Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"AwesomeHighlighter" is...well, awesome

We live in an exciting time for web-based tools. There is no shortage of great free options that can be used in the classroom. The challenge often exists when wading through all of them on the Internet and finding the right ones for your class. My latest recommendation for an addition to your "teacher toolbox" is "the awesome highlighter."
The awesomehighlighter can be used to highlight text on web pages and create a link to the highlighted page.

It's a great way to provide a little guidance or instructions for using a site (above) or maybe posting discussion questions on a website (below). After you have highlighted the site and posted discussion questions, you will be given a unique url that you can then share via email or on your website. It is easy to use and free without the need to set up an account. Although you may choose to create one in order to save highlighted pages.

I think the awesomehighlighter can be used in classrooms with interactive whiteboards, projectors or mounted flatscreens, but also by teachers who would like to add the awesomehiglighted link to their websites.
Awesomehighlighter, a cool little web tool worth adding to your collection.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twitter & Foursquare-A Game Worth Playing?

My blog posts, for the most part, follow a predictable pattern. I blog about experiences in ed tech or maybe a new tool I've found that I feel deserves attention. I generally avoid topics that I think will create a stir, in part because I cross-post on my department's blog, but also because I don't like to publicly rain on parades. However, sometimes a lot can be learned from a discourse on a subject and maybe a good comment to a blog post will help me learn something.

So here goes . . . I don't like Foursquare, and I think it deters efforts to encourage educators to use Twitter.

I'm not a "foursquare expert," but I'll explain it as best I can. On Wikipedia, Foursquare is described as a location-based social networking website that allows users to "check in" at locations and earn points, badges, etc. . . . Foursquare can be integrated with Twitter so when a Foursquare user "checks in" the update is broadcast in Twitter.

In the past year I've spent some time talking about the ways I think Twitter can be a great tool for educators to build a PLN that will share ideas and resources related to learning and education. I've tried to dispel the notion that Twitter is for movie stars and narcissists who think the rest of the world cares what they are doing. Because I believe Twitter is a great tool for making connections and sharing ideas with other skilled, passionate educators from around the globe. Then along comes Foursquare which allows users to turn in location-based reporting into a game. Collecting badges and ousting others from their "foursquare Mayor" duties.

Now I'm not arguing there couldn't be educational value attached to Foursquare (on field trips, for example), and I know there is a need to learn technology ourselves so we can help guide students to make wise decisions using mobile technology. I won't even scratch the surface on some of the privacy issues that need to be considered with any location-based programs. And I don't have issues with geolocation games (who doesn't like games?).

I'm focused on Foursquare's impact on Twitter because my twitterstream will now occasionally include:

"John Doe just became Mayor of Best Buy"
"Jane Doe just unlocked her newbie badge"
"I'm at Chick-fil-a at Northgate Mall"

(Sigh) Now I know I could "unfollow" users of Foursquare and these updates would disappear. But a lot of these people often bring real value to my network. I respect and learn with many of these educators, and I don't want to lose that value. And I am not against some of the social aspects of Twitter. I really enjoy some of the support and water cooler banter that is on Twitter every day. So I'll tolerate the updates on where you ate lunch because I value you, your ideas and your commitment to education.

But for the new user, the skeptic, the teacher short on time who is still evaluating Twitter or the tech dept making decisions about whether Twitter is a website worth unblocking for teachers, I think Foursquare is a negative force. I think it adds to the notion that Twitter is just a social tool meant to report "What's happening?" I think while Foursquare helps Twitter become a more "social" tool, it harms the credibility of Twitter as a "learning" tool.

So Foursquare users am I uniformed? Not giving Foursquare a fair chance? Missing out?

Additional Reading:
Image Credits:
Both images used were licensed under CreativeCommons