English teacher Tom McHale sets down his cup of coffee and boots up the computer at his classroom desk. It’s 6:50 in the morning. After logging in, he opens up his personal page on the school Intrablog. There, he does a quick scan of the New York Times front page headlines and clicks through one of the links to read a story about war reporting that he thinks his student journalists might be interested in. With a quick click, Tom uses the “Furl it” button on his toolbar, adds a bit of annotation to the form that comes up, and saves it in his Furl journalism folder which archives the page and automatically sends the link and his note to display on his journalism class portal for students to read when they log in. Next, he scans a compiled list of summaries that link to work his students submitted to their Weblogs the night before. With one particularly well done response, he clicks through to the student’s personal site and adds a positive comment to the assignment post. He also “Furls” that site, putting it in the Best Practices folder which will send it to the class homepage as well for students to read and discuss, and to a separate Weblog page he created to keep track of all of the best examples of student work. It’s 7:00.
After taking a sip of his coffee, Tom takes a look at his research feeds. He’s been asked to keep abreast of the latest news about technology and teaching writing, and this morning he sees his Google search feed has turned up a new version of “Write Outloud.” He clicks the link, reads about the new version on the site, and then clicks on a different “Furl It” button that has been created for his department to share. When the form comes up, he writes a couple of lines of description about how it might benefit the department, and then saves it in the Technology folder which automatically archives it to the tech page of the English Department Website. Later that day, all the members of his department will see his link as well as any others his colleagues may have added as a part of their daily e-mail update from Furl. He also decides he wants to create another search feed for the words “journalism” and “weblogs.” With a click on the toolbar, a dialog box appears and he enters his terms, then clicks on the Feedster radio button (one among four choices.) He hits ok, and a new feed headline box is added to his portal.
At around 7:05, Tom uses his personal Intrablog to upload an assignment on symbolism for his major American literature class. When he opens up the document online to check it, he Furls that too with his English login and it gets sent to a separate Web page set up on the English site for American Literature Best Practices. The rest of the American Lit teachers will get an automatic e-mail later in the day notifying them of his published “learning object” that they can use in their own classes. Then, he creates a post for his Lit class portal that has a link to the assignment, and he publishes the post to the class homepage. Automatically, parents who have requested it get e-mails that their son or daughter has homework to do that evening. E-mails also go to a couple of counselors who are tracking at risk students.
About 7:15 Tom decides to scan the latest school news feed which aggregates all the new posts from the Weblogs he is subscribed to. He sees that the basketball team won the county tournament, the new edition of the school paper is online, and that the superintendent has posted important information about an upcoming safety drill. He clicks through to read the entire post, and then leaves a comment suggesting a way to alleviate crowding in the hallways during the drill. (He sees a parent also has a suggestion about the timing.) Back at his page, he decides that he doesn’t want to scan the library news any longer, so he goes to his subscription page and unchecks the feed. He does notice, however, the “New Feeds” section lists a new “Tech Deals” feed that the tech supervisor has created. He clicks to subscribe to it.
With just a few minutes left before his first class, Tom opens the personal journal part of his portal and types in a few notes about an idea he had for the lit project his students are completing next week. He files them into his Lit department so that he can pull up relevant notes all at once if he needs to. Now that his volume of e-mail has been drastically reduced, he scans the few messages in his in box , takes a last gulp of coffee, and opens his classroom door to the sound of happy students. Well, maybe.
Tom Hoffman says
Good job of pulling strings together, Will.
I’ve been using Furl for a couple days now (follow along at http://furl.net/members/hoffman/rss.xml). It seems to me that 90% of the value of Furl is its toolbar applet. It gives you quick “link blog” input without making you feel like you need to add additional pithy commentary and supporting links.
So don’t get stuck thinking of “furling” as an outside interaction. Think about how to make the school’s own CMS more “furlly.”
Will R. says
Yeah, I know. I want it all in one package…bloglines, furl, Manila all rolled into one. I need an interface that makes it easy to create and place modules for xml feeds, and I need an easy way to allow people to subcribe to feeds to go into those modules. I need public and private posts. And I need to manage more than one blog in the same place. The viewRssBox macro with Manila makes the rest pretty easy, though it takes some planning and organization, obviously. If we could take the best pieces of all of this and roll it into one, we’d be on our way to a killer app.
I agree 100%, Will. The only problem I have is being at school at 6:50!
Scott Johnson of Feedster says
This is a great vision. Thank you. Let us know how we can help.
David Burgess says
I am an Assistant Proncipal in a UK secondary school and am really interested in you Blog project. I have recently started to create Blogs to help my students (www.blog-for-learning.motime.com) in a very basic way. Do you have any way I can see what you are doing with your own students by way of learnign from your pedagogical approach?
Mike Giles says
Great thoughts, as usual, Will! The whole notion of group collaboration (seemingly what Jason is looking for) has been on the mind here at Furl recently. Seems like there are a couple ways to crack that nut (i.e. switching between accounts isn’t necessarily the best approach). I look forward to working with you in the coming months to make Furl as seamless a part of your processes as possible.
michael brewster says
Great articulation, Will. I have been trying for a few years to integrate all my diverse interests and ideas into a CMS like this. It would be awesome to teach with a team or school of like-minded people. As it stands, I have shared “Furl” with other teachers and everyone loves it. It’s such a basic and valuable tool that I would love to see them add to it (hint hint, Mr. Giles) as long as it stays intuitive.
There are enough people like us who can delineate “the perfect” CMS for schools- there must be enough who, unlike myself, have time to create programs/modules. Soon, I hope.