Webspiration

Do you remember Inspiration? The mind mapping tool on CD that was available for purchase in the late 1990s has now been replaced by Webspiration. A mind mapping tool on steroids, Webspiration is a free online collaborative tool that can lead students to plan and share ideas.

Introducing Webspiration
Introducing Webspiration

The Webspiration website provides more information:

 Create Diagrams and Think Visually

Use Webspiration’s diagramming environment to create bubble diagrams, flow charts, concept maps, process flows and other visual representations that stimulate and reflect your thinking. With Webspiration, you focus on developing and connecting ideas, not the drawing.

 Outline and Structure Ideas and Information

 With Webspiration’s powerful outlining capabilities, you can take notes, organize work and expand ideas fluidly to develop your writing into plans, study guides, papers, reports, and other more comprehensive documents.

 Collaborate and Share

 Webspiration makes it easy to collaborate and share documents by simply sending an invite. Everyone works on the same document, contributing, posting comments, and viewing changes. Webspiration is ideal for team projects, study groups, reviewing and commenting on documents and co-authoring materials.

 Anytime and Anywhere

 Store and access documents online without discs, drives or email. Work at home, a friend’s house, the library, your office, or the local coffee shop. Webspiration and your documents are available anywhere you have access to the internet.

Educators and administrators should also find Webspiration useful for project management. We can all learn more about how we think and how we plan as well as seeking feedback from our peers. Webspiration is a tool that enables all of these.

Thanks to the amazing Marco Torres for sharing this excellent tool.

Dimdim

Dimdim is a free web conferencing service where users can communicate quckly and effectively.

Dimdim home
Dimdim home

The Dimdim website says that its features are:

  • It’s Easy, Open & Affordable
  • No Install to Host/Join meetings
  • Easy Share Screens & Webpages
  • Audio & Video Conferencing
  • Present PowerPoint and PDFs
  • Private & Public Chat
  • Whiteboard & Annotations
  • Record and Playback Meetings
  • Open Source and open APIs

As with many of the Web 2.0 tools now available, there is the option to upgrade membership from free, basic account to a premium paid account.  The fee structure is as follows:

Anyone wanting to set up a web conference either for professional development or for schools to communicate and work collaboratively, the Dimdim free account gives users the opportunity to do this.

Siosus

Siosus is a free total online sharing and collaboration workspace.  The free basic package includes unlimited workspaces and unlimited number of members.  

Siosus homepage

Siosus homepage

Tools that are included in the free basic package are useful and extensive:

  • Contacts and group manager
  • Custom workspace
  • Manage your files
  • Calendars and events
  • Blogs
  • Discussions
  • Chat and IM
  • RSS feeds
  • Web database management
  • Project management
  • Task automation
  • Permissioning 
What's included?

What's included

The drawbacks are that there are limits to the free package:

  • Only 25MB free storage
  • Advertising appears on your homepage
  • Only 200 MB monthly transfer
  • 10Mb file size upload limit

 There are three upgrades that increase all of the storage/transfer/upload options and give better support; however they cost from US$15 to US$100 per month.

Upgrade options

Upgrade options

Siosus does appear to be just about the total package when it comes to sharing and collaborating with colleagues who are sitting next to you or on the other side of the world. However, limits will affect the efficacy of the free package. It all depends on how much space you actually need to use.  

Siosus is the platform chosen by James Henri and Sandra Lee to run the Your School Library online conference.

GiggleIT Project

The International Association of School Librarianship has created an innovative and exciting project, GiggleIT.

GiggleIT home

GiggleIT home

From the IASL’s media release:

  • The GiggleIT Project is a global collaborative publishing project hosted by the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL), working in partnership with the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL).
  • Designed to help children around the world improve their English language literacy skills, the GiggleIT Project encourages students ages 10-14 to contribute their writings to an online book (eBook) celebrating stories and humour from their culture. Humour, just like tragedy, is a vehicle that can be used to promote cross-cultural understandings and collaboration for children and young adults around the world. Children’s work will be published internationally and will identify their culture through literature.
  • Written by children for children, the eBook will contain children’s stories, jokes and poetry. The project will inspire children to be creative and make cross-cultural connections with other children from around the world as they learn about humour from other countries, while improving their literacy skills. 
  • A range of competitions, and teaching and learning packages, will motivate and stimulate reading and writing skills whilst supporting the teaching and learning with examples and worksheets which can be downloaded into handouts for the class.

Registration is free. GiggleIT sounds like a fantastic way for students to improve their literacy, have fun and collaborate with other students.

Elluminate

Elluminate is an online ‘lecture capture’ application that is currently available free of charge to all Victorian educators (State, Independent and Catholic schools are all included) through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank.

Elluminate lets people communicate in real time via their Internet connection. People who schedule an Elluminate session meet in a ‘room’. They are able to speak to each other via a headset with microphone, use the chat function, raise their hand to ask a question, draw on a whiteboard amongst other things. The moderator or person running the session is able to upload powerpoint style slides to give the session a focus. At the end, sessions can be saved and archived for access at a later time.

Once Elluminate is installed via the Knowledge Bank page, users are able to access demonstrations, archived sessions and participate in online training sessions. There are two sessions on how to use Elluminate coming up in the next few weeks; Tuesday 13th January at 3.30pm  and Tuesday 27th January at 3.30pm. To participate in these very useful sessions, click on the date/s above to register. (Please be aware that you will need a headset with microphone and have downloaded Elluminate prior to the session.) Once users are confident using Elluminate, rooms can be booked to run your own online sessions.

A view of an Elluminate room

Elluminate has so many possibilities in regard to educational applications; staff can capture professional development sessions or staff meetings for part-timers or those who are absent. Those schools who find attending professional development sessions difficult due to distance or funding can access Elluminate sessions easily and for free. And archived sessions mean that you can revisit a session at anytime. Elluminate also has uses to work with students in a virtual enviroment. Once you become confident using Elluminate, the rest is up to your imagination. 

For examples of previous Elluminate sessions, click here. A previous Bright Ideas post on Professor Stephen Heppell linked to his Knowledge Bank visit. To access it, click here.

For more information on Elluminate, see the Knowledge Bank Elluminate site or contact:

Tamara Carpenter
Senior Project Officer
Knowledge Bank Online Events
Innovation and Next Practice Division
Office for Policy, Research and Innovation
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Ph. 03 9637 3010
carpenter.tamara.c@edumail.vic.gov.au

If you do use Elluminate, please leave a comment to let everyone know what you think of it and how you used it in your school.

Thanks to Tamara for her assistance.

Scribd

Sribd is an interesting resource for would-be authors; indeed anyone who is interested in seeking an audience for their work should consider signing up to Scribd.

Scribd is a site where all kinds of documents can be uploaded and shared with either the general public or selected people through assigning them to groups (ideal for schools as these documents are accessible only to those invited to the group). Writers can receive feedback from readers and threaded discussions are available to both readers and writers, so Scribd makes it is easy for students to collaborate with others.

Documents uploaded to Scribd can be converted to a file called ‘ipaper’. ipaper files can then be easily embedded into blogs or websites; rather like the way YouTube videos can be embedded.

Scribd supports a number of document types such as

  • Adobe PDF (.pdf)
  • Adobe PostScript (.ps)
  • Microsoft Word (.doc/ .docx)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt/.pps/.pptx)
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls/.xlsx)
  • OpenOffice Text Document (.odt, .sxw)
  • OpenOffice Presentation Document (.odp, .sxi)
  • OpenOffice Spreadsheet (.ods, .sxc)
  • All OpenDocument formats
  • Plain text (.txt)
  • Rich text format (.rtf)

so any or all of these document types can be uploaded. Tags and categories can be assigned to uploaded documents, and folders can be used to keep documents organised.

Scribd has an extensive FAQ sheet, which is sure to answer any questions that you have and several that you haven’t thought of!

As well as providing an instant audience for writers, there is a vast library of documents for members to read and review if they wish. Once any documents that are deemed to be open or available to the general public, they become searchable in Google and other search engines. Scribd also supports numerous languages, so LOTE classes are well catered for.

Just a note of caution, there may be some documents on Scribd that are inappropriate for school age students. As with any Web 2.0 site that the general public has access to, there are items that as educators, we would rather our students not see. You can flag any documents as inappropriate if you are concerned.

Scribd is an excellent resource for English classes, especially where students wish to seek feedback from an audience other than their teacher.

Seesmic

Seesmic is a video blogging site that is currently in the developmental stage. Users are able to start their own conversation by posting their own videos from their desktop, webcam, mobile phone or social networking URL. Or you can reply to a conversation that is already in progress.

Seesmic homepage
Seesmic homepage

Although all videos are public at the moment, the creation of groups, where only invited users can see and post replies to videos, should be coming soon. That would revolutionise the use of Seesmic for school use. Imagine the possibilities. Online video conversations with sister schools overseas could lead to collaborative international projects. Students would feel more connected to those from other schools if they could see and hear them. If you would like to know when this feature will be available, you can:

  • sign up to Seesmic
  • go to the questions page
  • type in the word ‘private’
  • click on the question mark
  • click on ‘I have this problem too’
  • enter your login details

When the ability to use groups/private videos becomes available, you will be emailed by Seesmic. Seesmic is being developed by Loic Le Meur, who has been the Internet advisory to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Feature wiki – Preston Girls’ Secondary College

On their arrival at Preston Girls’ Secondary College earlier this year, teacher librarians Judith Way and Reina Phung grappled to get a handle on the curriculum requirements of the college. Job-sharing the 1.0 position, with no support staff, Judith and Reina found it difficult to find the time to meet with subject coordinators to ask for their input. Aware of the few audio visual resources and a collection that needed updating, they decided to set up a ‘Curriculum Audit’ wiki.

Not a link, just a screenshot of one of the pages from the wiki

Not a link, just a screenshot of one of the pages from the wiki

It was decided that the wiki was to be kept private, for the use and eyes of the  school staff only. Staff were emailed an introduction and request to contribute to the wiki. The email contained a word document attachment that included detailed instructions and screenshots on how to contribute to the wiki. Staff were then asked to contribute their thoughts on a number of questions:

  1. Do you need library resources for this topic/subject?
  2. What type of resources do you need? Please be explicit.
  3. Are you happy with the resources the library already has?
  4. What resources would you liked to be purchased or discovered?
  5. Do you have research skills embedded into the topic?
  6. Would you like to work with us to embed research skills into the topic?
  7. If you’d like help, when can we meet? Please nominate a time/date.
  8. How else can we help you in the teaching and learning process?

Some staff not only responded quickly and in some detail, but were enthused about the possibilities of wikis. One teacher, Les Kyle, proceeded to quickly create her own extremely detailed wiki for her VCAL class; the whole curriculum, topics and links to resources (with some contributions from Judith and Reina). This wiki was kept private within Preston Girls’ (using an email to the students’ email address inviting them to join the wiki) as full student names appeared on the wiki and discussions between teacher and students took place. Judith and Reina were proud to think that their Curriculum Audit wiki was the catalyst for Les’s fabulous wiki.

However, many staff did not know what a wiki was, and some had trouble even logging on. The ideal situation would have been an introductory session during a Curriculum Day for those interested/needing guidance. However as all Curriculum Days had been allocated to specific topics (Literacy), Judith and Reina continued to work one-to-one with interested teachers. Judith and Reina believe that something like the SLAV Web 2.0 course for teachers would be terrific, as they often felt that the majority of the teaching staff would benefit from the introduction to the Web 2.0 tools out there that can enhance teaching and learning.

The idea that wikis were the ideal tool for student/student and student/teacher (and teacher/teacher) collaboration was introduced to teachers. That students projects could be completed in teams, and the teacher automatically alerted by email to when contributions had been added. Students taking full responsibility for their own learning becomes apparent when those with access to the wiki can see (and also have email alerts) who has contributed what to the wiki. The way discussions and comments are structured means that students have to think about their responses, rather than perhaps plagiarise by cutting and pasting.

The bonus was that discussions about wikis and blogs now regularly take place and teachers who have not yet made a contribution to the wiki promise to do so when the VCE classes finish. The new ICT Coordinator has begun his own blog. And the teachers who contributed to the wiki will have the best resourced subjects in the school!

The only problem that Judith and Reina found was that the initial wiki grew so large that it had to be split into two; years 7-10 and years 11-12.

Storyz

Storyz is a Web 2.0 tool that enables users to create and share their own stories. The fun part is that you can add text, images and video and invite friends (or colleagues or in the case of students, class mates) to view and even add to your story. Students could use Storyz to create their own e-book.

Storyz homepage

Storyz homepage

Your stories can be kept totally private, or shared with whoever you wish. Once shared with specific people, your story can be added to. This could be an interesting way to write a class story, or for students to collaborate with each other. Storyz can be accessed online or through mobile phones.

Storyz could be a great tool for developing writers to upload their multimedia stories and seek feedback from selected sources.

Feature wiki – Samaritan Catholic College, Preston

Lynda Santolin, ILC Co-ordinator at Preston’s Samaritan Catholic College has spent time since completing the SLAV Web 2.0 course earlier this year developing numerous tools for teaching and learning. She has also led a staff PD introducing them to the world of blogs and wikis.

A Book Club blog, Staff Book blog, del.icio.us site, Rollyo account and online image generators have all been tools that Lynda has introduced. But she feels her greatest success was with wikis. ‘I created a wiki for staff to use. I think it has great potential for staff in faculties, or across campuses or even across schools, to share resources and planning. I also set up the  Shared Stories Anthology wiki – which is run across 8 schools – the school coordinators compile student writing/visual arts pieces on a theme and publish and ‘book launch’ it each year. The wiki has enabled us to share:

  • Planning
  • Practicalities and pitfalls
  • Logistics
  • Launch details
  • Post-launch’
Shared stories anthology wiki

Shared stories anthology wiki

Lynda has developed a further two wikis for teaching and learning; Year 7 Ancient history and Year 8 Middle Ages. ‘In each of those, I had an information focus, but then something interactive – ‘test yourself’ type of thing. Our team put those websites together, I made the wikis, and the kids were engrossed with them and said they had ‘fun’. One example is this one interactive game to dress a knight for battle by answering a few
questions.’

 

Middle Ages

Middle Ages

She continues, ‘I also had a discussion forum, where I tried to ask ‘thinking’ questions, for example, Would you have liked to have lived in Ancient Times? Why/why not? (Their responses were really interesting and often funny ‘No, because I wouldn’t be able to play computer games’). The discussion posts where each student needed to be members of the wikispace to respond. And from memory, they had to reply to an invitational email to do that. That was a lot of work and effort!’

Ancient history wiki

Ancient history wiki

Lynda explains she is ‘finding wikis – wikispaces.com (it is free and the educational membership is advertisement-free) – easier to handle than blogs. Blogs are hard to do if you are trying to give many people a voice (page). I wouldn’t do it again as a blog, but I’d try wikis.’ 

Lynda has been very happy with wikispaces.com as she feels that it has great guides and support for teachers. She recommends using wikis over blogs as they are easy to use. She suggests:

‘Before using wikis with students:

  • Have a ‘play’ by creating your own personal/professional wiki. Learn.
  • Wikispaces = great help/tutorials (see above)
  • Know about Netsafety, Copyright and other cyber issues
  • Show students: examples/models
  • Use old technology – pen & paper! – to plan
  • Plan your ‘discussion’ to encourage higher order thinking and metacognition’

Lynda also suggests that: Students need to know practicalities, pitfalls. For example:

  • Uploading content/feedback comments is NOT ‘chat’ – stay focused
  • Never reveal your or another person’s entire name, contact details, school
  • The wiki/blog does not replace homework (can’t be an excuse not to do homework!)’

Lynda also addressed other issues such as Netsafety, Copyright and other cyber issues. She says to ‘familiarise yourself with Working with the Web and to have dialogue with the Assistant Principal and other relevant co-coordinators/staff.’

Overall, Lynda has had great success with the wiki, but explains that the ‘practicalities and pitfalls of wikis and blogs include:

  • Being time-consuming, so has to be suited to the educational project – worthwhile/rewarding
  • It gets less tricky as you get more proficient – there is light at the end of the tunnel!
  • You still have to constantly monitor it and moderate comments (all sent to your email inbox)
  • Suggest: set a start and end date for the wiki
  • It’s easier to create the wiki with another person – solo is hard but still possible…
  • Take small steps and start small!’

Lynda says that the SLAV Web 2.0 course gave her ‘the skills, knowledge and experience to participate in the Web 2.0 world, and I love the multi-literacies, communities, collaboration and peering.’

Thanks to Lynda for sharing her thoughts and hard work and congratulations on the success of all your Web 2.0 tools, particularly the wiki.