Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Horizons

taken from Flickr.com,  www.flickr.com/photos/urbmtl/3867283811/
Embarking on this journey, I took my first steps with trepidation and wondered in which direction to head.  Reminds me of a family trip to the Gaspe.  One day when looking for hiking trails, we came across one that climbed the edge of limestone cliffs, and lead to an observation tower almost 1 000 feet above sea level.  Because of shin splints, I wasn’t too sure whether I could achieve such a feat, but I tried just the same.  Although painful at times, I carried on and we reached our destination.  What a breathtaking view!  It certainly provided quite a different perspective of the coast from that at sea level.  Although I questioned by times whether what I was doing was such a good idea, I was well rewarded and felt eager to carry on and explore further trails.  Very much like my experience with this course.  There were several times I was faced with challenges and wondered whether I could continue.  But now that the end of the course is upon us, I realize just how far I have come, how much I have grown and learned and how energized I feel to further explore these tools and to integrate them into my own teaching... and learning.

Learning by doing... the premise for this course.  In fact, the premise for everything this course is about...    the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom to develop digital literacy skills which include communication, collaboration, and reflection.  Here's a snapshot of my learning, including highlights, lowlights, AHA moments and future plans...

Photo sharing


1.  Photo sharing tools allow you to create albums and multimedia shows that can be shared
2.  Flickr.com -  A site for storing and sharing photos and videos.  Provides an annotate feature where you may add notes to parts of the image
3.  Smilebox.com – An online slideshow tool which has fun, animated templates to choose from


1.  Creativity limited.  Inexperience working with digital cameras, few resources to choose from
2.  Overlooked idea of editing and adjusting images before uploading
3.  Tried Kizoa.com but had difficulty downloading pictures

Future Learning/Integration into Classroom

1.  Further explore use of Flickr, particularly the Creative Commons, how it can launch learning activities and conversations
2.  Check out Bubblr.com (a tool where you can make comic strips from photos and dialogue with thought bubbles) for use in class

Video sharing


1.  Video sharing tools are valuable in that they provide a different medium for learning and demonstrating learning
2.  Both YouTube.com and TeacherTube.com are video-sharing sites on which users can upload, share and view videos.
3.  Although there are some contentious issues with YouTube, teachers may easily embed videos into blogs and wikis so students may navigate safely
4.  Use Windows Movie Maker 2.1 to create movies.  Use Mydeo.com as a link to show your videos on a website


1.  Again had limited amount of video footage to use to create a video.
2.  Took some time “fiddling” to customize text within the video

 Future Learning/Integration into Classroom

1.  Look further into possibilities of video sharing i.e. StoryTubes as a book trailer to showcase students’ learning; documenting interviews; My Community Project

Social Bookmarking


1.  Bookmarking tools provide a “method for internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online” (Wikipedia)
2.  AHA! A valuable alternative to “My Favourites”.  The “online” feature provides much better access to resources, particularly when you are not able to work on your home computer.
3.  Using Diigo.com, one can easily bookmark sites, highlight important information and add tags for quick retrieval.  Group feature allows you to share resources with others
4.  Evernote provides an additional feature, allowing users to preview homepage of bookmarked link.


1.  Explored tools but did not put them into practise
2.  Regarding Evernote, was unable to find how to share resources, other than through email.

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  Make more of an attempt to use social bookmarking sites for managing research
2.  Look further into connecting with others that have similar interests and can share/be part of group
3.  Explore teaching students how to use this tool in their own inquiries.



1.  Another valuable medium for learning and sharing knowledge.  An effective evaluation tool whereby students may self-evaluate their own efforts.
2.  Audacity is a free, open source software for recording and editing sounds which is free to use and has room for much creativity
3.  CCmixter.org provides royalty free music clips that may be embedded into podcasts
4.  Podomatic.com transferred audio files into a podcast relatively easily.


1. Could create audio files but had difficulty transferring into a podcast.   School computers would not permit me to download features (like Quick Time) to listen to or create MP3 files.  This part had to be done at home.

Future Learning/Integration into Classroom

1.  Seize opportunities to create podcasts with students i.e. as a testimonial to their learning of how to play a recorder.   “Students (who) eagerly and actively participate in the creation of content-rich podcasts and those who publish their podcasts publicly are quickly connected to the world community in ways never before possible” (E.K. Eash, 2006, p. 18).



1.  One of my favourite Web 2.0 tools.  Wikis invite collaboration;  content is easily organized but still has room for creativity; features may be added such as images, videos, links; layout and design may be customized; demonstrates learning; promotes discussion
2.  Wikispaces is easy to navigate


1.  Other than issues of embedding features onto wikis, have had very positive experiences

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  Explore further use of/creation of wikis both with students and colleagues
2.  With increased personal use of Wikipedia, teach students about Wikipedia and how to use it wisely
3.  Research wiki etiquette, principles and elements of usage and fair use of multimedia products

Presentation/Multimedia Sharing


1.  Multimedia tools allow for creative use of a combination of different content forms i.e., text, audio, images, animation, and video
2.  Animoto  is a “shockingly easy” tool which creates a video montage of photos, video clips, and music.
3.  Glogster provides a unique and engaging way of creating interactive posters.
4.  Thoroughly enjoyed playing with these tools and can only imagine how much students would enjoy interacting with them.


1.  Must seek special permission from school board to download software (i.e. Flash Player)
2.  Sometimes encountered difficulties watching videos.  With several patrons still using dial up, this may be an issue of

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  Explore other presentation/multimedia tools such as Prezi, VoiceThread and Google Earth
2.  Look for opportunities for students to use Glogster.  Explore Glogster Edu further to create student accounts.

Social Networking


1.  Social networking refers to connecting with others online through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  “. . . these platforms usually involve some kind of grouping... and forming networks that range in size and scope from the very small and personal to the vast, international, and professional” (Kist, 2010, p. 2)
2.  Teacher Library Ning  and Shelfari both provide excellent opportunites to connect with others who have common interests


1.  School board denies access to Facebook
2..  Challenges in participating on a regular basis as computer lab must be shared with the entire school

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  For professional purposes, be more of an active participant on both Shalfari and TLNing (i.e. take part in TL Cafe
2.  Research ways for students to share personal reading, find book reviews of others, through Shelfari or Scholastic’s new social networking site, You Are What You Read



1.  “Twitter is an online social network that asks participants to update their “followers” as to what they are doing in fewer than 140 characters” (Kist, 2010, p. 3).
2.  AHA!  To help meet the 140 character limit, use symbols and sites such as TinyURL or BIT.LY to shorten links
3.  Use TweetDeck to help organize and channel tweets in columns so they are easier to follow
4.  With some creativity, Twitter can be used within the classroom as a means of engaging students in their learning; connecting and collaborating with others; showcasing their learning


1.  Due to personal time management issues and poor internet connections, I did not participate fully and was unable to grasp the capabilities of Twitter

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  Make an effort to continue to “tweet” and build “followers” as a means of connecting and learning from others.

Blogging and RSS feeds


1.  Blogs are similar to websites in that they present information but are different in that others may respond/comment on this information and a conversation may ensue.
2.  Platforms such as Blogger may be customized to include various multimedia tools
3.  Blogging may also act as an online diary whereby writers may reflect on things such as their thinking, their learning, or thir ideas.
4.  Google Reader is an invaluable tool which collects RSS feeds (albeit from other bloggers or news feeds) to help manage information one is interested in following


1.  Even with the help of an aggregator, there is still a vast amount of information to sift through
2.  Experienced challenges in sharing personal thoughts with others in a “public” online setting

Future Learning/Integration into the Classroom

1.  I plan to make time to continue to follow bloggers as a means of professional development
2.  I champion the efforts of Kristie to develop a class blog (Way to go Kristie... keep it up!).  I plan to speak with my principal to discuss the possibility of my class creating its own class blog.
3.  Although this has been an invaluable experience and I see the rewards of blogging, I will take some time to reflect on where I will go from here, personally.

Learning from Fellow Classmates

Courses such as these reinforce the power of interacting with others.  Discussions with fellow classmates have not only provided me with some valuable links and ideas that will help in my teaching but discussions also raised questions and challenged me to ponder my own thinking about my teaching.  Discussions on reading and writing on the internet have prompted me to step back and rethink my approach to teaching these subjects.  Considering our new digital era and how students are now consuming information and producing information (or publishing), allowances need to be made in the classroom to help students meet the needs as the 21st century learners... to become better citizens of the world.

Sharing my Learning with Colleagues

Many of my colleagues feel quite overwhelmed with the idea of integrating technology into their classrooms, just as I did.  With the increasing demands of the curriculum, lack of support at the administrative level and a shortage of computers in the classroom, fellow colleagues are not prepared to meet that challenge.

Susan Boss (2008) outlines some very helpful, practical suggestions on how teachers may confront these hurdles.  Here’s how I see these suggestions applying to my situation:

1.  Innovate with the tools you already have
              - Do the best with what we have
              - Design professional development projects to allow time for developing ideas on how best to integrate technology into our classrooms

2.  Seek out free, easy-to-use tool digital resources
              - Continue to seek webcasts, podcasts and other vehicles for professional development

3.  Overcome fear... learn from one another... see what other educators are teaching in different ways
              -  I like the idea of creating rituals.  Ask principal to set aside “short” bits of time to give teachers time to show something cool the students have done
              - Choose a favourite unit (i.e. hockey) and collaborate with a fellow colleague to see how we could “infuse” technology into the learning

4.  Small, Fast Projects
              - With a need to be successful early, I could share some Multimedia/Presentation tools with staff that are easy to use and may be integrated into various subjects at different levels

5.  Learn side by side with students
              - Give students the opportunity to share what they know, what they are passionate about and be open to learn alongside them

Finally, looking out from the top of the observation tower, I view the horizon from a different perspective.  To my left and right are many new hills to conquer.  And behind me are the thousands of steps that brought me to this new place.  I am exhilarated with my accomplishments and with my new knowledge, I look forward to scaling the next mountain!


Boss, S. (2008).  Overcoming technology barriers:  How to innovate without extra money or support.  Edutopia.  Retrieved online from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-how-to-implement-classroom

Eash, E.K. (2006).  Podcasting 101 for K – 12 librarians.  Computers in Education, vol. 26, no. 4, p. 16-21.

Kist, @.  The socially networked classroom:  Teaching in the new media age.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Richardson, W.  Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging and RSS Feeds

The Daily Me.  This is an expression which has been coined to refer to the “collections of news and features that are personalized to your interests” (W. Richardson, 2009, p. 72) through online RSS feeds.  At this moment, I think this expression is fitting because “the daily me” of today is very different from what it was a year ago and because I have entered the world of blogging.

As described in Wikipedia, blogging may either provide commentary or “news” on a particular topic or may function more as a personal online diary.  Before starting my graduate level courses, “blogs” and “blogging” were only terms I had heard in passing.  I have since then created an e-portfolio type blog through Wordpress, which showcases some of my learning to date.  When presented with the challenge of creating a blog for the purposes of this course, I decided to try Blogger.  Not only because it was an opportunity to try something new but because of its simplicity. It seems to be amongst one of the top recommended blogging platforms to use for both personal and education purposes.

Learning about blogs... learning from blogging

Like many other Web 2.0 tools, signing up for an account included choosing a URL address, a password and a name for my blog.  Once established, I could then begin personalizing the design, from layout to background to the addition of gadgets (i.e. bloglist, followers).  Then came the prospect of composing and publishing posts.  Although the first was fairly basic, it was the posts thereafter that posed a challenge.  Although both of my blogs essentially showcase my learning and my thinking, there was another dimension to this one.   Not only were “assignments” being posted directly to my blog, but I was also to write in a different voice than that of an “academic”.  As W. Richardson (2009) states, “[blogs] are comprised of reflections and conversations (. . .)” (p. 17).  He continues to say that, “blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links.  They ask readers to think and to respond.  They demand interacting“(p. 18).  Demand interacting.  Gulp.  For someone who is rather quiet and accustomed to “sitting on the sidelines”, observing and interjecting by times, this was a hard pill  to swallow.  But for the purposes of this course and for both my own personal and professional development, I tried to stay optimistic and took the bull by the horn.

Creating posts seemed fairly straight forward in that I could simply copy and paste from a word document.  But after previewing others’ blogs, it seemed that links were often included.  And again as W. Richardson (2009) points out, “being able to connect ideas and resources via linking is one of Weblogging’s most important strengths” (p. 19).  Over time, I explored this feature and others, which included adjusting text amd adding images, video clips and screen shots.  Sometimes these features could be easily embedded in my blog, either directly or by providing embedding codes.  Eventually, this process became easier as I had a better idea of what to look for.

But now, if I look beyond the learning of how to navigate within this tool, there is the question as posed by W. Kist  (2010), “how does keeping a blog improve your learning (or not improve it)?” (p. 61).  Having reflected on my readings and the new knowledge I gained, I not only synthesized the information but also connected it with prior knowledge and judged its’ relevance to my existing situation.  Blogging was encouraging me to stop and think.  Reflect.  Question.  Assess. Make decisions.  Make plans.  It was taking me in a new (hopefully better) direction.  And then, let’s not forget, the learning I was gaining from other bloggers.

Learning about RSS... learning from bloggers

From the onset of the course, I set up an account with Google Reader.  Google Reader is an online “aggregator” , which collects news and information, otherwise known as RSS feeds, or “real simple syndication”.  In other words, instead of having to search online to find websites or blogs you are interested in, you can simply “subscribe” to these news and information sources and they will come directly to your account.  I discovered that there are a few different ways to subscribe:

1.  Through the “add subscription” feature on the home page
2.  By looking for and clicking on the infamous “orange” icon within a site
3.  Searching by keywords through the Google News or Blog options

It’s quite amazing.  And a wonderful management tool at that.  But then came the question of when and how to find the time to read these updates.  Like the idea of reading the morning paper, W. Richardson (2009) recommends finding some time each day to read the “feeds”.  For personal reasons, I didn’t think this was going to be possible but I did decide to try to make a regular habit of reading during my lunch hour.  Although it often seemed that something would “pop up”, I tried my best to keep up with them.  But then it was a question of “how do I possibly read all of these feeds?”  I liked that the feeds were listed in a column, which showed the title of the blog and the first few words.  This usually gave me some indication of whether this was something I wanted to pursue or not.  If it did look like something I was interested in, I could simply click on the link to the blog and continue reading from there.  Some of the blogs were short and quite concise while others were quite extensive.  Nonetheless, I liked that I could “star” the items (and add tags) if I wanted to read them more closely at another time.  From there I would mark the rest as “read” and wait for the next batch.

As I soon discovered, this format of “consuming” information was somewhat different from that of “searching” for information online.  Although it may not have addressed a particular question that I was seeking information about, some of the information in these blogs was intriguing in that it was relevant to my interests and to my teaching.  Both The Unquiet Librarian and the NeverEnding Search blogs provided interesting school librarian accounts of information including Glogster ideas or videos updating  experiences introducing kindles in the school library.  The Innovative Educator was always providing unique and creative ways of integrating technology in the classroom.  And then there’s The Dewey Divas and The Dudes, a group of Canadian publishers’ reps, who kept me (keep me) up to date on latest kids and adult publications and book recommendations.  But as with many of my encounters reading online, I was often lead astray by clicking on interesting links.  Of course, this extended the amount of time I spent online, which in turn interfered with the blogs I had intended on reading.  This is often an issue for me and is one that I must improve upon, whether it be through self-discipline or acquiring the skill of skimming and scanning more efficiently!

Personal and Classroom Use

When thinking about blogging for personal reasons, I can’t help but remember one blog I came across written by a mother to her daughter.  She expressed her sincere feelings of one boys tragic suicide and pleaded for her daughter to find  that certain special someone whom she could confide in no matter what the circumstances.  And to always remember that times do get better.  Although I thought what she said was beautiful (as did others who left comments), personally this is something I would rather do in person, and if not possible, through a more direct means of contact (email or letter).  And as for blogging my learning, that is something I will have to consider when things become a little let hectic and I feel I am ready to take that step.  I will, however, definitely continue to get blog updates to stay abreast of the current trends that will help in my teaching and learning.

As for in the classroom, I can see where RSS feeds will be of a particular help in consuming information to prepare for our inquiry project, “The Changing Behaviours of the Animals of our Region”.  By simply conducting an advanced search through Google News, I am now receiving feeds from various sources that discuss the effects of climate change on animals. By modeling and teaching the students about RSS aggregators, they may also track feeds that concern their particular animal of interest.  As W. Richardson (2009) illustrates, in order for students to be adept at meeting challenges of the 21st century, they must be able to “consistently collect potentially relevant information for their lives and careers and quickly discern what of that information is most useful (. . .)” (p. 73).

Fellow classmates have embarked on using class blogs and this is something I would like to consider as well.  Just as I have discovered, "blogging can teach critical reading and writing skills and it can lead to greater information management skills.  It can help students become much more media and information literate by clarifying the choices they make about the content they write about (. . .). (W. Richardson, 2009, p. 36).  But I do have several questions as to how we would achieve this.  Could we manage with only one laptop in the classroom? What would we share on the blog?  How often should we post?  Digitally Speaking is a wiki which provides some great insight into Web 2.0 tools and gives practical examples of how these tools may be integrated into the classroom.   One example is that of Teaching Tips for Blogging Projects.

 What intrigues me the most about blogging is that it becomes a personal archive of my thinking and learning and provides an opportunity to interact with others of similar interests.


Kist, W. (2010).  The socially networked classroom:  Teaching in the new media ago.  Thousand Oak, CA:  Corwin.
Richardson, W. (2009).  Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

So do you follow Twitter? Do you use it as a forum for personal or professional use?

Other than having heard or seen the word Twitter in the media, this was my first exposure to a “Twitter” conversation amongst fellow classmates. The general consensus was that for those who did follow Twitter, it was primarily for professional use. Knowing that my daughter followed Facebook as a means to staying connected with family and friends, I automatically assumed that Twitter was a similar platform but as it seemed, used more as a communication tool to stay connected with “professional” acquaintances. I immediately dismissed the idea of following Twitter... I did not have any professional acquaintances that followed Twitter. Isn’t it interesting though, several months later, now having explored what Twitter is really all about, perceptions change.

Twitter Launch

First steps involved the creation of an account with Twitter and customization of settings, which was fairly straight forward. As with any new online tool, I preferred to provide only minimal details with regards to profile and bio information. I subscribed to follow the people required for our course, using the search option within the “finding people” area. Instantly, messages started appearing... and appearing. I soon realized that these short messages were written differently in that they included a mixture of letters and symbols. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Okay, what does that mean?” “What are they referring to?” Knowing that I was more than likely going to have even more questions, I thought I had better do some research and learn more about this tool. Before signing out, I shared my first “tweet”... “First time on Twitter”. I wasn’t sure what to expect the next time I visited...

Digging Deeper

Kist (2010) describes Twitter as “an online social network that asks participants to update their “followers” as to what they are doing in fewer than 140 characters“ (p. 3). (Well, that would explain the short messages). Again I wondered, what does one do if they can’t write the message in less than 140 characters? Thanks to a link provided by Lissa on her blog, I soon found some very helpful information that would clarify things somewhat. In a nutshell, here is what I learned;

1. “Twitter can help [these] strangers come together to create a community built on communication and collaboration dedicated to making learning" (Ferguson, 2010, p. 12).
2. When people you follow post something, it appears in your Twitter “stream”.
3. You may search for people you want to learn from by their name or by a keyword of interest.
4. You can simply watch and listen to the messages or “tweets”, click on links and learn. There’s no need to join the conversation until you are ready.
5. When you like something that is posted, “retweet”. The more you “retweet”, the more people will follow you.
6. When you join the conversation, begin by sharing ideas and links to sites of interest to you.
7. By using a “hashtag” in your tweet, it will give you more exposure.
                                                                                            (Ferguson, 2010, p. 12-15).

What was a hashtag? As it appears in the Twitter Twerminology, a hashtag is a “discussion stream aggregating tweets on a given topic” (McClintock-Miller, 2010, p. 18).

Return “Twips” to Twitter

Upon the next several visits to Twitter, I discovered that i had a few followers! And some were people I was not familiar with, or so I thought. As it turns out, one of the “twits” was a fellow classmate under a pseudonym.  But the other was a reply from Stephen Abram, welcoming me to Tweetland! Very thoughtful! I also used these opportunities to find more people to follow, to read some of the “tweets” and to explore links. I felt quite reassured by what Ferguson had said in that it’s okay to watch from the "banks of the stream" until you feel comfortable to take part in the conversations. In life, I tend to be that type of person. Only I was finding the amount of information quite overwhelming and difficult to follow. That was when I remembered a class discussion suggesting the use of Tweetdeck to help organize groups or hashtags. I proceeded to set up an account and again customized the site. After some exploring, I learned how to create columns and to add hashtags, including #EDES544. Not only was it refreshing to see some familiar “faces” but it was great in that I could follow “tweets” that specifically revolved around our course! I could see the types of “tweets” that others were sharing and could also connect to their suggested links. By keeping Tweetdeck running in the background, I was informed of “tweets” through sound and a window that appeared in the corner of my screen.

Attempts at Sharing

Through my explorations of social networking sites, in particular Facebook and Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice how OFTEN some people chose to share and just WHAT they chose to share. Questions came to mind like, “Where do they find the time?” and “Are people really interested in hearing that?” While finding the time was definitely an issue for me, I was also grappling with the idea of what to share. Considering the company I kept, I figured I was hardly one to teach anybody something about libraries, or technology. I was able to settle, however, on sharing information that was both current and relevant to me. But isn’t that what everyone is doing? Sharing information that they care about and wanting to learn from others about the latest news/developments on a given topic? Hmmmm, Social networking... community of learners... collaborating... Twitter was starting to make sense.

Feeling more confident about the purpose and benefits of “tweeting”, I decided that I should make more of an attempt to attract “followers”. As recommended by Ferguson (2010), I decided to update both my profile (adding a free avatar image) and bio. This is important information as “people who are deciding whether to follow you will look at that to get a sense of what you care about” (p. 12).

Eventually I stumbled across one of those “tweets” that just wouldn’t fit under the 140 character limit. I learned that using symbols such as ‘&’ for “and” and ‘@’ for “at” may give you some room. Shortening URL’s through online services such as Tiny URL and BIT.LY can also make a difference. And they did!

Where to go from here?

Although it seems that some people only use Twitter for professional use, there appear to be many others that use it for personal use as well. By simply writing keywords such as gardening and conducting a search, I was connected to several “hashtags” or groups that have been created that are interested in the same thing. One such group claims they provide gardening advice which is something, living in an isolated area, is hard to come by. Although I am more specifically interested in greenhouse gardening, I could always create my own hashtag and “tweet” using that hashtag name, attracting others to join in the conversation. If this was something I was going to pursue, I would create two separate accounts. To help keep “tweets” and learning connected, I would have one account for professional use and the other for personal use. And speaking of professional, Twitter is yet another example of “reaching out to others” as a means of sharing ideas, learning, and developing my personal learning network. My hope is that even once this course is finished, I will continue to follow others that are in the field of education and teacher-librarianship. particularly those that are in the TLDL program.

Twitter in the Classroom

Having explored the social network myself (and considering it is open to all age groups), i can see where students would be thrilled to use Twitter in the classroom. Teachers could more easily engage the students as they develop literacy skills, meeting curricular objectives all at the same time. If I were to integrate Twitter in my classroom, I would initially create a private account where only those within my network could see my page. I would extend invitations to other classes both within the school and the school board.

Just as we do on Twitter, students could follow others, sharing information, resources and ideas about a given topic. To help reinforce both graphing and probability skills in Math, students could create polls and surveys through Twtpoll to collect data. They could then publish the results in the form of a graph on a class blog. To demonstrate their comprehension skills after a novel study, the students could take on the role of one of the characters and create conversations around key events in the story. “The students are creating their own fiction based on their knowledge of the writer, the time period, and the characters” ( Slideshare, 2010, slide 13).

In order to make these changes most efficient, we would need to invest in laptops as all of our desktops are currently housed in the computer lab. Cell phones are also not an option as we do not (yet) have reception. Nonetheless, my experience in working with Twitter is a positive one and yes, I believe we should “tweet”.


Ferguson, H. (2010). Join the flock, Learning and Leading with Technology, p. 12-15.  Retrieved online from

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: Teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

McClintock-Miller, S. (2010). Enhance your twitter, Learning and Leading with Technology. p. 14-17. Retrieved online from http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/20100607?pg=18&search_term=twitter&search_term=twitter#pg14

Slideshare (2010).  25 interesting ways to twitter in the classroom.  Retrieved online from http://www.slideshare.net/travelinlibrarian/twenty-five-interesting-ways-to-use-tw

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life in a Northern Town

Have you ever visited or perhaps heard stories of someone’s experiences living in an isolated community?  The pleasures, the rewards, the perils of living in remote areas?  Having lived in an isolated community for the past twenty years, I can attest firsthand to these pleasures... to these hardships... being at such a distance from family and friends.  But more than the personal aspect, these qualities can apply to teaching as well.  Small class sizes, few management issues, individualized instruction.  But with only one teacher working with multiple levels, there are challenges in implementing programs...  few colleagues to collaborate with.... and even fewer opportunities for professional growth.  That is until the advent of online professional forums such as distance education, webcasts... and more recently social networking.

As illustrated in Wikipedia, a social network is a “social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, [or] common interest ( . . . ).”  Nowhere is this more evident than in our evolving interactions with the Internet as it provides the “ability to share and connect and create with many, many others of like minds and interests” (W. Richardson, 2009, p. 85).  Just to get a sense of the many social networking websites available, it’s worth checking out Wikipedia, which provides a lengthy list of “active” websites:

What’s staggering are the number of registered users of the various websites, the largest being Facebook, with over 500 million.  And as stated in their Press Room, 50% of the active users log on to Facebook any given day! 

Although I was aware of Facebook because it seemed that everyone around me was “facebooking”, I was somewhat skeptical about joining as I was leary about the privacy issues and was not interested in getting a “minute-by-minute” account of a person’s day, as it seemed some people used it for.  But as with the motto of my course “give it an honest chance”,   I proceeded to register for an account and was going to try to keep an open mind.

After previewing the interface, I first created a profile page, added a profile picture and then began searching for family and friends to request as "Friends".  From there, I adjusted my settings so that only friends could view my conversations and others could only see my profile and photos.   As this was my first time setting up a social netowrking account, it helped having my daughter at my side to guide me with this initial set up.  Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I was surprised at the number of people that requested to be my friend.  This concept of others reaching out to be “my friend” gave me a good feeling.  They included old friends (as one friend so bluntly puts it, “who are you calling old?”), students and family I hadn’t been in contact with in years.  I was dismayed though when I later discovered that these distant relatives were not, in fact, reaching out to me, but my sister had recommended them as friends..  Nonetheless, this did help in rekindling connections with the past.  As for the students, I decided to accept students that had graduated but did not accept those currently in school.  I wanted to respect their personal space as I hope they would mine.  I continued to explore the various features of the website such as browsing the news feed, sending messages and chating “live” with others, sometimes too many to keep up with!  As it turns out, the friends that I “befriended” were not of the type to give vivid accounts of their daily routines but actually highlighted events that were of significance to them and in turn, of interest to me.  I was thoroughly enjoying keeping up to date with family and friends, particularly with my daughter who is currently going to college and is living away from home.
Two other social networking sites that I have “briefly” explored, are those of Shelfari and Teacher Librarian Ning.  I had heard of each of these sites in conversations with a librarian and fellow classmates.  After registering for accounts and setting up profile pages, I familiarized myself with their features.

Illustrated as “the premier social network for people who love books”, Shelfari provides a space where you can display books that you are currently reading, have read or are planning on reading.  You can then rate these books and write a review, all of which may be shared and viewed by friends. Although reading in the past few months has only consisted of readings for my courses, I did display a few of them. And in order to be able to see my friend’s book display, I requested to be her friend as well.  On several occasions, I have sent her messages, asking for her opinion and looking for book recommendations.  I explored the “groups” feature where you may create groups, or what I see as “book clubs”, to talk about books.   The “Great Books for Teachers” group looks appealing. 

Upon first hearing the word “ning”, I wasn’t quite sure what people were describing.  I soon discovered through Wikipedia though that it is an”online platform for people to create their own social networks”.  Kist (2010) adds, " (. . .) and then those who want to join the Ning are able to communicate with the other people who have joined that Ning" (p. 34).  And I guess that’s just what Joyce Valenza, a library information specialist, did.  It seems she created the Teacher Librarian Ning, “a community for teacher librarians and other educators”.  Many an hour could be spent exploring this site as it has a wealth of information.  And with over 5 000 members, it seems that others see this as a valuable site for finding and sharing information as well.  Just as an example, through the “Forum” feature, librarians were asking for suggestions in areas such as book recommendations and how best to arrange setting up a library.  Seeing we are currently automating our catalogue system and are changing our colour-coding system to that of the Dewey Decimal, I was intrigued with the ideas for activities in introducing the system... and can’t wait to share the Dewey Decimal Rap video with the students...

How can I put social networking into practice?
I think it’s safe to say that even when this course is finished, I will continue to use Facebook for personal use, as a means to stay connected with family and friends.  This will include sharing some photos that are of “significance” in our lives.  As a Grade 5/6 teacher, however, I couldn’t justify interacting with my students as they are supposed to be 13 years of age or older to have an account.  Even within the school walls, we would be unable to use Facebook as it has been blocked by the school board.  It seems this is fairly prevalent as “some district officials remain skeptical that such social networking tools really benefit education, worried that they just open the door to Internet – security problems and the possibility of  cyber bullying” (Editorial Projects in Education, 2010, p. 18).
It is my hope, however, that by starting small with a social networking site such as Shelfari, that we may gradually “open our doors” to the world beyond our classrooms and socialize with others that have similar interests and passions.  Initially, I would set up a group account for the students in my classroom where they may chat about the books that they are reading.  We could even invite other schools in our board to see if they would be interested in joining us as well.  I would also like to investigate the new social networking site launched by Scholastic in October which is entitled “You Are What You Read”.  In a special version dedicated to children 12 years and under, they first list the five books that had the biggest impact on their lives.  They may then interact with readers around the world and get book recommendations.  A clasroom guide and lesson plans for teachers and librarians is also available.  Perhaps this is even something we could persue during visits to the library.  These present excellent opportunities for students to take part in discussions, sharing their opinions, critiquing their books and developing good communication skills.  The one thing, however, that I would be sure to discuss with students prior to any type of participation/interaction online is to think about both their presence online and their audience.  As Kist (2010) suggests, “how do we think about audience in the age of Web 2.0?” (p. 38).  “ (. . .) what happens during the writing process when the writing we’re doing is for an unknown and potentially worldwide audience and a rowdy audience at that capable of making random comments about what we write?” (p. 39).  To help students consider these and other related questions, he proposes playing a “snowball activity” where students receive comments about their writing, anonomously. (p. 38).
Likewise, I would like to use this opportunity to develop myself professionally.  By taking more of a prominent role in interacting with others through social networking sites such as  Shelfari and Teacher Librarian Ning, (i.e. becoming a group member of  "Elementary School Librarians" and participating in the "Virtual Cafe" events), I will be broadening my horizons and expanding my personal learning network.  What was initially challenging in finding ways to seek advice and to collaborate with others, has now become much more attainable with the advent of these social networking sites at our finger tips.

Editorial Projects in Education.  (2010, June).  Social networking goes to school, Digital Directions.  Retrieved online from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2010/06/16/03networking.h03.html

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom:  Teaching in the new media age.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time Travel

That time of year again... time to turn back the clocks. Although we don’t change time within our time zone, I couldn’t help imagining turning my clock back a year.  At that time, my only experience with presentation and multimedia tools was Power Point. Granted this was (and still is) a useful tool for presenting information, my explorations through my courses have brought me into the present day and have helped me realize that there are a multititude of other online presentation and multimedia tools available.

Wikipedia defines multimedia as “media and content that uses a combination of different content forms”. It continues to point out that these forms may include “text, audio, still images, animation, video and interactivity content forms”. While a multimedia presentation may be either live or recorded, I questioned whether there was a term specifically for web-based multimedia tools. Most of my digging led me to the term “mash-ups”, which “combine and integrate information from two or more sources into one new information form” (McPherson, 2008, p. 73). Although this concept of “mashing” seems to have originated from the idea of combining two pieces of music together to form one new song, it seems fitting in this context as well. Two such mashups which I have been anxious to peruse are ones that I have either heard fellow classmates promote or have seen integrated into projects.  They are those of Animoto and Glogster.

Time to Play

Not really knowing what to expect when I opened the site (Animoto – animated?), I was quickly brought up to speed with an immediate description that appeared on their home page... “produces beautifully orchestrated, completely unique video pieces from your photos, video clips and music. It's fast, free and shockingly easy”. Shockingly easy? Considering my technological (in)abilities, I was anxious to check this one out. Just out of curiosity though, I first searched for some sample Animoto video clips. After browsing a few, I then stumbled across this one that captured the essence of “Animoto in 60 Seconds”...

Returning to the home page, I proceeded to sign up and familiarized myself with the scope of the site. Thinking that I could compare my experience creating a “slideshow” using Smilebox, I decided to use the same photos. My first step was to choose a style/background for my clip. Done. Next I uploaded photos from My Pictures. Done, well took a couple of minutes. Then I was to select music. After browsing through the samples they provided and not finding just the right one, I decided to check out CCMixter. org for more copyright free music samples. Once that song was inserted, I was pleasantly surprised that I could edit the song so that it would start at the precise moment of my choosing. At this point, I think that Keith McPherson (2008) captures it best; “upon finishing, the Animoto application creates a video-montage that presents your images at a speed paralleling the tempo of your music or sound file, while adding video motion indicative of a professionally produced video”. (p. 73). Pretty cool. So... Fast? Reasonably. Easy? Yes, I must agree that even for the technologically challenged, the creation of an Animoto video montage was quite easy.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

And then came the much anticipated Glogster... a very creative name for a creative means of making a “poster or web page, containing multimedia elements including text, audio, video, images, graphics, drawings and data”. On the few occasions that I saw Glogster creations, I was impressed with their visual appeal, their creative opportunities and their ability to link to other web pages. I thought this would be a good chance to make a decorative “home page” for the wiki I had just created, Wildlife of Our Region. Once I registered for an account, I wasn’t prepared for the experience I was about to encounter... the term ‘play’ certainly took on new meaning. From the get go, you have many choices of ‘tools’ that you may simply drag and drop from the magnetic tool bar into your glog. From images to graphics to text, you can even manipulate the settings within each of these tools. Once I figured out how to connect to links, I proceeded to set these up as well. After positioning the tools, I decided to preview my glog. It wasn’t until this time that I realized because I had repositioned some of the tools, the animated links were not in the right place. Because I was not able to figure how to change these settings, I decided to redo the glog and made sure to attach links only after everything was in place.

Time to Reflect

Unlike the slideshow I prepared through Smilebox, Animoto offered a production that was more video-like and “sport[ed] visual effects similar to that found in MTV videos or movie trailers” (McPherson, 2008, p. 73). I can see using this tool to help create clips for family viewing pleasure and also greetings to send to family and friends on special occasions.

McPherson (2008,) provides some good examples of how Animoto may engage students’ learning and help develop skills in the classroom setting:

• expands literacy concepts and communication practices beyond just that of reading and writing
• develops online social skills including sharing multimedia communications to a much wider audience
• introduces new learning and communication processes and skills reflective of existing and future Web 2.0 social communication and learning software (p. 74)

When browsing sample educational Animoto productions, I instinctively thought of a project we are currently undertaking which involves phototaking and writing in efforts to create a Photo Essay. Knowing the students will be taking photos over the course of a few months, I’m thinking that at the completion of the project, they could create a video-montage of self-selected photos that reflect their journey and the progressions they made. Their end products could then be displayed on a class blog for all to view and enjoy! As with any other Web 2.0 tool, before I were to implement this in my classroom, I would explore the privacy/pubic issues that may come from publishing online.

Similarly with Glogster, I can see where inviting students to showcase their learning through the creation of a glog would not only get them excited about sharing their knowledge but will expand their presentation skills and will inspire them to be creative. I’ve been looking for an idea on how the students may prepare a book report... and I think I’ve just found it! As presented in an article by John Wylie (2010), I am anxious to further explore the option of creating a Glogter EDU account intended for teachers and students. I was thinking students would be able to access each others’ glogs but it seems with this account, only the teacher and student are privy to the glog until it is formally published. This would also make for an excellent demonstration of learning and may be easily displayed on a class blog.

In the words of Will Richardson (2009), “the simple fact is that it has become much easier to create and consume multimedia as well as text and digital images” (p. 110). With this in mind, it’s hard to imagine what the future will bring in terms of multimedia tools and opportunities they may provide. But by helping students develop the “mashing” skills of today, we “will help establish a solid base of new literacy skills from which students’ can learn to effectively and safely use communication technologies of their future” (McPherson, 2008, p. 75).


McPherson, K.  (2008, June).  Mashing literacy. Teacher Librarian (35) 5, pp. 73-75.

Richardson, W. (2009).  Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Wylie, J.  (2010).  Using Glogster in the Classroom.  Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/57951.aspx