Monday, January 3, 2011

What Ever Happened to Wikis? Oh, and the Third Utility for the Year!

As I have ben preparing for an exciting two hour presentation at ICE 2011 entitled "Tools Not Toys: A New Look at the Digital Playground", I have been amazed by how difficult it was to find fantastic examples of educational wikis in a classroom environment.  I literally spent five hours looking for what I thought were great sites that I could share during the presentation and was able to find three, yes, I said three!  What were the road blocks I ran into?  Certainly, there are hundreds of great wikis which actually accomplish the goal of an end product that was built collaboratively.  However, what I found out was that wikis in the classroom achieving these goals hadn't been touched in well over a year.  Additionally, I found that wikis claiming to be collaborative efforts were only being added too by one person - the teacher.  Have we lost site of the purpose of wikis or just given up on the idea?  What I did find was that wikis were full of Glogs and snipits of information that teachers were sharing with students and parents.  While that's wonderful, a blog or standard website could accomplish the same goal.  Fortunately, educators, technologists and library resource specialists are still using wikis collaboratively to build some fantastic repositories of information.
So my question is: Are wikis being replaced?  Or have we given up on the collaborative nature of the web by our students?  I'm hoping that if wikis are becoming extinct it is not out of fear of online collaboration and instead educators and districts are starting to delve into what once was the dangerous waters of social networking.  This would certainly be the natural progression of the web.  Most of the "walled gardens" that are available today (Nings, Grou.ps, Grouply, Google Sites, etc...) include a some form of wiki - maybe that's why I wasn't able to find any - because they are hiden from the world.  If this is the case, we are loosing out on the global collaboration that we have all been talking about for the last five years.  I guess what I am trying to say is although I have never been a huge fan of Wiki's, they still have their place in today's classroom.  That's my ramble for the day...I'd be interested in your opinions.

Now what your probably really here for today, the third of 365 installments of the Web 2.0 utility of the day: thumbalizr As the name implies this website allows you to create thumbnails.  What is unique about this utility is that it does not create a smaller image of a picture; instead, it allows you to generate a thumbnail of a webpage!  All you have to do is go to the website and type in a web address.  You'll need to decide if you want to create a thumbnail of the home page of the site or a specific page.  Once you click the "thumb it" button, it will take about a minute for it to generate your image. You can then select from 6 different sizes of .png files you can download.  The base service is free.  The do have subscription levels available if you need more options.
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