Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Annette Lamb - ABC's of Web 2.0 : Avatars, Blogs, and Collaborative Wikis

I first heard Annette Lamb present at GAETC in Macon four or five years ago and was thoroughly impressed by her, so I knew I needed to sit in on at least one of her lectures. Being the fan of Web 2.0 that I am, I chose this particular session of hers to attend.

Lamb cites collaboration and interactivity as two factors why Web 2.0 tools are useful for students in education. In the past our students may have all worked on a project, but each one did their part and then combined it together. "That's cooperation or team-building," she says and I agree. What also happens in these situations is that one student does the work, sometimes for the majority of the group. By making each student responsible for their own work and giving the teacher the tools to monitor the collaboration, interactivity is a by-product. That one shy child or non-participator-by-choice child is drawn to interact.

The title of her presentation, ABC's of Web 2.0, was actually how she broke down her presentation. The first topic was "A" for Avatars, Virtual Worlds, and Social Networks.

She began by talking about the virtual world called 2nd life and actually showed us some family pictures of the avatars she and her family have created for themselves in the virtual world. She and her father have actually met in 2nd life and attended a virtual Genealogy meeting with other members of 2nd life who have similar interests. Instead of discussing on a bulletin board or via live chat, you can actually watch everyone interact and have conversations.

For some, it's a place where they can come out of their shell and even create a "new" look. Lamb said that 2ndLife's content is booming and just about everyone can find an interest group that matches their own hobbies, career field, etc. However, 2ndlife isn't for school age children, which is why there is also Teen Life and Whyville for the younger kids.

But how do you use in education? First, imagine taking a virtual trip on the Oregon Trail where you dress up in period clothing and experience the voyage in a simulated environment. Or how about visiting a virtual world based on a book that your class is reading? I have to admit that I have yet to develop a clear picture of the K-12 application of this, but I do realize that this is our future, and I can't wait to see where this goes in the next few years.

If you'd like to take some virtual tours, you'll need to set up and account and download the 2ndLife application first, but then you can visit Annette's wiki where she has tours already established. I think I'll check it out myself to get my own toes wet.

Footnote is a social networking website for people who like primary source documents!! This is going to be a history teacher's goldmine. First you create your profile and then you can locate other people who share your interest. The site has a relationship with National Archives and other museums where primary source documents have been uploaded. 129,000 documents currently exist in their database. Many archives of states and universities are also connected.

But what about the "tweens"? Imbee is a site for teachers and schools and it's free. It's kind of a My Space for kids, but without the risks and exposure. Students can create their own blogs, but unlike other social websites, this is a closed community. However, Lamb suggested it as it's a great social network for project based learning. I have tried to access the site as I'm writing this, but for some reason I can't get in, but don't let that keep you from trying it out.

Ning is a social networking site that I had heard of before attending her session. It allows you to create your own social network where you can choose who participates. Ning works much like a blog and is quick to set up. Additionally, you can add photos, videos, and make your Ning private and only accessible to members of your network.

Of all the tools categorized under "A", for me I would most likely use Ning and be able to suggest its use for teachers and students.

"B" is for Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts, and Web Feeds, all of which are about "me". The purpose of these tools is to publish and share something of importance to me. Others might find what I have written or recorded interesting and they can comment on it. Annette went on to share a dizzying array of K-12 examples, but at least check out this kindergarten class video.

"C" is for Collaborative Wikis, Documents, and Projects. Again, you can find a treasure trove of examples on her website, but she has moved the wiki examples here. Also, be sure to check out her pdf file on "Characteristics of Effective Collaboration."

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed her session. Although I was already aware of the ABCs, her resources and K-12 examples were more than worth the hour! If you ever get a chance to see her in person...go!