Sunday, December 9, 2007

Setting up dummy student mail accounts for Ning registration

Ning Social Networks do not require email confirmation for registration, therefore students can easily sign up using a "fake" or "dummy" email address based on 1 mail account.

There are 2 ways to go about setting up dummy mail addresses:

If your school has its own domain you can check about a "catchall" mailbox, either on your mailserver or by way of google apps for education - "CatchAll" catches mail sent to your domain but to mail addresses that don't exist. eg lets say that doesn't exist, any mail sent to that address would go straight into the catchall mailbox. So your students could safely sign up using any @yourschool mail address.

The other way to do it would be to set up a gmail account under your name or any other name you choose eg: Then when signing up students for ning you would give their email addresses, etc.

These solutions would only be useful for signing up to sites that don't require email confirmation.

As the seperate mailboxes don't exist rather one mail account is catching all the mail, your students don't have access to the incoming mail, it cannot therefore be used as a mail service.
However students can access private messages from within the ning network, and teacher will recieve a copy of these messages in the dummy account.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Creating a Social Network for elementary students

Created in trailfire

Preparing Younger Students for Social Networking Places Langwitches

In her blog Langwitches makes the point that whether social networks are meant for elementary age students or not ..
"It is one of those instances, where you know that the children are going to "do it anyway", no matter what the rules are. The best approach, in my opinion, is you teach them to be safe in any social network environment. So the next best thing would be, since we can't (and wouldn't) all sign-up for MySpace accounts and hang out there, is to create our own Social Network site, where these younger students can try out their wings in a safe and controlled environment."
View mark summary

Having discovered last year that some of my 5th and 6th grades had opened accounts on a less than savoury SN, I decided this year to open a moderated child friendly network for them. In fact I opened 2 networks one in English for my 6th grade EFL students(trail mark 4) and another in Hebrew for my 5th grades.
This was harder than it may seem as there were at the time no suitable Social Networks in the Hebrew language. Luckily I had the summer vacation to translate the Ning platform ,set it up for right to left languages and learn the var ious options along with other classroom20 members as we played fake "students" (see next trail mark for demo site)
One of my main concerns was the fact that members of a Ning network must sign up with an email address. This address can then be used to send private messages to members' mail boxes.
I decided the best way to deal with this was to set up a catch all mail box on our Google apps (trail mark 5) school mail and have students join the site with a "fake" email address. There are 2 advantages to this system, 1) students do not receive mail from the ning network 2) all mail and "private" messages sent through the network can be viewed by me.
Picking usernames. Past experience has taught me that often my students will pick less than suitable usernames and have a tendency to forget their passwords. As they wouldn't be able to check their own email in the event they needed a password reminder I needed a system which would allow me to easily find their messages in my catchall box. This would also make it easy for me to recognize each student by his email address when accepting membership requests. Each user name is a combination of the classname+childsfirstname - luckily in our school each intake year has a name which stays with them from g1 to g6. (If we didn't have that system I would have had to create it.) I highly reccommend keeping a printed copy of usernames and passwords, having students write them in their diaries and making sure homeroom teacher also gets a copy.

Setting up acceptable use policy/guidelines. I took my students on a guided tour of the already active forums on our school website, pointing out messages where children had obviously forgotten the fact that the forum is not a private messaging system.
We then spent some time creating a set of guidelines. These include: Remember that the web is hackable, do not post private information such as: full name, tel nos. addresses etc. , do not arrange real life meetings through the network - even if you think you are talking to your best friend. Do not post any content that may insult, hurt, embarass or threaten anyone including yourself - this includes text, photos, videos and mp3s. If someone insults, hurts, embarasses or threatens you - report it to me by any means available phone, mail, through the school web site and tell a responsible adult such as a parent, or teacher. Do not reveal your password to anyone, if content violating the guidelines is posted to the site under your user name, your account will be closed until we can discuss the matter in school.

The last step before having students request membership was to have them create or pick an avatar, and to explain that I would not allow photos of themselves, their friends or families.
I see my students once a week, things are moving slowly, some students are taking advantage of the network from home, others are using it only during our lesson. A couple have started writing blogs, others are enjoying uploading pictures and music. So far the kids are working within the guidelines, I'm hoping that will continue to be true, but if not we'll take advantage of the situation to revisit ,review and revise if neccessary .
View mark summary

Classroom 2.0 Sandbox
Learning the application with an eye to using it in education - security issues, moderation
View mark summary

EFL20: Ning in the elementary EFL Classroom
In grade 6 we are experimenting, using a ning network as an EFL learning space.
View mark summary

Google Apps For Education

Gmail and catchall mailbox
Google Talk
Google Calendar
Start Page
Google Docs
Page Creator
Control Panel
Etensibility APIs
View mark summary

Ning in Education

Ning is sponsoring this network to provide support and help to educators, and to get feedback from the educational community to continue to improve Ning.
View mark summary

Also worth checking out:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Do 13 of Us Rule The Virtual World - Poll

Out of sheer curiosity, I've added a poll to the sidebar of my blog. This is one of the new features rolled out by "blogger in draft" . (Other features are: video upload from within the editor; a google search engine which can be set to search: your blog, your blog and sites you link to from within your posts, and the 'whole' web.)

The poll question "How Many Online IDs Do You Have", is one that my fake identities and myself have been asking on and off, since we read that "MySpace Hits 100 Million Accounts" in Mashable a year ago.

We were reminded of it yet again when we received the following quote from Jay's (or Yankel)'s "Boidem" column, after he uncovered yet another of my IDs.

"In Thomas Pynchon's classic novel V. people admit to ruling the world, even if it isn't completely true."
"..Stencil shrank at the cold air moving in through the window.
"I'm not a priest. Don't try appealing to someone you've only known in a written confession. We do not walk ganged, Stencil, all our separate selves, like Siamese quintuplets or more. God knows how many Stencils have chased V. about the world." "Fairing," Stencil croaked, "in whose Parish Stencil was shot, preceded your Father Avalanche."
"I could have told you. Told you the name."
"Saw no advantage in making things worse."
Stencil's eyes narrowed. Majistral turned, caught him looking cagy.

"Yes, yes. Thirteen of us rule the world in secret." "

..... need I say more?

Obviously the poll is just a bit of fun . However, in my "real life" I am constantly surprised by seeming contradiction between the statistics and how few of my acquaintances/colleagues/employers even know what social sites and web2.0 are. Could the statistics be based on the multiple IDs of users like myself? If so, what, if any, are the implications?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Well, I've never been tagged so this is a first 2 times over, (that's what comes of keeping multiple blogs.) I think this could be an excellent getting to know you exercise in a collaborative project between different classes/schools, so thanks to Reuven Werber and Ken Pruitt for passing on this idea.Anyway, here are the rules:
  • Post these rules before you give your facts
  • List 8 random facts about yourself
  • At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  • Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

8 Random Facts About Me
1. I hated school and swore I would never be a teacher.
2. At 13 I got my first "job" selling flowers in an outdoor market
3. My favorite book is 100 Years of Solitude
4. I can't see the letters on my cellphone in order to send text
5. My strangest job was teaching EFL over the phone in conference calls
6. I'm left handed but use the mouse with my right hand
7. I still intend to learn to play piano
8. My husband, 3 children, 2 dogs and I live on a farm in Israel. Uninvited guests in my house to date: a family of sheep in the living room, a cow at my front door, a bat in my jeans, and the occasional snakes, scorpions and lizards (almost makes me miss England!)

So those are my 8 random facts - I'm going to tag Anne Mirtschin Larry Ferlazzo HG Lindquist from here and JoNelle Gardner, Hans Feldmeier, DDeubel Eduardo Lina Susanb from my other blog.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Getting the most out of web20 in the classroom - You teach my students I'll teach yours.

I've spent the last year learning up on technology in education and in particular web2.0. My toolbar overflows ... and yet I'm stumped whenever I try to sit down and think what to do in the classroom come September, unable to focus, unable to make a decision. How do I create a meaningful experience, for a heterogenous class of about 30 students, in one 45 minute weekly lesson? How do I multiply that by 6 grades? Past experience has taught me that I can't please everyone, no matter what "project" I choose/build/create for my classes, collaborative, international or not, it won't suit every student. I could have students research a topic of their choice. However when I tried this in the past I found it very difficult to be the lone mentor, mediator, guide and teacher for so many students on such a wide topic base.
The beginnings of an idea, "teach my students and I'll teach yours".
  • Teachers create and publish online 1 collaborative distance learning "project" - this could be achieved by opening different groups on ning, imbee, haiku, edu20 etc.
  • Individual students would register for the project of their choice
  • We become the online teachers/mentors of the students who registered for our project and mediator/assistant for students in our classes who are working on other projects.

Our students would benefit from: choosing a subject that interests them, working with a teacher who is a specialist in the subject they have chosen, meeting and working with other students who share similar interests.

Of course, I know this would take a lot of planning but is it at all feasible?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Google Book Search, making the worlds Public Domain Works accessible to all.

Recently launched, a new feature of Google Book Search which makes public domain works more accessible. Any public domain work in the index is accompanied by a link to "View Plain Text", once in the plain text version, the book may be accessed by adaptive technologies such as TTS readers and Braille display. It is possible to read the whole book on line, download, save and print to PDF.

Now when is Hebrew TTS finally going to become a valid option?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Thinking out loud... or not

Although the name of this blog is "Musings of a Tech Teacher" and I specifically started it as "A place where I can think out loud" one thing strikes me as I look over the few posts I have here and on my other blog in Hebrew, iteachr, I'm not very active as far as thinking out loud, blog style, goes.

On the other hand, I am a world class procrastinator, and so instead of sitting down to the nitty gritty of planning my curriculum for next year, I find I am spending hours, even days, consuming gallons of coffee, packets of cigarettes, and surfing the internet in search of new tools and applications that may somehow be of aid. The truth is that the list of links I have collected is already too long and I know I will find it hard to to focus when I do finally have to make a choice.

I guess the first step for me is to stop my incessant web quest and to start putting some order into things. First things first pick a subject area, topic or whatever you like to call it, then review the standards set out by the curriculum, decide what the focus is, map out aims and objectives, outcomes etc. See how the learning experience can be enriched, enhanced, taken at least one step further by the implementation of technology.

I've got my work cut out for me.... better have another cup of coffee :-)

My New Profile Pic, courtesy of ToonDoo

Many thanks to Rajendran at ToonDoo for my new avatar, explanation below...
For those of you who haven't yet discovered it, ToonDoo is an excellent site for creating cartoons. Features include:
member profile page, cartoon generator with a large and growing library of
backgrounds, characters and props, user comments and embedding code to allow you to post your creations in your blog or website. Cartoons can be made public,
private or shared with a chosen few. The toon creator works with unicode meaning
cartoons can be created in every language!
As the site itself is written in English I created some simple demos in Hebrew for my students, and informed Rajendran at toondoo so that other Hebrew speakers would also have access to them.

Rajendran wrote back asking for a photo to add to his blogpost about the demos. Being one of those people who has difficulty making decision for even the simplest things, I sent my photo and my avatar and asked him to choose. Two minutes later I received Rajendran's creative suggestion, my head superimposed on the body of my avatar. Excellent idea! I've been using the two seperately for ages, why didn't I ever think of this?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Fair(Y) Use Tale - Copright Explained

Disney characters explain Copyright Law - in a humorous video by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University -

The video is also posted on and so is available for translation to other languages. (Definitely worth waiting for the 10 minute video to download)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Internationalization - Web2.0

In a short blog post about one of Steve Hargadon's sessions at NECC Dana Huff asks

"What do you think would make it easier for teachers to find ways to
use Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom?"

As an elementary school teacher in Israel, I don't have to think twice: Internationalization!

Before I can even consider introducing teachers to web20 technologies I need to know:

  • that they (and their students) will be able to understand the UI
  • that the application will be able to function in, and represent Hebrew input correctly

Yes my biggest obstacle is language. Many applications simply aren't set up for languages with special character sets, the few that are don't deal with the RTL configuration needed for Hebrew and Arabic. Then there is also the wealth of content out there which is inaccessible to students simply because they don't understand the language either of the content or of the UI.

There are a couple of sites which are moving in a positive direction:

The big player in the field is of course Google. Here are a few more... a video upload site, provides user friendly tools for members to transcribe and translate videos - and automatically adds the translations as subtitles. These versions are available for viewing on the site and can also be embedded in other webpages.

If you create videos, or you post student created videos online, why not consider uploading to dotSUB. a site for creating cartoons has added Unicode support to the cartoon generator. Cartoons created on toondoo can be embedded in blogs and other webpages. (a site which enables visitors to overlay videos with content 'spots' of their own), has set up a system for members to translate the UI. Again the translation interface is very easy to work with, and you can translate as much or as little as you like. a site for creating online flash presentations - supports Unicode, although for now RTL is still not an option. Anyone interested in translating the UI should write to the developers . At present the UI is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, Vietnamese and Hebrew

If you know of other web2.0 sites which are addressing the issue of Internationalization please let me know.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

k12 Online Conference - Call for Proposals

Excellent opportunity for educators. Whether you're interested in learning, presenting or both this looks like the place to be online in October.

More information:

Call for ProposalsMay 21st, 2007
Announcing the second annual “K12 Online” conference for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, October 15-19 and October 22-26 of 2007, and will include a preconference keynote during the week of October 8. This year’s conference theme is “Playing with Boundaries.” A call for proposals is below.

OVERVIEW:There will be four “conference strands”– two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in any of a variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the conference blog ( and archived for posterity.

Week 1Strand A: Classroom 2.0
Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterises teaching and learning in the 21st century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value of life long learning that inheres in work that is in “perpetual beta.” This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the “nuts and bolts” of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This strand includes two parts. Basic training is “how to” information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where “Classroom 2.0″ presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web 2.0 tool use, “New Tools” presentations should focus on “nuts and bolts” instructions for using tools. Five “basic” and five “advanced” presentations will be included in this strand

Week 2
Strand A: Professional Learning
NetworksResearch says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support. Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive, reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright, digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication), resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more — unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries — is the focus of presentations in this strand.

This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described above.

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

special needs education

Creative Commons

Second Life



video games in education

specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools

overcoming institutional inertia and resistance

aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards

getting your message across

how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities


classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level

creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube

google docs

teacher/peer collaboration

KEYNOTES:The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.

This year’s conveners are:

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for “child safe” blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years. Darren’s professional blog is called A Difference ( He will convene Classroom 2.0.

Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate preservice teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. In addition, Sheryl is co-leading a statewide 21st Century Skills initiative in the state of Alabama, funded by a major grant from the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Sheryl blogs at ( She will convene Preconference Discussions and Personal Learning Networks.

Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a “catalyst for creative educational engagement.” His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. He is the Director of Education Advocacy (PK-20) for AT&T in the state of Oklahoma. Wes blogs at ( Wes will convene New Tools.

Lani Ritter Hall currently contracts as an instructional designer for online professional development for Ohio teachers and online student courses with eTech Ohio. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who served in many capacities during her 35 years as a classroom and resource teacher in Ohio and Canada. Lani blogs at ( She will convene Obstacles to Opportunities.

If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:

Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach:
snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
Lani Ritter Hall: lanihall {at} alltel {dot} net
Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we’d really like people to do that ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs).