Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plagiarism Checker

Here's a bit of a mystery for you.  I checked into one of my wikis today and found a new feature; green check mark with 'plagiarism checker' next to it.  I navigated to the site, listened to the 60 second video and am impressed with the efforts of Brian Klug of the University of Maryland who is responsible for this great initiative.  It's easy.  Just copy/paste your student's text into the plagiarism checker's field box and it will determine if and how much of the work is plagiarized. 

The mystery is that this 'feature' doesn't appear on any of my other wikis and the one on which I discovered it isn't even a premium wiki.  I don't get it but I'm happy for the discovery.  If you don't have this feature on your PBWorks wikis, you can get it at dustball.com.  There is of course an upgrade version for a monthly fee. 

As a parting thought, I really like the new navigational features on the PBWorks wikis.  It makes moving from one workspace to another very simple. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wiki Neophytes

Monday I gave a presentation on working with wikis to a group of very enthusiastic participants.  After what seemed like a marathon session (almost two hours) with a feeble voice and sore throat, I was rewarded with eager teachers who couldn't wait to get out the door to set up their own wiki!  (True their motivation might have been fanned by the two 'freebies' PBWorks offers at sessions such as these, but nontheless, they seemed eager to begin.)  I wish all the wiki neophytes the very best of luck and will be notifying the happy winners soon.

In that spirit, here is a bit of advice for beginners:
1- Use the help manual often and check out those video tutorials.  They're very helpful.
2- If you get stuck, write to the help desk.  They're quick with the replies.
3- Establish a naming convention for files and teach it to everyone who joins your wiki.  When the wiki grows, as I'm sure it will, this will be very handy for finding files and organizing work.  For example, my students just uploaded a 'hard news article' they wrote and I forgot to tell them about the naming convention so I spent a few minutes renaming their files.  You don't want to waste time doing things they can easily do.
4- When you create pages, don't use apostrophes or any other symbols.
5-  I've found that Internet Explorer 7 is problematic and creates little 'bugs' that IE8 doesn't.  Firefox and Safari are no problems at all.
6-  Practice using the tables if you want to line up the picture close to text.  That works best. 
And lastly,
7- Use both the side bar and the folders for navigating.  You don't have to duplicate your navigation either.  For example, I have folders for 'student writing', 'cool resources', 'how to do stuff' (with screencasts) AND in the side bar, I've linked other pages that might not be in the folders.

Remember, change the instrument and you'll change the song.  Happy music making.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Work and Play

"You work too much," a friend said to me recently. "That's why you're sick; slow down and stop pushing yourself." Harrumph. I'm desperately tired of hearing people say this.  Let's stop for one second and ask a pretty simple question: "What is work?"  Is it the stuff we do from 9-5?  Is it what we run from on the weekends?  When does work become 'not-work' ?  What if work were...say...the creative process?  Marking is work.  Correcting and reporting is work.  Planning lessons, searching for sources, trying out new web apps for the class,...that's just fun.  That's the creative process.  Mostly, it's learning.  I can never get enough of it and I think that when students are really 'engaged', they are the same because after all, the desire to learn and grow is a human response to an ever changing and challenging environment. 

Today's offerings are both the result of many hours of 'fun'.  I'll never admit to how many.  The first is the presentation for the LCEEQ conference I prepared using Prezi.  They have improved their platform and I've discovered that many 'bugs' in their software disappeared when I went from IE 7 to IE8.  They have also launched a new education licence with much more storage.  (Tip:  your email address must match your school's web address.)


The next is this poorly edited documentary I made using Adobe Premiere Elements 7.  I'm afraid I'm still an amateur here.  These are my students' testimonials about their experience in a wiki classroom. They're simply wonderful and I'm grateful that they chose to share their voices.


And the last offering is the public wiki I made as a platform for the conference.  You can find it at: http://www.wikiswork.pbworks.com/.  My goal was to offer something concrete to the participants and hopefully, develop a community of educators who can pool resources.