Sunday, November 29, 2009


Blogging has been my companion on this journey into web tools. Some weeks it has been with me in a Lamborghini, some weeks in a 4X4 and other weeks in an armored tank. Whatever the topic, frustration or smooth sailing, blogging has been there to listen to me and help me sort out my feelings and thoughts. Best of all it has been there to hear my hopes for the future.


According to Davies and Merchant (2009), a blog is a website whose entries are frequently updated and in reverse chronological order. Blogs are written for a wide variety of topics and purposes. Blogs can be created by anyone anywhere using free software. Huffaker (2005) says that 50% of blogs are published by people between the ages of 13 and 19. Statistics like these indicate the importance of harnessing this trend and using it to engage students in learning.

Before I began this course I had not knowingly read a blog and definitely never written a blog post. I began the first week of class by setting up my blog and writing my first introductory post. Setting up the blog was very easy but the thought of blogging was intimidating. You were putting yourself “out there” and for a type A personality like myself, that was nerve wracking. As I learned about the web tools I embedded them into my blog making it appear more techy every week. I embedded photos and screen shots into my blog posts, as well as, added many widgets like photos, video, word cloud, feeds, followers, links, etc. Some of these widgets were very simple to add and others were frustrating. The frustration was always brought on by a steeper learning curve. Like anything, once I had that aha!! moment it was all good and I wondered what the difficulty was. Adding gadgets to my blog helped to create more of an online presence and hopefully showed more of my individual personality. My blog looks very different now from the first week of class and I look forward to adding even more gadgets as my independent journey continues.

Will Richardson (2009) in his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts describes “real blogging” as the process of read/write/link/rewrite. My journey began never having written a blog post before. This course forced me to take the plunge. Blogging each week required me to research a topic, play with the knowledge I had gained and then analyze and synthesize the information into a blog post containing specific criteria. The process of reading, analyzing and writing compelled me to examine the subject in its entirety and synthesize this information into a post that appealed to my audience. Part of this appeal is making myself appear trustworthy and credible. Van House (2004) explains that credibility is built through divulging pieces of personal information about yourself. Allowing people to get to know you makes them feel comfortable with you, and makes people believe that you are trustworthy. Your credibility is built once people feel that you are trustworthy. This credibility draws people into the blog and then you can use their attraction to your blog to present them with your point of view. After reading your blog the reader is prompted to leave a comment about your blog. The feedback encourages reflection and prompts the blogger to refine his/her thinking which may lead to a new post. Throughout the course I experimented with blogging. I researched the web tools we were learning about, read from the texts and online materials about their use in school settings, synthesized this information into assignment form and posted it in my blog. I always tried to find a hook to engage the readers and felt that my posts became more animated as my “voice” became more engaging. I am intrigued with this form of literacy and enthusiastic about sharing it with my students and staff. I believe the possibilities are phenomenal and only restricted by the creativity of blog users (Huffaker, 2005).

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) Feeds allow you to subscribe to a particular site or gather information of a particular type and have this data sent to an aggregator where it is sorted and organized (Richardson, 2009). In the first week I signed up to use Google Reader as my aggregator. Aggregators are pull technology (D’Souza, 2006) that seek out feeds and deposit the sites into your repository. The aggregator automatically follows the items that you assign to it and whenever there is a new post to that website it automatically links that information to your space on the aggregator. This process makes it easy for you to access the many sites that you want to follow. The key to the aggregator is to make checking it part of your daily routine. If you leave it for more than a couple of days the number of new articles in the aggregator is overwhelming (I know from experience). If you check your aggregator daily then it takes only a few minutes to scan the articles, find the ones that interest you and read them at your leisure. If you do not have the time to read the article right then, or wish to have them for later reference, you can star them. Starred items can be recalled later. You can also unsubscribe from a site that later on does not interest you or proves to be non-beneficial. According to Dr. D’Souza (2006) RSS Feeds not only collect data from anywhere you set up a feed but can also quickly format and republish data to your website, find information about a search ,as well as, publish only the requested data from the site (not all of the extra advertising and spam found on the site). RSS Feeds are powerful communication tools (D’Souza, 2006) that can provide access to your subscriptions anytime anywhere.

In the first week of class I used Google Reader to subscribe to follow the 10 people assigned and some other sites I thought might be useful to me. (As the course has progressed I have added sites like Wheelchair Kamakhazee, The Globe and Mail and Alec Couras.) I am finding that Google Reader is helping to keep my online world organized. It is extremely beneficial to have as much as you can accessible in one place. This need for organization will increase as I become more involved in a PLN where others are sharing sites with me. The sheer volume of articles coming in will need to be organized in order to make the new information manageable.

I have not tried creating a blog, blogging or using RSS with my students or staff. I agree with Will Richardson (2009), who at the beginning of his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts, said that we need to try out a tool and become very familiar with it before we try to use it in the classroom. Blogs and RSS are two tools that I now look forward to trying with my students and staff.


I will definitely continue to read blogs for information and entertainment now that I have been exposed to the blogosphere. I will continue to use my aggregator to be my personal online search engine for articles that appeal to my interests and needs as well as keep my personal online world organized. It is an efficient way to keep all resources close at hand. The ability to access my RSS Feeds anywhere, anytime is fabulous. For example I have just now set up a feed for a google news search. I have MS and I am very interested in the new research by Dr. Paolo Zamboni. This google news search will allow me to keep up with this potentially life altering research without having to search out new information on my own. Google.News will do the work for me saving hours of online searching. It is great to have personal servants without the complaining. The aggregator is also constantly on the look for new ideas for my art classes, recipes, travel ideas and inspiration for my scrapbooking. My RSS Feeds will help to provide me with fresh ideas in a one stop shopping format.

Blogging will also definitely be a part of my new online life. I believe that a blog starts out as a personal need to share, analyze and reflect on a topic. Then if the writer is successful the blog flourishes and creates an audience who perpetuates the inspiration of the author. I can see many areas of my personal life where I could blog. I could set up blogs to document travel destinations, as well as, seek others opinions of destinations near and far. Maybe if I marketed myself right I could get free holidays to experience a resort and then write about the resort in my post. I can see using a blog to encourage experimentation and the sharing of knowledge about scrapbooking techniques,. Again maybe the blog could work into product testing and marketing. I can see using a blog to facilitate the sharing of literature. A blog could be set up to discuss various genres of literature and stimulate discussion about books. This could be between people that are friends already but would hopefully generate a following that would encompass many people who share a passion for reading. I could use a blog format to chronicle the life of my granddaughter Kaydee. My daughter has posted pictures and updates of Kaydee on Facebook but the archiving ability of a blog solely devoted to Kaydee’s life is appealing. It will allow all of the posts from her life to be kept in one central location for easy access. We could create a monthly update of her life complete with pictures and podcasts of her new found voice for great grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. This could later turn into a page that she fills with songs, pictures of artwork, voicethreads, videos, etc. This would allow her to not only share her life but also act as a memoir. This would not be considered true blogging as defined by Will Richardson(2009) but could later turn into true blogging as others (aunties with words of wisdom) comment on her posts and provide her with questions to reflect upon during the trials and tribulations of her life.

Blogs can also have social implications. I could see a blog being used to discuss the opportunities for volunteerism in a community. It would hopefully inspire people to join together with existing agencies to increase volunteerism and provide information as to volunteerism opportunities. Blogs could be used by committees at a local level to generate support for an initiative, discuss pros and cons of the initiative, and provide information as the initiative unfolds. The idea of having political candidates accessed through a blog is appealing. It would give constituents the opportunity to read the politician’s platform and be able to comment on issues that arise from their points of view. A person would feel like they have a voice in the political field at the time.

RSS feeds can also be used for social initiatives. RSS Feeds could be used to keep an eye on changes to funding structures, changes in government policy, grants to be accessed and breaking news.

Once again blogs and RSS Feeds are great companions in the Lamborghini.


There are many pieces of academic research and lay person blog posts that espouse the positive impact blogs and blogging have on learning. We know that blogs have the power to promote traditional literacy, digital literacy, the application of 21st century skills in a safe monitored environment (Witte, 2007), showcase student’s work and promote the exchange of ideas (Huffaker). As well, blogs can be used to increase collaboration, self-expression and creativity (Hufflaker). Blogs are a venue for students or teachers to be authors with free anywhere, anytime access to online publishing. Blogs can be used by individual teachers, classes, schools, districts or PLN’s.

Blogs have many uses in the classroom. The uses will vary depending on the age of the students. At some time all students will have read blogs to seek information or examples, use blogs to clarify their thinking or find blogs to cite to justify their opinion. Students can also comment on blogs to create new knowledge, provide feedback, challenge the blogger’s opinion or to refine their own thinking.

All students can create blogs to share their knowledge, skills or expertise. Blogs can be simple or complex. The level of blogging would be determined by the age, skill level, motivation and experience of the students. According to Will Richardson (2009) the blogging process demands that bloggers read/write/link/rewrite. This process of blogging causes students to be engaged in higher order thinking. Bull and Kajder (2002) say that the power of blogs is their economy of words, potential for feedback, immediacy of publishing, hyperlinks to multimedia, active participation required and power of archiving posts so that they can be easily accessed later for refinement allowing more opportunities for meta learning. Blogs can be used in one discipline or in cross-disciplines. The bottom line is blogs are extremely versatile and can be used for several purposes with several positive outcomes.

Initially the students would need to be taught how to set up a blog and the basics of creating a blog post. However, the product should not be the focus of creating a blog. The focus should be the process of blogging. If the product is the focus, then the potential of blogs is wasted in merely honoring a compliance activity, not truly engaging students in the potential of the tool. Once the blog is set up the students would practice creating posts that engage the reader. Blogging is a great way to have students engaged in critical thinking. In “real” blogging as defined by Will Richardson (2009) students would choose a topic that they are interested in exploring. Students would then research the topic, synthesize their new knowledge into a post and send it to their classmates or the rest of the world. These posts would then be commented on forcing the students to reflect on, defend and refine their knowledge. This process of read, write and rewrite would encourage higher level thinking skills and engage students in pursuing knowledge that they were personally invested in. Blogs have the potential for bloggers to create authentic published expression for real audiences (Huffaker, 2005) further engaging the students in learning outcomes. Students would become true authors of their own learning.

Through the act of blogging students would learn to inject “voice” into their writing. “Voice” increases credibility and draws an audience to the blog. Credibility can also be attained through providing links (VanHouse, 2004) to sites that verify the bloggers opinions. “Voice” is a skill that takes time to hone and would come with practice.

Teachers who use blogs effectively need to operate from a constructivist perspective (Wikipedia, 2009) and be skilled in using an inquiry based (Wikipedia, 2009) approach to learning. The teacher needs to be skilled at designing lessons that prompt students to explore a particular area. The greatest learning will take place when the inquiry questions are very general allowing the students to work with the topic in a way that engages them. This inquiry allows the student to engage in the process of reading, writing and rewriting. It doesn’t focus on the simple acquisition of knowledge but rather focuses on the process of learning and through answering the question students will be led, not directed toward a set of findings.

Blogs can also be used for Professional Development. Teachers can read blogs to access resources, learn new pedagogy and build an online community for support, guidance and mentoring. There are many blogs already being written that teachers can access to further their learning journeys. Educators can read these posts to clarify their own thinking and by creating comments engage in professional conversations. Teachers can also begin blogs to create PLN’s of their own. Huffaker (2005) talks about the vast potential of creating a dynamic interwoven PLN to further a teacher’s personal learning journey and I agree that the benefits of creating blogs for furthering Professional Development are only as vast as the imaginations of the educators.

RSS Feeds can be used in the classroom as well as by teachers for Professional Development. An aggregator is very beneficial to organize a person’s online world. It teaches educators to be organized and frees up time going to individual sources that you know you want to follow. RSS Feeds can be used to track specific sites, find resources, track people, track student’s blogs, set up a feature to read student’s blogs before they are posted, quickly provide feedback to one or all students, use as q and a forum, view class discussions that are taking place, share feed lists, resources and photos, update information and assignments, track your email, and so much more it makes your head swim with ideas (D’Souza, 2006). After reading all of the suggestions that Dr. D’Souza (2006) has, I think RSS Feeds can do everything except clean my house.

There are some disadvantages to using blogs. One is the issue of protecting privacy or authorship. This can easily be overcome by using pseudonyms and password protection. The other is access to technology. Unfortunately this is going to be an issue as long as we have the government funding formulas that we have in education today. However, these disadvantages are miniscule as compared to the huge potential offered by blogs, blogging and RSS Feeds.

I believe that blogs are one of the web tools that will be used the most as teachers begin the journey into the world of Web tools in this 21st century. Hopefully, with the push for the integration of technology into the classrooms this journey will be in a Lamborghini well at least a BMW.


D’Souza, Quentin. (2006). RSS Ideas for Educators. As retrieved Nov. 25, 2009 from

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

Huffaker, David. (2005) The Educated Blogger: Using Weblogs to Promote Literacy in the Classroom. As retrieved on Nov. 25, 2009 from

Kajder, Sara and Bull, Glen. (2002). Scaffolding for Struggling Students: Reading and Writing with Blogs. As retrieved Nov. 25, 2009 from

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

VanHouse, Nancy. (2004). Weblogs:Credibility and Collaboration in an Online World. As retrieved on Nov. 21, 2009 from p://

Wikipedia (2009) As retrieved Nov. 27, 2009 from

Witte, Shelbie. (2007). That's Online Writing, Not Boring School Writing”: Writing With Blogs and the Talkback Project. As retrieved Nov. 25, 2009 from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bird Monster Named Twitter

Twitter is a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “ updates” or “tweets” (text based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website”(Stevens, 2008). Gabriella Grosseck and Carmen Holotescu (2008) see Twitter as a mashup of personal publishing and communication.Twitter has drastically changed how information is created and shared. Since Twitter began in 2006 it has morphed from an “alternative” form of communication to being used by mainstream young people to now being utilized more by the general public. Through these changes, many sites have been developed to enhance the world of Twitter. Some of these sites are Tweetdeck (groupings), Twellow (directory), Twitter Notifier, Twitty Tunes, and many more (Stevens, 2008). Twitter is more interactive than blogging. (Stevens, 2008) and can be used with several different apps such as Firefox. Delicious, Flickr, Facebook, Google, etc.(Stevens, 2008).

When I began my journey into the “bird monster” land I had never seen nor experienced such a creature. I really tried to become engaged in the world of Twitter but as many people would say, I just didn’t get it. Stevens says that to understand the attraction of Twitter you have to “have your finger on the pulse of what is pumping the lifeblood through the Internet” (Stevens, 2008). I guess my pulse finder needs to be repaired because I just couldn’t see the attraction. I tried. I signed up for a Twitter account the first week of class and signed up to follow the people that had been assigned. I faithfully checked my account for the next two weeks of class. I did find that there were some intriguing comments that I wanted to follow. My frustration was with not being able to keep up with the Tweets. My job does not allow me time to check my account during the school day and by the time I could check it at night nothing made sense to me. I could not find the beginning of a conversation and coming in half way through did not make sense. The problem is you can only see the most recent tweets and when the page is full the rest are gone. So unless you are constantly checking your Twitter account a piece of information that was referred to may be gone. In a world where a person barely has time to go to the washroom and rarely gets lunch I do not have time to “follow” people on Twitter. Another problem, for me, was that I was not interested in hearing about personal conversations that I was not a part of. It felt like I was eavesdropping on private conversations. The information meant nothing to me because there was no context for me. I realize that if you have time to keep up and include yourself in the conversation it will have meaning but once again I do not have the time when needed.
Not being one to give up easily, I persevered and tried another approach to seeing the benefits of Twitter. I turned to the Trailfire to help me understand this bird monster. After viewing the Trailfire, I was less confused about the technical aspects of Twitter but still did not see the point of it. So the next step was to listen to Mack Maile’s Elluminate session about Twitter. I found listening to Mack very enlightening. I was beginning to see the relevance of the hashtags and learn some of the abbreviations but I still had trouble “getting it”. Then I went to the Leading and Learning Conference in Red Deer this past Friday and Saturday where Will Richardson and Alec Couros were two of the guest speakers. They both included information about Twitter in their sessions and I can now understand the appeal. It is still going to take some time to cultivate a group of people I want to follow (my own PLN) but at least I now see the interest and the relevance. Since coming home from the convention I have been following Alec and Will and even though I do not really care about how good Alec’s limo driver could discuss politics, I am trying to see something beneficial. I can now see the appeal of Twitter to a generation of people who are constantly “connected” to their digital world. Being connected to a PLN allows people to constantly know what is going on in the world that they are passionate about and increases a person’s digital social presence (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009). I will continue to follow Alec Couras and Will Richardson because I now feel like I have a connection. Maybe for me it was about needing to make a connection first. Even Will Richardson in a 2008 blog post titled “On the Twitterialization of Blogging, Networks, etc.” said that he only followed people whom he had met in person.
As with all Web tools there are positives and negatives. Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) see Twitter as beneficial for promoting individual’s blogs, marketing/PR, endorsing politics, keeping aware of the news and networking. Stevens (2008) says that one of the benefits of using Twitter is the immediacy of the information giving a person a sense of connectivity. However, Stevens (2008) also laments about the time consumed keeping up with Twitter and sees one of the biggest flaws of Twitter is it frustrates people whose lifestyle does not revolve around having the time to maintain their Twitter accounts. This is echoed by Will Richardson in a 2008 blog post titled “On the Twitterialization of Blogging, Networks, etc.” where he talks about “Twitter Guilt”. He refers to the guilt one feels when they do not read others posts because they are not interesting etc. He talks about needing to block out the “noise” on Twitter so that he can find relevant posts. In the same post Will also wonders if we are dumbing down reading and writing. He admits that since he started using Twitter he reads less and blogs less. Is the easy access to 140 character, grammatically incorrect, spelling challenged posts going to impact the literacy of the future generation? I guess we will wait and see if we have another “whole language” fiasco.
It seems as though Twitter has changed to a bird monster that just needs to be understood and tamed.
I do not know if I will use Twitter in my personal life. It may be one of the tools that I am now aware of but does not fit my lifestyle or occupation. It is very time consuming and almost seen as addictive (Grosseck and Hotescu, 2008). However, if I chose to use Twitter I could use it to follow or engage in conversation about:
1. The news as often things are reported as soon as someone hears about an event and you do not have to wait for the next newscast.
2. The trends of movies and books
3. Travel ideas and deals
4. Real estate (constantly looking to increase our holdings)
5. Wines
6. Restaurants
The key will be to cultivate a PLN that I am engaged in. Will Richardson in his 2008 blog post titled “On the Twitterialization of Blogging, Networks, etc” says that the people he follows he knows and has met in person. I have learned from my experience that I need to feel a vested interest in the people in my PLN. Right now I feel like I am a bytstander watching the bird monster. I do not fully understand it and therefore see it as a monster. Once I engage with it more I will hopefully want it for a pet.
I can see Twitter as being used as the social barometer for gauging the public outcry surrounding political announcements, events, people and issues. I can see the appeal of people wanting to keep up to date information on celebrities, politicians or global issues. It is the notion of creating a constantly connected PLN to maintain a watchful eye over the interests of humanity that puts a person’s mind at ease.

As an aside, can you imagine the influence on public perception by the microblog posts of celebrities or people with large numbers of followers? If someone with a large number of followers tweets about something they enjoyed like a movie, book, restaurant, travel destination, etc., that one small Tweet could create a feeding frenzy. Just imagine the power of social media and a FOAF.

Twitter has many possibilities for use in the classroom. Twitter can be a “real time” way to teach students to connect with the world. Will Richardson (Leading and Learning Conference, 2009) advocates for a need to teach students about creating an online or digital presence. Students need to learn to participate in the digital world and we as educators need to provide a safe environment for learning this new literacy. Students need to learn to access everyday experts in the field they are passionate about. Stevens (2008) as well as Grosseck and Hotescu (2008) and Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) would agree with Richardson (2009) and suggest that using Twitter in the classroom can:
1. Enhance the dynamics of classroom conversations by giving everyone a voice anytime, anywhere (even the shy students)
2. Create bonds between students in the class as well as beyond the classroom between people of any age or walk of life that are passionate about the same things
3. Get a sense of the richness of the world
4. Provide instant assessment and feedback as Twitter is always on.
5. Track people, events, words, etc.
6. Be used to disseminate assignments, announcements, etc
7. Be a source of information
8. Track conversations between people
9. Facilitate project management
10. Support reflection
11. Be more efficient than RSS feeds
12. Encourage fact and perception checking
13. Augment research and reference checking
14. Encourage metacognition
15. Force a person to analyze and synthesize their thoughts into a succinct statement
16. Address issues in a timely manner
17. Create writing for a real audience
18. Connect learners with a community of professional learners
19. Maintain ongoing relationships and makes connections to people who may have otherwise never met
However, when using Twitter in the classroom teachers need to be aware that there are potential issues. The disadvantages of using Twitter according to Grosseck and Hotescu (2008) are:
1. Reinforces poor grammar and spelling
2. Twittering during a lesson can be too distracting
3. Time consuming
4. Potential response rate is limited
5. Addictive
6. Not going to enrich deep or meaningful learning
7. On call 24-7
8. Allows much faster spreading of rumours
9. Privacy
10. Spam
Teachers can also benefit from using the power of Twitter to develop PLN’s for Professional Development. Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) discuss that Twitter can be used to build a true educational community to share ideas, resources (lessons, assessments, books), best practices, philosophies, etc. Teachers need to be cognisant of the possible disadvantages of the tool but will also benefit from using Twitter in the ways mentioned above.

Before using Twitter in the classroom Grosseck and Hollescu (2008) and Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) recommend to:

1. share with the students the language of microblogging and what it all means
2. think carefully about the purpose of it’s use and what topic to support.
3. not be afraid of re-tweeting something so that people who have just logged in are up to speed
4. learn and teach Twitter self-discipline.
5. be flexible and prepared for the direction that the tweets can take you.
6. be very open about what worked or didn't, and why/why not.
7. consider trying Twitter use on a pilot or trial basis, with a selected group
8. use a mix of the old and the new (it must be meeting the intended learning objectives of the lesson by alternative routes).
9. include students in the evaluation of the approach.
10. remember Twitter is a network of people. Be willing to share, engage and provoke thought
11. encourage students to participate – don’t demand
12. model effective Twitter use
13. build Twitter use into assessment
14. continue to actively participate in Twitter yourself

I realize that my comments in this blog post may be viewed as me being reluctant to use Twitter but I would rather be honest than use this blog as a work of fiction. Not every tool is going to be seen as useful. A person needs to pick and choose the ones that suit their needs. I have tried to see the benefits of owning a bird monster and even tried living with one for a while but right now a bird monster just doesn’t feel right.
Couras, Alec. (Nov. 20, 2009) Leading and Learning Conference in Red Deer, Alberta.

Dunlap, Joanna and Lowenthal, Patrick. (2009) Tweeting the Night Away: Using Twitter to Enhance Social Presence. As retrieved Nov. 18, 2009 from
Grosseck, Gabriela and Holotescu, Carmen. (2008). Can We Use Twitter For educational Activities? As retrieved on Nov. 18, 2009 from
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Richardson, Will. (Nov. 21, 2009) Leading and Learning Conference in Red Deer, Alberta
Richardson, Will. (2008) On the Twitterialization of Blogs, Networks, Etc. As retrieved on Nov. 20, 2009 from
Stevens, Vance. (2008). Trial By Twitter: The Rise and Slide of the Year’s Most Viral Microblogging Platform. As retrieved Nov. 18, 2009 from

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Am I an Ostrich or Just a Chicken?

Wikipedia (2009) defines social networking as building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. The power of this social interaction is discussed by Will Richardson (2009) in his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts as the collaborative construction of knowledge. For me the question is, are teachers promoting the use of Social Networking just to use the sites or is there a better way to reach the intended objective? I want to further the education of my students but in a way that is productive and meaningful to both the students and myself. Which brings me to the title of this blog post, Am I an Ostrich or Just a Chicken? I am not sure of my own feelings about SNS and I am hopefully going to sort them out as I write this post.


The research on social networks is fraught with mixed messages and conclusions. Is using social networks good or bad for a person? Cecilie Murray (2009) talks about how social networking increases communication amongst people. Nancy Baym , an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence says that the fears about using social networks are not supported. "There's no compelling evidence that spending time on social networking sites and expanding our social circles damages the close relationships we have." "People think if you're hanging out on Facebook, you're not having quality face-to-face time. That is not supported" (Jayson, 2009). Research found in Scientific American (Jayson, 2009) suggests that being part of a social network is good for you. It offers additional resilience, greater life satisfaction and reduces the risk of health problems. Keith Hampton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says, "we're not replacing everyday personal social networks with everyday online social networks. We're not substituting online for offline. We're augmenting" (Jayson, 2009).

However, in the same article Sharon Jayson (2009) says social networking sites can cause obesity, musculoskeletal problems, loss of privacy, being negatively influenced by a FOAF, overwhelming commercialism and addiction. (Did you know there is actually a residential treatment center in Washington for Internet addiction?)

I don’t know what to think. Am I afraid of the complications of using social networking sites or do I just want to keep my head in the sand so that I do not have to deal with the issues?

I began this journey knowing that social networking sites existed, knowing that my own children (now young adults) were on Facebook and that many of my friends and relatives were joining the Facebook revolution. I, however, preferred to talk to people on the phone or face to face. (I do not know if this is really a reason or just a justification for my resistance). I knew that I was missing out on things: information about people (OK gossip), photos of events, inside jokes, invitations to things, etc. This of course forced me to get with the 21st century and join Facebook. The first week of class I set up an account with a very strict privacy structure and then found out that there were FOAF who were being suggested as people I could add. My policy is I do not add people who I would not pick up the phone and call. I feel that these people do not need to know what is going on in my life and I certainly do not need to know what is going on in theirs. I stuck with my strict privacy settings. I check my Facebook every couple of days and my children are thrilled to have their mother “creeping” around their Facebook sites. I have not added any gadgets to my site although I know I can add photos, videos, word clouds, etc. I honestly have not taken the time but know when I am finished this class I will add photos and videos but probably not other gadgets as my friends will hassle me about showing off.

Next, I watched the trailfire, listened to Mack Male’s elluminate session and did some research on Social Networking sites. Then, I asked friends and colleaugues which sites they used and why. This was interesting as most are on Facebook because of its popularity and therefore a greater likelihood of someone you want to connect with being on this site. However, there were others on MySpace, LinkedIn, Ning, etc.

Ning is another social networking site I joined the first week of class and I love it. I am a part of the Classroom 2.0 group. It has helped on several occasions to get information for this course through an online chat or reviewing former posts. I am a follower on the Classroom 2.0 site and hope to make more use of Ning in the future

In both cases I am connected to people who have similar interests, my friends or relatives and my educational colleagues. I have morphed from a chicken into a ……?


I am not a chicken anymore. I think I have morphed into a bluebird. I am now a member of Facebook and Ning. I am sold on their value and I will continue to use social networking sites as a method for maintaining connections with people of similar interests. I will use them to share information as well as create knowledge through a collaborative process.

I will use Facebook to maintain connections with family and friends. I can post media to share with others and view my friends or relatives posts to acquire the news in their lives. I have found that I do not need to update my status as frequently as my kids do but the odd post allows me to connect with friends and family that I would not see very often and reconnect with high school friends who live far away. I can share photos, videos or podcasts of my grand-daughter or our latest vacation, add links to other sites for a Voicethread, Animoto, word cloud, etc. One of my next projects is to plan my 50th birthday vacation with friends. We can share information through Facebook and make the decisions together.

Being on Facebook also allows, the mother in me, to snoop around my kids sites and use this information to begin conversations that we may not have had otherwise. I know they know where I got the information, as I am always very upfront about this, but it is sometimes a conversation starter that goes deep.

In the future, I want to use Ning for personal reasons. I would like to join an online book club and scrapbooking group, if one exists. If one does not already exist then maybe it can be a new Ning group that I create.

Social networking sites can also be used for disseminating information about social causes. This information can be about the cause’s goals or objectives, updated news, rallies, etc. It would be a quick method for getting news into the hands of the people who want it most.

Once again so many ideas and so little time!!!!!!!!!!!


The big question for many school districts is: should we allow the use of social networking sites in schools? Some Districts see the potential issues of using social networking sites as far as security, privacy, authoring, potential viruses, etc. Other districts feel that we need to use these tools and teach students the proper use and etiquette of these social networking sites (Davies and Merchant, 2009). Researchers like Cecilie Murray feel that “what better way to learn the skills of communication, collaboration and protective online behaviour “ (Murray, 2009) than through SNS.

This is where I get bogged down. I keep telling myself that I should allow students to use Social Networking because we need to teach them about Internet safety etc. but selfishly I do not want to get involved in the issues of their personal Facebook sites. Am I being an ostrich? Maybe I just think that if I do not see it I will not have to deal with it? I know that I can set up Facebook pages with strict privacy settings for class use only but that is when I keep asking myself what is the purpose of using SNS and is there another way to achieve the same goal without the inherent problems of using something as popular and notorious as Facebook. After all, if I set up Facebook sites for class use only, then the privacy settings do not allow for input from others. Such parameters do not allow for social networking and collaborating with people other than your classmates. A class Facebook site may get members of the class, who would not normally address each other in class, talking but is there another format that would allow this to happen? Danah Boyd (2008) maintains that social networking has not caused people to build new relationships but been about socializing inside pre-existing networks. Which leads me back to, what is the point of using social networking sites? If I can use another tool which allows for the same collaboration and has fewer potential issues then I am going to take the path of least resistance and use the other tool. I agree that as educators we need to use tools to increase collaboration and knowledge creation. My question is; are social networking sites the best medium to use? (If you do choose to use social networking Cecilie Murray has some great advice.) Can the purposes of authoring content and collaboration for creating knowledge be achieved in other ways which are not as contentious with Tech Departments and parents. I do think that we need to “develop policies that strike a balance between safety and freedom while still allowing teachers to use the tools that are a part of everyday life for today’s students” (Murra, 2008) but my preference would be to use a blog or a wiki set up through an agrator so that I can censor the contents. A blog can be used to do all of the things that social networking sites like Facebook do and even more. Blogs have more gadgets and therefore stimulate even more creative methods to create knowledge.

Ning, on the other hand, is a great tool for use in the classroom as well as for Professional Development. In the classroom it allows you to create a social “networking forum to
share a wide variety of media in a completely private environment.” ” Students can discuss issues, disseminate information, collaborate on projects, embed media, personalize pages, embed blogging groups and online chat” (Classroom 2.0, 2009).
Lynne writes on the Ning Classroom 2.0 site that she sees “social networking as a revelation for an educator” (Classroom 2.0, 2009). She feels that social networking sites have decreased the isolation that teachers feel, taken education out of the hands of experts and put it into the hands of lay teachers to create their own knowledge about what works and what does not (Classroom 2.0, 2009).

I have used Ning to gather ideas for using Web 2.0 tools in my and my colleagues’ classrooms. With Ning you can join an already established group of like minded people seeking answers to similar questions or you can create a new group to facilitate a discussion in an area not yet developed. I am modeling the use of the tools that I find out about through my contacts on the Ning site and also finding ways to entice my colleagues into using a Web 2.0 tool. Hopefully the positive experiences of some of my colleagues will motivate others to pursue this technology.

I think my post this week has explored my change from a chicken to an ostrich and then to a blue bird. I guess the end of the morph is yet to come. Maybe I will end up a dove.


Boyd, Danah. (2008). Social Networking is here to stay, Now What. As retrieved Nov. 12, 2009 from

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

Jayson, Sharon. (2009) Asretrieved Nov. 11, 2009 from

Murray, Cecile. (2009) As retrieved Nov. 11, 2009 from

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

Wikipedia As retrieved on Nov. 13, 2009 from

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Life can be one glorious open road or it can be filled with pot holes, breakdowns and car wrecks. This week has been a mix of smooth sailing and complete gridlock.

Multi media sites allow a person to create, view or comment on computer based programs that engage many of the senses. Sites like Voicethread and Animoto are web based programs that allow people to not only create multi media but to share it bringing people together through posting, commenting and the feedback process. Voicethread allows a person to “collect multiple voices and viewpoints in a single media package” (Friedman, Adam and Lee, John., 2009, pg. 5). This package can use various digital mediums like photos, word documents, video clips and other digital artifacts (Wilson, Brad. 2008). Voicethread has sometimes been referred to as an “audioblog” (Wilson, 2008). Animoto allows a person to make video from either still photos or from video clips. To this video you can add text and music.What kind of a journey are you having?


I began this week heading out on the open road with the wind in my hair feeling great about the world. I started with a tour of the sites in the trailfire left by Joanne. I was familiar with Animoto and with Voicethread after seeing a presentation about them at a conference I had just attended. However, I had never used either program. After seeing the demonstrations at the conference and watching the trailfire I felt confident that I could conquer both of these programs. Once again what seemed easy was more challenging and frustration prevailed. The journey was far from the simple Sunday drive I had envisioned.

I started creating my video on Animoto by selecting the pictures I was going to use. I downloaded them to my computer and then to the Animoto program. Finding the images and exporting them was easy. All I had to do was follow step one on the Animoto site. It was step two that was challenging. Trying to find appropriate music on a website that was not copyright restricted and free was hard. Once I finally found something my computer would not let it download. After sitting in complete gridlock for two hours later I gave up and came back to it two days later. After enlisting the help of my daughter, (a technology native) I was able to get the music downloaded and move on to step three. At the right you will see the link to my video.

The Voicethread was easy to construct. I had just done a lesson with my grade 3’s on foreground, midground and background in a composition. I found a picture that illustrated the concept and then asked two students (with parent permission) to comment on it. I had one type her comments and the other record hers. Smooth highway driving here!!!!!!!!


Using multi media in my personal life would be like sharing a roadmap of all of our travels with an interactive piece at each stop on the map. I would use multi media in many of the same ways as I described the use of Videosharing in a post earlier in this blog. To me Animoto is very similar to Windows MusicMaker which is the program I used in my Videosharing project. I could also use Animoto to prepare a presentation for a wedding, anniversary or as a keepsake of a memory such as my granddaughters first steps.

I can think of many times I could Voicethread to preserve memories or share greetings. I could use Voicethread as a digital storytelling medium (Wilson, 2008) to capture many different people’s perception or stories of one moment in time such a vacation, wedding or family event. Voicethread could also be used to send greetings or messages to friends or relatives.

Now that I have experienced how easy it is to navigate these highways I am ready for more driving adventure.


Multi media use in schools could range from smooth highway driving to avoiding pot holes or complete gridlock and car wrecks depending on the teacher and the students using this tool. Multi Media sites would be a way for schools to share information about their school, augment curriculum, engage students in creative ways to demonstrate knowledge, increase student participation (Wilson, 2008) and share professional development. In order for these activities to flow smoothly schools and teachers need the proper technology and the in-servicing to use these tools effectively.

There are many advantages to using a program like Animoto. This interactive web based program builds creativity and collaboration amongst the students and staff. Creating and sharing Muti media programs like Animoto could be used to celebrate teams, events, activities, groups, etc. As well, Animoto would be a way to capture snapshots of time for nostalgic purposes. These creative and collaborative expressions would be seen as a progressive and unique way to showcase the technology use of the school as well as the school itself. Multi media presentations like Animoto could be used to showcase aspects of the school at PT Interviews, Meet the Teacher, or it could be used as a marketing tool in the community.

Voicethread could be used in the school to enhance student engagement, promote collaboration and develop higher order thinking skills. Voicethread could be used as a story starter, to record student’s perceptions and ideas, for digital storytelling, to celebrate events or activities, to assess understanding of something visual or to enhance the discussion of a concept.

The potholes or cons of using multi media like Animoto or Voicethread are having the necessary hardware, software, teacher training and time. Another possible pothole is FOIP. With the restrictions placed upon the schools by the FOIP legislation we have to be very careful how we use student images both inside and outside of the school.

No matter where, how or by whom multi media is used the access to free Internet software makes the use of multi media an easy, breezy ride down the highway of learning!!!


Friedman, Adam. Lee, John. As retrieved on Nov. 3, 2009 from

Wilson, Brad. As retrieved on Nov. 3, 2009 from