Sunday, August 16, 2009

Into the 21st Century Future I Go—High Ho...

As I reflect upon EDES 501 Web 2.0 technologies, I feel proud of my endeavours and have learned a great deal from this class. I am pleased that I persevered with the course and saw it to its completion. I am very happy to have have learned that blogging is more than just sharing personal feelings about matters most likely only of interest to a select few. It has given me a means of communicating using the powerful Read/Write Web and this provides me with credibility in a profession that several have said is a dying profession. Sharing in the learning of numerous technologies has given me new knowledge and a certain comfort in using them. I feel more prepared to enter the world of learning in the library using these tools and sharing them with others.

When I began this course, I had forgotten just how intense a summer class is. Since this is only my second course toward my degree, I am not quite used to the regular fast pace, or the amount of reading and research required. After all, it has been quite a number of years since I last took my bachelors degree. Accompanying these aspects with the fact that I have been working out the numerous tasks and legalities associated with operating a farm, I was totally taken unawares. Although I had pre-read Richardson’s book, I really didn’t have a firm grasp on what was to come. When the first week of classes did begin, and we had to set up our blogs, which I had had no experience in doing; make sense of assignments and enter an initial posting, needless to say, I was overwhelmed and panicked. Because it took me the whole of two weeks of stumbling around in attempts to meet deadlines and using some means of how to handle the readings, postings, and experimenting with the technology and discussions, I was somewhat paranoid of forgetting something and spent many extremely late nights and early mornings posting. Feeling so overwhelmed, I decided to withdraw from the course. I just couldn’t see my way through the work and the estate work combined. It was after chatting with a colleague and expressing these frustrations that I found a way through my frustrations with the course. He suggested that I not worry so much about the extent of the course or my mark but rather think of all that I am learning and take away from the course what I could. At that time, as well as taking a different and less stressful attitude, I changed my strategy of attacking the content. Previously I had worked with the particular application we were learning and then I did the readings from the Trailfire Trail and lastly, my own research. I had thought this to be effective since I would have the opportunity of experiencing the application so that I would understand it thoroughly when I read the Trailfire articles, and videos. Had the course taken place within a regular semester, this might have worked. I switched strategies after the first two weeks because this method didn’t leave me enough time to complete the readings and the research required before needing to post and move on to a second application during the same week. I switched strategies so that I complete the readings, gather research articles and information, then investigate the particular technology tool being studied and attempt some of the tips suggested by various authors on the topic. Then I review the research, augment it with other articles as needed and write my post. Using this plan of attack, I found I was spending less essential time experimenting with and getting lost in the tool because I was taking the advice of numerous learned individuals of the technology. My experimentation quickly changed to informed research of the tool which has made all the difference. In this manner, I have been able to keep up with learning about two technologies per week. I am thankful that I found a way of handling time, and the information. I still haven’t been able to get much done on the farm, but I am very pleased that I did not drop the course.

Writing for an edublog has also had its challenges. Since I have not blogged before, establishing a voice has been a constant struggle. I feel that my strength in blogging has been engaging and connecting with the audience by including a little analogy or connection to the technology being studied. Most of the stories have come to me as small revelations as I reflect on how the technology has applied in my life. The blog entries where I have not had a personal connection, have caused me to reflect and broaden my thinking to include other aspects of my past such as older technologies used, or asking the questions, “Now, what does this remind me of?” and “What is this connected to vicariously in my life?” These questions have lead me to link my discussions to songs, characters from movies, videos from YouTube, quotes, and other personal connections. This part has been challenging but fun as it causes me to rethink the main focus of the technology and how change has occurred. Although I haven’t been able to tie all stories in at the end, satisfactorily, I feel that my introductions have been strong. Possibly because of having a personal connection, my voice in this part is also strong. However, I have found it difficult to maintain this lighter voice when dealing with the discussions of the technology and seem to take on a formal tone, especially in discussing technologies with which I am not yet totally comfortable in using. I enjoyed trying to be unique in my introductions and titles but found that toward the middle to end of the course, I was finding that I just needed to get on with the writing of the post in order to finish that portion of the assignment. While my voice in the blogs has been a mixture of inviting yet (hopefully) informative, I still don’t feel that my posts are as inviting as those of my classmates, many of whom allow their personalities to shine through the words, no matter what the topic. I have observed and enjoyed immensely how my classmates’ voices have developed and have enjoyed their humour, questions, suggestions and hints as to how to use the various tools.

It seems that when writing, I am consumed with explaining how to use the technology so that I can learn it better while discussing how other teachers might use the tool, but I forget to explain how other schools and libraries use the tools. Even though I have tried to be thorough in my discussions and posts, I have discovered that I have forgotten to include many of the points that I had originally wanted to discuss; I tend to want to include everything about the topic instead of focusing on a few details and aspects that make it unique while showing how other institutions use the technology. I believe that this partially stems from the fact that I am still learning about the numerous technologies we have investigated and learned about in the course but it is also indicative of the short time span in which we have to complete the reading, research, investigation of the technology and writing of the post. Another reason for this seems to be that when I consider the optimal length of a blog entry, if I add further insights or information, the already lengthy blog would become unreadable due to excess length. However, it has been most interesting to read my classmates’ blogs regarding the very technological tool that I had finished posting; this allowed me to review many concepts already learned, as well, they introduced me to new aspects and clarifications of concepts. Likewise, I enjoyed hearing Mack Male’s ideas and opinions regarding blogging and how connected he is. I admire his dedication to examine and expose ideas behind the controversial issues such as the closure of the downtown Edmonton municipal airport. Mack is likely more connected than most people; he has an easy, honest interesting communication style, both as a spoken and a written word author. It is evident that he has passion for what he does as he assists in making the local human condition better. I can only hope to aspire to his easy and informative style.

Plans for Using the Technology
Again because of the time factor, I don’t feel that my explorations of the numerous technologies were thorough. Although I was not intensely pleased with my demos of the tools such as my podcast, or my multi-media, I did learn much and feel that I can replicate the use of these technologies with relation to my library once I return to school. I am excited to learn more about these technologies as I prepare to market our library and offer sessions for staff and students in the near future. I belong to a teacher-librarian’s group in Calgary that meets every month to discuss relevant ideas and how we can better meet the needs of students and staff in our system. I hope to share my new knowledge with other teacher-librarians of this group as we advocate for use of these tools by students and staff in our schools. Since I am also chair of our school technology committee, I know that being familiar with more applications and the language of Web 2.0, will help me contribute in a much more vital forward thinking manner. Hopefully this committee will be able to take a far more visible presence in the school as we move toward integrating numerous technologies into curriculum areas. When I return to school, I will be working on building my D2L shell (informational and teaching program similar to Blackboard)and intend to incorporate a podcast and slideshare presentation about out school library. I have had the opportunity of viewing Laura's very professional looking tour of her library on slideshare. I had wondered how one could use this tool further from a library aspect and she demonstrated its use so thoroughly. I can see many more uses in the library for this technology as a result.
Last June, I began toying with the idea of inviting staff members to a once per monthly information and sharing about various topics around Web 2.0 tools. Now I know that I will introduce staff to each of the Web 2.0 technologies we have learned and provide them with some “down” time to simply play with and learn about the tools. I know that this will take some planning and further investigation of my own before I present the more sophisticated multi-media tools. Since Diigo and Delicious are such practical tools for staff and students, I plan to begin with these and will likely then introduce blogs as learning tools. I also want to incorporate numerous online free research sites available to schools as well. Many of these sites are suggestions from classmates which I will need to tailor for my school's use. Developing a more extensive virtual library is also one of my goals for the year followed by demonstrating this information to students and staff as we investigate inquiry-based learning. Of course this also means that I need to create or provide access to numerous “how-to” videos, Power Point presentations, and other sources of information so that if students or staff are working on a project but have forgotten some of the concepts, they can easily check our school web site and the D2L shell for 24/7 information. Part of my journey this year will include lobbying the district to create open-source-type classrooms. It will be interesting to see if I am able to access all of these Web 2.0 tools at school; since Wordle isn’t allowed and it appears to be a fairly simple, yet useful tool for vocabulary building and reinforcing of basic knowledge, it is highly likely that some of the other technologies will be blocked as well. I can only hope to “open the door” to our community of learners as we encounter the “Big Shift” of which Richardson speaks.

On My Blogging
I have enjoyed maintaining my blog and am gradually becoming more literate in Web 2.0. This blog has served as a means of tracking my learning but I know I will need to go back to review the various topics and technologies to practice their usage. I find it amazing that blogging has been so interesting and rather fun because I have never wanted to get anywhere close to working with HTML. My blog has offered me a means of expressing ideas and content without much worry about codes but I still need to figure out how to embed such things as page screens and videos not offered on YouTube. The directions in Blogger state that these actions require a “techno-geek’s” knowledge but with persistence and the help of some of my technology literate colleagues, I know that I will learn how to overcome these obstacles.

As teacher-librarian, I have frequently experienced a feeling of being separate from other teaching staff in my school; this blog has given me a feeling of being connected with other teacher-librarians and I hope this will continue as I blog for and with others from my school. Another item on my “to do” list is to review Richardson’s book and make time to attempt more of his ideas and suggestions. As a result of his thorough writing style I am no longer afraid to experiment with the technologies we have studied despite still wishing to improve my expertise and blogging style. I still feel that I am blogging exclusively for a course, so I will need to alter my voice and focus in future. I am also thinking of changing my blog name for school purposes as I feel that my current title is somewhat personal and not as professional as may be required. On the other hand, I still like the title and its informality may provide that level of comfort needed to entice staff to join in the blogging movement. I will likely poll some of my colleagues before making the final decision. I hope that with continued blogging, I will be able to develop my voice and move beyond simple blogging and sharing of information and personal experiences.
So, like the Seven dwarves, I approach this year’s school year with a cheerful and proud heart.

Thank-you, Joanne, for being a positive influence, one who gave me a gentle nudge into the exciting world of Web 2.0. Thank-you classmates for your enjoyable sharing of thoughts, ideas and blogs. It has been most interesting. Enjoy your last week(s) of summer and have a terrific semester.

Now, all together, “High ho, high ho, it’s off to work we go....”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What’s Next? A Space Odyssey Re-visited

Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, an expose on the use of technology in the future was released, coincidentally, as the space race between the USSR and the USA heated up. The movie, demonstrated what enduring force computers would have in our daily lives. Prophetically, Mission Commander David Bowman says, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL. Let the awe and mystery of a journey unlike any other begin.” Although computers have not come to control humans as first depicted in the movie, they have come to control our lives through other means.

Increasingly, technology has entered mainstream society and has provided a means of communicating with the world around us. With the use of technology in the classroom, education has become increasingly global. Online degree programs and distance learning courses such as EDES 501 offered at the
University of Alberta have put more and more teachers and librarians in touch not only with the various uses of technology but has also allowed educators around the world to communicate and share ideas. But are we using and keeping up with the available technology in our classrooms? “We are 20th-century teachers using 19th-century methods to reach 21st-century students." one educator professed. (Aronson, 2008) But with old equipment, limited budgets, testing benchmarks, demanding parents, and high turnover amongst younger faculty, how can teachers bridge the gap between what we know is best practice and the realities of the classroom? Who is talking to teachers to find out what works and how we can bring in new technologies to improve student learning? With these questions in mind, I began my search to find out "What’s Next" in the land where technology meets education?

Computer use has grown in classrooms and along with that, online learning has grown. This seems to be one area that will continue to expand in future as there is a need for qualified educators who act as mentors to students interested in learning. Frequently these types of courses are occupied by students from non-central areas, those who work during regular school hours, single parents, and students who learn best in an online environment. By providing e-learning, educators are serving students in a flexible, customized environment.
Hand-in-hand with a growth in online learning, a survey conducted by
New Media Consortium, found that “online-collaboration tools, software that supports individually paced learning, and learning-management systems are among the communications technologies most expected to improve academics over the next five years.” (Glenn, M and D’Agostino, D, 2008) With a rise in online gaming and simulation software anticipated in this study, wikis and other social networking technology use are expected to see a drop off. To some degree we have discovered this already coming to fruition when we look at virtual libraries, in particular, Second Life. Many universities and libraries are using this alternative reality to market their educational facilities and libraries. Along with this movement, an increased use of freeware is expected to improve costs and efficiency while avoiding technological obsolescence. Online collaboration tools, accompanied by dynamic delivery of content, learning-management systems, and enhanced video and presentation tools are all thought to be part of the future academic experience. While members of the University of Calgary faculty who spoke at our school echoed what we at high school had discovered regarding pervasive multi-tasking between laptop, phone and other technologies in the classroom often distracting students and instructors during classes, Lieutenant Colonel Greg Conti, director of West Point’s Information Technology Operations Center, says “it is impossible to sit someone in front of the world wide web and expect them not to use it. We, as faculty, teachers and administrators, have to recognise that if we’re going to use technology in the classroom, we must find additional ways to keep content meaningful, even if it comes down to the simple task of requesting computer monitors down during the instructional period and back up during the hands-on portion of class.” (Glenn, M and D’Agostino, D (2008) This means that teaching methods will need to change just as they did when collaboration first came into educational vogue as “group work”.

Upon investigation of technology in the future of education, I found the authentic constructivist learning that is taking place in the US school systems partnered with
NASA fascinating in that it has become a part of the “No Child Left Behind” concept. NASA, recognizing the need for educational change, while furthering its own research, has invited students, and educators in their classrooms to experience space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research as they engage in authentic research studies such as applied physics, achieving competence in computing, astronomy, engineering and space science, airborne research and many other space related topics. This type of work engages students, provides authentic learning, while being cost effective for schools; however, NASA states, “The role of the Classroom of the Future is ever changing to meet the needs of NASA as it seeks to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” Self-serving as this may seem, with reduced budgets, schools will likely be forced to partner with corporations such as this in the future, providing mutual benefits to both parties.

As I investigated further, I searched for similar examples taking place in Alberta education. Alberta has created an
Information and Communication Technology course, offered in conjunction with its core subject curriculums of language arts, social studies, math, and science which “provides a broad perspective on the nature of technology, how to use and apply a variety of technologies, and the impact on self and society.” (Alberta Learning (2000) The curriculum includes: communicating, inquiring, decision making and problem solving, foundational operations, knowledge and concepts and processes for productivity within the spectrum of incorporating technologies to “support lifelong learning, while developing inquisitive, reflective, discerning and caring citizens.” (Alberta Learning, 2000) How to use and apply a variety of technologies, and the impact of ICT on self and society are the basis of the curriculum. It emphasizes that technology is simply “a way of doing things.” For the most part, this statement has lead to an oversimplification of technology in those courses, and does not address the use of social networking as an important component inspiring, and engaging 21st Century learners. Thus far, various forms of technology have been open to students as options from which to select for project completion but the technology has not been actively presented or taught within the class. It has been assumed that students simply know how to use the numerous technologies or will find out on their own. This is not good enough and we are doing our students a dis-service, in my opinion. This vague approach to technology has not been as productive as it could be if educators were provided with time and educational opportunities to learn how to use and apply various technologies within an educational construct.

“Vulcan has been selected as the site for
Alberta’s International Space Station Event that will allow for students to ask questions to astronauts aboard the International Space Station in real time. Set to take place in late September 2009, the event will focus on the science and technology aspects of living and working in space.” (Alberta Learning, 2007) This opportunity will provide students with opportunities to explore space related topics in science in much the same manner as US students conduct authentic research with NASA. Younger students will communicate live with Canada’s astronaut, Robert Thirsk. What amazing opportunities for teaching students some of the technologies associated with space research. Again, because of budget cutbacks in Alberta education, projects such as this provide cost efficient, productive means of enriching relevant learning with less.

One application that I believe will be used more and more in education is
Google Docs which provides ways of collaborating on projects without users exchanging their documents in word processed files. This tool is useful to teachers as they construct assignments or work in teams and for students as they collaborate to meet the requirements of those assignments. Google Wave, described as an updated combination of email with instant messaging, is one of the rising stars of technologies. It enables real-time chat, while creating a wiki-like document that is created, and saved online at the same time. Students working on an assignment can collaborate as they collect, organize and publish their document without requiring the exchange of word processed files. Each change made is tracked and the username recorded so that others may also join a discussion. Another powerful feature of Google Wave is its translation robot that translates as you type, making it an even more powerful technology for use in schools, particularly with language learning. Each of these technologies will be used in educational settings to enhance learning in future.

Will blogging be a part of future technology in the classroom? The trend is that along with an increase in internet devices and their increasing sophistication, the numbers of blogs have increased and will continue to increase. It is also likely that new applications will be developed in future to aid bloggers communicating using these devices since they are so portable and would enable users to blog from anywhere at any time, leading to the ultimate of 24/7 of blogging. Alvin Toffler, in interview, commented that blogging comes from the innate loneliness found in our society. Blogs fill the vacuum that has been created by society’s constant demand that we “keep up” while not having available social safety nets or companionship. In light of this, blogs will be a primary part of our online presence in the future.

So how do I help teachers to learn new technologies and create users of Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms? The novelty of introducing new technology, where fitting, to enhance the curriculum motivates student learners as they strive to collaborate, connect and create with others in the process. I need to be informed as to the various technologies avialable in Web 2.0 which is why I am taking EDES 501. Offering teachers time to play with Web 2.0 technologies while providing support, is likely the most reasonable means of aiding teachers in this new wave. There is comfort in the fact that like most new methodologies, the old and the new will overlap and blend within a well-balanced curriculum. This should be comforting to teachers who are knowledgeable and immersed in curriculum while learning new technologies. This is also an opportunity for librarians to engage teachers and students in conversations around learning and technology as we create a community of exploration, ideas and creativity. Being familiar with the numerous curricula offered by my high school, allows me to see where and how these technologies can be integrated and then to offer suggestions to teachers and students. As librarians, we can encourage and promote the use of technology to enhance curriculum as we aid life-long learners. When we work toward building a collaborative community, we will all be unafraid and proud to say, as Hal, the computer once stated,
“I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”


Alberta Learning (2000). Information and Communication Technology. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada. Retrieved 08, 11, 2009 from

Alberta Education Learning Cultures Consulting, (2007, 06). Technology’s Influence on High School Completion, Retrieved 08, 12, 2009, from

Aronson, M (2008, 12). We've Got the Technology, Vol 54, Iss. 12, Retrieved 08, 12, 2009, from

Barrack, L (2009, 07, 06). DOE Sees Increased Role for E-Learning. School Library Journal, Retrieved 08, 12, 2009, from

Glenn, M and D’Agostino, D (2008, 10). The future of higher education:. A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Retrieved 08, 11, 2009, from

Harris, C (2009, 09). Get Ready for Google Wave. School Library Journal, Vol. 55, Iss. 8, Retrieved 08, 11, 2009, from

Valenza, J (2008, 08, 25). Library as domestic Metaphor. School Library Journal, Retrieved 08, 12, 2009, from Learning (2000). Information and Communication Technology. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada. Retrieved 08, 11, 2009 from

Walsh, B (2007). Clear Blogging: How People Blogging are Changing the World and How you Can Join Them. Berkeley, CA : Apress , Retrieved 08,12,2009 from

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blog 11: Too Much To Handle—Information Overload Syndrome--RSS and PD

In the computer world, users have expressed how difficult it is to organize and read all the information to which they are subscribed. "Little Billy" is just one example of Information Overload Syndrome, a pandemic striking millions of internet users. Please take the time to view this movie and alert yourself to the signs and symptoms of the accursed IOS.
To embed video

Well, thankfully for "Little Billy" and his workmates, we can alleviate some of the problems of IOS with the use of an aggregator and an RSS feed. An aggregator, also known as a feed reader, news reader or simply aggregator, is software or a web application which collects, organizes, controls, and routinely monitors news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easier reading, listening and viewing. Upon subscribing to a feed by entering the URL to the RSS feed, users are ready to begin keeping track of their favourite topics and information. RSS makes reading Web logs easy because only new information is added to the list of user readings.
RSS is an acronym for Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. RSS and Atom are the structures that organize content which is updated on a regular basis for others to retrieve. Feeds are referred to as pulling of information from multiple sources. Since users subscribe to your website or blog, the user is able to “pull” information from it and retrieve it at any time. “Pushing” applies once a user has created a message and then hopes that someone will locate the information from their website. An aggregator is the software used by the RSS feed to access websites and blogs that offer RSS feeds. “Weblogs generate a behind-the-scenes code in a language similar to HTML called XML. This code, usually referred to as a "feed" (as in "news feed"), makes it possible for readers to "subscribe" to the content that is created on a particular Weblog so they no longer have to visit the blog itself to get it. As is true with traditional syndication, the content comes to you instead of you going to it.” (Richardson, 2009) Aggregators come in the form of desktop applications, browsers, mail applications or web-based products, some of which are available free online, and others which require purchasing. A comprehensive list of aggregators and RSS feed readers is available at . Most users who read numerous blogs use an aggregator of some sort to help them sift through their subscriptions efficiently. Many aggregators notify the user of hourly updates by providing a title, an excerpt or the full text when something new is added on a topic. People use RSS feeds to keep current on a topic of interest. Rather than checking numerous websites each day to see if anything new has been added to the discussion or information, an RSS feed gathers new information, and records the information so that users will only need to read the new or additional bits of information rather than several whole articles and discussions thus saving much time. Online web applications are available to make it easy to use RSS on any device that hosts access to the internet.

RSS allows bloggers the leisure of choosing which feeds to read and when. An added bonus for using RSS is that it is virus free, with no ads, or spam. You can read the entire post, scan headlines until you reach something interesting, or click through the entire list without opening any of the documents if there’s nothing that meets your fancy. (Richardson, 2009) Although having someone install software, configure it and embed the code in the school HTML pages is safer, it requires the services and time of the school technician, a very tight commodity in most schools. If you want the easy, inexpensive route to knowing when anything related to a particular book or topic is posted, perform a keyword search, grab the URL of the RSS feed, and add it to your aggregator. When a new record with that phrase or title is entered, you’ll be notified. In this manner, schools and libraries don’t need their technician to install and configure the software.

I have been using some features of Google Reader throughout this course but still haven’t really optimized what is available. Although I have found it interesting to read the results of various searches, there are still copious amounts of information that I have not had time to read and others that appear unrelated. I am also not impressed by the Google selections of bundles that can be downloaded. I tried out the news bundle but only found a limited few to be pertinent to Canadian interests. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time unsubscribing from the majority of the sites and I have been reticent to add further Google bundles since. GigAlert is Google’s means of allowing monitoring of professional interests online. By obtaining a membership, you are able to track the whole web for topics and receive new results daily by email. This service appears somewhat more valuable to a marketer and I just didn’t feel that I required further Information Overload Syndrome.

One of the features I have not used until the past few weeks is the “star” feature. This feature allowed me to unsubscribe from those articles and sites that I didn’t find particularly find useful but kept the remainder in a star file for later perusal. I also created and added a small bundle to my blog as I experimented further. This was particularly easy and is something that would be very useful for a class interested in a particular topic. If a class was researching a social studies topic such as Canadian Aboriginal rights, the teacher or teacher-librarian could search for related information, click on the Create a Bundle button in the “Browse for stuff” and then drag and drop the feeds into the area open for bundle collection. After naming the bundle and providing a description, it could be shared on a school web site or blog for students to add to or view as long as students held a Google Reader account. Because it is so easy to subscribe to practically every online information source available, we can still become overloaded with too much information unless we spend some time clearing out the websites and information we are not using.
Another handy feature of Google Reader is the “Manage Subscription” found in blue at the bottom of the left column. When this button is clicked, it allows me to create folders, name them and then save the various starred articles, and blogs to folders making the information more readily available as a result. From this same page, I can also add Google Reader to my iGoogle account, put Reader into a bookmark, and subscribe as I surf. Should I switch between feed readers, I can export my Google Reader information to the new reader or import information from any other reader to Google Reader. Had I not already signed up to Google Reader, which is very easy to use and subscribe from, I likely would have attempted using the Bloglines aggregator as recommended by Richardson as being a beginners’ level site. It appears to have many of the same features as Google Reader and seems equally as easy to use minus a few of the features such as starred entries and folders.

There are a multitude of uses for RSS and aggregators in schools some of which include:

· a good tool for writing and research so you can share your library with others and find out what others are reading of this nature.
· Students use blogs to create a response to an assignment; Students syndicate, teachers subscribes and may now read student created assignments.
· Students may comment on each other’s blogs, the teacher can use the RSS syndication feature to monitor the comments that have been made.
· An author in residence program could be set up using an RSS feed with a class blog for students to communicate with the author of a novel, or play.
· Have students collect research information using Delicious, locate the RSS feed at the bottom of the delicious page to share their research finding with everyone in class.
· Have RSS feed available on the school library page and the school web site so that students, parents, and teachers can locate updates on school information, library resources, and newly catalogued items, book lists, book reviews and recommendations
· RSS feeds of current headlines from news agencies to aid with current events articles
· Update class research projects using RSS feeds
· Add the Public Library’s RSS to the school library site

Blogging for professional development is also an important use of both blogs and RSS feeds and something that most teachers would likely embrace. If a number of teachers, interested in developing both in technological skills and teaching pedagogy, could be accessed, a blog might be the answer to hosting sentient ideas that serve as breakthrough concepts for teachers. By using an RSS feed, staff members could respond to one another while also conducting online research during their teaching time. When teachers have a spare, they are could check their feed, read some of the information from those sites and respond to another teacher’s ideas or post new information. This community of learners could be developed by the teacher-librarian who acts as a moderator and motivator by first inviting the teachers of a particular school to join, demonstrating some of the basics about the technology and then posing a question around some aspect of teaching using Web 2.0 technology. The idea is that this question would engender authentic professional conversation supported by referenced information, not just opinion. As teachers become further involved, and use technologies with their classes, word will spread and further conversation will be hosted regarding these successes and potentially, suggestions made as to how the projects can be changed to better utilize a particular technology within a specific curriculum area. From this concept, a resource repository could be built for teachers to share knowledge and “how-to’s” for others on staff developed, thus informing practice. This methodology of building a community of learners would lead to deeper thinking regarding practice and builds a community of learners unafraid to share ideas that have worked for them. The validation that teachers achieve from the use of a blog, will spur them and colleagues to even greater achievements.

When our school principal developed a shell similar to the Blackboard, unfortunately, he did not get the anticipatory positive reception for which he had hoped. In hindsight, I feel that part of the problem was in using the shell environment mandated by our district. It doesn’t promote spontaneous connections and sharing but has more of a “top down” feel. In other words, it felt like he was the teacher and his staff, learners registered in a course. Although his efforts were remarkable, staff perceived this shell as simply something more they had to do in an already full day. I think had our district not mandated the use of the shell, and a blog been set up, the idea of staff sharing and learning may have taken off. There seems to be an informal feeling to a blog that people buy into more readily, even if it is an edublog. Users feel that they have opinions and ideas that can be shared with authority and as a result, are more readily interested in entered a conversation or a post. Professional development is important to teachers but the medium used must be one that is comfortable for them to use.

Librarians are deciding to create library feeds, which may provide a precursor for staff to see how this technology can be used. It is important to consider the type of feed to use. The only syndicated feeds that offer to disseminate multi-media files via subscription are RSS and Atom. It is also important to give consideration to what content is suitable for syndication? Anything pertaining to private student information is not suitable content. Should the feed be updated nightly when there is least traffic, hourly or as content is generated which could mean any time of the day, even during high usage times? When marketing the library, building a total online presence accessible from one location makes sense so it becomes important to add the library Flickr feed to the web page, and an email address. Other considerations might include what RSS feeds will we subscribe to for students, staff and parents. It is always good practice to offer some version of “how-to” information for all users to access.

RSS is a powerful, flexible tool that …will be changing our information gathering habits for years to come.” (Richardson, 2009) Covering personal interests to inquiry project research, RSS saves time and keeps individuals informed and relaxed—well reasonably so. Should you have a “Little Billy” in your class, save him from IOS by introducing him to an RSS feed and watch him relax.


Hall, L (09 30, 2006) "Professional Development...with Fries"
, from K12 Online Conference 2009 retrieved 08, 10, 2009 at

By Lani Ritter Hall ⋅ October 30, 2006 ⋅

Richardson, W. (2009) Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Thousand Oaks, California, C orwin Press.

Richardson, W. (08, 2009) It’s Just Social from Weblogg-ed learning with the Read/Write Web, retrieved on August 5, 2009 at

Richardson, W. (01, 2004) Blogging and RSS — The "What's It?" and "How To" of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators, Multi-media and Internet School,
Siegler, MG (04, 2009) Easily Create Your Own Feed Bundles Of Joy With Google Reader, at TechCrunch, retrieved on August 9, 2009 at

Stephens, M. (09 2007) Tools from “Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software” Revisited, from Library Technology Reports, retrieved August 8, 2008 at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blog 10: Twitterpated for Twitter

“Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!” (Bambi)

The first time that I heard about the social networking site, Twitter, I immediately thought of the discussion between Owl and Bambi over birds that flew around chasing each other in the spring. It’s interesting that Owl’s description almost sounds a bit like Twitter. Imagine--You’re surfing along on the internet, quite happily alone, when you discover an application that has the power to make you weak in the knees at the very thought of meeting new people who have the same interests while filtering out the ads and other noise that you’re not looking for. This leads you to becoming twitterpated at the very thought as you sign up.

Twitter is a free social networking microblog service that enables text messages or “tweets” of 140-characters in length. This application is described as the short messaging service of the Internet as it ranks in the top 50 most popular websites of the world. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s idea guy, states that the name “twitter” means "a short burst of inconsequential information," and "chirps from birds" as he explains how the name was derived. The beauty of Twitter’s inception is that it is a no advertising site; however, advertisers can still target users based on their history of tweets and in my case, deceived me by claiming to have library interests when, in fact, they were selling a product. Twitter collects personal information upon joining but I wasn’t aware until recently that Twitter shares it with third parties and has the right to sell that personal information if the company changes hands. I presume this is how “free” sites make their operational money. Twitter accommodates multiple uses that range from socialization, to spreading news quickly, to finding peers, or following topics of interest. Twitter has the capability to connect tweets and photos anywhere in the world and has been used as a rallying tool and a method of communication with the outside world by users during protest rallies seen as impinging on government regulations and policies such as in China and Iran. In each of these countries, users were able to use their messaging devices such as iphones, blackberries to get their messages to the world before their arrests and instigated worldwide media coverage of the civil injustices that were occurring behind the curtains of secrecy. For that, I applaud Twitter and those quick thinking users. Although I have recently been a small part of a natural disaster which instilled panic and mayhem in all those in attendance, and although we stopped briefly to snap a couple of photos, creating a message to post on Twitter was not my first concern—running to safety, however, was. My thinking may have been different had I been the target of civil injustice.

Twitter's short writing format demands concise, engaging writing, and that's a skill most people need to improve. D.G. Lynch offers practical advice to help users avoid common tweet writing blunders. He suggests that since signs and new abbreviations are being created constantly, users should avoid texting abbreviations out of respect to those who find them annoying or who don’t know the language. Secondly, Lynch suggests that putting time into creating a tweet is optimal since thoughtful tweets are more likely to engender a response. Thirdly, he suggests making your title or message enticing to the targeted audience. Instead of just inserting a link, select a brief quote from the information, use an abbreviated link, and hashtags. “The process of constructing a good Twitter message takes careful thought, time and analysis” (Lynch, 2009)
While I do believe that Twitter offer some use in the classroom, educators must guard against using this application just because it’s there. Uses of Twitter in the classroom include: encouraging study groups, and providing links to current events, posting assignments and announcements, following and taking polls in elections or surveys, providing class updates for parents/students and live backchannel during presentations/videos, connecting with people from around the world, collaborating on assignments, providing questions and answers for students are they arise. While each of these uses has merit depending on the age of the students, it seems that increasingly, the locus of control is on teachers to provide this information yet the concept of using online tools in the classroom is to provide students with options and control for their learning. Aren’t educators then, simply taking the control from being front and center in a classroom to online environments? To me, excellent use of Twitter comes in the form of tweets announcing and updating information during a science experiment such as the hatching of ducklings. Photos sent along with the text provide further information. This service provides parents with a means of having meaningful conversations with their children. One particularly unique project that I discovered was regarding the US politician, John Adams. One of the curators at a museum library discovered his journal entries and immediately thought that since they were approximately the same length as a tweet, decided to create a profile and send out the journal entries as tweets. This project is meaningful, especially to students and provides users with information on historical aspects. A phenomenal number of people are following John Adams’ tweets. Many major news sites, like CNN and the BBC, have Twitter feeds so having staff and students catch up on current events is a viable use of Twitter. I also think of a short story, On the Rainy River, from the English 30-1 curriculum which requires background about the Vietnam War for understanding the story. Twitter could provide authentic learning if students were required to post tweets as soldiers while attempting to get to the heart of the emotion and history of the war, or keeping the tweets in the context of the character from the story as communication between Tim to his parents and friends regarding his decision to go to war. By including media such as Twitpic this format of learning could be a very powerful means of conveying understanding from that story.
Twitter’s popularity as a social networking application has spurred many third party applications that are attempting to make Twitter even more useful and connected to user interests. On such application that I tried it TweetGrid which allows users to view content from several different tweets being followed. It allows you to divide your viewing page into a variety of columns and rows and easily import topics in which you are interested. Potentially a user could be viewing 3 rows by 3 columns worth of information all at the same time. Although this may be convenient for some, I found the page too cluttered and frustrating to view. Initially, I selected the 3X3 configuration but once I had added several search terms, I felt that this was not something that I would use due to the clutter so I did not continue with it. Possibly is I were to continue and get used to the information rich page, I would find this application useful. TweetGrid incorporates easy to follow directions and even allows you to insert a widget on your blog or website. Although easy to install, I chose not to do so since at this time I do not feel the necessity to watch that many search items.
Tweet Grid video

Using much the same format, TweetDeck allows you to connect contacts from Facebook and other social networking applications. The window is divided into three columns: all friends, replies, direct messages. It plays a chirp whenever you have a tweet on your friend timeline but luckily this feature can be turned off to save sanity. TweetDeck offers features such as a text box to type or past a Web address that needs shortening, TweetShrink which shortens overall character count if your text is running too long, adding or deleting a column to either include more or decrease search capability, tweet directly from the site and share photos, and avoid Twitter spam. The Spam button deletes the message from view, blocks the user and reports them to Twitter. Because of this feature alone, TweetDeck is an application that I suggest to users and will likely find useful in the future should I require extensive tweeting.

Most schools and libraries are using Twitter as an announcement page and some have linked it to their school websites. NYC covers choices for enrolment into their programs on its Twitter page but it looks more like a page befitting of a wiki. Augustana Faculty of the University of Alberta recruitment councillors use Twitter as a means of updating potential students as to what needs to be submitted and timelines involved. In this manner, many universities are gaining a marketing/public service presence, some provide customer service for those with concerns or questions which increases and opens the lines of communication, and other librarians use Twitter to collaborate with colleagues when they have a question or concern. Universities and libraries find Twitter’s real-time broadcasting medium a benefit to their programs; however, when it is down as it has been over several days this week, I can only say that I am happy that I don’t have a classroom full of students waiting to use this application for a project. Likewise, universities and schools using Twitter to disperse information will need to be lenient when setting deadlines if the application is down for a length of time. Because of this, it is also advisable that not only one application be relied upon; there needs to be a web site that offers similar information and in case the whole internet connection is down, as it was for a week in our area last year, institutions must have content available in a physical format as well.

Twitter, has been likened to attending a big cocktail party filled with diverse and (typically) civilized conversation, some of it is mundane and frivolous in nature, while other conversation is poignant to current issues and topics, provoking, informing, and engaging. Although I was “twitterpated” when I first began using Twitter and connecting with valuable information sources, I am feeling less inclined today to rely on this or any application. Twitter has an excellent reputation for being stable; however, when Murphy’s law strikes, it always selects what you need the most. For me, today, that’s Twitter!


Cooper-Taylor, C (2009, 07, 22) 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Education, Blog by Carol,

Lynch, C (2009, 04, 30). Twitter Tips: How to Write Better Tweets. It Drilldown, Retrieved August 1, 2009, from
Twitter. (2009, 07, 31). Twitter. In Wikipedia [Web]. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blog # 8: Social Networking

Hello? Is There Anybody Out There?

Pink Floyd’s hit of 1979, Is There Anybody Out There? was on the right track! Although Pink Floyd queried the existence of others with whom to make connections, implying beings from alternative worlds, teens today are also seeking to be connected, not just to be popular but to feel connected to their world and the greater earthly world around them. Social networking has always been an important part of human existence but with the creation of Web 2.0, social networking has seemingly become even more important.

A social network is an online social grouping of individuals who have a specific interest in a particular topic, belief, information set or friendship basis connected for cooperation, collaboration, and information sharing. It is a virtual third space or informal public gathering space. In his book, The Great, Good Place, sociologist, Ray Oldenburg describes the first space as home while the second space is the workplace and the third space is an area where people gather to interact, discuss and enjoy one another’s company. It is a place of socialization where everyone is treated equally. Teens have and will likely always require a separate space where they can socialize and interact with others their own ages. Since key adult figures in their lives seem to be either absent or working, or overly controlling of the social interactions of children, today’s teens are turning to online social networking spaces trying to fill the void with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other social networking sites. (Heeger, 2006) To view a list of social networking sites at Wikipedia.

The software used for social technology allows conversational communication between individuals or groups using numerous tools such as instant messaging and collaborative workspaces. (Lamb and Johnson, 2006) Any software offering interaction, feedback, and connections is readily recognizable as social software. Teens particularly like social networking sites since they meet the needs of affirmation, uniqueness, and communication. Belonging to a group, and interacting with its teen members or friends, allows teens to develop relationships while being the center of the action taking place online as a result of whom they contact and the type of communication that is maintained. In these social spaces, teens assert themselves and their opinions. They can be as socially active in the greater world or simply comment on what they are doing at any given time. “Whether it is voting on American Idol or participating in a global warming forum, they want to feel part of what is happening in the world.” (Rosenfeld and Loertscher, 2007) New social networks are coming online, virtually every day, to fill this perceived need. For more information, the following site hosts a movie that describes social networking simplistically in an engaging manmer to attract teens.

Facebook, one of the most popular social utilities currently used by students, offers unlimited photo uploads, groups to join, friends to locate, message boards and full profile control. This network allows individuals to communicate individually in postings which can be seen by friends who are invited specifically by the user. Although created primarily for college students, Facebook has taken on a more universal life by being easily accessible to teens and adults. When research was conducted at a British university, students responded that although they had initially joined Facebook as first year undergraduates to investigate university groups, plan social events and communicate with new online friends at university, as they became more embedded in university life, the use of Facebook changed as students used it to contact other students to organise group meetings for academic project work, revision and coursework queries. It became more than just a social network for some students and started to become an informal educational network as well. (Madge, C, Meek, J, Wellens, J, Hoolen, 2009)

I developed my profile for Facebook two years ago so that I could stay in touch with my adult children who were in various corners of the world with limited time and access to computers. In order to make best use of their time between longer email posts, they posted updates and photos to their Facebook accounts and that way their friends and relatives could keep in touch even if only on a limited basis. It is only recently that I have added other “friends” to my Facebook account. Many of these newcomers are younger staff members at the school where I teach, and most recently, graduates who wish to stay in touch. I find that most of my contacts use their accounts almost like a Twitter account. They post short quips about what they are doing currently and post a few significant photos to allow the pictures to speak for them. So far, those with whom I stay in touch have been mindful of their postings and photos; however, I have found that not all high school students are so discrete as observed during supervision in the library. Facebook offers possibilities for creating book clubs, literature circles, and writing informal responses. To date, Facebook has not been allowed at our school during class periods unless students are directly supervised in its use yet increasingly I receive requests from students to use Facebook to retrieve homework or a comment written by a classmate while editing the work. Originally we did not allow Facebook access because too many students were accessing it for social not educational purposes. However, given this increasing demand to use Facebook as an educational tool, this policy will need to be revisited.

Although using social networking applications to engage students in classrooms has virtually been unheard and there are those who feel it should be left as a social tool, they are making their way into the classroom. Last year, two of our school’s English teachers were stumped for a way to engage students in a project which culminated their Romeo and Juliet Shakespearean unit and came to me for ideas. Partially joking, I challenged them that since students like to be on Facebook, why not develop a project using Facebook? Taking my suggestion seriously, they developed a unit of study that the students absolutely loved! Students built a profile for one of the main characters, created several discussions between their character and other characters as well as used other prescribed aspects of the Facebook site, while writing in typical Shakespearean language prose. I can honestly say that those students were engaged and motivated to complete their projects, so much so, that their teachers found the projects a complete joy to assess. Several students used the social networking site with humour and aptitude while maintaining online safety as their teachers had instructed. I found that students more readily engaged in conversation over their projects and willingly came to the library to seek assistance from me as well as from their classroom teachers. Many students expressed the idea that they had learned a great deal about the Shakespearean language, history and play as a result of this project. Whenever assuming a character or persona is required, Facebook is a useful application for teaching. What library doesn’t require promotion? Perhaps Facebook is an adept means of attracting today’s learners to the library. Through projects such as these teachers and teacher-librarians can encourage interaction, engagement and meaningful learning.

Twitter is another social networking site that I have only recently begun to use. It provides individuals with a chance to publish thoughts, and connect to information streams created by other users around the world. Each message is very short, created to make a single point or present a single thought or link and is referred to as micro-blogging' or micro-publishing'. An added bonus is that if your friends have a Twitter account, friends may access information on your account from a mobile phone, or computer. To make it more convenient to join a conversation or follow a friend’s posts, Twitter offers its own RSS feed so that users may follow several interest options at once. It is my observation that most Twitter users combine personal posts to friends and join in more publicly oriented discussions side-by-side. Users may offer a useful link to a website of interest, comment on an occurrence and follow the news all within a few minutes or less. By using Twitter’s advanced search option, while matching particular phrases or collections of terms, users search for tweets by a particular person, or those coming from a particular location. Instead of checking each tweeter individually, setting up a TweetGrid allows users to view multiple Twitter searches, each one appearing in its own box in a grid-like manner. One of the downsides of Twitter is that a mandated 140 character limit creates concise authors, it often does not provide enough characters for a user to include a long web address along with a message. This is a place where TinyUrl or, both of which are URL-shortening services, comes in handy. By shortening a web address, the user is now able to include it and a thorough message to Twitter friends. Librarians may find Twitter useful for communicating library events and student activities through the school website. Twitter and other character limited networks require messages to be thrifty while allowing classmates to interact in a short, non-threatening manner. An activity that gets students writing is a bonus for reticent learners. A growing issues and one that I ran into is Twitter spam. When I signed on to one site, instantly I got tweets from a handful of spammers stating that they were following me. When I looked at their responses on Twitter, they had posted advertisements for various products. This constitutes misrepresentation of themselves as fellow librarians. Bad Tweet etiquette I’d say! Can Twitter be used in the classroom? When attempting to create a culture of collaboration within a classroom community, reader’s responses, collaboration with other school communities around the world, surveys, metacognition exercises, individual conferences, team discussions, explorations of language, and quick announcements, Twitter is a supportive option for the classroom. The key is that any social networking site must have solid educational purposes in order to be useful as an educational tool.

Of all the social networking sites that offer the greatest amount of control for teachers, and safety to students its a Ning. “A Ning is an online social network platform that allows you to create your own customized social network.” (Gardner, 2007) The user decides on what others see, who is invited, and what they can do. This seems the way to go for classroom situations. This private network allows the set up of discussions, student interest groups, book reporting and reviewing alternatives, journaling, writing, and reading opportunities, and can be posted for students and families to be seen under shared space circumstances. Since the whole network is private, it becomes what students and teachers wish it to become and can include: group selection features, internal dialogue between students or student/teacher or parent/student/teacher, and provides teachers the opportunity to preview everything that is posted beforehand. A Ning offers low initial technical understanding to set up and run, the user builds the community of learners so no RSS feed is necessary, it allows individual blogging with ease of posting and once the user is more knowledgeable about online environment, this can be changed yet the platform is socially-engaging. Since it is simplistic, this may be a way to start early learners and those who are not comfortable with blogging. I have not had the opportunity to create a Ning for a class yet but this is a platform that I feel is promising for the classroom learning environment.

An SNS (social networking service) that appears to have great promise for language learners is italki. Find a language teacher, practice with a language exchange partner, ask questions, discuss in groups, find free resources are some of the services offered. With free registration and the possibility to sign up and be paid for teaching your own language, this site appears to be practical and useful. It offers instruction from beginner upwards, and allows students to request a translation of a phrase or word. If looking for language lessons, payment is required by most instructors who may or may not be actual teachers. Students can join the official student group or there is a possibility that an internal group of students could be created whereby students in your classroom could chat and learn amonst themselves. I would advise exercising caution with students on this site but this same service could be set up through a Ning setting where ESL students could converse with their teachers and then offer their own language service to the school population.

Students use social networks for communication, creation, adventure, homework help, sharing information, and many other uses. In an educational survey done by The National School Boards Association in the USA, 9-17 year olds reported spending approximately 9 hours a week on social networking, and approximately 10 hours a week watching TV. A whopping 96% of students who were online users claim that they use social networking technologies such as chatting, text messaging, blogging , and visiting online communities such as Facebook while 71% say that they use social networking tools weekly. (Grunwald Associates, Ltd., 2007) While the common misconception is that students use social networking sites for only gossip and catching up with friends, this study found that education and homework were topics that teens discussed online more than 50% of the time.

Despite these statistics and the fact that parents who took part in the poll also reported few problems with online behaviours, many school districts ban or restrict the use of social networking sites during the school day and perceive problems with social networks. Since most teachers routinely assign online-based homework, it may be time to re-examine this concept. A common misconception about social networking sites was unearthed in a study done by Pew’s Senior Research, that teens are putting personal information on their profiles for anyone to read. This study reveals that 91 % of teens who use social networking sites do so to stay connected with existing friends while 82% use them to stay in touch with friends they rarely see and over 50% reveal their profiles only to friend. (Whelan, 2007) This study demonstrates that teens are, in fact, exercising some control and discretion over the information they share while in the social networking context.

If facts demonstrate that students are using online resources in a responsible manner and for educational purposes, libraries of all kinds need to make further attempts to break down the barriers so that students who may not be connected through online social networking sites can learn, how to use them and how to use them in a safe manner. We must adjust to the needs that teens are demonstrating so that they remain online learners for life. School librarians, in particular, must advocate with teachers, and districts for the reasonable acceptance of online social networking tools while teaching students not only how to use them but also how to stay safe while using them. Students and teachers must experience the tools, and be comfortable using them. Stephens states that before teachers and administrators are going to sanction the use of these Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms and schools, they need to experience the tools first hand, understand how the tools work, and then they will be in a position to advocate for student use of the tools within a teaching context. To aid in this movement toward acceptance, he suggests that librarians adapt and implement a hands-on staff development workshop using various social networking applications as has been developed at Public library of Charlotte & Mecklenbug County website. If, as David Warlick claims, students grow up in a rich, collaborative environment until they enter school, then how can blocking or banning social networking technologies aid them in maintaining the richness offered by being online learners?

When using any online application, it is the teacher’s and teacher-librarian’s responsibility to teach ways of staying safe online so that the online raw energy may be captured and channelled into strong education practice. Teaching students and staff about: hackers, originally a term applied to computer enthusiasts, it now defines someone who gains unauthorized access to your computer system for the purpose of stealing or destroying data; viruses and worms; email spam; adware, spyware and cookies are all important aspects to maintaining computers and ensuring the safety of users. Conversations with students about these dangers as well as investigating with teens, sites such as: Get Net Wise an excellent site for parents, teachers and students separated into age appropriate content categories and covers topics such as risks of technology and guide to online privacy; Wired Safety another excellent site for parents, teachers, and students of all ages that covers topics of issues such as cyberbullying, and chatting online; and Safe Canada which covers everything parents, teachers and students need to know to stay safe online and it’s Canadian! These sites offer practical strategies and tips on staying safe and would make very useful information for newsletters or features on the school or library web site.

Despite those haunting words of Pink Floyd which queried the existence of other beings in the universe, teens of today are not alone. They have many social networking applications to satisfy their need to belong. This is their world. When we adults have problems, all we need to do is ask: “Is there any student out there who can help me ...please?” and when one of our worldly teens comes to the rescue, we will have opportunity to watch as the online social world unfolds.


Gardener, T (2007). NCTE Inbox Blog. Retrieved August 2, 2009, from Social Networking: The Ning’s the Thing Web site:

Good, R (2007, 04, 25). Be Smart, Be Independent, Be Good. Retrieved August 2, 2009, from Mobile Instant Messaging Meets Social Networking: Twitter - A Beginner's Guide Web site:

Grunwald Associates LLC, (2007, 11 09 ). Online Social Networking And Education: Study Reports On New Generations Social And Creative Interconnected Lifestyles. Robin Good, Retrieved 08, 01, 2009, from

Heeger, P (2006, July). A Tie for Third Place: Teens Need Physical Spaces as well as Virtual Places. School Library Journal, Vol. 52 Iss. 7, Retrieved August 1, 2009, from

Madge, C, Meek, J, Wellens, J, Hoolen, T (2009). Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: 'It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work' in Learning, Media and Technology. London, England: Routledge.

Rosenfeld, E and Loertscher, D. (Ed.). (2007). Toward a 21st Century School Librariy Media Program. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecros Press, Inc..

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blog # 7: Multimedia Sharing Sites

If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life. —Siberian Elder

Such is the way of foresters and story tellers. What has story to do with multimedia? With each multimedia production that is created, and shared, no matter how short, a story is told. These stories document lives, events, emotions, ideas, and philosophies so they remain alive.
Multimedia sharing is the process of sharing images, documents, video and audio all in one display and the end product is something called a “mashup”. A mashup is a web site or application that combines two or more sources of information to create an integrated experience. Many of the sites that offer multi-media mashup creations are presenting users with the means to create videos, accompanied by text, artwork and any other media, all available from the leisure of their home computer. The mashup may be comprised of a user’s own product or it may be a compilation of data from many sources. Multimedia sharing sites such as VoiceThread, SlideShare, and Animoto, assist users by storing, sorting, automatically creating and sharing audio, and video combined with photos, and artwork online. Unless your computer has immense storage, it is best to store media files and information on a company site since they take up so much space in the computer memory. By storing the files elsewhere, the company offering the service ensures that you can upload your information to any sort of social networking site, and they provide the technical expertise free. And should you wish to create longer videos or store a great number of files, these sites offer the option of purchasing more storage for a fee. The short creation is a quick enticement into longer more complex mashups. While creation is the key to any multimedia project, mashups allow the amateur an opportunity to create something worthwhile sharing with others.

Mashups are easy to use, and do not require programming expertise so they allow the inexperienced user to create something wonderful. Although the user does not control the order in which photos are viewed or the size of image to coordinate with the audio, the creation is a simple manifestation of a set of complex HTML language set to work. To date mapping, photo sharing, and video sharing services lead the pack of applications well-suited to mashups. Popular social sharing sites such as Google Maps, and YouTube make use of mashups that provide a service of another kind to internet users.

Although many of the new multimedia sharing applications are hosted on the internet, there is software that can be installed to operate from a browser for multimedia construction and sharing. One such application is Scratch, a free multimedia computer program that was developed for the education system and is changing how youth learn programming, create media-based projects, and develop literacy skills in schools. This creation software allows users to create animation, interactive games, and art, as well as to learn programming concepts. (Nelson, 2009) The Scratch community, currently numbering over 250,000, features projects as they are posted, downloaded, remixed, and uploaded. This collaborative environment protects posted projects through its Creative Commons license so that contributors retain ownership of their own work with an embedded code attributing content to the original source. This free downloadable software employs complex code and is hosted on the school browser. This program can be used to “create quite complex projects that involve multiple sprites (characters), variables, and background stages, each of which can be programmed to interact in a range of ways.” (Nelson, 2009) The projects that I checked out all used animation and symbols combined with music to create animation and although most of them are clever, the projects don’t seem to have much point to the end product. The point comes more in the students having learned something about programming and sharing information as Nelson points out that the“key to successful teaching lies in our ability to ask informed questions and encourage the program's users to consult one another for problem solving.” If I was teaching a programming or computer technology class, the site would offer some interesting possibilities and so I will suggest this site to my computer technology teachers. Since I am not interested in creating gaming-like individual scenes, this software does not interest me enough to make me want to proceed further than observation.

Voice Thread offers easy to use benefits, has minimal memory requirements, while focusing on content rather than technology. This application allows the user to upload a photo or video, apply text for additional information, and record audio that accompanies the visual. The demonstration video caught my eye and so I tried it out. As you see, I have chosen to use my project as an oral examination of visual media. I was easily able to record my directions, add another explanatory entry and input text for visual learners. I was rather pleased with the end product because it didn’t take long to complete and offered some worthwhile opportunities. This site is great for grandparents to share in the lives of grandchildren and their memories of an incident or work of art and allows them to offer comments as well. If the project is made open to the public, anyone can also comment on the project. This application could be used to allow numerous classes or fellow classmates comment on each others’ work. Potentially, authors, artists, teachers, and other students could all post comments that could prove beneficial to student learning in a subject area. In the science department, whole labs could be recorded, and the procedure and observations presented each step of the way. This would lend a whole new and interesting take to lab “write ups”. If each group of students was to present one lab using Voice Thread, other students and teachers would have the opportunity of commenting and questioning while experiencing each lab and furthering individual as well as whole class knowledge. In social studies, Voice Thread offers “a new dimension for creative analysis of historical photographs, maps and artifacts.” (Valenza, 2008) This site is also useful for storytelling of all kinds and I found a project called “My Father” particularly enjoyable as a student describes his father’s life in the military and his father as a hero. ESL students could benefit in the use of this application for personal story development as well as vocabulary. A picture, with accompanying text may be presented with students responding by saying the word and then explaining its meaning. It would be interesting to experiment further and create a tour of the library or step-by-step directions on how to use the OPAC. From “stories” that offer memories, to those that build understanding to those that inform and instruct, this site opens up incredible possibilities that could be used by every teacher as more participatory experience is created while facilitating collaborative interaction. The visual/verbal nature of this site appeals to a broad base of users and particularly to those who learn best using those modalities. Voice Thread has been so popular amongst educators that they have implemented a K-12 user section which offers privacy protection. This is a powerful feature when considering safety on the net and is made all the more powerful in that the company altered its standards when teachers demonstrated concern.

Another free site for creating mashups is SlideShare. This site encourages users to upload Power Point presentations or documents which, when created as a Slide Share, can be embedded into blogs and websites or Facebook. Slides can be linked with audio or videos. Users may add a movie clip to illustrate a point or create a compilation of videos or audio. This site seems useful for everything from photos and commentaries of the family to interviews or a compilation of conference presentations; however, it seems to be geared a bit more toward the business world. One benefit is that presenters can learn which websites are embedding their PPT presentations. Teachers could use this site to post notes or presentations that would normally take place in the classroom. This could be an advantage to students, particularly if they were absent or needed to review information. The site could also be useful for creating a set of directions or explanations supported by video. Students may find this feature useful when creating presentations or labs in order to demonstrate a technique or manoeuvre.

Animoto is the third free site mashup creation site and although, relatively new on the scene, is quickly rising in popularity. Taking into consideration music's genre, rhythm, and tempo, Animoto configures photos, to create a video that shifts and changes to the beat and tempo of the music. Users may select from creating either a short (approximately 15 photos) free video project or a long video for which the user pays. Music may be selected from the Creative Commons section of the site and then the software configures the photos and music to form the video. Unfortunately for those who enjoy getting their hands “dirty” with programming, they won’t be able to since you can’t control features such as: the timing or order between slides, the black background color, the limited number of characters usable in the text slides, the white text color and the font face or size. Should the song have an up tempo, transitions between photos will occur quickly so if there are special pictures that you wish to emphasize , select the video editor and click the spotlight button to allow you to do this. Since the end result video is approximately 30 seconds long, it is advisable to pick your best 15 to 20 photos. When the song selection is finished, Animoto automatically discards any photos remaining. However, Animoto for Education gives teachers and students unlimited access to its standard and premium services for free which is certainly a benefit to cash-strapped schools. This application was fun and easy to use. It serves well for movie trailer type projects such as featuring a novel or book that has just been read/studied, telling a photo/music story, responding to a poem or short story, creating a mood for a particular time in history, or a particular music genre, featuring student art work or the physical aspects of the school, or for creating collage of any type. Although the easiest application to use, it produces sophisticated videos with more improvements on the horizon according to the guys from Animoto.

As I ponder my own teaching circumstance, I know that students would enjoy and learn from each of these multimedia production applications. Many students already use Power Point supported with music particularly in social studies, but they either burn it to a CD or save it on a mobile device. If they were given the opportunity to produce their work using Slide Share, it would mean fewer forgotten tools and projects. It would also mean that students could work collaboratively on a project by sharing it between members of the group so that it could be changed and edited as needed rather than trying to convene physically at one student’s house when busy schedules will not allow given the due date of the project. Voice Thread would also prove beneficial for student use at my school in many curriculum areas and is definitely one of the applications I will be introducing to teachers this year in hopes that they will teach students or invite me to introduce this application to their students. Animoto is an interesting production application because of its quick creation and viewing makes it very accessible within short class times. The time within a particular block of learning does not allow individual multimedia presentations given 35 students in the class; however, Animoto would work wonderfully for a brief personal introduction by students to get to know one another at the beginning of the school year and the productions could encourage dialogue between students. Since teachers are always looking for a new means of getting to know students, something short but informative, this might just be the right tool.

Multimedia sharing projects are engaging and motivating as students are provided the opportunity to try new applications. Mashups allow teachers to turn learning over to students which means that teachers must know the applications their students are using so that teachers become facilitators. Differentiated learning takes place automatically when teachers use multimedia applications. The use of multimedia projects stimulates a number of senses at a time, which serves to grab the attention of the learner and holds it. When students are allowed to collaborate on a project, classroom management becomes less an issue and the locus of control is placed on the student.

Mashups provide students the opportunity to communicate and represent knowledge of a subject, as they act as designer, organizer, and creator and command deeper thinking in the process as students learn not just about the subject at hand but also about technology. In turn, students may also benefit as they learn to become more informed consumers of other multimedia presentations. Because they are working closely with the material for the presentation, they learn it more thoroughly than had they written a simple report. In a study of 8th graders, it was found that students who learned about the civil war using multimedia made long lasting connections with the material while students who learned traditionally had little to no retention of the material one year later. It was also noted that the level of student engagement was significantly higher amongst students with both high and low abilities.” (Lehrer) Learning becomes experiential in nature and therefore, memorable, as students attempt to produce a quality product. Engagement and learning go hand in hand. When students are interested in featuring content in the best means possible, they will be engaged and learning. Multimedia sharing is one means of binding content with enthusiasm and pride of production.

And so, our stories must live on and hence, are we saved just as this photo, A Mother of Seven Children has also been saved. I hope that my students will create meaning through their responses on this Voice Thread.

A Mother of Seven Children by Dorthea Lange


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