Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doing What Works: Research-Based Education

Doing What Works is a project of the US Department of Education, West Ed, and Little Planet Learning. The purpose of Doing What Works is to share the best research-based education practices. Doing What Works presents those best practices with videos of real teachers using them, interviews with educators, visual planning diagrams, and information for further research.

Applications for Education
A lot of websites share ideas for implementing new education practices, but few sites share videos featuring real teachers talking about their practices. Doing What Works does a good job of presenting both ideas and examples.

Fresh Ideas for Fun Student Projects

Fresh Brain, a non-profit funded in part by Sun Microsystems, provides teachers and students with ideas for technology projects. On Fresh Brain students and teachers can find projects in which they build games, build iPhone and Facebook apps, make web pages, and mash-up videos. Fresh Brain provides space and a forum for students to connect and collaborate. To complete each project, Fresh Brain provides a list of suggested tools and getting started guides for completing each task.

Some of the popular projects on Fresh Brain right now are a project in which students create a webpage about cultures and a graphic design competition.

Applications for Education
There is no shortage of project and activity ideas on Fresh Brain. Teachers looking for creative ways to bring digital content creation into the classroom should explore Fresh Brain. The projects and tools suggested on Fresh Brain are intended for middle school and high school use.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Story Top Story Maker
Create a Free Website
Photovisi - Simple, Quick Collage Builder

Curious about GTA?

If you're curious about the purpose of the Google Teacher Academy and what goes on at a Google Teacher Academy, this short video offers a little glimpse.

Google Living Stories

Last week Google launched another interesting experiment called Google Living Stories in Google Labs. Google Living Stories is a collaborative effort between Google, The Washington Post, and the New York Times to provide users with an easy way to track the developments of a news topic. Here's how it works; select a story from the Google Living Stories homepage then select "all coverage" (all coverage is the default) or a specific element of the the story such as "events," "people," or "resources." After you've read an element of a story it will remain gray until new information is available. Watch the video below and see the screen capture to learn more.

Applications for Education
Google Living Stories could be useful in a current events course. Google Living Stories will not only help students deconstruct the elements of a news story, but it will also help them track new developments in a story.

Why Can't We Be (Facebook) Friends?

Last week Michael Kaechele wrote a blog post about students following their teachers on Twitter. The post generated a lot of comments on all sides of the question. This is especially true for the things we post on Twitter. If your updates are not protected, anyone can see the things that you post on Twitter. In fact, due to real-time search engines, you don't even have to have a Twitter account to see someone's updates. There are two ways to deal with this, protect your updates or accept that everything you post on Twitter is public. Some people might suggest that you could block people from following you, but again, that doesn't prevent someone from seeing your updates in a search engine.

Students friending their teachers on Facebook is a different scenario than students following their teachers on Twitter. On Facebook, your updates are protected from those who you don't approve. Likewise, accepting a student's friend request on Facebook is much different than having a student follow you on Twitter. The act of accepting a student's friend request is an active choice whereas not blocking a student from following you on Twitter is a passive choice. The question then is, should a teacher accept a student's Facebook friend request?

There are a number of variables to consider before deciding if you should or shouldn't accept a student's friend request. The answer is not the same for every teacher. Thanks in part to Dateline, as a moderately young (31) male teacher if I accept a female student's friend request, the perception is very different than the perception of an older female teacher accepting that same student's friend request. For me the answer is clear, I do not accept any friend request from students (male or female) nor do I accept friend requests from recently graduated students. I explain this to my students and their parents at the beginning of each school year and they all understand.

On the other hand, a great example of the good that can come from a student friending a teacher on Facebook or Myspace can be found in the example of Beth Still and her student Mundo. The short version of that story is via Myspace Beth was able to reconnect with Mundo who had dropped out of school.Through this connection Beth was able to get Mundo back into school to finish his coursework for graduation. In Beth's case having students in her social network services was a great thing.

I'm curious, are there schools that have formal policies about this? What is your personal policy about accepting Facebook friend requests from students?