I am Thankful for these Websites!

a simulpost with the TechLearning blog.
Note: I don't usually post the same thing in both places, however, I've spent three days on this post and want my readers to have a copy! This is my Thanksgiving Present to You!

As I sit with my morning coffee stuffed bigger than yesterday's unfortunate aviary creature, I have been spending a day being thankful. Today, that mood carries forward as I am thankful for my “birth” into this new blogosphere and thing we call “Web 2.0.” I think it is important that I share with you the websites that I am the most thankful for. I've also asked some of my friends on the blogosphere about their favorite websites as well.

(If you'd like to take a “virtual” tour, I've made a trackstar page with annotations so you can click and read. Trackstar is a great tool from 4teachers.)

1 – Wikispaces

I teach in a wiki-centric classroom. Wikispaces gives free online accounts. If you want to learn more about how I use wikispaces, you may view the presentation video and papers that I published at the K12 online conference. There are other free wiki tools that educators are using. For now, I find this to be the easiest ways to link together the many digital artifacts created by my students.

2 – Google and their Suite of Services

Google has changed my life and my classroom. Now I can subscribe to Google Searches of News, Blogs, Maps, Financial Information, Scholarly Works, and even the sales for Christmas.

Gmail, the free google e-mail service allows me to e-mail usually large files and has some handy plug ins like Google Talk which allows me to chat with others via google (and leave them voice mails.) It also has a spam filter that can't be beat! I love the fact that I can search through all of my old e-mails and archive instead of deleting them so they remain searchable. And it is FAST! I use it with the Google deskbar and GoogleTalk as well as GoogleDocs. And where would I be without Blogger? It is so closely integrated with Google search that my Cool Cat Teacher blog is easily found! (If you blog and cannot be found, you don't exist!)

Google Video is the best source of educational video I've found because most college lectures are downloaded here. (Youtube only gives 10 minutes of time per video.)

There are so many things you can do via Google it is unreal! You can see all of them at Google Help.

3 – Odeo

I publish my podcast here because it is so EASY! My students use it to record podcasts because you can record the podcasts directly into Odeo without having to create, upload, and go through the entire process of typical podcasting. It is very easy and I like it. You can also upload files that you create in audacity.

Remember, this is a place to use but not necessarily surf with your students. I have them bookmark their podcast and go directly there! You can also post your Odeo podcast to the ITunes Store. (Again if you have a podcast and aren't listed in ITunes you don't really exist because no one can find you. I'll tell you how to do this on my blog in the next several days.)

4 – Airset

This is my new favorite calendar. Although we use rsscalendar for our school website, I've moved to Airset for managing all of my family activities and will be migrating the school to it over the summer.

There are a couple of reasons:

  • Airset lets me synch with my Palm and Outlook
  • Airset has RSS feeds which allow me to set my children's start up Google Page (a nonthreatening RSS reader) to show their calendar for the day and week.
  • Airset lets me manage groups – my personal calendar, family calendar, school and church groups that I work with.
  • Airset will send cell phone text reminders and reminders via e-mail to group members! This saves me a lot of time.

My husband says that it reminds him a lot of sharepoint server that he uses at work. It is a great tool for busy Moms and teachers. My students have created group calendars to put their tests and homework reminders. They update it together and have it text message them their homework as created by the group at the end of school. (I taught a government agency about this site over the summer and they automated their whole office, they said it saved them the $2000 they were about to spend on software.)

I've written an article on using Airset at my blog.

5 – Feedburner

Feedburner is a must use for any serious blogger or manager of a school website. Here is why:

  • You can “burn” your feed from your blog. You can then have Feedburner create HTML code and paste it on your website. Now, at my school, the school secretary posts to her blog and it updates on the home page. The counselor has a blog that “feeds” into her counselor web page. (See my article: Save Time Webmaster)
  • You can then use Feedblitz to e-mail your blog posts to anyone who is “afraid” of RSS. People can subscribe to your school news or counselor's update, etc. (Feedblitz can be activated within Feedburner.)
  • Feedburner has so many other features that serious bloggers will appreciate.

6 – Statcounter

Although I am toying with the idea of switching to Google Analytics for my burgeoning blog, right now statcounter does the trick for me. I can see where visitors are coming from, what websites link to me, how many visitors a day, and even a map with their location. (I describe how to use it in my most Popular Post: Ten Habits of Bloggers that Win.) This is a great tool to use in classrooms to provide feedback and awareness to your students of the global audience of their work.

7 – Technorati

Love it or hate it, technorati is really the place that most bloggers use to keep up with those linking to their blog and talking about their subjects.

  • I use their watchlist service to watch references to my name (some people don't hyperlink which is just plain rude!)
  • I use their search to see who is linking to my Cool Cat Teacher blog so I can respond as appropriate.
  • I can look at my ranking, but some advice from someone who moves up and down continually – don't get overly hung up on the ranking. It depends on how many link to you AND know how to ping technorati. Bloggers must blog because they want to join in the conversation because popularity is a moving target.

Note: I don't take students to Technorati unless I have a specific purpose. It is a great tool for professionals and college level students but NOT for casual browsing by high school students.

8 – EdTechTalk

EdTechTalk from Worldbridges is a new website in my life. It is chock full of great educational listens and I always tune into their stream while I am grading! It helps the time go faster and keeps me up on my learning. (They are also the sponsor of the weekly WOW2 broadcast on at 9pm EST where I co-host on Tuesdays!)

I believe EdTechTalk should be a must include as a part of any educator's Personal Learning Network. (PLN)

9 – Classblogmeister

Classblogmeister is a great free tool that I use for my weekly questions of the week. As part of the effort to integrate writing into my content and practice, I post a question of the week here for students to answer on their blog. I do pre-approve all posts and comments but it allows me to give feedback prior to posting.

There is no problem with students remember to look, because I use the RSS feed from this page on the homepage of my wiki. Students check the wiki to see if there is a new question of the week.

10 – Bloglines

Bloglines remains my perennial favorite for reading RSS. My students use Netvibes. Superbloggers David Warlick and Will Richardson use RSS- and Blog-friendly web browser, Flock. I've tried Google Reader, but I still come back to bloglines.

You can see what I'm reading at: http://www.bloglines.com/public/coolcatteacher

11 – Gliffy –

This incredibly easy to use drawing tool is great for creating organizational charts, flow charts, and for arranging furniture. My students convinced their spanish teacher to let them use gliffy for a genuine assessment project where they had to lay out their dream home in gliffy and label every item with its correct spanish name.

Network administrators will find it easy for laying out network schematics. I used it to lay out my new computer lab over the summer.

12- Creative Commons Searching

I use Flickr to feed the photos onto my school home page. Other educators like Bubbleshare for searching photos. I've also used Photobucket for photos that I use as graphics on my blog.

I use Google Image Search which lets me find images. But by far the coolest, most useful innovation this year is the Creative commons searching capability that lets me search free and usable audio, pictures, video, text, software, and YES — now Lesson plans, textbooks, and other educational materials using the creative commons licensing phenomenon of originator Lawrence Lessig.

If you are teaching intellectual property, you must include creative commons licensing! This is a must use resource for bloggers and podcasters alike!

13 – PowerSchool

Our school implemented PowerSchool ASP version this year. They maintain our server along with the upgrades in California. We use it to manage attendance, gradebooks, etc. and will be giving parent access in January. Along with ExamView Pro Test Center this helps me greatly.

I believe that before students go to college that they should understand how to:

  • Check and manage grades online.
  • Communicate with instructors online including turning in electronic work.
  • Take tests and assessments online
  • Submit electronic data online to their professor an confirm its receipt.
  • Take classes online. (In Georgia, we use the Georgia Virtual High School to supplement our schools.)
  • Enroll in classes online.

Kids without exposure to these techniques often discount the importance of electronic interaction with their school and professors to their dire harm!

14 – Skype

I am an advocate of using skype in the classroom. (I've created a training video and blog posting on this topic.)

It also helps me communicate with educators around the world, listen in on amazing skypecasts, and communicate with my students when they need me. I use skype at least 5 times a day.

I also love that I can call my sister for free in Orlando. I often take my laptop and set it on my counter and use it like a “speakerphone” on my wireless network as I talk to her. Video skype is great because I can see her too!

I heard Will Richardson talk last week about how teachers are no longer Content Deliverers but rather Connectors. Skype allows me to connect my classroom with other educators with common curricula and objectives.

15 – NewsMap

Newsmap is how I read the news. This incredible graphic organizer of up to the minute news is a great tool for social studies, cultural literacy, current events, and debate preparation.

It aggregates the most recent postings from Google news to show you by size (larger means more coverage) and color (brighter means more recent information has been posted) (colors are separated by topic) to give you the news literally at a glance.

This is a powerful way that I stay on the cutting edge as I blog, teach, and research for conference presentations and in service training. I cannot believe that Google has not copied this idea, but until then, I watch newsmap daily!

Links from other educators

I encourage you to write about the websites you are most thankful for. This is for two reasons:
#1 We so often forget that so many beginning edubloggers are emerging this time of year at the conferences and we assume that they all have the same knowledge base. How can they know unless we tell them?
#2 These services are free. I feel that it is the least I can do to talk about the services I love. For in promoting the services we like, we in essence fund their continuing existence and credibility.

I asked several people I admire in the edublogosphere to give me their favorite links — here they are:

David Warlick

Web 2.0 Education Leader
http://hitchhikr.com (that's mine)
http://citationmachine.net/ (that's mine too — but I use it all the time)

Jennifer Wagner,

TechnoSpud Projects

Chris Harbeck, Canadia Educator


Jeff Cooper
TappedIn HelpDesk Extraordinaire (and the person who gave me the idea to use trackstar.)
http://snurl.com/collaboration – for his hyperlinks including info on TappedIn, another new place I really like!

What are yours?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Megan Golding November 24, 2006 - 6:22 pm

In the general purpose technology classroom, I especially like del.icio.us, and Wikipedia.

My HTML students use Web Monkey and resources from the W3C.

My middle school students love learning graphics programming with Alice and I love teaching typing skills with Typing Master and my homemade black keyboards.

I’m forever indebted to Blogger for the free blog space I use for my physics class (CEA Physics).

Anonymous November 24, 2006 - 8:38 pm

1- Wiki’s are going to EXPLODE in the next year, because they will soon become the staple of class and course web pages. Wiki’s make collaboration easy and fun.

2- Google services: In the next year they will have a major impact on education. I did a blogpost on this: http://edtechvalley.blogspot.com/2006/11/google-student-desktop.html

You can even post to Blogger directly from Google Docs…. very cool!

3- RSS: The way we will all keep up to date on what is going on around the world, tailored to our interests.

Anonymous November 24, 2006 - 9:46 pm

Have you tried Rmail?

Graham Wegner November 25, 2006 - 1:50 am

Vicki, there are a few that haven’t been mentioned throughout your post that I use constantly including PageFlakes, this fantastic search tool FlickrCC, created by Peter Shanks here in Australia, stripgenerator which I’ve used to create cartoons on my blog and blip.tv which leaves YouTube for dead and has a category dedicated to Educational content. Check them out.
Thanks for putting your post here because I’m not sure that many people outside of the US read Tech Learning.

Anonymous November 25, 2006 - 5:26 am

I am thankful for this posting! Thank you for taking the time to put all this information together. As I am rather new to blogging, I really appreciate it.

Anonymous November 25, 2006 - 5:50 am

Thank you so much this is a brilliant list. Hours of fun will be had browsing this lot. Megan has already identified Alice
(Sorry not sure how to make this a link).
Alice is brilliant 3D animation software. Free and simple enough to use with 8 year olds and complex enought to keep adults entertained.

Finale Notepad is great music software if you have people who want to write in musical notation. They also have a space where you can share your creations with the world.

Also on the subject of music is http://freeplaymusic.com/
I use this if I want a piece of music but haven’t got the time to create it myself.

Anonymous November 26, 2006 - 8:06 am

Wow, Vicki you really out did yourself with this post. You listed most of the services that I am using and some that I am not using. I will come back to this post later. I promise. Great information once again. You really are a coolcat teacher…

As for me, I like ZOOM CLOUDS for tagging purposes. I just added it to my site a few minutes ago. And I like Cluster Maps because I think it is cool to see what part of the world your hits are coming from.

I am going to check out that gliffy drawing tool you mentioned. Since I am a Spanish teacher, I think it sounds really cool. I may use it with my students. Plus, I like to draw.

Have you played with Google Sketch-Up Yet?

Thanks for the great post…You always have such wonderful posts. Keep up the great blogging.

Rae Spradley November 28, 2006 - 3:29 pm

Hi Vicki,
This is a great post! The information here is amazing. Especially the way you compiled everything in Trackstar. I will be sharing this information with the teachers in my area. You have a given so much to the educational technology field. I share your blog in every class that I teach. Your students are so blessed to be under your instruction. Keep up the good work.

Bengt November 29, 2006 - 7:10 am

Vicki: very nice post. I will certainly recommend people reading it in Sweden. There is on application i find very interesting and that i didnt hear any speak of and that is

Cmaptools – a conceptmap tool that is very easy to start and which you can use in so many ways.

The one strength that could be a very potent learner is the way you can collaberate with others making the conceptmaps. There are an chatroom where you can discuss at the same time you together create the conceptmap. The collaboration doesnt need to be synchronous.

It is also very easy to make the maps into webpages. Try it…

datruss December 1, 2006 - 11:10 pm

I am thankful… for this post! Thank you for a great resource.

Here is a resource I just found recently. Fantastic for students to see that they have a world audience.



Anonymous December 3, 2006 - 12:06 pm

I am thankful for your site Vicki!
I too am thankful for Skype. My class and I are using it along with a skype extra called Talk and Write to mentor a younger class at another school in writing. It’s very powerful. My blog at http://teachingsagittarian.edublogs.org/ has a little bit more information about it.

Anonymous March 22, 2007 - 7:53 pm

Hey, if you like all those websites you should check out our new group collaboration / social networking website that we like to call “Social Collaboration”. You can check it out at Wamily.com. Let us know what you think – you seem pretty tach saavy.

Arnie Kriegbaum July 4, 2007 - 2:52 pm

I personally find this list very exciting. However, some are blocked by my school’s filter and are off limits (google talk, many wiki sites). Many people are afraid of the Web 2.0 philosophy.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere