Multimedia Tools: Voicethread

Process of learning about the tool

VoiceThread was another tool that I had heard about, signed up for and then forgot about until recently. I finally decided to explore the idea of using VoiceThread with my grade 1/2 class to see how it might work for my kindergartens to connect with other kindergartens across the district. Creating the Voicethread was simple and engaging for both me and my students. I decided to focus on the 7 Habits, which is a school wide focus. I had already signed up for an educators account, so I logged in and clicked on create. Like Animoto, they make the steps clear and simple. The first step was to upload images from your computer, other media sources: Flickr, Facebook, The New York Public Library, or VoiceThread itself, from a URL, or from a webcam. I uploaded an image for each of the 7 Habits from Google Images. I was then able to add a title, and a link if I chose. Once all of my images were uploaded, I clicked on step 2: Comment. I had already been provided with an icon that represented me (a little house), however, it used my first name. As I was planning to use this with my students, I uploaded an image and titled it Mrs. Davies. Using the ‘Identities’ feature, I gave my students all their own icons. There is a limited selection of icons, so I had three of each. With older students, I probably would have let them upload their own images to use as icons. The next step was to let the students comment on the 7 Habit images. My grade one/two class sits in 6 groups. I gave each group one habit and asked them to think about how they used that habit at school. After some brainstorming and group discussion, each student had an idea about their habit and was ready to add a comment. Comments can be added through telephone, webcam, microphone, typing text, or uploading an audio file. I had a microphone on my teacher computer and groups came up one at a time, and each student recorded their comments. The comment is played back, and students loved hearing the sound of their own voice. If they were satisfied, I saved it, or I was able to cancel it. At any time, comments can be deleted and redone. Once we were finished, I clicked on the third button, Share. This gives you the opportunity to get a link or to invite people by email. Voicethreads can be private, and only viewable by people we have given the link to or invite, or you can choose to make them public. Even when you make it public, VoiceThread offers options: for people to view, or to view and have moderated comments, or to view and comment openly. Our class has decided to invite our buddy class to comment. My students are excited to see what their buddy class says about the 7 Habits and about their comments! I am ready to try it with my kindergarten and a class across the city. However, VoiceThread is not limited by distance or time zones. I wonder if I can find a kindergarten somewhere across the world who would like to connect with us? As a Leader in Me School, I think I could find another school who would like to comment on the 7 Habits. Maybe one in Singapore….

Personal use of the tool

VoiceThread could be used for families or individuals to create albums of trips with commentary. I have been meaning to create a family history album for some time (OK, for the last 15 years  🙂  ). Lately, I have been thinking of creating a memory album of my aging parents for my infant nieces and nephews, allowing them the opportunity to share their memories and thoughts with each other across time. What better way than a Voicethread? I plan on scanning in images from my parents’ past, and having them comment or tell their stories about the images.

Professional Use of the Tool

The power of VoiceThread is the ability to create conversations around images. I have already described one way I have used it in my classroom, and there are many more. As a professional learning tool, you could upload images relating to a problem or an idea for your school, and invite staff to comment on it. It could be a virtual staff meeting, with anytime, anywhere (with internet) access, and a record of the conversation. Joyce Valenza posted an article about a Voicethread book study on ‘Readicide’. Trying to get staff together to talk about professional literature is difficult. A Voicethread offers staff a quality book study experience on their time, as opposed to trying to set up a meeting. The possibilities with students are endless. Here is a great presentation of 20 ways to use Voicethread with students from K-12 . As well, check out this wiki for VoiceThread ideas, samples and tutorials. I love how they have pages for using VoiceThread as a PLN, in the library, for Special Ed, and more!

 

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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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Jing: Diigo overview

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Diigo_overview , posted with vodpod

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Multimedia Tools: Jing

Process of learning about the tool

I had downloaded Jing about a year ago on the advice of a consultant. And that was that. They told me I needed it, so I had it, but never used it. (How often does our staff do this?) One day, I was explaining a computer process (for the third time) to a colleague. I remembered Jing. I took a picture of the screen, saved it and sent it to her. Now, she just checks against her picture to see if she has it correct. Then, for my blog post on Diigo, I thought of using Jing video to describe the steps. It was surprisingly easy. Have microphone, can talk (lots). 🙂

Jing is a free download and install. Once done, you will have a little half-sun at the top of your screen, like this:

Scroll up to the sun, and it will present you with three rays, Capture, History, and More. More is the ability to change settings and preferences. History is the record of all of your captures on Jing. Capture is the focus of Jing! Click on capture, set the corner square to the edge of what you want a picture or video of, click, and then a box comes up with your options: Image, Video, Redo, or Cancel.

Image allows you to take a static shot of your screen:

As you can see, you are able to highlight sections, add arrows, boxes, and text. You can then save it to your computer as a png, copy a link to it, or share it to Screencast.com (a free signup), edit it in Snagit (a paid program) or cancel it. Once you have chosen to share or save it, a link pops up, ready to be pasted.

The free version of Jing allows you to record up to five minutes of video. Select video from the options after you have captured your piece. If you don’t have a microphone, you can still record a silent video. With a microphone, you are able to walk others through what you are doing on the screen. You can also use a webcam. I don’t have a webcam, so have not tried it. Again, when you are done, you can save it to your computer, share it via Screencast.com, edit it in Camtasia studio (paid program) or cancel. I set up a Screencast account and saved my images and videos there. From there, I can share them or embed them. If you can’t remember where you saved it, the history button shows you all of your images and videos you have created, and allows you to view or share them.

Personal use of the tool

Jing is a great tool for me to use with my 76 year old mother. She often forgets how to use her computer. I have created a folder for her on her desktop of Jing tutorials. She just has to open the folder, and she can watch the video showing her what she needs to do. You could also use Jing during Skype or IM chats, post to Facebook, or even use it to narrate pictures from special events.

Professional use of the tool

The Jing I created was a short tutorial on how to get the banner page off of our photocopier when sending report cards. Unfortunately, I did not save it to my Screencast account, but to a computer that I don’t currently have access to, so I used my Diigo screencast for this post. (Note to self: ALWAYS save to the cloud!!!). I then realized that I did share it via email, checked and found the link, so you can view my other Jing here. I have created a few of these for my staff, as with .27 library time, I cannot help others with technology as much as I would like. I am going to create a folder on our shared ‘P’ drive with Jing screencasts of common problems that crop up over and over again. I am also using it to show how to search for and check out books using Follet and how to use the Online Reference Center from LearnAlberta. I can put the videos up on the library website, and give teachers, students and parents 24/7 access to tutorials. I would like to use it to create tutorials on Web 2.0 tools we are using in our school and on how to use different search engines. Shelly Blake-Plock, in his quest to go paperless, is using Jing to mark his students’ blog assignments. Check out his example here. Leah A. Nillas, on her blog T&L with Technology suggests many uses for Jing in addition to the marking idea. Students can narrate pictures, record images showing work in progress, or (my favourite) students can record themselves completing a math problem and then submit it by email. What a great way to see students’ work behind the scenes and so get a vision of their thinking. Jing is a great tool to help assess those higher level thinking skills which are often hidden. Teachers can use Jing to record demonstrations, allowing students to revisit them more than once. Over all, a great site for narrating voiceovers of anything that can be done on a computer and sharing it with others.

Blake-Plock, S. (2010)Using Jing to assess online. In Teach Paperless. Retrieved from  http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2010/03/using-jing-to-assess-online-student.html

Nillas, L. (2010) Technology of the week: Jing. In  T&L with Technology Retieved from http://sites.google.com/site/learnteachtech/technology-of-the-week/jing

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Vuvox Slideshow: 50th Anniversary

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Multimedia Tools: Vuvox

Personal Learning about the Tool

Vuvox is a site that allows you to create annotated slideshows using your pictures and images from Flickr and Picassa. The slideshow can include not only photographs, but audio and video as well. Once again, it is a free sign up for an account.

Once you have signed up, you have three options: Create, Explore, and My Stuff. Create, of course, allows you to create your own pieces. Explore allows you to view the collages of others, and My Stuff is where all of your creations are stored. When you click on Create, you have three options, Express, Collage, and Studio. Express allows for a quick and easy install of pictures from a variety of RSS feeds. Choose your presentation style, and voila, a short 5 minute step to a photographic slideshow!

Collage allows you to upload photographs from your own albums, whether on your computer or in Picassa, Smugmug or Flickr, images from the web, audio, and video. Images, audio and video from the web must first be uploaded to your computer. Uploaded material is stored in ‘My Library’, ready for you to use in your slideshow. A canvas is provided, and you simply drag the media up to the canvas in the order you wish them to appear. This can be the end of it, or…you can crop or cut out pictures, add text, annotations, transition images, and audio.

I chose to use Vuvox to tell the story of my parent’s 50th anniversary. Although there is little text, it required thought as to what and how much to say, so the text did not overwhelm the photos, but enhanced them. I previewed and edited, previewed and edited again.  I added transitions between and frames to photographs, previewed and edited, previewed and edited again. I selected  ‘Publish’ and had the opportunity to make my collage public or save as a draft which only I could see. Either way, you have the opportunity to get the embed code, get the link,  or share it via email, or Facebook. Even after it is published, you have the opportunity to delete it, or edit it again, which was great for me, as when I went to view it, some text had moved or disappeared, so I was able to edit it, fix it and publish it again.  I found Vuvox to be fun and tedious at the same time. I am not much of one for photographs or scrapbooking (see my post on photosharing), so while I enjoyed creating it initially, the constant editing and finicky work of placing photographs or transitions just so got a little wearing.

Personal use of the tool

Ok, ok, I know I should get into scrapbooking and making these slideshows for my (future) grandchildren. My mother and father were thrilled with my Vuvox. My brothers and sisters in law, not so much. “Why didn’t you use a better picture of me?” “Why are there 3 pictures of your kids and only 2 of ours?” ‘Why didn’t you…” (‘nuff said). Still, maybe for when my younger daughters graduate from university, get married, or have babies, I’ll actually take pictures and put them in an album. Wait, come to think of it, I DO (believe it or not) have pictures from our trip to England and Marlon and Ian’s wedding…maybe…once this course is over…..

Professional use of the tool

I am in the process of using Vuvox in my kindergarten classroom. We went for a fall walk to talk about seasonal changes, and I asked them to find something they could see that told them it was fall. Most of them chose dead leaves J and a few picked a bare tree. I took a digital photograph of their choice and then asked them to tell me how this showed them it was fall. I placed the pictures in a Vuvox, and am in the process of adding their text. I used it as one of my assessments, and hope to share it during parent conferences. I could also have had them draw fall pictures and tell me about them. This tool is one is one that I think I could use with students for digital storytelling, whether using images from the web, or hand-drawn illustrations uploaded through digital photographs. There is also a timeline feature which students could use to show the history of Alberta, explorers, dinosaurs, etc. Or what about a presentation on hurricanes or other weather phenomena?

Vuvox does lend itself better to linear presentations, however, the ability to upload images, audio and video and then to add text to them allows students to create a dynamic multimedia presentation on many subjects.

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Multimedia Tools: Prezi

See my Prezi in my post below!

Learning about the tool

Prezi was the tool I found most similar to PowerPoint. Prezi, however, is more fluid; rather than working on each slide separately, you see the entire board. This allows for a better overall view of your presentation or project. Contradictorily, at first, it was frustrating to have so much mobility….it seemed like I was everywhere! Once again, YouTube tutorials to the rescue! Using the editing wheels to create and manipulate the presentation was awkward at first, however, once I got the hang of it, it was fun….kinda like driving those bumper cars at the mall! 🙂

Ashraf (2010) says Prezis have 4 basic elements: content, effects, visual enhancements and paths. Prezis allow for upload of video, PDFs and image, and of course, the addition of as much text as you wish. If you can run on forever in PowerPoint, you can run on forever in Prezi, too! An advantage is that you can combine the use of short, powerful snippets of text to make a point along with areas of longer text to explain, persuade, etc. How is that different from PowerPoint? The use of the zooming tool (more on that later) adds a powerful punch to your shorter text.

Uploading images was easily done, as well as video. Video was a simple matter of finding a video on You Tube and copying the address into a text box. Voila, the video shows up! How easy is that? Prezi shines with its capability to add effects, enhancements and pathways. The ability to add text in a fluid, non-linear way can enhance your message incredibly well. Text can be inserted sideways, angled, or upside down for that matter. Then, creating pathways moves your presentation from text to text, aligning it so it is always readable and upright. Visually, it can look like you are on a rollercoaster ride. Using your zooming tool allows you to …well…zoom in an out of groups. Text, images and video can be grouped with the framing tool to ensure readability. Creating pathways is simple; clicking from one frame to another allows you to move from text to text in a variety of ways, adding to the effect of movement, again helping you to explore images in depth, focus on certain sections of text, and to create more visual power for your presentation.

Collaboration is where 21st century students are at! Prezi allows you to easily collaborate on the same Prezi at the same time. Simply click on the Meeting tab, and a box pops up with a URL. Click to copy the URL and send it to up to 10 people. The link lasts for a week, and all 10 people can be editing the Prezi at the same time (this does require that all users have a Prezi account).

Drawbacks? Prezi does not allow for audio, which is fine if you are using it to enhance a speaking presentation or for teaching, but is disappointing if you want audio enhancement. I was also disappointed in the limited variety of fonts (and backgrounds) I was able to use. I found Prezis took more thought and work than a straightforward PowerPoint. As well, you need to be careful not to overuse the zooming and pathway tools. Too much of a bouncing, zooming Prezi can leave people focused on the presentation, not the point.

Overall, however, the ability to zoom in on text or images, to frame, add arrows, and create pathways helps to make Prezi a visually stunning presentation tool.

Personal use of the tool

This is a tool that I would tend to use more in my professional life than personal. I could see it being used for presenting at a wedding…way better than the traditional slideshow! Also, the Prezi blog talks about using Prezi meeting for an office birthday card! What about using Prezi for the dreaded “Let me show you the pictures of my trip!”? As a student, I think it would be a great way to present my learning rather than a paper!

Professional use of the tool

I think that Prezis would be a wonderful new tool for students (and teachers) who are Power Pointed out. Prezi gives them tools to use the visual aids that students today respond to so well. Prezi meeting is a fantastic way for them to collaborate on one presentation simultaneously. Prezi does not only have to be used for research projects. Why not use it for persuasive writing or book talks?

Paul Hill’s Prezi talks about how using Prezi as a teaching tool allows you to: move your lesson in a nonlinear way, focus attention on critical text, zoom in on images to help emphasize a point, and embed videos to enhance your teaching, increasing the power of your lesson.

On the Prezi blog, Radnai shows how Rob Newberry is using Prezi meeting for student collaboration: check out this video of grade six students using Prezi meeting to collaborate.

References:

Ashraf, (2010). Stun the audience by using Prezi instead of PowerPoint. Retrieved from http://dottech.org/tipsntricks/16061

Hill, P. (2010). Thoughts on using Prezi as a teaching tool. Retrieved from http://dottech.org/tipsntricks/16061

Radnai, Z. (2010). Video: Prezi meeting in the classroom. Retrieved from http://blog.prezi.com/2010/10/11/video-prezi-meeting-in-the-classroom/

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Building a Culture of Inquiry – Lissa

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Wiking our way into the 21st Century

As we move into the global society of the 21st century, collaboration is a key skill required by students to be successful. Previous to the development of Web 2.0 tools, collaboration was limited by proximity, time, and the abundance or scarcity of tools. In other words, you needed to be in the same room, at the same time, and have more than one paper/pen to take notes for your poster or Powerpoint. The advent of wikis has changed all that. You can be on different continents, in different time zones, and both be able to access the same document, adding, uploading and organizing content easily and efficiently. Using a wiki, I have collaborated with a group of teachers who lived China, British Columbia, Alberta, and the United States. (See that wiki here) Wikis allow us to truly synergize, to create something more powerful together than we could have created alone.

What are wikis? The word ‘ wiki’ comes from Hawaii, and means ‘fast’. A wiki is a website that is simple and easy to create, using a wiki hosting service. All you need is the internet, a computer and a keyboard. That’s it. No programming skills, no HTML. The most famous wiki and the granddaddy of them all, Wikipedia, is currently the largest and most used reference in the world, with 16 million articles that have been written by people from all over the world (Wikipedia, nd). A true Web 2.0 tool, wikis allow for creation of content rather than just viewing content (Lamb & Johnson, 2007). Wikis allow for the ability to upload links, images and files easily. Within a very short space of time, I can create a website for teachers or students to use to share their ideas and thoughts. In effect, if I invite all users as editors, we will be co-creating a website together. Worrying about someone completely messing up a page? Clicking on ‘Page history’ gives you a complete breakdown of each revision, and it is quick and easy to restore a page to an earlier version. Trying to find out who did the most work on the page? Again, clicking on ‘Page history’ tells you who has revised the page and when.

How to set up  a wiki:

1. Find and choose a wiki-hosting site: wikispaces, pbworks, or wetpaint

2. Set up a free account with your email address. (You can upgrade for a few more perks for a fee)

3. Name your wiki.

4. Add a page

5. Add your collaborators

Commoncraft has an excellent overview of what a wiki is here.

Personal Learning about the tool

 

Learning about Wikis

teacher-share.wikispaces.com

Last year was my year of the Wiki. I can’t remember who introduced me to the idea of using it in my inquiry teaching, but once I looked at it, I loved it. Creating one using pbworks.com was quick and easy. I created an account, and created my first webpage! As I explored it, I learned to not only type in information, but how to create hyperlinks and upload pictures and videos. Why PBworks and not Wikispaces? Simply because PBworks was the first one that I was introduced to, and I became comfortable with its use.  What was more difficult was organizing how to use wikis effectively, and thinking about how to teach students how to use it. Often, we have a misconception that children, as ‘digital natives’, will learn technology on their own, without any direction. While I have definitely found students are more prone to explore, click and try technology, I have also found that they require instruction to be truly successful in USING the technology effectively.

My first use of a wiki was with a grade 6 class. (See the wiki here) Our inquiry was researching an issue currently in the news, taking a stance, and creating a Glogster poster to portray those views. The  wiki was used so that students could work collaboratively in pairs, storing information, video, and weblinks on the wiki. Once they had collected their information, teams used their wiki page to collaboratively write paragraphs for the Glogster. Students were taught how to upload information, how to ‘steal the lock’ and how to create citations for information discovered. Generally, this class succeeded in using wiki as a collaborative tool. The teacher I was working with was one who struggles with using technology, yet she was able to easily navigate the wiki with only moderate instruction. One function of the wiki that she found very useful was the ability to track who added information, and view previous versions. This gave her valuable information as to the ability of students to work collaboratively create content (excellent for report cards!).

After this experience, I used the same format with a grade 5 class. (See the wiki here.) Again, we were using the wiki as a storage and collaborative writing tool for students as they prepared photostories of famous canadians. This section was not as successful. Students had had little previous preparation from the classroom teacher, and expectations were not clearly laid out. The level of writing was far lower on this project.

Simultaneously I was working with a grade 5 strategies class. (See their wiki here.) We were to use the wiki as a note taking device as individual students created Smartboard Notebook presentations. The wiki worked well for them when they were using print material for their projects, however students struggled to transfer between windows to write ideas from websites to the wiki. There was no collaboration involved in this project and they used the wiki for short scrappy notes. We eventually abandoned the wiki and moved back to using pen and paper. In retrospect, a wiki was not the right tool for the project as envisioned by the classroom teacher.

As I moved to the younger grades, and after the difficulties with the other classes, the teachers of one grade 2/3 class and I chose to use the wiki as a pathfinder. (See the pathfinder wiki here.) Joyce Valenza (2007)  in her article,” Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki‘ discusses how wikis allow you to link, not only to websites, but to your media, databases, handouts, graphic organizers and more. Not being sure how grade 2/3’s would navigate the wiki, I chose to limit it to a search engine for specific animals. I had envisioned it becoming a collaborative space for myself and the other teachers to work together to find and annotate sites. Unfortunately, the other teachers involved were, as all teachers are, extremely busy and felt that it was my task as the teacher-librarian to do so. I agreed, however, did not find the time to do as good a job as I would like. Students did find the wiki helpful. Having only one log in to find information helped them to be focused on their task. I struggled with not teaching them proper search skills, and with finding websites that were at their reading level. We do have Read Please downloaded onto our computers to assist students with reading higher level websites, but the teachers were reluctant to take the time to teach students how to use Read Please. In retrospect, I would have liked to spend more time discovering and annotating sites, and perhaps putting up the print graphic organizer we used and a rubric for students.

For the other grade 2/3 class, the project moved from research to Language Arts. This teacher was interested in exploring alternate versions of Cinderella stories. (See the Cinderella wiki here.) After reading Harvey and Daniels’ (2009) Comprehension and Collaboration, I was aware that inquiry could take the form of exploration in Language Arts as well as  Science and Social, and was keen to try some of their ideas. We decided that the wiki would take the form of a collaborative narrative writing project, as pairs of students wrote their own Cinderella story after being presented with different versions and comparing and contrasting them. Loudermilk -Garzia and Hern (2006) suggest that when using wikis as a collaborative writing tool, students will learn to deal effectively with conflict and learn negotiation skills. They also state that students will develop a willingness to share with and be edited by peers. Both of these became evident in this classroom. Pairs had been assigned randomly, so some conflicts were inevitable. Students had to decide on an outline for their story, and when writing, as only one student was able to add content at a time, they had to negotiate who was going to type and what content to add. Students were taught about appropriate commenting as they looked at others’ stories. While they did not develop the ability to truly give effective feedback, comments were, for the most part, appropriate. The first time someone wrote a (mildly) inappropriate comment, I happened to have my Blackberry with me and received the email notification of the comment moments after it was posted. I went to the classroom and called out, “Hey, S., thanks for telling us that you want to get finished and go out for recess, but next time, don’t do it on the wiki!”. The vision of Big Brother silenced any other silly comments. 🙂 The teacher used the comment feature  as well to give constructive feedback to students and students seemed comfortable having this feedback shared with all readers.

My other uses of wikis have come through my Master’s courses. When creating a wiki for my Personal Inquiry question, I learned that I could put pages into folders, and I made a ‘Holding Tank’ for information that I did not need to have marked by my professor, but that would keep articles where I could get to them (almost like Evernote J ). The Global Lives Inquiry Project wiki done for my Inquiry course is the most complex wiki I have created so far, including pages for parents, for students, and for staff. I have not yet had the opportunity to ‘test drive’ this wiki yet, and am looking forward to seeing what works and what needs to be adapted as we use it with grade threes this coming January.

Professional and personal use


I believe that, for a collaborative learning tool, wikis are invaluable. While Google docs allow multiple users to work on a document simultaneously, and wikis allow for only one user to work on it at a time, wikis are useful when you want to create a complete website with many pages that is easy to access. (See this site for a comparison of wikis and Google docs.) As stated previously, I can see wikis being applied within a staff for collaborative work around a topic such as assessment, or for specific departments to collectively create courses, pathfinders, or resources for their subjects. Boeninger (2007) also refers to wikis as useful for internal communication, like  ‘a meeting without a meeting’. I can also see wikis being used within districts. For example, the K-12 Literacy plan was released last year within my districts for comments. Using a wiki, the plan could have been developed within consulting services, and then it could have been delivered to all stakeholders within a wiki, so comments could have been tracked…or if they were brave enough, the district could have opened the document for revision! 🙂 Even beyond a district, wikis allow for national and international collaboration. The Elementary Library Routines wiki is open for all teacher librarians to add their ideas and links in order to create one resource for elementary librarians everywhere. As teachers, who are constantly being asked to do more, collaboration using wikis makes so much sense. Why are we all reinventing the wheel? Harry Wong (2004) says beginning teachers should ‘steal, steal, steal’. I say we should share, share, share using wikis as a tool. What about using wikis for Professional development? Joyce Valenza’s New Tools Workshop is an example of a collaboratively built wiki being used as an anytime, anywhere access workshop, with information for teachers about Web 2.0 tools and how to use them.  However, it is not a case of ‘if we build it, they will come’. When I tried using wikis with my staff as a tool to collaborate, store and hold information, ideas, links, websites and images, I had envisioned Division 1 and 2 Social and Science wikis, LA wikis, etc. Unfortunately, others do not always share the same ideas. Although my staff is very collaborative and mostly technology savvy, there were two competing pressures which did not support the use of wikis as a collaborative tool at this time: the expectation that staff would use our districts ‘Share’ site, a firewalled network within the school, for collaborative work and documents, and the ever present struggle for teachers, finding the time to learn and use new technology, even something as easy to use as a wiki, and the time to upload content. Sheehy (2009), in his post The wiki as a knowledge repository, talks about the obstacles he faced when persuading teachers to use a wiki for his high school department as a knowledge repository. Teachers needed to have the basis of trust in their colleagues, be taught how to use the wiki, they need to be convinced of the usefulness of the wiki, they need to have the time to post to the wiki, and, most telling of all, they need to see that their contributions are valuable.  It may require much ‘nudging’ on the part of the teacher librarian to help teachers discover and use the true potential of wikis.

Use with Students

So far, I have used wikis in the classroom for collaborative research, collaborative writing, as a storage tool for notes, and as a pathfinder. Lamb  and Johnson (2007) also suggest using wikis for collaborative problem solving, as a journal, an electronic portfolio, a virtual conference, and as a study guide. This last idea was interesting to me as one of my teachers recently had her students prepare Notebook presentations on different planets. She told me that it would be invaluable to have these as study guides for the Provincial Achievement Tests. My thought was, how much better would this have been as a wiki? Instead of listening to each presentation, students would have the ability to access each other’s pages and have anytime, anywhere access to their study guides. Vicki Davis (2007) uses wikis for lesson summaries, notes collaboration, exploratory projects, learn/shares, assessments, rewards and classroom organization (slide 31). How about using a wiki to design a class website? One of my favorites is Mr. Smith’s class page. He uses this page in addition to his class website. Others use it as the their only website.  In the video below, one teacher has put her entire Language Arts course on a wiki. Students are using the wiki as they share their thoughts about a poem their teacher has posted on one page. Note how the student talks about how her learning is extended by the collaborative aspects of the comments.

The students in this video are busy using Diigo to add comments, however, there is a comment device within the wiki that could also be used.

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Benefits of using Wikis in the classroom

In the wiki article Wiki as a collaborative tool , Loudermilk-Garzia and Hern (2006) suggest that wikis help support the collaborative writing process by having student set norms set up early on: ie what to call it, etc.They see the ability of users to share work and see it revised and edited by others as a way to build on collaborative aspects of the classroom. “Wiki technology not only supports these practices but might also contribute to the kind of community ethos that can lead to such sharing.  ” (para 14).

Boston College’s e-Teaching services (nd) suggest that the benefits of using a wiki in the classroom are:

  • Students seeing others’ work learn from each other
  • Seeing other students’ work as exemplars could help students to increase their writing skills, or encourage them to add more information to their work
  • Students can develop critical thinking skills by critiquing others work and defending their own.
  • Students build their negotiation and collaborative skills
  • Leads to building a more cooperative classroom community
  • Students help to create class content/discussions
  • Allowing for students to have access to content outside of class time

Vicki Davis (2007), in the Slideshare presentation below, talks about how wikis raise the level of involvement of students, increasing their retention of material.

In the video below, Jeff Utecht (2009) states that using a wiki helps students to understand that ideas can belong to more than one person. Chris Betcher (2009), in the same conversation, says, “Wikis are symbolic of the change that’s taking place in society…moving to a more integrated method of doing stuff. It’s not about one person going off and making something and then coming back and saying, ‘Ta-da! Look what I’ve done!” It’s about groups of people working on things and then having that back and forth iteration. Collaboration is about working together to build a better project.”

Joyce Valenza (2007) says that wikis can be collaborative built by “classes across the country or across the world” (p. 131). Why not try to use a wiki? After all, isn’t sharing and collaboration one way to build a better planet?

References

Boeninger, C.  (2007). The wonderful world of wikis: Applications for libraries. In Library 2.0 and Beyond. Westport: Conn. Libraries Unlimited.

Boston College (nd) Retrieved from http://idesweb.bc.edu/ides/website/teaching_tools/wikis/benefits

HarveyD., & Daniels, S. (2009) Comprehension and collaboration. Heinemann Educational Publishing.

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2007). InfoTech: An info-skills workout: Wikis and c0llaborative writing. In Rosenfeld, E. & Loertscher, D. (Eds.) Toward a 21st Century School Library Media Program. Lanham:MA, Hi Willow Research and Publishing.

Loudermilk-Garzia, s. & Hern, T. (2006) Retrieved from http://critical.tamucc.edu/wiki/WikiArticle/WikiAsACollaborativeWritingTool

Sheehy, G. (2009) Retrieved from http://ateacherswrites.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-wiki-as-knowledge-repository-using-a-wiki-in-a-community-of-practice-to-strengthen-k-12-education/

Valenza, J. (2007). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a wiki. School Library Journal Retrieved from http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/neverendingsearch/2007/06/20/ten-reasons-why-your-next-pathfinder-should-be-a-wiki/

Valenza, J. (2007). Something wiki this way comes…are you ready?. In Rosenfeld, E. & Loertscher, D. (Eds.) Toward a 21st Century School Library Media Program. Lanham:MA, Hi Willow Research and Publishing.

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