Hey, its Katie from your digied group. Next year 2009/2010 I would like to use the ability to blog and skype in order to communicate with other middle schoolers in other countries. The things I need help with are: a good blog site, how to really set up and skype with a Mac laptop, and how to find schools in Europe, Japan and South Africa that we could communicate with?
This is for sure an awesome project that you are starting.
I would say that there are a few things that you would want to consider in starting this project. What kind of blog are you looking to take on. Do you want to only have your own work posted on the blog and then have other’s comment on it? Would you like the ability to add students to your blog and have them create content on it? Or, are you really just going to use the blog as a way of connecting with these students from other countries (i.e., would you rather have a micro-blogging site that allows you and others to write specific messages back to one another)?
If you are looking for a really good and stable blogging platform with a lot of features that is not blocked anywhere, I would recommend edublogs. You would be able to blog and have other’s blog on your site by setting up accounts for them. I used edublogs for a couple of years before I decided to move everything on to my own server.
I would say, though, that if you are looking to have a lot of collaborators and such, you may want to take on a microblogging format, meaning that all of the messages would be short (140 characters or less, usually). This would allow for a rapid exchange of information and connection from students. It would also allow students to exchange longer works with each other as files, while keeping their reflections and reactions nice and short. I would recommend either Edmodo (which sets up a private classroom or project space… here is an example of what it looks like in a classroom) or ShoutEm (which sets up a more public space where students have to set up logins, but the whole world would be able to see it easily).
As for setting up skype with your mac laptop, there are couple of good resources that I like: http://newley.com/2007/10/08/how-to-use-skype-a-tutorial/
Both of these are pretty good at helping you through any of the snags that may come up in setting it up. The PDF link also has some follow up resources for skyp in education.
As for finding schools and teachers to collaborate with, I found a pretty decent list of places to look for collaborators at Wes Fryer’s wiki.
1. ePals (http://www.epals.com/)
2. iEARN – International Education and Resource Network (http://www.iearn.org/)
3. Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) Collaboration Center (http://www.cilc.org/c/community/collaboration_center.aspx)
4. Global Schoolhouse Projects Registry (http://www.globalschoolnet.org/GSH/pr/index.cfm)
5. TWICE Videoconferencing Collaborative Projects and Exchange Projects (http://www.twice.cc/projects.html)
6. K-12 Online Conference (http://k12onlineconference.org/)
I would also add Teacher’s Connecting (http://teachersconnecting.com/), which is Ben Hazzard’s (of the Smart Board Podcast fame). Abviously, you only need a few takers, but I really think that sending out a wide net is a great idea.
I would love to talk more about your ideas for the project. Where do you want to take it?