For those of you out there who teach english, be sure (if you haven’t already) to join the powerhouse social community English Teacher’s Companion Ning, created by San Francisco-based high school english teacher Jim Burke (gosh, I’m already feeling self-conscious about my grammar as I write this).
I’ve been poking around in Jim’s amazing community for a day or so but I first heard about it when it was awarded the ever so prestigious 2009 Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Social Networking Service. Bravo! I believe social networking is still the most underutilized aspect of web 2.0 in education. I’ve shed light on Ning in previous posts and discussed how I’ve used it in my own teaching as a supplemental environmental to a learning management system for students to share and reflect in response to specific blog prompts through text, image and video.
Well, Jim has embraced Ning and molded it into a resource for english teachers (but there are clearly lessons here for all teachers!). I, for one, had a light bulb moment just as I watched one of the wonderful videos that was shared by a member of the network, Tim Larkin, a teacher from Burlingame, CA. Tim has his english students create visual mind-maps to communicate ideas and concepts after reading MacBeth. Hmmm.
Now I’ve seen mind mapping before and I’ve been very intrigued about it as a learning process. For awhile I’ve been trying to theorize a way to make this activity work successfully in an online environment but couldn’t put my finger on the right tool to make it work. But as I watched the video below (recorded with a liberating Flip video camera, by the way — I love mine too!) which illustrates the colorful, lively mind map created by Larkin’s student, I thought, “Would Prezi work for this?”
As the video swirled in and out in a circular motion, it began to remind me of the Prezi zoom/canvas interface which allows the user to place content anywhere on the clean white canvas, much like a stretch of white paper. The interplay of images and text in the mind map have a clear correlation with Prezi too — but, with Prezi, the content could become interactive, taking the reader/user to a level beyond the surface of the “paper.” Intriguing. Anyone want to give it a a try? If you do, please share!