Tag Archives: Web 2.0 tools

Blogging: Today my thoughts, tomorrow the worlds’

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

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

Personal Learning about the tool:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal use of the tool:

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

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

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

Professional use of the tool:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Web 2.0 Tools

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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


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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Web 2.0 Tools

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

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Web 2.0 Tools

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!


Filed under Web 2.0 Tools