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Make haste slowly

Recently I pulled a hamstring shoveling snow. It was totally frustrating, as I had intended to go hard practicing yoga over the holidays to catch up after a term of intense teaching and learning. When I expressed this frustration to my yoga instructor, the response was ” Sometimes you need to make haste slowly.”
I am someone who always dives in to things with a passion. I get excited and completely immerse myself. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, often it leads to me being exhausted as I try to maintain the many things that are important in my life: school, family, yoga, friends, exercise, and university. In both my working and my private life, I am usually the first to say “Let’s try it!” or “Of course I can.”, and then putting all of my energy into being the best at everything I do. Recently, this has caught up to me. I realized that I had to let something go. Letting go of my my family or my teaching was not an option, so my university course for the winter had to go. It was a difficult decision to make without feeling like a failure. Fortunately, George Couros recently wrote a post about dropping a plan for his school that he held dear. He spoke about understanding when it was time to back away and to solidify what we have. I have made great gains in my learning about technology: using Web 2.0 tools, using Twitter as a PLN, and using a blog to increase my growth and learning in technology. Time is always an issue, but if my goal is to make small sustainable changes rather than big ones, I need to develop a workable plan to continue my learning. Tweeting, writing, and researching technology can be done in small steps. Like yoga, I can practice technology slowly and with care, building my strength and flexibility rather than pushing and injuring myself.

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Blogging: Today my thoughts, tomorrow the worlds’

What is a blog? Will Richardson (2009) says that it is an “easily created, easily updateable website that allows an author to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.” (p 17). No knowledge of programming or html is necessary, just a computer and access to the Internet. Not only can bloggers create text on their websites, but they can also include links to other sites, images, video and audio. Blogs are personal website creation for the masses. And the masses are creating them….there were 151,226,424 blogs as of today, and of those, 43,588 were created in the last 24 hours (as per BlogPulse, November 28, 2010). What do people find to blog about? Richardson (2009) says there is a blog for everyone and everything, from aardvarks to knitting to zen. Whatever people are interested in, or want to talk or learn about, that’s what they will blog about. Blogging doesn’t necessarily even need to be on a blog site. Richardson (2009) believes that in essence, Facebook and MySpace are also blogging platforms, in that people use them to create mini-websites based on their identities. What makes a blog different from a website or wiki? The key to blogging is its interactivity (Richardson, 2009). Not only are you able to say what you want to say, you can share it with the world and through commenting, the world can share their thoughts and ideas back with you. The blog becomes a conversation. Berger and Trexler (2010) state that, even though a blog is a reflection of one person’s voice, feedback is “the gateway to the discussion that the blogger hopes to generate” (p. 103). They suggest that feedback can be given not only through comments, but also through links or trackbacks to your post from other’s blogs. In this way, one blog post, say on using wikis as a storytelling tool, is referred to (and a trackback created) by a second blogger who builds onto the original discussion. Other bloggers then read the second blog, refer and create their own trackbacks to it, or they may follow the link back to the original blog, read it, and then refer to the original post on their blog. The discussion becomes a virtual spiderweb of interrelated blog posts, creating a rich and full discussion.


There are a number of popular, free blog hosting sites. Among them are Edublogs,  Blogger, and WordPress. Richard Byrne has a good overview of the three different platforms on his blog Free Technology for Teachers. I have not used Blogger, but have used both Edublogs and WordPress.

Personal Learning about the tool:

I chose to use WordPress for this blog, as I felt it had more features than Edublogs. Once you have signed up and created your blog, you are then taken to your ‘dashboard’, the control center for your blog, where you can start to play with the site, personalizing it to suit your style and purpose. For appearance, WordPress has over 100 themes you can choose from, many of them with customizable headers. Each theme has its own colour and style, with different header, footer, column, widget, category and page layouts. As you look at the different styles, consider the purpose of your blog. Do you need more than one column? What theme is going to be the simplest for your visitors to navigate? Are they going to be able to easily view pages, posts and comments? Do you want/need widgets, and does the theme support the number of widgets you want to have? Once you have chosen a theme, you can play with the other features of your dashboard, or you can begin the conversation with your first blog post. On the dashboard, choose New Post, and start typing.

I began using a blog with my students in the fall of 2007. Our school had an inservice on creating and using blogs in our classroom. Unsure of all of the ways I could use a blog, I decided to use it as a tool to write about their home reading. Each student was required to read at home every night, and I asked them to comment on the blog about the book they were reading. Comments were structured to reflect the reading strategies that we were working on. I enjoyed setting up the blog, and my students were excited about using it. They commented furiously for some time. The key was responding to their comments and continuing the conversation. After a while their comments started dropping off and it seemed to become more ‘homework’ for them. I began to showcase comments in the morning, using the projector and Smartboard, and the interest picked up again. Once I began working as a teacher librarian, I used the blog in the same way, creating an online reading club for our school. The response was overwhelming at the beginning. I found it difficult to keep up with responding to each child, working on the computer for hours after school. After the initial excitement, I found it was the same students who commented over and over again. I began asking them to comment to each other, and they carried on the conversation for most of the year. Meanwhile, I had created a blog for our family. With one brother living in Toronto, and one daughter living in Ireland, I envisioned it as a collaborative tool for us to keep in touch with each other. However, a blog is only going to work if you use it, and since no-one else had the interest, time or energy to post, it died a natural death.

My first attempts would not be considered blogging by Will Richardson’s (2009) standards. I was very structured about my students’ comments, and only I had the ability to post. I was maintaining control and the blog was only a one-way street. It would be considered a level 1 on Richardson’s (2009) scale of blogging.

1. Posting assignments (Not blogging)
2. Journaling, i.e. “this is what I did today.” (Not blogging)
3. Posting links. (Not blogging)
4. Links with descriptive annotation, i.e., “This site is about…” (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description).
5. Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging).
6. Reflective, metacognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere).
7. Links with analysis and synthesis that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience in mind. (Real blogging).
8. Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments. (Complex blogging). (p. 31)

Now I have a very different vision of what blogging is and have come to a greater appreciation of what blogging can be. I believe I have come closer to real blogging as defined by Richardson (2009). I have created posts that are reflections of my explorations and practice with using technology, adding links to other sites/blogs that either emphasize points or reference ideas that I have presented. Have I moved to complex blogging? Perhaps I am on the way. Each post has been on a different topic, or Web 2.0 tool, however each one has been a deeper adventure, built on my previous experiences and links. I can’t say that I have built on previous comments, as I have had few comments from others on my blog. True blogging should be a conversation, as Richardson (2010) points out in a comment on Kim Cofino’s post on creating a scope and sequence for blogging:

“Since that writing (which I found I had originally posted on my blog almost six years ago now…yikes!) I’ve also been thinking a lot about the “connective” nature of blogs, the idea that we write in blogs with the intention not just to publish ideas to the world but to really connect to others and get feedback. (Kinda what’s happening here, right now.) If one of the affordances of the technology is that readers can interact, how does that change the intention of the writing.” That social interaction can come even when the blog is a form of journaling, as in these comments on posts from the Yarn Harlot’s blog (although we knitters can be a chatty bunch.)

Social interaction in the form of comments and responses can move a blog from being the blogger’s reflection on ideas or learning, to an interactive, social experience that helps the blogger deepen their own understanding and perhaps, the understanding of others. Although I had few comments on this blog, in my last post on Twitter, I mentioned that as a user of Twitter for PD, I was not really interested in the social chit chat, and mentioned a ‘social chat’ Twitter from Dean Shareski that I remembered having read. Dean commented on the post, and said, “I will argue for the fact that part of the appeal for many is building relationships that include a degree of silly and seemingly trivial. This is one way we build social capital as well, these tools are social. There is a blending of professional and personal…” His comments, and the comments of others (who found my blog through Shareski’s tweet :)) made me stop and reflect on the social experience of using Twitter. It helped me to consider the importance of building community when we use Twitter. After all, when I’m at a conference, I will often talk with my colleagues about my family, or my interests; it gives me (and them) a sense of who we are as social beings. Why should it be different on Twitter? Thus, the conversation between the commenters and myself deepened my understanding of the topic.

This is what I believe blogging can be at its best; an analysis or exploration of a topic or idea which leads to a conversation between the blogger and his/her readers, leading to a growth in understanding for all. It is the hope that others will read, reflect, and respond that increases bloggers’ motivation to write.

Personal use of the tool:

As I said above, my personal family blog is no more….sniff. However, I love to read blogs by others on knitting, yoga, storytelling, and art. The biggest personal (and professional) use of blogging for me has been opening a Google Reader account and subscribing to blogs I follow using RSS. The video below explains how RSS can help you to track and follow blogs:

I use my Google Reader (and the Feeddler app on my iPad) everyday.

Blogs and newspaper feeds are sent to my inbox, waiting for me to open and read them. After supper I hit the couch with my iPad and start reading. Often I will tweet, bookmark or email the links I have found to others. Reading blogs has become addicting, I learn so much!
Will I create and use a blog personally? Not at the present moment. I am more interested in using a blog to reflect on my professional practices as a teacher and teacher-librarian. Maybe when I retire, I will start a storytelling/knitting/yoga blog of my own!

Professional use of the tool:

The uses for blogging in the classroom are as varied as the uses for websites: as a communication tool for teachers and students, a presentation or writing tool, a collaborative discussion space, as eportfolios, and more.

Blogging with students can be teacher driven, as in responses to literature, or student driven, focused on the student demonstrating their learning.

Berger and Trexler (2010) share 7 ways that blogs support student learning:

1. supports critical thinking, encouraging students to think and reflect prior to writing
2. motivates and engages students
3. provides an opportunity to improve literacy skills
4. offers an authentic audience, encourages students to write responsibly
5. provides a forum for feedback, collaboration, and discussion
6. involves student in a community of learners
7. helps student develop their voice and provides equity (p. 105)

As students become aware of the idea that their teacher, peers, parents, and perhaps the world will read their work (depending on the nature of the blog), they plan and think about their work more carefully. In my class, students who were careless about the writing they handed in to me were much more thoughtful about the writing that they did for our class blog.

Kist (2010) reports an increased motivation for writing in students who are blogging. This makes sense to me…aren’t we talking about kids today being digitally connected? They are used to sharing their lives and thoughts with the world using technology. Even those who may not yet be on Facebook (and the age for those on Facebook is getting younger and younger) regularly MSN or text each other. Taking a poll in a grade 6 classroom at my school, 75% of students connect with their friends through text or social media. They are already writing for an audience, our job is to help them learn how to focus and craft that writing.

Alan November (2008) says that blogging shifts the locus of control from teachers to students. It expands the audience for student work from the teacher to the world.This connects to comments by Dean Shareski in his slideshare “What do we keep and what do we throw away?”

He suggests that one of the things we need to throw away is the notion of teachers as the expert centre of all knowledge. Blogging can increase the conversation from a direct line where the teacher sees if you’ve learned to see the world the way that the teacher sees it, or sharing your visions of the world with the world, allowing others to comment and add to your learning. He quotes Will Richardson as saying “We…need to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second.”

November (2008) also points to the use of blogging as a classroom note-taking tool. He shares a blog that is used by a calculus teacher, where, each class, one student is chosen to be the ‘note taker’. They take notes and post them on the blog, and other students can comment or add. November (2008) writes, “Before blogging, we would expect hardworking students to be able to read the calculus textbook. Darren expects his students to write the ‘book’-i.e. blog.” (p.82).

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has developed a ‘step ladder’ approach to using blogging with students in the classroom on her Langwitches blog:

Her goal is to move her teachers “from a purely informational, static, one-way-communication site to a global communication center.” (para.1). The video in the post below shows 2nd grade students from her school teaching their families how to use the blog. Notice how they are developing a shared language, learning (and teaching others) to navigate their blog, and preparing to present their writing to the world. In this picture, you can see their practice blog,  a variation on the paper blogging activity from the No Matter, There blog.

How do we assess blogs? Clarence Fisher has developed a blogging rubric that he shares on his Remote Access blog.


Interestingly,  not only does he provide the rubric, Clarence also provides the link to the Google Doc of the rubric so that others can upload and modify the document for their own purposes and classes, as well as a link to Kim Cofino’s blog post, where she invites readers to work with her on a Google Doc to build a scope and sequence for blogging. Both of these posts show the power of blogging, where the blogger and his/her readers build meaning together.

Blogging can also be a powerful tool for professional development. George Couros has asked all of his classroom teachers to begin using blogs. These are classroom blogs as opposed to student blogs, showcasing not only the learning in classrooms, but also the learning of teachers. In his post he shares ideas for administrators to use teachers’ blogs to help them stay in touch with what it happening in their school.
1. Add classroom blogs to an RSS feed. This is such an easy way to follow what classes are doing, without continuously checking if sites have been updated. I use Google Reader to create bundles, so I can follow the content of all my classrooms in one place (similar to this one). If you do not understand what RSS is, here is a short little video that will help you understand.
2. Take the time to share posts with other teachers in their school. It is hard to come up with ideas (here is a great list of them that my PLN created), so sometimes we can be inspired by what teachers in our building are doing. Celebrate and share!
3. Take the time to comment on teacher blogs. This shows everyone that you appreciate what is happening in the classroom, and the extra time teachers are taking to communicate and collaborate with their classroom. Reading is not enough. Be a leader and show how to properly comment to your school community while also gaining the opportunity to communicate with students, parents, and teachers. (para. 4).

Again, included in his post are links to  a video to help increase his readers’ understanding of RSS feeds, and to a Google Doc that shares ideas for teachers’ use of blogs.

Dean Shareski has written a post entitled How to Make Better Teachers. In it, he discusses how his blog has helped his growth as a professional; “The reflective writing has been valuable but definitely the nearly 4,000 comments have been even more of a learning experience. This is the single best professional development experience I’ve had.” (para. 2). He goes on to share his plan to use blogs to create better teachers:

“Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.” (para. 6).

Notice that his plan includes subscribing to five other teachers (using RSS). Thus, teachers are not only reflecting on their own practices, but reading the reflections of others. I might add; Ask each teacher to comment on at least one other teacher’s blog, to help build the conversations. Both this and Couros’ post discuss having teachers reflect on their practice and ‘going public’ with it, inviting others to comment and join the conversation.

Reflective practice is a tool to help us to consider our teaching practices and change them for the better. Blogging allows us to invite the world to share our learning, and to work as a global community to develop better teaching practices for the 21st century.

 

 

References

Berger, P. & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara:CA. Libraries Unlimited.

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.

November, A. (2008). Web literacy for educators. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.

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


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The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging … And When To Use Each One

Interesting presentation on how to blog, what to blog. Not really focused on Education, but some valuable ideas, nonetheless.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

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Twitter, twitter, cheep cheep PD!

When Belgarion first learns the language of birds, he is amazed at how simple their twitters are…all about food and mating. When I first heard about Twitter, I was sure that pretty much summed it up. From what I gathered in the media, people were tweeting their lives: I’m getting up now, now I’m going to the bathroom, thinking about breakfast….way too much information for me! Then I began hearing about Twitter as a tool for a Personal Learning Network. Once again I pooh-poohed the idea. Who could post something interesting in only 140 characters? Fortunately, I was required to sign up for Twitter for my EDEL course…and after some hesitation, I am enjoying it.
Personal learning about the tool

Twitter is a social learning network of microbloggers whose posts (tweets) are only allowed to contain 140 characters. Often these posts contain links to other websites, videos or images. Starting an account is free and easy to do, as is posting your tweets. Then you need to find people to follow. I began by following the suggested list in our course outline, branched out to follow bloggers I read regularly, then began following some I found tweeting with the hashtags I was interested in. No, not hashbrowns, but hashtags. Hashtags are ‘twitter tags’, words or short phrases created by an interest group on Twitter. These words are prefixed with a #, such as #edtech or #edchat. Hashtags are similar to tagging in that they allow certain types of posts to be grouped together (Wikipedia, n.d.). For example, posts tagged #edtech will usually have information related to ways to use technology in education.
You can use the Twitter site to view and manage this information, however, there are other platforms available. Tweetdeck is a free download that allows you to tweet, create columns of; hashtags you follow, direct messages, your tweets, and tweets that mention you….although I don’t really have to worry about those 🙂 . You are able to have multiple accounts, so you can add in your Facebook account or create a personal and a professional profile, if you wish. When Tweetdeck is open, incoming tweets are heralded with a…yes, a tweet. You have the ability to set the timer for tweet notifications every second, or every 1000 seconds. (You can also turn the tweet sound off, should it become too annoying 🙂 ) While Tweetdeck is a download to your desktop, you may prefer a web-based platform for anywhere access. Hootsuite has the same functions as Tweetdeck, but also allows you to add your blogging account, so you can have a stream of your blog posts as pre-shortened urls, making them easily tweetable. Trying to decide which one to use? Here is a comparison chart fromJames Johnson for the two platforms:
Things you can do with TweetDeck
  1. Update Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
  2. Large Twitter API Rate
  3. Custom Retweet or Twitter style
  4. Record, share, and watch video clip
  5. View YouTube Videos within TweetDeck
  6. Manage Multiple Twitter accounts
  7. Trending of local events and Twitscoop
  8. Create and mange Twitter List
  9. Follow Topics in real-time through saved searches.
  10. Saved Searches can be edited through the column
  11. Update Facebook
  12. Ingrates with LinkedIn Professional contacts
  13. See who is following you – you can have a who’s following you column so you can see what they are tweeting
  14. Preview short URL before opening. You can Also see the original link
  15. Backup TweetDeck by using sync and back-up
  16. Report and Block Spam Button ß Love this feature, it kills @mention spam quickly
  17. Flickr, Twitgoo and mobypicture is now supported
  18. keyboard shortcuts for speedy messaging

Things You can Do With Hootsuite

  1. Schedule Tweets
  2. Ping.fm Integration so you can update social networks that are not supported by Hootsuite
  3. Team Workflow
  4. Add, create and manage Twitter Lists
  5. Topic Search and Keyword Tracking
  6. Create Columns based on searches
  7. Secure Log in
  8. Web App – I can use hootsuite on any PC, Mac, Linux system as long as I have access to Hootsuite’s page
  9. Message Drafts
  10. View, manage, schedule, post to WordPress
  11. Ow.ly and Ht.ly URL shorteners
  12. Track Statistics
  13. Featured User List
  14. Update Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and Foursquare
  15. RSS feed from your website to all of our social networks
  16. Preview Short Links and see Original Links before opening them.
  17. Report and block spam
  18. Follow User Lists in their own column
  19. Separate tabs for the different social media networks”

Sarah Worsham also has an insightful post comparing the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite vs Tweetdeck. For her, Hootsuite wins out. James Johnson ends up using both platforms; Tweetdeck when he is on his home computer, and Hootsuite when he is needing remote access. After using both for a time, I decided to do the same; I am currently using Tweetdeck on my desktop and iPad, and Hootsuite when I check in for tweets at school or other remote computers. Follow this link to see a screencast of my Hootsuite, and this link to see a screencast of my Tweetdeck.

Personal use of the tool


I could not see the use of Twitter to me in my personal life. To me, Twitter was like Facebook on steroids. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts Facebook is not really my thing. When I first connected to Twitter, I found it absolutely overwhelming. Reducing my columns to just those I follow and setting them up with hashtags helped, but there is simply an incredible volume of Twitter traffic. I am the type of person who HAS to answer the phone if it rings, and every ‘tweet’ sound coming from my computer seemed to twitter ‘Lookatme, lookatme’! Yet, if I turned off the sound, I forgot to check the tweets…so I finally just adjusted the timing so I was notified every 5 minutes (and sometimes, I just closed the darn thing :)). I decided I need a ‘Tweet Plan’. Fortunately, Nicole Nicolay wrote a wonderful post about developing your own Twitter plan.
However, MY Tweet Plan looks a bit different:
Yet, this Tweet Plan is decidedly for my professional use of Twitter. What about my personal use? David Carr, in his New York Times article “Why Twitter will Endure”, suggests that Twitter is a quicker way to get news, a more reliable way to share your ideas and  research the best buys. Ted Nation of the Globe and Mail, recounts his efforts to find his daughter who was traveling in Chile after an earthquake hit. Through Twitter, Facebook, LinkdIn, Google, Skype and email, they finally located her and spoke with her. Given all of that, I still must confess I find the thought of wading through all the dross to find the gold just too daunting. I could use it to connect with my daughter in the Yukon, or other relatives in the East, as Will Richardson (2009) suggests, but I use texts, phone calls, email and (sometimes) Facebook for that.
Professional use of the tool

Will Richardson (2009) suggests that one the benefits of using Twitter is that ‘you get smarter’ (p. 87). Through asking questions, sharing ideas, linking blogs or resources, he believes Twitter serves an ‘addicting’ (p. 87) addition to your PLN. The selection of hashtags I use, #edchat, #edtech, #elemchat, #tldl, all ensure that (most) of the tweets I get are related to ideas, thoughts and links I can use to further my teaching practice, to integrate technology into my lessons, to develop the library, and to deepen my understanding of how to best teach in this brave new digital world. I am interested in buying Kindles or Nooks for the library, and have found many tweets with information to help me make that decision. Alan November suggests that Twitter is essential as a PLN for educators (notes, Oct 4, 2010). He believes that librarians should work with staff to develop hashtags for their learning community and start to build a Twitter network within the school. Smaller elementary schools may be resistant…i.e. “Why not just walk down the hall?”, however, I can see it being useful in larger schools, for districts, and for cohorts of schools that are working on the same focus. If you had three or four schools who were working together to develop their practice in technology, for example, building a Twitter network would allow teachers in all schools to be part of the conversation, sharing thoughts, links and lesson ideas.
Laura Walker shares nine reasons to Twitter on the Tech & Learning blog:
1. Together we’re better
Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom where teachers can access in seconds a stream of links, ideas, opinions, and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals.
2. Global or local: you choose
With Twitter, educators can actively compare what’s happening in their with others on different continents. GPS-enabled devices and advanced web search facility allow searches that tell you what people are tweeting within a certain distance of a location, so if the other side of the world isn’t your bag, you can stick with your own patch.
3. Self-awareness and reflective practice
Excellent teachers reflect on what they are doing in their schools and look at what is going well in order to maintain and develop it, and what needs improvement in order to make it better. Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both support and challenge each other.
4. Ideas workshop and sounding board
Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback. You can gather a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes, which can help enormously, whether you are planning a learning experience, writing a policy, or putting a job application together.
5. Newsroom and innovation showcase
Twitter helps you stay up-to-date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in areas of interest like school leadership and technology.
6. Professional development and critical friends
One of the best things about training days is the break-out time between sessions, when teachers can get together to talk about what they are working on or struggling with. Twitter enables users to have that kind of powerful networking capacity with them all the time. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to follow.
7. Quality-assured searching
Trust the people you follow. Hone and develop the list of people whose insights you value. Once your Twitter network grows past a critical mass, you can ask them detailed questions and get higher-quality information back than a Google search would generally provide.
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Expressing yourself in 140 characters is a great discipline. You can become better at saying what needs to be said in my professional communications with less waffle and padding (even without txtspk).
9. Getting with the times has never been so easy!
Many of her reasons speak to why I believe Twitter can be an good way to build a PLN. It is, indeed, like a virtual staffroom. I like to talk about and share my ideas with others. On Twitter, I can get new ideas, check out and add to my ideas, and, through following good people find great links. Its easy and cheep, cheep PD. 🙂
What about using Twitter with students in the classroom? The video below suggests that Twitter is a way to connect to your students and their parents to keep them informed about what is happening in your classroom:
Our district is focusing on building and retaining student engagement in learning. In this video, high school students report being more engaged in their learning when using Twitter and other social media tools:
Berger and Trexler (2010) share some ideas for using Twitter with students. One is to following the tweets of John Quincy Adams’ trip to Russia (tweeted by the Massachusetts Historical Society). Each tweet is a line from his diary, with links to maps of his journey. Another is to follow Charles Darwin on his voyage in the Beagle. In Canada, you can follow @canadianhistory or @todayincanhist  for daily tweets about Canadian history. What about student writing? Kist (2010) talks about a collaborative writing project that  had students from different countries create a story on Twitter. Kathy Hanson, on her A Storied Career blog, talks about how people are using Twitter to create and share stories. Carol Cooper-Taylor, in her blog post 50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom, has these ideas on using Twitter with students:
  • as an opinion poll.
  • directing student’s attention to important points
  • building an instant “backchannel.”
She also suggests that Twitter can be used with parents to get their feedback. Her ideas seem to be directed towards secondary students. Perhaps elementary students could start on a site like Twiducate to get them used to the idea of Twitter. A sideways way to use Twitter FOR your students, rather than with your students is #comments4kids. This is a twitter hashtag of teachers that are using classroom blogging and are looking for other teachers and classes to comment on their students’ blogs.
Will students use Twitter? I was doing my 15 minute check in on Twitter when @2footgiraffe twittered, “small mile stone. Stu asked wht we did in class 2day. He missed. 2nd stu responded via twtr & sent him the link 4 the prezi 🙂 #edchat” (@2footgiraffe Wed 17 Nov 21:08 via Tweetdeck)
Final thoughts

I have found Twitter to be a good tool for professional development. It’s like having a flock of professionals in your backyard. 🙂 The links you click on have already been reviewed, so to speak, and if you have a question, you are sure to find someone who can help, or direct you to a resource where you can find help. However, I do find it tricky to find the time. Blog posts are static, they stay there when you go to get a cup of tea 🙂 and if you don’t get a chance to finish reading them (or you want to reread them), they are still there when you come back an hour or a day later. Twitter is like a conversation at a cocktail party, once you’ve left the room, the conversation is over (for you). I think I will stick with my Tweet Plan and go on for 15 minutes after supper (mind you, that 15 minutes could easily turn into hours if I fall into a great conversation!). Tweeting blog posts I read is easy…i am a regular user of the ‘Retweet’ button on blogs I follow, however, I feel that I should be adding a comment to my tweet saying why I consider this worth tweeting. Creating original tweets will be trickier, as I am often unsure of whether my ideas are worth tweeting. As well, I believe that when you tweet your thoughts, you need to be a part of the conversation, instead of doing a ‘drive-by’ tweet. 🙂 It is finding and taking the time to be a part of the conversation that I find difficult. So, why continue tweeting? Others that I look up to have tried to give it up and cannot. 🙂
David Warlick says he rarely tweets, yet one day he was watching, and followed Vicki Davis tweeting quotes from a session she was attending given by the Digital Learning Council. It started him thinking and he wrote a thoughtful post about the ideas that were being presented. (Interestingly, he didn’t tweet his thoughts, he blogged them, I presume because blogging offered him the opportunity to share his thoughts in an in depth way)
Doug Johnson wrote a post about giving up tweeting, but he must have started up again, ‘cause I follow him! 🙂 Recently, he wrote a post about Twitter where he suggested that the quality of tweets would be greatly improved if people were limited to five tweets per day. As a reader of tweets for professional development, I would agree. (While I enjoy @ shareski’s thoughts on education, I really don’t need to know that he is at his mother-in-law’s watching a football game.)
Will I continue my ventures into the “Twitterverse”, as Richardson (2009) calls it? Yes, I will. The trick will be in moving from being a passive  passenger on the Twitterflight to an active flyer in the conversations.
References
Berger, P. & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara:CA. Libraries Unlimited.
Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks:CA. Corwin Press.

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Edmodo | Home

An overview of Edmodo, a closed social networking site for teachers and their students.

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Edmodo | Home, posted with vodpod

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The Power of Multimedia

Why use multimedia in the classroom? In this day and age, with the tools we have available to us, why not? We live in a digital world with students who are digitally wired. David Warlick (2007) in his post Our Classrooms are Leaking talks about how our students are digitally connected with ‘info-tentacles” in their daily life, and then, when they come to school, we “chop their tentacles off” (para 5). Multimedia tools give our students the ability to reconnect and use those tentacles at school.

Singh and Means (nd), in their project Technology and Education Reform, looked at nine schools where technology was being incorporated. They found students had a better awareness of audience and purpose for their projects, an increased ability to collaborate, use more higher-order thinking skills, and showed an increase in motivation and self-esteem. The role of the teacher became more facilitative, rather than directorial.

The University of South Florida’s Education department state that “Multimedia activities encourage students to work in groups, express their knowledge in multiple ways, solve problems, revise their own work, and construct knowledge.” (para 1).  As I read over this list, I immediately think of the 21st century skills we deem so important for students: collaboration, creative expression of knowledge, problem solving, editing and presenting work for an audience, and constructing their own knowledge. Multimedia tools and activities engage and motivate students. Every time I have introduced students to a new multimedia tool, they have immediately become more excited about the subject we will be using the tool for, whether it is language arts, social studies, or science.

In the posts below, I have explored five multimedia tools: VoiceThread, Animoto, Vuvox, Jing, and Prezi. Each one has its own power:

VoiceThread: the images and the conversations between students

Animoto: the energy and vividness of the medium ( music is essential)

Vuvox: the creation of a storyline using photos

Jing: the ability to share your compute screen with the world

Prezi: the ability to share your thoughts in a nonlinear fashion with the ability to zoom in and create focus and drama for your thoughts

All of these provide you ways to share your ideas, stories, research, teaching and learning in a deep and rich way, appealing to the multi sensory outputs of your audience. They all help you to focus and consider the audience for your work, and is that not the power of communication? It allows us to create together and share our work with each other in meaningful and powerful ways. In this way we learn together, and our learning is deeper and richer.

References

Singh, R. & Means, B. (nd). Technology and Education Reform. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/index.html

University of South Florida. (nd). Why use multimedia in the classroom. Retrieved from http://fcit.usf.edu/multimedia/overview/overviewb.html

Warlick, D.  (2007). Our classrooms are leaking. In 2 Cents Worth. Retreived from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=1166

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VoiceThread on the 7 Habits

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We Want You to Know book trailer

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Multimedia Tools: Animoto

Learning about the tool

I love Animoto! It is a simple, yet powerful tool to create visual presentations with a punch. Animoto is a free sign up (you are limited to 30 second videos on the free account). You can also apply for an educator account, which allows you and your students to create and share unlimited videos. The educator account can take some time to process, so it’s best to apply for it well before you want to use Animoto in your classroom. As soon as you create your account, click on ‘Create video’ and you can start building your video. They have set up the process to be simple to follow. This allows you and your students to focus on the content, rather than on the creation tool. You begin by selecting your presentation style from the list available (not too many, so students won’t be overwhelmed). Then you upload images and video clips from your computer, Animoto’s collection, or another site. You then can arrange the images on the storyboard, add text in between images, and highlight, rotate and shuffle images. You cannot add text to images, just to a slide in between images. (If you wish to add text to an image, you must do so before you upload it to Animoto.) There is no choice of font style or colour, so once again, the focus is on the content. Text is limited to 22 characters for the title (in bold) and 30 characters for the subtext, so you need to be concise. Once you are comfortable with your storyboard, you then move on to select your music. (At any time, you can click on the back arrow and return to the previous step.) You can choose music from Animoto’s library or upload your own MP3 file. Animoto’s music library is organized by genre. Once you choose a genre, you are given a list of songs that you can preview before deciding which one to choose. The next step is to finalize your video. Here you can choose presentation speed and you have an opportunity to change your presentation style as well. You then give your presentation a title and description. When you have finalized your presentation, click on Create Video and Animoto does the rest. It takes a few minutes, but you are able to start another video, or you can wait for it to finish. Animoto also sends you an email to the address they have on file with a link to the video that can be shared. Once your video is done, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or email. At any time, you can edit, remix or delete your video.

As I explored Animoto, I felt it was a tool best suited to a short, concise presentation. This is a sit-and-get presentation style, not like a Prezi or PowerPoint, where you can stop and lecture or talk about a slide. The videos you create are short, focusing on images and music, and to a lesser extent, text. I chose to create an Animoto book trailer for a book I am reviewing for Edmonton Public’s Best of the Best.  We Want You to Know by Deborah Ellis is a powerful book of true stories of students who are systematically bullied at school. I searched for images of bullying on the web, and chose those that most represented the stories from the book. As I considered what I wanted to say (in 22 and 30 characters respectively per slide), I knew I wanted to have short, punchy text that made viewers question their assumptions. The music had to be hard-edged to get the feel of what I wanted viewers to feel. I was very pleased with the result. The process made me think of the higher order thinking I needed to do in order to create this project. I needed to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. I needed to consider my audience and the best way to evoke the emotions I wanted them to feel. I needed to consider how I was going to persuade my audience to read this book.

Personal use of the tool

This would be a great way to showcase pictures from events such as grads, weddings, picnics or family get-togethers. It’s like being able to create your very own MuchMusic videos! (I’m dating myself here, aren’t I?) I love the way Animoto does all the hard work for me, and leaves me to focus simply on the content, yet I felt like I had enough control over the process to feel like the video I created was truly mine. It is best suited to shorter presentations without a great deal of text that appeal to the emotions.

Professional use of the tool

What a great way to make a short, powerful presentation…especially one to get people thinking about a question. Why not start a staff meeting with one focusing on differentiating student learning, or assessment, or other key issue for your staff? What about creating an Animoto as a hook to introduce a new unit? For our digital learners, fresh from watching music videos on YouTube, an Animoto would be an engaging way for them to get engaged in a topic. Animoto’s education page has some examples of Animotos that have been created by teachers and  by students; a slideshow of a field trip, a presentation on bullying, the alphabet, and more. I am going to use Animoto with one of my 6th grade classrooms for Language Arts. Students are going to create their own Animoto book trailer, showcasing their favourite book. Having said that, I found a rubric on Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators site. As I looked at her rubric, I see that she combined Animoto with narration. Hey, I can use my newfound podcasting skills!! We can create a narration using Audacity or Audioboo, download it as an MP3, and upload it to Animoto. Andrew Marcinek, on his Classroom20 post Hello Animoto has a list of ways to use Animoto, including movie trailers for books (hey, that was my idea!), introducing new vocabulary words, creating history presentations, and developing life skills for special needs kids. I think Animoto would be a terrific way to engage students in persuasive writing. How about an Animoto trailer about why the school should have uniforms (or not), why kids should stay up late (or not). Why not have Animoto debates?

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