There are so many different tools and technologies available on the internet today, and so many associated terms and concepts. As I think about topics to focus on here in the coming months, I want to make sure we're touching on the most important ones. What are the most important internet technologies for educators to be aware of, and informed about?
I'm sure many people would probably come up with a slightly different list, but based on my observations and experiences, and feedback from faculty at my institution, I have selected the following technologies. I do not mean to imply that every educator should be expected to use all of these technologies in the classroom, but rather that every educator should understand what these are, the potential they have in the classroom, and how their students may already be using them.
1. Video and Podcasting – One of the most widely adopted internet technologies for use in instructional settings is video streaming. Between YouTube, TeacherTube, EduTube, and many other video hosting sites, there are an abundance of lectures, how-to videos, and supporting materials available in the form of web based video. Podcasting has also been used to provide similar offerings of audio materials through popular sites like iTunes. [Click here to learn more about video hosting for education, or here to learn more about podcasting for education.]
2. Presentation Tools – This category is vast and rich. There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of tools on the Internet that can be used to create and share presentations, from simple Powerpoint slide players like Slideshare to multimedia timeline tools like Vuvox and OneTrueMedia. These tools can be used to support classroom teaching or distance learning, or for student reports and presentations.
3. Collaboration & Brainstorming Tools – This is another wide ranging category, including thought-organizing tools like mindmap and bubbl.us, and collaborative tools like web based interactive whiteboards and Google Documents. Additionally, some of the other tools in this list, such as wikis and virtual worlds, also serve as collaboration tools.
4. Blogs & Blogging – Bloggers and many other regular Internet users are well aware of blogs and blogging, but there are many other professionals who really are not frequenters of the “blogosphere”. In addition to a basic familiarity with this technology, educators should be aware of sites like Blogger and WordPress, where users can quickly and easily create their own blogs for free.
5. Wikis – The use of Wikis in educational settings is growing every day. Sites like Wetpaint and others allow users to create free wiki web sites and are a great way to get started with using wikis for educational applications. [Click here to learn more about the use of Wikis in education].
6. Social Networking – All educators should have a basic understanding of sites like Facebook and MySpace and how they are used. This doesn't mean they need accounts on these sites (and many educators would recommend against using these sites to communicate with their students), but they should understand what they are and how they are being used. Educators should also be aware of the professional social networking site LinkedIn.
7. IM – A large percentage of students use IM regularly, via Aim, IM aggregator site Meebo (Meebo allows users to combine messaging from Aim, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, and other sites), or other tools. It behooves educators to be aware of this, and I have even come across various articles about using IM within the classroom setting (such as this one from Educause).
8. Twitter – This listing is really focused on technologies, not specific applications, but this application is currently just too popular to ignore. You should at least understand what it is and the fundamentals of how it is used. [Click here for some insight into how Twitter can be used in education.]
9. Virtual Worlds – This technology has received a lot of press, with SecondLife being the clear leader thus far in this application area. In my experience, the use of SecondLife has been somewhat constrained by high bandwidth and processing power requirements, but this also means that there is still considerable room for increased adoption of the application as systems continue to become more powerful and higher speed bandwidth more prevalant. Active Worlds is one of a number of competitive technologies, and provides a “universe” dedicated to education that has been popular with educators.
10. RSS Feeds – RSS allows users to create their own “push” data streams (that is, define data flows you want coming to you automatically, rather than having to go and “pull” the information with a Google search or other browsing effort). RSS feeds enable you to take advantage of streams of published content that will be sitting in your In Box, or in an RSS reader, when you want them. There are RSS feeds available for many topics and many web sites.
While many readers may have their own interpretation of which technologies are essential for educators to be aware of, I think this is a great list to get started with. Of course, this list will require updating over time, as technologies change, and as educator's uses of these technologies evolve. As always, reader input is welcomed. What do you think? Is this a good top 10? Would you like to see some other technologies listed here? Feel free to comment and offer your insights, please. Thanks!