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 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).


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
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 naïve 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
* 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!


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.


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.

The Implications for Teaching and Learning of Adults

An “Attitude Adjustment”

Educators know that it is virtually impossible to make someone learn something if they do not have a willingness and openness to the learning. We’ve all probably used the old cliché: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it, when reflecting upon the attitudes of certain resistant students. In a nutshell, attitude is everything.

Why would this be any different for teaching adults about technology? Can it be expected of teachers to embrace and learn new technologies just because they have been told to do so? If we try hard to make meaningful and relevant connections to our students’ lives in our teaching, we should be doing the same for teachers with how we deliver professional development. A “one-size-fits-all” approach simply will not be successful. "Technology use by teachers is strongly influenced by their own attitudes towards that technology..." (Becker, 2007).

Kadijevich’s research (2006) found that of the three factors which affect technology use in teachers (interest, support and attitude), the one factor which needs to be focused upon the most, is developing attitude. Computer attitude is crucial in motivating teachers’ intentions to use the technology. This is affected by how the teacher perceives the “usefulness” of computer technology.

Kadijevich found that a positive computer attitude may be developed through interactions and cooperation between inexperienced and experienced users of technology, through mentorship, that promote a teachers’ understanding of why, when and how to use technology.

He also stated that teacher development should be continuous, thus, not sporadic and without follow-up. When the use of educational technology is made more personal, teachers will maintain the use of the technology.

Asselin’s research (2005) maintains similar findings: teachers require mentorship and collaboration in order to support information literacy.

Based on these findings, I suggest that partnerships be set up with teachers, between experienced and inexperienced users of technology. Preferably, these partnerships could be formed within subject-specific departments. This way, teachers could approach the use of the technology with common goals and desired outcomes in their subject area which would not happen as easily with teacher-partnerships which are spread out across various disciplines. Regular, on-going meeting times for would need to occur in order to sustain development. Once every two weeks would be ideal.

Teaching teachers to use technology needs to be done so in a way which is: fun and motivating; personalized and practical; supportive and sustained over time.


Asselin, M. (2005). Teaching information skills in the information age: An examination of trends. School Libraries Worldwide, 11(1). (ProQuest)

Becker, K. (2007). Digital game-based learning once removed: Teaching teachers. British journal of educational technology, 38(3), p. 478-488.

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

Seeing is Believing: Blogs in Educational Context

What are Blogs?

Here’s an explanation, in “plain english” to help us better understand blogs.

(Blogs in Plain English by Lee LeFever – Common Craft)

Web 2.0 tools are important in the teaching practices of the new educational landscape.

(Why Let Students Blog? )

Looking at the Blogs of other Educators

By visiting the blogs of other educators, we can start to see very quickly how other professionals are using this web tool. Mainly, these examples show how blogs can be used in the context of professional development.

As a starting point, let’s take a look at a few blogs of educators:

* 2 cents worth by David Warlick
* Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson
* Neverending Search by Joyce Valenza

A second site to visit in order to gain some understanding about how educators are using blogs is taking a look at Edublogs. Edublogs hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs for teachers, students, researchers, professors, librarians, administrators and anyone and everyone else involved in education.

This web site is specifically designed to provide blogs as a place for:
- providing blogging accounts for educators and students
- forums to answer questions
- troubleshooting
- feedback and discussion
- reflections
- support

Blogging across the curriculum

Next, let’s start to narrow down our scope of the blogosphere, and try to imagine its uses in our classrooms. Although there are obvious connections for reading and writing which point to blogs having their place in English language arts classrooms, blogs can be used in all subject areas. Here are few suggestions to consider:

* Math – students can work on math problems with peers from another class
* Science – students can compare results of science experiments with other classes
* Language classes – students can converse with native speakers
* Phys. Ed. – students can log and analyze their workouts and/or diets
* History – students can construct resource sites for their studies
* English language arts – students can respond to literature readings
* Art – students can critique art work and projects

Take a peek at a few examples of some real examples of how classroom teachers are using blogs in their subject areas:

A Science blog:
A Math blog:
An Art blog:
An English blog:

(There are many examples of classroom blogs to be found at:

These are only a few examples! What other uses for blogging can you start to see for your classroom?


Setting up a Blog

As Richardson suggests, teachers must become bloggers themselves so that they can fully understand the potential of blogs as a teaching and learning tool. Teachers should start out small; create accounts and gradually familiarize themselves with the blogging software and the experience of publishing online. They may wish to begin only responding and posting to existing blogs before writing and publishing their first post. As teachers get more settled into the rhythm and mental work that is blogging, they will learn to write more critically and indepth.

An introductory use of blogs for teachers can be as a course management tool to put basic information relevant to the class, such as: handouts, assignments, deadlines, upcoming events, etc. This does not require them to have students to set up their own accounts (unless they decide to do so later on). The information is completely controlled by the teacher. As teachers feel more comfortable, they can introduce their students to other uses of blogging.

As a staring point, I would show my staff the process of setting up a blog with Blogger or Wordpress.

Ideally, this professional development session would take place in the computer lab, with each teacher sitting at a computer station, while I guide them using an large screen projection of my computer screen. By providing a demonstration of how to set up an account, followed by instructions on managing the settings, teachers can then get started “hands on” with personalizing their blogs. It is important that an adequate amount of time be given for teachers to investigate the features and settings of their blog accounts.

This document, Setting up a account for use in the classroom, provides extremely helpful information pertaining to setting up a Blogger account; something I would use as a handout for teachers to supplement a demonstration.

(For teachers who are familiar with blogging, and wish to start investigating how they can set up blogging accounts for their classes, I would direct them to Edublogs.)

A Brief Introduction: Adding RSS Feeds Through an Aggregator

Although the primary focus of this particular professional development session would be to introduce blogging to teachers, there may also be an opportunity to demonstrate how RSS feeds can be utilized along with blogs. Therefore, only a brief introduction to this web tool might be given at this time. A PD session completely devoted to RSS feeds and the Internet would be a logical next step in the process of learning about Web 2.0. Richardson’s chapter “RSS: The New Killer App for Educators” from Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms would provide a guide for this explanation and demonstration.

Making the Case for Web 2.0 Tools

The educational landscape as we once knew it is experiencing a time of unbelievable growth and change. Bob Dylan said it best: “…the times they are a-changin’”. Living in the Age of Information has prompted educators to rethink, revamp, and revitalize the goals of curriculum to prepare students for living in the 21st century; a new world where exponential changes in technology are happening.

Many researchers have acknowledged that the way students learn today has changed from a generation ago. As Ian Jukes (The Committed Sardine) explains:

Kids today are different. Clinical research shows that children neurologically adapt to their pervasive digital experiences, and that they absorb and process information in ways fundamentally different from their predecessors.

Technology has changed, and will continue to change education.

Students must be given the opportunity to actively construct their own knowledge, and to develop the ability to understand and apply key content concepts and ideas, to solve problems, ask questions and question answers, link disciplines, and explore multiple routes to knowledge. Digital Learners like to receive information quickly from multiple multimedia sources, multi-task, process pictures, sounds and video before text, have random access to hyperlinked information, network with others, learn "just in time", have instant gratification, and learn things that are active, relevant and instantly useful.

Education changed from the Agricultural age to the Industrial Age, and it needs to now change from the Industrial age to the information age (Ian Jukes, The Committed Sardine).

Will Richardson (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms) also provides some key questions educators need to address about the impact of the Internet – the “Read/Write Web” on our futures:

* What needs to change about our curriculum when our students have the ability to reach audiences far beyond our classroom walls?

* What changes must we make in our teaching as it becomes easier to bring primary sources to our students?

* How do we need to rethink our ideas of literacy when we must prepare our students to become not only readers and writers, but editors and collaborators as well?

* How do we best put to use the reams and reams of “digital paper” that Weblogs provide?

We begin to realize that literacy is more complex than ever before; it is being re-conceptualized to encompass the multiple forms of literacy that students will need to develop in order to participate fully in the 21st century.

Make way for the teaching of the NEW literacies: the Internet and ITC (information technology and communication) which are central to the use of information and acquisition of knowledge (Asselin, 2005).

It is generally agreed upon that these new literacies are important goals in education, but how are classroom teachers really addressing and teaching these literacies? Are Web 2.0 tools an important part of how we teach the new literacies? The answer is, yes. As Richardson explains: “…these tools have considerable relevance to state and local core content curriculum standards, and there is much reason to believe their implementation in schools will better prepare students for a slew of new literacies and competencies in their post-education lives” (Richardson, 2006, p. 5).

Additionally, Web 2.0 tools support multiple intelligences and constructivist learning. All of these reasons point to the need for integration in our teaching practices.

Building Educational Experiences with Web 2.0 Tools


For this assignment, we have been asked to select a Web 2.0 tool to introduce to our staff, and outline the professional development that we would plan. Upon reflection of the ten new web tools I have just learned about in this course, I would like to approach this type of professional development by planning instruction about blogs and blogging.

Blogs are one of the tools which I believe provide a foundation or springboard for other Web 2.0 tools. The concepts about web tools learned through an exploration of blogging would be transferable to learning about and understanding other web tools.

Another reason for selecting blogs as a starting point for staff professional development is that blogs provide novice users a chance to “get their feet wet” and start to familiarize themselves with the “Read/Write Web” (Richardson, 2006). For more tech-savvy users, they can explore more the sophisticated uses for blogs, but can still use blogs as a place to reflect and showcase their discoveries.

Ideally, I would like to have copies of Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms available for staff to begin reading. Many of Richardson’s statements about why educators should be using web tools in the classroom are the same points I would use to introduce blogs to my staff.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Part 5 - Some Final Thoughts

Professional blogs have become an essential resource in my learning journey this semester. Until this year, I had never read any professional blogs. I did not even consider them a “reliable source” of information; mainly due to my lack of understanding about them. It was not until I created my own blog, and began investigating this particular Web 2.0 tool that I have come to recognize the important contributions made by professional educators in the blogosphere.

Another important realization I have made is that educators are some of the most generous, helpful and patient people around. This has become apparent by visiting blog after blog which has been designed with the sole purpose of helping and supporting other educators. One can see the effort and hard work which has gone into creating and organizing meaningful information to empower teachers. I have also been amazed by the positive feedback and interactions I have read in some of these blogs. I was most pleasantly surprised by receiving some positive comments from other educator-bloggers on my own blogs this semester. All of this has helped me grow as an educator in ways I would have never imagined three months ago.

I believe that blogs are truly a powerful part of a professional learning community.

Part 4 - Learning from other Professionals through their Blogs

The way in which educators engage in professional development can be multi-faceted. Attending conferences, meetings, and workshops with other educators are often the most valued PD opportunities, since educators seem to thrive on discussion and interactions with one another. Whenever you have two or more teachers in a room together, how long before “shop talk” begins? From my experience, not very long! Sharing ideas, stories, successes and failures are all part of growing as a professional. Since blogging occurs on the internet, it is like having an on-line conference, meeting or workshop to participate in at one’s convenience. It is a new way for educators to stay connected.

Since the beginning of this semester, I have subscribed to the blogs of seven professionals: educators, technology experts and teacher-librarians. (I set this up through an aggregator; Google Reader, which brings RSS feeds directly to my blog). Each week, I have read about the various topics which have been timely or at the forefront of their professions. Their blogs have provided me with insights, instruction, resources, web links, book titles, opinions, rants, and ideas; all which I have “soaked up” like a sponge! I have come view these individuals to as guides on my journey to learn about becoming a teacher-librarian in the 21st century.

Here are a few of the professional blogs from which I have been gaining wisdom:

2 cents worth by David Warlick
Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson
Neverending Search by Joyce Valenza
Blogging in the Classroom by Lorna Costantini
November Learning News by Alan November
Technology in the Education Arena by Julia Zangl Colby
TL-DL Blog by Jennifer Branch

Although I have not spent as much time at Edublogs, this site has been referred to many times by colleagues. Edublogs appears to be a prime example of how blogging enhances professional development. The description of the site states: “Edublogs hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs for teachers, students, researchers, professors, librarians, administrators and anyone and everyone else involved in education.”

Edublogs offers educators:
* forums to answer questions
* troubleshooting
* feedback and discussion
* reflections
* support

One does not have to look far to find other online communities such as this, which attract like-minded people.

(Check out Top 100 Educational Blogs)

Part 3 - Blogging as part of Research

Some professionals (such as those of us who are currently studying in the TL-DL program) are engaged in ongoing research for assignments and projects. Research processes are evolving with the expansion of technological tools.

Buffington’s article Blogging With Graduate Students looks at the use of blogs as a research tool. She wanted to explore the idea that the research process, the researcher’s thoughts and the publication process could be combined through a blog.

She describes the evolution of their blogging process:

"Our blog started slowly, with a few test posts and discussions of passwords and the functionality of the blog. As time went on, the posts changed to questions about the research process, testing out focus group questions, analyzing data, and generating theories about data. Additionally, the blog became a place to share successes and challenges with both the academic portions of thesis writing as well as the intellectual and family challenges of negotiating the thesis process."

Upon reflection, Buffington found two main factors which she believes contributed to the successful blogging experience of these graduate students:

* the nature and structure of the blog - its informality, the organization, and its focus

* the support of social interaction - the feedback and connections with those who have similar motivations

One of the students mentioned how this informality, as contrasted with the formality of the traditional thesis format, helped her think, generate ideas, and receive feedback, knowing that she could focus only on the ideas and not worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, formatting, and so forth. This informality in tone, ideas, format, and length led to freedom to express ideas in emergent states and to experiment with alternate themes in data analysis.

Thus, professionals (and students) can utilize blogging as means to further their research and inquiry into relevant topics. Blogs can become the part of the process or journey of professional development. Because blogs allow for the responses and feedback of others, ideas can emerge through collaboration. Blogs are not meant to be a “soliloquy board” (Helms as cited in Bufferington), and only work when we read and respond to the work of others. To blog or not blog... that is the question!

Part 2 - Blogging as Professional Development for Teachers

A way to achieve common goals

Will Richardson’s post Blogs For Professional Development on his Weblogg-ed site gives an example of how blogs and blogging are becoming part of the professional development scaffolding for educators.

His reference point comes from “The Fischbowl” which is the work of Karl Fisch. Fisch discusses how blogging has become the pathway to reach the common goals set by his staff: “to improve teacher and student use of technology, to achieve curricular goals, to help transform our school to a more student-centered, constructivist approach, and to prepare our students to succeed in the21st century.”

Fisch sees blogging as a way have teachers “push” their thinking and make sure they are not only doing the best job they can, but that what they are doing truly aligns with their beliefs. Blogging provides a place to openly discuss challenges facing their students, and allows teachers to work together to achieve their common goals.

From this viewpoint, blogging has become another form of a professional learning community for educators.

Subscribing to other peoples’ brains

Edublogging @ Macworld describes itself as a “workshop blog to learn more about blogging in educational settings.” As I was researching for this topic, I discovered a blogging discussion which perfectly illustrated the networking aspect this web 2.0 tool, which is an essential component of professional development.

The question posed for workshop participants asked: “How has blogging impacted your professional development?” These are a few of the responses:

* What’s your most powerful/memorable experience that’s resulted from blogging? A complete stranger becoming my blogging mentor and helping me build a better site (kolson29)

* I use it to keep tabs on what smart people are thinking. I call it, “subscribing to other peoples’ brains (SkyDaddy)

* I was hooked by the idea of being able to reflect regularly on what I was discovering about Web 2.0 for schools and libraries, by being able to share information, and by being able to help develop social networks between bloggers (heyjude)

* social network blogging… offers a way to deliver a message to like-minded individuals, while keeping tabs on professionals with similar interests (Lucy Gray)

Another great example of how blogging is related to the professional development of teachers can be seen at the So You Want to Teach site: 8 Ways Blogging Makes Me A Better Teacher.

Painting Ourselves into the Picture

Konrad Glogowski’s blog The Embedded Practitioner uses the painter Caravaggio to draw parallels between his painting and the role of the teacher in the blogging community. Caravaggio is well-known for inserting his self-portrait, inserting himself, so to speak, into his paintings. Similarly, Glogowski feels that a teacher in a blogging community should enter the context that gives rise to his or her work. Glogowski states that “we can gain a better understanding of our classrooms-as-communities if we immerse ourselves in them.”

Professional development in the networked world requires that we look closely not only at what we do as educators but also at how we are embedded in educational contexts. Much like Caravaggio, we have to narrate ourselves into existence through participation in our classrooms in a way that is non-authoritarian, readerly, and conversational.

By engaging in reflective blogging with our students, we are participating in both their learning journeys, as well as our own.

Part 1 - An Introduction: Blogs/Blogging for Professional Development

Much of our focus for exploring Web 2.0 tools this semester has been to understand how these tools can be used in school classrooms. Generally speaking, we have mainly looked at how they would benefit student learning. But what about the professional development of teachers? How can these same tools further their own development as educators, specifically blogs?

The reasons which make blogging significant learning tools for students are the same reasons they enhance the professional development of teachers.

Blogs can:

* promote critical and analytical thinking
* be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking
* promote analogical thinking
* be a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information
* combine the best of solitary reflection and social interaction

(Eide Neurolearning Blog, 2005, as cited in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson)

Will Richardson (2006) also explains that blogs are ways for teachers to “manage and communicate the knowledge that gets created” and can be used as “articulation tools” to share best practices, lesson plans and learning objects. Blogs allow teachers to share with one another without having to be “in the same room.”

So as I see it, this topic really has two components to it:

* BLOGS (noun – “an online diary”) for professional development
These are weblogs which offer advice and information; places to read and retrieve information; engage in discussions.

* BLOGGING (intransitive verb – “to write entries in a weblog”) for professional development
This is the process of maintaining your own site to explore your own professional development. Blogging is expressing one’s thoughts through writing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Part 4 – Social Networking in Education

Issues and Concerns

While social networking sites lend themselves to numerous educational uses, there are many school districts that block these types of web sites. Since Acceptable Use Policies for computers in schools are intended to convey that computer resources are meant for school work, “social networks” are likely regarded as non-school related because of the potential for misuse. If certain social networks (such as Facebook) are blocked in a school district, it still may be possible for teachers to use social networks with their students. Instead, teachers may have to subscribe to a social network which is designed and created specifically by the teacher, such as Ning (check out Ning in Education: “a community of educators using Ning to build social networks”). Also, some school districts can lift the block off certain sites for particular class projects, by special request from the teacher.

A recent and highly publicized issue relating to Facebook as a tool for peer tutoring in Ryerson University reveals how students have adapted social networking for educational purposes. Chris Avenir and his classmates used Facebook as means of comparing notes and sharing homework tips and questions. The controversy lies in the fact that his professor stated that the assigned work was to be done individually, and not worked on with others. However, Avenir’s argument remains that an online study group is no different from an in-person mentoring group, or peer tutoring. Despite the circumstances of this situation, the use of social networking as a method of online peer tutoring becomes apparent.

Potential Uses of Social Networks in Classrooms

How can classroom teachers use social networking? Social networks allow students to:

* learn how to come together in an environment to interact for a specific purpose; build a community
* personalize pages to express individuality and creativity
* pose questions to the community
* hold forums to discuss topics of interest
* find and share research resources
* create study groups and peer tutor
* interact with people who are working on similar projects/homework

Educators and students may find some of the following sites useful for their activities:

LinkedIn: A networking site for professionals looking to make contacts and build relationships in their professional communities.

Xivio: This is a networking site designed for children or young adults. You have to have permission of an adult if you are under 18 and the site is monitored to ensure appropriateness. It is a 3D world for chat and video and music uploading and sharing.

Imbee: Imbee is designed for children ages 8 to 14 and is designed to be a chaperoned site that adults can keep tabs on. Accounts are free and they are actively courting teachers to set up classes using the service.

Bebo: Bebo is a social media network where friends share their lives and explore great entertainment. Open to anyone 13 and older.

Yahoo360: This site combines a personal webpage with a blog and a photo album.

Ning: An online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for free in seconds.

Twitter: Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? It provides a constant feed of updated personal information to those in a social network.

For other ideas about how educators are using social networks, take a look at the list of links at Social Networks in Education.

Potential Uses of Social Networks in the Library

Social networks, such as Facebook, can have many potential uses for the school’s library. Miller and Jenson (Connecting and Communicating with Students on Facebook) suggest that Facebook be used as a way to communicate the events and services of the library to students. The four Applications they recommend to utilize to grab students' attention are: My Profile, Notes and Posted Items, Albums, and Events.

Some suggestions include:

* posting up to date contact information and office hours
* share favourite books, TV shows, interests, or quotes
* get the word out about a new database or resource
* post a weekly trivia question and offer a prize to the first person who messages you with the correct answer
* create a library tour that features hotspots in the building and details guidelines for their use
* describe how to use library technology, including software and hardware. For example, you could provide screen shots of citation management software and the instructions for using it.
* plan a drop-in workshop that highlights a new tool at your library. The R.S.V.P. feature will let you know how many students to expect.
* create Events for book groups, exhibit openings, or student appreciation festivities

Merideth Farkas writes about another interesting way libraries can utilize the power of social networking. She explains:

“We need to start thinking about how to make our content more portable so that we can easily place it into the paths our users travel online. The more places our content can be found and ways it can be accessed, the more likely it is that our content will get used…. If the library is literally in our patrons' faces when they need to do research, they are much more likely to utilize our resources….Last spring, I wrote about creating a portal to library services in Facebook ( and MySpace ( (AL, Apr., p. 27). Since then, Facebook has opened up its platform to software developers, enabling people to create applications that will either pull content from other places into Facebook or to search content already in Facebook. A number of libraries have created applications that will search the library catalog and selected databases. Patrons can add these tools to their profiles for easy access” (Your Stuff, Their Space).

Currently, the University of Michigan Library, among many others, has created a Facebook application for searching their library catalog, while the Birmingham Public Library has a catalog search widget in MySpace. Patrons can easily add these widget applications to their profiles so that they may search the library from within these social spaces (Kroski).

Social Networking for Educators

There are many professional development opportunities available through social networks. Edublogs has several recommended social networking sites for educators:

Classroom 2.0
EFL classroom 2.0
Kingswear School Network
Talkabout Primary MFL
Voices of the world

Social networks for educators can provide forums to share teaching strategies and ideas. I have found Classroom 2.0 helpful on numerous occasions while learning about the uses of web 2.0 tools!

Some Final Thoughts

I could not help but find myself completely consumed by this week’s blog topic. I am fascinated by the phenomenon of social networking, and how it is shaping our day to day interactions. I recognize that there are still several barriers which may prevent social networking from finding its way into classrooms immediately, but it is not likely a permanent situation. As with any new technology, there is learning curve, as well as some “troubleshooting” which must happen before the educational uses can be fully realized. With some careful preparation by a knowledgeable teacher, I believe that social networking can become an effective tool in classrooms and libraries. Social networks provide a way in which we can teach, and learn from others through a collaborative “dynamic” online community!

Part 3 – The Facebook Phenomenon

The name of the website refers to the paper facebooks depicting members of a campus community that some American colleges and preparatory schools give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus. (Wikipedia)

Facebook has certainly made its mark. Created in 2004, Facebook is one of the most well-known social networking sites. In January 2007, the site had 3.3 million users, compared to a whopping 15.3 million users a year later (Peesker). While Canadian Facebookers showed a recent drop in use of the site, the U.S. figures show a continued increase in users per day (Peesker).

Facebook has dramatically affected the way people communicate. Many people have an account, or have at least been invited to create an account. Signing up for an account allows Facebook users to go out and find their friends who have also created accounts. Teens and adults alike can keep track of their friends’ lives by: viewing status updates; photo albums; sending notes, gifts, cards, and videos; as well as other fun and nonsensical applications available on the site. (I have sent “Tim Horton’s coffee” to my friends on Facebook; doesn’t that say it all?)

However, Facebook doesn’t impress everyone. Sites such Snubster, Enemybook and Hatebook are appealing to Internet users who get a kick out of the tongue-in-cheek humour of mocking their friends and others who are just plain cynical (Parody sites start anti-social trend). One criticism of Facebook is that some users are “friend collectors” and add as many people as they can to their friends list as a symbol of status. Having hundreds of friends on Facebook doesn’t really mean that all of those connections are genuine or meaningful relationships.

The Future of Facebook?

Social networking expert Charlene Li states that although Facebook is entertaining, it should expand into more practical areas. Li asks: wouldn’t people like to know more about things such as what books or restaurants their friends recommend? While Facebook does offer some insights into the likes and dislikes of the users, there is a limit on the types of interactions which can take place, and it does not allow users the ability to share information with other user-based websites. As Li points out, there are difficulties which arise in the privacy filters which would need to accompany such interactions.

Therefore, Facebook may be “the leader of the pack” in social networking for now; that is, until something better comes along.

Privacy and Safety on Facebook

One of my major concerns when I first signed up for a Facebook account was about how to maintain privacy. I have learned that there are a number of ways in which users can safely connect with friends, while at the same time, not feel completely “exposed” on the Internet.

Under the “Privacy” tab, users can select the degree of privacy they wish to control on the following:

a) Profile – users can control who can see their profile and personal information
b) Search – users can control who can search for them, and how they can be contacted.
c) News Feed and Mini-Feed – users can control what stories about them get published to their profile and to their friends’ News Feeds.
d) Applications – users can control what information is available to applications they use on Facebook.

Additionally, there is also the option to “Block People” so that they will not be able to search for you, see your profile, or contact you on Facebook.

My preference has been to connect with my friends and family whom I know to be on Facebook, but now having done that, I have chose not to be available for anyone else to contact me. One main reason I have done this, was so that I would not be contacted by students. I preferred not to include them in this particular social network.

It is also interesting to note, that should a Facebook user decide to deactivate or delete an account there may still be actually be information connected to him on the site. Andy Greenberg’s article, “How to erase your Facebook profile” explains the steps necessary so that a former user actually becomes “web dead” on Facebook. Other web privacy information is provided by this article, such as: deleting your MySpace page, subscribing to ReputationDefender; deleting photos off your blog, and deleting Google results.

Social Networking and Cyberbullying

Bullying is not a new phenomenon; however, with the increased ability to produce and publish content on the internet, bullying has taken a new twist. Social networking sites provide opportunities to target and terrorize individuals in insidious new ways. Due to the fact that bullying can take a more anonymous form on the Internet, social networking sites can become open forums for bullies.

Many schools block social network sites for this reason. Furthermore, some schools have updated their student code of conduct to clarify that bullying by electronic means-"interactive and digital technologies or cell phones"-will be treated as seriously as the traditional schoolyard variety (Stover, 2006).

Teachers, students and parents must engage in discussions about what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate web behaviour. Social networking is similar to the other web 2.0 tools which require respect for other participants.

* An excellent source of information about online safety can be found at:
Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens.

Part 2 – Social Networking Web Sites: The New “Hot Hang-Out”

Wasn’t “the mall” the preferred hang-out for teens? Times are changing. Social networking now occurs in-person and on-line.

A January 2007 survey found 55% of all online American youths ages 12-17 have created profiles at social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, with 48% visiting social networking sites at least once a day. As with other teen activities, social networking filters down to younger kids. A recent survey found 71 % of tweens and teens between the ages of 9 and 17 visit social networking sites weekly (Hayes, 2007).

For 15-17-year-olds, the socializing sites are the big draw: 91% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently, and 82% use the sites to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person. While 70% of older girls have used an online social network compared with 54% of older boys, the boys are more likely than girls to use the sites to make new friends (60% vs. 46%). (Hayes, 2007).

Older teens are more likely to use the same site their friends use, typically MySpace, Facebook, or MyYearbook. As users update their content frequently to continue drawing in friends, and as they grow older, their pages evolve toward utility and maturity and away from frantic animations and edgy, repetitive content. (Hayes, 2007).

The Big Three

The three most popular social networking sites are generally agreed to be Facebook, MySpace and Friendster.

Facebook: “Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”

MySpace: “MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends.Users can create a community on MySpace and share photos, journals and interests with a network of mutual friends.”

Friendster: “Friendster is focused on helping people stay in touch with friends and discover new people and things that are important to them. Online adults, 18 and up, choose Friendster to connect with friends, family, school, groups, activities and interests.”

Part 1 - Social Networking: An Introduction

Do you remember the trivia game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? This game was based on the theory that any actor in Hollywood could be linked through his or her film roles to actor Kevin Bacon in six steps or less. I recall playing this game with friends during road trips to pass the time. You had to really know your movies, and the ability to remember who co-starred with whom. This quirky little game illustrates how connected or linked people really are, through their associations with one another. It’s a small world, after all!

I was reminded of this game after watching Lee LeFever’s video: Social Networking in Plain English. LeFever explains that in the real world, the connections between people are hidden from us. We often can’t see how people are connected, or to whom they are connected. However, when networks of people (or social networks) are displayed on the web, it allows us to see these connections that would be hidden in the real world. Thus, social networks are people networks, which reveal or create connections between people.

“What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks. This can result in connections between individuals that would not otherwise be made, but that is often not the goal, and these meetings are frequently between "latent ties" (Haythornthwaite, 2005) who share some offline connection. On many of the large SNSs, [social network sites] participants are not necessarily "networking" or looking to meet new people; instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network” (Boyd & Ellison).

After joining a social network site, users are prompted to identify others in the system with whom they have a relationship. The label for these relationships differs depending on the site—popular terms include "Friends," "Contacts," and "Fans" (Boyd & Ellison). Many people refer to this as “friending;” which is just a way of noting that you have common interests on a web tool (Learning 2.0 Challenge).

A Brief History

“Social networking tools and technologies allow like-minded people to find each other” (Robin Good). Social networking has evolved with the expansion of the internet:

1995 = founded
1997 = Six Degrees of Separation founded
1999 = Circle of Friends founded
2002 = founded
2003 = founded
2004 = founded
2004 = founded
2005 = Yahoo!360 founded

(Source: NFi Studios)

For a comprehensive list, check out Wikipedia’s list of social networking websites, which also includes a brief description/focus for each site, and its intended audience for registrants.

A Social Network Timeline:

Source: Boyd & Ellison

Monday, March 17, 2008

Educational Uses for VoiceThread

Part 1 - Ed.VoiceThread

VoiceThread has an educational counterpart called Ed.VoiceThread. While still an internet based tool, it is a secure network or closed community for educators and students. It provides a safe place to collaborate on the internet. As Valenza (NeverEndingSearch) explains: “the new web-based, multimedia collaborative network, offers a more secure solution for those who'd like to play in the 2.0 sandbox but have to deal with the realities of district restrictions on social networking.”

Ed.VoiceThread is also described as “a space for creating digital stories and documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices.”

Ed.VoiceThread is not a free service. This is because many web services with free accounts are blocked by school districts because of online protection policies. Therefore, Ed.VoiceThread offers reasonable pricing for whole-school subscriptions. Ed.VoiceThread points out that they would prefer that the costs of these kinds of safe, effective learning tools should be not fall on the educator. They urge teachers to advocate for this service, and Ed.VoiceThread offers to provide a complete refund to any educator who signed up as part of the “Pioneer Class.”

This option is perfect for schools who wish to use a collaborative Web 2.0 tool, but want to safeguard students against some of the risks associated with publishing information on the Internet.

Part 2 - VoiceThread in Teaching and Learning

VoiceThread was ranked as #24 in the Top 100 Tools for Learning Spring 2008. Wesley Fryer in his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity also has high praises for this tool. He says reasons for using VoiceThread in the classroom are:

* Digital storytelling is a pedagogically sound activity for learners at all levels in all content areas.
* VoiceThread is simple, focusing on still digital images and recorded audio narration.
* VoiceThread stories are immediately web-accessible via a link or HTML code which can be embedded on another webpage.
* VoiceThread permits MODERATED feedback, so teachers can control text and audio feedback to their students’ shared digital stories.

Fryer also likes VoiceThread because it allows for immediate publishing on the global stage. He also believes this technology will help teachers have "a-ha" moments once they realize how to use it in an instructional context and purpose.

Some suggestions for using VoiceThread in the classroom include:

* Teachers can post an image or video (example: video from united streaming) with comments.
* Student can post comments creating an online discussion.
* Each student creates a Voicethread to discuss an essential question (example: What if images such as … never existed?). Students and teachers can create a discussion with each voicethread. (JAG Stacks)

Other educational uses and ideas for VoiceThread can be seen by browsing through the examples on these web sites:

VoiceThread4Education Wiki: A very useful site with examples of VoiceThreads posted by grade level.

PageFlakes VoiceThread Page: A lot of examples linked to from this page.

Maths 247 Wiki: This wiki is trying to build up a huge library of number problems organised by level and using VoiceThread to demonstrate and solve them.

The Connected Classroom: This web site offers a detailed information, explanations and links for teachers wishing to explore digital storytelling.

JAG Stacks: This web site offers handouts which teachers can use to engage students in critical thinking while viewing a VoiceThread.

The 50 Tools: Alan Levine explores VoiceThread, as well as other tools to build a story for digital storytelling.

Part 3 - Some Final Thoughts

What I have found so appealing about VoiceThread is that it allows users to incorporate so many forms of media, thus, it truly is “multimedia sharing.” Collaboration can center on various media formats; not just one or two. The more examples of VoiceThreads I view, the more ideas and uses for this tool become apparent. While it is perfect for digital storytelling, VoiceThread goes way beyond one possible function, and holds potential for any subject area and grade level.

Teachers who decide to incorporate VoiceThread (instead of Ed.VoiceThread) into their classroom should carefully plan how create identities for their students which will be viewed on the Internet. Photos of students should not be used without explicit signed permission from parents. A good alternative is to create an avatar (a computer generated character), or even a scanned image of a student’s artwork.

This is a media-rich tool which has unlimited potential for teachers and students in both the process and products of learning. There are many "a-ha" moments on the horizon!