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Web 2.0- Something for everyone is a problem for my Google Reader

May 29, 2010

Following the feed of just a few Web 2.0 review sites in my Google reader is a problem for me. I find that I have to login to my Reader at least twice a day otherwise my unread updates overwhelm my ability to keep up with them, and that’s just the feeds about Web 2.0 apps. I follow some other Tech Leaders as well, and need to make time to read, in depth, what they are saying or commenting on.

The rapid development of Web 2.0 applications, especially those with relevance to education, makes keeping up a bit of a chore. Fortunately, I have learned that there are lots of other keen educators out there like me doing the same thing, and their feeds are often the place where the best tips about new apps come from. Reading a few blogs from these tech leaders, and the feeds from and Fedmyapp keep me up to speed on the newest Web 2.0 sites that are making waves in the Educational Technology world and beyond, but it is the experience of others that makes the difference about which apps receive attention for their suitability in schools. I may learn about an app from the two feeds above, but it is the community that provides the recommendations, the classroom proven tips, the filter (to use the expression that this blog post must reflect upon) that proves the value of an app.

A few human filters come to mind that should be on everyone’s Twitter or Blog list. My Number One is Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers. Byrne provides a daily post about great free stuff available for educators, mostly Web 2.0. My second human filter is the blog Teach Paperless. Although primarily an advocate for the environment, the Web 2.0 suggestions I’ve picked up from this site are great.

A site I started to recommend for teachers in my school, as well as students, who did not have Smart Ideas at home, was to use Meindmeister for creating concept maps or mindmaps. One of my colleagues tested it out, and discovered some questionable content when using the insert photo feature- the default photo was a scantily clad woman.  I was sure that Meindmeister was a useful educational tool and that it intended, by its documentation, that education was a target market. I emailed the support team and, after a few email exchanges, including an apology, the problem was rectified. I now suggest this Web 2.0 app for students needing to create collaborative mindmaps.

Here are 5 apps that I came across during the week that deserve a look, some which are educationally outstanding. I used and Cool Tools for Schools Wiki as my source of sites and chose a variety of tools: drawing, art, collaborative, audio and video. is an online diagram drawing tool which is really useful for creating flowcharts and other simple diagrams. The diagrams are crisp and there’s lots of styles to choose from, from classic flowcharts to more free-flowing, organizational and icon based diagrams. A jpg or png file can be downloaded, but only one diagram can be saved online at a time, and there is no EDU version. Students have to sign up. But for great digrams, this one is simple and straight-forward.

Scores–   Age Appropriate: 4 Cost: 4 User Friendliness: 3  Collaboration: 1  Final Product: 3 Higher-Order Learning: 3 Edu-Friendly Features: 2

Overall Points: 20/28

Recommendation– Lovely Charts is a great drawing tool for students, with a simple interface and clean layout in a safe, clutter free environment.

StatusRecommend is an abstract art creation tool. Click a tool and start drawing. The art is randomly generated depending on mouse clicks and the tool that is chosen. It’s fun and creative but the results are, well, just random! There is a quick save to jpg or png. No accounts are needed, but there is no collaboration tool, nor is there any way to save or embed the product. Being abstract, there is a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” argument about both the artistic value and the higher-order learning that would be taking place with students.

Scores:   Age Appropriate: 3  Cost: 4  User Friendliness: 3   Collaboration: 1  Final Product: 3  Higher-Order Learning: 2  Edu-Friendly Features: 3

Overall Points: 19

Recommendation: A little light on purpose, and not exactly the easiest to learn as the learning curve was a little steep, but can be used to create some very original, unique abstract art.

StatusRecommend is an online document markup and collaboration tool. It requires an email login and password, and would be most useful for high school students sharing notes on a reading or group assignment. It’s similar, in a way, to Diigo, but a lot simpler. Any Word, pdf or webpage document can be marked up, so its really versatile and the resulting document can be posted to another webpage or shared via social networks. This means that a group of students can markup a document and share their learning together in another format.

Scores:   Age Appropriate: 2 Cost: 4  User Friendliness: 4   Collaboration: 4   Final Product: 4  Higher-Order Learning: 4  Edu-Friendly Features: 3

Overall Points: 25

Recommendation: A nicely featured tool with good educational value that is a mix of Google Docs, Diigo and Word, all in a Web 2.0 package.

StatusHighly Recommended×200.swf?phlogId=19166&phonecastId=29619&channelInView=WEBSITE_CHANNEL_19166&callInView=16155 is an audio tool that uses your telephone or mobile phone to record a podcast, a “phonecast” as it were, and to have the audio converted to a web 2.0 tool that can be emailed, embedded or shared. This is an excellent tool for students and teachers. Not only can a podcast be created from anywhere using a toll free number, but the audio is then converted to text automatically. The uses are many: recording a speech, use with special education students, speech-to-text, an audio journal, news reporting…the list is limited by one’s own creativity. There’s even an iPhone app.

Scores:   Age Appropriate: 4  Cost: 4  User Friendliness: 4   Collaboration: 2   Final Product: 3  Higher-Order Learning: 3  Edu-Friendly Features: 2

Overall Points: 22

Recommendation: A great tool with limitless possibilities, which ranks even higher than the score indicates.

StatusHighly Recommended

The Newseum

The is a website that falls outside the strict defintion of Web 2.0, but when I saw it on Cool Tools for School Wiki I had to add it to my list. Although Washington, D.C. has free access to most of its amazing museums, one that charges a fee to enter, but that is worth every US cent, is The Newseum. Not far down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, in the direction of the US Capitol, and, coincidentally, next to the Canadian Embassy, the Newseum is an amazing place to explore. Featuring exhibits that help people of all ages to understand the way that news is made, collected, reported, shared and delivered around the world, in all its forms. It’s a place that should be on everyone’s Washington, DC to-do list.

You never know who you’ll meet there! While admiring my embassy next door from the viewing deck, I met “Flat Stanley,” who was also visiting D.C.

However exciting the Newseum is in person, the real benefit of its online presence is the ability to read the news from around the world, all in one place. Each day, the front page of papers from all corners of the globe are posted to the site, which is a great resource. The Newseum claims to be the “the world’s most interactive museum” but the website is, unfortunately, far less than that. There are some interactive areas of the site, but they lack the ability to produce and create content.

Scores:   Age Appropriate: 3  Cost: 3 User Friendliness: 2   Collaboration: 1   Final Product: 1  Higher-Order Learning: 2  Edu-Friendly Features: 1

Overall Points: 13

Recommendation: A good source of news headlines, but the lack of interactive features makes it less appealing.

Status: Worth a look only, unless the newspapers are needed for a class project. Otherwise pass on the website. Save your money for the class visit to D.C.

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