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I love WordPress. I currently have five WordPress blogs even though I don’t have enough to say to fill even one. I’m like a kid in a software candy story. Okay, I admit it: I even made WordPress t-shirts. To know WordPress is to love it. Here are the top 10 reasons you’ll love WordPress too:

10. Anyone can learn to use it. I can teach someone to use WordPress in 20 minutes and they’d be happy as a clam blogging away for years.

9. It is open-source. That means it is free.

8. WordPress is a Web-based application so it doesn’t run on your computer. There is no software to download and manage. You can go to a number of Web sites and set up your blog in minutes for free.

7. It’s complicated, but only if you want it to be. The beauty of WordPress is its flexibility. It can be used by the total Web novice or the high end user. There is enough to WordPress to keep the most avid techie engaged.

6. Themes galore! Unlike BlogSpot, you aren’t confined to a limited number of themes and functions. There are hundreds of free themes to download and use. And you can change themes with a click of the mouse.

5. It doesn’t have to look like a blog. WordPress is so flexible that you can make it look (and work) like a Web page but with the ease of managing a blog. You get the best of both worlds.

4. One word: Plugins. As open source software WordPress is available to anyone who wants to develop new features and functions. These plugins and widgets are almost always  free and as easy as clicking the mouse to install. Even a caveman can do it.

3. It’s interactive. WordPress gives you lots of ways to create community on the Web by allowing comments, RSS feeds, user registration, email notification and co-editors and publishers. And, after all, isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?

2. It’s everwhere. WordPress is one  the most popular, if not the most popular, blogging software packages on the Internet. That means you’ll find discussion groups, new features and help around every digital corner.

1. WordPress makes you the Web master of your own Internet world. You can do it all yourself. Okay, maybe you’ll need me to help you make the t-shirts.

It was when I said, “I was reading something on the Internet about. . .” that my doctor rolled his eyes. He assured me that it wouldn’t help to rely on Internet resources. He had years of experience with diagnosing and treating my condition. Having a lot of information wouldn’t help me, he continued, because what was important was his ability to analyze all the data (he pointed to his head and winked) and then make the appropriate decisions. He might as well have said to not worry my pretty little head about my health. I was stunned.

Are doctors and teachers out of touch?

I needed to be a partner in understanding my health and he was telling me not to bother. Had we had this conversation 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, it might have been more palatable. But with today’s Web 2.0 Internet, physicians have to understand that patients can watch a video interview with an expert from the Cleveland Clinic and post questions she will answer offline. They can join multiple support groups where people with similar health issues can compare care, discuss medications and discover alternative treatments. And we have access to the latest research written for the lay person. My doctor no longer controls information. What he apparently doesn’t understand is that this genie is out of the bottle. Embrace a patient as a partner or be left behind.

This post could have been written by a 16-year-old sophomore and titled “Why My Teacher Doesn’t Understand Me.”  With today’s Web 2.0 Internet, teachers have to understand that students can watch a video interview with an expert in biology and post questions she will answer offline. They can join social networks where students with similar assignments can compare notes, discuss answers and discover alternative solutions. And they have access to the latest research written for students. Their teacher no longer controls information. What teachers might not understand is that this genie is out of the bottle. Embrace a student as a partner in learning or be left behind.

Here are the results of the “What I can’t give up in education” survey from last week. Anything surprise you? If we dropped the items with less than 10 votes, how would things change?

When I was an eighth grader in Spokane, the desks in our classroom were bolted to the floor. The aisles between rows of bolted-down desks were so narrow they didn’t accommodate the 16 mm projector cart. With the projector at the back of the room, the image was about one third larger than the screen causing the top 25% of the picture to show on the ceiling. This lead to some peculiar optical illusions. Our teacher, Mr. Bohanan, managed to adapt this state of the art technology to the less than state of the art classroom furniture.desk

Yes, this was 50 years ago and things have changed. When it comes to technology, as educators we often pride ourselves in how successfully we’ve adapted or adopted a new technology. We manage to twist and push the latest gadget into our classroom structure whether it is the physical structure or instructional framework. And that, at times, seems to be the problem. What if, instead of showing the movie from the back of the room, Mr. Bohanan had the desks unbolted and rearranged or had us watch the movie in the hallway or in the gym? The school structure could have changed to meet the demands of technology.

Fifty years later we’re still showing movies, albeit through a video projector, from the back of the room or from a makeshift teacher station in the front of the room. And our unwillingness to change structure is like bolting the chairs to the classroom floor. Maybe, just maybe, the technology should, at least occasionally, dictate a change in the school structure, not the other way around. It certainly is dictating change in society as we are seeing with smart phones, social networking and online business and news.

So here’s my question: What part of public education are you NOT willing to change? What things can you unequivocally say must stay in place to fully complete our mission. Below you’ll find a short anonymous survey. Take a moment and check those things that are NOT negotiable, that you absolutely aren’t willing to give up. I’d also encourage you to post a comment to this blog to start a dialog around the issue of technology and education.

If Mr. Bohanan is still alive, he’s in his mid 70’s and probably posting on facebook. I’ll have to look him up.

Blogs aren’t the only show in town when it comes to easily creating a Web presence.  A Wiki might be just what you are looking for. So what’s a “wiki”?  The wiki was created and named 14 years ago by Ward Cunningham. He was looking for a name to call his easy-to-use Web page software. Cunningham, who in the late 80’s helped develop HyperCard on the Mac, remembered the name of the Honolulu Airport shuttles called Wiki Wikis. Wiki is a Hawaiian word for “quick”. The Hawaiian word is actually pronounced wee-kee, but has been distorted in the context of technology to “wick-ee”. wiki

A wiki is an easy-to-use online piece of software that lets users create Web pages without having to know anything about, well, actually building Web pages. But wikis are intended not for just a single user, but for groups of people to collaborate in sharing information. Wikipedia is the most well know example of a wiki where anyone can add information about any topic.

What would you use a wiki for in an educational context? Currently wikis are being used for maintaining meeting minutes, classroom projects, grant writing and more. Any group that is collaborating online could use a wiki.

But you’ll get a better feel for how you might use a wiki by looking at these examples:

1000 Names: A Canadian first and second grade classroom wondered what 1000 names would look like.

21st Century Ed Tech: Resources and tools for the 21st century technology classroom.

Adams Middle School News: Everything that is happening at this Redondo Beach, California school.

The Teenager’s Guide to Everywhere: Students in an English class researched interesting information about places and created FAQs for them. The combined effort has produced a kind of travel guide for fellow teenagers.

Terry the Tennis ball: Students in Australia created this “choose your own adventure” story using a wiki to collaborate.

A quick way to get started is, no suprise, Google Sites. You can quickly create your own wiki with a Google account. Anyone can do it. It’s Web 2.o after all.

Okay. That might  be a bit of hyperbole, but for most educators, the need for a Web page is quickly disappearing.  Web pages are, in the context of an educational setting, so Web 1.0 which is all about posting information and hoping someone shows up. Unless you have a high-end need for displaying and sharing content, building a Web page is too time-consuming and  expensive.

If a teacher or administrator wants a Web presence, spending hours learning DreamWeaver, and even more hours building and modifying Web pages, makes no sense. Hire a Web designer, buy a domain name and  pay for a hosting service and still you’re just edging toward the milk and honey of Web 2.0. And, when you add in the inability to easily make a Web page interactive and attractive, educators are much better off focusing on content and building a Web of Relationships on the Internet.

Web 2.0 is for Educators

Take a drink of Web 2.0.

Over the past two years, I’ve stopped teaching workshops on creating Web pages and turned down work from clients wanting a Web page. Instead I have pointed them in the direction of free blogs or wikis.

It makes a lot of sense for an educator to set up a free blog in a matter of minutes and have content appear in not much more time. And, unlike the traditional Web page, a blog can be highly interactive and easily discovered by search engines. And blogs are the perfect environment to create a community of like-minded users. Instead of dancing teddy bears or purple text on a red background, a blog gives you hundreds of clean, professionally designed templates.

The differences between a traditional Web page and a blog are beginning to blur as blogs taking on more of a Web page look, while retaining their ease of use and interactive nature. You can allow comments, moderate comments, create pages, add picture, sound and videos files without taking a class or buying a 500 page user manual. And the cost for a very professional-looking blog is free. That’s F-R-E-E, teachers. Free always appeals to educators and blogs should too.

An RSS feed (Real Simple Syndication) is an easy way to view content from all over the Web in just one location.  Basically the world comes to you. Think of how a newspaper works collecting stories from news agencies around the world and then delivering them in print form to your doorstep. An RSS feed (used with a feed reader) is the digital version of a newspaper only you decide what gets published. But, unlike a newspaper, the RSS feed delivers 24/7.

rssfeedlargeImagine using browser bookmarks or links on a Web page to visit 100 Web sites and trying to discover the new content on the sites . . .  and doing this every day. No one has that kind of time. If you do, you might want to consider doing some community volunteer work. With RSS feeds and a feed reader, you can scan new content from your favorite sites in just minutes giving you time to . . . do some community volunteer work.

A reader, or feed reader, collects and organizes all your RSS feeds in one location. One of the more popular readers is Google Reader. You open your reader in the morning much like you open  your newspaper. Everything that’s new on the sites you subscribe to will be there.

Here’s a quick step-by-step:

1. Follow the link above to Google Reader. Log in with your Google account or create a Google account if you don’t have one. Click on “Try it out”.
2. You’ll see Google Reader appear. Google has some great help menus and tutorials. Use these to learn even more about RSS feeds and readers.
3.  There are two easy ways to add content to your reader. First, try clicking on “Add a Subscription” in the upper left. Type in a key word like “Math” or “Belly Dancing” or any subject you are interested in. Math may be too general so you can refine your search by typing “K12 Math”. In the results that show up, click on a name of a site to see if  it provides the types of content you want. If it is, click on the + sign and an RSS feed from the site will be added to the left-hand column in your reader.
4. The second way to get content is to go to the Web sites or blogs you normally visit and see if there is an RSS feed logo present rssfeed or clickable text to subscribe to an RSS feed to the site. Click on the logo or the link and follow the prompts to add this site to your Google Reader.
5. Once you begin to collect sites in your reader, you’ll want to organize them. Sometimes this means renaming them or putting like sites into a folder. You can also delete sites that you no longer want. There is a “manage subscriptions” link at the bottom left of your Google Reader. Click the link to get organized.
6. Finally, find a specific time each day or every few days when you can spend 5-10 minutes with the content in your reader.

What you’ll discover over time is the power of being in touch without getting the life force sucked out of you. You’ll also find you are part of a burgeoning Web of people with like interests that will help you grow professionally and personally.

An educational blog is a great way to provide information and resources to parents, students and colleagues. However, blogging in the Web 2.0 world is much more than that. Using a blog to simply provide information is more Web 1.0 than Web 2.0. Blogging in today’s Internet is all about creating community. So here are three  suggestions for how, as an educator, you might create that community:

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

1. Use your blog to illicit input. Ask questions, post a survey, wax philosophical, sollicit volunteers or talk about a educational challenge for which you need help.

2. Use every interaction with your audience to encourage them to participate with you in blogging. This might mean having a volunteer at parent-teacher conferences show parents how to get to your blog on the Web. It might mean highlighting your blog in newsletters that get taken or mailed home. You might make a brief presentation at your next staff meeting or PTO meeting.  Ask your district’s Web master to post a link to your blog. Every contact you make might be an important link to creating your blog community.

3. Join other educational bloggers through RSS feeds and online readers (discussed in the next posting). This might initially mean just educators in your building or district. But there are educational blogs state-wide, nation-wide and even world wide that you might find interesting. Most importantly, joining these bloggers creates a larger community where the sharing of ideas can have a very positive impact on both your job performance and on you personally. It is rewarding and exciting to know that someone in North Carolina has read your blog or given you a great idea for tomorrow’s lesson plan.

Leave a comment here if you would like your blog added to the links on this blog; or if you know of an educational blog that would be useful to educators, pass it along.

Welcome to the world of blogging as we now know it!

Web 2.0 refers to the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to facilitate creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and more.