Monday, June 30, 2008

How Canadians Define Their Country - MSN news

A recent survey asked Canadians to define “Canada.” Watch this video clip to see the highlights: Survey offers snapshot of what defines Canada.

Check out 101things.ca to vote on the list of things that you feel define Canada.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

PART 4 - Future Plans

Learning More

My blog has become an online archive of my learning experience. I have gone from being a person who was completely helpless on a computer, to having a great deal more confidence and understanding about technology. I intend to continue adding to it as I explore further. With summer soon approaching, I anticipate having some time to learn more about Web 2.0, and even look at sites (such as Animoto, Furl, and co.mments) that I only had the chance to quickly browse through this semester. Additionally, I hope to integrate blogging, wikis, and podcasting into my teaching in the fall, and I want to be prepared for that. I intend to learn more about the features offered by Edublogs for teacher and students accounts, managing privacy, etc.


Integrating Technologies into my Classroom

My plans for integrating blogging may depend upon my school division’s policy relating to their accessibility from school computers (presently, they are piloting a blogging integration activity with a few classrooms). However, if there are restrictions in place, I hope to lobby for that being changed. Nevertheless, I anticipate structuring the organization of my courses differently and utilizing blogs as a portal so that students can access course materials. I eventually would like to set up individual blogging accounts for each student to use as e-portfolios of their work. It will also provide a more interactive way of providing feedback on assignments.

I also know that wikis will be integrated into my teaching practices. Based on my experiences with them this semester, I know that they are powerful tools for collaboration.

The integration of these new technologies will also require rethinking assessment. I am now aware of resources I can consult to see how teachers are assessing learning outcomes of students. I soon hope to start collecting a variety of examples to guide my own rubric creations.


Inspired to Create

Although I am still very new to Web 2.0 technologies, I have been inspired by the wonderful web sites I have found which are organized specifically for teaching other educators about Web 2.0. I would like to create my own comprehensive wiki web site (similar to that of Valenza, Vesper and Peacock’s wikis). I would aim to include things such as: tutorials, definitions and handouts, links and feeds, pages organized according to tasks or subject areas, etc. I realize that I still have much more research to do, but this is a future goal.

Another lofty goal I have set for myself is connected to the research I did for virtual school libraries. I hope to learn more about web page creation, and use the elements of design and content I learned about in order to create, or recreate a school library web site. I will likely try to work in collaboration with a computer teacher on such a project in the future.

Lastly, I have to admit that this experience has generated a great deal of interest in exploring Web 2.0 topics further, perhaps in my Capping Paper experience. I am taking the summer to give it some serious thought.

The blog I have established this semester will continue to grow, even though I will no longer be responding to assigned exploration tasks, I will be creating my own!


Concluding Thoughts

This learning journey has left plenty of food for thought. My definition of what it means to be literate has evolved to include the Internet and ICT. As Richardson (2006) explains in his chapter “What it all Means,” the Read/Write Web is prompting us to re-examine the way we think about content and curriculum.

Richardson’s explanations about the “big shifts” in how best to teach students are ideas I am starting to understand, mainly because of my own experiences this semester. Many of these shifts are very challenging to the traditional conventions of teaching.

I feel that I my job description has changed, or rather, evolved. It has always been multifaceted, but I am seeing firsthand, the impact that web technologies will have on education. This will definitely change the role of teachers.

At this point, I don’t have all the answers. However, I have heard the message loud and clear. I know I will never be able to teach the same way again. And that’s a good thing.

I’m inspired, I’m motivated, and I’m ready to get to work.

"Start to model, in your job as a teacher, the practice of being a master learner" (David Warlick, from Path to Becoming a Literate Educator).

References

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Corwin Press: Thousand Oakes, CA.


Last but not least…

This video made me laugh…but only view it if you have a good sense of humour!

The Librarian Song by Joe Uveges

PART 3 - The Highlights and Lowlights

In my Reflecting on Learning Web 2.0 post, I commented about the ten tools I learned about this semester, along with the difficulties and discoveries associated with each of them. However, there are few final comments I’d like to make about some of the other HIGHS and LOWS of my learning experience.

The Lowlights:

* I struggled with understanding how to properly set up RSS feeds through an aggregator. However, I needed to go through this struggle in order to make sense of how linking and the interconnectivity of the Web works.

* Creating a podcast was fun; publishing a podcast on the Internet was a nightmare. I did not understand how or why Podcasts need to be uploaded onto a host or server. Plus, I found conflicting suggestions because I had consulted too many tutorials. After a major breakthrough, this turned into a positive experience. I was able to practice what I had learned through this experience for an assignment in another class, and it went much more smoothly!


The Highlights:

*I am proud that I was able to dig myself out of difficult and frustrating situations (i.e. podcasting). “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they'll surprise you with their ingenuity” - George S. Patton (from 180 Technology Tips). I basically surprised myself.

* I have discovered some amazing resources during this semester. These web sites and tutorials have helped me have those “a-ha” moments when a new technology finally makes sense!

o Common Craft videos by Lee LeFever (all of them!)
o Flickr Tutorials Series by Mediamazine
o Delicious Tutorial video on YouTube
o Educause – 7 Things You Should Know About… ( a series of information brochures about web technologies)
o Online Learning Studio – Podcasts
o Creative Cow podcasting tutorials by Franklin McMahon
o How to Podcast by Jason Van Orden
o Information Fluency wiki by Joyce Valenza (with links to everything imaginable)
o Educational Software and Web 2.0 by Susie Vesper
o Web 2.0 For Teachers by Kim Peacock
o 180 Technology Tips by 180techtips.com
o Edublogs

* Learning about wikis opened up many ideas about their uses in education. I really understood their value as a collaboration tool, and presentation tool by getting to use a wiki in each of my three courses this semester.

* Avatars, especially Vokis, were a fun discovery! I love how they personalize web pages and can be used along with podcasting.

* Widgets (a third party item that can be embedded in a page) are fun and impressive web tools which also help “personalize” the web. I can understand their attraction for kids. I loved discovering Shelfari and Postit Notes.

* Virtual school libraries was a topic of great interest to me, as I would like to one day design, create, and manage my school library’s web site. This is both exciting and intimidating at the same time!

* Comments/compliments from respected educators have motivated and inspired me! Jenn’s comment, in reference to my blogs about virtual school libraries, and Susie Vesper’s comment about the exploration of tools in my blog have made me think about where I’d like to take my blogging in the future.

PART 2 – Learning from other Great Minds

Learning with and from my classmates has been an important part of my journey. Here are just a few of the highlights of my learning for which I gratefully acknowledge my colleagues:

Arlene has exemplified how blogs enable writing to mature and evolve. Her blogs were impressive right from the start, but she has proven that she is a masterful writer and composer of educational blogs. I am in awe of her writing style. She has inspired my own writing attempts.

John’s blogs demonstrated a sophisticated use of technology, which always impressed me. His visually attractive blog prompted me to ask him to give me some guidance with creating thumbnail images. He responded quickly to my request with a detailed explanation, which taught me how to create my own thumbnails. As a visual learner, I am thrilled to be able to incorporate images with my writing now. Thanks so much, John!

By observing Jess’s blogs, I made the connection about hyperlinking words in my blogs. Prior to that, I had been giving complete URLs in my blog posts when making references. I did not like the way it looked. Jess’s example of good blogging protocol helped me improve my ability to reference and link in my blogs.

Steph’s blogs have been a true demonstration of what it means to a lifelong learner. She has highlighted her triumphs and challenges in an enduring and optimistic way. I always look forward to reading her blogs. Her Photobucket project has also inspired me to try this photosharing site.

Overall, having shared similar challenges with a group of people has made learning about new technologies far less intimidating. It was a relief to read about their experiences, which were very reflective of my own. I looked forward to reading about the various approaches we had to the same problems.

I continue to be inspired by the willingness of educators (like my classmates) to share, collaborate and help each other out.

PART 1 – Reflecting on Learning about Web 2.0

Introduction: The Learning Curve

It may be an overused analogy, but the image of driving a car at breakneck speeds around an unfamiliar, hilly, and windy terrain would best exemplify my learning journey with technology this semester. (I barely even felt qualified to “drive” at first, let alone figure out where I was going!) But there’s nothing like immersing yourself in something new in order to figure it out, and that is exactly what has happened. I only came close to hitting the ditch once, but I managed to hang on. Thus, I feel it is appropriate to describe some my experiences with the phrase: “the learning curve” to symbolize the challenges of learning about web 2.0, utilizing the driving metaphor. My learning journey has been an exciting one!


Ten Web Tools to Learn…

Ronda’s Learning Curve: how challenging was it?
1= relatively easy
3= moderately challenging
5= very challenging

1) Blogs and RSS
Setting up my Blogger account was actually quite a lot of fun. I was a bit nervous going into blogging, and had some friends on “stand-by” in case I ran into any problems, but I didn’t have any with my blog! The hardest part was thinking of a title for my blog (and I wish now that I had come up with something a little more interesting…) but I was anxious to start investigating the features and settings of the blog.
Learning Curve: 1/5

My fun was cut short when I tried to set up an RSS feed through an aggregator. I really did not have a complete grasp of RSS, let alone all the terminology related to it at the beginning of this course. I was frustrated. I gave up on my first attempt of getting set up at Bloglines. (I had not investigated the tutorials available for setting up an aggregator, which looking back, was an important learning experience for me; this prompted me to seek out tutorials for each new web tool before attempting to use them with the rest of our assignment).

I went through a process of setting up individual RSS feeds to other blogs. I knew something wasn’t right. It seemed like there had to be an easier way of doing this. However, I did not understand enough about RSS to know what that was. All I can say was that I am still grateful to Elisa, who posted about Google Reader in our class discussions, which helped me overcome this hurdle.

I came to understand that there was a difference between subscribing to a blog by setting up an individual RSS feed, and setting up an aggregator. An aggregator allows for ALL of one’s subscriptions to be “bundled” and delivered to one place. By adding a blogroll, you can simply select “Read More” and see the most recently posted blogs. If I were to not use an aggregator, my numerous RSS feeds would be more time consuming to check, as they would have to be clicked on individually. I now realize the powerful uses of RSS feeds, and have embraced this tool as an essential part of navigating the web.
Learning Curve: 4/5 (I’m a little embarrassed by this, but I was quite a novice back in January!)

2) Photosharing
Setting up accounts with Picasa and Flickr was fun and easy to do (this time, I did watch a Flickr tutorial to get me started!) I found that I was far more intrigued by what Flickr had to offer: by selecting “Explore” I was able to browse through amazing pictures, look at maps, check out interesting creative possibilities with “Cool Stuff” and the list goes on. (Creating a Flickr badge was quite enjoyable!)

Since I have only been the owner of a digital camera since Christmas, (and I still am learning how to use it) I did not find myself wanting to explore the editing features of these sites. However, I did find it interesting to read about the editing tools described in the blogs of my classmates. For my basic purposes, I felt that this web tool was pretty interesting, and one which I wanted more time to explore. I also felt that I would like more time to fully understand licensing and permissible uses of photos before using this tool with students.
Learning Curve: 2/5

3) Videosharing
I was worried going into this one. First of all, I had really never spent any time on the Internet looking at videos. Secondly, I had some preconceived notions about sites such as YouTube because of negative news stories which have been associated with it.

I was wowed by how many videosharing sites exist on the internet. After browsing through YouTube and TeacherTube, I began to recognize the educational potential of this tool. Certainly, I am not na├»ve about the fact that there is inappropriate material on some videosharing sites. However, I think that with some careful planning, teachers can use videosharing in the classroom. I was cognizant of my own school division’s policy pertaining to videosharing sites, as they had only recently lifted the block on YouTube for teacher access. This proves that schools are slowly starting to recognize the potential of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

I found several videos which I felt I would be comfortable using for my lessons. This is a tool I have not used in the past, but now see how it could become an integral part of my teaching practices.
Learning Curve: 2/5

4) Social bookmarking
Social bookmarking was one of the least intimidating and most useful web tools we learned about. I loved Lee Lefever’s way of explaining in Social Bookmarking in Plain English that saving our “Favourites” to our computers was the old way (boo!) and saving favourites to a web site is the new way (yah!) The most significant learning which came from this tool was the importance of tags and folksonomy. I really see folksonomy changing the way people search for materials. It has certainly been interesting to bring this new realization into the context of my cataloguing course (EDES 547) this semester as we discussed controlled search terms.
Learning Curve: 1/5

5) Podcasting
Learning about this web tool was the rockiest part of my journey; the learning curve was the steepest!

Before I explain, I must point out that understanding the concept of Podcasts was straightforward; they are audio broadcasts (similar to radio programs). Finding and listening to Podcasts on the Internet is easy. All you need is a set of speakers! Creating a podcast is kind of fun. On the other hand, publishing a podcast is another story.

After many days of researching and reading about podcasts, I came to realize that one must have a good understanding of several programs and applications related to podcasting. While previous Web 2.0 tools required only learning about the intricacies of one particular site, podcasting requires proficiency in several applications. For me, this included: Audacity, LAME, Internet Archive and Blogger. I watched and/or read about six various tutorials on creating a podcast. No two tutorials were exactly the same. This did two things: it made me very frustrated, and it made me realize there was more than one way to create a podcast. I just wanted to figure out which was the easiest! I literally spent five days of reading and testing out these tutorials.

It was pure trial and error which led me to my breakthrough moment with publishing my podcast. I realized that I needed to upload my podcast onto an internet host site (such as Internet Archive) and then find a way to feed the podcast to my blog. I luckily discovered that the XML code I needed was provided by Internet Archive, and I could easily cut and paste the code into my blog. I had been barking up the wrong tree playing around with OurMedia and Feedburner (as was suggested by one of the many tutorials I had viewed). I was relieved, but exhausted by the time I made this discovery.

Although learning about podcasting may have been one of my “darkest” moments on my journey, it also turned out to be my most memorable. I am so proud that I did not give up, and completely figured out how to finish this task on my own. This may have been another pivotal or defining moment for me on my learning journey. It gave me a new sense of confidence, even though I had come very close to wanting to throw in the towel.

Since that time, I have a much more positive attitude about podcasting, and am excited about using this tool. I was able to use what I learned for my EDEL 561 course, where I created a longer podcast for a presentation. I also published the podcast to a wiki for the presentation. It went so much more smoothly this time around.

Lastly, discovering the fun associated with creating an avatar (Voki) and combining it with a podcast was great way to wrap up my podcasting experience.

I continued to investigate some other ways podcasts can be published on the Internet. After talking with a colleague, I discovered that if a person has an Edublog account, she can upload a podcast directly from her computer. Edublogs provides the server or host that is needed to support an audio file. Edublogs has many other desirable features, but hassle-free podcasting can be added to the list!
Learning Curve: 5/5 (this one was a toughy)

6) Virtual School Libraries
Exploring virtual school libraries was more of a reward than it was work (and what a relief after podcasts!) I recently have become extremely interested in learning more about the design and content which go into school library web sites. I’m surprised at myself; I have absolutely no background in web site creation. However, I have come to appreciate the value in well-organized, user-friendly web sites that are rich with information and resources. Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School web site is just one example of the many fantastic sites I explored. I am aspiring to create my own someday in the future. I am certain that I will be pursuing this tool further in the future.
Learning Curve: 2/5

7) Wikis
Learning about wikis was one of the unexpected highlights of the course. I had absolutely no experience with them. Additionally, I had a great deal of scepticism when it came to the most well-known wiki; Wikipedia. This was one of those times where I will admit that I was wrong: there is some value to Wikipedia! The research done by Alex Halavais helped me to accept that there can be just as many inconsistencies in what is deemed to be a reliable source as there can be on Wikipedia. (It is still important that Wikipedia’s information be cross referenced with other sources, but it does have its merits).

I got my feet wet learning how to use a wiki with Wikispaces (this was part of the requirement for our EDES 545 presentation). Our group ended up moving our information over to PBWiki, which I found to be very visually appealing. The overlap and timing of an assignment for my EDEL 561 course allowed me create another PBwiki. This was when I really got the chance to play around with the editing features and other capabilities of wikis. It was very rewarding to be able to use the skills learned in one course and apply them in another assignment. I really got to experience the ease with which collaboration can occur when using a wiki for a group project. Wikis melt the barriers of time and distance; wikis can be accessed at one’s convenience. I look forward to using this tool with students.
Learning Curve: 3/5

8) Multimedia: Voicethread
I am glad that this web tool was saved until later in the course; it was a culmination of many other web tools we had explored (such as photosharing, podcasting, and videosharing). When I first watched a Voicethread presentation, I was a little intimidated by the technical know-how it appeared to require. However, creating a Voicethread was not as challenging as I thought it might be. The tutorials on the site were very helpful. This tool looks highly impressive, but doesn’t require a high level of tech-savvy. I also liked the idea of this type of collaboration tool for classroom use (EdVoicethread) more than other forms of social networking.
Learning Curve: 2/5

9) Social Networking
Here was a web tool which I was completely fascinated by, and intimidated by, at the same time. My experiences this semester while researching web tools often led me to discover the positive uses for social networking. Classroom 2.0 (Ning in Education) is a prime example of a social networking site that works well; where like-minded people with similar goals can converse and share ideas. However, it made me nervous to think about social networking with students in an educational setting. Again, there have been many examples in the news where sites such as Facebook and MySpace have done considerable harm. The issue of cyberbullying would have to be addressed proactively by any teacher introducing this tool to students for classroom use.

For me, the jury is still out on social networks. I would feel more comfortable using a social network which I could create and monitor with my students (such as can be done with Ning in Education). In the meantime, using blogs and wikis is where my comfort level is currently at.
Learning Curve: 1/5

10) Blogs/Blogging for Professional Development
Reading the blogs of other professionals has provided much of the support and foundation for leaning about other web tools this semester. I have found that I have come to rely a great deal on the ideas, opinions and suggestions made by other educators in their blogs. This illustrates a major shift in my thinking: from once regarding blogs only as forums for reflective diaries, to seeing blogs as places to share important findings and information. The shared experiences of other educators have informed my own thinking about education.

Engaging in my own blogging has been by far one of the most meaningful professional development activities as a teacher. I used to dread the journal-like activities associated with various education courses because it felt unnatural. Blogging is more interactive; the comments of others push ideas to evolve. It is not a solitary activity, like keeping a journal. I can envision more future professional development activities for teachers utilizing blogging, which brings people together in a professional learning community with common goals to share and explore ideas.
Learning Curve: 1/5

Technology Integration: Looking at the Big Picture

As has been previously discussed, introducing staff to “blogging” is only the first step in a program of technology integration. The ultimate goal is to have teachers become comfortable with technology and find ways to integrate these into their teaching practices. The first goal is getting teachers to move from using technology in “domesticating” ways and make the transition to “liberating” (Subramaniam, 2006).

David Warlick’s blog called: A Path to Becoming a 21st Century Literate Educator provides a self-development guide for educators who wish to expand their own learning about technology. He gives some suggestions which still have relevance in the planning of a larger group professional development initiative. Some of his suggestions include:

· identify the teachers in your school who have expertise, and draw on their support

· begin working with someone in your school or district who can provide technical support and configuration, if you require this

· prepare a wiki for posting notes, links, and step-by-step instructions

· model your work as a fellow-learner; sharing your reflections on what you are learning and how you are learning it

Teachers will be at various places in their skill development with Web 2.0 technologies. It is extremely important that they have “just-in-time” support when they require it. Providing a strong support structure and resources will be a key factor in making this professional development successful. An excellent example of the kind of online resource support I would hope to provide can be seen at Web 2.0 For Teachers and Educational Software and Web 2.0. These fantastic sites provide well-organized links, tutorials, etc. to support teachers while learning about Web 2.0.


Adding to “The Toolbox”

According to Richardson, there are several key technologies which promise to change the way we teach and learn (pp. 8-9):
* weblogs (blogs)
* wikis
* RSS
* aggregators
* social bookmarking
* online photo galleries
* audio/video-casting

These Web 2.0 tools are ones which allow for publishing content, manage content, and share content in collaborative ways.

As I mentioned in my introduction, blogging is an important starting point for becoming comfortable with Web 2.0. Blogs provide a foundation or springboard for other Web 2.0 tools, as many of the concepts are transferable to learning about and understanding other web tools.

Access to Web 2.0

A major factor in the implementation of any computer related technology and the Internet must fall under the Acceptable Use Policy of school and school division. Some school divisions have blocks or filters which do not allow for access to some of these Web 2.0 tools. For example, my division has only recently allowed for teachers to access videosharing sites such as YouTube, but student access is still blocked. As administrators, teachers and parents come to see the educational value in using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, these barriers will come down.

Scaffolding the Bigger Plan for Professional Development

Consider the process of “building” as a metaphor for learning about Web 2.0 tools.

Knowledge needs a foundation, or a starting point; a place where one can relate back to and connect new learning. In my opinion, blogs can provide this foundation for learning about Web 2.0. And perhaps similar to pouring concrete, it may take a while for a strong foundation to become established and ready to hold more weight. This is best done when there is support in place; teacher mentoring and collaboration.

Each new Web 2.0 tool that we learn about rests on the foundation. We can start to see the interconnectivity of these tools, and how they can be used together to create and learn. The shape of structure starts to emerge…

Several web sites exist which are dedicated to building teacher knowledge with Web 2.0 technologies. Sites such as School Library Learning 2.0 and Learning 2.0 Challenge provide step by step instructions and forums to guide teachers. These sites provide many ideas for how professional development can be “scaffolded” for an entire staff.

Professional development instructional sessions must be reinforced and supported through mentorship, regular meetings, resources and guides.

Teachers may be given the same tools to work with, but how and what they construct for their own classroom uses will vary! The potential of using web 2.0 tools in education is unlimited!

References

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Corwin Press: Thousand Oakes, CA.

Subramaniam, K. (2006). Teachers' mindsets and integration of computer technology. The British journal of educational technology 38(6), 1056-1071.

Integrating Technology Over Time

Building Momentum

Momentum for integrating technology can only happen when there is adequate support in place. As Kadijevich (2006) stated, support is one of three factors which will affect technology use of teachers.

I would propose two forms of support to sustain the professional development of teachers in their uses of technology. The first would be in-service days, or half days, where instructional time is spent exploring a new technology. Adequate time is necessary for teachers to receive instruction, and begin engaging meaningfully in the use of the technology. Secondly, I propose regular meetings between teacher-pairs for mentorship time related to the new technology.

In my school division, designated meeting time set aside once every month for “Team Meetings.” In the past few years, this time has been used for the various Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) which exist within the schools. For example, one PLC centered on issues related to health and wellness programs in our school. Another PLC centered on the school-day schedule and other planning issues. A case can be made for this time to be used for Professional Learning Communities related to technology integration within the school.


Showcasing Integrated Technology

As teachers become more comfortable with blogs, they may start using them in various ways: Blogs can be used as:

* Class Portals: to communicate information about the class and to archive course materials; a place to publish the course curriculum, syllabus, class rules, homework assignments, rubrics, handouts, and presentations (blogs are a powerful course management tool!)

* Online Filing Cabinet: a digital filing cabinet for students to archive their work and create a space for an online portfolio of work. (a record of student work)

* E-Portfolio: students collect the work they want to highlight; they can reflect on their work in a blog post and publish the results

* Collaborative Space: a place for students to collaborate with others online; learn from each other or from other professionals who can work side by side in a digital space

* Knowledge Management and Articulation: a place for school committees and groups to store documents and information

* School Website: could be linked to the school’s main website, and maintained by each department, sports team, clubs and activities to keep up-to-date

(Richardson, 2006, pp. 21-26).

As part of this professional development, I would ask for regular feedback from teachers to tell me how they are using blogs in their teaching and learning. Those who are comfortable could allow their use of blogs to be shown in staff meetings, which would be relevant and motivating for other staff to experience. Eventually, the use of blogs could be showcased by linking them to the school’s web page, or the school library’s web site. Information about the school’s successful uses with new technologies can be shared with the community through school newsletters.

References

Kadijevich, D. (2006).
Achieving educational technology standards: The relationship between student teacher's interest and institutional support offered. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22. p. 437-443

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Corwin Press: Thousand Oakes, CA.