Sunday, September 27, 2009

EDES 501 Blog Post #2 Videosharing

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

Hmmm . . . reflecting on how I felt about learning about videosharing . . . well, it definitely started out in the honeymoon phase. I had previously taken video of my daughter waterskiing and performing her first voice recital, uploaded it onto YouTube and shared it with my friends and family. It was fairly easy then to use the "video bar gadget" tool on my blog to post the videos to the right-hand margin of my page. But . . . I thought, how do I 'embed' a video right into the post section of my blog??? This is all about extending my learning and new knowledge, right? Well, the honeymoon phase quickly dissolved into the frustration, rubbing my temples, $*&!@#*#@!, phase.

I searched the Help section of Blogger, watched a YouTube (ironic, I know) video on how to embed a video into a blog and still could not get it to work. Every time I pasted the embed code into the post section a message appeared saying it was unable to do so. I tried different sized videos and different subjects, but with no success. My husband suggested I step away from it for awhile so I thought I would go back onto the Trailfire to explore some trails that I could not access previously. Once there, my navigation was very slow and my computer eventually froze. I mention all of this because my affective reflection on the process of learning about videosharing is directly related to my cognitive ability to learn about the tool. When my shoulders are up around my ears and deep breathing has settled in, I know I need to step back, get some exercise, and try again.

At the beginning of videosharing exploration I was quite confident in my ability to access, navigate, and use videosharing sites like YouTube, TeacherTube, and Google Video. I had previously recorded, uploaded, and shared videos with my friends and family. I was then able to post two videos of my daughter onto to my blog using the Video Bar Gadget on Blogger. In the end, when I came back to my blog, the video clip I had been trying to embed was there. Unbelievable! Where am I now in my learning? Well I feel a bit more confident again and excited to learn more about incorporating these tools into the classroom. As well, through course readings and further research I have gained new knowledge of possible ways to use YouTube, TeacherTube and Google Video with students and other teachers in a variety of subject areas. Now it's just a question of finding the time to do it.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of My Own Personal Learning

In terms of my own learning and videosharing websites, specifically, YouTube I delved further into exploring the actual space, its sharing and messaging capabilities, and subscribing to others videos. Users cannot really change the aesthetics of their space, but it seems to be more of a place to watch, share and collaborate with others about historical, educational, contemporary, controversial, and entertainment issues. Prior to this course (EDES 501), on YouTube, I had watched videos, responded to video, uploaded video, shared video and produced a profile of myself. Preparing for this blog on videosharing, I have now selected and embedded video into a blog, subscribed to users' videos, and tried to 'friend' people via YouTube.

My family and I are regular users of YouTube and TeacherTube. My husband is a Vice-Principal at the high school here in Chase and attends Admin Meetings every month. After each one he usually comes home and shows me some clip they watched at their meeting to do with something in the education field, the latest buzz words. The other day he showed me a clip with Mr. Bean as a principal. It was quite funny, completely inappropriate, but very funny.

My daughter loves to sing and so likes to go on YouTube to watch Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift videos. The first time she asked to go on I was a little apprehensive, because I had seen first hand what some very innocent searches could turn up. We did it together and did not come across any inappropriate materials and she loved it. She does know though, that she is never to access YouTube on her own, without supervision. We also used YouTube to download the instrumental version of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and copied it to a disk for her to sing along with at an Arts Festival here in Chase. At the time I really did not take the time to check the copyright or legality of what I did. Going back to YouTube and conducting the same searches, I found the music video was legitimate through Hollywood Records. The instrumental version of "The Climb" on the other hand, was not. There was actually a message at the bottom of the clip while it was loading explaining it would take 30 seconds to start, as that is how long YouTube checks videos that are downloaded for copyright infringement. I don't remember that message a few months ago when I was downloading the music onto a disc for my daughter, and honestly probably would have continued with the download because I needed it.

In both examples above there are legal and ethical implications involved as a teacher and a parent. Would I condone my son or daughter's actions if they were to illegally download music or a movie? Would certain parents of some students find the humour in an off-side portrayal of a high school principal? As a family we are not in the practice of music and video piracy. We buy and download our music through iTunes and we rent movies from the video store or purchase them from our dish. Where do you draw the line though? If the video is there for us to watch on YouTube, are we strong enough, in the privacy of our own homes, to not watch it because of copyright issues?

The video I FINALLY embedded from YouTube beneath this post from Michael Wesch, "The Machine is Us/ing Us," is I believe a short, excellent and informative piece on the evolution of the Web. Personally, I think this type of medium, relevant, visually stimulating information put together with good music is very effective. I like watching them and I learn from them. I've watched it about a half-dozen times, showed it to my husband while explaining what html and xtl are and the importance of Web 2.0 and social interaction. "Web 2.0 is linking people . . . people sharing, trading, collaborating." He writes we need to "rethink a few things," including: "copyright, authorship, identity, ethics, aesthetics, governance, privacy, community, love, family, and ourselves." This part, near the end of the clip, was the most powerful for me. It struck a chord with me for some reason, got me excited and interested in thinking about these things further.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Teaching and Learning

As in many schools YouTube is not accessible to students at the high school and elementary school here in Chase. As students have been found viewing inappropriate material on computers either in the lab or the library via YouTube, security software was quickly put in place to block student access to the site. Teachers' access to YouTube remains and teachers can actually remove the restriction for their class if access to TeacherTube or YouTube is required. From what I have learned from course readings and further research about the benefits of implementing YouTube in the classroom, I do believe there is a place for videosharing and other Web 2.0 tools in our schools.

I found an article entitled, YouTube in the Science Classroom, written by Jerry Everhart in the publication "Science and Children" (2009). The article outlines his success incorporating YouTube in his science class and the many benefits of using this kind of technology along with traditional text book, workbook, and science video resources. He compares the ideas of not having the opportunity to edit or update the 'textbook' with the "visually stimulating learning" that "energized" his teaching and "motivated" his students. He talks about a few ways of incorporating YouTube in the classroom and gives some great hands-on advice on how to do so. A few of his ideas include creating videos using Microsoft MovieMaker and the YouTube "Toolbox" for assistance. As well, the "YouTube environment allows students to watch, review, pause, and research in real time" (p. 34). Also how YouTube actually encourages interactive participation where students can make comments, rate videos, and pose questions for further investigation. These ideas, and I know there are many more, are great ways to try and implement some of the Web 2.0 tools into our curriculum while still ensuring we are meeting the prescribed learning outcomes set out by the province. As Everhart states, "YouTube is a great way to add interest, depth, and student ownership," to our subject areas.

Looking back at my Introductory Blog and some of the Inquiry questions I posed there, I see myself slowly forming some of my own answers. I know it's early in the course and my learning of the content, and my answers will no doubt continue to change and reform themselves, but I am beginning to form some opinions on particular questions. Specifically the question of preparing our students for the future. At my schools, I honestly do not think we are. "Students are well-versed in the language of the Internet, they will expect, as will their parents, that it is integrated into the classroom," a quote from Timothy Green's book, Making the Most of the Web in Your Classroom: A Teacher's guide to Blogs, Wiki's, Podcasts, Pages, and Sites (2007). Green also talks about separate technology classes within schools versus making "technology a seamless part of our teaching and instruction." Undoubtedly if every classroom teacher incorporated digital technology within everyday teachings, students would be better prepared for the social online connection and interaction of their future. Realistically, though, this is not happening in our schools. Classroom teachers are already overwhelmed with the existing learning outcomes and cut-backs in funding and teacher assistants. This is where I tend to disagree with Green about the use of separate technology classes. Exposing students to the Web and and Web 2.0 applications in an IT class or through Teacher-Librarian instruction would be one way to ensure students receive this information, wouldn't it?

I found another article that focused more specifically again on using YouTube in the classroom. R. Mullen and L. Wedwick published an article in "The Clearing House" entitled, Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube (2008). There are similar benefits discussed in this article as compared to the previous article I mentioned by Everhart. They talk about the accessibility to videos now that used to take time to be reserved, checked out, and returned. Just as teachers save their favourite resources, handouts, pictures, etc. in a file, so to can favourite videos be saved for future use in their account on their page. Obviously, as I have mentioned before the Teacher should be the only one with direct access to YouTube due to risky and unsafe content. Just as I have embedded video into my blog, so too could a teacher create a classroom blog and embed video there. For safe student searching, SchoolTube and TeacherTube are plausible options. There was one example of YouTube in the classroom in this article that really stuck with me. The teacher was having difficulty finding a definition of the word "nostalgia" that the students really understood. She asked them to think of TV shows they watched when they were younger and the children's show "The Big Comfy Couch" came up. The teacher pulled up a clip of the show on YouTube and the students "began reminiscing about their preschool years and formed an authentic understanding of the term nostalgia at the the same time." YouTube offers some very valuable educational tools, along with some risk and inappropriate content. I really do believe, though, if educators, administrators, and students are taught how to use this tool, the benefits will greatly outweigh the risks. "School must become a place in which students can acquire the necessary skills for technological success" (Mullen and Wedwick, 2008).

Michael Wesch's "The Machine is Us/ing Us"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Post #1 Photosharing (EDES 501)

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

I was fairly confident diving into the abyss of the Photosharing tool. I considered myself fairly savvy when it came to sharing photos online. I had after all uploaded pictures, ordered prints, and created and purchased some photo albums, greeting cards and a photo blanket through Kodakgallery.

After following the trailfire on photosharing though, watching the short commoncraft video and reading through the text on Wikipedia, I came to realize I have only experienced a very miniscule aspect of online photosharing. Actually, I had not really "shared" my photos online via Kodakgallery with my friends and family. Instead of sharing the albums I created through email or a blog, I actually sent the albums and cards to family as gifts. Where they probably now sit on book shelves, in drawers, or (argh) in the garbage can, as was pointed out in the commoncraft video.

As I reflect on my own learning I realize there is so much more I need to learn, explore and play with. My confident feelings I felt in the beginning soon gave way to feelings of "holy cow", "oh my god", "this is really easy", and "this is really hard"!

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of my Own Personal Learning

My own personal learning with the photosharing tool has been tremendous. As I mentioned above I had only really used the Kodakgallery site, and even then had not actually shared my photos online. I had heard of Flickr but never visited the website. After watching the commoncraft video I checked out Photobucket and Webshots as well, but did spend the majority of my time exploring Flickr.

The Wikipedia page on Photosharing had a lot of information, history and links that led to some fairly overwhelming moments. At one point I had clicked on so many links and had gotten so far off topic that I ended up on a page about Dan Brown's novel, Angels & Demons. I believe Berners-Lee was employed at CERN when he created the World Wide Web, which is where much of the novel takes place. At this overwhelming "how did I get here" moment, I could definitely relate to how students might feel when taking on a similar assignment.
Start small. Will Richardson's advice when beginning your own blog. (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts p. 44) I think his advice here will be the basis for beginning exploration of all the Web 2.0 Tools for me personally. I tend to be the kind of learner that wants to know everything immediately, and want things to be perfect the first time. Therefore, it can take me awhile to form my thoughts and ideas, which enables my initial excitement to transform into anxiety and frustration. I truly believed I would have all my images and videos saved on my computer, cd's, and external hard drive uploaded, organized, and shared with family and friends instantly. That didn't exactly happen. After creating a Yahoo ID, signing up for Flickr, and trying to change my icon buddy (which hasn't happened as every file I chose was too big) I was able to upload 26 images. That's it - 26 images! I quickly learned there is a monthly quota of images and video you are able to upload. Although the steps were fairly straight forward, I find it still takes me some time to read through and play with all the information. I did manage to configure my blog with Flickr and can now blog a photo directly from Flickr to my own blog. I spent A LOT of time trying to share the set of photos I created on Flickr with my blog in the form of a slideshow, but was unsuccessful.
Although I have learned which seems like a lot, in regards to photosharing, specifically using Flickr, I do realize that it offers much more than just a place to upload and store photos. I still need to spend some time exploring features of Flickr such as social networking, online interaction and images, and forming groups for discussion or gaming purposes (Web 2.0 for Schools, p. 36). My next goal for Flickr is to find other "Flickrites" to add to my contact list. I searched for a couple of my friends that I believed were on Flickr, but did not find them.
Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Teaching and Learning
In terms of my professional teaching and learning, I believe the pros of using or exploring Flickr in the classroom definitely surpass the cons. In Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts, Richardson suggests that experimenting with digital photography in the classroom is within most schools' grasp. Most schools, in my District, own or have access to a digital camera. At Haldane Elementary it is usually a small group of grade seven pupils that are responsible for travelling around the school on special days, including sporting events, dress-up days, assemblies, band performances, air bands, etc., to capture the images to display around the school. These students know how to upload the photos from the camera onto a computer and print them off. I am fairly certain that elementary-aged students would be absolutely engaged and excited if given the opportunity to take photos, upload them and explore the world of Flickr. Beyond photosharing with friends and families, students could "invite other people from around the globe to have discussions about the images," and "could become a part of a community that contributes images of similar topics." (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts p. 99)
Immediately what comes to mind is the Green Kids Club that was created and maintained by a teacher at Haldane Elementary who is very committed to sustaining the environment. She has led our school to the number one spot in the Nation for Green Schools and is currently working towards attaining Earth 5 Global Status. I can envision using Flickr as a form of social interaction through images and text with the Green Kids Club. Furthering their cause by connecting with others from around the globe who are also passionate about saving Mother Earth. Images combined with text can be a very powerful way to share knowledge and learn from one another. The learning is engaging and meaningful, and in this example (Green Kids Club) very relevant.
The example given in our text on page 38 describes how a primary teacher used Flickr with her class to capture images of the growth of plants from seeds. Another fairly user-friendly example of the positive impact Flickr could have being used within the classroom to engage and excite students as they can literally watch the growth of plants as they add images and text to their photostream.
I do see myself exploring and playing with Flickr to become a real "Flickrite". I can envision the numerous possibilities of utilizing Flickr within the classroom, but do need to become more of an expert first.

Ellie Good Air Aug 2/09

Ellie Good Air Aug 2/09
Originally uploaded by Renae Gartrell

A photo from my Summer Splash '09 set I created on Flickr. Now I just have to figure out how to post the set as a slideshow on here! This is my daughter Ellie getting some good air!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Web 2.0 Made Simple - YouTube

I just added a short, simple explanation of Web 2.0 posted on YouTube. I do like YouTube for it's ability to share video with family and friends. We were able to post a video of our daughter water skiing for the first time, as well her first singing recital, so that her grandparents could watch it. I realize it has been used for much different purposes, not always ethical. I cannot control those situations, and I think it is used mostly for 'good'.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Introductory Blog for Web 2.0

My first blog, my first post!! I have created this blog as a course requirement to explore, learn, reflect upon, and assess tools of Web 2.0. This course, EDES 501 through the University of Alberta, will be huge for my personal and professional growth as a teacher, and hopefully one day as a school leader as teacher-librarian. We are nearing our second week of classes and I have 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. One of my goals is 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 would also like to use this space to ask some inquiry questions about our student education and information technology. As this is the perfect space for collaborating, participating, and expertise it may help in answering some of the questions I have, or give me some insight from some of the experts out there. I question the educational integrity of some social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but realize this wave, this phenomenon, is definitely here to stay. I also wonder why, in this digital, technological age, time is being taken from library instruction. How do we get it back? Are we really preparing our students for what they will require in their futures? Ask any classroom teacher to fit Web 2.0 technologies into their dayplan - what will most respond with? From my experience, most answers have been something like, "Another new activity to fit into my already full schedule?" and "Where will I find the time to do that and meet all the other learning outcomes expected of me?"

So, although I am very excited to learn how to use these Web 2.0 tools, I am equally interested in gaining some insight on these issues from my classmates, instructor and others who visit my blog.

Thank you for taking some time to peruse my blog. I'm officially a blogger!