I attended the second day led by Tom March yesterday, focusing on leveraging web 2.0 for the classroom. The thing I really like about these sessions is that I hear Tom’s introduction and assume I know everything there is to know and then by the end of the session I’ve come away with really useful tools and strategies for implementing them. It just goes to show that there is always something new to learn or a new approach to try out.
For example, last month we looked at WordPress and my initial reaction was “I know how to set up a blog…I write for 5 of them already.” But by the end of the session I not only knew how to do some cool new things, like using the categories to populate separate blog pages so that they can be relevant to a specific class, but also how to do simple little things like removing the related videos from Youtube embeds (&rel=0 is your friend here). I also had a new method for using blogs in class that was achingly simple, but I hadn’t thought of it previously.
And so it went yesterday, too. Tom informed us we were going to look at RSS feeds and social bookmarking and I arrogantly assumed that since I’d been using both for years it would be a dud session. We looked at Netvibes and Diigo, which set off even more alarm bells since I use Google Reader and Delicious and hated the thought of signing up for yet another couple of accounts. However, the thing that Tom does well is explain the difference between two tools and suggesting why the one he uses is the most appropriate tool for the job (something I’m keen on, if you refer to the Maslow’s Hammer comments in my previous post on IWBs).
Yesterday we setup Netvibes public pages to collect RSS feeds that may be of interest to our classes, with the aim of making these into class portals. I’ve encouraged my classes to use RSS before, but all the grief of setting up Google accounts and the like can often feel like it is not worth it. The thing I like about Netvibes is I can set up a landing page for the kids and they can view it without an account. It feeds in nicely to some of the principles that Tom raised last time two, namely about providing rich resources and encouraging self management of the learning process. It’s a great way of guiding kids towards quality sources without spoon-feeding them too much.
I was particularly dubious about Diigo. I’ve been considering Diigo for about two years, but never bothered making the switch from Delicious simply because I couldn’t see any added value in it. Admittedly, I hadn’t really done my research that well. Now that I’ve seen first hand how well the bookmarking, sharing and highlighting tools work, I doubt I’ll look back. I was particularly impressed by the way the highlighted portions of bookmarked pages act as a summary when you view the bookmark in your Diigo library. It doesn’t hurt that it works perfectly with the iPad, either.
So on day three I will not let myself be critical of the tools we’ll be using until I’ve given them a fair go!