Tag Archives: teacher

Zapd: fast and easy websites

Zapd Screenshot
Teachers and students often need a fast and easy way to create a simple website to share text and photos. A full-featured blog can seem too complex or unwieldy for some situations. Zapd is an app for iPhone, iPod touch or iPad which has a limited set of features but which makes it really easy and fast to create a good looking site.

Once you’ve download the app and set up your profile, you can quickly create a new site using one of the supplied themes. The themes are generally clean and clear and can be changed at any time. Then it’s just a matter of adding content – note from the screen shot that there are only 3 content types available: text, photo or link. Content items are normally added to the bottom or top of the page, but you can drag the items to re-order them.

Each site created in Zapd has a unique and short URL – my test site is located at http://59x.zapd.co. It took me about 10 minutes to make my simple online portfolio of photographs – that is, about 1 minute to add the photos and text, and the rest of the time playing with the themes :-) Fun.

The bottom line

Why use Zapd? I do like the flexibility and much greater feature set of Tumblr, but I would recommend Zapd to any teachers who want an entry-level tool for creating simple sites. It lowers the barriers to creating online content for both teachers and students.

Android for teachers: simple, tasty photos for the web

One thing I really like about my Android phone (LG P500) is the camera feature. It’ll never replace my real camera but it’s always with me, so I can take a quick snap even when I’m teaching. Plus there are imaging apps which make it a great tool for fast and easy creation of images.

For example, Vignette is a camera app for Android which has a free demo version as well as a paid version. The free version is limited to .3M pixel images, but these are fine for small illustrative images on a web page. The software has a wide range of effects which are fast and easy to use. And they provide some useful tweaks for web display.

For example, some of these effects produce a small square image (about 500 x 500) with a white border. So it’s really easy to produce a web-optimised image that is small and fast to download and has a built in margin for text wrapping. The image shown here is just 49KB and uses the Velvia filter which increases colour saturation. It’s not a great photo, but I love how fast and easy it is to capture an image like this, all ready for sharing on the web.

And because Android is a very ‘open’ OS, once you’ve captured the image there are many options for sharing it. Vignette will send the photo to Twitter, Facebook, email or other apps you use. I use the WordPress app which allows me to edit posts and pages on my phone, and Android makes it easy to send the photo directly from Vignette to a new WordPress post. Again, fast and easy – and a lot more flexible than just having a ‘Send via email’ option which I got used to on an iPhone.

Where there is a need for high resolution and high quality images a phone camera is not going to be appropriate. But where all that’s needed is a quick informal snap, a phone camera can be a great tool. Many of the teachers I work with don’t find it easy to get to grips with optimising images for the web. An Android phone* with Vignette is an easy way to get images into a blog or an LMS like Moodle, and it also integrates well with many of the social software platforms they use. I’d recommend it as a useful tool for teachers wanting a simple and convenient way to enhance their online presence with images.

* Note: not all phone cameras are equal. I chose one with 3 MP resolution and macro capability, but no flash as I prefer to use natural light anyway. Others will have very different needs.

Getting started with PBWorks wiki

To my surprise, I’m still recommending PBWorks to teachers as a good way to get started using a wiki. That’s because the Moodle wiki is still not a very effective tool, and PBWorks is easy-to-use and provides some good features for developing and formatting content. It’s proprietary, of course, so it has to be used with caution, but it’s a good way to get started.

When I’m introducing teachers to the potential of wikis and other web tools, I naturally start by getting them to set up and work with wikis themselves. It seems to me like a set of core skills – how to plan and put together a collection of linked pages. This can be applied in reflective individual writing or as a collaborative exercise.

Here’s a 3-page PDF document on how to get started with PBWorks. It’s covered by the by-nc-sa licence so you are welcome to download and use it as you see fit provided it’s not used commercially and my authorship is attributed.

If you modify or adapt it, please add a comment to this post with a link to the new version.

Image: Andjam79

Web 2.0 tools: new territory for many learners


World map by Abraham Ortelius (1570)

For some time I have been incorporating the use of blogs and wikis into professional development for teachers as a tool for writing and thinking. This has ranged from one off workshops on topics such as read-write learning to Masters-level papers in education technology. Consistently I have found that participants have little experience in using Web 2.0 tools for writing.

In general, teachers are very familiar with using the web in a Web 1.0 mode – to access research and other resources. They are much less familiar with using it in a Web 2.0 mode – to write and publish. This appears to be consistent with recent research into other target groups: Luckin states that use of wiki technology is limited mainly to use of Wikipedia. (Luckin et al, 2008, page 5) and Kennedy states that The net generation are not big users of Web 2.0 technologies (Kennedy et al 2007).

Within the ‘write-and-publish’ mode of Web 2.0, there are some big differences in complexity. For example, maintaining a social presence (eg using Facebook) can be a simple matter of filling out an onscreen form. Writing and publishing with a wiki, however, is a far more demanding task both technically and cognitively. Educators need to bear in mind that even those learners who seem very comfortable on the web can struggle with the task of creating a wiki.

In an earlier posting I suggested that educators need better models for the use of Web 2.0 tools. I now believe that the models we need should be based on much clearer distinctions between the specific technologies that are often lumped together under the term ‘Web 2.0’

References and links

Kennedy, G et al (2007). The net generation are not big users of Web 2.0 technologies: Preliminary findings. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007.
http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/kennedy.pdf

Luckin, R et al. Learners’ use of Web 2.0 technologies in and out of school in Key Stages 3 and 4. Becta, 2008.
http://news.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=38417

Millea, J. The Net Generation are not big users of Web2.0 technologies.
http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/jmillea/2008/09/23/the-net-generation-are-not-big-users-of-web20-technologies/