Blog Finale?

April 13, 2008 at 6:13 pm (professional_learning)

My Highlights and Lowlights in the Web 2.0 Sandbox

Podcasting proved to be the lowlight and the highlight of this course because it was the most challenging tool to learn how to use.  There are so many more steps and programs, both online and off, involved over any of the other web 2.0 tools.  Three hours of frustration was definitely the lowlight of the course.  However, overcoming these challenges and problem solving using different online tools that Web 2.0 has to offer also proved to be one of the highlights of this course.  I like how it seemed to fall in the middle of the course as everything else after that seemed to be much easier after podcasting.   

Receiving the first unsolicited comment from someone unrelated to the course was also a highlight.  The more comments I receive, the smaller and flatter the world gets and I see how our students could feel if they were given the opportunity to feel connected in the same way.  By not providing them with these opportunities, we are holding them back from having these very powerful inquiry-based constructivist learning experiences.  I can’t help but reiterate once again what Valenza has said.  First, we are working ahead of the rules.  The old rules don’t apply to the new tools.  We need new AUPs that include Web 2.0 and social computing.  Second, by sheltering students from what could happen, we are not allowing for the (1) intellectual freedom that is possible by having access to the tools and (2) the doors to information that are opened by knowing how to access and interact with the information that is available within them in constructing knowledge.  Knowledge construction is so much different than it was when I went to school where the information you needed to know was fixed.  Now, information is growing exponentially.  It is no longer a case of learning a set number of facts.  Instead, it is a case of how do you find the answer to any question that may be posed, how do you deal with differing results, who do you believe, what is your reaction to what you have found and how do you feel about it.

Unfortanately, like many people, at the beginning of this course I had no idea what Web 2.0 was, all the different tools that are out there and the opportunities that are available for students and their teachers because of them.  I didn’t knowingly deny my students access to what web 2.0 has to offer.  It was a case of not knowing what I didn’t know.  Armed with the knowledge that I now have about web 2.0 tools and how they relate to the skills of 21st century learners (ALA, pdf), I must share this with others so that they are no longer uninformed as I was before this course. 

Learning from My Peers

The most important lessons that I can take away from reading the experiences of my peers is not everyone’s journey went as smoothly as mine.  As one of my colleagues reminded me this past week, I enjoy playing with technology and seeing what I can do and what it can do for me.  (I loved the overview that connected Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to play at “seven styles of learning” but it is no longer available).  I must remember that this is not the case for everyone. 

“[E]very educator has different skill sets, goals, and challenges at various times in their professional lives, so their desire for information knowledge, expertise and technical competence varies accordingly” (George, 2007).

While basic skills are a necessity, everyone doesn’t need to know every tool.  Instead, it’s important that colleagues find a few tools to include in their tool box that they are comfortable with integrating into teaching and learning.  

What are my future plans for technology?  Where do I go from here in terms of learning about technologies and integrating technologies into my classroom, library and school? 

Personal Technology Exploration

My technology “to do” list includes exploring Jumpcut as I know students would love it as well as Animoto using John’s torso down camera angle to make it more anonymous.  I want to make a Pageflakes that include all the sites I visit everyday – a one stop web browsing experience.  I would love to use Trippermap to locate my own pictures on a map to use in teaching and learning.  I am frustrated by how slow Furl is so want to transfer over to del.icio.us.  Now that WordPress has a new interface, I think that it allows for more features – maybe a dictionary feed (like Elisa’s), a video feed (like Jean’s) or a voki (like Rhonda’s)?  I would like to be able to add those.  I would also like to select an avatar like Glogowski has with the fern globe that he thoughtfully explained.   These are all related to my own personal uses of technology and Web 2.0 tools. 

Personal Professional DevelopmentI want to go back to the Horizon Report wiki and contribute to the creation of next year’s Horizon Report.  I would love to read next year’s report knowing that I had a hand, no matter how small, in its creation.  I want to spend more time in the Ontario-based teacher SNS Communi-IT and explore the possibility of completing a free online summer workshop with global participation

 

Classroom Based Technology IntegrationRichardson and others talk about a blog as an e-portfolio and a source for reflection and metacognition.  Another one of my mottos that I frequently share with students is you don’t know what you think until you write it down.  Yesterday I read my blog from beginning to end.  First, I can’t believe how much I wrote.  Second, I liked seeing how my blog formatting changed.  While I knew how to incorporate hyperlinks because I was able to transfer the skill having done it with other software, at first I didn’t know how to do block quotes.  Once I did, I found my blog much easier to read.  Third, I surprised myself with some of the ideas that I came up with for technology integration into teaching and learning!  I forgot that I ever had those ideas in the first place.  It is for this reason that I am grateful that they are all recorded for me to look back on.  I’ve identified some of my favorites below.

 

I would love to have students collaborate on what they believe are the seven wonders of Edmonton just like the wonders of the world.  This project could easily evolve into a community based project.  Students could make use of the images at Flickr and Woophy (thanks, Linda, for this link). 

As suggested by Valenza in her Manifesto, I planned to loan digital cameras, (removing the digital divide due to access to digital cameras), have students take pictures of the place of their choice and justify why it should be a Wonder of Edmonton.  Flickr could replace students having to go to different places in the city, something that I wondered about the logistics of as I don’t know how safe it would be for them to be going to unknown parts of the city by themselves.  At the end, we could message the original photographer to have them view our finished collaborative project somewhere online…maybe in a blog? from “Flickr in the Classroom

I’m sure that some of my colleagues would be comforted by the opening to Richardson’s Flickr chapter where he says:

The easiest place for teachers and students to begin experimenting with creating and publishing content other than text is with digital photography. 

I’ve always wanted to have students write poems that were hyperlinked so that a reader could go from one poem to the next by clicking on one word.  This is so much easier if using a blog or a wiki because knowledge of HTML is not required.  David Jakes takes this idea a step futher by linking words in Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” to pages in Flickr tagged with the same words such as wheat. (“Flickr – Real Life Examples“) 

School Level Technology Integration in no particular order.

  1. A revised Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that includes Web 2.0 and involves students in its creation (via a wiki perhaps) so that they take ownership.
  2. The school webpage needs be be “renovated.”
  3. The school library needs a web presence, one that serves to connect students to the links that they use in their core classes so that they never have to type in a link – this has been one of the things that stuck out for me in this course. 
  4. Our schools’ media class takes fabulous photos.  I would love to have an online Flickr portfolio of their photos.  This could feed into our school/library webpage.

These are some lofty goals for one person.  However, I am not an island and I don’t have to do it all myself.  I can enlist, guide and facilitate others – students, colleagues and parents (thanks, Jenn).  I remember a program on CBC radio that suggested that many people would make the committment to volunteer if only they were asked.  I’m willing to ask.  By asking students, I am helping them to make important connections to the school community.  By asking colleagues, I am immersing them in using the tools and by including parents, communication is a two-way street. 

Reflection

I began the course by listening to and actively reading (highlighting, making notes, asking questions) Valenza’s manifesto for a 21st century school librarian and exploring the links in her informationfluency wiki.  I used it to create a traffic light chart of things I knew, thought I knew and had no clue.  Most of the items now fall in the yellow or green light section.  There are still a few things in the red light column but I’m okay with that.  With the nature of technology there will always be things that I won’t know.  It’s impossible to know everything when everything is constantly changing, in a world where

One week’s worth of New York Times contains as much information as a lifetime’s worth of information in the 18th century (Donham, 2007).

I am grateful that I have skills so that I am not “held hostage by information overload.”  I can’t help but be reminded that we are teaching students skills that they will have to transfer to new computer tools.  We are preparing them for jobs that don’t even exist (Fisch, Shift Happens).

Over the Christmas break I was trying to find information on how I could tap into students visual strengths as my colleagues and I find that students at-risk are very visual, a strength that is often not validated.  Despite my best attempts, I didn’t have much success.  I didn’t know that what I was looking for was related to the concept of visual literacy (Farmer, 2007; Burns, 2006; Lambert & Carpenter, 2005; Callow, 2003).  We need to redefine many things beyond libraries (Valenza) including literacy (Friesen, 2003) to encompass the breadth of “emergent” literacies including information, visual, data (Gunter, 2007), technological, digital, media, global and cultural, scientific and cognitive literacies (Getting Started & Topic 1),  that are required in our Information Age.

I can’t believe how fast this course has gone.  As I mentioned before, this is the most I have ever learned in such a short period of time.  Over the course of the week, I would keep my eyes peeled on my blog reader for anthing related to upcoming topics and stockpile that information, scrutinizing, analyzing, questioning, and then synthesizing and incorporating personal thoughts, reflections and connections into my blog postings.  Despite being uncomfortable with and unaccustomed to this new form of writing in the beginning, I love it regardless of whether you call it connective writing (Richardson) or transactional writing (Glogowski).  It incorporates many skills of a 21st century learner (ALA, pdf). 

Last term I completed the inquiry course.  When I looked back on it now, that course provided me with the theory and the background for the work I did this term.  Every week I was immersed in a new inquiry topic.   Every week I had to work through the processes.  In this way, I feel that I am a much more skilled inquirer having repeated the process throughout the term.   

Even though our course is over this is not a blog finale.  This is only the beginning of my journey with Web 2.0.  Now I have a taste of what the tools have to offer teachers as a topic for professional development in themselves or as a vehicle for professional development on other topics.  Even more powerful are the real-world experiences that students can be engaged in as they, too, dabble in the Web 2.0 sandbox applying the revised Bloom’s higher order thinking skills – analyzing, evaluating and creating.  

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2 Comments

  1. Val said,

    Hi Arlene: Congratulations on such a successful course. You were an inspiration to us all. I too found the podcasting to be one of the lowlights, Your 3 hour frustration was my 9 hour frustration. I still can’t figure out how to delete FTPsmart off my computer. It keeps showing up. Any suggestions?
    I too found my one and only unsolicited comment from Kathy Schrock to be fun and exciting, making me feel a bit more like I was at least in the ball park, despite being out in left field sometimes.
    Enjoy the rest of your year and your travels this summer. Good luck and hope to see you in other courses over the next few years.
    Cheers
    Val

  2. arllennium said,

    Thank you, Val, for your kind words. The only thing I can suggest for FTPsmart is Add/Remove programs from the control panel.

    I was excited for you to see that Kathy Schrock stopped by your blog. I remember her from when I was into technology the first time around.

    I have one more course left in my program in the fall but signed up for a spring session course out of personal interest. I’m guessing that our paths will cross again.

    Take care,
    Arlene

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