saudixpat’s Weblog

October 20, 2008

Virtual Libraries

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 9:42 pm

This week brings me to the topic of Virtual Libraries. “What is a virtual library?” was my first question. So I began to do my research. A Google search for What is a virtual library revealed the first hit to be a link for Web Definitions for Virtual Library which revealed a variety of definitions depending on the site vewpoint. The very first reference is actually from a chemoinformatics website, but very appropriate.

“A library which has no physical existence, being constructed solely in electronic form or on paper. The building blocks required for such a library may not exist, and the chemical steps for such a library may not have been tested. These libraries are used in the design and evaluation of possible libraries.”

So a virtual library is to traditional libraries what is to traditional bookstores. It uses electronic information management systems to provide clients with the information required, easily and quickly.

To begin, I looked for videos on virtual libraries in schools. YouTube was a bit of a bust, as I found virtual tours of actual libraries, but then on Teachertube I found an analysis of a school’s virtual library site. This gave me a starting point to see what I might want to be looking for in a virtual library. Again, as this is a TeacherTube video, I would have had to download and install software onto the blog site, which I am not permitted to do as far as I can tell.

Moving on to actual reseach of online school libraries, I came across the Avis Elementary School Library website. This site is what I would call a “shell” site. The outside framework has been built, but the inside is empty. Looking at the page capture you can see what I mean.

Main Page of the Avis Library

Main Page of the Avis Library

The funny thing is that if you go to the district page and click the Avis Elementary Library link under the Libraries tab, you get a totally different page with information and a link to their Destiny database! My comments are addressed to the page within the actual school site. As you can see, the site is filled with white space and no information. Students who make it to this page likely won’t come back again.

Since this search didn’t go so well, I thought I would look for an international school’s virtual library. That’s how I came across the International School of Nagoya’s library website. Once more, I was disappointed. The entire site consisted of three pages: the first one with some background information and hours; the second one with information about the Sakura Medal reading contest and the top ten most-borrowed books; and the third page with a list of recommended and new books. Again, there is nothing on this site that would pull traffic to it, which I what I believe a good virtual library site (or any site for that matter) shoud do.

Determined to find a “good” online virtual library, I wondered what my old high school’s site looked like. After browsing, I must say I was impressed with the North Delta Secondary School library website. It is similar to the Bessie Chin Virtual Library website, but not as busy and not as text-based. Just as students have gotten into graphic novels, virtual libraries should have graphics to draw the users to the site.

North Delta Secondary Library Site

North Delta Secondary Library Site

The school site has a nice link bar on the left side, but also graphic based links on the right. It carries stories from CBC, The Globe and Mail, and TSN. It has a link to its Destiny OPAC as well as links to reseach and resource websites that might prove useful for school work. One feature I especially loved was the newstand which links to newpapers in ever province, the USA, and internationally. I was impressed. They even have Destiny OPAC walkthroughs!

The site I really really loved, though, was the Springfield High School Virtual Library. It is vibrant, colourful, well-arranged and takes you through what you need. Its impact on me has changed the way I do things. Currently, or library page on our school intranet is run by me in consultation with the librarians and their needs. At present it serves as a link portal to Brainpop, Tumblebooks,, and other sites. After seeing Springfield’s page, I have shown our head librarian their site, discussed with our IB Art teacher about developing a project involving the graphic design of a new front page reflecting our elementary library and MS/HS library that would have hot spots to click on and take you to Destiny, Brainpop, EBSCO host and a variety of other places which are educationally sound and important.

What have I gotten out of researching virtual libraries? I now have a much beter understanding of what a virtual library is. It needs to function much as a real library does and be a focal point for browsing books and other resources and sharing them with others. At this point our virtual school library isn’t too heavy on the virtual, but hopefully in a month or two it will be there.

October 17, 2008

To Podcast or Not to Podcast. That’s the Question.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 9:13 pm

The big research topic this post is podcasting. After surveying and digging deeply into podcasting, I narrowed my research questions down to two. The first is, “Why Podcast?”. The second is, “Do Podcasts really have a place in education?” Then I began lookng at the evidence.

Will Richardson gives a good rationale for Podcasting on page 113 of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. It’s easy. Lots of schools are already using podcasting. Finally, it does not necessarily involve teachers creating content for students. Rather, many of the models he gives are student to student content. Richardson (p. 114 – 115) gives examples of four different schools that use podcasting for different purposes. Willowdale Elementary School uses podcasting for student-created entertainment. Brent Coley School uses podcasts to showcase student projects where students have created educational content for other students. Yet another school, Mabry Middle School, uses podcasting to update students on school news and upcoming events. Finally, Lincoln Southwest High School uses podcasting to promote student reviews, interviews, upcoming events and “…whatever else might be of interest [to students]” (Richardson, 2009. p. 115). From these examples, it is clear that podcasting can cover a lot of curricular territory, social interests, cultural viewpoints, and that it involves students in ways not previously available to all schools. In the past, to broadcast as a school, a radio broadcasting unit would have been required. Now all that is needed is a computer and a microphone.

Then I widened my search to the internet. Using the search term ‘top ten reasons to podcast’, I found the sixth URL listed, ‘Top Ten Reasons to Podcast with Your Students’. Point nine, “Podcasting is another publishing avenue” and point seven, “You can reach auditory learners,” really rang a bell with me. As a teacher who has had students display their knowledge in Social Studis via a newspaper from a specific time period, I can see how the relevency could be updated for learners while at the same time still displaying mastery by conducting interviews, debates, or newscasts covering the same material. Point seven hit the mark as well. I can think of quite a few students in my classes over the years who would have done much better with an oral assignment. The one that I think of the most was a dyslexic student in my Socials class who ended up dropping out of school. With podcasting, he would have been able to skip the visual processing of the words and focus aurally on the meaning. I can see how that would have helped him learn and retain information, making reviewing for assignments, quizzes and tests much easier.

In an interview with dyslexic students about the benefits of podcasts in education, one girl made the point that the lesson become portable. She can download it and listen to it while she cycles and also has the ability to replay it back at any time. This video, along with others discussing the benefits of podcasting and other technologies with learning impaired students can be found at the University of Nottingham. The information here really reinforces my thoughts on that one student and others like him.

To sum it up, podcasts can be used for a wide variety of educational purposes. They can be used to provide students with enriched content or to allow absent students to “be” in class via the podcast. Students can create podcast assignments which cover the same material and display knowledge mastery. Students can also podcast a wide range of material of academic, social, and cultural interest to themselves. Finally, and most importantly, podcasting can be used to assist learners who struggle with an orthographic system. Why podcast? Podcast because it is extremely beneficial to both teachers and students.

That brings me to my next question, “Do podcasts really have a place in education”? Looking at the question, I realize I have answered it in the section above. The answer? A resounding “YES!”. Lacking a question, I asked myself the next logical question. “How easy is it to podcast?”

This got me searching websites. I found a great site at Poducate Me whose guide walks you through any possible consideration about podcasting, including education. According to the information in the Podcasting in Education section, podcasting is spreading across campuses nationwide, even replacing textbooks in some courses.

Another good site to learn about podcasting and how to make a podcast is the radio.about site which gives a five page step-by-step tutorial on making podcasts. It doesn’t specifically refer to education though, just about making podcasts.

Then I looked at the programs needed to make a podcast. Asking around, I found that if my First Class school email software had the ability to create podcasts via web publishing as of version 8.3. Emboldened, I researched it. Here is the Teachertube video of how to do that for those of you who use the First Class client. I had tried to embed it, but you have to download a bunch of files from Teachertube and install software to your WordPress root directory. As mine is a free account, I don’t believe I have access to this. Easier to create a link.

To test how easy it is to follow those directions, I created a Podcast using my First Class school email and its Web Publishing features. I had never thought that my email client at school could do that! It was actually very easy!

Creating a podcast in First Class

Creating a podcast in First Class

Another piece of software that makes creating podcasts easy is Audacity. It comes in both Mac and PC versions and allows you to record and edit a podcast. The last piece of software I looked at was Garageband. I have the ’06 and ’08 versions. Both make it easy to create a voice recording with backing music beats to add energy. Because of the ease of adding music, I chose GarageBand over Audacity.

Garageband Splash Screen

Garageband Splash Screen

Garageband is podcast capable right off the bat. It has a clear and easy interface beginning with the initial selection of project and purpose. Even before you create your podcast, though, you can use Magic Garageband (seen below) to build a beat track to play in the background, which I did using the reggae tools. You have a wide choice of effects for each instrument shown.

Magic Garageband

Magic Garageband

Lastly, what really won me over was the Garageband interface when I was building and recording my podcast. It has different rows for each instrument or voice recording, it allows you to control volume levels if necessary, and it allows you to trim, split, or overlap soundtracks in your podcast. I was easily able to take my raggae backbeat, lower the volume at the point where I wanted to start talking, and then match my podcast voiceover to end first followed by my backbeat. I really liked it.

Garageband Interface

Garageband Interface

If I was not going to host on my own First Class account, I would definitely use Podomatic. I looked at another podcast host, Podcastspot, however,they are closing down this November 30, although they didn’t explain why. Podomatic has free hosting, free publishing, and even allows you to make a podcast right on site. In short, they are the podcast version of Flickr or Picassa. Unfortunately, I had a problem creating an account in Podomatic, so I tried Podbean. Podbean has the exact same look and feel as WordPress, which made me right at home. So, I hosted my podcast on Garageband with Podbean.

Now that you have a better overview of podcasting, its educational advantages, purposes, and impact, and you know how easy it really is to make one, I hope you feel inspired to go out and create your own podcasts.

October 6, 2008

Social Bookmarking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 12:56 pm

Social bookmarking, while something I had heard of, wasn’t something I used. With Favorites already on board, why would I want anything else? Then I took my Web 2.0 course. Very cool. However, it forced me to get out and look at different Web 2.0 tools, features, and networks. This week is Social Bookmarking week. I have since visited a variety of sites, gone on a journey down the trailfire and looked at what others had to say. The Frequently Answered Questions blog gave examples of students working in teams to bookmark resource sites. Based on that and other sites, I began to make connections.

I began with a few questions (as I always do). 1. Why is social bookmarking relevent to me? 2. What are some examples that show this relevence? 3. Which tool or tools is THE best to use? I ended up, after doing all this, musing about complacency, the status quo, and the power of routine.

The first thing I asked was, “What makes this relevent to me? Why should it be relevent?” I mean, after all, I have my bookmarks in Favorites that allow me to track sites and get back to them easily if need be.’s page asks questions about the benefits of social bookmarking and gives us a list of Social Bookmarking sites, some which obviously didn’t take off, like Hyperlinkomatic and Frassle, which shut down in 2006 because, as it’s developer, Shimon Rura said in his blog, Where Frassle Went Wrong, and How to Make a Zillion Dollars Doing it Right, “…overall, the core problem with frassle is [it tried] to do too many things…integrat[ing] blog publishing, aggregators, republishing, and semantic correlation.” Interesting to see the cast offs and then the successes: Blinklist; Furl (more about that later);; and Spurl. Quite honestly, though, most of the sites trumpeting the benefits of using social bookmarking were linked to generating more cash flow for your business, blog or website.

Then I looked at what others had to say about keeping organized in a Web 2.0 environment. The conversations about and diigo were very interesting, as was the trailfire article on Cool Tools: the Best of Social Bookmarking. Frequently Answered Questions gave some more specifics. From it, I could see working with, say, an Aboriginal Education class and using or Diigo or FURL, I could have students bookmark creation myths from aboriginal cultures around the world and use that as a starting point to pick out common beliefs that have shaped aboriginal viewpoints from the beginning. So to sum it up, social bookmarking can be used as a research and collation tool to bring together a wide range of sources on common topics.

This is where the tags came in. I hadn’t really thought about the value of tags even though I am really good with Google boolean searches and search terms. What I discovered in a very good article on using social bookmarks as a class tool is that you should decide the purpose and choose your tags. When students go on the net seeking resources to tag, there should be a common set of tags that make things clearly identifiable as to which class they are for and what purpose they can be used for.

In finding out why they would be relevent to me (and I will be using these with my Flat Classroom Project students as a way of organizing their research) I also answered my question about examples. Although I searched on TeacherTube and YouTube, I didn’t find any video explaining or demonstrating projects using social bookmarking. However, I did come across a video showing me how to add social bookmarking buttons to the bottom of my blog on wordpress!

This brings me to my third and final question, “Which tool or tools is the best to use?” I began my social bookmarking career using It looked cool, had the biggest number of users and tags that I could see, and allowed you to custom tag and share your tags with others. It is accessible from any computer with web access, so is supremely portable. Then I read others postings about Diigo. You could set up a private class account easily. Diigo has a special education deal which you can access after creating your own account. You can highlight text on webpages and sites which other diigo users can see. Diigo also sounds like it might be the tool to use. Why did I create that account?,

Finally, on the trailfire, I read about Furl. It seemed even better as I could use it to archive websites I visited; something that and diigo cannot do. So I went over to furl, checked it out, installed the Furl It! No-Pop bar to my IE and tried it out. I waited. And waited. And waited. And finally, I timed out. I went to another site and got the same result. As internet speed here in Saudia is not the fastest, I sadly came to the conclusion that FURL is not going to work, even though I want it to.

So which one is best? This is where my musings on complacency and inertia come in. I was happy using Favorites to store the list of my favorite websites. Now that I have learned about, signed up and used it, I am happy with it. At this point, I am not using diigo, even though I have my account up and ready. With my sites and tags stored on, complacency sets in. As for FURL, when I leave Saudia, I will use FURL, as websites have been known to come and go and having FURL can save trouble. But – last night I used it to store tags related to yearbook design and caption writing. Now, when I reformat my hard drive or get a new drive as I did two weeks ago, I can simply reinstall my bar and have instant access again, by tag. Sweet! How it is for me!

But. But….when my students begin their Flat Classroom Project next week, I will have them sign up for the class diigo and research their group topics there. I will also see if we can’t create a global diigo group so that al 17 school’s students will be compiling on diigo and more importantly, perhaps, highlighting the relevent text information for others to see. How powerful that will be! So, for the nonce, For the future, diigo.

Thanks for reading! Now, look at the bottom of the post. If the YouTube video was correct, you will see some and other bookmarking links down there! Here is the video if you want to do the same for your wordpress blog.


add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

September 28, 2008

Video Sharing on the Web and in Web 2.0

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 7:12 pm

Yes, I am still alive and this week checking out video sharing on the web and with Web 2.0. My God, just when you thought you knew all the sites that are out there, you start testing the waters and find more! First off, I went to Google and googled video sharing. I received about 19,300,000 hits. Right away I found Top Ten lists, Top 50 lists, Wiki entries, and more. I have two questions I am trying to answer: 1. What site is best for user created video content; and 2. What is the thinking on using Web 2.0 video sharing in the classroom? This could be extended to the library, itself at times an extension of the classroom; however, as a classroom teacher first, rather than a librarian, am more interested in user generated video within the classroom. So there 🙂 After my ramblings below, I will comment on the “answers” I found.

Wikipedia was my number one hit on my Google search for video sharing ( )
Ahhh, Wikipedia. That seemed a good jumping off point, so I clicked the link and away I went. Do you know that you can upload and edit video on the web, rather than just sharing it? Or that you can use a platform, such as Plone, with a free open-source video sharing environment (Plumi). You can also do the same using Moodle or Blackboard. Yes, Wikipedia was a good source of information on video sharing online.

Then I ran into a small problem. Wikipedia listed 50 user-generated video sharing sites ( ). However, my second hit on Google was DV Guru’s comparison of ten video sharing websites looking at ease of use, speed, and other factors ( ). Funny, SIX of the ten services compared were not listed on Wikipedia, which was last edited on September 28, 208 at 10:30. Why do I cite this fact? It just goes to show that the Web 2.0 phenomenon and video sharing in particular is an ORGANIC event. It is constantly changing and what was true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. I also note that the only -Tube that Wikipedia and DV Guru listed was YouTube. All other -Tube copycats were omitted, including TeacherTube.

Then I stumbled onwards into MetaTube, which is a user-generated video aggregator, searching “100 video sharing sites at once!” as they breathlessly declaim on their front page ( ). Fascinating! Just out of curiosity I punched in Michael Wesch, number three on Joanne’s Trailfire of the week. I was given “about 76” hits for YouTube videos. He was down to 1 hit on Yahoo! Videos and only 5 on Metacafe and MySpace. Michael really is a YouTube phenom.
To compare, I input Numa Numa. Wow! What a difference. About 72,300 hits on YouTube (the original video of the boy in his room has been viewed over 19 MILLION times, according to the YouTube stats). 1,000 hits on MySpace and 105 hits on Yahoo! Videos. I went to Metacafe to check there next. 232. From this, I infer that Numa Numa has achieved a level of cultural awareness far above the videos of Michael Wesch. Interesting questions to consider are, “What does this say about our culture and values at this moment in time? What implications does this have for wanting to implement user-generated video into a course?” At this point, I don’t have an answer.

I do have some responses to video sharing and people’s thoughts on it, though. In chapter 8 of “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts,” Will Richardson makes the statement that schools have blocked YouTube and that the idea that “…anyone can publish anything can be unsettling” (p. 120). However, there is also something he hasn’t considered. According to Wikipedia’s ( ) article on YouTube, YouTube alone in 2007 used up as much bandwidth as ALL of the internet usage did in 2000 – just SEVEN years earlier. Why is this important? Well, everybody should know the saying, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, or as my friend said, “It might be included, but it’s never free.” SOMEONE or some organization pays for the bandwidth used in watching YouTube. Too often, it’s the school or school district footing the bill. In our case, we block YouTube for students because we pay a major amount of money every month for our internet pipe, which is meant to be used for SCHOOL purposes. Most times, sadly, students are more likely to be viewing “Numa Numa” than “Michael Wescher’. So, to stop the cash drain, YouTube was blocked. I suspect this is a consideration with many districts or schools. Not to discount the “other” reason (man I am loving quotes this blog entry!), which is that YouTube offers a LOT of not-so-savoury stuff. Don’t fool yourself, though. Cost IS an issue, especially given that high school students in particular (and if allowed by no blocking) will devour YouTube content (even when they are supposed to be working on other things in the computer lab).

Richardson (p. 110) and others, such as Wescher, also makes the connection between YouTube and other Web 2.0 apps that go along with it and the blurring of privacy and communications that have been standard for generations. When I look at my friends’ and relatives Facebook pages and tagged photos, for instance, it really is different. Not so much for people of my generation, but markedly so for people of my nieces’’ and nephews’ generation. I see photos of parties, hangovers, rudeness, obscene gestures – things that would have never made it into photo albums in the old days – now posted on the Web. Not only posted, but tagged, analyzed, talked about. Younger people growing up with video sharing are using it in vastly different ways than older people are. Privacy no longer ends at the door of the house or bedroom; rather privacy ends at the power switch or internet connection, of the computer. That’s just a couple of my responses. I have more (save your groans please), but will share them in the answers to my two guiding questions posed at the beginning of my blog entry.

My first question was “What site is best for user-created content?” I think I have answered that in my ramblings above. YouTube is head and shoulders the best there is. Although I didn’t research this – scratch that, I am going to research it now…stay tuned. O.K. Here is what I did. I opened up YouTube and TeacherTube. I looked at “Today’s Featured Videos” on TeacherTube. The first one ( Lesson Plan Presentation ), was only on TeacherTube, posted one day ago. The second one was also only on TeacherTube. The third and fourth ones, however, were both on TeacherTube and YouTube. I suspect that if something is really good, it gets ported over to YouTube from TeacherTube or vice versa.

I have to go with YouTube for the sheer depth and breadth of content. Although some is not great, there are so many topics available and so much content added daily that there are always nuggets among the dross. For instance, using Hamlet analysis provided eight hits with two looking likely for an analysis of Hamlet. “Impact of Aids in Africa” brought 171 hits and “Origins of the Slave Trade” 233. On TeacherTube, I clicked the Videos tab, entered in the same search terms, and got a combined result of 0, 0, and 0. Thinking that maybe those weren’t really teachable subjects, I searched for “ancient Egypt” and got 18 hits. I then went to YouTube and got 4,280. Now I know Ben Stiller’s sketch on cops in ancient Egypt isn’t academic, but if even one-quarter of those hits ARE academic, that is 1,070 videos on ancient Egypt. I rest my case. YouTube K.O.’d TeacherTube in the first round and wins hands-down. Despite all the warts, it is my sharing site of choice.

This brings up my second question: What is the thinking on using Web 2.0 video sharing in the classroom? The Web and video-sharing in and of themselves are neutral. They are there. They hold no values. The content does, however. “The Economist” magazine dated July 24, 2008, discussed this very question in “The Brave New World of E-Hatred” ( ) where they look at how user created content can “overwrite” reality or present a skewed view of past events or positions, calling on baser instincts. For instance, they mention a site called Podblanc, “…a sort of alternative YouTube for “white interests, white culture and white politics” offers plenty of material to keep a racist amused”. There are other sites, among them sites about famous people such as Martin Luther King, which seemingly offer valid information about the subject, but which are slanted and biased. Videos must surely also exist presenting these views. How can we allow students free rein to incorporate user-generated content into their own presentations, assignments, or bibliographies?

Sabah Karimi, in “The Value of E-Learning with YouTube” ( ) talks about this. She mentions “Responsibility and ethics with internet use are certainly factors that play a strong role in making the best of today’s technology”, and it is these things that students need to be taught and made aware of before, during, and after any project which incorporates user generated content. Methods for evaluating for bias should be taught, just as they are in many other courses, to allow students to navigate the YouTube universe and find the clips that will enable them to put together their own quality presentation. Apart from that, the rest of Karimi’s article is pretty pedestrian, predicting that using YouTube will enhance motivation and participation. **YAWN**

Karimi’s view of the positive impact of YouTube and user-generated video is backed up by others. Jeffrey Gentry, writing in “Online Classroom” in its August 2008 issue makes the case that YouTube is the answer to many problems. If presentations are a problem, students can record them, upload them to a private invitation only channel or page on YouTube, and they can then be viewed or critiqued by the class. He makes the point that the technology to do this is now widely available and very cheap. It allows for asynchronous evaluation as well, something that is important.
Kathy Frederick, in “Launching Library 2.0” (School Library Media Activities Monthly, Volume XXIV, Number 10, June 2008), She urges librarians (teachers) to “Challenge students to create videos around their learning. Follow their lead. Focus their project to meet media literacy standards. Discuss copyright guidelines with them—a great way to talk about intellectual property is to have their own available! Bring your students’ world into the school and use these tools to create learning experiences.”

But how can this be done? I argue, “In many different ways”. In science, for instance, students can create a video where they act out the parts of the cell and their functions. As a group, they then analyze and describe what the parts are, what they do, and what happens if any given part stops working. Imagine the insights that might be gained by doing a project like this – which requires active participation and learning by all members of the group. In English, students can create a position video on a book, analyzing one of the characters. Their partner needs to respond to the video analysis, critiquing it and offering alternate views and ideas. Alternately, students could film a talk show interview covering the same material with a give and take question, answer comment format. These would then be posted to YouTube on a private page or channel and students in class would be required to view them and leave comments, adding to the depth of analysis.

In short, there are all kinds of ways to bring Web 2.0 video sharing into the classroom and make it work. While there are naysayers and doom and gloom prognosticators on this topic, there are also visionaries and ordinary people who are already doing this. I am fortunate to belong to one such group, The Flat Classroom Project, in which students will be creating and sharing videos. Yes, there is a place for this technology in education. My challenge to you is how are YOU going to harness it and make it a meaningful reality in your classroom?

PS If you know of anybody who is using YouTube, particularly having their students create projects posted to YouTube, could you please comment and give me the URL or any other information? I am considering doing a min-NESA presentation which, if accepted, would have me presenting on Web 2.0 at the Cairo NESA conference in April 2009. Thank you in advance for any info you have!

September 16, 2008

Blackboard and Wikis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 12:52 am

So one of my goals this year is to have my classes use Wikis – interactive sharing, editing, and learning of knowledge – to enhance their learning. My school uses Blackboard for this, as it is secure and all students are pre-registered, have log ins and passwords for it, and are familiar with the Blackboard environment.

But…what I found out after creating groups and enrolling them in the Wiki, is that only ONE person at a time can be logged in and modifying or creating a Wiki thread. Come on – ONE person? All of my students had assigned topics and were keen to post to the Wiki. However, what I had to do was get my class to create their Wiki entry in Word and then email it to me. I am going to post it on the Wiki. I don’t like this for several reasons. Mainly, it deprives students of their authorship voice. Part of their joy in working with their Wiki is that they have a voice. I wonder if I am taking over their voice by having the process work the way it is. I think I will have to find some workaround to it. If you have any ideas, please feel free to post a comment for me!

I suspect that next semester I will go with an online ed wiki site that allows multiple users to post and edit simultaneously. A bit more work to set up in some ways, but much more enjoyable for the students. If I get too frustrated with the Blackboard Wiki process, I might even port the class wiki out of Blackboard and into the new (yet to be determined) site earlier. <sigh – technology is great  — WHEN IT WORKS!

Flat Classroom Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 12:44 am

This evening I received an email confirming my class’s acceptance into the Flat Classroom Project. This is a global peer collaboration project based on NY TImes’ Op Ed writer Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, which has at its center the fact that new technologies have brought everything much closer together. You can read the press release at http:// The space is in after the http:// to deter spammers.

Students will be creating a story in video, collaborating with others on Wikis and editing previous learning posted to the wikis, reflecting on their learning, and posting a video of their project to the group ning. Students will also be using Elluminate to liase throughout the project, Synchronous and Asynchronous communication is a feature of the project.

I am really pumped because this year there is a conference for the Flat Classroom Project in Qatar. That’s not too far away, so I am hoping that we can go. That would be so neat for the students to meet others they have collaborated with online.

Wish me luck as I take my class on a new voyage in Cyburbia!

September 13, 2008

This is WORK!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 5:11 pm

O.K., so I have been working on making my blog page better, adding more content. I uploaded a bunch of my photos to flickr dot com and put two on the page. Follow the link to see more photos of the desert rally I participated in last April. I also tried adding Tim Lauer’s blog RSS, but it was not working. For those who don’t  know, Tim is the principal of an elementary school in Oregon and a proponent of Web 2.0 and blogging in particular. So I went with plan B and added Will Richardson’s instead, which is full of interesting, intellectual, engaging content. Who knew?

Today I spent at least an hour and a half figuring out Bloglines; how to compile a blogline aggregate, and how to create a publication URL or RSS that would allow me to post the link from my blog. Finally, I managed to do so, but it wasn’t easy and effortless. I suspect that people who are not into technology (like my wife <– sorry honey!) would have given up in frustration long before doing something similar. The end result is My Bloglines Blogroll in the Blogroll List.

I also spent about 40 minutes earlier in the day cruising on aggregating edu-tech links and articles which are also posted on my blog (see My Web 2.0 Links in the sidebar). It looks like a very interesting site. I have heard of it before, but have never used it. I guess I am lucky – as a technlogy teacher I get a chance to play with a lot of sites and technology. In fact, we have been focusing on Web 2.0 since last February and as a result I used my Blackboard classroom to set up a class blog for my Web Design and Management students to blog about their ideas on web design. I am in the process of setting up three class wikis for my three Tech 7/8 classes. They will be creating an coding wiki for HTML and CSS. It will be interesting to see how the use this. I plan to really develop this next semester with my Web Design and Mangement class.

Tonight I spent more time trying to get things working right on the sidebar. I think I have managed it. All told, so far I estimate I am about 4 hours into blogging over two days. This is indeed more work than I thought it would be, although it is rewarding.

Stay tunes for more adventures in Web 2.0!

September 11, 2008

Ramblings on Establishing a Blog and Other Stuff…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 6:52 pm

As I searched for a blog host, I began to diary my experiences and thoughts. It was interesting to see how I went from almost point form sentences to an open ended thread about my search. A blog is not an essay, so I haven’t really gone in to edit or anything. All I am going to do is select all and copy from the Word document I created. I hope you enjoy my train(wreck) of thoughts….

Finding a blog    google searched – using terms like best blog sites best blog hosting what is the best place to host a blog


Then went for some I know people use – – proprietory and you have to go through the whole checklist and installation process <NOTE – the link turned out to be to WordPress.ORG>


Technorati dot com – initially thought this was a blog hosting site, then found it was a blog aggregator – collating blog info and posts from lots of communities


Blogspot – is where post secret hosts their site – so why not? Then remembered I have a blog already on blogspot…can I find it again after not using it for over two years? Tried – said I needed a google gmail username. Has Google penetrated that far into webdom? Is it now to the Web what Microsoft was to the PC?


Blogspot continued – found a way to use my old log in, fairly easy – put in the wrong user name (used an email addy) and then finally searched my email messages to see if I had it stored – which I did. Gotta love yahoo mail, which has been my main mail for the past  12 years J In the end, I decided that it would not be too cool to use a three year old blog for this course. So, I created a new one, as you will see below J


Looked at Nucleus – it seemed interesting, but again, it is blog tools like WordPress (dot org) which need to be hosted somewhere. I supposed I could run this or WordPress on my website, but that is managed via a friend in the UK who gave me a great deal on webspace. I might try later, but for now I just want a space where I log in, type, and post…<sigh> are there that few out there or am I using the wrong search terms?


Eureka – I refound my blog on, which interestingly enough, when posting my blogs, is , but blogspot dot com when I go to view it. Hmmm…


On with the search! Did you know there are 5,800,000 (FIVE MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND!)  education blog sites? Type in education blog sites and find out for yourself  J


There are some out there – classblogmeister and netkushi dot com are two mentioned on the first site I looked at, but the site itself – is another aggregator. Back to google (there’s that word again!) search…(do you know that MS Word already knows to capitalize Google? LOL too funny.


Then I went here but realized that like my rediscovered blog, this is hosted on blogspot.


I am going to try searching for edublog – I think I have heard that name come up from my tech director…


http // edublogs dot org – is the site – free sign up, lots of safety features for students, easy to upload mixed media – video, podcasts, etc… this is a UK based site, but usable anywhere. Teachers and students post their feedback and ideas. So far it seems very well received. If I didn’t have Blackboard myself (I administer my class), then I would look at this, and might for a future class setup.


On an inspiration I typed in iblog – and found that there is indeed a Mac blogging client, as well as iblog being “the premiere blogging site in South Africa – Get your free blog now!”. That was at  Hmmm…exploring….


Typed in free blog posting and up popped WordPress again – seems they DO have free hosting. I just was on the wrong page of the site. Strange, but who knows what the web brings. It is often like a beach after the storm – all kinds of strange things washed up.


I am now on which is another free site. It, like so many others, is ad based, but free. It looks ok, but not too appealing to me. The search continues…


Then I went here and found it was trying to sell stuff or send you to relinked things…not very cool at all. Boring and sad, actually.


After a time away, I checked out Ning at I might be I might be using Ning for the Flat Earth Project which I have applied for. It is a different type of social community – sharing some similarities to Facebook groups, but doesn’t seem as up-to-the-moment-this-is-what-I’m-doig-right-now-in-my-life kind of thing. I could be wrong and will let you know if I am.


I have made my decision. I went with WordPress. Part of the reason for this? Well, I live in Saudi Arabia. If I used blogspot, my email is posted right on the blog, meaning that I m traceable through cyberspace. If I say too many things that Saudi authorities don’t like, it is (oh yes, it is) very possible that they might be a tad angry at me and want to teach me a lesson, such as throwing me out of the country after a nice spell in a Saudi jail. Unlike the West, jails in Saudi are not meant for rehabilitation (they have religious ways to do that), but strictly for punishment. I have no wish to ever experience the inside of one for any reason.


I could have gone with Edublog, but as we will be discussing other things, I thought that WordPress might be a more generic, less edu-centric place to post these things. So, khalas (in Arabic, khalas means that it is done, over, there is nothing more that can be done, final, ended, wrapped up, move on), I am with WordPress right now. Welcome to my blog!


Mandatory Discussion Added Here –>       What are the implications for teaching and learning using blogs? I began using blogs with my Website Design and Management class last year. They were on our Blackboard network, which is shared with international schools in the Near East South Asia area. I  was able to monitor postings and then open the blogs for feedback comments. Students took it seriously and engaged in some critical thinking about web accessibility and what it meant to focus on web design. At first they were into aesthetics of the site – how it looked, etc. After exploring the tools available to a web developer to enhance access for the disabled, their comments changed and they became advocates for making sure accessibility was coded in. It was interesting to see the community develop and initial thoughts firm up.


This year I am planning to create wikis with my tech 7/8 class for them to research and post on HTML tags, CSS, and other web matters. I have some students who are really keen and for whom the light comes on right away. They will really push and stimulate the others in a way that a teacher or adult supervisor can’t. Peer interaction is a powerful thing!


Students respond to blogs and wikis in a different way than to formal writing assignments. They are more involved in the ideas, I found, then the mechanics of writing. That is fine for me – I teach technology, not English. 


Anyways, it is now almost 10 pm and I have to be up at 5 am to get ready to go look for sharks teeth in the desert. Wish me luck!

Welcome to My Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 10:15 am

Well, this is my first post on this blog. I do have another one at blogspot but I have only made two posts on it. You can read my reasons for not using it in my next post. I will be posting more of my musings and thoughts on life, the universe, and education over the next little while. Who knows, maybe somebody will even read them!

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