Wikispaces Offering Free Wikis for Higher Ed

It looks like Steve, Alan, and Others beat me to this news already, but… starting this month, Wikispaces is offering free, ad-free, fully featured wikis to higher education, as well as extending their free wiki program for K-12.

Their wikis for education have no advertising on them, are fully featured, and never expire. (They also include the option to be completely private if desired, though I personally think that detracts from many of the benefits of a wiki.) The features included in the education wikis usually cost $50 per year — but are completely free when used for K-12 or higher education. And teachers are welcome to sign up for as many of them as they like. They’ve given away over 980,000 free wikis for education so far, and are committed to giving away at least 2,000,000 in total. (This is an awesome new goal as they approach their original goal of 1 million free wikis for education!)

This announcement will be posted next week on the wikispaces blog, but I’ve included it as a PDF so you can get a sneak peak. ;)

If you have any questions or comments feel free to let me know in the comments below… or just contact the always responsive team over at wikispaces. :)

You can now get free higher education wikis here:

You can still get free K-12 education wikis here:

Google Docs Forms versus Survey Monkey

I received this question by email this morning:

Just wondering…I’ve used Survey Monkey for a long time. It gives you lots of information…what are the advantages of the Google one that we do in Excel? I know about the instant graphing, but is there something else? Thanks!

And since I took the time to send a response, I thought I’d share it here, too:

This is a good question – that I’ve been meaning to answer in writing for a while. Here are a few thoughts off of the top of my head:

Advantages of Google Docs forms over Survey Monkey:

  • No limits (like a free surveymonkey account)
  • No costs (like a $200/year surveymonkey account)
  • No need to export data
  • it’s already in your spreadsheet, where you can graph or manipulate it in many ways.

Disadvantages of Google Docs forms compared to Survey Monkey

  • Duplicating a spreadsheet doesn’t duplicate the form! This is a big deal if, like me, you create many evaluations from a single template. It was a PAIN the one time I tried to do several versions of a form in Google Docs.
  • No pre-set visualization like the simple bar graphs in Survey Monkey – you have to set it all up yourself.
  • You can’t customize the template (colors and logo etc) the way you can in Survey Monkey.

Collaborators are also handled differently. It’s very easy to “publish” the results using either system, but Google Docs allows you to have true collaborators who can also manipulate your data. On the other hand, Survey Monkey makes it easier to determine how much of the results you share and what people can do with them.

At this point I’m glad I still have SurveyMonkey for evaluations, but we’ll see what I decide next time my renewal comes up, especially if Google gets the duplication issue squared away.

If you are using both and know of other differences I’ve overlooked, please let us know in the comments.

Learning to Network and Networking to Learn

Today was Day 2 of the Technology Conference for Administrators at Tenaya Lodge just outside Yosemite. I presented Learning to Network and Networking to Learn as the second of two keynotes (the first was Chris Walsh’s Learning Everywhere All The Time). A few things about this experience are worth sharing here.

First of all, of course, I want to share the workshop wiki for Learning to Network and Networking to Learn, which include the slides, outline, and links to all the examples I mentioned – or planned to mention. ;)

Though the examples shared include many read/write web tools (such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking, twitter and more), this workshop focuses on moving “beyond the tools” to look at what it means to create and participate in an online Personal Learning Network (PLN). So I thought it appropriate to include people from my PLN in the presentation. The slides were presented through Google Docs, so a related sidebar discussion did crop up. Happily it also included a surprising number of people who were in the room with their own laptops. If you look at the presentation you’ll also see I included very small text in the lower left corner of each slide meant to help the online visitors participate in and contribute to the presentation. (This is an idea I believe I picked up from Jen Jones.) However, this only works synchronously… people had to be available at the time I was presenting to take part.

So, the night before I added a discussion question to the wiki and posted an invitation to twitter asking people to share their stories about the impact of their PLN. The responses were rich and provided another means for the participants to continue their learning after the presentation. This is actually the biggest “take away” I have from this event in terms of something new that worked. In any case, the invitation to share still stands. I’d love to pass on your stories to future workshop participants (or even those from today who return to the wiki).

I had tested ustream just prior to the presentation and hoped to set it up at the beginning, but things were two well choreographed to allow that. The program was running behind and my introduction was smooth, so I didn’t take the time to setup the recording at the podium. However, with about 20 minutes to go in the presentation it came time to talk about ustream, so I went ahead and fired it up. Shortly after I hit record and at least captured the last few minutes of the presentation. I’ve often resisted ustreaming my presentations because it seems to take away from my focus on the participants in the room – and because it can put the face-to-face participants “on the spot” and actually reduce participation. In this case it seemed to go over well, though, and I’d like to try to find more ways to bring it into a session in a way that contributes value, not just wow factor.

When I remember not to shut the window, I’ve also taken to using Jing to capture a screencast of the sidebar conversations in these events (after the fact). I simply scroll through the conversation (quickly) and record it for review later. Here are two examples that captured some of the “backchannel chat” happening today: Google Docs Chat & Ustream Chat. (I think I lost some of the ustream chat and perhaps some of the Google chat by closing the windows at one point, though.)

Now that I’m sharing these, I wish I’d be better about capturing everything… and about following along with the chat and encouraging them to answer the questions and contribute. This is something else I’ve found – that unless I recruit someone else to moderate the conversation it tends to drift away from the presentation. ;)

The last thing I want to share is a compliment/criticism I received at the end of the day. One participant, a principal I believe, came up to tell me that he was more engaged in my keynote than any other session at the conference, primarily because the back channel chat allowed him to interact with some of the others in the room and from around the world. This was fantastic! But, he was telling me this after also participating in my Two-Way Teaching with the Two-Way Web breakout session in the afternoon, which wound up focusing on blogs and wikis. This session was more about how to use the tools and it included more educational examples – and more opportunities to ask questions – so it was fairly interactive (and practical) for a one hour breakout. However, he said that even though this session was “every bit as important” it was less engaging… because I didn’t include the back channel chat and online participation. For me, it was an awesome illustration of the truth of what “we” back channel chat and learn-by-doing advocates preach – and a reminder that I need to always put my best practices into play, not just when I’m modeling them.

I may know something about “Networking to Learn” now, but I’m definitely still sorting out this “Networking to Teach” business. Still, today seemed like a good day and the things I’ve shared here are bits I can build on for the future.

Seven Recent Workshop Wikis

Here’s a few of the workshop wikis I’ve used recently, which I thought might be worth sharing here.

Intro to Tablet PC – This is the latest version of my Intro to Tablet PC workshop. We had to do this in three hours, though, and only got through the Education Pack and Experience Pack.

Tablet Sharing – This page is for Tech Lead Teachers who meet every other month as part of a Tablet PC Pilot project. This included my previous sketchcasting workshop and then some. There’s a few more example sketchcasts in this outline. We also covered Jing… and because there was time left I showed them a document camera and then ZiPhone – and how to jailbreak their iPhones. :)

Document Camera Workshop – This is a new workshop for me and it went well. The wiki isn’t terribly rich yet, but it provides a structure for training teachers of various levels how to use a document camera in the classroom and includes links to several quality resources for additional ideas and inspiration.

Projector Workshop – CUE does projector workshops from time to time (either 3 or 6 hour versions) and I used to wonder how on Earth that time was filled, even though I understood it was more about how to teach with a projector rather than how to use a projector. This wiki represents my first go at running a projector workshop myself. It was 90 minutes of interactive demo followed by 90 minutes of practice time where teachers got to team up and work on the things they most wanted to try. It went well for me, and there are lots of links on this wiki for anyone else attempting something similar.

Google in Education – This is the outline of my short Google Workshop, which is largely delivered as a demo that the participants can follow along with hands-on. I most recently delivered this to teachers in Redondo Beach, and wished I could do all three days of the Search, Learn, Share training below.

Search, Learn, Share – This wiki was originally created by Chris Walsh and I to support a workshop based on the original Google Teacher Academy. I recently expanded it into three half-day Saturday workshops for private schools, which you can access in the sidebar. I’m very happy with how this worked out, and think there’s enough structure here for other professional developers to put it to use without much work.

Images, Impact, and Interaction – This is another new workshop for me… rather than how to use Powerpoint, this is how to design better presentations, with a focus on creating interactive experiences for the students. It went well, and again there are plenty of links to good resources here.

I’d love any feedback you might have on any of these workshop wikis. And, of course, feel free to contribute to them or put them to use, as long as you respect the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. ;)

UPDATE: See my Workshops page for a more complete list of workshops. Most are wikis, and several are newly updated.

Recent Workshop Wikis: Sketchasting and More…

I’m in the middle of two weeks of relatively intense workshop activity and realized I haven’t been sharing my workshop wikis here lately. So, here are the agendas (with links to everything I mention and materials if applicable) for each of the recent workshops that I have permission to share:

Sketchcasting – This workshop was based on the latest tool I found to share with teachers using Tablet PCs. In essence, is a web-based sketching program that is actually responsive enough to work well with a Tablet PC pen and which allows users to save and share their sketches online, complete with narration. It’s like being able to save what happens on the whiteboard – erase the board and keep going as many times as you like during your narration.

Picasa in Education – This is the latest version of my workshop for helping teachers get the most out of Picasa. The wiki includes links to documentation, a checklist of hands-on topics to cover, and links to many other resources including instructional strategies with a digital camera aligned with Marzon’s instructional strategies that work.

Movie Maker in Education – This is a similar workshop, but for Movie Maker. The wiki includes links to documentation, inspirational ideas for classroom use, and more. I even suggest ways to extend Movie Maker’s functionality using Audacity, Photostory, Zamzar, and a Flip Video. (Don’t get too excited… these are one line suggestions with a link to the tools.)

Blog If You Love Learning – This is the latest version of my blogging workshop. Some of the examples are old, but they’re not dated. I’m still very passionate about leading this workshop and sharing these ideas with teachers. For the first time I got to include the new Blog and User Creator at

Organization Skills – This is a new one for me, and the wiki is mostly just an outline of ideas and activities. The purpose was to help teachers using Macbooks (who are going 1:1 with their students next year) to better organize their digital lives, at least professionally. Perhaps some of you will have additional ideas or better links to add. :)

Search Learn Share: An Introduction to Google in Education (Day 1) – Over three Saturday mornings I’m introducing teachers to the content shared during the Google Teacher Academies (which are more of a lightning quick train-the-trainers format). I’m excited about having the extra time to work with teachers so they can apply the various tools in their work as educators.

Internet Awareness and Safety – I haven’t actually updated this workshop yet, but I’ll be leading it next week at the Leadership 3.0 conference, and it is in need of an update… so there will be new material up there in the next few days. I’m still proud of the balanced approach this workshop takes and I look forward to sharing it with administrators next week.

More… – I’ve shared links to many more workshop wikis on the Workshop Topics page of this blog.

I’d appreciate contributions or feedback on any of these. And of course, feel free to use them as long as you abide by the Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license on any original material.

CUE 2008 Workshop Wikis

Though I missed the EduBloggercCon-West on March 5th (to help Eva with Clark – and to get some writing done), I was thrilled to spend most of the past weekend presenting at the 2008 CUE conference in Palm Springs. Below are links to the wikis for each workshop or sesison that I led. Each wiki includes the session agenda, hotlinks to anything I mentioned, and any slides, videos, or handouts I shared. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions or feedback.

March 6, 2008

  • Learning to Game and Gaming to Learn – This three hour ticketed workshop was organized into three parts. The first hour was a theoretical overview of current research and practice related to video games and learning. In the second hour, participants played through a serious game for change, the United Nations World Food Program’s Food Force. The third hour was then a reflection discussion and time to focus on what has to happen for video games to be used in schools. Tag: CUE08A9

After this workshop I commuted home to spend another night helping out with Clark. (During my trip to the CLMS conference in Sacramento last week, it was tough for Eva to do two nights in a row on her own.) But, I was up to help with a feeding at 4:30 and hit the road again in time for breakfast in Palm Springs and a full day of presenting on the seventh.

March 7, 2008

  • Be An Edublogger – The title of this one hour concurrent session might leave you thinking “who does this guy think he is?” but it’s merely an effort to share tools and tips for joining a global learning community by making connections, contributions, conversations, and requests. Tag: CUE08S2199
  • Build A Better Browser – This 20 minute CUE Tips session provided an overview of how all browsers are not created equal and demonstrated a list of Firefox Extensions for Educators. All are linked to from the wiki – and some are not to be missed! Tag: CUE08T8011
  • Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs: Which one is right for your lesson? – Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs can be powerful and easy to use tools for educators, but their features are overlapping and it can sometimes be difficult to know which one is right to meet a given need. This 20 minute CUE Tips session was an effort to help sort that out. Tag: CUE08T8012
  • Twitter Me This – This 20 minute CUE Tips session introduced the idea of social microblogging and provided an overview of the basic functions of twitter. Most importantly, it helped educators see how they could use Twitter to join a global learning community… and feel good about it. Tag: CUE08T8010

Happily, I was able to stay the night following this busy day. This also gave me the opportunity to take part in the CUE Volunteer reception, the CUE ball, the OCCUE affiliate meeting, dinner with colleagues (David Jakes, Sylvia Martinez, & Mark Pennington), and socializing with folks (from Newport-Mesa USD, Redondo USD, and elsewhere) I don’t get to see very often anymore. As I say all year long, you learn as much over Margaritas in Palm Springs (during the CUE conference) as you do in the sessions. And the next morning I was up bright and early for another full day.

March 8, 2008

  • Classroom 2.0 – A Real-time Conversation – This one hour concurrent session was a discussion panel moderated by Steve Hargadon. My fellow panelists were Mike Lawrence, Kyle Brunbaugh, Adam Frey, Rushton Hurley, and Sylvia Martinez. Julie Lindsay also Skyped in from Qatar on the Arabian Peninsula. Discussion focused on the potential of web 2.0 tools (and philosophies) to transform traditional classrooms. The discussion continues on the CUE community website. Tag: CUE08S2186
  • CUE Live 2008: Games in Education (w/Sylvia Martinez) – In this webcast (filmed on the show floor) I interview Sylvia Martinez about using video games in education. She brings a developers perspective and talks about the importance of teachers providing a context for a game used in the classroom. The conversation is just over 12 minutes long.
  • It Really Is Really Simple – This one hour concurrent session provided an introduction to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) in education. Participants learned how to subscribe to blogs, podcasts, and other “feeds” – as well as how RSS can help manage student blogs and their own professional development. Discussion of the technical “magic” behind RSS and podcast enclosures was also included. Tag: CUE08S2189

Following a rushed late checkout I headed home for an evening (and a day off) with Clark and Eva… and the recuperation was much needed. I’m posting these resources here to do my part in “extending” the conference and welcome any questions or feedbacks in the comments or via email.

Blogs and Wikis for Gifted Students

On Saturday, I presented two sessions at the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) Conference. These were slightly customized versions of two of my most frequently presented topics:

Interestingly, except for one slide in which I connected the things I was talking about to specific terminology often used in GATE education, I didn’t need to customize my usual presentations much for use with gifted students. (I find this is true with ELL students as well.) Read/write web technologies – like blogs and wikis – lend themselves to just the sort of individualized learning that such programs are striving for.

I am also sympathetic to a comment I received by email from one of my colleagues who read the interactive demo post from the blogging workshop. I’m sharing his thoughts here in a slightly edited excerpt:

Gifted students conferences simply outline what we should be doing with all of our students. All educators need to subscribe to the notion that every child is gifted. Schools should endeavor to more fully develop each kid’s gifts in equal fashion.

Ironically, I still support gifted education, at least for now. I think I see both sides of the argument clearly. As a student I personally benefited from good GATE programs… and detested bad ones. And as a teacher I was particularly thankful to not teach in a place where the best students were pulled out and segregated from others (except in a few AP classes and similarly specialized courses). Still, in the same way that I hate to see people not use technology with any of their students because not all of them have access at home, I think it is lunacy (and societal suicide to some degree) to hold back everyone to a lowest common denominator in education. Perhaps, though, if more schools were in fact fully developing each student’s gifts, then the need for separate GATE education might not be so strong.

I suspect if I call for comments on this reflection I might receive some interesting ones indeed, but have at it. I’d be particularly interested in hearing from any educators working with gifted students, especially any from the conference who might still be tuning in.

“Blog If You Love Learning” for Gifted Students

I’m here with educators who teach gifted students, and we’re talking about blogs and the read/write web. I’m asking them these three familiar questions (participant responses are in italics):

  • What is a blog? An online journal, social interaction, a place to share opinions & hobbies, interactive tool for communication, web-based, it’s a web log.
  • What is the read/write web? The interactive part of the web – where you can read and respond.
  • What do these technologies mean for your students? It’s more collaborative, it’s a quick publishing tool (for younger students), it’s free, it’s very accessible, it gives students an audience beyond the teacher.

This is enough to get us started, so we’re off…

Project-Based Learning: A Student Comment

Out of the blue last night I received a new comment on a two year old post… and it’s one of my favorite comments in over three years of blogging. In response to a brief post about the U.S. Falling Behind in the Global ‘Brain Race’, an anonymous high-school student left this comment:

I am a high-school student, and I believe we need more project-based learning in our schools. Of all the classes I have taken, I have learned best in those that are interactive. Anybody can read from a textbook, memorize the information, take a test, and forget what they read in a week. American schools are focusing on just that. Students take tests on words, words they found in a book for the sole purpose of testing. They don’t need to learn what the words mean, because they only need that information until the test. Also, I think we need to rethink our testing strategies. Vocab tests are insane. We get fifteen words on Monday and test on Friday. We forget the words over the weekend and get fifteen new words on the next Monday. History is a little harder. Students are required to remember dates and names. I personally only remember what happens, not who made it happen or where. I consider myself a good learner, but I have a good short-term memory, so I have been successful so far. However, if I was asked what happened in World War I, I would be able to tell you it was called the Great War, involved most of Europe, and started in 1914 (I think…). This coming from an A student. In addition, many of my peers are happy with C’s and don’t try to accel in school, so I think the United States of America needs to find a motivational tool to help American students reach their potential and continue to better our economy. -I apologize for the lack of structure in this comment. (My thoughts aren’t always organized.)

Coincidentally, I just recently was involved in leading some Project Based Learning workshops, including a rather bizarre one. And, just this week I received a marketing email from ISTE about the new (Will Richardson endorsed) book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning. I’m glad to be involved with (formal) PBL again, and it’s good to see it’s alive and kicking in our professional circles as well. More importantly, this comment reminds me that it does make a difference and it is well worth the effort. I hope other teachers and educational technologists might find this comment inspiring as well.

Of course, on the other hand, I’ve actually had A students tell me, “you can’t do this to us, Mr. Wagner” when I was using project-based learning. They were not so much concerned about having to learn a new system when they’d adapted well to the old one; they were more concerned that it was not the system their colleges and universities would use. In essence they felt they had to get through the traditional higher education system before learning in a better way!

From another perspective altogther, as much as educational technologists (and edubloggers in particular) have taken issue with the how of our current educational system, I’m finding increasing fault with the what as well. I find myself thinking more about the lack of Financial Literacy in our schools (I’ve only just begun thinking about the intersection of edubloggers and financial literacy) – and about the lack of environmental literacy (or Green Living) in our schools. The last thing we need to do is raise another generation of overconsumers… but more on that in my next post.

Edubloggers and Financial Literacy

Out of the Box Thinking About Education and Teaching (Via Will’s post about the Personal MBA, and his related reflections, were thought provoking for me, especially in light of some of what I’ve been reading over the “break.” Here’s my comment – perhaps some of you have been thinking along the same lines:

Will, I appreciate this post for a few reasons. First, I’ve been investing some time in my own financial education lately… so stumbling upon the personal MBA here is timely for me and I’ll probably be chipping away at the reading list this year. Second, of course, I’m excited about network learning and am interested in any efforts to find a formal system for implementing it on a large scale – and perhaps more importantly, monetizing it on some scale. I’m also excited to hear you “seriously considering” opening a school. It seems like a step many edubloggers have flirted with and I like to imagine what would happen if many came together and made it a reality. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m not sure the consulting model is a sustainable (or particularly effective) one for many of us now engaged in it. I’m looking for a new system in which we might work… to make a living, and to make a difference… without burning out. And I think some new web 2.0 technologies might help make this possible.

Clearly there’s more to come on this subject, and though I’ve fairly well filled up the break at this point, I hope to post something more before everyone starts back in school on Monday. In the meantime, let me know if these thoughts hit home for any of you as well. I suspect the answer will be in the power of the network.