There is a tremendous amount of free or cheap Web 2.0 services out there on the Internet. A quick web search turned up well over 50 free blog hosting services. How can a school or teacher decide which service to use?

I suggest the following guidelines will help make the decision process a bit more manageable. In general, you want to be able to way “Yes” to each of these questions, or at least be aware of the consequences.

Test 1 – Availability

  • Is the service available on your campus? (is it blocked by filters and if so can you get it unblocked?)
  • Does it require a download or software installation? If so, is this manageable on all computers where you and your students will need it?
  • Is there a cost involved? If so, are you willing to pay it?

Test 2 – Safety and Security

  • Take a look at the previous post for a better understanding of the need for educating students about privacy and their online identities.
  • Can student work be kept private (under password)?
  • Can the teacher access private student work?
  • Is all student work associated with a username (can you identify who did what)?
  • Can the teacher maintain “administrator” type privileges on the students accounts?
  • Can commenting, discussion boards, or any other interactive feature be controlled and moderated by the teacher?
  • Are there inappropriate advertisements on the site?
  • Does the site provide easy access to questionable content?

Test 3 – Usability

  • Is it easy?
  • Is there ample “how to” documentation available?
  • How are user accounts created?
  • Is there an active user community where you can find help and ideas?
  • Is the interface simple enough for students to pick up quickly? (the goal is working with content and ideas, not learning how to use a tool)
  • Is the time and effort required to do “something” worth the benefits?

The above basic guidelines will serve as a good general evaluation. Below are a few additional things to think about for specific technologies.

Blog

  • Can the teacher preview post prior to publication?
  • Can the teacher preview comments?
  • Can comments be turned off?
  • Are you satisfied with the amount of storage?

Wiki

  • Does the history show who made each edit?
  • Is it easy to roll back to earlier versions?
  • Can discussions be moderated and controlled?

Social Bookmarking

  • Can users in the general public contact account holders?
  • Will students have their own accounts or will students just view teacher accounts? (ok, this is not a yes no question, but necessary because teachers may use a social bookmarking service as a way to distribute websites to students with students only going to the list and clicking links)
  • Is it easy for students to get to questionable content?
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I think there is a sea change happening now regarding how protecting students and their identities on the Internet are handled by schools. Earlier policies seemed to focus on structures (filters, passwords), rules and consequences. This type of thinking eliminates the need for students to learn how how to stay safe and behave ethically. New policies need to focus on directly teaching students how to stay safe, what the real dangers are, and then allow them to practice in an environment that is monitored and semi-public. This is real learning and a crucial 21st Century skill.

It is up to us, the teachers and school staff to keep our students safe. Introduction of Web 2.0 tools should be preceded by direct instruction on Ethics, Digital Citizenship, and Internet Safety. To ensure the safety of our students I suggest the following guidelines when using web 2.0 resources (thank you Lois Clement help with this list):

  • Students and employees must remain personally anonymous (use pseudonyms for employees and students) on public web pages
  • Pseudonyms  should be unique (not used elsewhere as they may be cross referenced and lead to identification)
  • School and district should stay anonymous
  • Review content prior to posting to public
  • Monitor ALL posted content
  • Use password protected services where possible
  • Change any “shared” password often
  • Require that students log in when posting or editing
  • Check videos or photos for identifying information such as clothing, school banners, mascots, etc.
  • Check for student names on items such as reports and artwork
  • Never pair images with names

David Warlick talks about this topic on his blog post titled School AUP 2.o. This is an informative post that jumps off to a wiki Warlick put together to help schools and administrators deal with need to revise AUPs.

The term “Web 2.0” describes various World Wide Web technologies that aim to enhance creativity, collaboration, communications, secure information sharing, and functionality of the web. Web 2.0 is based on authoring tools that are designed to be simple, distributed and collaborative. This has led to the development of web communities and hosted services, such as wikis, blogs, social-networking sites and folksonomies. The power of Web 2.0 is in leveraging collective intelligence.

The following video shows the power of Web 2.0 in our students’ learning lives.

I am interesting in investigating the following Web 2.0 technologies for their usefullness in teaching and learing.

Over the next several monthes I will evaluate these technologies. Ultimately I am to find the best of each for use in K – 12 education.