Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Not So Final Reflection

Had I created and completed a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart for this course, it might have looked something like this:

WEB 2.0

-It’s online
-What’s web 2.0?
-Web2.0 or the read/write web,
is interactive use of the World
Wide Web where users not only
read information but also create
and contribute to this information
-It’s active, ongoing, continuous
collaboration and sharing, from
many minds, that’s helping to build
a world wide body of knowledge
-How to use these web 2.0 tools
(free, online services that
help create info sharing):

* Blogs
* YouTube & Teacher Tube
* Diigo (social bookmarking)
* Podcasts
* Virtual School Libraries
* Wikis
* Voicethreads
* Facebook
* Nings
* Google Reader (RSS)

Pretty impressive! Look at the knowledge I’ve gained in only a few short months (Ok, I can say that now..)
Along with learning some of the tools of the trade, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for technology and the need to further integrate Web 2.0 into our schools. I’m so inspired by the many wonderful, creative, user-friendly web 2.0 tools that are available.

But, I didn’t always feel this way…

Hesitant and reluctant are how I’d describe feeling in the beginning. Being so unfamiliar with being ‘out there’ on the web, I was worried about the impact this might have (all the online ‘urban myth’ stories kept circling in my head…)
One key moment for me was early on in the course when I read a post by fellow student and blogger (yes we are now!), Sheila, where she described, very eloquently, feeling exactly the same way.
I felt relieved and comforted that I was not alone. Instant connection. (Thanks Sheila!)
If I could feel this in a moment, what could I potentially feel after doing this (bogging and reading bogs) on a regular basis? What about student learners? I thought of the connecting opportunities that would exist for them. I needed to get over my ‘fear’ and get out there!
Assured and resolved to learn more are how I’d describe feeling now. Assured that I can safely have an online voice (thanks to security features and privacy settings) and very resolved to learn more about web 2.0 technologies.
(I laugh at how ‘out there’ I am now—anyone counted how many accounts you’ve signed up for since September??)

Highlights are many, but one that stands out for me was finally getting my podcast to work and being able to embed it onto my blog (this was almost a lowlight had I let my frustrations get the best of me!) Listening to my daughter as she read (and read, and re-read) a speech she wrote, seeing her face light up as she heard it coming through my blog post and knowing others would be listening. All excellent reminders for me of why learning these tools is so important-- powerful, motivating and relevant learning.
A recent highlight has to be getting comments from some big name edubloggers on my blog—
Will Richardson, Judy O’Connell and Doug Johnson. Very inspiring and hugely satisfying to know how passionate they are about supporting and encouraging newbie bloggers. I was very impressed and thrilled to be making these connections.
Finally, being able to read and share other’s thoughts/ideas, while going through the same learning process together, was by far the biggest highlight. Knowing that someone was feeling the same frustrations with a particular tool, or excited by the potentials of another, was inspiring and motivating. Also, the wealth of ideas, links and inspirational quotes was incredible. I’ve stored and bookmarked many, thanks to you all!

Lowlights/frustrations included having some major issues with my computer (it completely crashed on me) and my huge lack of expertise in this department. This served as a good reminder of why some barriers still exist for technology integration—great when everything is up-to-date and operating smoothly…
Overall, my biggest frustration was not being in my own classroom or library so that I could try out these new tools as soon as I learned them. My own children were helpful in my experimentation, but this was way different than being able to implement these technologies in a classroom setting at my own convenience.
The good news is that, starting in January, I’ll be teaching in a K/1 classroom two days a week. (I’ll be tapping your brain Danielle and hoping to set up some ‘blogging buddies’!)

Where do I go from here in terms of learning about and integrating technologies?
Well, in true web 2.0 fashion, as Richardson suggests (p.132 Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts..) I’m not finished. I hope to continue interacting with my thoughts and ideas about the various tools through blogging, as well as keep on collaborating with others, being an “active participant in my own learning” and “sustaining my own personal learning network”(p 136).
I’ll continue to ‘spread the word’ in my little corner of the world and share the bountiful merits of this new Read/Reflect/Write/Participate Web (p 137).

Good luck to you all and thank you for your wonderful support and contributions…it’s been great connecting and collaborating with you!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's Next?

Wow…challenging task this week-- which Web 2.0 tool to introduce to staff??

What got me thinking was this comment from Jeff Utecht of Thinking Stick blog:
“We can’t give the tools to people when they don’t need them…there first needs to be a need for the tool.”

What tool do teachers need most?
Something to relieve the stress of work overload.
I decided to go with the wiki, mostly because of it’s ease of use and ability to organize communication networks, helping to ease this overload. Forget, for the time being, that it’s an excellent tool for collaborating, sharing and creating an authentic audience for students. For now, teachers need to be shown the potential these tools have for helping them in the classroom and supporting them as they board the web 2.0 train.

How to do this?
Take the path of least resistance…
By introducing tools, such as wikis, as a way of assisting in making their busy, harried lives a little less so, we can teach them to embrace new technologies so that they can learn them along with their students.

I figured that the best way to teach about wikis was to use a wiki. My “Wiki Intro” on wikispaces will hopefully do the trick. I’ve included links to articles, readings, examples of educational wikis, as well as ideas of how to set one up for classroom use. Teachers can choose to look at this during school time or from the comfort of their home when not under time constraints.

“Q. How many Wiki people does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One, but anyone can change it back."
(retrieved from Using Wiki in Education)

How to work to keep the technology momentum going?
Talk it up—use the “squeaky wheel” philosophy. Share recent blog posts, wikis, podcasts, webinars, voicethread, virtual libraries, nings, with colleagues about things that you know will be of interest to them and to their class. Not only talking it up with teachers but also with administrators. Again, having conversations and linking them to relevant information, such as this wikipedia article about Change Issues in Curriculum and Instruction: Wikis in the Classroom.

As for the ‘big picture’ for technology integration, Anne Davis in a recent post from Edublog Insights, raises important issues about teachers needing time and administrative support to keep this momentum going. She states:
I think a big part of why educators are not out of their own networks is that their day is filled with other priorities that the teacher has to accomplish. I wish schools would make reflection and learning time for teachers a priority that nothing could interrupt. Students need the same. I agree that educators need to blog, use wikis, del.icio.ous and the like but until the educators’ learning and growth is truly made a priority within our schools, I don’t think we will make the progress we need to achieve. We need leaders that make this happen. A reflective culture of learning and growing must be nurtured in our schools.”

So what’s it going to take?
A district level commitment (mainly financial) to make tech integration and educating/training teachers a priority.
A school level commitment to review Acceptable Use Policies so as to enable integration of some of the newer technologies.
A teacher level commitment (once supported) to try, as well as use, these technologies and fit them into their daily planning where possible.

Lots of challenges still lie ahead for districts, schools, teachers and students in integrating technology into the classroom.
How important is it?
Once again, give this a view:
A vision of K-12 students today by B Nesbitt

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change"
– Charles Darwin, courtesy of Will Richardson’s wiki

I was taken by this quote because it’s true of every aspect of our lives-- change is inevitable. Like it or not, we must embrace it. Web 2.0 has the power not only to change our teaching, but also to change our learning about teaching, our professional development.

LOTS to think about this week while exploring blogging and blogs for professional deveopment.

So, what kinds of 'pro d' opportunities exist for teachers and teacher librarians who read, follow and comment on blogs?

In a nutshell, communication, interaction and collaboration like never before!

Miguel Guelin sums it up well when discussing blogs in education on his wiki, Blog Your World!. He states: “Blogs Enable Professional Development Networks” (or) blog-based personal learning network(s). This type of network—taking advantage of blogs and RSS feeds—allows us to tap into people that we would not otherwise have contact with”. He goes on to describe that “Personal learning networks give us access to varied information sources, and, more importantly, to people whom we can ask questions of, provide us with coaching and mentoring, as well as challenge or extend our thinking (Source: David Tobin at”
Access to a variety of free, up-to-date content, coaching, mentoring and discussion with seasoned experts--all possible with the use of blogs.

Some of the blogs I’ve been following as part of my “personal learning network”:

Doug JohnsonThe Blue Skunk Blog (Teacher and “Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato (MN) Public Schools")
David Warlick - 2 cents worth (Educator, author and operator of the “Landmark Project”)
Vicki DavisThe Cool Cat Teacher Blog (Teacher and ed tech supporter)
Will Richardson - Weblogg-ed (Educator, author and presenter)

JudyO’Connell - Hey Jude (Educational consultant - library and web 2.0)
Joyce Valenza - The Never Ending Search (Teacher Librarian)

Now, how to convince colleagues to follow some of these blogs?

Start small, take baby steps, make it familiar and connect to what they already know (where have I heard this before…?)
For my librarian friends, I’d introduce them to Joyce Valenza’s blog, specifically the Oct 2/08 post about “Wordle meets Dewey”, using the tool "wordle" to create dewey signs for the library. Simple and relevant—something they could immediately latch onto and use without extensive effort. I think this would set the hook…


For my primary teacher friends, I’d direct them to the Primary Web 2.0 wiki that contains links to blogs created by primary teachers who blog themselves as well as with their students. Choose any one and feel overwhelmingly inspired by what students and teachers are creating. I’d focus on this blog by a grade 1 class in New Zealand to show a global, collaborative effort called the “Peace Quilt” project.

For both groups, a mandatory viewing of the YouTube video "A Vision of K-12 Students Today" would be required before any explanation of the above. As professionals dedicated to educating our youth, it's impossible not to grasp that change is needed in our teaching, as well as in our professional learning, after viewing this short, powerful clip.
Blogs as part of professional development is a good, big step in the right direction.

What pro d opportunities exist for educators who are blogging?

Again, in a nutshell, sharing of information and personal reflection.

For me, the best experience of blogging has been the chance to reflect on my learning and share my thoughts, feelings, frustrations with others. This is consistent with a principle of professional development in my district that states professional development “...encourages and supports educators working together to reflect on their practice.”
Blogging does just that. It’s an opportunity to really think about learning, share these thoughts, and to imagine how it’s going to impact your personal and professional life. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to become a creator of information, not just a consumer, and to offer this information to others. Something we as educators need to focus on in this digital information age. (Richardson, p 136 of Blogs Wikis Podcasts..., 2009)

Once more, how to convince others of this?

Promote/encourage reading of blogs! Start with “edublog” which “is dedicated to helping educational bloggers with emerging technologies in education." This post, What Would You Say about Blogging?, created by Aussie Sue Waters, is a perfect example of 'active' collaboration in action. She asks other edubloggers for advice to give a colleague on a presentation about blogging to administrators. Water’s suggests: “… we could use this post to demonstrates how blogs connect us to a global audience where we can engage in conversations that lead to more ideas and greater innovation than each of us working individually.” The results? Wonderful advice given and really useful links from a large community of professionals. What I found comforting, especially being a newbie in this environment, is the relaxed, non-technical nature of the conversation. Just people (albeit with a very wide range of expertise and spread thousands of miles apart) offering help and exchanging their learning in a non-threatening, casual atmosphere.
Another great resource, obtained courtesy of Will Richardson’s blog,
is the wiki Support Blogging that contains links to a huge variety of educational blogs, answers questions about why blog in education and has tons of resources (videos, podcasts, links to conferences etc).
It’s hard to be unconvinced and unenthused after viewing this site and seeing firsthand how teachers are collaborating and connecting all over the globe.

Does this change the kinds of professional development that schools offer?

I believe it can and it should. It won't totally replace the conferences, guest speakers, meetings and workshops, but it will greatly enhance these experiences and enable follow up (an incredibly extended question and answer!) and feedback like never before.

“It's been a long, a long time coming but I know
A change gon' come…”

Sam Cooke, 1963

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mom or RSS??

Imagine…someone who buys your food, cooks it, and serves it to you while all you have to do is sit down and digest (sounds like a mother) -- well, this is what you get with RSS only it’s information that’s being gathered and served. Here’s a more complete (aka complex) explanation:
RSS—Rich Site Syndication or Really Simple Syndication—is a tool that enables Internet users to subscribe (by clicking the RSS symbol on the site) to syndicated feeds of information from web sources (blogs, websites, news/weather sites) through the use of an “aggregator” or “feed-reader”. All that’s needed is to sign on with a reader, such as Bloglines or Google Reader, and start adding subscription feeds. This is done by simply copying and pasting the desired site’s URL into your chosen reader. The aggregator/reader will continually search your subscribed sites for new information and automatically update your reader account every time there’s something new posted.
Basically, it saves time and helps manage an overwhelming amount of information on the web by gathering the information for you and giving it to you in one handy location. Teachers and students can simply visit one space, their RSS reader, to receive quick updates on all their favourite websites. For an ongoing list of “educational benefits/classroom applications” for RSS check out the wiki created by teacher Andrew Robitaille in Web2Tutorial.

After looking into RSS this week, I realized that I’ve only hit the very tiny tip of the iceberg with my chosen aggregator, Google Reader. Truthfully, my account has been neglected since my initial set up in the beginning of September. I’d come to rely pretty heavily on my dashboard updates in Blogger, where I’d pasted a few urls to keep abreast of, that I nearly forgot about Google Reader that was just a click away!
My initial reaction was that I’d better get back in there, start adding more subscriptions and beefing up my account. Glad I decided to take Richardson’s advice about getting comfortable “with the basic subscribing and managing functions” and stopping “…at about ten feeds so you don’t get overwhelmed before you get practiced at reading in your aggregator.” (p. 75 of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts…) I’d subscribed to a few blogs already and was overwhelmed with the amount of new posts eagerly awaiting me in Reader. So time to start organizing! I’ve created a folder for the class blogs, starred a few posts and scanned and deleted a few items. I like the option of being able to click “share” on any post and other people who visit my page could see what I’ve read (Richardson p 76). This would work well for sharing posts with students that I’ve read and found to be relevant to whatever subject they’re studying.

A great potential of RSS for classrooms and libraries is in the creation of web pages of information using feeds chosen by students and/or teachers. In reading Will Richardson’s article “Merrily Down the Stream” in School Library Journal , he mentions Pageflakes as one of the online options for creating web pages with RSS. He also blogs about Pageflakes in Weblogg-ed and describes it as "…a dynamic, constantly updated page of content…”. Pageflakes is an online tool that groups together a personalized variety of RSS feeds onto one page. It’s ideal for creating a continually updated webpage of information on any given subject, from a number of sources, that students can access for projects, homework or assignments. I started creating my own Pageflake (see here)--it’s incredibly easy to do, fun to customize and works well as a homepage. Check out Will Richardson’s feeds on Pageflake as well as Joyce Valenza’s. Here’s a Youtube tutorial that was a great help in getting started as I couldn’t find much “help” on the Pageflakes site:

David Parry from the University of Albany writes, in the 2006 article "The Technology of Reading and Writing in the Digital Space: Why RSS is crucial for a Blogging Classroom" from Blogs for Learning, some excellent thoughts on using RSS in education:
RSS helps to give students control over content on the web, reducing time spent navigating from site to site to see what has changed, and instead allowing them to receive updates about the content they are interested in tracking or material that is relevant to class.
But more important than staying up to date on information is the ability RSS provides to sort what one wants to read from what is not of interest, not only in terms of selecting to receive only certain feeds, but also as a matter of reading only in detail a few of the feeds you receive: sorting again the information you receive, separating what is not of interest from that which is (an invaluable skill for students who will increasingly rely on digital information

I’ve only just begun to really understand RSS, and the implications for teaching and learning, but do plan to continue learning to use it to save time, manage information and easily find up-to-date content for students.
For now, I’m off to enjoy the wild, wet westcoast of Vancouver Island!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

To Facebook or not to Facebook...

Social networking, the subject of this weeks blog post, proved rather timely for me. My daughters, aged 11 & 13, have been pleading with me, somewhat relentlessly, to have their own Facebook accounts. Apparently, everyone has one and they might be the last two on earth…

In response, well--I’ve been putting them off (good parenting!) but wondering why I’m feeling so reluctant? Glad that I'm having a better look into Facebook and to see what it’s all about. So off I go…

Part of our initial requirement for this course was to sign up for a Facebook account, which, obediently, I did (view my homepage here). Truthfully, I haven’t had much to do with my account since first setting it up, adding a photo and “poking” a few friends to let them know I was now a part of this online, social community. To quote Doug Johnson from his "Blue Skunk" blog, “I just don’t get the appeal.” I must admit, it's fun seeing who I might know and searching for familiar faces, but I don’t feel like reaching out and connecting with these people on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. (For a lot of it, I felt like I was at my grad reunion, happy to see all these people, even pleased that they were doing well, but wanting to end it at that!)

My thoughts as a non-digital native adult.

Yet I couldn't help thinking--how differently would I be feeling if I had grown up using social networking as a way of connecting and communicating with others? Great question, since it seems that, according to a National School Board Association study, a whopping 96% of students between the ages of 9 and 17 have reported using online social networking technologies. Again, quoting Doug Johnson, this time from a Education World article:
What's a teacher (parent) to do? Stay informed about student uses of technology. Build student trust by maintaining an open mind about new social phenomena. Teach students about potential hazards of all online environments."

Social networking in a Facebook-type environment may not be for me, but it sure is a huge part of my children’s and my student’s lives. As a parent and an educator, I need to think about the implications of social networking and about how to teach safe use and responsible behaviour online. As Will Richardson points out in his recent article Footprints in the Digital Age, this is particularily important now that our youth are the “Googleable” generation, where potential schools, employers or mates can easily check out their digital past.
This may be the first large technological shift in history that's being driven by children. Picture a bus. Your students are standing in the front; most teachers (maybe even you) are in the back, hanging on to the seat straps as the bus careens down the road under the guidance of kids who have never been taught to steer and who are figuring it out as they go.” --I love this analogy given by Richardson—I can see a remake of “Ferris Bueller” in the works!

Guess we could close our eyes and hang on for dear life or try to somehow take control of the situation, which would you chose??

So, this got me thinking again about those Facebook accounts…I was surprised to discover that both Facebook and Myspace restrict their sites to people under 13. For my 11 year old, she’s out of luck for the time being, but for my 13 year old? It’s a possibility.

Both sites have increased their security regarding accounts and privacy settings. But, as Stephen Abram points out in Scaffolding the New Social Literacies , “… for all intents and purposes they are only as safe as the user has the awareness and skills to make good judgments.”

As a responsible parent, it’s up to me to go through these features with my daughter, monitor her account set-up, reminding her what personal information to divulge, and remind her of the potential risks. As an educator, I need to do the same with my students.

The NSBA study reminds us:

Safety policies remain important, as does teaching students about online safety and responsible online expression—but students may learn these lessons better while they’re actually using social networking tools.

parents and communities also expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology. Clearly, both district leaders and parents are open to believing that social networking could be such a tool — as long as there are reasonable parameters of use in place.
Moreover, social networking is increasingly used as a communications and collaboration tool of choice in businesses and higher education. As such, it would be wise for schools, whose responsibility it is to prepare students to transition to adult life with the skills they need to succeed in both arenas, to reckon with it

OK, I’ve convinced myself that as parents/educators we should indeed be involved and give kids the opportunity to use social networking in a safe, controlled environment. So the next big question for me is:

Which social networking tools to use to teach online safety and responsibility to elementary students?

One free site I discovered is imbee after reading an article on Read Write Web, by Ken Yarmosh, on Smart Social Networks . He states:
Kids cannot join the site without a credit card being on file (and not necessarily charged), meaning that someone - probably a parent (teacher) - is going to have to be involved from the start. Parents (teachers) can also control the way their kids interact on the site.”
They also have a Teacher Feature which is free to join and includes lesson plans:
"Imbee's new Teacher Feature enables teachers to extend their classroom onto the Internet and establish class blogs and online interaction. Teacher Feature enables teachers and parents to work together closely to guide children's foray into social networking while bolstering classroom learning."

For older students (again, there’s age restrictions), I would definitely consider using Ning.

(“Ning is an online platform for users to create their own social websites and social networks.”wikipedia )
Traci Gardner blogs in the NCTE Inbox Blog: "Social Networking: The Ning’s the Thing" about the benefits of using a Ning in an educational setting:

You can decide on who is invited, what they can see, and what they can do. You can create a Ning site for anything. There are a number of features available, and a basic site is free.
So Ning is just another social network, like Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. What makes it different is the ability to customize the features to meet the needs of a specific group of people.
How can a teacher use a Ning social network?
Use a Ning to connect students in a private social network! What could you do for language arts, writing, and literature classes?
· Set up discussion forums based on literature circles, peer writing groups, different class periods, and so forth.
· Create groups based on student interests—book clubs, favorite genres, other content areas.
· Upload alternative book reports created as podcasts, videos, or photos.
· Ask students to write their reading logs or journals online, using their own personal blogs.
· Post information for students and their families in a shared space

Nings are also great tools for teacher’s professional development. Joyce Valenza’s Teacher Librarian Network Ning for instance, as well as the Classroom 2.0 Ning created by a group of educators interested in web 2.0 technologies. I joined the teacher librarian ning ( )as well as the classroom 2.0 ning ( )as both are filled with tons of useful information and discussions (including one with Will Ricardson regarding his article “Digital Footprints” in the Classroom 2.0 Forum ) about web 2.0 technologies.

Some other examples of social networks set up on various sites for educators:

  • Teachers 2.0 - Ning created for educators using web 2.0

  • Facebook group - for educators interested in the use of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education.

  • Active Learning - another Facebook group, “Active Learning is for educators who want to share ideas about active learning."

  • A wiki of social networks used in educational environments.

  • An Online Bookclub for intermediate kids created on a Ning

As a final thought, some online social networks, such as Facebook and Myspace, may not serve a huge educational function but the reality is that most students in today’s classrooms are using, and will continue to use, these type of social networking sites. Our job is to guide them to better understand the process, implications and risks as they use these networks to connect and collaborate with thousands of people in all aspects of their lives. We shouldn't be banning these sites but monitoring their use and finding appropriate ones to use in an educational setting.

Once again, Richardson sums it up well in his Footprints article when discussing social networking, preparing students for the future and the role of teachers:
Our students must be nomadic, flexible, mobile learners who depend not so much on what they can recall as on their ability to connect with people and resources and edit content on their desktops, or, even more likely, on pocket-size devices they carry around with them.

Our teachers have to be colearners in this process, modeling their own use of connections and networks and understanding the practical pedagogical implications of these technologies and online social learning spaces.”

On to set up a Facebook account...let the "colearning" begin!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

“One of the best free tools available to teachers and students who are learning with the world rather than about the world…” Teacher Bill Ferriter from Digitally Speaking discussing Voicethread.

Multimedia sharing sites—what are they? Here’s where I began my quest this week and here’s what I discovered. They’re online services that enable storage and sharing of images, documents, videos and podcasts. Members, those who have created an account, can actively contribute to the content on these sites and share with other collaborators.

Voicethread is one such media hosting site that also allows people to interact with the content by making comments with voice, using a mic or phone, as well as with text, audio file or video. “A Voicethread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.” Pretty amazing!!

There are many incredible potentials and benefits to using this site for educational purposes. One of the highlights, as Joyce Valenza points out is “…its teeny-tiny learning curve”. Really important for myself, and many others, who are taking first steps in using these tools in the classroom. Also, Voicethread’s ease of use and creation makes it an easier “sell” to other teachers and administrators. Teacher Bill Ferriter, who is a huge advocate and user of Voicethread in education, wrote this on his blog:

What I like the best about Voicethread is that it allows teachers to seamlessly integrate digital collaboration into the curriculum. Because the skills necessary to use Voicethread are minimal, there is almost no tech-barrier to overcome by teachers or students---and because the tool is simple by nature, the focus of any digital effort remains on the content rather than the technology.”

This comment really rang true for me as I’ve often felt with some of the other
tools that I’ve been challenged by the technology and haven't really focused on their use. Part of Voicethread’s ease of use comes from the availability of their online tutorials
that makes learning the features easy and straightforward.

Another great feature of Voicethread is the creation of Ed.voicethread “…a web-based communications network for K-12 students and educators. Simple, powerful and safe, Ed.VoiceThread is a place for creating and collaborating on digital stories and documentaries, practicing and documenting language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, or simply finding and honing student voices.”
For a minimal cost ($60/year/class), Ed.voicethread increases safety (all users are from the school) and accountability (teachers can control and moderate comments).

How is this tool being used in classrooms and libraries?

There are many inspiring examples out there!

I found a wonderful, comprehensive collection of Voicethread examples created by students and teachers on a wiki set up by Collette Cassinelli, a high school teacher from Oregon.
What’s great about this space is that it’s organized by grade level and by teachers, who are continually contributing their creative uses of Voicethread. Also, included on the home page is an actual Voicethread to comment on how you are using Voicethread in the classroom.

Organized, current and collaborative--Web 2.0 in action!

Some examples from here include using Voicethread:

As a social studies project:
Interpreting the Past
--A grade 2 project teaching historical thinking by examining past and present photographs.

Welcome to our World
--A voicethread created by Bill Ferriter encouraging comments about differences in communities. Included here are teacher directions and student handouts.

For digital book reports:
Great book Stories
--A place for students to share a favourite book and receive feedback.

For digital storytelling:
Stories of Seventh Grade Life

--Student created stories about their memories of Elementary school.

For math:
K-7 Mathcasts 500 Project
-- “Goal: Create a library of 500+ mathcasts for K-7 math using many student & educators voices.”

For Libraries:
Book Promotions
--Teachers and librarians sharing favourite books

For professional development:
Wondering About Web 2.0
--Created for a conference, teachers can leave comments about various web 2.0 quotes and start thinking about issues for an upcoming meeting

The list could, and really does, go on and on!!

Again from Bill Ferriter, an excellent reminder: “Winding students up and letting them go without any kind of introduction to the features of Voicethread that can be used to protect against inappropriate content or poor conversation quality is an irresponsible act on the part of classroom teachers.” In response to this, he’s created (available for downloading on his wiki) handouts for students to help them reflect on the responsibilities of creating and monitoring a Voicethread, as well as lessons on how to comment effectively and thoughtfully. These can also be used for assessment purposes.

I see many great implications for teaching and learning with Voicethread. Not only is it a significant way of archiving student achievement, but it’s fun and highly motivating as well. It creates meaningful learning and provides an authentic audience, which is extremely inspiring for students. Globally interacting with others, especially about something that you’ve created, how cool is that?? It’s also empowering to have a voice in cyberspace and to be recognized for your thoughts and ideas. As a shy, quiet student, I can see wanting to participate more actively in a digital discussion than in a classroom environment. Students have more time to think about responses and to reflect on their implications. As Ferriter points out, “You don’t have to be the loud one or the popular one…” to feel comfortable about contributing. Also, in the process of considering comments from other students around the globe, students can become aware of different ideas, perspectives and beliefs-- greatly contributing to the goal of a tolerant, accepting society.

For myself personally, I see using Voicethreads for communicating and collaborating with friends and family about recent trips, school events, sports activities, dance recitals, and just about anything! With all of our family being out of town, it’s a great way to come together and chat about events, aided by visual reminders, or share occasions with those who couldn’t be there. Professionally, I think Voicethread is one of the best tools we’ve looked at so far. Fun, motivating, creative and easy to use are good indicators of success when it comes to educational implements and Voicethread really has it all. I’m looking forward to playing around with it some more, a first attempt is previously posted!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wiki Wanderings

I love to go a-wiki-wandering…

This week’s journey was to explore the wiki world (try saying that 5 times fast) and create one of my own for classroom or personal use.

What better place to start this exploration than to look for a definition on the best known wiki of them all, Wikipedia:

“A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.[1][2] Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.
"Wiki" (/wiːkiː/) is a Hawaiian word for "fast"[4]. "Wiki Wiki" is a reduplication. Wiki" can be expanded as "What I Know Is," but this is a backronym. (A backronym (or bacronym) is a phrase that is constructed "after the fact" from a previously existing word or abbreviation, the abbreviation being an initialism or an acronym)”

--Wow, who knew all that??

Basically, a wiki is a collaborative, social website where anyone can interact, contribute and edit content. Anyone can write anything…okay, this concerns me somewhat.

Sounds like I might not be alone with this concern. When students start looking to sites such as Wikipedia as a research resource, Richardson states, “The idea that “it might be wrong” is a tough one for most people to overcome.” (p. 59) Especially for educators! Before looking into the wiki world, I too often dismissed Wikipedia as being inaccurate or, at worst, all out wrong because anyone could put anything and who’s to know what’s the right or wrong information? Then, Richardson reassured me that there’s a group of editors whose main concerns are to “make it right” and “set it straight” (p.56). As well, Richardson sited several studies where wikipedia had been tested and reviewed for accuracy (pp 56 & 58) and was found to be a fairly solid resource. Also, I found out that accountability on other wiki sites is established by ensuring that every change to the site is recorded and by having various permission levels so that only people invited can make changes to specified pages.

Now that I felt more trusting, I began to explore how wikis could be used in a classroom setting. For lack of a better statement, there’s a lot of really cool stuff out there!!

Wait, yet another nagging question…how is a wiki all that different from setting up a blog? I was directed to the “TeachersFirst” website by a classmate and it was here I found a great answer:

“…blogs are often the vehicle of choice to express individual opinions.

A wiki has a far more open structure and allows others to change what one person has written. This openness may trump individual opinion with group consensus

Individual opinion versus group consensus-- this understanding of blog versus wiki is consistent with Richardson’s view:
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 to teaching our students some very useful skills for their future.” (Richardson, p. 59)

Now, on to the cool stuff…

Here’s a good summary from the Wetpaint wiki-host site on using wikis in the classroom:

How can wikis be used in the classroom?

Group projects
: Students work together in one place to research, outline, draft, and edit projects within the wiki
Assignments: Post homework, course materials, study guides, and more.
Resource Collections: Organize articles, websites, videos, and other resources for students
Peer Review: Post questions for student brainstorming, or have students post papers for peer feedback
Group FAQ: Students and/or teachers post and respond to questions on a given topic
Parent Involvement: Give parents a chance to be a part of the classroom and stay up to date on classroom news and events
Online Newspaper: Create a student-published online newspaper”

Other examples of using wikis in the classroom that I find intriguing are based on writing and novel studies, such as the following:

  • Wikibooks is a very cool wiki recommended by Richardson (p.63). The goal is to produce a series of non-fiction booklets for children aged 8-12yrs made by the collaborations of students. Students can create an account, sign on and contribute information they know about the subject. What a great way to evaluate what students have learned by seeing what they’ve added to the collection of information. Or challenge students to find new information that hasn’t been posted or to edit the information (check facts) of what has been added to the booklet.

  • Creating collaborative stories. Two such examples done in an elementary school are terrythetennisball a wiki created by a grade ¾ teacher in Australia, where students have written many versions about the adventures of a tennis ball, and a grade one wiki where the students continue to add to the adventures of a hockey player. A fun, motivating way to create a story and practice writing skills that teaches students how to work with others to build a better whole.

  • Novel Studies. A great example is given in Richardson’s text about the book Turn Homeward Hannalee a wiki where students have created interviews, presentations and reference pages based on this book using all sorts of web 2.0 tools. As Amy Bowllan states in a 2008 School Library Journal article:

Ideal for collaborative learning, a wiki allows students to engage the novel beyond the pages of the book. Students can use the wiki to research, outline, draft, and edit a
collaborative project on the book. They could also organize articles, site links, video, and
other resources

The benefits of using a wiki as a tool for teaching and learning are summarized really well
in the Teachersfirst website--connections, creativity, engagement, interpersonal skills, writing skills, metacognition—all great reasons for using a wiki in the classroom.

How to go about creating a classroom wiki? Here are some options:

  1. PBwiki for classrooms -a good feature of this educational wiki is the student accountability. Teacher’s can see who has changed what and reverse any changes. As well, PBwiki has “webinars” that teach the basics about using the site and setting up a wiki for classroom use.

  2. Wetpaint education wiki has a free ad free version for the classroom.
  3. Wikispaces has a good video tour to get you started as well as a complimentary upgrade to “Plus” (includes increased security, ad-free) for K-12 educational use.

Looking through Wikispaces, I discovered this book club wiki which inspired me to try and create a wiki for my own book club. I used the tool Wikispaces and found it to be extremely easy to navigate and straight forward to use. My book club wiki that I created is here and I’m sure it will prove to be a fun and creative way to come together as a club. The ease of collaboration is certain to inspire us all!

As a final note, Richardson sums it up well when he states:

The collaborative environments that wikis facilitate can teach students much about how to work with others, how to create community, and how to operate in a world where the creation of knowledge and information is more and more becoming a group effort.” (p. 69)

Happy wiki wandering!