PLN Plus reflection – community in the making

In this guest post from Sue Osborne, Head of Library Service, Haileybury College, Brighton, she shares her experience of the recent PLN Plus course.

I was interested to do the PLN+ because I had participated in several PLN courses (two 23 things, PLN research tool kit) and I was interested in taking the things I had learned the next level. I was also interested in the idea of project work and finding other library professionals who were interested in developing similar ideas in their schools.

I found the course to be quite different from my past experience of the PLN. Firstly, it was a shorter course – only four weeks long, but it was filled with new ideas, so in terms of content it still delivered. There was also a less formal approach, with four stages rather than particular products or apps to focus on. It was more about the process of starting and growing networks, rather than specific, measurable outcomes. I found this approach disconcerting at first, but once we all started talking about our areas of interest, I took to it well.

I enjoyed the relaxed approach, self-driven learning, connecting with like-minded colleagues who wanted to be instruments of change within their organisations as well as a huge pool of ideas and tools to think about and try. I will be exploring the tools for at least the next month or so! I’ve listed my three favourite tools below.

1/ Mightybell – the platform the PLN was based in has been fantastic. It is easy to use, looks great and has greatly enhanced the learning and sharing for this course. Far superior to Edmodo, which was used in the last course. I love it. Not sure how I might use it in my work, except perhaps to set up a project group of my own down the track (not on the cards just yet)

2/ Shadow Puppet – this iPad app allowed me to take photographs and then record a narration track over a slide show. I decide when each photo comes up. It is intuitive and dead easy to use (as easy as Animoto, which I use almost constantly at work now). I am planning to use Shadow Puppet with my newly formed Middle School Library Committee. We are going to make short how-to presentations about the library catalogue, searching and so on for classes to view before they come to the Library to do research

3/ Padlet – this product let’s you set up a wall, send the link to people you want to have participate in the project/discussion and you all post ideas (a bit like post-it notes) so you can collaborate and brainstorm together. I am already using this regularly with other staff to talk about planning information literacy sessions and trying to develop a reading culture within the school

I guess the number one thing I am taking from the course is a sense of community – that we are all part of something bigger, something that can help us achieve great (or small) things. The openness of the participants has been fantastic and I think many of us will stay in touch by following each other on Twitter, or continuing to build on our Padlets or other collaborative tools.

I will also take a renewed sense of purpose in what I do, and the knowledge that I have skills and experience that other people appreciate and value, just as I value their experience and skills. The rise in my professional (and as a result, personal) self-esteem was an unexpected bonus.

Finally I plan to implement some programs in my school and document them, with the objective of sharing them via Bright Ideas, or perhaps even FYI, so that others can see what I am doing, and perhaps be inspired to try something different. I have the confidence to push myself forward and try harder, which is probably the most valuable thing of all.

Image credit: Toban Black on flickr

You can follow Sue on Twitter at @LibraryMonitor and her reviewing blog Worth Reading, Worth Sharing.

 

PLN Plus March 2014

In March the State Library of Victoria will begin a new kind of PLN program, PLN Plus.

PLN Plus is designed for teacher librarians and educators who want to find out how to effect change in their schools and learning communities. The program will run for four weeks and will involve a group project where participants work with like minded people on a passion project – what is the one thing you would change if you could? It could be a practical endeavour like getting your school blogging, or look beyond to setting up TeachMeet-style programs and community building.

Each week participants will be introduced to relevant new tools and online environments and also have the opportunity to engage with inspiring educators and librarians who have made change happen in their schools and broader communities. We will also discuss theories and research that inform the concept of networked learning and key trends in education looking to the future.

You can register to take part in this course, but numbers are limited. For more information visit the State Library of Victoria website, PLN Plus page.

Update and final thoughts on Tania Sheko’s Flickr project

You may remember reading about Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko‘s collaborative learning project using Flickr. The project has now concluded and a few of the students have shared their thoughts, reflections and ideas about what they loved most about the project.

Tania explains:

As part of the evaluation of this project, I interviewed a few students to get their feedback. You have no idea how long it took me to convert the interviews to film and embed them in this blog. Sorry about background noise!

Thanks to Tania and her students for a number of posts about the project from the beginning right through to the end. Sounds like it was a great success and thanks for sharing.

ClassChats

If you think your class would like to connect with other classes around the world, then ClassChats may be for you.

ClassChats

The website explains more:

There are plenty of reasons to join ClassChats.com – chief among them is that you will become a member of a world wide community of educators. ClassChats.com is a great way to teach your students about social networking in a safe educational environment, meet educators from around the world, share ideas and collaborate on lessons. Site membership is FREE, now and forever!

The about page elaborates even further:

ClassChats.com is striving to become an online social network of educators. After seeing how a third grade teacher was able to engage her students through the use of video chat we decided to create a site which would help other educators connect in a similar fashion. Out site contains audio\video chat functionality, shared resources, an interactive whiteboard, blogs, forums and more.

We know that students learn best through being connected, so ClassChats could be an excellent way to foster such connections.

Vicki Davis – @coolcatteacher passed on this link to ClassChats. Thanks Vicki!

Moving from Facilitation to Constructive Partnerships

Recently The Journal featured an interesting article on how schools can use technology to change relationships with students.

The article The Changing Role of Instructors Moving from Facilitation to Constructive Partnerships looks at:

  • Guides and Coaches and the Art of Facilitation
  • Learning Partners
  • The Importance of Democratizing the Process
  • Learning as a Process–not a Product

The article states that with technology enabling students to author and publish a wide variety of digital materials and products, students and teachers are becoming collaborators and partners in learning. What are your thoughts?

Are we still learning? How did the presentations go? Tania Sheko’s Global Flickr project

Following on from the post Tania Sheko’s Flickr Project, published on 8 March 2010, it is time to revisit the project and see what has been happening. Tania explains the progress:

3921794231_0d418778fcPhoto courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Time to do a stocktake on what we’re learning here. Una and I smiled when the boys yelled out an enthusiastic ‘Yay!’ when she announced we’d devote the first half of the lesson to the Flickr project.

Looking around the room, I saw heads bent down to view photos and comments, unmistakable eagerness in reading, eyes darting about from comment to comment, fingers working at top speed to keep up with written responses.

Yes, but is this learning?

Just in case any of us started to think this was just chat – not that we would – I thought I’d take stock of the types of learning happening here.

First of all, I think it needs to be stated at the outset that engagement is a healthy precursor to any kind of learning. Although this project has clear guidelines and timeline with weekly themes and questions to answer, there are obvious reasons for the engagement we are seeing:

  • peer audience
  • global connections
  • familiar ‘chat’ platform for communication
  • ease of communication through Flickr comments setup
  • transparency of all activity
  • cultural curiosity
  • natural desire to socialise with other young people wherever they are

As I’ve said previously, it’s a far cry from writing on a prescribed topic for the teacher. The themes and questions have been chosen to encourage sharing of background, passions, hobbies, etc., and the students want to write about themselves and their lives because it’s part of a natural desire to share these things in order to make meaningful contact with others.

Cultural curiosity sparks questions like ‘What is AFL?’ or ‘What is that fluffy thing?’ (dreamcatcher). The desire to connect is clearly demonstrated too – ‘I also love watching crime investigation shows’; ‘my parents are also the most influential people in my life’, etc.

The positive comments and encouragement the students give each other is good to see, and much more meaningful to them than any comments from their teacher. I find this heart warming, actually, and cling to it when I read all the negative press in the media about young people being bullied and abused by their peers online. I think we could organise more of these types of learning environments to bring out the best in our young people.

There’s much still to be discovered in this learning process, some of it related to the options within Flickr itself. For example, for now we haven’t too fussed about tagging or organising photos into sets. That will come, and some students will learn that themselves just by browsing the site. Then there’s the photographic aspect – so much to learn about the potential of a picture. Even within Flickr there is an editing button above the photo which takes you to Picnik where you can play around with the image. When students think about how they want to present their picture, what message they are trying to convey – this is visual literacy. I expect initially they will be focussing on satisfying the weekly theme, but later they may think about creative elements such as focus, colour, texture and so on. The potential for differentiated learning exists both visually and within the written text.

This has been cross-posted with Tania’s permission from Through Global Lenses @wfc.

How did the presentations go?

People have been asking me this since I faced two groups of people and talked about my experiences with nings, flickr (and briefly blogs) in the classroom, and how these things can create learning communities.

Well, I’m not sure how I went, to tell you the truth. I’m really not certain.

This is the first time I’ve presented at a whole-school professional development day – I did present with Maria Toomey last year, very briefly, about our Year 7 English ning at a staff meeting. And that’s it.

So here are my thoughts:

It was definitely a good experience for me. I had many moments during the session where I realised things, and this will contribute to my own learning and hopefully improve further presentations if they ever occur.

I realised that my Web 2.0 experiences have been predominantly within humanities areas, centering on discussion, reflection and sharing of ideas and viewpoints, construction of deeper understanding, and peer interaction. I haven’t had as much contact with maths, science, commerce teachers (apart from Nicole’s forensic science blogs), and haven’t seriously considered the fact that not every educator’s teaching depends on these things.

I’m usually hard on myself, and I will acknowledge the many supportive, positive comments I received from staff, but I think that I have a lot to learn about presenting in an engaging, relevant way. I intend thinking about this and perhaps paying attention to good speakers – our guest speaker, Travis Smith, being one, and the speakers who have just participated in the TEDxNYED talks which I missed because my notebook’s connectivity has been so sporadic.

Here is what I had in mind, and what I did for the presentation:

I wanted to show how rich the learning can be within collaborative Web 2.0 platforms, so I created a ning as a temporary sandbox for newbies. Within the ning, I created groups for some of the subject areas, and as more people joined my session, I expanded these groups, and tried to include a few resources and questions for discussion to give people an idea of how the ning could work for them. I created a collection of videos which provided either background to Web 2.0 technologies, or the future of education.

I had so much to share, and I knew that I wouldn’t have time for everything. The last thing I wanted to do was overwhelm everyone with theories and pedagogy, so I included a few of my blog posts which had already detailed the ning and flickr experiences. I added bits and pieces for discussion, including relevant and challenging quotations, a cool little flash demo about how high blog commenting rates in Blooms Taxonomy, and so on.

4371522372_5f6c830505Photo courtesy of ecastro on Flickr in group ‘Great quotes about learning and change.’

My original plan was to start the session by acknowledging change, and how, as educators, we may feel overwhelmed or frustrated by it. I showed Karl Fisch’s video, What if?

This is what I showed the first session. I followed this up by asking the question, ‘How do you learn?’ I had set up a discussion for this within the ning, and included my own answer as a starting point.

I learn by writing things out, by making colour-coded charts and maps. Obviously now it’s much easier to locate information – I google instead of going to the library or consult an encyclopedia. In some respects, the way that I learn has changed over the years. I used to learn from one teacher, or by myself. Now I learn from and with people. I ask, I have discussion with others, I ask questions. I’ve built up an online personal learning network – people who are experts in different fields, educators mainly, but also people who push my thinking. I can ask these people for information, advice or their ideas any time and anywhere.

Teachers wrote their answer, read other teachers’ replies, and commented on these. The idea was to immerse them in a ning discussion, giving them an idea of how the threaded discussion worked, and how valuable this online discussion was in terms of collaborative peer unpacking of a topic.

That worked pretty well, without any dramas. Most of the staff wrote thoughtful replies,

I like to find things out for myself and discover new pieces of information. I like to take information or ideas from one field and apply them to another field. I like to see the possibilities of things and explore their extent.

others had a bit of fun,

We’ll try to make sure the office is a calm place for you to learn. Would you like us to bring some scented candles in???

and I think that’s a fair indication of what our students might do. So that’s cool.

It was interesting to see the beginnings of dialogue which extended the thinking through collaboration:

I learn through discussion with others. I find that discussion inspires me, and helps me to order my thinking. I tend to use this style of teaching in my classroom.

reply to this:

Do you think that how we learn and how we teach is different?

Originally, I had intended to follow that up with a video that showed how students learned, The digital generation. This was to be the lead-in to the whole point of the nings, etc. – as a connective learning platform within which our students felt comfortable, one which suits the way they are used to interacting with each other – the point being that they learn best with and from each other instead of from the teacher, and writing for the teacher only.

I didn’t show this video in the end, either session. I don’t know if I just chickened out, but I got the feeling from my audience that they hadn’t come to think about the future of learning, pedagogy or anything like that. I felt from them that they’d come to consider whether nings and things were the way to go with their compulsory ICLT project. I made the decision on the spot to modify my approach and just supply practical and relevant information and instruction.

So from that point, I showed them a couple of nings which had been working very well – both within senior English classes. As I spoke about these, and later our flickr global photo project, I was aware that teachers who didn’t rely on the construction of knowledge and understanding in students from discussion and predominantly through writing, wouldn’t find my information relevant.

I have to say, it did affect my confidence and I felt that I withdrew in terms of dynamism. It’s not that I lost all enthusiasm, it’s just that I felt I hadn’t prepared sufficiently for all members of the audience. That had something to do with the fact that many of these had only joined my session very recently, in some cases that morning. Still, I think you do have to think on the spot and make spontaneous decisions after you get a feel for the audience.

As I mentioned earlier, many people were generous with their supportive feedback to the session. I would like to follow up with the rest, and find out whether they found the talk useful, and how I can provide answers to any questions they may have. I do feel I can do more through individual conversations.

It was disappointing that some teachers were not able to get into the ning – not sure why – and I’d like to try again, so that they can at least have a look around and see if there’s anything that interests them. The videos alone are a good resource, and I’m hoping that someone might take the time to look through these, as well as read some of the posts I’ve included.

I wonder if the ning will become a place I can continue to throw out interesting resources, links and videos. It may just die a natural death. I like the fact that it encompasses the whole school, and that I could potentially replace the separate emails to staff with ning group resourcing.

I wonder if the flickr project sparked any ideas in teachers other than those of English, foreign languages and English as a second language. I’m really keen to see what teachers can think of, where they can take some of these ideas. There’s no doubt that people will think of things that I haven’t, and I hope to gain from these perspectives.

Overall, it’s been a valuable learning experience for me, taking me out of my comfort zone, connecting me with teachers I would normally not see, and providing me with the challenge to synthesize my own experiences into an oral presentation to a broad audience.

If anyone has experiences or resources to share, I would be grateful.

This is an edited version of the posts Are we still learning? and How did my presentations go? from Tania Sheko’s excellent blog Brave New World.

Congratulations to Tania on sharing her wonderful work with the readers of Bright Ideas and her staff. It can be extremely difficult to convince some people that they could and should use technologies to enhance teaching and learning, but using a project such as Tania’s Flickr Project as a living, breathing example is a great way of doing it.

ReadCloud

ReadCloud is a fascinating free site that may be useful for teacher librarians and English literature teachers.

readcloud

ReadCloud offers free eBooks to either read online or to download and read later.  All books are those out of copyright, so expect classics like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations and War and Peace.

ReadCloud also offers online reading groups, and enables teachers to manage groups of readers, who can be added by invitation and kept private. Groups can add comments and make reading interactive and therefore more engaging and collaborative. There is also the opportunity to change the font of the text, search a dictionary and search the internet. This makes ReadCloud ideal for student use, however it could also be used for staff book clubs and private book groups.

This presentation explains more:

ReadCloud from LeBard on Vimeo.

ReadCloud is an Australian development and well worth investigating.

Using Ning in the Year 12 classroom

Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has agreed to share the success story of using a ning at her school.

Alan November in “Curriculum21″ by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (found on Flickr in Great quotes about learning and change)

Alan November in “Curriculum21″ by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (found on Flickr in Great quotes about learning and change)

Alan November in Curriculum21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (found on Flickr in Great quotes about learning and change).

I want to share with you a teacher’s evaluation of a ning as learning and teaching platform for a Year 12 English class. Although teacher Catherine has only been using the ning for a couple of weeks, she has used the features of ning to their full capacity, enhanced student learning, and created a real learning community. It’s a shame that the ning is private – otherwise I’d show you what it looks like and how it’s working. Instead, read Catherine’s excellent summary and description:

“A couple of weeks ago I began a ning with my Year 12 English class. After their initial disappointment that this ‘wasn’t Facebook’ and once they worked out how to post a blog and reply to discussions, the class began to embrace their ning, and I have been thrilled with the results!

Our ning contains the following:
1. Photos of our class. Once a week, I bring a camera into the class and the boys take turns with being the ‘class photographer’. They capture moments from the class and ensure that everyone in the class has a photo. We have also added photos from college activities such as the Athletics Carnival where all the boys dressed up. These photos have been placed in albums in the ning and have been great in inspiring a sense of class spirit and unity.

2. Videos related to the text: I have been able to upload a number of videos related to the text we are currently studying – Maestro – at the moment there are videos of related topics such as Cyclone Tracy, Wagner, Peter and the Wolf, and Vienna.

3. Notes: I am able to write notes that highlight upcoming events / work that is due etc. I have arranged the format so that this is the first thing the boys see when they log on.

4. Groups: I have made groups for each of the texts we are studying, so all of our comments, quotes and resources can be located in easy to find areas.

5. Discussion Forums: Each group has discussion forums. At the moment our discussions are taking place in the Maestro group. As a class we have decided to pool all the quotes we find into these areas so that when writing a text response, everyone knows where to find the resources.

6. Chat facility: this enables everyone in the class to be online at the same time in the evenings and ask questions that everyone can contribute to, if they wish.

At the moment my class is preparing for their first text response, and I have found the chat facility to be extremely useful. A number of boys over the long weekend asked for help with their introductions and were able to place their work on chat and receive feedback from other students as well as myself. It was wonderful to see students help each other, as well as to see the particular student edit and re-edit their work. We have missed a number of classes in the past week due to public holidays and college activities, so it was wonderful to be able to assist students in this way in the lead-up to their assessment. It has also been good to see students ask each other for help with specific quotes and to see other students provide answers.

The ning has given students a central place to go to, when finding their resources for English, and has also allowed questions to be asked and answered very quickly. One of the boys told me this afternoon how much he loves being able to use the ning and how helpful it has been for him. I have also enjoyed seeing boys who never contribute in class, feel confident using this technology to voice their opinions. One boy in particular has become a ‘guru’ when it comes to knowing specific quotes in the novel, which has been wonderful for his self-esteem. However, without a doubt, the best part of the ning is the fact that students are discussing and analysing the text outside of school hours – of their own volition! What more can an English teacher ask for?!

This is an excellent tribute to the power of a ning, used as a learning and teaching tool. Isn’t it amazing how the students have formed their own network to help and guide each other? What a wonderful way to use technology in the classroom.

This is an edited version of a post from Tania Sheko‘s excellent blog, Brave New World.

Google Wave

So we all know that Google has practically taken over the world. Some of their applications like maps and earth are fabulous and others such as Sidewiki and Google Apps for Schools have been quite controversial. We’ve all been hearing about Google Wave for months now and how it is going to revolutionise communication.

A little over a month ago Google sent out 100,000 invitations for people to trial Wave, but there is no public release date as yet. However, it’s time to get (almost) ready for one of the biggest Web 2.0 launches in history.

Some information from “About Google Wave” from their website:

About Google Wave

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

This following video is an abridged version of the really long one (one hour and twenty minutes out of your busy life, is probably way too much), so this ten minute video should answer some of your questions about Google Wave.

Another useful source of information on Google Wave comes from the current Age Green Guide:

Next wave may sweep all aside

google-wave-screenshot-6-600x400

Google’s email and messaging platform could change the web forever, writes Adam Turner.

RED pill in hand, Google is offering to show us how deep the rabbit hole goes with Google Wave.

Every now and then, someone develops a new way of thinking about an old problem. Email has become so bogged down with spam and other problems that for many people it’s all but useless. Attempts to make email more secure have struggled to make headway because the email system was never designed with such things in mind.

The boffins at Google — well, actually Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who brought us Google Maps — asked “What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?” Their answer is Google Wave, a free service that has the potential to change the face of the internet.

Like The Matrix, Google Wave is Australian-made, with the Sydney-based Rasmussen brothers spending much of their time at the new Googleplex near Darling Harbour. Also like The Matrix, it’s hard to explain exactly what Google Wave is. It’s been described as “Twitter on crack” or “Friendfeed with benefits”, while others see it as “Lotus Notes on steroids”.

Everyone sees Google Wave as something different because they’re bringing their own preconceptions to it — just as the first cars were known as “horseless carriages”.

In simple terms, Google Wave is like a cross between email, instant messaging and wikis [a wiki is a webpage that allows anyone to make changes].

Google Wave is still in the early development stages and Google isn’t even calling it a “beta” yet. After offering a “preview” to a few thousand developers, Google extended Google Wave invites to 100,000 early adopters. As with Google’s email service, Gmail, Google Wave invites will remain a precious commodity for a while.

Similar to Gmail, Google Wave runs inside a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. The interface looks similar to Gmail and eventually Google may combine them in one service. Creating a new message, or “Wave”, is simple enough: just click New Wave and a fresh window opens on the right of the screen. You can start typing straight away, with basic formatting options as well as the ability to attach files. You can also insert links to other Waves, content from webpages, maps, links to other services such as Twitter and tiny applications such as a Yes/No/Maybe poll.

Sharing a Wave is simple; you can drag them across from your address book or search for them. Once you add someone to a Wave, it will appear in their Google Wave inbox. Now they’ll be able to see what you’re typing, letter by letter, marked by an icon with your username in it.

You can add as many people to a Wave as you want and even make it public so anyone with a Google Wave account can see it and contribute.

Each person can make comments, with a single comment known as a “Blip”. They can can also reply to and edit comments made by other people. Eventually you should have the option to restrict how people can edit your comments.

You can’t always read a Wave chronologically from top to bottom because anyone can interject at any point to make a comment and start a new conversation (known as a “Wavelet”).

Thankfully, you can replay a Wave — comment by comment — to see how it developed.

At first, the real-time nature of Google Wave makes it tempting to use it like instant messaging but you find yourself talking over each other. It seems better suited to real-time collaboration, with different people editing different parts of a Wave similar to a Wikipedia entry. It’s perfect for holding asynchronous conversations that run over days, similar to online forums. Anyone who has used clunky and expensive business-grade collaboration and project management tools will see the potential for Google Wave.

Of course, these ideas are falling for the trap of trying to fit Google Wave into concepts we’re familiar with. Developers have been busy creating new applications that will run inside Google Wave. This will allow it to be a platform on which other services are built, in the vein of Facebook. It has the potential to replace email, instant messaging, forums, wikis, blogs and even traditional publishing outlets — combining them into something we can only begin to imagine. In other words, Google is building Web 3.0 inside Google Wave.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Rather than building Google Wave and delivering a polished final product, Google has handed the online community a rough first draft, along with the tools to create Web 3.0.

Rather than saying “build it and they will come”, Google is saying “give them a clean slate and they’ll build it themselves”.

As such, Google Wave is an amazing place right now, like a new nation that has sprung forth. Not only are these new digital citizens building cities, they’re deciding how their society is going to function — in preparation for a population explosion. The limited membership means Google Wave is still a bit of a utopian playground free from spammers and griefers — for now.

To wander around in Google Wave feels like standing next to Romulus and Remus, overlooking the seven hills of Rome, or watching over Thomas Jefferson’s shoulder as he writes the US Constitution. Only time will tell what becomes of it.

It seems that Google Wave will have applications for library and school teams as well as students who should (apart from time zone differences) now be truly able to fully collaborate with counterparts virtually anywhere in the world.

Please note that as at 5 August 2010, Google Wave has been discontinued. Read the article from Mashable here.

ePals

 ePals promotes itself as ‘the internet’s largest global community of connected classrooms.  It is a free resource that offers collaborative school projects, eMentoring as well as ‘ePals on the web’.

Homepage
Homepage

From the website comes the following information:

The Social Network for Learning

ePals is the largest and fastest growing K-12 online community for meaningful learning. More than half a million educators and millions of learners across 200 countries and territories safely connect, collaborate and build community.

  • Schools around the globe use our school-safe email and blog tools.
  • Deep learning is catalyzed through collaborative learning projects and experiences such as In2Books, ePals’ research-based curriculum-aligned eMentoring program.

Exchanging ideas and questions in a meaningful way with other learners – down the block or around the globe – generates great excitement about learning and builds 21st century digital literacy and learning skills.

ePals was written about recently in The Journal. The text of the article follows: 

ePals Boosts Language Translation Capabilities

By David Nagel

08/19/09

Education technology provider ePalshas upgraded its ePals Global Community by expanding its instant translation capabilities. The service has now added 26 additional languages and can now translate text in a total of 35 languages.

Some of the new languages supported by the translator include Arabic, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hindi, Polish, Russian, Swedish, and Vietnamese

ePals is a free resource that reaches more than half a million educators and millions of students worldwide, offering collaboration tools, social networking capabilities, and school-oriented features like Classroom Match, SchoolMail, SchoolBlog, and In2Books.

  • Classroom Match is a tool designed to let teachers connect with other classrooms or online projects around the country.
  • SchoolMail is an integrated, teacher-monitored e-mail system that includes 72 language-translation pairs, spell checking, virus and spam filters, and file-sharing capabilities.
  • SchoolBlog is a literacy education tool that offers teacher-supervised message boards that encourage students to express ideas and collaborate with peers and instructors.
  • In2Books is an online literacy curriculum based around a dialog between a student and an adult mentor designed to improve student achievement on standardized tests and increase critical thinking and writing proficiency.

According to ePals, more than 500,000 teachers and “millions of students” around the world use the online service. Further information can be found here.

The In2Books section of the site may be of interest to Primary School teachers:

With In2Books, 3rd – 5th grade students:

  • Are connected with carefully screened adult pen pals
  • Select and read 5 books closely each year
  • Engage with adult pen pals who read the same books
  • Exchange 6 online letters each year with their adult pen pals

and,

With In2Books, teachers: the learning with in-class discussions about the books and related instruction in genre and literacy skills.

Reinforce and extend

Certainly worth perusing.