Sunday, December 23, 2007

Go Elfster!

Trying out new interactive websites is what it's about, and I have tried out many (> 150) since August, 2007. Some of these WEB2.0 applications have been duds and duplicates of other applications that work better, but other new applications are excellent. These more effective new applications are easy to use, free to use, well-organized, helpful and fun.

I use these criteria to determine a web application's COOL factor, and Elfster has a very high COOL factor. This is a web application that Steve Dembo, a Classroom 2.0 and Twitter networks colleague, introduced to our network.

Using Elfster, Steve set up a EduTwitterverse Secret Santa group for those in the group who wanted to participate. I was curious, so I signed up. Steve set a spending limit and gave basic instructions. All throughout the gift exchange, Elfster helped Steve manage the entire program through excellent, well timed, information and reminder letters. Plus, he was available on Twitter. Thanks, Steve! Elfster was a great find!

When you join an Elfster group, you fill out a profile page. It includes information about gift preferences with available URLs that fit the spending limit.

Each EduTwitterverse Elfster received the name and profile URL of their Secret Santa recipient, so I read the profile information about mine.

To make it even easier, I found my secret friend and followed her on Twitter. She reciprocated. The Twitter colleague who received my name started following me, so I followed her. We add new followers on this EduTwitterverse group all the time, so I didn't figure out that one of my new Twitter colleagues was also my Elfster until she sent me a notice about my gift to Heifer International. Cool!

My secret pal made no specific gift requests on her profile, she just said, "Be creative!" That was scary! LOL! Then I remembered COFFEE! It was very interesting that my secret EduTwitterverse pal had posted a tweet about coffee a few days before we knew who are secret friends were.

It seems to me, this gift exchange became an excellent way to share cultural experiences with someone in another part of the world.

There is no more creative coffee selection than French Market Coffee. Based in New Orleans, French Market Coffee is the brand served almost everywhere in the area, including Commander's Palace, Gallatoire's Restaurant and other famous New Orleans area restaurants.

I like to buy from New Orleans merchants whenever I can, so that was another plus for French Market Coffee. Lastly, is their fantastic website. It is easy to use and they have excellent information at the French Market University. I ordered a gift set that included French Market coffee and chicory, mug and beignet mix, so my secret Twitter pal could really experience the New Orleans effect. Another plus: it only took 2 days from the moment of my order to my secret pal's receipt of the gift....that was awesome! Thanks, French Market Coffee staff!

For myself, I had requested that a donation be made in my name to Creative Commons or Heifer International. My secret Elfster agreed that Heifer International was a cool opportunity to give a gift that keeps on giving. She bought a share of chicks to be sent to a family who will raise them and send their offspring to another family. It was a very wonderful experience for me to know that my secret Elfster saw value in my choice of gifts, and I thank her very much.

While my Twitter colleagues and I really enjoyed this secret Santa exchange, Elfster has greater potential for social networking. I can imagine endless possibilities to use this for social networking with friends, family and school.

The Elfster exchanges don't even have to be about monetary gifts. For instance, teachers or students could send invitations or URLs for their favorite website, online game or web application. Each person could list their area of interest in their profile, say science, and their Elfster could send them a valuable URL.

What are some of your ideas of ways we could use Elfster for educational purposes?

Check out Elfster, and see what you think.

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