Saturday, April 03, 2010

AHS Learning Ecology

So I stole built upon the idea of a "digital learning ecology" developed by Bud Hunt and team in St. Vrain Valley School District (and Bud and team built upon many others' ideas). While St. Vrain's learning ecology site was built as a resource for staff, I wanted to bring this down to the school level (particularly, my school) for use by both staff and students. So here's the first draft of the AHS Learning Ecology.

Basically I was trying to create a resource for students and staff that would help them think through the process for creating something digital. I wanted them to think about purpose and audience first, make a decision about whether this particular piece of work needs to be digital, and then give them some information about possible tools they might want to use.

One of my concerns with developing a site like this is that it might be too limiting. I don't want it to be restrictive ("for this type of purpose and audience you must use this tool"), and of course there are so many tools that it could also be overwhelming. So hopefully the site makes that clear and just gives them a few good tools to choose from. It's not meant to be the end all, be all of resources, just a place to help get them started.

So this is the first draft of the site, and I would really appreciate your feedback. It's definitely still a work in progress, and I hope to add a few more categories/tools (perhaps a Creative Commons/copyright free images and music search category, and maybe a miscellaneous category that would have things like Dropbox and Diigo that I couldn't figure out another category for). You can either leave a comment on this post, or email me with your thoughts.

My hope is to have an improved (because of your suggestions) site ready to go by the middle of May so that I can "officially" share it with my staff so that they can begin to incorporate it into their thinking for the fall. You'll also notice that most of the pages have a space for examples of good uses of the tool (currently blank). So I would also love it if you would give me links to what you think are good examples of uses of the various tools that I could populate those sections with. Thanks in advance for any feedback you're willing to share.


  1. I was thinking of doing something similar to this next year with my HS class "Digital Tools for Learning".

    Go ahead and find examples now to place on the pages but them replace them with examples from your schools in the future. This will reward those who try out the tools.

    Instead of listing the tools alphabetically, consider grouping them by type (publishing, communication, media, etc... That way - the teachers don't have to hunt through all of them to find what they are looking for. Or - create some type of directory on the main tool page.

    Great work. I hope to "build on" some of your ideas too!

  2. @Colette - Thanks for the feedback. Did you think that the table on the main tool page wasn't enough of a directory? I toyed with the idea of a "table of contents" at the top of the tool page, but was worried it was too much.

  3. I like what you are doing here. I think maybe you should put the headings that you have on the tools page on your tool bar instead of the names of the tools. Example put audio, blogs, and concept maps on the tool bar instead of listing the individual tools.

    I also think there is a fine line between listing all of the best tools and overwhelming teachers who are not familiar with them. You know your staff and can make that call. Some tools that I would add would be Skype, Google Earth, Bookmarking- Delicious, Diigo, RSS aggregrators-Reader, Netvibes, backchannels such as Edmodo, today's meet,

    I definitely like the idea of a page of Creative Commons resources. I would like to take your list of tools to my IT department as a list to whitelist :)

  4. Nice start to a good resource. It would be very helpful to have a creative commons 101 resource. I still find the official descriptions to be a bit fuzzy at times. For example, I use istockphoto pix that I buy using credits in presentations but am a bit unclear as to the rights I have to use the pix on say a web page or blog post. Making it real easy for educators and students to get the media rights piece would be helpful.

  5. Two examples:
    This ( the afterwards voiced presentation of an oral exam of me.
    I started with a mind-map (,then I worked through the literature an made of some of the text also a mind-map. After that I started to build the presentation in prezi. To illustrate my points I added pics, which I edited with gimp. Some of them I scanned, some I found on flickr with the cc-tag (try also:

    A year ago I had an other oral exam in the stile of a fake conference. I used my blog as a presentation-tool to illustrate the possibilities of web2.0. Here is an afterwards recorded video of screen and voice:

    Hope I could ad a little bit to your ideas; otherwise - here are more web 2.0 tools listed (

  6. Karl, this is an outstanding resource for matching digital tools to project purposes and audiences! I just passed on the link to the blog post and the AHS Learning Ecology site to our team of Instructional Technology Teachers in Fairbanks, AK. I was going to suggest having links to tools for similar purposes. For instance, adding links between Garage band and Audacity, or between Excel, Google Spreadsheets, and Calc. Tags might work better if they can be incorporated on google site pages. I really like the table on your tools main page! Brilliant work!

  7. Hi Karl,

    This is a great resource due to the authenticity it’s built upon, I love the approach of starting with need and audience. Well done, I too will share this idea with my tech director. I see that the audience is high school, but I thought I’d comment on for anyone out there who might be developing a similar resource for ES/MS. I love Kidblog for my 6th graders, but find it too basic for a high school student. I wondered if you’re considering including more 2.0 resources such as Xtranormal, Aviary, Animoto, time-line tools (Dipity, TimeToast), Glogster, Weebly, Lifeyo? I appreciate wanting to keep the list brief as there is so much out here that it can be overwhelming, but maybe one more in each category would be okay. As for examples of some of these tools (sorry I don’t have links), I’ve had students perform their poems via Audacity to enhance their work via sound effects & music. I also have my students blog (via specific prompts) as an ‘exit card’ as a wrap up to that days’ lesson or even as a self-reflection at the end of a unit. I’ve also used Glogster as an end-of-unit self reflection to post text, videos & pictures of their work during our robotics unit. I really like what you’ve done here, thank you for sharing.

  8. Mr. Fisch,
    I love the idea of your site. I have been creating a site similar to yours but I haven't been following the any true structure. I plan on reorganizing my site to follow a similar structure to yours - if you don't mind. I have been using Ning as my "container" and found that it is extremely easy to use and very easy to modify. If you have the time please feel free to check it out - I, as you, would like as much feedback as possible.

  9. This is similar to, but definitely more complete than, the site I set up for my students. My idea was to put together a resource that would allow them to decide on the best tool for a particular project. To help them see the possibilities, I also added examples of creative ways the tool has been used...when available. As Colette mentioned, I hope to slowly replace all of the outside examples with ones from my classroom. I might even reward those whose projects make the site with ribbons or certificates suitable for the refrigerator.

    The History Lab

  10. ghMr. Fisch
    My name is Sam Blackman and I am commenting on your post for my EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I think this idea of Learning Ecology is a very usedful resource. To read my blog go to