Here are 12 quick ideas to use Netvibes in the classroom that I came up with after doing a little brainstorming session with myself. I need to check that against the—presumably—millions of blog posts that deal with the same topic. Anyway, this list does not include a text about what Netvibes is or how you set it up. Evelyn Jessie has written a comprehensive piece about that at Connexions, which is an OER. My goal is to come up with ideas that are easy to set into action and—as I believe—are a didactical plus. The ideas are in no particular order, feel free to suggest more ideas in the comments.
I have prepared a public dashboard over at Netvibes to give you a starter of what you can do that should accompany this blog post. But I am sure that once you get going there is lots more.
1. Preparing a class trip
Netvibes offers a couple of widgets that are quite nice if you have to prepare for a class trip to let’s say London. You could include a Google map of London for a start. And the weather, of course, although this might scare off your students ;-). There is a Time Out London widget with the Pick of the Day. Let your students maybe check for the cheapest flight and the cheapest hotel. Latest BBC news from London also set the mood. I’m sure that you can think of much more than that.
2. Covering a news topic
One of the best things to use Netvibes for is of course that you can use any news feed and combine them on one page. Usually, news portals offer just a limited amount of RSS or Atom feeds including the latest news or categories of new such as politics, sports etc. However, some news portals also offer topic related feeds. It’s a bit tricky to find them, but it’s worth it. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung or British newspaper The Guardian offer such a service which can be found below a number of articles, e.g. about the Euro crisis or US elections. It’s good to have a look at the newsfeed logo as shown on the right because there you might find the thing that you are looking for.
3. Critically dealing with news sources
One step forward from idea 2 is of course to use a number of news portals that are well known for their bias and compare them.
4. To do lists for group work
Netvibes offer to do lists that can be used for group work. Either students create their own to do lists before they start working on their task or the teacher prepares them for them so that students just need to tick them off. Ideally, you want to do this via an interactive whiteboard so that all groups see how far the others are. This is a function, however, that might be included in the software that comes along with a whiteboard, so only use it if you lack that software or you want to combine it with something else, e.g. in idea number 5.
I was pretty sure that I did not come up with that idea as the first one, so when I googled for the words WebQuest and Netvibes I got 37,700 results. The tool is simply awesome for the combination of various sources. A very good idea is included in the WebQuest Earth History by Sean Markwith who created an answer sheet with Google Forms in order to gather the learning results from his students.
6. Documenting results
The last thing mentioned in idea 5 can also be used as a way of documenting results. But you could go a step further: Create a Netvibes dashboard and let students work on it collaboratively. They can collect all sorts of sources in one place. Although I’m not sure about performance problems if you do it in a PC pool in the course of one lesson, I think that it is a good way to let students share what they found and that it could be done as a homework.
7. Listening comprehension
Since podcasts and videocasts are themselves only newsfeeds they can be included in Netvibes just as any other feed. Quite a good place to start is the podcast section of the BBC. Here you can find a huge amount of podcast covering a wide range of topics. The good thing is that Netvibes not only shows the feed but also enables you to play the audio files directly without the need to leave the page. Thus, you can also include tasks or other sources to add to the listening. A small player will show up on the top of the dashboard.
8. Go mobile
All the ideas that are listed here can also be a part of a mobile learning experience. Although I am not quite sure which widgets exactly are working in the mobile version of netvibes, the advantage is that students are able to work on the tasks everywhere. Netvibes offers apps for iOS and Android along with a mobile website. I need to check out the functionality of the apps soon and will add some notes about them.
9. Course evaluation (anonymous)
Websites such as Wallwisher offer a quick and easy way to let your students give feedback about the course or a topic by creating sticky notes on a wall. Netvibes also offers a similar way to do this by using the Webnotes widget. Students must be logged in to use it, but it can be integrated in order to give anonymou feedback.
Netvibes can function as the central spot of all activities of students as an e-portfolio. Let’s say that they where supposed to leave their traces on a variety of platforms. Flickr for photos, Youtube for videos, WordPress for a blog, etc. Netvibes can include all these traces into one portfolio where teachers are able to access information without the need to browser through all other websites.
11. Learner diaries/blogs
Once again, the Webnotes widget can also be used to create a small weblog, although it is admitted that the functionality is very limited in comparison to other blog services such as Blogspot or WordPress. But that can also be an advantage, because sometimes limitations can also push creativity. Also, Netvibes lets you include other resources and it offers more was to arrange posts and thus enables students to break up the strict timeline you usually need to keep in blogs.
12. Social (Class) Bookmarking
Social bookmarking has been quite a hype a couple of years ago with the most known Delicious in the lead. Later, Delicious was sold and since then was not the same online bookmarking service anymore. Although Netvibes is not a bookmarking service in the first place, it offers a link module with which students can collect their bookmarks and share them with others. But this can surely done better with other services—Diigo, StumbleUpon, or Digg, to name but a few—and then be integrated into Netvibes via feeds. Unfortunately, the very good Delicious widget is working no longer, but these bookmarks can still be integrated via RSS feed or try to use Pretty Delicious as a substitute.
The good thing about this is that students have to log in to create stuff and that the teacher can keep control about whether the page should be private or public.
Of course, most of these things can be done (better) with other tools. But if you don’t want to limit work to a certain aspect but rather let all of these be part of your students work in class, then Netvibes is a good tool. You could say that it can become a Personal Learning Environment (PLE).