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A little late for the holiday season, but ImageChef is an interesting take on word clouds. There are other capabilities, but this was nice and quick. It took all of 30 seconds. Check it out!

wordchef

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We’ve had a class blog now for a couple of months, but I’ve noticed something recently. I was still the “sage on the stage.” I posted, the students responded. I responded to their response. No one responded to me.

Obviously, something was not working. I could do the same thing with student journals. Yes, the blog made their writing more visible, more public, yet it wasn’t anything that they truly cared about. In order to do this, I needed to turn the blog over to them. Once I had this revelation, I needed to find models of student blogs that worked. Blogs that mirrored the students’ passions. While trolling through twitter, I found one such blog in the Digiteen Dream Team.

To make a long story short, the Dream Team found an incredible learning tool in Lively, Google’s online virtual world. They have created their avatars, performed plays, and even “built” a virtual school. Unfortunately, this tool is being shut down on December 31, 2008. Needless to say, the students are upset. And they’re not taking it lying down.

Matty Bear

Lively Avatar - Matty Bear

The Dream Team is blogging, using wikispaces, and continuing to use Lively to organize protests. The most incredible thing is, unlike the vast majority of people (adults included), they are doing this in a way that is respectful of others, including the corporation involved…Google. Their most recent post shows thoughtful, carefully crafted ideas that demonstrate their thorough grasp of the big picture:

• For-profit companies need to make money from their products.

• Google is a  for-profit company, Lively is their product, therefore Lively needs to make money.

• Solution – Let’s bring money-making ideas to Google.

The most recent post on the Digiteen’s blog is a solution; suggestions on 10 ways that Lively can make money for Google. Their suggestions run the gamut from t-shirts and avatar clothing to charging for company rooms to asking for donations. However, their “pay for eyeballs” idea is the most innovative I have heard of in a long time. Internet marketers, look out, because these students are your future competitors!

Pay for “eyeballs” – Let users “pick” their advertising “bling” of the day — what they support and like — then, the advertisers pay google for each avatar that picks their bling and pays by how many other avatars “see” the advertising “bling” — literally paying for “eyeballs” — something that cannot be done in the real world.

Is this a David and Goliath story? Probably…hopefully…But no matter what the outcome of this particular fight, these ninth graders from Georgia are mobilizing people à la Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.

Now that’s real learning…and real power.

Approximately 3 months ago, David Warlick asked people around the world to “say hello” to a conference room full of educators in Hawaii. I was amazed at how quickly people responded and connected. Well, in reference to an oft quoted movie, he “had me at hello.” This was my first introduction to Twitter.

Since then, I’ve grown addicted to this micro-blogging tool with the cute name. Cute…but powerful. Not only am I able to keep up with friends that I don’t see on a daily basis, but I’ve managed to connect with new ones who share the same interests. Maybe not all of these connections will be lifetime ones, but they are fun and fulfilling while they last! The Olympics, for example, has set me to exchanging stats and updates with a number of new people. I doubt many of these interchanges will last beyond the closing ceremonies, but perhaps I’ll see a few familiar “tweets” during the 2012 games in London.

On another note, I’m also following the conversations of experts such as Alec Couros, Wes Fryer, and Angela Maiers. I’ve learned about incredible PD opportunities, links, and websites from a number of other education experts, perhaps not as well known, but definitely as well-versed in their own arenas, right here in Hawaii. In a few short weeks, Twitter has become an indispensable source of information.

And yet, because of Twinkle, I’ve seen a whole different side of Twitter that has left me shocked (though I shouldn’t be) and feeling a need to respond (which I should).

Twinkle allows you to add your current location to your tweets, as well as seeing who else who is nearby. You are able to see the tweets of anyone on Twinkle within a certain distance from your location regardless of whether or not you follow them or they follow you. While this has allowed me access to a number of interesting conversations, it has also been similar to stepping into a nightclub atmosphere! This in itself does not bother me. I know these conversations are not meant for me, and I can choose to read them or not. What did bother me were some aggressive words, threatening violence towards another Twitter user.

Cyberbullying is by no means a new problem. Countless headlines have demonstrated an abuse of power, power given to individuals by the internet and its tools. But sometimes we fail to see that this power can also result in incredible positives when channeled properly. Hence, this is what we as educators and parents must do. We must give students the tools to use this power wisely and with good purpose; to participate in the global community with compassion and empathy. Just as cyberbullying is not a new problem, neither is a teacher’s charge to instill and inspire good citizenship in his or her students. We simply need to further the reach of our teaching and learning to include cyberspace.

I’ve been following, with great interest, an outreach for resources on digital citizenship on the internet the past few days. Ironically, this conversation happened on Twitter. Two sides of the same coin. Let’s open our conversations to include digital citizenship more frequently and with greater urgency, especially at the beginning of the new school year when building community is a staple. These tools are here for us to show our students the world and to help them shape it into the place they want it to be. Rather than ignoring their existence, use them frequently, and use them well.

Simple, beautiful, and so much fun! This word cloud was created at http://wordle.net in literally 5 minutes. It would have been shorter, except that I was playing with the fonts and colors. There are 3 ways that you can create a word cloud: keyboard or paste in your tags and/or “key words,” enter the URL of any blog, blog feed, or web page that has an RSS feed (I chose to use this option by linking to hoopili), or enter a del.icio.us user name to use his or her tags in the word cloud. Voila! Instant success!

This blog is an experiment. While I may never be a digital native and may always have an “accent,” I do intend to learn as much as I can about this new age of communication and networking. This is all thanks to a very timely technology conference, Kukulu Kaiaulu, sponsored by Kamehameha Schools. If ever I attended a mind bending seminar, this was it. From the very first keynote (Will Richardson), my mind was spinning. Everything that I had previously held as truth, was now being brought to light and questioned, not only as an educator, but as a parent. “Put that cell phone away” “Use more than one resource, not just the internet” “Don’t use Wikipedia. Anyone can edit it, therefore, how can you be sure it is accurate and reliable?” “Video games are socially isolating our children” All of these (and more) were very common threads of thought for me and readily given voice in my classroom, I’m embarassed to say. So this online journal of thoughts and feelings and reactions will hopefully chronicle my journey, slow though it may be, and act as a catharsis (indeed inspired by the “art” of the online world). As a parent and educator, I owe it not only to myself, but to the many children whose lives I touch.

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