22 June 2010

Twiducate

A couple of weeks ago the buzz on Twitter was about a new social media tool that is taking the world of education by storm. www.twiducate.com is fantastically simple to setup and an amazingly easy to manage social media platform created for teachers by teachers. It's a kind of a cross between a forum, a blog and Twitter.

What I like about Twiducate:
  1. To open an account, type in your email address, a password and a few details and you have a completely private classroom.
  2. Create additional private classrooms.
  3. Setup student accounts - type in a name and a password is automatically generated - no emails required!
  4. Post links to useful resources on the class page - dictionaries, websites, etc.
  5. See who is online
  6. Embed photos and videos easily
  7. Amend and delete posts and comments
  8. Minimum learner training to use.
It has almost everything you need for a private classroom social network.  There are a couple of things I'd like to see added:
  1. Tagging options - so that you can organise content by topic or another criteria. 
  2. The ability to upload content directly - to showcase student videos, photos, etc.  At the moment you can embed but that means you need to upload content elsewhere on the net. 
Twiducate is only about 6 months old so they are still adding new features.  Maybe these options will be added in the future.

I used this in class for the first time last week as an end of course activity. It was with a class of 8 to 10 year olds - they were not all my own students.  Because it was the end of the year, I invited another class to join us.  I had originally planned for my own students to add their own avatars and use their own names but because of the last minute I didn't have time to assign logons to other students joining the class.  Instead, this is what I did:

1.  Showed the students Twiducate on the whiteboard and elicited what it was.  Some knew about Messenger and thought it might be similar.
2.  After giving out logons and passwords and showing the kids how to log on, I typed a question and showed them how to type their reply as a comment.  At this stage I wasn't focusing on accuracy - the main focus was on learning how to use Twiducate.
3.  I showed them the home icon (to refresh).  I typed another question and asked them all to respond again.  This time I asked them to check their spelling, capital letters, etc.
4.  After a further question from me, I invited one student to type a question and asked the other students to comment in reply.
5.  Finally, all students typed questions and commented on each others questions in reply.

This was a very simple activity with minimal preparation (although I had already set up the classroom and created logins for students).  Within 30 minutes all the students were using Twiducate confidently and easily.  More importantly they were enjoying it and checking that their questions and responses where correct before posting them.  It wasn't long before some of the kids were experimenting with language they'd learned over the year and producing more complex language.

Although it was clear that some students had very little experience of using a computer, and were perhaps a little bit more stressed than other students in the beginning, the feedback from the children was that they enjoyed the activity and would like to do it again.

Generally, the class was successful, but I do think it would have been more fun for them to have their own logon names and avatars to personalise it.  I also feel I should have added some pictures somewhere to make it more colourful.

I was very impressed with how easy Twiducate is to use for both the teacher and younger learners.  I think this will be a useful addition to classroom resources next year for younger students.

    07 June 2010

    Social Bookmarking

    Social bookmarking is brilliant!  At least I think it is - until I want to find something that is.  I've got over 500 bookmarks collected over the year and recently it's been quicker to Google something than look for it in my Delicious account.  Not that this is the fault of Delicious.  I just haven't been tagging properly.  The problem is though, I'm not sure of the best way to tag.  Do you add as many tags as possible to each item and end up with a list of tags for everything you've ever looked at but depending on what you were thinking about at the time depends on the tag? Or do you keep it simple and choose two, three or four well chosen tags?  Well, I've tried both which is why today I decided tackle my tags and Delicious account.

    It has taken hours to reorganise and retag, delete duplicate pages (yes!) and I'm still not finished.  So - the system I've decided on is to keep the tagging simple.  It's quicker and hopefully more efficient so I won't have to spend ages thinking of every use for a particular tool or website resource.

    I also took the opportunity to move over to Diigo - something I've been thinking about for a while.  I've got no complaints against Delicious, but  since I learned that Diigo has added features - highlight, comments and sticky notes so that you can annotate pages your bookmarked pages.  This is really useful for bookmarking pages with a specific idea in mind - later you can search your commented or highlighted pages and find it quickly - brilliant!

    Let's see if my new lean tagging machine is still working in 6 months time!

    04 June 2010

    The end of the year

    A few days ago I read a post on Jason Renshaw's blog showing an interview with Stephen Fry.  It was an amazing and inspiring video that got me thinking about this year.

    I'm now heading towards the final lap of the year and next week the end of course exams start and, apart from my younger learners, I doubt many students will come for the final two classes of June.  I'm in my fourth year of teaching and this has been the most difficult year for me.  I seriously considered giving up my teaching career and returning to the UK and a variation of my previous job, working in IT.  I'm not sure why I found this year so challenging, maybe it was the long, wet winter we had in Seville.  Maybe it was the fact that I have to supplement my income doing extra work to make ends meet every month or maybe it was because I felt I was still making the same errors I've been making since I first started teaching and I shouldn't be.

    On the positive side, I achieved everything I set out to achieve at the beginning of this year.  I have used ICT in new and interesting ways with my students setting up blogs and wikis and using online tools.  I've developed my personal learning network which has been an enormous help.  I've plucked up the courage to comment on other people's blogs and have even set up an account on Twitter - although I haven't really got my head around that yet and who any posts I send my messages to will go to as I don't know anybody who uses Twitter. 

    Whatever the reasons for my negative feelings, I learned a lot about myself, my students, my strengths and my weaknesses.  And, inspired by the Mr Fry interview, which basically says "stop moaning and get on with it" I've decided to do just that!  I've also decided to do the modular Distance DELTA.

    So, my aims for the next year are:
    • doing the DELTA
    • stay positive and enthusiastic!
    • continue to support and encourage colleagues who are not very confident with technology
    • continue trying to share my knowledge of Web 2.0 tools with those colleagues who are interested
    • widen my personal learning network (and make some friends on Twitter:))
    What are your aims for next year?