Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Communicating and conversing with your students the Web 2.0 way

This was posted to the Posterous blog Enhancing Student Performance and Professional Development Online on Oct 27, 2010; Posterous ceases service on April 30, 2013

Before we begin, let's set up a back channel for this class in
We can brainstorm here about parts of a computer we want to cover in the lessons we're preparing together.
Here's the plan for today, as I flesh it out in my office Wed a.m. prior to meeting everyone at noon.  The plan is essentially to Model and Demonstrate a set of spaces online where we can interact with our students, and have you Practice in those spaces, and Reflect on what you have practiced.
In order to start this I had to find an appropriate space in which to write.  I like Etherpad because I can save revisions (and revert to them) and also it has a slider to enable me to track writing process or find a previous version, so it's constantly preserving your work.  You can copy paste, link to, or download any version.  
Google Docs is a great space but it's a little difficult to set up where you can do all that.  I've noticed that students can wipe out all work up to a point inadvertently in Google Docs, and you might not be able to get it back.  Etherpad is a better tool for working on the fly with students, since it's easily revertable to almost any prior state.
Disadvantages of Etherpad are (1) that it doesn't do graphics (so you might find it convenient to move from Etherpad to Google Docs), and (2) its instability (sometimes).  First you have to find one.  To find this one, I used my delicious acct is a shared Google Doc (its greatest affordances are when used as a Web page and shared purposefully with small groups). Here we'll find the other Etherpad clone list I found and tag it in Delicious so it shows up at the delicious link above.
Now we've introduced several tools already for class interaction and cohesion:
  • Etherpad (clones)
All of these are excellent tools for conversing with your class.  
As examples of how this works with delicious, we'll look at these links:
We'll use a delicious tag for this class esppdo10
During the course of this lesson, and afterwards, as you hit on sites you think will be useful to us as a group, please use Delicious to tag them esppdo10
Now let's try an experiment. I'll set up a Google Doc and everyone can write on it
  • The parts of a computer (or is it digital camera?) you want covered in class
  • The questions you want the students to address
  • Help us format this as an exercise for students
Once we've got the groundwork laid, we'll start a new Etherpad and paste the content of the Google Doc into it.  We can then do the exercise as the students might do it in class.
Sometimes I'll do this in class, copy something from a workbook and paste into Etherpad.  You can find an example of this at this link and I wrote a blog post about it, which I'll tag so it comes up at
When I work with students, I need to broadcast URLs to them in such a way they can reach them quickly. 
  • As we've seen, one way to do this is to tag them in delicious.  However, in class, delicious can sometimes take several minutes to propogate what you've tagged through the network so that it shows up on your class computers.  
  • Another way then is to create a TinyURL.  This works instantaneously.
  • Another way is to use Edmodo (or Twitter, or Yammer) to broadcast to them
  • You can also set up a class space that you or everyone can write to quickly.  This could be at your Moodle or Bb course, in a Google Doc, or in a class wiki (either one that is shared with the class, or that only you can write to).
  • Can you think of other ways? If so, write them here ... 
Before class I'll take these precautions:
  • I'll SAVE a copy of the pre-class revision as a fallback in case of disaster or vandalism during the class (this hardly ever happens, but good to have a saved version we can revert to)
  • I'll back up my work here: (mainly in case this Etherpad becomes inaccessible at an inopportune time, I'll be able to recover quickly in another Etherpad space).
  • I'll email the link to this document so everyone coming to class can see what we're doing today (once you get the link you'll be able to write on the document, for example you could write questions, or add useful information - in case of anything untoward or inappropriate or accidental, we'll have the saved and backed up versions to revert to).
The last thing during this class, I will create a Posterous Blog (actually already created here:  
  • I will show you how to create such a blog and how to password protect it if you wish (in case you want to make it private, not public, for just your class).
  • I will register those present as contributors to this blog.
  • I will email a copy of this document as way of creating a first posting 
  • Once you see how easy that is I will invite you to email your reactions to and reflections on what you have learned today to the address
  • I will encourage you to comment on these postings so that you can see how Posterous works to combine blogging in both web and email spaces into a kind of forum that promotes conversation in your class.
Hope you enjoy it :-)