bubbl.us is a free online brainstorming and mind mapping tool that lets you easily create a graphic organizer, concept map, mind map or organizational chart and then share your ideas with colleagues or classmates. The Flash & AJAX based interface make it really simple to use with only a browser – no downloads and all you need to create an account is an email address! You can save your sheets, print them as images or save them to your computer.

The Web 2.0 features provide you with either a link or the html embed code so you can post your work on a web page (Edline) or email a link. In the embedded example shown here, you can pan and zoom using the controls or the scroll wheel on your mouse.

There are many obvious uses in the classroom:

  • Identify existing knowledge
  • Identify relationships between concepts
  • Record facts & details as a pre-writing strategy
  • Brainstorming – collecting and connecting ideas
  • Timelines
  • Student collaboration
  • Sharing ideas with communities of users

Check it out and look for me on bubbl.us

Scholarly Research on Student Blogging

We have our share of skeptics around here when it comes to Web 2.0 tools and their value in the classroom. Believe if or not, I’m one of them! There has been an ongoing conversation for a few years now about how these simple publishing and collaboration tools might be used to impact instruction. From the “This is amazing!” to the “This is bunk!”, there has been a healthy mix of agreements and disagreements about how a teacher might use Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.

Typing at the keyboardNow comes a new study from Jeff Felix, Superintendent of Bonsall Union School District in Bonsall, CA. Mr. Felix’s scholarly, peer-reviewed article can be found here as a direct download of a PDF file, or you can visit Classroom 2.0 where he discusses his findings a bit.

Some of the conclusions from the article are interesting on their face and worth a little more study and reflection. In no order of importance here are a few statements that jumped out at me:

  • There were four communication patterns teachers perceived as a result of blogging: (a) increased peer interaction among students, (b) increased teacher interaction with the students, (c) students exhibiting more positive emotions about learning, and (d) an increased sharing of ideas among students and with the teacher.
  • The data from responding edubloggers describe student learners who have been a part of a blogging classroom as engaged in four types of learning: (a) students increasing their understanding of topics, making sense of what they learn, and developing their own understanding of the subject matter, (b) students cultivating deeper thought processes; creating meaning and new ideas from the subject, (c) students exploring the subject beyond the immediate requirements, and (d) students connecting with previous experiences learned in or out of the classroom.
  • Blogging by its very nature gives students a vehicle for sharing their ideas with one another, a contemporary way to gain additional knowledge or understanding that resonates with students being raised in the digital age.

We’re moving right along here at our new blogging enterprise. We’ve hit a few snags along the way, but for the most part our first serious stab at implementing Web 2.0 tools in our school district has been going well. From the simple standpoint of cost–everything we’re currently experimenting with is completely F.R.E.E. –and, well, things are going very well.

In addition, we’ve had some interesting internal discussions about the role of these tools and how we might use them to impact instruction. As part of the process we’ve been mind-mapping Web 2.0 tools and services we are considering–and how they are interconnected–using the cool little free service from bubbl.us. (Create an account and make your own!)

Here’s a snapshot of our efforts so far. You can drag or re-size the image below or visit our bubbl.us account and see the full size map.

Now, what do you think? Seeing how these tools might be used how would you like to see these services provided? Are there risks involved? As always, we encourage your comments!

One of the things I found innovative at NECC2008 was the use of backchannel networking during presentations or forums. The facilitators would set up a chat channel using something like the free version of Chatzky. Participants each have access to a computer and are logged in to the chat application. A central computer displaying the scrolling ensuing chat is projected onscreen. While the presentation continues participants are encouraged to engage in “backchannel” discussions about the topic at hand. Typically, links are shared as well as additional resources adding rich collaborative learning to an otherwise linear presentation. It also serves to keep participants highly engaged. Chat transcripts can then be saved and posted for later reference.

Read David Jakes’ blog post about ChatCasting.

Backchannel chats can be initiated using free resources such as Jaiku, Twitter and SMS, PlurkAIM, Skype or paid services such as Adobe Connect.

What are your thoughts about incorporating something like this in your next workshop? Do you see any value to something as “edgy” as this? Are there risks?

just attended a great panel discussion on Social Networking in Education at NECC and what stuck to me was a statement made that you have to make a commitment to participating a little each day to actively engage in a network. I know this is true, how can I even see what the possibilities are if I have never even tried it? Think about the teachers or students who have been given a tool and end up creating something that you would have never envisioned! We are really just scratching the surface on using Web 2.0 in education. Myself and others still get hung on the technology and functions of the tool. Fuhget about it!! It really just is about letting it be a creative expression of your thoughts and ideas, a mirror for your mind. I guess with everything that seems to call at my attention in a given day, email, phone calls, meetings, marriage, family, working out… the thought of committing to one more thing freaks me out. But you know what, this is really exciting and it creates a state of constant growth, which feels great, so I am gonna do it. Look out man, handynerd is coming to a network near you!