Change is…

Complete the following sentence:

Change is _______.

a) good
b) bad
c) inevitable
d) all of the above

Our world is changing and the web is changing along with it. Below are a couple of video clips from You Tube. The first one from Colorado educator Karl Fisch helps us get a handle on how the world is changing. The second offers a glimpse into how the web is changing to keep up.

NOTE: If your school blocks YouTube, watch these when you get home.

A Simple Solution

This Internet tip is an oldie, but a goodie. I’ve known about it for a long time but never really made use of it until this week. It really saved me a lot of trouble.

There are some great web sites out there for primary kids. One of the best ones out there Starfall, but there are other good ones as well. I know I can trust first graders to double click on Internet Explorer, but I don’t want to deal with having them type in a web address. Even asking them go to Favorites and select the correct one, can be a chore. To solve this, I’ve taken some of the web sites most often used by our primary grades and put them in the Links toolbar. This way the kids just have to open Internet Explorer, click on the correct link in the toolbar, and Viola! they are at the correct web site in no time.

Here’s how…

1. Open Internet Explorer.
2. Go to the VIEW menu, select TOOLBARS, and make sure the LINKS toolbar is checked.

If it is, and you still don’t see the links toolbar, it may be hiding down at the end of your Address Bar.

If so, just go to drag it down below the Address Bar. If it won’t move, you may need to unlock the toolbar – Go to VIEW, TOOLBARS, and uncheck LOCK THE TOOLBARS.

3. Go to a website you want to add to your toolbar.
4. Drag the address from the Address Bar down to the Links Bar…

…and a new link is added.
5. To make room in the Links Bar for more links, you may want to shorten the name of the link. To do this, right-click on the link and select properties. Click on the General tab and change the name to something shorter.

6. To delete a link from your toolbar, just right-click on the link and select DELETE.

Here are some primary grade web sites I have on my Links Bar: Starfall, Mr. PicassoHead, Ben’s Guide to US Government, White House Kids Page, US States Games, I’m sure you can think of some other great ones too.

FIREFOX and SAFARI users, this works for you too. It’s called the Bookmarks toolbar.

FIREFOX: Go to VIEW and select BOOKMARKS TOOLBAR. Drag web sites to the toolbar.
SAFARI: Go to VIEW and select SHOW BOOKMARKS BAR. Drag web sites to the toolbar.


For those of you looking for a coherent, single topic, instructional blog entry you might as well click the little red “x” and close this window right now. What you’ll be getting today is a hodgepodge of random thoughts and ideas. A Web 2.0 stream of consciousness as it were…

Sounds Good to Me

I’ve devoted several posts to some great video podcasts for use in the classroom, but let’s not forget that there are some pretty good audio podcasts out there too. Getting kids (and teachers) familiar with downloading and subscribing to audio podcasts helps them get an idea of what a podcast is. It also gets them one step closer to producing their own podcasts. Here are a few “baby steps” to get you started:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – a weekly program that focuses on writing and good grammar. These 3 – 6 minute podcasts would be good for grades 5 on up. NOTE: You might have to listen to a little ad from their sponsor before they get to the topic.

Radio WillowWeb
– Wow! These kids have really taken student made podcasts to the next level. Great educational content from multiple subject areas, written and presented by elementary students. This would be a great model to follow when introducing your kids to making their own podcasts.

Reading Rockets Presents: Meet the Author – Okay all you librarians, pay attention. This has interviews with various authors including Jack Preletusky, Avi, Marc Brown, Patricia Polacco, Katherine Paterson and many others. A great resource!

Wondering if your kids will be able to listen to these? Try this. Ask how many of your students have iPods. I’m guessing the number will be between 90-100%. Even if they don’t have iPods they can still listen to podcasts on their computer. Then imagine giving your kids this assignment, “I want you all to go home and listen to your iPod…” You could be the coolest teacher at your school!

Google Earth Tours

Recently a friend and fellow teacher, Janet English*, had a chance to visit South Africa. One of the many things she did there is visit and take a mini safari in Pilanesburg National Park. What’s cool is she created a virtual tour of the park using Google Earth. The tour lets you follow along on her adventure with written descriptions and pictures. I clicked through this tour with my 5 year old niece over Easter Break and had her try to see how many animals she could name. She got almost all of them.

Wouldn’t something like this be a great way to create digital stories of some of the interesting places you’ve visited and share them with your class? I’ve definitely got to learn how to do this! When I do, I’ll be sure to post directions for you. I’ll also see if I can get permission to post Janet’s virtual tour file in a future blog.

*Janet is currently Senior Director of Education and New Media at KOCE-TV (Orange County’s PBS Station)

Speaking of Blogs

As long as I’m talking about South Africa, I encourage everyone to check out Janet’s South African World Summit Blog. It contains some great photos, podcasts, and interviews with children from South Africa and around the world. This is a great way to let your students hear voices and thoughts from kids their own age and see how they are alike and different.

For students studying the American Civil Rights movement, this blog also provides some insight into the current struggle for equality in South Africa. Read and listen to what is going on right now and compare it to our own history. Ask your students if they see any similarities or differences. What have we learned from our experience here in the US that might help them deal with their present situation? (What do you think? An interesting class project?)

Planet Earth

Have you been watching Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel? Not only does this amazing program make me want to spend $2000 for a High Definition TV, it’s also got some great educational resources as well. Check out the Discovery Channel Planet Earth site for

Kids Become the Teacher with Wikispaces

Several weeks ago, 8th grade started a project using Wikispaces. Every year our 8th graders go to Washington D.C. In the past they have had to write a report about DC that included information about various monuments, the White House, and other places on the tour.

This year our history teacher, Mr. Harrison, decided to try something different. Roles were reversed and the students took on the job of teacher They were divided into groups of four and asked to design a webquest. Together they were to create several worksheets or tests about different places they would visit in DC. Then they worked as a team to design their own page on Mr. Harrison’s Wikispace. Pages would include links to the worksheet document (they were also required to post an answer key), links to web sites that Mr. Harrison would use to answer the questions, and pictures. The groups were evaluated based on how well they completed their task and how well they worked together as a group.

The Setup

To begin this project, we first had to create a space for Mr. Harrison at Wikispaces. Wikispaces offers free public spaces, but charges for private spaces – unless your a teacher. To sign up for a free, private space (only registered space users can see or edit pages) we went to and registered.

Once we had a space set up, I worked with Mr. Harrison to create his page that included the project guidelines and instructions for his students. Next I created a blank page for each group of students to edit.

The final step was to create user accounts for each student in the class. Normally, a new user needs to register a unique username and password with Wikispaces and supply their own e-mail address. Then they need to be invited to join the Wikispace by creator or owner of that space. This would not work for us because we did not want to students to give out their e-mail address and we wanted control over the usernames assigned to each student. Fortunately, Wikispaces makes this process easier for teachers. All we had to do is follow the procedure they list on their help page for teachers. We sent an e-mail to gave them the usernames and passwords for each student along with the name of the space we wanted them to join. (Our students already have unique user ID’s on our online learning system and I was able to use the same names for Wikispaces.) After a few days, all the students showed up as members in Mr. Harrison’s space.

Student Instruction

Once everything was finally setup, it was time to get the students working. I took one class period and presented a lesson explaining the nuts and bolts of editing a wikispaces page. I also posted screen captures of certain procedures online for students to review later. Here are links to the screen captures:

I’ve found that when working with students, it’s best to keep the instructions brief. I give them just enough info to get started and let them know what is expected for the final product. It’s up to them figure out the rest on their own and solve technical problems within their group.

One of the advantages of using a wiki is that it keeps track of any changes made to a page. At any time, you can click on the history button and see what the page looked like as changes were made. You can also see which user made those changes. In addition to tracking changes, the history button provides students a safety net. If something gets “totally messed up” you can simply revert back to a previous version of the page and begin working from there. This ability to go back in time makes wikis a powerful tool. Checking page history is also a great way for a teacher to see that everyone in the group is participating.

In addition to the page history, each page also has it’s own discussion board. I was surprised to see how many students used it to communicate with their group as they worked on their pages from home. It was fun to read the posts and observe as students helped each other and answered each other’s questions. One or two kids even got reprimanded by by their group for not participating. Mr. Harrison and I were able to monitor all group communication to make sure nothing inappropriate or malicious was being posted. I was even able to answer a few questions myself – from the comfort of my own living room.

Wrapping Up

At the project deadline Mr. Harrison locked all the student’s pages. This prevented them from making any fixes or updates after the the assignment was supposed to be finished. Most student pages met or exceeded our expectations.

As part of the project, each group was required to write an evaluation, explaining what was learned as they worked on their webquests. Here are some of the comments:

“I thought that this process was very new and different, and at times, very frustrating. But we were able to either leave comments for each other or call each other.” … “I really liked the idea of the team responsibilities, because that way no one person gets all the load dumped on them.”

“We had to work together to finish this project and it was a little hectic. The hardest part was having to split up the duties evenly so that we all got a grade on it.”

“In the end this was a very good project. It was way better than doing a report. One problem was it was difficult when you could not edit at them same time. This caused some problems but in the end we fixed them. Also at some points it would get very annoying with the page. You would do something and save but it would not keep it. But it was fixed and we finished our project. This was a very good project and we would much rather do this than a whole report by ourselves.”

“This project was very fun for all of us and was a wonderful learning experience, but somewhat difficult. We like the format of the website, but the toolbar was a bit hard. If we could change something about this site it would have to be the pictures, because they were somewhat hard to download. We definitely thought this was 100 times better than a 20 page report!”

Many groups experienced frustration with the Wikispaces page editor as things that looked great in the editor did not always look the same once they were saved. We let students know up front that the editor could be a little quirky at times, and that they would need to work together to solve problems. For the most part, members of the group stepped up and were able to solve their own technical problems.

All in all, I think our first venture into the use of wikis in the classroom went quite well. We’re already looking at other ways to use this tool. If you’re curious about how you can use wikis with your students, Teachers First has some great ideas.

Curious what some our final projects look like? Since this is a private space I can’t include a link, but here is a brief video tour.

Mr. Harrison’s Wikispace Tour (Windows Media Player Required)

Fabulous Fotos on Flickr

Here’s another FREE Web 2.0 tool for you to try. It’s called Flickr. Use it to post photos online to share with just your friends (private) or the whole world (public)! You decide. Signing up is a simple process. Since I already had a Yahoo! Mail account, I was able to use the same username and password.

Once on Flickr, your pictures can posted directly to your blog. (I’m typing this in Flickr right now.) You can add comments and tags to your pictures to make them searchable. I’ve got numerous pics from my fishing trips in the Eastern Sierras. To find them, just search for all the pictures with the tag “Sierras”. Want to see all my Flickr photos? Just click on photo on this blog. Once there, click on “dgrice’s photostream” to see my other photos. If you want, feel free to add comments to the photos and even subscribe to my photostream (using RSS).

What can teachers do with this? If you have photos from your vacation that you want to share with your class you can post them on Flickr and give students a link to access them online. They can use your photos in their multimedia projects or use them as writing prompts.

You can also use your vacation photos as a geography lesson. The map feature in Flickr lets you plot your photo locations. To see where my picture was taken, click on it and look under “Additional Information” to see where it was taken. Click the (map) link. For fun, have your student try to guess where a picture was taken, or create a Flickr for your class and have them bring in their own vacation pictures, upload them (with parent permission, of course) and then plot on the map where their pictures were taken.

A word of warning: I suggest you give students a direct link to your photos rather then having them go to Flickr and search everything. Since anyone can post photos to Flickr, some of the images may not be appropriate for use in the classroom.

A New Way to Process Words

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love stuff that’s FREE. Imagine my joy when I discovered Google Docs. It’s a free basic word processor. There’s no software to install – it runs right inside your web browser. You can import a variety of word processing documents from Word (.doc), Star Office, Open Office (.odt), and Rich Text files (.rtf). While you can’t import pictures or add clip art, you do have the advantage of being able to access, edit, and print from any computer with Internet access. Just log in with your Google username and password. (I was able to use the same one I use for Blogger.)
But wait there’s more!

What makes Google Docs so powerful is the fact that you can Add Collaborators to your documents. By “inviting” others to edit your documents, you can have several people working together on the same document at the same time. You see changes as they happen. What a powerful tool for learning! When a document is finished it can be posted directly from Google Docs to your blog. If you make a document “public” users can subscribe to an RSS feed so they can be updated when any changes are made.

While a great tool like this doesn’t convince me to put good old Microsoft Word in mothballs just yet, it sure does make me look at word processing in a whole new way. Google Docs is a great Web 2.0 tool.

Oh, wait! Did I forget to mention you can also do spreadsheets too? It imports Excel (.xls), Open Office (.ods), and Comma Separated (.csv) files.

For more info about Google Docs, take the tour.

Even More Podcasts

At our district technology meeting today, Rene Drevlow from Zion Lutheran School in Anaheim shared these FREE video podcasts she discovered on iTunes. If you have iTunes installed on your computer, clicking on the link will open iTunes and take you directly to that podcast.

Titles for Primary Grades:
Nickjr: Blue’s Clues – 3 minute segments from the Nick Jr. kids show.
DragonflyTV Podcast – Ordinary kids doing extraordinary science investigations. (from PBS Kids)
Share the Earth…This is Our Earth – Songs about the Earth (from PBS Kids)
Miss Lori and Hooper – Themed activities, music, and movement. (from PBS Kids)

Want to Learn about Mac OSX?
Mac OS X for Your Classroom – Created by a school district in DesPlains, Ill.
Learn Mac OS X Tiger – a 16-minute video explaining how to set your personal preferences.
Learn Mac OS X – An Apple a Day Keeps the Viruses Away – More system preferences, using AIM with iChat, and more OS X help

If you find any other great iTunes video podcasts for education, please comment and let me know.

Thanks for your contribution Rene.

For more info on how to use Video Podcasts and iTunes, see my previous post (Dec. 6, 2006)

Diigo &

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got tons of bookmarks saved in your browser. When I click to look at mine, the list just scrolls down the screen. I never bother to organize them or put them in folders – does anybody? Also, if you’re like me, when you look down the list at some of those pages you’ve bookmarked, you can’t remember why you even saved them in the first place. I have enough trouble remembering where I left my TV remote. Don’t ask me to remember what I was thinking 6 years ago when I bookmarked “The Happiest Potties on Earth
Even when I can remember why I bookmarked a site, those sites are only available to me if I’m using my own computer. There are times when I’m working in a classroom with a student or teacher and have to spend time searching for a site that I could easily find if I had my bookmarks available to me. If only there was a way to put all my bookmarks online so I could access them from anywhere. Wouldn’t that be great? (Here comes the product plug…)
You might as well call it “Bookmarks to go” (or “Favorites to go” if you’re still using Internet Explorer). The word is the web site. No www’s or .com’s. It’s just and it’s FREE! You just need to register and create a user name. Then you will have your own site where you can add your bookmarks. You can access them from any computer just by going to your site. To help you remember why you bookmarked a site, you can add your own comments (think: reminders) to each of your bookmarks.
In addition to your comments, when you add a bookmark to, you can see how many other people have also bookmarked that site along with the comments they wrote. If you click on another user’s name, you can see their bookmarks as well. This is called “social bookmarking”.
Imagine you’re interested in vintage Volkwagons. You find a great web page and add it to your site. Then you see that 20 other people have also bookmarked and commented on that same web page. If you click on the user name of one of those people you can check their bookmarks and possibly find other great vintage VW web pages – pages that they’ve found that might also match your own interests.
For a more detailed description of, visit Steve Dembo’s Digital Passports blog.

Diigo does what does, but takes it one step further. In addition to online bookmarks and comments, you can also highlight sections of your favorite web site right in your browser. Later, when you visit sites that you’ve previously highlighted, those highlights are still there so you can quickly find the info that interested you – without having to re-read the whole page again.
When you highlight something on a web page, you can add a “sticky note” and comment on that specific section. If other people have highlighted and added sticky notes to a sections on that page you can see those too.
Note: When you add comments about a web page, or sticky notes to a section of highlighted text, you have the option to make those “public” or “private”. Private comments and notes can only be seen by you. Public ones can be viewed by the entire Diigo community.
How does all this work? (Here’s the catch.) To see the highlights and sticky notes you need to install a Diigo toolbar to your browser. Without the toolbar installed, you can still see the comments and highlighted text when you look at your bookmark page, but they will not be visible when you view the actual web page. I can still access my bookmarks from any computer, I just need to be using my own computer, or any computer with the Diigo toolbar installed, to see my highlights and sticky notes.
I know it sounds complicated, but Diigo has some great tutorials that demonstrate all these features (and a few more).
Click here to see my Diigo bookmarks.

Upgrade to "Web 2.0"

Have you heard people talking about “Web 2.0″? The term is getting tossed about quite a bit lately and specific definitions vary. Even Wikipedia is hard-pressed to nail down a single definitive answer as to what it actually means. While I’ll leave it up to the experts like David Warlick and others to define it specifically, generally lets just think of Web 2.0 as a ‘kicked-up” Internet with a new level of interactivity and collaboration.

In the past, there were two kinds of web users: those who published the information and those who read it. Pretty much anyone could search for and read information on Web pages, but it took a little extra technical skill and know-how to actually produce and post information yourself.

New tools like blogs and wikis have changed that. No longer is the average web user relegated to the role of spectator, but now he/she can also be a contributor. Thanks to these tools, anyone who knows how to browse the web also has the ability to interact with content publishers, add comments and generate their own content as well.

Even the process of searching for news and information has been transformed. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) web users no longer have to search for news and information of interest to them. They can select certain news sources or web authors and receive new articles and updates as soon as they are posted simply by “subscribing” to it.

Web 2.0 has taken the Internet beyond e-mail and web pages. It uses the the Internet as a platform to run all sorts of interactive and dynamic applications. As a result we now have things like Google Earth, iTunes (podcasting), Flickr, and many others.

In the hands of a skilled teacher, these tools can become a powerful platform for learning. I hope to post info, lesson ideas, and help sheets (or videos) on some of these tools in future posts. Right now I’m exploring classroom applications for wikis using Wikispaces. More to come…

Video Podcast Update

Here’s an update to my earlier list of video podcasts. Remember you don’t need an iPod to view a podcast. All you need iTunes software (available FREE at To find these podcasts go to the iTunes Store and search for the following…

(If you have iTunes already installed, clicking on the links below will start iTunes and take you directly to that podcast.)

NOVA Vodcast
– Short video stories from the PBS series
Ask an Astronomer – Real NASA astronomers answer questions like: “Can you feel solar wind?”, “What is redshift?”, and “How can we see a black hole?”
NASAcast Video – an RSS newsfeed with the latest NASA videos
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Podcast – Contains both video and audio clips
Sun-Earth Education – NASA – the sun and its effect on the Earth
Nature PBS – collection of 2-5 minute clips from various episodes from the PBS series.
CNN Student News – The same program that’s broadcast for teachers to record in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t forget to go to to download the daily transcripts and news quiz.

To learn more about using iTunes and video podcasts click here to go to my earlier post: FREE Video Podcasts for Teachers