Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"The standards will include high-level cognitive demands by asking students to demonstrate deep conceptual understanding through the application of content knowledge and skills to new situations. High-level cognitive demand includes reasoning, justification, synthesis, analysis, and problem-solving."
Finally. This is what we have been waiting for. Of course, I'd like to see it for Science and Social Studies as well. I'd also like to see the standards incorporate more use of technology as a tool for achieving these goals. But, I provided this as my feedback, and you can too! As long as you do it today.... Check out the standards and comment at Core Standards.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I just learned that there is an updated video (version 4.0 actually!) and I was going to just replace the old one with the new one. However, I think it's worthwhile to view both and see just how much has changed in only 2 years!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I am currently in the process of writing a book with some colleagues who reside in different states and we have used both Google docs and Wiki's as part of our process. As features do vary by Wiki platform, I'll be discussing Wikispaces unless otherwise noted. There are several advantages and disadvantages to each which I will outline here:
1. Font Styles & Colors
Google Docs has a much easier interface and friendly formatting than Wikispaces. For example, in Wikispaces, changing the color of the font for a bulleted list and its heading only changes the list items. The heading remains its original color. Wikispaces also generates a popup window to make these formatting changes whereas Google Docs works the same way as Microsoft Word (inline).
Wikispaces wins for organization. It is very easy to set up sub-pages and link them on the sidebar. It's also easy to create links to the sub-pages from higher level pages. Because Wiki's allow you to view and edit the the underlying code, it is much like HTML. Linking to pages and anchors is a fairly common task. Google Docs uses something called bookmarking to create tags within the document, but all of your editing is still in one long document which can get unwieldy - Fast! If you want to have "sub-pages" you have to create separate Docs and open each one-at-a-time. It's not easy to move among pages at a whim. For this reason, we quickly decided to use Google Docs to maintain our main outline (to become our Table of Contents) and use Wikispaces for the actual editing of sections and chapters.
Both Google Docs and Wikispaces have their pros and cons. Google Docs is by far the easiest tool to use to make inline comments about a given piece of text. Two different methods are offered.
- Comments - These are placed right next to the text in a shaded box with an automatic date/time stamp.
- Footnotes - These are placed in a right-hand sidebar that resembles a comic strip bubble. When you click on the bubble, a pound symbol next to the word or phrase is highlighted.
Since comments are a major component of collaborative spaces, it will be important for you to evaluate which of these features works best for you, taking into account the other factors mentioned in this blog.
Another important component for collaboration is notification of changes. Google Docs offers a way to send a message to collaborators (under the Share drop-down) where you can tell your fellow collaborators of changes you made. Other than this forced method, it doesn't seem to send notifications automatically. Wikipages is somewhat opposite. While there is no way to send a message to collaborators, each member can request notifications of either a given page or the entire Wiki site. Notifications can be sent either in email form or via an RSS feed to your favorite reader. Ideally, I'd like to see both options offered: push and pull notifications with both tools. PBWiki has this option - the creator decides if updates made by members automatically sends a notification by email (push) and the creator also decides if members can access the RSS feed (pull).
Regardless of the notification method, both tools let you view recent changes that have been made. Google Docs calls it revision history which is really what it is. The nice part is that you can revert back to previous versions, but discovering the changes in the most recent version is difficult. The first few words of the changes are listed but formatting changes simply say "no text added". The only real way to see the changes is to select revisions to compare and search through the long document for highlighted text by color (a different color is assigned to each user). Wikispaces works similarly in that you have to choose two versions to compare but instead of highlighting changes by user, it highlights changes by "inserted text" and "deleted text" which I find easier to manage. Another nice feature is that it lets the user add a comment about the changes made which show up in the history list.
5. Other Features
There are an assortment of other features that each tool offers but these are not standard across the board so I'll just list a few here.
- Google Docs - Import/Export with MS Word (allows you to interchange with .doc format) & Publish to Web (converts document to HTML and makes it public).
- Wikispaces - Wiki Statistics & Space Usage (tells you about the traffic and usage of the Space). The biggest selling point for me with Wikispaces is that they offer a free Plus plan if the site is being used for education.
- PBWiki - Folders (lets you create folders containing sub-pages rather than having to manage the organization of sub-pages yourself) & Tags (another way to organize the page).
Hopefully this will help you decide which tool to use depending on the goals of the collaborative project.
Monday, July 20, 2009
In the case of spreadsheets, gathering data and representing the information visually in the form of graphs and charts allows students to see new relationships among the data that they might not originally detect from the raw numbers. It ideally will also prompt them to ask questions about patterns and trends that become visible.
Google Docs spreadsheet was used to create this representation showing Immigration Trends in the U.S. since 1850. The Google Gadget Motion Chart culls data from several columns including "entity" and "time" to present an entirely new view of the data. Very cool! I think students will definitely appreciate and embrace this tool as a way to enhance their own learning.
View the full set of data and change axes and variables for different results.
Friday, June 26, 2009
No matter what you call him - "The King of Pop", "Wacko Jacko", or even "MJ", Michael Jackson transcended music of his day. He was groundbreaking, always pushing the boundaries of both music and music videos. While this may be a little off-topic, I felt the need to highlight some of the ways that Michael Jackson utilized technology in ways that made him iconic.
- The first and most obvious thing that comes to mind is "Black and White" with its impressive never done before video morphing technology. It was so ahead of its time that many music video networks cut off the last four controversial minutes of the video. Not to mention the theme that typifies all that Michael Jackson represented.
- Billie Jean and Moonwalking. While not technical in the traditional sense, the moon walking first revealed to the world in Billie Jean made seemingly walking forward while actually walking background a natural occurrence. It was also the first video by a black artist to appear on MTV shattering racial divides that existed at the time.
- You can't talk about Michael Jackson and Technology and not talk about Thriller. The first music video that was more like a featurette, his choreography, costumes, music and the transformation of himself into a werewolf and a zombie was trendsetting.
- In Beat It, Michael Jackson used real gang members (80 in fact!), not actors, to portray the story.
- Scream was his attempt to speak out against the media backlash and criticism Michael had been receiving. It was not only the first video response, but a classic example of digital citizenship at work.
- Another music video featurette, Remember the Time set in ancient Egypt, was recognized for groundbreaking visual effects and appearances.
- Even Rock with You, an early video, used visual effects in ways that hadn't been done before.
- The stunning images in Heal the World and We Are the World, inspired and produced by Michael Jackson, reveal his passion for tackling big challenges and helping others. He was perhaps the first to realize the power of music and video for sending a message to the world.
Thanks to the Examiner for some of the facts in this post.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The first group of fourth graders seemed to catch on pretty easily. I explained the concept of a WebQuest, went through the introduction/background and the task. For homework the night before, they were given a list of "values" vocabulary words. I explained participatory democracy and played Obama's Open for Questions video that invites all Americans to ask questions at whitehouse.gov. These students were very excited by this idea and wanted to know if they could start with that! However, we then moved into group work. I used the Native American role as an example showing them how they can click on links, and listen/watch the multimedia content. I then played both the Patriot and Loyalist videos asking those in the respective teams to pay particular attention as they will find useful information for completing the worksheets. I emphasized that there was no "one right answer" but they still had trouble with this. Some of the students made good use of the links and media to fill in the charts, but others seemed to be relying on what they had already learned. My husband also wanted them to complete journals as if they were Patriots or Loyalists writing to family "back home" but we didn't have time for that. He plans to have them continue this in class tomorrow. This group also requested feedback so I shared with them my answers explaining that they are not necessarily "correct" but rather my beliefs. They struggle with this concept and I could see them erasing answers as I started to speak to reflect what I was saying. To prevent them from changing their answers, I collected the packets while I shared my answers and then returned them. To wrap up, we came back together as a class and I asked each of them to write their questions to the President. This packet, plus their group work and participation, will be used to evaluate the Social Studies unit instead of an exam. Some liked this idea and some did not.
The 2nd group of 4th graders did not work as efficiently. I skipped the Native American demonstration in the interest of time. They had a lot more trouble filling in the charts although they paid a lot more attention to the content of the videos. In their groups, they were much more focused on playing the other videos on the site than reading the text for "answers". This caused bandwidth issues in the lab and I had to ask them to stop playing the videos and show them on the SmartBoard only. The problem this caused was less work time, so my husband is going to have them finish the charts today and then get to the diaries tomorrow. They also did not ask to review the answers and so we allowed them more time to work on their questions for the President.
1. 4th graders need a lot more time to read, even when those sites/pages are kid-friendly.
2. Group work is only as conducive as the group participants and work environment allow. Some of the students ended up working alone and did not like the idea of sharing their answers even though this was encouraged. Also, the room layout was not ideal for group work.
3. Websites should be loaded on the computer before the students come in so they don't have to first type the URL in the browser.
4. SmartBoard usage helps as long as students aren't blocking it. In this lab, the computers were set up in such a way that some students kept leaning on the Smartboard and inadvertently changing the page.
5. Always be prepared to change on the fly.
6. Testing that all the links work and the Smartboard is displaying the content properly ahead of time is important but not enough. It's also important to think about how simultaneous usage will impact performance when the students are using the sites on limited bandwidth.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This entry concerns several 9th grade science classes at MS 202 - the Robert H Goddard school taught by Mr. Exume, with the help of the technology specialist, Ms. Deninn. The Robert H. Goddard is primarily a middle school covering grades 6-8, however they are expanding to become a high school beginning with 9th grade in the 2008-2009 school year. Every classroom has a SmartBoard and the school is part of the 1-1 laptop program.
I spent several periods with Mr. Exume’s classes and I could see wide variation among the students. One of the biggest differences I noticed was that the 9th graders were able to carry on real conversations (one girl walked me to the teacher cafeteria, asked if I was student teaching and what school I went to and told me she wants to go to NYU) and engage in thoughtful discussion. The subject that Mr. Exume was discussing that day was about classification of species. The general format was that Mr. Exume presented his notes on the SmartBoard including some pictures and videos while students took notes on their laptops. He also had the students break out into groups to work on classifications. The students print, save to a Flash drive or email their notes at the end of the period. One girl was asking a lot of questions and in particular consistently brought up issues of testing on animals. After several minutes of this, Mr. Exume suggested to the girl that she meet with the “newspaper committee” to write an opinion piece on the issue. He explained to me after that this topic had come up several other times throughout the year and it was a sore topic for some of the girls. The girl commented that there are no more newspapers this year. In my conversation with Mr. Exume, I suggested that he might want to encourage the girls to write a blog on the topic which he thought was an excellent idea for next year. Mr. Exume ensures that all his lessons and presentations are available on a shared network drive at the beginning of the year and students can download any or all of them at any time for use as a study guide.
Mr. Exume spent his free period providing me with resources that he uses in his classroom. Here is a snapshot of some of these resources.
- The Review Game Zone - Because of the time of year, Regents review is a big part of the curriculum. This site is a review site for Regents questions and it also allows the teacher to input their own questions. For example, here is a soccer game with review questions on classification.
- Power Media Plus - This is a subscription service that Mr. Exume uses to embed videos and other media into his Powerpoint presentations. He finds this helps to clarify complex subjects. The site lets you save videos to your hard drive for use in other applications.
- Virtual Labs: Utah Genetics Lab - Contains virtual labs on genetics. Frog Dissection - Virtual Frog Dissection. Mr. Exume is going to allow the use of this latter one for the students who choose not to dissect a real frog. InnerBody - Used to teach and study about human anatomy.
- YouTube & TeacherTube – TeacherTube is allowed in the school but YouTube is blocked. However, sometimes there are useful videos on YouTube that Mr. Exume will use in his classroom. He does this by loading the video at home and playing the cached version at school.
- Drop.io – Used to share large files between students and teachers.
- Engrade - A free service used by Mr. Exume to record grades, among other things.
- Lesson Planet - Mr. Exume uses lesson plans from this site to help enhance his own curriculum. Requires a subscription. I told him about Curriki which contains free and open lesson plans.
- Enchanted Learning - A compendium of worksheets for teachers. Subscription required.
- Classroom Performance System – Mr. Exume is going to be using these CPS Clickers to do Regents review preparation throughout the month of June. I will be going to observe this in a few weeks.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I'm not talking about delivering a video to the YouTube platform. I'm talking about a man who had to deliver his own wife's baby with no help from anyone but YouTube video's! Yes, there are actually videos about that. In Can't Get Midwife? YouTube Will Assist, a British man explains that his wife's history of speedy deliveries meant that getting to a hospital was not happening and the midwife they planned to use was unavailable. YouTube to the rescue! You really can find just about anything on the Web today. What are the implications for YouTube in education? Especially when YouTube is often blocked? Is that good or bad? On the one hand, students will access YouTube online at home and learn anything they want to (and maybe more than we want them to!) but shouldn't we, as educators, be able to find useful videos for the classroom and show them as appropriate?
The internet is all about being open and available to all, right? Well, not quite. Many countries block websites containing content that they do not want accessible to their citizens. In Iranians and Others Outwit Net Censors we see that organizations exist that focus on helping everyone have equal access to the internet - but it's often at their own risk. I bring this up because it's important to remember that though we sometimes view the internet as a democracy for all people and our students probably are growing up believing this, we have not overcome censorship around the world. What does it mean to be a digital citizen? Does it depend on where you live?
Remember the Prom? Well, now there is a way for girls to ensure that nobody else comes dressed in their Prom dress. Online Photo Says "It's My Dress, Pick Another" explains that many boutique stores are creating a registry of which girl purchased which dress for which school's Prom and won't let anyway else buy the same dress. What's more, Facebook groups have been set up to let the girls post their dresses online so that others will be discouraged from buying the same or similar dresses. Why is the relevant? Because it's just another way that teens today are making use of Social Networking tools to meet their needs. These trends will continue and as educators we should be tapping into them also.
Lastly, sex ed has a whole new twist: When the Cell Phone Teaches Sex Education. Services have been popping up around the country to answer teens questions about sex and relationships. Many of these are canned questions that they can choose from but several new services are providing 1-1 personalized answers anonymously through texting. In some states this is designed to overcome school mandated limitations of abstinence-only curriculums. How do you feel about this service? What are the implications for families and students themselves. As educators, curriculum matters and we have to realize that if we are not teaching students what they need or want to know (sex ed or otherwise) they will find out from other places. Today, it's easy to do on the Social Web.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
It is my intent to continue to explore how social media and Web 2.0 tools can, and should, be implemented in the classroom. The essential question posed by this class was basically: which of the broad spectrum of digital learning technologies and tools provides the greatest possibility for transnational education across cultural boundaries? I would argue: All of them. What do I mean by "All"? Technology is ever-changing. You have to continuously learn and read and participate and connect, just to keep up. The answer is that every single technological innovation has it's place in education. Schools are the feeding ground for the next generation, the generation that in turn creates, uses, enhances and integrates the next technological innovation into their own lives.
So, the next question is one of HOW. How do we help propogate this circle of innovation? Through communities of inquiry. This class was an example of such a community. Each of us maintained our own blog with our own perspectives, while simulataneously discussing pertinent topics on the class main blog. We asked questions of the technologies and their usefulness in the classroom, and we shared our own reflections and feedback on practical (as well as visionary) implementation. Exactly what we have done here, is what educators should be doing with students. Get them to think critically and make use of all the tools and resources (digital and non-digital) at their disposal. Get them to think about school as a microcosm of the real world, not an imaginary world where nothing real is accomplished.
This clip ties together my learning from this Digital Media class with the intent of the blog.
You can also listen to this in my first podcast:
There are several sites that I want to leave you with because they provide avenues for further research.
- The History of Social Networking Sites - An interesting account of SNS's from the early days of sixdegrees and friendster (both of which I had joined) through MySpace and Facebook.
- The Tags Within (aka The Semantic Web) - Some call this Web 3.0, but it will only be made possible through the use of Tags. This blog entry describes the history of Tagging.
- A review of the book Born Digital - which claims that a digital native is one born after 1980. I return to one of my earlier postings on this topic and maintain that I still consider myself a Digital Nagrant, although I might even take one step further towards Digital Native after this class. Oh, I was born in 1970. So, you can see that I wholehardly disagree with the hard line distinction here.
- Everything you ever wanted to know about Participatory Media Literacy but were afraid to ask.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I begin today with "The Chatty Classes" in the New York Time Magazine section. The article suggests that politics and Twitter should be kept separate and that Twittering, like the days of private diary writing, should be something kept to yourself. It's the same old story of "why do I care what you ate this morning?" People still aren't getting it. It's not about diary writing. It's about networking. It's about following people who share your interests in order to increase your own expertise or simply for enjoying discussion on shared topics. For education, this means that students have yet another outlet for learning. They can reach out to experts on Twitter to gain new perspectives on a topic not found anywhere else. And, by the way, these same students will be the experts in tomorrow's Twitterverse.
"With Kindle, Can You Tell It's Proust?" suggests that Kindles and similar devices negate the benefits of reading actual books - for publishers, that is readers who buy a book after seeing someone else reading it, and for readers, the snobbery or fantasy of trying to determine what type of person reading a book is. I introduce the topic of Kindle here because, besides books, many are also "cramming the day's newspapers" on to it. So, it's a device for social media. My perspective is somewhat different. I'm not too concerned with trying to figure out why someone is reading a certain book, and while I do sometimes get an idea to read a book based on someone I see reading it, I wouldn't oppose Kindle for that reason alone. For me, I do enjoy the feel of flipping through the pages of a book and spend enough time "on screen" that a book feels like down time to me. However, remember that I'm a "Digital Nagrant". Wearing my Native hat, I see lots of educational and environmental benefits to a Kindle. 1) All textbooks can be delivered through a Kindle (assuming the price drops dramatically) and students will only have to carry one little device back and forth to school. No more, "I forgot my book at home". 2) Notes and highlights are all stored and shared electronically. 3) Think about how much paper will be saved! And, these are just to name a few...
A Singer-Songwriter Ignores Musical Boundaries profiles Gabriel Kahane, a young classical/pop musician most well known for his song "Craigslistlieder" about online dating and personal ads found on Craigslist. I mention this article, not because Craigslist is so social-mediaesque but more because it highlights the new forms of inspiration that are driving artists to create music, art, theatre and more. Educationally speaking, social media and the Internet itself, is a prominent source of inspiration in the lives of students today and this should be leveraged in the classroom.
Web 2.0 is even making it's way into film in the upcoming (Dec 2009) picture "Avatar". The article, "Fan Fever is Rising for Debut of 'Avatar'", describes what limited information is available about the much anticipated specially designed 3-D technological film to rival any picture of the past. The idea is that the 3-D virtual world will feel so real that it's like "dreaming with your eyes open". So, it begs the question, how different is a 3D film from an immersive education platform? Could we someday transform our classrooms into movie theatres and learn in this transcendent otherly world where lessons are hidden among the actual experience of doing?
Lastly, we speak often of the democracy of the Internet, the fact that everyone has an equal voice and participation and sharing of ideas is what drives this new era we live in. But, what happens to Internet democracy in non-democratic countries? In "A Tibetan Blogger; Always Under Close Watch, Struggles for Visibility", we learn that Woeser, a Tibetan poet and blogger is blocked and under constant scrutiny because of her beliefs that she espouses on her blog - Invisible Tibet (not in English). Her first three blogs were blocked. It is scary to think that governments even today are not recognizing the individual's right to freedom of speech and expression, espcially in this new age of participation. I mention this here because it is a topic that we, as educators, should strive to impress upon our students. It is only through educational enlightenment that these ancient traditions have any chance of falling away and bringing forth global equality.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
As opposed to my experience at Drexel Avenue elementary, the technology teacher here, Mr. Lahana, taught the students the same lesson across all the grades. However, the implementation was slightly different. Mr. Lahana uses TechBrarian, his own website, to post lessons for the class. The students listen to a 5 minute overview and then proceed to work on their own as the teacher goes around the room helping them. "Room" is somewhat of a loose definition since it's really an extension to the building that used to be outside and has been converted to the Internet Cafe.
Today's lesson was part 4 in a unit about how sneakers are made. Each student is supposed to listen to a video, fill in their concept map with their notes using either Bubbl.us or Inspiration and then proceed to the next step. In this case, the next step was to watch two videos (Beginner, Advanced) that Mr. Lahana created to show them how to design their own sneaker, download a sneaker template from Pig Magazine and then color the sneaker to their own preferences using layers in Photoshop. The last step is for the students to upload their creation to their blog.
Mr. Lahana chooses to use Blogger for each student and manages the blogs from the master class blog with each students' blog listed in the blogroll. I thought this was interesting because the blogs are out in the open with no security or privacy settings, however the master class blog is secure. Also, the students love blogging and it encourages them to write carefully and thoughtfully. Mr. Lahana shared with me one of the students blogs which contained a sensitive and honest portrayal of his relationship with his step-father and lack thereof with his "ancestor" - his birth father. I choose not to share the link to this young man's blog for privacy reasons.
I observed that the students behaviors during class varied by both class and grade level. Most did not watch the videos before attempting to design their own sneaker and then needed assistance along the way. Some, especially the 8th graders, followed the directions more closely. Some chose to work on their blog instead of the lesson of the day and some requested permission to use GarageBand as an alternative to the lesson. The environment was fairly freeform although I could see that some students were given more freedom than others, presumably the better behaved students.
Other tools that Mr. Lahana encourages students to use include ToonDoo which lets you create comic strips and embed them in blogs, XtraNormal which lets you turn text into animated movies, and Shelfari which students use to review books they have read and share reviews on their blog. I would say that Mr. Lahana knows his audience based on the tools he lets them use and the examples he gives them to make his point. He also uses Renzuli Learning for differentiated instruction and Keynote to create presentations that highlight student work.
My assessment was that the technology classes are focused primarily around teaching technology as opposed to integrating technology into other subjects. I asked Mr. Lahana about this and he explained that the Island School is focused on creativity and innovative outputs from the students. His lessons are all about creating and a school video that he showed me described the student population as the "future innovators of tomorrow". So, the presentations of student work that Mr. Lahana creates is a measurement of how well the students are doing. He also creates individual "profiles of talent" videos for each student, and the school also has 2 talent periods per week. It's for this reason that using GarageBand instead of doing a lesson is permitted. It's also the reason behind the schools policy "No dissing around here" which was seen in the school video and heard through the day. Students need to know that they are free from ridicule in order to create personal and creative work.
To conclude, the students seem to enjoy their time on the computers although many of them do not have computers at home. They do want to listen to music while working but it is only allowed sometimes. They also like to be free from "infractions" (points they get for improper behavior) because infraction-free students can enter the Internet Cafe at lunchtime and get free time on the laptops. It is interesting to note that Mr. Lahana uses a Google spreadsheet to manage infractions so everyone can see it during class. The last period of the day, normally reserved for test prep, is also open to students to work on their blogs when it is not test season.
While, I am not sure how much technology is being used in other classes, it is obvious that the use of Web 2.0 tools and the very concept of Social Media is very much at play at the Island School. Students relish the opportunity to use technology as creative outlets.
This video contains my reflections on what I learned in my "Digital Media in the Classroom" seminar. It is also my first video blog so I apologize in advance for the poor quality. Hopefully this will get better over time!
In addition to the comments and reflections I've made on all the readings, I was particularly pleased to hear the way that some of my classmates have started using digital media and social tools in their classrooms. These include blogging about different pieces of music, using Ning to discuss and provide feedback on planning for an upcoming show, and using Twitter to as a pre-discussion tool reflecting upon readings before students get to class and continue the discussion.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the direction that seems to be occuring and the role that digital media can play in the classroom.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
"We are building Facebook to make the world more open and transparent, which we believe will create greater understanding and connection. Facebook promotes openness and transparency by giving individuals greater power to share and connect, and certain principles guide Facebook in pursuing these goals. Achieving these principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms."
In case you don't have a Facebook account and can't read the principles, here is a sampling of a few: "Freedom to Share and Connect; Fundamental Equality; Social Value; Common Welfare; One World". I believe that the principles which they identify apply to more than just Facebook. As you just read in Social Media Part 1: In the News, digital media is being created by everyone all around us. Individuals have an outlet for their voice as much as any media giant does. This creates transparency and our students are growing up expecting this transparency. They expect to be able to participate, vote, get involved, comment, give feedback, earn their online reputation through ratings, and communicate across borders anytime from anywhere.
So, how does this effect learning in the classroom? What is the effect of Social Media on Education?
First, we have to realize that not all students are digital natives. They come to school with different levels of technology literacy and like all subjects, we as educators, need to be able to differentiate instruction accordingly. As an example, my husband asked his 4th graders to do a biography in the form of a "Time for Kids Person of the Year" publication. The results reflected a wide variety of technology literacy ranging from a handwritten report on one sheet of lined paper to a very realistic Time "cover" adapted with student's name and date, typed with multi-columns and inline images. Quite a difference!
Second, we have to realize that while technology literacy will develop at different rates, all of our students are going to be immersed in a world where they can not escape social media and social networks. We must look at technology as though it is another language, rather than another subject to be taught. Technology must used as a tool to enhance learning in every subject just as every subject needs to rely on reading, writing and speaking.
Finally, we have to embrace constructivist learning. We can't be afraid of change. We must recognize the fundamental changes that 21st century skills will require of education. What does this mean? It means that we need to design more real-world like tasks. We need to encourage learning across boundaries: classrooms, schools, geographies. We need to ask more open-ended questions without right or wrong answers. We need to use team-based approaches to learning. We need to stop "drill-and-kill" methods of instructing. And we need to enable students to not only enter the workplace ready to participate in a social world, but encourage them to start participating now.
This is my take on how the unprecedented evolution of media from traditional sources to social, digital platforms will impact the education of our students. I used to hate watching the news when I was younger. Too much "bad stuff", but today you can choose the news you want to hear about, you can seek news of interest, you can easily find multiple perspectives on a story. Social media provides a wealth of information and the opportunity to transform yourself into the "expert" you want to become. Students are no exception.
Please share your own thoughts on how social media will impact education today and tomorrow.
Listen to this clip from Larry King Live after CNN loses a contest to Ashton Kutcher about who will get to 1 million twitter followers first.
The most telling point for me was when Ashton commented that he thought how significant it is that "we now live in an age, for media, that a single voice can have as much power and relevance, on the Web that is, as an entire media network." This is exactly what we've been talking about in my digital media class. The world is changing and everyone can have an equal voice.
Here are 5 articles within the last two weeks worth noting.
- Florida Blogger Wages War on Street Giant - Riding the train home the other day, someone had left a Post (the paper kind, not the blog kind) on the seat next to me. This article caught my eye. I include it here as a response to the article Feeling To Down to Rise Up that I wrote about in Thoughts on Readings - Week 4. It's a David vs. Goliath story of one man who took on questionable practices at Goldman Sachs through his blog postings. Again, it's just a new and different way of rising up.
- The YouTube Presidency - Transparency has never been so transparent. Remember in "Back to the Future" Doc Brown, shocked at finding out that Ronald Reagan, the actor, was President in 1985 commented that it was no wonder - "in the 'future', you had to look good on television". Well, in 2009, you have to look good on YouTube! And Obama's widespread understanding and attachment to technology was just the person to do it.
- Let Them Eat Tweets - The author contends that our prescious connections - Twitter followers and Facebook friends - are really "liabilities that we pretend are assets" and that social networking has become overcrowded. I'm not sure I agree with her assessment but it's just another in the long line of Twitter articles popping up all the time.
- To Get to Carnegie Hall? Try Out on YouTube - Another glimpse into the possiblities that social networking offers. Maybe next time Carnegie Hall will host a virtual orchestra with each musician playing his/her part from the comfort of their own home. A very green idea, don't you think? My little nod to yesterday's Earth Day!
- J-Schools Play Catchup - While this article is not speaking about any specific social media outlet, it addresses a more widespread problem. "How do you position students for an uncertain future in the media?" Journalism schools all over the country are having to redesign their entire curriculum because of the new "digital, on-demand world" that is creating a whole new vocabulary for media. Like the video above says, everyone has an equally powerful voice; media is no longer one-directional.
Wondering how this is going to effect learning and education? Read the next installment: Social Media Part 2: The Effect on Education.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
But, let me take a step back. If you are at all interested in using technology in the classroom, I suspect you have heard of WebQuests, but I believe there may be some misconceptions about what they really are. Some people think they are just eFieldTrips. Some people think they are just a way to collect Web resources for a project. But, strictly speaking, a WebQuest is more than that.
A WebQuest is a learning platform designed specifically to take advantage of Web resources in a more focused way for students. All WebQuests ideally follow the same format. They identify a realistic task that will help students achieve the learning goals desired. The process section is where the majority of the work is done and it has 3 main steps.
- Set the background knowledge needed to accomplish the task.
- Break up into groups which will be assigned different roles. It's beneficial if some of the roles conflict with each other. Each group will research the roles using the identified web resources and do an activity to check for understanding.
- Come back together as a class to complete the task. The WebQuest should end with a call to action.
Are you ready to see mine now? You might have gotten an idea what it's about from the picture above.
Colonial Values and America Today
My goal was to make history relevant for students today through a culminating unit on American history and how colonial values have shaped America. So, feel free to peruse around this WebQuest, ask me questions, and try it out for yourself!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Why is this relevant to ed tech? Because with online courseware popping everywhere from places like Kaplan University and MIT's Open Courseware to iTunes U and YouTube EDU, online supplemental learning will become part of an ed tech educator's bag of tricks. You just have to know when to pull out the right tool.
Here is my assessment of the article:
I hadn’t given a lot of thought to all the aspects of online learning before reading this article. I also hadn’t considered that many home schooling families might transition to cyberschools or integrate virtual school courses as a supplement, but I think that it makes a lot of sense. A few of the points mentioned in the article are worth noting and expanding upon.
1) On page 1, the authors speak about the impact that iTunes had on the way people collect, listen to and share music and more recently videos but they fall short of mentioning iTunes as a management system for many online courses delivered in podcast or videocast formats. iTunes U offers a whole new dimension to online learning that many K-12 schools and higher education universities are already tapping into.
2) The advantages of the personalized learning highlighted by FLVS on page 2 as “any time, any place, any path, any pace” is an interesting perspective. I think we can all agree on the first three items – this class is an example of any time, any place, as I have logged in at times convenient for me throughout the week and from any location including my home office, laptop anywhere, and work office. Even any path is clear as we select the courses that we want to take to design the curriculum required by our chosen Master’s. However, any pace is not something that I have experienced in any of my TC online courses. At least not the way they explain it in the article. Any pace in a TC course is work as slow or as fast as you want within the week on a given unit, but there are also units in the syallbus and assignment deadlines associated with each one. I don’t believe that any TC online courses are organized in such a way that you can complete the course in less than a semester or take longer than a semester to complete it. Has anyone had experiences with courses like this? Do you think it would be beneficial if there were courses like this at TC?
3) I think the article does a good job of identifying challenges such as costs (and how they differ from traditional classrooms), online teachers and the differing methods by which they must teach, funding considerations and growth aspects.
4) The fourth and final point I would like to make is that emphasis for virtual schooling seems to revolve around the high school level and yet the article refers often to “K-12” experiences. Do you think that virtual schooling could be effective for younger grades? In what way? What would be the different design configurations that would need to be considered?
Regarding the Box on Pages 9-13:
In the box on page 9, there is a discussion about the fear that cyberschool students would not develop “social skills and real world survival abilities” but I think this is an irrational fear, dependent upon how the online school is implemented. While students would not have the same in-person socialization - parents and others would need to ensure they get this from outside school experiences, and many would already be getting through in person classes they are taking or through their athletic and artistic pursuits – they will also be getting a digital socialization that many in solely traditional classrooms would not experience. This digital socialization will be key for any future 21st century career. Likewise, online schools have a unique ability to offer constructivist, and hence, more real-world like opportunities for learning.
I liked that the policy recommendation on page 10 discusses the future innovations that will only serve to enhance the types of online learning that could be made available in the future and that they specifically mention things like immersive simulations and cognitive tutors that we have discussed in this class. It’s good to know that policy makers are considering these tools.
I also liked that policy makers are considering ways to take advantage of economies of scale thorough things like collaborative curriculum design and sharing of lessons and methods. For example, the non-profit Curriki is trying to encourage this very behavior among teachers everywhere.
Lastly, I have experienced, in several TC courses, the trend towards blended learning and I believe that this practice will continue and grow in the future.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
But, this is not the only part of the article that drew me to it. It brings into question the whole idea of social networking and sharing - the participation age, I like to call it - and ponders the effect that Facebook has on our own lives. Beyond that, it clearly explains some very real new terms in this era of social networking.
- Folksonomies - Like the old library filing system uses a taxonomy to categorize information, so Web 2.0 is organized by tagging and other social categorization conventions.
- Social Graph - The network representation of your online social life.
- Digital Self - Your whole online persona
- The Cloud - A networked hard drive; the future storage of your information
- "Your digital self could be even more sensitive, and powerful, than your real self". There is lots of talk about people being bolder and less inhibited online, but this seems to indicate the opposite: A more self-aware and sensitive online self. What do you think?
- Facebook and other social networks are continuously trying to balance functionality and privacy issues. Users are on a "perpetual search for the perfect balance of unity and autonomy on the Web"? Where do you fall on this issue? What is most important to you? And how do you think this will differ among different generations of users?
- No one asks for a phone number or email anymore. It's just "I'll find you on Facebook". Facebook, the utopian promise of a place where everyone is equal, where reflection is abundant and where, through social cohesion, there is a "chance to save the day". If this is true, if Facebook presence becomes ubiquitous and real social change can result, how does this impact how educators should think about technologies like social networks and their use in the classroom? How should educators change their teaching methods as a response to understanding students online persona and the world in which they live?
Friday, April 3, 2009
This article compares Wikipedia to a city, a metropolis online. I'm not sure I would go that far but it does represent what we mean by digital citizenship. It's a democracy for all that choose to participate. And that's where the concern also lies. Is Wikipedia credible? Is it a crutch? Last year, one of my husband's 4th grade students chose a famous person to do a biography about. His entire report was a word for word paragraph from Wikipedia. Now, plagiarism issues aside, was this even representative of the person? How accurate was it? Was it simply laziness that caused this student to rely solely on Wikipedia or did he think it was a complete picture of this person? The article identifies that one of Wikipedia's founding principles is "Assume good faith". That's great but as adults we may be able to discern when something is inconsistent with "good faith", but can a 9-year old? The article muses that it's the "sidewalk-like transparency and collective responsibility that makes Wikipedia as accurate as it is" but the question is, how accurate is it? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Wikipedia and use it often. I just don't rely on it to be the sole provider of answers. As educators, we need to encourage the use of multiple resources to cross-reference data and ensure accuracy. The non-linearity feature of Wikipedia - the ability to get lost and follow multiple paths finding ever more interesting information - is great but only if the information is reliable. In some ways, I love the fact that Wikipedia is open to all. It's a true democracy of information. And, Wikipedia, themselves have chosen not to require expertise which, in the opinion of the author, "has made all the difference". Absolutely, this is true in terms of growth and popularity. But, maybe there ought to be some way to discern content that is shared by experts from those that aren't - this mostly in an effort to help younger audiences analyze the accuracy of the data.
Feeling Too Down to Rise Up
This article proposes that the digital generation, while still invested in widespread anger over such topics as AIG and the economy, are less likely to demonstrate in front of buildings and explode into riots; that they are passive because "anger remains corralled on the Internet" and it is unlikely that the "Obama administration [or anyone] will do much to assuage the anger [that way]." I have to disagree here. The author claims that technology separates us but I believe it actually brings us together. The very idea of LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter and more is that these technologies bring us together with people who share common interests or who want to remain connected in one way or another. Additionally, the author notes that we are too self-involved, reading our own niche news and listening to our own personal playlists, and that this means we can't have effective rebellions, again, because we are in our own little worlds. On the other hand, wouldn't you think that these niche preferences would eventually make us experts? Experts who then provide valuable insight to the group, rebellious or otherwise. The author feels that rebelling publicly or even political engagement is to expose your own inadequacies, but I don't see that at all. In fact, the Internet gives us a whole new forum to express discontent and likely hides inadequacies when so many others agree with the sentiment. The author alludes to the necessity to bring back "real protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, even good old-fashioned town-hall meetings". Excuse me, he must have missed the Barack Obama Open for Questions virtual town hall just last week. I believe that social tools like Twitter are even more empowering (not to mention safer) than riots in the street and the impact these technologies have will cause more action to take place by the recipients of the dispute than ever before.
Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast?
Facebook is growing astronomically and it suggests tht Facebook is becoming an "essental personal and business networking tool". I would not have argued this point last week, but it's even more clear to me now. On Monday, I found out that my job was being eliminated and almost immediately I realized the impact that Facebook would have on me and my network. My peers, my partners, my customers - they all wanted to be my friend, to help me find a job, to introduce me to others. Of course, there is the expected use of Facebook - students chatting with each other, sharing pictures, posting their favorite American Idol etc... and there is also the less common but apparently growing in popularity application of using Facebook as a genealogical search tool (Cool!), but another use is worth mentioning to counter the article above. "Facebook has also become a vehicle for broad-based activism". Hmmm, and some people think the digital generation doesn't rise up!
The other aspect of the article that is worth discussing is Facebook's own perception of itself. They view the most important metric as the amount of information "zipping across its servers" not the number of members. They believe all the recent changes they are making to the interface are to make "the act of sharing" easier and faster and will soon introduce dynamic page updates instead of forcing a refresh. However, what I found most interesting is that they believe Facebook is NOT a democracy. What? We keep talking about how Web 2.0 and Facebook in particular are all about participatory democratization of information. So, how could Facebook not be a democracy? Well, they believe that Facebook is more a medium of communication and that they have "enough perspective to ... be caretakers of that vision". The problem is that the members of the Facebook community "feel not only vested but empowered to challenge the company." So, what does the future of Facebook look like? Well, two views might give us a clue.
1. Facebook is not a "homophily" - Facebook users associate with people of all different mindsets, ages, ethnicities and relationships. This is how you build a network of value and I suspect this will continue to grow although some privacy challenges will need to be overcome.
2. Facebook is the new DoubleClick - Interactive advertising by engagement is the wave of the future. Get users to become fans of your brand and tell their friends and so on and so on (like the old Shampoo commercial). Get users to vote for their favorite products and you build brand loyalty without even realizing it. When users participate, it is way more effective than a pop-up annoying ad or click-through that must be followed.
The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem
This is a brief article about how Twitter has emerged as a sort of anti-tabloid for celebrities and highlights the interrelationships (the social graph) among famous people. I refer to it as an anti-tabloid because in most cases it's the celebrities themselves who are posting updates and not their publicists, so it's very real. It's not gossip, it's their real lives. And, I think that is the point of Twitter in the first place: for all us, it's a place to comment on your own lives and let people with similar interests converse with you. Let's not forget that celebrities are real people too, with real interests, and there is no reason you can't share an interest with them. I think this would also be a very interesting way for students to present a biography of a famous person they respect - follow them on Twitter and add that to any other research about the person.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This report on Twitter usage and how usage relates to other online activities made perfect sense to me although I was surprised that it suggested that the majority of users were between 18 and 34. I'd recently heard that Twitter use was most popular among thirtysomethings. The article did note that 31 was the median age. One point that the article mentions which I believe needs further illumination is this: "Twitter's open development platform allows outside developers to build add-on applications to expand the service's functionality". The article falls short of saying, but I will say it here, that this is why Twitter has seen such accelerated growth. I do not think it would be so popular without all of the Twitter tools that have popped up. The other salient point mentioned is the Twitter is more than just answering the question "What are you doing?". One noted use - "the airing of complaints against companies" - is and will continue to have serious implications for companies. This is the Web 2.0 version of the Better Business Bureau and you can bet that peer credibility for poor service, products, etc.. will be valued on Twitter maybe even more than the BBB, especially among younger generations. While you can argue that some of the demographics in the study might not be wholly representative of the greater population of Twitter users, I think some of the conclusions made are worth mentioning:
- Wireless internet users are more likely to be users of Twitter than connected internet users.
- Social network users are more likely to be users of Twitter than those who don't.
- Bloggers are more likely to be Twitter users than non-Bloggers. Twitter users also consume more blog content and maintain their own blogs more frequently than non-Twitter users.
- Twitter users are more likely to use cell phones to connect to the Internet than non-Twitter users.
- Twitter users are more likely to consume print & video news stories on cell phones and smart phones than non-Twitter users (probably because Tweets are pointing them to these news links).
This article talks about the whole concept of "unfriending" someone. They mention the "Whopper Sacrifice" (for those of you who have not heard about this, Burger King was offering a free Whopper to anyone who dropped 10 friends). This seems pretty anti-social to me! Apparently, Burger King thinks too many people have superficial digital friends and they wanted to discourage this practice. Hmmm - I might have to eat at Wendy's from now on! The article goes on to say that not all unfriendings are equal and that many people are simply trying to create a more manageable list removing "that grad student you met a party two years ago ... or that kid from middle school you barely remember." Really? Maybe because I'm still in a "gathering mode" but I thought that was part of the fun of Facebook; reconnecting with old friends even if you don't still see or talk to them. Let's not forget the networking component also - I read recently that generation Yers will have an instant network of anyone they ever met by the time they graduate from college. Wow! Why would you want to delete people from that network? Ok, maybe, every so often, there might be someone you delete for one reason or another, but shouldn't that be very infrequently? Which brings me to the best part of the article, a suggestion by Henry Blodget, a now career blogger. Facebook should have friendship levels! Yes, great idea! Then maybe I wouldn't need a separate Facebook account for work - I'd just label them "work friends". Of course it would only work if you could set privacy levels for each friendship level, post separate status updates, etc... I know Facebook has friend lists but that's not the same as friendship levels.
This article speaks about what makes a great Facebook update. Is it an update that's a request? Is it something that's not both enigmatic and boring? Is it how many replies it gets? Is it humor? What is it? I suspect the answer is: it's different for everyone. But, I do like this description: It's the only place in your life that you can say whatever comes to mind at any point in time. Updates are "spontaneous bursts of being!"
25 Random Tips for the Busy Facebook User
This is a spoof on "25 Random Things About Me". As a joke, it's actually pretty funny. If it wasn't so true.
I really liked the way this video captured the essence of Web 2.0.
Two sites mentioned really stood out for me and I was wondering if any of you have experiencing using these and would please comment on your thoughts. They are Zoho - sounds sort of like a competitor to Google Docs with more features, and Jooce - described as taking your desktop with you but doesn't really take all your files with you - only those that you choose to make mobile.
A graphic representation of Web 2.0 - Does a good job of representing what the video explains but in a neat little picture.
Differences between Web 1.0 and 2.0 - Blog by Advergirl.
I liked the concept of the examples from Advergirl but I have to say that I think some explanations would have helped her case. I did quite see how some of her examples demonstrated the difference in Web 2.0 vs. Web 1.0. For example:
- Finding information to making connections. In this one, it's very clear. Switchboard is a lookup service, Linkedin/Facebook connects friends or other contacts and Prosper (pretty cool,BTW) connects unknown people together for mutual benefit.
- Directed behavior to finding by browsing. Not sure I get this one. How does the Barnes and Noble or HomeDepot site differ from Crate and Barrel?
- Answers to Connecting to Support. Again, how does RevolutionHealth differ from WebMD? I get that SisterWoman is supposed to be like getting advice from friends with specialities. Think Lifeline.
- Value Propositions to Simple Value. I would have liked to see some explanation for the examples chosen in this category.
- Reading to Writing. Wasn't sure I get this one at all. Hill and Knowlton seem like a consolidation site of different articles, but I'm still confused about what Squidoo is all about (even though I have a Lens) and how does FoodTV have anything to do with reading?
- Accessible to Personal. Again, not sure I see the connections between this category and the examples. Also, NewsGator seems like a brand, not raw and how is Firefox or Target personal?
- Expert voice to peer credibility. How is NY Times "peer credible"? It's certainly not in the same way that Yelp or Digg are.
- You to Me. I get that Kashi is trying to get user participation though I'm not sure MySpace fits as a good example for raw.
- Content to Multimedia. Like she starts, she ends with a good example. About is static content, YouTube is peer videos and Chow is the brand including videos on how to cook, etc...
Barring my critique of Advergirl, I do believe concepts such as "personal" and "peer credible" are representative of what we mean by Web 2.0. However, I think there may be better examples that the ones provided. I also think we have to include concepts such as "collaboration", "participation" and "sharing".
From the perspective of educators, Web 2.0 does expose completely new challenges for teaching and yet, I would argue, also opens up entirely new and exciting opportunities for teaching.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Shutterfly - I've been sharing photos for a while and I started with Shutterfly because it didn't require viewers to login to access my albums (like some others out there!) but it's also very different from today's photo sharing sites.
Picasa - I've switched over to Picasa beacuse it's so easy to upload files, create public albums, and uses your Google email address as the login.
On Photo Sharing - You may have noticed that you can't find my albums on Shutterfly. That's because they are not public. You have to be sent a link to view them. It's kind of like the "unlisted" feature on Picasa. That's another thing I love about Picasa - you can choose to make albums public, unlisted or login required. Now, Flickr and Fotolog may be great, but just how many photo sites do I need? If someone wants to convince me why these are better, I'm all ears.
YouTube - My main location for video uploads, although I sometimes just use Picasa for "home movies".
TeacherTube - I just signed up for this so no videos yet. I also couldn't figure out how to link to my space, so add me as a friend: robinmichele.
On Video Sharing - At first, I really wasn't sure why anyone would want to view my videos unless they were at the same event (a wedding clip, for example) but then I discovered many other uses: posting videos for classes, promoting my company, getting followers who are interested in the same topics as I am, etc... I look forward to seeing how TeacherTube can help expand my edtech network, especially using the TeacherTube toolbar. A tool that I like to use to help make some fancier videos or video segments is Animoto. I thought Odeo was another video sharing site but it seems like you can't upload, only browse & subscribe.
Text and Video Streaming
Qik - I created an account but you won't see anything there because my phone is not supported.
FlixWagon - I created an account but you won't see anything there because my phone is not supported.
CoverItLive - I found this on a blog I'm following and thought it looked cool, so I created an account although nothing is streaming live on it at the moment.
On Video Streaming - The first two are for video streaming via cell phone and while I think the concept is great for streaming live events, I can't see that I would ever just stream my life or whatever random thing I happened to be doing at any given point in the day. Again, for event, happenings, etc... it could make sense. I really wanted to use this at CommunityOne last week. Unfortunately, my phone was not supported by either of these two sites and I couldn't find one that does support PalmOS. I'm not holding my breathe either since PalmOS is being discontinued. :-( The last one is for text streaming of live events and while I can't think of an application for its use right now, I think it will come in handy in the future.
Video and Voice Blogging
Seesmic - I just created an account on Seesmic, so you won't find any posts yet.
Snapvine - I just created this voice blog widget but haven't posted anything yet.
VoiceThread - I've had an account for some months but really haven't done anything with it.
Utterli - Just created this account. I'm putting it here because it seems to be like a voice mini-blog. It probably could go under the mini-blog section in Part I also.
On Video & Voice Blogging - I have to admit, that I'm not sure what to do this. I guess I'll learn more about video blogging at the workshop I'm attending but for now I don't see the value. Why not just use YouTube or embed a video in your regular blog? It also sort of reminded me of other tools like VoiceThread and SnapVine, hence my links to them included in this category.
Feedburner - I have an account and use feedburner to provide an RSS feed for this blog but really don't take advantage (or know the advantage) of many of its features.
Google Reader - My main reader for RSS feeds. For now.
On RSS Tools - To be honest, I haven't found one that I love. I use Google Reader primarily to capture all the feeds I want to follow but it requires too much effort to check often. I also use the Windows Vista gadget which is at least "in my face" when I log in. I also downloaded SplashNews for my Centro but haven't successfully imported custom feeds. I tried the evaluation version of QuickNews which was ok - I might have to buy it. Definitely open to suggestions on good feed readers! For some useful feeds on educational technology, check my blog roll and also go to EdTechTalk and subscribe to the shows that interest you.
Wiki's & Online Collaboration
Wikispaces - I'm a member of several wikispaces (collectiveintelligence, educon20, eduplan, and globalschool) and a creator of another (bogs4c). You can also see the working details of bogs4c.
Wikibooks - I contributed a chapter to a book on Wikibooks for a class on managing educational technology resources.
Google Docs - I've included this here because I've used Google docs to host group collaboration on a number of projects.
On Wiki's & Collaboration - I'm a big fan of these sites. We use Wiki's all over the place at work and it's an easy way to work together on projects. I enjoy collaborating with others to work towards common goals.
Del.icio.us - A list of my favorite bookmarks. Very easy to search and browse.
Diigo - Similar to Del.icio.us. Same bookmark list, but I have found that posted bookmarks are easier with Diigo and it will copy them automatically to del.icio.us.
Digg - Bookmarking of articles, videos, pics. I have an account but don't really use it.
Bibme - I listed this here because I use it as a personal bookmarking site for all my research.
Pocket Knowledge - My e-Portfolio for school.
On Bookmarking - When I first started using these, I'd think I'd like them too much being quite comfortable with my Firefox bookmarks, thank you very much. But, the biggest advantage for me is being able to bookmark and view regardless of where I am. I don't really use the friend features of these sites too much.
Second Life - For fun, I'm Risa Wade. For work, I'm RobinGoldfarb SunMicrosystems. Yes, we use Second Life at work for meetings, training, press conferences, etc... It's kind of fun but I think the potential for uses in education are even more interesting. Check out the open source equivalent of Second Life: Wonderland. Stay tuned for more on this at Pocket Knowledge.
Ping.fm - I signed up for this because it sounded interesting. Send multiple updates at one time. Makes sense. However, I have 2 problems with it. 1) From what you know of me by now, I like to keep work, school and personal stuff separate. So, what I'd like to see from ping.fm is a way to group accounts and send an update to that particular group. Of course that will only work if they fix this second one. 2) I want to be able to send an update to multiple accounts of the same type (all my Twitter accounts, all my Facebook accounts, etc...) but ping.fm only lets you enter one of each type. If anyone knows of an update consolidator that lets you do these things, please let me know!
Lenovo Social - A good overview to Social Networking but doesn't let you join the community or anything. In fact, for a site about social networking, it's pretty anti-social.
Squidoo - So, I created a Lens called AllEdTech but I'm not sure what to do with it. I wasn't even sure what category this should fall under. It's sort of like a blog site, or maybe a bookmarking site, but focused on one particular topic. I'm going to have to play with this a bit more to figure it out.
On All The Rest - I'm sure there are a ton more things out there that I've missed but we'll just have to discover them together.