Friday, February 29, 2008

Further Inquiry into the Elements of Exemplary Virtual School Libraries - CONTENT

CONTENT features which are important for exemplary virtual school library web sites include:

1. library home page
A school library home page should act as a launching pad for the user and provide a picture of the on-line environment for the user. From a school library home page, users should be able to access search engines, databases, references and general library and school information.

2. information about the library
Basic information about the school library should be present on the school library web site: the names of the library staff; library contact information; hours of use; and library policies are a few examples.

3. active links
It is important that the content provided by the web site in the form of hyperlinks be checked to make sure they are viable.

4. search options
Age-appropriate toolkits grouped according to subject-specific search tools, subject portals, and databases should be available to facilitate inquiries which go beyond the use of Google. Users should know how the varieties of search options available to them are useful for meeting different kinds of information needs. Links to search engines should be annotated so the user knows what to expect.

5. databases
The school library web site should offer quality databases such as: peer-reviewed journal articles; magazines; reference materials; and primary sources which may not be found with only commercial search engines.

6. guides for ethical use of information
Information literacy and the ethical use of information should be modeled or demonstrated on the school library web site. The web site should contain: tutorials for research methods, search strategies, citation advice, writing assistance, use of presentation software, examples of ways to demonstrate learning, and samples of assessment tools. Users who can find support in how to properly cite and reference information will be less frustrated and more likely to maintain academic integrity with information.

7. archives for sharing information
Sharing information through archives (such as wikis) for teachers and students has many benefits for teaching and learning collaborations.

8. help features
Help links, or a place to email a question to the librarian is important to make sure students have their questions answered. Instructional blogs which are regularly updated can explain the library’s services or help users answer their most frequently asked questions.

9. pathfinders
The presence of pathfinders for teachers and students will help users more readily access information related to specific topics. These could be grouped according to grade levels, or subject areas.

Baumbach, D. J. (2005). The school library media center web page. Knowledge Quest, 33 (3), 8-12.
Braxton, B. (2004). Putting your school library online. Teacher Librarian, 31 (4).
Clyde, A. (2002). School library web sites. Teacher Librarian, 28 (2), 51-53.
Jurkowski, O. (2004). School library website components. TechTrends, 48 (6), 56-60.
Minkel, W. (2002). Remaking your web site. School Library Journal, 48 (5), 46-49.
Valenza, J. K. (2005). The virtual library. Educational Leadership, 63 (4).
Warlick, D. (2005). Building web sites that work for your media center. Knowledge Quest, 33 (3).

Further Inquiry into the Elements of Exemplary Virtual School Libraries - DESIGN

Amongst the research and professional literature, there exist a few commonly mentioned elements of design and content when it comes to the creation of successful school library web sites. Some of the experts in the field of web site design, such as Baumbach, Braxton, Clyde, Jurowski, Minkel, Valenza, and Warlick have identified certain elements (although they may refer to these as quality indicators, principles, or commandments), for good web site design. The following is a synthesis and brief explanation of what the experts deem significant in good school web site creation:

DESIGN features:

1. target audience
Understanding the target audience of the school library web site relates to how well the needs of the users will be met, which is best reflected in a mission statement.

2. content and format
The information that is provided on the web site should empower the behaviours that you wish to see in the users.

3. visual appeal
This encompasses a number of factors which contribute to the overall appearance: standard templates; consistent layout; appropriate fonts; appealing colours; and visual magnets.

4. organization of information
Brief and concisely organized information should be a goal, so that pages are easily scannable by the user. Key words and small manageable pages lend themselves to the patience of the users.

5. no distracting features
The use of icons or graphics should enhance the web site, not distract the user. Generic looking images should not be used, so as to lend credibility to the site. Digital photos are desirable, because they can feature the resources of the library.

6. user-friendly/easy to navigate
Some navigational features that make a web site user-friendly are: home page links on each page; navigational bars on each page; the purpose for a search tool is clearly stated; information can be retrieved in a consistent manner; hyperlinks; a minimal number of clicks for common research tasks; and help information is available on each page.

7. regular updates or changes
The web site should not remain static; rather it should have a changeable feature that occurs daily, weekly, or monthly.

8. accessible to all users
Users with visual or hearing impairments should have access to all information presented on the web site, including images. Images should include a text description that can be used with a screen reader. Any video or audio elements on a page should also include captions or a text transcript of the file.

9. unique features
Interesting features make the web site stand apart from other school library web sites. “Inviting returns” are created when a web site offers something new when a user logs on. This could include: fun links to cool sites; book clubs; local event links; or weather information.

10. credibility
The school library web site should be designed to be regarded as a credible source of information. This means that aside from ensuring the relevance of the information available on the site, there should also be provided the name and contact information of the webmaster, and when the site was last updated.

Considerations for Creating an Exemplary Virtual School Library

Thinking about goals

It was repeatedly stated throughout the literature that good web site design must have a clear goal. Creating a school library web site is more than simply learning how to link other sites, and thus, web site design should “begin with the end in mind” (Braxton, 2004). The goal of a school library web site should relate to how it will be beneficial to the users; the students, teachers, teacher-librarian, and community. As Regan (2005) states, it is easier to point the users to the information they need if you know what they’re looking for.

What makes for an exemplary virtual school library?

There are general standards which can be used to evaluate what constitutes an effective virtual school library. For example, every year, the IASL/Concord School Library Web Page of the Year Award is determined according to an agreed upon set of criteria, based on the results of research and comments/advice in professional literature. This criteria includes:

* Evidence of school teacher-librarian involvement in site development
* Relevance of site to goals and objectives of the school library
* Visual appeal: layout, choice of images, type face and style
* Organization of the information on the site
* Quality of the writing and use of language
* Ease of use of the site and navigational features
* Educational, information or public relations value of the site
* Appropriateness for the needs of users
* Currency, evidence of update policy, and the provision of current information and/or links
* Technical quality
* Value of site as a model for other school libraries and/or teacher-librarians
(Clyde, A. (2002). School library web sites. Teacher Librarian. 28 (2), 51-53).

Scotch College

Springfield Township High School

Chico High School Library

Joyce Valenza’s A WebQuest About School Library Websites, offers two very detailed taxonomies addressing the features/content and characteristics of school library web sites. This is an extremely helpful resource for the pre-planning of a school library web site.

Other helpful resources exist to help guide the planning, or updating of virtual school library web sites. The International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) provides a list of Internet resources for the Creating a Web Page for your School Library. Another site with web design ideas and art resources to check out is TL Links & BC Social Studies 8-12 Resources Web site.

Braxton, B. (2004). Putting your school library online. Teacher Librarian, 31 (4).
Regan, B. (2003). Usability in school web sites: Five steps to a better web site for your school. Library Media Connection, 21 (4), 71-72.

*** Special thanks to John Lobe for his tech-help with creating thumbnails!

Virtual School Libraries – An Introduction

What is a virtual school library?

A virtual school library is an online learning center which provides its users with access and guidance to information and resources. Virtual school library web sites extend the physical walls of the library. They make the library accessible any time of day or night, from anywhere there is Internet access. It helps reinforce that learning does not just take place during “school hours” but at anytime!

As described by Joyce Valenza:

“your library Web page is your second front door. It meets your students where they live, and play, and work, with 24/7, just-in-time, just-for-me support and intervention. It creates online signage for students and staff. It projects the image of the librarian as a 21st century teacher and information professional. The effective library Web page pulls together, in one unified interface, all of a library's resources--print and electronic.

The library website represents the library program. It offers guidance and instruction while it fosters independent learning. It models careful selection. It offers valuable public service and can redefine ‘community.’ The site supports reading, learning, and the building of knowledge.” ( A WebQuest About School Library Websites ).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Part 8 – Podcasts and Avatars: too much fun!

I have stumbled across a few web sites over the past several weeks that have had a rather fascinating and curious feature: a talking head. These little cartoonish-faces have blinked at me, and followed my curser with their eyes when it moved around the page. When I pressed the play button underneath the head, I found that I was listening to someone speak at me, via this “life-like” face.

I now know that these little speaking characters are called avatars. Avatars are a way of personalizing web pages. They can be used in a variety of ways; one being as a greeter or announcer on your web site. Podcasting can be matched up with an avatar to bring both sound, as well as a visual image to one’s message.

I was inspired by the Vokis found on the Disruptive Innovators’ wiki site, where Donna DesRoches and Carlene Walter (librarians) have used avatars to give brief greeting messages.

After reading through some of the blog discussion threads at the Classroom 2.0 web site, several ideas about how avatars (in particular, Vokis), could be used educationally started to emerge. One idea for application was describe by Paul Hardt (January 17, 2008):

“In an intermediate setting, students have been using VOKI to build similar characters to those in the book in which they are reading. Then their animated character verbally applies a skill such as theme, setting or cause and effect, or whatever.... Then when VOKI animates, we are presented with a 2.0 application that allows integration of appropriate skills along with some fun creative animation. Students love it.”

This application was a lot of fun to set up, so I can understand why teachers would want to approach this web tool carefully. Much time and effort can be wasted playing. Yet, when used as part of the finishing touches on a podcast, it creates an impressive looking final project. If I were setting up additional instructions or greetings on my school library home page, I would certainly use a tool such as this to make it more interesting and personalized.

It’s creative and fun! I have added it to my “bag of technology-tricks.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Part 7 – The Educational Uses for Podcasts

If you stop to think about it, it becomes more apparent that anywhere there is a need to communicate verbally, podcasting could be used. There are countless imaginative possibilities!

The Online Learning Studio web site provides detailed suggestions and explanations for the educational uses of podcasts. There are three areas where the potential of podcasting could be realised within schools:

* Devising a cross-curricular activity;
* Providing alternative teaching approaches;
* Promoting and using personalised learning

A cross-curricular activity is one which would utilize the IT skills learned in podcasting with a curriculum topic. Some suggestions include creating:

A) Tourism Guides – promote a city by linking a podcast to a tourism website with a guided tour of sights and attractions; give a geographical tour of the area around the school; give a description of the library resources available

B) Storytelling – listen to audio books; record readings of student-produced stories; give book reviews

C) Radio Shows – create interviews or panel discussions on topics of interest based on areas of curriculum study

The Online Learning Studio also explains how podcasting can be used as alternative teaching approaches. Some of these might include extending existing audio methodologies, creating additional materials to support specific learning needs, and reinforcing curriculum tasks with instructional content.

Many other relevant and practical classroom applications for podcasting are discussed in the video: How to use Podcasts in the classroom. Katie Grassel suggests to use podcasting for various purposes in particular subject areas, such as:

* English - find a podcast as part of research on an author or book
* Social Studies - find a podcast discussing a current event or historical speech
* Science - find research related to a topic, such as global warming

Grassel emphasizes that teachers should try to find ways to get students to use information by way of using the technology they like to listen with: MP3 players, iPods, cell phones, etc.

A note about copyright and legal issues:

Educators who want to use podcasting with their students need to be aware that copyright laws can pertain to podcasts. In particular, copyright may come into play when there is music used as part of a podcast.

If music is to be part of a podcast, the following solutions are suggested by Online Learning Studio:

* Arrange for a music licence (covers the performance rights and royalties);
* Use royalty free music (carefully check the conditions of use);
* Create your own, original music (this is your own copyright).

Terms and conditions are usually outlined on Internet Service Providers, and should be checked carefully so as to avoid copyright infringement.

A Final Thought…

Wow, I made it! A few days ago I was feeling terribly frustrated, but now I am feeling rather proud that I have figured out a bit more about this web 2.0 tool. I see tremendous opportunities for its use, and I am a bit sad that I can’t “test it out” on my students just yet! (Well, that might be for the best, since I really still have a lot more experimenting to do with podcast creation). Nevertheless, I have added another form of information technology to my tool belt.

Oh yes, maybe I should also work on my "radio voice"...

Part 6 - Creating Podcasts: The importance of Tags and Titles

The tutorials provided by really helped explain an important concept for the creation of podcasts: providing descriptive information in the form of tags. Creating new content requires clear labelling of exactly what the media contains; this is what makes it accessible and usable. Depending on which program one uses when recording and then saving a podcast, you will be prompted to add information so that the media becomes easy to identify amongst other similar forms. McMahon explains that it is very important to give a descriptive title to your podcast MP3, because when your sound file shows up in someone’s player, they should have written information to identify what they are listening to.

Audacity prompts for information to be filled out for “ID3 Tags” when exporting as an MP3. This includes tags for: title, artist, album, year, genre, etc. which are helpful to listeners in identifying the source of the podcast.

Part 5 – Creating and Publishing a Podcast

As mentioned in my blog on set-up, there is a particular order of skills and software needed to create and publish a podcast. Here is what I would recommend doing to create and publish a simple podcast:

1) Download Audacity and LAME. The tutorials on these sites will help you properly set both up. I did run into some trouble unzipping the LAME compressed file, but eventually got that solved. Now you are set up to record your voice, save it, and export it as an MP3 file. Don’t forget to use the descriptive tags to properly identify your podcast later on.

2) Set up an account at The Internet Archive. Once you have done that, you can “upload” your MP3 podcast on to the site. It will prompt you for information about the title, description, keywords, etc. about the podcast, so be ready to fill in that information.

3) After submitting and waiting a few moments, you will be provided with a URL link. Click on that hyperlink, and you will see your podcast details as it appears in the Internet Archive. Information about the format and size are detailed on this page.

4) The next step is to click on the embedding and help link. It will take you to a new page with a few different types of HTML code. Depending on what your needs, one of these codes will work. For my blog, the third HTML code was the one that successfully worked. I simply copied and pasted the code from this page into the appropriate spot in my blog under “add a page element” in the “HTML/Java Script” box.

This was the process that allowed for me to successfully create and post a podcast on my blog. I did not try anything “fancy” as my main goal was just to learn the basics.

Part 4 - Getting Set-Up to Create a Podcast

A disclaimer: there exists more than one way to go about setting up for podcasting. I consulted several sources in the creation and understanding of my podcasting, but there may be better or easier ways to go about this. The following is what I discovered during my inquiry.

There is a certain order of software and skills required in order to successfully create a podcast. These include:

1) an audio recorder and editor
* I used Audacity, which is a free download. Audacity allows you to: record live audio; convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs; edit various sound files; cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together; and change the speed or pitch of a recording.

2) an MP3 encoder
* I used LAME, another free download, which works in conjunction with Audacity. LAME allows you to save your recordings as MP3 files, (the preferred format for podcasts). iTunes is another MP3 encoder, and a free download, as well.

3) an Internet storage site
* I used The Internet Archive, which is a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. It is like regular library and provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public. This is the place where your podcast gets “stored” so people can access it. It also provides the HTML needed to embed a sound file on a web site.

4) a file transfer program
* I took a look at Feedburner. It is a leading provider of media distribution services for blogs and RSS feeds which allows for content to be promoted and delivered on the web. FeedBurner's contribution to the world of podcasting can best be described as the missing link or the feed, which makes distribution possible.

5) a web site or blog
* I already have a Blogger account, which was also free to create. Amongst other features, it allows for posting links to podcasts or adding html to post a podcast.

(In the end, I did not need to use Feedburner to create a link from my podcast to my blog. This was because Internet Archive provided that service for me. It was easy to retrieve the HTML code after uploading my podcast, then, I cut and paste the code into my blog!)

Part 3 - Consulting the Experts: A Variety of Tutorials on Podcasts

It is nice to know that there exists a great deal of information about how to go about setting up a podcast. I ended up viewing and reading through several tutorials in order to seek out the most “user-friendly” directions possible. What is interesting to note, is that there were very different methods described in these tutorials, which did leave me feeling rather confused at a few stages. However, the information provided did help explain concepts, even if my computer wasn’t always cooperating.

Here are a few tutorials which I found quite helpful:

How to Podcast by Jason Van Orden – provided very detailed directions, and did not skip over much. The only downside: the tutorial is about 3 years old, and the web pages discussed no longer look the same. Podcasting Tutorials by Franklin McMahon – also provided excellent explanations and visuals, but the web pages I visited did not look the same as in the tutorial.

CNET Reviews Create Your Own Podcast by Rick Brodia – had some good explanations, but a far different method than I ended up following for podcasting.

Online Learning Studio provides educators step-by-step assistance for setting up and exploring the educational uses of podcasts. I grew a little impatient with the feedback/questions at the end of each learning session, so consulted other resources. However, I would use this if I had more time.

Part 2 - Podcasting 101

The term may sound technical, but a podcast is a lot like an “on-demand” radio show (Learning 2.0 Challenge). It is an audio program or broadcast, which instead of being played over the airwaves, is played over the Internet. The listener can control when he would like to listen to it because it is a recorded file which can be played back at one’s convenience. A good way to think of podcasting is as a form of time-shifted digital radio (Online Learning Studio).

Podcasts can take many forms, from short commentaries (just a few minutes) to much longer in-person interviews or panel group discussions. The world of podcasts is expansive, and caters to a variety of interests! Podcasting is for anyone for any reason. It empowers you with a voice that can literally reach around the world (About, Inc.).

A podcast is somewhat related to a blog: the difference is that a podcast uses sound files whereas a blog uses words (Learning 2.0 Challenge). Thus, a podcast is like a blog with sound. Podcasts use the MP3 file format, which is a compressed format for audio files. There are a variety of ways to access podcasts which go beyond needing an iPod or MP3 player; podcasts can be accessed by your PC, laptop, or other portable device. You only need the right software (such as iTunes or MediaPlayer) and headphones or a speaker to listen to it.

When subscribing to a podcast, it is best to remember the similarities with blogs. Since blogs are subscribed to using an RSS feed (like Bloglines or Google Reader) podcasts are directed the same way.

Depending on how one wishes to utilize podcasts, there are few different concepts to understand. One may wish to create, publish or subscribe to a podcast. There are several steps required to get set up. After that, the world of podcasting will open up its doors…

Part 1 - My Podcasting “Hangover”

After several straight days of being completely immersed in the technicalities of podcasting software applications and lingo, I have emerged as a survivor. For a web 2.0 novice like me, podcasting was a huge challenge, because it required so many additional applications and aspects to make it work. The path was not a straight one. I revisited tutorials, directions, and websites so many times, I was getting pretty dizzy. I almost feel like I am recovering from a hangover.

However, the challenge has been met. Now, it’s time to reflect and put this whole experience into perspective. I feel that I have managed to learn a concept in a way which will better enable me to help teach other educators who were at the same place I was a few days ago: “ground zero.”

I’m feeling better now, and the Tylenol is working.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Social Bookmarking: Applications in Education

An educational approach to social bookmarking is explained in “7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking” found at Educause Learning Initiative ( ).

Educause outlines the uses of social bookmarking; one being that it is particularly useful when collecting a set of resources that can be shared with others. This makes it the perfect tool for group collaborations. It lets you find information about a topic you are researching even in areas that aren’t obviously connected to the primary topic.

According to Educause, the implications of social bookmarking for teaching and learning are:
* it may become less important for us to know and remember where information is found, and more important to know how to retrieve it using a shared framework
* it simplifies the distribution of reference lists, bibliographies, papers and other resources

Here’s an example of what one educator had to say about the significance of social bookmarking. This was posted on the Classroom 2.0 blog site by Lynne Wolters:

“When asked which social networking or Web 2.0 tool you could not give up - hands down it is delicious social bookmarking. Features I [Lynne Wolters] appreciate and use often:

1. Personal network - I have added top leaders, thinkers, and developers in educational technology. By having a look at what they are posting, I become aware of quality sites and can view with interest where their current thinking is taking them.
2. Ability to send bookmarks to anyone in your network - just added their tag to the tag list.
3. Ability to view my bookmarks from any computer with an Internet connection.
4. Open to anyone who wants to view my bookmarks.
5. Ability to organize by tag designations.
6. High quality resources posted. The community are their own filter for content.”

(Retrieved from Classroom 2.0 web site: )

Some final thoughts

Anyone can participate in social bookmarking. It is not formal; but rather an “amateur” method of classifying information. There are no hard and fast rules that govern tagging. It develops a social community of people with common interests, and leads to development of a unique structure of keywords to define resources: folksonomy.

However, the nature of folksonomy means that there may be inconsistent or poor use of tags, which is not always understood by all users. It raises some questions about the ways in which we have classified information in the past, and how it will be classified in the future. Social bookmarking has the potenial to redefine this. It is possible that the design and function of databases, or the way information is labelled, will mature and alter with the growth of this technology.

I have now entered into one of these social bookmarking communities with my EDES 545 colleagues. We are sharing resources of interest to our course topics, and using a folksonomy which is understood by one another. It is becoming clearer how useful this particular web 2.0 tool can be, particularly for educators and students. Social bookmarking is another way to strengthen smaller or similar-interest online learning communities, and thus, an invaluable tool for classroom use in the Information Age.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Social bookmarking – Let’s Play “Tag”

Do you still bookmark your favourite web pages by saving them under “Favourites” on your computer? Have you ever needed to access one of those pages when you were working on something from a different computer? Wouldn’t it be more convenient if you could access those “favourites” from anywhere?

I answered “yes” to all three, but only because I hadn’t been aware that there was a better way to access my favourites, until now.

According to Lee LeFever, saving web pages to our browsers is the “old way” and has become messy, and tied to only one computer. The “new way” uses a web site to keep track of favourite web sites: this is called social bookmarking. His video “Social Bookmarking in Plain English” ( was a truly a great starting point to learn about this new concept. (I’m adding it to my list of helpful tutorials/videos that help the not-so-techy become more adept).

Another way to think of social bookmarking, is as the practice of saving bookmarks to a public web site and tagging them with keywords. Thus, social bookmarking creates a true web of resources and connections – one that is not limited to individuals and their folders but represents the interests and judgements of a community of users (Educause Learning Initiative). Tags play an important role in many web 2.0 tools: you can tag photos, blogs, and videos with the words that best describe or categorize them. I have discovered that learning to “play tag” is key in getting the most out of these technologies!

School Library 2.0 defines “tagging” as: “an open and informal method of categorizing that allows users to associate keywords with online content (webpages, pictures & posts). Unlike traditional library subject cataloguing, which follows a strict set of guidelines (e.g., Library of Congress subject headings), tagging is completely unstructured and freeform, allowing users to create connections between data in any way they want” ( Certainly, I believe that this will have some implications on the way users search and use “natural language” to identify what they are looking for.

So, are you ready to try social bookmarking? Which one should you choose?

“The Social Bookmarking Faceoff” written by Alex Iskold ( ) provides a breakdown of the pros and cons of ten popular social bookmarking sites. Iskold concludes that “the social bookmarking market is dominated by and StumbleUpon. These leaders split the market, as they bring orthogonal approaches to bookmarking - builds a hierarchy for people to browse (it does related relationships, etc.), while StumbleUpon is more of a random discovery system.”

Since I prefer something a little more systematic, I chose to begin with as my social bookmarker. I found it easy to get started, until the point where the two new buttons were supposed to appear on my toolbar. This took a bit of time to address and figure out. By going to the FAQs page, selecting one of the questions under the category “the posting buttons”, then clicking on the hyperlink “bookmarklet buttons,” I was able to view a tutorial which showed me how to get the buttons to appear. Problem solved.

Out of my concern for encountering more potential road bumps, I decided to consult a video tutorial about which I found on TeacherTube ( ). It helped me understand several steps in properly utilizing social bookmarking. I was able to upload my favourites from my browser onto by accessing “settings” and selecting “import/upload”. Very simple. I also began the process of tagging my bookmarks by clicking on “edit” of each bookmark and adding the keywords that best describe the content found at the web site.

At this point, I am ready to discover more of the features of my new web-based social bookmarking!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Videosharing Part 5 – Summarizing Thoughts

I feel like I have only begun to scratch the surface of videosharing. It is a web 2.0 tool which has something to satisfy just about any interest. It has multi-purposes for both those who wish to create and add content to the internet, but also for those who wish to seek it out.

Videosharing has contributed to a “participatory media culture” (The Center for Social Media). It is constantly evolving and changing the way we communicate. It allows self-expression through video production and direct information sharing. Its impact on our culture becomes more apparent as videosharing grows in both its form and popularity.

I think that videosharing has two main contributions for enhancing the education of our students. First, there is an abundance of video content available which can be used as a viewing resource in our classrooms. Teachers who take the time to search through sites can find appropriate and interesting videos which can support curriculum objectives: such as an instructional math video; or a video clip used as the basis to discuss an issue. Although higher quality educational videos are more likely to be found on sites such as TeacherTube, that does not discount the useful resources which can be found at sites such as YouTube. However, since videosharing is open to various forms of expression, it is still critical to be careful and selective before using any video with students.

A second contribution videosharing has made towards enhancing educational experiences is in the form itself. Student-produced video can be seen as a product of their learning. Teachers can opt to give students the opportunity to display their media literacy and create their own content in video productions. Again, since videosharing on the internet is completely accessible to anyone, serious precautions and guidelines must be discussed with students to ensure that potential privacy risks are not overlooked.

On a side note, many school divisions do not provide students access to videosharing sites. There is much debate around the reasons to either lift or keep these bans. I do believe that this resource has a time and place for its use in our teaching, and banning access to these sites does not allow students to become fully media-literate. I think that teachers, administrators, and parents all play a role in teaching students the responsible uses for this type of tool. The issues surrounding videosharing can not be addressed if we are not allowed to face it head-on.

In closing, I found an inspiring video on TeacherTube called "When I Grow Up" which I feel is a reminder of the reasons why should be EMBRACING this tool, not shying away from it.

"When I Grow Up..." (TeacherTube Video)

Videosharing Part 4 - Thinking about Fair Use

One issue I wanted to know more about was whether or not videosharing infringed on copyright laws. YouTube’s "Help Center" provides answers to questions about copyright and fair use. These guidelines mainly cover the information and responsibilities for those who wish to upload videos to the site. Teachers who intend to use YouTube with their students for displaying their videos should address these guidelines. YouTube emphasizes “original creation” as a way of ensuring that video makers will not violate copyright infringement.

The article “Recut, Reframe, Recycle” found at The Center for Social Media web site ( discusses the issues surrounding copyrighted content making its way into student-made videos. Although Fair Use permits new makers to use copyrighted material without asking permission, in order to make “transformative” material, there may be some hurdles lurking in the future. “Participatory media culture” is at risk, because large content holders may succeed in having copyrighted material removed from shared-video sites.

However, it is worth noting that at this time, YouTube has partnership deals with content providers such as CBS, BBC, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, Warner Music Group, NBA, and The Sundance Channel.

As for the guidelines for showing videos in the classroom, Michael Wesch, in Presentation: YouTube in/on/of/for the Classroom, says that educators’ intentions behind using videos found on YouTube usually fall within the guidelines of Fair Use; “if it is for commentary, criticism, parody, or education, chances are it is fair use”. Wesch also provides a linked checklist for Fair Use which can help educators determine whether or not a video is appropriate for classroom use.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Videosharing Part 3: Educational videosharing sites

TeacherTube is a videosharing website whose “goal is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos… [and] seek to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners. It is a site to provide anytime, anywhere professional development with teachers teaching teachers. As well, it is a site where teachers can post videos designed for students to view in order to learn a concept or skill” (TeacherTube). There are numerous features on this site. I found that selecting “channels” brought me to a page where I could look at video according to subject or grade level. While TeacherTube does not have the same volume of videos offered at YouTube, it does have some quality educational videos for teachers and students.

A wonderful example of how videosharing holds real educational value can be seen at which is link from Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School Virtual Library. After clicking on “New Instructional Videos and Podcasts,” I discovered a page filled with student and teacher produced videos. The categories of videos included: book trailers, grammar, information skills, math instruction, runons and fragments, Shakespeare, thesis, verb tense, vocabulary and Wikipedia. These categories each contain anywhere from one to several videos on the stated topic. What a fantastic use for video sharing!

I recommend taking a peek at: Hamlet Revenge in Plain English which was a short student created video done in the same style as Lee Lefever’s Common Craft videos (a white background, cut-out pictures, arrows to show relationships, a narrator’s voice). This exemplifies the educational value of videosharing as a product of student learning.

Videosharing: Part 2 - An Introduction

Video hosting sites allow its users to upload and share videos on the internet.

How many videosharing sites are out there on the internet? Run the term through a search engine, and the answer is: LOTS. Some include:
- ClipShack
- Crackle
- GoFish
- Google Video
- iFilm
- Yahoo! Video

However, the most popular site may in fact be YouTube with over 1 million videos viewed daily (School Library 2.0 Learning). An incredible variety of content videos can be found at such sites. A simple keyword search will turn up videos which have been tagged according to subject content and title. Videos range from amateur creations, to clips from movies or television programs, to creative combinations of both.

It is explained in “YouTube Comes to the Classroom” by Anna Adam and Helen Mowers (School Library Journal, January, 2007), that videosharing sites, such as YouTube, are looked upon as places for students to discover their voice. While inappropriate material does exist, the article points out that there are “gems” for educators to be found. The site’s K12 education group is a safe area for posting and searching, where one can find teacher- and student-submitted videos, including a piece on using blogs, wikis, and other social media in the classroom. The article also makes suggestions for discouraging the viewing of inappropriate video content.

Michael Wesch provides another supportive voice in Presentation: YouTube in/on/of/for the Classroom. He explains “yes, you can (& should) use YouTube videos in the classroom” because of its relevance, engagement, and it is the new media literacy.

Videosharing : Part 1 – Pre-conceptions

Although I admittedly spend a great deal of time on the Internet, I actually have spent very little, if any, time really exploring videosharing sites, until now.

I had certainly heard of YouTube and even TeacherTube, yet had not really been curious enough to see what these sites had to offer. Perhaps this was because I had some belief that a great deal of what gets posted on YouTube consisted of meaningless content for entertainment value. On the other hand, TeacherTube had always sounded interesting and potentially more useful, but still, a consumer of my time.

Some questions I had about exploring video sharing sites included:
* Is there meaningful, educational content to be easily found on sites such as YouTube?
* What other videosharing sites exist? What are the differences between them?
* What are the ways in which videosharing can enhance classroom instruction or become a product of student learning?
* If videosharing sites such as YouTube have been banned in certain school divisions, what case can be made for lifting these bans?
* Are there copyright laws which must be taken into consideration if videosharing sites are used in a classroom?
* How can educators make videosharing safe for students?

I approached this web 2.0 tool with some trepidatation. Perhaps my lack of experience in creating video media has prevented me from establishing a comfort level. I also had (and still have) concerns about the grave misuses of this media.

However, I tried to approach this challenge by focusing on what other educators had to say about the “benefits” of this web 2.0 tool, so that it can be used in a safe and educational manner.