Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's a small world, after all!

Globephoto © 2010 Raphi | more info (via: Wylio)
For the past three months, I have sat in my dining room and watched the world shrink around me. And no, this was not the result of global warming, or overeating! Rather this was the result of a totally new phenomenon. At least, new for me. It's called "global learning".

For you, reading my blog today, this phenomenon may not be new at all.  You may have been aware of global learning for sometime. It may have happened to you already.

For me, this phenomenon was new. 

Global learning happened slowly. So slowly that I didn't even notice at first.  Until one day, BANG, global learning was just there. Yes, as it did for me, global learning could happen to your learning space, too.  Perhaps your global learning journey may progress slower or faster, or take you to different stops along the way but you should be aware of it and know that it's happening to millions of people: from all parts of the world; among learners of all ages; from all different walks of life. 
Yes, global learning will surely happen to you.

For me, the stages of global learning progressed like this:

In week 1, I created the WeeklyEdTech. I nervously fumbled my way through the whole process, from setting up the blog, designing the space, and creating my introductory post.  I was more than a little on the edge. I looked around my dining room and felt like reinforcing the walls.

In Week 2, while exploring photo sharing, global learning unexpectedly began to creep into my dining room. I published something to the web (and not just for PD sessions either). My first real blog post, my first real audience and my first contribution to a collaborative space, Flickr. The result: a tiny hole formed in my dining room walls. Far too small to notice, this tiny hole seemed insignificant. 

Week 3... my first upload to an even larger sharing space, YouTube. Here, "people are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube." (source: YouTube Fact Sheet
In week 2, global learning accelerated its pace with the creation of my first video sharing contribution: Squirrel Boogie. More than the video itself, my daughter's personal comments that "she would have been proud to have created that video", along with her subsequent actions of favouriting my video on her own Channel page created a much larger hole in my dining room walls. I smiled. I celebrated. I noticed. #highlight

Week 4:  I realized that I could learn, benefit and contribute to online collaborative learning while 'tagging' web sites that I value in my Delicious and Diigo social bookmarking libraries. I started to go to 'my community' of learners to find links. I started to actively share my own favourites with a new learning community... and didn't think twice about it. Afterward, I looked back and couldn't imagine how I had ever managed the old way!  The hole grew larger.  This time it was large enough that I was looking beyond my dining room and into others' windows, walls and learning spaces.

Week 5: I took my assignment out of my dining room and onto the street doing something I love, running, where I podcasted "on the run". It was the first time I started to think about creative and authentic purposes for publishing to the web.  It was also the first time, and only time, that I grew frustrated trying to post content to my blog. The  #lowlight of my learning, a long night, lots of learning and maybe some swearing... but I managed. The result: an even larger hole formed in my dining room. Large enough that I was stepping outside my comfortable dining room into the world outside.

Week 6:  I created a new learning community with my WikiRunClub. I connected authentically with friends and running partners.  The outside world from my prior week's learning was connecting with the outside world of someone else who shared a passion for my learning. When I posted my Wiki blog and realized how many views from other countries I received, I encountered the motivational power of a global audience #highlight. One of my walls collapsed.

Week 7-8:  Among many new tools, I created my first animated video with GoAnimate and posted it to YouTube!  The highlight wasn't the video itself, or the fact that three of my Facebook friends 'liked' it, but the fact that my 15 year old son enjoyed it so much that he shared it with his friends on Facebook. #highlight  I rejoiced! I also discovered Jog the Web and shared my Jogtheweb of Multimedia Tools for Schools on Twitter. Someone "retweeted" it! I felt like I had actually contributed to global learning (now 400 views!) A second wall had come down.

Week 9:  Throughout the previous 8 weeks, I realized how much I was enjoying reconnecting with friends and family. I started using my Facebook account more, and actually started sharing my life in a more public forum, slowly tearing down my private space. Perhaps this wasn't tearing down a new wall, but I wasn't hiding behind the other two either. I let myself become more visible.

Week 10:  Twitter. I didn't expect Twitter to open so many learning possibilities. I would say that the bulk of websites and blog posts I used in my learning came from through my Twitter community. Again, I allowed myself to become more visible and started to 'tweet' a little about myself and my learning. I mapped out my Twitter friends and had a big #AHA when I saw how my community of learners stretched outside of my own community. Most definitely, another wall... the third... had come down. By now, I realized that although I was still connected by one wall to my dining room, I was learning more beyond my own walls than within.

Week 11: Blogs and RSS. Wow! This week was the big #eye-opener. It was here that the last wall came down and I realized that my learning space no longer had walls. I realized that my conversations were now global ones when I looked back at how my readers stretched beyond my continent and most definitely, when I received feedback comments (see photo) on my blog from those writers who had most inspired my learning. #highlight 

Week 12:  That brings me here, today! 

I appreciated the opportunity to learn in this course through my own inquiry, blogging and classmates. I'll miss the learning community from classmates: Janet's incredible use of technology for learning in her blogs; Stacey, Brenda, Lissa and Jenn's positive comments on my blogs; discussions about books for pleasure (Mockingjay) and learning (Book Whisperer); openness to sharing websites, videos and learning with one another; conversations that brought me back to my first experiences as a computer user (and my experiences as a teacher where some of my classmates might have been my students:).  Likely for me, the biggest learning from my classmates was in our first discussion on reading in the Web 2.0 world as the readings and discussions started the reflection post.  There were so many new considerations. Pam's suggestions about teaching 'web features' stood out as one I'll use immediately.

When I look back at the past three months, I now understand that more than learning about Web 2.0 tools, this course was about becoming a learner in a Web 2.0 world. I realize that I have truly changed as a learner #AHA.  No longer do I see myself as a technologically proficient user and reader of the web. Instead, I have learned how to be a technologically proficient reader AND writer, a true learner AND contributor in the Read/Write Web. I have learned to be a 21st Century learner. The power of global learning.

Of all my learning, that is the one 'tool' I will leave and go away to share with my colleagues: the power of 'writing' in the Web 2.0 world and contributing to a much larger global understanding. In my mind, the tools to achieve this larger goal are many and varied. I see strength in writing blogs for professional or student learning, wikis for sharing and collaborating, screencasts and screencaptures for showing understanding, creating Voicethreads for assessing... (OK, if I have to choose one this would be the one. I love Voicethread and this will likely be the first thing I will try with students and colleagues on my return to work next fall. I love the simplicity of the tool. The 'faceless' entry point that contributes to the Write web in a safe way). Regardless of the tool, I learned there are powerful ways to engage our students (and teachers!) in the Read/Write web.  I felt that I developed knowledge and skill in many that will carry forward.

Going forward with my global learning journey:

"Libraries as powerful and engaging places in the lives of students do not happen by chance or force" (Todd, 2006)

I think this quote from Dr. Ross Todd rings true for many settings and learners:
  • Substitute the word 'libraries' with classrooms, staffroom or schools.
  • Substitute the word 'students' for teachers, adults
As I move forward in my global learning as a reader, writer, contributor of the Read/Write web, I will keep Dr. Todd's words in mind. 

I won't take chances: I need to stay actively involved in learning by reading, writing and contributing to the Read/Write web; I need to look beyond my four walls to learn; I need to be an engaged learner; I need to model and demonstrate the learning I desire for those I work with (adults and children); I need to establish relationships to build on teacher and student learning opportunities; I need to provide experiences for students and teachers to learn about global learning.

I also can't force. I'll look for opportunities to support learning through demonstrating, leading and teaching providing that I have knowledge myself. Not just knowledge of the tools, but of my new understanding of learning.   

 My plans are definitely to continue this blog. I plan to highlight a new web 2.0 tool every week (just in a paired down way). So stay tuned. But for now, as this course is coming to an end, I am off to see and learn in the big world... but in real life this time.  A well deserved rest aboard my parents' boat in Panama.  See you soon.  Hasta luego!


Todd, R. (2006). From learning to read to reading to learn: School libraries, literacy and guided inquiry. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the ... Annual Conference. 1-18. Retrieved from

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are you part of the global conversation?

To begin this week's post, I ask you this: "Are you part of the global conversation?" 

I am.  I am because I blog. 

During these past three months while blogging for my Web 2.0 course, I have reached over 600 readers from over 10 different countries. Almost 1/3 (186) of whom live beyond the borders of my own country, and among those, half of whom live beyond my continent.  I have become part of the global conversation.  How about you?

Image capture from stats

Blogs: First for me...

I love learning.  Even more than learning, I love sharing my learning.  In my last teaching assignment as a literacy teacher, I had the luxury of a very collaborative workspace, knowledgeable and open-minded colleagues, and a wealth of opportunities to learn. This fall, I will be boldly honest and say that I was struggling with the reality of being a full-time distance student. I missed my colleagues and students; they fueled me to learn, think, create and generate.  Learning in isolation was a new, and very lonely, experience. Until I discovered that I wasn't learning alone; I just needed to adjust to my new classroom and staffroom, the one without four walls.

After that, it's been rather exciting to recognize that I have learned from, and may have provided new learning or thinking opportunities for someone else, whom I have never met. I vividly recall the first time I discovered the "Stats" bar on my blogger dashboard and realized I had an audience from outside of Canada. Someone outside of my own house was actually reading my blog!
In his book, Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms, Will Richardson (2010) speaks about the motivation this experience can have.

"That potential audience is one of the most important aspects of the Read/Write Web. The idea that the relevance of student work no longer ends at the classroom door can not only be a powerful motivator but can also create a significant shift in the way we think about the assignments and work we ask of our students in the first place." (p. 27)

For me, the potential for a piece of the global audience was a huge motivator. I reluctantly admit that I have a slight competitive streak in me (okay, maybe not so slight) and coupled with the even slighter (okay, even less slight) perfectionist tendency to overachieve, as soon as I thought about this I wanted to post for the simple sake of improving my blog stats.  Not to compete with anyone but myself, just aim high or at least aim to improve.

And... I had some highs. Take my Wiki blog post on October 25th (see stats below) which brought in the most views of my blog from around the globe. 

Okay, no million viewers, YET. Still working on that. However, I had commented to my husband that day about how excited I was to see so many global readers to my blog.  At one time, I had 16 views from Spain in just one hour. I remember saying to him that this was likely because I had discussed the Ford Motor Company in my blog.  He laughed. He doubted that a group of people in Spain googling Ford (millions of very poor Google searchers aside) would happen upon my educational technology blog on wikis; he further proposed that perhaps someone had shared my blog post amongst their staff or workplace. Really?! Is that possible?! Well, you never know, I guess. But I'll use the words Ford Motor Company here, too, just to check! So, if you are here to learn about the Ford Motor Company and have yet to discover that I won't be selling or reviewing any Fords here... I'd highly recommend that you check out Google search basics - Web search help. For the rest of you who want to learn more about my experiences becoming a blogger, read on.

Now, as I pondered over this during the past week I realized that my top blogs were the blogs I liked best, too. They were the blogs where I felt I had really understood my readers and connected best with both the content and audience by stirring the cognitive soup a little.  Ultimately, these blogs had solid content, but equally important, a strong voice.  I knew we had discussed the trait of voice in our course discussions, so in many ways I wasn't surprised by this realization.  I decided that voice is worth more in depth discussion, so I have written an additional post on my Literacy Lady blog to further my learning and thinking about this important part of blogging.  See my blog post, Lost your blog voice?! for details.

After reading that post, I'd invite you read my very first blog post...
A little assessment for learning check-up... I'd say I've grown a little as a blogger.  Well, on a positive, at least there were no spelling errors in that 20 word post. By the way, I never posted another blog post on the Literacy Lady until summer of 2010. So much for sharing my literacy learning journey. Believe me, it wasn't that I didn't learn. In my life, learning is a constant; blogging wasn't... at the time.

So besides searching for that inner blog voice, what else have I learned about being a blogger? I learned how easy it is to maintain a blog... allowing blogs to be powerful, flexible, ever-changing dynamic publications. I learned how to embed using the Edit HTML tab. I learned that blogs are much more than words, but tell stories through video, images, links, embedded objects and more! I learned how to add widgets galore for all my technology trials (maps, feeds, blog rolls...), you name it, I tried it!  Along that line, I learned that it can be very frustrating to add podcasts to your blog! Why is this? How can audio be so much more difficult that video. Ugh! I learned to value the blog of close friends of my parents, Ann and Barry Lange, who have dedicated to their sailing blog , posting on average 100 blog posts per year since 2005! Awesome work, Ann and Barry. By the way, we all still read your blog from time to time and good luck on your around the world sail! But most of all, I learned to appreciate the time, energy and committment that is made by all those great bloggers out there who have contributed to my learning.

Do I see my use of blogs continuing beyond this course? I think it would be fair to say that I see my blog use not only continuing, but growing, in the future. Now that I am in the global conversation, why would I stop? Not just for me, but for all my learners. 

So if you aren't in the global conversation, get blogging!  Here's how to get started:
1. Select your blogging tool. Richardson recommends Blogger and with experience in both Blogger and Edublogs, I would agree with Richardson.  It's free, simple and fast. The hardest part is selecting your blog title and finding an available URL.
2. Create your first post. Take Richardson's advice and start small.  Perhaps you don't need to start quite as small as my first post, but something in between would be nice.  However, write whatever you are comfortable with.
3. Try playing with the font, adding images, links, videos or even embedding items using the toolbar.

4. When you are ready, preview, save or publish your post! Voila. Easy as that. Really.

5.  Create and edit new posts, view comments, view, set or change settings, view or change your blog design, monetize (haven't used that!) and view your stats (my favourite option)!

6. Experiment, enjoy. Reflect, create. Discuss, collaborate. Enjoy your new global conversation.

Blogs... next for learning.

Blogs are powerful learning tools, for learners of all ages.  Richardson provides educators with many suggestions for incorporating blogs in the classroom: online filing cabinets, e-portfolios, collaborative spaces for reading and writing, school web sites, for starters.

One comment made by Richardson in his book that really resonated with me this week was, "the Weblog is a democratic tool that supports different learning styles. For those students who might be more reticent in class, a blog gives them the opportunity to share in writing the ideas they may be too shy to speak." (p. 27)  This statement really reminded me of one student's comments from a video in my last week's Twitter post. That student had identified the ability to micro-blog as an important entry into the classroom learning community. Without such a community, many students would remain observers, and may never become active participators in the classroom network. If you have ever done the yarn test to give evidence to your classroom discussions (passing  ball of yarn every time a student speaks), you will likely see that a few students (and adults) control the bulk of classroom conversation.  A blog creates an equal space for all learners, regardless of their ability to engage in outward conversation.   

The great part of blogging is that it's simple enough that learners of all ages can become part of this global conversaton. This past week, I followed a Tweet which lead me to classmate Franki's daughter's blog, Fun Things to Make and Franki's personal reflections in her own blog,  Blogging with Ana . I was absolutely amazed by the learning that Ana experienced during her blogging encounter and the honest reflections from her blogging mother.  It really inspired me to think about creating a blog with my own 11 year old daughter. Wouldn't this be a great way to share our upcoming trip to Panama beyond the traditional powerpoint that she has been assigned? What an incredible way to teach responsibility, digital citizenship, online safety and technology skills! Thank you for the inspiration, Franki and Ana! 

When placed in the classroom context, blogging serves all these and more.  Consider these additional uses of a classroom blog to:
  • post classroom information to keep students and parents up-to-date
  • provide exemplars of quality work for student assignments
  • share work globally and receive feedback from larger community
  • engage students in the process of commenting and taking part in the global conversation
I can't leave without mentioning my very favourite student blog: Laura's Life. An avid reader, Laura set a goal in second grade to read all of the Newbery Award winning books and blog about them on her site by the time she reached middle school in fifth grade.  Isn't that quite a lofty goal for a 7 or 8 year old?  Believe it or not, Laura reached her goal. Every Newbery winner has been read and reviewed by Laura on her blog (beginning with 1922 Newbery winner, The Story of Mankind).  Laura continues to read, read, read and I am sure that seeing her blog will inspire your learners, young and old!

Blogs... for professional learners

This week, I really enjoyed reading and reflecting on Dean Shareski's November 18th blog, How to Make Better Teachers.  Shareski opens with a very powerful opinion statement:

"Want to instantly create better teachers? I know how. One word. Blogging."

Shareski gives a convincing and thoughtful post, and along with comments from bloggers in the field, I hope this post sparks up further global conversation about the power of blogging as a professional learning tool.  As a staff developer myself (on leave), I agree wholeheartedly and have recognized the potential of blogs for some time (despite being a non-blogger at the time for which I am ashamed to admit).  My colleagues and I tried to initiate a culture of blogging last year through the creation of an Edublog for grade 3 to 5 learners in our professional learning group (  As you will see, it was a bit of a bust. One comment was received. Where did we go wrong?  I wonder if our own lack of blogging played a part in this! Ah, yeah! I wouldn't doubt that.  How can you sell what you don't own for yourself? Along with that, I see a few added glitches. Edublogs, I mean 'Ad-You-blogs' was certainly not the best platform.  The design... not so great. I also don't think the power is there unless teachers take ownership for themselves... and create their own!  But they have to see the potential and want it for themselves first.  Then we have to provide the resources (support, training and TIME) to make it happen, too!  Finally, we have to ask ourselves critically what can we take off the teacher's plate at the same time. Why would they still need to do a written professional learning plan for starters? 

Richardson also writes of additional benefits of weblogs for teachers which include:
  • reflection
  • logging experiences
  • unit plan details
  • reflecting on what worked/didn't work
  • sharing tips, tools, insights, ideas,how-tos
  • exploration of issues in education
For me, I see blogging as a professional tool to:
  • build my knowledge of the Read/Write web
  • reflect, consolidate and share my learning
  • record my learning (my professional learning plan)
  • and of course, enter the global conversation
For an additional resource on professional blogging, I loved reading:
Why do I blog?

Bringing content to you: RSS (Really Simple Syndication)

One of the most difficult challenges facing readers and writers of the WWW is gathering and keeping up on content.  I love, love, love my Google Reader account! Did I say that I love my Google Reader account?!  It brings the content right to you!  I don't know how I managed before, to be honest. Google Reader is simply an 'aggregator' or mailbox that allows RSS feeds to be delivered to your inbox.  No need to hunt, scour or search.  This is one great tool that you can put to work for you. For free. 

Although I found setting up my Google Reader a simple task, I learned a few things the hard way. If you want to create RSS news or Twitter feeds, make sure you select your tags carefully.  Not sure what I was thinking when I set up a feed for the keyword 'inquiry', but within 24 hours I had 1000+ feeds.  I can assure you it was quite a shock to open my Google Reader account the next morning!  Take it from me, select several key words "inquiry learning education"... Enough said. I may need that Google Search help website myself! Here's a little intro to my Google reader account.

 For further learning about Google Reader, a great website:
Google Reader for Beginners

Finally, have a great week.  Next week, I'll be making some final reflections on my learning this term and plan to create a little Do You Know Web 2.0? quiz.  Should be a fun way to celebrate my learning!

In closing, I leave you with these wise words from What Ed Said.. equally fitting for me today!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twitter: Your Personalized Professional Learning Network

"Think about this for a second. In a last ditch effort I reached out to my community of learners and they responded immediately [when one person] whom I have never met face to face before stopped what he was doing and created a video tutorial for me (and anyone else who needed it). What an incredibly powerful reminder of the power of my PLN."
Tony Baldesero
November 9, 2010 in his blog Transleadership

I wanted to begin with this quote from Tony Baldesero because Baldesero's story really struck home with me.  When Tony was struggling to embed a Twitter roll into his Wiki, he went to his Twitter Friends for help.  Here is his account (from his November 9th blog):

Anyone know how to add a twitter feed to wikispaces?
Within two minutes I got a reply from @andycinek and @dmcordell, both of whom pointed me in the right direction.  Then @dmantz7 tweeted this:
I have several Twitter feeds on 1 of my wikis. I will write up the steps for you and send them.
My initial thought was, “Is he really typing out directions for me?”  Then I got this one from him…Will send you link for tutorial video as soon as screencastomatic completes the encoding.

Wow!  It's hard to imagine... but this is true.
I have to completely agree with Baldesero.
It's absolutely incredible that someone would stop what they are doing to create a screencast to help someone they have never met (and likely many others).  Truly, this is the power of Twitter.

Twitter is like having a Personalized Professional Learning Network, "a network at my fingertips", as Will Richardson would say. You see, with over 175 million users from around the globe, Twitter has become one of the most popular networking sites on the web ( The fantastic advantage to Twitter, is that you can choose to "follow" only those users who share your interests and passions, provide quality learning opportunities and enhance your personal and professional life. Alternatively, you can subscribe to hashtag feeds, such as my blog Twitter feed on #edtech, #tlchat, #edchat or #elemchat to name just a few.  Can't attend the conference and want to share in the learning? Simple, just follow the hashtag (#sljsummit10, #bjporter, #nsba... to name just a few).

Twitter really does help you connect with people and learning that counts. Feeling more than inspired by Baldesero's story, I viewed the screencast embedded on the Transleadership blog and embedded my own blog roll to this blog for #edtech. I didn't know you could do this... or just how easy it really was.

Feeling further inspired, I decided to create my own screencast for embedding Twitter Feeds into Blogger (simpler than Wikispaces, by the way) in the event that I might help someone in return, I uploaded the screencast to YouTube and have embedded my screencast below... Sorry, no I didn't Tweet it out (I still hate my voice!)

Twitter... first, for me.

Like many other of my endeavors "in the clouds", I created a Twitter account this past spring after hearing Will Richardson speak at this spring's IT Summit in Saskatoon.  Immediately, I followed two or three people, sent off one Tweet... and soon forgot my username and password. 

Reconnecting with Twitter has been a valuable resource for me. To share my learning journey using Twitter, I have created a little Prezi so you can see some of my actions and reflections.

I do realize that I need to contribute more. I think that will just come. In the meantime, I have tweeted out every week or so, and continue to feel a little more comfortable each time.  I remember the first time, I think it took my 15 minutes to tweet out the maximum 140 characters... but it is improving.

A few added bits of advice... I took Will Richardson's suggestion of and I found that valuable. I noticed there are hashtags for #triathlon... I thought maybe I could get a personal training network for myself, as well!
On that note, I have been enjoying creating the network that I have (see my Google map below).  I see my perspective may be somewhat skewed to North American education so that will be something to think about in the future, as well.

Map your Twitter friends

Twitter... for education:

Like so many other technologies, educators have to decide what tools to use and how to use them. Twitter is no different. Is there a place for Twitter in classrooms? I think so... let's take a look.

According to Richardson, "imagine if we could help our students use the tool to build learning-on-demand environments like the Twitter community" (Richardson, p. 88).  However, similar to Facebook, there are certainly barriers to cross. In Saskatoon Public Schools, teachers have access to Twitter, but with so few controls in place, I agree that Twitter may be a little too "Wild West" (Richardson, p.88) for many school settings. 

Concerned teachers may want to look for options  such as (see image below) which is one great option. I signed up for a free account in less than one minute.  However, I was somewhat concerned that although this site is for students and teachers, I was not asked to verify this in any way.  This was somewhat concerning, but as I looked further into Edmodo it does seem that you can only connect with teachers (not students).

Of course, just as with Facebook or any online activity, teachers need to be careful about their own actions and tweets.  Always remember that anyone can read what you say! Think carefully.  I saw this article (received via Twitter) about teachers banned after the principal was constantly criticising students in his tweets (this isn't the staff room, and not that this behaviour is acceptable there either).

So is it worthwhile to assume some risks and engage our students in "microblogging".  I believe so.  The video and research study below, although geared for college students, made me think about the power of boosting both engagement and academic achievement (two of my strongest passions) through Twitter.  I really appreciated the student who discussed how although she was very shy, she felt she could still get to know her classmates through her tweets. I loved the idea of helping students stay updated on assignments and tutoring options.  The one student who commented about his inability to use Facebook and study at the same time. Twitter allowed him this option.

Finally, if teachers don't feel comfortable having Edmodo or Twitter for their students, I appreciated Will Richardson's highlight of Westlake High School.  With almost 1000 followers of their tweets, I think it is another great way to share parent resources and school updates with the community. In my browsing of the school's tweets, I noticed reminders about gently used book donations, fundraising, sports events, important dates and corrections.
Twitter... for professional learning!

As I have highlighted, the power of Twitter in creating a learning network is invaluable.  Here are a few resources that I found very worthwhile in my learning.

I really enjoyed this Twitter Prezi.  I found the educator took the learner through lots of important information about Twitter for the brand new 'tweeps'.

For many educators, myself included, Twitter is proving itself to be a powerful tool.  Proof? See what Stump Teacher posted on his November 9 blog!

Pretty powerful words, I would say!

So get started, even if it means lurking like me. I found this LiveBinder resource on Twitter for Educators extremely helpful. I love the introduction (wikipedia), terminology (helped me out!) and I laughed as I read through the misconceptions.  One of my fears... as I mentioned in my Prezi, is that I'll waste everyone's time. 

Finally, I'd like to leave you with this thought about Twitter and your Personalized Professional Learning Network:

Have a great week.  Next week... blogs!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Social networking... education's friend or foe?

"Life is partly what we make it,
and partly what is made by the friends whom we choose."

Photograph courtesy Flickr: Gwennypics
Tennessee Williams from

I suspect that when Tennessee Williams coined this phrase, he wasn't thinking about the World Wide Web.  After all, Williams died in 1983.

Just the same, I think we can all learn a valuable lesson from his words, whether we place them in the context of the real or virtual world. 

Let's take a closer look...

Social networking... t'week'ed for me!

By definition, social networking is "an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities"(Wikipedia).

Immediately, I would happen to guess that most people associate the massive social network, Facebook, when they hear the words "social network".  After all, doesn't everyone have a Facebook account?! Currently over 500 million Facebook accounts exist, in 70 languages. (  Even the Queen of England launched a British Monarchy Facebook account on November 8th! Now, who requires further proof that social networking is huge! (By the way, there is also a Royal Channel YouTube channel.)

As for me, I have had my own Facebook page (Yvonne Denomy) for sometime.  I will admit that I was slow to start.  Like many of my web explorations, my Facebook account sat virtually unused.  Remnants of my inactivity still haunt my profile (no hobbies, education, work etc. listed).  I never noticed this before... I think I'll add some info there.  But truthfully, it has only been this year when I started to use my Facebook page more. My reluctance wasn't about safety or privacy, but more feeling that Facebook was a place for teens.  Interstingly, according to Richardson... the fastest growing population joining Facebook is the over-55 crowd (p.132)!  Perhaps due to the course requirements (and feeling kind of young being much, much younger than 55... wait is my age on my Facebook profile?)... or maybe the fact that I am home full time again, I have been participating in social networking a lot more than in the past. I would say that I am even enjoying the participation.  Proof: I have started to update my status every week or so... or when something happens. I even posted a video from my last week's blog for feedback.   On a personal level, I don't worry about my exposure on this site. I feel I have enough sense to monitor what I put on there... and I have privacy settings that limit my account to 'friends only'.
But as a parent of a teenager, Facebook creates a whole new dilemna.  In last week's Twitter EdChat, the topic that emerged was social networking.  Interestingly, one of the participants shared the following Facebook for Parents brochure. I think reading this is a must read for every parent, by the way, and in my opinion, the facts will interest any user.

Being a fairly relaxed parent, I decided to really explore my son's account. I was first surprised and relieved to hear that there are automatic protections in place (I didn't know this) for teens between age 13 (minimum age for an account) and under 18.  These protections apply providing your child has been honest about his/her age.  My son had... so a little relief there. 

I viewed his profile page... I had never done that.  All was well.  I did find a few little safety and privacy settings that I wasn't comfortable with... I asked him to please change these settings so we changed them together. Likely not a huge deal, but safety is important. Certainly there is risk in any online domain.  An interesting quote from this document, "A child's psychosocial makeup and environment (for example, home and school) are better predictors of risk than any technology that the child uses" (p. 3).  I thought about this quite a lot, and have to agree. 

All the same, safety in these networks depends on your knowledge and your behaviour as the user.  I would advise anyone publishing their personal information on the web to know what you are sharing, think carefully and make decisions accordingly.

Before I head into the classroom, a few short words about other popular social networking sites.  Of course, another ever popular site is Ning. I checked it out this fall, but chose not to sign up (as this site was no longer free and I felt that with Facebook, and so many other free social networks available you have to make choices). 

One choice I have made and my favourite, LibraryThing.  I really enjoyed creating this account over the summer for my Selecting Resources for Children and Young Adults course. I still look back from time to time and try to remember what I read, especially before I head to salon as my hair stylist always asks me for a new recommendation for her teen daughter, an avid reader. I find it so great to be able to go into LibrayThing and check out what I've read, or knowing that she loved the John Green books I recommended last visit, I'll see what other books John Green fans are reading before my next visit in two weeks.  I admit that I haven't added... but I am a little behind in my reading these days (after immersing into coursework this fall). 

I also recently signed up for Ping, the iTunes social networking site.  It's pretty new and I'm not entirely sure what connections I will make, but music is something I love... almost as much as books! 

By the way, why do all these Ning sites have to end in 'ing'.  In fun, my family and I invented a few more Ning sites. Here is our list:

To network with those who share my new passion... triathlon... How about "Tri-ing"?
A network for bankers: Ching-Ching
A network for cooks: Ding-ding (bad idea?)
A network for potters: Ming
A social network for violinists: String

Okay, I never said they were any good.

Social Networks... T'week'ed for education 

Not surprisingly, social networks aren't really taking off in the world of education.  After all, when it comes to school, a long standing tradition of individualism versus collaboration has taken root (I think it's changing though).  But if parents (even technologically savvy ones like me) aren't effectively teaching their child about online behaviour, who is? How are our students learning to be responsible online citizens if they aren't learning it in school? I really think that we need to begin rethinking how we view social networks, like Facebook, in education.  Take a look at this Prezi, for starters.

This Prezi started me thinking about some of the great reason for connecting on Facebook.  At the same time, questions emerged for me about teaching students to use the teacher's class account.  I have to ponder this some more.  I guess for now I am wondering if there are better ways.  At the same time, I agree with this teacher that with so many parents already online, why go elsewhere?  It certainly provided some great thinking for me though, and I hope for you, too.

But we do really need to quit taking away all the technology at the door.  After all, let's not forget that the students go home and use it as soon as the bell rings. Further yet, they used it before they came to school, too, on social network sites like Webkinz and Club Penguin (my daughter's new favourite... MapleStory).

I also can't help but agree with Richardson that this is publishing!  Students are engaged in more writing than ever, thanks to social networks like Facebook.  They are 'micro-bloggers' as Richardson states.  Why not take advantage of it?  Instead, what do we do? We ban it. We take it away. We filter it out.  We let them go home and learn, on their own, to be responsible consumers and publishers.  What's the better option? I think schools need to get on board.

I recently read an article by Michelle Davis (2010), Social Networking Goes to School.  The first line... "At New Milford HIgh School in New Jersey, the school's official Facebook page keeps its 1,100 fans updated on sports events and academic achievements." Wow. This makes sense to me.  Why not have a school Facebook Fan page, for starters. Or a library page, for that matter.  What a great way to keep parents, students and family/friends updated.  My son's school still uses automated telephone calls to announce events (I guess that works, too, if you actually stay on the line).  Milford High's Principal, Eric C. Sheninger, informs the readers how he used to block every social media site out there, for students and staff, but has since changed his mind. "I'm passionate about engaging students and growing professionally, and I'm using these free tools to do it." (p. 14)

Of course, like we would expect for ourselves and our children, educators should take some caution (don't 'Friend' your students, my first advice).  Certainly though, let's find a way.  How about VoiceThread (a tool I highlighted last week), or LibraryThing.  The perks... building a global awareness, collaboration, feedback and assessment, topic expertise, and let's not forget student engagement.

Social networks: t'week'ed for professional learning

I see social networks as fantastic resources for professional learning. I had actually blogged about the idea of using Library Thing for collaborating on new curriculum resources last June.

Of course, Twitter is becoming the professional network of the new generation... stay tuned for more on this next week.

Until then... choose your friends carefully. 
Additional reference cited:
Davis, M. (2010). Social Networking Goes to School. The Education Digest, 14-19. Retrieved from

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Look Out, Oscars! Here I come!

Okay, maybe I won't win an Oscar, YET, but a girl can dream, right?!  Unfortunately for now I'll have to settle for the Golden Raspberry Award (aka Razzie). Learning should count for something though, don't you agree? And learn, I did. 

Check this out for starters...

Voki, Memoov, GoAnimate, Prezi, Animoto, Jing, Mindmeister... the list goes on and on. It's not surprising that multimedia sites are growing on the web and expanding their place in the lives of students, both in and out of the classroom. Multimedia is the new writing, after all.  As Kist says, "New literacies classrooms feature daily work in multiple forms of representation " (p. 8).   Unfortunately, most classrooms still have a long way to go before they fit Kist's vision of the new literacies classroom.  And before I can get there... I have some learning to do.

Of course with so many web-based multimedia and presentation sites to explore, the challenge was keeping track of all these sites and then sharing all the information with you, the reader of my blog.  To facilitate this process, I put the WWW to work for me. Instead of putting all the details on this blog, I decided to keep a web journal of my learning on Jog the Web.  As I learned I added important comments to the Jog about the tool, its strengths and weaknesses and of course, educational extras. I hope you will enjoy all my learning... Web 2.0 Presentation and Multimedia Tools (*Please note, for ease of viewing, please right click on the link and open the JogTheWeb tour in a new window).

Multimedia and Presentation Tools: T'week'ed first for me

As you likely guessed from my Jog, I absolutely loved exploring all the tools this week. I found tools I will use for me, personally, as a graduate student in Mindmeister where I have set up a thinking map to organize my ideas, links and references for my capping paper. I created a story with Storybird to reconnect with friends.   Most of all, I found a little entertainment in creating animation videos with GoAnimate and Voki.  I even took some risk and posted this terribly, ghastly Halloween animation video on my Facebook. My favourite show by YDenomy

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

The highlight... My 15 year old son thought my video was "so bad that it was almost the greatest thing ever" (It's not that bad, is it? I did get some 'likes' from my friends).  Anyways, I guess it was so bad that he was actually proud of me and asked if he could post it in on his own Facebook account.  Imagine that! His friends even commented on it.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), it seems that they all agreed with him. Yes, I suppose I should be sad but it made my week!

As I posted and shared along the week (and saw the response from my son's account), I noticed something interesting. There is certainly a different level of collaboration, feedback and online participation between my generation and that of my son.  He couldn't believe that my friends didn't comment on my video in the same way as his did.  It really made me think about my own experiences in sharing and publishing online over these past two months. I understood more fully the importance of my participation in the Read/Write web. This brought me back to a quote by Will Richardson, "To truly take advantage of the Read/Write Web, we must be literate in the ways of publishing... We must teach and model the ways in which ideas and products can be brought online" (p. 149).  This is the new literacy, after all.

The Golden Apple Awards
Photograph from

So how do we teach and model these tools as teachers?  First of all, I would suggest you do what I did.  Take time to explore the sites for yourself! As you are exploring, ask yourself... "What worked for me, as a teacher, parent etc.? What do the students need/want to share? How much time do I want to dedicate to the task?"  Then, think about the right tool for the job.

Until then, I decided to present a few awards for myself. In making my decisions, I wanted to think about what teachers might look for in good presentation and multimedia tools so I established the following critera:
  1. Ease of set-up
  2. Organization
  3. Differentiation
  4. Engagement
  5. Assessment
  6. Safety
Of course, keeping with online presenting and multimedia this week, I have decided to use an online tool to share details of the critera. (Mindmeister). 

(Of course, please feel free to suggest feedback!  What do you want to see in an online multimedia or presentation tool?)

Given the criteria I have selected... the winners are:
1. For ease of set up. The winner is Wallwisher.  It will take you less than a minute or two set up your wall. Students don't need to sign in. Anyone can leave a post it!
2. For organization... the winner is StoryBird.  This site allows you to set up your account and manage your entire classroom in minutes.
3. For differentiation... the Golden Apple goes to Glogster.  I love how this site could really support students who need audio (but don't demand that everyone use it).
4. For engagement... the winner is GoAnimate.  Although I think this tool would require some thoughtful task design to allow for high-level thinking, it was fun, original and demanded some skill (but not too much).
5.  For assessment... the Golden Apple goes to none other than Voicethread.  I selected this tool because of the ease of leaving comments and providing feedback.
6. For safety... I choose Screencast-O-Matic.  NO downloads, no accounts required and no faces needed to produce an effective and quality videorecording.

Feel free to agree or disagree. Let me know... leave a comment, if you please.

For further exploration of multimedia tools and schools, be sure to visit:
T'week'ed for Professional Development

I hope that we are all practicing what we preach! As instructional leaders, we should be modeling new ways of publishing and presenting online.  Try a Prezi, Sliderocket, or Voicethread.  Why not create an avatar for yourself and share a story in GoAnimate or publish on StoryBird.

For myself, as a staff developer, I have always tried to stay up on new tools and model them in my work with teachers.  However, this past week, I realized that I had certainly fallen behind.  Yet despite new tools, Prezi still remains my favourite.  I know I have used this tool over and over (and still love it!)  Here is an example of a Prezi used in professional development session some colleagues and I facilitated last year.

Give Prezi a try... if you haven't already!

One new discovery for me was Glogster. A fellow student had used Glogster in her presentation this past summer and I was excited. Unfortunately, I never got around to completing my Glog until this past week (and I am thrilled with the PWIM example included in my Jog the Web tour).  For me, this type of application is perfect for the classroom.  I hadn't given it much thought, however, as a professional development tool until stumbling on this link last week. 

I loved that the teacher above had gone away from the workshop and set up a Glog depicting her understanding of Text Features.  Smart thinking!  It made me think that perhaps time at the end of a session would be well spent on completing a 'What did you take away from today?" technology application such as this.  As well, WallWisher is a great "Exit Pass" tool for providing feedback about the session (just not with large numbers of participants, I recently heard).

All in all, a great two weeks of learning.  Before I leave for the week, I want to take you to where I see the future of Multimedia, but it's already here.  My son showed me a video by one of his favourite bands, Arcade Fire, called The Wilderness Downtown.  By entering your childhood address, you are taken on a nostalgic journey through the suburbs of your own life.  Take a trip for yourself.  Think about where multimedia has already gone... and imagine the possibilities in the future.

Have a great week!