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November 30, 2007 / Ben Chun

Web Applications for Teachers

Yahoo just started the beta of their Yahoo for Teachers web application. I think if you signed up now they would probably send you an email letting you join.

It’s got profiles and groups (but not other social-networking stuff), and allows you to search for other teachers. It’s also got this AJAXish bookmarklet / floating DHTML layer thing called “The Gobbler” which lets you pull resources into a scrapbook-type organizer as you surf other sites. Then you can build projects that combine these scavenged resources with your own stuff, and share the projects.

It’s cool to me that Yahoo has decided to throw resources behind this, and that the application reflects the way that I know a lot of teachers actually work: searching online for bits and parts to pull together into a (hopefully) coherent and personalized lesson. I’m surprised that Google hasn’t done anything in this area, but they seem to have a lot of irons in a lot of fires already.

My one concern is wondering where I will end up, and being hesitant to invest my time before I’m confident. There are a growing number of spaces where teachers organize and share lesson plans and resources. This seems to be normal for online services, like for example in the case of photo sharing. I use Flickr, but other people use other services and I can usually see their pictures too. So perhaps I shouldn’t worry. But I want to pick the best service for myself now, and not go through the type of experience that I had with photos when I decided to switch from Ofoto to Flickr.

There’s a lot of activity in this area right now and I wonder where it will all settle out. Does the world actually need this and Curriki and OER Commons and We The Teachers and edplum and WikiEducator and WikiTeach and all the others? Is it even possible to keep up with what’s happening on all these services at once? How long until someone develops a really good meta-search for the various sites, or figures out how to cross-license content from one to the other? Right now my digital photo home is Flickr, but I don’t know where I will land when it comes to online lesson planning and sharing. This new Yahoo entry looks like a pretty strong contender.

One Comment

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  1. BlogTeacher / Dec 3 2007 4:50 am

    Looks interesting. Added to my list of “stuff to try when I’ve got time”.

    The point you make about the investment of time to try things out and the risk of getting “fragmented” with different tools to do similar things all over the place is a valid one.

    Not sure what can be done to overcome that. Sometimes I think it’s better to settle for “not quite perfect at the moment but will do”.

    Once you’re using something (anything!) I think you start to realise what other features you’d want and would use, and then it’s worth looking around a bit more.

    The feature sets on some of these web 2.0 applications often looks good and then you end up using only a fraction of it.

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