Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wiki World


I have visited Wiki World for an occasional change of flights but never for an extended visit. I have never really stayed long enough to experience the culture. I have visited Wikipedia to look up a definition because it was more current, accessible and easier than finding a dictionary. Wikipedia definitely has its advantages. It is the most common Wiki used but it is far from the only Wiki in use. A Wiki refers to “a social computing system that allows a group of users to initiate and evolve a hyper-linked set of web pages using a simple markup language” (Turner and Wang, 2007). The beauty of wikis is that anyone can simultaneously read, post or edit a topic anytime, anywhere (Will Richardson, 2009). Wikis facilitate information sharing and allow people to collectively develop, refine and improve a body of knowledge. I myself have never participated in creating, editing or contributing to a wiki but look forward to learning about the wiki culture.
I began my stay at Wiki World visiting several sites. I visited Wikibooks, Wikijunior, the Flat Classroom project, Welkers Wikinomics, Planet Math and a few described in the textbooks. Some of the websites had restricted access so I could only see the home page but the ones I could get into were intriguing. They had a great depth of potential and seemed as though they would add another dimension to the learning of students.
I then watched the links in the Trailfire left by Joanne. But the more I saw the more confused I became. I understand the difference between the chronological set up a blog and the more interactive hyper-linked pages of a wiki (Mindel and Verma, 2006). What I found though was that several wikis merely posted information but were not interactive. They may have been collaborative effort in the initial set up of the pages but when you look at the history of the site there is no interaction on several of the pages. To me then it is just a website not a wiki. Or am I missing something? Is having one page a collaborative page, where people are interacting, enough to call the site a wiki?
I wanted then to try my hand at designing a truly interactive wiki to post and share book reviews. I began by asking an English teacher on staff to give me some book summaries. I then designed a wiki to facilitate the sharing of short narratives on the books the students were reading. My idea was that students would initially post a description of the book they were reading and as other students read the same book they could update the description adding their own ideas about the features of the book. (Eg. Use of Literary techniques, character analysis, etc.) The summaries posted, were just as I suspected, quite shallow in their depth of analysis. My hope is to cultivate a space where students can analyze character development, plot design and themes. The wiki would encourage students to share ideas about what they had read and help them develop critical reading, thinking and writing skills. This wiki is only in its development stage but I have included a link to it in my blog (even though I had not gotten the type of writing that I wanted). I am hopeful that students will find it interesting to see how others perceive a book that they have both read. As well, I hope that the discussion that is created will enhance not only the student’s understanding of the complexity of the novel writing process but that the Wiki will also act as a repository for book reviews to help stimulate further reading.

Wiki World is now another place on my list of must visit again locations. During my next visit I can create more wikis or join a wiki already in existence.


Visiting other worlds helps you to learn about their cultures. Once you are home then you can appreciate and maybe even adopt the positive things about the culture you visited. After visiting Wiki World, I can see myself reading, joining, contributing and even creating wikis.

I can see myself reading, joining and contributing to wikis about scrapbooking and cooking (Wikibooks). I would enjoy building and sharing collective knowledge in these areas.

Creating a wiki as a means to facilitate ownership in the committees that I am currently involved in also peaks my interest. Creating a Wiki for a non-profit organization would allow all stakeholders to collaborate about philosophy, rules, issues, projects, etc. The wiki could act as a site to compile up to date information about programs, dates and schedules. Through a wiki all members would have an opportunity to have input into all activities of the organization.

A Wiki for the book club I belong to is another great idea. The book club site would be similar to the one I set up for school. It would allow people to contribute to discussions about plot, characters, theme, etc. I could also see myself setting up a wiki where I could share scrapbooking ideas with my “Chicklets” (group of scrapbbookers).

On-line collaboration about community or global issues could also be done using a wiki. A wiki could be a forum for finding out the most current information, allow you to take part in the building of knowledge about a prevalent issue and be a place to ask questions to test the possibilities of solutions to an issue.

So much to do, I may have to cut my vacation short.


The culture of Wiki World can also be assimilated into my professional life. Wikis are a successful way to have students and staff collaboratively build and share knowledge (Davies and Merchant, 2009). They can read, write, edit, refine and rewrite information (Mindel and Verma, 2006) in order to push others to expand their definitions, knowledge and opinions. Wikis can be used in many facets in the school from parent organizations to school administration to classrooms to PD.

However, the use of wikis is controversial. There are champions for the use of wikis and there are people who believe that wikis can not be trusted (Ferris and Wilder). The champions believe that wikis encourage teamwork and collaboration to build collective knowledge (Davies and Merchant, 2009). Some people believe that wikis encourage people to seek information that is honest, responsible, neutral and accountable (Davies and Merchant, 2009). Proponents of the use of wikis say that wikis prompt people to read, think and write critically, verifying all of their information in the process. These people believe that the collective public wisdom of wiki development looks after protecting the accuracy and credibility of the wiki (Davies and Merchant, 2009). Wiki doubters turn to events like the false posting that libeled a prominent journalist to prove that wikis are a battleground of crap (Ferris, Wilder). They seek to highlight the inaccuracy and difficulties made possible by the use of a wiki. No doubt there are issues with vandalism, authorship, authenticity, reliability and inaccuracy but these are minimized by the truly collaborative nature of wikis. Will Richardson (2009) writes about Alex Halavais a Professor at University of Buffalo who wanted to test the reliability of information on Wikipedia. He created errors in thirteen sites all of which were fixed within a few hours. This helps to reinforce the credibility of sites like Wikipedia and point to the collective positive impetus of wikis.

Once the decision has been made to use a wiki there are many other issues to be addressed. Some of the decisions center on the access to the wiki (read/write or read only unless the person is an authenticated user), structure ( single page or multi-age format) and number of people working on the wiki (Mindel, Verma, 2006).

The use of wikis in the classroom is a strategy to enhance the true collaborative sharing of knowledge in any subject. Students can write by themselves and then edit each others work or write as a group; some students are good technical writers others have more creative ideas. Wikis can be used by students to work collaboratively to complete research, work on science experiments etc. All of these activities cause students to read, write and think critically, as well as, to work as a team. Wikis could also be used as a means to scaffold activities for struggling students or students who were absent

Some helpful tips for using a wiki in the classroom involve having small groups, delegating one person to be the editor and having each topic on a separate page (increases the access to many students and increases the ease for collaboration and editing) (Mindel, Verma, 2006).

Professional development could be enhanced through the use of wikis. A wiki could be used to collaborate on curriculm or pedagogy. Teachers could use wikis to co-create lessons, assessments, calendars of activities, etc. or to enhance the strategies that they use in their classrooms. As teachers try to define the uses of particular strategies they will push each other to expand their repertoire of teaching knowledge, strategies and beliefs.

The school could also use wikis for school or classroom newsletters, input for policy writing and school goals, generating of projects, interactive school calendars, schedule for Parent/Teacher interviews, sign-up for helpers for school activities, etc.

The biggest issue for me is using the accurate tool and not using technology just because we believe it is going to make us a “cool” teacher. The technology needs to enhance what is currently being achieved. Speed and ease should not always be the driving force. The driving force should be the purpose of the activity. Is using technology effective? Will using technology deliver the outcomes that I want?

My week at Wiki World is almost over and I have learned many new things and at the same time opened up many questions. I think I will need to reflect upon my visit and then return.


Davies, Julia. Merchant, Guy. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Peter Lang

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Turner, David; Wang, Chien-min. (2007). Extending the Wiki Paradigm for Use in the Classroom. As retrieved on Oct 18, 2009 from

Wheeler, Steve; Yoemens, Peter; Wheeler, Dawn. (2008). The Good, The Bad and The Wiki. As retrieved on Oct. 18, 2009 from,_the_bad_and_the_wiki.pdf

S. Pixy Faris, Hilary Wilder. Uses and Potential of Wikis in the Classroom. As retrieved on Oct 18, 2009 from,134940,en.pdf

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Land Of Podcasting

This week’s adventure is truly a ride into the unknown. I know nothing about Podcasting and look forward to the journey to this new land.


The journey into the land of Podcasting is like visiting a foreign country. I look forward to the intrigue but I am terrified about how it is going to turn out. Podcasting is the popular name for digital audiorecording. Podcasts are media files that can be distributed via the Internet and played on computers or handheld devices, like iPods or other digital audio players ( Jham, Dureas, Strassler, Sensi, 2007). There are many vehicles for digital audiorecording but because of the popularity of iPods this is the most common. Hence the name Podcasting has been coined. Using iPods is commonplace with students because students are more mobile. The idea of having access to information anytime anywhere is very attractive to them (Jham et al, 2007).

Digital audirecording seems relatively straight forward. I started by following the trailfire and listening to some of the Podcasts suggested by Joanne. Some of the Podcasts were intriguing while others were mundane. Upon reflection, it seemed to be not only the relevance of the topic to me that determined my level of engagement but also the enthusiasm of the person delivering the message.

I then read the chapter on Podcasting in Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts (Will Richardson, 2009) and listened to some of the Podcasts suggested in the book. I learned that Podcasts are inexpensive and user friendly to create or access, and simple to use (Jham et al, 2007). I thought I can do this. Anyone can pick a topic, think about a script and with an audio recording device record what they have to say. The person then uploads this recording and voila you are on air. Sounds easy but then so does brain surgery – cut a person open, poke around a bit and sew them up – how hard can it be?

Once again with my imaginery copy of “Podcasting for Dummies” in my hand I began this unfamiliar process. First, I had to write a script. Thinking of a topic that you think others might be interested in is challenging, when you feel your life is dull. For me when in doubt, cover this with humor. Second, for someone who makes their living standing in front of audiences everyday giving directions and explaining processes it is amazing how you can stammer and stutter when you know someone will be hanging on your every word. But I got through that with sweat soaked armpits. Then came the actual publishing process. Oh my!!!!!!! If you are not a techie this can be daunting. I viewed the Common Craft video “Podcasting In Plain English” (2008), the video “How to Embed a Podcast Into Blogger” recommended by Annabelle Pendry, “How to Download Audacity and Lame Encoder To Record Podcasts” (2009) by Tish Washington, read the helpful posts by Bruce and Pam, reread the publishing section of the text by Will Richardson (2009) but still had difficulty. Not one to give up easily (as I tell my students, I do not play games that I can not win) after four hours I triumphed. The fruits of my labor are posted at the end of this blog post. I hope you get a giggle from either the content of the Podcast or the sheer terror in my voice.

I now feel like I can make a couple of Podcasts for personal reasons and then demonstrate this technique to staff, encourage staff to subscribe to PD Podcasts, implement Podcasts in my teaching, have students listen to and create Podcasts and enjoy this new found phenomena myself as I catch up on what is happening on the highway of life..


When I thought about how I could personally use Digital audiorecording I cried. This was a technology that could help me to touch the hearts of two people I love very much, who are slipping away from me. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year ago and her progression has been all too quick. Podcasting will allow me to record a quick message that I can send to her. She can then listen to the message over and over, as she forgets what you have said, as soon as it has left your lips. This technology will allow me to connect with her and help my mom to keep us with her if only for a few moments at a time. I hope my dad can help her to mange the technology and she can play it as often as she would like.

For my dad, who suffered a major stroke just shortly before my mom’s diagnosis, it will be about sharing memories of his new great granddaughter. Neither, my mom or dad is able to drive now so we do not get to see them very often. Telephone calls are OK with dad, as long as they are initiated by us, as he still has very limited fine motor skills in his right hand. Being able to share Kaydee’s new voice (just noise now) and eventually rhymes, songs and stories will again help to keep connected. This technology was available before, in the way of audiocassettes and CD’s, but this makes it so much easier that I am sure Kaydee will eventually be creating the recordings herself. Podcasting will be a mutually beneficial journey as it will teach Kaydee about the importance of family connections, remind my own kids about the connection with their grandparents and enhance my parents view into their great-grand-daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives. (Oh did I mention that our family is multiplying as we found out that now our other daughter is expecting.)

As well, I would like to have my dad share his wealth of knowledge of our family history. My dad has spent countless hours researching our family history back twelve generations. With my assistance, his vast historical expertise could be recorded. He would be so proud to share his wisdom knowing that it would be passed down to future generations.

Personally, I have never owned an iPod and have never seen a real need for one. Now I have an iPod as the first item on my list for Christmas gifts. My children, who are all strapped for cash this year, are going to load RSS feeds to music, news, scrapbooking and recipe sites on it for me. (My family is learning too – without having to pay tuition.) Then I can listen to Podcasts in the car, running on the treadmill or getting ready in the morning. I can now be more connected to the global picture and explore issues beyond school, university courses and housework, on my terms and at my convenience. The journey is looking like it will end well.


Digital audiorecording is another Web 2.0 tool that can be used to engage learners in new ways. Students are more inclined to be motivated to participate in learning that is relevant to them. In the article by Catherine Gewetz a boy named Herrara states, “when I step out of school, I have a pretty high-tech life. When I step in school, I feel like I’m not me anymore. I have to jump into this whole old-fashioned thing where everything is restricted” (Gewertz, 2007). Students are engaged in technological pursuits on a daily basis outside school, and yet, when they come to school this technology is not utilized. If we can harness the enthusiasm created by using technology and teach concepts through the student’s medium of preference we can increase learning. Podcasting could be one of these creative ways to engage 21st century learners and build that highway wider, longer and with more overpasses.

To create this highway in the classroom, students can create Podcasts to:
1. demonstrate learning
a. audio books or dramatic productions for their peers or younger students
2. as a method of formative or summative assessment
a. If you can explain it you truly understand it.
3. enhance the learning process for gifted students

To widen the highway in classrooms teachers can create Podcasts to:
1. demonstrate an activity or impart knowledge
a. second language learning
b. science experiment explanation
c. enhance auditory skills

2. scaffold learning
a. for enrichment activities
b. to augment slower learners

To build more overpasses in the classrooms teachers or students can create an archive of concepts explained by students for teaching purposes in the future:
a. for struggling students who did not understand the initial explanation
b. for students who were absent

More interconnecting highways can be created through Podcasts for Profesional development. Accessing Podcasts would help to turn teaching from an “isolating experience to a real on-line community connection” (Nikolov, Roumen, 2007). Staff could access Podcasts to gain knowledge in a new area or further their knowledge in their area of expertise. As well, they could create Podcasts to share knowledge with colleagues and others. For example we had a staff member who created a Podcast of how to use the attendance section of our new Student Information System and then emailed that information to all staff

Highway twinning could be achieved by providing information on the website via Podcast or creating a school wide radio talk show for morning announcements and noon hour entertainment. These activities would allow technology to sparkle and students and teachers to demonstrate how they are keeping up with the technological shift in the global picture.

However, the discussion should focus not only on the creation of Podcasts but also on the use of Podcasts to develop critical listening skills. The increase in visual stimuli in our society is creating learners who rely predominantly on their visual skills. Podcasts are a strategy that could be used in the classroom to enhance the development of auditory skills. Having students critically listen to Podcasts developed by others and then use this knowledge is a powerful motivator to pay attention to what is being said. The modeling of how to create “voice” and impart a message can then be transferred into the creation of their own Podcasts which other students will then be required to critically listen to. I see the use of Podcasts as developing a skill that is under utilized but getting at it by using technology as the motivating factor for students. For as Catherine Gerwitz states, students enjoy using technology that facilitates their learning, uses more learning styles and allows them to be creative (2007).

Many good things could come out of allowing students to use Podcasting Students can learn to develop critical listening skills, develop voice, enhance their individual creativity and increase their connectedness with their immediate and global world. But there are also some possible negative consequences. Staff have to be very careful when allowing students to be on the air. Concerns of confidentiality, appropriateness, innuendo and side jokes are possible pit falls. Inevitably there will be something said or implied that will be questionable no matter how hard a teacher tries to prohibit such action. Teachers just need to be cognizant of these possible areas of concern and do their best to address these possible issues so they hopefully do not happen.

The drawbacks to using any new technology are teacher knowledge (time), access to the technology (money) and teacher motivation (will).The frustration is that none of these are in my control. I need the district to buy the water and the trough, give me the time to fill it up and then I can lead the horses to it and hopefully they will drink.

I know I have benefited from this week’s journey and my school will benefit from it as well. How far the learning will spread is up to the individuals. Let’s hope their Podcasting journey is a bump free ride into a land of vast possibilities.


Gewertz, Catherine. (2007) Outside Interests. As retrieved on Oct. 14, 2009 from

How To Embed A Podcast Into Blogger. As retrieved on Oct. 15, 2009 from

Jham, Bruno. Duraes, Gabriela. Strassler, Howard. Sensi, Luis. (2007) Joining the Podcast Revolution. As retrieved on Oct. 14, 2009 from

Nikolov, Roumen (2007)Towards Web 2.0 Schools: Rethinking the Teachers Professional Development. As retrieved on Oct 14, 2009 from

Podcasting In Plain English (2008). As retrieved Oct 12, 2009 from

Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Washington, Tish (2009). How to Download Audacity and Lame Encoder To Record Podcasts. As retrieved on Oct 15, 2009 from

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just as I was falling down the rabbit hole into a world of swirling Web 2.0 tools and feeling totally overwhelmed, a hand tattooed with the word “” reached down and grabbed me. I was saved by social bookmarking.


I had never heard of social bookmarking before I read Will Richardson’s (2009) book Blogs, Wikis, Podacasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. The idea of being able to create bookmarks that could be accessed from any computer seemed like a dream come true. I have had countless moments of utter disappointment when I have needed a piece of information from a site bookmarked at home, when I was at school, or vice versa. The idea of being able to access all sites any time, anywhere seemed too good to be true. But it wasn’t. I logged on to, signed up, added the link to my tool bar and immediately began searching sites, tagging them and then building my own folksonomy. Who needs Dewey Decimal? I can now organize my information using my own system that makes sense to me, not some dead guy.

Then, because I am a doubter, I logged on the next morning at school and voila there they were. This was going to be great. I have already used the site numerous times and I no longer have to worry about emailing sites to myself so that I can access them in whatever room I am teaching the next day, filters not allowing my information through, etc. I have even saved my Ning and Facebook to and it has simplified my life. I feel like I am getting into a hot tub with a glass of good Chardonnay.

I can retrieve what I want based on my tags, follow popular sites as defined by the number of followers that actually use the site not just by the number of hits (something people stumbled on that was not any good). Next, I started adding subscriptions to travel destinations, scrapbooking sites and recipe ideas. I have now added networks so I can glean the work that others have done locating sites that would be helpful to me. I can not wait to continue sharing social bookmarking with colleagues and friends.

I wonder, did our very wise Instructor Joanne purposely choose the week we were discussing organization to throw us this life line called social bookmarking?


Discovering social bookmarking for an anal, uptight, over organized person like myself, is like putting a climber on the top of Mount Everest. I have not stopped telling people about the endless possibilities. I can search, tag, retrieve, sticky note, highlight, send to friends, enlist the work of others, etc. (Muir, David). My life is great today!

I have set up tags for vacation destinations, scrapbooking sites and recipe ideas. Best of all I can share my work with others and they can share with me. My friends are all turning 50, and yes we are still functioning mentally and physically, so we plan a vacation each time one of us reaches this milestone. We can now send information about possibilities to each other without saving the site and then emailing or Facebooking it to each other. I also have a group of friends who scrapbook together once a month. We can now share layouts and ideas (which we often scraplift from sites online) without again having to save and email out the site where we got the ideas from. And the biggest bain of my existence, cooking everyday, I can now find recipes myself and tag them for future retrieval or rely on others to find new recipes for me and again share them with friends.through

I am now recruiting my own network. I will use this just to find information for my personal use but I can see how others could use this site to share information on issues of a larger global scale. The creation of a group for sourcing and sharing of information about issues of social consciousness has enormous potential. I can totally see why the site is called, because it simply is.

PROFESSIONAL USE OF SOCIAL BOOKMARKING has countless applications in the school setting for both staff and students.
For students it could be organizing possible sources of information for research projects or personal interests, having more ideas of where to look for information in the form of the tags chosen for other documents, connecting with people finding information pertinent to them or sharing resources such as favorite book titles or authors with others (Muir). For staff it could be a method for organizing their professional resources, sharing resources with colleagues or used in instruction.

Teaching students research skills is always difficult. Some students have an extensive amount of background knowledge and exposure to research techniques. Other students have a limited background and limited research skills. The tool will make scaffolding the research process much easier for teachers. Many teachers have experienced giving out a research assignment and having the majority of students begin immediately knowing what they need to do and how to start finding the information required. Then we have those students who lack research skills. will help all of these students. The high achievers can start searching, bookmarking and networking. The students less familiar with the research process can access sites that the teacher has bookmarked for them and then follow the tags of these articles. The students who are at the middle of the journey can begin to find their own information, bookmark it with tags, follow the tags provided by the teacher and then eventually access the information gleaned by their peers. The downside of this process is that lazy but skilled students may just rely on others to seek out the pertinent information retrieved by others. For these students a teacher would want the topics to be dissimilar from their peers or not allow them access to the network the other students with the same topic are using. Just as with any tool, its success depends on how it is used.

For me the benefits of social bookmarking outweigh the possible pitfalls. Being able to have universal access to a student’s research will simplify their lives, allow continuity in access to work and alleviate the excuse of forgetting their research at home or school.
I believe social bookmarking will be a tool that will help students to organize their on-line world using a folksonomy that makes sense to them. As well, sites like Diigo will allow students to not only bookmark sites but store actual copies of the document which they can manipulate with sticky notes and highlighting (Richardson, 2009). Social bookmarking will also aid students in critically identifying quality sites. On sites are identified by the number of subscribers not just the number of hits, like google searches. This means the sites are marked by the number of actual people that follow the site not just the number of times someone opened the site but then closed it because it was not helpful.

Social bookmarking could also be used at the school and jurisdiction level. It could be used as a method to update sources of information on classroom blogs or school websites. The folksonomy used would allow access to the required information quickly easing the sorting process (Muir). Social bookmarking could also be used to collaborate with agencies or peers in other schools. This collaboration could be done as a class project or as an enrichment activity with gifted learners (Tsai, 2008).

Social bookmarking has great potential for staff professional development. Sites like would foster accessing materials for curriculum development any time any place and facilitate collaboration with peers anywhere in the world.

Social bookmarking has allowed me to organize my online world as well as opened up a whole new list of possibilities for my students. I feel like I am now holding onto a helpful hand and slowly climbing out of the hole. We shall see what next week brings.


Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Broitman, Robert. (2009). Ultimate Guide to Delicious Bookmarking As retrieved on Oct. 1, 2009 from (

Muir, David. Simply Delicious Online Social Bookmarking or Tagging for Teaching. As retrieved on Oct 1, 2009 from

Tsai, Maggie. (2008) As retrieved )ct 1, 2009 from