Oct 13, 2012

Benefits of Blogging

We started blogging with three other schools around the world and the students have been very excited about this. Our school in Alberta is connected with students in:
                                                     Tasmania, Australia
                                                     Kansas City, Missouri
                                                     Waterloo, Ontario

The way quad blogging works is that one school is the focus for one week. This increases the blogging audience and gives students a purpose and audience to blog for.  Our class blogged first and as a result of only one week of blogging with these other schools, some pretty neat connections were made.

One connection was from a story that our students have been reading called "Where the Red Fern Grows." The setting for this book is in the Ozarks.  Students have learned that our Kansas City buddies live in the Ozarks.  How cool that we can learn from real people, in real time about life in the Ozarks!

Another connection was about various landforms.  One student was studying the grassland region in Alberta and was curious about Hoodoos, so she researched hoodoos then blogged about it.  Students in Australia replied to her post and shared what they knew about hoodoos and commented that they have similar landforms in Australia.  Watching her excitement, she quickly began googling other kinds of land formations around the world that might be similar to Hoodoos.

It is our turn to have the blogging audience again this upcoming week and we will be sharing pictures of what we have been learning about Alberta and look forward to feedback from our global peers!

Apr 13, 2012

What would you like to learn about?

In Science the grade twos are inquiring about "small crawling and flying creatures." Today students used instagrok to research some bugs.

Instagrok is "an interactive web search engine for learners." If students search for "ants" for example, the search engine returns "key facts," "websites," "videos," and "images" along with
"quizzes," and "concepts." There is a content filter within this search engine to protect students from seeing offensive content. I did a variety of searches before hand and found this site to be pretty safe.

One of the best features of this site, is filtering content based on grade level. When searching for ants, you can use the "little Einstein" to find content that is appropriate to your learning level. For Grade 2, we moved the scroll bar to the far left. The information was at their reading level and the videos and websites were also at their level.

There are a variety of other features on instagrok including the "journal" where students can record notes and pin items that they want to keep for later. We just started with the basics today, but look forward to using this search engine for more research. They enjoyed researching different bugs and were very excited to see a variety of pictures of bugs, videos of bugs and different websites. I will certainly have my Grade 2 students use this site again!

Jan 21, 2012

Social Bookmarks: A Pinteresting Conversation!

A couple months ago a friend asked me if I knew about Pinterest and when I nodded my head "yes" I had thought I knew about Pinterest. She mentioned that she spent over an hour on the site just browsing. I remember thinking "really? an hour? what was so great?" I went home that night and took another look at pinterest and found that I spent not " an hour" but my entire evening looking at different teaching ideas. I had a really hard time logging off. Since then I joined the site and have explored how I would use Pinterest to keep and share those little golden nuggets that I find on the internet. Pinterest is quickly becoming one of my favorite social bookmarking sites.

As a quick review a social bookmark is a tool for organizing and sharing websites (links). Users can access these bookmarks on any computer anywhere, anytime by logging into their account. Once a link is saved in a social bookmarking site, the user adds a tag to the link. A tag is a word or a phrase used to categorize information.

There are many different types of social bookmarks. Diigo has been my favorite for a few years now and Pinterest is certainly becoming another. Here is a quick review of Diigo for those of you that are not familiar with it: (see previous posts for explanations for classroom examples)

Teachers can use Diigo to tag chosen sites from which the users can retrieve information. They find the pre-selected sources by searching the Diigo search engine and then clicking on the tag. This reduces searching time and limits the possibility of getting inaccurate information. Along with tagging, users can highlight, annotate and add sticky notes to sites that they bookmark.

The power of Diigo? In my opinion, Diigo shows the way each user learns, thinks, and develops the knowledge because users can see what information was previously selected, organized, and categorized. It provides students with an opportunity to learn about their own learning and understand the aspects of the information they find relevant. It also helps users become aware of their own criteria when they tag and categorize.

Now onto Pinterest. This interesting "visual" social bookmarking site defines itself as a "virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all of the beautiful things on the web" (Pinterest Site). (Already it grabs you, doesn't it?)

What is the real beauty in it? The power of the image! Wow! As you go through a page in Pinterest, you scan quickly to see which site might be of interest and it is the image that captivates. All of the sites that have been "pinned" (or bookmarked) are images. Users categorize their "pins" and "tag" their "friends" in the network.

So which is the best: Diigo or Pinterest?

I continue to use Diigo to bookmark "academic" sites and readings and to network with educators that are sharing their "academic" sites. I am using Pinterest to search for great classroom ideas.

Here are some resources for using Diigo:

Diigo Educators Group (over 2000 members)

Diigo Literacy with ICT Group (over 18,000 member)

Here are some resources for using Pinterest:

I am glad my friend asked me that day if I knew about Pinterest and that I went on that evening to take a second look at it. I have expanded my learning network and have even better ways and tools to bookmark my sites. Thanks Friend!