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Friday, April 30, 2010

Time Flies

Well, it seems like only yesterday....
but of course, it wasn't.

I am approaching my 50th birthday at what suddenly seems like the speed of light.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure how it's happened! The number 'does not compute' and certainly does not match the age I think I am. (I'm not sure exactly what that age is...maybe about 35? 40?....but certainly not 50!)

Nonetheless, it is a milestone birthday and will be celebrated as such.
I've been working on the celebration for a while now and it's been quite a nostalgic trip--finding images of my childhood in my dad's slide collection and selecting highlights from my own to compile into presentations and posters--a retrospective of those 50 years. Me. The people. The places.

Hard to believe I was the baby, little girl and adolescent in those pictures!
Hard to believe I've been to so many places!
Hard to believe I've shared so much with so many!

(Sigh) Where has the time gone?

Monday, August 17, 2009

What a ride!

Wow! What a journey this summer Web 2.0 course has been! A whirlwind tour through the infosphere...kind of like one of those 7 countries in 7 days European tours. It's felt like that some days! My passport's been stamped and I'm back at 'home', wondering if it all really happened and what I've truly learned from my experiences. Much like the aftermath of a action-packed holiday, one needs to see the photos again to remember all of the details of the adventure, recapturing the sights, smells, sounds and feelings. That's where I'm at right now. Looking back at the snapshots of the course.

There were good days, where the learning was fun and success came easily. And of course, there were days when things didn't quite go as planned, and success came after some frustration. But overall, I have learned a lot and enjoyed the trip.

Web 2.0 was like a foreign country for me in that I'd heard about, and maybe even sampled some of the 'culture' already from the safety of my own home, but I certainly had not ventured there for the full immersion experience. That's what this course was like. Air-dropped into the jungles of the Web and having to learn the language and customs in order to survive. I was 'disturbed' from my predictable world as I ventured into the Web 2.0 world, where the only certainty is that I will be confused for a time, and that's okay (Wheatley, 2002). Scary, but it really forced me to explore and discover the place. And I did, at least to a certain extent. I'm far from being fully fluent but I'm getting by. Side trips included photosharing with Flickr and Picasa (and many others), multimedia sharing with Animoto and VoiceThread, video sharing and YouTube, blogs, wikis, social networking with Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking with Delicious and Diigo, podcasting with Audacity and FreePlay Music, blogs, wikis, virtual libraries and RSS feed readers with Google Reader and PageFlakes.

Of course, no trip is complete without the souvenirs or mementoes of the event and I have my own examples of Animoto, VoiceThread (also below), Podcasting, Picasa photo albums, my PageFlakes H1N1 aggregator and my blog as a record of the journey. These things I can share with others (and I already have) to hopefully inspire them to use the tools as well. They are reminders and examples for me to continue learning them and using them. Yes, it was quite the trip.

The best thing about the course was learning how Web 2.0 tools can be incorporated into my teaching. My instructor provided great links to information and examples that inspired my own ideas. My classmates shared their own ideas and plans for using the tools, too. And now that I am not only a blog writer but also a blog/RSS feed follower, I have been learning even more.

My favourite blogs, out of the dozen or so that I am following, have been Blue Skunk, Will Richardson, and School Libraries Worldwide. Blue Skunk provides me with a light look at Web 2.0 tools, sometimes with facts, often with humour, but always making me consider the implications of a tool's use. Will Richardson, is my favourite Web 2.0 tour guide, and his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts has become my personal Lonely (Web 2.0) Planet guidebook. Richardson writes inspiringly about the wonders and the possibilities of Web 2.0, and often has real life people and situations to hold up as great examples for us to follow. I also follow his shared items. School Libraries Worldwide is a bit more scholarly than the other two, but the articles about Library 2.0, tools for libraries and classrooms and reaching our students are informative and insightful, providing me with lifetimes of food for thought!

And it's all helped me to go from being a timid tourist to someone who can lead the way in using these great tools personally and professionally. That's a milestone!

The course may be over, but I feel like my learning and journey into Web 2.0 has really only just begun. Now that I know some of the ins and outs of the place, I can continue to explore, learn and share on my own. And as often as we might say that we'll get back to such-and-such a place one day but never do, I am already booked on continuing Web 2.0 tours with upcoming classes, incorporating new technologies into the research process and a collaborative wiki on number systems around the world. I've seen so many possibilities for using the tools with students and my library, that I have to at least give them all a try! Especially since our students are having such rich internet experiences outside of school.

Web 2.0 has us rethinking the concept of quality education as the nature of 'quality' evolves to adapt to the ever changing social and technological environments. We, as teachers and librarians, must also adapt and change in order to use these tools as efficiently and effectively as possible to facilitate new knowledge and skills (Lackie & Terrio, 2007).

Our students' world and experiences go far beyond our classrooms as they explore the infosphere with Web 2.0 tools. Our libraries need to align with them and be able to provide more user interactive and more Web 2.0 compatible experiences for our patrons (Casey, 2007). Fiehn (2008) agrees that libraries, and their catalogues, need to provide experiences that are comparable to patrons' Web experiences in order to remain viable. Although the catalogue system at our school may not be adaptable to the interfaces of the new technologies, I will certainly supplement it with a blog or a wiki to get information out to our community and to elicit responses and input from it. Maybe a Facebook account will be more 'visible'. I intend to try out weekly podcasts to highlight a new book or two, or a special event as a creative and effective way to promote the library. It would be fantastic if our library catalogue could work as well as in providing users with ratings, professional and customer reviews, content and cover previews, and lists of similar titles (Casey, 2007). By also exploring more of the virtual library worlds, and adopting some of their local customs, I'm sure we can make vast improvements in meeting the digital needs of our students in our own school cultures.

Black (2007) states that "librarians have always been cutting edge and still are on the forefront of implementing and experimenting with Web 2.0 tools. The key is to continue to do so" (p.12). Librarians are expected to be the change agents in schools, as they have been in the past, where technological evolution may have moved at a slightly slower pace (Black, 2007). The Read/Write Web is evolving at blinding speed and we need to keep up as best we can, challenging though that may be. I agree that we must continue to implement and experiment in the Web 2.0 world. That certainly is the key and I don't intend to miss the bus on that one!
The Great Experiment Tour.

Richardson's (2009) Epilogue chronicles the morning activities of Tom, a teacher fully literate and fluent in the language of the Web 2.0 world, who checks his RSS feeds, uploads particularly interesting articles to folders accessible to his students or his colleagues, uploads an assignment for students, downloads an MP3 interview that his students completed and sips his coffee, all in the space of about 45 minutes before his teaching day begins. If I had read this chapter at the beginning of this Web 2.0 course, I would have found it hard to understand and even harder to believe. But now that I've travelled around the infosphere countries these past few weeks, I can easily imagine such a scenario. I can imagine that one day, not too far from now, that could be me. Yes, I have definitely been affected by the whirlwind tour of the Web 2.0 cultures and will probably be looking at that photo album of the trip quite often to keep me in tune with all that I have learned and have yet to learn. Happy trail(fire)s!


Black, E.L. (2007). Web 2.0 and Library 2.0: What Librarians Need to Know. In N. Courtney (Ed.) Library 2.0 and beyond: Innovative technologies and tomorrow's user (pp.1-14). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Casey, M. (2007). Looking Toward Library 2.0. In N. Courtney (Ed.) Library 2.0 and beyond: Innovative technologies and tomorrow's user (pp.15-23). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Fiehn, B. (2008). Social Networking and Your Library OPAC. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools 15(5), pp.27-29.

Lackie, R.J. & Terrio, R.D. (2007). Mashups and Other New and Improved Collaborative Social Software Tools. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools 14(4), pp.12-16.

Richardson, W. (2009) Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Wheatley, M. (2002). Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. Retrieved August 17, 2009 from

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's next??

"Every once in a while someone presses the reset button and a new normal arrives" (Abram, 2009, p.32).

After a confused, slow and rocky start to my Web 2.0 course, I have to admit that I've come a long way and although not an expert on these new tools by any means, I DO have a bit of a handle on a lot of them. And I now have arrived at my own 'new normal' world. Web tools and applications that I'd never heard of before, I am now considering their use in my library and my classes. The ones that I've found the easiest or most intuitive are the ones I'm most excited about, such as Animoto, VoiceThread, blogs, wikis and photosharing sites, are the ones I intend to work with right away.

True, I need more time to explore some of these tools in more depth, and as I start to use them and share them, I will be forced to learn more about them. More learning for me will definitely be part of the 'What's next?'. But so will the teaching.

Already I am starting to incorporate the new technologies into my teaching. Today, I was working with grade 11 students on the first of three general and basic research workshops in preparation for their Extended Essay. I started by finding out about their information seeking habits and their knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools. I was surprised to learn that the students didn't know some of the tools that I named, and thought for sure that a few of them would have been working on or following at least one blog. Not at all. Some even admitted that they didn't know how to use blogs. I was not surprised to discover that all of them had a Facebook account and that most of them posted their photos there. Some used MyPhotoBucket or DeviantArt for photos, and only a couple of the students had a Twitter account, but neither had really used it.

I was kind of excited to think that I may be somewhat of a Web 2.0 'expert' with this group. I had expected that they would have 'been there, done that'. Especially since they are the generation "born with the chip" (Courtney, 2007, p.5) and are our digital natives in this New World Normal.

As part of their Theory of Knowledge course, I asked students to answer the question of whether or not we can find examples of beauty in mathematics, then find at least six images/photographs to support their answer and create an Animoto presentation with them. None of them had heard of Animoto so it was fun to share it with them. (Animoto is a great site for creating slick professional looking 30 second slideshow presentations.) I directed students to my blog and the link to my library tour from my Multimedia posting as an example of what Animoto does. I explained briefly how it worked, including the good points and the limitations. They set up accounts and proceeded to find images to support their answers. They were very focused and involved in the process. Most completed their work in class and emailed me the link to their Animoto video as well as the written answer to the question. The students also had to justify their image choices and record information about the sites that they used. We'll use those URLs in the next lesson on proper acknowledgment and citing of sources with Noodletools.

So despite not having a firm grasp on the new technologies, I DO feel like I have jumped into the start of my what's next? and am embracing my new normal. It was fun and exciting to share something new like that with the students; they were interested in the format and its use. We'll discuss reactions to and thoughts about today's lesson next time we meet.

I also shared my Animoto library tour and my VoiceThread tour with the elementary librarian today. She thought they were 'very cool', and we talked a bit about how we could use them. She wants to learn, too. And I'm inspired to teach these tools. The momentum is there for me and I will definitely keep it going with my students and my colleague. That's the easy part.

But our teachers might be more challenging to convince. Ferriter (2009) cautions that teachers may have a jaded view of professional development since they rarely get to choose their learning opportunities, and have likely been to many sessions run by experts who are pitching the latest trend or craze. It's difficult to get excited or involved in something you can't see the point of or something you perceive as too difficult.

I plan to run mini-workshops after school once a month where I can share a new Web 2.0 tool each time. I don't want to overwhelm staff with too much information. I'm still reeling from my Web 2.0 course, so I know how they might feel! I also know that teachers are busy (perhaps that's an understatement) and I know time is precious, so 'teaser' sorts of sessions, with real life examples, might be the best way to get teachers hooked and involved. Informal. Short and fun. No pressure. No stress. And I'll be honest with them--I'm no expert. I'm still learning how to use these tools, too. That might add to the comfort level if there's not a great gap between our levels of expertise.

The two most fun Web 2.0 technologies to start with that I see great possibilities for using are Animoto and VoiceThread. They are both easy to learn and can be used with elementary to high school students/adults. Animoto is perfect for short visual statements and VoiceThread is an excellent venue for collaborative book discussions, audio-visual journals, interviews and storytelling. I will show some wonderful examples that I've gathered from this course to help them see the possibilities, too. My lesson with the grade 11's would work with the teachers, too. Perhaps if our teachers can get a good taste of some of these tools, they might want to bite off a bit more and try some things in their own classrooms. Maybe hit the reset button for a new normal? Wouldn't that be fabulous? I would also offer a free-time session the following week where teachers can come to practice, ask me questions, and/or get a little tutoring if they missed the 'official' session. Maybe I'll start a blog where teachers can discuss the tool and ask questions. Of course, like always, I will be available in person any day after school to help!

We'll also look at photosharing, blogs and wikis (THE most useful tools according to Ferriter (2009) and Imperatore (2009)), podcasting and RSS feeds and readers. But step by little step. New technology can be frightening and intimidating, and the unknown behind hitting the reset button can be too much to handle.

We are bombarded by so much information every day in the real world and in the digital world, that it is more important than ever to work with all of it in small, manageable bits. A challenge, certainly. We are living in a world that is literally exploding with information. Courtney (2007) points out that the power and capacities for digital information are doubling about every 18 months and Technorati's State of the Blog Report for 2008 indicates that last year there were more than 180 million blogs worldwide! Richardson (2009) says that Google intends to digitize more than 50 million books from libraries around the world, "one of the most transformative events in the history of information distribution since Gutenberg" (p.129). plans to do the same with over 500 million volumes in the U.S. Library of Congress. The numbers are staggering. Mind boggling. We can never keep up.

A classmate shared this humourous video with me about information overload:

We need to learn how to manage all the information that we can potentially consume (Richardson, 2009). We need to teach our students and teachers how to navigate in and through the vast sea of information in which we are finding ourselves.

Richardson (2009) outlines 10 "Big Shifts" in how we teach students, and I would add, teachers, in the new normal. In the shifting, we have to acknowledge that the reset button has been hit in many areas. For example, access to information has gone from finite shelves of books to an almost infinite world at our fingertips at any time; access to experts has gone from another teacher in a school to numerous experts in their field anywhere in the world; student work has gone from being independently produced for a limited audience, graded and filed, to collaborative projects that can be constantly updated and improved that reach a world-wide audience who can interact with the students; knowing how to find information that is meaningful is more important than getting the 'right' answer; and writing has gone from strictly textual to a multimedia format. Normal ain't what it used to be.

Teacher librarians have a huge role to play in the new normal. We have a "considerable positive influence in promoting the ideals of lifelong learning...information literacy...and integrate information technologies into [our] work" (Naslund, 2008, p.55). Our libraries need to be social, user-centred environments "rich with technology that is focused on interactivity and collaboration" (Naslund, 2008, p.56). We have to be the change agents in our schools by modeling and teaching Web 2.0 tools and their applications. The best ways for me to do this is to offer the professional development sessions, start and maintain a library blog to post information about the library and the collections, create multimedia booktalks and to work with selected classes to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into the learning. I also want to work with middle school and high school students to create storytelling presentations for younger grades. If teacher librarians can change our schools one teacher at a time, or one student at a time, then that's a great restart.

I think that as I work through using Web 2.0 with my students, we can share those projects, results, and successes with other classes so that they might see what can be accomplished. This will be the year of The Great Experiment for me as I continue to learn and begin to teach about Web 2.0 resources. I hope I can adapt to this new normal before someone hits the reset button again!

Abram, S. (2009). Welcome to the New Normal. Information Outlook 13(3), pp.32-33. Retrieved July 20, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Courtney, N. (2007). Library 2.0 and beyond: Innovative technologies and tomorrow's user. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Ferriter, B. (2009). Learning with Blogs and Wikis. Educational Leadership 66(5), pp.34-38. Retrieved July 13, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Imperatore, C. (2009). Wikis and Blogs: Your Keys to Student Collaboration & Engagement. Techniques 84(3), pp.30-31. Retrieved July 27, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Naslund, J. & Guistini, D. (2008). Towards School Library 2.0: An Introduction to Social Software Tools for Teacher Librarians. School Libraries Worldwide 14(2), pp.55-67. Retrieved July 13, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

State of the Blogosphere. (2008). Retrieved August 12, 2009 from

Sunday, August 9, 2009

KISS your Blogs with RSS

Before I get into the KISSing booth, I'd like to refresh the definition of a blog.
A blog, or web log, is like a journal where one writes about experiences, feelings and perspectives on a topic or a series of topics. The blog is updated regularly. Gooding (2008) defines a blog as "as personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be" (p.46). And you're reading one right now.

The number of blogs grows daily. It may be that we have found many that we like to read on a variety of topics that we are interested in. It takes a lot of time to go to each blog every day to read the latest posting. That's where RSS comes in to help!

When I first was introduced to RSS and feed aggregators (probably about the same time that I learned about Twitter and Delicious), I have to admit that I didn't understand it all. For those in the know, it all seemed straightforward. If you're haven't seen RSS and feed readers before, or haven't had any experience with them, it can be confusing. I actually avoided trying to use them because I just didn't have a clue.

I'm happy to say that I have gone from being clue-less to at least having half of one.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. Or maybe you'd prefer Really Super (time)Saver. It's an easy way 'subscribe' to your favourite web sites or blogs, much like you would to your favourite magazines or newspapers. And just like having your latest issue of Time or the Australian Women's Weekly delivered to your home, the latest 'issues', or feeds, of your online interests can be delivered to your computer! This Keeps It Simple, Students (or Sweetie, or Stupid, get the idea), KISS.

The 'home' delivery requires that you use a subscription service, or feed reader/aggregator to gather the most recent editions of your online New York Times or BBC news or Laura's Blog. This tool makes it easy for you to check for updates on your favourite sites without having to go to each individual web site to look for new postings. What the feed reader or aggregator does, is check all of your favourite sites for you, and brings the information to you in one easy-to-skim-through place!

There are several readers out there, including Bloglines, Google Reader or Pageflakes, just to name a few. I chose Google Reader, simply because I like the one-stop shopping that I have with Google--gmail, docs, blogspot, Picasa and reader. Once I'm signed into my email account, I am pretty much signed into all of the other applications and tools, ready to go.

Google Reader ( easy to use, once you've signed up for it. Other aggregators are similarly easy. When you are on one of your favourite sites, if you can 'subscribe' to it, there will usually be an orange RSS symbol (like the one at the top of this blog) or an XML button in the web address/URL box or on the site page itself. Click on the button and you will be provided with options for delivery. If it is a favourite blog that you are following, there will be a link to "Follow this Blog". I then click on the Google Reader option, rather than the Homepage option so that all of my feeds appear in one separate place. If there isn't an RSS or XML button, you can copy the URL or web site address and paste it into the box that comes up when you click on the "Add a Subscription" button. Not all sites have the subscription option and Google Reader will let you know if the address you just pasted in will work or not.
I just tried it with one of my favourite aromatherapy sites and they don't have any kind of RSS feed. That's okay. 95% of the sites that are my favourites to visit DO have RSS subscriptions.

When you open Google Reader, web site updates appear on the right and this is where the skills of skimming and scanning come very handy. You can breeze through the new information to see if there's anything 'good' that day, much, much more quickly than visiting each site! If you click on the screenshot below, it will open in a slightly larger size for you.

I took Will Richardson (2009) up on his invitation to try Pageflakes ( I first looked at his Darfur example at to see how it was done. Then I set up my own Pageflakes site for the H1N1 virus. We've had 12 deaths in Malaysia from the swine flu and the situation seems to be getting worse. We've taken some precautions at our school. Everyone who enters the school has their temperature taken every day and stations are set up all day to monitor all who come on campus. We've stepped up the disinfecting of computer keyboards and desks several times a day. I know that students and teachers are following the news on the virus, so I thought I'd try Pageflakes to help them out and will offer it to them on Monday. It took me a while to set it up as I ended up adding the feed boxes in a bit of a backward way. Some of the feeds are more general than specific and I found that too many tags didn't yield any results, so what I am getting for feeds may or may not be completely relevant to H1N1. I imagine it will take some tweaking....
I can see Pageflakes being very useful for research topics, where students can collaboratively find and add feeds on a subject so that everyone has access to a number of great resources.

If you're trying Pageflakes, definitely use the big yellow snowflake button on the right for a quick and easy way to add the boxes!

It's great that we can check all of our personal favourite news and special interest sites and blogs in one place. But how does all of this apply to schools?
- In classroom situations, teachers can subscribe to student blogs so that we can follow their topic research, book journal, or what-have-you updates and assignments.
- Students (and teachers) can subscribe to RSS feeds by keywords for research topics so that any blog, news site or web site that updates information on that topic will be sent to the student.
- Teachers can set up a blog or web page with an RSS feed and students can subscribe to it. Assignments, new resources, relevant feeds can all be part of the page.
- Libraries can use RSS feed to deliver information on new materials to patrons in their particular area of interest.

What about for teachers and their professional development?
- There are literally thousands of blogs written by educators that are "reflecting on instruction, challenging assumptions, questioning policies, offering advice, designing solutions" (Ferriter, 2009, p.35). We can nudge our own thinking and ideas simply by following educational blogs. We can further push ourselves on by participating in discussions on those blogs.
- Reading, writing and responding to blogs helps us to become part of an online community where we can learn from and share with each other (Hill, 2005). Abram (2007) encourages teacher librarians in particular to get out there and write, even 15 minutes a week about something they learned or accomplished that week. We tend to be more isolated in our profession and online communities may be the best way for us to share, and we do have lots to share, with teachers and other teacher librarians.
- For some educators, professional development is a matter of sifting through blogs that they subscribe to. RSS allows us to have all the new ideas come to us in our feed reader on anything from teaching reading to first graders to art therapy for troubled teens.
- Ferriter (2009) suggests that writing our own blogs about teaching can help us to challenge our own thinking about classroom practices or have it challenged by others, and recommends using Edublogs ( as a starting point. Edublogs is dedicated to educators and you will be connected to an online community immediately.

How do teachers get started on their own online professional development?

There are excellent sites to search for blogs on any given topic:
- Technorati ( is a search engine for blogs and can locate sites by keyword or topic.
- LibWorm ( is the library version of Technorati and can locate blogs on anything to do with all kinds of libraries.
- Google's Blogsearch ( a good general blog search engine
- Support Blogging ( a wiki about the benefits of educational blogging and they have an extensive list of bloggers that one might find interesting to follow
- Check the list of blogs that other bloggers are following. Maybe there's something in their lists that you can't resist.

I've gotten started by following some blogs suggested in my Web 2.0 course through our Trailfire links or through the articles I've read. I'm also following my classmates' blogs and a couple other personal interest sites that I found using the Google Reader search.

The main thing is to try a few first. Find some blogs that you would like to follow or subscribe to. Set up your Google Reader, or similar aggregator. Use the RSS feed button to subscribe and start following! Before you know it your horizons will be expanding and you'll be discussing education, or another favourite topic, with people from all over the world.
But remember, in the beginning, for RSS, just KISS.

Abram, S. (2007). Teacher Librarians: Sharing and Taking Care of Themselves. Multimedia & Internet@Schools 14(5), pp.22-24. Retrieved August 4, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Ferriter, B. (2009). Learning with Blogs and Wikis. Educational Leadership 66(5), pp.34-38. Retrieved July 13, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Gooding, J. (2008). Web 2.0: A Vehicle for Transforming Education. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education 4(2), pp.44-53. Retrieved July 20, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journals database.

Hill, C.R. (2005). Everything I Need to Know I Learned Online. Library Journal 130(3), pp.34-35. Retrieved August 4, 2009 from ProQuest Education Journal database.

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.