Help I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone …

Sometimes finding the right information online can feel somewhat like slipping into the twilight zone, where there is no end in sight, no final page to turn, no complete answer. There is always another point of view, another perspective on the issue. Or, it is an endless maze of frustration for students, hopelessly lost without strategies to navigate or sort through what they are finding. For educators and students alike,

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” Mitchell Kapor

Image credit

I fell somewhat into the Twilight Zone myself while researching for this post (in that I was exploring the classic television show), and while reading the descriptions of old episodes on Wikipedia, I found myself reliving some of my favorites. In the description of the first episode ever aired, I recalled seeing it for the first time when I was young, and the impact it had on me. I then decided to use the annotation feature of Diigo to have a conversation with the entry … when you hover over the sticky notes you will see the annotations. Feel free to add your own thoughts as well:

Click on the image to view annotation

The closing lines of the episode really made me reflect on the traditional paradigm of education that we are still battling – that of individual performance as the primary measure of learning, vs. the social world our students live in: 

“The barrier of loneliness: the palpable, desperate need of the human animal to be with his fellow man. Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting … in the Twilight Zone. Wikipedia Entry.

Learning is a social activity. “Sociocultural approaches to learning have recognized that kids gain most of the knowledge and competencies in contexts that do not involve formal instruction. A growing body of ethnographic work documents how learning happens in informal settings, as a side effect of everyday life and social activity, rather than in an explicit instructional agenda.” (Ito, et. al, 2010, p. 21)

Our students are participating online in social networks based on friendship and interest, and in the process exploring their personal identities. Providing them with the opportunities to bring these skills into the classroom, and leverage these activities using social bookmarking aligns with their competencies and also engages them in actively searching, organizing, and processing information.

My personal learning process with social bookmarking

I had started with tagging years ago, thinking that it would be the solution to the issue of not having the same bookmarks between computers. This was especially important when I was taking students to the computer lab. I had been creating hotlists for students to access in the P: drive, where they could simply click on the hyperlinks to begin their search for information. Sometimes when I was working with a student, I would remember a site I had bookmarked, and then would run to the computer I was logged onto, copy and paste the site into the hotlist, and then let everyone know. There was a television hooked up to the computer in the lab, so I could show students step-by-step where to go.

With Delicious, I could finally put the bookmarks in the student’s hands, without needing to take the extra steps of creating those hotlists (or the pathfinders I started to create as well, combining print, media and online resources). However, as the organization of sites within Delicious was not hierarchical like I was accustomed to, I found myself going back to my previous methods of folders. Tagging just did not feel natural to me, and I eventually let my account lapse and went back to my comfort zone. I was familiar with the hierarchical organization of information within standardized taxonomies created by experts. This new world of social bookmarking, organized in “folksonomies”, was like the wild west to me. “Folksonomies … are distributed systems of classification, created by individual users (Guy & Tonkin, 2006, as quoted in Morrison). Folksonomies can be broad, with many users contributing some (often overlapping) tags to items, or narrow, with few or one users tagging each item with unique keywords.” (Morrison, 2008, p. 1563).

I began exploring social bookmarking sites again this summer, as a requirement of the inquiry course I was taking. Pushed again into the twilight zone, I looked into both Evernote and Diigo, exploring how they worked and how they suited my style of learning. I was specifically exploring Diigo and Evernote as tools to support my personal learning, and benefits in using both for different purposes. I like Evernote for the ability to tile images of what I have saved, so if I were doing a general search for information and wanted to view it visually I could see this feature really working. I also like the capability of creating tags and folders, as my thinking does tend to prefer a folder set-up for organization.

However, I found that Diigo was my preferred tool both for my personal learning style and also for working with teachers and students. Being able to highlight text, tag highlighted text and bookmarks, and then see all the text related to a particular tag really showed the potential for supporting students in their information search.  What I prefer most about Diigo over Delicious or Evernote is the ability to annotate text by highlighting and adding sticky notes, and then making those notes public so that others may join the conversation.

I had created a pathfinder for my inquiry course, and was very pleased with the ease in which I could bookmark, describe, tag and share this pathfinder with individuals or with a group.

Click image to view pathfinder

What I had not yet explored was the social element of social bookmarking – I was still primarily using it to save sites and highlighted text for research purposes. My bookmarks were all marked private. “Content is not actually being created through social bookmarking, but connections are being made within the tagging community membership and the content is being grouped through the use of tagging.” (Berger and Trexler, 2010, p. 45). “The idea behind tagging is that a community, working together has the capability of developing a new meaningful tagging system that allows for participation by all.” (Berger and Trexler, p. 47). As I thought about this, I realized that not only did I need to make my Diigo account public, I also needed to use it to begin involving students and teachers in the search for information that would support learning.

As a first step, I decided to start creating some initial pathfinders for teachers and invite them to preview them as part of our collaborative work.

Click image to view pathfinder

Click image to view slideshow

I am continuing to develop pathfinders for teachers as they begin to ask about collaborating, both to support teachers and students but also to model the use of Web 2.0 tools in learning.

Social bookmarking in my own personal life and learning

Image credit

I have colleagues and friends who are compulsive list makers, taking great satisfaction in crossing each item off as they complete it. They approach information in the same manner, linear and methodical. As a global thinker who prefers to process information in a visual-kinesthetic way, lists drive me crazy. I need to organize things by color, and to move or manipulate things in order to process them. When Post-It notes started coming in different colors, I was ecstatic – finally, something that worked for me after years of color-coding index cards myself. I need that act of writing information on individual notes, sorting and categorizing. For my daily tasks, it is a satisfying feeling to remove a Post-It note once I have accomplished that job.

However, working between two schools with teachers and students from Kindergarten to grade 9 results in hundreds of interactions per day. I am often asked questions that I must follow through on, and I rely on students and teachers emailing me or writing down their request on a Post-It note for me to remember. I am now looking at social bookmarking as another method for personal organization, in addition to the Google and Outlook calendars I am using to schedule between each school. The fact that Evernote has an iPhone app appealed to me (Diigo only has an offline reader app at this time). I tested it out using text, voice, and picture reminders, and found this to be quite helpful. I am now looking at using Evernote for my personal organization as I can use my iPhone for portability, and also sync all notes with work and home computers. I can easily carry my phone with me and quickly record something a teacher asked me as I walked down the hall, take a photo of something I need to remember, or jot down a quick note. Now I just have to remember not to put my phone down and forget it!

I am already using Diigo to highlight, bookmark, and annotate for my personal and professional learning. I find it very helpful for keeping track of information, and I am getting better at tagging that information so that I can easily locate it again. A goal that I have is to put in descriptions that help me to remember why I tagged that particular information, what connections it might have to previous learning, and why it is important to remember.

The access to professional learning through Diigo is also something I am beginning to access, by searching specific tags, or subscribing to RSS feeds such as evidence-based librarianship. I am starting to move beyond using Diigo simply as a means of bookmarking sites, and now see it as more of a note-taking and annotation tool that allows me to interact with text. I am hoping to continue to participate in some groups as another element of my professional learning network.

Social bookmarking to support teaching and learning

Our students are very much like WALL-E … they are curious and interested in participating online, and connecting to others is of paramount importance to them. However, they continue to face a digital divide in schools, where pedagogy and practice are still grounded in traditional ways of thinking about literacy. As Carrington and Robinson (2009) state,

“To this day there remains a belief, entrenched in curricular and policy, that children and their learning should be quarantined from engagement with these texts and technologies, and should instead be taught and evaluated against a curriculum focused on print. As a consequence, an increasing number of the children and young people walking through the school gates each morning are required to leave behind an entire suite of competencies, practices and knowledge about digital technologies and digital text.” (p. 2).

Our students are living in a social world online, and to engage them means to teach them how to use their interest and skills to leverage their learning both in and out of school. “As educators, it is our responsibility to take students from what they already know to the next level of critical thinking. In other words, today’s students are using these tools to connect, but are they creating enough, collaborating on projects, or inventing new ideas? Students need guidance, and here is where we can best use practiced methodologies of teaching to our advantage.” (Richardson, 2009, p. 91).

An essential area requiring support is in informational literacy strategies to serve their knowledge-seeking behaviours. In a 1999 study, Silverstein et al. (quoted in Morrison, 2008) founds that when searching, users generally enter short queries, don’t usually modify their queries, and usually don’t look at more than the first ten results.  p. 1563).

As we consider the use of social bookmarking in the classroom, Berger and Trexler (2010) ask three essential questions around the use of social bookmarking:

  • What is social bookmarking and how does it engage students in the learning process?
  • How does social bookmarking support student exploration and discovery of information?
  • What are the best social bookmarking sites and how are educators and students using them? (p. 43)

I believe that a starting place to support teachers and students and begin to model the use of social networking is through the development of pathfinders for a particular topic. I am currently developing a pathfinder with two teachers around the subject of weather in grade five, and we are doing this collaboratively online using Diigo as it has been challenging to meet. Although the teachers were reluctant at first (believing that their students should be searching for information on their own), they are now seeing how the pathfinder not only sets students up for success, it also helps them to think about how each site is categorized and tagged.

My next step will be to introduce the teachers to tracking a particular tag in Diigo using an RSS feed, so that their students can subscribe to the feed for a particular tag and track the weather for that place. This allows the information to come to students, rather than always being the seekers of information. I will also introduce teachers and students to the highlighting and sticky note features of Diigo, so that they can begin interacting with the text that they are reading online and become more purposeful in how they select text for highlighting and tagging. I want to move them away from the idea of bookmarking as a virtual closet, where sites are kept in folder and forgotten about. By using the tagging and descriptor fields, they will have to think critically about what the site it about, and why they are choosing to save it.

Diigo is not only effective in helping students and teachers to search for and manage information. With the ability to highlight and annotate text, it becomes a tool for practicing reading strategies and actively communicating with the text and with other readers. After teaching students to use Diigo to annotate text, Ferriter (2010) reported that”my students read and annotate at all hours of the day—before class, during lunch, or while surfing the Web after dinner—and return to our shared articles time and again to track developing conversations. Their reading has moved from a solitary act to the kind of community-driven practice that resonates with today’s teen.” (p. 2)

It is important to teach students how to manage a variety of print, media, and online texts, and to consider the use of social bookmarking sites such as Diigo or Evernote in interacting with and organizing those texts. “There is no longer a place for a view of literacy that values either skills and practices with static print or those with digital text… children and young people require a both/and approach to print and digital text. Contemporary multi-modal texts require what Leander calls a parallel pedagogy that weaves together the skills associated with digital and print texts to create and access meaning.” (Carrington & Robinson, 2009, p. 3)

The use of social bookmarking, with the proper supports from educators, will help students to collaborate and create new understandings. As Richardson (2009) states, “The biggest, most sweeping change in our relationship with the Internet may not be as much the ability to publish as it is the ability to share and connect and create with many, many others of like minds and interests … The collaborative construction of knowledge by those willing to contribute is redefining the ways we think about teaching and learning at every level.” (Richardson, 2009, p. 85)

It means helping them find their comfort zone, and turning that fire hydrant into a connected web, where the water droplets all have a place to be, and students know where to find them.

References for Post 


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Video killed the radio star …

August 1, 1981 at 12:01 a.m. The first video ever to be broadcast on MTV. I had only started to listen to my own music three years earlier, when I received a portable record player (you know the kind with a lid that closed and a handle to carry it) and the Grease album. I graduated to a rather brick-like Sony Walkman, and would listen to cassettes for hours on end, often having to manually wind a cassette that had unwound.

Music videos revolutionized everything – the combination of visuals and storytelling were hypnotic, and we would gather every weekend at a friend’s house to watch the videos that we recorded from Friday Night Videos on VHS. We had no access to MTV or MuchMusic. These tapes that we clumsily edited by hitting stop and record on the remote control became a central part of our social network – we gathered together to sing and dance, telling stories about our crushes as we watched them over and over. Now kids tweet, post videos, and comment on social networking sites about their celebrity crushes.

And yet, my experience with film and video in class continued to be …

I was the designated film geek, the person to thread the machine, fix it when something went wrong, and generally run the show. This started in grade 2, and continued throughout my school career. Teachers ordered films from our district office two towns away, and even when I graduated from high school film reels were still the standard for viewing in school. There was a digital divide between home and school that remains to this day, where access to video is only the click of a mouse away.

My personal learning process with videosharing

I had not realized just how many videosharing sites are on the Internet until I started this investigation. I had been familiar with sites  such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Google Video, Vimeo, and DailyMotion. Big Reboot lists 95 different videosharing sites:

Videosharing Websites – Big Reboot

I started with exploring SchoolTube, TeacherTube and YouTube, in order to compare ease of use, ability to create private groups for students, and access.

I decided to use a variety of methods to create videos, in order to compare the flexibility as well. I started with creating a simple introductory video using the webcam on my laptop. I had never recorded myself using the webcam, and after the first version shot in the kitchen with overhead lighting, I quickly deleted and then decided the softer light in the living room might make me look less pasty and lifeless!

Okay, so now I look creepy and jaundiced … and the video is somewhat out-of-sync, which seems appropriate for my current state of mind!

The winner in this case was YouTube – I can record directly using my webcam, and have the video uploaded quickly. With the others, I have to use my own software to record using my webcam, save the file, then upload.

I then moved on to experimenting with the video camera on my iPhone. I created two instructional videos for students to be posted on the library checkout stations as I am training all of the students to sign their books in and out. Once again, advantage YouTube. When I finish recording using my iPhone, I have a direct link to post my video to YouTube, and receive a confirmation message letting me view the final product. With Teacher Tube and SchoolTube, I have to wait until I can connect to a computer as the video files are too large to email. Then once the video is transferred, I can upload.

Finally, I created a Jing video to demonstrate for teachers how to book into the library using the Google calendar. Unfortunately, the video can only be posted to Screencast with the free account I signed up for. With the Pro account, I would be able to post my Jings directly to YouTube … also an advantage.

Booking the library using Google calendar

Along with the above advantages of YouTube, the sheer volume of videos being posted means that there is a great deal more choice, and also a great deal more that could be inappropriate for students. This is where TeacherTube, KidTube, and SchoolTube have the advantage. The moderation of content results in an environment that is controlled for students, and material is educationally relevant. However, as I searched for a specific topic, I found far greater choices on YouTube.

I have already used capture tools such as Zamzar to save YouTube videos in order to show them at school, due to the district blocking of YouTube in schools. I could see myself creating a channel in YouTube that only students are invited to (and then arranging with our tech to have student access), or selecting videos to either capture and save for sharing, or importing them into SchoolTube for student viewing.

Videosharing in my own personal life and learning

I love online videos – I probably watch at least a dozen per day that come to me through my Google Reader or a blog aggregator.  These videos provide me with entertainment and the opportunity to hear the perspectives of others, including those that I strongly disagree with. The ebb and flow of popular culture now happens in a matter of minutes; the time it takes for a video to go viral. Internet superstars are created overnight, and often forgotten just as quickly … at least that’s probably what the Star Wars kid hoped for, as one of the first viral video stars. As a parent and a teacher, I feel it is important to stay in touch with pop culture and what the students are interested in. However, I am struggling to find some of this new breed of reality television celebrity redeemable in any way.

Through online videos, I have viewed instructional videos that have helped me learn to change a light fixture, train my dog to stop jumping, and deal with the weeds in my flower beds. If only there was a video to show me how to train my dog to eat the weeds!

Videosharing also supports my professional learning network, whether it is an inspiring TedTalk, or an anthropological history of YouTube.

It’s actually the work that Micheal Wesch is doing with his students at Kansas State that really has me rethinking Web 2.0.  Digital Ethnography project videos.  It’s not only the content and the inquiries they are making into digital culture, but the social network they are creating within the classroom and with the larger online community. In every interaction, I see mutual respect, curiosity, and engagement in learning that is sorely missing from many high school and post-secondary classrooms. It’s this level of engagement and relationship that I believe is essential to supporting our students to become effective learners in the 21st century world.

I’m also intrigued by the idea of a mediated culture, where participants are involved in creating the norms and testing out the boundaries of their personal identity as they interact with one another. In Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out, the authors hypothesize that

“those immersed in new digital tools and networks are engaged in an unprecedented exploration of language, games, social interaction, problem solving, and self-directed activity that leads to diverse forms of learning. These diverse forms of learning are reflected in expressions of identity, how individuals express independence and creativity, and in their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systematically.” (Ito et al, 2010)

As my interest is in literacy development in the middle years, I find these ideas of identity and community critical to our understanding of how to provide meaningful literacy experiences to students during this time of change. I am looking at how to use Flip video cameras to capture student voice around literacy and learning, and invite them to participate in creating videos as part of our library site (such as book trailers, website reviews, wonderings and learnings)

Videosharing to support teaching and learning

Supporting teaching

As I started to explore beyond simply mining the Internet for Muppets videos (it’s so addictive!), I really started to play with the possibilities of how I could harness videosharing in my role as a teacher-librarian in working with staff. Being half-time in two brand new schools, I struggle with the lack of institutional memory and the histories that teachers bring with them in terms of their understandings and expectations. I find there is a great deal of time needed to support and coach individual teachers, which is impossible when you are running from school to school. I find myself turning more and more to Web 2.0 tools to help organize my life and support the people I work with.

After creating calendars and systems for teachers to book the library (and working with them to develop an understanding of the role of a teacher-librarian), I decided to put together some tools to support them. I first started with creating a step-by-step of how to get into the district portal and go to the Google share calendar, using screen shots and written explanations. I then thought, why not model the use of technology to teach how to use the technology? I like having the opportunity to model and demonstrate for teachers, while providing those who need it with the scaffolding they may need to take that first step. As the staff look at how to incorporate technology, I hope to model how it can be used not only to engage learners, but also support learners with diverse needs.

When I sat down to create the short instructional videos, it took only a few minutes to record and upload each video. I organized the videos into a Library Procedures channel on YouTube, which could easily be linked to a library blog, Facebook page for the library, or sent as direct links to teachers. I am still playing with doing a library blog or Facebook page, but haven’t decided yet until I confirm what each school is doing with their webpage and whether we will be having district support for a MyLibrary site for K-9. What I love about posting the videos to YouTube or the Jings to Sharesite is that they can easily be sent to WordPress, Blogger, or Facebook. This connectivity really appeals to me. What I also like is that I can send the videos posted on YouTube over to SchoolTube, so that I can create a channel with instructional videos for students that will not be blocked by the district.

As I look ahead to how to support teachers in bringing videosharing into the classroom, I am interested in sharing with teachers the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. In “2001, the taxonomy, which was one-dimensional, was updated by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl by combining both the cognitive and knowledge dimensions into a two-dimensional model to reflect relevance to twenty-first-century work.” (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001, as quoted in Berger and Trexler, 2009) In this revision, the higher levels of thinking are key, where students must demonstrate their understanding by analyzing and evaluating the information and then synthesizing it into something that expresses their understanding.

Image credit Educational Origami Wiki

I have used this revised taxonomy a great deal with teachers, and I believe that this understanding, combined with strategic pieces of the above graphic, will help them to understand the place of these tools in the classroom. Time constraints are always an issue for teachers, and if they can see how having students creating videos is a “high learning impact” activity, they may be more likely to try it.

Supporting learning

I brought video into the classroom in my first year of teaching. It was the second week of school, and we had an assembly coming up where classes were expected to share something about their learning. I asked my students what they wanted to share, and their current obsession was with our class pet, a hamster named Baxter. So we brainstormed how a small animal could be shared with a gymnasium full of people. Before you knew it, we had a multimedia extravanganza. Video of our pet, students performing their poetry and sharing research and information about hamsters, and a student-composed piece performed on a portable synthesizer.

Well, we were the hit of the assembly … with the students. I was soon told by a colleague that I needed to stop showing off and start getting to know the other teachers, or I would have a very lonely year. So, our learning stayed within the classroom walls, and I made some very good friends who became my biggest supporters – critical for a new teacher.

Since then, I have continued to explore video with my students in different ways. This is an example early in my experimenting with movie creation of a grade 3 student project created using Movie Maker. They were using cameras to photograph images that they felt were strong metaphors for the main character in the novel they read.

BTW … he also composed his own music. I always seem to have these mini-Mozarts in my class!

Videosharing sites can be most powerful when they are not used as a replacement for the old 16 mm film projector. Our district already has a license for Unitedstreaming, where video content can be accessed. Videosharing sites should be for students to create and/or remix content, posting their videos, and then participating in feedback and further conversation. Participating in videosharing sites in this manner aligns with the American Association of School Librarians’ AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner

There are four key areas where learners use skills, resources and tools to:

  1. Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge.
  2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations and create new knowledge.
  3. Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
  4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth (AASL, p. 3)

Students creating, sharing, and commenting on videosharing sites allows for all of the above skills to be addressed. We should not be limiting their access, but rather, directly teaching and modelling the above skills using these sites. In a conversation with our junior high staff around literacy last week, teachers expressed concern over the students’ inability to take on other perspectives, think critically, or apply knowledge to new situations. Yet, they identified building vocabulary and essay writing as key skills to develop in junior high.

Creating and sharing videos, viewing videos covering diverse perspectives, and participating in conversations around those perspectives can be an engaging way to help students transfer knowledge and see other points of view.

Video production is also part of their online experience already. Teachers concerned about the time factor and limited access to computers can begin with storyboarding, where images, narrative and music are plotted out prior to any video being taken. The critical and creative thinking used to synthesize the images and words into a narrative that flows cover multiple curricular areas. Simple tools such as Photostory, iMovie or  Animoto can be used to put the video together, or Flip cameras used as easy to manage tools for capturing video.

School districts and teachers continue to make the decision to limit student access to social networking and videosharing, believing that there needs to be protection from the unsavory content present on sites such as YouTube.  Yet, as Richardson (2009) argues, “the other alternative is to teach students the skills they need to navigate the darker sides of the web safely and effectively.” I would agree that with younger students the protections need to be put in place, but as students move into upper elementary and junior high, we need to recognize that they are participating in an online world. As Ito, et. al (2010, p. 343) state:

“The problem lies not in the volume of access but the quality of participation and learning, and kids and adults need to first be on the same page on the normative questions of literacy and learning. … If parents can trust that their own values are being transmitted through their ongoing communication with their kids, then new media practices can be sites of shared focus rather than sites of anxiety and tension.”

I find myself now pondering this overarching question around Web 2.0 and our definition of and practices in literacy instruction:

How do these practices change the dynamics of youth-adult negotiations over literacy, learning, and authoritative knowledge? (Ito, et. al., 2010)

It’s time to try and help our kids navigate these sites, learn how to participate in an ethical and respectful manner, and share their voice. As teachers, we cannot continue to control the content, the manner of presentation, and the access to information, or we will kill more than the radio star.

The current video star of the Internet …

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If I had a photograph of you …

If I had a photograph of you
It’s something to remind me
I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing …
(Wishing) If I Had a Photograph of You – A Flock of Seagulls
Image credit

Oh, the 80’s … a time of poor hair and fashion decisions. For many of us, this type of photographic evidence is best kept hidden in a box or album somewhere in a closet, only to be revisited in a fit of nostalgia – or when your teenager runs across the box and proceeds to laugh hysterically and mock you. I find that the proper response to teenage scorn is to prove their point by discarding all personal dignity … in fact, my rendition of Flashdance is quite remarkable for its’ ability to make any teenager flee the room. Ah, the power of the arts!

However, now this type of humiliation can be openly shared with the world, through photosharing tools such as Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and Facebook. A few simple clicks and your photographs can now be shared with friends and relatives anywhere, giving them access to the small and large events in your life.

Admittedly, I am not much of a photographer and the only camera I have is on my iPhone. After the initial zeal of documenting endless hours of my son’s young life, I found that I was far too busy to remember to buy batteries or film for the camera, and when digital technology came along I was out of the habit of taking pictures.

I have a deep appreciation for talented photographers, and my favourite design blogs to read are filled with images that inspire me. I love to look at images of well-designed spaces, and read both design magazines in print and online, lusting over the beautiful homes that I wish I could own … my “design porn”.

Learning Flickr

In selecting a photosharing tool to use, I went to all of the above listed sites as I was familiar with all of them through previous experiences. Each provided me with the opportunity to easily upload pictures with a few clicks, label and tag photos, create groups, and view them in a slideshow. They were all easy to use, requiring a simple sign-up and a few clicks to begin uploading images. I was seriously considering going with Picasa to stay consistent with my Google accounts (one log-on address and password has a distinct advantage), but as I am currently using WordPress for my blog anyway I decided to explore further before deciding.

I moved on to thinking about some of the ways I might want to use photosharing with students. I started with exploring images of autumn, as our trees have started to change colour and it is a great time for photographic inspiration. As I explored each tool, I tried narrowing the search to images that were marked with a Creative Commons license, looking for images that were okay to share or modify. This is where I decided upon Flickr, as there is a larger community of users participating and sharing images, and I felt that there would be more selection for students when searching for images to use in their work.

So, after a week of exploring, my hair only slightly resembles the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls, but I have not “run so far away” from Photosharing, having discovered a variety of ways to use Flickr in my personal and professional life.

Flickr for personal use

As I have admitted, I am not a photographer and have never felt compelled to take photographs of the events in my life. It often never occurs to me to take a picture until after the fact, and yes, there are times I am “wishing I had a photograph of you.” I do find with my iPhone that I am more likely to take pictures, but I often just pull it out when shopping so I can quickly take a photo and comparison shop.

My goal this year personally is to put as much as possible in the “cloud”, so that I may have access wherever I am. I have found too often I am in need of something that is saved on a computer somewhere else, and working between two schools with laptops and desktops, along with my personal laptop, means I need to make everything accessible. I have already started with bookmarks on Diigo, and will begin to move documents into Google docs and images into Flickr.

Flickr for educators

I do enjoy using visual images in the classroom in a variety of ways, from having students interpret historical photographs, select images as metaphors for the choices a character makes in a novel, or learn how to compose an effective photograph using lighting, framing, and contrast. I have taught students how to manipulate digital images using Photoshop, and incorporate them into digital stories using movie making software.

Most of this work was done in school, and when students worked with images at home they carried them back and forth on USB keys. I had not yet leveraged the use of photosharing sites, and now being in two schools that want to move towards students creating and colloboratively in the “cloud”, I know that I need to get better at this.

I’m loving the idea that Richardson (2009) shared in Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis of having students looking for images tagged in a certain way (such as clouds), and then setting up an RSS feed to follow new images as they are posted. I am thinking about ways to introduce Web 2.0 tools to teachers in my schools, and this would be a way to introduce both the Google Reader and Flickr that would be manageable for teachers to handle. Younger students could be tracking images of weather or the seasons, and older students images related to current events. It would also be a great way to introduce them to tagging and how to narrow their search and also tag images appropriately.

The Thinking Machine Wiki also provides a variety of great ideas for using Flickr in the classroom, including some lesson ideas on teaching students about Creative Commons and the licensing of images. As an educator, I can see the critical importance of teaching students about their role as a digital citizen, as we look at the ethical use of images online. Teachers are turning to me as the teacher-librarian to provide them with resources and a common message to students about cyber-citizenship. In addition, cyberbullying is already raising concerns three weeks into the school year. Common Sense Media provides a Cyber-Smart curriculum and lessons designed for a variety of grade levels that we will begin incorporating into our work with students.

Flickr for professional learning

What I am excited about is how Flickr can become part of my professional learning community, along with Twitter and RSS feeds. I have created a group for EDES 544, and I am inviting all students in the course to post photographs of the library they work in. As a teacher-librarian setting up two new libraries, I have had limited time to be creative in the space due to the amount of work it takes to catalogue and process classroom resources, and unpack and sort library books. I am very interested in seeing the spaces that my colleagues in this course are working in, and sharing inspirations for displays and design. Here are some images from my newly set-up library … a work in progress, but if you had seen the mountain of cardboard boxes just three weeks ago, you would know how far we have come!

As a visual person who is very interested in design, I feel that sharing through Flickr will really support the professional learning of the group. I also hope that seeing where everyone “lives”, (so to speak) will help us all get to know each other even better, so I invite everyone in Web 2.0 to join the EDES 544 Library group on Flickr and post photos of your space. Show us your space!

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Stepping out …

I have been an educator for twenty years, and during that time I have taught from preschool to grade 10. I have served in a variety of leadership roles, and served as a district consultant presenting to staff groups as large as 200. I have spoken in front of dignitaries, politicians, school board trustees and superintendents. And yet, putting myself on the web is far more uncomfortable than public speaking. There is a lack of control in putting my thoughts and ideas on the web, and an uncertainty around how my words might be used or perceived.

I love reading the discourse on the Internet, marvelling at the information, knowledge and wit that is generated and shared. I have always embraced technology, as evidenced in my previous post … and yet, I have never chosen to publish or participate online. I have remained a lurker, revelling in the anonymity of reading and exploring, but never really putting myself out there. The Internet has been an extended library for me, and now here I am, taking that first step in participating in the read/write web by creating this blog. I chose to use WordPress as this is the blogging platform that we will be using at one of the schools I am a teacher-librarian at.

Through this blog, I will share my discoveries as I explore a variety of Web 2.0 tools, and will try out these tools with students and teachers. I intend to incorporate a number of these tools into the library site that I am building, and am already exploring Shelfari and GoodReads to kick off Read-In Week activities in October.

This week I am starting to play with photosharing … I’ll keep you posted!

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It’s time to start the music …

“Sunny days,
chasing the clouds away …”

My interests in learning, literature, and technology first started in 1969, when Sesame Street premiered.  The show was designed for me, and I was the target audience. Two years old, and mesmerized by these puppet characters singing songs and teaching. I was hooked, and it started a life long love affair with learning. We had 4 channels on our wooden console television, and I watched Sesame Street every weekday morning, and looked forward to The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights … a family ritual.

I was an avid reader and consumed all the children’s books in the school and public libraries in our small town. When my parents purchased encyclopedias, I read through The New Book of Knowledge from A to Z, revisiting areas of interest over and over.  I started learning to type on our manual typewriter when I was seven and found my mother’s old typing practice book. My first experience with the evolving nature of technology was playing Pong on our television, and programming the VCR clock for my parents, after many years of trying to convince them to even get a television with remote control (my father often joked that he already had 4 remote controls … his four kids!). I became the technology person in the household, doing the research and convincing my parents what we needed. I got my first Sony Walkman at 12 years old, and helped my mother choose her first stereo turntable system with massive speakers. I chose our Atari and ColecoVision game systems, and set everything up.

I grew up in a generation that sustained the music industry. I purchased music on vinyl, then again on 8 track, cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3s. The first album I ever purchased was the Grease soundtrack, and I last downloaded an album by John Boutte from iTunes while I was listening to him outdoors on the hill at the Edmonton Folk Festival in August.

When we got our first computers in school, I was in grade 11. They were Apple 2E’s, and I founded the computer club and started helping everyone to learn how to program in Basic and Logo Turtle. Since then, I have actively explored how to use computers in my work as an educator, starting with the early days of a mish-mashed set of donated machines that students used to compose and edit on, saving their work on floppy disks.

Jim Henson passed away in 1990, after I graduated from university and was preparing to become a teacher and welcome my son into the world. His death had a profound impact – so sudden, so tragic. I wanted my son to grow up with the magic that the Muppets provided me growing up, to develop a sense of wonder about the world and a love for reading and learning. This summer, in a fit of nostalgia, I explored old Sesame Street tunes through iTunes and YouTube, and ended up ordering online Sesame Street Classic and The Muppet Show DVDs. I then watched clips of Henson’s funeral on YouTube and cried like a baby… Big Bird walking out solemnly to sing “Bein’ Green” absolutely broke me.

As I think about my daily use of technology for teaching and learning, I keep the messages of Jim Henson and the Muppets with me, about capturing the attention and imagination of children.  I am a digital immigrant … I have known a life before computers. I have no fear of technology, but I am cautious and consider the needs of my students before jumping into something new.  I am not an early adopter, and will explore extensively before deciding how to bring technology into the classroom in a way that is meaningful and powerful.

I love the Internet – I sometimes believe it was invented for me, that kid who read through The New Book of Knowledge every summer, finished every book in the library, and wanted to know more about the world. I love having access to information at my fingertips, via my work computer, laptop, or iPhone. However, I have been a reader and lurker, rather than a participant online, and this course is encouraging me to step into a new world of experiencing the world wide web.

“Why are there so many

songs about rainbows

and what’s on the other side?”

I am eager to explore what’s on the other side of Web 2.0, and how this might enhance the work I do with students and teachers.

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