Let me give a confession. I do not always understand some of this newfangled technology. I watch my children using myspace and facebook and fail to see the appeal of these social networking sites. And indeed, it took me some time to build up the courage to develop this blog page, which is hosted by blogger, and which requires at least a modicum of technological expertise to use. But not all that long ago I had a bit of an epiphany, this time directed by, again, one of my children. My son Noah is a high-school teacher at Hinsdale Central High School, in Hinsdale, IL. We were talking about new technology when I made my standard rant about myspace- what good was it outside of marketing your band or looking like you had lots of friends? Noah first described how the political candidates were using myspace to maintain friend lists, in order to get the word out. And then he described how he used it to provide a means of communication to his students, and to their parents. And it all sort of clicked. That’s when I began to consider far more seriously how one might use web technology for educational purposes.
From that, I looked at various blog hosts, such as blogger (https://www.blogger.com/start), livejournal (http://www.livejournal.com/), wordpress (http://wordpress.com/), TypePad (http://www.typepad.com/), and others. I played with each one and decided I would develop my page on blogger, mainly due to ease of use and what I felt were interesting design elements. This site is the result of my investigation, and I hope that people find it easy to use, informative and friendly. It is one way to provide faculty with information about educationally-related topics, and to allow for communication at the same time. But you might also consider developing blogs for the courses you teach, using the blog to post additional information for your students, and to foster their involvement in your discipline.
Beyond a blog site, you can consider developing podcasts. These do take more time, since you need to record your podcast, and this means developing scripts and planning words out. But this could be one way to provide students with additional information beyond that which you present in lecture format. This link will take you to apple’s site for podcasting: http://www.apple.com/business/podcasting/?cid=WWA-SEGO-BIZ080324G-NT6E6&cp=WWA-SEGO-BIZ080306G&sr=WWA-SEGO-BIZ080306G (Disclosure: I am a Mac fanatic... but this is being written on a Windows computer, and what you do is pretty much the same).
Then there is a site like del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us). This is a social bookmarking site, where you can gather a set of bookmarks which you share with other people. You can allow only students from a particular class to the url for that class; you can set different sites for different classes. Thus, you can provide a set of links for your students to use without the need to clutter up your personal website. Other social bookmarking sites include digg (www.digg.com), reddit (http://reddit.com) and newsvine (www.newsvine.com). The latter also allows you to collect news article links to share.
This is but the tip of a growing iceberg, and one that most of us are only marginally familiar with. But sites such as these have the potential to transform education. We would do well to pay attention and figure out effective uses of these new technological developments.