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.