My New York State School Boards Presentation

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

I presented this weekend at the annual New York State School Boards conference, held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Manhattan. It was a great, receptive group, although (and this happens often) a few faces were quizzical and downright skeptical. Nevertheless, there were many questions from the standing-room-only audience and I truly appreciate the interested many people have in Web 2.0 and social media.
School leaders are always a tough sell, but I’ve noticed a dramatic difference in the way everyone has become a bit more willing to suspend their disbelief about PR tools like Facebook and Twitter.
If you’d like to take a look, my presentation, Communicating in a Web 2.0 World, is available on my Slideshare page.

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Teaching Around the Firewall

Edutopia recently explored how teachers have gradually found ways to teach around the firewall in “Stumbling Blocks: Playing It Too Safe Online Will Make You Sorry.” How do teachers teach in school districts that block Facebook, Twitter, and many Web 2.0 applications that can enrich learning and encourage lively, hands-on learning?

When I present to school districts about Web 2.0 tools and technology, I often run afoul of the firewall in a given school district and can’t use the system to display these tools.

So how are teachers working around overprotective content filters to use Web 2.0 tools in the classroom?

Edutopia’s piece, written by Suzie Boss, advocates four steps teachers can take to teach in spite of the system:

1. Befriend the keymaster

2. Innovate in Safe Places

3. Teach Good Digital Citizenship

4. Advocate for Access

Here’s what Antero Garcia, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School System, says about putting up walls to keep Web 2.0 out of the classroom:

“Sooner or later someone is going to expect my students to be able to quickly and effortlessly post to a blog, add to a wiki, or collaborate via some sort of social-networking protocol. And once again, my school will have failed to prepare them for such a task.”

Word to the wise.

Nings for Educators

I have recently discovered Nings, social networking sites for people of similar interests. You can see a few of my Ning memberships in my sidebar — the Website Owner Zone, Twitter GoGetters, etc. Nings are great platforms for communicating with other people who share your passions, to share links to great sites, to announce events and conferences, and more. You can also start your own blog on these Nings, or cross-post from your blog to the Ning for others to read.

Each of these social networks was created by someone who signed up for an account on Ning, created a network, and then invited in friends, colleagues, and/or students to interact around specific educational topics.

There are dozens of Nings out there for educators, so I thought I’d share a few with you and encourage you to explore them and think about joining. You can get email updates once you become a member and it’s a useful way to share best practices in education.

1. The Global Education Collaborative

This is an online community for teachers and students who are interested in joining global education projects. With more than 800 members, the site encourages users to post media, blogs, and ideas for advancing collaborative education worldwide. Some of the groups-within-the-group include “Global Awareness Curriculum,” “Student-Driven Podcasts,” and “Primary Teachers Collaborating.”

2. Classroom 2.0

This is a social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education.
“Beginners” are encouraged to become “part of the digital dialog”. This is a very active Ning, with more than 13,000 members and lots of resources designed for digitally savvy teachers and administrators.

3. School 2.0

This Ning describes its purpose as “a larger discussion of how education, learning, and our physical school spaces can (or should) change because of the changing nature of our social and economic lives brought on by these technologies.” There is also a wiki associated with the site, which you can find at

4. Independent School Educators Network

This 1,200-member network shares tips and share best practices in classroom technology. It also has a list-serv you can subscribe to at ISED list-serv, the SchoolComputing Wiki, an ISE group on Flickr, and join in the conversation at

5. Ning in Education

A general education Ning with more than 2,000 members. If you’re looking for a place to share general information, tips and to seek out advice, this is the place to go.

6. Coming of Age

This site was established to enable people to meet and discuss “Coming of Age: An Introduction to the NEW Worldwide Web,” an ebook about blogging, podcasting, and other applications, and how they can be used in the classroom. You can also get your free copy of the eBook at this Ning site.

7. Smart Board Revolution

An example of how specific Ning groups can be. This 500-member community shares best practices, tips, ideas and lesson plans on using interactive whiteboards in the classroom. A great idea.

8. Teachers 2.0

This Ning of more than 200 members who help one another to learn and use technology tools ranging from PowerPoint to Web 2.0.

The good news is that if you haven’t found a Ning to your exact liking, you can start one of your own. And Ning has recently launched an ad-free platform specifically for educators.

Here’s a very tool video about setting up a Ning, geared specifically for educators, from falconphysics on YouTube:

Librarians are Cool

Libraries almost invariably contain long aisle...Image via Wikipedia

I know I’m dating myself here, but I don’t remember ever having a cool librarian as a kid. Instead, the librarians I knew had pursed lips, shushed people for a living, and slept with the Dewey Decimal System.

Not today. Librarians are Twittering, Facebooking, blogging, wiki-ing, and definitely not sleeping with the Dewey Decimal System.

If you want proof, take a look at the Library page of the Online Education Database, which currently contains reviews of 1,081 programs from 86 accredited online colleges. There, you’ll find tons of references written by and for librarians about using social media in libraries around the country.

Here’s what the Library page says about Twitter, for example:

Twitter is a free communication and social networking tool which allows you to convey short messages of up to 140 characters to your circle of friends via the Twitter website, SMS, email, IM, or other Twitter client. Messages appear not only within your profile on Twitter, but are sent to your community of followers who have signed up to receive your updates. Often referred to as microblogging, this new phenomenon has caught on with over 300,000 users on Twitter alone including Barack Obama and John Edwards. Twitter recently made the cut as one of Time’s Best 50 Websites of 2007. Librarians are using it to communicate at conferences and events and to keep up with developments in the field, and libraries have begun using it to promote their services.

Among their listings are librarian-only applications and networks like:

Shakespeare High Cafeteria: This online tribute to Shakespeare features active discussions about Shakespeare news, book clubs, a creative writing center, “staff lounge,” study help and teaching ideas.

Readers Read: Browse forum topics like publishing industry, general fiction, mystery/thriller, children’s books and nonfiction.

TeacherLibrarianNing: Educators and librarians get together on this network, where you can join groups, post photos, upload videos and more.

The Shifted Librarian: Librarians connect through this blog about library news, trends and of course, books.

Librarian Facebook Application: This Facebook app connects you to other librarians who can answer your search questions.

They also list a number of social media sites for librarians and book-lovers, including:

Shelfari: This blog about books and book collecting has a MySpace page and a Facebook application.

GoodReads: Keep track of what you and your friends are reading through this online networking site.

BookJetty: BookJetty lets users organize, rate and review books and even look up books in the site’s database of over 300 libraries around the world. Users also get a blog that lets them show off a “bookshelf” to friends.

MySpace Books: This ultimate social networking site has a page just for books, connecting readers, authors and those in the book industry.

Books iRead: Another Facebook app that lets you rate, review, and share books you’ve read.

You can also catch a number of 21st century posts on the site, including these:

50 Ways to Use the Wii In Your Library

100 Essential Firefox Add-Ons for Librarians

e-Learning Reloaded: Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools for Info Junkies, Researchers & Students

100 Ways to Use Your iPod to Learn and Study Better

Need any more proof that librarians are cool? I don’t think so.  Now shush!

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Lessons Learned: The Gustav Information Center

A lesson for your classes this week — the power of the Internet during a crisis or catastrophe.  The latest example of how the Web joins in to get vital information out is the Gustav Information Center, a wiki created on Ning by Andy Carvin. This wiki, which I joined (see my widget at the bottom of my sidebar), is providing news updates, weather maps, photos, forums and videos. Teams of people are working on getting the word out to families, pet owners and others on a minute-by-minute basis.

It would be a great class lesson to examine the online efforts of individuals and groups to get the message out instantaneously during events like hurricanes, tornados, natural disasters or large-scale violence.

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Textbooks and iPods and Facebook — Oh My!

This Special Report in Businessweek this week takes a fascinating look at how technology — from iPods to professors’ Facebook pages — is changing the face of your average campus.

I especially like this quote from a researcher in the story:

Cara Lane, a researcher who studies learning and scholarly technologies at the University of Washington in Seattle, says all that time spent searching for Hannah Montana videos on YouTube can help make teens better at searching the databases, including Lexis-Nexis and J-Stor, they’ll need for academic research—those IMs, texts, and status updates are a primer for participation in online forums related to classwork. “Students usually arrive not knowing how to use education-oriented technology tools,” Lane says. “But they quickly surpass their instructors in their ability to use them effectively.”

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Pbwiki Ready to Help Public Schools

Dave Nagel over at is reporting that collaborative technology developer PBwiki has announced $25 million in new grant programs for education, offering free upgrades to its hosted wiki service and other awards.

Back To School Challenge will allow up to 100,000 teachers and librarians to earn a free gold-level PBwiki account, which usually costs about $250. Other prizes include a $1,000 gift certificate for purchasing school supplies, Lego educational products, and games.

The Partner Program for Education allows districts and associations to offer free PBwiki gold accounts to members.

“With schools and libraries feeling the pinch of the slowing economy, PBwiki wants to make sure educators can still afford the tools they need to make 2008-2009 the year of collaborative learning,” said PBwiki CEO Jim Groff in a statement released this week. “Giving away 100,000 premium wikis lets us help out and spread wiki-based collaboration to an even wider audience.”

Both programs are open now through Oct. 31. Go for it!

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