Speaking Web 2.0: How to use 21st Century tools to keep in touch with students & parents

Are the students of today different than the students of 30 years ago? How about 10? Or even just 3? It is hard to keep up with the pace of change in technology and communication, but as teachers we NEED to be reaching our students on THEIR turf, in the way that THEY learn and understand – and that is probably a little different than how you or I learn.

Here’s a little taste of how your Digital learners view the world – they are curious and they WANT to learn, but they expect to do it a little differently. Meet Joe & his Non-Notebook:

Students today expect to be able to interact with media & information, not just sit back and try to absorb it. Information is always at your students fingertips – is it at yours?

In our presentation today, we’ll look at some 21st Century tools to enable you to walk the walk and talk the talk of your Digital Learners today. Here’s the resources and tools that we’ll look at, and I’ll explain each below. (Note: you can download the presentation from today’s session here)

Qik lets you share your everyday life experiences as it happens with your family and friends — the easiest way to record and share videos right from your mobile phone.

Would your students benefit from having a video archive of your lecture/presentation/teaching available to them anytime and anywhere? How about that sick student at home?

Qik not only allows you to video the classroom happenings, not only saves it for you on it’s site, but people can view it live as it happens and be a part of what is going on. Requires some sort of App phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others).


How many of you in the room today have a class/school web page? How many times do you update it in a school year? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Never – someone else made the page? Why don’t you keep it up-to-date?

Remember Joe? Remember how he tries to access information? If it isn’t online, it does not exist to a kid like Joe. You can easily keep a kid like Joe happy by creating a new Web site from Posterous. It is simply THE MOST EASY way to keep a Web site current. It is so easy, that you already know how to use it. Ever heard of email? THAT is how you add something to a Posterous blog or site. Here’s what you have to do:
  1. Create an account… Er, skip that. You don’t need to do this.
  2. Email your thoughts, photos, audio & videos along with any Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF file to post@posterous.com
  3. That’s it. You have just created a new web site and made your first entry.
Posterous will email you back telling you that your new site has been created with links to view the post or your site, and to set up a password. Anytime you want to add something to your site, you simply send an email to post@posterous.com and it’s done. It’s even smart enough to figure out what you are attaching and will automatically add audio and video players, links to download your files – it’s all automatic.

Email too tough for you? Try http://post.ly

Poll Everywhere is a service that you can use during class discussion to get instant feedback from your students via text message or web polling or voting. The results are instantly updated on the website, or you can embed a poll into a PowerPoint presentation (now Keynote in iWork on the Mac as well!). 

A basic teacher account will allow for 32 responses for an unlimited number of questions. Questions can be either multiple choice or open-ended in nature. Students LOVE the instant and anonymous feedback that they get, and the teacher can know at a glance what the students are understanding, and what they still have questions about. 

Let’s Try it out. Please give me your best guess as to the question, “How many people use Facebook?” You can also vote via Text Messaging or Smartphone at http://poll4.com with the text messaging code.

Facebook Fan Pages

Now that you know just how many people are on Facebook, how many people would you say regularly check your District, School, or personal Web site? Why not try to reach your students where they spend a lot of their time already? Teachers can create a Fan Page on Facebook pretty quickly and students can become a “Fan” of that page. When they do, they will see all of the updates on that page on their own Facebook page! You can even tie Posterous or any other blog page with an RSS feed to automatically update your Fan page. Post it once and it’s everywhere!

Here’s an example – my SEDC Tech Training Fan Page.

I’ve written before at length about TextMarks. TextMarks utilizes the main form of communications for today’s students – text messaging – and allows for instant alerts and reminders for your students, or their parents for that matter. Create an account at TextMarks, and then set up different groups that you intend to communicate with – different class periods, subject areas, parents, etc. and assign them a unique keyword. 

Once students or parents subscribe to the group, you can send out any message or reminder needed from the TextMarks website, and your “subscribers” will instantly be notified of your message. Reminders and messages to your students that they will actually READ!

Heard of a Podcast? They are great for teaching students in t
he new 21st Century mode of instruction…
WWW: Whatever, Whenever, Wherever

Gabcast is a service that will make recording audio for podcasting or video projects MUCH easier. No longer do you need access to a computer lab, microphones, headsets, and QUIET! Send a group of students to a quiet corner and have them call into Gabcast. Gabcast will record whatever they say into the phone, turn it into an audio file, and make that file available for download. 

Once they have the file, they can import it into other editing programs like Audacity or GarageBand for Podcast creation, or into MovieMaker or iMovie to use that recording for movie making. Easy and convenient audio recording. You could even capture a class discussion with Gabcast that you could then post to your website as review, class notes, or even to help that poor student that has been out ill for a week.

Do you ChaCha? I know that your students know about it. ChaCha is basically a web search with your voice anywhere, anytime. Call 800.2.ChaCha (800.224.2242) or or text-message a question to ChaCha at 242242, and the answer will be texted back to that phone. All is costs is the text message fee, which most of your students have an unlimited plan for. Very handy to resolve any question that comes up during class discussion or for research away from the computer lab or Library.

Ahh, Google. The good folks at Google will let you search for the information that you need the most from your phone. Google SMS is like ChaCha, but more focused on YOUR life and services in your current location. 

Text “weather 84720” to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) and you will get the current weather and forecast for Cedar City. Text “define asymptote”, and Google will give you the definition! Very handy and useful! Here is a more complete list of what Google SMS can answer for you.

UPDATE: This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Web Geeks Resources.

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