Tag Archives: education

The Neverending Story – Web 2.0

When I began the Amazing Race for Web 2.0 Tools, I thought of myself as fairly competent with technology. After all, I could create a word document, surf the Internet and send/receive email! I had started to become familiar with cloud computing through our school’s technology cohort and involvement in the ‘Portal Project’, an intranet site for our district where staff and students could create sites and blogs and use Google Apps for Education.  As a new teacher librarian, I was the troubleshooter for technology problems involving computers, Smartboards, laptops and wireless. I had also used wikis, Glogster and blogging in inquiry instruction with students. I felt confident as I embarked on this journey, worrying more about my complex teaching assignment than any roadblocks on the Web 2.0 highway. The route for my journey seemed clear: reach one destination per week, collecting information, ideas, and connections, describe and reflect on both the experience of travelling to the destination, and its value in promoting student learning. Little did I know what I had in store. At the end of the journey, I am still passionate, but weary, and the ‘Lissa Van’ is slightly battered, worn, and cluttered both with the usual debris of a journey: papers, books, fast food containers and empty tea cups, and the technical debris: stray websites, numerous passwords, logins and Evernotes, the odd microphone or two, a full Dropbox, battered keyboards and an iPad touchscreen in deep need of a cleaning!
The road to my first destination; Photosharing, was rough and rocky. Teaching kindergarten (33 four and five year olds!), grade 1/2 (26 students and a new grade for me!) and trying to maintain my library presence in just .27 FTE was challenging enough by day, nevermind transforming into SuperScholar at night! Maintaining a presence on the online message board took most of my free time, with occasional forays into the Web universe to research my first topic: using Flikr. Not being a photo type of gal, I found it difficult to relate to Flikr. I did find some interesting ways to use Flikr in the classroom, but overall was not really motivated to research the tool (sorry, Flikr afficiandos). This was not my finest hour. After this posting, I shared some information on Flikr with one of my staff, and she went bonkers over it. As a scrapbooker, she loves Flikr and was thrilled to get some ideas of how to use it in her classroom. Learning no. 1: Never assume that, just because it’s not your thing, someone else isn’t going to love it.
My next stopover was Videosharing. Although still struggling to multitask and juggle so many roles (did I mention that I have a husband and three children, too?), I managed to stay on top of the online discussion and spend more time on research. Videosharing was digitally distracting! I kept getting sidetracked by interesting video clips both on TeacherTube and YouTube. Much of the information I discovered about videosharing was related to its blockage in most school districts (including my own) and the corresponding difficulty for teachers who wish to use this highly engaging tool with their students. Later on, as I continued my journey towards other destinations, I discovered more ideas about not only showing video clips in the classroom, but how the creation of video clips helps students with 21st century skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and evaluation. With the ease of using tools such as Jing and Flip cameras, video sharing is simple and easy for even the youngest students to use.
After this post, I tried creating some video clips of my students in grade 1/2 to showcase their learning about seasons in science. They were highly motivated and excited to be able to see themselves on tape. It also allowed those students who had difficulty with writing to show their learning in an alternate way, and be successful! Learning no. 1: Don’t overlook the teaching value of something that seems purely entertainment. Learning no. 2: Students will learn better when they are motivated and engaged.
On to Social Bookmarking. By now, we had hired another kindergarten teacher to assist in my classroom, my grade 1/2s were settling in, my first collaborative unit was well underway, and my children had settled into their university courses. (Notice my husband is not on this list…he still insists that I’m having a double affair with my computer and iPad!).  Diigo and Evernote were tools that I already had some experience in and found very helpful in my own life. As a student, teacher, and regular Internet user, I needed every tool I could get to stay on top of and manage the information barrage. Feeling motivated and connected, I found it much easier to research, discuss and share. As I re-evaluated both sites and reflected on my use of them so far, I found myself using them more and more regularly. Now, I can’t imagine NOT using them daily. Learning no. 1: Students and staff are more motivated to use tools that fill a need and have personal relevance to them. I tried to get my staff to sign up for Diigo, enabling us to share useful sites, and enabling them to store bookmarks where they could access them whenever necessary. Ooops! The computer lab (terminal server 😦 ) would not allow them to sign up to the site, and so they ended up watching me demo and talk about Diigo, left and promptly forgot how/why to use it. Learning no. 2: Always expect a glitch. Learning no. 3: Staff and students need to USE technology, not just see it in action. During this experience, I found out that some of them didn’t even know how to use their Favorites or Bookmarks bar on Internet Explorer. Learning no. 4: Never assume the experience/comfort levels of staff/students with technology.
Next stop: Podcasting. Although this journey was characterized by a flat tire or two, some of the learnings from Videosharing came into play. Wow, let’s look for help on YouTube! Roadside assistance was offered by total strangers via YouTube tutorials. High-ho, YouTube to the rescue! Once I arrived and had a chance to explore Podcasting, it seemed like my kind of place…probably because I love the sound of my own voice! Podcasting allowed me to use all my hidden drama…without worrying about what I looked like :). It was simple to use (after the tutorials:)), fun, creative and educational. Another tool I took and used right away in the classroom and in the library, creating podcasts of booktalks, as examples of fluency, and collecting podcasts for social studies. Students and teachers loved creating and listening to them. Learning no.1: Teachers and students are more motivated to use tools that are relevant and fun for them. (Have I said this before?) While using Audioboo and Audacity for podcasting, some glitches came up within our system. (You’re surprised?) Learning no.2: Always expect a glitch. (I think I’ve said this before?) A district tech dude said we should try a cloud-based computing tool, Aviary. Once more back to the YouTube tutorials. Learning no 3. The learning never ends…technology is ever changing, ever growing.
Onward and upward to the wonderful wayside stop of Wikis. My familiarity with wikis (I had used them frequently last year) made this post a joy to write. I finally felt that I knew what I was talking about! (Can you sense the foreshadowing here?) It was easy to share my wiki successes, much more difficult to share my struggles. OK, failures. Putting your screw-ups out for the world to see is uncomfortable. I know, I know, we learn so much more from our failures than our successes, but I’d prefer to learn in private :).  Learning no.1: Successes are easier to share than failures. Staff and students at my school loved using wikis. Their simplicity of use and the final result give you a big bang for your buck. Learning no. 2: Staff and students enjoy tools that are simple to learn and fun to use. (Do you see a theme here?) The collaborative aspect of wikis, aligned with the ability to upload videos, images, and links to create a mini-website, made it a versatile tool. As much as I thought I had learned about wikis, researching them gave me so many more ideas about how to use them: as class websites, as PLNs, as a tool for online learning, and more.Learning no. 3: The learning never ends. (Oh, oh, oh, another theme!)
Ah, the byways of Multimedia Presentation Tools. There are millions (OK, maybe thousands) (OK, maybe lots) of presentation tools. Which byways to explore and which to give a pass. It was difficult, all seemed so inviting. I finally settled on five tools, Voicethread, Animoto,  Jing, Prezi, and Vuvox. First, I needed to create  a presentation using each tool (duh). I had discovered a wonderful wiki about digital storytelling tools, where the author, Alan Levine, used the same storyline to demonstrate each tool. Great idea! However, the muse took over and I ended up using different ideas for each tool. Learning no. 1. When the muse hits you over the head with an idea, STOP and THINK about how much time and effort it’s going to take! Even though creating the presentations took up a massive amount of time, it was fun to do. Learning no. 2: When it’s fun, you do it and it doesn’t feel like ‘Learning’. As I began using Jing, I found it rocks to create instructional videos for staff! No longer was I rushing from room to room or trying to simplify and type out instructions in an email when we had a common question (Like: “How do I get the banner off when I print to the copier?”, or “Where can I find the P drive?”). Now, I just create a screencast and send the link. Staff who require repeated explanations can save the links in their bookmarks to have them at their fingertips to peruse over and over again.  Learning no. 3: There’s a million (OK, maybe thousands) (OK, maybe lots) of ways you can use these tools. While I was able to create an overview of each tool for my post, it was clear to me that each tool could have used it’s own post. Learning no. 4. There’s always more you can add….but you gotta stop somewhere!
By now, the ‘Lissa Van’ was getting droopy, but I struggled to embrace the scene of Social Networking. This one was tough. Once again, this was a tool that did not have personal significance for me. While I realize that I am in an online, wired world, and participate in that online world, I just don’t do Facebook (unless someone (aka my daughters) makes me!). On the other hand, I am a big believer in community, and as I researched more and more about social networks, I found myself connecting  to the idea of building community, and a global community at that. Once again, the professional side overtook the personal side. The networks I used the most were ones connected to work and professional development, such as Classroom 2.0 and Teacherlibrarian Ning. I was amazed at the statistics of how many students are hooked into social media, and one of the most powerful quotes for me was from Chris Lehmann “Schools have always taught kids how to present themselves — that’s why we did oral presentations in the classroom. Now we need to teach them to present themselves electronically.” Learning no.1: Doesn’t matter if I don’t use it, social networking is a fact of 21st century life, kids ARE using it, and it is my responsibility to to teach them how to use it appropriately. However, I still thought of it as a middle or secondary school thing. After taking an informal poll of my division two students, I was surprised to find how many of them are already on social media sites. Learning no. 2: Never assume….students are using technology at younger and younger ages.
Needed a major overhaul on the road to Twitter. Did not want to go to Twitter, would have loved to detour around Twitter, but there it was, sitting solidly on my path. I had been told to sign up and follow tweets from certain people, and had done so faithfully in preparation for this trip. I signed up for TweetDeck and Hootsuite, and dove in the raging river of Twitter. I was quickly lost as tweet after tweet washed over me. The ‘Lissa Van’ was sinking! Learning no.1: I need time to process! I require time, and the Twitter ‘waterfall’, as xxx commented (link to comment) is  never still. Learning no. 2: Sometimes, there’s no time to process, and you just need to make it work for you. Creating a Tweet Plan helped. As I researched and used Twitter more often, I began to see it’s value, especially as a professional development tool. Learning no.3: If a flock of professionals you trust tell you to try something, it’s probably a good thing. Learning no.4 Sometimes you need to stick with and work through the uncomfortableness and try, try, try again. This stop was also where I experienced my first ‘traffic ticket’…a comment that asked me to think beyond the ideas that I had presented and consider other learnings. OMG! Somebody’s listening! Learning no. 4: When you blog, you are truly out there…it ain’t just you and your computer, babe!
Penultimate stopover: Blogging. Well, this should have been familiar territory. After all, blogging has been the way we have recorded our travelogue. However, as always with the Web 2.0 highway, there were new learnings along the way. Once again, researching and reading ideas from leaders in the field and other teachers gave me insights as to the whys and wherefores of my blogging successes and failures (there’s that word again!). Learning no 1:  There’s always something new to learn. (The theme continues!). RSS feeds to my iPad opened up a whole new world of teaching ideas, philosophies and issues. I felt I was learning so much every day. Learning no.2: Do not read your RSS feeds on your iPad in bed before you go to sleep, it makes your brain sizzle with thoughts and ideas and you have to play many games of Spider Solitaire before you can get to sleep… much later than you expected. Some days, my blogging voice seemed bang on…I had an idea and the words flowed. Other days, it seemed to come and go, and while I was presenting information well, I felt I would have liked to put more of myself into the post.  Learning no3. Blogging is WRITING! I know, I know, it seems an oxymoron, but blogging requires all of the traits of writing, and editing, editing, editing.
The Most Frequent Five Learnings:
1. Students and staff are more motivated to use tools that fill a need, are simple and fun to use, and have personal relevance.
2. Students and staff will learn better if they are engaged with the tools and using the technology themselves.
3. Never assume the experience/comfort levels of technology for staff/students.
4. Always expect a glitch.
5. The learning never ends. The learning never ends. The learning never ends.
What tools will I take away for immediate use with staff/students? Well, as the song below says, “They can’t take that away from me!” All of the tools I have learned in this course will stay with me, some to be used now, some later.
In determining which Web 2.0 tools that I will share with colleagues and students, I think of Steven Baule’s (2010) recap of research in why some schools do not embrace technology: poor accessibility, the reliability of technology and lack of professional development. I work in a school that has a great deal of technology, including a dedicated computer lab, laptops and netbooks. We recently increased our bandwidth to enhance our internet speed. Our technology has a few glitches (see Frequent Five no. 4), however, for the most part, working in cloud computing has eased many technical problems. Our principal is dedicated to icreasing our use of technology as a teaching tool. She has created a technology leadership team that is given extensive PD, and is expected to teach and support teachers in their use of technology to engage students and move their learning forward. While Prensky (2001) can argue that older teachers are digital natives, I have found it is more the lack of motivation and time than any lack of ability for teachers of any age to embrace technology. Time still remains an issue for most educators I talk with. While schools and districts recognize that 21st century skills are necessary and technology is a tool to drive these skills, time (read: money) for teachers to learn and explore new tools is scarce. Teacher-librarians need to be interested in and willing to spend the time researching technology, in order to truly lead students and staff into the global world of the 21st century. Joyce Valenza’s post You know if you’re a 21st century librarian if…. and her sequel, Apps for Student Teacher Librarians, highlight the skills we need to acquire and be comfortable with. Not only do we need to be comfortable with them, our goal must be to share our knowledge and skills with others.
Understanding that the universe of Web 2.0 tools is ever-expanding (keep in mind Frequent Five Learnings no. 5), how can I decide which tools will be best to begin teaching to my staff and students? Baule (2010) to the rescue! While his article The components of successful technologies shares criteria for deciding on hardware and programs to use, I believe the same criteria can be effectively applied to Web 2.0 tools.
1. The tool must be user-friendly (see Frequent Five no. 1)
2. It must be engaging (see Frequent Five no. 2)
3. It must fill a need. (see Frequent Five no. 1)
4. It must be flexible: able to adjust to the experienced and novice user, as well as lend itself to different uses. (see Frequent Five nos.1 and 3)
5. It must be results oriented. Remember Web 2.0 tools are just that…tools. Our focus should always be student learning and growth.
In my school, rather than thinking of which specific tools to work with, I think we should create a scope and sequence of technology, creating a technology plan to introduce a variety of tools over time, say the rest of this year and next year. We have already explored wikis, are continuing to explore blogging, and are beginning to create podcasts. At the moment, my vision of our timeline looks like this:
  1. Introduce (again) Diigo to enable staff to share website resources.(try the laptops first to ensure no glitches this time!). Staff are constantly reinventing the wheel in their search for websites for themselves and students. Many sites are forgotten or cannot be accessed when needed, as they are on their desktop at school. Diigo will allow our staff to build and share a common repertoire of useful websites, including the ability to share highlights and  annotations. We will also be able to use Diigo for education with our students, allowing teachers to share subject specific sites with them, or allowing students to create their own groups to share sites. Sites can be accessed by staff and students 24/7 from any Internet connection. This is also a gentle introduction to using Social Networking with both staff and students.
  2. Introduce new Multimedia  Presentation tools (time to move past Powerpoint!). Staff continue to use Powerpoint, because they are familiar with it. Students are exposed to so much more media that is interactive, that they find Powerpoint tired and ‘lame’ to quote a few. Interactive tools such as Animoto, Voicethread, Prezi, and others allow students the ability to share information in a way that excites and interests them. Staff are looking for presentation tools that are simple to create, engaging for students and meet learning needs (Frequent Five no. 1). Staff who are explaining how to use computer tools over and over again, from year to year or class to class, can use Jing to save their teaching, and simply show the video to students when needed, allowing students who require extra help the option of getting it whenever they need, simply by clicking on a link (saved in Diigo, of course!)
  3. Develop our use of Videosharing: focusing on students creating and sharing video. We have purchased one Flip cam per grade level team, and the expectation is that they will be used by staff and students to record events, student plays, projects or readings, etc. Staff are interested in how to best use the Flips, and in sharing the clips via their class websites, or by loading them onto TeacherTube (YouTube still being semi-blocked by the district). Teachers are also interested in sharing curriculum related Internet videos, perhaps by using a site like Vodpod, or just using Diigo for this as well.
  4. Deepen our understanding of wikis, blogging and podcasting (see Frequent Five no.5). We have already begun to use wikis and blogs, however we have just scratched the surface of using these sites with our students. So far, our blogging efforts have been mostly teacher posts requiring student comments. We need to move to students creating their own content through posting as well as commenting, creating their own blogs to show their learning, as both process and product. Teachers can be creating their own blogs to reflect on their learning, and if we ask teachers to comment on each other’s posts, we can create a reflective, collaborative tool to increase our own learning and deepen our practice. Wikis have been used in our school as pathfinders, note-takers, storytelling receptacles and presentation vehicles. Why not try using them for collaborative problem solving, journaling, portfolios, study guides, or notes collaboration? With the emphasis on collaboration in creating global learners, we should continue to explore and use this tool with students. We have just scratched the surface of podcasting and there is so much to learn about using it as a tool with students to create booktalks, showcase their learning, write and perform plays, create study guides, and more. Students can also search for and listen to podcasts in curricular areas such as social studies, language arts and more. Teachers can create podcasts for parent information, class notes for those who struggle with taking and reading notes, record professional development for others who are unable to attend, to present their ideas for teaching and learning in an alternate format, snf more. Even though we have already explored and use these tools, Frequent Five no. 5 says that there is no end to our learning. I am reminded by a quote on learning meditation from Lawrence Le Shan (2004): “When you get there, you find there is no there there.” The learning goes on and on. 🙂
Does this mean that the other tools will be set aside, or ignored? Not at all. I will continue to use Twitter, and will continue to expand my knowledge and use of  Social networking and Flikr (see Frequent Five no. 5). Like any good teaching, you need to start where your staff/students are. We were at an Alan November conference recently, and when he started talking about the benefits and advantages of Twitter, I could see their eyes glazing over. They are not ready to embrace Twitter as a tool , so I would be best to focus on the tools that fulfill their needs, have relevance for their teaching, and are simple, fun and easy to use.( Frequent Fives 1 & 2). My top personal tool? Definitely social bookmarking. I use Diigo and Evernote daily. My top professional tool? RSS feeds and blogs. Who knew that I would be reading blogs daily, bookmarking and sharing them on Diigo, and tweeting them out to the Twitterverse?
We have been asked to highlight a few key things we learned from others in the class…well, this would be a whole dissertation! Our mini-social network has made me re-think, reflect and review ideas and sites.My discussion group: Cecile, Kim, Kristie and Tanya have given me so much of their vision and experiences. There have been many moments where I thought, “Oh, interesting idea (or link, or lesson, or book).” or have said, “Wow, someone else feels/thinks that way!” Beyond the discussion group, so many others in the course have been my teachers: Janet (when do you sleep, woman?), Jeff, Shelly, Yvonne, Anne, Franki and Jacqui, to name a few. I have madly clicked on links, bookmarked sites, signed up for accounts (do you have any idea how many passwords I have in my Blackberry??), and tried new ideas. Not only have I learned through the course material, the discussions have been the best PD I could have had. I believe we have created a community of online learners who have supported each other and helped each other grow. The ‘Lissa Van’ is not the same vehicle it was when it started out. If true learning is being profoundly changed by the information we learn, then I have achieved true learning from the interactions with my fellow students. Thank you to all of you for your insights, compassion, fervour, and reflections!
So is this the end? I think my story, like Bastian’s is a Neverending Story. My quest is to work with others to bring them to the world and experience of Web 2.0, not as an expert, but as a fellow journeywoman on the way, sharing her knowledge and learning from others. What, specifically, am I going to do to continue this journey? After a pit-stop to refuel, relax and refresh, the ‘Lissa Van’ will continue it’s journey towards lifelong learning: adding and reading RSS feeds, my Twitter plan, presenting my scope and sequence to my principal, and trying to use blogging as a professional development tool.
Baule, S. (2010). The components of successful technologies. In Rosenfeld, E. & Loertscher, D. (Eds). Toward a 21st century school library media program. Lanham: ML. Hi Willow Research and Publishing.
Le Shan, L. (2004) How to meditate. Macmillan Audio; Abridged edition.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants.  On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5. Retrieved from: http://www.albertomattiacci.it/docs/did/Digital_Natives_Digital_Immigrants.pdf


Filed under Web 2.0 Tools

Podcasting: Hark, what voice through yonder computer breaks?

Podcasting reminds me of radio. I listen to podcasts of favourite shows like ‘The Vinyl Café’ on iTunes and on CBC radio online. Still, I had never considered making my own podcasts until reading Will Richardson (2009). Hey, I LOVE the sound of my own voice (say my kids), so this will be great! Podcasting…this should be easy! Will Richardson says so! Is he right? Check out my podcasts below…

As much as I admire and respect you, Will, I have to say that, once again, YouTube tutorials saved my ***. How about you? Are you trying to use Audacity? Have a look at these two:


I had trouble downloading the LAME software so I could export it to an MP3 file. Once again YouTube came to my rescue. A young (really young) man provided step by step instructions.

Finally, the software was saved to my computer. Then came the difficulty of loading the podcast to my WordPress blog. Now, if you want to upgrade for a minimum of $19.95, no problemo. However, if you want to do it for free, you need to host your podcast onto a web server. By this time, I was seriously considering getting out my credit card and going for it. However, I stopped to think about using this in a school district. Free is always better in our school! So, I searched and found Podcastmachine.com. A free account and easy upload made this a great choice. It loaded up on the WordPress blog, however, I just got a link to Podcastmachine, not the actual podcast. Remembering Joanne de Groot’s Trailfire, I decided to try Audioboo. Once again, a free account and easy upload. I was able to record directly onto Audioboo and skip the Audacity step. Hey, I found out I can even use Audioboo with my iPhone and iPad!

Remember, though, that Audioboo is like live radio. You get to record podcasts, but there’s no editing. Audacity will work better if you and your students want to work on those cool effects Will Richardson (2009) talks about.

Screencasting is one step up from podcasting. In screencasting, you can use Jing, a free program, to voiceover an image on the computer screen, save it as a video to Screencast.com and upload it to a blog or access it on your Smartboard or projector directly from Screencast. Will Richardson (2009) suggests using it to explain to students how to do something on the computer (see my explanation of Diigo in the previous post) or for students to share their work. See a demo here.

Personal life:

I love radio. Certain announcers have me hooked just by the sound of their voice. Jurgen Goth and Tom Allen on CBC are two of my absolute favourites. I would smile just by hearing their voice. Stuart MacLean and The Vinyl Café kept my kids from killing each other in the back seat on long road trips. How fantastic that I can download podcasts of their shows and listen to them on my computer or my iPod. Driving to work in the morning has been less relaxing now that CBC has moved to a more mainstream style of music. Now I can listen to podcasts in my car during my daily drive. I can listen to drama, comedy, book reviews, interviews, how-to shows and more, all on demand.

Professional life


To use with students:

Lamb and Johnson (2007) talk about downloading podcasts to the library. I had never really thought about it. Talk about being stuck in the 20thy century vision of a library. I did go out and buy 4 iTouches for our library, how about downloading podcasts as resources? Off I went to iTunes and looked at ‘education’ and wow, what a treasure trove of resources. I always think of those students whose reading skills are far below their ability to understand concepts. Even finding websites and online encyclopedias for them to use is difficult, due to their low reading level. I have the free version of ‘ReadPlease’ on our laptops for them to use, but what about a podcast? ELL students could benefit from podcasts available for them on sites like Podcasts in English,  Many Things,  or how about English Banana?  I also love the idea of linking podcast book review sites like Just One More Book to a school or library blog for students to access and listen to book reviews. What about listening to stories on sites like this one?


Chris Kretz ( 2007) suggests that librarians can create their own booktalks on Podcasts. Check out this booktalk I created using Audacity:

Amulet Booktalk

Compare it to the one I made using Audioboo.

Which is your preference? On the other hand, never mind me creating booktalks, I think that students should be creating their own booktalk podcasts. (Whoever is doing, is learningJ )

Common Craft, in their video, Podcasts in Plain English, say, “Everyone can have a voice that shows their true colours.” Students can use their voice to show their learning, share their work with other students, classes, parents and the world. Students could create a podcast as an assessment of learning at the end of a unit, or as an assessment for learning activity in the middle of one. Why not have students podcast picture books for younger students? It would help older students develop their reading fluency and would create a listening center for younger students using any book in the library. Students can be creating screencasts of stories they have written using pictures they have created or found on the web or podcasts to share their poetry. Consider how it feels to listen to an author read from their own work. Maya Angelou says “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”
Students who have the opportunity to write and create podcasts on a variety of topics are learning to write, to listen, to collaborate, to share and to use technology to express themselves. Garner Campbell (2005) states that ‘there is magic in the human voice, the magic of shared awareness…voice can create a theatre of the mind (and) can connect with the listener on a profound level.” (p. 5). In a world where we worry about people becoming isolated, podcasting offers students that opportunity…to create magic and to connect with others on a personal level.


Angelou, Maya. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/maya_angelou.html on October 15, 2010.

Campbell, G. (2005). There’s something in the air: Podcasting in education. Retrieved from http://www.cblt.soton.ac.uk/multimedia/PDFs08/Podcasting%20in%20education.pdf

Kretz, C. (2007). Podcasting in libraries. In Courtney, N. (Ed.),  Library 2.0 and beyond (pg. 35-47). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2007) Infotech: Podcasting in the library, part 1: Integrating podcasts and vodcasts into teaching and learning. In Rosenfeld, E. & Loertscher, D. (Ed.), Toward a 21st century school library media program (p. 163-170). Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Press.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.



Filed under Uncategorized

From Transformers to Sauerkraut

In my grade 1/2 class, the current rage is tiny transformers that turn from balls to robots. Both boys and girls are collecting, trading and sharing them. In my kindergarten, it is leaves. We went on a fall walk and collected some for our seasonal changes unit, and somehow, my students got hooked on leaves, collecting, organizing, trading and sharing them. When my own children were younger, it was Pokemon cards. They were so excited to get a new one, and more than happy to share their ‘doubles’ with friends to help them increase their collections. As an adult, I collect and share information, rather than things. Recipes, reviews of restaurants, tips for everything from staying organized 🙂 to how to get pine sap off of hands. We are a society of collectors, and in the 21st century, we have access to and are collecting massive amounts of information. How can we best store and retrieve the information we collect?


Think of a library. In our libraries, we store print information on our shelves, in rows organized by the great god of Dewey.( Think of Dewey like a secret code. Once you know the secret code, you can find the same information in any library, anywhere.) Now think of how many websites you have stored on your bookmarks in your computer.You create folders, place your bookmark in a folder, and then, IF you can remember what folder it is in, you have access to that website any time you are at your computer. Oh, oh! You are at a friend’s house, and you want to show her the fabulous sauerkraut website you found last week that had a recipe just like grandma’s on it. It’s stored in your bookmarkson your computer in your  sauerkraut folder, but you really don’t want to run home and write it down. You promise to email it to her and hope you will remember. You might even carry sticky notes in your purse and write one to remind you to do it.

Fast forward to cloud computing. With social bookmarking websites, you can access your bookmarks from any computer. There are many social bookmarking sites you can use, most of them free. Web Tools4u2use has a comprehensive list. Once you have signed up, you can start bookmarking sites and organize them through tagging.

Tagging is like putting your bookmarks in a folder, but the beauty of it is that you can choose more than one tag. If, for example, I have a great site that has my grandma’s sauerkraut recipe, I can tag it ‘recipes’ and ‘sauerkraut’ and ‘grandma’. This gives me multiple ways to remember how I bookmarked the site. Tagging is a type of folksonomy, a user based organizational system. Now, even better, I can share this bookmark with my friend by creating a ‘sauerkraut’ group in my social bookmarking site. I can manage my group to be private, with only those I invite, or I can allow everyone in the group to invite others, or I can make it a public group anyone can join. In a few minutes, the website with my grandma’s sauerkraut recipe could go global! Social bookmarking allows us to create a library of web resources similar to our libraries of books, but with one major difference. With our libraries, once a book is out, it’s out. With social bookmarking, we get to have our cake and eat it, too! When we share sites and ideas, we keep the original, and often receive back more information to add onto what we already have. Our resources and the ideas about how to use them can morph and grow and expand into something beyond what we could have imagined on our own.

Personal uses of social bookmarking

In my Inquiry course taken this summer, I had briefly overviewed Diigo and Evernote in order to decide which one would be the best for me to use. Diigo won me over by the simplicity of its use and design. For this post on social bookmarking, I decided to go deeper into Diigo and Evernote as opposed to trying one of the many  other sites such as delicious.


Diigo not only gives me a way to store my bookmarks in the cloud, but gives me the freedom to tag it in multiple ways, using whatever tags I wish.  Not only does Diigo keep track of the site, it takes a snapshot, so that even if the site is taken down, I am able to access an archive of the site and the information remains at my fingertips. I talk about some other options Diigo gives me in the post below this one.

In addition to the annotation, highlights, stickynote and sharing aspects of Diigo, I like the ability to create RSS feeds of tags, so when someone else tags a site with one of my RSS tags, I have access to that information as well. I could have the biggest and best collection of sauerkraut recipes all through harnessing the global efforts of others!


Evernote was a little trickier to delve into. I had to spend more time exploring the site to find out its uses. Feeling a bit frustrated, I went to YouTube and searched for Evernote Tutorials and found one that was very helpful.

I really liked the way Evernote organized my webclippings into Notebooks. I created a Notebook for this course, one for teaching Kindergarten, one for teaching Grade 1/2, one for Library ideas, and one for personal use. Like Diigo, Evernote takes a picture of the website, clipping both screenshot and the url. I also liked the features of being able to take pictures with your camera/phone and post them into Evernote. An advantage of Evernote is the ability to search not only sites and notes in notebooks, but within the text of pictures and snapshots. As well as organizing bookmarks into notebooks, Evernote, like Diigo, also allows the user to create tags.  One other feature of Evernote that I love is the ability to write text notes in Evernote.

I have Evernote downloaded to my iPad and to my computer at work. Once I have a mobile phone that supports web browsing, I will download it to my phone. In that way, I can take notes wherever I am and have them stored on one site that I can access anytime, anywhere, as long as I have Internet access. I hoped this would be easier than writing in Word and then emailing it to myself in case I worked on it on another computer. To test this feature out, I tried to write this post in Evernote, but found it awkward to switch back and forth between my saved websites and the note. I decided to write my post in Word, and then to copy it to my note in Evernote whenever I saved it. This way, I would still have access as well as the ease of writing in Word. Saving documents would have been helpful for me this week, as I cannot remember where I put my notes on using Diigo from my last course, and I’m sure I had a website on there I wanted to check out again….

Using the notes feature in Evernote would also be great in keeping track of ideas, or lists. The first tutorial on Evernote shows ‘Jack’ who is a ‘sticky monster’. I fully appreciate the sticky monster, as my life is ruled by stickies.


Using Evernote (if I am at a computer) would be much better than stickies, which (often) get lost or misplaced, leaving me with the knowledge that there is something I am forgetting…, so I have created a notebook marked “To do” to keep all of the information I currently have on my sticky notes.


Sharing in Evernote is a matter of inviting people to share your notebooks. It seems more awkward to share in Evernote than in Diigo.

Overall, I feel that Diigo is the best social bookmarking tool for me to share websites with colleagues, students and friends, using the Group feature as a tool, as well as following others with the same interests as me. Evernote is a great bookmarking tool for me to store websites and information for me personally. For now, I am bookmarking most sites to Diigo, and using Evernote to bookmark sites connected to the notebooks I have created.

Professional Use

Alan November (notes from presentation, October 4, 2010) suggests that each school should have a shared social bookmarking site. Staff and students should be taught how to create appropriate tags for the learning needs of students and staff. Both Alan November and Beth Kanter say a shared tagging system or policy within the school is essential, leading to the most efficient use of the bookmarking site. November suggests that it is best if the teacher librarian, in consultation with a few key staff, creates one, remembering that tagging is a folksonomy as opposed to a formal taxonomy such as Dewey. The advantage to tagging is that it is user-created system of organizing and managing information, however, it is often not consistent. Will Richardson (2009) states that the best way for folksonomies to become valuable is to have more people contribute to their creation. Ella Kroski (2007) also agrees that folksonomies are more valuable as they are added to by users. She states that some of the advantages of folksonomies are their currency, inclusiveness, and their usability. Creating a tagging system within your school will allow teachers to collaborate and pool information with the click of a mouse. Berger and Trexler suggest that the tag pattern, or cloud that emerges after users have tagged a site, allows searches to quickly identify whether a particular site is valuable for them or not. Teaching students how to tag is important, as “It may become less important to know and remember where information was found and more important to know how to retrieve it using a framework created by and shared with peers and colleagues.” (Educase, 2005, pg. 2)

I have created a Diigo group called Minchau for my staff, and will be showing them how they can add bookmarks to it for all of the teachers to use. I am hoping that my staff will be see the value of using Diggo and of working as a group. I have often heard them say how annoyed they are that they can’t remember where they bookmarked a site that they want to use tomorrow!

Diigo also has the option for teachers to open an education account, where they can create student accounts for their classes, and students are set up as a group. Privacy options ensure that students can only communicate with each other and their teacher. Students can then work together to create bookmarks of sites that would be useful for their particular class, topic, or research assignment. Joyce Valenza (2009) suggests that teachers could create a group and share it with students to use as a pathfinder for assignments. For an example, this pathfinder from Buffy Hamilton uses delicious http://www.delicious.com/creekview_hs_library.

Older students as well as teachers, could benefit from using Evernote to store, track and manage their research. Andrew Marcinek (2009) suggests that using Evernote can lead to a paperless classroom, where both teacher and students are keeping their notes in Evernote. Evernote can be used as an organizational tool for the teacher as in this plan:  https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/Social/Evernote+Lesson+Plan+for+Elementary+Students

When using Evernote, citations and bibliographies become much easier to track for students, as the website address is clipped right in their notes. Buffy Hamilton has created a video showing students discussing the advantages of using both Diigo and Evernote:

Why use social bookmarking with students? Berger and Trexler suggest that in doing so, we are getting students to collaborate, use technology, share, and make their own meaning of information, all of which are essential 21stcentury skills. This is also an opportunity to teach students evaluation skills, so necessary in a world of unregulated information such as the Internet.

As we move from a society of experts to a society that has information on everything from Transformers to sauerkraut at their fingertips, social bookmarking offers us a way to globally collaborate, share and manage the ever-expanding universe of information.


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

Educase, (2007) Seven things you should know about social bookmarking. Retrieved from


Kanter, B. (2007, February 13). Shoulder-to-shoulder instructional media: my tagging screencast at NTEN! [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/02/the_making_of_s.html

Kroski, E. (2007). Folksonomies and user-based tagging. In Courtney, N. (Ed.),  Library 2.0 and beyond (pg.91 -103). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Marcinek, A. (2009,  April 29). Evernote will organize your life! [Weblog post]. Retrieved from


Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Valenza, J. (2009, September 24)  6 ways K-12 librarians can teach social media [Web article]. Retrieved from


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This is an overview of Diigo that I created
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Andy Warhol was right…the future is here

15 minutes of fame…


Andy Warhol was right! Everyone can have their 15 minutes of fame on YouTube. An exponentially growing social networking phenomenon, people everywhere are filming themselves getting married, giving birth, and dying. Not only filming it, but putting it out there for everyone to see. YouTube contains more than 2 billion videos and is growing daily with a wide variety of  subjects. While many videos on YouTube are personal, many are videos created to promote and to share ideas and information. Entering the term “marriage” brought up 354 000 videos. In the first 10 videos, there were clips about traditional marriage, gay marriage, arranged marriages, a Sesame Street trailer, the marriage scene from the Princess Bride movie, and one of a marriage proposal.

Big Brother is watching YouTube!

YouTube is blocked in most school districts, due to the lack of censorship of the site. Anyone is allowed to upload videos to YouTube, and the only monitors of videos that may be offensive or inappropriate are the users themselves. Users are allowed to flag videos and they are then reviewed by YouTube staff, using their Community Guidelines . Many educators who would love to use the site for educational purposes become frustrated when having to deal with their inability to present great videos for learning to their students.

Teacher Tube is a safe alternative that is usually not blocked by school servers. It’s a site that is run by and for, educators. It is often available when YouTube is blocked. It currently has about 200 000 videos, as opposed to YouTube’s two billion. On Teacher Tube, teachers upload a variety of videos:

While TeacherTube is a safe alternative, I believe that YouTube is the best choice, simply from the sheer amount of material that is available. For example, typing in ‘Volcano Eruption” brings up 5, 320 hits, most of which are dramatic views of volcanic eruptions. TeacherTube, on the other hand, brings up 13 hits, almost half of which are making a volcanic eruption in science class.

I am fortunate that my school only blocks YouTube for students. As a teacher, I am able to enter my username and password and bypass the restrictions. However, students remain blocked. Will Richardson suggests that, instead of blocking YouTube, we should teach students to be aware of and use critical thinking skills to deal with inappropriate content. This is imperative when we consider 21st century learners. They will be able to access massive amounts of information, and it is critical that we teach them the skills to select and evaluate which information is appropriate. And, after all, once they get home, they are able to watch whatever YouTube video they wish. The American Library Association says “YouTube is a social software application that could radically change how we look at library instruction and training . . . if we let it.” I would state that YouTube is a social software that could radically change all instruction, if we let it. After all, we know that today’s students are far more visual than the previous generation, and are connected to a wired world.

Learning about videosharing

As a mother of older teenagers, I have been familiar with YouTube for some time. Two years ago, when our school received projectors in every classroom, I began using YouTube, along with United Streaming (for which our district has a license) for a variety of subjects. The powerful images that were available were invaluable, especially in science and in health. Social was a bit more complicated, as most of the content is American. (I recommend using the Historica Minutes for Canadian content)

Searching for videos is one thing, creating them is another. Last year I took over our live broadcasting studio, MTV (Minchau TV).  We have our morning announcements broadcast live from our TV studio every morning. My responsibility is to train announcers and technicians to man the station. Does this mean I am super-techie? No…I recruited students from our leadership team to be ‘station managers’ and THEY trained other students. Students write and produce videos for O Canada, fitness and character education, tape assemblies, and announce activities and special events. I oversee and, when there is trouble, I turn the computer on and off 🙂 . I am able to operate our videocams only because students have led me through the process.

A new technology I began using last year was the Flip video camera. Inspired by Kathy Cassidy’s blog, I was able to purchase four Flips which are available to be used by teachers. So far, we have taped Reader’s Theater, instructional videos, and storytelling. (Unfortunately, I am unable to share those videos due to FOIP restrictions.) Flip video cameras are simple to use, for grade one students, and even for me! This year, I am looking forward to using them for retelling favourite stories in kindergarten. As well, I discovered the ‘One Minute Critic’ on YouTube and am going to videotape some ‘One Minute Critic’ booktalks for our MTV broadcasts.

One new site I have played a bit with is Vodpod. Vodpod searches all video sharing sites for you using your criteria and allows you to upload, tag, share and store videos. It’s like your very own video channel. You can also create a group to share videos with, and post your videos to your blog. For example, I have shared some weather videos on my blog through the Vodpod widget, and I could share them with the grade five teachers in my school for an inquiry unit based on weather. I am still learning about Vodpod, so do not have too many videos in my collection yet. I see it as a tool I would use only when I need it for a specific unit, as in this case, creating a file of weather videos.

Videosharing in my own personal life and learning

Once again, my family has led the way for me in learning and using videosharing. I regularly watch video clips of my young nieces and nephews sent to me by my sisters-in-law. My children yell at me to come and watch this or that cool video clip. Will I videotape myself and others? Usually my videotaping is on par with my photo taking (see above post). Well, I did create a great video for Read-in this week, in which I interview ‘Fred’ from our ‘Fit with Fred’ DVDs we show at school (it’s not really Fred, but an actor friend of mine). Unfortunately, I was unable to load it today, as I forgot the wire thingy that connects it to the computer (note the highly technical language :)). So, I’ll have to take it to school and get one of my student technicians to load it for me.

Videosharing in teaching and learning

Using videosharing in the classroom is essential for our digital, 21st century learners. From the days of the filmstrip to video to DVD to YouTube, instructional videos help students visualize, see and understand the wider world. However, like teaching, videosharing can go beyond the ‘sit and get’ syndrome. Some educators are using vodcasting to create new instructional models. Aaron Samms and Jonathon Bergman, high school science teachers found a way to increase their time working with students on hands on activities. They prerecorded their daily lectures and assigned them as homework the night before. In this way, most of the learning time in class is focused on helping students with labs. They say students are learning more, and doing better.

Another way to use videosharing is to create videos that help students use assessment for learning. Our grade three students are taping themselves doing their Reader’s Theatre and then critiquing their own performance in order to improve. I regularly tape our MTV shows and we review them to see where we can get better.

Teachers can also create videos for exemplars. Here is a video of Kathy Cassidy’s grade one class demonstrating an exemplar of ‘Read to Self’ from The Daily Five.

However, I believe that the most powerful learning comes when we put the tools in the hands of students. Check out this story created by students.

Students can create and share: booktalks, digital stories, social studies projects, math tutorials, science experiments, and more. When they create and share their learning with their classmates and the world, it opens up many new possibilities for engaging, authentic teaching and learning.


Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Corwin

Schaffhauser, D. (2009). The vod couple. THE Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/Articles/2009/08/09/Vodcasting.aspx?Page=1

Webb, P. (2007). YouTube and libraries: It could be a beautiful relationship. C&RL News, Vol. 68, No. 6. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/publications/crlnews/2007/jun/youtube.cfm

Wikipedia. (2010). YouTube. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youtube#Criticism

Wikipedia. (2010). YouTube. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youtube

YouTube. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines?gl=CA&hl=en

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Phototaking? Photosharing?

Ok, I admit it, I’m not a photography type of gal. My husband and I have very few photos of our family, and most of the ones we have are mediocre (I take terrible pictures!).

A few years ago, we bought a digital camera, at my instigation, because at least if the picture was terrible, I could delete it! Even so, with the ease of digital technology, we remain photo-illiterate. My excuse (and I’m sticking with it!) is that we LIVE the moments, rather than take pictures of them. We rarely remember to take our camera with us, and when we do, chances are we forget to take pictures! We often think of and reflect on the times we have had, but rarely do we look at the pictures we managed to take. (Oh, boy, does that ever sound reactionary! 🙂 )

On the other hand, all of my own children are digitally wired! They all bought digital cameras (right after they bought cell phones. Priorities, priorities!) and began to take pictures and upload them on to Facebook, creating album after album. My students are digital as well…and even I must admit, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Photo sharing, for me, is limited to my sisters-in-law sending me their Picassa web album updates, and I ooh and ahh over my nieces and nephew (all of whom are truly the cutest, brightest toddlers I know). My experience with working with digital pictures is the one Smilebox I created for my daughter’s graduation. My goal is to take pictures of my kindergarteners this year, and create Smileboxes for their graduation. I’m going to start taking pictures next week. Promise.

With that in mind, I joined Flickr, and uploaded a few of the digital pictures I have. I then began to research to understand how this tool could work for me in the classroom. Will Richardson talks about how Flickr is more than a photo-sharing site. He states that it has become “true social software where the contributors interact and share and learn from each other in creative and interesting ways.” (p. 100) He refers to David Jakes who lists some great ideas: annotating pictures, using pictures for writing prompts and using pictures to create virtual field trips. Jakes also has a terrific compilation of sites for using Flickr. One of the things I LOVE about these ideas is that we can use any digital image (remember, I take terrible pictures!). This leads to a lesson on copyright, and on appropriate pictures vs. inappropriate pictures.

I also liked Richardson’s idea of using Flickr for current events, although I would tend to use Dogonews with younger students. For older students, the ability to tag photos and search for images on Flickr by tagging invites many possibilities. In the grade five Weather science unit, why not have students search Flickr for a type of weather and create annotated slideshows of the phenomenon they are researching. I am also thinking of our grade 3/4 classrooms, who create digital journal entries with pictures they take in the school. Why not use Flickr and have them create journal entries about ‘found’ pictures, then comment on each other’s ideas?

On the other hand, perhaps I need to rethink my stance on taking pictures: step back, look for opportunities, and if the picture isn’t quite right, there’s always Bluebots!


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