Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wikis... Keys to "Working Together" in the 21st Century
Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
Henry Ford, from

I don't think anyone would argue that Henry Ford got something right when he recognized the importance of "working together" to his company's success. After all, over one hundred years later the Ford Motor Company remains one of the top automakers in the world. Ford certainly didn't do it alone.

But does working together in Henry Ford's day look the same today?
I hope not!

You see, things have changed a little since 1903. 

I recently watched this TEDTalk video of Tim Berners-Lee, the MIT scientist generally credited with inventing the Internet, speak about "why" he invented it.  Listen to just these first 30 seconds...

Berners-Lee "wanted to reframe the way we use information, the way we we work together."  Did he accomplish this task?  Has the way we "use information and work together" changed since the internet came into our lives?  I hope so.

Old Ways of "Working Together"

First, let's look at the "old" way of "working together". Let's go back to 1903 when the Ford Motor Corporation was founded. I would suspect that "working together" in Ford's day was dependent on the success of the assembly line. Each person, with their own specialized job and knowledge, performing their job to the very best of their abilities, in sequenced isolation. Once every month or so, a meeting was likely held in which problems were addressed, fingers would likely be pointed, and everyone would discuss ways each other could improve their performance in an effort to improve overal quality and production. Likely one or two people helped to oversee and manage the process.

Hmm... I don't know about you but something sounds strangely familiar.

Education: The 21st Century Assembly Line?

It's a scary thought, but am I wrong?! Be honest!! "Joey" comes to me in Kindergarten where I teach him all that I know, to the best of my abilities, before he goes on to "Mrs. A" in grade 1 and "Ms. B" in grade 2 and so forth... Once a month (or perhaps once a week, if you are very lucky :)), everyone comes together in one meeting space, complains a little (or a lot), points some fingers and determines ways to "improve Joey'" before going back to their isolated work space. 

Chances are good that your school setting isn't much different than Ford's assembly line. 100 years later, not much has changed. The biggest difference is that we aren't building cars and trucks.  We are building lives and futures.  It seems unfortunate to me that Berners-Lee's vision of improving the way we "work together" has somehow eluded education.

Educators!!! It's time to say "goodbye" to the days of assembly line model of education. "As we move toward a world where everyone has access to ideas and where collaboration is the expectation rather than the exception," (Richardson, p. 59), let's abandon the factory assembly line model of learning for once and for all. Let's say "Hello" to new ways of working together. 

The 21st Century Model of "Working Together"

The bottom line... technology has drastically improved our ability to "work together" and I think that even Ford, the innovator that he was, would have jumped on board the 21st century model of collaboration.  We have the power to improve the way we share knowledge and ideas, collaborate, communicate, learn and teach!  Let's not wait for that staff meeting or PD session to occur to improve the quality of our teaching and student learning (and let's be honest, do weekly/monthly meetings improve the quality of our teaching and student learning?!)  Let's explore new ways of fostering the collaboration process: the 21st Century Model of "Working Together".

One such avenue worth exploring is the 'wiki'.

Wikis make working together easier. How? The word wiki comes from Hawaiian word for "quick" and although a wiki may not have the polished look of a published webpage, there is something to be said for technology that is quick, especially when it comes to the busy life of the teacher. 

Over this past couple of weeks, I have been thinking about the power and place of technology as simple as the Wiki... for me, my students, my library and my colleagues.  Let me begin.

Wikis... t'week'ed first for me!

One thing I have learned over the past two months or so is that before I can understand the collaborative process behind technology, I need to understand the technology for myself first.  So I set out to explore a personal use of wikis in my own life.  I went back to something I love and always want to learn more about... something that I know other people have knowledge about that will help me improve something I love, too.  Running.

The process:

Although I have collaborated with teachers and edited a wiki in the past, I had yet to set up a wiki on my own.  I was most familiar with so I wanted to try something new.  Wetpaint caught my attention after reading the section on Wikis from Will Richardson's book, so I set up an account and developed my first wiki, the Wiki Run Club.

Yuck! I found Wetpaint difficult, time consuming and not at all user-friendly. I was horrified that the ads soon took over my wiki (which didn't even feel like my wiki, but the advertiser's wiki).  Sure, an upgrade (about 20 dollars a month!) would allow me to remove ads.  Not acceptable, for me!  I discovered the education wiki option a little too late (which should apparenty remove the ads  Still, I just didn't like the way it worked.  Maybe more time is required with this space.. but for me I was frustrated with the navigation. Pages that I created moved into folders that I couldn't find... it was difficult to move the folders to new locations... After some frustration and anger, I abandoned Wetpaint and went on the hunt for something better.  My criteria... something with less ads, preferably none. And of course, free, please! I'm a student, after all!

To look for something better, I decided to do a search to compare different wiki hosting sites.  In my search, I found this comparison chart which turned out to be quite helpful. It led me to PBworks (a free, ad-free wiki) that I had known about, but not yet used.  PBworks turned out to be a much better option. 

Within a few minutes, my account was set up and my New Wiki Run Club was soon underway. 

PBworks (the PB stands for Peanut Butter, by the way stemming from the company's belief that making a wiki is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich) turned out to be a great wiki hosting site. Very similar to, this web 2.0 tool was easy to use, and although not the most beautiful web space, a practical and quick way to dialogue, collaborate and share knowledge and ideas with other runners. I especially liked the ease of editing, and organizing the space (which is important, too!)  I turned to the User Manual to figure out how to upload pictures, which turned out to be a relatively simple process, in the end.  Just finding the 'upload' function was the hardest part.  The guide was a great resource though, and I wouldn't hestitate to turn to this resource anytime.  New criteria... something with a great resource (user manual) like this is a must.  It's important to remember that users of the wiki will have varying degrees of comfort and technology skill.  I know from experience that good ideas can quickly die if the comfort and easy isn't there (I"ll talk more about this in the professional learning section).

 I invited some of my running friends to contribute to get the ball rolling.  Hopefully, I'll see some new ideas in the Recent Activity section soon. 

Something worth thinking about... I absolutely love the fact that wikis
"involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape" (  This is what makes it so powerful, in my opinion.  The ease of becoming a creator and contributor (not just the factory worker)! I hope to learn more about the gear other runners can't live without, their favourite running events, books, questions and so forth.  Most of all, I hope that it will become a meeting space for all my running friends (make running dates, plan routes, just chat).  Wait and see!

One further note about wiki hosting farms. I explored Wiggio and Wikia.  Wiggio seemed to have some added features that I liked, a nice built in calendar and polling tool, but I couldn't see any way to allow easier access other than invitation through email. Wikia looks great, similar to both wikispaces and PBWorks.  I would definitely try it out next time.  Regardless, the tools are there and there are many that don't have the ads, such as Wetpaint. 

Wikis... t'week'ed for learning

With a little more comfort in using and understanding wikis behind me, I'm going to address collaboration using wikis as a tool for professional learning, classroom learning and library

Wikis for Professional development

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a contributor to a wiki.  A few years ago, our literacy professional development team set up a Professsional Inquiry Wikispace which we hoped would support and network teachers with diverse learning needs within the Professional Inquiry Model that we had established for teacher learning.  Of course, things didn't go exactly as planned. Lack of wireless networks in our meeting space, emails being sent to SPAM, and just general lack of teacher comfort in using wikispaces and technology, in general, soon made our wikispace nothing but a "make work" project for the PD leaders. Without the teachers contributing and collaborating, or even viewing, the wiki was soon abandoned. 

As I reflect on this, I still see great potential in the wiki as a teacher learning tool, especially in enabling teacher inquiry.  Now with new wireless access, teacher laptops and added teacher comfort in using technology over the past 3 years, I hope that leaders in our division would reconsider wikis and would help teachers set up collaborative learning spaces for the new inquiry model, Collaborative Inquiry Teams. One lesson, I would leave it completely open (no permission necessary to contribute).  Could there be drawbacks to the open access of this? Perhaps, but I have learned that the wiki is flexible, and can be bent back to the way it was if something goes terribly wrong.  I would worry far less about secure contribution today (unless there is secure information or student learning data being shared)!  My worry now would be empowering teachers to use it well, not preventing access from using it. Lesson learned!

For my own professional learning as I explore web 2.0 tools in the classroom, I discovered a wealth of great wikis.  Some of my favourite wikis to support my own learning include:

Wikis in the classroom:

I set off in search of best practice in using wikis in the classroom. First, I was amazed at some of the great wiki resources offering suggestions to teachers for classroom use.  I hope you have noticed that I see a lot of potential for wikis in the collaborative classroom.  If you are thinking about starting a class wiki, consider taking some time to view the following wikis and website which offer some tidbits of information that you might find helpful: A great first place to begin! A virtual toolbox of ideas for integrating technology into education.  Be sure to follow the wiki link. (A great wiki with links to classroom wikis.  Be sure to check out the section on Best Practices!) (Saskatoon Public Schools Online Learning Centre offers tips and links for integrating Web 2.0 tools into your classroom).

A few details educators should know are that wikis can be kept secure (inviting only those students and parents who would need access) in this situation, and that all will not be lost. Teachers should feel comfortable that wikis can be recovered to previous states if something goes terribly awry. 

Despite the potential for students to really become contributors to the wiki content, many of the class wikis that I viewed still used old ways of learning... the teacher created the content and the students viewed it.  Many of the wiki descriptions themselves gave away the underlying philosophy of the teacher as creator: "This wiki has been set up to help students...", "This site is all about biology", "This wiki is a one stop information site for my students", "This is a collection of resources and week by week outline" were just a few examples that show that the power of wikis is not completely understood.  Although I recognize that there is still good teaching behind sharing information on the web, to make wikis truly collaborative, we need to begin to let go of some of the control and allow students to build their own content and understanding.  As Will Richardson states, "the more autonomy teachers give to students in terms of negotiating the scope and quality of the content they are creating, the better." (p. 61) Yes, it means we may need to allow some "not so great" examples of quality.  Let's remember that students learn from these examples, too.

So...I set out examples of students collaborating, learning from each other while building the content themselves.  Some of the better examples I saw:
One final idea that I had for class wikis was that of the Class Scribe, an idea that was shared at a conference a few years back.  Students could have designated days to post a few of the big ideas from the learning for that day.  Other students could then add and edit, completing a better recap of the day's learning.  The added bonus: Students who were ill that day would still know what they had missed.

Wikis in the library:

Just as in the classroom, the library is a great place to use the technology of a wiki.  I see this as a great collaborative space to post links, questions, discussion and ideas, especially related to inquiry learning and information skills.

As well, consider using your wiki for book advisory, schedules, book suggestions (see the Webinar with a great How-To for this).

I stumbled upon this great webinar and its corresponding wiki site:

I also loved the Children's Book Wiki and think this is such an excellent way for teacher librarians to build their knowledge of children's literature.  Check it out at .

Wikis: the Key to "Working Together" in the 21st Century
In closing, let's learn to "work together" in new ways.  Let's abandon the old, assembly line model of "working together" in favour of something new.  After all, it's no longer 1903.  Explore a wiki today!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Running Pod'ner

Friends and family often ask me how I became a runner. Listen... or better yet, lace up your shoes and run with me, as I share my journey, along with some of my tips for running, during this 30 minute walk/run using intervals of 1 minute runs and 4 minute walks.

This blog post podcast is for RSS readers, such as Google Reader, by subscribing to my blog.  The podcast is also embedded below.

"Howdy, Pod'ner!" Podcasting... on the Run (literally!)

"Talk about something you love!" This suggestion from my best friend, Alana, was the best piece of advice I heard all week as I pondered over this week's blog on podcasting. 
So, guess what?! YOU are about to become my Running Pod'ner... or just maybe... hopefully... I'll be yours!


Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, Sept 26, 2010
Podcasting: T'week'ed first for me!

Yikes, podcasting!! That was my first reaction.

I would bet that you feel exactly like me... I hate the sound of my own voice.  Well, recorded that is!  I love to talk and those of you who know me will surely agree.  Still, what would I possibly talk about in a podcast?!  I struggled all week... until Alana's comment inspired me to begin thinking in a new way.

Thankfully, the "Running Pod'ner" evolved and I am quite excited about it, to be honest.  I guess because the idea came about from something I do love... running! And also, perhaps there is a real audience out there for a podcast like this. Maybe someone will actually use it... you know, a real actual person. What if I can help someone begin their own journey toward an active lifestyle?! 

My biggest worry is no longer the sound of my voice. It is that I am quite sure that people questioned my sanity as I walked/ran and talked to myself en route. But hey, that's okay.  I had a reason.  Now... if I do it again every week or so, I might be locked up.

The learning process: Believe it or not, the easy part was actually recording the podcast on my iPod. My husband was quite sure I should write a script.  "After all", he reminded me, "thirty minutes is a very long time."  You would think he would know me better than that after 21 years! No script necessary. Talking for 30 minutes straight wasn't hard for me, at all!  Even to myself (ouch, that's a little scary)... but then, maybe I was talking to you.  It helped to think that, I suppose. At the end, I was thinking of all the other things I could have and should have told you about my running journey.  Next time?!  Perhaps. Now that said, a script might be a good idea in many cases.

As the idea for Running Pod'ner emerged, I wasn't entirely sure the best way to record myself... on the run.  A little research on the Internet didn't produce a cost efficient solution, so I walked on over to our local Apple dealer to inquire.  In less than five minutes, I was on my way home with a set of earphones and a built in microphone.  Fantastic investment at $35.99!  One little FYI: For you to do this, you'll need one of the newer iPods (mine is a 5th generation) with the Voice Memo option.  Simply select Voice Memo from the Extras menu. Hit record. Voila. 30 minutes later (or whatever you choose), select Stop and Save and your podcast is on its way. 

Unfortunately, just as Will Richardson discusses in his book (see my Key Resources on side bar), podcasting with your iPod is not quite as simple as using your computer.  I did experience this first hand.  There were a few steps to take that I hadn't expected. 

First, as expected, I had to retrieve my voice memo from my iPod by accessing my iTunes account.  Not a huge deal, but an additional step if you plan to podcast using your iPod or similar device, that would not be necessary when podcasting directly to your computer.

The more difficult part of this process was yet to come!

Editing the podcast:  This was the most difficult part of the process.  First, I chose to download the free program Audacity (on recommendation from Richardson).  This is free software and it looks rather amazing.  Even with limited time to really play, it was clear that with tons of options, Audacity seems like a fantastic audio editing program.  However, I ran into a few glitches within a few minutes. You see, the iPod creates a mp4a file, which isn't compatible with Audacity.  You'll need to go back to iTunes and convert this file to a .wav file.  I had no idea how to do this with such a large file. My usual website for converting (Zamzar) doesn't allow files of this size. I located a help file on the Apple support site which was very helpful given the number of steps.  Soon, I was in business with Audacity, my voice memo loaded, ready to be edited.

Using the program itself was relatively easy.  A few of the features seemed more complicated and may take some extra learning, but overall, clipping and trimming was quite easy.  I located a great tutorial on using Audacity from the Diigo community that I would recommend if you want to explore podcasts further.  Within a few minutes, I had edited out a few minutes of getting ready and running home that were not needed.

My Running Podner ( Notice the intervals
 Glitch #2 occured when I decided that I wanted to upload my podcast back to iTunes.  You see, .wav files will not work here.  So another conversion was necessary, and beginning to be a little frustrating. I had to go back to the Audacity website and download the LAME.dll file in order to convert this back to mp3.  This took a few minutes to locate, connect and allow the conversion.  Somewhat frustrating but manageable.
After my file was converted to mp3, I was ready to embed in my blog. Oh! Another glitch. Audio isn't supported this way in Blogger.  Alright, deep breath. It's just one more step. Ugh!  I guess I should have expected this. After all, Will Richardson does say that this is more complicated in Blogger than Wordpress. I went back into his book, and followed the link to the Blogger video on YouTube for this procedure.  Another step...

Glitch #3, is it? #4?! I found out that you need to upload the podcast to a web hosting site.  Oh! In the video, a few such sites are suggested (, Dreamhost), but as I explored this sites (some free, some not) I realized that I should just use my Dropbox account that I already hold.  Fantastic.  One less step?! Now with my podcast uploaded to Dropbox, I am just one step away.

Now, with public URL in hand (you can copy the public link from the Dropbox account), I realized that I will now need to create a new post for the podcast.  Another deep breath. Done! On the separate post, the podcast does open using Google Reader. Okay! Not exactly as I thought... you see this is for RSS feeds.  If you want to embed the player, this isn't the way.  Instead, I went the route.  This site finally allowed me to upload a large mp3 and embed it in my blog.  Thank you!
"Are we there yet?! How much farther?!"  I still want to try uploading to iTunes.  Deep breath. Surely, I'll be up and running on iTunes shortly.  If I only knew what to do... that is.

One more (last?) step... I followed E-How: Publish your Blog Podcast to iTunes Please tell me this will work! (So far, seems okay. You can subscribe by typing in or I have uploaded the podcast to the iTunes store, Weekly Ed Tech, but may take a day or so to be available)

Overall, I found podcasting a little more complex than I expected. Quite a bit actually.  Not the podcasting itself, but the sharing of it. It will be easier next time, right? Don't let my experience deter you.

Podcasting...T'week'ed for Learning

"Because Podcasts are so easy to make, they are a great way to promote technology to reluctant teachers. Dave Fagg (2006), an Australian history teacher, notes that, rather than spend his time confiscating MP3 players from students, he integrates them into learning by involving students in scripting, recording, editing, and sharing Podcasts about Australian history." (Lamb and Johnson)

Although my personal experiences using my iPod for this podcast don't make podcasting look easy, I still have to agree with Lamb and Johnson.  Much easier than video, audio is great entry point for many classrooms.  Now that I have been through the process, have the necessary software downloaded, my process would have been much smoother and quicker. Overall, it wasn't so bad either. Another real bonus of podcasts is that besides its ease of us, podcasts allow students to publish to the web without putting their face out there. If you recall from my video sharing blog post, I have a few concerns about publishing student faces.  With podcasting, there are no worries on that front. Podcasts are also great entry points for students moving toward screencasts and video presentations. 

I haven't used podcasting directly for classroom teaching before, I have been using PhotoStory with my students to get them narrating.  As well, I have been thinking about the value of this technology since viewing this podcast (converted to video) from the Calgary Science School this past spring. I love this example of a student sharing their inquiry.

When students publish for a real audience, as in this example, you can be sure they will stay engaged. In addition, students can practice fluency and intonation.  And of course, it's easy to do over (unlike performing live!)

Another great reminder from Lamb and Johnson was "Students love to work with sound effects." So true!  Audacity software itself has some wonderful effects built it. Check out for other sound effects.

As a student myself, in distance education, I see significant value in the weekly podcast from my professors.  It helps guide my thinking for the next topic, and recap many of the discussions from the last week.  Along those lines, I was reading a little about Profcasting, which is really just recording the lecture and posting the podcast and slides to the web.  Even in the younger classrooms, I can see how profcasting could be a valuable tool in the classroom to capture those important lessons (Aren't they all important?).

And then of course, book reviews, storytelling (just think about those Halloween stories with special effects), poetry, newscasts, radio plays, interviews, English as an Additional Language, foreign language learning... the ideas will surely keep coming.

For more information about podcasting in the school, check out the following link:

A Final Word about "My Running Pod'ner":  My Running Pod'ner is a 30 minute walk/run similar to one I first used in my training (1 minute run/4 minute walk X 6).  Please feel free to download my podcast to your own iPod, lace up your runners, and take me for a run with you! For a direct link to download from:

And if you would like to follow my route, here it is!

View My Running Pod'ner Route in a larger map

Bottom line.  Don't be afraid to try podcasting.  And my one piece of advice to you... "Talk about something you love!"

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2007). Podcasting in the school library, part 2: creating powerful Podcasts with your students. Teacher Librarian, 34(4), 61-64,68. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quit Being "It" - Playing Tag in the 21st Century

If you are anything like me, you are tired of being "It" in the information game.  And here's why...

Picture the following. You... one, lone individual... have just been plunked into the vast, Sahara desert.  "You're It!"  Somewhere in this vast, open space, you'll find a treasure.  You've heard that buried in the sand are golden nuggets.  All you need to do is find them. A difficult task, sure enough.  Doable, though? Perhaps.

Photo DVIDSHUB. Retrieved from 
Let's make it a little harder. Imagine every nugget of gold looks exactly like a lump of clay. Every time you are sure you have discovered gold, it crumbles between your fingertips. You begin to feel a little anxious.

Now, let's throw in a sandstorm.  Every time you turn, all the sand shifts and moves.  Just as you think you have discovered the sure path to a golden nugget, the landscape changes completely. You start to get disoriented. You begin to lose track of where you've been.

I would bet that no matter how long, hard and fast you search, that perfect, golden nugget will remain just out of your reach.   This is you, the WWW and information.  With greater than 10 billion pages of information (Richardson, p. 89) available at your fingertips, is it any wonder that you, all alone, find yourself continuously sifting for the golden stuff.

But, what if you could enlist some help?  Another "It" to chase down that golden nugget with you, doubling your chances? Or, better yet! What if you could recruit an entire community of "It"s to help you locate that nugget?  Ah, maybe even better!! What if you could retrace exact footsteps that would lead you straight to a pile of golden nuggets?

Enter Social Bookmarking. Now, let's play 21st Century "tag"!

Social bookmarking... T'week'ed first, for me

"I <3 my delicious network and its searchability." (Will Richardson on Twitter, October 5, 2010)

Let's just say that I had grown accustomed to playing "It" in the desert sandstorm. That is, before this week's blog assignment on social bookmarking

At its simplest level, social bookmarking allows you to store your links online.  It doesn't seem like such a big deal, does it?  That's what I thought at first, too. Certainly, this would mean access to my bookmarks regardless of where I am working or on which computer I am using.  A nice option, but it was no big "Aha!" either.

Then, as I read and reflected throughout these past two weeks, I discovered the power of collaborative, collective knowledge lurking behind social bookmarking!  "Aha!" This is the big deal.  So, just how does it work? You see, social bookmarking is based on user created 'tags', sort of like the Dewey Decimal for 21st Century Dummies.  The big difference is that when it comes to social bookmarking, you will find no dummies here.  Let me explain.

You see, when users create "tags" for their web links, they are actually assigning key words or tags that reflect their personal, constructed meaning of the site's content.  And when they share those tags online, they build onto the collective and collaboratively constructed meaning.  As more and more tags are created, or repeated, and new bookmarks added to our collective understanding, a new socially, constructed meaning, or 'folksonomy' emerges. This user constructed understanding can then become a powerful resource.  Will Richardson explains it well in Taming the Beast: Social Bookmarking: 

"In a nutshell, the operating principle behind these concepts is this: if I find something interesting enough to save, odds are good that you will, too. And together, using these tools, we can build comprehensive resource lists much more effectively than any one of us could working alone."

Now this is smart stuff!

The best part yet is that these tags and comprehensive resources become a user-generated, searchable engine.  Unlike Google, that computer-generates searches by popularity, social bookmarking sites help you connect with the information that other users found to be worth bookmarking.  Further stated in Teaching Today:

"The advantage in using social bookmarking sites is the human collaboration involved in the searching framework. (...) Sharing is what makes social bookmarking so powerful. More often than not, it is the Web savvy user who allows their tagged bookmarks to be available for public viewing, and this results in links to sites of higher quality."

Basically, thousands of users have already sifted the sand for you!  Caught you... You're It!

The learning process... putting Social bookmarking to work for me!

Although I was somewhat familiar with social bookmarking sites, having signed up for my own account (YDenomy) this past spring after hearing Will Richardson speak so highly of these tools at the Saskatchewan IT Summit, my account sat virtually unused. I guess I didn't have time to explore the tool in depth, so my use of it was limited, to say the least. At best, I used it to bookmark sites for future reference at the office.  It also filled a small void in organizing my bookmarks, but I certainly hadn't considered this aspect fully until recently. In addition to my Delicious account, I used Evernote, to share and organize content online.  Again, I wouldn't say that I really used this tool.

One of the key learnings from all the reading and thinking I did was the importance of tagging content.  I would often bookmark but not tag.  I now better understand why tagging is so important.  But, don't worry about getting it right or wrong.  I was a little anxious about this, at first.  I soon realized that it isn't a big deal if you don't 'tag it right' because it's based on your understanding, after all!  Of course, practice makes perfect (or at least comfort, when it comes to the web).  I found this article Tips from Top Taggers helpful, as well. 

Over the course, I heard significant praise for Diigo, so decided I needed to check it out and compare Diigo to my account.  It took only a minute to sign up for a Diigo account (YDenomy) using the Quick Link to my Google account option.  I did experience some glitches while trying to download the toolbar and had to close out and reopen the download several times before success.  But finally, with the Diigo toolbar installed, I have to admit that I am already really loving it!

A few features that are different to include the Read Later option.  I have found this to be a great tool while I am working on assignments, and following Twitter (my multitasking maximum).  Basically, when someone Tweets a great link, I just mark it for Read Later (as not to get too off task). Hopefully, I'll make time for those ''Read Later" links... my only concern.  

I liked the highlighting option, as well.  I see this as being useful already for when I am following the week's Trailfire and want to remember quotes that I might like to share in my blog post. Currently, I keep a draft post of the week's topic (this works, too).  I do think the challenge is consistency, so find something that works for you!

I like the Capture tool, as well. Right now, I use Jing to capture from the screen.  Diigo has this included on the tool bar, as well. I also found the Diigo Capture tool very simple to use.

Another bonus with Diigo was the ability to bookmark a .pdf document from the web.  For whatever reason, I was unable to do this on my Delcious account.  In the end, it looks like I am going to be a full Diigo user soon.

Finally, one last but cetainly not least use of any social bookmarking site is its power to organize and locate information we have saved.  This is a HUGE challenge today.  In fact, when I asked friends and colleagues about their greatest challenges in the information age, difficulty organizing digital information was at the top.  Here is a sampling of comments I heard over the course of the weeks...
  • Remembering document names.
  • Finding the document again.
  • Remembering where I stored it.
  • Everything housed individually, not enough folders.
  • Scroll through too many lists.
  • Consistency from one colleague to another in saving and storing shared documents.
  • Backing up resources.
In general, I can see that social bookmarking would eliminate many of these difficulties.  Using tag searches, for example, should help locate the document, regardless of the name.  This results in less searching and scrolling through lists of documents.  The main thing, is try to be consistent.  Another huge bonus, something that I am just learning and look forward to learning more in the next while is the ability to use RSS feeds to get the information delivered right to you! I have just started to figure this out... somehow I have subscribed to my own Diigo favourites (not what I had wanted to do).  But, learning will continue about RSS feeds shortly.

Regardless, after a week or two of playing with these tools, I can't imagine why I never used them more fully before.  If you haven't been using social bookmarking tools for your personal and professional learning, you're spending too much time sifting!
Social Bookmarking... T'week'ed for Learning

Lastly, I would like to talk about using social bookmarking sites in the classroom, library and staff development environments.

In the classroom, I see great collaborative opportunity for students.  Students working together, especially on inquiry projects, could create their own tag and build their own resource list.  Of course, you could add to their resource list by adding sites you think they could use, as well.  Most of all, I really liked Richardson's suggestion about individualizing instruction by setting up a class feed and a separate feed for each student.

"That way, every time you run across something you think Meredith might be interested in reading, you simple add the tag "Meredith" to it and her feed with automatically update." (p. 96) 

Great thinking! The wonderful part of this, it's just so simple.  Of course, it does require each student to have a Google Reader account and "Yes", it takes a little set up.  But in my opinion, once this is done, the pay off will be huge!  I think it's a worthwhile investment!

The more I learn, I am also seeing that 'tagging' in itself supports student learning.  By asking students to identify important key concepts and words, they synthesize their learning.  One of my favourite lessons, from Kyleen Beers' When Kids Can't Read, is entitled Most Important Word.  In this lesson, Beers (2003) states that this process "forces students back into the text to consider what was the most important aspect of that text." (p. 174)

In the library, teacher-librarians could easily add a link to their Diigo or Delicious accounts on their websites. For some, especially at the onset, it may be best just to store relevant websites for both teachers and students on their own accounts.  In a way, this replaces the need for Pathfinders, Trailfires or JogtheWeb paths. That said, I still think these are great options for younger students, too.  If teachers had a Google Reader account, you could set up an RSS feed for teachers, as a teacher would for a student.  Then, when you come upon a site of interest to that teacher, it would be delivered directly to their Google Reader account, too.

Finally, I see huge potential for staff developers with this tool.  This year, in Saskatchewan, we have all new curriculum documents.  Imagine if teachers could build a collective resource list of pertinent resources!  Why not establish a tag, such as SK3Science (for grade 3 Saskatchewan Science curriculum), share it with all 70 Grade 3 teachers in our division (or go beyond) and let's get building.  Teachers wonder why they reinvent the wheel over and over!  I ask, "Why are we all sifting the sand, searching for gold nuggets?"
"If the information is important enough to gather, organize and update, isn't is also important enough to make available, uniform and current by placing it online."
(Doug Johnson in his Blue Skunk Blog, Three Ring Binders: A Little Rant)
Additional Resources:
Beers, K. (2003). When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

You Go, Squirrel! This gal's gone squirrely for YouTube...

Video sharing: T'week'ed first, for me!
I think I may have gone nuts!  Despite all my reservations about YouTube, I can honestly say that making this Squirrel Boogie video, and the learning and experiences that followed out of such a silly endeavor and some serious thinking, was the highlight of my week.  Well, the highlight actually came when my 11 year old daughter informed me that she "would personally be proud of creating this Squirrel Boogie video!"  She has since added my video to her YouTube channel and has guaranteed me that her many important subscribers will boost my views! Does life get better than that?!

I will admit that I started my thinking about video sharing this week from a fairly negative stance.  In general, I didn't see much use for YouTube in my life.  Apart from viewing the occasional clips with my students, I didn't see a lot of value in this Web tool, and frankly, I was pretty confident that my life would not be hindered by the demise of videosharing sites in the future. 
But as I thought about it, I came to a few realizations. First, I guess you could say that I'm just not a video kind of gal.  In fact, I readily admit to being a very text dependent learner.  I don't watch television (at all!) and I have wondered if there is, perhaps, a part of my brain that is incompatible with video processing.  I have just never caught on. As a result, I don't own and have never owned a video camera. Of course, I do have video taking capability... a WebCam and a digital camera (used to capture all the videos on my YouTube account). So unlike Flickr, which might help to ease my photo overload problem, I definitely don't have a video overload problem. 

A lack of video? That I do have! So, I am sorry to disappoint you, but in this post there will be no wedding or birthing videos to entice you on. Thank goodness, right?! People probably show that stuff online, I bet. But along with that, in this post you will find no "First Christmas, First Steps, First Words" videos either...  hmm. Do I regret not having those moments forever captured for all to relive? I don't think so. Not yet anyways. Will my kids? Maybe. But don't you think it is okay to enjoy that Christmas concert live, too, and not through the lens of some camera?! I figure by the time I get a good shot of my child through the viewfinder, the event has ended! Yet when I go to that Christmas concert and see all the video cameras running, I see that most people don't share these same values. I can't help but wonder what I am missing. People LOVE video! Still, capturing those memories to relive them is one thing... posting them for other people to view them, that's something else entirely.

But you know what shocks me? It shocks me as to what people will share of themselves.  Deep inner thoughts. Embarassing moments. Intimate details. Incredible, really.  What would be the motivation?  Fame? Fortune? Revenge? Fun? Curiosity? All of the above? Okay, I am quite competitive so after viewing Michael Wesch's video, Anthropology of YouTube and hearing him talk about his video becoming a No.1 video, I have to admit there is this part of me that would love to hold that No. 1 spot, too.  As long as I don't have to actually be in it... or any of my kids... or reveal any parts of my inner or outer self to do it. 

So, who will star in my first video? The squirrels from last year's trip to Emma Lake! Perfect! Stars who require no special forms or permissions, and no salary! Thanks, Lori and Mary, for making this possible.

The process:

My first question was "Is YouTube the best tool for this job?"  Basically, I think the answer is still "Yes".  I took some time to look over some of the other sites (TeacherTube, MetaCafe and Vimeo grabbed my attention) and virtually they are similar.  However, with YouTube having such a dominant piece of the market here, it's hard to go elsewhere.  There was a part of me that wanted to post to TeacherTube, but again, I think if you are going to do it, just do it!

YouTube was especially easy to sign up for, seeing that I discovered that I already held an account.  I somewhat remembered creating the account. If memory serves me, I wanted to mark a favourite video for work. Not exactly powerful use of technology. Just the same, it saved me some time... well, not really as I had to go through the whole sign up process anyway (maybe 1 minute of work) to discover that I already existed on YouTube.  Here I am... My YouTube Channel (Denomy KG) 

But with the easy part out of the way, now begins the real work.  Creating my first video.

Surprisingly, creating my first video was relatively easy.  I have used Windows Movie Maker before so I felt pretty comfortable with this tool. I wasn't sure that it would work for uploading to YouTube, but I thought I could always convert it, if need be (not needed, Windows Movie Maker works just fine). But first, I wasn't sure if my camera files would even work with Movie Maker, having never used it before in this capacity, but they imported easily.  Within a minute or two, the project was underway with my squirrel video already imported.  I thought about leaving it as is, sounds 'au nature', but after viewing Michael Wesch's Anthropology of YouTube video, I felt a little inspired to try something creative, "repurpose" something in a new way, as Wesch would say.

On the drive to my son's lesson, I ran my thinking past him and was surprised to discover that he didn't think it was TOO lame.  He suggested music like Yakety Sax or something fun.  Thanks, son, for not just shooting me down, and for offering some good advice. Unfortunately, there was no creative commons license here. So finding some similar and suitable music was a little more complicated than uploading Yakety Sax. I have used previously so went to that site first off.  When I heard this song by Diablo Swing Orchestra, I knew it would work perfectly. A quick download, import to MovieMaker, followed by some quick clipping and cropping and Voila! A miracle unfolded.  I actually like it!  I wasn't even ashamed to post it on YouTube. After all, I think there are worse videos out there than this one (I hope you would agree).  My daughter helped me with the upload (reminded me to take out the .wmv from the title, a good thing to know).  And success! It took a few minutes all tolled, but surprisingly quick and simple.  And... I was excited to see it there!  Wow! I couldn't believe it.  My first video! Now, how to make it No. 1... refresh, refresh, refresh (says Michael Wesch).  So help me out, please refresh it a couple of times!

Video sharing: T'week'ed next, for learning!

Now, for the really hard part. How do I make videosharing via YouTube a good tool for educators? I think I am like most educators, a little reluctant to use YouTube for viewing, and exceptionally reluctant to post videos from the class to YouTube. You have to be kidding! All the permissions that go along with posting video or images of students to a public domain.  Yikes! Not worth my time and stress, I am afraid.

But as I read through Will Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, I was soon inspired with an idea.  This idea stemmed from one of Richardson's favourite videos Parents.  I loved this video, not just the powerful message, but the simplicity of it.  And the fact that there were no student images, Simply Genius!  I could see this working for me quite nicely.  Perhaps not exactly the same way, but similarly.  Words, perhaps, instead of images. (I did tell you that I am very text dependent, correct?)

So I started to do some extra reading and thinking... and decided to take a closer look at our renewed Saskatchewan curriculum documents for possible curricular topics.  Right away I saw some possible avenues from health and social studies curriculums.

Possible topics include:
  • nutrition and physical excercise
  • harmful substances and misuse of helpful substances
  • healthy/unhealthy homes
  • safety at home
  • violence and its effects
  • power and authority, peer pressure, bullying
Finally, the idea for this Diary of a Young Girl came to me. (Please note, this is a fictitious example.)

 I can see what Richardson means though... video does take a little more planning, writing, thinking and so forth.  But I was thrilled with the end result  I have to thank my daughter for her help with this, although she does not want to be credited. 
I can see this type of video journal diary being used as an excellent reader response to literature. For example, I have done print journal entries like this using picture books.  Generally, I use RAFTS (Role, Audience, Format, Topic, Srong verb).  One that comes to mind is a personal favourite, The Other Side,by Jacqueline Woodson.  Following the book, students assume the role of Annie or Clover (role) and write a letter (format) to Mama or Community (audience) to persuade (strong verb) others to tear down the fence and eliminate racism (topic).  If you think back to my Sticks and Stones video, the RAFTS prompt here might be something like "As a victim of bullying, write a diary entry to share with bullies, teachers, students and others that will recount some of the effects of bullying on the victim".  RAFTS prompts are one of my favourite after reading strategies.  If you want to learn more about RAFTS, a site I really like is Writing Fix.  Of course, this can be left in paper form, but I think hearing the voice and seeing the words on screen really brought the message to life, beyond the paper.  I think that is the power of the Read/Write World of Web 2.0.  I hope you agree.

A little more thinking on this topic also reminded me of a YouTube video shared by Dean Shareski at last year's Assessment Conference.  Here is another great example (once again, no face shots... I like this) that puts some of the collaborative power of video sharing sites to work.

I really like the ability of video sharing sites like this to help build student understanding and get feedback to further their learning.  It made me think of math right away...this might be a great way to seek help with a tough math problem (just can't get that right answer... what am I doing wrong?). Or perhaps to seek feedback on making that Structure stronger in grade 7 science.  Just a couple of extra ideas to get you thinking, too, I hope. 

Finally, why not have your students use those pet and animal clips to create videos for sharing and creating video (I bet your students have these, too).  This will help your students understand new literacies, as William Kist elaborates on in his book, The Socially Networked Classroom, by stating that "in a new media age, many texts we encounter contain multiple forms of representation (music, print, image,) within the same text." (p.20) We need to help our students be creators in this new literacy environment, providing them with opportunity to practice new skills by selecting the right music, text, visuals and video to share their message.
Next week, social bookmarking.  Hope you will be back to learn with me.