Saturday, May 16, 2009

We update your homepage every day...

Because I now have a Kindle 2, I have downloaded an audiobook from It's one of my UR stories, Alice in Wonderland, narrated by Jim Dale, who scored a 10 out of 10 for his Harry Potter narrations (I listened to them all - he deserves the awards he has won).

Well, this narration is not so good - read too quickly, Alice voiced poorly, no voice-sense of nonsense. This is a book that would be better read out loud in class or in a cozy chair anywhere. Too bad and money wasted. But I have learned more about the Kindle.

I left Alice after about 20 minutes and opened the Your First Listen freebie from Audible. It was a piece from a Steve Martin novel - engaging, but not nearly as engaging as Gaston by William Saroyan. I listened, thinking to myself that now I understand the detachment my students reported after listening to The Dark is Rising last year. Some books are best when they are read slowly, sentences savored and puzzles pondered. That may be the best test of "a literary text."

My enlightenment came at the end of the free audio file. The Audible voice says, "We update your homepage every day..." Yes, they do! Do does! The market tools read my interests/purchasing history and feed me stuff I might be interested in. The fact is, I am almost never interested in the proposed books or audiobooks. But - it is valuable to me to see a track of my reading and purchasing history. I have a sense of where I have been and of where I might yet go. Wouldn't this also be valuable for my students? Couldn't they use a gentle tease toward learning?

First, of course, they need a homepage. Let's suppose they are students in a 1-1 laptop program. They set up an iGoogle homepage, which is fun and a good thing to do anyway. I think I would make rules for the Gadgets - perhaps one game, no chat, one blog, one newspaper, one "fun information" provider, and my assignment notebook RSS feed (or the all-team notebook, if we can manage that) showing.

Here is the cool part. What if every student has an Updates page in a teacher-maintained web notebook and also has a feed to that page on his/her iGoogle homepage? What if teachers use that notebook to send personal messages to students - not just grades - but links, images, anything useful?

Sounds great - but we already can send kids comments and links via our online gradebook, PowerSchool. We access that for grading daily, so why can't we view it as a conduit of communication to kids? Or better yet, why can't PowerSchool make media uploads possible, and provide students to an RSS feed so that students can put it on their iGoogle pages, and MySpace pages, and Facebook pages...

Education would begin to leave the classroom.

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