Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thinking, Linking & Blogging…A final Reflection

My EDES 501 Web 2.0 Learning Tools course was everything I thought it would be and more. I expected that we would be exploring Web 2.0 tools, but I had no idea that I was going to take a journey into the blogosphere that, in the end, has helped spark a transformation in the way I approach technology infusion and instruction.

I was originally not going to take a fall session course. After finishing an intense six week summer course I was prepared to take a semester off and enjoy a little break from coursework. It was by chance that I saw this course on the schedule and decided to register in it because of my keen interest in educational technologies. I have genuinely enjoyed this course and have become more aware of Web 2.0 emerging tools that, in turn, have enhanced my personal and professional growth.

There was nothing intimidating about the content of this course for me. However, there were a few challenges in learning the ‘workings’ of a variety of 2.0 tools in the short timeframe we had because of new topics to tackle each week.

Reflecting back to my first blog posting (the introductory blog) I remember experiencing difficultly getting started. I asked myself how to best take that first leap of faith into the blogosphere and still protect my personal privacy through a public blog. I struggled with creating and maintaining personal privacy boundaries. I didn’t want these boundaries to overshadow the professional background I needed to establish in order to make connections with future blog readers and followers. My introductory blog begins “I’m not sure what to expect…” and ends with “I'm still not sure what to expect...Web 2.0 possibilities are enormous...Oh, the places we'll go!” From my introductory posting to this reflective one, readers can see ‘The places I’ve been…’

Some Challenges...
After posting my introductory blog, there were a few technical bumps along the bloggy way. There were two frustrating points in the course of incorporating 2.0 tools:
-Using the Flickr photostream
-First time video uploading

Week one was about investigating photo sharing sites such as Picasa and Flickr. I decided to focus on Flickr as I thought that site looked simple and one that I could easily introduce to staff and students as a web based tool. I saw potential to use Flickr as a source to run a slideshow highlighting my favourite children’s book covers on the sidebar of my blog – great! My book covers were uploaded and in a photostream posted to my blog – no problem. I continued to upload in Flickr, saving new photos in a different folder set, but during this while composing a photo blog posting I noticed that my new set of photos fused into my book cover photostream and my slideshow was out of control in my sidebar. It took several days to fix the problem, causing me to shutdown my slideshow gadget while repairing the situation. To this day I’m still not sure why the two sets combined together, but this is a problem I want to explore and resolve.

In week two we were asked to explore video sharing sites, which would ultimately lead to having to upload and post my first video. While the actual process was only a matter of copying the embedded URL information, it cause technical grief for a few days. For some reason I could not properly embed video into my posting. Frustration set in because I noticed that many of my classmates had posted videos on their blog, so I was my blog rejecting my attempts? After some Blogger help and navigating through my settings, I discovered that I had inadvertently turned off a vital editing command. Video problem solved!

This cartoon is reflective of my thought process (or lack thereof) during the first week of class discovering that I had to become regular blogger…for a couple months…what could I possibly have to say that was interesting? It was difficult taking the first blogging step…it will not be difficult continuing…

Blogging is not a spectator sport!

Some Highlights...
One outstanding experience that will resonate long after this course is over is all of the professional connections generated through my active participation in the blogosphere. These connections were developed by following bloggers, commenting on blogs and writing weekly blog postings. First and foremost, thank you to all of my classmates! Your wisdom and individual insights into Web 2.0 tools has kept me reading your blogs with great anticipation and learning from your experiences with sincere gratitude.

Andrea’s Adventure’s in Web 2.0 documents Andrea’s Web 2.0 journey as seen through the eyes of a very dedicated teacher-librarian who is committed in sharing her new found knowledge with students and staff.

Bruce’s Saudixpat’s Weblog was a voyage into ‘cyburbia’ by articulating his personal progress along the way coupled with his writings about executing current student technology projects during the duration of this course.

Carol’s Tea for [Web] 2.0 blog not only invites readers on her professional technology journey, but she also invites readers to discover her personal growth through the lense of family experiences using Web 2.0 tools.

Chris the Teacher has a blog writing style marked with great enthusiasm in all of his postings. I enjoyed his videos, diagrams, and pictures that were carefully researched to fit each topic.

Christina began her blog journey asking valid questions about blogs and how they relate to the classroom (some of the same questions I had in the beginning). It was nice to read how her excitement level around Web 2.0 tools built up over the semester on Exploring Web 2.0.

Jacquie’s Great Digital Divide is about one educator’s journey into becoming more comfortable with Web 2.0 tools and connecting her new knowledge with meaningful learning opportunities for all students.

Danielle’s postings on 2.0 teaching and learning in her Docendo Discimus 2.0 blog often reflects on how emerging tools can relate to students at the primary grade levels. I welcome her thoughts on weaving 2.0 tools into a primary setting.

Following Jan’s Incredible Blogosphere Journey has provided me with an overabundance of valuable professional links, articles and references. I appreciate the ‘incredible blogosphere’ resources harmoniously hyperlinked into all postings.

Jo-Anne’s blog EDES 501 Web 2.0 Learning Log demonstrates insightful reflections that exemplify her commitment to professional development. I enjoy the thoughtfulness of her blog postings and wealth of resource sharing.

Sheila’s Spinning a Web about 2.0 highlights her blog evolution from initial trepidation to one of excited pleasure in sharing her 2.0 learning with staff members.

Where do I go from here? I wrote Web 2.0 tools into my professional growth plans submitted to my principal in September. I had every intention at the beginning of this course to access my new learning and us my participation as a springboard to launch 2.0 into my instruction for students, and as a leader to support educators on staff ready to embrace new technologies.

I plan to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into a couple projects within the primary and elementary grade levels. I have accomplished this at the grade three level by converting a language arts project created in Word and converted into a Wordle document (printed in colour and currently being displayed in the primary hallway).

A special thank you to University of Alberta course instructor Joanne de Groot. I have enjoyed reading your insightful comments and look forward to future blogosphere connections!!

"By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn." ~Latin Proverb

I’m inspired to share more.
I’m motivated to learn more.

Oh, the places I'll go!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blog #11 What's Your Favourite Tool in the Web 2.0 Tool Box?

Technology has rapidly advanced over the past few years to include an extensive list of new technologies and applications such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS feeds, webcams, and portable devices. While the list can be exhaustive, there are educational applications and technologies to suite educator’s instructional needs for addressing 21st century learning.

The educational landscape has experienced exponential growth and change, and will continue to do so whether we welcome change or not. Over the past couple months I have welcomed new approaches in learning, exploring new applications and researching the educational implications of Web 2.0 tools. My personal and professional Web 2.0 tool box is full of new learning, new experiences and new connections.

What’s Next?
Focus on Staff Development

The best approach to integrating Web 2.0 tools in my school would be through school-based professional development. As a media specialist and technology leader, I remind myself that delivering onsite teacher technology professional development should be inviting, meaningful and relevant in making curriculum and instruction connections. The ever-present expectation of delivering the provincial Program of Studies goes hand-in-hand with Alberta Education’s focus on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Outcomes. “The ICT curriculum is not intended to stand alone, but rather to be infused within core courses and programs” (Alberta Education, 2008). There are educators still struggling with these ICT outcomes even though these outcomes have been around since 2003. How do I help teachers move into the Web 2.0 when some are struggling with Web 1.0? Richardson (2006) reminds us that “education has been slow to adapt to these new tools and potentials” (p. 3).

Will Richardson’s book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms provides teachers and administrators with a hands-on approach, illustrating some of the most powerful Web 2.0 tools transforming education today. The 2008 edition now includes updated research, Internet safety and a section on information literacy.

What’s Next?
A Web 2.0 Overview

What are Web 2.0 tools? What exactly does the emergence of Web 2.0 tools mean for teaching, for learning? I want to begin to integrate my Web 2.0 learning from this course into my school setting. As a teacher-librarian, one of my roles is as a technology leader. I would like to approach the introduction of Web 2.0 tools through a school-based professional development session. This would require me to begin at the beginning, presenting an introductory overview of the ever-evolving Web and an explanation of Web 2.0 tools. There are a few links to articles and websites that pay particular attention in highlighting the new read/write Web.

‘Net Know-How: Web 2.0 Overview
Alberta’s Education Society provides a brief overview of the new face of educational technologies, describing Web 2.0 “where the central theme is to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing” ( Education Society, 2008). I particularly like this introduction because it talks about the new connecting technologies in three distinct areas:
Convergent Technologies: blogs, rss feeds, wikis, collaborative real-time editors, webcams, e-mail guestbooks, directories.

Portable Technologies: cell phones, picture/video phones. MP3/iPods, PDA’s.

Peer to Peer: realtime [i.e. Skype], direct sharing of files (audio, video, data). ( Education Society, 2008)

What is Web 2.0 Anyway?
This Techsoup article describes the new philosophy of the Web by saying that people are no longer passive consumers, instead “they should be active contributors, helping customize media and technology for their own purposes, as well as those of their communities” (Krasne, 2005). Krasne features three popular Web 2.0 tools:
-Tagging and social bookmarking

Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?
This Educause Review article is a more advanced reflection of the rapid developments in the world of Web 2.0. This resource would be more appropriate for technologically advanced colleagues who consistently use technology and the Internet to enhance their professional learning and teaching practices. As a technology leader it is imperative to recognize that teachers on staff will be in different stages of their own technology knowledge, instruction and comfort level. As educators we differentiate instruction for our students. It is equally important to differentiate professional development for our colleagues.

What’s Next?
Blogs & Social Bookmarking

Blogs are one of the main tools that (I believe) provide a foundation for many Web 2.0 tools. Blogs present readers with a variety of ‘applications used with an application’. Readers are easily exposed to a selection Web 2.0 tools because blogs typically house different tools such as voicethreads, RSS feeds, blogrolls, YouTube videos, social networking references etc. The list is exhaustive. What makes blogs an important 21st century tool is that they are developed through a series of conversations and reflections, engaging readers with questions, links and ideas, and they ask readers to participate (Richardson, 2006). Learning is active participation. Expecting all staff members to jump into blogging is unrealistic, however encouraging them to comment on blogs is a goal that many could easily accomplish.

As I commented in my last posting, I view blogs as having two distinct purposes - blogs as professional development and blogs for professional development - I would promote both purposes to teachers. There are blogs to suite general educational needs, and blogs to suite specific subject areas. Here is one example of a provincial blog suitable for all teachers on my staff:

Alberta Assessment Consortium Blog
An extension of AAC’s webpage, the Consortium focuses on a wide range of assessment topics, quality professional development, and partnerships with a variety of educational stakeholders.

Once educators can recognize the power of the blog, it is equally important to introduce them to the power of student blogging.
Teachers may have some preconceived thoughts that blogging is for older students or even adults…not the case. Blogging? It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson! talks about using this engaging tool at the K-6 level by discussing what you need to begin blogging and Internet safety concerns.

It is important to not only provide technology professional development from a teacher’s perspective, but also from an administrator’s perspective. Miguel Guhlin wrote a three part series on essential Web tools for administrators. In his second article, Five Essential Tech Tools for Administrators Part 2, he challenges administrators to blog because as leaders they (administrators and blogs) can “empower powerful conversations” (Guhlin, 2008). Guhlin quotes Dan Ostreich’s (2008) blog Unfolding Leadership by further stating that “the reflective leader opens the difficult conversations that people in a relationship need to have… blogs can help us explore those conversations -- and because of their openness, invite conversations that help us learn as leaders -- in advance, as theoretical exercises before we ever have them in person”.

Social Bookmarking
“Whether it’s blogs or wikis or RSS, all roads now point to a Web where little is done in isolation and all things are collaborative and social in nature” (Richardson, 2006, p. 89). All roads must lead to social bookmarking!

Saving bookmarks on individual computers (at home, at school) is an ‘old out-of-date way’ to access bookmarks, or to quote Lee LeFever from Common Craft, he would say “boo!”. The cumbersome task of transferring bookmarks through hyperlinks or cut & past documents are steps that many teachers will no longer have to endure. This is the second essential tool for teachers to place in their Web 2.0 toolbox.

Once teachers see the exciting possibilities of integrating new emerging technologies, the transition of 21st learning and teaching can truly take place. My school has embarked on a formal ‘professional learning community’ project this year and what better way to promote new Web technologies than to infuse technology into our PLCs, after all “web 2.0 is all about open-ness and collaboration”(MacManus, 2007) and so are professional learning communities. Education Society. (2008). Retrieved from

Alberta Education. (2008). About information and communication technology (ICT). Retrieved from

Guhlin, M. (2008). Five essential tech tools for tdministrators part 2. Retrieved from

Krasne, A. (2005). What is the web 2.0 anyway? Retrieved from

MacManus, R. (2007). Fear of web 2.0. Retrieved from

Ostreich, D. (2008). Unfolding leadership. Retrieved from

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blog #10 Power to the Blog: Meeting Your Professional Development Needs

Early in this course, I very quickly started to see the power of the blog. Not only was it evident that “emerging online communication tools have the potential to unleash a new level of creative thought in the classroom” (Dyck, 2004), it was clear that the blogosphere was an ever-evolving continuum of learning.

Weblogs (or blogs) are extraordinary vehicles for building collaboration and exploring professional development through non-traditional means. Blogs connect global communities of professionals together to support professional networking and is a means for educators to express (and find) new found knowledge, share instructional practices & research as well as interact within educational communities not bound by traditional boundaries.

Traditionally each year educators outline and plan their professional developments needs through school, district and provincial opportunities by attending seminars, workshops, conferences. Since blogs are created, posted and saved on the Internet, the world of professional development is at the convenience of the Internet user. I view professional development through blogs in two ways:
-Blogs as professional development
-Blogs for professional development

Alberta Education defines professional development as follows “Alberta's teachers are lifelong learners. Professional development and other learning opportunities equip them with the tools and knowledge they need to help students reach their full potential” (Alberta Education, 2008).

Kim Cofino is someone I have been following on Twitter for a couple months now and learned a great deal from her blogs, tweets, and involvement in emerging educational technologies and 21st century learning. She has created a wonderful diagram showing the models of professional development delivery as outlined on her blog posting titled Sustained Change: The Next Level of PD. Kim describes focusing on group PD as an essential next step to “building a community of learners in an institution” (Cofino, 2008) and a step that can be truly be enhanced through Web 2.0 tools. Doug Johnson seconds this notion on her blog by commenting that her writings resembles his knowledge on Professional Learning Communities established by educational guru Richard DuFour. Confino (2008) also reminds educators that focusing on group professional development allows people “to tap into a diverse group of experiences, knowledge and imagination”.

Blogs as Professional Development
The Fischbowl is a staff development blog for high school teachers exploring 21st century learning, constructivism and technology instruction. This award winning blog gives the teachers on staff a chance to explore professional development by exploring collaboration and sharing through a blog forum.

Blogs for Professional Development
K-12 Online Conference is a unique online conference organized by educators for educators since 2006. This blog provides a plethora of amazing resources and materials for educators interested in emerging technologies in education. Blog resources include links to wikis, video & audio podcasts, voicethreads, supporting links and blogs.

I would say without doubt that my participation in writing a blog, as well as my subscriptions in following blogs would be defined as blogs as and for professional development. One of the first assignments in this course was to sign up for a minimum of five blogs to enhance my own personal professional development. It was hard to know where to begin because the more I searched for blogs, the more the found. My professional development focus was going to revolve around Web. 2.0, technology and teacher-librarianship. I decided to choose a balance of bloggers from different areas within the field of education, some well-established bloggers in the field, and some with a smaller audience.

My blogroll:
A Year of Reading
Also titled ‘Two teachers who read. A lot’. I was quite impressed with this blog as it is updated daily and has been online since 2006. Two teachers (who are also authors) dedicate their daily blogging to posting book reviews and poems the in the field of children’s literature. As a teacher-librarian, subscribing to this blog is having daily valuable professional development….free.

Beth’s Thoughts on Technology in the Classroom
Beth Knittle is a K-12 Technology Integration Specialist in a large school district. One of the statements that stood out in Beth’s ‘About’ section said “blogging has been an integral part of my growth as an educator. I tend to write about Learning and Educational Technology” (Knittle, 2007). For me, this statement fit perfectly into my blogging professional development commitment. In recent posts, Beth has committed herself to ‘Be a Better Blogger’ through a personal thirty-day challenge. This November focus is timely because my course is quickly coming to an end and I wonder if I will be challenged to not only sustain my blogging but continue to improve my blogging. What professional challenges will I encounter as I try to continue blogging?

Judy O’Connell’s well-established blog is journey through emerging technologies & Web 2.0 and how it impacts school libraries. The multifaceted focus between technology, Web. 2.0 tools and school libraries were all of the components I wrote up on my professional growth objectives submitted to my administrator in September. Over the past couple months this site has provided valuable insight into media literacy education, microblogging etiquette, and Twitter. I have become an avid Tweeter on Twitter because of Judy’s enthusiasm, and will continue to follow her blog and her tweets.

Kathy Schrock’s Kaffeeklatsch
Kathy was on my professional development radar years ago when I attended a one day session on best Internet sites for education – Kathy’s name came up several times during that presentation. This blog has provided valuable website links that I have used several times over and posted on my own blog (ie. Dumpr).

The New Digital History Education
Joel Ralph has introduced me to interesting and interactive Web 2.0 tools and links, my favourite being Wordle. Recently I used Wordle in a grade 3 technology project to formulate and create a word cloud from a vocabulary list students typed into Microsoft Word.

It was not a difficult decision to follow Will Richardson’s blog, after all his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts was on the required reading list for this course. Richardson writes for educator’s and bloggers alike, communicating all things Web 2.0. I have accessed an abundance of resources (current and archived) from wikis and RSS, to links and best practices.

My professional development over the past three months is immeasurable as the educational value of blogs is priceless. I have engaged in professional development at home and at school through the RSS subscription feeds in my Google Reader account. Richardson suggests that educators must become bloggers to fully understand the learning potential of blogs as instructional tools. Now that I have blogging experience, can I promote the power of blogs to my professional colleagues. I would begin introducing blogs by promoting following blogs relevant to their instructional and professional focuses. After that, the next step would be to conduct an introductory blogging PD session for colleagues ready to participate in the process. Many of the blogging applications are free and quite easy to set up. Using my blogging knowledge and experience thus far, Blogger would be my first choice. However, there are other applications worthy of mention:

As a blogger I will continue to reflect on my voice in the blogosphere, concentrating my postings on Web 2.0 and teacher-librarianship for and as professional development.

Alberta Education. (2008). Professional development. Retrieved from

Cofino, K. (2008). Always learning. Retrieved from

Dyck, B. (2004). Log on to a blog. Retrieved from

Knittle, B. (2008). Beth’s thoughts on technology in the classroom. Retrieved from

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blog #9 RSS Feed Me

Learning at the beginning of this course that one of the assignments was to follow a minimum of five blogs and I was overwhelmed at the thought of keeping track of new blog postings. I also wasn’t sure how best to follow the blogs. Who knew a little orange button would make the task so simple. This was how I came to know about RSS feeds and feed aggregators (also called feed readers). It’s funny how I new the little orange icon was meant to feed something to me – had no idea what I was feeding on if I clicked on that familiar icon…

What is RSS?
“By using RSS, users get more control over what they see and when, and save themselves time as well” (Butterfield, 2007)
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a digital format for delivering regularly updated web content “from news sites, online catalogs and blogs without the laborious process of visiting individual sites, wading through outdated content and managing annoying pop-up ads.” (Ly, 2005). RSS benefits online readers who want to “subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader", or "aggregator” (Wikipedia, 2008). Lee LeFever’s RSS in Plain English video provides a basic explanation of RSS feeds and how this benefits regular Internet information seekers.

Renovated Reading Through Aggregated Feeding
Subscribing to RSS feeds solves a problem for people who regularly use the Internet. Using a feed reader or aggregator allows web users “to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually” (WhatIsRSS, 2008). Feed readers can display subscriptions from hundreds of different websites on a single page in the form of a short summary. Users then can scan through summaries quickly and decide whether they should the headline links to read complete articles or postings (Ly, 2005). There are plenty of choices to sign up for a free feed reader:
Google Reader
My Yahoo!

Getting Started
I chose to use Google Reader as my aggregator for no other reason than I currently used Google applications in variety of other capacities. Setting up a Google Reader account is extremely easy and only requires a current email address, a password and agreeing to the Google Terms of Service. After that, I began copying and pasting blog URL’s into the ‘Add Subscription’ box and my aggregator was now up and running.

Expert Village has created a ‘How to Use Google Reader’ 15 part video series, detailing how to change settings, find and organize content, searching and sharing tips, subscribing to feeds and bookmarks as well as using Google Reader on your cell phone.

Introduction to Using Google Reader -- powered by

RSS Feeds in Education
Will Richardson has written a RSS: Quick Start Guide for Educators outlining everything you need to know regarding RSS feeds for:
-weblog and website searches
-news searches
-group searches
-combing RSS feeds

There are a variety of ways in which RSS feeds can specifically enhance instruction in the classroom.
-Educators can collect student blog content in an aggregator using RSS feeds
-Students can subscribe to new blog comments or specific topic content tailored to their learning needs
-Educators can track the written content going in student blogs through RSS feeds
-RSS feeds provide parents and other staff members with the opportunity to view student work as they are interested
-Students can syndicate Internet bookmarks using Furl or Delicious by creating RSS feeds or subscription tags in these accounts
-Students can follow their favourite authors or keep up with the latest book releases
-Educators and students can RSS subscribe to broadcast podcasts (video and audio)

Andy Carvin provides an introductory overview RSS Feeds: Making Your Favorite Websites Come to You through the PBS Teachers website. He reminds educators that while all blogs and news websites provide RSS feeds, some site take it a step further by providing multiple RSS feeds based on category topics and subject areas. One example of this is the New York Times which categorizes dozens of specific subject areas supporting the idea of users being able to customize their news content feeds. This kind of customized news site is advantageous for students wanting to follow streamlined news events such as world news, book reviews, or science news.

Alberta Education has a RSS feed on their homepage inviting all stakeholders (administrators, teachers, students, parents) to subscribe to news feeds released within the Ministry.

Cool Stuff
RSS feeds are offered in an assortment of subject areas and topics. If you have an online appetite for regularly updated digital content or news, there’s probably a feed to fill your informational needs…
The Weather Network
Word of the Day
Unique RSS Icons & Buttons
Create Your Own RSS Icon
RSS Calendar
View the latest pictures on Flickr

Butterfield, G. (2007). Tech teacher: Cut through the web noise. Retrieved from

Carvin, A. (2006). RSS feeds: Making your favorite websites come to you. Retrieved from

Ly, A. (2005). RSS feeds collage students’ diet for research. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2008). RSS. Retrieved from

WhatIsRSS. (2008). What is RSS? Retrieved from

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blog #8 Social Networking: Let the Conversations Begin

This Web 2.0 topic could be the largest one to tackle. Where to begin? “Social networking websites help people connect with others who share their interests, build online profiles and share media such as photos, music and videos” (Glaser, 2007). Social networking allows people to come together ‘virtually’ by sharing common backgrounds, goals, topics of conversation or collaboration.

Wikipedia lists over 100 hundred social networking websites with a little disclaimer “please note the list is non-exhaustive, but is limited to some notable, well known sites” (Wikipedia, 2008). What motivates the first-time user to join an online social community? It may be sparked by an electronic invitation from family/friend or colleague, a professional purpose or simple curiosity.

As I researched online to find out which networking sites
were the most popular in 2008, I quickly discovered that each resource I found posted slightly different results. Two social networking powerhouses that consistently ranked in the top two were MySpace and Facebook, while others listed in the top ten changed slightly. Here are a few of the most common sites from my search:
The most popular of the networking sites, with a Wikipedia listing of over 240,000 registered users. Interactive network full of personal profiles, blogs, photos, videos and music.


A network utility that connects members with friends, family and colleagues unique to their world.

A social media network where members share their profile and can explore videos, music, authors and join in groups which share common interests.

Helps members stay in touch with existing friends and create new ones.

Classmates Online
Find and connect with friends and acquaintances throughout schooling from kindergarten to university.

Focuses on career networking for potential clients, field experts and business providers that can also help provide job opportunities.

A micro-blogging social community that allows users to read each other’s updates, also known as ‘tweets’. Posts must be 140 characters or less in length.

Find friends, display photostreams, or build a homepage to express your personal profile.

(Image created using Wordle)

Why Join a Network?
A social network provides members with unique connections between people that might not otherwise be possible outside of the Internet. Imagine building relationships that have no global boundaries, sharing experiences, problem solving, collaborating, learning and teaching all through a free social network. “Social networking is currently one of the most interesting phenomena on the Internet. Millions of people belong to online social networks” (Bell, 2007). A Dummy’s Guide to Social Networking gives new social consumers a quick introductory guide to contemplate before making a commitment to a network.

It is important to be familiar with the Terms of Service for each network as they all vary slightly. Wikipedia’s List of Social Networking Websites page provides a comprehensive overview of the 100+ most notable sites that include defining the membership’s focus group, number of registered users, and registration requirements (ie. Open forum, invitation only, age restriction etc). It is noteworthy to find out whether or not the social network you are interested in has membership fees that will only then provide all-inclusive access to the network. An example of this is joining Initial sign-up allows users to register a free account, but information and access is quite limited without purchasing a Gold membership.

While I don’t personally have Facebook or MySpace accounts any longer, I do not miss them. I have chosen to participate only in social networking for professional purposes through places such as Ning and Twitter. I don’t want to be social networking in the same places students and parents may be venturing and so I have consciously chosen to limit my social networking interactions. I have made unbelievable professional contacts with specialists from around the world in the area of education, technology, media, literacy and music. My most exciting social networking gain came from attending the Internet Librarian 2008 Conference in Monterey. By noon of the first day conference attendees were tweeting comments about the conference, it was listed on the front page of Twitter Search as one of the hot topics. Out of nowhere I could view dozens of conference participants who also actively networked on Twitter.

Embracing Social Networking as a Professional
My focus on incorporating social networking would mainly be at the collegial level at school. Educators have wonderful opportunities at their fingertips in finding networks suitable for enhancing online professional learning opportunities, instructional areas of interest or professional growth needs. A few examples…
NECC 2008 (National Educational Computing Conference) site gives attendees an online professional development opportunities to extend learning post conference.

Yahoo! Teachers is a peer social network strictly designed for teachers, created by teachers.

Social Networks in Education Wiki houses a wide range of social networking websites for educators categorized into helpful topics and subject areas.

Classroom 2.0 is a “social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative or transformative technologies in education” (Hargadon, 2008). This is a support network for educators who want to engage in digital dialogue, share video and photos, access wikis and blogs as well as join groups of interest.

TeacherLibrarianNing is an online community build for teacher-librarians and educators by Joyce Valenza.

New Social Literacies
As educators we must recognize the world in which our students live in and that one of social community and networking. We must teach our students how to be socially effective in the digital world, how to engage responsibly, interact safely and be well-informed 21st century citizens (Smith, 2007). Social networking can not only change the way educators instruct lessons, but change the way students look at education and expect instruction. If schools have access to social networking sites, educators may embrace teachable moments with these sites and help address new merging social literacy skills. Students need direction in developing and nurturing these new skills to ensure safe, responsible decisions as they connect to digital communities around them.

Stephen Abram (2008) highlights the importance of emerging literacies in education, specifically social literacies. Schools must now “expand the teaching of information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, critical literacy…” (p. 21). The security watch-dogs of these social sites try make them as safe as possible, however Abram (2008) reminds us that “they are only as safe as the user has the awareness and skills to make good judgements” (p. 21). He suggests to parents and educators that at different stages in a young person’s life we help them define a level of awareness about their personal information.
“What would we tell others about ourselves in our family?
What information would you email grandma versus a stranger?
Do you share more or different things when you’re out in your neighbourhood?
When do you tell people your whole name and address?”
(Abram, 2008, p.23)

Not only do social networking sites promote new social literacies, they can also support student learning by:
-Building online communities
-Promoting social discussions and collaboration
-Allowing shared grade level or subject specific resources and research
-Creating interest groups and forums

Social Networking Safety Concerns
Many school districts block sites such as MySpace and Facebook. These sites are often not as secure as they need to be, and anyone can view profile information and contact users who set up an account. Educators want to encourage students to express themselves with healthy social networking interactions but can a school computer lab provide the safety net young students need? Can educators guarantee that students will maintain privacy settings while using a social site at school? Social networking sites also can open up behavioural concerns with a relatively new phenomenon called cyber-bulling. Cyber-bulling can be defined as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others" (, 2008). The Education Society has excellent resources for educators and parents on Internet safety as well as a Web 2.0 overview. I do not have access to these kinds of sites at school and I don’t think that I would jump into using them if access was opened up as there is a complex process to ensure all students have parental permission in using accounts such as these.

Abram, S. (2008). Scaffolding the new social literacies. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools. 15(2), 21-23. Retrieved from ProQuest. Education Society. (2008). Net know-how: Cyberbullying overview. Retrieved from

Bell, E. (2007). A dummy’s guide to social networking. Retrieved from

Glaser, M. (2007). Your guide to social networking online. Retrieved from

Hargadon, S. (2008). Classroom 2.0. Retrieved from

Smith, F. (2007). How to: Use Social-networking technology for learning. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2008). List of social networking sites. Retrieved from

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kaleidoscope 9

Kaleidoscope 9 Children’s Literature Conference Calgary, Alberta
November 6-8, 2008, Story: Bridging Worlds

This was my first Kaleidoscope Conference sponsored by the Alberta School Library Council. I have been waiting to attend this conference for a couple years now as it only runs every four years. The conference celebrates children’s literature through interaction with a plethora of internationally recognized authors and illustrators. My highlights include meeting:
Ian Wallace (The Sleeping Porch)
Janell Cannon (Verdi)
Shaun Tan (The Arrival)
Tim Wynne-Jones (Rex Zero, King of Nothing)
Melanie Watt (Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach)
Wallace Edwards (Alphabeasts)

Today’s opening plenary session was a provocative presentation by Dr Jack Zipes (Professor at the University of Minnesota) titled Resisting Happy Ends: Telling Tales of Truth to Children. His lecture begins “Once upon our time, truth vanished from our globe…”. Storytelling pervades all cultures and all boundaries. It does not make distinctions between adults and children. Can we continue to tell tales today to bridge cultures? How can storytelling provide hope for children? What stories should young children read? These are just a few of the questions Jack touched on through his unique perspective of fairy tales and folklore. At one particular moment in his presentation he declared that 90% of children’s literature is schlock and there are no nutrients in schlock! Interesting statement considering the audience demography!

Shaun Tan knew at the age of 12 he wanted to be an illustrator/author. His description of a picture book being ‘sustained meditation’ speaks volumes in his choice to author characters that don’t speak through words, but instead invite natural storytelling to take place through drawings. The Arrival was book that took several years to come to a final format. This book originally started off as a 32 page picture book with abstract cartoon like characters. Tan wanted The Arrival to be a book where readers would slowly digest the illustrative detail on each page, thus the process of getting rid of the words and transforming this into a ‘wordless read’ began to take shape.

I was terribly excited to listen to Ian Wallace. After all, his book The Huron Carol is listed on my blog slideshow as one of my ‘Favourite Children’s Literature’. According to Wallace “the cover is the most important image in the book” as this image invites the reader in for the first time. And yes, those of us in the audience were treated to a few bars of the Huron Christmas Carol by Ian himself.

Kaleidoscope 9 - Calgary, AB

Kaleidoscope 9 Children's Literature Conference, November 6-8, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blog #7 VoiceThread: Weaving Voice into Multimedia Learning

What is VoiceThread Anyway?
“A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or phone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too” (VoiceThread, 2008, p.1). YouTube offers up multiple pages of VoiceThread videos providing tutorials, educational platforms for integration, and quick guides for new users. TeacherTube hosts just as many selections for VoiceThread video tutorials, in addition connects viewers to videos specific to classroom instructional frameworks. What better idea to introduce students to the concept of creating their own VoiceThread by playing a tutorial video titled How To Use VoiceThread moderated by two elementary students.

Voice Thread is a Web 2.0 application that captures and publishes educational voices. Brenda Dyck (2007) points out that by giving children a voice in education we support educational philosopher John Dewey’s work claiming “that the inclusion of student voice is a necessary step in learning (p.10). She further describes VoiceThread as an important tool which provides students the opportunity to record educational commentary about experiences important in their personal learning.

Creating a VoiceThread
In order to create a VoiceThread, you must first create an online account using the VoiceThread homepage. Signing up for an account, like most other Web 2.0 tools, was a simple process using an email address and creating a personal password. As usual, I jumped instantly into the tool’s ‘create’ mode by uploading digital pictures from one of my travel adventures. In each new Web 2.0 application I use, I like to go straight into working in the application and compare the ease in which users (like me) can navigate through the learning and creating process. There are three main tabs: Browse, Create, and MyVoice. The Browse tab gives users the opportunity view new files in three categories: Today, This Week, This Month. It is amazing scroll through the three category pages of the Browse tab and see the diverse range of topics and image for each thumbnail.

Clicking on the Create tab opened up a blank page for uploading images, documents or video. I had no difficulties uploading a small group of digital pictures from my computer. There are several other pathways for uploading including Flickr, Facebook, existing VoiceThread files and direct URL addresses. I arranged the digital pictures into order and gave each slide a title. Using my trusty inexpensive microphone, I recorded brief comments for each picture. The recording process took longer than I had anticipated. While not a difficult task, I was not satisfied with my recording the first time through for any of my eight pictures. The finished product was now ready for uploading to my blog. Using the Share button in the Create tab provides three options before uploading or embedding the final product. Users have options such as private/public viewing, moderation on/off feature and listing your project on the VoiceThread browser. The application defaults to private, so in order to share this on my blog I had choose the public option. This was something I did not realize at first because I embedded my VoiceThread and in trying to view it for the first time online I received a message saying that this was a private VoiceThread and was not viewable. Easy problem to fix. I re-embedded my now public VoiceThread using the Blogger choice as my uploading destination. My first VoiceThread was created and posted on my blog.

Educational Implications
The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) ranked VoiceThread in spring 2008 in the top 25 free online Web 2.0 tools educators should have in their toolbox. VoiceThread is a versatile tool for both educators and students to utilize within instructional and learning environments.

VoiceThread promotes asynchronous discussion and learning for all subject areas. An asynchronous is advantageous because it gives students control over when and where they conduct their learning and participation in a VoiceThread project. Asynchronous learning also supports flexible scheduling for collaboration between students to work at their own pace.

It encourages collaborative feedback and interaction on a project for participants and viewers to collectively share thoughts and narrate while watching simultaneously.

Using this tool naturally supports differentiated learning by supporting students who have difficulties communicating through the writing process. Verbal-linguistic learners can thrive in this type of learning environment as the tool provides oral narration and storytelling participation preferences.

This application is also a great investment for educators to focus on teaching new multimedia skills, building interactive participation for all and developing new approaches to curricular projects while infusing ICT outcomes.

The amount of educators using VoiceThread is growing rapidly. There is no shortage of ideas, project initiatives, resources and professional development online. One of the first websites to visit would be the Delicious VoiceThread Tag. There are over 6000 bookmarks tagged using this application, more than enough resources to encourage first time creators to jump right in.

What’s the Buzz?
Comments posted on the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (2008) website from educators who classify VoiceThread as one of their favourite ‘must use’ Web 2.0 tools this year:

"I love the collaboration feature of this tool. It's great for digitalstories and even greater because participants can comment on each other's stuff...with audio!" by Janice Petosky

"Social audio and social imagery personified. A perfect demonstration of how digital media can be integrated into the curriculum and at the same time explains the value of digital storytelling." Andrew Middleton

"Again, new, and FREE. I’ve had students creating and commenting on each others’ projects. Nice work, easy tool, good fun." John Curry

Examples of VoiceThread Resources
Educational Software Wiki
A wiki dedicated to VoiceThread tutorials, projects, classroom ideas and embedded examples.

EdTechTalk: #112 VoiceThreads
The Teachers Teaching Teachers series on EdTechTalk podcast narrative discussion on VoiceThread in education.

VoiceThread 4 Education Wiki
A comprehensive collection of educational focuses using VoiceThread.

VoiceThread for Educators Ning
This Ning site is for educators who develop, build and collect VoiceThread resources for use in their own classroom.

Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies. (2008). Top tools. Retrieved from

Dyck, B. (2007). VoiceThread: Capturing and sharing student voice with an online twist. Retrieved from

VoiceThread. (2008). About VoiceThread. Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Internet Librarian 2008 Conference – Day 2

Of course it wouldn’t be a great conference without il2008 Delicious bookmarks to share.

Search Engine Land: What’s Happening Out There? - Danny Sullivan
Technology guru Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land describes Google as the easiest and probably best search engine around, possibly for many years to come. It is staggering to hear the high percentage of website traffic that is a direct result from a Google search. Danny did give an overview of some small search engine contenders that keep many people satisfied within their own little niche in the search engine world:

Does Google rule the world? You be the judge...

Enterprise Trends: Beyond the Simple Intranet - Stephen Abram
I was a few mintues late arriving, so the first words that I heard Stephen say went something like this…If you do not have a Facebook account you are irrelevant! I quickly found a seat in the auditorium as I knew this presentation was going to be interesting. There were plenty of dedicated Bloggers quickly posting Stephen’s thoughts on their blogs (I think in real time). I will defer a better accounting of the session to one of the Twitter enthusiasts I follow, Connie Crosby, who typed up great notes as well as uploaded video from the session. At one point in the session, Stephen described how he had been involved in helping train librarians and teachers how to not answer questions from students, but instead learn to teach information literacy skills.

Stephen’s Top 10 Social Networking Sites That Have Influenced the US 2008 Election:
1. You Tube
2. Second Life
3. My Space
4. Facebook
5. Wikipedia
6. Ning
7. Twitter
8. Mozes
9. NowPublic
10. MyBlogLog

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blog #6 Wiki = What I Know Is...

What is a wiki? When one asks the question what is a wiki?, one must refer to the most famous wiki of all – Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines a wiki as “software that allows users to create, edit, and link web pages easily. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. These wiki websites are often also referred to as wikis." (Wikipedia, 2008, p.1). There are some great YouTube videos to further help in understanding the simplicity of developing and using wikis:
Wikis in Plain English
Wet Paint Wikis in Plain English
pbwiki – Getting Started

There are three types of wikis:
Allows anyone to view, create and edit content on the pages. Some public wikis require users to create an online account before adding/editing content; others allow anonymous participation.

Information viewing for the public, but edited by authorized users.

Wikis created for internal communication within an organization and only authorized users can view and edit information.

Did You Know...
Wiki is the Hawaiian word for ‘fast’
-The expanded definition of wiki means ‘what I know is…’
-WikiWikiWeb was the first wiki application written in 1994 by Ward Cunningham
-In 2007 the word ‘wiki’ entered the online version of the Oxford Dictionary

The World of Wikipedia
Developed in 2001, Wikipedia is a free, online multilingual encyclopedia that houses approximately 10 million articles. “If you want to get five opinions from four information professionals, just mention Wikipedia” (Badke, 2008, p.1). This website is often labelled as unreliable, untrustworthy, inconsistent and shallow. Yet, millions of users quickly find the answers they are looking for, no matter the subject area. Badke cites this website as the number one ‘go-to’ reference in the world (Wikipedia also cites this fact as well). Richardson (2006) calls Wikipedia “the poster child for the collaborative construction of knowledge and truth that the new interactive Web facilitates” (p. 61). Each day thousands of Internet users “engage in the purposeful work of negotiating and creating truth (Richardson, 2006, p. 62).

There are challenges to using a website like Wikipedia in a school setting. Because many of the authors are anonymous, sometimes believing the trustworthiness of the sources makes it difficult. Richardson suggests educators should take time to check Wikipedia’s information accuracy. In a school setting, Wikipedia could be considered a starting point for research, but should used in conjunction with other resources and references. “If we begin to look at Wikipedia as another opportunity for our students to contribute what they learn and know to a larger audience, I think we can begin to appreciate it for the really incredible site that it is” (Richardson, 2006, p.64).

Creating a Wiki
There are a number of applications to choose from when setting up a wiki. In his video ‘Wikis in Plain English’ LeFever suggests the following wiki applications:
It is important to note before you choose a wiki application, it is advantageous to search for one that fits your needs.
-Not all applications are free
-Some 'private' and/or ‘advertising-free’ wikis have a small fee
-Teachers can apply for free educational wikis space (ie. Wikispaces)

Brian Satterfield's article Exploring the World of Wikis on Tech Soup, suggests four key points to ponder before building a wiki:
-Will a wiki make the process of sharing information more accessible than the current format used in collaboration? (ie. Email, file documents)
-Find out whether non-technical contributors are willing to invest time learning new online applications
-Have enough preliminary content to launch a functional wiki
-Ensure the wiki will be maintained and updated

If you interested in contributing to an existing wiki such as Wikipedia, note that (surprisingly) there are policies and guidelines already in place to avoid chaotic dumping of information. Pressley and McCallum’s article Putting the library in Wikipedia list some of the formal ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ in Wikipedia’s online contributing culture. Also noteworthy in their article are helpful ‘Tips and Techniques’ for new wiki contributors. It is imperative that wiki creators and editors recognize copyright, fair use and responsibilities that apply to using technology in education. Education world has created an extensive curriculum article series titled The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use: A five-part series reminding online users and authors to educate yourself and your students. It is imperative that wiki creators and editors recognize copyright, fair use and responsibilities that apply to creating, publishing and editing Web-based applications. Education World has created an extensive curriculum article series titled The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use: A five-part series reminding online users and authors to educate themselves and their students.

A humorous look at Professor Wikipedia on YouTube…

Wikis in Schools
As one of the merging Web 2.0 tools, wikis are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons:
-Anyone can create a wiki
-Wiki applications are either free or inexpensive
-Wikis support collaboration, knowledge sharing, and collegiality at the school and district levels
-A tool to teach students how to collaborate with others
-Creates online learning communities for teachers and students
-Creates authentic audiences for students’ work
-Read/Write Web is a vehicle for students and teachers to share and learn in meaningful ways

Joyce Valenza has created the teacherlibrarianwiki with the main purpose to “use this space to SHARE our best wisdom and our best instruction--the new understandings, lessons, units, handouts, rubrics, presentations, images, and teaching tips that have been either rotting in our file cabinets or posted and lonely on our individual sites” (p. 1).

Badke, W. (2008). What to do with Wikipedia. Online. 32(2). Retrieved from

Education World. (2008). The educator's guide to copyright and fair use: A five-part series. Retrieved from

LeFever, L. (2007). Wikis in plain English. Retrieved

Pressley, L. & McCallum, C. (2008). Putting the library in Wikipedia. Online. 32(5). Retrieved from

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Satterfield, B. (2006). Exploring the world of wikis: Collaborative web sites organize information, encourage participation. Retrieved from

Valenza, J. (2008). Teacherlibrarianwiki. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2008). Wiki. Retrieved from

Internet Librarian 2008 Conference

Internet Librarian 2008 Conference @ Monterey, CA
Beyond 2.0: User-Focused Tools & Practices

WOW! Beyond 2.0? I didn’t know that existed. Beyond 2.0 makes me think of some kind of mysterious unfamiliar territory one might find in Area 54. Attending my first il2008 (now referring to the Twitter search tag) is exciting, overwhelming, and exciting…again. Gotta love a conference that has a live wiki and blog simultaneously feeding information to attendees with latest conference chat.

Internet Librarian Conference Wiki
Infotoday Blog

Some Highlights...
First highlight was picking up my registration materials stuffed into the standard, and very useful, conference bag. Among the items found inside was a large glossy book containing print versions thirty-five (yes, I counted) presentations taking place over the three days. Attending all of the sessions is never an option, so having this reference book is fabulous!

Here is a sampling of two sessions I attended today...

Opening Keynote: Communities & Communication in a Social & Mobile World Howard Rheingold
The keynote speaker this morning was Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and one of the creators of the Social Media Classroom. Howard gave an interesting opening address on merging, existing and yet-to-be merging technologies that he calls the ‘participatory media’. Web 2.0 applications are ‘platforms for participation’, are they not? One statement that he made resonated with me (as it did with many in the audience) and that is “If you want to keep up with technologies you must keep up with the literacies!”

Super Searcher Shares: Search Tips Spectacular!Mary Ellen Bates
A jam-packed session filled with Internet search tips resulting in a barrage of new websites for my Delicious account. Super Searcher Shares: Search Tips Spectacular websites are posted on Mary Ellen’s website.

Here are a few of my favourites websites from Monday's presentations:
Google Translate
Google Translate allows users to search for articles, research and news beyond the English language. Type in your key ‘translated search’ word or phrase and request Google to search through the language media of your choice. Over 30 languages are ready for translation through translation software.

Google News Timeline
Google’s news archive website where users can search for news events, people, ideas etc and see how they have been discussed over a timeline on the Internet. Click on the ‘Show Timeline’ graphs spikes in the popularity of the archived request.

Yahoo! Glue
The Yahoo! Search engine for India, this version displays your search requests with Wikipedia boxed viewing.

A Web 2.0 search engine.

A cluster search engine.

Image Chef
A site to customize digital pictures with your own text. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Well, it has been a very busy day. More to come…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blog #5 The World of Virtual Libraries

What exactly is a virtual library? “Virtual libraries are multipage online resources devoted to the needs of their specific learning communities” (Valenza, 2005, p.54). The Government of Canada’s terminology for a virtual library states “virtual libraries are delocalized and universally accessible; instead of having a physical address, they are constructed on Internet sites” and “individuals access them via a computer connected to the Internet, navigate from one site to another, and participate in discussion groups, seminars and conferences organized on these sites. They may also download documents to their own computers for later consultation” (Government of Canada, 2008, p.1). In her article The Real and the Virtual Intersecting Communities at the Library, Kelly Czarnecki (2008) writes that “The virtual community can often work in concert with face-to-face interaction such as discussions or programs the library might provide. Being able to offer both, especially to people of a generation comfortable with finding their friends and developing their likes and dislikes through a virtual community, is a great library service” (p.11).

While many school libraries have space on the school webpage, many simply post general library information that does not reach out and engage the user. From a virtual library homepage, users should be able to access databases, search engines, references and school information. Given the wealth of information virtual libraries can offer, one thing is certain is that they can offer users library services ‘after hours’. An example of an exemplary virtual library school homepage is that from Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School. The artwork is colourful and fun, the homepage links are easy to follow and the site is not overcrowded with information.

Students Prefer Digital Learning
In 2002 the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey of approximately 2,000 middle and high school students on how students incorporate the Internet into their schoolwork. The results showed that 78% of students choose to use the Internet to conduct research (Minkel, 2002). The study titled The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Inter net-Savvy Students and Their Schools discusses in depth how students today view the Internet as a ‘virtual library’, replacing traditional school or public libraries. Students voiced concern with traditional libraries by saying “students say they must ‘wait in line to check out books and other materials and pay to use a copy machine to duplicate important material for reports and projects. Material online, however, can be printed directly from the Internet onto a local printer’” (Minkel, 2002, p. 1). Students in the study also mentioned the lack of quality Internet access stifled online learning because of school filtering and blocking tools. Little research exists regarding Internet use and students homework habits. The study of virtual communities “is important because of the pervasive nature of the Internet has linked the world in ways never imagined” (Czarnecki, 2008, p.11). The impact that the Internet has on information searching and retrieval is extensive. A more recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that “64% of online teens in 2007 (ages 12-17) have participated in content-creating activities (up from 57% when the study was done in 2004) (Czarnecki, 2008). Cultivating virtual library services within a school setting can enhance and expand learning opportunities available for students by promoting a comprehensive online community.

The digital generation of learners today need to access rich digital resources, search engines and subscription databases. A school’s virtual library “can become an integral part of the instructional culture of the school” (Valenza, 2005, p.57). Essentially virtual libraries are windows that open up a world of learning by providing systematic order to information such as WebQuests, curricular lessons, archived information, website sharing, and handouts. Research conducted by Keith Curry Lance indicates that students’ academic achievement scores are higher in schools where information technology is incorporated and library media specialists teach information literacy (Church, 2005). One common element found in both public and school libraries is the ‘Ask Me’ or ‘Ask a Librarian’ feature.
University of Alberta - Ask Us
Library of Congress - Ask a Librarian…
Toronto Public Library

Creating a Virtual Library
Before designing a virtual school library, you will want to consider the following three key elements: content, graphics and links. Web designers will want to add detailed components that enhance the three key elements to their fullest potential. Before undertaking the task of creating a virtual library take time to visit existing sites and read resources that give web design tips. A great place to begin background reading is with Minkel’s article listing seven recommendations in Remaking Your Web Site in Seven Easy Steps.

The best way to gather creative ideas for building a virtual library is to invest time visiting, reviewing and analyzing existing sites. Well-constructed virtual libraries should reflect age appropriate information, databases, links and resources that are maintained and up-to-date. Here are a few examples of well-structured, aesthetically appealing virtual libraries:

Elementary Schools
Birch Lane School Library
Barbara Bush Virtual Library
KVL Elementary Schools
John Newberry Elementary School
My favourite out of the four listed above is the Barbara Bush Virtual Library. The white background gives the page a clean, easy to view landscape. The small photos used in conjunction to reference links are age appropriate for the elementary setting. There is an abundance of relevant links to engage and satisfy users across all elementary grade levels.

Middle Schools
Calgary Board of Education
Virtual Middle School
The Calgary Board of Education homepage is similar to Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School. The use of colourful designer artwork is enhanced by multimedia animations. Students have access to ‘Ask a Teacher-Librarian’, web tools, subject specific links, career pathways, reference centres and research help.

High Schools
Harry Ainlay High School Library
Cherokee High School
Harry Ainlay appeals to my online curiosity by creating a website that is organized in an aesthetically appealing way. Well orgainzed, this site does not utilize an overabundance of icons, but instead controls information through the main menu at the top of the page through five main links: Library Home, Resources, Databases, Services and Information.

Post Secondary Insitution
University of Alberta
I access this site on a regular basis. Actually, I probably do not utilize this site enough in my graduate studies. What is really a significant development in the accessibility of post secondary virtual libraries is recognizing the references and resources needed to support distance-learning programs such as the Teacher-Librarianship by Distance Learning program. Virtual libraries at this level help promote parts of academic institutions enormous resource and reference collections to undergraduate and graduate students reaching out to all corners of the globe.

Church, A. (2005). Virtual school libraries – the time is now! MultiMedia & Internet@Schools. 12(2), 8-12. Retrieved from ProQuest.

Czarnecki, K. (2008). The real and the virtual intersecting communities at the library. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools. 15(3). Retrieved from ProQuest.

Government of Canada. (2008). Handbook of terminology. Retrieved from

Minkel, W. (2002). Pew study: Students prefer ‘virtual library’. School Library Journal. 10(1). Retrieved from

Minkel, W. (2002). Remaking your web site in seven easy steps. School Library Journal. 5(1). Retrieved from

Valenza, J. (2005). The virtual library. Educational Leadership. 63(4), 54-59. Retrieved from ProQuest.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blog #4 The Audacity of Podcasting

Will Richardson (2006) defines podcasting as “the creation and distribution of amateur radio” (p. 112). Ester Kreider Eash, author of the Podcasting 101 for K-12 Librarians article defines podcasting simply as “a digital audio file that’s created, shared, and heard” (2006, p. 1). Eash (2006) writes that there are two fundamental reasons for using podcasts in education: (1) a method to retrieve educational information authored by others and (2) to distribute information through personal creating and sharing.

Discovering that podcasting was this week’s Web 2.0 focus I had to quickly determine where I had placed my computer microphone. It has been over a year since I created my first podcast in a previous graduate course. Actually that was also the last time I had used the microphone. While my experience as a creator is limited, my experience as a podcast consumer is a little more extensive. Once I found my microphone, it was time to begin the process of recording. The recording application I had used in the past was Audacity. This 'easy-to-use' application is great for recording and editing audio files. It is also the recommended program of choice by Will Richardson in chapter 8 of his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Remembering the simplicity of Audacity’s editing features was reason enough to use it again for this course. My initials thoughts on recording a podcast was to show how I could incorporate this tool into a primary school setting. I chose to read a picture book titled ‘So, What’s It Like to Be a Cat?’ by Karla Kuskin. Having book talks or audio book podcasts available for young students with reading difficulties or disabilities is a way to provide differentiated learning and a great way to promote the library collection, reading and literacy to students. After the recording process was complete it was time to choose an application to upload and share my podcast, and I chose to use PodOmatic. The process of uploading the mp3 file to PodOmatic was not terribly difficult but it took me some time (mainly due to my unfamiliarity with the program) to complete all of the steps required to post a podcast. The final step was to upload the podcast to my blog…and the process was complete.

Education, Podcasts and Podcasting
If podcasting is a new concept for students and educators, I recommend showing them Podcasting in Plain English created by Lee LeFever at Common Craft. This video gives a simple explanation of podcasting whether you want to create your first podcast or you simply want to listen to podcasts. LeFever lists three reasons as to the rising popularity of podcasts:
-Podcasting is a digital medium accessible for all computer users
-Podcasts are available through subscriptions making following favourites an easy task
-Podcasts are just not limited to listening on computers, there are numerous mobile gadgets that serve as portable listening devices

Podcasts are created so that digital consumers and learners can listen to shows on demand at their own convenience. What makes this form of learning inviting is that there is an over abundance of free podcasts for all subject areas. Kathy Schrock, one of the bloggers I am following, has created an online podcast rubric so that educators can take time to evaluate What Makes a Good Podcast. Many educators take time to analyze the content of websites, however it may not occur to everyone to evaluate a podcast with the same care. Kathy provides a printer friendly PDF version for teachers to follow thirteen educational guidelines to evaluating the quality of podcast in an educational setting. Below is a partial screenshot of the podcast checklist developed by Kathy.

What influence and implications do podcasts have on education for students…for teachers?
-Provide differentiated instruction by adapting content in response to student learning profiles.
-Supports verbal-linguistic learners using Garndner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
-Allows students and teachers the ability to have access to professionals and educational experts worldwide
-Facilitates professional development and distance learning for educators
-An exciting Web 2.0 format for engaging learners
-Asynchronous learning that allows students to review, replay and revisit information

Managing Your Podcasts
Many bloggers (readers and creators) recognize the importance of an RSS aggregator to help manage the continual updates blogs receive on a regular basis. Doug Johnson’s article Don't underestimate the importance of the aggregator echoes the value of managing current Internet feeds. I use Google Reader as my main application for updating Web 2.0 information sources, but have taken time to view the following tools as well:

Something that I had not experienced until this week was managing podcast subscriptions using iTunes. As LeFever stated in ‘Podcasting in Plain English’ one needs a podcatcher. On occasion I would find podcasts, listen to them through my laptop, and place them in an audio file for future reference. This was a timely and disorganized way to find, listen and store podcasts. This past week I set up a handful of my favourite subscriptions and now have an orgainzed central location to locate and listen to podcasts…now and forever.

There are many free podcasts on the Internet, too numerous to list. I conducted a few searches this week, finding podcasts for a variety of educational subject areas. One website of particular interest was The Education Podcast Network. This site arranges podcasts by subject area and is host to podcasts created by professionals and students alike. Here is a random sampling of podcasts I found searching through the Education Podcast Network:
Learn to speak Japanese through free daily podcasts.
The Bobby Bucket Show
A podcast site for teachers, students and parents focusing on authors and reading.
National Geographic
Free science, nature and video podcasts.
Sax Tips Podcast
Music lessons, tips and technique for playing the saxophone.

Eash, E.K. (2006). Podcasting 101 for k-12 librarians. Computers in Libraries. Retrieved

EdTechTalk. (2008). Woman of the web show #65.
Retrieved from

LeFever, L. (2008). Video: Podcasting in plain English. Retrieved from

Johnson, D. (2008). Don't underestimate the importance of the aggregator. Blue Skunk Blog. Retrieved from

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Schrock, K. (2008). What makes a good podcast. Retrieved from