Teacher Librarian 2.0

Learning About Web 2.0 for School Libraries

Saber-tooth Curriculum or 21C Standards?

January 31, 2010 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

saber-tooth-tiger

New Fist, an early Stone Age man, develops the first formal curriculum, devising lessons to teach their youngsters skills that will significantly improve the quality of their lives. Topics include fish-grabbing-with-bare-hands, wooly-horse-clubbing, and saber-tooth-tiger-scaring-with-fire. The curriculum is highly successful for many years.

 One day, a new ice age dawns. Muddy rivers make it impossible to see and grab fish. The wooly horses leave for a more desirable climate, and the saber-tooth tigers become extinct. Some members of the tribe suggest it’s time to revise the curriculum and teach new skills more applicable to the changed environment. These skills include net-making, antelope-snaring, and bear-killing.

cavebearBut tribal leaders scorn their ideas. “If you had any education yourself,” they say severely, “you would know that the essence of true education is timelessness. It is something that endures through changing conditions, like a solid rock standing squarely and firmly in the middle of a raging torrent. You must know that there are some eternal verities, and the saber-tooth curriculum is one of them!” (Brooks-Young, p. 129 )

 When I read the above excerpt (longer version here) in Digital-age literacy for teachers: Applying technology standards to everyday practice, the stone-age metaphor resonated with me. The need for change is not new, and it is never easy. There is no question that as educators, and especially as teacher librarians, we too can face a stone-wall attitude about change.

 Moving Out of the Stone Age

Moving to 21st century teaching and learning is not easy. The good news is that we have some expert, research-based help to move our teaching expertise — and our schools –forward with The AASL Standards for the 21 Century Learner and the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators. Marjorie Pappas’s article, “Standards for The 21st-Century Learner: Comparisons with NETS and State Standards” provides summaries and comparisons of the documents:

 The AASL Standards for the 21st-century Learner are preceded by the following nine Common Beliefs:

  • Reading is a window to the world.
  • Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  • Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  • Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  • Equitable access is a key component for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.

 The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner include the following four standards:

Learners use skills, resources, and tools to do the following:

  • Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
  • Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
  • Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

 NETS: The Next Generation (ISTE) includes the following six standards:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision-Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

Pappas points out that “Applying an inquiry process within collaborative learning situations and thinking skills are apparent throughout the documents . . . . Both sets of standards place value on cultural differences and focus on participation in a democratic society by including those skills within separate standards. Both standards include skills that engage learners in gathering, evaluating, and using information.” (Pappas, 2008)

Obviously these are skills applicable for many years to come.

More Help

In their article “Reframing the Library Media Specialist as a Learning Specialist,” Allison Zmuda and Violet H Harada ask, “What would it look like if learners could determine their information needs, solve problems, read for pleasure, effectively and ethically use information and ideas, debate merits of a point of view, and create quality written and oral communications?”

The AASL book Standards for the 21st-century Learner in Action helps answer that question by providing an in-depth look at the beliefs and standards of the program including detailed benchmarks and action examples.

The chapter that most interested me, because influencing student attitudes is not easy, is Chapter 3: Dispositions in Action. It says, “Learning in the 21st century . . . requires a range of dispositions: to be curious, resilient, flexible, imaginative, critical, reflective, and self-evaluative.” The chapter goes on to detail indicators and behaviours to show the development in the student from teacher controlled to student controlled learning. An example:

Indicator: Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges

Sample Behaviors:

-  Brainstorm new ways of searching for information when the existing strategy does not work

-   Analyze challenges faced in the research process and identify the possible barriers

Stages of Development

-  Stage 1 – Need continual encouragement when first attempts to find information are not successful

-  Stage 2 – With occasional help and emotional support from the teacher or SLMS, identify alternative strategies to find needed information

-  Stage 3 – Reflect on why original search strategies did not work; independently determine additional possibilities (AASL, p. 43)

 Brilliant! I eagerly looked for more information and found Barbara Stripling’s article, ‘Dispositions: Getting Beyond “Whatever.”’ Stripling says, “Dispositions are not taught explicitly. Instead, teachers structure learning experiences so that students practice the behavior that is an expression of the disposition. Over time, through a series of experiences that reinforce the targeted attitudes and behaviors, students can adopt the dispositions as their own personal habits of mind.”

The article perfectly sums up for me an attitude I have seen too many times.

‘”Whatever.” This one word characterizes the public attitude of far too many students today. Many young people have developed an armor of nonchalance or “whatever” to counter the increasing pressures of testing-based accountability and classroom cultures of teacher-incharge and students-instep.”

Stripling goes on to explain that by integrating the AASL standards into our programs, we can help our students move from “whatever” to “Yes, I can” as they develop the dispositions needed to be independent learners.

What’s Next?

Though, like the saber-tooth tiger, I am rather “long in the tooth,” I’m not a tribal leader resisting change. In Alberta we are waiting for the Alberta Education School Library Services Initiative (SLSI) to be completed. In the meantime, I encourage my colleagues to integrate the AASL standards in their programs. How? Zmuda and Harada (April, 2008) have suggestions:

“The . . . AASL Standards for the 21st-century Learner should be prominently featured in all aspects of the learning environment – physically hung on the walls, judiciously placed in curriculum binders and planning materials, and prominently displayed on the school and library media websites. The library media specialist also should use the learning goals as a touchstone in every conversation with staff. Such relentless consistency both models and reinforces to staff that the focus on the goals of learning is a “disciplined mindset” that ensures that what students are asked to do on a daily basis is challenging and worthy of the attempt.”

This dedication to change for the sake of our students and our society is the sign of the 21st century leader.

References

American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Standards for the 21st-century learner in action. Chicago, Ill: American Association of School Librarians.

Brooks-Young, S., & International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). Digital-age literacy for teachers : Applying technology standards to everyday practice (1st ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Pappas, M. (2008). STANDARDS FOR THE 21ST-CENTURY LEARNER: Comparisons with NETS and state standards. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 24(10), 19.

Stripling, B. (2008). Dispositions: Getting beyond “whatever”. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(2), 47.

Zmuda, A., & Harada, V. (2008). Reframing the library media specialist as a learning specialist. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 24(8), 42.

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Haiti, The GG, and My Cousin Phyllis – Leading in the 21st century

January 24, 2010 by · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Haiti, The GG, and My Cousin Phyllis – Leading in the 21st century

[Update: Read Phyllis's  bio in Canadian Nurse.]

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how the catastrophe in Haiti has highlighted the need for 21st century learning – and teaching – skills. As I watch the news about Haiti, and research and read about 21st century skills, I see clearly that what is essential in our society is global awareness.

 phyllisMy Hero

This is my cousin Phyllis (actually she’s my husband’s cousin, but I claim her too). Phyllis, a retired community health nurse, university professor, and motel owner/manager, is my hero. She brought both her parents into her home and nursed them with grace and dignity through their final illnesses. She developed cancer in 2004, underwent treatment, and in 2005 spent a month in Indonesia nursing tsunami victims.

Today Phyllis left for Haiti. As part of a medical group working with Food for the Hungry Canada, she travels with two doctors, two other nurses, and a load of medical supplies. Unless plans change once they arrive, they are headed for Child Hope, an orphanage in Port-au-Prince that has been deluged with injured quake survivors. One of the mission workers has been posting updates about conditions. Like so many other people, they are relying on individuals who hear about their needs and help as they can.Daphne

 

Phyllis, a true 21st century learner and teacher who lives global awareness, is taking a camera to Haiti. As she did in Indonesia, she will photograph her journey and create a presentation when she returns. She is determined that people will see the needs in Haiti as long term.

 

The GG

gg2Another 21st century leader is Michaelle Jean, our governor-general. During the telethon Canada for Haiti, she said,

 “We are right now in an era where what we call the civil society is something big and international. There is this sense of togetherness that is happening in the world today, and what Haiti is experiencing has touched the hearts of everyone on this planet. So we must come out of this stronger than ever. We must grow from this and learn from this and also know that it’s Haiti today, but it’s also around us in our communities. We can make a difference to bring about change, and this dream of a better world — it has to be a shared responsibility; it has to be everyone’s business.”

Indeed it does.

What do the experts say about global awareness as a 21st century skill?

Here are some excerpts from the research: the emphasis (bold) is mine.

In her ASCD article “The 21st Century Skills Movement,” Paige Johnson summarizes the skills and knowledge included in the Framework for 21st Century Learning:

1. Core subjects and 21st century themes (such as language arts, mathematics, science, global awareness, and financial literacy).

2. Learning and innovation skills (such as creativity and innovation and critical thinking and problem solving).

3. Information, media, and technology skills.

4. Life and career skills (such as initiative and self-direction).

In its Framework for 21st  Century Learning, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills actually lists Global Awareness first under its Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes.

In his article, “Missing: Students’ Global Outlook,” Daniel S. Alemu says, “Schools of the 21st century must be capable of equipping students with appropriate tools—knowledge, skills, and disposition—needed not only to excel in academic subjects and fit in the rapidly changing technological world, but also to become functional global citizens.”

Howard Rheingold, in his July 09 address to Reboot Britain, (found on Helene Blowers’ blog LibraryBytes), discusses his 21st century literacies. I’ve added some thoughts:

Critical consumption – Everyone needs a “crap detector;” the ability to differentiate good from bad information. [Could we explore with students how many fake Help Haiti sites have sprung up on the web?]

Attention – learning when focused attention or multi-tasking is appropriate; being aware of paying attention

Participation – Young people create as well as consume online. These media enable (don’t guarantee) that people can inform, persuade, and influence the beliefs of others. They can help people organize collective action on all scales. [Could we encourage our students to create and participate in the global response to Haiti?]

Collaboration – Using the technologies and techniques of participation and attention to organize collaborative efforts. Rheingold points out that emergent collective responses (he cites examples of children in California and in Chile using social networks to organize protests) have now become global responses, as with the 2005 tsunami [and now, of course, Haiti].

Network awareness – (I quote Helene Blowers for this) “the combination of reputation, social capital, “presentation of self” and other sensitivity to individual positioning within the network collective.” [Could we help our students to see that building their reputation and social capital can be done while using their skills to help others around the world?]

Good News and Bad News

The world responded dramatically and quickly to help Haiti, most immediately through online technology. Our own Ruth Elliott (@RIElliott) devoted hundreds of hours to coordinating tweets and creating Twitter lists on Haiti to enable information to get to the people who needed it. Dozens of volunteers organized and attended crisis camps like this one at USC where volunteers worked “to design improved maps of battered Port-au-Prince neighborhoods, concoct better family-locater services for quake victims and speed more accurate and timely relief information from more closely coordinated data feeds.”

Geoff Livingston details 5 Social Media Lessons From the Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort. There were mixed results. ‘“Mobile raised tons of money in the world that still had a power grid and IT infrastructure,” said Tom Watson, author of CauseWired. “And it failed rather completely in a world devoid of those industrial luxuries. No ‘app’ was capable of getting anything done in Haiti itself. And we should be up front about that.”’

Social media contributed heavily to the traditional media with local bloggers and photographers providing material to the networks. While the earthquake and its effects were explored, the background story of poverty and violent history was not. And there is no guarantee that the long-term effects of the earthquake will hold our attention for long.

What Next?

I’ll be looking for examples of students using their 21st century skills to respond to and help their fellow global citizens in Haiti, and I hope to share some with you.   

And by the way, if you could take a moment to include Phyllis and her group in your prayers, I know they’d appreciate it.

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Biblioburro and the 21st Century Library

January 17, 2010 by · 4 Comments · Uncategorized


Watch this video at Ayoka Productions

The Biblioburro

Every weekend, Luis Soriano, a primary teacher in La Gloria, Colombia, loads a collection of his own books into the “Biblioburro” pouches on his donkey’s back, and travels to remote villages to bring reading to children. Ayoka, the not-for-profit organization that filmed the Biblioburro video, provides some background information.

When Soriano was a child, his family fled local violence, moving to a city. Soriano not only found comfort in a library but had a teacher who encouraged him to read. When he became a teacher in his home town he discovered that most of his students couldn’t do their homework because they had no books at home, and so the Biblioburro was born.

He and his wife, Diana, have built (mostly by hand) La Gloria’s first public library, where he can at last display and circulate his entire collection of books.

So what does the Biblioburro have to do with a 21st century library, you ask? Aside from the obvious — many people know about the Biblioburro thanks to YouTube, and Twitter — there is food for thought here for teacher librarians looking at harnessing the power of Web 2.0 for their schools. I re-discovered the Biblioburro thanks to an LM_Net post that arrived as I was reading the rather intimidating issue of School Libraries Worldwide – Volume 14 Number 2, July 2008.

The Demands of the 21st Century Learner

The theme of this issue is New Learners, New Literacies, New Libraries. The issue explores the ramifications of web 2.0, and the urgency of the need for change to accommodate today’s learners. School librarians need to demonstrate leadership 21st century skills, or risk being left behind. In these days of budget cuts and standardized testing, revamping our practice, our libraries, and our schools is certainly not an easy task for most of us.

So what exactly is so intimidating? In his article Youth and their Virtual Networked Worlds: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries, Ross Todd looks at the challenges posed by today’s students. He says, “Key challenges for school libraries relate to conceptualizing the school library as a knowledge commons, shifting instructional emphasis from information provision to knowledge development, and engaging the whole school community in appropriate pedagogical and policy decisions in relation to Web 2.0.” 

It isn’t enough just to use a few web 2.0 tools in the library; this is actually a dramatic shift involving one’s entire school. 

Why so urgent? Todd cites the research of Marc Prensky. ‘Marc Prensky, educator and developer of game technology for learning, claims that young people are powering down in schools–not just their devices, but their brains. He claims: “It’s their after‐school education, not their school education, that’s preparing our kids for their 21st century lives – and they know it. …When kids come to school, they leave behind the intellectual light of their everyday lives and walk into the darkness of the old ‐fashioned classroom” (Prensky, 2008, pp. 41, 42). In this brave new world of Web 2.0, the visionary, creative and learning centered leadership of school librarians can play a vital role in turning on the lights.’

So how do we go about turning on these lights? In another article in SLW, Towards School Library 2.0: An Overview of Social Software Tools for Teacher-Librarians, Jo-Anne Naslund and  Dean Giustini look at educationally useful web 2.0 tools, and how they can fundamentally alter the learning experience. ‘ʺWhen a studentʹs work is seen, and commented on, and collaboratively enhanced by a larger participative audience, students are drawn into extended educational ʹconversationsʹʺ (Hargadon, 2008).’

Another article giving extensive practical advice, and the most powerful article in this issue for me, is Towards a Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries, by Marlene Asselin and Ray Doiron. They develop a “proposed pedagogical framework for school library programs in a Learning 2.0 environment” by answering these questions: “(1) Who are the new learners of the Net Generation?; (2) What literacies do today’s students need to live and work in the world?; (3) How do we teach the new learners?” 

The article’s conclusion contains a call to action. “It is time to situate the new literacies of the real world in schools and make school libraries the bridge between in‐school and out‐of‐school literacies. “ It also identifies “actions necessary for libraries to advance these activities – studying today’s learners in order to develop meaningful user‐centered services and programs; engaging in a collaborative change process as a profession; embracing the need for immediate actions; taking risks; and accepting that learning will happen as you go.”

Other Practical Advice

Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians, a living, evolving, wiki, provides a blueprint for tls looking for specific ways to upgrade their practice. In every area of librarianship, ranging from Reading to the Digital School Library and the Information Landscape to Access, Equity, Advocacy to Digital Citizenship, and much more, the wiki provides specific, hyperlinked criteria for using web 2.0 to meet the needs of your stakeholders 24/7.

We must ground our efforts in the context in which we live. In their article Things That Keep Us Up at Night, Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson say, “Rather than creating a perfect library, we need to reshape our thinking and create the perfect library for our individual institution. . . . Teachers, administrators, parents, and students must demand the essential services we provide.”

And the Biblioburro?

I have felt rather overwhelmed by the fact that I have a ways to go to achieve 21st century librarian status, but when I look at what Luis Soriano has accomplished, I feel ashamed. If Luis Soriano can survive guerrilla warfare, displacement, and being held hostage by bandits to empower his students, then surely, with the expert assistance I’ve described, I can empower mine as a 21st century librarian.

I finish with this quote taken from the Ayoka site:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead

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Finding My Voice Within the Edublogosphere

December 20, 2008 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

This week’s topic for discussion is “Finding your voice within the edublogosphere.” While I was tempted to write about how I plan to become a famous (and rich!) blogger, I thought better of this. I’m sure you are all disappointed!

Seriously, as I was trying to think of an inquiry question for this topic, I was working on my post on social networking, and I read Dustin Wax’s post, 9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Social Media. Tip #9 really struck with me.

Add value

This is the single most important thing to remember on any social networking site. Do whatever it takes to make your posts, your profile, your story submissions, or whatever the “currency” of the site it, as valuable as possible. You add value when you submit a link; you add more value when you include a really good description of the article; you add more value still when you explain why I would want to read it; and you add yet more value when you tell me what the author left out or how the information might be used.

My discussion question for this topic is “How can I add value in my blogging?”

There are lots of suggestions for good blogging out there. Steve Dembo, on his blog, Teach42, is almost through a series, 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger. For each tip Dembo discusses why bloggers should follow the tip, and explains how he does this in his own practice. Tips include a wide variety of ideas ranging from technical tips (ensuring your blog can be read on mobile devices), to content (inviting a guest blogger, creating a mission statement) and more. You can find all the links on a wiki here. Some of his tips are based on those from Darren Rowse’s series, 10 Habits of Highly Effective ProBloggers.

In Becoming a Blogging Maestro: Composing Beautiful Blog Music, Vicki Davis, an eloquent and passionate educator, shares how she creates blog entries. This is a must read. She says, “I believe that blogs with truth, variety, passion, inspiration, and technical precision are those that stand head and shoulders above the rest,” and her post discusses how she begins with those qualities in mind as she writes.

As a result of my reading and reflecting on my own blog, I’ve developed a list of strategies to implement to add more value.

1. Write more comments on other people’s blogs.

Vicky Davis writes extensively about this in Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Ten habits of bloggers that win! She points out that of course when you write about an article, you link to it, but “After you post, go to the person’s article that you quoted. Write a meaningful comment or a small excerpt of what you wrote in your blog and hyperlink to your post.” She sees this as being “part of being a responsible part of the global conversation.” Before I read this I felt that my blog was insignificant enough that I wouldn’t waste “the experts” time by commenting on theirs.

 This is a tip that Steve Dembo also gives in Day 8 – Comment unto others. I was struck by the comment on this tip that Bill Ferriter wrote:

…All too often, people think blogging = writing.

Blogging REALLY = writing + listening + responding + reading + arguing + listening some more + rethinking + revisiting

When bloggers get stuck in the “blogging is about the posts that I write” mindset, all we’ve got in the blogosphere is a heaping cheeseload of digital soapboxes, don’t we?

The commenting side of blogging has been great fun because it forces me to consider my own positions related to the author’s initial posts. Sometimes I agree, other times I disagree-but articulating that response ALWAYS improves my own understanding.
2. Write some thank-you notes.

This idea comes from Steve Dembo in Day 3 – Write a Thank You note. He suggests you can write to thank another blogger who has linked or you, or you can write a note to someone who inspired you to start blogging. I plan to write to some bloggers who I find particularly inspirational. Dembo says, “Trust me when I say, there is no greater compliment than to read an email from someone saying that you were an influence in their decision to begin blogging. So make sure that they know they were. They’ll appreciate it.”

3. Create a mission statement for my blog

This class will soon be over, but I want to continue blogging. Steve Dembo suggests that you create a mission statement for your blog. He suggests, “Start off with the surface ideas. Think about what drew you to blogging in the first place and why you started blogging. Then think about why you’re continuing to do it today. Do you blog for the same reason now that you did when you started? Is your blog professional, personal or both? Is it a place to share unbiased, impartial information or are you posting your thoughts and opinions? Are you restraining yourself to specific topics on your blog, or is it wide open?”

I’ll be reflecting on why and what I write. I have always written for my colleagues, and had a built-in audience. Now that I am no longer part of a school community I’ll need to think about how I move ahead.

4. Be a Creator of Useful Content

In 10 Habits of Highly Effective ProBloggers Darren Rowse says, “Successful bloggers give their readers something that they need. . . . Not only is their content useful but in many cases it is looked at by others as being original and something that makes them a ‘thought leader’ in their niche rather than just a recycler of what others are saying.”

I believe that Stephen Downes’ advice to “Be yourself” is an essential part of this. In his article, eLearn: Opinions 7 Habits of Highly Connected People, Downes says, “What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.”

I’ve tried to be myself as I write about topics important to me, incorporating pictures, anecdotes, and references to my life as a way of illustrating what I’m talking about. I’ll continue to do this as much as possible, as way of making myself real and of value to my audience.

Hopefully these four strategies will help to add value to my voice in the blogosphere.

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Simple to Real to Complex Blogging

December 20, 2008 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

I am asked: Will Richardson talks about the progression that bloggers go through from simple to real to complex blogging. What does this mean to you given your own recent journey into the blogosphere?

There is no doubt in my mind that I have written some blogs posts that might be considered true blogging, as Richardson describes, but I know I’ve also broken some of the rules. My inquiry question for this topic is, “What elements of complex – true – blogging do I already exhibit, and how can I expand on these to improve?”

 Looking at Richardson’s spectrum (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts,  and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, 2009, p. 31), I can see that there are some rules I’ve broken. I have listed links, although always in a context where there was (I thought at the time) a reason for doing so. One example is my post on blogs as PD. I listed some useful blogs at the end of my post and should have written about why I selected them. That, I’m afraid, was due to lack of time as I had been away on family business and did not have time for second thoughts – not my most carefully crafted work.

I certainly have given links with description, some deeper than others. I have tried to write as Richardson described in #7, “Links with analysis and synthesis, that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience in response mind (true blogging)” (2009, p. 31).

I think one of my strongest posts was It’s All About the Connections: VoiceThread . I wrote about the power of the tool, connected it to my own life, looked at application for both teachers and students, and made a connection to a revised Bloom’s taxonomy. Looking back at that post, I think I was truly blogging.

So what can I do to improve? I think I need to continue reading more blogs, and also reread my own. I can revise posts that are not well done. I can look for “true blogging” and continue to refine my skills. Where do I want to end up? Richardson quotes Ken Smith, (2009, p. 30) who suggests that instead of assigning students to write, we ask them to read widely and then think and write about what they’ve read, making connections. Eventually they will have other people reading what they’ve written and responding and discussing their ideas.

 I haven’t had a lot of comments, so I haven’t had the opportunity for a back-and-forth conversation. When I read Richardson’s blog, I can see how this refines and develops the ideas he is sharing, and I can see how powerful this is. In his post about Clay Shirky’s idea about using media for action (http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/media-for-knowledge-vs-media-for-action/), Richardson has multiple comments from other great bloggers, and they also comment on one another’s comments, arguing, clarifying, and disagreeing with great energy. Wow!

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Are We There Yet? Finishing EDES 501

December 7, 2008 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Are We There Yet?

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. — Ursula K. LeGuin

So I’m almost finished the course, and it has been the most difficult course I’ve ever done. It’s also been the most exciting and immediately useful course I’ve done since I became a teacher librarian. I must hasten to add that the other TL-DL courses have also been excellent, but with those I had considerable experience in the field to help.

To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping  – Chinese Proverb

I laugh when I remember Jennifer Branch telling me that I should expect to spend 10-12 hours per week on the course. There were many weeks I spent three to four times that long. Thank goodness I was not still teaching, because there is no way I could have kept up. I’m looking forward to next week, when I can really start my retirement! No deadlines! Hurray!

We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us. — Marcel Proust

Too Close to Crashing

The main challenge of my journey through Web 2.0 was that EVERY WEEK I had to explore a new application, figure out how to use it myself, create a product with it, read how others were using it or evaluating its usefulness, and decide how it could be used by teachers and students in school. Then of course every second week I had, in my mind, yet another “paper” to do in terms of the discussion topic. The workload was quite horrendously intimidating, and at one point I thought I wouldn’t make it.

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. — Dante Alighieri

That dark point for me was the last week of September. I worked so hard on the video-sharing blog post (Stumbling Through Video Sharing, or The Week I Almost Lost My Mind) and did very poorly in terms of the mark. I almost quit the course, but Joanne did reassure me that I did in fact know what I was doing. As a side note, while it is fun to look at, I must admit that I STILL don’t altogether see the usefulness of YouTube in the classroom, especially since it is blocked in so may schools. I believe that TeacherTube is more educationally useful.

After this near meltdown I decided that I needed to limit the reading I did and focus more on choosing a few good articles or posts to share. Fortunately my new strategy of being severely selective in my reading worked, and this helped make the workload more manageable. I decided the next week after writing about RSS feeds that I could in fact do this Web 2.0 thing!

Earning Those Bonus Air Miles

The real plus of this journey through Web 2.0 was that EVERY WEEK I had to explore a new application, figure out how to use it myself, create a product with it, read how others were using it or evaluating its usefulness, and decide how it could be used by teachers and students in school. Then of course every second week I had yet another opportunity to explore Web 2.0 in terms of the discussion topic.

Wow! What an opportunity! I got to create a blog, and work on blogging over a whole term. I created a podcast, built a VoiceThread, crafted a wiki, uploaded photos to Flickr, learned how to embed videos and widgets, really mastered social bookmarking with Diigo, and much more. I got to read the writings of some of the leading lights in education and teacher librarianship.  And, best of all, I had great company on the journey.

Fellow Travellers

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

I have been fortunate indeed to be part of a wonderful class of gifted and dedicated educators. While I can’t possibly list all I’ve learned from them, I would like to mention each, in no particular order, ending with Joanne.

Joanie, what I have just realized is that your blog isn’t just about learning Web 2.0; it’s about how you live your life. I truly admire what you’ve achieved here. I loved your entry The Thrill of Victory. I enjoyed reading your blog each week with your strong voice, running quotes and analogies, and your passion for the craft of teaching. And thank you for reminding me to keep on top of my email!

Christine, I love your voice, your humour, and your enthusiasm. Your post What’s Next? Wikis for all of course! post makes me want to run right over to school and start making my teachers use wikis! Seriously, as always, Christine, you offer wonderful resources. Reading your blog is like getting great PD painlessly. Many thanks for your great ideas about time management too!

 Jill, I appreciate your philosophy of teaching and practice. You challenge me to think deeper, as in your post Sustaining Change in Technology Practices in School Your comments about sharing “the ownership of learning and change with all stakeholders – support staff, parents and students” resonates with me.

Rhonda, your blog is always practical and your comments supportive. You’ve given me many new resources to follow, including the Awakening Possibilties wiki and Anne Davies’ blog – EduBlog Insights. You are a podcaster extraordinaire as you show in Which Web 2.0 Tool? Thanks to you I’m going to try again to make Twitter work.

Jes, I am so impressed by how you are using VoiceThread with your students and encouraging your colleagues to use it too. Thanks also for the great resources you’ve introduced to me, including the Langwitches blog. I wish you all success with your exciting  First Nations project

Kathleen,  I appreciate the introduction to the chapter by Hughes-Hassell and Harada, Violet H. (2007): Change agentry: an essential role for library media specialists,” in School Reform and the school library media specialist. Your post blog-no11 What’s next? On the horizon of the web 20 landscape gave me much food for thought about wikis and the school library.

Selena - Your blog too gave me so many good ideas and resources. It’s Time to Walk the Talk remined me of Will Richardson’s blog, A Web of Connections…Why the Read Write Web Changes Everything, and introduced me to 25 Tools every Learning Professional should have in their Toolbox – and all for FREE!. I would love to hear more about the class wiki you are going to do next semester for your Social Studies 11 students, “who can get bogged down with all of the vocabulary they have to learn in order to be able to write their provincial exam (in French no less).”

April, Your post What’s Next? Provides all the links and suggestions for tools one would need to start blogging with students – including analysis of an actual online assignment. Now I want to check out http://moodle.org/.

Heather, your post The ABC’s of Blogging in Education is one I want to share with my teachers. It is clever and intelligent and relevant. I also really appreciate the link to 50 Useful Blogging Tools for Teachers!

Darryl, yours is another blog I will return to for professional development. Your post In the wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki room…. with its links to your Literature Circles with the wiki and the The Learning Library Wiki is excellent, and I want to share Part II – Drum Roll Please…… with my staff when we look at blogging.

Joanne, thank you for all your work in setting up and running this course. You gave us challenging assignments supported by those excellent Trailfires. Thanks also for using Will Richardson’s inspirational book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom. I also appreciate your support and understanding when I really needed it.

Thanks to you all for your kindness and generosity as we shared this journey. I look forward to revisiting your blogs as they are wonderful professional learning tools for me.

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind. — Henri Frederic Amiel

Where to next?

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. —  Martin Buber

What have I learned? I believe I really do understand about Richardson’s Read/Reflect/Write/Participate/Web. I’ve learned that there are more experts out there in Web 2.0 than one person could ever find in a lifetime. Thank goodness I’ve also learned that it is not all up to me to find them – I’m developing a professional/personal learning network to help me.

I’ve learned that I CAN’T WAIT to get back into a school and start working with educators on Web 2.0 applications.

My next university course will be EDES 545, but unfortunately not next semester. What I am planning to do is continue exploring Web 2.0, and continue blogging about that journey. There are plenty of applications I haven’t tried (or mastered!) yet.

And, to answer my question — no, I’m not there yet!

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. — Greg Anderson

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Moving Web 2.0 Towards School 2.0

November 30, 2008 by · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

Towards School 2.0

Professional Development: What Doesn’t Work

When I began to think about at how I would introduce web 2.0 to the teachers at my school, I immediately thought, “NOT professional development!” Why? Mention the phrase “professional development” to some teachers in my large, urban high school and you will immediately see their eyes begin to glaze over. Not so long ago, mandated, one-shot sessions dealing with the flavour of the month in education were common in my district. Thousands of dollars were spent to import outside “experts” (usually American) to tell large groups of teachers sitting in expensive rented meeting rooms how to create caring schools, reach at-risk students, or use graphic organizers.

My personal favourite? Our school paid a huge speaking fee plus expenses for an American professor to spend two hours telling the 100 teachers on our staff how to improve reading by having students use three colours of sticky notes and highlighters to colour code their textbooks.

Of course our district wasn’t alone in its need to change its ideas about PD. One researcher even wrote an article titled ‘”Professional development: A great way to avoid change” (Cole, 2004)’ (as quoted in Fullan, 2007).

What Does Work: Professional Learning

Building on the work of various researchers, including Michael Fullan, our district has recognized that the experts in teaching our students are already in our schools, and effective teacher learning does not happen with traditional PD. In Change the Terms for Teacher Learning, Fullan identifies key ideas describing the shift in teacher learning practices:

  • Professional development as a term is a major obstacle to progress in teacher learning;
  • We need to deeply appreciate the meaning of noted educator Richard Elmore’s observation (2004) that improvement above all entails “learning to do the right things in the setting where you work” (p. 73);
  • Student learning depends on every teacher learning all the time;
  • The first three components depend on deprivatizing teaching as teachers work together to continuously improve instruction (Fullan, 2007).

Fullan’s ideas clearly echo other findings about professional learning. In “What Makes Professional Development Effective? Results from a National Sample of Teachers,” Garet and his colleagues found that “PD was rated as most effective when it

  • a) was sustained and intensive rather than short-term,
  • b) was focused on academic subject matter with links to standards of learning,
  • c) provided teachers opportunities for active learning,
  • d) afforded opportunities for teachers to engage in leadership roles,
  • e) involved the collective participation of groups of teachers from the same school, and
  • f) was meaningfully integrated into the daily life of the school” (as quoted in Torff and Sessions, Factors Associated with Teachers’ Attitudes about Professional Development, 2008).

All of these ideas are reflected in our new efforts at professional learning in my high school. Instead of pulling teachers out to attend once or twice a year district “professional development” sessions on topics mandated at district level, professional learning is built into the culture of the school. As part of a district cultural change, and working with staff, students, parents, and community our school has selected an instructional focus that reflects our students’ needs. All of the school resources are centred on developing best practices to support our instructional focus: assessment for learning.

As the article Assessment For Learning: Planning for Professional Development explains, “In an assessment for learning environment, rather than something that happens at the end of the learning, assessment is used to support and inform learning, build self-confidence, and capacity for success (Stiggins, 2001). Assessment for learning is ongoing, and requires deep involvement on the part of the learner in clarifying outcomes, monitoring on-going learning, collecting evidence and presenting evidence of learning to others.”

When I think about working with teachers to implement the use of Web 2.0 in our school, I can’t help but think that using the “Read/Reflect/Write/Participate web” (as described by Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, 2009, p.137) ties in perfectly with our instructional focus.

Professional Learning at My School

Traditional professional development methods don’t work. What does work in my school is a professional learning model that

  • capitalizes on the expertise found in our school,
  • has teachers learning strategies and applications that work for
    • their curriculum and
    • their level of expertise,
  • encourages teachers to collaborate and lead,
  • is sustainable and long-term,
  • makes teachers active learners,
  • allows teachers to make some choices about
    • topics right for them, and
    • how and when they will learn,
  • Provides flexible release time,
  • Provides technical support.

Based on this model, it is evident to me that I can’t choose which Web 2.0 applications we should be using in our school. Instead, I choose to introduce the Read/Write Web, and then how individual applications support what Richardson (2009, 130-1) calls the New Literacies and Big Shifts of the read/write web classroom.

Plan for Introducing My School to the Read/Reflect/Write/Participate Web

Use the library web site to link to blogs, wikis, podcasts, Flickr photos, SlideShare, VoiceThread presentations, TeacherTube videos appropriate to various content areas.

Look for evidence we already participate – talk to colleagues, students to see who is blogging, podcasting, or otherwise creating content. Highlight this content on the library or the school web site.

Meet with department heads and the technology committee (technology lead teachers) to discover who can help teach about web 2.0 applications

With a small cohort of like-minded teachers, build a presentation to share with leadership staff.

Build a wiki of resources to be used for teaching about each application; e.g., the wiki page on Diigo will have links to

Set up short, varied tutorial sessions to be offered at various times: before or after school, during a spare

Offer longer, in-depth sessions during exam week, during department meeting time, or on a half day with teachers given release time to participate.

Use the cascade model – I teach you, you teach two others, they each two more, etc.

Use the cohort model – start with the interested/committed, establish training. Aim for one or two from each department.

Arrange for release time for the instructors and for interested participants who want to hone their skills.

Have the same session offered by different instructors, so that participants can work with the person they choose.

Partner experienced teacher with newbie when using a technique for the first time with a class (e.g., building a wiki)

Showcase results. Share staff and student work in a presentation at a department meeting and staff meetings, on the web site and at parent nights.

Query staff as to what sessions they want.

Enlist gifted students to help teach.

Enlist non-teaching staff to share what they know (e.g., computer tech has a Facebook page for his hockey team)

Offer a variety of opportunities for learning including online resources, one-on-one instruction, small groups, use more than one instructor. Create a wiki of online tutorials for each application. Pull from sites like 100 Free Library 2.0 Webinars and Tutorials.

Take photos of tutorials and post on Flickr or have participants create slideshows online (Animoto, Slideshare, etc.)

Showcase results. Share staff and student work in a presentation at a department meeting and staff meetings, on the web site and at parent nights.

All departments have photos of staff and students at work, best practices, etc. Give a workshop for Foods on turning these quickly into a presentation with music and text using Animoto.

Have volunteers blog (anonymously if they like) their experiences as they explore web 2.0

Offer particular sessions to particular departments e.g., do a session on VoiceThread for English teachers using a poem they teach, or doing a visual response.

Showcase results. Share staff and student work in a presentation at a department meeting and staff meetings, on the web site and at parent nights.

Do a session on social bookmarking with the science department and have them transfer all their bookmarks to Diigo, and set up and/or join Diigo groups by topic; e.g., global warming, genetics, etc.

Do a session on RSS feeds with the social studies department. Show them Free Technology for Teachers: 34 Ways to Use RSS  and then have them explore the Social Studies Resources listed in the left margin. Have them sign up for a Google Reader account. Walk them through Getting Started with Google Reader.

Look at blogging for math classes (some teachers are already have students keep journals). Explore Darren Kuropatwa’s various blogs for mathematics classes.

Follow Helene Blowers‘s advice and tell staff to HAVE FUN! Look at her blog for reflections on teaching web 2.0 to adult learners.

Showcase results. Share staff and student work in a presentation at a department meeting and staff meetings, on the web site and at parent nights.

Conclusion

I particularly like the last sentence in the article Assessment For Learning: Planning for Professional Development.

“Taking time to incorporate changes in ways that strengthen and support current initiatives makes sense. Beginning quietly, but in inspirational ways, is often the best way to build a climate for sustained efforts that support change.”

Sharing expertise in ways that work with my colleagues, and celebrating the exciting product and learning that I know will result, can’t help but make our school a more vibrant learning environment.  Professional learning – here we come!

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Blogs for Professional Development – The Willow

November 23, 2008 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

 
Last week we arrived home late in the afternoon after a brief rain storm, and as we got out of the car we saw our willow tree bathed in gold. My husband dashed in the house to get his camera, and took a dozen shots of it.

This beautiful tree is old, much older than our house, and an arborist with the city recently told us that it has the biggest trunk of any tree in Edmonton. It’s so big that it’s impossible to take a photograph of the whole tree. Its branches have been bent and broken by the wind, and shaped by many human hands over the years.

As I was planning this entry on blogs as professional development, it occurred to me that trying to capture the variety and breadth of blogs useful to teachers and teacher-librarians is like trying to photograph the intricate network of our tree. It’s just not possible to capture it all. What I’ve decided to do is take a few snapshots from different angles to share some of the power of the blog network.

How Blogs are Used

In Towards School Library 2.0: An Introduction to Social Software Tools for Teacher Librarians, Jo-Anne Naslund and Dean Giustini summarize the research on how blogs are being used in schools. Blogs can encourage

  • Online chat, debate and reflective practice.
  • Students to share their personal stories.
  • “Reading about other schools and their challenges, and what students and teachers are thinking, talking about and feeling.”
  • Reaching out to the community
  • Creating gathering places for professional development
  • “Providing a window into teaching”
  • Getting “information out to the public about teachers, and what they do.”
  • Sharing “information about current issues and practices of interest.”

Scott Leslie, an educational technology researcher and emerging technology analyst, and a prolific blogger himself, has created a matrix of uses for Web logs in education. These are divided into instructors and students reading and writing blogs. Among others, instructors’ uses include reading subject-specific blogs to keep up with current practice, and writing blogs as instruction for students or as networking with colleagues.

Tony Lowe has created a Drag and Drop version of the matrix to which you can add your own descriptors, a wonderful tool to use in a workshop on blogging with teachers.

In her eloquent article, Becoming Teacher Librarian 2.0, Anita Brooks Kirkland discusses the responsibility of teacher librarians in ensuring the early adoption of web 2.0 in schools. This includes using blogging.

“We need to learn about this huge movement, where we have access to the knowledge and opinions of anyone and everyone, and where the value of that information is assessed and ranked by the user community. If we are to remain the information specialists in our schools, we need to master this new media and understand where it fits into the broader information landscape. We need to become Teacher-Librarian 2.0 to help provide context for our Web 2.0 students.”

Kirkland goes on to provide four ways to get up-to-date:

  • Explore: Teacher-librarians must “Subscribe to, and follow the blogs of leading thinkers in the school library world and the wider library world to engage in the conversation about these issues.” She provides a list of some of these.
  • Exploit professional learning opportunities: “More and more professional learning opportunities are accessible to us when and where we need them, especially where face-to-face learning is inaccessible.” Many conferences now are offered online and/or are blogged as they occur and afterwards.
  • Consider the implications: “We need to engage in professional conversation about these issues and collaborate on developing the solutions.” Reading, writing, and commenting on blogs are ways to participate in these discussions.
  • Engage: It is essential that t-ls learn about and daily use the new technologies, including blogging, to support their programs.

Finding Blogs for Teachers

There are many ways to find useful blogs, in addition to searching, not including using Google blog search. These include checking the blog rolls, or lists of blogs, on blogs written by people you respect and whose work you follow. You can also find blogs on web sites such as Edutopia and Education World, or on sites for professional journals such as Teacher Magazine. Conferences often have blogs as part of their web sites, such as the recent K-12 Online Conference.

The Edublog Awards provides a wide assortment of blog links, giving 15 awards, including 7 different types of educational blogs.

  • Best individual blog
  • Best group blog
  • Best resource sharing blog
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best librarian / library blog
  • Best educational tech support blog
  • Best elearning / corporate education blog

In addition to the seven listed above, The Edublog Awards are presented in these categories, providing even more possibilities for professional development:

  • Best new blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Best educational use of audio
  • Best educational use of video / visual
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best educational use of a social networking service
  • Best educational use of a virtual world

While the 2008 winners have not yet been announced, you can view the 2007 winners as well as the top nominees. You can also look back at previous winners. Here is a plethora of educators writing about all aspects of education, from the district administrators’ standpoint to the university academician to the classroom teacher to the teacher librarian, and all areas in between. In addition, in the Awards blog you can find blogs that people think should have been nominated but weren’t.

Finding Blogs for Teacher Librarians

Naslund and Giustini suggest that “A good place for teacher librarians who want to explore blogs is Alice Yucht’s EduBiblioBlog List which identifies over 50 library media-related blogs divided by category: kidlit blogs, young adult lit blogs, school library blogs, infolit blogs, edtech blogs, library land blogs and association blogs. Many of these blogs are created for teacher librarian associations while others are written by teachers who share their views about school library issues, children’s and young adult literature.”

Impact as A 21st-Century Library Media Specialist, by Peggy Milam Creighton, discusses many expert professionals in the field. This article is a superb source of information about how these “exemplary library media specialists” work to improve their practice and share their expertise. Check the many links to find blogs (as well as other resources such as wikis and nings) created by these movers and shakers.

Professional Blogs to Explore, from Becoming Teacher Librarian 2.0, by Anita Brooks Kirkland, provides a good beginner’s list of blogs:

Blogs about school library programs:

Blogs from the wider world of libraries:

Finding My Blogs

The most useful resource for me as a teacher librarian has been the list serv LM_Net, (read Doug Johnson’s post on LM_Net here – he calls it the “original Read/Write web”) which has been graced over the years by postings from Peter Milbury, Mike Eisenberg Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, Shonda Brisco, Barbara Braxton, Gary Price, and many, many others. When I began to look for blogs to follow, I started with looking for blogs by these experts I already knew. Then I looked at the blogs they read, and expanded my repertoire.

Of course our instructor, Joyce de Groot, and Will Richardson, author of our textbook, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, have expanded my horizons exponentially. In addition, a major joy of taking the Web 2.0 course is the wealth of new material – and new-to-me blogs – shared by my classmates. Thank you to you all for this! You can see a selected list of the 40+ blogs I follow below, and in the blog roll to the left of this post.

Blogroll

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Personalize Your Overload: RSS and Blog Aggregators

November 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

As I was thinking about this week’s post on using RSS feeds and aggregators, I kept coming back to the same idea: information overload. Since I first investigated using RSS feeds early in October, and then began using Diigo, I have become more efficient in terms of finding and storing information. I still experience overload. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Or is it a necessary part of learning in the 21st century?

Stephen Downes recently commented on a post by Teemu Arina that seems to support the idea of overload as “a good thing.”

“This is exactly why those people who use RSS readers to scan through thousands of feeds, read blog posts from various decentrally connected sources and who engage themselves into assembling multiple unrelated sources of information into one (probing connections between them) have much greater ability to sense and respond to changing conditions in increasingly complex environments than those who read only the major newspapers, watch only the major news networks and don’t put themselves into a difficult situation of being hammered with a lot of stuff at once.” [Emphasis is mine.]

 

In his post Arina goes on to say that although information overload makes you anxious, it gives you the opportunity to see patterns develop and form connections.

This idea brings me back to the importance of refining and personalizing the information I expose myself to. I am beginning to think that RSS feeds and aggregators are the essential tool of Web 2.0 and 21st century learning, and 10 weeks ago I didn’t even know what they were! I think back to my 100+ colleagues, and the 2000+ studentsin my high school, and I wonder if any of them are using these even now.

In his August 27, 2008 post, Don’t underestimate the importance of the aggregator, Doug Johnson comments on his epiphany regarding RSS feed aggregators. He, like most of us, began with collecting blogs. He says, “Given most educators’ time constraints, finding updated information from lots of blogs in a single fast and convenient location is essential if blogs are to actually be used as a PLN [personal learning network] resource on a regular basis.”

Johnson lists several other uses, including Google News searches, and “reputation monitoring.” He set up feeds to monitor Delicious and Technorati to see who has commented on or bookmarked his posts. Cool idea! Perhaps some day I’ll have made enough Footprints in the Digital Age (Will Richardson’s article) that I’ll need to do this!

One comment on this post resonated with me. Miguel Guhlin said, “Our teachers suffer the tyranny of visiting web sites with no time to do it, much less reflect on the content. With an RSS aggregator, they are free to visit once and the learning opportunities come to them. What a deal!”

Yes, and another great deal is that through a link to Johnson’s The top 10 things you should know about RSS feed aggregators I discovered his wiki, where he post resources from his workshops.

If I’m going to be hammered by information, I want it to be information I choose. In Bringing the World to My Doorstep: A Teacher’s Blog-Reading Habits – National Writing Project, Kevin Hodgson says he reads 500 blogs (!) every night, impossible without his RSS feed generator. Hsis article, well worth reading as a whole, discusses various blogs that have influenced his learning. He says, ‘The kind of “reading” of blogs that I did which led me to the Darfur project-sometimes called “hyper-reading” or “social media literacy”-is becoming more common among young learners, and it may be an emerging skill of the information age. It’s termed “hyper-reading” because reading a stream of online text often forces the viewer to move through hyperlinks. The reader may never return to the original document-it can be an unsettling experience for some of us who are used to sustained reading of one text.’

Hodgson references Chris Heuer, who in Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and RSS – The 4 R’s suggests that RSS could be ‘the fourth “R” in our conception of literacy.’

Heuer says, “This is one of the key elements that make Social Media literacy different. I could describe it in many other ways, but within this context the important aspect for me is that understanding how RSS and by extension tags, work. It enables any individual to step into the conversational flow – to not only follow what other people are communicating, but ensuring what the individual has to communicate is heard by other people who care about the topic.”

So now I’m even more convinced that RSS feeds can help me effectively manage information overload. How might I use them with students? With colleagues?

Using RSS with Students

In Bandwidth Backup: Saving Students Time Online, Chris O’Neal suggests that when your students log in within the school, if their default school home page is the typical public-face-of the-school-for-the-community-and-parents one, change it to one “immediately useful to your students.” While I was unable to do this in my library last year due to administrative rules, the idea seems so obvious that I have already emailed my replacement teacher-librarian and our computer tech to suggest ways of doing this, and to volunteer lobbying aid on their behalf.

Joyve Valenza has given me some ideas on what might really be useful as a start page, and she of course includes RSS feeds. Dennis O’Connor posted an interview with her on The Keyword Blog: Joyce Valenza -21st Century Research Skills!

‘How can we help our students create their own meaningful information spaces to support their work as learners? I think we may need to guide them to widgetizing their personal desktops. This year we asked our seniors to use iGoogle as a tool to organize their senior projects. I see more tools like that emerging. Now students can open an interface and be presented with their favorite online dictionary, foreign language tools, mapping tool, thesaurus, calendar, to-do list, while they push research-relevant RSS feeds to them through a reader. They choose their theme. Their little game applets are there too. This was perhaps the “stickiest” activity they’ve done yet this school year. The spaces continue to grow more personally meaningful.’

This would work beautifully with various groups of students in my school. Our International Baccalaureate students write various essays on individual research topics, including extended essays, internal assessments, and a world literature paper. They could create an iGoogle page that could be adapted for each assignment, including shifting links from our various online databases and E-Books, as well as RSS feeds for Google alerts for searches on their individual topics, and much more.

In various posts on her blog, NeverEndingSearch, Joyce Valenza discusses using iGoogle (Creating 2.0-style textbooks?) to have students create their own and shared content, as well as using PageFlakes (PageFlakes as Current Events Pathfinders) to create start pages with common content. She shares samples at http://www.pageflakes.com/joyce_valenza/. Each page contains a variety of RSS feeds that pull content appropriate to the page, as well as links to associated library resources. Click on the tabs at the top of the page to see the five different pages. Joyve has shared.

In terms of the overload concept, Richard Byrne makes an excellent point in 34 ways to use RSS, the November 12, 2008, post on the amazing Free Technology for Teachers blog. He suggests that students track content through feeds in an RSS reader rather than going to the actual web sites, as there will be fewer distractions from advertising using a reader. Now that’s cutting back on the hammering!

Using RSS with Teachers

Much of what I can do with students I would also do with my colleagues. But there’s so much more. As I write, I keep thinking how I used to hammer my teachers with email. I was very proud that I was keeping them up-to-date with curriculum-related resources targeted to the units they were teaching. Last year I created a wiki of web resources for our science teachers and was emailing them when I added sites. How much easier for them and for me if I showed them how to save an RSS feed for the page. That way those who are interested will get the content they want and everyone’s’ inbox is lightened!

Another amazing wiki, WebTools4u2use, has a plethora of tips and suggestion for using RSS. I must admit I had never thought of subscribing to the hundreds of electronic journals with RSS feeds. Another suggestion is to add feeds from your public library to your library web site; to this blog I added a feed from the Coutts Education Library at my own University of Alberta (it’s in the left tool bar).

WebTools4u2use also links to Dr. Charles Best Secondary School Library in Coquitlam, BC, as an exemplar of the use of RSS feeds in education. I would use the library’s page NEWS FOR THE CLASSROOM in an in-service with my staff on using RSS with students. The page not only provides links to news feeds in 15 different subject areas, but the page itself (an every page on the web site) has its own feed. Talk about an impressive library web site!

What’s Next for Me

Robin T. Williams and David Loertscher have a new-to-me book: In Command! Kids and Teens Build and Manage Their Own Information Spaces, And…Learning to Manage Themselves in Those Spaces. From the LMC Source description: ‘This book and accompanying website takes a new approach in the battle to capture the attention and serve student needs. . . . It asks each child and teen to construct their own home page using iGoogle, and construct three sections of their own information space. The time has come to offer young people a gift of a lifetime – control over the voices clamouring for their attention and the tools they need to emerge as truly information literates.”

Sounds like someone else is working on personalizing our information overload. This looks like required reading to me. How about you?

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joining Twitter

November 14, 2008 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

joining Twitter

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