my name is Ronya K.

I like a lot  of  rock and rock punk bands like Linkin Park, Simple Plan, Paramore, Nickelback, System of a down, Blink 182 and fall out boy.  I like to see a lot  of movies and ride scary books. My mum is a single parent  and I see my dad to times in year and I miss him but it is the reality. I’ve got two big sisters one is a broadcaster at MTV, her name is Bitanya and the other one is an actor and model, her name is Nizhna.

I like skateboarding but my mum thinks that skateboarding is dangerous.Bye!

I am surprised to note how much personal information about the students exists on that site – first and last names, photos, even parents names and in the case of one girl I saw, her street as well as her town. We are much more guarded with our students’ privacy. That would be something I would love to discuss with the teacher running the project.

All in all I am excited about being more aware of the opportunities for global collaboration in which my students might engage. Perhaps these activities we are involved in will help to develop the “respectful mind” in these young people. As Gardner notes, “During early years of school, such issues [value of respect, cost of respect, cost of disrespect] are best approached through experiences in which members of different groups work together on common projects, and come to know one another first hand.” My hope is that the seeds of respect for cultural differences will take root (along with those seeds of creativity).

Side note: At the time I wrote this post I was basing it on the reading assignments listed in the introduction for this week’s module, namely the Julene Reed post and “The Respectful Mind”. It occurred to me afterward that the references to “ethical mind” meant that chapter was part of the reading although it was not listed. Hence, no references to that chapter exist in this post, though my discussion comments do reflect both chapters.

Image Citations

A menorah in Jerusalem, Israel.. IRC. 2005.
Discovery Education. 6 October 2009

White-tailed deer in Saskatchewan, Canada.. IRC. 2005.
Discovery Education. 6 October 2009