Tracking Student’s Online Projects

Participation in online projects can sometimes be quite a challenge to monitor. Students will be posting to various wiki pages, blogs or web sites at various times and frequencies. One way to combat this onslaught is to create an iGoogle homepage. You can create a tab for each project or class.  Then, you simply get an RSS feed from the wiki pages, blogs or web sites that you want to monitor. You should be able to tell at a glance what is happening. Of course, it takes a bit of discipline on my part to make sure that I check this on a regular basis. But, if I have assigned a blog project to all of my students, that could be almost 100 student blogs that I have to track and read. So, this is a life saver. You can read the blog posts right from the iGoogle homepage. If you want to leave a comment, then you have to go directly to their blog – but only one click away.

Sharing how to set up a homepage with students will give them a way to develop their own personal learning network, links to sites they love or to enhance their learning by organizing their important web sites.


According to the HWDSB Strategic Plan, HWDSB will maintain and strengthen collaborative relationships with employee groups. Develop and implement an Employee Relations Plan, a Professional Learning Plan and a Leadership Development Plan, designed to create a culture of collective efficacy, trust and high expectations
(academic optimism) through networking and job-embedded learning.
HWDSB will maintain and strengthen collaborative relationships with community partners. Develop and implement a Community Engagement Plan to improve student achievement and well-being
We all collaborate on the courses that we teach and this is an essential part of doing business. But it is important to me to confer with other teachers as often as possible on everything and anything. Teaching can be an isolating experience – usually in large, institution-like buildings, especially in the secondary panel. My teaching practice is improved through talking to other teachers. I have had the privilege of talking to teachers from other schools who teach Media Arts. Sharing strategies and ideas refreshes enthusiasm and refines ideas.

Last month I was invited to join the 21st Century Fluencies committee – a committee struck to talk about technology and how to engage students and teachers with its potential. This has been the best of the best meetings that I could ever attend – and there isn’t even any food, not even coffee! It really does matter if your opinion counts and that you are doing something meaningful – see engagement does matter! Of course we are talking about technology, a subject near and dear to my heart, as I live and breath it daily. Being part of this committee is almost like taking a big drink of water – I can then go back to my students re-energized and empowered – isn’t this what we try and accomplish with our students – engage, empower?

Being able to connect with other teaching professionals online is also an amazing way to learn new strategies, find out about new technologies and what works and doesn’t work. It is like opening a window and letting the light pour in! Places like ISTE, Classroom 2.0 and Edutopia are full of resources, advice, standards of excellence and conversations amongst educators from around the world. All one needs to do is set a small amount of time each week to delve into the discussion and see what is out there. For those that are courageous, Twitter is also a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what is new in education. I have recently found this way to keep in touch with educators is easy and quick. You only have to read 140 characters at a time!

The nice thing about connecting with platforms like RSS readers or iGoogle and twitter, it comes to you and you don’t have to spend time surfing and looking. It’s like having your own customized newspaper delivered right to your computer!

Following the educational dialogue

The first level of pull is access. According to book, The Power of Pull (John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison), “access involves the ability to find, learn about and connect with resources (people, products, and knowledge) on an as-needed basis to address unanticipated needs.”

It was the Flat Classroom project last fall that first introduced me to RSS readers as part of my professional learning network.  I promptly set up iGoogle as my homepage and followed many of the great educational sites/players – edutopia, Ted talks, Steve Hargadon and  David Warlick. Every time I took a look, there was something interesting or new happening and many new leads to follow.

I have since started following some fine educators on Twitter. Thomas Ro from our HWDSB 21st Century Fluencies committee gave me some tips on how to track tweets from these sources using Tweet Deck. This organizes all of your tweets according to your parameters.







Now the challenge is not to get too distracted with all of the interesting information coming at 140 characters! I also have the echofon plugin for my browser that keeps me informed immediately of any new tweets when Tweet Deck isn’t running. Then there is the “newspaper” ( that formats all the tweets I follow (and send) in a newspaper format – definitely easy to read. I have found some very useful links and tips from tweets and this takes far less time that reading blog posts.