In 1994, Yahoo!’s homepage, bland as it ever was and without a single image, included a curious footnote underneath a brief list of some encyclopedic-sounding categories: “There are currently 31,897 entries in the Yahoo database.”
From Art, Economy, and Entertainment to Health, News, and Science, each category contained a number of entries ranging anywhere from 64 (Events) to 8,546 (Business). And that was it.
If you were looking for content of any kind, there was no Google. Cellphones were bricks placed by the emergency brake of a Jaguar. Mark Zuckerberg was 10. “Surfing the net”—if it made any sense—happened in Pacific fishing villages and wasn’t recommended.
Just one full generation—18 years—later, if you can narrow down your thoughts and type them, then you can find whatever you’re looking for, in some form or another.
Additionally, if you want to share what you know or what you’ve learned, then you can certainly do that too.
The question now isn’t about finding things or how to connect with others. With the number of webpages on the internet approaching the real meaning of Google --well, actually, googol (the number 1 with 100 zeroes after it)--and with collaborative tools embedded into it all, the question is where to start.
But if the flow of content on the internet used to be a garden hose trickle that eventually became a fire hose blast, then today, it’s more akin to the volume of the Amazon River, no pun intended. Sure, you can take a scenic float atop it all, but there are rapids, waterfalls, and piranhas—yes, it’s a jungle out there.
Teachers, librarians, media specialists, and others, including students themselves, need resources for accessing and sharing it all. With search, mobile, and social networking, there’s a whole lot more help out of the quicksand—or, if you please, out of the murky waters and away from the fish with razor-sharp teeth.
Granted, this is not the only start, but for those in and around education, it’s a good one. Have a look at this somewhat eclectic mix, and let us know what floats your boat.
Gaggle. In 1999, Jeff Patterson knew email would be a powerful tool for schools. With student safety a primary concern, he created a system that filters email messages, allowing control and access, from global to granular, for teachers and administrators. In the years since, the company has expanded into much more than email; it also provides Digital Lockers, message boards, chat rooms, blogs, profile pages, homework drop boxes, calendars, a social wall, Gaggle Tube, Zoho Docs, and filtered texting. www.gaggle.net
School Loop, Inc. OnTrackEDU is a social enterprise system from this company that helps K–12 administrators lead effective schools. People in schools work toward common objectives, target effective support, monitor progress, and determine what works. Everyone is connected and accountable. It’s not about data, it’s about doing. www.schoolloop.com
Schoolwires. Web-based solutions are designed to connect K–12 communities (students, families, teachers, administrators, and supporters of education) with information, services, and people needed to achieve district goals. The site includes content management and safe social learning solutions. www.schoolwires.com
Blackboard Collaborate. Offering collaborative, interactive, online, blended, and mobile experiences to keep students engaged, this comprehensive learning platform helps create virtual classrooms and meeting spaces for peer-to-peer learning and instructor-led approaches. www.blackboard.com/platforms/collaborate/overview.aspx
Edmodo. A very Facebook-like platform, Edmodo provides more than 7 million teachers and students with a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational apps, and access homework, grades, class discussions, and notifications. Social media for the classroom, teachers, and students is included. www.edmodo.com
ePals, Inc. The next-generation social learning platform for K–12 schools and districts, this company provides digital content designed for collaboration and self-paced, self-directed learning as well as a safe platform to share work globally. Projects are centered around teamwork, digital literacy skills, higher-level thinking, and communication. www.epals.com
Remix Learning. This easy-to-use, customizable, cloud-based social learning network for primary and secondary education provides affordable subscriptions to schools, nonprofits, museums, libraries, and cultural institutions, wherever youth are engaged in learning. http://remixlearning.com
SOPHIA. This is a trendsetting learning community where you create an account, take a learning preference adventure, customize your profile, explore learning pathways, create a playlist (just like on your iPod, except for a library of your own tutorials), create a group, and invite your peers and colleagues. www.sophia.org
Schoology. If 18,000 schools and districts use it as their learning management system, there’s got to be something to it—and there is. Like Edmodo, it’s pretty Facebook-like; unlike Edmodo, it seems to have more architecture and instructional and administrative tools but still fewer followers. www.schoology.com
Lore (formerly Coursekit). The company has re-imagined what a class should look like online. College students just won’t use a system they don’t like; Lore has designed every aspect of the experience to make it easy to use—and something to love. http://lore.com
StudySync. Here is online learning that inspires higher levels of reading, writing, and critical thinking. It’s an innovative learning tool that connects students to the great ideas of mankind. An extensive library of classic and modern texts coupled with video-based lessons makes for a rich combination of visual media bringing the humanities alive. These guys are on the leading edge of technology and learning, and it’s worth a good look. www.studysync.com
BrainHoney. These guys power education. It’s build, buy, or BrainHoney, as they say. This education platform provider offers everything you need to launch your own blended or online education experience. Targeting parents, instructors, schools, districts, universities, states, publishers, and even resellers, they take care of the technical details no matter how small or large. http://brainhoney.com
Desire2Learn. Founded in 1999, it survived competition with Blackboard to offer among the best user experiences, accessibility, mobility, platform security, and reliability in elearning solutions. www.desire2learn.com
Education Elements. The company works with school leaders to bring blended learning to life. It accomplishes this through understanding, designing, selecting, and working with teachers to ensure that online learning and assessments are in line with classroom instruction, using a hybrid learning management system to pull it all together. http://educationelements.com
HotChalk. A learning environment for K–12 teachers, students, and parents, it includes a learning management system (LMS), a library of teacher-contributed lesson plans, digital content, web-based professional development, and an online community. www.hotchalk.com
Instructure, Inc. From this company comes a simple, open LMS called Canvas. Both K–12 and universities use this highly usable and accessible platform. It may have a minimalist look and feel, but it’s laden with robust features, including a grading tool, a rich content editor, an integrated calendar, rubrics, groups, communication preferences, pedagogy supports, online testing, reporting, assignment submissions, and chats. www.instructure.com
IQity. This platform helps with search and delivery of curriculum, course, and other learning objects. Delivering more than a million courses every year, the IQity platform hosts 1-hour webinars to introduce educators to its curriculum Marketplace. www.iq-ity.com
Moodlerooms, Inc. This company delivers open, engaging elearning solutions to colleges, universities, school districts, and others worldwide. It has a few different LMS solutions. It provides a scalable solution, which translates to “We can go small or go large, no matter how large your organization may be.” www.moodlerooms.com
Zulama. Its course network helps students studying the same subjects connect, communicate, and collaborate. Students with unique interests are brought together to work and learn, and thus, it’s both a productive and an engaging experience. http://zulama.com
As you peer down and skim over the massive river of content and collaborative solutions out there, have a look at these helpful sources of features, news, views, and insightful analysis.
NewSchools Venture Fund. A handy guide to various types of solutions out there, the Ed Tech Market Map from this organization is something you may find yourself returning to again and again, thanks to leading experts Michael Horn and Anthony Kim who carefully surveyed the territory. www.newschools.org
EdSurge . Haven’t heard about it yet? This rich, densely packed newsletter (and now beta site) is loaded with bite-sized morsels of information on everything education and technology with a business-side slant. www.edsurge.com
EdTech Digest . With fascinating interviews, cool tools, and current technology trends in the education sector, here’s an uncluttered look at what’s transforming both K–12 and higher education. http://edtechdigest.wordpress.com
Getting Smart. Former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation executive director for education Tom Vander Ark, author of the book with the same name as this excellent community, provides coverage of, analysis of, and leadership for what’s next in education. http://gettingsmart.com
Hack Education. Journalist Audrey Watters travels as much as she possibly can to bring you a smart, snarky, and nonvested take on ed tech and the future of learning. http://hackeducation.com
MindShift KQED. Here’s a view, curated by Tina Barseghian, of how we will learn, with lots of thought-provoking reads about school culture, tech tools, mobile learning, and more. http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift
There you have it! We hope you enjoyed your tour. Write to us and let us know if this was helpful. Also, let us know what some of your favorite resources are for accessing and sharing it all. We’ve come a long way since the online bulletin boards of the early 1990s, and though it may always be a challenge to navigate our way through such a high volume of content, in 2012, it’s definitely a better trip.
Contact Victor at victor@VictorRivero.com.