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Long URLs are difficult to remember and hard to pass along. URL shortening is a popular technique where a web user can make a web page available under a very short URL in addition to the original address. These URL shortening services are helpful if your web addresses for your web site and blog site start to get long and links will break when sending in an email. Particularly, these services are important for Twitter users since Twitter allows for only 140 characters in any message.

Today, many Web services offer URL redirection with real-time link tracking.  Most of these sites shorten Web addresses quickly and easily, with no registration required.  Here are my selected 10 sites that allow you to shorten, share, and track your links:

Though URL shortening service is a helpful tool, users need to keep in mind that spammers have also used URL shortening services to cover their tracks. So, it is important to use a reliable URL shortening service that provides the filtering of all shortened links through services like Google Safe Browsing.

What URL shortening services do you use?  Please feel free to share your favorite URL shortening services and provide your comments.

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Performance-based portfolios have increasingly become popular in education. They offer numerous benefits: a) fostering self-assessment and reflection, b) providing personal satisfaction and renewal, c) providing tools for empowerment, d) promoting collaboration, and e) offering a holistic approach to assessment. Many educators believe that performance-based portfolios are essential part of teacher education programs. One commonly applied type of portfolios is the Web-based portfolio, which is specifically created for and placed on the Web. Web-based portfolios have some unique advantages, such as: providing a means of storing multiple iterations over time and a mechanism for ease of editing and revisions; allowing instant access from anywhere and at any time; and providing structured presentation that allows a viewer to choose contents from one section to another based on his or her need or preference. In spite of significant benefits, there are some drawbacks of existing web-based portfolios. Typical Web-based portfolios still require users to have the skills and knowledge of using Web authoring software and FTP clients, which can be daunting to many pre- and in-service teachers. Furthermore, traditional Web-based portfolios lack the capability of allowing viewers to leave their feedback and therefore are limited for easy and instant collaboration.

Despite the recent popularity of adopting electronic portfolios in teacher education programs, the question “Electronic Portfolios for Whom?” has been raised by Javier I. Ayala and many other researchers. Javier argued that “the knowledge promoted under the guise of electronic portfolios is hardly student-centered. Very little research exists integrating student voices into the dialogue of electronic portfolios. The voices that are integrated are primarily those of administrators and some faculty.” The literature suggests that reforming a new type of Web-based portfolio, which simplifies the technology part of publishing content and allows developers and peers to share resources and ideas for reflection and collaboration, is essential for teacher education.

With the recent advances of Web 2.0 and the use of blogs in teaching and learning, it is apparent that blogs can simplify the technology part of publishing content. Furthermore, blogs can allow users to reflect, post information and resources, and collaborate with others. Because of the easy of use and the interactive capability of blogs, it comes naturally that blogs can be used for developing and reforming web-based portfolios in education. The blogfolios (weblog-portfolios) will have a great potential in teacher education and support students’ self-reflection and self-evaluation of their learning.

Currently, Professor Harrison Yang at the State University of New York at Oswego and I are conducting a study to examine the effects of using blogfolios on students’ perceptions on interaction and learning. Our blogfolios study is currently in the final stage of data collection. It is anticipated that the study will provide useful information on students’ perceptions on interaction and learning by using blogfolios in their courses. The summary of the findings will be posted in this blog when it becomes available. So, stay tuned…

[Dr. Harrison Yang at the State University of New York at Oswego also contributes to this post.]

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VoiceThread


Voicethread is basically a Web-based digital-storytelling application that allows users to share their stories through audio, images, videos or text.  It also allows visitors to make comments on their stories in five different ways:  1) voice with a microphone, 2) or voice with telephone), 3) text, 4) audio file, or 5) video with a webcam. The stories can be shared with anyone in the world or they can be kept private for selected individuals.  Like many Web 2.0 applications, you can get a free basic account as well as a VoiceThread Pro account with unlimited creation and advanced features for a fee.  However, VoiceThread is offering free educator accounts for all k-12 classroom educators.  These free accounts are identical to the Pro account in almost every aspect.

I think VoiceThread is a great classroom tool and has a great potential in education.  It has a user-friendly interface.  Creating and sharing a video thread is a simple process and all you need is a microphone or WebCam.  Teachers and students can upload their PowerPoint slides (saved as JPEGs) and expand on the info with audio snippets.  Teachers can even set up an account for individual classes that allow students access to the account for group projects.  Also, VoiceThread presentations can be embedded in blogs and Web sites.   To learn more about VoiceThread, you can watch this VoiceThread presentation, What is VoiceThread Anyway?

There are many excellent VoiceThreads created by teachers and students that demonstrate the uses of VoiceThreads into the classroom:

I have created a VoiceThread on my blog, Tech Learning.  Unfortunately, I can not embed my VoiceThread in my blog since WordPress.com does not allow Flash embedding.  Nonetheless, please click on the VoiceThread image shown below to access my VoiceThread page.   Here is a wonderful chance if you have never used the VoiceThread.  Just sign up and click your microphone and start threading your thoughts.  Please feel free to leave me a message by recording your audio/video/text on this VoiceThread. Thank you.

VoiceThread

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Happy 10th Birthday of the Weblog


According to Wikipedia, December 17th, 2007 marks the 10th birthday of the Weblog. To celebrate the 10th birthday of blogging, Steve Hargadon, the creator of Classroom 2.0, has created a blog site to celebrate blogging and its impact on education and learning. The blog site is called Celebrating Educational Blogging.

I think this is an interesting idea. Blogging is one of the most widely adopted Web 2.0 tools. I started this blog “Tech Learning” 6 months ago and think educational blogging opens the classroom walls. I see blogging as a vehicle for dialogue. It allows me to discuss the current issues of educational technology and share my thoughts and reflections with my students as well as the general public. I am interested to hear others’ comments and reflections on educational blogging. This makes learning “real life” and meaningful.

So, please join Steve Hargadon in celebration of blogging and the effects that its had on the educational process by leaving your comments at the Celebrating Educational Blogging. Also, you can leave your comments by recording your audio/video/text on the VoiceThread at http://voicethread.com/share/33484/.

VoiceThread

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