Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Only the Beginning...


Beautiful island
Originally uploaded by leenmaldives
I have ventured through the jungle, fought off the social bookmarking adversary and struggled to free myself from the sinking sand of podcasting.
Now I have made it to my dream island. I need the peace and quiet and relaxation. Learning about new technology left behind, just for a moment in time while I catch my breath and reflect on this technological journey. Oh, what an incredible journey it was!

Reflection on Learning:
Looking back to my first on line interaction in my Web 2.0 course I have to sigh and laugh at the same time. I was so nervous and extremely unsure of what I was getting myself into. If I was a quitter I might have done so before I got very far. But I am not. Lucky for me I persevered.
In my introductory post I asked many questions. What will I know at the end of this course? How will this technological journey assist me to be a better mom, teacher or friend? How will I incorporate my new knowledge into my teaching and personal life? What knowledge have I gained that I can share with my colleagues? How will I expand on what I have learned?
Every aspect of this course has provided me with learning opportunities. Not only have I benefited from this but my family, students, and colleagues will also benefit from my learning about the web 2.0 tools we studied. This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. Very few courses have engaged me as this one has. Usually when a course of study is over I am done. I feel like I have just started and a whole new world is out there waiting for me to explore, create, and share. I titled my introduction to my fellow students in this web 2.0 course as ‘My learning curve can only go up.’ I underestimated the potential behind that title.
I started with very little knowledge and it seemed that every week I gained a bit more confidence in my ability to understand and use the web. Every web 2.0 tool was virtually new to me, except for a couple. Even in those cases I had to think about how to use them in an educational context.
I found both text books to be helpful but really enjoyed and used Richardson’s (2009), Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms as my constant companion when setting up and learning about a new tool. The language and instructions are straight forward and simple to follow. For a non techie like me this was a life saver. If Richardson said to do it a certain way that is the way I did it. I also found the trailfires to be an excellent source of information and a good starting point for other links to follow. They helped me to understand the educational value of the tool we were studying. I liked the progression in which we learned about each tool. Even though each tool had its challenges for me at the time I was learning about it, I can see now that starting with photo sharing would be the easiest tool to learn about. Progressing to blogging and RSS brings it all together. I have moved away from being a limited consumer of the web to being more of a creator. From the first day to the last I know that I have been involved in an opportunity to change the way I teach and engage the 21st century learner.

Highlights:
There are so many exciting things that I learned about that it is difficult to just pick a few. One of the overall highlights of this course was the feeling I got when I discovered how to use the tool and manipulate it to produce my project for the week. I would get very excited about all the possibilities it would give me for using the tool in the classroom. For example podcasting is a tool that I can easily use in my Kindergarten class. Another highlight would be learning to use the multimedia sites as I enjoy photography and will be able to present my pictures in a more dynamic way to family and friends and embed them in a wiki or Facebook to share with them. I will also be able to produce an exciting video for my year end Kindergarten graduation that each student will be able to keep as a memoir. Another ‘aha’ moment for me was to finally discover that the internet is not just a place to google something I need to learn about. “Use the Internet to not just gather information but to share information, to collaborate with others, and at the same time to allow students to learn content in a more independent and creative manner.” (Rochelle, 2009). Not only will my students benefit from this, I have learned that the web is an invaluable tool for me.

Lowlights:
I did have some. Frustration did not elude me. There were times that I wanted to give up. I felt that the time I took to learn, play, and research each topic was phenomenal. It was difficult sometimes for my children to accept this. Also, temporary difficulty accessing the trailfires was frustrating because I didn’t know how to fix it. I asked several people at work and they couldn’t help me either. Finally I asked a high school student
and in about thirty seconds he solved the problem that had been plaguing me for a week. As far as tools, Twitter was probably my least favorite. I know that I need to give it more of a chance as it has many professional development opportunities. Over time I will delve deeper into Twitter. Listening to the beginning podcast was also a frustration for me. I could not get it to work but finally figured it out as a computer issue. Even though I had some difficulties the highlights outweighed the negative.

What I learned from others in class:
Upon sitting here and reflecting on the entire process I realized the most significant thing I learned from my fellow classmates was to let go -
- of my insecurities of having to talk face to face with someone.
- of my anxiousness of having my picture and information on the web.
- of my fear of someone I know actually coming across something I have put on the web.
As I participated in the discussions and followed my classmates’ blog posts I began to see that they were more comfortable in sharing and that in turn made me relax more. If I had continued to harness these issues it would have hindered my learning and I would not have gone as far into the web world as I did. From Kathy I learned to think about credibility on the web and how I need to check sources and trust my instincts about sites. Bruce through all his references and links throughout our discussions and his blog posts have shown me that I need to be reading more professionally. Jackie had me thinking about what kind of tool promotes the most collaboration and I’m still not sure if that is a one word answer. I think it depends on the kind of rapport you are looking for. Last but not least from Corey I learned to be myself and to add humor to my blog. When I blog about early literacy I will feel more comfortable with the topic so I will be able to add more personal anecdotes and play up the humor. I enjoyed the stimulating conversations and reading my group members blogs.

Discussion of the implications:
Future plans:
I plan to continue my pursuit of learning about technology. Our school division is in the process of starting a Web 2.0 cohort. I was talking to one of the coordinators last week about this course. He was very interested and wanted me to share more about what I learned. I will be joining the cohort and expanding the skills I have already acquired and hopefully be helping others to see the potential of the web as a learning tool within our schools. I agree with Richardson (2009) that teachers will have to redefine their role as being: connectors of content and people, content creators that use web 2.0 tools, collaborators with other teachers and students, coaches that model necessary web 2.0 skills, and change agents. (pp.136-137) I feel that I will continue to grow as well as have the opportunity to help other teachers within the cohort see their changing role.
I will also be able to go back and experiment with many of the tools we learned about this term that I feel I never got enough time to explore. I started some projects like my Kindergarten wiki and have not found the time to complete it so that it is useful to me. I want to continue learning and using wikis for collaboration for my Kindergarten Action Group and for my classroom as Hargadon (2009) suggested as a communication tool for parents. I am also continuing to use Delicious and my RSS. Google Reader allows me to keep up with quality reading so that I can keep abreast of the new issues and information involving technology. As Gardner (2008), states, I will, “take advantage of RSS to stay informed and save time.” I also want to become more involved in social networking. I feel the more I read about technology and understand it the more confident I will be to make credible comments on blogs and Twitter. If I become a more active participant in social networking I will in turn share its value with my students. “Social participation forms the basis of a learning community that reaches well beyond the walls of the classroom and involves learners at different times and in very different places” (Davis & Merchant, 2009). By becoming involved in various learning communities both myself and my students will become more active learners.
I will also continue to integrate podcasting, Flickr, YouTube and Voicethread into my teaching at the primary level. These tools will become part of my repertoire for engaging my students and for introducing Web 2.0 tools to them.

Tools to share with colleagues:
Joining the Web 2.0 cohort will allow me to share my knowledge about most of the tools we learned about. I will continue to share what I have learned about blogs with other staff members. Blogs have many benefits in the classroom. They encourage feedback from all over the world, learning new vocabulary and stimulating conversations, as well as improve reading and writing skills. (Davis & McGrail,2009). I will also show them how blogs and blogging can improve networking and professional development.
I also will continue to show my colleagues how useful Delicious and RSS are in organizing online information as well as collaboration. I need to convince them that, “the advantage in using social bookmarking sites is the human collaboration involved in the searching framework” (McGraw Hill Companies, 2009) as well as keeping track of your favorite sites. Using Google Reader will also benefit them in keeping up with their online reading while saving time.
Some of our staff likes Twitter. I could help them to realize there is more to Twitter than socializing. The professional development they could get from Twitter as Valenza (2009), states would benefit them. “My Twitter network helps me grow as a professional and share as a mentor and teacher.”
Every time I use a Web 2.0 tool in my teaching I will share it with my colleagues both at my school, in the Web 2.0 cohort and with my Kindergarten Action Group. I will also use the Common Craft videos to help my colleagues to understand how to use a tool and their benefits. http://www.commoncraft.com/ They will get to see how I use Animoto, Audacity, Voicethread, Youtube and wikis in my classroom. They all should learn how to use these tools because it is their responsibility to keep up with what is current in teaching and to integrate new methods into their teaching. “Our amazing, ever-changing technological world may seem overwhelming at times, but educators must rise to the challenge of closing the growing digital divide in education.” (Mullen & Wedwick, 2008).

Networking and Professional Development:
After taking this course I have realized that a blog about early literacy would be a great way to network with others and to increase my professional development in the area. I have lots to share with the world about early literacy and there are experts in the field that I could also learn from. There are other social networking tools that I will continue to use as well as reading blogs and creating my own. Some of these tools include Facebook for keeping up with my extended family and Twitter for professional development as soon as I start to follow the right people. Wikis and Nings can be used for both personal and professional use. I am beginning to use our Kindergarten Action group wiki more than ever and feel like I can become a leader in the group on using technology. I agree with Maloney in Selwyn’s (2009) article that “the conversational, collaborative and communal qualities of social networking services are felt to “mirror much of what we know to be good models of learning, in that they are collaborative and encourage active participatory role for users.” If I network we can learn from each other.

Summary:
Three months ago if someone had said to me that I would know about blogs, RSS, Voicethread or podcasting I would have asked them what kind of language they were speaking in. It was foreign to me. Now I can communicate in this different language and teach others about it. It’s the language of Web 2.0. How will this technological journey continue to change me personally and professionally? That is difficult to say. I know that the, “idea that teachers need to see themselves as learners first,” (Richardson, 2009) is a critical point for all educators to adhere to if they want to successfully implement Web 2.0 tools into their teaching and learning. It must be done to move our students forward to become 21st century learners. Taking this course has been my first step into becoming a more productive teacher in helping to prepare my students for the future. It’s a journey I will always remember and will always be on. This was really just the beginning.

References:

Davis, A., & McGrail, E.. (March, 2009). The Joy of Blogging. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 74. Retrieved November 22, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Davies, J. & Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Lang Publishing.

Gardner, T. (2008). RSS: Bringing What’s New to You. Retrieved November 20, 2009 from http://ncteinbox.blogspot.com/2008/06/rss-bringing-whats-new-to-you.html

Hargadon, S. (October, 2009). Web Site in a Rush. School Library Journal, 55(10), 16. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

http://www.commoncraft.com/

McGraw Hill Companies. (2009). How to Article - Social Bookmarking. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Teaching Today http://teachingtoday.glencoe.com/howtoarticles/social-bookmarking

Mullen, R. & Wedwick, L. (Nov./Dec.2008). Avoiding the digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs.
The Clearing House. Washington: Vol. 82, Iss. 2, p. 66-69

Richardson, W., (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. United States: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2009). Teachers as Learners part 32. Retrieved December 5, 2009, from http://weblogg-ed.com/2009/teachers-as-learners-part-32/

Rochelle, N. (August,2009). To Blog or Not to Blog? School Administrator, 66(7), 17-19. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of Facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Valenza, J. ( March, 2009). http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1940041394.html

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blogs and Real Simple Syndication - A Journey into Finding the Way


Light Bulb
Originally uploaded by magicaldp
Out of the dark and into the light is how my experience with blogging and Real Simple Syndication also known as RSS has evolved. It was like being in a dark damp basement. I had to feel my way around, not knowing what I was going to find. Once in awhile I would find a small dim light to turn on and I could see a bit better. My understanding would increase. After lots of trial and error and reading I found the way and was able climb out into the land of blogs and Real Simple Syndication.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:

It seems like all my blog posts about Web 2.0 tools start out the same way - relating to how I have heard little or nothing about the tool before I began this course. It’s true again! I had heard about blogs and blogging before but I can’t recall any specific blogs that I had read. I may have come across one in searching for something but it never actually dawned on me that it was a blog. It wouldn’t have been something that crossed my mind. I really wasn’t a web reader before. I basically used Google Search and looked at the most visited sites for any information I needed. I certainly never heard about RSS before. Where have I been? According to several blogs I have read lately, I am not alone. Newsome states that, “RSS and the associated feed readers remain vastly under-utilized by most adults,” (2009). This means that in general we are unorganized in our web reading. Now that I understand the benefits of blogs, blogging and RSS I will be a more efficient web consumer and producer. It wasn’t always this way.
At the beginning of this course I had to sign up for a RSS and follow certain blogs. My initial thoughts were: “What do I do? What is a blog? I have no idea what RSS is?” I felt like I was in way over my head. The thought of it gave me a headache. I was locked in that little dark space and nobody could help me get out. I had to figure it out on my own by investigation. First I read the chapter in Richardson’s book on RSS. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me but I was very glad for his step by step instructions on what to do. With his book in one hand I followed every detail in setting up a Google Reader account. It was actually quite easy to do! Then I didn’t know what to do with it. Thankfully we were given the names of several blogs to subscribe to. After watching this Google Reader video I understood a bit more on how to use Google Reader.Of course being negligent in not knowing any blogs to follow I had to search for some sites that would interest me. This took quite a while and I became frustrated with my lack of knowledge on good blogs to follow. It seemed to me that we were not starting very slowly as Richardson, (2009), suggested we do. “You may want to stop at about ten feeds so you don’t get overwhelmed before you get practiced at reading in your aggregator.” I was well over the ten mark and feeling inundated. I continued on as we were required to subscribe to others. I searched and used the ‘add a subscription’ button to add more sites to my RSS. Through all the trial and error I knew in the end I would figure it out and this would be a useful tool. Continued rereading of Richardson’s chapter on RSS made me understand that the aggregator, “checks the feeds you subscribe to, usually every hour, and it collects all the new content from those sites you are subscribed to.” Then at my leisure I can check Google Reader and find all the updates to these sites and read what I want. I finally understood the benefit of an RSS, not only would I be seeing information from blogs I would be able to use it for professional development while learning about good blog sites. I would be more organized and have up to date information on education and other topics of interest at my finger tips.
At first I tried to read the feeds that I received then as the course progressed I found it more difficult to keep up. I would sit down a couple of days a week to skim the posts and read the ones of interest. I would mark everything that I skimmed and was not interested in ‘as read’. I used some of the posts as information for my course reading and was able to link to other interesting sites through the ones I had subscribed to. By doing all of this I was also being exposed to various credible educational and technology bloggers. I could see how they set up their blogs and what kind of voice they created in their blog. I know that there are many other tools in Google Reader for me to experiment with and these will make my web reading even easier. I will continue to play with them. Some of the tools I still want to use include: the blogger dashboard, bookmarks in reader, sharing and the RSS search feeds. When I followed the trailfire for post number nine I found it easy to understand all the information as it seemed to review and clarify what I have previously learned. I have progressed immensely in understanding blogs and RSS. Both have changed the way I use the web, read and organize in the web and learn from the web. As Schwartz, (2007), says, “part of the magic of weblogs is the way they can be used to accomplish so many different things and cover so many diverse areas of life.” I now use blogs to enhance my professional development. I started off in complete darkness and now see the light of blogs and Real Simple Syndication.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:

In my initial blog post I commented on how my learning would progress. By reading blogs and using RSS I have discovered a new way to use the World Wide Web. It has opened doors for me and my family that I would not have imagined. I am now reading and following credible and reliable sources of information that I would never have thought to follow. I have begun to organize my online reading so that I am not overwhelmed and will actually be able to keep up with it. I know I still have many parts of Google Reader to implement but I have plans to do so after the work of this course settles down. I will also be adding to my followers list to help me build a network around the reading and hobbies I enjoy. It will be relaxing to sit and read updates that my aggregator has found for me while I was away from my computer. I will actually be able to read more and spend more time with my family. My husband will benefit from using Google Reader as well. He can organize all of his favorite sites and this will decrease his online searching time. As a result our family time will increase.
I will also be able to use Google Reader and blogs to help me in the next course I take. I will be able to use the search engine to find information on reading disabilities. In my reading I also found another helpful site http://technorati.com/ to find blogs to add to my Google Reader. Not only will I be able to follow blogs but I will be able to create a blog of interest to me. I can teach my children about blogs and how to blog. Think about how far ahead they will be in the world as I teach them to understand what blogging could do for them and how much they could learn from blogs. They could have their own RSS account and start to collect sites of interest and for school research projects. They can network with others from around the world on topics that interest them. I had to wait this long to understand the value of these tools. My children will be very fortunate to start at a young age. Using blogs and RSS are also other ways for me to connect with people pertaining to my hobbies and interests. RSS and blogs are tools I will be able to use both personally and professionally.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:
Blogs, blogging for professional development and using a Real Simple Syndication have endless possibilities for me in terms of teaching and learning. Over the last week or so I have been contemplating on starting a blog about early literacy when this course is done. I would be able to help others understand and learn about concepts related to early literacy. I would also learn more as I would be reading more and trying to find credible links of interest to embed into my blog. Using the Google Reader search will alert me to any new articles on early literacy. I would be able to use the comments I receive to further my own learning or to drive the next post in my blog. My own learning and understanding of early literacy would naturally increase. I would have to try to gain readership in my blog and that would force me to use various avenues we have already discussed such as Facebook and Twitter to get my blog out there. By creating my own blog and commenting on favorite blogs I will become part of a social network that will help me to be a better teacher. Although, I will not be using blogging in my Kindergarten classroom at this point I have been helping a few other teachers in our school to set up blogs. I shared Anne Davies’ article, the Joy of Blogging (2009) with our grade five teacher. I have helped her set up a novel study blog in the past. She likes concrete examples and this article was full of them. The project encouraged feedback from all over the world, learning new vocabulary and stimulating conversations, as well as improving reading and writing skills. I also gave her this link to a blogging rubric so that she has a basic idea of how to assess her students when blogging. http://www.masters.ab.ca/bdyck/Blog/ I really would like this teacher to start using blogging more in her classroom. I feel that with her teacher - administrative position she can influence others in the upper elementary and help to get Web 2.0 tools used more in our school. I see my role as leading her into using the tools and she in turn can prove successful implementation to our colleagues.
I had a Kindergarten Action Group meeting this past week and the morning was a technology sharing time. I showed the group how Google Reader works and some were signing up that day. This will help to build a network within our own school division and beyond. We will be able to share interesting posts with each other that may provide professional development for us. Not only can blogs be used as online journals for students, teachers and librarians they can be used in many other ways. Some suggestions from Schwartz (2007) include: “provide up-to-date information on local events, fulfilling (librarian’s) role as a news and information source for their community, provide library news (both local and national), advocating for the importance of library support, provide announcements of new library acquisitions and promoting the services that they work so hard to provide.” Teachers can use blogs for similar information for parents and students.
Using a RSS has many educational values including these ideas from Gardner (2008)
- Set up a search of the news for a favorite author or text
- Subscribe to favorite children’s and young adult book authors’ blogs
- Set up a homework blog with RSS feeds
- Get a new book list on favorite topics and authors from Amazon.com
- Students set up blogs for writing and subscribe to each others’ blogs to promote community
- Students can use news searches to have recent articles come to them on research topics and inquiry projects
- Subscribe to your teacher groups that you are a member of to receive information changes. The opportunities for educators and students to use blogs and RSS are vast. These tools will help me to network with others that have similar teaching positions and interests. We will be able to share sites we follow, and learn from each others comments. I will also be able to follow and learn from others who are experts in their field. Reading and contemplating their different perspectives will expand my thinking and broaden my horizons.
Using blogs and RSS in schools also has some drawbacks. These include safety, Acceptable Use Policy, and computer access. Getting educators to see the advantages to using these tools can also be a hindrance. On the positive side the use of blogs and RSS are free, easy to set up and use. As well, there are all the benefits that I have discussed throughout. These tools definitely have a place in an educator’s life.

References:

Davis, A., & McGrail, E.. (March, 2009). The Joy of Blogging. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 74. Retrieved November 22, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Dyck, B. (2004). Voice of Experience. Retrieved November 27, 2009 from http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/voice/voice123.shtml

Gardner, T. (2008). RSS: Bringing What’s New to You. Retrieved November 20, 2009 from http://ncteinbox.blogspot.com/2008/06/rss-bringing-whats-new-to-you.html

http://technorati.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSPZ2Uu_X3Y google reader video (embed into blog)

Newsome, K. (2009). Tech for Grownups: Why You Need Google Reader. Retrieved November 26, 2009, from http://www.newsome.org/2009/01/tech-for-grownups-why-you-need-google.shtml

Richardson, W., (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. United States: Corwin.

Schwartz, G. (2007). Blogs for Libraries. Retrieved November 20, 2009, from http://www.webjunction.org/social-software/articles/content/430713

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Journey into the Land of Twitter


To Tweet or Not to Tweet that is the Question
My Twitter adventure reminded me of the time my family went white water rafting and then jumped off a rock into freezing water. I’m scared of heights. We were sailing over the rapids with ease, suddenly we stopped and the guide announced that we were going to climb a rock and jump into the four degree water below landing in a two hundred foot deep pool in the river. What? Did I hear correctly? My five and eight year olds were all for this. How could this be? What was I going to do? Everyone else did it and I couldn’t be out done. I had to do it. I took the plunge. Will I do it again?
This was like my Twitter experience. I didn’t want to do it. I had to for my course. I looked at Twitter and read over everyone else’s Tweets with ease and then I had to take the plunge and Tweet something myself. I couldn’t be out done. I had to do it. I took the plunge. Will I do it again?

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:
I had heard the buzz words “Twitter and Tweet” before and thought it was mainly something that the celebrities were doing along with their fans. Then I noticed that news casts and radio stations were joining the Twitter craze. It wasn’t something that I was interested in so I never bothered to look into it. Then in the first few days of taking my Web 2.0 course I was required to sign up for Twitter. This was the start of my climb up the rock. To my surprise signing up was fairly easy. I liked the Welcome to Twitter video under their help section http://help.twitter.com/portal as it gave me an idea of what Twitter was about and how to tweet. I also read parts of the help guide to give me more insight into making my Twitter experience more successful. I used these tips to help me to understand what others were saying in their Tweets.
Five Fast Twitter Tips
1. Use “d” to send a direct message to someone [d sarahlib great to see you on Twitter!]
2. Use the @ symbol to respond to another person in a tweet[@ellyssa how about Tuesday instead?]
3. Use the # symbol to address a group [#CIL2008 anyone going to dinner at 7?]
4. Create TinyURLs to save characters when sending Web addresses(tinyurl.com)
5. Grab the RSS feeds for your friends’ tweets & subscribe via your news reader
I couldn’t think of anyone to follow but was happy to know that we were given a list because I didn’t know anyone on Twitter. I added them along with a few others to my followers list. After signing up I would visit the site periodically and read the tweets. I really didn’t understand the fascination. I tweeted a couple of times but had no idea what to say. I felt like I needed to connect what was being said even though that is not the idea of Twitter. I wanted to sound intelligent and say something of substance. I avoided saying anything for those reasons. I really felt like I didn’t belong on Twitter and it wasn’t my kind of social network. I was still climbing the rock and hadn’t yet taken the plunge. I felt that I could get social networking both personally and professionally in other venues that I was enjoying more.
Then when it was time to follow the trailfire in my Web 2.0 course for Twitter I started to understand what I could get out of Twitter. My first thoughts were, “why didn’t we read some of these websites in the beginning of the course so that I would understand the benefits of Twitter?” I could now see the value in it for networking purposes and wished that I had known these things in the first place. I felt like I had wasted some of my time because of my lack of knowledge of Twitter’s worth. I enjoyed reading the trailfires and made many notes for future reference in using Twitter. Then I decided to take the plunge and jump right in. I added a few more tweets to my Twitter page. I started following a few more people. I read the tweets each day. I asked for help for smartboards and for blog writing because getting information quickly was one of the ways that I had learned that Twitter could be useful. And like when I jumped into the frigid river I didn’t feel the satisfaction that everyone seemed to feel.
I was actually disappointed in the lack of response. I felt like there should be some kind of interaction whenever someone tweets something. I thought about this and decided that this lack of interest could be due to a few factors including the way I tweeted or my choice of followers as none of them know me and some are businesses. I have since continued to Tweet but feel that I still do not know Twitter as well as I need to. I have to use it more to convince myself that it will be a Web 2.0 tool that I will continue to use.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:
When I started using Twitter I was unsure of what it could do for me personally as a learner. I feel that there is a lot more that I could get out of Twitter because at this point I am not getting very much out of it. I need to search out people that have similar interests to me and use my tweets to connect with these individuals and learn new links and knowledge from them as Joyce Valenza, (2009), has done. “I use Twitter to learn more about my particular intersection of interests and I seek out movers and shakers and writers and thinkers in the worlds of education, libraries, technology, edtech, journalism, and media.” This would help me in terms of my own personal learning in areas that interest me both in education and hobbies.
In terms of me being a parent, my children have not yet shown a desire to Twitter. They are probably too young. But by knowing what I do now about Twitter I would certainly encourage them and their friends to use Twitter as a means of learning and networking. I would also discuss the merits of using Twitter with their friends’ parents. The Twitter in Plain English video would help these parents to understand more why their children would want to use Twitter.I would also show them how their children could protect their tweets and only let certain people read their profiles. In the past many of these parents have discouraged the use of social networking sites for their young teenage and preteen children because of safety concerns and lack of understanding the purpose of microblogging.
Using Twitter as a social network could benefit me in a couple of ways. One my husband and I own a small company and many companies are starting to use microblogging to further their production. In one article, Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, and Chowdury (2009) states, “microblogging sites provide a platform to connect directly, again in near real time, with customers, which can build and enhance customer relationships.” My husband and I can start to use Twitter as a way to network with previous and potential customers. I can also use Twitter to network with others in terms of scrapbooking and photography.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:
“My Twitter network helps me grow as a professional and share as a mentor and teacher.” (Valenza, 2009). I too, could use Twitter as a tool to promote my professional learning. I would be able to network with other teachers and experts in areas of my professional interest such as early literacy, special education, smartboard and technology integration. Twitter could also be used for feedback from students and colleagues after class or a workshop. I would welcome feedback on workshops that I give on Kindergarten topics. This would help me to become a better presenter and would also help my audience to clarify any topic that needed to be clarified. This could also start a social networking group.
I would use Twitter in my classroom if I was teaching older children but since I am not at the moment I would show my colleagues the benefits of using Twitter in their classrooms. First I would show them the video Tweets for Education Pt1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkGj0YXPGok so that they get a good overview of what Twitter is and how they could use Twitter in the classroom. I would also show them the video on how one teacher used Twitter as an information gathering site and then posted an assignment for her students. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV5j_OIKPp4 Other examples that I would share with my colleagues on using Twitter come from Bradley, (2009). These include:
-Information updating
-Trending information
-Searching for information
-Asking questions
-Self promotion
-Identifying experts in an area
Also other ways to use Twitter as social networking to send out information for libraries include:
-General information updates - opening/closing times
-Staff information
-New resources
-General information
-Countdowns for events taking place in the library
-Linking to images of/in/about the library
-Notify students/staff/users/clients about any and everything the library is doing.
-Share best practices with other libraries
There are many ways that Twitter and microblogging can be used to increase teachers’ and students’ social networking to enhance their learning and teaching potential. Twitter could also be used by teachers to, “support relationships among the people from the class and to further their learning. Teachers post tips of the day, questions, writing assignments, and other prompts to keep learning going.” (Galagan, 2009). I will promote Twitter as a web 2.0 tool to use for teachers and students as there is a benefit to both.
For all the benefits of using a social networking site like Twitter many school districts ban its use. This is one of the cons of using Twitter. Other disadvantages include: misuse by students who might tweet inappropriately for educational purposes and safety of students who open themselves up for public viewing and give out too much information. As with all Web 2.0 tools students need to be taught global citizenship and safety measures. On the plus side Twitter is free to use, user friendly, and can be accessed by several methods including home computers and cell phones. I took the plunge into learning about Twitter and decided that it should become part of any educator’s repertoire.

References:

Galagan, P. (March, 2009). Twitter As a Learning Tool. Really. T + D, 63(3), 28-29,31. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries

http://help.twitter.com/portal

http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2009/01/using-twitter-in-libraries.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV5j_OIKPp4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkGj0YXPGok

Jansen, B., Zhang,M., Sobel, K.,and Chowdury,A. (2009). Twitter power: Tweets as electronic word of mouth. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. vol:60 iss:11 pg:2169 retrieved Oct.13

Valenza, J. ( March, 2009). http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1940041394.html

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sailing into Social Networking - Facebook and Ning


Sailboat
Originally uploaded by Wananga

Two months ago when I started this technology adventure it seemed like I was trying to hack my way out of the dense jungle of web 2.0 tools with obstacles at every turn. Now because of confidence and knowledge I find myself sailing along. The waters are still a bit rough now and then but researching and discovering social networking sites in Web 2.0 was a pleasant adventure. These included Facebook and Nings.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:

The process of learning about Facebook and Nings has gone on for awhile for me. I had heard of Facebook before but never visited the site. I knew people who were on it but never asked them about it. This summer my cousins kept ridiculing me for being the last one to join Facebook. They said I had to get with the program, that I was old and was basically out of the loop. It was just their way of trying to get me to network with them. Why was I so reluctant? I’m not sure. I had thought that everything you put on it was out there for the whole world to see and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want any students or parents to come across my profile. So I did not join Facebook.
Then I started this course and saw that one of my first assignments was to join a networking site like Facebook. I was stuck and felt very reluctant to sign up and use Facebook. I had no choice. I logged into the site and it was easy to sign up. The first thing I did was set the privacy settings so that only people I invited could see my profile. I felt a bit better about it. I first added family and got several excited but sarcastic responses about finally signing up. I also added a few close friends. I checked Facebook often, anticipating comments from others. I would post a comment or two of my own, still preferring to read everyone else’s and look at their pictures. I loved looking at the pictures. I spent hours going through them. Then I decided to add a few pictures of my own which was a big step for me. I was starting to let go of my preconceived notions of fear. The comments back to me were my incentive. As time went on I began to feel braver and added more friends and started embedding technology items from this course. First was my avatar, then my Animoto video and then finally my voicethread. I can’t say I check my Facebook account everyday. Not because I don’t want to but because I could lose myself in it and not get other things done. I probably would still be considered by some a passive networker, but that is how I am in real life. I am quieter and enjoy what goes on around me and put my two cents in when warranted. That is my comfort level with Facebook. When I have more free time I can easily see myself checking every day. I will add more pictures and comments. I never dreamed that I would sign up. More importantly that I would actually enjoy it!
I had never heard of a ning before. I found a video that explained the basics of a ning which helped me to understand more about them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJvC7IVIYzM

Just after this course started I was asked to join one. A family from our school had gone on a cross Canada tour for four months. The mom invited her children’s teachers to join as they would be missing school until the end of November. After joining the Ning I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bond with my new student and work on my Web 2.0 course at the same time. Unfortunately I am not allowed to give the address out to anyone so I will not be able to link it in this blog post. It was easy to set up my profile and add my picture to the ning. The process was very similar to Facebook. I added some personal information to my profile page but not a whole lot because again this is for a student. I could follow their travels and the mom wrote comments from her son. I shared these and their photos with my class and we wrote comments back about what we were learning. I added classroom pictures but none of students. The end of November will bring this ning to a close. I enjoyed the experience.
During the first weeks of this course I also found watching Kolbert (2009), on this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUE8fSFr9h4

to be useful and as she calls it, I became a “lurker” on the Classroom 2.0 ning http://www.classroom20.com/

created by Steve Hargadon. I have benefited from the articles and comments. Like Facebook I lose myself in the site. I have gone from being unaware of social networking to being a pro social networking user.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:

In opening my mind to understanding and using social networking sites I have opened up several venues to increase my learning. I can become part of a social network of people with similar interests which include scrapbooking, reading, travel and photography. I could interact with people from around the world and broaden my horizons. I could learn new techniques, gain valuable information and follow links they have suggested. I could reciprocate with my own suggestions, links and ideas.
In terms of me as a parent I can help my children set up a ning for themselves and their friends to have a safe place to socialize on the web. We spend most of the summers away from home and this would help my children stay in touch with their friends by posting photos and comments. As a family we could set up a ning for when we go on holidays so that our extended family can keep in touch with us. I will also let me children go on Facebook now if they use the privacy setting for friends only. They will be able to post comments to family and friends. I would not have let them do that before learning about Facebook and the ability to chose who can view your profile. They would also have to make me one of their friends so that I could monitor their usage. I agree with Abram (2008) that, “they need to be aware of their personal identity information and the risks out there without scaring them but providing age and stage sensitive context for success in these emerging and important new electronic environments.” By teaching and allowing my children to use social networking at home and discussing safety with them they will become successful social networking users.
For me as part of a social group I can connect with educators with similar interests as part of a ning. I am not out of the loop with happenings within my extended family because I can connect with them on Facebook. As I have stated before I enjoy the photos and comments and look forward to seeing who has commented on my status. I can also connect with others in the applications section of Facebook and join groups of interest to me. A few weeks after I joined Facebook I connected with a couple of long time friends that I had lost touch with since moving. We have since talked on Facebook and personally contacted each other a few times to have more private conversations and to catch up on the last several years. I have missed them and reconnecting has brought me a sense of peace. Social networking will bring my family and friends closer to me and my family.


Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:

“One of the main educational uses of social networking is seen to lie in their support for interaction between learners.” (Selwyn, 2009) There are many implications for using social networking for teaching and learning. I could set up a ning for my Kindergarten class instead of a wiki. This would help to aid communication with my parents. I could start a Kindergarten ning for my school division and let it grow from there. We could see how many people would join and collaborate and have discussions on topics of interest. By following and joining other educational nings I would have endless opportunities to learn what other educators are doing. I can become an active member by asking questions and posting my own ideas. I can become involved in educational discussions. I can collaborate with fellow thinkers. I can follow article, blog or video links that interest me that other teachers have found. I would use all these reasons to convince other members of my staff to join a ning of their own interest. When I first started this course no one at school had heard of a ning before. I will be opening up a whole new world of networking for them. I will also show them how to make groups in Facebook that would allow them to network with students using a tool that many students are already familiar with. Some ideas for using social networking sites to share with my fellow teachers as taken from NCTE (2008) include:
• Set up discussion forums based on literature circles, peer writing groups, different class periods, and so forth.
• Create groups based on student interests—book clubs, favorite genres, other content areas.
• Upload alternative book reports created as podcasts, videos, or photos.
• Ask students to write their reading logs or journals online.
• Post information for students and their families in a shared space.
Another way that Facebook could be used is to have students design profile home pages for historical figures. They would have to research and understand what was significant about each person to be creative in their designs and information.
There are pros and cons for using social networking sites. Many of these sites are blocked by schools and students do not have access to them until they go home. If a teacher is using social networking sites for homework or as a requirement for a course all students must have access. Some educators do not understand the value of teaching social networking to their students and therefore do not allow students to go on these sites. Students have to be taught the expectations of how to use public sites so that they use them in an educationally appropriate manner for school assignments. Also in terms of public social game sites ,“children learn valuable Internet social skills, as well as literacy, problem solving, and finance management,” (Bauman & Tatum, 2009). Some social networking sites that children use like Webkinz and Club Penguin have features that only members can obtain. Children can also be lured by the advertising. Students have to be taught what kinds of information to give out and how to secure themselves when using social networking. They also have to be taught not to go meet their networking friends in real life. I agree with Maloney in Selwyn’s (2009) article that “the conversational, collaborative and communal qualities of social networking services are felt to “mirror much of what we know to be good models of learning, in that they are collaborative and encourage active participatory role for users.” Social networking sites do have a place in educating our students. It is another beneficial web 2.0 tool.

References:

Abram, S. (Mar./Apr. 2008). Scaffolding the new Social Literacies. Multimedia and Internet @Schools. Retrieved November 7, 2009 from http://trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/219187

Bauman, S., & Tatum, T. (2009). Web Sites for Young Children: Gateway to Online Social Networking? Professional School Counseling, 13(1), 1-10. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

http://ncteinbox.blogspot.com/2008/09/social-networking-ning-thing.html

http://www.classroom20.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJvC7IVIYzM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUE8fSFr9h4

Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of Facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Using Multimedia – A Journey Well Worth the Undertaking

My latest venture took me into the land of multimedia sharing sites which included Animoto and Voicethread. My technological travels have taken me across the internet and this week I’ve landed in web 2.0 tools that I really enjoyed and can see myself using in my Kindergarten classroom. It felt like a cruise on a sparkling yacht. There was music, voices, and showy presentations. Everywhere you looked something caught your eye.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:

It started out like many Web 2.0 tasks, excitement to be learning a new tool. Surprisingly, I had used Animoto once earlier this year, so I was thrilled about having some knowledge about the task. I was eager to be learning about these two tools as they both involve photos and I enjoy working with pictures. On the other hand I had never heard of Voicethread and wasn’t sure where to start. I missed having something to read in our texts and get my mind in the right direction. Usually after reading the text book I have a better understanding of what the tool can do. So to start things off I tried to follow the trailfire. I was very frustrated on not being able to view it because the sites kept coming up blocked. I tried and tried and would get more distressed as time passed. I tried on various computers and also tried to view the sites in creative ways to no avail. It didn’t help matters any to be the only one in the class with this problem. I kept thinking, “Why me? What am I doing wrong? I didn’t have any problems with the trailfires before this.” I felt discouraged and pressured as I had a strict plan on how I was going to get everything done this week and not being able to do the trailfire wreaked havoc with it. I felt like I had enough background knowledge that I could make an Animoto video anyway. I couldn’t remember very much about the site but I recalled it wasn’t difficult. I used this video from Youtube to familiarize myself with Animoto again.
The first thing I noticed when I went to the site was that it had changed. It was very well laid out and easy to follow using the step by step directions. It took a long time for my computer to download the twelve images that I was allowed but it did work. I put my video together with ease. After taking my time in selecting music from their limited collection I posted my video to Facebook which was just a click of a button. Posting to my blog was a different story. I couldn’t get it to fit and tried many times until I just manually changed the object size in the copied link. I felt pretty smart that I thought of that and was able to get it to work!
I still didn’t understand what Voicethread was until I went to a friend’s house and used their computer to follow the trailfire and view samples of Voicethreads. I also found the Digitally Speaking Wiki a useful resource in understanding what Voicethread could do. http://digitallyspeaking.pbworks.com/Voicethread#TeachingStudentstoCreateandModerateThreads. I was then able to sign up and follow the directions easily. Voicethread.com has many videos on how to do each step. I had to watch a help video on adding another speaker and was able to add my children’s comments to my Voicethread right after. The hardest part for me in making the Voicethread was to sound natural. It was easy to embed into my blog. The entire process did not take very long and I enjoyed it. I added it to Facebook as well. I feel very comfortable using both these tools and will do so in the future.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:

If anyone has been following my blog posts they might notice that I finally used pictures of my family in both multimedia tools this week. Up to this point I have been very hesitant to do so. And I certainly wouldn’t have done it two months ago. This has been a huge learning curve for me personally. I am letting go of the need for total privacy. This will impact me and my family in many ways. I will not be so reluctant to let my children use web tools and they will be allowed greater freedom in internet exploration while keeping safety in mind. I have shown my children how to use both tools and they can easily make multimedia projects to share with family, friends and for school assignments. As a family we can send little videos and picture clips with our voices to grandparents who live far away. This will draw our family closer together and allow our extended family to see the changes in the kids. I feel more comfortable in sharing photos, video, and my voice with family and friends. It can also be viewed by strangers which isn’t bothering me. I really enjoyed making the Animoto video and the Voicethread. I have added two Animoto videos and the Voicethread to my Facebook and love reading the comments. After posting the Animoto video and Voicethread on Facebook some of my friends have asked me to show them how to do both things. I will be showing them how and then they can also start using multimedia sharing sites. I also want to make a longer video for my parents’ anniversary next year. I am the family scrapbooker for special occasions and now I will become the family video maker instead. It’s much easier and can be shared with all family whether they make it to the event or not.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:

I will enjoy using both of these web 2.0 tools in my classroom and sharing them with other staff members and my Kindergarten teacher colleagues at the division level. I agree with Sprankle’s, (2009) comments about Voicethread being, “an incredibly easy tool to get up and running and a perfect tool to bring 21st century skills such as creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration with a global audience into your classroom.” In my Kindergarten class I will be able to use Voicethread to share art work, writing, and projects that each child has done and they will be able to talk about them. I can get around the privacy act we have, by having the child hold the work up in front of them. Also I can not use each child’s picture but I can use a symbol for their image instead. I can easily share this tool with other Kindergarten teachers. I can convince them how easy it is to use and how much parents will enjoy seeing and hearing about their child’s work. Another idea for using Voicethread is that each child could make a picture and talk about their dad as a Father’s Day gift. I will be able to show other teachers in my school how older students can use Voicethread. They can comment and engage in global conversation on Voicethread about specific topics that would enhance their reflection and communication skills. I will use Richardson’s (2009), Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oNwOkctpOs on Voicethread to help them understand how Voicethread works.

I like the video style of Animoto. I will be able to use it to produce my year end video for my Kindergarten graduation. It will seem very high tech and professional. Once I do this some of the other teachers in my school will want to do the same. After watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqlGGllwT0c, I was able to show teachers how to use Animoto for Education. Some have signed up already to get their students to make video projects. After I read Marcinek’s (2009), post on the Classroom 2.0 Ning I shared some other ideas for our students. These include making movie trailers on books, vocabulary ideas, social studies and history topics, math concepts and life skills how to videos. These videos can be used as teaching and reviewing tools. Students will be able to share these videos with others and this would promote communication and global citizenship. Some other ideas in using Animoto taken from Valenza (2008), include “any projects for which we'd formerly create a collage--the gathering of multiple pieces to create new context. A collage showcasing student work or art, gathering historical images and relevant music or soundtrack to introduce a time period, paintings and sound to introduce an artist or artistic movement. You could easily use it to promote school programs or activities.” I think the possibilities for using Animoto in education are endless.

Some issues I may have in using Voicethread and Animoto in my class is that I would need to upload the images or get another adult to do it. Uploading can be time consuming. I would also need microphones which we don not have even though they are inexpensive we have a tight budget. Another con is that I would have to be very careful not to have a child’s picture showing on the site. The positive support for using Animoto and Voicethread in schools is that they are both easy to use and can take very little time to make. They are also engaging for students as you have more than one medium. Having sound and pictures together will embrace more learning styles. They are both relatively inexpensive to use. The fast paced video style of Animoto is very appealing and looks professional when completed. The positives outweigh the negatives for both these web 2.0 tools.

References

http://digitallyspeaking.pbworks.com/Voicethread#TeachingStudentstoCreateandModerateThreads

http://www.classroom20.com/forum/topics/hello-animoto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqlGGllwT0c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txgAh4ETKHE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oNwOkctpOs

Sprankle, B. (October, 2009). VoiceThread. School Talk, 15(1), 4-6. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Valenza, J. (April, 2008). Announcing Animoto for Education. School Library Journal. Retrieved October 30,2009. from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1560024356.html?q=animoto

Monday, November 2, 2009