Tag Archives: blogs

My Insider Tips for Getting #ECETech Updates

 

This week during #ecetechchat, we’re planning to discuss and share where we get the inside scoop on the latest trends, tools, and reports on technology in early childhood education. In preparation for the chat, I thought I would take some time to record some of my “go-to” places I get news and learn about #ecetech resources online. To hear my favorite offline resources, join our chat on Wednesday night at 9pm EDT!

Social Media:

My top source of insider news almost always comes from one of my social networks. Every time I check Twitter, I learn something new and since I’m passionate about early childhood education and educational technology, many of the people in my PLN are also interested and tweeting about those topics. Not only do I learn more about resources I have heard of or tried before but I am constantly introduced to new websites, tools, and ways of integrating technology into the classroom by following current early childhood teachers, administrators, professors, and organizations using technology.

I think there are two key pieces to getting insider news from social media: broad networks and meaningful relationships.

Whether you’re “liking” Facebook pages, selecting Pinterest boards to follow, or joining new LinkedIn Groups, make sure you’re choosing networks that cover the entire range of your field of interest. Instead of just listening to one voice or perspective, try to find ways to hear what people in all areas of a field are discussing (e.g., developers, publishers, teachers, administrators, academics). This way you can both double-check your facts and hear new ways of thinking about or interpreting new tools, apps, and teaching approaches. But the work isn’t done after you’ve joined a bunch of groups. Next, you need to move to the relationship stage and begin really connecting with people in each group. Start responding to specific tweets that interest you or LinkedIn posts that make you think. By engaging in dialogue and sharing your own news and resources, you can create meaningful relationships through these networks that will not only help you to stay up-to-date about that latest #ecetech developments but will also help you to grow professionally as an educator and colleague.

Blogs:

Sometimes I’m looking for more in-depth information about a new tech tools, ways to use it in the classroom, or thoughts about whether specific technologies are appropriate for young children. That’s when I turn to my blogs. Sometimes I still use social media to learn about new posts but many times I just check my Google Reader to find out what bloggers are saying about technology in early childhood. Once again, I try to follow a mix of current teachers, developers (e.g., Kindertown’s Education Blog), and organizations. For example, I love learning from the #kinderchat teachers, many of whom blog frequently about their work with technology and global collaboration. I would recommend checking out their posts on #SkypePlay, iPad integration, Using ToonTastic, and Evernote e-portfolios to get an idea of what I mean. I also follow the Early Education Initiative, the Hatch Early Childhood Blog, and of course the Early Childhood Education Technology Network! To get the inside scoop, I look for blogs that are updated frequently with fresh content and thoughtful posts.

Websites:

I also check specific websites to learn about #ecetech news and events. A key one is the National Association for the Education of Young Children website, including their new website for families, since they recently released a new position statement on technology and set standards for the field. I also check the Erikson TEC Center and am excited for the ongoing development of that site as a technology resource for early educators. Similarly, I will look to Ele, created by the Fred Rogers Center, for new ideas about using technology. I have found a number of review sites are also a great resource to learn about new technologies: Mom’s with Apps, Free Tech for Teachers, CommonSense Media, and ICT Magic.

Where do you go to get the inside scoop on early childhood technology? 

 

Digital Spaces Are Like Virtual Silly Putty

By slworking2

Digital spaces seem to me a bit like virtual silly putty. You can mold and shape them in almost any way you want, you can copy and recreate them in the same way I used to imprint newspaper clips on the putty, and you can take the same space and use it over and over in different ways. All of this flexibility make digital spaces exciting, fluid, and responsive. It can also make it challenging to decide which digital space is the right one for your project or goal.

I have been doing work with a variety of digital spaces recently and I wanted to write about the pros and cons I see in each and solicit feedback from others about ways they have used these spaces so that I can envision new ways to shape my silly putty. Given the vastness of the Internet and the digital spaces it houses, I’ll only discuss three main types of spaces in this post: wikis, blogs, and social media.

Wikis

It seems only fitting to use Wikipedia’s definition of a wiki, which is “a website whose users can add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor.” I feel like there was a big push to use wikis a few years ago which has faded a bit as other digital spaces have come onto the scene, such as social media platforms. Yet, I think wikis are an underutilized space because of their collaborative functionality. Although tools like Google Apps can allow for real-time collaboration, having an entire web space with widget functionality and custom formatting that you can find in platforms like wikispaces or PBworks, provides a richer space for group work. As an educator, there are additional advantages, since you can create a free, “plus” account on sites like wikispaces so that you can keep your site private to protect student data and work. Wikis also allow multiple parties, across multiple time zones and continents, to be able to contribute to site. They can create pages, add resources, and share projects in a way that can be challenging in other digital spaces due to the various permissions needed to have multiple editors or authors. The ability to review and compare  your history on a wiki and revert back to an older version is also something that is not available in other digital spaces such as social media platforms.

The downside of a wiki is that it takes a lot of maintenance to keep it updated and relevant, which can get confusing when you have multiple authors/editors and it can be time-consuming to construct the initial frame and organization of the space. The lack of real-time collaboration functionality can also be a challenge if you are using the space for a conference or specific class session(s). Finally, there are limited social commenting options with a wiki. To provide feedback or comment on a page, most wikis require you to first join and that extra step does not foster the same type of social sharing and dialogue that is facilitated by social media spaces or blogs.

Blogs

Blogging platforms are a great digital space for publicizing your ideas, sharing your work, and documenting your (class) activities. Blogs also facilitate discussion through the comments functionality, where frequent and first-time visitors can review a post and add their own perspectives or ask follow-up questions. Platforms like WordPress add more flexibility to blogging spaces, allowing them to be used as entire websites with static pages in addition to revolving blog posts. This option can allow you to share resources and present information that does not need to be updated as frequently as a blog while still having the commenting functionality to interact with visitors. The ability to add widgets or plugins to blogs make them interactive and engaging, allowing you to do things like interweave your social media spaces into your blogging space.

Although you can have multiple editors of a blog or guest posts, blogging spaces are usually less collaborative and more one-way in terms of creation and distribution. Similar to wikis, blogs require a lot of maintenance and as I discussed previously, “fresh” content if you are looking to increase your SEO. Blog spaces seem more ideal for single or small groups of people as compared to large groups who are coming together to work on a project or share resources. Blogging platforms also do not allow for real-time updates or collaboration.

Social Media

Social media spaces are growing quickly. They include spaces like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and more recently, Pinterest. These digital spaces allow for a variety of publication options, including sharing personal stories and updates, new articles, professional opportunities, and work-related news. There is an interesting intermixing of professional and personal stories within and across these spaces that I have not typically seen within one wiki or blog. Social media spaces allow for real-time updates, networking, and professional development twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is constant change occurring in these spaces as new people join, posts are updated, and people share new content. The focus is often tied to specific chats, topical discussions, current events, and at times, marketing and promotion. Within the education community, these spaces are an amazing demonstration of the collaboration and exchange that can occur among educators around the world. Social media accounts also are usually singular, meaning that they are owned and managed by one person, unless they are for a business, in which case there might be multiple administrators of one account. This decreases the collaboration within an account but does not affect the sharing that can occur within the larger social media space (e.g., on Twitter).

Unfortunately, the speed of change within social media spaces can at times be a challenge, as it can be difficult to keep up with the barrage of new stories and updates. Additionally, most of these spaces are shared in some way with various audiences, and some, like Twitter, are often completely private or public, without much of an in-between. This can raise more privacy concerns that other digital spaces where you might be able to make some pages pubic and others private. The rate of change also makes it difficult to create and publish static content, either alone or in a group, that you want to remain in one space on the Internet.

I’m sure there are many more details about the functionality of these sites that I haven’t covered but this at least serves as a general outline of how the silly putty often works when it is shaped as a wiki, blog, or social media space. I would love to hear when other people have used these spaces and why they chose them for their specific projects or goals. How do you decide which shape you want your silly putty to take? Is there a right and wrong way, depending on the goals you want to achieve?

Optimization for Education?

Googlebot from page 5

SEO or search engine optimization is increasingly on my radar these days. Almost daily, I see posts about it on sites like Mashable and tweets about it in my various Twitter streams. It wasn’t that long ago that I was still trying to learn and remember what the acronym stood for but over the past few months I have come to see how valuable SEO can be.

For those of you who are new to this term, search engine optimization refers to “the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines” as defined by SEOmoz. This means that you examine your website to ensure that there is consistency in your naming practices, that your links are updated and active, that your content is original and new, and that you have social media sharing tools embedded on every page.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that affect SEO, many of which I am still learning. Luckily, there are a lot of helpful resources on the web to find out how SEO works. For example, I attended a great webinar by Kuno Creative titled “Inbound Marketing: The New SEO Facts, Figures, and Data” which helped clarify the connection between inbound marketing (if you’re new to this term, check out this great infographic) and SEO. Through that webinar, I was able to find out about updates to Google’s search algorithm and how it rewards sites for providing good content that people want to share across the web. I also learned more about the importance of having numerous keywords appear in search engine results that will drive traffic to your site. Other resources, like SEOmoz’s extensive “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” and Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” have also been invaluable in my journey to understand SEO and its effect on my websites.

Yet, the more I learn about SEO, the more I begin to wonder about the implications of SEO for educators and educational organizations or nonprofits. Many of these groups have few employees and little funding and most of the educators I know dedicate much, if not all, of their time to designing lesson plans and preparing innovative and engaging projects for their students. All of which leaves little time to learn about SEO and apply the related practices to their company websites or personal blogs. Meanwhile, large companies hire full-time “search engine optimizers” or companies like Hubspot to help them with this work.

Does this difference in SEO resources and management capacity matter? Do educators, schools, and educational organizations need to be concerned with SEO? A few months ago, I would have said no – SEO is something that only businesses and companies trying to sell products deal with and need to worry over. Now, I’m not so sure. As I prepare to launch my own new website for early childhood educators to learn about using technology to create global learning experiences, I’m conscious of the fact that I would like my site to be easily found in search engines. I want educators to be able to find the free resources and tools I have collected without having to search ten pages of Google results before stumbling upon the site.

Watching the analytics for this blog, I can see how much traffic search engines can bring to a site and I want other educational websites and blogs to be accessible and easily found by families, teachers, and administrators who want to learn about educational issues. So, I’m left wondering about the importance of SEO for education and about whether there is a way to make information about SEO more accessible and understandable for educators and their related organizations. I want to optimize education so that it is a topic that has a fighting chance at being ranked in search results. I think educators easily have the “fresh” content that Google is looking for, I’m just not sure if they are always aware of how that content has to be coded and marketed to be optimized for search results.

My Edublog Award Picks for 2011!

The Edublog Awards are back! And this year (#eddies11), I have a chance to join in the nominations since I now have this great new blog! When I realized I could add my own nominations, the first thing I did was check out the The Edublog Awards Blog to learn more about the process and history. As they state on their About page, “The Edublog Awards is a community based incentive started in 2004 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes. The purpose of the Edublog awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.”

I appreciated how clear their instructions were as well as the discussion they invite on their homepage, including a reference to the fact that some people are actually opposed to the  Edublog Awards. Personally, I’m thankful for the opportunity to recognize the people and communities I’m constantly learning from and with and to share with others the resources that I’ve come across by participating in various online networks. I’m excited to see other nominations and add them to my own resource lists and continue the sharing that is so much a part of having a PLN. I would encourage you to post your own nominations (there’s not much time left – the deadline is Friday, Dec. 2nd!) so that we can all learn from the educators and colleagues who you learn from and begin to dialogue with them too.

My own nominations speak to my three main passions, early childhood education, global education, and educational technology. You’ll see a few nominations related to #kinderchat, or as they say, “The Little Chat that Could,” which continues to inspire me with new ideas and resources. If you have time, go check out some of the amazing projects they’re working on both locally and globally using some great tech tools and an amazing demonstration of virtual collaboration. I have also nominated some blogs focusing on technology in education and explorations with #edtech, something that I think should be a focus for all educators as we continue moving into a more technological age. There are tons of neat new tools out there but we should also be careful to examine the pedagogical implications of jumping onboard with any tool without fully exploring it first and determining how and why it should/could fit into a training, class lesson, or other educational setting. Finally, I made two #globaled focused nominated because I believe in connecting educators across the globe and both the Global Classroom Wiki and the Global Education Conference are working to do exactly that!

Maggie’s Edublog Award choices: