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 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.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

EDES 501 Blog Post #5: Wikis

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

January 2009, my home, my pajamas, my computer. The time, the place, and the circumstances surrounding the decision to further my professional education. The course, EDES 542 Inquiry Based Learning, the Instructor, Lorine Sweeney. This is where it all began folks, for me anyways. I begin this post mentioning this course as this is what prompted me to create the Honeybee Wiki with my daughter's grade 3 class. I believe at the beginning of EDES 542 I also felt quite overwhelmed with being a "student" again and finding the time to really engage myself in and do a good job with the course content and assignments. Getting past those feelings of guilt when my children ask me things like, "Mom are you going to be on the computer all day again today?" are the same feelings I am also experiencing this time around. Even though I have completely given myself as a mom and a wife for the last ten years, I continue to struggle with this and similar questions and comments. My husband supports my decision to pursue my graduate studies and reminds me that it is okay to do something for myself for a change. So here I am revisiting an assignment completed a few months ago and reflecting on my learning then and the new knowledge I have gained to date.

So What? The basis of all good inquiry questions. The Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004) document is an excellent resource on how to implement Inquiry methods into your teaching and motivate students to find the, "So What?" I learned that the nature of inquiry is such that the question or topic students are researching, is finding an answer, solution, or further question that people actually CARE about or WANT to know about. Sounds pretty easy, right? A lot of 'research' projects in schools still remain to be very traditional in the sense that they look for information on a topic, record that information in some form (essay, poster, etc.) and then share it, sometimes. Rarely do most educators take that extra step and ask ourselves, how is this information important or relevant to the 'big picture'. Is this something that is going to help us answer a question or look at an issue that is meaningful to the real world. So this is how we (myself & my daughter's class) began our research unit on honeybees, by asking ourselves if there was anything we could find out about regarding honeybees that people are going to care about. Considering the age group it was important to begin with building upon and adding to their background knowledge on the subject. Inquiry learning certainly doesn't imply that this step is not an important one. The major project for the Inquiry course was to implement an Instructional Inquiry unit with our students. I decided to showcase our learning, research, and inquiry questions through the creation of a class wiki. We did not have to choose a wiki as a way to implement this inquiry unit, but I believed it would be a wonderful to way for them to learning about inquiry through the use of technology.

The entire process was amazing, not without its glitches and frustrating moments, but amazing. One important aspect of using the inquiry process with students was to ensure specific times were allocated for "inquiry" time. The kids knew it was "inquiry" time whenever they saw me walk in the door and they were very excited, each and every time. I am still amazed at how completely engaged they were each time we worked together because it was something new to them and they got to work on the computers. I chose to use Wikispaces to create our wiki as I had visited a few fellow classmate wiki's, that back then I thought were just awesome. Not that they weren't, but it was new technology to me that I had never encountered. Once I learned that it only took a few minutes to join and create my own wiki, I knew this would be a user-friendly, fairly easy way to share our information and new knowledge. And it was. Taking into account the grade level and time constraints, I initially chose to set up the wiki with regards to the layout and adding pages for each student group. Unfortunately the Linux software on the computers at the school isn't great for this kind of project, plus the fact the kids are denied access to most everything online made for some interesting, rip your hair out kind of sessions. Once the students had sorted through, decided on relevant information and recorded it, they began editing their own pages. Exploring aspects of their text like style of font, size, colour, etc., background colours, and adding images as well. A couple of groups found managing the text on their page quite easy and so I worked with them to add some links to places online where they had found some of their information. Throughout this entire experience I was astonished again and again at the level of engagement and excitement portrayed by the students even in moments of digital-agitation. Their cognitive processes were challenged during the research process, sifting through the mass amounts of information available online regarding honeybees. Then having to choose the pertinent information to record on their wiki to share with a global audience. These thought processes were fed constantly by their affective feelings of excitement and ambitious ideas. Proving once again that if students are not engaged, no authentic learning will be taking place.

Where am I now in regards to my learning about this tool, wiki's? I am quite confident in my ability to create one with students using any of the wiki creation sites such as Wikispaces, Wetpaint, or PB Works. I went back to the Honeybee Wiki to see if there was some way that I could use this space to demonstrate new knowledge of this tool, as is a requirement for these blog assignments. I decided to personalize my profile page as creator of the wiki, as I realized that I had not added anything about myself to the page. I had also not even added a picture of myself or other image to the page, and what remained was the grey, square-face image as a wikispace default. Following last week's discussion regarding customizing and personalizing our spaces on the web, I figured this might be a good way to update the wiki with my new knowledge. My profile page can be found here:

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of My Own Personal Learning

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." (Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder) This quote is at the beginning of Will Richardson's chapter on wikis. I read it a few times before I really began to think about what it meant. I have to admit that when I first learned a couple of years ago that anyone can edit pages on Wikipedia, I had my doubts regarding the reliability of the site. How do we possibly let students refer to information when they have no idea who actually wrote it? Since that time I have learned through various assignments and my own personal research for information that Wikipedia is in fact, quite reliable. Richardson refers to a professor at the University of Buffalo that posted thirteen different falsehoods on a variety of pages on Wikipedia and found that they were all fixed within a couple of hours, "Thankfully there are vastly more editors that want to make it right than those who want to make it wrong." (p. 56) In fact on page 59 of Richardson's book he notes that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, "has called Wikipedia one of the most accurate encyclopedias in the world."

I was very fortunate to attend a Professional Development day on Friday in Kamloops at Thompson Rivers University, Tech It Up! International 2009. The session was presented by School District 73 and TRU and featured some very impressive key-note speakers including Doug Johnson and Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg a high profile psychologist from Australia speaking on cybersafety and cyberbullying. Doug Johnson, with whom we are all familiar with through his Blue Skunk Blog, addressed the audience with his take on educating today's students with regards to technology. This generation, "Generation Y", he stated, are, "Differently moralled not immoral." He repeated this throughout his presentation along with the idea that it will be easier to change WHAT we are teaching versus changing the STUDENTS we are teaching. These Generation Y kids have always been around or immersed in technology, and whether we like it or not, students have and will continue to use sources like Wikipedia or other information wiki's out there to do their research. One of Johnson's slides that came up on the screen cited a study done that found 98% of the information found on Wikipedia was completely accurate. There were a lot of "holy cow's" and "you're kidding" in the room following that slide, as many of the teachers attending felt fairly uncomfortable when it came to integrating technology into the classroom. Johnson also talked about students being "engaged" versus "entertained." Students may be entertained while watching a video or typing a report on global warming, but they are not necessarily engaged. I believe that creating a classroom wiki or simply editing a page on Wikipedia about global warming is definitely going to engage a greater percentage of students. I wish I could talk about everything he said, but I should try to stay focused (if you click on Blue Skunk above it will take you to a post made by Johnson where he mentions the conference and some information around teacher-bullying.)

If I think of Wikipedia and the issue of copyright the social implications do seem to be somewhat of a challenge. Richardson suggests that wiki's, "follow closely the opensource software ideal that the quality of the collaborative produced product is more important than owning the idea or the code." (P. 59) Once students reach higher levels of education, though, formal citations and references are not only expected they are required. Therefore if students, myself included, find all this amazing, seemingly reliable information on Wikipedia or other valuable wiki's online, are they considered "quality resources" by professors? I would think they would have their place, provided recognized, academic sources were also cited.

A wiki created by former U of A Grad student, Tracy Poelzer, was provided to us via one of Joanne's trailfires, Wonderful Web 2.0 Tools. Tracy was also one of the session speakers at the Tech It Up conference I mentioned previously. I attended her session on "Voice-Thread" in which she used this wiki to present the information. I kinda had one of those epiphany moments where I thought, hey, here she is using a 'wiki' to share all these amazing tools with a group of professionals. She focused mostly on Voice-Thread and it's benefits with students (and family) and at the end we all brainstormed to try and think of different ways to incorporate this tool in the classroom. She was able to add others ideas, right there during the session. It was fairly engaging to say the least. It got me thinking of ways I could also use a wiki, professionally and personally. My husband's parents are trying to arrange a Christmas holiday for next year, here in Kamloops at SunPeaks Resort. Creating a wiki to plan and share information with the entire family would be a really easy way to keep track of everything, as we all live in different parts of B.C. Professionally, some of the staff at the elementary school in Chase are always asking me for ideas or sites they could use with their students. Again a wiki would be a great way to collaborate with staff to share ideas and resources. Ultimately, I think I have learned just how much wiki's do have to offer in terms of collaboration, engagement, reliable information and accessibility.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Professional Learning

As a teacher I do believe that creating a classroom wiki in whatever subject area or in whatever capacity will engage most students, perhaps even those reluctant to learn. Wiki's, "are often appealing and fun for students to use, while at the same time ideal for encouraging participation, collaboration, and interaction." This quote is from an article I found on Smart Teaching.Org that lists 50 ways to Use a Wiki for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom. There are some good examples listed that include: resource creation such as a class encyclopedia; student participation ideas like a portfolio or peer editing; classroom or group projects; and, community centered items such as creating a school tour or a page on local history. There is a plethora of information online regarding wiki's, their creation, their uses and their reliability. But, there are still a number of educators reluctant to explore these resources as a reputable information source. Last year when I asked my daughter's teacher if I could come in as a parent volunteer to create a wiki with them on their honeybee unit, she was interested, but cautious at the same time. I believe she said something like, "But can't anyone go on and add things or change the information? What if somebody puts something really inappropriate on there?" I explained that all of the sites we visited would be screened before hand to ensure their accuracy and appropriateness and that I could also restrict access to the wiki to only her class and myself. To validate her point though, I did create a spoof wiki with totally inaccurate information and images that had nothing to do with honeybees. I had built quite a bit of background information with the class on the honeybee and its role in the environment and prayed that when we went on the spoof wiki that someone would recognize the falsities. I almost jumped for joy when the first student said, "Mrs. Gartrell, this isn't true, bees don't have only two body parts!" Another student noticed their was a picture of a wasp instead of a honeybee and another screamed out, "Hey, they're saying pollination isn't a big deal. They're wrong!" So although these kids were only eight and nine years old, most of them realized that what they were reading was not factual. As educators we need to teach these critical analyzing skills that will enable our students to decide what information is authentic so that they can still explore and refer to these valuable wiki information sites.

An article written by Morgan & Smith (2008) in the Reading Teacher, A Wiki for Classroom Writing, discusses the different kinds of wikis that could be used in an elementary classroom.
According to the article, wikis are ultimately created to be authored by more than one person to improve collaboration between students and the teacher. "Classroom wikis, report wikis, school wiki sites, and interschool projects are just a few of the different types of wikis suitable for this population," which in this article is referring to elementary-age students. It is easy to envision a classroom wiki that is a space for students to create and showcase unlimited forms of authentic learning. From research topics, to multimedia projects where they can imbed images, video, podcasts and chat boxes to demonstrate and share their knowledge with not only the teacher, but family and the global community as well. Not to mention that students don't have to be at school to access their wiki. They can access it anywhere they can get online which would only increase student participation and engagement. In Morgan & Smith's experience, "The students noted the ease of composition, the deemphasis of error, the helpfulness of the collaboration, and the efficiency with which they were able to complete the assignments."

Another article I found in the "Teacher Librarian" focused on wikis and literacy by K. McPherson, was Wikis and Literacy Development (2006). It discussed the value of using public wikis as well as, "the students' ability to evaluate the authenticity and credibility of the wiki's information." I think this will be an important determinant in regards to persuading classroom teachers to explore the use of wiki's to supplement their classroom regime. If educators take the time to teach their students the skills they need to assess the information found on the wiki, I do believe there is an amazing amount of reliable information available for students at their fingertips. Providing they can all access the Internet, either at school or at home. As McPherson concludes his article, "Public wikis are valuable information sources that teacher-librarians can use to complement and further the width and breadth of literacy objectives developed in the classroom."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Days

Here is the poem, Fall Days, my daughter Ellie wrote the other day when the weather changed and the leaves started dropping. I thought this would be a great thing to share for my first podcast, and at the same time expose her to this technology.

Post #4: Podcasting EDES 501

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

When I began the process of learning about podcasting by reading Will Richardson's section on podcasting and following the four trailfires set out by Joanne, I felt pretty comfortable and confident. Ah-ha! There it was again, that "honeymoon" stage, which seems to be occurring quite regularly throughout my EDES 501 journey. Inevitably that honeymoon stage is always followed by those affective domain feelings of doubt, confusion, and anger. The Focus on Inquiry document created by Alberta Learning dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of reflecting on the "process of inquiry." These cognitive and affective domains can be incorporated into any kind of reflection and process of learning and there is a very good metacognition (thinking about your thinking) chart that outlines thoughts and feelings as students are introduced to something new (p.38-40). Sorry, back to my learning, though it was worth mentioning. Thinking to myself, hah, this seems pretty idiot-proof, all you need is a microphone, access to the web, and something to talk about. I downloaded Audacity with no problem, began playing around with recording myself singing, making inappropriate sounds etc.(if you ever saw Tom Hanks on SNL's Wayne's World with Aerosmith as a roady testing the microphone you'll appreciate that) and then tried to export a test podcast as an MP3 file.

I had quite easily downloaded Lame for Audacity and installed it, even got a message saying the installation was successful. I knew from reading Richardson's podcast section and also Joanne de Groot's "How to Create a Podcast" hand out (which I obtained at the Kamloops-Thompson TL Conference way back in 2007) that all I needed to do now was to go to "File" then "Export as MP3" save it on my computer as an MP3 file and then upload it to my blog. Easy-squeazy, right? Yeah right! I spent A LOT of time over a few days trying to figure out what I was doing wrong or what step I was missing to no avail. A resounding, "Could not open MP3 encoding library" appeared over and over and over . . . I did feel a little better when I found out a few of my classmates were having the same difficulties. Misery loves company!

When I began the exploration of podcasting I had really only listened to a few and had never created one myself. I listened to Joanne's podcast at the beginning of the course where she described the course in detail and also to a couple while exploring a few of the blogs recommended by Joanne. Will Richardson gave some examples of some podcasts that were created by kids for kids like "Radio Willow Web" (P. 113-114) and "Coleycasts" (P. 114). He also suggested to check out the education podcasts available from iTunes. I accessed StoryNory from the iTunes site and my kids and I listened to a couple of stories narrated by "Natasha" with her cool accent. Their favourites being "The Midas Touch" and "The Frog Prince." They wanted more, but I had to get back to work. Here's the link if you want to get your kids hooked: .

Now at the end of my reflection on the process of learning about the tool, I do feel I have made quite a bit of progress. I'm comfortable accessing a variety of podcasts, sharing them with family and friends, and also creating them and embedding them into my blog. Yes . . . I finally did it. Joanne's advice to move all the Lame files into the Audacity file worked . . . eventually. I did have to try it a few times to figure out where it was saved and where to send it, but I did it! And I think I could do it again! How's that for learning!

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of My Own Personal Learning

As a learner in regards to podcasting my biggest stumbling block was converting the Audacity file into a MP3 file as discussed above. Thanks to Joanne's advice of moving all the Lame files into my Audacity folder, I was finally able, after a few attempts, to archive my podcast and embed it into my blog. It was fairly easy to create the podcast, though it's not fancy, and embed it into my post thanks to Annabelle's link to "How to Embed a Podcast into Blogger." Thanks Annabelle.

Having my daughter share her poem via the podcast also allowed me to expose her to the technology as well. We had a lot of fun and laughs recording our first podcast together. It's remarkable how embarrassed we both felt listening to our recorded voices. I wonder why so many people dislike listening to themselves on recording devices? Along with the podcast, I was also able to scan her poem and download it onto our computer, which I then added to my blog. She was pretty excited to see her poem published online and listen to the podcast as well. I was fairly proud of myself as well at finally having succeeded in getting the podcast onto my blog.

I definitely intend on sharing this part of my blog post with her grandparents. Though when I think of using podcasting to stay connected with our family, it is more likely that we will continue using Skype to "see" and "talk" with one another.

On the other hand, my kids loved listening to the Story Nory podcasts. I do see us continuing to use podcasting in this way, listening as opposed to creating. As Richardson point out, "The success of podcasting comes from the fact that not only are they east to create, they are easy to consume as well" (p. 111). He also points out how easy it is to download podcasts onto your iPod or MP3 player and take it with you to listen to perhaps as a commuter or at a later time. This took me way back to the early 90's when I was taking a Human Anatomy course at university and was required to memorize every bone, muscle, nerve, blood vessel, artery, etc. in the human body. My strategy was to record myself reading my all of my study cards onto a tape, plugging it into my walkman, and then heading out for a really long walk or run. And it worked! Not only did I memorize it all, I got into pretty good shape, too! Talk about a win-win situation.

In the end after all my trial and errors and exploration of podcasting, I feel my learning was indeed extended. I would be quite confident creating another podcast and taking the necessary steps to share it. I certainly learned a lot about saving, finding, and exporting different kinds of files and I noticed when reading the instructions on how to embed the podcast I knew what I was doing. So . . . some things are definitely getting easier!

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Teaching & Learning

In terms of implementing podcasting as a teacher or teacher-librarian it's pretty easy to get excited about using this technology with students. Having just witnessed my daughter's total engagement in the creation of our small podcast, I can only imagine the excitement if students were able to make a classroom podcast that was updated regularly and published for anyone to read. Suddenly their audience shifts from only their teacher to anybody who finds their way onto the class podcast or blog. In his article "Classroom Audio Podcasting," Wesley A. Fryer explores how teachers can motivate their students to write or want to write through the use of classroom podcasting. "One of the most basic and powerful ways to increase student motivation to write and communicate is to change student perceptions of audience." Perhaps through podcasting we can reach those students who are not motivated to write just to impress the teacher and get a good grade. Staff at both the high school and elementary schools here in Chase are noticing that students are satisfied with just doing enough to get a passing grade. Maybe the thought of a "global audience" will engage more students to get writing. Fryer does mention that some administrators may be somewhat hesitant to the fact that students are sharing their audio podcasts directly online. My thought on that, I think the benefits greatly outnumber the risks. In most cases the educator would be apprised of what is being podcast to the web. As well, Fryer states, "The potential of publishing for a global audience is precisely the characteristic of podcasts which gives them so much motivational power for student writing."

Fryer's article can be found at Tools for the TEKS: Integrating Technology in the Classroom, He covers quite a bit in the 8 pages including the definition of podcasting and 10 benefits of podcasting in the classroom. Important and on everybody's mind is the fact that podcasting is relatively inexpensive. Cost is most likely the first question admin will ask the teacher or teacher-librarian if they are wanting to implement a new technology into the classroom or library program. The only equipment that may need to be purchased is the microphone, and most schools have one of these already. He mentions free downloadable programs like Audacity, Podifier, and Creative Commons that will enable students to create, archive, and share their podcasts. The fifth benefit of classroom podcasting, is that it "provides a window into the classroom." This would be a terrific way for the teacher and students to share what they are learning, researching and creating at school with parents and community members. I would also think it would help with student confidence when it comes to public speaking. Listening to themselves on their podcasts they can really evaluate their speech in terms of how fast they talk, how loud or quiet they are, how they enunciate words, etc. Most students experience a tremendous amount of fear getting up in front of their peers to deliver a speech. Perhaps podcasting would be one strategy to help overcome their fears.

Fryer also discusses privacy concerns and copyright issues. Privacy issues would not be too much of a concern as the students do not have to give their name if they wish to remain anonymous and also images are not included in podcasts. Copyright issues come into play if students want to download music into a podcast, but Fryer offers sources such as Podsafe Music Network and FreePlay Music for these instances. Also, classroom podcasting can allow students to learn about Creative Commons licensing as well

From a student perspective, podcasting is fun to create, but can also be an excellent tool for reinforcement and studying. Khe Hew in his research paper, "Use of Audio Podcast in K-12 and Higher Education: A review of research topics and methodologies," (June 2009) found that the most common uses of podcasting was: 1) Instructors podcasting lectures or supplementary materials, and 2) Material for students to review and listen to again as many times needed if they don't understand something or missed it completely. I can attest to that as a student, listening to Joanne's podcast, pausing it take notes, and the same for the" . . . In Plain English" videos we have been watching on the various Web 2.0 tools. I cannot imagine listening to all this information ONCE in a lecture and not being able to go back to listen to again and again.

I found another good article in Academic Search Complete by S.E. Kramer, "Instructor How-To Tech Guide: Podcasts," outlining how podcasts work and that they give students a voice and build independence. Kramer talks about a class, Coulee Kids from Wisconsin, that published a series of four podcasts to troops in Iraq called Letters to Soldiers. Also interviews with a group of women in the community, The League of Voters. Talk about real, engaging, genuine "Inquiry" learning. Not the old regurgitate the textbook kind of learning that is still prevalent in some classrooms today. Once again, the teacher of Coulee Kids, Jeanne Halderson feels, "Having a real audience is the biggest benefit. If they're just handing an assignment to a teacher, it's not a big deal, but if everyone in the world can hear it, it ups the ante." Kramer also lists some useful tips for podcasting in the classroom which may be helpful for those who have not tried it with their students:

I have talked to my daughter's grade 4 teacher about working with class on some kind of technology. Last year I created a wiki on Honeybee's with her grade 3 class and it was an amazing experience. They were always excited to see me and work on their wiki. I believe podcasting might be the right choice this year. As I mentioned earlier it's relatively easy and inexpensive. Finding the time to get in there and do it will probably be the most challenging part! But, definitely worth it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Post #3 Social Bookmarking (EDES 501)

Reflections on the Process of Learning About the Tool

I had mentioned in a previous post that I was mostly unfamiliar with Twitter and Social Bookmarking. Twitter . . . I am still on the fence, probably have not given it enough time or attention yet to reap the rewards. But, Social Bookmarking . . . man, I wish I had looked into this a long time ago! What a great notion, sharing useful and meaningful information with everyone. I can already see the frustration of finding relevant, educational references melting away. As I also mentioned in my last post, I seem to be fairly challenged when it comes to searching databases for recent research on our topics. I really think social bookmarking will improve my chances of further reading beyond our required and recommended texts.

I really respect the idea that people are willing to share their research efforts and not necessarily concerned with receiving any credit for doing so. Through social bookmarking we are "creating our own community of researchers that is gathering relevant information for us" (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts p. 89). It truly is a win, win situation.

I was truly excited when I began reading the section on 'Social Bookmarking Services' in Will Richardson's book. When I watched the Common Craft video (I love those), I was quite excited to get onto delicious and sign up. The steps for joining were very basic as the video had mentioned and after I had added some buttons and transferred over my personal bookmarks I began my first search. My first search, "Social Bookmarking in the classroom." Long story short, I didn't get past exploring the first result. The site was Web 2.0 Tools and Applications - G02web20. On this site there are 65 pages of Web 2.0 tools and applications listed and introduced. Simply moving your mouse over each icon produces a small summary of what you will find at that particular site. As Joanne mentioned, we are truly just skimming the surface in the world of Web 2.0. I actually asked my husband to come over and check it out - I felt like I had struck gold! Needless to say I bookmarked the site, if you're interested here it is: .

At this point I feel fairly confident in my ability to continue to use delicious to bookmark and share resources. I am still exploring all the tools and what seems to me "advanced" items on the website. I did experience a little frustration trying to search the delicious site the other day and finding the information I was looking for. My frustrations I think came from the way people are tagging sites. A topic I will discuss further on in my post.

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of My Own Personal Learning

Personally I see myself using social bookmarking as a way of keeping track of things that my family and I are interested in. New and interesting educational sites, athletic and sporting event sites (we are always looking for affordable Canucks & Lions tickets), and websites that will help us store and manage our family digital photos and videos are definitely ways I can incorporate social bookmarking into my personal life. I can also share particular sites with friends that have the same interests or hobbies as me, which may also lead me to others around the world with similar interests. In turn could lead me on a new, but related path on shared interests. In one of the articles I read, 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking, by Cyprien P. Lomas from the University of Queensland, he states, "These kinds of tools also encourage users to keep coming back because the folksonomy and the collection of resources are constantly changing." And, obviously, as it states in Will Richardson's book and every article I looked at on Social Bookmarking, your bookmarks are available to you any time regardless of where you are and what computer you are using. Although it is yet another online site that requires the user to maintain and update information, I really the believe the time you'll save searching for information and having the sites you need wherever you are, will still allow you to manage your time better. In another wiki I found on Social bookmarking, classroom 2dot0, it also suggested to subscribe others bookmarks using RSS. I guess then when that user bookmarks another site it will be posted on your RSS feed to decide whether you want to keep it or not.

Why wouldn't anyone want to use social bookmarking? Well, I found an article in D-Lib Magazine, from January 2006 authored by Marieke Guy and Emma Tonkin that addressed some of the issues "academics" are having with the non-traditional classification system of "tagging." Their article entitled, Folksonomies - Tidying up Tags?, first caught my eye because I had read about "folksonomy" versus "taxonomy" in Richardson's book. Also in a previous article I mentioned (7 Things . . .) Lomas referred to a folksonomy as being, "A community of users over time that will develop a unique structure of keywords to define their resources." Guy and Tonkin discuss the notion of "sloppy" or ill-defined tags used in social bookmarking, which people who like more formal classification systems do not agree with. These "academics" do not assent to "the uncontrolled and chaotic set of tagging terms that do not support searching as effectively as more controlled vocabularied do."

I mention this notion of "sloppy" tags because as I had mentioned in the first part of my reflection I had some trouble searching for specific information on Delicious using others' tags. Guy and Tonkin outlined some of the most common problems when tagging a site, but also had some suggestions on how to improve tags. Common mistakes included incorrect spelling, odd word groupings, tags that are too personal and do not mean anything to anyone else, and single-use tags. Their suggestions for improvement came from Ulises Ali Mejias, another author on social bookmarking, who created a "best practices" for tag selection. This included: using plurals instead of singulars, using lower case, grouping words using an underscore, following tag conventions started by others, and adding synonyms. I guess the question is how to get all users to use this or similar guidelines when tagging their sites? One thing I did learn was to check out the user's other bookmarks and tags to see how relevant their sites would be in regards to my research. Is this an issue - or will folksonomies and tagging soon replace traditional classification systems?

Discussion of the Tool in Terms of Teaching & Professional Learning

I really believe that teacher-librarians and classroom teachers should be able to incorporate social bookmarking into their classes. Signing up for and using sites such as Delicious is something all teachers should be able to do. I can imagine some of my colleagues proclaiming they won't be able to do this - it's amazing how second nature that response is from some of them, even though they haven't even tried it! The steps are easy to follow and you really can't 'wreck' anything. A teacher or teacher-librarian would be able to tailor bookmarks to meet individual classroom needs and research topics. As a teacher-librarian, I could see myself collaborating with another teacher to create a list of sites for the assignment and then tagging them for student access at school or at home. Implementing a site like Delicious into the classroom would enable the students to then find additional sites to bookmark for their own topics, and perhaps help others by tagging sites for their classmates and their topics.

Citeulike is a social bookmarking site for academic papers and references that was referred to in 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking, previously mentioned. I accessed this site, did not join right away, but performed a search on Web 2.0 which resulted in over 800 results - all academic! I am sure many of you have heard of this site, but I had not, and was pretty excited to find it. If you would like to visit, here it is: This is a wiki that I found with some information on social bookmarking as well as a link to a Classroom 2.0 Ning where there is a discussion forum on Web 2.0 uses in the classroom and a fairly good teacher tutorial on Web 2.0. This looks like a good place to ask questions not only on social bookmarking but on most Web 2.0 applications. There is also a sample lesson plan on using Delicious with an intermediate to grade seven aged group of students. The wiki professes that, "It may become less important to know and remember where information was found and more important to know how to retrieve it." Social bookmarking will no doubt increase our chances on retrieving the information we really need to find.

The author of the wiki also discusses the benefits of social bookmarking with your class and the ability to find other classes from around the globe that may be researching a similar topic or have similar interests and further knowledge. Important issues that are being explored right now at my daughter's school are environmental issues including global warming, earth status, and providing clean drinking water for families on the other side of the world. It's hard to imagine the impact social bookmarking could have on researching topics like these. People from around the world possess a multitude of meaningful information on these topics and now thanks to social bookmarking, it can be easily shared.

I was in the library at the high school here in Chase and there was a Social Studies 10 class using the library to research a topic. If you can imagine the most traditional way of "researching" this would have been it. They were all researching different topics such as the Whiskey Trade, Underground Railroad, etc. and most of them were looking only at print material. I'm not saying print material is irrelevant, but some of the sources must have been there since the school opened and written for that age as well. There was a handful of students on computers performing a google search and bringing up some content on their topics, but had two other tabs opened to play games and check out Facebook. The classroom teacher did not venture towards the bank of computers once during the hour the class was there, so you can imagine how much "researching" was accomplished. In this example I can clearly see the benefits of teacher collaboration and social bookmarking. My mind was reeling with ideas and applications I could be using with that class. But as a TOC that day, I needed to tread lightly. You learn quickly which teachers you can lend suggestions to, some even seek out advice, and those that are offended by the same suggestions. Don't even get me started on the actual research, regurgitate type assignment they were engaged in (actually not engaged in). Having completed the Focus on Inquiry course, my outlook on "research" assignments has shifted tremendously. Okay, refocus, back to social bookmarking and this Socials 10 class. If the Social Studies teachers of the school and the librarian could make time to get together and create social bookmarking accounts for their department, they could create an incredible database on a vast array of specific topics within their subject area. The number of resources would grow immenseley if every teacher were on board and dedicated to adding and updating the account. I think this would be exciting for all academic departments within the school.

Finally, the classroom 2dot0 wiki mentioned other benefits for students using social bookmarking. Once the teacher has gone through and found the relevant sites for his/her students and the assignment, the teacher then shares the bookmarks with the class which "gives students a live link" to access the information. Last year I created a wiki with my daughter's class on Honeybees and in order for the students to access the sites I had found they each had to type in the URL into the address bar. Let me tell you, it took quite awhile for a class of grade 3 students to get onto the correct site. Also, it would "let students choose from a variety of accessible links, making for productive research." When I do create another wiki with a class I will definitely be using the benefits of social bookmarking.