Last Post – Blog Moving

Well, the title says it all!

This is the last post on Reflection 2.0 and I’m moving to my new home at Kate Says – my brand new site powered by self-hosted WordPress 2.5. I have loved being on edublogs, but as I’m getting more and more involved with WordPress in other professional projects I decided that it would be best to have my personal blog on the same platform so I can use it as my sandbox……….as Mike Bogle said perfectly this morning on twitter, “If we can’t get our heads around our own blogs, what hope do we have for other people’s?” I believe in learning by doing, and working on edublogs has been the best experience for helping other teachers get set up here. I still have my class blog on edublogs as well as some student blogs, so I’m not completely leaving this awesome service for educators – I just need a site to “play” in so I don’t break any of my paid projects 🙂 I still have a TON of design work to do at the new site, so bear with me while I move everything over and dig into the CSS – I’d love input as well, so head on over and let me know what you think!

If you currently subscribe to Reflection 2.0, I’d love if you could take a few seconds and update your feed information – I tried making it a little easier by including the link here in case you don’t have time to actually visit Kate Says right now 🙂

 Subscribe to Kate Says in a reader

I have an email subscription option set up in the sidebar at the new site, so if you’d like that option, head on over!


Results from Blocked Web Apps Survey Published

You can see the published google spreadsheet from this survey here – Education Blocked Web Applications. The response wasn’t as high as I expected it would be, but it did give a small-scale picture of the situation. Rather than immediately throw my beliefs and theories at you, I ask this:

What are the educational implications of a filtered internet?

I’m leaving this open-ended and broad purposely, interpret it as you’d like.

UPDATE: My blog has moved! I’m now over at Kate Says and you can comment on this post there!

Wiki Project – Fresh Start

As I wrote in my post a few days ago, I am starting over on my attempt to teach basic wiki (web editing/content creation) concepts (replacing Powerpoint – my choice) to my 6th graders. I rotate groups every 10 days (50 min. each day, 30 of which need to be spent typing), so I’ve been struggling to do this project in a way that fits in the time schedule and actually still achieves my objectives. As I created the lesson/project, I kept reviewing in my head the skills that I use on a daily basis when working on wikis and other web projects – blogs, websites, moodle, etc – to ensure that I cover the basics.

One of the things that has been both a blessing and a curse is the fact that I have no overall project that this is fitting into – it’s not part of a history project or a literature circle or anything of that sort. As this is a technology (ok fine, it’s a keyboarding class) class, the objectives are the actual skills involved in editing a wiki (which translate to other web applications) which will then be used in other (core) classes (in an ideal world). The fact that there’s no overall project is nice because the kids get to choose their topic, but they’re having a hard time understanding that they get to choose what their pages are about (wonder why?).
Here are the steps of the project:

  1. Learn basic Apple keyboard shortcuts (this makes copying and pasting much easier later on)
  2. Learn how to create hyperlinks in Microsoft Word (get to learn this skill before entering the wiki-world)
  3. Learn how to open a new tab and navigate between tabs in Safari
  4. Learn how to CTRL+click to open links in new tabs or windows
  5. Learn how to log in to our wiki on wikispaces
  6. Explore the editing features in wikispaces
  7. Learn how to create a hyperlink in the wiki
  8. Insert pictures on a wiki page
  9. Embed video on a wiki page

Again, all of these skills translate to other web content creation and are key digital skills for efficient work online.
We have only made it through step 5 and since we only have one day left, we won’t get to the videos this time around. I plan to start the project earlier with the next group so we can make it through the entire project.

Here are the steps I took to get everything set up:

  1. Created an ad-free education wiki on wikispaces
  2. Had wikispaces create 30 student accounts (they had it done in less than 24 hours)
  3. Created 30 student pages

*Note – the pages and accounts all have corresponding numbers from 1-30. Student 1 has a login that includes “student1” and will then work on Student Page 1. Much easier for being able to re-use the logins and pages.
Actually teaching the lesson was a lot of fun and although the usual craziness occurred (30 kids on a mishmosh of machines, some craziness guaranteed) the students did a great job and had fun (wait, does that mean they didn’t learn?)

The lessons I learned from this:

  1. Wikispaces looks and acts VERY different on a Mac running an ancient version of Safari compared to a PC running Firefox – my school has a Mac lab (only school that has Macs in whole district) and I work on a PC and teach on PCs in the rest of my schools. The main thing was that the color and other editing options didn’t work for the kids on their pages and when they were inserting links, they couldn’t see what it would look like until they saved and went back to the “pretty page”. Say what? Pretty page? Hate to admit it, but that’s what we call the wiki pages that everyone actually sees – it’s the pretty page and the behind-the-scenes page (in edit mode). It works for us!
  2. I desperately need a projector in my classroom. I’m getting better and better about giving great descriptive instructions, but I NEED a projector. Need one.
  3. None of the tasks in this project were easy for the students. They caught on, but not one of the skills was already known. For all of the talk (not mine) of digital ***** (can’t say the word), online productivity is NOT an inherent skill.
  4. No matter how many times I say “Only edit YOUR page”, they’ll still forget and just start working on the home page. 5 kids at once were all working on the home page! 5!
  5. I might need to create another wiki for the next group rather than just reusing this one, because the students were disappointed that someone else would be working on their pages that they’d started. No big deal, I’ll probably do that. I will re-use the usernames and logins, though, since they’re generic – even if the kids want to work on their pages outside of my class when they’re out of my rotation, the chance of them being on at the same time as the other student with their login is very slim.

I’m absolutely loving teaching these skills and the very best part? 1/2 of the class was begging to be allowed to work on it over the weekend. ‘Nuff said.

If you have helpful tips for me, I’d welcome them with open arms!

My Related Posts

Blog + Wiki Class Project
Wiki + Blog Project #2

Wiki + Blog Class Project #3
Updates Galore

Resources to help you get started

Apple Keyboard Shortcuts – very simple handout I created for class
Getting Started with Wikispaces – I just found this today after figuring out a lot of this stuff through trial and error – great guide by Liz Davis
Mobile Technology in TAFE Guide to Wikis – Sue Waters’ resource list for teaching with wikis (again, just found this today!)
Wikispaces for Teachers – site for creating your own education wiki
Wikispaces Help for Teachers – FAQ on education wikis
Batch Account Creation on Wikispaces

Note: My blog has now moved to Kate Saysplease visit this post there if you’d like to comment or read responses from others!

Finland Revisited

In the last few months I wrote 3 posts relating to the quality of education in Finland. I was pleasantly surprised last week when I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s Here on Earth (with Jean Feraca) and heard the tail end of a program about this very topic. I was even more excited to find the podcast is now posted so I can listen to the entire program! The podcast and related resources are all posted on the Here on Earth archives – “What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart“.

Here on Earth describes the show:

High school students in Finland rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night, and yet Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world, earning some of the top scores of students tested in 57 countries. American educators are trying to figure out what makes Finnish kids so smart.


  • Tapio Erma, principal of the Olari School in Finland
  • Heidi Toivonen, Fulbright teaching assistant from Finland. She teaches at Columbia University

My Related Posts

I Should Teach in Finland or Singapore
Singapore Revisited
Must Read Posts 3/2/08

Purposeful Networking

This post was co-authored with Stephanie Sandifer and is cross-posted on her blog Change Agency.

In another infamous “Twitter learning moment”, we were directed by @durff to an engaging Ustream presentation broadcasting live from the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (unfortunately, this hasn’t been archived, but we’ll post it when it becomes available). The focus of the panel discussion was on the use of Social Networks in the business world, and the discussion generally addressed the idea that professionals should be “fluent” in the use of social networks (like Facebook and Linkedin, Twitter (increasingly important), Ning — but not MySpace) for professional networking. The term “purposeful networking” was brought up in the Ustream presentation, and tweeted by @durff and replied to by Stephanie (@ssandifer):

Durff @ssandifer purposeful networking – things that make me think
ssandifer @durff So much content here for a high school level 1/2 credit course in “purposeful & professional online networking”
Durff @ssandifer yet those who graduate will need skills to communicate, connect, and collaborate in these online networks
ssandifer “purposeful networking” could/should be considered a 21st Century literacy.
ssandifer @durff @kolson29 And we continue with malpractice by NOT prepping kids for this…

The idea of purposeful networking has been discussed many times in the world of business, but somehow hasn’t become a matter of importance in mainstream education. In my post This is IT – Why Web 2.0, Aaron Strout of Mzinga was mentioned for posting a job and requiring applicants to apply through social media rather than the traditional resume. Wesley Fryer wrote a post this week titled Web 2.0 in the Enterprise which details the webinar “Web 2.0 for your Business” from Irwin Lazar, Principal Analyst and Program Director for Nemertes Research. The post is excellent and a must-read for educators. Some of the notes in the post include this:

We are living in an information society now, and we have to react quickly to news and trends
– brokers, real estate agents have certainly seen this in the past few weeks
– need to be able to process information, share it, aggregate it
– agility: the ability to react quickly to change
– agility is key in the 21st century business environment

This increasing use of networking in the business world leads us to believe that purposeful networking is an essential skill for students today. The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) states standards for technology in education today, but doesn’t actually mention networking as a skill. The closest standard is under Communication and Collaboration where it states “interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.”

As this post was being written, I asked Aaron Strout (via twitter) about essential skills in business and social media today. He responded in less than 5 minutes and we were able to have a phone conversation about this. (note: Aaron and I have never met, he works in Boston, I in rural Wisconsin – this networking would NOT have happened without Twitter.) Aaron is the Vice President of New Media at Mzinga, a company which believes, “that companies can use their existing communities of people – their employees, their customers, their partners, and their shareholders – to solve their business needs and provide real value to the business.” While this company is obviously on the cutting edge of social media, adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and online interactions, it’s a clear indicator of the future skills that our students will need in future professions.

Aaron and I spoke about how networking and Web 2.0 skills are essential for anyone entering (or already in) customer service, marketing, product design and recruiting, to name just a few fields (I would argue that education should be included). For those in public relations, things have changed – rather than releasing information directly to the mainstream media, now the mainstream media often looks to bloggers for the most current trends and information. Isn’t blogging a skill that professionals should have? As Mzinga itself is recruiting through social media (as are various other companies, several tweets/day roll across my screen with the words “we’re hiring”) and LinkedIn and Facebook are becoming more and more popular as a professional networking platforms, wouldn’t “purposeful networking” be a valued skill in our students?

While it’s more common to find younger candidates with the necessary skill set for social media, Aaron was telling me about a meeting he was in recently in which they were discussing the need for more younger people in nonprofits. He mentioned that someone brought up the point that it isn’t necessarily a distinction between young and old, it’s a distinction between connected and unconnected. This is really interesting as the terms “digital natives” and “net generation” are being thrown about with abandon in education and the media. I did an unscientific poll recently of my twitter network and found that the average age of the people who follow me on twitter (226 of the 370 or so) is 39.6 – while this was a very casual survey, this is a pretty clear indicator of the fact that social networking is not only for the under 25 demographic.

One distinction is how the different age groups use networking. As Aaron pointed out, most younger professionals are coming into the workplace very comfortable with the concept of social media because they’re already using it informally – for interaction with social groups. In my experience, and evidenced below, the older demographic uses networking more for professional purposes. There are obvious reasons for this, but the implication is that “purposeful networking” is a skill not gained strictly through the use of social networking sites. There are levels of interaction in networking, and although transparency is becoming more accepted and valued, there is still a line between the strictly social use of networking and professional. Aaron describes how he’s fine with seeing the real side of prospective employees on Facebook profiles and twitterstreams because it gives him a better picture of who people are, but in our opinion and experience, networking is much more than simply posting information about yourself on various sites.

There are several great pieces about the topic of different generational uses of networking on the Wikinomics blog – “A Digital Generation” and “GenX and the Real Talent Crunch“. The bit that was most intriguing was this, from “GenX and the Real Talent Crunch“:

What’s more, as Dan points out in his recent post “A digital generation?,” Gen Xers have mastered productive uses of the Internet to a much higher degree than the entertainment-focused Net Gen, and are the true drivers of technology innovation.

This is where purposeful networking as a 21st century skill comes in. When I “asked Twitter” for the skills necessary for success in social media and business today, here’s what came back:

skydaddy @kolson29 Same as always: Be professional. Follow through. Take less and give more than is expected of you.
dpenrose @kolson29 Of course, being able to communicate effectively, time management, flexibilty, a generalist, a minimalist, innovative, workaholic
krusk @kolson29 How about authenticity? It’s becoming more important online, and I think that translates to the offline world as well.
andykatz22 @kolson29 relationship builder, finger on the pulse, multitasker
LaurieShuls @kolson29 I’d say that you need to find creative ways to comm with this niche media – no phone calls – converse via tweets, FB, etc.
LaurieShuls @kolson29 I’d also note that you should read EVERYTHING, I track all of my contacts, their personal blogs, etc. so we’re in constant contact
smheadhunter Networking doesn’t just get you a job – it gives you a network to make your next job successful

As shown in these answers, networking IS a skill and needs to be taught as such. Other terms that are thrown about in education are netiquette and digital citizenship, but too often these are focused on online safety, which although a concern, isn’t the same as purposeful networking.

One of the issues facing educators who are trying to bring about the use of these tools and tackle the issue of purposeful networking in the classroom, is that most educators are not in a field that is making use of these tools. Many educators have not had careers outside of the classroom. Those educators who have had other careers are most likely unaware of these changes that have been occurring in the use of technology in the business world if they haven’t worked outside of the classroom in the past five years or made a concerted effort to stay connected. Additionally, the education profession historically has been a profession of “isolationism” despite recent efforts to establish Professional Learning Communities within schools. Developing a system-wide understanding of the need for the use of these tools is challenging, but essential if we hope to prepare our students with the skills they need to communicate, connect, and collaborate effectively and professionally in this increasingly connected world. Networking is extremely powerful for connecting educators and students to professionals outside of education – the challenge in education today is breaking down barriers and allowing students and teachers access to the sites and time in the school day and curriculum.

Potential solutions for overcoming these barriers include everything from teacher externships in fields related to their content areas, systemic change in practice at all levels of the system to include the use of Web 2.0 and social networking tools, and integration of 21st Century literacies/tools across the curriculum. At this time, educators should make efforts to connect with fields related to content areas, whether in their own communities or globally. Networking tools give great opportunities for this. Just one example of this is the ability to connect with professionals in various fields through twitter, which has been an invaluable tool for seeing new trends in the business field. It would be equally beneficial for educators in all content areas. Networking, whether physically or online, is essential for staying current in the world for which we are preparing our students.

How do you reach beyond your profession to stay connected?

What are your solutions for breaking down the barriers to allow purposeful networking to become a part of mainstream education?

Edited with more input:

lisarokusek @kolson29 great post on networking – along with purposeful I would add mindful….it implies a plan, respect, and presence in the present (added 8:45 a.m. 3/28/08)

Edited to include additional resources:

Google Generation is a myth, says new research” – JISC (added 9:00 pm 3/28/08)
Fact or Fiction? You Tell Me!” – Sue Waters (added 9:00 pm 3/28/08)
Digital Natives or simply Digital Dilettantes” –  John Larkin (added 9:00 pm 3/28/08)

Royalty-Free Music Resources

Some more resources for you! A friend emailed me this morning asking where she could find royalty-free music for her students to use in a project – I didn’t actually know, since I haven’t done this before, so I “asked twitter” and amazed my friend with the quick and plentiful responses! I compiled most of them in and they’re here if you’d like them. Even though I don’t need to use them right now, I made sure to compile them for later on when I’m doing the same kind of project. Yet again, if you have any great ones that I don’t have listed, just throw them in here!

WordPress Resources

Just wanted to share my resources as I go along. My resources for WordPress, HTML, and CSS will be here – these are my links. I chose this way of sharing because I will be constantly adding and it’s too time consuming right now to try to create a wiki or other resource sharing site.

WordPress – includes how-to’s, themes, plugins and more

Plugins – WordPress plugins (also in WordPress)

HTML – basic guides

CSS – basic guides

I’m just starting these, so some may be slightly sparse at the moment. If you have something to share, just drop it in a comment or share it with me through!

Keyboarding + Facebook? Imagine That!

Note: images below not live links

If Facebook can make Scrabble (Scrabulous) cool, why not keyboarding? I’ve discovered that 2 of my favorite keyboarding activities can be added as Facebook apps……………one step forward for the cool factor of business ed, right? Well, probably not, but this geeky teacher can dream, right?

Check out Fingerjig and Typing Master for some touch-typing practice or for use with your students – my students love Fingerjig (and make fun of me for being excited that I can add it to Facebook). They don’t love the Typing Master test as much, but that’s because it’s “too hard”. A great endorsement in my book!

Edmodo – I scored an alpha invite!

What is this, an advertising blog? Sorry for the blatant ed- promotions tonight, just all kinds of great stuff to see and share! I was able to wrangle an opportunity to view edmodo (alpha) tonight (due to my wonderful disposition, I’m sure……..or Jeff O’Hara got annoyed that I was so blatantly promoting @edublogs, teehee – you can follow @edmodo, too) and was pretty impressed with how professional the site is and the basic premise. I’m not going to tout this as the next-greatest thing, because that’s honestly up to users. Things become hits because they work, simple as that. As no one is actually using edmodo yet, it’s difficult to predict the popularity/adoption. Personally, I can’t wait to try this out and see how others are using it, I’m always up for new things 🙂 I won’t be able to use it in the classroom right now due to my insane schedule and position in the district, but if I had a full-time teaching position with full-time students, I’d be chomping at the bit to figure out how best to take advantage of it. That’s the key: teachers need to get in, play around, and figure out how it works with their classroom structure, technology access, and curriculum.

Wait, I didn’t actually tell you what Edmodo is! Well, it’s been spun as “Twitter in the Classroom” on Tech Crunch but it’s just so much more than that (and attaching Twitter to it may be a downside for some who don’t embrace the wonderful world of tweets). I think to label it a microblogging tool is a little simplistic and really diminishes the potential educational uses. From exploring, I’d say it’s a combination of pownce, facebook, moodle and some other things I probably don’t even know about. Some may cringe that I compare it to moodle, but I’m currently deep into moodle right now and the blocks are somewhat similar, as is the concept of posting assignments. The messaging seems rather like pownce to me, much more so than Twitter. The design is a little Facebook-ish at first glance.

The screencast teaser (PLEASE go check it out, I had issues embedding it here) gives a taste of what it looks like and highlights some of the features.

Still confused? Sign up for the beta and for now, see what others are saying:

Edmodo About Page says “Edmodo is a brand new company creating free online tools for the education community. The first tool we are building is a communications tool for Schools, Teachers, Students, and parents for use in the classroom.”

Who is edmodo? (edmodo About page)
Currently edmodo is owned, operated, & funded by Jeff O’Hara & Nic Borg. Jeff is a network administrator/webmaster for Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton, Illinois. He also blogs at Nic is the webmaster/web developer for Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 in Maple Park, Illinois.”

Matt Long on Classroom 2.0 says (also see this discussion for Jeff O’Hara’s replies):

So Jeff was nice enough to let me demo the tool this afternoon for about 20 minutes. Cool stuff. Here is a brief writeup.
W/ Edmondo you can create groups (classes). Each one is color coded which is nice and pleasant to view. Once these are created you send out an email to your student that tells them to either add their current account as a student in the “course” or create an account and then add themselves.

As an instructor or student you see the courses you have setup on Edmodo. You can add a note file,link,assignment or alert. The assignments and alerts are date sensitive and pop up as they get closer. As you add one of the above then decide what course you want that info to flow into. As a user you can view all courses at once or view one at time. You can also reply to any information added. You also have a “Locker” for saving interesting posts. You can tag the posts and search using the tags.

Besides classes you can create groups. Jeff, can you explain this area more? Not sure about this part of the tool.

So, if you use Twitter it would be like having a separate area to Tweet friends,family or co-workers. You would then have the ability to join Tweet Groups of common interest.

Cool stuff. Looking to use this to support incoming freshman now instead of Twitter if launch is successful. The cool thing is the startup for a tool like this ( and Twitter ) is a couple of minutes. I figured out how to use it in 3-4 minutes.

It would be nice to be able to customize the color scheme. Of course, I’m looking at this from a branding perspective of a university. I don’t think that’s possible.
I would also like the PM other users. I did not see this feature.

Lastly, the navigation on the left could be a bit more obvious. I see Classes, Activities and Groups but those headings don’t really stand out to me. Overall, the tool worked well. I was pleased.”

Somewhat Frank’s post “Edmodo: Microblogging for Education” adds this:

Built on PHP and MySQL Edmodo enables users to create groups and share files, links, embedded videos and images along with alerts, assignments and events.  Alerts enable user to set quick notices over email and eventually SMS text message.”

And how about this, The National School Board Association is talking about it as well! Their post summarizes Edmodo like this:

“BoardBuzz sees in Edmodo what could be a new trend. As a recent commenter predicted, more and more K-12 infrastructure and classroom management tools will look to web-based solutions. BoardBuzz hasn’t seen Edmodo in action, but we think it might be another great addition to the education community’s library of Web 2.0 tools.”

I asked Jeff a few questions (via Twitter dm) and here are his responses/explanations:

parents feature will not be implemented in the first release, still working out those details……after a teacher signs up, and creates her classes, a signup code will be generated…..the teacher would then give the signup code to the student to create a login, the student would then automatically be assigned to that class…..during the signup process for the student we will ask the user if they have an edmodo account already, if so, their account would then be associated with a new class……a student will not be required to have an e-mail address, but can provide one if they want to

Jeff credits his wife for thinking of the no-email requirement! Did you catch that? NO STUDENT EMAIL ADDRESS REQUIRED!!! That’s what has been the sticking point for so many educators on so many of these tools. Thank you edmodo for thinking of this – it is HUGE.

Yet again, here’s the screencast teaser , check it out, sign up for the beta, and take a chance on something new. The world of education is certainly big enough and innovative enough to see if edmodo is the tool we’ve all been waiting for……….and please, we truly don’t need another discussion right now (or at least right here) about educators blindly embracing technology, it’s been said elsewhere. New things come around for a reason, it’s up to the community to decide what works.

Must-Read Posts – March 6, 2008

Here are 2 excellent posts that I read today. I’m glad other people write great stuff like this so I don’t have to work as hard 🙂

Steve Hargadon – Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education

Will Richardson – Yet Another Reason We Should Be Teaching, Not Blocking, Wikipedia

I’m doing something I saw on a blog yesterday and closing comments on this post – add to the discussions on the original posts for the greater blogging community!