There are numerous websites that offer tools that can plug into your classes as integrally or tangentially as desired. Here are several of the better known Web resources.
These are "anyone can edit" Web pages that are highly useful for student group work, group projects, or whole-class investigations (or even jointly-constructed class notes for studying). Take a look: wikispaces.com or PBworks.com.
A wiki, from Hawaiian meaning quick or fast, is a website that allows any visitor to participate in creating, editing, or changing the site without logging in or needing a special server. It serves as a living collaboration of content that is continuously under construction. The best example of a wiki is Wikipedia.
- Collaborative class notes via a wiki. It's also possible to have students comb through the notes and come up with questions for the exam.
- Students can write advice letters to future students in a public domain.
- The instructor can provide empty outlines via the course wiki and have students collaboratively fill it in.
- Brainstorming and generating lists.
- The instructor and students can explore a new or emerging area using a wiki. Everyone gathers information as a researcher.
- Group projects.
- Simulation of a fictional company's website
- Click here for more ideas on how to integrate Wikis into your classes.
There are multiple sites that provide free wikis, but the recommended site is http://www.wikispaces.com/. After registering, "create a space" by choosing a name and then let students know the location of the wiki in the course syllabus or an announcement in class. You may choose to only let "members" update the wiki. However, you will then need to grant access to each student one at a time.
For wikispaces.com, follow the prompts to create a site, paying close attention to permissions (do you want only members to update the site? If so, you'll need to grant access one at a time, or invite them manually). Alternative: allow students to create their own wikispaces site.
- For Google Sites, log in to Gmail and select MORE at the top left, then click on Sites.
- Click on the button to Create New Site. Spaces are allowed in the "name" box, but will be automatically removed when you tab over to the URL box. Type the word verification code and click "Create Site"
- You are taken to the site directly. The home page can be edited with the "edit page" button at the top-right. While editing, click the SAVE button in the top-right to return to viewing mode.
- Click the "Create Page" button in the top-right. Give it a name (it's simplest to leave the default of "top level") and click Create Page. On the next screen, you are in the edit mode; click SAVE at the top-right to save your changes.
- While in edit mode, hyperlinks can be inserted using the LINK button. Many types of objects (images, spreadsheets, video files, YouTube videos) can be added under the INSERT menu at the top-left. The Format, Table, and Layout options approximate functions familiar from MS-Word.
- Permissions and logs of site activity can be seen under the "More Actions" button on the top-right and selecting "Manage Site".
These are online diaries with automated date stamping, search tools, and publication/syndication software. Short for "web logs," blogs are frequently used for personal sharing of information, but can be adapted for classroom/curricular use easily. Some instructors use blogs to increase the amount of student reflection and writing, and to make commenting on each others' posts easier. It is also possible to use blogs to enable role-playing and simulation. Check it out: blogger.com and wordpress.com.
Blogs, short for weblogs, are a platform used by individuals as a place to write electronic journals, public diaries, articles, and commentary on current events. A blog is a fast way to get your comments and information on the web because it does not have the technical requirements associated with websites. Blog posts are typically short articles of a single paragraph to half a page that are updated frequently (daily if not more) and appear in reverse chronological order. Viewers of blogs can find blogs through web searches, but many receive updates to a blog in a subscription format.
The subscription format is accessed through an RSS (real simple syndication) reader. RSS readers allow users to subscribe to all types of websites so that they can receive new and updated content without having to revisit the website. This subscription service is free and automated from all blog-hosting websites. To subscribe to a blog, viewers simply click on the RSS button and request that future blog entries be delivered to them via RSS.
Uses of Blogs
- Instructors can post ethical dilemmas and have students comment about how they would handle them.
- The instructor can post links to articles, video, etc. on current events related to the course and have students respond.
- Students can write advice letters to future students in a public domain.
- Keeping an electronic journal vs. a paper one. Allows students to include direct links and share with other students.
- As a reaction to current events. One instructor had students write their reactions to the shootings at Fort Hood in a blog after watching a live broadcast. The students were then asked to share what they wrote.
- Blog about blogging. After students have completed several blogs over the semester, they reflect on what they have posted and write an additional blog or a midterm paper.
- Journalism students keep a blog and learn about intellectual-property and copyright issues.
- Posting quizzes via the blog and students answer questions in the comments. One instructor uses this to ensure that students have done their reading before class.
- Students can comment with one-sentence summaries to the instructor's post. These techniques can also be applied in this format: "directed paraphrasing", "word journal", "application to major"
- Click here for ideas on how to integrate Blogs into your classes.
Creating a Blog with Blogger
- At http://www.blogger.com, log in using your Google username and password (Google owns Blogger and Blogspot).
- Click on "Create a Blog" (near the top-right)
- Follow the prompts to give it a title and URL, and then select a template theme (this can be changed later). Click on START BLOGGING.
- You are taken to the "Posting" tab. Each blog post should have a title (like an email subject line). In the body of the post, types paragraphs and otherwise use the icons as you would format text within MS-Word.
- Take note of the LINK icon and the blue/green "Picture" icon. Good blog posts often provide images or links to other websites in addition to plain typed information. Click on PUBLISH POST at the bottom when ready.
- To make the blog private, click the SETTINGS tab and adjust the permissions under the "Basic" page. Then switch also to the "Permissions" page. Here you can add additional authors (you'll need each student's Gmail address to do this) and/or restrict who can view the blog (note: this latter step is usually not necessary).
- On the Settings tab, the "Basic" settings include if the blog is listed and part of search engines. The "Permissions" settings lets you restrict access to just people you invite (by email address) with a top number of 100 (you are also allowed to "add authors" to let students write their own posts in your blog). Under "Comments" you can restrict who is allowed to add comments. By default, the blog is public and searchable, anyone can read it, and anyone logged in can comment on posts.
- Paste the blog URL to your syllabus (or email it to students). One option is to request/require students to use RSS to read updates (they click on the orange "speaker" icon in the address bar while at your blog). Google Reader is recommended; while logged in to Gmail, the "Reader" link is near the top-left of the page.
Using the Wordpress platform is roughly as simple as using Blogger for hosting, and has the advantage that many of the templates available look more professional and polished. Click here to read the tutorial on setting up a portfolio in Wordpress.