Now that we are starting to generate a critical mass within the five grades of our senior unit the question of how best to aggregate all of these endeavours has been exercising my poor brain over this past week. Having had a play with PageFlakes and Netvibes, (as well as a look in at Protopage and Webwag), I decided on PageFlakes. Setting up the font page proved reasonably straight forward. I liked that you could easily add new pages under tabs. This seems to be standard across each of the aggregators. All had similar processes for adding the widgets to construct your page and most of these widgets were editable in some way.
The biggest problem with these widgets however is that most are directed at markets other than education. As a result they would serve to be more of a distraction than a useful addition to my page. In the end the choice of aggregator came down to the one that offered the most applicable and easily accessed choice of widgets that I needed. The calendar, notepad, multiple blog feeds and podcast feed were a given. News and weather modules made for some frills, (though the news feed is pretty light weight, not terribly applicable for my grade level and not all that quick at refreshing so I might give it away yet). Being able to add a calculator, direct Wikipedia access plus a Google Map feed and an interesting map quiz rounded out our Senior “flake place“.
There were some other small puzzle type game widgets that looked interesting but included in the widget were links off-site with ads and other possibilities for my students to wander into places I would rather they didn’t go. Pity about that as they would have added some alternate appeal to the whole setup.
I’ve been advising a Local Authority on building their online community of teacher learners and student learners, through blogs, wikis, podcasts, photo streams and stories, using PageFlakes as the main aggregation tool. I’ve written about the process a bit here:
and you can see our Flakes here:
It’s been really useful as a way to get people into feed reading in a “low impact’ way, and seems to be more stable than netvibes on typically shaky school machines.
I’ve also been working with the guys at PageFlakes, putting through feedback. They actually act on it, so I can recommend sending them a mail.
Though it is still early days I am pretty impressed with PageFlakes. The test will be when the students and families start into it from home. I wonder how much bandwidth it uses. This may be critical for some families still on dialup. We have a podcast feed on the front page that some families may inadvertently hit and use up all their allocated downloads.
I shall have to have a chat to the guys about the widgets and locating more good child friendly RSS feeds. The difficulty in finding these sorts of feeds suitable and still appealing for students is a question that has just come up on the Australian Oz_teachers list. The general lack of response suggests these feeds are thin on the ground. I shall have to have a look around myself.