Thursday, October 09, 2008

Get Web-Inspired

Inspiration is now a Web 2.0 tool. The past few days I've been playing with Webspiration Beta, which looks a lot like Inspiration but works in a web browser. The best thing about this new tool - it's collaborative. Like wikis and Google Docs, you can share your document and invite friends and colleagues to work on it too.

Above is a picture of a document I shared with some fellow teachers. I was pleased to see Webspiration gives me a couple of different ways to track the changes. You can Show History to see the progression of changes and who made them. Just like a wiki, you can view and rollback to a previous version.

Click on the Show Changes tool in the tool bar and little pop-ups will appear as you move over different parts of the document. These let you know who added that part and when the change was made. This tool can also be modified to show only the new changes since the last edit.

When you Manage Sharing you get to decide if those you invite are collaborators or simply viewers. You can also add tags to your document to help you find and organize your work or work that others have shared with you.

What would I like to see?
I think Inspiration is a great tool and that this web version takes a good tool and makes it even better. To make it work for me in a classroom I'd like to see a way to add student users without having to invite them with an e-mail address. An education version that lets a teacher create and manage student usernames and passwords would be great.

I like that you can import/export documents to Inspiration 8, but I couldn't find a way to export the outlines as a text or Word document. I suppose I could always copy and paste. It would also be nice to be able to have a URL to your document for easy sharing with others.

The great thing about Webspiration right now is that it is FREE. I'm not sure how long it will stay this way but I hope to take advantage of it while it lasts.

Go ahead and check it out and if you'd like to share a document with me, just let me know.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Hey, you guyyyyys!!

If you were in elementary school in the 70's, you probably recognize that call as the voice of Rita Moreno yelling to let you know it's time for another episode of the Electric Company. If you're like me public television was a big part of your education too - from Sesame Street, Mister Roger's Neighborhood, and The Electric Company to science shows like Nova. I wonder how many of you in the classroom today use PBS programming and resources with your students?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Okay then, imagine my voice yelling "HEY YOU GUYYYYYS!!" to let you know about some of the great resources available now at

The people at PBS have been busy working to tag, catalog, and make "searchable" their vast online collection of resources. The result is the new PBS Teachers web site.

You can search by keyword, use the advanced search, or start with a subject area and drill down by selecting a grade level and a topic. For example, when I performed a keyword search for "sceintific method" my results included 24 lesson plans, 63 offline activities, 5 interactives, and 115 audio/video clips.

Trying to be more specific, I tried search for the Native American "Lakota" tribe. The results included 4 lesson plans including two from the Lewis and Clark Mini-Series, an interactive web site of Native American Storytellers, and a video clip from Antiques Roadshow telling the history of some Lakota artifacts.

As you start using this site more often, you'll probably want to register with PBS Teachers Connect and become a PBS Teacher. By signing in you can save and add your own tags to the resources you find for easy retrieval later.

You'll also become a part of a community of PBS Teachers where you can ask questions and participate in discussions.

For those of you searching for video resources keep in mind that this site is not a single repository, rather it provides links to the various PBS web sites where these resources reside. Depending on the program, videos formats may vary between Flash, RealPlayer, Quicktime, or Windows Media. Some clips, like those from Nova ScienceNow, can be downloaded and even transferred to an iPod, others can only be streamed from their web site.

Also keep in mind that this site is still in "beta". Look for new features and enhacements as they continue working to improve it.

Oh, and if you're a fan of the original Electric Company you might be interested to know that a new version of the show be premiering this January. Although I'm told that Morgan Freeman will not be appearing in the new show, it might still be worth checking out.

Have fun exploring the vast resources available at PBS Teachers.