Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Diigo &

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got tons of bookmarks saved in your browser. When I click to look at mine, the list just scrolls down the screen. I never bother to organize them or put them in folders – does anybody? Also, if you’re like me, when you look down the list at some of those pages you’ve bookmarked, you can’t remember why you even saved them in the first place. I have enough trouble remembering where I left my TV remote. Don’t ask me to remember what I was thinking 6 years ago when I bookmarked “The Happiest Potties on Earth
Even when I can remember why I bookmarked a site, those sites are only available to me if I’m using my own computer. There are times when I’m working in a classroom with a student or teacher and have to spend time searching for a site that I could easily find if I had my bookmarks available to me. If only there was a way to put all my bookmarks online so I could access them from anywhere. Wouldn’t that be great? (Here comes the product plug…)
You might as well call it “Bookmarks to go” (or “Favorites to go” if you’re still using Internet Explorer). The word is the web site. No www’s or .com’s. It’s just and it’s FREE! You just need to register and create a user name. Then you will have your own site where you can add your bookmarks. You can access them from any computer just by going to your site. To help you remember why you bookmarked a site, you can add your own comments (think: reminders) to each of your bookmarks.
In addition to your comments, when you add a bookmark to, you can see how many other people have also bookmarked that site along with the comments they wrote. If you click on another user’s name, you can see their bookmarks as well. This is called “social bookmarking”.
Imagine you’re interested in vintage Volkwagons. You find a great web page and add it to your site. Then you see that 20 other people have also bookmarked and commented on that same web page. If you click on the user name of one of those people you can check their bookmarks and possibly find other great vintage VW web pages - pages that they’ve found that might also match your own interests.
For a more detailed description of, visit Steve Dembo’s Digital Passports blog.

Diigo does what does, but takes it one step further. In addition to online bookmarks and comments, you can also highlight sections of your favorite web site right in your browser. Later, when you visit sites that you’ve previously highlighted, those highlights are still there so you can quickly find the info that interested you – without having to re-read the whole page again.
When you highlight something on a web page, you can add a “sticky note” and comment on that specific section. If other people have highlighted and added sticky notes to a sections on that page you can see those too.
Note: When you add comments about a web page, or sticky notes to a section of highlighted text, you have the option to make those “public” or “private”. Private comments and notes can only be seen by you. Public ones can be viewed by the entire Diigo community.
How does all this work? (Here’s the catch.) To see the highlights and sticky notes you need to install a Diigo toolbar to your browser. Without the toolbar installed, you can still see the comments and highlighted text when you look at your bookmark page, but they will not be visible when you view the actual web page. I can still access my bookmarks from any computer, I just need to be using my own computer, or any computer with the Diigo toolbar installed, to see my highlights and sticky notes.
I know it sounds complicated, but Diigo has some great tutorials that demonstrate all these features (and a few more).
Click here to see my Diigo bookmarks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Upgrade to "Web 2.0"

Have you heard people talking about "Web 2.0"? The term is getting tossed about quite a bit lately and specific definitions vary. Even Wikipedia is hard-pressed to nail down a single definitive answer as to what it actually means. While I'll leave it up to the experts like David Warlick and others to define it specifically, generally lets just think of Web 2.0 as a 'kicked-up" Internet with a new level of interactivity and collaboration.

In the past, there were two kinds of web users: those who published the information and those who read it. Pretty much anyone could search for and read information on Web pages, but it took a little extra technical skill and know-how to actually produce and post information yourself.

New tools like blogs and wikis have changed that. No longer is the average web user relegated to the role of spectator, but now he/she can also be a contributor. Thanks to these tools, anyone who knows how to browse the web also has the ability to interact with content publishers, add comments and generate their own content as well.

Even the process of searching for news and information has been transformed. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) web users no longer have to search for news and information of interest to them. They can select certain news sources or web authors and receive new articles and updates as soon as they are posted simply by "subscribing" to it.

Web 2.0 has taken the Internet beyond e-mail and web pages. It uses the the Internet as a platform to run all sorts of interactive and dynamic applications. As a result we now have things like Google Earth, iTunes (podcasting), Flickr, and many others.

In the hands of a skilled teacher, these tools can become a powerful platform for learning. I hope to post info, lesson ideas, and help sheets (or videos) on some of these tools in future posts. Right now I'm exploring classroom applications for wikis using Wikispaces. More to come...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Video Podcast Update

Here's an update to my earlier list of video podcasts. Remember you don't need an iPod to view a podcast. All you need iTunes software (available FREE at To find these podcasts go to the iTunes Store and search for the following...

(If you have iTunes already installed, clicking on the links below will start iTunes and take you directly to that podcast.)

NOVA Vodcast
- Short video stories from the PBS series
Ask an Astronomer - Real NASA astronomers answer questions like: "Can you feel solar wind?", "What is redshift?", and "How can we see a black hole?"
NASAcast Video - an RSS newsfeed with the latest NASA videos
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Podcast - Contains both video and audio clips
Sun-Earth Education - NASA - the sun and its effect on the Earth
Nature PBS - collection of 2-5 minute clips from various episodes from the PBS series.
CNN Student News - The same program that's broadcast for teachers to record in the wee hours of the morning. Don't forget to go to to download the daily transcripts and news quiz.

To learn more about using iTunes and video podcasts click here to go to my earlier post: FREE Video Podcasts for Teachers

Friday, January 05, 2007

Don't Tell Me, Show Me

I am the king of help sheets. Here at my school I've created and distributed tech help sheets that explain everything from "How to check your school e-mail at home" to "How to link to UnitedStreaming video assignments from your Blackboard course".

Unfortunately, what takes 30 minutes to explain in writing, I can usually demonstrate in 30 seconds on my computer screen. Well now my days of help sheet writing may be over.

Windows Media Encoder is a free download from Microsoft. (Thanks Steve Dembo for mentioning it in your blog.) It has several capabilities, but the one that caught my attention is its ability to record your screen activity.

Now I can hook a microphone up to my computer and record myself demonstrating various computer tasks for our students or teachers. When I'm done I have a Windows Media file that can be posted or e-mailed to whoever needs help. When anyone watches the video, it will be just like they are watching my screen and listening to me explain what to do.

Using the medium quality setting, 90 seconds of video takes up about 512K (1/2 MB) of space. What I've found works best is to break a task into several short 1-2 minute clips rather than record one long 10 minute clip. The shorter clips let your viewers select the part of the demo they want to watch, plus the smaller file size means they'll download faster.

Since I was not able to use Windows Media Encoder to record itself, I've posted a help sheet that explains how to use it.

[Using Windows Media Encoder]

Okay, so my days of help sheet writing aren't completely over.