Playing with Animoto

My people and places.

I was playing with Animoto and trying to upload it to my blog.  Well, it ended up as a new post though ideally, I would have liked it to land in my post on video sharing.  Clearly, there is still work to be done to figure this out but I’m getting closer.

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Reflections on learning about Web 2.0: from complexity to coherence

This image of the climber is a metaphor for my learning of Web 2.0 tools.  There’s risk, you have to be focused on your purpose, fit to take on the task, but can find reward when you arrive at your destination.  As teachers and teacher-librarians, more than ever we have to be prepared to keep climbing, be dedicated to our own learning, and committed to guiding our students through the rapidly expanding digital world.  Like the steep climb, it’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer mass of information available on the web and the explosion of growth it continues to enjoy.

This course on Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning has shifted my thinking completely about the role of technology in the classroom.   Our students don’t know a world without the ability to communicate, socialize, learn, and explore online and if we’re not out there with them, there’s no one to guide them and teach them to be safe and avoid the pitfalls of various online environments.   Among the demographic of teachers today, a common refrain is “this is overwhelming!”  Like the climber, teacher-librians are situated to “show them the ropes”.

The ability to access information, assess it and produce new understandings is transforming at break neck speed with new tools being developed all the time.  The internet as we know it, is young and Web 2.o opening the web to all, even younger. Anyone can become an author of a blog, wiki, podcast, video or prezi and put their ideas ‘out there’ for public viewing and commentary.  Out students are creating content daily through video sharing on You Tube or running dialogue on Face Book.  So, from our perspective as educators, how do we turn these experiences into learning opportunities?

By reflecting on the exploration of Web 2.0 tools and how we can use them in our classrooms and libraries, we avoid the heap at the bottom of the learning curve.  Some of those tools that stand out for me from this course are RSS, Diigo, Tweetdeck, podcasting and Librarything.com.  While I was familiar with sites such as Diigo, Twitter, and Google Reader before this course, rolling up my sleeves and exploring them further has improved my understanding of them and how they can help students, teachers and other colleagues that I work with.  Let me explain what I mean by looking at my top four favourite tools and the top three things I learned from others on the course:

1.  Photo sharing – to learn about this tool, I chose Flickr.  This is a popular photo sharing site that I had never used before and through exploration, discovered a vast resource of incredible photographs, searchable by tools provided on the site.  Its potential as a tool for students is incredible as well – they can share their work either privately or publicly and add labels and captions.  Teachers should be aware of a tool such as Flickr and exploring their own understanding of it as a teaching resource.  This would be one tool that I would promote among my staff.  Why?  Digital learning is enhanced by thoughtful, engaging visuals.  To enrich inquiry learning, promote sharing and collaboration, Flickr is easy to join, use and share. Here is my home page:

2.  Video sharing – by far, the popular choice in this category is You Tube.  It contains a huge collection of videos and is well used by amateur and professional vidoegraphers alike.  I was aware of You Tube before the course and a fan of Teacher Tube, a version for educators.  One of the video categories that I referred to time and again in the course was made by Lee Lefever called “Common Craft”, how to videos for Web 2.0 tools. These short video explanations of tools including blogs, wikis, and social media I would certainly direct my colleagues to if they were seeking to understand a tool they are considering for their classroom.  Here is a great example of how to create a wiki and why you would use it:

This leads to an interesting point in the discussion of Web 2.0 tools for learning – knowing why we are using them.  It’s all well and good that they are out there on the web but if we as educators are not reflecting on why we are teaching with them and how they can improve the learning experiences of our students, then using them is a waste of time.  If we want our students to research and communicate in a medium that they are using extensively outside of school, then it is our responsibility to connect with them in that medium.

During the blogging process, I had an Ah Ha moment after the post on video sharing.  It’s ironic when I think about it but I didn’t know how to get a video to play on my blog.  When I did learn it, there was no looking back and it is one of the handy things I didn’t know before blogging for this course.  It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of Web 2.0 learning but a critical one for demonstrating and sharing learning.

Part B to video sharing:  A video tool that’s lots of fun to work with is Animoto.  It allows the user to easily create an account, upload images and video and Animoto formats the content with music of your choice and creates something like a music video.  This is another presentation tool that, in the video sharing category, adds to the students’ repertoire of tools to demonstrate learning.

3.  Social bookmarking – Here is one of those Web 2.0 tools that the more I use it, the more I wonder how I ever got along without it.  Gone are the scraps of paper, post-it notes, and scribblings on the backs of pages where I jotted URL’s I wanted to remember.  I was introduced to Diigo and began using it during a previous course on inquiry learning.  It allows you to bookmark those sites, links, articles and images you come across on the web that you want to remember or refer to in research.  It was easy to create an account and begin copying and pasting links to save.  You can choose your settings  – private or public – and organize your links once your account is set up.  It is also easy to set up groups so that people collaborating on a project can gather resources in one location and share them immediately with their team.  Here is an example of some recent bookmarks in Diigo:

If your Diigo account settings are public, then you can direct people to your page and they can access your bookmarks directly.

Educators should be using Diigo or another social bookmarking site now.  It’s an essential organizing tool they need, their students need it and it’s necessary in the face of information deluge.  Here’s a screen shot of how easy it is to add URL’s:

Social bookmarking is so valuable to any work online that I would want to share this with my colleagues right away.  I think an inservice session near the beginning of a school year would be ideal for setting up teachers with a tool box of online tools that they could work with during the year.  After all, supporting staff and students is one of the key roles of the teacher-librarian.

4.  RSS – Short for ‘real simple syndication’ was one of the last topics we explored on this course.  This is another feature of using the web to meet your information needs that needs to be shared with staff so that they can make the most of their searching online.  So many of my generation feel overwhelmed by the amount of choice online that RSS in combination with an aggregator such as Google Reader allows you to track the URL’s you want and not waste your time wandering from site to blog to link.  This is a tool I would also want to share with my staff early on in the year so that they could see the benefits of keeping up with sites of interest to themselves and their students.

A Google Reader account is easy to set up and manage.  Pasting in URL’s of bloggers you want to follow is easy using the ‘Add a subscription’ button in the upper left of the page.  Tracking with this tool makes the web personal and meaningful to you, the user.  Please see my last post, “Drinking from the fire hose” for a more in depth discussion of Google Reader and other aggregators for managing online information.  For students, real-time learning can take place on a topic when URL’s with RSS feeds are added to an aggregator and followed regularly.

Top three things I’ve learned from others on the course:

When I first thought about what to include in this section, I was uncertain what I would choose because I learned so many things from the sharing of other students and our professor.  When a course is set up using a constructivist model, the contributions to learning can go in many directions.  This is a huge benefit to those new to Web 2.0!  So, I narrowed down the possibilities to three cool things I learned:

1.  Tweetdeck:  new to Twitter last summer, I never imagined needing a tool to manage twitter traffic but after hearing students talk about how helpful it is, I signed up and was converted.  It runs in the background on your computer and you can follow links tweeted by those whom you follow or ignore them.  The choice is yours and that’s the wonderful thing about it.  The downside is that it can eat up time like no tomorrow so you have to be disciplined with how much you use it and when.

2.  Jing:  It took me a while to begin using Jing but can’t imagine being without it now.  It’s a tool for capturing screen shots and transferring them to your blog.  For our blogs, this has to be the easiest tool to sign up for and use.  The download to my laptop only took a few minutes and a little yellow sun hovers discretely in the corner of my screen until I need it.  I have yet to master saving video clips but I’ll get there.   When I consider what I didn’t know before this course, I’m sure now that I can learn new tools and if not, find the resources online to teach myself and others.

3.  Links to bloggers:  There are many links that fit into this category.  The reason I’ve added it as one of my top three things I’ve learned from others is that with all of us on the course from different areas of education, we follow different bloggers and have interests specific to the areas in which we teach.  So when the discussion turned to writing and voice or thinking about social media, links to thinkers and experts in these areas were shared.  You Tube clips of TED talks added to our thinking about ideas and concepts that, had others not posted them, we may not have come across on our own.

Some final thoughts:

Two things come to mind here; one, that many hands make light work and two, that alone we couldn’t have generated the content of the course without everyone sharing their finds.  This is Web 2.0 technology allowing all of us to come together, learn, discuss, share and contribute to the larger ongoing conversations taking place in the blogsphere, as Will Richardson puts it.  As for myself, I’m on the rock face and not letting go anytime soon. There is much to keep learning and sharing.  There is a place, no, a need for Web 2.0 tools in libraries as students learn about them and use them in their classrooms.  Library blogs can take many forms and become a main information source for library patrons.  It’s a personal goal to explore the possibility of a blog for our school library complete with contributions from students.

I will be keeping up with Google Reader and Twitter and bookmarking as I carry on with my learning in teacher-librarianship.  The presentation tools we explored can be used in future assignments and should be.  Though I struggled a bit at the outset with Prezi, it’s a fun tool that can bring a concept to life.  Podcasting is also fun to do – kids like to see and hear themselves so this tool will certainly have a place in our classrooms.   Blogging, of course, is the vehicle that brings all of these tools together in a dynamic and interactive manner.  So, here we go!

References:

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

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Blogs and blogging

In the previous post, I talked about RSS and managing information online. Let’s take a step back and talk about what exactly we mean when we use the terms blog and blogging.  So what is a blog and what makes it different from a journal or any other type of online writing?  If you’re reading this, you’re reading a blog.  I brainstormed a list of possible reasons why people would want to create a blog:

  • communicate an idea
  • talk about a personal interest
  • gather support for a cause
  • instruct
  • market an idea or concept
  • connect to a network of like minded thinkers
  • seek feedback on ideas
  • share information about events in a school or community
  • examine our own learning about this tool before we teach our own students and teachers

Will Richardson (2010) in his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms gives this definition:  “In its most general sense, a Weblog is an easily created, easily updateable Web site that allows an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.”  He goes on to say that, “they are comprised of reflections and conversations that in many cases are updated every day (if not three or four times a day.” (p. 17)  “Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links.  They ask readers to respond.  They demand interaction.” (p. 18)

While this blog is an exploration of learning about Web 2.0, it is a sharing of ideas, resources and links that when part of the class learning network, contributes to the larger discussion on this topic.  I am by no means an expert, but I am connected to the blogs of many who are experts and thus my learning is ongoing and richly populated by the discoveries and sharing of others.

In my exploration of Web 2.0 tools, I recommend the Common Craft videos for their easy to understand explanations.  Here is their video explaining blogs:

Blogs are easy to sign up for.  Two that predominate are Blogger and WordPress.  I chose WordPress last summer when working on the course, Inquiry Learning, and have stuck with it.  There are a lot of features to learn that make personalizing your blog manageable and they take time and perseverance.  Uploading videos or images to my blog took a bit of work but the effort is worth it.  When you read a blog that contains a variety of media, it’s more engaging and interesting.  This is one of the challenges of maintaining a blog – keeping your readers interested.  More about that in a minute.  To learn about your blog platform, there are helpful resources at the site.  Here is a screen shot from WordPress:

The Blogger home page offers similar features to WordPress but has a different format.  I think whichever you choose will work well.  This is a screen shot of Blogger from several years ago when I first started to explore online tools.  You can see that it wasn’t used after I created an account.


Blogs, as I mention at the top of the post can be used by anyone for a variety of purposes. They keep the most recent additions or posts, at the top of the blog and make it easy with archiving to search earlier posts or “yesterdays news” as it’s called in the Common Craft video.  They allow anyone to publish on anything, the latest news, etc. without “the constraints of the editorial process” as discussed by Elyssa Kroski (2008).  Formal publishing is truly challenged with the doors wide open to amateur, citizen journalists with access to free web publishing .  A question however, that comes to mind is  how can we keep up with the flow and is it worth keeping up with?  Please see the links in the post, “Drinking from the fire hose” for further discussion of ways to manage and sift using sites such as www.technorati.com and www.blogsearch.google.com

At this point, I’m not sure I would blog for personal reasons.  I am interested in keeping up with bloggers I find interesting or entertaining and may post a comment from time to time but beyond that, I don’t see myself creating content.  Knowing what I know now about the commitment you have to make to keep a blog interesting, engaging and up to date, I know that I don’t have that kind of time.  Sharing professional learning, well, that’s another matter.

Mining the web, as my family is learning to do, using RSS to keep track of useful information, is how they are accessing bloggers.  They are not yet blogging themselves but I can certainly see how easy they would find it.  They are not fearful of this technology and sharing with people beyond their own personal network.

From a professional perspective:

Finding your blogging voice is key to becoming a successful blogger.  You have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of my blog and who is my audience?  Clearly, the bloggers that I follow (see post on RSS) know how to blog and for whom they are blogging.  In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010), Will Richardson talks about what it is that you need to consider when you post.  As he tells us, “When I post to my Weblog, I anticipate the reader’s response as much as I can, but ultimately, my post is still a draft, a way to test my ideas and writing against an audience.” (p. 30)  In the context of instruction in classrooms, blogging would give students, and does in countless examples, a real audience for whom they are writing.  Of course, students heading off into the blogsphere would need to be scaffolded or supported with proper instruction in blogging, the do’s and don’ts, and how to be safe online.

So what separates blogging from just plain journaling?  According to Will Richardson, real blogging is “links with analysis and synthesis that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind.” Further, he adds, “extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments.” (p.31)

If we were to create a recipe with the ingredients for a successful blog, it might read something like this:

  • a cup of your personality
  • a dash of personal opinion
  • a spoonful of participation
  • a healthy does of meaningfulness
  • and a serving of sustainability – keeping the blog up to date

To share in a PLC through a blog would require all the ingredients.  Blogs are an easy way to share resources, ideas and build a database of learning.  Posts become archived items that serve teachers’ professional learning.  What a powerful way to share your thinking and comment on the thinking of others!  With RSS feeds connecting bloggers together, whether students or teachers, the community becomes a vital and organic learning forum extending beyond the four walls of a school.

References:  See post “Drinking from the fire hose”

 

 

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“Drinking from the fire hose”: Web 2.0 tools that help you manage blogs and online information


Photograph by Perry McKenna on Flickr

If you feel like the deluge of information on the net is like drinking from a fire hose, then you probably need an online aggregator as well as RSS feeds from your favourite sites.  What are these you ask? Well, they are both valuable Web 2.0 tools that allow an individual to better manage the sheer volume of information that can stream towards them, and like other tools of the same genre, they can help an individual feel that they are more effectively and efficiently directing the internet flood of information.    So as an example, how does one keep up with all those bloggers you want to keep a watch on, or how does one get warned of important news releases on a certain subject?  One of the easiest ways I have managed is to subscribe to RSS feeds and tailor them to your needs.  “So, reason number one to get your brain wrapped around RSS?  You can read more content from more sources in less time.” (Richardson, 2010)  Here’s a useful definition to help understand RSS:

In simplest terms, if a website has the orange icon pictured above then you can subscribe to feeds from the site through your aggregator.  “The content comes to you instead of you going to get it, hence ‘Really Simple Syndication’.” (Richardson, 2010)   Some call this a ‘push’ versus a ‘pull’ method of obtaining the information you want.   So, aggregators are extremely handy tools because they do the ‘leg work’ of capturing the RSS feeds, the up to the minute changes from URL’s (web addresses) that you want to track and read.  There are different types of aggregators and all help codify information in slightly different ways.  As the list from Wikipedia below shows, there are ample types of aggregators available to select from:

Depending on your information needs, one may only use one or two aggregators though there are many to choose from.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

The screen capture from this site www.popurl.com shows only a fraction of sites that are on the home page.  Popurl gathers updates from a wide variety of social media sites ranging from Flickr to Google Blogs to the latest entertainment news sites and organizes them on one page for convenient viewing.  You just click on the headline that you want and voila, you’re there.  The net benefit to the user is that all the leg work is done for you, effectively and efficiently.

Personal Use of RSS:

The aggregator that I have the most experience with is Google Reader.  I have used it since the summer of 2010 when I first learned how to follow bloggers for a previous course, Inquiry Learning.  It was introduced to me after I asked the question, “how do I know when they post to their blogs?”  I had never followed a blogger before and while I assumed there may be some way to do this, I certainly didn’t know that there was such a simple way to find out when an author (blogger) added something new, apart from going directly to their blog frequently.   Since then, I have added bloggers for both professional and personal interest.  Here’s how simple Google Reader works:

1.  Sign up for a free Google account or simply login if you already have one,

2.  From the list of Google options, click on “Reader.”  On the home page, you will see the place where you paste the URL of the sites/blogs you want to keep up with.

3.  Once you see the summaries in the “what’s new” column in the centre of the page, just click on the links and go directly to the author’s blog. (See red bubble above).  Feeds can also be organized into folders depending on your needs or topics you wish to organize.

As shown, managing your feeds and how you view them in Google Reader is reasonably straight forward.  Note however that while the volume of information is aggregated more efficiently, the trick still remains opening your Reader account often enough to keep up with the traffic.  From my experience, if you leave it for several days, you may find yourself with possibly hundreds of posts to catch up on.   So getting into a routine and rhythm at a convenient time of the day, as I did discovering that first thing in the morning is best for me prior to my kids getting up (and thereby enjoying the silence of the morn), was a good habit for me to get into.

To further explore the benefits of RSS and aggregators, I also signed up for Bloglines because of its apparent ease of use and the many positive user references I came across.  This site operates a little differently from Google Reader by presenting you with lists of sites you may want to receive feeds from as well as providing the option to add URL’s.

It seems to me that the preset feeds are from popular, probably often frequented sites, i.e. American news and entertainment.   With Bloglines, one simply checks the box for the ones you want.  Like Google Reader, creating an account merely requires an email address, username and password. Once you’re in, you select which sites  you would like to receive feeds from and add your desired URLS’s and you’re redirecting the flow of information.

Home screen for the aggregator, Bloglines

In my family, I was the first one using Google Reader.  As I have become a huge fan of this organizing tool, I have encouraged my kids to create their own accounts, especially for school work.  My husband eventually saw the value of the tool, and he too now employs it for helping him stay abreast of those blogs of significant interest to him.  My children aren’t really following any bloggers as of yet, but they do routinely gather research for assignments.  In short, tracking RSS feeds has become a standard internet mining tool for the whole family.  My children do so much school work, and socializing, online now that a web aggregator makes sense for them to understand how best to access, organize and share online information.

As many social commentators have articulated, RSS feeds from one’s favourite newspapers and magazines may one day replace the paper copies delivered to our home, but I don’t believe that seismic shift has happened quite yet, for as an example, Saturday mornings at our home typically see the weekend editions of our favourite papers spread across the kitchen table.  For our family, it may take some time before we change this habit.

Professional Use of RSS:

In my opinion,  I assess that we are now at a point where no educator keeping up with their professional learning should not benefit from the power of a properly implemented aggregator.  There is just so much being published to the web all the time and communicated through social media sites that without some way to keep track of the sites that are of particular interest to one’s specific field, you would quickly find yourself buried.  As Will Richardson (2010) advocates, “…if you’re an educator, I think it’s the one technology you should start using today, right now, this minute.  And tomorrow, you should teach your students to use it.” (p.71)

Without RSS, this could be you.

The beauty of tracking information via RSS is that it just saves you so much time and is therefore more sustainable.  It is unrealistic, at least in my opinion, going to each blogger that you follow and searching their blog.  Instead of ‘pulling’ the requisite information in a manually time consuming fashion, the information is instead being pushed to you in a more timely fashion with the most recent updates being sent to your aggregator.  You are thus allowed the chance to determine whether you need to go to the blog or access links that may be included in the post.  For all educators, regardless of whether they are in the classroom or central office, effective and efficient feeds keep one  informed of the latest research results or published reports.  As Richardson (2010) states, “Teachers could track the blogsphere for discussions about motivating students or the unique pedagogies of the class.  Superintendents could be notified about what’s being written about their schools. (p. 72)”

For our students, Richardson (2010) makes an important point about the learning that is going on when they are deciding which sites or bloggers to follow.  “This is the part of digital reading literacy that our students will have to master, a vetting process that they (and we) should be going through whenever we land on a new site on the Web.” (p. 74)   This is a lifelong literacy skill that should be started when students are taught how to evaluate web sites for credibility.  I often begin the conversation about evaluation by asking students what they do when they use a search engine for a project and get a million hits.  How do they know what is good information and what is not?  There is a lot to learn!

Richardson (2010) is a great resource for the discussion of RSS in the classroom.  As he states, if students are blogging, the teacher can track their posts by having their blogs listed in an aggregator, eliminating the need to go to each blog to check for updates. (p.78)  Conversely, if they aren’t blogging but have Reader, they can keep up with feeds from the teacher.  Content or upcoming events can be delivered to students this way.  This is efficient!  One post from the teacher that all students receive. (p. 78)

For research purposes, students can also use search terms to find news feeds that address their topic.  Once they choose a news source they find relevant, they copy the URL and paste it into Reader.  This way, they receive the most up to date information on their topic. (Richardson, 2010, p.79)  To follow bloggers, they can search www.Blogsearch.Google.com

From a learning perspective, to start students off in this new sphere of using RSS, I would do what was done for us on this course – give students a list of specific bloggers to follow and through exploration of these tools, encourage subscribing to feeds from other bloggers as discussion, research and topics evolve.  This way, students naturally progress in their knowledge of RSS and aggregators in a way that is not overwhelming.

Here is a snapshot of some of the bloggers I follow:

Some of the bloggers I follow include Joyce Valenza, David Loertcher, James Herring, Will Richardson, Judy O’Connell, Scott McLeod, P. Naugle, as well as some of the students from our course.  From reading and scanning their posts, I have discovered others that I’m interested in following and so, have added their blog URL to my Reader account.  This is one of the benefits of collaborative, connected learning and sharing – it can go on as long as you are participating.

In conclusion, seeking, using, and sharing online information is done more effectively with RSS.  If you’re not convinced that RSS is right for you, consider these thoughts expressed by Elyissa Kroski in her book, Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals (2008).  “With RSS, people participate in the flow of information;  like never before they are attuned to changes, shifts, and happenings.  As blog posts are published, podcasts circtulated, and weather updated, users are notified.  When breaking news happens, users are made aware.  Increasingly, control over online infomation rests with the new Web users who have been put in charge of their own consumption.”(p.28)  We are indeed able to make the web ours as we choose what we want from it, how we contribute and by which means.

References:

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for Librarians and InformationProfessionals. New York, London:  Neal-Schumann Publishers Inc.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

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Twitter

 

About half a year ago, I joined Twitter while taking a course on inquiry learning.  My Twitter handle is @acrunning.   We were asked to follow experts in our field who were regular bloggers and tweeters.  These experts are educators, instructors, presenters, teachers, administrators and others who are passionate about literacy, communication, libraries and how children and adults learn, create and share information using technology.  At the time, I felt a whole new world had been opened up to me and in fact, still do.  While I’m hesitant to tweet but happy to read and  “retweet”, I’m fascinated by the sharing and communicating that I follow.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a microblogging platform of 140 characters.  To become a tweeter, go to www.twitter.com, create an account with a username and search for people to follow.  It’s nice when you connect with people who want to follow you so I start with a few people whom you know.  I started with the network of students and professors from my course.  It’s easy to use the “find” button to search for folks on twitter or they may include their twitter “handle” (usename) in their blog or on their website and click on “follow” to add to your list.

It’s interesting to compare the description of Twitter in the Common Craft video to my experience with it.  The video was created in 2008 not long after Twitter came into existence (2006) and was used mostly to connect with friends and family regarding the minutia of life.   As I’ve seen on Facebook, a lot space and time can be spent discussing the mundane details and changes in a person’s status from hour to hour and that kind of thing doesn’t interest me.  What does interest me is the sharing from a professional point of view.  I’ve  learned about resources for librarians, seen pictures shared through TweetPic that would lend themselves to inquiry learning and watched video clips and slide shows.  The timeliness of Twitter posts makes it a relevant tool for professional learning.

Personal Use of Twitter

Since joining twitter, I’ve had to learn a lot of new terminology to figure out what everyone is talking about when they refer to Tweetdeck, hastags and other organizers of twitter posts.  Here is a helpful wiki:  http://twitter.pbworks.com

One of the best places I’ve found for learning has been the Web 2.0 course discussion threads.  Students on the course have diverse experience with technology and have been great about sharing it with others.  Through this learning, I’ve ventured out on my own in the “twitterverse” (Richardson, 2008, p. 86) to explore not only the links that have been shared in tweets, but topics that interest me.  I’m a runner so I was very interested to follow the tweets of news agencies and participants in the 2500th anniversary of the Athens Marathon, October 31, 2010.  Here’s a sample screenshot from twitter traffic of this event:

As well, through twitter I “follow” and am followed some of the teacher-librarians in my district as well as a friend who is a real “techie.”  Knowing that I may find resources that would be interesting or useful to my colleagues is motivation to overcome my fear and tweet my findings (I’m working on that).  Also, on a personal note, one morning I was reading tweets when one of the links I opened was to a wonderful song.   I listened to it and it made my day.  As I have gotten into the habit of bookmarking things I don’t want to lose, I saved it to Diigo and would love to share it.  Here it is (I hope it makes your day too):

I will never be a tweeter of the personal details of my family or give play by play of how my day started so I guess that leaves only  my professional use of Twitter.  I’m on my own in my family with this one.  As I said in my previous post, our daughter is happy on Facebook – it meets her needs to keep up with her friends – and no one else communicates through either one of these social networking tools.

Professional Use of Twitter

The sharing of a variety of media in a burst transmission such as twitter is where the utility of this tool is for me. I really enjoy reading the tweets of experts and exploring the links or attachments that they share.  Talk about just in time learning!  Twitterers share the latest conference experiences, new books, websites, links to bloggers of whatever else they feel is relevant and useful to their followers.  If members of a school or district staff or PLC for that matter, want to communicate quickly and in small posts, Twitter is the way to do it.  As Will Richardson says in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, “following other educators on Twitter creates a ‘network at my fingertips‘ phenomenon where people ask questions and get answers, links to great blog posts or resources, or share ideas for projects as they go through the day (2010, p.86).  A list can be created easily from the your homepage in Twitter.  Here is a screen shot of my home page showing that lists can be added on the right hand side of the paIn an article entitled, Facebook vs. Twitter:  Battle of the Social Network Stars” (2010), Curt Tagmeier talks about these two social networking sites and should a library choose one over the other.  He concludes that there is room for both as they meet different needs and are relevant to different types of users.  Where Facebook requires people to approve requests from potential contacts, Twitter does not.  Twitter also does not require the same level of personal information thus lending itself well to those who wish to use it on a more professional level – sharing ideas and links, initiating discussions and perhaps trouble shooting.  As he says, “the two services communicate in different ways to different users.”

Libraries looking to use social networking to get their word out can set up Facebook pages as well as send tweets.  Imagine receiving tweets about a new book you’ve been waiting for or upcoming author visits!  You could share this information with your followers by retweeting this news.  With apps for mobile phones, iPhone and Blackberry users can keep up with events from wherever they are!

In an article in Teacher Librarian by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson discussing divergent and convergent thinking regarding the future of libraries, they say that, “a wide range of technology tools allow young people to explore different ways to acquire and communicate.”  This translates into the idea that “a student many read a book, explore more about the topic online and discuss their thoughts and feelings on a social network” (2010, p. 77)  Twitter could be one such social network where sharing takes place or a conversation is started.  They give examples of books that already take readers from the page to the screen:  Nubs, Skeleton Creek, and 39 Clues.

Here’s a cool idea – a twitter post as a story starter.  In “Twitter Takes Off”, author Neil Gaiman gave his 1.2 million followers an opening line and chose 1000 of the best posts to create an audio book.  I’m not sure how this would look in an elementary setting but I could see it working in a secondary school or higher where students could more easily have Twitter accounts.

To find like-minded professionals to follow, Will Richardson has done some of the legwork for us by recommending:  “Directory of Learning Professionals on Twitter” or “Twitter for Teachers.” (2010, p. 88)  There are also groups such as #tlchat, #edchat, and #ukedchat.  The number sign in front of the name tells you that it is a group twitter address.  For educators who are already strapped for time, these starting points are extremely helpful.   I haven’t joined a chat yet but have explored fantastic web resources that have and can add to instruction in the library.

In another interesting article, Patrick Tucker writes about his conversation in, “Reinventing the Luddite:  An Interview with Andrew Keen” that “today’s expert needs to learn how to ride the wave” (2010, p. 2).  There is no sitting back while the this technology moves on at break neck speed taking our future citizenry with it.  We can be of no use to our students who speak the language of Twitter and other social networking sites if we don’t know what they are, how they work, and how to teach others to use them effectively.  There’s no time like the present to pull out the surf board, find a beach,  swim out to the wave and then hold on!

References

 

Michelle R Davis.  (2010, April). Social Networking Goes to School :Educators are integrating Facebook, Ning, and other sites into K-12 life despite concerns about privacy and behavior. Education Week’s Digital Directions, 3(3), 16, 18, 20, 22, 23.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2067981621).

Gaiman, N.. (2010, February). Twitter Tale Takes Off. Scholastic Scope, 58(12), 3.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1976139161).

Janes, J.. (2010, May). The Biggest Front Porch. American Libraries, 41(5), 26.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2052121581).

 

Levitov, D.. (2010, March). The Need for Information Specialists. School Library Monthly, 26(7), 4.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1981618491).

Ondrejka, C.. (2010). “Big Brother” versus “Little Brother”: Two Possible Media Futures. The Futurist, 44(2), 33-34.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1955682991).

Richardson, W. (2010).  Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tool for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, Ca.:  Corwin.

 

 

Young, J.. (2010, March). TEACHING WITH TWITTER. The Education Digest, 75(7), 9-12.  Retrieved November 21, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1980047021).

Posted in Learning Web 2.0 Tools | Leave a comment

Social Networking

Brave new digital citizen

This is how I would describe myself at this point in my Web 2.0 life.  Most teenagers or “millennial’s”  (13-35 year olds), as I’ve read, would roll their eyes at the idea that venturing out into the web requires any kind of bravery. I tend to disagree – perhaps Joan of Arc would empathize with me.   I have cautiously dipped my toe in the waters of the web and am probably as ready as I’ll ever be to join communities of varying size to learn, share, socialize, laugh and be amazed at the commonalities and diversity of the human experience.  I’ll be doing this through social networks.  Before I begin though, I want to let you know that my experience of Facebook is through others – a 15 year old who wouldn’t be without it and other thinkers whose published ideas I’ve had a chance to reflect upon.  I’m new to nings but can share some thoughts on this, have joined www.goodreads.com and www.librarything.com as well as www.shelfari.com.   I can’t wait to have leisure reading time again to add to my virtual bookshelves and join book club discussions.

 

Having a web presence, a digital footprint, a connection to community is what the web now demands of us.  I keep hearing about the growing number of 2 year olds who have a digital presence – I’ve got to get going here!  No time to waste!  If my students are on the web, sharing, creating and collaborating,  I can’t be a very useful guide if I’m and not on the web exploring and learning the tools that they are using.

Before heading off into the discussion, I need to establish some definitions of what we’re talking about here.  The first is what we mean when talking about the social web.  Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms says that, “the collaborative construction of knowledge by those willing to contribute is redefining the ways we think about teaching and learning at every level.” (2010,p. 85).   Ellyssa Kroski, in Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Specialists adds that, “the phenomenon of social networking taps into the passions of Web users, allowing them to express themselves creatively in a social environment.  They offer a portal to information, knowledge, and people, where members can share content and establish relationships with others.” (2008, p.107).   As Will Richardson emphasizes in his discussion of Web 2.0 tools, with more than 1 billion people online, the power of these connections takes on epic proportions (p.85)!  Imagine the possibilities for new ideas and ways of learning!

Edmodo:

Edmodo is a closed social networking site for students and teachers meaning that it is secure, not searchable on Google.  It is a safe way to introduce sharing and collaborating using an online resource and is very easy to sign up for.  The how-to video from the Edmodo home page says it all:

www.edmodo.com

Once a teacher has created an account, they invite their students to join with a generated code that once they are signed up, the teacher can delete.  Once in Edmodo, groups can be created for different purposes – students learning in a particular curricular area or teachers collaborating as a PLC.  Assignments can be posted, polls taken, and links added.  It’s a very versatile tool that is a nice compromise for those hesitant to integrate technology or brave but new to learning in this way.

Students in one grade 6 classroom where I worked with the teacher to set this up were very excited when they saw that the main page looked like Facebook.  This became an opportunity to discuss the difference between social communication and communication for learning in school.  This tool allows differentiation and a voice to those who are reluctant to participate but there can still be a requirement that all students be respectful, considerate and communicate in full sentences – no text talk.

For professional learning, as I mentioned above, groups can be created around curricular areas or topics of interest to the members and only those people who belong to a particular group may access that group.

Facebook:

I am not a member of Facebook but know a 15 year old (my daughter) who is and was willing to answer some questions for me.  Here’s how our conversation went:

AR:  How long have you been on Facebook?

AF:  About two years.

AR:  Why are you on it?

AF:  I like to see what my friends are up to and to tell them what I am up to.

AR:  Has the way you’ve used it changed since the beginning?

AF:  The page layout has changed and they run updates.

AR:  Do you use it for school work?

AF:  No.  Only to find someone who can help me if I don’t understand something.

AR:  Do your teachers recommend using it for school work?

AF:  No.

AR:  Do you use Facebook to set up pages for a specific purpose?

AF:  No.  My privacy is too important to me to have anyone accessing my information.

AR:  Do you know about privacy settings?

AF:  Yes.  Only my friends can view my page, pictures etc.  No FOAF.  It’s easy to confirm or    ignore a request from a potential friend.

AR:  Are your friends on Facebook?

AF:  I would say 9 out of 10 have Facebook.  You feel out of the loop if you don’t have it.

AR:  Is there something you don’t like about Facebook?

AF:  If someone uploads photos that you are in and you don’t like them there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can only delete your own stuff.

AR:  Why do you think that so many people take photos of everything and post them to Facebook?

AF:  They don’t take pictures for memories.  They want to show that they’ve been somewhere, been a part of something.

Isn’t that last comment telling about the teenage experience?  I get it.  I’m not sure however that all of them understand the long term implications of some of things they share, which is why lessons on digital citizenship and cyber bullying need to happen in our schools.   It’s our job as educators to prepare our students for the world beyond the four walls of school and since they are already living in the digital world after the bell rings, we have our work cut out for us.

We also have to keep in mind that students, if not guided by an adult at home when online, need to learn that they are part of the wider world and not just solitary players sharing and divulging details they think the world needs to know.  In their article, “Literate Arts in a Global World:  Reframing Social Networking as Cosmopolitan Practice” Glynda Hull and Amy Stornaiuolo examine the “disconnect between the digital, mobile, and radically interconnected social, economic, and cultural worlds that we increasingly inhabit, and the print-centric, stationary, traditional school day, still organized for the most part by tools, space-time relationships and participant structures that belong to a previous age.” (2010).  They present examples from a site for youth called www.space2cre8.com.

Their discussion of youth seeking to “self-imagine” is fascinating in the context of “seeing ourselves as social actors with obligations toward others.” (2010)  I understand this to mean that kids are exploring ideas of what they are and how they fit in the world of others.

The authors discuss “cosmopolitanism as a strategy for reconciling the tensions inherent in a vastly interconnected yet deeply divided world.” (2010) As youth build communities, they use “transliteracies” or “multimodal symbolizations across multiple spaces to listen and reflect.” (2010)  Young people are comfortable communicating digitally in various environments through photos, video, comments, polls and groups.   Though in our classrooms, we seem to be behind the 8 ball so to speak, and share valid concerns of safety, privacy and access.  Further in the article, the authors continue, “that [social] networks are prime out of school locations for maintaining existing social ties, construction and experimenting with multimodal representations of self, and creating and exchanging social capital.  Studies to explore the educational implications of social networking are few and are between. (2010).  This is a reminder of just how quickly the web and online tools are evolving!  Importantly though, to take a final point from this article is “this notion of openness involves  a focus on our obligations to others, including our obligation to listen and respond respectfully and considerately.” (2010).  The question to ask ourselves then, is how do we do this effectively in our classrooms and libraries?

From a personal point of view, I see the appeal of a site like Facebook but made a choice not to spend the time (since I don’t have a lot of extra at the moment).  Right now my family, close friends, work and studies fill my days and the time I do spend online is for learning.   It’s a significant connection for my daughter but to connect with friends and family, for now I prefer email and Skype.

In my research, I came across an interesting article by Greg Notess talking about the value, use and history of Facebook.  I didn’t know that it was originally used by those in “higher learning” and evolved into a site of mass communication across extensive networks of “friends.” (2008)  He questions the value of searching for the type of information available on Facebook such as contact information, background, and personal and professional interests. (2008)  He reminds us that deleting a profile requires deleting content before deleting the profile otherwise, photos and details remain online.  There are so many factors to be aware of that belonging to a social network may not be for the faint of heart.

I know that there are Facebook pages for organizations and schools, announcing events, scores, and news of interest to a particular community so why not have a Facebook page for a library?  I ask the question, read it in my research and would consider it an option for secondary and public libraries but not likely for an elementary library.  Access would be an issue requiring young students to rely on an adult with a Facebook login to take them to the page.  (Even Queen Elizabeth’s Facebook page isn’t public – you have to be signed in to view it!)

From a professional development point of view, there are more accessible tools with which to collaborate with colleagues so Facebook would not be my first choice.  In our field, the Teacher-librarian ning is one such example of a Web 2.0 tool designed specifically to meet the needs of it’s community.  To understand what a ning is, go to www.ning.com

According to Wikipedia, “a ning is a social network around a specific interest with their own visual design, choice of features and member data.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ning The teacher-librarian ning meets these criteria.  It was easy to sign up – once I gave my data, my membership was pending and finally I just had to click on a link sent to my email account.  It is a social network for information sharing, discussion, resources and to connect with others working in this field.  It has a large membership, extensive video library, and forum for joining or initiating discussion on topics of interest.  For my learning, it’s easy to ask a question that somebody will likely be able to answer.  Professionally,  there may be resources or information that enhance your instructional practice or that may support colleagues in your school or district.  In fact, I would encourage all TL’s to explore this network and sign up.  I’ve already found video clips that I will return to and use in my learning and teaching.

Three social networks all built around books are www.shelfari.com,
www.goodreads.com and www.librarything.com.  While we are encouraged to explore goodreads and librarything, I also joined shelfari to learn about it too but will focus mainly on the first two.

Goodreads:

This is a social networking site based on books, finding them, sharing opinions about them, and personalizing your own “book shelf” to share with others who share your taste in books.  It was easy to sign up for a free account and build my virtual bookshelves.  I had fun going through the list of books and selecting them for my “read” shelf, “currently reading” or “to-read” shelf.  Based on my selections, I can chat with others who made similar selections.  I look forward to leisure reading again and joining book discussions.  For the moment, as I mentioned earlier, my time is largely spoken for.  Thank goodness for audio books!  They go with me whenever I’m driving to and from activities with the kids.

Professionally,  I’m interested in booklists on the site for children’s books as well as young adults.

I have a young adult who, in addition to keeping in touch with her friends, is a voracious reader.  I was telling her that she should sign up for an account and share her experiences of reading current titles – for instance, she just finished the Hunger Games series.  The great thing about YA book shelves is that she may find titles that are similar and others have enjoyed.  That is a feature of this site that I look forward to using often in the future.

From the point of view of my PLC at work, this would be a site that I would recommend to my colleagues if they aren’t already on it.  While it’s not a substitute for professional reviews of materials that would be used for resource selection, it certainly provides a options and ideas and combinations of titles that we perhaps hadn’t thought of.  If there is another way to promote books and reading in our libraries inspired by a group or booklist, then it’s worth some thought.  We want to foster a love of reading and learning in our little people.

Librarything:

This site is similar to goodreads in the sense that it was easy to sign up for a free account and get started editing my profile.  While it seems that goodreads has a broader appeal, librarything is a better fit for teacher-librarians, library media specialists and literacy instructors.  It is a searchable social network site with extensive titles, groups and listings of local events which I found interesting.    I like the “zeitgeist” tab with lists, among many other things,   “authors who LT”, “25 the most reviewed books”, and “the top 75 tags”.

These are definitely resources that I can use in my practice and professional learning and would recommend to colleagues in my PLC.  It is community member built content with recommendations, lists, connections to “watch lists and interesting libraries”.  With members having diverse taste, you’re likely to find a review or endorsement of something you might never have considered reading and end up loving.

From a teaching point of view, I like that you can have conversations, seek advice and share ideas on library instruction.  Sometimes, if you have something that you’d like to teach in a different way but aren’t sure what will work, chatting with colleagues will lead you to that strategy that gets you going.

I like the fact that there is a school media specialist group which I would recommend to my colleagues.  How great especially if you are the only library media specialist for miles around and no one to collaborate with!  A network like librarything connects you to your professional community and supports you as a teacher and a reader!  No one likes to feel isolated and the teaching profession is such that we can easily become solitary leaders in our classrooms but thanks to social networking tools, we can share our ideas, joys, tribulations and learning, get support and meet other great teachers along the way.

Where other library folks are

Just some parting thoughts:

Along the path to learning about the social networking sites, Facebook, TL ning, goodreads and libarything, I took a few side roads and discovered just how extensive social networking tools are.  They are in just about every area of interest, news, music, photo sharing, and social bookmarking.  Wherever there is a community that share common interests and desire to build that community based on the contributions of its members, the potential for visits and growth of the membership increases.  The self-policing capacity of many social networking sites and structures in place such as email notification prior to a comment going public, ensures that the quality of the content is uncompromised and is respectful to members.

Social networking sites have put the power in the hands of ordinary people to comment on what they see, do, or are interested in and make it easy to share that information with a computer and an internet connection.  That sharing can be in the form of text, photo, video or sound bite, in the case of twitter (more on that in an upcoming posting).  The learning and sharing potential is huge altering strongly held perceptions of how students learn, where and when they learn and with whom they collaborate.  Ourselves as examples, we are building our course content together, with ideas unique to each of us, resources from all over the world and diverse personal experiences which enrich the conversation.  And all in an online environment!  How lucky are we!

References:

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

Notess, G.(2008). An about-face on facebook? Outline 32(1), 43-45.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Stornaiuolo, A, and Hull, G. (2010). Literate arts in a global world: Reframing social networking as cosmopoital practice.  Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 54(2), 85-97. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.2.1

Posted in Learning Web 2.0 Tools | 5 Comments

Multimedia and presentation tools

In this post, I hope to explore, learn and consider the implications for teaching and learning of online presentations tools.  While the list includes such web services such as Google Earth, Animoto, and Voicethread, the focus for this blog will be on Vuvox,  Slideshare, and Prezi.   Before this assignment, I didn’t know anything about these last three tools and had only seen a Prezi created by another student and one created by a colleague.  At the time, I still clung closely to Power Point as my preferred format for making presentations but after rolling up my sleeves to watch how-to videos and demos at each of the sites, I now see some of the limitations of choosing only stills or only videos.  I’m not suggesting that these forms of presentation don’t have a place, because they do.  The issue, I’ve learned, is that for those participating in Web 2.0 content creation, the demand for ever more dynamic tools has grown.  This idea is articulated by the CEO of Vuvox in the following You Tube clip:

Getting Started:

I began my learning by trying to understand what is meant by a mashup.  I’d heard the term used in the context of popular radio and video but didn’t really fully understand it.  I turned to Ellyssa Kroski’s, Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals.  She explains that. “One of the primary principles being espoused by the new Web is the notion of developing technology and content in a manner that can be reused by others.” (2008, p. 183)   She continues, “A mashup is a hybrid Web application that combines two or more distinct sets of data and functionality from separate sources, blending them to form something new.” (2008, p. 183)  Questions immediately came to mind about content creation and copyright.   For now, I want to share my exploration of these multimedia tools in an effort to understand how I may use them, how my students may create with them and what they may do for professional development.

The first step:

My exploration of these tools began with Vuvox.  I went to the site and looked at several samples in an effort to understand what this tool did.  I have to confess that I didn’t like it at first and was frustrated by my inability to control the speed of the slides.  I also found clicking on the little plus sign to open another box, frustrating, but I persevered.  Eventually, I got the hang of it and created a free account which was easy to do.  Click here to see a simple slideshow I created.  The creators of Vovox have a demonstration video on You Tube which explains the purpose of the program, how it came to be and how creations can be shared.

There are three options for creating content in Vuvox and I started with the “express” option as it was recommended in a how-to video about this tool.  I chose to use flickr for my photos and uploaded images for viewing in the public domain.  I created a flickr account earlier in the fall when we began exploring photo sharing.  Again, I used mostly landscapes and shots where kids were not identifiable.

This software is not difficult to work with as long as you follow the steps and are patient.  Once I saw the end product of the creation process, I had to try another right away.  For the second product, I chose photos of the flooding that devastated our area.  Once I had them uploaded, I went back to look at the steps required for the express creation and saw that I needed to create a “collage” in order to embed audio and video.  I would have liked to have added commentary to the slideshow of the flooding and am learning the collage process now.  There is much to learn to reach the mastery level of these web applications and while I’m not there yet, I’m on my way and enjoying the journey.

At first, I didn’t see a use for a tool like Vuvox on a personal level.  As I mentioned near the beginning of this post, there were little things that frustrated me.  However, after spending time playing with it, I found myself wanting to do more, try other options for creating, and sharing aspects of our life here with a wider audience.  The flood in June of this year, for example, was a significant event for our community and to have been  part of the conversation about people’s experiences, would have been very moving.

My kids are quick learners of online applications and have taken to playing with them like true naturals.  As an aside, my daughter told me how frustrated she was that I wasn’t “getting” Prezi, but more about that later.  A tool like Vuvox has huge potential for their creative minds whether for sharing with friends on Facebook or school work.  I see how it appeals to their creative side.

In my teaching, Vuvox can be used to summarize learning, be taught to students so they can showcase their learning, as well as be that hook at the start of new unit.  Inquiry can be ignited with a rich, multi layered visual that reflect the personality of the creator.  With the increasing presence of Smart Boards, web tools such as Vuvox can be embedded into Notebook lessons further enriching 21st century learning experiences.

In our PLC, I will be part of a group sharing our experiences with Web 2.0.  I will be make a presentation on Vuvox (as well as the other web 2.0 presentation tools), sharing my learning of it and demonstrating it and encouraging my colleagues to try it.  With the majority of us teaching part time in classrooms and being part time library designates, there are a lot of choices in the curriculum for applying a tool like Vuvox.  Sharing our learning about technoloy in small group sessions, keeping it low key and reminding people to take small steps as they try these tools is, in my opinion, an ideal way to share, collaborate and encourage integration of technology.

Slideshare.net:

This is another interesting presentation tool with potential for teaching, learning and expression of ideas on a personal level.   When I began exploring presentation tools, this one was completely new to me and I have to say, after viewing some of the presentations on the Slideshare homepage, I wondered how this tool improved on power point or keynote presentation software.  I was very glad to view the You Tube clip featuring Charles Ansorge, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska who shed a lot of light on this particular tool.  His presentation can be viewed here:

Professor Ansorge filled in several gaps in my learning and answered questions that the site didn’t seem to have answers for.   Generally, when an application is new to me, I seek out the demo videos and the how-to clips on the site’s home page.  While I found some of the slideshare presentations thought provoking, they left me wondering about the creation side of the equation.  Here is an example for sparking inquiry:

What Michelangelo can teach us about innovation

Professor Ansorge explained that the features of slideshare.net that make it interesting for businesses and educators is the ability to archive presentations.  Since it is a public service (no privacy settings), it can be easily shared and accessed with an internet connection.  Like the traditional power point, the slidehshare product can be a mixture of text and images.

As a collaborative tool, teachers can upload presentations and students can comment on them.  Academic discussion can take place on the site thereby being shared by all who participate.  This improvement takes the static slideshow style presentation and makes it dynamic and engaging.  As educators, we want to engage our students and improve student learning.  This tool has the potential for doing just that.

From the point of view of professional development, Slideshare can be used in a professional development session and be accessed after the session is over.  Dialogue among educators can take place on the site, supporting and expanding the learning of the participants.  In our upcoming PLC session, I will present this tool as well and share my experience of working with it.   It is my hope that conversation will result and colleagues at all levels will want to explore the potential of this tool.

Creating a free account was easy to do a www.slideshare.net.  Once you’re in, you click on “upload” to bring your powerpoint or keynote presentation into the Slideshare service for conversion.  This took a few minutes and the first time I tried to upload a keynote presentation I made with my freestyle skiing son, it didn’t convert.  We wondered if it was because we had embedded six video clips into the presentation.  By involving my son in the process, I was hoping to spark his interest in creating with this tool (I think he will have a go with it again).  He is an avid Flip video user and had many clips of his freestyle skiing.  It was fun to work with his content but when the keynote presentation was uploaded, the video clips on the last slide didn’t work.

How to get started freestyle skiing

I was disappointed when I tried to edit the uploaded version of the presentation, but couldn’t.  This means that whatever you create, you need to be absolutely sure that it’s the way you want it.  It’s quite unlike our blogs that can be edited and improved anytime.

Prezi:

Learning how to navigate in Prezi reminded me of driving.  You have to learn how to turn, zoom, and stop.  It took me quite awhile to figure out how to finesse my way on the Prezi canvas without become frustrated by apparent free will zooming and sliding of the software.  Of course, it wasn’t the application but the user responsible – sometimes it takes me a bit to figure things out.  This is where my daughter expressed her frustration with me.  Like an Italian Nona, she took my cheeks in her hands and told me what she thought.  We actually had a great time exploring this presentation tool, side by side on our computers.  Here’s how this came about:

I had been trying to work with Prezi for a few hours and wasn’t making headway when I showed her the tutorials on the site.   Like a duck to water, she started to create her own  Prezi related to a trip she is planning for her school.  Of course, she completed hers while I was still uploading images into mine.  I love watching her work intently and play with the options such as font, colour and directional arrows.  I’ll include both prezis here:

Prezi – welcome to our library

My daughter’s prezi

My impression is that she will create with Prezi again in the future and share this application with her teachers and classmates.  With clear directions provided in the tutorials these kids are effectively teaching themselves and then sharing with others.  How wonderful!  Learners who are self-starters!  A footnote here is that while she was creating her Prezi, she was communicating on Facebook with the girl who supporting her efforts to organize this trip.  Talk about 21st century learning, creating and collaborating!

One of the cool things about a Prezi presentation is how dynamic it is.  It has the ability to hold the viewers’ interest (hopefully mine will do that) and that the message of the Prezi will stick in memories better than a presentation made in another, less dynamic format.

Since this is an online tool, it can be displayed on an interactive white board.  It’s also possible to go back through the presentation and highlight areas for further discussion, zoom in and focus attention on particular parts.  In the case of a PD session, it can be accessed after the fact by participants who have the Prezi link and an internet connection.   There are frequently cartoons about the perils of power point presentations where the entire audience is asleep in their chairs and Prezi, I believe could be the solution that keeps people on the edge of their seats and engaged.  Again, we want to ensure that students are engaged experiencing improved achievement.

I think students would be engaged by this format of presentation, perhaps even more so than the others I’ve looked at.  Perhaps not all students, but if one of our goals is to differentiate instruction for our learners, then what better way than an online tool that appeals to those wishing to create in this medium.  One of the challenges though is not to make the viewer nauseous.   Prezi can also be uploaded to a web page or blog which, for our purposes is brilliant and for students blogging in their classes, is also perfect!  They are creating, mashing and continuing the cycle.

As I wind down my discussion of these tools, I want to insert a link to another professor whose presentation I watched and was thankful for having the chance to consider his expertise in digital learning and the culture of participation.

Raising the digital generation: What parents need to know about digital media and learning

He describes what participants in web 2.0 are doing:  sharing, mashing, recreating, and sharing again.  It’s a cycle that repeats constantly on three different levels.  Professor Jenkins explains that there are those who “hang around”, those who “mess around” and those who “geek out.”  These three levels he expresses in a pyramid structure with the geeks at the top.  They are the ones seeking information and others who share their interests.  He adds that kids today live in a “transmedia” environment where they are constantly making choices about where to navigate, what to share and what to create.  They need to learn how to be ethical and consider the bigger picture of their digital footprint.  This is powerful learning that is mostly taking place outside of classrooms, after school hours.  If we are going to be effective educators, we need to understand their communities and participate ourselves to fully understand how kids are learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.

References:

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

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inchttp://henryjenkins.org/2010/10/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJKlFUwQE8o (Charles Ansorge, U of Nebraska)

Posted in Learning Web 2.0 Tools | 3 Comments

Wikis, the anyone can edit anytime website

This description, taken from Will Richardson’s book, Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts and Other Powerful WebTools for Classrooms (p. 55) introduces us to the versatility of wikis.  Depending on the wiki program you choose to work with, they are simple, quick (short form of the Hawaiian, wiki wiki, p. 55), collaborative, non-linear, dynamic web sites that can be used by teachers and students for a variety of purposes that I’ll talk about in this posting.  A video by Common Craft illustrates the simplicity and dynamic nature of this web 2.0 tool:

When I began considering how I would approach the topic of wikis, it seemed to me that  the best place to start was with one of the most famous wikis of all, Wikipedia.  This is both a controversial yet impressive wiki that, as Will Richardson writes, “is attempting to store the sum of human knowledge” with “3 million separate entries.” (p. 55)  This is no mean feet and could certainly not grow at the rate it does without the constant contributions of individuals who are interested in the value, need, and role of Wikipedia.  In schools, there often seems to be suspicion surrounding the trustworthiness of information found on Wikipedia but Richardson reassures the skeptics – “there are vastly more people who want to make it right than those who want to make it wrong.” (p. 56)

Wikis in school=real collaboration

“From the hands of people just like us with the concept that everyone together is smarter than anyone alone.” (Richardson, p.57)  Whether we’re talking about inter-district collaboration, professional learning communities (PLC’s) or students collaborating on a writing assignment, wikis bring people together.

The world of wikis expands far beyond Wikipedia and some quick searching proves this.  There is Wiktionary, Wikirecipies, and Wikiquotes, Wikibooks, Wikijunior to list a few.  The power of collaboration from diverse contributors makes these sites real treasure troves of inspiring resources.  So, as long as Wikipedia is among the “top 10 search results students are using, (p. 58) educators need to understand what it is and how it is created so that they can guide their students to become astute, 21st century researchers.  As Richardson states, “as we continue to move toward a world where everyone has access to ideas and where collaboration is the expectation rather than the exception, wikis can go a long way toward teaching our students some very useful skills for their future.” (p. 59)

Wikis and my professional development

As a student in the TLDL program, I have created a wiki and read a great many through researching various topics.  While I am very much on the learning curve with web 2.0 tools, creating a path finder wiki was a valuable experience during the inquiry course.  I can certainly see creating others for various purposes in future learning, especially if a study group is working together on a topic.  In the larger classes, the small study group format helps ease collaboration by reducing the stress of trying to manage discussion and sharing with 30 or more other students.

Anne’s pathfinder wiki

Throughout the posting, I will list some of the wikis that I found particularly helpful to my library teaching situation.

In an article called, “Working Wikis” Ellen Ullman (Aug 2010) discusses the use of wikis by professionals in a school district in New Jersey.  “With a wiki, we can be the expert or invite an expert to comment.  Everyone can put in their two cents, and in real time.” (p.18).  Wikis benefit teacher, administrators, parents and students.  “Two more benefits of wikis are their historical value” as well as the fact that attachments are available for teachers. (p.18)

Doug Achterman in his article, “Beyond Wikipedia” lists “five features of wikis that can make them an effective tool in facilitating such collaborative efforts:” (p.19-22)

  1. Ease of use
  2. Spaces for students to create products individually, in small groups, and as a whole group.
  3. Ability to create a non-linear document structure through hyperlinks.
  4. A built-in mechanism for reflection and metacognition
  5. A means of tracking individual, small group, and whole group progress through an assignment.

Whether for professional collaboration or student learning, theses features of wikis make them a dynamic and manageable environment for creating and sharing.  Other features of wikis not listed above that make them such adaptable sites for learning, sharing and collaborating are:

  • graphics can be added
  • links can be inserted
  • annotations added
  • there’s room for reflection (discussion tab)
  • Power Points can be included
  • audio and video can also be added (Richardson, p. 62)

Students and wikis

I haven’t taught with wikis yet.  I don’t work with any teachers directly who use them or have indicated an interest in using them yet.  There are teachers in our district though who have used them in their classrooms with great success and positive outcomes.  I am currently working with two colleagues using Edmodo for novel studies because of the secure nature of this tool but from my reading and research, there are many teachers out there using wikis to achieve similar goals.  Wikis can be completely open to the public or password protected or accessible only by registered users so the security concerns can be managed as the circumstances require.  These features, of course, may vary from program to program

Wikis in the classroom allow learning to expand beyond textbooks.  As Richardson states, “One of the most obvious ways is to create an online text for your curriculum that you and your students can both contribute to.” (p. 61).  The wiki can expand to other teachers and students and “become a resource, a showcase for best practices.” (p.61).

I am particularly interested in wikis for elementary schools and found some helpful resources that talk about teaching wikis to younger learners.  “Wee Wikis:  Implementing the Use of Wikis with Elementary Students” by Kendra Molen (2009) reminds us that students need lots of support and clear expectations about how to communicate in the wiki and now to navigate within it.  It’s a step by step process but definitely possible for students as young as 7  years of age.  Think of the comfort these kids will have with web 2.0 tools by the time they are in high school.

Another author in this field, Kristin Fontichiaro, in an articled entitled, “More than Friendship:  Social Scholarship, Young Learners, and the Standards for the 21st Century Learner” (2009) also emphasizes modelling expectations and recommends jobs for each member of a group so that each student is accountable for their contribution.

Choosing wiki software

Wikispaces is my preferred program for wiki creating because of its clean, uncluttered format but there are others including:

Creating an account with Wikispaces was very easy and getting started, also very easy.  Some of the other wiki creating programs are complicated by comparison and very busy looking as well.  You have to choose what suits your needs best.

Wikis and librarians

Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals (2008) by Elyssa Kroski is a resource I have enjoyed working with for the breadth of topics and accessible format.  In discussing wikis, Kroski describes wikis this way:  “This new form of bottom-up, social publishing harnesses the wisdom of crowds and defies barriers such as time, place, and technical know-how.” (p. 41)  This is perhaps one of the biggest factors that make learning web 2.0 tools so critical for educators is that our students are already creating and contributing online – this is their world and we need to be guiding them to be safe and effective communicators out there.

Kroski also goes on to discuss the ways in which librarians are using wikis:

  • subject guides
  • library resource reviews
  • intranets
  • staff training
  • library websites
  • event planning
  • collaborating and learning
  • knowledge bases
  • (p. 47)

If we’re wondering how to use wikis in our own libraries, her list certainly gives us some starting points.  The list is also not exhaustive so in a district, region or province, wikis could serve to link and support librarians  (school, public or academic) as they endeavor to incorporate web 2.0 tools into their library settings.

Dana Dukic, a librarian at Kowloon Junior School in Hong Kong, writes in an article, “Wikis in school libraries” about a wiki called LibraryZone (2007) which is worth a look if you haven’t already bookmarked it.  It was built with Wikispaces and is “freely available to educators working in K-12 schools.”  “LibraryZone wiki was initially set up as a research skills tutorial” but expanded to include units of study, resources, feedback and a student quiz for a unit on ladybugs.  “The quiz is created in a program called Hot Potatoes.”

The reference list at the end of this article has several wikis cited, some of which were of particular interest to me.  They include:

Once you explore one wiki, you come upon many many more interesting wikis that you can incorporate into instruction and use as exemplars when teaching about wikis and how they can enhance, expand and broaden the horizons of your students.

On a personal level, I haven’t used wikis though my daughter did created one about three years ago when she was interested in collaborating on the subject of gymnastics.  She learned how to get set up with Wikispaces in no time but didn’t keep it up after her interest changed to another sport.  I remember that it was exciting that there were other girls out there who wanted to join her wiki.  I’m a runner but haven’t sought out wikis on running – will have to check that out when I have a moment.  First, I want to explore the possibility of an online book club at school using a wiki.  Many great examples exist so I’ll take my students on an armchair “wikitour.”

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

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Podcast transcript with links

Hi everybody,  it’s Anne here.  Learning about podcasting for me has been a bit like a game of hopscotch.  A game where you stood outside the grid of eight squares and threw the bottle cap or your rock down on the ground in the first square, and had to hop over it and go to the end and successfully come back on one foot, picking up your rock or bottle cap and hop out.  Well, not having much experience with podcasts outside of the course, learning about them has been like being a square one.

What I did know about podcasts is that with a Mac computer, you could easily download a program called “audacity” and start to record a podcast.  As I read and researched and searched bloggers and writers, I discovered that Garage Band, which my kids play with and do all kinds of neat things with, has a great feature for creating a podcast.  I’m actually using it right now to create this podcast for the course.

One of my first perceptions about podcasts was that they were strictly audio.  I’ve discovered that they can also contain video and images.  The thing that separates them from an audio file however is the RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed.   The fact that it goes up on the web and gets pushed out to computers as opposed to just being recorded and sitting there, was an eye opener in my learning about podcasts.

At the beginning of this process of exploring podcasts, one of the things I thought about was why a podcast over a text file or a web page or a blog – what’s the difference?  What kind of impact does a podcast make as a web 2.0 tool?  Apart from lots of obvious benefits that I’ll talk about in just a minute, one of the things that struck me is that when you’re listening to somebody’s voice, you get such a different sense of the person, of their character and emotion that comes through in a podcast that just doesn’t come through in text.  This can be huge when it comes to connecting listeners to instructors, and people to ideas.  This makes podcasting a very powerful tool.

As I’ve been exploring web 2.0 tools and posting to the blog, I’ve been searching other blogs and following bloggers using Google Reader, and one of the blogs I came across that I really enjoyed and was impressed by was from a grade 3 class in New South Wales, Australia.  I commented on their blog, their teacher responded and when I went back to the blog to read the comment,  I discovered that the students had posted a voice thread.   One of the things then that I wondered was what’s the difference between a podcast and a voice thread?   So, as I have so often done in learning about the web 2.0 tools, I went off an a tangent to explore voice threads, how they work and how they connect a group of people who can be all over the world and how this is different from me sharing my learning, for example.

Starting with Will Richardson’s book, Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts (2010), one of the things I understood that makes it such an incredibly easy web 2.0 tool to use is the simplicity of creating a podcast.  You need a computer, a microphone to record and a way to listen – headphones or speakers.  It can all be done through your computer and you don’t necessarily need a portable device to download the podcast on to, although that is one of the huge benefits of podcasts.  They are portable but podcasts can be experienced right on your computer.

From here, I read a resource called, Listen Up! A Resource for Schools and Libraries by Linda Braun.  She gives a great description of podcasting, taken from Wikipedia, about how simple podcasting is.  It is audio on the web but as she says, “‘what makes podcasting distinct from other digital audio and video deliveries is the use of syndication feed enclosures.’” (p. 1)  She’s talking about the ability of people to subscribe to the RSS feed so that the podcast is delivered right to their computer.  So anyone who has an idea to share can create a podcast and share it in this way.

The variety of subjects for podcasts is as varied as people out there which is one of the amazing things I discovered going to sites like www.geeknewscentral.com , and the Education Podcast Network www.epnweb.org .  Also, I explored the ideas of educators like Joyce Valenza, www.neverendingsearch.com I bookmarked her site in Diigo, www.diigo.com for future reference.

I mentioned earlier that there are a number of benefits of podcasts that I would touch on.  One of them is the portability of podcasts.  Another is that once you have a podcast on your computer or MP3 device, you can listen to it wherever you are, whenever.  If you can’t listen to the whole thing, you pause, leave it and come back to it later.  I can see this being particularly useful to students if they miss a class or a lecture and the professor or instructor has created a podcast, they can listen to it, download it, and catch up on what they’ve missed.

Reflecting on students for just another moment there, apart from helping students catch up on a missed lecture, it’s a great way to differentiate learning so that you can meet the unique learning styles of your students.  So if you’ve got a student who just isn’t a strong visual learner, who learns better by listening and then making notes, doing the reading and reflecting, then you’re meeting the needs of that student and that is a huge benefit.

Another feature of podcasts that makes them appealing to student and adult learners alike, in my opinion, is being able to go to a site like iTunes and search an incredible number of podcasts that are archived there.

Some of the sites that I mentioned earlier, that I would go to search for podcasts, include the Education Broadcast Network, www.geeknews.com and www.podcastpickle.com.  As well, I found that I would love to use in a K-6 setting called www.storynory.com.   I learned about this site through an article I found searching the Proquest Education Database called “Listen Up” by Anna Adams and Mowers in the School Library Journal from December 2007.   In this article, they give all kinds of great examples of podcasts.  As they say, “to expand learning beyond the four walls of your classroom or library.”

Some of their recommendations that I explored and bookmarked were www.techchicktips.net, www.LearnOutLoud.com , iTunes U, Pandora Podcast Series www.podcastdirectory.com , Grammar Girls Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and www.storynory.com.

The reference to a K-12 podcast on Book Talks Quick and Simple, got me thinking about the next category for our discussion about podcasts, is how we would see podcasts in our teaching and learning.  In a library, I could see podcasts being used to present new books, hot picks, the latest series, and the newest non-fiction in a more personal way that connects readers not only to the books but to the library and the library staff.   This is important especially when library staff are interested and enthusiastic about these new materials and want to get them into kids’ hands so that they can enjoy the experience of new books as well.

Another facet of teaching with podcasts is to teach kids to create their own podcasts so that they can present an interview at the end of a unit in social studies, or they can talk about a book, share music that they have created or they can present learning in any curricular area.

Another benefit is apparent to me, apart from the portability or anytime learning that a podcasts provides and that is that it can be archived.  It can become part of the digital portfolio of a students’ learning which is amazing to have not only for sharing with teachers and classmates but to have for parents at parent-teacher interviews.  Podcasts can also be uploaded to a class blog for sharing with the wider world.

Students may collaborate to create their podcasts, share them, and archive them.  One of the things that’s important is that if students have the same experience with a podcast, then they can have a conversation about the topic of the podcast, what they wonder about the ideas that come out of the podcast.  From the point of view of inquiry, this could be a great jumping off point for the teacher to help students pursue their questions in a way that is most meaningful to the student.

In a school setting, podcasts can also serve a useful function as a way for teachers to communicate with parents, communicate weekly or monthly to announce upcoming events, or present learning that has gone on or will go on in the classroom.  In the library, it can be used for book talks, to present events in other libraries as well to connect the community.

On a school web site, administrators may want to record a podcast to discuss what’s going on in the school or talk about upcoming events, really giving a personal feel to the school and connecting families and parents to the greater school community.

Just as an aside, one of the things that struck me about the podcast that I listened to , The 7 things you need to know about podcasting, as well as other sites previously mentioned is that these are just regular people with an interest and a passion in sharing their ideas in an unencumbered way and straight forward manner.  As Linda Braun mentions in her book, Listen Up!,  a successful podcast needs to be created fairly frequently and  on a regular basis to develop a following.  Once you have that, people will want to tune in to the next episode, the next installment and hear your newest ideas!

The next category of the discussion is to talk about podcasting in personal terms.  As I mentioned earlier, my experience of podcasts was limited to iTunes and the podcasts our professor created for us.  The courses that I’m taking in the TLDL program would be under the umbrella of my professional learning, my professional development.  A podcast helps create a connection with our professors and allows us to learn in a different way.  It’s a change from reading articles in databases. Sometimes though the podcasts haven’t been about the course content but have been more descriptive and supportive, guiding us in what we need to do, how to find balance, and manage the course work at this level.  So that personal connection that Jennifer makes with us reminds us to breath, think and not be stressed because sometimes things do pile up and we do get stressed.  Life gets busy and we have to juggle a lot.

I’ve enjoyed the podcasts of educators who are comfortable and competent with this technology and have been inspired to try it in my own work setting.  I would like to connect students with literature, non-fiction and new library resources in a different way, other than book displays and signage in the library.

I’d like to share something here, as I wrap up this podcast, from a resource I found called the, Do It Yourself Guide to Podcasting by Todd Cochrane.  This book gives a great breakdown of what podcasting is and how to get yourself set-up to do something right up to what he calls the “semi-professional” podcast.  What I want to share particularly is a passage called “the power of walk away content” and this, to me, says so much about what podcasting is all about.

Something that I discovered through my research is that it’s not by accident that podcasting is called “podcasting.”  Pod comes from the Apple device, the iPod and casting to represent broadcasting as in a radio broadcast.   Another resource that I used is called, Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals by Elyssa Kroski (2008).  It contains a chapter on podcasting and this is a telling quote:  “Declared the word of the year in 2005 by the New Oxford American Dictionary, podcasts are being used for language learning, interviews, tours, debates, course instruction, news and current event coverage.  Prestigious institutions such as Yale, Stanford, Princeton, and UC Berkley are adding their class lectures and commencement recordings to the over 1.5 million podcast episodes available on the web today. “ (p. 173)  She goes on to talk about the way libraries are using podcasts to be able to share news, book talks, oral histories, library tours, lectures, and story time.  From a PD point of view there are webinars for librarians which, once archived, can be accessed when it best suits the listener.  Kroski also discusses the pod catchers or aggregators like iTunes by Apple and podcasts by Yahoo, and Juice Receiver.  As well, she talks about the search engines such as www.podcastalley.com, www.podzinger.com, and www.plugged.com.  So, anyone interested in integrating podcasts has a wealth of resources, both print and digital, to get started creating podcasts.  And, like anything in life, the more you practice, the more you work with it, the more comfortable and competent you become with it.  Podcasts are a key part of web 2.0 social media that enable us to communicate, share and collaborate.

Thank you for listening.

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When everything goes wrong

This seemed a fitting title for this post especially after trying to get my podcast sorted out and uploaded to my blog.  I thought the process would be straight forward – figure out Garage Band, record the podcast, edit it, and upload it to my blog.  Well….this is probably where my learning curve took a sharp turn upward.

What I learned about Garage Band:

  • this very cool program contains  a lot of features to polish and enhance your podcast
  • you can choose a jingle from a variety of genres that can introduce or wrap up your podcast
  • you can add images, chapter names and edit the sound quality (my son had a hoot making my voice sound like a helium voice – this however didn’t help my stress level…)
  • before you upload to your blog, you have to share the Garage Band product with iTunes and eCast
  • eCast is at the U of A, not iTunes (though I was determined to find it there)

I apologize for podcasting at length, in fact all my thinking and learning about podcasting was in the podcast.  To make finding the links and resources easier, I’m going to upload the transcript of my podcast, with links to the sites I refer to in the podcast.

Here is a short list of print resources I used for learning about podcasting:

References

Adam, A. & Mowers, H. (2007). Listen up! School Library Journal, 53(12), p. 44.

Braun, L.W. (2007). Listen up! Podcasting for schools and libraries. Medford, New Jersey:  Information Inc.

Cochrane. T. (2005). Podcasting: The do-it yourself guide. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

 

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