Monday, December 7, 2009

My Learning For Now!!!

When I read the criteria for our final blog post, I didn’t know where to start. I sat and reflected about what I had learned and the implications of what I had learned. In a form true to my learning style, I started making a list. I quickly filled up a page and then stopped. How was I possibly going to describe not only everything I had learned in EDES 501 but also the implications of this learning on my future practice. My wondering caused me to chunk my knowledge into categories. Here is my attempt to summarize my plethora of thoughts.

I decided that my learning has taken place on three levels. I had 1) definitely increased my knowledge of Web tools, 2) I had many epiphanies about the impact of using Web tools in schools and 3) I was beginning to see that the structure of schools today may not be as effective as it could be.

1. I learned the basics about several new web tools available through free online software accessible anytime anywhere. I read about them, experimented with them, as well as, brainstormed ways to use them both personally and professionally. I found many new resources (all of the information about my particular personal learning journey can be accessed in previous posts) promoting the use of Web tools in the classroom but most of all I found that I could learn as much from my colleagues’ efforts in their blogs as I did from my own individual efforts. (The beauty of a PLN.) As I read my classmates blogs, the interesting thing was that we all took different routes with the same tool. We explored different pieces of software used for the same purpose or discovered variations of the same software. I realized, with sadistic pleasure, that other students in the class were as fearful of the newness of the tools as I was. Through our collective journey we have become familiar with not only the tools but also reflected on the process of learning. I know that I will now use many of these tools in my teaching and my Professional Development. As well, I will be an advocate for the use of web tools by other staff in my building. It was Bruce who wisely said that integrating all web tools is not possible, practical nor desirable but as teachers preparing students for 21st century life we do need to expose students to the tools. Students can then choose the tool that works best for them. This experience has also been a reminder to me of the intimidation that students feel on a daily basis and how we as educators can make learning engaging, unpleasant or mind-numbing.

2. My classmates and I reflected on not just the practice of using web tools (how to’s) but the implications of using Web tools on teaching and learning. Throughout the course our readings, research, discussions and blog posts caused us to reflect on why we would want to use a particular tool or web tools in general. How was 21st century learning different? How was using these tools going to make a difference to my students? I will try to capture some of my learning about the implications of the use of Web tools but I know that every time I read this post I think of something new. I believe that this is a testament to the richness of the learning in this course.

Douglas Rushkoff states that we now have a “society of authorship where every teacher and every student has the ability to contribute ideas and experiences to the larger body of knowledge known as the Internet” (Rushkoff as cited in Richardson, 2009). This potential for students to be authors and publish their work online for anyone in the world to see is motivating for students. The idea of creating real products for real audiences causes students to be more engaged in the creative process and contributes to a higher standard in their work. Students who use Web tools have a purposeful end to their work beyond the classroom (Lafer, 1997). However, the increase in amateur authorship brings about two issues. One is that people using sources from the Internet need to assess credibility and reliability of those sources even more than may have been necessary in the past and 2) when students are writing they need to ensure that they are writing in a credible and reliable manner. Everyone in my group addressed the issue of reliability and credibility at some time during their discussions or blog posts. I agree with my classmates that we need to teach students to read critically online (Alec Couros, 2002). Students need to understand that information found online may not have gone through editors or a publishing house and the author may not have any credentials. We need to teach students to assess the information for relevance, credibility of the source, validity of the information and reliability of the site. Many authors such as Wathen and Burkell (2002) give guidelines for assessing credibility of on-line publications. Students must check the credibility of their sources as well as write in a credible fashion. This means checking their sources and not falling into the trap described by Allan November (2000) in Teaching Zack To Think where a 14 year old boy falls for the Holocaust conspiracy theory.

As well, students must be taught to respect the intellectual property of all authors. Jackie pointed out that more than ever we need to teach students to reference, cite and use the multitude of available online resources properly. One of these discussions will be copyright issues. Students need to realize that the use of text, music, art and photos is protected by copyright and these sources can not be used unless this data is in the public domain. Creative Commons is helping to increase the resources in the public domain (Richardson, 2009) but students need to understand how to distinguish which resources they can copy, how they can use them and when it is appropriate to do so.

Corey also points out that teachers will need to teach the ethics of being online. The discussion of ethics turns quickly to the pros and cons of using Social Networking Systems in schools. Will Richardson (2009) talks about using Social Networking Systems in schools because we need to teach students how to respectfully use these resources. Richardson (2009) feels that if teachers do not teach students SNS skills some students will not learn SNS skills anywhere else. One of the skills of using SNS is developing an online persona. Jackie writes about the need for a “balance” between our public and personal persona. The question is how do you divulge some information about yourself, enough to create a bond with others, and yet not compromise your personal life?

Along with the issue of ethical use comes safety of being online. Berson (2000) writes that children are naïve regarding the dangers of cyberspace, and parents often lack the knowledge to address these issues. Consequently, educators must address Internet safety with students teaching them that they have a responsibility to behave appropriately as well as protect themselves from other people that will abuse the use of the Internet.

We have learned that Web tools will promote the creative use of knowledge as described by Will Richardson (2009). The taking of two pieces of art or literature and amalgamating them using a 21st century tool is one of the goals of the creative use of the Web (Richardson, 2009). This creativity will increase the motivation and engagement of learners. Another motivating factor is the collaboration created through the process of online work. Corey defined collaboration as when “learners are interacting and building upon one another’s ideas.” I agree with his definition and feel that the true benefits of web tools are derived when teachers and students use the tools to continually add to and refine their work as it contributes to society’s working knowledge (Richardson, 2009). Chris Gerben (2009) phrased it well when he said, “the heart of our current cutting edge technologies is the interaction and conversation that we’re having with each other.”

As students create feedback to things posted online the feedback creates further reflection and new knowledge creation (Richardson, 2009). The promotion of online feedback, that these tools invites, can stimulate deeper thinking and engagement. This feedback can either be shallow and provoke little reflection on the part of the author or it can be deeper causing real thought for the author and lead to reflection, refinement of thought and a more sophisticated use of the tool. It depends upon the context of the feedback.

It was Bruce who talked about the use of Web tools being on a continuum. A teacher can use a web tool for a knowledge based activity and use the same tool at another point in time to create more reflective analytical work. I believe that everyone can be involved in the use of Web tools just at different levels dependant upon their age and skill level. It is a matter of choosing the right tool for the assignment, for the author and for the audience.

Just as it is important to select the right tool for the purpose of the assignment it is also important to allow students some choice in the method which they choose to demonstrate their learning. Pam summed up the conversation by saying that teachers need to realize that different students may choose different tools dependant upon their learning style. Authors Johnathon Ross and Robert Schultz (1999) write about the need to capitalize on the Web’s power to highlight many learning styles. They discuss how the Web not only encompasses auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning but also pioneers the idea of social learning. Davies and Merchant (2009) describe the idea of participatory (social) learning where meaning is constructed through interaction and negotiation.

There are many questions to ask and things to consider when determining how and why to use Web tools. However, it is the answers that are important. The answers provide the context for the decisions and each individual needs to decide what works best for them.

3. The most puzzling part of the course was struggling to see a way to create a constructivist atmosphere within our current educational environment of accountability. I feel that a constructivist learning environment is necessary to utilize the Web tools to their fullest capability. The comment was made by Will Richardson at the Leading and Learning conference (2009) that to fully utilize these tools a person needs to reinvent school as we know it. Richardson (2009) believes that we need to alter the physical structure of the K -12 system. The factory mode of compartmentalizing education needs to be re-examined. I agree that we need to create an environment that allows students to be involved in truly meaningful learning at the student’s own pace. We need a system that will allow students to explore areas and advance at their own pace with their own agendas. I agree with Catherine Gewertz (2007) who quotes Lehmann as saying, “to change requires understanding that we do not have all of the answers anymore.”

Changing the whole structure of schooling is a very lofty ideal and will take great insight to accomplish. However, it causes educators in the trenches to look at the structuring of their own classrooms and the assignments that they are creating. Teachers need to ask themselves are they creating compliance assignments or are they truly engaging students to think critically about the intended outcomes. Are the students truly engaged in their learning and is each and every student progressing? Teachers need to remember how it feels to be a student learning something new. We need to create a constructivist learning environment where students know the expectations, are prepared with learning tools to complete the work, challenged with reflective thinking opportunities and have the freedom to make the learning fit their unique personalities.

Now that I have shared my learning about some Web tools, discussed the impact of Web tools on teaching and learning and looked at the possible restructuring of the education system I need to decide how this information is going to directly affect my practice. My new knowledge will affect how I:

1. design student learning in my classrooms.

The wealth of knowledge of Web tools will give me a larger tool box to choose from and rationale for using Web tools. The choice of tools will need to be based on what is best for the students’ learning not what is easiest or most expedient for me? What is the best tool for the job and for my students? What will the students gain the most from? What am I aiming for, product or process? How does this goal influence my assessment practices? How can I structure the learning so as to move the student’s thinking forward? For as Palloff and Pratt (1999) said, “technology does not teach students, effective teachers do.”

2. facilitate the technology growth of all students in my school.

I want to implement a school wide technology plan. I want to see the whole school modeling and implementing appropriate Web tools throughout all subject areas. This implementation will allow students to acquire technology skills at an early age. Students will build familiarity with the tools in the early grades so that in their later years higher order thinking can be facilitated.

3. enhance Home/School Communications.

I will facilitate the staffs’ and office’s use of online publishing to enhance the school’s communication with the homes of our students. This will involve having the office set up a wiki that will have a homepage to provide up to date information about the philosophy, upcoming events, as well as having each teacher have a page where they can provide important dates specific to their class, links to student work, current outcomes being studied, homework, dates of assessments, etc.

4. promote staff PD about web tools using web tools.

I believe the best way to facilitate student growth is to facilitate teacher growth. Engaging staff in activities using web tools will teach them the skills that will transfer into the use of web tools in the classroom. Teachers need to be exposed to different types of Web tools, as well as, shown the wealth of knowledge and resources that can be acquired when a person gets involved in a Professional Learning Network. I will be able to facilitate the acquisition of web tool knowledge and the development of a PLN through the collaboration time provided to teachers by the funding of AISI. [I just happen to coordinate our Learning Cycle (AISI) project.]

5. use Web tools in my personal life.

I have gone from a skeptic to a believer and I will not turn back when this course is finished. I have seen the power of using Web tools not only at school but in my personal life and I will continue to join the 21st century learners. I believe that our practices are continually changing as a result of our learning and that as a life long learner my learning will only stop when my breathing stops.

The work in this course has taught me about many Web tools to use, the benefits of using Web tools and caused me to question my belief in the education system as it now exists. One of the major lessons I have learned has been the necessity of keeping up with change. But as I am wanting to keep up with the speed of change I need to remember two things: 1) for myself, my staff and my students: one step forward at a time. 2) the people who will understand the potential of the web the most are just being born (Dan Gillmor, as cited in Richardson, 2009).


Berson, Michael J. (2000). Lessons Learned about Schools and Their Responsibility to
Foster Safety Online. As retrieved on Dec. 3, 2009 from

Couros, Alec. (2002). Critical Thinking: The Value and Teaching of This Objective in the Information Age. As retrieved on Dec. 3, 2009 from

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

Gerben, Chris. (2009). Putting 2.0 and Two Together: What Web 2.0 Can Teach Composition About Collaborative Learning. As retrieved Dec. 3, 2009 from

Gerwetz, Catherine. (2007). Outside Interests. As retrieved on Dec. 5, 2009 from

November, Alan. (2000). Teaching Zack to Think. As retrieved Dec. 4, 2009 from

Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith. (1999) As retrieved Dec. 3, 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

Ross, Johnathon and Schulz, Robert. (1999) Using the World Wide Web to Accommodate Diverse Learning Styles. As retrieved Dec. 3, 2009 from;jsessionid=LcyQJGQbBrNnLRGBhkMGllFl5tv5ZTT8FqHs5yQF6LSlgwhvQJ27!394742080!1596534185?docId=95164414

Wathen, Nadine and Burkell, Jacqelyn. (2002). Believe It or Not: Factors Influencing Credibility. As retrieved on Dec. 5, 2009 from
on the Web

Classmates discussions and blog posts throughout the course

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

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