Thursday, March 29, 2007


Letterpop! Newsletters, online.

What a neat concept! Create and host newsletters online, in a visually appealing and creative way.

  • Free option with advertisements, or a nominal yearly fee (Business option also available)
  • Can post up to ten free letters a year
  • Ability to incorporate photos and text
  • Use photos hosted on Flickr
  • Ability to import contacts from Outlook
  • A variety of templates
  • A 'user profile page' featuring a description of who you are, along with your previous newsletters
  • A print feature that, allowing readers to print the newsletter
  • Comments! Readers are able to leave comments
  • RSS (syndication or feed) - Parents using RSS feeds (or administrators, or other teachers, or students.... I think you get the picture) could be kept up to date without having to visit the site
I think this could be a great tool for a school or classroom, to communicate with the world outside the classroom in a dynamic and interesting way. There is a limit to how many letters you can post a year with the free option, however, the pricing options for a Pro Plan (the intermediate plan between FREE and Business) are quite reasonable, at approximately $25/year, American funds, I am guessing. :)

An example of how this tool is being used can be seen here, put to use by the Learn English Online network for a neat 'Word of the Month' feature.

I feel that the strength of this tool lies in its flexibility and some of the integration they have pursued. You choose your template, add photos, import contacts, in the paid versions, have the opportunity to send e-vites (I know I have a problem, perhaps even an addiction, but I love e-vites!) and so forth. What I do not like is the need to create another user name, another profile, another password... etc. With so many accounts for different tools, it can get a bit unwieldly. These days, I find myself thinking before I sign!

Looks like a neat tool, and could be useful. Of course, I would not use it to post pictures of students, but I could post students work...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

VoiceThread - Your images and commentary

Voice Thread

This is a website that essential allows you to post images with audio commentary. I am going to let them explain what it is... it is a little bit different, that's for sure. And below I have included a link to Francois Guite's discussion of this tool on his Relief blog.

Despite the first glance impression, VoiceThreads are not slideshows, and neither are we a photo-hosting site. What we are is a place to talk, capture and then save the voices that surround our images, a new kind of web forum.

What I like is that not only can the owner of the picture record a commentary, but other users seem to be able to record notes as well.

A VoiceThread allows every child in a class to record audio commentary about the ideas and experiences that are important to them. Whether an event, a project, or a milestone, children can tell their story in their own voice, and then share it with the world. For teachers, VoiceThreads offer a single vessel to capture and then share all the diverse personalities of an entire class.
Sounds pretty cool so far... I love the thought of being able to host 'voices'! And they seem to be big on use of the tool in the classroom. I found an 'Educator' section on their site and here is a bit of what they had to say...

VoiceThreads are free for educators!

Creating VoiceThreads will always be free for educators and the students that fill their classrooms. This includes publishing them on the web, and sharing them with the child's friends and family. It's really important to us that there are no barriers; no cost to fully participate, no software to buy or download, and no contracts to manage.

Check out the information on the Education section of the site.

Just to keep you guessing, and explanation of why VoiceThreads is like an elephant. Really. (Make sure to mouse over descriptions to get the full effect!) Finally, if you just want to know more about the tool, check out the VoiceThread FAQs.

Francois Guite also mentions the tool on his blog, and there is a brief discussion en francais.
VoiceThread: albums audio (12 mars 2007)

How to Blog post - from 2002!

I thought this was an interesting explanation of how and why to blog, from 2002. Still relevant!

From the ASTD website (American Society for Training and Development)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

fd's Flickr Toys Bookmarklet

If you have ever (or even never) used Flickr Toys, now there is a handy new way to reach their site. I love this site, for it lets you play around with your photos online, and gives you lots of choices to boot. Anything from framing photos to creating trading cards, it's all covered here. It makes the process simple enough that you could incorporate the tool into the classroom (as long as you have internet access at some point, some where) quite seamlessly.

Flickr (a photo hosting site with aspects of social networking) is not even necessary to use the 'toys' -- you can upload photos and save them to your computer. All for free!

From the site:
Now you can access the Flickr Toys from anywhere. Drag the bookmarklet below up to your bookmarks toolbar or add it to your favorites. Then when viewing any image on Flickr (or anywhere else), just click it to begin creating something fun with any of the toys available here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More for me, but...

This site has some templates (sorely lacking for Blogger....), which are now being ported to the new Blogger platform. I might try them out, and see how they work.

I like the green one ;)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ah yes... time for an update!

Here are some French/English blogs that should probably be added to the reading list - I keep on rediscovering them every so often, and they provide a local (for me)/French (for everyone) discussion of a variety of tools, techniques and issues. Though the discussion happens to be predominantly in French, the topic is not solely related to the French milieu. For lively discussion of a timely and thought-provoking nature, these are some great starting points. Nice to have a counterpoint to my predominantly English reading repetoire.

Mario Tout de Go
Mario Asselin, Coach Scolaire et Catalyseur de communautes d'apprentissage (Quebec, Canada)

Francois Guite, edublogger (Quebec, Canada)

Which brings me to the English links!

Dangerously Irrelevant
Scott Mcleod, "Ruminations on technology, leadership, and the future of our schools" (Quote from Gwynne Dwyer) (US)

The Fisch Bowl
Karl Fisch, "A staff development blog... teachers exploring Constructivism and 21st Century learning skills." (US)

Friday, December 01, 2006

LEARN Quebec

... has launched their new site! The 'Leading English Education and Resource Network' is a varied resource, full of information for teachers, administrators, parents and students. Check out the introduction video to get a better idea of what they do.

LEARN Video:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ed Web2.0 - A (Canadian) classroom

There's something different (in a good way!) happening in Mr. Fisher's classroom, in how he is using tech with his students. I stumbled across his blog and thought his classes sounded pretty interesting. Let's start at the beginning though, with some proper introductions...

A classroom blog, in action

This is Mr. Fisher's

The post was for students, and it was about choosing blogs to track as part of their Personal Learning Network.

Are you still looking for blogs that are important to you? Blogs that are well
written, that are interesting, that are written by people that you can work
with? Remember that we will be soon sitting down together and I will be asking
you about your network. Who is in it? Why did you choose those blogs? Have you
been writing and commenting on the blogs in your network?

What a great idea! It's not just an assignment to get students to use a tool to learn it, but it asks them to go that step further and reflect on WHY they are using it, and what they are contributing. They are required to engage in a reflective process about the tool, and use higher-order thinking.

And some discussion about this type of learning

A sample of the conversation going on about this style of working in a connected classroom.

The kids need to remember URLs, passwords, and how to navigate through
different interfaces. They need to remember how to run WordPress, make a
photostream in Flickr, add blogs to their aggregator, and format a wiki.

Hmmm. Good point. Cool tools, neat ideas, but - there is the factor of the time needed to learn how to use all of these tools. Meaningful engagement with tools that effectively promote learning is not automatic. I guess that this is a good reminder, when planning to integrate a tool into the lesson, to ensure that you have budgeted enough time to allow students to become familiar with the tool. We also need to consider how we will teach students to be organised in managing and tracking their accounts across various applications, and the work that they produce. I think it is also important for students to learn that due to the evolutions in the way that we use the internet, it is becoming more common to be able to find free and open source tools online. Beyond that, there are also greater numbers of organisations that are allowing users a peak at their structure, so that users may tweak it and adapt it to their needs. I digress...

Mr. Fisher voices his concerns

What does our ed blogger have to say about this?

I worry about the number of pieces. My blogroll on my class blog has had to
evolve towards being a portal for kids to be connected to all of these pieces. I
have lists of classes and sites they can use and connect with, trying to make
things easier for them. I have consciously not worked with a single piece of
software such as Moodle because I wanted kids to see the power of collecting
resources across the web into a single environment.

So you have access to tools, a lot of them free or hosted or opensource tools, and you now need to find a way to manage all of them.

But we do pay, having to access different accounts across the web.

So there does seem to be a price, in terms of time spent learning a new interface, new shortcuts, new passwords, new places to go.

While this is what we all do as adults, I want to ensure that their focus
remains on the learning that is possible using these tools, not the frustration
of forgetting how to accomplish a specific task.

I worry about the number of small pieces we have joined together.....

Some issues surrounding learning, Web 2.0 style

I can completely empathise. And I think that this teacher is on the right track, being concerned about the learning that can sometimes be overshadowed by the mechanical aspects of the doing. This blogger raises a great point - within the education community, we need to think of how we are going to teach our students (and ourselves!) how to

  1. Manage and store our 'knowledge products' efficiently, so that we have timely access to them
  2. Manage accounts, user names, passwords and online identities responsibly, keeping in mind the archival aspect of the internet (think before you post!)
  3. Identify, adapt or create tools that are appropriate to the task at hand
  4. Ensure that you have planned time not only for the task, but for the tool (How familiar are you with the program you are using to get the job done?)
  5. Be aware of and actively use the support resources available - formal and informal (Help menus, online user forums, FAQ's and so forth)