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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Capitalize on Your Students' Myspace Skills - Try Neetz

Last week during my presentation at the MLTI Student Tech Team Conference, I used the phrase "capitalize on your students' Myspace skills." In the future that might be a better title than "Blogs and Wikis and File Sharing, Oh MY!" for my presentation. What the phrase "capitalize on your students' Myspace skills" means is that today's student comes to your classroom knowing how to do a lot of things online. While a student may not have ever made a wiki page before they came to your classroom or written a blog entry before they came to your classroom, if they have a Myspace or Facebook profile they have all the skills needed to make a wiki or blog. As a classroom teacher I try to capitalize on those skills my students bring with them from their Myspace and Facebook worlds. With only a few minutes of instruction a class of students can be building multimedia blogs and wikis about any topic a teacher assigns.

Continuing on the idea of capitalizing on Myspace skills, capitalize on your students' Myspace interests by building a social network for your classes. Ning and a new service called Neetz are white label social network builders. On Neeetz teachers can create a social network built around their class(es). Teachers can use the homepage of their Neeetz network to link to assignments and resources, post video and image files, and create discussion forums for their students. Students can build their own Neeetz profile page that is linked to the network created by their teacher. Neeetz allows network creators to determine the privacy setting for their network. Networks can be made public, semi-public (membership must be approved), or private (only those invited by the creator can join).

Applications for Education
Neeetz and Ning can be used to create a central, online, location for assignments, resources, and discussion related to your classes. Having students create a profile page (they can customize the page in numerous ways) could be a great "getting to know each other" tool for the beginning of the school year or semester.

Neeetz and Ning networks could also be expanded to include parents. If you're a sports coach, extra-curricular club advisor, or PTA member building a Neeetz or Ning network could be a good way to foster communication and build community around common interests.

Stock Market Investment Simulators

In response to an email I received the other day, I have reviewed a number of free stock market investment simulators and games. Some of the simulators I found were linked to brokerage houses or other investment advertisments. After a little digging I found two stock market simulators that do not appear to be linked to investment firms, are completely free, and are appropriate for use in high school and possibly middle school classrooms.

StocksQuest is a stock market simulator game that is a part of the Thinkquest.org network of services. Each student or group of students has a fictious $100,000 to invest as they see fit. Students then monitor and adjust their investments for optimization. StocksQuest is designed for use in high school classrooms. Teachers can create and manage classes on StocksQuest. Educators will also find a list of fifteen lesson plans corresponding to the StocksQuest game. The lesson plans are designed to scaffold up to help students build and develop knowledge of investment terms and strategies.

The Virtual Stock Exchange from Market Watch is a free investment strategy simulator. The VSE doesn't have the classroom management options or lesson plans that StocksQuest has, but does offer more options in terms of real-time data and investment news. The VSE from Market Watch provides a place for participating in existing public games or starting your own games. The option of participating in existing public games gives students the opportunity to measure their investment skills against people outside of their classroom.

Collaborative Sticky Notes

Macs have made digital sticky notes popular, now Postica is trying to make sticky notes even better. Postica is a web-based sticky note service. The collaborative aspect of Postica is that users can share their sticky board with other users to share ideas. Users can send sticky notes to each other and edit each other's sticky notes.

Applications for Education
Postica could be a simple tool for students to brainstorm, together, ideas for stories, research assignments, and study guides. Images can be included with Postica notes making Postica a tool for starting an online conversation. Documents can also be attached to notes which makes Postica a simple tool for peer editing. Postica could also be a nice tool for professional collaboration among teaching teams. Postica, like Twitter, limits note length which forces users to be brief and succinct.

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