Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy New Year! An Early Look Back at 2009.

We are getting close to the time where people begin to look back at the successes and challenges of the last year. Music channels outline the movers and shakers of the year. The movie industry post their biggest earners and their biggest flops.

This blog and the intense exposure to Web 2.0 was a totally new experience for me so I thought I would follow suit and look back at this exciting process. Posting this reflection early will hopefully keep my thoughts from getting lost in a sea of gems like the one below:

Web 2.0 Highlights

1. Creativity - I have never considered myelf to be a creative person. After all, when you are colour blind you try to stay with the basics so people don't laugh at the fact that you colour oceans on maps purple instead of blue (sorry...traumatic childhood moment). Starting this blog has drawn out creativity I didn't know that I had. To be honest, it is hard not to be creative when tools like Blogger, Jing, and GoAnimate (my favourite) are so easy to use and to embed into my blog. As cool as text is by itself, text with video and images is infinitely better. This leads me to my second highlight...

2. Free - If you are a teacher, a librarian or a parent then I don't need to say much more. Once I got over the belief that everything that is free is useless, my experience grew. If you need to do something on the net...there is a free quality tool out there for you.

3. Connections - Social networking is something that every educator should have the opportunity to play with. While I do see challenges such as exposure to inappropriate content, monitoring students and the content they post, etc. (click here for my posting on the subject) the benefits are phenomenal. I would recommend Ning as a place to start as it does provide some management control and the Ning community is ripe with great educational opportunities. For instance, I am participating in an open ended conference with over 650 other people from across the world. Not only do I get to hear from great keynote speakers/bloggers, I can chat with them, ask them for direction, grab resources, and potentially invite them to partipate in my online activities. Beyond this, I am making new connections with highly skilled people with common interests and struggles which means my traditionally closed door classroom is now wide open to fresh eyes and new mentors. If you haven't signed up fo the K12 Online Conference click on my badge on my sidebar. It is amazing and it is FREE.

4. Reality check - I have to be honest. Blogging can be disappointing if you don't see tons of comments on your posts. I began with the belief that my blog, my tweets, my discussion postings meant something to me but not to anyone else. They felt like one way conversations. Just this last week I was proven wrong. One colleague joined the k12 online conference after reading something I posted, another started a Delicious account, and a fellow classmate contacted me by email to share how much she appreciated our online discussions (Thanks Canadanz. Check out her blog here.) The stuff we post can become conversations, can impact peoples lives, and in turn can enhance our own experiences if we give it a chance ( ).

Challenges...not Lowlights

As an educator I try to adhere to the idea that even the darkest moments funamentally will point me to an even brighter future. 2009 definitely proved that to be true....

Challenge 1: Not everything is as easy to do as they say it is.


Challenge 2: Avalanche of information anyone?


Challenge 3: Praying for Time.


Challenge 4: Death by filter.


Where do we go from here?

I said 'we' because my plans will hopefully include entice my family, my colleagues, my region, and my students to join in. What I have in mind I can't do alone.

1. Focus - I am in the middle of choosing the tools I am most passionate about. I don't want to go back to work with 50 great things. Out of all the tools I have used the ones that I feel every teacher in my region should experience are:

a. Social Bookmarking - We are constantly on the move and the amount of luggage we can carry is highly limited. Being able to use anyone's computer to access and share our favourite sites...priceless. While I am using Delicious, I honestly feel Diigo is a strong option that many will love.

b. RSS Feeds and Google Reader - Our isolation means that accessing PD is exceptionally hard. Our community expects a high level of teacher involvement outside of school which means researching in free time is tough. Having a steady stream of personally identified information of interest coming to one spot...priceless. Add this to the potential of having online student work coming to us instead of having to go look for it (Richardson, 2009). Fantabulous.

c. Blogs - I think blogging may be a good first step for many teachers. Our region is focusing on literacy so everyone is looking for engaging ways to engage students in reading and writing. This incentive combined with relatively easy set up procedures and the ability to personalize blogs will be appealing to many. The fact that our email system (First Class) supports a completely in house alternative will also likely be a plus. Using First Class, students could generate blogs safely behind the firewall of our regional network. They get to interact with other students while we get the peace of mind of knowing they are fairly well protected.

d. GoAnimate - This tool is fantastic and it can support our computer courses and our literacy initiatives. Many classes call for storyboarding skills, editing text/video, combining multiple forms of media and other complex skills. GoAnimate is highly accessible to everyone and it allows you to focus on the objectives at hand instead of complicated programming/interfaces. Plus it is wicked cool :)

2. Research - I need to go back with as much information as I can about how schools are already using web 2.0 tools effectively. As mentioned I am part of the k12 online conference. I am actively following "Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts" (you can easily find the following podcasts through iTunes). These podcasts by Wesley Fryer dig into the big picture stuff like why social media (#334), how to develop social media guidelines (#323), designing 2.0 schools (#312)and the steps needed to make technology available to everyone in our schools (#335). These should be mandatory listening for every educational leader.
These podcasts directed me to schools in the states that are totally reinventing how they do school. I am reading up on these schools so I can learn from their mistakes and potentially support changes in my neck of the woods ( Excellent place to start.)

3. Advocate - I have already initiated conversations with key technology people in my region. I have invited them to participate in my learning and I have asked big questions like do we have a five year plan for technology? How can we educate students about online behaviour when the internet is heavily filtered? How can we advocate for creative timetabling to allow staff to play with these effective tools? Can we identify at least one teacher from each school that I can work with to implement these tools to prove their value? It seems to be working as I am being consulted and informed of many exciting developments.

4. Practice -"As a teacher, blogging will have a profound effect on their reading and writing skills. They will be able to get outside feedback and build on their already existing knowledge. They will learn to build their own PLN based on the blogs they follow and the information they learn from those blogs and the links they lead others to and to where they have been." ( It is one thing to read about how things work and another to put things like blogging into action and confirming their value for yourself. My son struggles with writing but he is highly social and loves to learn. He has shown great interest in my blog and I heard him say last week that he wished he had is own blog. Before Xmas I am going to set up a blog with him that he and key people in his life will have access to. This will give an opportunity for me to see if the above claims of blogging are true and I will gain great experience in how to actively manage an elementary student in an online environment. I can't wait.

The End of One Journey...the Start of Another.

This blog entry could go on forever. I don't know when the last time was that I was so excited about possibilities and change. I planned on doing one last GoAnimate entry for 2009 but my internet is very unstable. So I will end this entry with quotes from two inspirational leaders in the Web 2.0 world.

"Level 1 seems to be “getting” that there are all these new tools and technologies out there and that we can now publish all sorts of content really easily. And that kids are already using social networks and that these tools are cropping up more and more in classrooms around the world...Level 2 takes it a step further and implies that “getting it” means that there is some real change involved in what’s happening right now, that it’s not just about tools, but about connections and building learning networks for ourselves and for our students...That to really “get” what the implications of all of this might be, you have to really be willing to really think differently." (Will Richardson)

This summarizes my journey over the last few months. I have gone from merely recognizing the existence of these tools, to understanding that there is some sort of change going on, and now the overwhelming evidence presented to me has forced me to fundamentally change how I view myself, my students, and the way I approach my craft. My experiences have shifted from being fun for me, to being fundamental for the future of my profession (still fun though).

"For the successful learner, learning is not the end -- but the process they use to achieve goals and the feeling of pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments. Learning literally has a different feel for them. It is not just a matter of going to school, listening to the teacher, and completing assignments on time. Not measured Instead, learning springs from within; is felt in their minds and hearts.

The successful learner is someone who learns how to learn in the fullest sense of the word. They are heroes because they have taken their given talents and strengths and combined them with hard work, ambition, attitude to get where they are going.
" (Angela Maiers)

It is easy to see from that quote why Angela is an award winning blogger. Over the last few months I have been a successful learner probably for the first time in least to this degree. Grades never truly entered the picture on this journey. I pushed myself. I participated. I took risks. I communicated through novel modes of communication. I joyously shared everything I did with anyone who would listen. I gleaned from anyone who would communicate with me. I altered my lifestyle and my aspirations based on what I learned. I questioned almost everything. These are all things I wish for my students.

As tough as this journey has been so far, truly submersing myself in Web 2.0 under the guidance and support of the Web 2.0 community has put me in the position of being a learning hero (great term Angela)for my son and my students. I wholeheartedly agree with Angela that "it is only after exploring learning success in a broader sense, that I really understood how to teach students to be successful learners and not just wish it upon them. (Angela Maiers) I hope this understanding spreads like wildfire through my circles of influence.

Next challenge....exploring the psychological, neurological and social impacts of Web 2.0. The new journey begins....

All of my classmates have much to offer but the following people truly helped me through the roughspots and they have much knowledge to share:

Inspirational voices for change: If you haven't signed up already...get in on this conference. This resource alone will leave you set for years in terms of resources and networking opportunities.

Each of the above not only stress the importance of change, they also provide specifics about how to make those changes.

Keeping up with the latest in social media news: Social media, one to one action in schools.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blogs and Aggregators...a Match Made in Heaven

The Big Picture

Many historical events have stopped the world in its tracks. Events like the theory of relativity, the invention of the printing press, and the birth of Tim Hortons rank right at the top of the monumental events list. But ultimately, stories of love continue to strike our souls at the very core. Many of you may be thinking of New Moon but before those vampires hit the screen, the biggest love story of all time was...
Randy the Macho Man Savage and Elizabeth.

The Proposal

The Response

I still remember where I was for this wedding....Barbados, drinking sour sop punch and sweating like a mad man. What is the point? Blogging and feed aggregators are two tools that were meant to be together. Any teacher or librarian who chooses to bask in their radiance will be changed forever. Don't believe me?

My First Experiences with the Lovely Couple

Before September I hadn't met either partner. I didn't know what blogs were and I definitely didn't know what 'RSS' or feed aggregators were (hmmm...sounds like aligators). This posting could go on for days so I want to focus more on the relationship between the two tools rather than breaking each down individually. If any of you are unsure about what blogging is you are reading one right now and my colleague did a great posting about the basics of blogging (Click here) Check out the links under "Google Reader Wonderfulness" on my sidebar to tour blogs and to find blogs about blogs.

The learning process has been long so I will give you brief highlights in the screencasts below.

1. blog_and_RSS1

2. feeds

3. Blog_and_RSS2

4. Blog_and_RSS3

The Couple's Impact on Me and Society

1. Self Efficacy - I am a person who wears many hats. Many of the roles I play in my personal life require skills that I don't have. As a dad, this fact drives me crazy. My mom always talked about how her father and mother would show her everything she needed to know. She walked side by side with them as they demonstrated the skills that she needed. Fast forward a few decades, I come along, both my parents worked, and the information age kicked into overdrive. Now I have to figure things out on my own. My son, my professors, my wife, my in-laws all seem to turn to me for advice or throw things my way that I am ill prepared to deal with. Having a planet full of bloggers and simple data collection tools such as Google Reader and Bloglines mean that I can learn what I need to know at any time. Even silly stuff like not knowing how to cook yams for his supper. Click. Click. Subscribe., tips, tricks, coming out the wazoo. I used to workout so people ask me for weight management tips. Besides referring them to a pro I can say check this out.

2. Move at my own pace without offending - One pitfall of feed aggregators is that they don't stop. They constantly bring you more...more...more. In fact, an hour ago I had only about 200 unread items, now I am at over 700. You can and will feel overwhelmed. The advantage to these tools is you are one step removed from a conversation. If you decide to ignore the incoming information or if you decide to mark them all as read so they magically disappear, no one is offended. Unlike Twitter where you are interacting directly with a community, these tools make learning all about you. Read what you want, when you want and nobody else is the wiser. For other management tips or considerations, check out Crystal's blog under Personal Implications (Click Here)

3. Join in...everybody's doing it - Take some time to read or listen to people like Joyce Valenza, Mack Male, Will Richardson, and Wesley Fryer. The constantly hit home that the web is now a venue for participation and conversation. If someone blogs something that strikes my fancy or gets me going...I don't have to sit idle. I can do my research, generate my own blog posting, and link my readers directly to the person I am responding to. I am part of the game. I am not on the sidelines anymore. This makes the internet far more exciting, personal, and alive.

"I suspect that the world-reach thrill of blogging might be novel and might wear off. But it occurs to me that the true power of working within an audience, as opposed to performing in front of an audience (writing to the teacher, what you thing the teacher wants to read), is the power of conversation. It’s knowing that somebody (even the guy in the next row) is reading what you are writing (not measuring it), and that the reader may respond to what you’ve written, pushing you to rethink and respond back." (

4. Positive pressure to improve - My son and I are about to start our own blog before Christmas. Knowing that people are going to read our stuff, that they will be able to use Google Reader to track our writings, and that they may choose to stop following us is exciting/challenging. Blogging pushes us to become better bloggers for our reputations' sake and for the sake of our community (

5. Styles of learning - I don't have research to back up this point. As my thrill over Google Reader calmed down a little, and as I reflected on the story I told about my mom growing up, a thought struck me. What happens to a society where reading and communicating online becomes the ultimate form of learning/interacting? I was fortunate to grow up with parents and grandparents that forced me away from my Vic 20 to go out and build, fix, and experiment with new things. My parents forced me to put my book down and try new experiences. I spent 6 hours in front of my computer today just touring blogs, flipping through my feeds and learning through conversation. I had to yank myself away once I realized my son needed to eat. What's the point? As cool as these tools are, they shouldn't replace all other forms of learning. I will have to continue the tradition and say "Son, enough reading about BBQing or how to rebuild an engine. Let's go do it"

How can This Relationship Help My Profession?

Much like the Macho Man and Elizabeth, aggregators (like Google Reader and Bloglines) and blogs are powerful on their own but together they can be magical.

1. Resources - Have you ever been on a tight budget? Have you wandered around education fairs wishing you had the cash to buy everything? Concerned about the environment as you print off copies of articles or lesson plans for colleagues? Blogging is free. Accessing blogs is free. Highly skilled professionals are sharing infinite mounds of good stuff through these free tools (check this out). You can share these resources paper free (thanks for the idea Wesley and Will).

2 & 3. Enriching + Time Saving - Will Richardson (2009) drives home the power of blogging to engage students in rich learning experiences. He also suggested an idea I wouldn't have come up with on my own. Imagine a world where students' work was not only interesting but it automatically came to you instead of you having to travel around to find it:

"If you already use Weblogs with your students, the uses of RSS should be pretty apparent. Instead of checking out all twenty-five (or thirty, or more) student Weblogs every day, you could just collect their work in your aggregator using RSS feeds. That way, you can scan through all of the class content in one place, make sure it's all appropriate, and clich through to a particular post if you want to comment on it." (p. 77)

4. Be or have a guest speaker in a whole new way - I live in an isolated community. If you watch Ice Road Truckers or the new show Ice Pilots, it will give you an idea how hard it is for me to get people in to my class or for me to contribute to another person's class. Josh Hanagarne opened my eyes to a new possibility. He did guest postings on other peoples' blogs. Potentially I could have specialists in various fields actually do posts on my blogs which will automatically be passed on to my students and colleagues through their aggregator of choice :) Here are a few other lessons Josh learned:

By November 1 I had written over 50 posts. 42 of them had aired on other blogs. Here is what I learned:

•A lot of bloggers seem to have a fear of guest posting. Get over it or be happy with your current rate of growth.
•You will meet awesome people.
•Those people will act like you are doing them a favor by borrowing their traffic.
•You are doing them a favor, provided you give them something they can use. I love to have guests!
•This marathon approach is not for everyone. Do not try to write more than you are capable of. Test yourself but don’t flame out. I have a masochist work capacity and I still wound up with more than I could handle. I thought I would get the 80+ posts written before November 1. Life, sleep, the flu, a book proposal, and kettlebells all conspired against me.
•Don’t commit to anything that will prevent you from taking care of business at home(page). There’s nothing more pointless than writing a killer guest post and having all those new visitors land on a dancing Hello Kitty graphic that’s a year old.
•Don’t pretend you know things you don’t. If you can’t talk about stocks, either find another approach or turn it down. Don’t be a poser.
•Don’t be afraid to say no when people pitch ideas to you. You made the rules, right?(Click here for the full posting)

Oh and he also mentioned the slight benefit of a drastic increase in people subscribing to his blog. A nice little perk...

5. Protect yourself by Projecting yourself - It is sad to say but due to the position that leaders such as educators hold, we have to be vigilent in everything we do. Our codes of ethics and professional conduct combined with our natural instincts for self preservation have always kept us conscious of how we portray ourselves in public. Thanks to the new read/write web and the Google monster...public has a totally new meaning. Blogging, publicly sharing your links/feeds, linking yourself to other reputable people and other online practices can help you generate a digital footprint to be proud of. Wesley Fryer is a major proponent of actively generating your footprint. (Click here to explore further)

There are so many more tips, tricks, applications, and implications surrounding blogging, RSS feeds and aggregators. I can't possibly cover it all (check out my followers as many of them will be adding to this conversation as well). Ideas are more.

6. Social Bookmarking - This just hit can a teacher remember why they subscribed to a feed or a specific post? What if you used your aggregator to bring in the information and as you read you used your Diigo account to highlight key points, add notes, and generate conversations? Not only will you have a permanent record of why the blog posting was important to you, you can actually network with others in a different way. (If you are new to social bookmarking check out my archived posting or Joseph's)
Give blogging and Google Reader or Bloglines a try. The relationship they share will likely enhance your life, the lives of your colleagues, and the lives of your students. Possibly even more than the Macho Man's wedding did :)

Nonlinked References:

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twitterverse and Infinite Meteors

Okay...the title may seem a little vague but by the end of this post hopefully it will become clear. I have technically spent more elapsed time around Twitter the last few months than any other Web 2.0 tool and yet I feel inadequate and unprepared to add to the cosmos of information about it.

Quick hint#1: How many meteors per minute would generate the most amazing light show you have ever seen?

Three Stages of Personal Learning:

Stage 1: Clicking Blind

Stage 1 Screencast-2009-11-17_1240

Stage 2: Desperately Seeking Accomplished "Twitteronomers"

Stage 2 Screencast-2009-11-17_1320

Quick Hint#2: How many meteors per minute would totally ruin a meteor shower for you?

Stage 3: Returning to Ground Control

Stage 3 Screencast-2009-11-17_1437

Social Implications

I think it is important to look at the broad social implications to tools such as Twitter. At the end of this posting I will provide links to sites that give specific applications of Twitter to your daily life but I found the "bigger picture" stuff to be most interesting this week.

While I could bounce around from resource to resource, I would like to springboard off of an impressive transcript of Danah Boyd's presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York (click here for transcript). Some of her thoughts more eloquently describe the intended message behind my concept of "infinite meteors".

Quote #1: "Consider what it means to be "in flow" in an information landscape defined by networked media and you will see where Web2.0 is taking us. The goal is not to be a passive consumer of information or to simply tune in when the time is right, but rather to live in a world where information is everywhere. To be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment when it is most relevant and valuable, entertaining or insightful. Living with, in, and around information....Being in flow with's not about perfect attention, but it is about a sense of alignment, of being aligned with information."

Twitter and other social media are definitely about being in tune with the world around us. They are about being surrounded, immersed in diverse experiences and connections. Twitter and other similar tools such as texting and instant messaging focus on the present. What is my point? I am concerned about what direction this intense emphasis on immediate information combined with the growing cultural drives to (1)be in the flow 24hrs a day and (2) have our peripheral senses/attention constantly jammed pack with stimulation. As I am typing this I have Tweetdeck chiming constantly with updates from Twitter and Facebook. Next to me I have my Blackberry registering an inflow of text messages and email updates. For good measure I have two screens operating so I can work on this post while keeping up with my two email accounts. When I go downstairs to relax, I will turn on my xbox which now has full Facebook and Twitter capability. When I head into town my Blackberry will be constantly chiming with updates from 2 email accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry Messenger, Times Magazine, Macleans Magazine...and the list goes on.

I feel like this meteor shower of information that started off as stimulating, beautiful, and inspiring is now approaching a critical social juncture for us which leads to quote #2 from Danah Boyd.

Quote #2 "People consume content that stimulates their mind and senses. That which angers, excites, energizes, entertains, or otherwise creates an emotional response. This is not always the "best" or most informative content, but that which triggers a reaction.

This isn't inherently a good thing. Consider the food equivalent. Our bodies are programmed to consume fat and sugars because they're rare in nature. Thus, when they come around, we should grab them. In the same way, we're biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If we're not careful, we're going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. We'll find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole."

Imagine what it would happen if a meteor shower hit every night for 15 years. Each successive night the number of meteors that illuminated our sky grew in number exponentially to the point that no dark sky remained. Imagine the stages we would go through as a society...slight amusement, wonder, awe, concerned, scared, annoyed, avoidance accepting, dependent and numb. By year 15, people's lives would be fully dependent on the light the meteors provided and yet consciously they wouldn't even acknowledge their presence. You would even have a whole new generation that is born and being raised based on this dependency.

I don't want to come across all doom and gloom. I just think everyone including parents like myself need to consciously look at what is going on. There are consequences to the road we are on.

What will happen to my son if I make the conscious decision to limit his access to social media? How will my work suffer if I make the choice not to have internet access at my house? How will intergenerational relationships survive when you have one generation who is in the flow and another who isn't? How will my view of graduate professors change if they aren't immersed in the flow and I am? How can businesses and communities in the Northwest Territories compete when so many of them lack adequate connections to the flow?

Danah Boyd goes on to discuss other equally important challenges such as democratization, power imbalances, and homophily. If nothing else it may draw you back to making sure you have a conscious purpose ( for things like Twitter instead of just going with the flow.

Professional Implications
Despite the challenges listed above. Twitter does have potential for professionals in the world of education:
1) Instant connections with other teachers about what is going on in your classroom (
2) A consistent flow of encouragement between professionals (
3)Up to the minute updates between the providers of technology and the educators that use it (
4) High interest content instantly accessible from experts in cool fields such as astronomy (
5) Twitter taps into the natural drives of youth which opens the doors for more engaging lessons (check out this news story)
6) "Self Awareness and Reflective Practice" ( I have enjoyed conversations between and with educators that are struggling through real issues or who are experiencing the joy of real triumphs. I have traditionally used Ning or Facebook for this but Twitter may be slightly quicker and more portable to support those surprise reflective moments.
7) Interactive presentations that can better respond to the needs of the audience. Imagine being in a large conference where you can receive Tweets right into your Powerpoint to guage the effectiveness of your presentation or to take poles of your audience to support your stance with highly local data. (Tools to support this)

There are many other potential applications for Twitter but I will close on a couple big picture considerations.

First of all, much like kids who become aware of meteors for the first time, teachers will have to adjust their focus to fully participate in what applications like Twitter have to offer. Instead of just focusing on the world inside the four walls of your classroom, you will have to truly open your professional life to other professionals and possibly your students and their parents. Certain mysteries held behind close doors will become transparent to the broader community which can be humbling but it also opens the door to new lasting connections.

The final consideration is for administrators, parents, and community members. Take the time to get to know the staff within your schools and your divisions. If people like Danah Boyd, Joyce Valenza, Wesley Fryer, and Will Richardson are right then the world's focus is changing. Education is being influenced by new generations of star gazers that aren't content to watch the meteors as they pass. They want to hop on, go for a ride, and to invite everyone else to share the experience. Support your staff and students as they consciously wade through the Twitterverse. It will take time for meaningful educational change to happen. Join in on the conversation and help guide practice instead of closing doors because of perceived risks.

Finally, don't assume that a closed classroom door means that students aren't learning. Who knows, the kids on the other side of that door may have spent the day mingling with astronauts, researchers, activists, and heads of state. Are experiences like this worth the risks? You decide....

My place in Twitterdom

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mark's Neigbourhood (Exploring Social Networking)

Learning about Mark's Neighbourhood

Once upon a time when I was five years old, I lived in a neighbourhood called Petrolia in south Edmonton. How did I learn about my neighbourhood? Well, here were the basic steps as I remember them.
1) My parents drove me around the neighbourhood to show me all the people and places.
2) My parents talked to me about my neighbourhood and how to be safe as I gained more and more freedom.
3) My teachers forced me to memorize my address, my phone number, and other key numbers so I could be safe if I got lost or if I needed help.
4) Police officers and block parents came into the school to teach me what to look for in things to avoid and places to run to if I needed to.
5) My parents followed behind me as I walked to the places they told me were safe in my neighbourhood. Then my dad would praise me about what I did right and correct me if I skipped or ignored rules learned in the previous steps.
6) Once I had passed all the above tests, I finally got to tour my neighbourhood with friends on my bike with very strict guidelines.
7) My final emancipation to truly claiming my neighbourhood came when I was 9 or 10, when I was allowed to bike on my own to and from school, my friends houses, and even the local mall.
Learning about my 21st century online neighbourhood was similar. Four or five years ago, students in computer classes started touring something called Bebo. I assumed it was a regular webpage until I noticed their pictures, their comments, their top then lists, and all their friends were listed. I thought this was cool but this was quickly shut down as parents and colleagues began noticing profanity, references to substance abuse, inappropriate images and detailed personal information on these pages. Fast forward a couple staff meetings....Bebo and the like were banned and it was our job to police our students to make sure the evil was kept at bay.
Fast forward a few years, I notice staff and friends with Facebook pages. This didn't seem evil as they were sharing about deep stuff like family members who had passed away, memories about high school, and aspirations for the future. I took a leap and joined in and voila....roughly 280 friends later, tons of useless add ons later I am fully Facebooked. No more carrying around photo albums or wondering what my old chums are up to....Facebook opened the door to allow me to explore my social neighbourhood with ease (cool thing is...I don't need a bike with a banana seat to tour this neighbourhood).
Enter EDES 501. It is suggested to me that other neighbourhood touring/creation tools exist. I created a network through Ning ( that allowed colleagues and myself to freely share resources, ideas, coping strategies, best practices....each other without having to fly or drive thousands of miles. In a very short time, they joined, added their own images and new conversations began. The professional neighbourhood that I thought had disappeared when I moved away was reestablished....until the great filter tragedy (more on that later). The more I explored other peoples Ning networks the more excited I became at the possibilities because it appeared to be more "adultish" and powerful than Facebook. This was cemented by joining an actual online conference through Ning that instantly exposed me to countless professionals that existed in my global neighbourhood that I didn't even know existed (instead of just embarassing jr high photos being posted by old girlfriends).

Personal Social Networking Ramifications

1) Redefining "fake" - My childhood neighbourhoods consisted of people, pets, smells, sounds, allergens (oh...hives), metal, cement, churches and junk food. All of these elements were real. My friends and I had imaginary friends but even we knew hangin with real friends beat fake buddies any day. 20 Years post 80's...
An alternative perspective sees virtual worlds as three dimensional social networks-online environments where users meet and interact with each other and collaboratively create and edit virtual objects" (Davies & Merchant, 2009)

Social networking sites take out the concrete and physical contact and force me to focus on the invisible parts of neighbourhood life...namely connections and shared purpose. Instead of seeing these sites as being full of imaginary friends, I am accepting these sites as tools to connect me with people who genuinely want to shoot the breeze about things we mutually care about. It is just hard getting used to creating virtual objects in virtual environments.
2) Neverending teenage syndrome:
Take a quick look at the vids below.

I loved being a teenager and I love working with teenagers networking does seem to amp up some teenage like qualities that I struggle with. In the first video, he talked about people being not only able to see you but also all of your connections...24 hours a day. While this may facilitate getting together with old pals, this also opens up people snooping into my business and possibly misinterpreting relationships/links I have with other people. The second video hit home the frustration I have had with Facebook mostly. Now prying eyes can see all my affiliations, surf through to make whatever assumptions they like, and leave ambiguous comments that may be misinterpreted by others (short version major drama potential...bad teenage memories). I am still uncomfortable with my personal connections being so public. I am even more uncomfortable with seeing other people battling it out online as text, images, and video are far more permanent. Instead of just having to explain yourself to a couple may have hundreds of people to be accountable to. This is why I think I prefer Ning as it affords me more control.

Professional Implications of Social Networking:

The video below is by no means extensive but it will give your eyes a break from reading and a few things to think about. Global Neighbourhoods by nwtbajan

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I truly believe that if we take the time to learn how to introduce students to social networking like my parents introduced me to Petrolia, students and staff will be empowered to explore, to connect and to grow. If my parents had locked me in the house to protect me from my neighbourhood instead of guiding me...what would I have faced after I moved out? What will happen if we do the same with social networking in schools?

Next week....chatter about Twitter!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Multimedia Sharing

Learning the Multimedia Way.

According to Wikipedia, "multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms." (

Step 1: Reflection.
When I sat down and saw the title..."Multimedia Sharing" my mind began to wander. One question kept resurfacing...aren't many of the tools I have already explored technically multimedia sharing tools? Another permutation of this question is the classic..."Aren't lunch and dinner the same thing?"

I toured Photobucket which included the ability to share video, images, and text (click here for a recap) . When I looked at YouTube, multimedia and sharing capabilites were definitely there. Even my trip down podcasting lane led me down unexpected multimedia adventures....thank you to and for saving that day (click here for a recap ). Other resources I have used such as,, iTunes,, and all include mixtures of media and some ability to share this content. What is the point of this rambling reflection? This first step made me realize that I have been exploring the implications of multimedia sharing since the start of this blog. So have my colleagues (check out "My Followers"). So I focused my learning process on two novel tools rather than multimedia sharing itself, as I have already been exposed to that concept.

Step 2: Follow other peoples' trails and became the novel tools of the week. Instead of jumping into playing...I followed other people. Our class trailfire led the way ( This resource exposed me to Voicethread's introducation video. Check it out here: That video invited me to play but I fought the urge and followed the trail further and ran into Joyce Valenza's thoughts on Animoto. If she gives praise such as the quote below then the tool is worth looking into.

"Animoto is a magically-easy way to grab attention, produce professional-looking public relations products, archive an event, visually showcase our best, and create new visual contexts" (( )

Joyce's stamp of approval combined with my old trusty meant reflection time was over. If you are really new to all of this and you are short on time...check out the video below.

Step 3: Play Time

When I read "magically-easy" I was a skeptic especially in light of the problems I had with embedding podcasts. But to my surprise...Animoto was magical.
Take a look at the workspace. Have you seen anything more bare bones and direct?

The site claims that they do all the work and everything is super easy and fast. You be the judge. I put them to the test and I was able to create (we will discuss this term later) all of these permutations in less than 15 minutes using images from Photobucket

This tool was perfect for this week as my schedule was insane. Even though I am familiar with other software, I couldn't have met my deadline without the speed of this process.

While I didn't have as much time to dig around and create with Voice Thread, I was dumbfounded by browsing other people's creations. If you are short on time (as most teachers are) check this video out and see if your mind explodes with possibilities as mine did.

Have a little more time now?? Check out one more sample and notice how comments can be done in several ways. Think subplans. Think problem solving...ooops, getting ahead of myself.

Personal/Social Implications
Mark as a learner - I wish I had run into Voicethread earlier. I am in an online course that requires group work. Imagine how much easier and fun it would have been to edit/comment on our presentation using this mulitmedia application instead of countless emails? I love the idea of being able to "see" who is commenting, hearing what they have to say, and then being able to read their suggestions/praise. Asynchronous multimedia discussions = more fun than text based correspondance.

Mark as a business tycoon: I don't have my own business but my wife is a figure skating coach. She has to look her best and be her best in order to gain and retain clients. Animoto would allow a quick clean way for her to advertise her skills and to showcase past successes. Denise Wakeman and the Blog Squad use it for business purposes and seem to be happy with it ( One has to keep in mind though that you are at the mercy of the magical Animoto Gods for your finished product. You have very minimal creative control and to those of us who dabble with Adobe Premiere, Elements, iMovie, and other applications...we like creative control. I personally like tinkering with the pans, the zooms, the close-ups, the credits, the timings...this is all part of creating (more about this below but to wet your whistle...If you always get store bought lasagna are you a cook?)

Okay, I can't hold off anymore and I really would like your input...your comments. I will use images and video followed by a question about tools like Animoto and their impact on society.

Now that you have had time to interpret the above media...did you notice a progression? Are tools like Animoto truly making creation more accessible to the masses or is it an illusion? Are the skills, talents, and deeper levels of appreciation that come with explicit creative control important or is the end result paramount? Am I part of the creative process if I click buttons and let other people...other software do the nitty-gritty stuff? Please add your comments below.

Professional Implications:

This is where I want to focus on Voicethread. It is a tool that was created with education in mind. I wish I had access to a scanner to share my notes with you.

Voicethread offers educators and students:
1) Variety - The variety is generated by the participants. No two threads are alike. Each frame is potentially surrounded by rich text, audio, and images. Each participant can draw to creat emphasis or suggest corrections. Is your dominant hand broken? Maybe your mouth is wired shut after surgery. Almost everyone can contribute due to the mulimedia interface between user and content. Differentiated instruction anyone?

2) Appropriate levels of control - Both Animoto involve user generated content. This brings in many similar concerns that using sites like YouTube raise.
"Not all the videos in Youtube are positive and appropriate for children to view. Even the comments of some videos left by others to see have quite a bit of profanity in them. Blocking the use of the site in the school is not the answer. Is it not our responsibility as educators to teach children what they should do when they come across inappropriate content or profanity?" (

Voicethread puts control into the hands of educators rather than broadbased filters which means professionals that are in the context of the activity can be involved in the education alluded to above. Voicethread allows teachers to moderate comments before they are posted if need be. Students can't invite people from outside their group to join in unless the teacher/administrator provides those permissions. Threads are private by default rather than public and the list goes on.

3) Options for highly filtered environments - If your school has a strong firewall, the people at Voicethread even provide information on how to adjust permissions so it can function in your environment. As a computer support person I love this attention to detail.

4) Edit without alterations - Revisit the above samples and tour others. You and your students can mark up the content, the doodling is linked to the commenter, but when everything is over...boom! The original is untouched. This may reduce the fear some students have about allowing others to edit their work and it leaves the onus on the user to make changes.

5) Enhances experiences for users at all levels - Are you only comfortable with taking pictures? Do you sit next to someone who does the best digital media presentations ever? Whatever content you generated on your own, whether complex or simple, can be easily integrated into a rich online discussion. This tool enhances your work instead of doing all the work for you or requiring you to learn a whole new set of skills.

The above features and others can be found by touring their site. Click here to start.
6) Safe environment = chances for student growth - Within the Voicethread environment students can develop and become moderators and miniadministrators themselves (


1) Bandwidth - If you work in a school you are very familiar with this battle. Both Animoto and Voicethread will tax your bandwidth if they are heavily used. Unfortunately schools without broadband connections may be excluded from using these tools.

2) Competitive vs Collaborative - I hadn't even thought of this before I came across this posting. Click Here If you have had any experience with YouTube or Twitter, competition and comment battles can easily ensue. Collaborative comments/skills will have to modeled and taught. Teachers will have to watch this closely as a multimedia comment war could easily undermine the whole process.

3) Access to equipment - This simple fact can't be overlooked. Simple access to a variety of tools will make this a truly multimedia experience. If students only have access to a keyboard then much of the power of this tool will be lost.

Phew!! This was a long one and there is so much to share. I will leave you with one final comment, a few resources, and then I await your input.

Tools like YouTube, Animoto, GoAnimate are powerful tools but they were not designed for education. This means that educators have to work hard to repurpose them for that environment (see my posting on video sharing) . Out of everything I have reviewed, Voicethread has impressed me the most as it was created with students and teachers in mind (there is that word "create" again).

Resources worth a look if you want more specific ideas on how you use Voicethread:

Math ideas -

Excellent wiki about Voicethread uses -

Slideshow with 17 ways to use Voicethreads -

Make sure you check out "My Followers" as well. Many of them are delving into this world as well.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Skeptic's Chaotic Journey through Wikiland

Personal Learning
More than any of the other web 2.0 tools I have explored, wikis have shown how well my past educational experiences have engrained certain beliefs and assumptions...especially when it comes to learning.
The first wake-up call was the fact that I had no prior meaningful experience with wikis. Unlike other tools I can't claim "I am old...I didn't know". My claim is "I am old...I chose not to know because I don't care".

Before you click away let me explain. Back in the 80's and 90's reliable, important and valuable came from very limited sources. These sources were textbooks, dictionaries, and giant encyclopedias. What did these all have in common? Some brilliant unknown adults who possessed real knowledge, passed this knowledge onto those who learn. Those who learn generate content but this content was to be marked, to get attention, to express angst...and to get the attention of the hot girl three desks over (old school notes...classic). In university the same basic rules applied. In my undergrad degree I was never asked to generate, comment on, or contribute to academically respected materials.

So...when wikis came along I instinctively scoffed. Wikis have no credibility or use other than glorified note passing. Before this semester I had only seen Wikipedia about five times. I directed my students away from these sites as no socially created could be reputable.

Experiencing the value in other web 2.0 tools during this class, such as blogs, social bookmarking, video sharing, and podasts, so I decided to give wikis a real shot.

Screencasts of Learning Process.
Wiki Learning 1

Wiki Learning 2

Personal/Social Implications
I really struggled with this section as I focused mainly on professional implications.
Personal implications:
1) I am being forced to redefine how I view information. I was very comfortable in a world where there were experts that I went to in order to learn. Socially created knowledge forces me to relook at this and ask are other forms of knowledge/experiences valuable? How and when do I utilize socially constructed sites in my masters courses? Are sites such as wikipedia as or even more credible due to the number of peers that review the content?

2) As a father, how much do I push my son and his school to utilize wikis and related tools? According to Richarson (2009) and Wesley fryer in his "Get Wiki with it" podcast (, these tools are critical to my son's motivation and success. My son loves learning but not school. If all I get home are worksheets and written notes, how can I approach the school to say that my son needs more engaging materials such as wikis. I want to be able to see his work instantly instead of waiting until report card time.

3) Can wikis improve my social life? By joining various communities and generating my own wikis, will this help meet my social needs. I love being around people. If my friends and I were going to coordinate a trip we would call each other or utilize facebook. If we were to design a larger project we would likely utilize email or social collaboration tools such as Sharepoint ( as we are more familiar with them. I have to say that I didn't enjoy having to join various communities in order to have editing rights. I understand the reasoning but these security measures made wikis just like any other site for me. Unless I have an invested interest or know the creator of the wiki I will likely still tour the web myself in a 1.0 fashion rather than seeking to meet and network with strangers.

4) As a hobbyest...I have to admit that having the power to actually participate online instead of just absorving excites me. For instance, I love astronomy. Checking out Nasa is awesome but creating, chatting, and designing web content with other enthusiasts ( creates new possibilites. If I do want to participate in creating interesting sites I will likely have to learn some HTML. While wiki sites are easy to use, the most enthralling wikis include complex formatting, interactive elements, etc. (

5) As an individual in the Google world...I can help create my online identity. In the podcast "Get Wiki With It" (, Fryer stresses the importance of creating your online identity instead of letting Google and other people do it for me. Being able to write to the web using a variety of tools using wikis and blogs will allow me to do that. As mentioned before, I would likely use blogging and other tools over wikis on a personal basis.

Professional Implications/Considerations

1) Kids will be kids - The power of wikis is in their ability to encourage participation, self as well as communal monitoring, and various technological skills. "In using wikis, students are not only learning how to publish content; they are also learning how to develop and use all sorts of collaboarative skills, negotiating with others to agree on correctness, meaning, relevence and more. In essence, students begin to teach each other" (Richardson, 2009, p. 61). Despite these benefits, students may still attempt to post inappropriate comments or to disrupt communal work. This inherent risk means educators must select tools that incorporate "back up plans" such as reversion tools that can restore the wiki to an unblemished state (; Schwartz, 2004)

2) Keep your wikis active - As long as wikis are actively used and edited, the chances of glaring errors, formatting issues, incorrect information, and/or inappropriate content shrinks. Teachers that make sure their wikis don't sit dormant and that students/colleagues constantly access them allow the wiki to be a safer and more credible place for students to access content (; Wesley Fryer's "Get Wiki With It podcast")

3) Educators may have to redefine how they do business - As mentioned earlier, I had a set pattern on learning that I wasn't fully conscious of. I viewed and experienced learning as interacting with objective absolutes as presented by people/resources who accurately portrayed these truths. Opening the door to a more social model of content generation will undoubtedly shake this foundation:

when the pre-service teachers from the Wikibooks class were engaged in the process of developing and editing the Wikibooks by choosing their topics, finding information, using their judgment for citations, designing the questions, and reviewing and rating their peers’ writing, they became less certain about knowledge in that they were experiencing the construction of knowledge. Such Web-based knowledge construction and learning process has shaped these pre-service teachers’ more constructivist epistemological beliefs in terms of certainty of knowledge; namely, a view of knowledge as tentative and evolving rather than fixed and unchanging. (Ren, Baker, & Zhang, 2009, p. 441)

The above quote came from a study around wiki constructed textbooks. How post modern can you get. I need to look into this more. Could our students actually provide direct input into the materials they use? Wow!

4) Access to technology - If we are to keep our wikis current and if we want students to be part of the process then the old model of having specified computer classes needs to disappear. If web 2.0 tools such as blogs, and especially wikis, are going to be utilized then students and staff need access to computers, hassle free and high speed internet...consistently during the school day. This may mean that one computer per child will have to become a reality rather than an item on our wishlist. How frustrating would it be to have highly collaborative and engaging aspects to learning in your school that students would have to wait in line to use. A great example of student generated content.

5) Trust - The last point I will mention is the fact that parents, students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders will have to trust the process. Schools will have to do a lot of ground work to make sure that students are educated, guidelines are practiced and in place, parents are consulted and informed, teachers are properly trained, and that appropriate software/online tools are selected. The risks of collaborative learning on the world wide web are here to stay and impossible to avoid all together. The more time we have our students online, the greater chance they will run into sticky situations. If everyone is prepared, however, even these glitches can be opportunities for learning instead of the broken straws that threaten the use of technology in schools.

I would usually go into specific examples of how wikis can be used but the above issues need to be addressed before the tools are turned loose.

Nonlinked References:

Ren, Z., Baker, P., & Zhang, S. (2009) Effects of student-written wiki-based textbooks on pre-service teachers' epistemological beliefs. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40(4), 429-449.

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

Schwartz, L. (2004) Educational wikis: features and selection criteria. The international Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(1).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Professional Implications of Podcasting.

8 attempts to try and complete this posting using the explored technology and did I mention about 6 hours. I am starting to go crazy but I have tried searching for embedding tips...Blogger doesn't host content. I tried to trick Blogger by generating the podcast as a video...this partially worked but then Youtube shutdown for maintenance. I then subscribed to which looks like a great free site. My podcast uploaded but for somereason it doesn't play despite several attempts.

Final attempt...upload a video file to photobucket and try to embed it here. I praise the technology but all is not golden just yet. I know that if any of my colleagues faced this problem...goodbye podcasting. I will obviously need to find out if using Adobe Premiere Elements to generate my mp3 was the problem.

I am sure the next posting will go smoother....

Part 1:


Part 2:


Podcasting's Personal Implications

The following is a podcast of my musings on the subject of personal and social implications of podcasting. Due to time constraints I had to create it as an MPEG1 file as Blogger has a few limitations. In the future I will have this rectified.

Podcasting...a new, hipper, public broadcasting system?

My podcasting learning process...
Prior to this week I owned an iPod and I new what television broadcasts were. I probably new in theory what podcasts would be but I didn't really care to dig into what they were. I figured that I knew how to work mp3 players (learning how to turn of my iPod took a sad), I had more music than I needed, I listened to my old radio shows at night...what more could I need. The "pod" in podcasting made me think of iPods (obviously) that are banned in my school so there was no real need or desire to learn more.

Then Will Richardson (2009)came along and the first trailfire video for the week ( )and introduced subscribing to FREE, automatically updated podcasts through iTunes.

Wait a minute...I live on iTunes there is no podast sect....

Oh, how did i miss that podcasts link just below "TV shows" on the left side of the screen. Maybe it is because there isn't a link at the iTunes store where I get movies...

Oh, there is a link at the top of the screen. Once I got over the embarassment of not knowing everything I thought I new, the real playing (I mean learning) began. I subscribed to a wide variety of podcasts ranging from technology to dance grooves.

Instantly, I had 10 podcasts downloading to the computer and with a click and a drag I was off. Richardson (2009) had me nervous as he talked about the nonprofessional finish to podcasts but each of the ones I accessed was fantastic. The great thing was I could listen to stuff I wanted without commercials and without having to listen to tons of stuff I wasn't interested in. This always bothered me about travelling with mom and dad as a kid. We all liked the comedies on CBC radio but we couldn't stand the rest. But guess what we had to do...listen for hours on a road trip to often catch just a 15 minute clip (no offense CBC). I think a lot of kids in the 80's would have been happier if mom and dad could have just downloaded the best shows and skipped the rest.

Then I began accidentally learning about podcasting's potential through a podcast ( out podcast331). Here I was instantly drawn into a seminar for FREE that demonstrated the use of podcasts as it refered to podcasts. Don't get me wrong...I love reading but being able to learn on the move excites me. By the time I reached my destination my head was full of new ideas and because a voice was attached to the information I seemed to retain it better.

After I spent time listening to podcasts, our trailfire ( drew me in deeper. In short, it led me to sites that led me to other sites that demonstrated the professional uses of podcasting. I honestly lost track of time listening to the podcasts, bookmarking links, writing notes on applications for my class and emailing my tech guru to discuss potential barriers to podcast usage in my classroom. The level of engagement I experience was almost equal to when I play video games. That hasn't happened all semester with my readings (don't tell my prof) but being able to listen, follow along, pause the broadcast, surf, comment, etc. was amazing. Despite all the tasks I was wholly focused on learning and making connections

This drew me back to Richardson (2009) who suggested using Audacity to create podcasts ( After a short download, I was able to easily create and store two podcasts that will fill in my thoughts around podcasts and their personal and professional implications.

There are only a couple blemishes to podcasting I have found so far:
1) Pledge drives - I loved public broadcasting channels but I hated the pledge drives. Even though podcasts are generally free I found a few solicited for funds at the start of every new episode. I realize that I may have to put up the bucks to keep the services I love going but...every episode? And how "free" does that sound if they want me to pay for it. Be aware.
2) Audio needs friends - I found that I enjoyed podcasts that directed me to other media or pages that included podcast links combined with video and text information. If I just had to sit and listen I could become bored. But if I listened, read comments, followed links...fantastico.

For further information on personal and professional implications check out my posted podcasts. If you want to experience some of the sites I mentioned yourself, check out the following links:
- Not podcasting but an amazing mix of audio, text, and images.
- Huge fountain of information including a great podcasts around almost any 2.0 related topic you can think of.
- Great site looking into impacts of the digital age on children and learning.
- Elementary school podcasting in action. Don't have time to read all the new kids books. This site may have a podcast review for you already.
- More student podcasting. Imagine the possibilites.
- Great site full of blogs and podcasts around utilizing 2.0 tools in education.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009 Learning about Social Bookmarking Learning about Social Bookmarking by nwtbajan

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Mark's Learning about Social Bookmarking cont...

As mentioned in my animation, bookmarking seemed so bland that I never even thought people would try to improve it. Too be honest, it wasn't until I played with that I realized how arrogant and dated I was in this area. I take pride in my brain's ability to remember countless numbers, useless facts, and the like BUT this has been stressed to the max since I moved North and have had to teach classes from grade 3 to 12 and sometimes 17 different classes per year. Combine that with managing our network and university brain is outmatched. In fact, playing with delicious brought back memories of times in class that I desperately needed a specific website, couldn't recall the URL, and had to accept a lower quality lesson because I didn't have things at my finger tips. I can't believe I am going to say this but think social bookmarking ROCKS!!!

Personal Learning:

This tool is going to make it hard to separate the professional from the personal applications...but here we go.

As a purely online student I am facing new challenges this semester. I am being "forced" (willingly and happily I might add...please keep reading) to collaborate with others online. Back in my day collaboration was called group work. I used to hate group work. I just want to get things done and move on. In all three of my courses this semester I have noticed that my professors are focusing on having discussions with my classmates rather than just responding to posts. This has been a huge challenge for me and combined with other tools such as this blog are making this easier. Each of us have different schedules and live in totally different time zones even. Instead of having to coordinate Skype times to share our research progress and professional readings we can access that research whenever we want through the inbox function, connecting directly to each other's user accounts, or generating a common tag language unique to us and only us. This would take some of the inconvenience out of the picture. Some have tried this approach and they have found it far more efficient than long email streams but still doesn't know if it is improving things:

"The ability to tag resources instead of e-mailing them to each other is incredibly collaborative and time-saving," says Kunnen. "While we can't yet determine that it's improving our professional development, it certainly is making the exchange of information easier among those who take the classes." (Villano, 2009, p. 4)

I would argue that anything that is time saving for me is likely improving my life. I would agree that more research needs to be done to evaluate the true effectiveness of this tool.

As a life long learner with an 8 year old, social bookmarking also is attractive. Social bookmarking would allow me to:
-improve my cooking by accessing countless recipes and the best messy drawer full of recipe cards. Cheesy creamed corn anyone?
-explore others findings around reading, writing, and behavioural interventions for my son who doesn't love school (intervention central)
-track down highly rated online classes for guitar
-do advance research around topics my son loves but I honestly don't have a clue about and the list goes on.

The advantage is that I don't have unsolicited or out of control amounts of email coming into my box and my RSS feeds stay mangageable. The added bonus is that is easy enough for me to teach my son and my mother-in-law which means it is something the three of us can do together no matter what our interests are.

Social Bookmarking and Professional Applications:

This is where I am glad we are pushed to dig a little deeper into the technology we face.

Richardson (2009)suggested as a more powerful tool for teachers. One of his suggestions really struck my interest:

"...when you bookmark a page with your Diigolet tools, you're not just capturing a link; you are making a copy of the whole page for use later on." (p. 93)

This feature means I can count on my information being there when I need it regardless of URL changes or blogs disappearing. This functionality also means that I can highlight and comment right on my bookmarked pages! Not only can I add little notes and tags like I can with, but I can actually interact with the content like I would my hardcopies.

Due to time constraints I haven't had a chance to play with Diigo but the site tutorial ( showed that instead of my colleagues just reading my bookmarked material, they can see my highlights, they can see my notes and we can discuss the page...right on the page. Talk about possibilities:
1) Our internet in the North can be very suspect so having full bookmarks available offline (Richardson, 2009) takes a little more fear out of my lessons.

2) With increased focus on differentiated instruction I could generate groups for my students to subscribe to. As I add content students would be notified so they could parouse the latest offerings (Richardson, 2009). I could have separate groupings for different types of students. Some with prehighlighted material and minimal notes to guide students who need the extra direction. Other groups could just include inquiry questions from me that would spur self directed learners into searches of their own.

3) In my courses professors post discussion questions separate from the material to initiate discussions. Diigo would open the door for discussions literally on the material. Multicolor highlights and sticky notes would mean we could discuss the material easily within its context. Check out the video below that inspired this idea.....

4) I am not a librarian but...what if a trained librarian could generate a group for small schools like mine who often lack dedicated or fully trained librarians? The highly skilled librarian could gather the latest and most effective materials. In order to lower the intimidation factor the librarian could include highlights and basic notes to fill in some gaps. This material could be available for an infinite number of schools without requiring infinite resources.

5) You can use social bookmarking tools to develop professional learning communities across infinite space. I was the only high school science teacher in a fly in community. I desperately wanted to collaborate with others in the same postion. Combine blogs, RSS feeds, and Diigo...bam! Distance doesn't matter.

I do have a couple concerns.

1) Can I adjust to my students doing things in new ways? Fully incorporating a social model combined with a growing pressure to deliver strong results has required many managers in business to redefine their roles. They are no longer the top of a hierarchy as many of their responsibilities are spread out across many individuals. This has meant that managers have had to adjust and accept new roles as facilitators and supporters of success ( Schermerhorn, Hunt, Osborn, Currie, 2005). In schools this means that I will have to find new ways to teach as I am no longer the possessor of all knowledge and the focus of all discussions. Students will be regularly exposed to data well beyond my expertise. They will have the opportunity to have more control over their own learning. How will I have to change in order to still guide, protect, and correct them when necessary? Am I willing to change my definition of professional to allow students to become more like colleagues in learning?

Similar to above...

2) How do I tell the difference between collaborating and cheating? Jakes (2009) presented scenarios in which students could use social bookmarking for shortcuts. They could let their peers do all the hard work and then just bookmark other people's bookmarks and call it a day.

"Many would consider this cheating and would equate the process to a situation in which one student photocopied several resarch articles, left them on a table, and then another student came along and took them. Yet anyone with a account knows that calling the actions of the above student inappropriate is absolut nonsense and that the ability to reach into another account to see resources is part of the game." (Jakes, 2009, p. 50)

I am very aware that students sharing to the point that one learns and the other doesn't drives me crazy. I don't have any answers as of yet as I haven't experienced these tools in action but I do know that I am going to have to let go in some ways and find new ways to assess learning.

As cool as these tools are, they do symbolize that the business of education will no longer go on as usual which means some long but exciting days ahead (Hargardon, 2007). I will close this posting with a quote:

"We still have a long wat to go before we understand, and negotiate systemically, what these collaborative sharing environments mean to student learning. No wonder these tools, and the environments they create, are labeled disruptive." (Jakes, 2009, p. 50)

Nonlinked Resources:

Hargardon, S. (2007). A little help from my friends: Classroom 2.0 educators share their experiences. School Library Journal, 53(10), 44-48.

Jakes, D. (2009)Cheater or collaborator? Tech and Learning, 29(12), 50. It can be found at this link as well

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

Villano, M. Wikis, blogs, & more, oh my! Campus Technology, 21(8), 42-44.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tubes Infinitely More Useful than Buckets???

While I enjoy they idea of photosharing, the idea of sharing rich, dynamic, eye-catching, and entertaining video seems to hold much more promise than still images alone. While this technology does scare me as a teacher, I think its benefits far outweigh the risks...if I do my job right!!

Personal Exploration of Video Tubes

While many video sharing sites exist I figured the best use of my time would be spent on the major bandwidth player YouTube. To be honest I enjoyed this week's homework the best. What better way to learn about the media other than exploring it yourself? I spent hour after hour touring the gems that people like me are contributing to society. Move over Spielberg and Lucas! The consumer is in the game and we are creating classics ranging from:


I lost all track of time and actually forgot my purpose for the exploration (more on this later). Before I reigned myself in, I just had to find a way to catalogue my trip and to contribute to this giant soup o' fun. I signed up for an account which is the best thing I could have done. Having an account meant I could take control of my experience. As a member I can now subscribe to channels and save my favourites with a simple click. Even cooler is the fact that when I log in, a list of recommended channels and videos (based on my viewing habits!!) are the first thing I see. Sharing my videos was just as easy. A one click upload and Markvision is broadcasting.

And sharing the videos using my blog seemed far easier than my Photobucket experience. No error messages. Just a copy and paste and my blog is instantly multimedia!

Personal 'Tubing' Applications

As an individual I love to laugh and to learn. As you have figured out by my blog, I usually live in a remote area that can make this challenging. For instance, I have decided to take up guitar to help fight off the winter blah's. While books are educational, subscribing to guitar channels full of lessons by highly skilled musicians...way better!

I have found that doing my courses this year requires me to sit for hours on end. As a student, I am finding that things can become....a little boring (my teacher side abhors that term). Having video and other interesting media incorporated into my courses and available for a few minutes of distraction, can revitalize me enough to have a longer and more productive time at the computer. While this application may seem isn't. YouTube can be a life saver!

Beyond my own personal edification, the increase in bandwidth opens doors for me to stay in touch with my family as I travel and it can create new active hobbies for my son. Instead of him becoming an obesity statistic by having to sit and watch other people's inventions, he can be inspired to create, edit, and share his own. The act of creation engages his mind and his body in ways that books, audio, and passive media can't. This makes me a happy daddy as anything he is into can instantly become a learning experience and after he posts his videos, he gets feedback that can encourage him to continue in that activity.

Professional "Tubing" Applications

The application of video sharing to my job as an educator drew me into revisiting YouTube in a different way and to good old fashioned reading. Davies and Merchant (2009) poignantly stated that YouTube was not designed for schools and therefore "users need to know how to tread a path that will feel fruitful and safe" (p. 56). In my experience, students gravitate to videos online for entertainment purposes. Any chance they get they use YouTube to watch music videos and to post the fun things that they did on the weekend. Left on their own, they will likely not get anywhere close to the objectives that I feel we need to cover.

I will make the bold statement that without skilled teachers, video sharing would be a useless application within the walls of our schools. Mishra and Koehler (2009) inspired this thought by reminding me that many of the tools I use in my class weren't designed for me as a teacher:

“Technologies including standard productive or office software, blogs, wikis, and GPS systems were not designed for teachers, and as such, teachers must repurpose them for use in educational contexts. Such repurposing is possible only when the teacher knows the rules of the game and is fluent enough to know which rules to bend, which to break, and which to leave alone. This requires a deep experiential understanding, developed through training and deliberate practice...” (p. 16).

Some have taken the approach of repurposing video sharing by creating a safer alternative like TeacherTube. On this site students can find video lessons on just about any topic. Others have utilized spaces that combine basic video sharing, with live streaming video, photosharing, blogging, and wiki's to create huge professional development communities online. I participated in an hour long session on around blogging and wiki's in schools. In that hour I heard about blogging, I could type in questions that would be answered in real time, I saw recorded lessons by professors, I saw student blogging at work, and I got to experience the repurposing of Web 2.0 in action!! If it floored powerful could this be for my class.
Further exploration showed that some teachers are using YouTube to generate whole units for their students . Check out
Science is a highly visual experience (Park, 2009). My science students can record their experiments and use the video to analyze their results. If this video is shared then students can learn from each other and they can enter into deeper discussions around issues such as experimental error.

Motivation is a big problem in classes like Science but as Park (2009) put it so well:

“Thoughts that dominate the adolescent mind include “Look at me,”and “Look at what I can do.” Using this as motivation, we can encourage students to be the stars in events that display concepts in science.” (p. 34) love of video.

While safety is a huge concern (Branzburg, 2007; Richardson, 2009), there are a few things we can do to minimize risk:
1) Create a website with the pertinent videos embedded into your site. This means the students won't have to be exposed to extraneous material that may be inappropriate. Blogging makes this quite easy to do (Branzburg, 2007)

2) Utilize tools like This tool just plays the video and blanks out all other content. Click here to see it in action.

3) Download the videos from YouTube. I didn't have the chance to try these sites out but according to Branzburg (2007), sites like may be helpful with this. Creating downloadable videos would open the door for students to take lessons on their travels which would be a huge help up North where attendance is such an issue.

There are so many more applications to explore but I am out of time. Please consider taking the time and encouraging administrators to give you the time to become comfortable with video sharing and streaming video. But remember the tool is to be used. It isn't to replace highly skilled educators:

YouTube can inform, but there’s no substitute for a teacher’s selection of content, instructions, and running commentary. Teacher input adds depth, poses additional
questions, encourages students to look at details, and makes connections that align the video with school curricula and standards. (Everhart, 2009, p. 33)

Nonlinked Resources:

Branzburg, J. (Oct 2007). You can take it with you: how to integrate video segments in curriculum--without worry.(How To). Technology & Learning, 28,(3). p.40(2). Retrieved September 26, 2009, from Academic OneFile via Gale

Davies, M., & Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0 for schools. New York: Peter Lang.

Everhart, J.. (2009). YouTube in the Science Classroom. Science and Children, 46(9), 32-35. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1755933371).

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009, May). Too Cool for School? No Way!. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Park, J. (2009, June). Video Allows Young Scientists New Ways to Be Seen. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(8), 34-35. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

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