Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final Blog Post (EDES 501)

Final Reflection

Wordle: web 2.0 reflection

Where to begin, where to begin?  How about, Once upon a time . . . I guess that's a little overused.  If I reflect on my learning in this course, however, it does feel that it may have begun that long ago.  It is hard to believe that it was only a short four months ago that I was really excited to begin my exploration of Web 2.0 Tools and begin "playing."  It wasn't long until I realized that my definition of "play" turned out to be quite different than Joanne's thoughts of "playing."  Of course, upon reflection, the discrepancy was a good thing.  I would not have learned near as much about Web 2.0  tools and applications if I had continued on the journey of what I considered  "playing."  I'll admit, there were times I didn't think I could "reflect" on my learning any further.  Most of those times of frustration and feeling overwhelmed were combined with and a result of busy work or family life or family illness!  I do realize the importance of reflecting on your learning for further growth, but it was a good experience, even better reminder, for me to relate to how students may feel throughout the school year.  It has been a long time since I graduated from University and you do tend to forget how anxiety and procrastination can effect you mentally and physically.

I went back to my very first blog post, the Introductory Post, to see what I had written.  The first thing I noticed was how short it was!  My first sentence was, "I have created this blog as a course requirement to explore, learn, reflect upon and assess tools of Web 2.0."  Did I succeed in exploring, learning, reflecting, and assessing Web 2.0 applications?  Yes, I think I did.  I know that I may have just skimmed the surface on some, but I also delved a little deeper in those tools I found I connected with and was quite engaged.  As Joanne had mentioned early on in the course, the Web 2.0 tools that we were going to be exploring were just a small percentage of what's available online.  I would like to thank her though, for choosing the tools she did for us to explore, because I believe all of them are tools we could implement into our classrooms, libraries, and schools.  I look back at our second week of this course and found that I had, "Created a blog, figured out what 'RSS' stands for, listened to a podcast, signed up for Twitter, and found a better way to describe to family and friends what Web 2.0 really is."  Wow, doesn't that seem like a lot for the second week of classes?  All of those things were brand new to me at the time.  I can understand now why I had such strong feelings of anxiety and being in completely over my head.

One of the goals I had set for myself back in the beginning was, "To become familiar with and gain the knowledge to introduce, educate, and guide students through the implementation of the Web 2.0 tools in this course."  I definitely had the opportunity to familiarize myself and gain enough knowledge to feel comfortable incorporating most of the Web 2.0 tools within the classroom or library instruction period.  I can envision creating a classroom blog as probably one of the first journey's I would take with students.  After creating a blog, where that blog is kind of like 'home base,' then the opportunities and options are seemingly endless.  A blog would be a wonderful place to showcase students' written work and mulitmedia presentations such as podcasts, slideshows, videocasts, voicethreads, wordle, and so, so much more.  Looking back on our discussion of the blogosphere, moving from simple blogging to more complex blogging, reminded me of some important points we made when blogging with students.  I referred to a study from the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, about Blogging in Higher Education (April 2008).  Although it was based on students at the college/university level, the four important points recognized by students for them to  be successful at blogging were the perceptions and need for audience, community, comments, and the presentational style of their blogs.  These aspects of blogging would be necessary to consider at any level of blog creation and was a short, but effective list I remembered and will stay with me.

Learning From Others


Sharonnette's inquiry question from that discussion, "How can we engage students into creating blogs that will provide more authentic learning experiences?" also initiated an interesting discussion on blogging with students.  I remember that her and I had different thoughts on the purpose of our blogs for this course, and looking back, rereading our conversations is where some real learning was taking place.  Sharonnette and I often had very different views on topics, which I always looked forward to because I considered issues from a different view point than what I would have normally.  I respect her honesty and intellect and the biggest thing I learned from Sharonnette was the way she tended to look at topics from a wholistic, spiritual view which was very different from my practical, sequential views.  It was a good reminder that as educators we do have to look at the whole child and what individual students bring to the classroom environment.


Annabelle and I shared similar views on many topics and issues that came up in our blog posts and group discussions.  We had parallel thoughts on ways of integrating some of these Web 2.0 technologies into the classroom and library, and we also conveyed analogous feelings of implementing humour into educational settings.   In our second discussion about personalizing our spaces on the web we had a great conversation regarding the use of humor with staff and students.  Annabell wrote, "It is so much a part of who I am that I would feel quite 'false' if I purposely avoided humor."  That is exactly how I felt when I was writing my blog posts, and in the beginning I really struggled with the question of using humor and it's educational value.  Of course, specifically, how its use would be viewed by Joanne.   In the end we determined that it was okay to let some of that humor shine through in our blogs and discussions, obviously using some personal judgement, to decide if and when it was appropriate.  Annabelle referred to a blog by Jacqueline Zenn that stated, "Celebrate Your Quirks- Everyone has a few odd things about them (or some cases, more than a few). Your quirks are a major part of what makes you unique, so don’t be afraid to let them come through loud and clear in your blog."  And if I think of my favourite blogger, Doug Johnson, he does exactly that.  Almost every one of his blog posts begins or ends with a funny image with a witty insert that portrays some of his 'quirks' and sense of humor.

Annabelle seemed to be the real "techy" of our group as well.  If I did have a problem embedding something into my blog or making it fit, I knew she would have the answer.  She helped me find the "Outer Wrapper" to widen my post area on my blog so that the Animoto video I made would fit and she also directed me to the avatar application she used, "Gravatar."  I'm hoping that Annabelle will be apart of our Masters cohort, as I learn a lot from her and really enjoy working with her.


Dawn always had the ability to make me laugh - she is very good at describing her feelings using analogies we are all familiar with.  I could depend on her to describe my exact sentiments of frustration and anxiety, almost always at the exact same time she was feeling the same thing.  I remember one of Dawn's inquiry questions from our discussion on blogging regarding authorship of an idea when posting to a blog.  This question and the discussion that followed really stayed with me throughout this course.  It's relevance and importance to the blogosphere should not be overlooked.  It is so easy now to search and find information on topics and issues online and then use these resources to add to your own thoughts and ideas.  The question is, does that initial idea become your own when you make changes and extend it further, perhaps in a different direction?  I believe we have to give credit where credit is due, no matter how miniscule we think it may be.  Referring to the original author should always be the first course of action in whatever we read, but then the connections we make and the direction we take our focus definitely will be our own.  Reading, sharing, commenting, extending, collaborating - isn't this the ultimate goal of blogging?  I think it is, and this is why the discussion that resulted from Dawn's questions was one of the best.




Inquiry Questions - Introductory Blog Post

It was interesting going back and reading my initial inquiry questions, the first one questioning the educational integrity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  It makes me smile, because I remember writing that and thinking there is no way that I am going to be convinced that any part of Facebook could be educational.  I didn't really know much about Twitter then, but I just threw it in there anyways!  Of course, over the last few months, and specifically after finishing the Social Networking Site blog post, my perception of the educational integrity of these sites has definitely changed.  After reading Stephen Abram's, "Online Social Literacy," article promoting social networking sites as a new important literacy, I realized it is my job as a parent and educator to teach my children and students about and be aware of online ethics and safety.  I remember Abram comparing WebKinz to online "crack" for kids, and that having a fairly profound impact on me personally as my kids used to love playing on WebKinz.  Abram made such a good point, noting, "By creating safe places where you need letters from your teacher or parents to get online, or protect kids by narrowing the rules, can kids ever develop the critical thinking about their identity and privacy that will be essential for success in their future?"  He had such a smart suggestion, which was to implement levels of online awareness for each stage where we already teach students about themselves, community, and the world.  I know his thoughts on promoting awareness of safety and privacy issues with students definitely led to a lengthy discussion with my nine year old daughter and her online persona.

The second question I posed way back in the Introductory Post and something I continue to feel very strong about, is the fact that during these times of technology, library positions are constantly being cut-back or dissolved altogether.  To make it clear, when I think of a 'librarian,' I am thinking about somebody who does a lot more than stand behind the circulation desk, checking books in and out and signing Accelerated Reader tests.  21st century librarians HAVE to do more than that - perhaps this is why library jobs began to get cut in the first place.  Now, I know some pretty amazing librarians in the Kamloops district that use their library time as "instruction" time, and are implementing Web 2.0 tools within their classes, but, I still also know some librarians who are pretty resistant to making any kinds of changes to their existing library programs. 

How do we get administrators, staff, school boards, parents, and the community to see the importance of the library?  ADVOCACY!  Karen Bonanno, an Australian school library advocate, created a presentation called, "What is Library Advocacy?" (2009).  She begins her presentation saying, "Advocacy uses a variety of promotion, public relations and marketing tools in a planned and deliberate way to change perceptions."  She's right - we have to fight for our school libraries and librarians before we lose them for good.  When I began teaching here in Chase the libraries at the high school and elementary school were the hub of the schools.  Students were always in the libraries, using the resources, working on projects - it was the central place to meet.  Now, unfortunately, neither school has a qualified librarian, and the high school library especially, seems like a ghostown.  It is very upsetting for me to witness the digression of the places and the reason why I am very passionate about making some changes. 

SO - my first step on my crusade to "Save the Libraries" and change peoples perceptions about how school libraries can be used, is to follow the advice Bonanno gives on library advocacy.  She lists quite a few ideas for Promotion and Public Relations, including:  information brochures, posters and signage; web page (both schools have a school web page, not one for the library specifically) to advertise the library; newsletters and reports; and, activities and displays.  Why not have an Open House at the library for parents and the community to come in and check out projects created by the students, especially projects where Web 2.0 tools had been implemented.  I remember when I created the wiki with my daughter's class how interested a lot of staff were, wishing that I could work with their students on something like that.  The more people you get hooked, get on board, the easier it will be to advocate to the admin and school board officers.

While I am busy promoting the library, it will also be important to assess the needs of the school and what they want to get out of the library program.  Bonanno suggests using mini-surveys, presenting staff with research, and questionnaires for staff and students.  Take a look at what's currently being offered, which isn't much at either school, and work with staff and admin to move the library program in a direction that will benefit everyone.  I think making the effort to connect with staff and admin will go a long way in working towards a common goal; the goal being providing success for our students' futures.  Building strong relationships with staff will only increase the motivation for collaboration.  I believe if we can get staff collaborating and communicating regularly, our chance of creating a 21st century library program may become a reality.  Bonanno concludes her presentation with the "Mulit-Sensory Experience," she believes has a strong impact on the success of a library program.  What people SEE, HEAR, FEEL, and SAY about the library all, "Influence what people say and think," about the Library.

To save our libraries and library positions I do believe we need to change the role of the traditional librarian.  We need to become more of a technology teacher as well as being versed in researching and locating resources.  When classes visit the library, we need to be doing more than helping them locate books and information.  We should be using that time for library instruction, where we have collaborated with the classroom teacher and we are working towards creating an absolutely amazing project using print material, online resources, and the implementation of Web 2.0 Tools.  Even though I absolutely believe in using these new technologies with our students, I do still believe in the power of print.  There is nothing like the smell and feel of a good book.  So, although I am on a technology crusade, I continue to believe there is an important balance to be kept between print and online resources.  Take the time to watch this video, "Biblioburro - The Donkey Library," about a man who delivers books to villages using his donkey.  He has made it his personal mission to educate children, teach them their rights and committments, so that their generation will experience something other than war.  Be sure to watch it to the end, his passion and emotions are quite empowering.

Where Do I go From Here?

I checked my University Webmail the other day and found a post from an Edublog, Not So Distant Future, by Futura, forwarded by Jennifer Branch.  It was entitled, "What Are We Really Fighting For?" (11/30/09).  It gave me a  lot to think about in regards to what exactly I should be advocating for - the Web 2.0 tools themselves or what skills the students learn by using these tools?  The entry talks about wonderful sites like Twitter, Facebook, Animoto,
Voicethread, Delicious, and blogging and the kinds of projects we could create with our students if we (schools) were allowed access to all these spaces, providing the bans and filters were removed or even lowered.  Dr. Suess in the Grinch is then paraphrased about what we are exactly fighting for, and I want to quote them here because I don't want to lose any of the impact, 

Because after all . . .

It´s not about creating a blog, it´s about expressing your own ideas and beliefs clearly.

It´s not about using delicious or Diigo, it´s about developing a system to keep up with your stuff and to share your stuff.

It´s not about Skype, it´s about understanding how to communicate globally in a video setting or via chat/conversation.

And it´s not about making an Animoto slide show, it´s about having a good sense of design or telling a story.

It´s not about learning to use the software, it´s about the skills our students will carry with them that these tools and others like them allow. It´s about our students expressing themselves clearly, beautifully, and skillfully.

Perhaps, as well as talking about the implementation of Web 2.0 Tools, we should also be connecting how learning about these tools will in fact improve our students abilities to become skillful at, "Expressing themselves clearly, beautifully, and skillfully." 
My previous course through the University of Alberta, Inquiry Learning, provided insight into the constructivist theory, which is building new ideas and information from past experiences and existing background knowledge. If we can convince educators that incorporating Web 2.0 tools into the classroom is what we should be doing to continue building upon student knowledge, maybe we will get a few more jumping on board.   Shouldn't this be the goal for educators today: build upon our students existing knowledge gained through traditional literacies, by adding new knowledge and forming social online literacies?

Tools I Would Share with Colleagues

I am hoping next fall I will have secured the Librarian position at the Elementary school here in Chase.  Unfortunately, the Primary School, which houses Kindergartens through Grade 2 students, will be closed because of cut-backs.  It is an amazing building and piece of Chase history and many community members and educators are very sad to see it closed.  My daughter was fortunate to attend her primary years there, and my son, in Kindergarten, is lucky to get one year there.  From a completely selfish standpoint, because the Primary school is being amalgamated with the Elementary School, the Library position may be re-posted to accommodate the student influx.  This is good for me!  As it is now, the Vice-Principal is in the library at the elementary school when he has time (hardly at all) and the Primary has no librarian.  I know the staff and many parents have voiced concerns regarding the state of the library this year.  I am hoping all these factors will result in the creation of a library position.  So, if I were to obtain the library position next year these are things I would try to do:

1.  Create a Library Blog.  As I mentioned previously, I will have to begin advocating for the library and a blog will be a great starting place.  It could be linked to the school website for parents and community members to access it.  The blog could be a great place to house exciting events and projects taking place at the library and any units done with classes could be showcased on the blog.  We talked extensively about the benefits of blogging throughout this course in our blog posts and discussions, so this first step seems to be a no-brainer.

2.  Try to Collaborate with Staff and Admin.  I will have to make some connections and build relationships with my colleagues - and I know who I would start with!  Being in the schools, you quickly learn which teachers would be willing to take the Web 2.0 journey with you, and those who may be more resistant.  I would definitely start with those who I know would be willing to join me.  Getting the staff involved and asking their opinions on what they want from a library program will also be a crucial step in the beginning.

3.  Showcase the Tools.  I would like to use staff meetings and Pro-D days to show staff the amazing projects than can be accomplished with Web 2.0 tools.  I think you would have to start with tools that are easy to use and where results are immediate and beneficial.  Classroom blogs, RSS, Delicious, Voicethread, photosharing, and Animoto are all tools or applications that are very user-friendly and provide positive feedback.  As a parent helper this spring coming up, I plan on working with my son and daughter's classroom teachers to create a voicethread project for Mother's and Father's Day.  I have talked with both teachers and they are very excited for me to take this on, a Father's Day picture/voicethread with my son's Kindergarten class and a Mother's Day poem/voicethread with my daughter's class.  I chose Voicethread because of the impact it had on my family and I, and also the effect it had on the educators in the room in Tracy's Poelzer's presentation on Voicethread that I attended.  Everyone was amazed at the final results and talking with Tracy afterwards, she said it was the easiest thing to do and everyone thinks you're a genius!!  Why wouldn't I start with Voicethread!

4.  Advocate, Advocate, Advocate, and Never Give Up!  I know I have a tough road ahead of me, but for some reason, the current state of our library programs, has really fired me up.  I'm learning about all these amazing tools and technologies that are the future and NONE of the students here in Chase are being exposed to them.  Well, except for the ones that I have worked with on my own time!  Technology is the future, those are the facts.  If we want our students to be successful in the future we need to start preparing them NOW.  Denying that the way students are learning is changing, is choosing to be ingnorant.  As Doug Johnson always says, "It will be easier to change how we teach than to change how our students are going to learn."  I agree, why fight it?

In the End

Ahh . . . the light at the end of the tunnel!  What a feeling of completion . . . well, until January anyways!  Joanne - I know you will probably hear this from all of us, but I really have learned more than I thought possible.  We covered a lot of ground, and there were times when it felt like too much, but in the end I am thankful for it.  I feel I have grown quite a bit as a professional and really am confident that I will be able to pass along what I have learned.  So, THANK YOU, and I know our pathes will cross again throughout the Masters program.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blog Post #9 RSS, Blogging (EDES 501)

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

At the beginning of the course when we were initially asked to sign up for Twitter, an RSS feed, and create a blog, I thought I was in way over my head. But, there I sat adding all the people we were required to follow, as well as practicing my deep breathing, calming exercises. My first step, I thought, find out what RSS stands for. Will Richardson's chapter, "RSS The New Killer App for Educators," was like a breath of fresh air following my moments of hyperventilation. I love that he writes with such simplicity, but at the same time uses the technology lingo that surrounds us in the 21st century. Real Simple Syndication, a tool, "Aimed at helping you consume all that information in more efficient and relevant ways," by sending the information to you. Once I wrapped my mind around what that actually meant, I exclaimed to my husband, "You gotta come check this out - we can have news feeds or information sent directly to us." He casually walked over, pointed to our google page and said, "You mean like the TSN and CBC updates we already get?" Argh! I thought I was really going to be able to impress him with this new information I possessed. So, I guess I had already been exposed to RSS feeds and didn't even realize it.

Since we already had a Google Reader account, I began adding the required feeds and a couple of my own that I thought would be interesting. I am always looking for new, updated skating drills for use with my Ladies Hockey Team and the Learn to Skate program I teach. So now I get all these wonderful drills sent directly to ME - I don't have to go looking for them. I have to admit it took awhile to get into the habit of checking my RSS feeds, and at one time when I checked them I had over 1000 new items - yikes! Richardson discusses his ability to check about 80 feeds of information every day. He has, "Read or skimmed literally tens of thousands of posts and developed a fairly keen eye for quickly spotting the most relevant and interesting information." I would imagine you would have to possess amazing skimming and scanning skills to manage this amount of information. I have talked about the importance of teaching our students skimming and scanning skills to help with information overload in previous posts and discussions. This is further supported by Richardson's notion that, "This is another one of those skills that our students, the knowledge workers of the future, are going to have to develop in order to flourish." The amount of information available to our students is only going to increase and if we don't teach them these skills on how to sift through and manage it, we will not be enabling their success for the future.

As for setting up a blog, I decided to visit Dawn's and Peter's, as they were the first blogs posted, to see what a blog consisted of. I remember thinking, wow, these look pretty professional, the layout, colours, images, etc., how on earth am I going to do this? Then I tried signing up for blogger and realized, once again, my husband had already created a blog to share photos and updates of our kids with family and friends. Again he beat me to the punch - that guy! He had showed it to me when he first created it and I thought it was pretty cool, but admittedly, he has not gone back to it since the day of its creation to update it and add additional photos. As I have found with many blogs, they simply fade away and are not maintained. Creating the blog for this course was not difficult, simply a matter of making some choices and trying to personalize it with some information and images. Adding gadgets is also very straight-forward, and the only thing I can remember having trouble with was embedding something right into the blog post versus adding it as a gadget. I was excited to learn how to become a "blogger," because I do see the importance of educating myself on Web 2.0 applications. Now I realize blogging is considered pretty "old," and there are new tools being added everyday to the web. Even though, blogs remain to be an important and efficient way to share information, either for reading or publishing. As well as scholarly journals and e-books online, educational blogs can be considered an authentic, trustworthy form of content.

At the beginning of the course I learned the connection between RSS feeds and blogging from Richardson - instead of having to visit each blog you are following everyday to see if there's anything new, you can simply check your RSS feeds for that blog (if available) to see if there is any content worth exploring further. Our very first discussion question was regarding information overload and managing all the new online spaces we were required to sign up for. I revisited my initial assignment because I remembered writing something about RSS, Twitter, and blogging. I found a section in my final reflection where I referred to a blog that gave some suggestions on how to deal with online information overload from blogs, RSS, and Twitter. "
Its first suggestion was to bookmark (socially) any useful links, label them either “to read” or “to blog”, check them after, and you will find few will be worth a second look." Also, "Regarding RSS, scan headlines in Google Reader, put ones in a folder that you need to keep and then clear your Google Reader each day by, “bookmarking, sharing, starring, Twitter “ing”, and blogging." This last suggestion is one that resonated with me, and save for the "Twittering," is the order in which I approach my Google Reader aggregator. So where am I now when I reflect on the process of learning about the tool? My affective experiences have definitely changed from feelings of being totally overwhelmed, can't catch my breath to those of being somewhat stable, confident, yes I think I can do this. Cognitively, for me personally, I have also experienced substantial growth in the areas of blogging and RSS. I had done neither at the beginning of this course, and although it has been a short time exploring these tools, I definitely have shown that I know how to use them. Now, I can't keep up with 80 RSS feeds like Will Richardson, or write funny and relevant blog posts like Doug Johnson, but I have made some gains.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Personal Learning

Exploration of blogging and RSS feeds have allowed me to extend my learning in several ways. I think the most important aspect for me is the realization that many blogs are an amazing resource in finding relevant, authentic, and educational information. At the beginning of the course when we were required to follow certain blogs, I found myself wondering how I was going to possibly follow them all and also, will they really have anything useful to offer? I'll admit in the beginning I did not follow them very closely as I was still getting my feet wet with all the new information and technologies coming my way. But as I began to get a little more comfortable with the course and it's expectations, I was able to visit these sites more often and really see what they had to offer. And of course before I really began using my RSS Feeds I would visit the blog directly to see if they had any new ideas and resources. When I found out how easy it was, and much more effecient, to check my RSS Feeds FIRST to see if anything new had been posted, my life got a lot easier (in regards to RSS and blogging, that is!).

New learning, in regards to blogging and RSS, for myself has also included updating my Google Reader profile, although I have not been able to upload a picture, and I've tried several smaller sized-pictures. I added Joanne as a friend and am now following her and also shared some interesting blog posts with her. I also added my RSS Shared Items to my blog from my Google Reader page. Capturing screen shots of my Google Reader page using Snagit was also new for me and really quite easy to do. Snagit provides a free 30 day-trial version for its screenshot capture product and provides many useful tutorials to assist newbies such as myself. Chapter 5 in Will Richardson's book, RSS The New Killer App for Educators, does an excellent job explaining what RSS is, how to set one up, info about reading and sharing feeds, ways to use RSS with students and a whole lot more. This is where I first turned to for help when we were asked to sign up for an RSS aggregator at the beginning of this course. As well as all those really useful tips, one in particular seemed to me would be quite beneficial if one was away from their computer for a brief or extended period of time. "Google Gears" (http://tinyurl.com/2jfv5q) is a tool that can be downloaded and installed to allow you to keep up with your feeds if you are not going to have online access for a period of time. Google Gears saves, "what is waiting to be read in your Reader onto your laptop for later reading, online or off. The best part is you can still star or share or edit tags as you go, and when you get back online, Gears will synch up all of your actions." A program like this could help out with that overwhelming feeling one may get when they check their feeds and find that they have over 1000 unread items! I thought that program in particular was worth mentioning.

Social implications in regards to blogging could be seen as quite significant if we look at their effects on communication and collaboration. Not only can someone search for and find information on a topic they are interested in, they can then comment on it, add to it, and ask further questions to extend learning for themselves and others. On the Virtual Handshake Website, there was an article posted called, Social Implications of Social Software, where blogging was one of the tools discussed. They define social software in The Virtual Handshake as ‘Web sites and software tools which allow you to discover, extend, manage, enable communication in, and/or leverage your social network.' They think of 'Social Software' as a "subset" of Web 2.0 technologies and that the web is now such a social place because there are so many people online, exploring digital and multi-media spaces. They quote Danah Boyd on her thoughts of social software, "The advances of social software are neither cleanly social nor technological, but a product of both." The article then discusses ten social implications resulting in the increasing numbers of online interactions. The following points seemed the most relevant to the social implications of blogging:

1. Basic computer skills really matter…and fortunately the next generation is much more technologically skilled than the current generation.

2. Communication skills really matter…but they’re not improving as fast as we would like. Here they discuss how one's writing abilities are directly related to a successful blog post. Also, how do we address the issue of poor spelling and grammar, where it seems to be thought of as okay in blogging, texting, and messaging? They write, "What has become more important is getting an idea across succinctly and compellingly. This requires better training in critical thinking and understanding other people’s viewpoints."

3. Your professional competence will be more and more visible- considering this statement, how DO we look upon those individuals that are technologically more savvy? Do we see them as being more professional? If I honestly think about it, I know I do.

4. People will become more effective and more thoughtful in building their personal networks - if we think people from all over the globe could be reading what we are writing, adding their thoughts and ideas, not only are we building networking relationships, but perhaps also personal relationships with others.

One more personal implication for me as a learner, that makes my life on the ice a lot easier and builds my confidence, are the skating/hockey drill videos that get sent directly to me through my RSS feeds. Skating has been apart of my life since I was 4 years old and I think it always will be, starting out as a figure skater, coach, hockey player, and now back to coaching. I am always looking for new, updated skating drills and now instead of just reading about them, I get a video sent directly to me that I can watch! I love Google Reader and RSS!

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Professional Learning

Blogs and professional development: a no-brainer! If we could somehow make it mandatory for all teachers to have to follow a specific number of educational blogs, educators could realistically be extending their professional learning every day, not just Professional Development Days. I have learned so much from blogs and wikis from the likes of Tracy Poelzer, Joyce Valenza, David Warlick, Steven Abrams, and my personal favourite, Doug Johnson. And, there are so many more that everyone can find a blog they "click" with, get engaged in, and want to revisit. Combining RSS and blogging, there is no need to check the actual blog daily, any new updates get sent directly to your Reader. Really, how much easier can it get for educators to keep updated and current on what's happening in the education field? For instance yesterday's blog post from David Warlick, "Dreaming in Digital," not only discusses blogs and their effectiveness of quality collaboration and , but also that he was on the Apple Macbook Pro Website as he is going to be purchasing a new Mac. Who cares you're thinking - I do, as we are also looking at purchasing a new computer and value the opinion of a techy like David Warlick. Doug Johnson posted "Cynicism & Distance" on November 29th, discussing whether it's possible to become old without getting cynical. He says, "he's cynical about the teaching profession and their unwillingness to change," and the idea that for every problem or concern someones whines about, they should have to have a solution.  Perhaps if all educators read these kinds of posts regularly, they would really think about issues and the changes in education and look into making some changes to benefit our students.

I checked out the edublogs site where it says "Blogging for teachers & students made easy."  I haven't used this service myself, but if I were to start blogging with students I think this might be the one I would use.  There is a link on the main page to an entry, "10 Ways to Use Your Edublog to Teach."  I think this would be an important step to take - before introducing blogging to your class, the teacher really should have some experience doing it themselves.  Similar to when I was going to create a wiki with my daughter's class, I'm very glad I created a spoof wiki initially, as I learned a lot and was able to work out the kinks and address issues of safety and privacy.  The same should apply in the blogosphere.  There were a few of the ten ways posted for teachers to use blogs that I think are applicable here:

*  A space to post materials and resources that your students have access to at school and at home, and the teacher is able to manage who has access.

*  Blogs are spaces that allow comments and create conversation that can extend learning.

*  A space that could be used for class publications, they compare it to the old "class newspaper" that I think we all did.

*  The Teacher's blog will help get students blogging.  The teacher's blog can be the common meeting place where students can access each other's blogs and the teacher can keep tabs on everyone.

*  A blog can be a place to share with other educators, things like lesson plans, reflections, ideas that worked and didn't work.

*  A blog is an excellent space for embedding multimedia tools like video, images, slideshows, and podcasts to help teach topics to your students.  A place to, "illustrate, engage, and improve your teaching toolbox."

And now that we know about RSS, well, as Will Richardson talks about in his book, "Instead of checking out all twenty-five (or thirty, or more) student Weblogs every day, you could just collect their work in your aggregator using their RSS feeds."  POW! A response just waiting for those teachers who will undoubtedly say, "How can I possibly be expected to check all my student blogs every day?"

I thought I would look around and see if I could find any cons to using blogs with students and in schools.  Although I didn't find any articles with examples of reasons not to use blogging with students (and probably because most educators who publish anything about blogging have only had success), I did find an article by Julie Stugeon in the T H E Journal, "Five Dont's of Classroom Blogging" (2008).  She begins with reflecting on the positive reasons of blogging with students but cautions, "Kids will always push the line on what they say to each other, and what they link to, and educators can find themselves on the defensive," but, "the potential trouble is worth the rewards."  Here are the five DONT'S summarized:

1.  Don't just dive in - set up guidelines and objectives.  For example set up a code of conduct with students regarding bullying, slander, and foul language.  Stugeon reports that if students violate this code of conduct then they lose their internet privileges.  Also, make sure you let the parents know what the project is, the conduct expected, and the consequences.

2.  Don't confuse blogging with Social Networking - make sure you keep the students focussed on using their blogs for academic collaboration and not as a space for idle chit-chat.

3.  Don't leap at freebies - She warns of using Blogger and TypePad with students and suggests using Classblogmeister instead as it gives teachers more control.

4.  Don't force a sequential style - the focus of a blog doesn't always have to be on the date order, sometimes it is more useful or relevant to focus on the topic.

5.  Don't leave blogging to the Students - teachers blogging will have much more impact on their students desire to blog themselves.  Stugeon writes, "You get to know students in ways that they won't reveal otherwise.  A quiet child will give you her opinion in a blog."  This was something we also discussed in our last discussion assignment on blogging 'voice'.

Taking these DONT'S into account, the benefits of blogging are well supported out there.  There are a lot of literature and multimedia presentations available discussing the positive effects or incorporating classroom blogs.  Stugeon believes that, "Students perform better when they know their peers will be reviewing their work as opposed to the sole judgement of the teacher."

Personally I do see the rewards that could be found implementing blogging in to the classroom.  As with anything new, there are going to be challenges, concerns, and obstacles and that is why with any Web 2.0 technology it has to be the responsibility of the educator to explore it initially before introducing it to their students.  I'm not sure what the Ministry is waiting for - these new technologies are not going away - it should be officially making changes to every provincial curriculum.  Of course, that's just my opinion!  To end with, here is a short video made by a teacher in New Zealand about why students should blog.  Enjoy. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Google Reader Screen Shot

My First Screen Shot using Snagit, a very user-friendly capture program.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Twitter Experiment

From ReadWriteWeb.com website an example of how one teacher uses twitter in the classroom.

Blog Post #8 Twitter (EDES 501)

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

I signed up for Twitter the first week of this course and began following people as outlined by Joanne, and of course picked a few people of my own to check out once and awhile. Just before I joined Twitter I had been watching one of the Late Night talk shows where Shaquille O'Neal had been a guest. He was talking about his Twitter experiences and all his followers, so I thought, what the heck I like basketball and I'm sure it would be pretty interesting following him. A short while later I learned I wasn't even following the real Shaq, which made me think how do we really know if we're following who we think are? Most likely these problems would only arise in the case of celebrity-type people, but who knows, if one was at an international library/ technology convention, the likes of Joyce Valenza and Will Richardson may be considered "celebrity."

I'll admit my first, well let's be honest, most of my experiences on Twitter have been riddled with frustration and anxiety. In the beginning I joined thinking this was just a place to let people know what you're doing, where you going, etc. and one of my friends said you have to write really short messages. So I thought, how hard could this be. I joined up, chose the look and feel of my page, added a picture of my Dad's race car (Opel - as we affectionately call her) and started checking out some of the people I was following. Well, that confident, god I'm gettin' good on this here computer feeling, quickly vanished and was replaced with, what the . . ., what are these symbols and abbreviations all about? And some of the things people were writing about - WHO CARES!! I really thought, as many people still do, what the heck is so appealing about Twitter?

BUT, I thought, I have to give this a chance, even if it is only to satisfy course requirements. My first tweet, really most of them, I'm sure also exuded the who cares factor. Knowing that a lot of the students at the high school were members of Twitter though, I knew it was something I needed to be aware of and try using. Throughout this course I have tried to visit Twitter as much as possible, although with each week's specific topics, working, and family life I know I haven't given it a fair shake. I do know more about it than any of my friends, family, or colleagues, but have not yet reaped the rewards of somebody like Mack Male. It wasn't until I started listening to the Mack Male Twitter session on Elluminate did I really start learning some things about Twitter. I really wished I had listened to it a lot earlier when Joanne first gave us the link, because I quickly learned what the # and @ symbols meant and also what bit.ly was. I now know what a Hash Tag is and why anything related to Edmonton is #yeg as that is what the airport code is (which I found out because during the elluminate session people were asking the SAME questions I was wondering!). Mack also gave three different ways to find out what a hash tag is: click on it or respond to someone to see what it's all about; visit "wthashtag.com to find out what they mean; or, simply search Google. Good ole' google!

Another aspect of Twitter that Male discussed that seemed to clarify things for me was the fact that Twitter is more for "real time" information. It's not a good resource for going back to find something, that he said, is why we blog - use Twitter to direct people to your blog. Makes sense! When he scrolled down on his Twitter page he showed how real time it really was, as down the whole length of his page the oldest reply was somewhere around "sent less than 30 seconds ago." I also learned that a "twoosh" is a perfect 140 character tweet, compared to the Nike Swoosh, and that a "tweetup" is an actual event that is set up for people on Twitter to meet face to face. So slowly my confusion and anxiety are morphing into feelings of less confusion and anxiety. I still do feel a little out of the loop sometimes when check out some of the people I am following who have been on twitter for awhile. There is still a lot of lingo, abbreviations and acronyms I am not familiar with, but that will just take time on my part for my exploration of the tool. Instead of a meaningless status update, I tried to post something of a little more interest, at least to me, in regards to my last few tweets. I wrote about our Animoto videos, a good resource I found at go2web20, and the fact that I made a "twoosh!" I mostly just wanted everyone to know that I knew what a "twoosh" was.

Of course I also watched the Twitter in Plain English video as I feel the simplicity of their information is always aimed directly at me! At the end of the video two other suggestions came up, like they always do, one being "Twitter Whore." Curiosity getting the best of me, I had to watch, thinking if it's REALLY inappropriate or too racey I can just turn it off. It was pretty funny! Basically making fun of how some people probably do use Twitter, a touch embellished, I'm sure, but it was quite comical. Obviously not something to be used in an educational setting, but I'll admit I did share it with my husband and a few friends. BUT, it did make me think, what if you were showing this at school and "Twitter Whore" automatically comes up as another recommended video? What would you do? I guess that is another good reason to have some sort of classroom blog or wiki so that you can embed good video's right into your classroom site. so you don't run into that problem. I also looked around the Twitter Wikipedia page as I thought that would be a good starting point for someone who really doesn't get it. I found Twitter is a place for not only posting status updates, but for spreading news, asking questions, and following people or topics of interest. Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter and part owner of Pyra Labs, Blogger, and Odeo (also invented the term "blogger"), stated, "What we have to do is deliver to people the best and freshest most relevant information possible. We think of Twitter as it's not a Social Network, but it's an information network. It tells people what they care about as it is happening in the world." Now, I know from following some of the people I've chosen to follow, that a lot of the information on Twitter is definitely not that "fresh" or "relevant." Like anything though, it is what you make it. If you choose to follow people with similar interests, chances are the information will be better and one won't be left wondering, "Who cares?"

I was also pretty excited to find, during our last discussion assignment, that one of my resources also mentioned ways to use Twitter. Karen Bonanno's presentation on The Role of the 21st Century Librarian along with discussing other Social Networking tools, described uses of Twitter for the school and school library. She presented five ways to use Twitter by posting: (1) New resources notices, (2) School Library Events, (3) Alerts for Web Links, (4) Links to news and current affairs, and (5) Info to stay up to date professionally. My question is though, how do you get colleagues, staff and admin, to join Twitter? I guess you could make it mandatory, but from my experience, those situations don't often work out very well.

My thoughts regarding Twitter have definitely changed since the beginning of this course when I joined and started following people required for this course. I am certainly still exploring and learning new things all the time, but I do have a better appreciation for its purpose. It really just isn't about people telling others what they're eating for breakfast, it is more a space to share good information via links and URL's and keep up to date with current events.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Personal Learning

In terms of Twitter and my personal Learning I found it quite interesting how much information supporting the pros and cons regarding the uses of Twitter that were available. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who have an opinion on the subject. According to Wikipedia, A Market Research Firm, Pear Analytics, analyzed 2000 tweets over a two week time period. What they referred to as "pointless babble" made up 811 or 41% of the tweets, whereas tweets with "pass-along value" consisted of only 8%. However, Danah Boyd (Social Networking researcher) likened "pointless babble" more to "peripheral awareness" or "social grooming." An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal regarding the tool stated that Twitter did, "elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been the early adapters." It goes on to say that it can be a good way to keep track of what your friends are doing when everybody is so busy, "but some users are starting to feel 'too' connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cell phone bills and the need tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they are having for dinner."

Of course I found many positive and educational uses for Twitter such as the American Red Cross exchanging minute to minute information about local disasters. People fleeing from floods and fires able to tweet their locations for loved ones. Also, a top story article from CBS news online that features a Principal from New Milford High School in New Jersey teaching students to tweet. Eric Sheringer states, "I can honestly say it's the most powerful learning tool that I've ever experienced in my education career." He feels there is nothing like it for sending out quick messages and getting immediate responses. Another teacher at his school uses Twitter to get help and resources from teachers around the globe.

Lee Kolbert's blog, A Geeky Momma's Blog, posted a discussion about, "Twitter in School's; What Does It REALLY Look Like?" I saw this post while checking my RSS feeds as well as a funny YouTube video, "Twitteleh" which depicts a Jewish man keeping his mother happy using Twitter.

Kolbert writes, "Twitter is the new black. Everyone is doing it! Well, everyone except, of course, our schools." She goes on to outline the obstacles facing those educators who do see the benefit of implementing technology into our classrooms: (1) How do you get Administrators on board?, (2) How do you get Parents on board?, (3) Content - how do you determine what you will tweet?, (4) Privacy - do you protect your updates? She gives a few suggestions for each point made and then she has created two spreadsheets that give information on School Districts using Twitter and Classroom Teachers using Twitter. These spreadsheets have, "since proven helpful to many educators as we all continue to argue for reasonable awareness as it relates to our school districts using Web 2.0 and social networking tools. " This blog post is definitely worth the read when debating the importance or uses of Twitter in education.

Another blog post I came across promoting the use of Twitter in education was an article written by David Zax in the October 2009 issue of ASEE Prism (American Society for Engineering Education) posted in Tomorrow's Professor Blog, called "Learning in 140 - Character Bites." Zax declares that, "Twitter can improve teacher-student communication, in and out of class." He writes about an Aerospace Engineering lecture-style class that half-way through allows the students to log onto to Twitter and write in their questions about that day's topics. The instructor then sifts through Tweets and by the end of the class discusses the most common question or issue raised. In the same article Zax talks about Gordon Snyder, Director for the National Centre for Information and Communications Technologies at Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts, and how he assigns his students "hashtags" to allow one another to easily find their tweets so students can keep tabs on each other's notes and thoughts. Snyder sees Twitter, "As a way to keep students engaged at school." Keeping students engaged - isn't that what we are trying to do as educators? I really do believe if we intend to keep our 21st century students engaged, we really do need to take a look at what we are teaching them and more importantly HOW we are teaching it to them.

Ending this section on a funny note (as I like to do), my brother-in-law sent me an email with the song, "Tweeting On A Jet Plane" attached about some pilots who somehow missed an airport in Minnesota by 150 miles. Sung to the tune of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jetplane" it is pretty funny.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Professional Learning

The very first reason in the Nine Reasons to Twitter in Schools, trailfire Joanne posted for us was, "Together we’re better: Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom where teachers can access in seconds a stream of links, ideas, opinions, and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals." Collaboration is a big buzz word around here in our district as of late, not sure about other districts, but in SD #73 there seems to be an increase in the time allotted for subject teachers to come together to discuss what is and what is not working. And not only teaching staff, administrators, and student support workers are collaborating as well. So the idea that perhaps colleagues could be connected in seconds to discuss concerns and issues regarding students sounds like a pretty efficient way to do that. Of course the most obvious obstacle would be to persuade people to first join Twitter, then to take the time to learn how to really use it.

Above this post is yet another embedded YouTube (as you can see I absolutely believe YouTube has an educational value) video, "The Twitter Experiment." Dr. Monica Rankin from the University of Texas at Dallas talks about Twitter and how she implements it in her History class. Her main reason for using it is that it allows her to pull more people into her discussion in the limited 50 minute time-frame for her session. All entries are displayed on a screen at the front of the classroom throughout the session for the class to discuss and probe further. Some students were also interviewed to get their take on using Twitter in class. One compared a traditional lecture without using Twitter to the fact that maybe only three students would feel comfortable participating in the discussion. Using Twitter you can have more than thirty students making points or asking questions, allowing those who may not contribute orally to share their thoughts and ideas. Another student stated that he used it as a study aide, where he could go back and look at the significant terms that were tweeted that day. Rankin also saw an increase in class discussion as students could use their computers or cell phones to participate. I can't even imagine how excited students would be at our high school if they were ALLOWED to use their cell phones in class. As it is now, if they get caught using them in class, they get them taken away for the day. Rankin mentioned that the 140 character limit can be a concern, but it also forces the students to narrow their focus and really think about their "central point," removing any irrelevant information. She also talked about a period of time when she was away, she was still able to participate in class conversations via Twitter. The interview ends with a comment I feel pretty much sums up how implementing anything new into education feels, not just technology, "I'm going to have to come to grips with the fact that it's going to be messy, but messy doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be bad."

Will I be using Twitter at school anytime soon? Probably not, but that doesn't mean I do not see the educational value that Twitter can have in the classroom or library setting settings. Most of the examples I found of teachers using Twitter in the classroom were taking place at the high school or college/university level. Personally I will probably be trying to implement other Web 2.0 tools initially, as I know more about them at this point, and feel more confident teaching them to others. The 100 Tips, Tools, & Resources for Librarians on Twitter post from the Lone Wolf Librarian Blog, lists many useful ideas and links to websites, blogs, and wikis for using in Twitter libraries and classrooms. The information is classified into the following categories:
1. Resources for Learning Twitter
2. Ways to Use Twitter in the Library
3. Library Talk About Twitter
4. Librarians Twittering
5. Tools to Enhance Your Twittering (ie. Tweetdeck and bit.ly)
6. Educational Twitter Tools (ie. QuoteURL, TwitPic, and OutwitMe)
7. Find Twitter Applications
8. Advice to Help Improve Your Twitter Experience

For me personally, some of the suggestions from this site I see myself using Twitter in the library would be: posting new book arrivals, posting Library events, staying in touch with other librarians, and sending alerts when material is available for patrons or if material is overdue. In the end I don't think it matters in what order educators try implementing Web 2.0 within their classroom, just that they start doing it. If we want to stay afloat in this digital abyss of the 21st Century world of technology, we as educators, have to keep abreast of the tools themselves and the way students are using them. Are you gonna swim or sink??

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blog Post #7: Social Networking Sites (EDES 501)

Reflection on the Process of Learning About the Tool

Facebook was really the only Social Networking Site I was familiar with and apart of at the beginning of this course. I became a member of Facebook roughly 3 years ago at the gentle prompting of a few of my high school friends. "It's like having a high school reunion online," one of the proclaimed. And it really was. For the first few months it was amazing catching up with people I hadn't seen or talked to since we graduated in 1989. The opportunity to find out where classmates were located and view photos of them and their families was quite exciting. Where is the first place most people go when you first visit someone's profile? I always check out the "View Photos of . . ." the person initially before I explore their profile further.

Reflecting on the process of learning about Facebook, I remember feeling pretty excited about the fact I could reconnect with my old friends and also stay in touch with family members across Canada. The actual Facebook application was very user-friendly to sign up for and create my profile page. It was simple to download and share photos and albums and share and talk about your favorite music and books. I do remember going back to my personal information page and removing some of the information I had initially added. After adding some family photos and albums of my kids I realized that perhaps I shouldn't have revealed quite so much about us and where we lived.

There were moments of frustration sifting through the myriad of Facebook applications that were constantly recommended by Facebook and other friends. I think we all have that one friend that forwards everything from hugs to quizzes to I Think You're Hot (so inappropriate!). That is the one aspect of Facebook that still drives me a little crazy - I thought of removing the one high school friend that continues to send me all this stuff, but I think that would probably be considered a big NO-NO on the Electric Friendship Generator's list of do not's. Steve Abram's YouTube video, "Facebook Manners and You" listed five DONT'S of Facebook etiquette in a fabulous, funny way. This would be an excellent resource to use with Middle and High School students to remind them to: not change relationship status before talking to boy/girl friend; not post embarassing photos; be discreet when posting messages on your wall; not steal other peoples' friends; and, not start hate groups. Interestingly, when I showed this video to some senior high school students in the library the other day, one of the girls stated, "Oh my god, I have done all of those things!" Another girl suggested that I show this to the leadership students and perhaps they could use it in some way to create awareness of Facebook manners with the entire student body through some sort of activity or something. I really do think it would be an effective way to show students what could happen if they were to use Facebook as a form of bullying or space to try and hurt somebody. Also, teachers will enjoy it for the humour and the old-fashioned way in which it was produced.

When I began the process of applying for Graduate studies in this department last summer, I came across a Ning created by Jennifer Branch for Canadian 21st Century Teacher Librarian's. I decided to join this Ning as I thought it would probably be an excellent resource and place to ask questions or find information pertaining to this and future courses. If I am being honest I haven't visited this Ning as often as I visit Facebook - I am not even on Facebook as often as I should be. Most likely because I have been devoting most of my time each week to the specific topics we are covering in our course.

If I take a look at where I am now compared to where I was three years ago when I first joined Facebook, I consider myself to have gained quite a bit more confidence and knowledge regarding Social Network Sites. I didn't even know what a SNS was until I joined Jennifer's Ning, because I didn't know what a Ning was! Checking out the Ning website I finally started making some connections and realized that Facebook, Twitter, and Nings were all sort of the same thing. For all the flack these online spaces take, usually from older generations, they are fairly amazing places to reconnect, collaborate, plan, and share photos, videos and other multimedia projects.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Personal Learning

From the view of being part of a social group, without the Facebook application "Class Creator," my 20 year high school reunion would have been extremely harder to organize. I would say that Facebook itself allowed us to locate more than half of the grads by accessing friends of friends. There were three of us that were the main organizers and created the actual "Summerland Secondary Class of '89" site through Class Creator. Not only were we able to locate grads using this application, we could regularly update details regarding the dates, times and places of all the events and also set up links for registration, payment, and accomodation. One of my admin jobs was to collect the money and arrange for the caterer. I had an existing PayPal account that I easily switched over to a business account to allow people to pay their fees online. I received only a handful of cheques, the majority choosing to submit payment via the PayPal link.

Ironically, at the same time my Dad was on the committee to organize his 45th high school reunion. They combined three years of graduates (1963-1965) and organized the entire event through word of mouth, telephone, advertisements in local newspapers and some email. I offered to help him set up some sort of online communication site, which he politely declined! I can't imagine how much more work it would have been to organize our reunion without the use of a Social Networking Site and online payment system. This is a prime example of the generational digital divide that I have read about numerous times in various articles. My Dad could not believe that I trusted the PayPay website with my personal banking information, "Identify theft is real," he reminded me.

The social implications of Facebook for myself and my family have been positive as well. Through the Family Link Application I have been able to stay in touch with my immediate and extended family. It's pretty amazing to have that opportunity to connect and communicate with family one doesn't get the chance to see regularly. It's an easy way to share photos, videos, and now for me, things like VoiceThread, Wordle, and Animoto creations with family members. Try as I might, I still cannot convince mine or my husband's parents to join us on Facebook.

Is there any negative social implications regarding Facebook? Personally I can think of only one. When I first joined the Facebook network I really wasn't aware of what it entailed. I received many friend requests from family, friends, AND students. At that time I did not have enough foresight or knowledge about this space to ignore the friend requests from students. Not that I post inappropriate photos or information about myself or family, but now I wish I had never opened up that avenue. I do not accept any further friend requests from students and I do get some flack for it when I am at the high school. "How come you're friends with her, but not with me?" Even now I'm not sure how to handle this - do I remove all students from my Friend's list with a generic 'Sorry'? Is that good Facebook etiquette? Theoretically Facebook does not allow people under the age of 14 to join and do try and remove children if they are "underage." The first student that requested me as a friend 3 years ago is presently only in grade 8 - she would have been 10 years old at that time! Her both know she was and remains on Facebook to this day. Stephen Abram discusses a new important literacy, "Online Social Literacy" in his Pipeline Column, Scaffolding the New Social Literacies (Jan 2007). I know it is expected of educators to promote online ethics and safety awareness, but it cannot fall solely to the teachers. Parents MUST take a proactive role in supporting their child's online social literacy at home. Abram notes, "For all intents and purposes they (SNS) are only as safe as the user has the awareness and skills to make good judgements." I really do not believe a 10 year old has the ability to judge what he/she should be saying or posting in an online environment.

Abram mentions Webkinz in his column, as a social networking site for children, "playground pushers of social networking crack." GUILTY! My daughter loved Webkinz, she looked from them everywhere anytime we were out shopping. She does not go on the website anymore, but she used to love going on creating rooms, playing games, and, yes, sending messages to her friends who were also on Webkinz. It does make me feel a bit better that her and her little brother continue to play with the actual stuffed animals we purchased. Abram makes a very interesting, relevant point and asks, "By creating safe places where you need letters from your teacher or parents to get online, or protect kids by narrowing the rules, can kids ever develop the critical thinking about their identity and privacy that will be essential for success in their future?" He believes we need to begin teaching kids at earlier ages how to handle privacy and personal information issues. His idea: When we are teaching kids in grades K-8 about themselves, community, and the world then, "at each stage we define what level of awareness they need to have online for each of these stages." What a smart idea - if somehow we could get it written into the curriculum. I really do believe we are falsely protecting our students by not allowing them online at school, they will as Abram declares, "just take it underground." He concludes, "Smart schools will offer more balanced view points and information. Our society expects it." I think we as educators could learn a lot from what Stephen Abram has to offer with regards to promoting self-awareness of privacy and safety issues with our students when they are online.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Professional Learning

The number one action I would take if I had all-controlling power over the three schools in Chase would be to remove the ban on student access to Facebook (and YouTube). The amount of time and energy teachers spend disciplining students for being on these sites, I think, instead, what are some of the educational ways we could be using SNS with them? It doesn't matter how often we bust them during the school day, they will continue to access these sites somewhere, somehow. They know how to open multiple tabs and keep them hidden from unsuspecting teachers. As soon as the teacher begins rotating around between students, they quickly switch to the appropriate screen. Honestly, when I am called in to cover library blocks at the high school (as they have no qualified librarian anymore) I allow kids to be on Facebook or YouTube for the first or last ten minutes of the block, as it prevents me from policing them the entire time. Obviously they know if I catch them on or doing anything inappropriate they do lose their privileges and so far I have only had to suspend one student from using these websites. I wonder how often teachers check their personal emails throughout the day - and during class time? Well, social networking sites are now how students "check their mail." Kids really do not email anymore, they text, chat on Facebook and MySpace. I find I have fewer problems with students sneaking on and if they do access something appropriate I can block their online access for that day.

I found an article online, "The Facebook Classroom: 25 Facebook Apps That Are Perfect for Online Education (May 2008). There are tools for students, teachers, administrators and everyone from sharing books to math formulas to getting help with homework and creating videos for students. I printed this and posted it in the staff room at the high school. It will be interesting to hear what kind of feedback I get from teachers.

Michael Blanding's article, "Social Networking: Thanks for the Add. Now Help Me With My Homework" from our Trailfire focussed on a study by Christine Greehow that social networking sites like Facebook may, "have more educational potential than you might think." Her questions, "Can we harness this interest and passion in their online lives for education purposes?" led me to further investigate an article by Greenhow and Robelia (August 2009), "Old Communication, New Literacies: SNS as Social Learning Resources." It is quite long (31 pages) but a very good resource examining the role of MySpace in the lives of 11 high school students. In their paper they argue, "that adult-driven discourses ought to consider not just 'academic' literacies but also young people's 'non-academic' communicative literacies typically practiced outside of school as part of their overall development of new literacies." They do believe that students do need background knowledge and understanding of print material, what was termed '21st century skills', but they they also require exposure to online literacies as well.

Greenhow and Robelia's data regarding the impact of SNS on social learning resulted in 3 important ways that SNS in fact supported student social learning: (1) Validation and appreciation of creative work, (2) Peer alumni support, and (3) School-task related support. The majority of teachers I work with would not entertain the idea that Facebook could provide any educational value. Perhaps presenting the data from this study would be a starting point to initiate that dialogue. The authors do concede that there is much more study needed in this area.

Previously in this post I mentioned that perhaps the best way to ensure students success for the future is providing a good balance of traditional literacies (print material, 3 R's) along with online reading and writing interactions. My previous course, Inquiry Learning, provided insight into the constructivist theory, building new ideas and information from past experiences and existing background knowledge. This should ultimately be the goal for educators today: building upon our students existing knowledge gained through traditional literacies, adding new knowledge and forming social online literacies. Greenhow, in her doctoral thesis, From Blackboard to Browser, "found that the teachers who were most effective in integrating the Internet into the classroom were those who subscribed to constructivism." Blanding's suggestion to use SNS "as supplements to the formal in-class learning, building upon the spontaneous sharing that students are already doing," would be a reasonable way to integrate these networks into the classroom for teachers or teacher-librarians. There are a few applications from the 25 Facebook Apps link mentioned previously, that could also be easily incorporated within the classroom. The Flashcards application allows students to create flash cards to help them study on Facebook and Get Homework Help lets students get connected with tutors and other students than can help with homework and assignments. And those are only 2 of them, there are many more for students and educators.

Greenhow and Robelia's study describes two student-driven social media publications located within Facebook, HotDish and MN Daily. These are sites with social and technical aspects that "encourage, content, creation, sharing, and play." HotDish shares environmental science new, knowledge, ideas and activism, while MN Daily concentrates on college community news and alumni.

Based on this post, one can see that I have focussed almost solely on the benefits of the educational value of Facebook integration in the classroom. Why fight the masses? As Doug Johnson said at the Tech It Up! conference, something like, it's going to be much easier for teachers to adjust how we teach than to have students change they way they learn. Irregardless, there are still going to those educators who only consider Facebook as having a negative impact on student education. I can imagine questions such as, "How do we monitor them?" "What if they are posting inappropriate information, photos or videos?" "What will their parents think?" Perhaps one way to encourage reluctant users and show them the benefits of SNS would be to provide them with reliable resources, studies and practical Professional Development sessions to show them how to use these applications with their students.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Daddy Cool - Animoto

The Old Apartment - Voicethread

http://voicethread.com/share/706252/ Here's a link directly to VoiceThread. When I click the Play button on the embedded voicethread, I do not get any sound. OK - I tried it again and it works! Sorry! You can listen below.

The Old Apartment

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blog Post #6: Multimedia Sharing Sites

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

I was first exposed to Voicethread at the Tech It Up! conference in Kamloops which was presented by SD 73 (Kamloops/Thompson) and TRU. Up until that day I had not heard of or used VoiceThread. Tracy Poezler, a recent graduate of U of A and Librarian at two schools in Kamloops, whom I mentioned in my last post on wikis, was the session speaker on VoiceThread. Tracy is a great presenter in the fact that she is very knowledgeable about Web 2.0 tools and library issues and the way in which she presents her information. She makes everything seem really easy because she breaks it down into "laymen" terms (for those of us just beginning our technological journey) and presents useful, relevant ways to implement Web 2.0 tools into our classroom or library program.

Tracy's presentation on VoiceThread was presented to us via her wiki that she has created dedicated to Web 2.0 tools and examples of how they can be used with students. Wonderful Web 2.0 Tools is an excellent resource for technology teachers and classroom teachers who want concrete ideas to incorporate some technology into their daily lessons. She started her presentation with some background information with regards to technology and its advances in the last five years. She is very passionate and excited about all these Web 2.0 tools that are really quite easy to use, and a lot of them for free, that all teachers can use in their classrooms. Her enthusiasm is quite contagious and I'll admit I left that session wanting to do a voicethread with both my daughter and son's class for Father's Day! She showed us several examples of how teachers have already been using voicethread in the classroom at the elementary and high school levels. Tracy worked with a primary class to create a voicethread for Father's day where she had each student draw a portrait of their father and then record (voice) what they loved about their dad's. What a wonderful, powerful way to show the students' love for their dad's and also to show the parents the quality, technological learning taking place at school.

As for Animoto, I had heard of it, but had never been to Animoto to create anything. I was pretty amazed exploring Joanne's trailfires on Animoto how professional the videos looked and how easy it seemed to create one. It was a lot of fun creating the "Daddy Cool" video for my husband using pictures of our kids, not to mention effortless. Then came the sharing, well . . . everyone in my family that I shared it with thought it was amazing. I got phone calls and emails instantly after sharing it, everyone in awe of my incredible technological abilities. I really didn't want to tell them how easy it was, but I did - gotta give credit where credit is due! They assumed I was responsible for the lay-out and transitions of the video, not realizing all I had to do was download some photos, add some music and other small details, and Animoto does the rest. Joyce Valenza had a good point on one of her blog posts regarding Animoto. She stated, "Some bloggers argue that Animoto doesn't inspire a lot of creativity or higher order thinking, partly because the program does so much of the creative work, the animation choices, the transitions. I argue, we have other tools for deeper thought and sophisticated movie making. Animoto is a magically-easy way to grab attention, produce professional-looking public relations products, archive an event, visually showcase our best, and create new visual contexts." As a student myself right now, it WAS refreshing to not use higher order thinking skills, and still create something fun and professional looking with relative ease. As my husband said though, even though it seems easy for you it's not easy for everybody. I just can't imagine someone signing up for Animoto and not being able to create a video - I guess that's not a reality though. I posted it to my Facebook profile and one of my friend's wondered when my husband was going to make a video of how great I am!

Reflecting on the process of learning about VoiceThread and Animoto, I have to say it seems to be the most fun I've had with Web 2.0 tools. I felt fairly confident throughout the process and if time had allowed, I would have created more! I get excited thinking about the projects I could do not only for family, but with students as well. The VoiceThread I created for this assignment was a great way to bring us all together, from different parts of B.C., and reflect on an emotional time in our lives. There is quite the emotional story behind why I chose that photo, too long to mention here, but that was the reason I chose it - an opportunity for us to share our thoughts on something really personal to us all. I think voicethread is an amazing resource and tool.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of My Own Personal Learning

Creating the VoiceThread was definitely as easy as Tracy said it would be. Registering and downloading the photograph for the voicethread went quickly. It was also straightforward adding details and adding my picture for my comments. Recording my comment took a few trials as my microphone on our webcam was not working correctly. This problem, though, had nothing to do with VoiceThread itself - actually it offered a tutorial on how to look for and fix potential problems. After fiddling around with the Control Panel and then carrying out the most technical trouble-shooting strategy I know (re-booting my computer) the microphone began working again! I shared it with everyone in the photo, hoping they would take the time to record their own comments and so far everyone, except my kids and husband, have commented on the voicethread. I have sent it to my husband's school email address where he and our kids should be able to make their own comments. That was one question I had with voicethread - can someone make more than one comment on the picture? I could not figure out how to do that to allow my kids to make their own comments on my account. I initially posted the voicethread as a link, but then embedded it right in the blog. For some reason though, when I clicked on the play button, I did not get any sound. Therefore I ended up linking to VoiceThread again directly. So, although creating the VoiceThread was fairly straightforward, I was not without my usual technical difficulties trying to embed it.

Animoto was also a very user-friendly program to work with. Once again downloading my photos to create the video was simple and I really liked the fact they had several images of their own on the site one can use to add to their video. Throwing in a couple of drawings and theme related photos from Animoto made it seem more like a "real" video. Also, their varied music selections, including current pieces, enhanced the feeling of video. Animoto makes it simple to share the creation as well. Not only did I post it to my blog, but I shared it with family and friends via email and Facebook. The only problem I did run into was embedding the video as a size that would fit into the posting part of my blog. I did select the smallest embed code, but still found the right side of the video could not be viewed. So I put my inquiry out to the wonderful people of our eclass and got two responses from Pam and Annabelle - thank you! They both gave me similar advice, which was to change the dimensions in the HTML embed code, to make it smaller. And what do you know - it worked!

In the end my personal learning of these two tools was facilitated through Tracy's session on VoiceThread, exploring several voicethread and animoto examples through the Trailfires and my own searching, and just having fun playing around with the tools. I made personal connections with both mediums I created, with family and friends. I was successful in making people emotional and in awe of me at the same time - can't beat that!

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Teaching and Learning

Joyce Valenza writes about Animoto in her blog saying, "I like this tool for any projects for which we'd formerly create a collage--the gathering of multiple pieces to create new context. Imagine a collage showcasing student work or art, gathering historical images and relevant music or soundtrack to introduce a time period, paintings and sound to introduce an artist or artistic movement." The options really do seem endless in what a teacher or teacher-librarian could create with their students. Valenza mentions using student artwork and historical images to produce an Animoto video, and what also comes to my mind are the Bill Nye The Science Guy short music videos embedded within the actual show. The music videos feature students singing about and presenting the information they are learning about in that particular Bill Nye episode. It wouldn't have to be limited to just science - students could make a short music video incorporating their knowledge from any subject area. This would a great way to make all subjects seem pretty cool and engage students in their learning.

I have to share a few sites created by a friend (Trevor Knowlton) of ours that my husband and I went to school with in Summerland, B.C., situated in the Okanagan Valley. When I first walked into the Tech It Up! conference that I have already mentioned, I ran into this guy attending the conference as well. I told him I was going to the VoiceThread session put on by Tracy and wrote down a website for me to check out BookNote.ca. I didn't realize at the time, because he didn't tell me, that this was something he had been working on. When I eventually got the time to check out the site, I realized that there were a few multimedia sharing tools that would be excellent resources to have and to share with everyone in our course. The BookNote for Schools page is for use in the classroom that, "Allows students and teachers to create online discussions about the books they are reading and recommend them to others. Books can be discussed within a class, school, school district or more." VoiceThread is used to comment on the books and there are some recommended for middle and high school students. It is free and safe, where students can submit their comments using an online "identity name" and teachers have the option of screening the comments before they are posted online.

OgoNet Inc., the name of my friend's business, has also created a few other "Classroom 2.0" tools that are free and easy to access for teachers and students. Virtual Guest is a live video stream that "Invites the world into the classroom." There is an example of a video stream with a Grade 12 class where they get the opportunity to discuss the book Slumdog Millionaire with the author Vikas Swarup. It's pretty amazing to watch, even though just a small portion is included in the video description of Virtual Guest. There a few quotes from some of the people involved, including the Vice Principal, who said, "Everything I know about education just changed." As well, from one of the grade 12 students, "That was so cool. It was the coolest experience of high school for me," and the teacher said, "It was the most amazing teaching moment I've ever had." Very powerful stuff.

Live Teacher is another multimedia sharing site available through OgoNet Inc., which they refer to as, "Real teachers, real learning." It is a, "Live Online Education Channel for students to get school assistance from certified, professional British Columbia teachers." Every Monday evening there is a videocast from a Math and Science teacher covering different areas of the curriculum. You can join them on Twitter and they will send updates for shows coming up and what topics they will be covering. Watching the introduction video reminded me a little of Bill Nye the Science Guy, as the teacher's knowledge and and humor was evident. There were also two other classroom 2.0 tools available on the page: Stop A Bully Program and Live Grad. The Stop A Bully program allows students to post concerns anonymously online if they feel they are being bullied, then the concerns are directly forwarded to the counsellor and principal of the school. The Live Grad tool offers people the opportunity to watch high school graduations if they were unable to make it in person. I was able to watch the part of grad from Summerland Secondary School last June 2009, where they hand out the bursaries and scholarships to students. This part of particular interest to me, as my Dad and I established a bursary in my Mom's name when she passed away.

I can envision implementing VoiceThread and Animoto quite successfully with students, using the wonderful ideas suggested by Tracy Poelzer on her VoiceThread wiki page, and also through the suggestions on my friend's BookNote site. VoiceThread and Animoto are two multimedia sharing sites that are user-friendly, grab your attention, fun to use kind of programs that even reluctant-to-use-technology teachers could incorporate into their classroom. I will definitely be sharing these tools with the staff at the elementary and high schools here in Chase.