Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reflection post

I always feel a little guilty about writing report card comments for the Van de Schmellingers and the Zeigermeisters of the world, as I usually write the report cards as their owners’ names appear alphabetically on my class roster and I’m often out of literary steam by the time I get to the end of the alphabet. I often have to promise myself a little reward or, alternatively, give myself a little finger wag, to torque up the twin engines of my evaluative and literary efforts. I’m reminded of this report card scenario as I sit before the computer, composing the “z” equivalent of my blog posts… It’s probably a good thing that the pile of edible rewards (with a calorie count that approaches stratospheric levels) littering the desk beside me is invisible to anyone reading this…

Paralleling my guilty feelings, however, are feelings of pride and accomplishment, as well. I have never been on the cutting edge of technology – in any area of my professional or personal life. If Luddites had been searching for a queen, I’d surely have contended for the crown – I didn’t even own a microwave oven for the first forty-five years of my life. (I have one now but I don’t like to stand toooo close while it’s operating. Ha ha.) But now, I’d qualify more for the Virginia Slims You’ve Come a Long Way Baby Award nomination … prior to this January, with the exception of podcasts and Facebook, I’d never heard of the Web 2.0 tools we examined and discussed in our class. I feel I’ve learned so much about technology in education, while at the same time I’ve become MUCH less intimidated by it. I will always be grateful to the others in the class who seemed to share my lack of tech expertise, but who persevered in their quests to conquer Web 2.0 challenges. I’m thankful, too, to those who gave of their considerable expertise and knowledge. It seemed that, true to librarians’ innate sharing natures, advice and aid were always just a discussion posting away.

One of the highlights for me was blog writing and reading – the creative act of constructing posts and the wonderful ideas and turns of phrase penned by others in the class. I’ve always had a dangerous addiction to well-written offerings, and the students in this course provided lots to appreciate.

Another highlight I found was putting the “me” in YouTube! I had never explored this popular phenomenon before and couldn’t be bothered to see what all the fuss was about. Now, however, it’s one of the standards I investigate when I begin a new unit of study for my grade three class. For example, we are launching a unit on Sound on Monday. One of the centres that will be featured is an offering of YouTube features showing musical instruments made from vegetables…as amazing as the appetite I’ve developed for unique videos.

I’ve also gained a healthy appreciation for the value of research – and was continually impressed by the goliath portions of experts and research cited by my fellow students.

A lowlight? I found at times the workload of the class was daunting – although it was all “doable”, it did eat up a lot of time and effort. Of course, some of this may have been due to the level I began at – had I known more about technology, I doubtlessly could have proceeded with greater ease. And then there’s the addictive nature of some of the tools we examined…and my anal tendency to expend gazillions of brain cells on my syntax and word choice…I’m guessing I could have chosen to make the workload much less and was likely the architect of my own stress. Had I streamlined more, I likely would not have considered the workload to have been as large. I did, however, think that there were times (for example, during the wiki flurry) when it would have been more manageable to have posting “groupings” – where we were expected to read and comment on a small group of posts, as opposed to those from the whole class. (In an on-line class I took last summer we were placed in discussion groups of about 4 people, although we could read everyone’s posts. I found this much more manageable.)

Where do I go from here? I will definitely continue to apply Web 2.0 tools in my classroom – doing things like incorporating YouTube videos into curricula, stepping up on-line research where possible, and continuing to use the class blog I’ve established. I know that at least some of my colleagues would like to begin blogging and that it could become a nice contagion in our school – one that I’d be happy to be involved with, as it provides a forum to introduce so many other tech tools: podcasts, voicethreads, social bookmarking… Also, I will unhesitatingly participate in further on-line courses, and would definitely encourage others to take this one. It’s been a great journey…all the way to Z…and to zzzzz’s, which is where I’ll be in the next 10 minutes!!

PD Proposal

I’d like to begin this post by sending an on-line sate, a virtual bouquet and a sincere thank you to Step Ippen, who let me to Mike Curtin and his very practical five points for professional development programs. Curtin writes that PD endeavors should be sustained, gradual and incremental, collaborative, practical and transformative. These descriptors form a solid, comprehensive pentagonal framework for PD.

The Web 2.0 tool that I’ve chosen to offer my staff is Blogging. In my opinion, blogs and bloggins can satisfy all of Curtin’s (literal) handful of qualifiers – and more.

Consider Curtin’s point that PD be sustained. Blogs, by their very nature, are sustainable entities, designed to grow and flow, elasticize and expand, evolve and explore. Blogs are not “one-off” endeavors. Their journal/diary/soapbox/pulpit/outlet amalgams have a commitment to sustainability hard-wired right in.

Blogs also have the capacity to gradually and incrementally add more Web 2.0 tools onto their platforms. (Witness our own EDES 545 assignments!) Once a blog is established, it becomes a skeleton that invites additions: the muscle of wikis and video sharing, podcasting fingerprints, the pulmonary chambers of voicethreads, social networking, photosharing, and social bookmarking….Blogs have the powerful potential to layer more technological tools and talents – and to introduce them according to the users’ timelines and desires. Doug Johnson writes that we should “eat the elephant one bite at a time” – blogs allow for this culinary adventure.

Curtin advocates that PD be collaborative. Communication, as the essence of blogging, evokes collaboration as reciprocal avenues to question, challenge, compliment, relate, confirm, etc. are established among writers and readers. And, of course, this collaboration is on a planetary scale – participants may arrive on your virual doorstep anytime and from anywhere touched by technology.

Curtin’s fourth point is that PD should be practical; it should directly meet the needs of its participants. Blogging can perform the very practical service, not only of establishing communication among professionals, but also of establishing lines of communication between homes and schools. (A parent of one of my students recently stopped me in the street to let me know how much she appreciated our classroom blog, as she often worked late into the evening and could check out the blog at her work. Another parent – one who does not live in the same household as her daughter – also appreciates the blog, as it helps her keep in touch with her child’s educational activities. A third parent likes the math links on the blog.) Students at our school currently use agendas to record homework, announcements, etc. Class blogs could perform this same service – in greater detail, as the space in the students’ agendas is limited – and simultaneously saving money and hounouring environmental awareness and stewardship.

Curtin’s final point is that PD should be transformative. Writing from personal experience, I’ve gone from not knowing what a URL is , let alone a blog, RSS feeds, voicethreads, Flickr, virtual school libraries, wikis, etc. – to someone who has gained a reasonable familiarity with Web 2.0 tools – and, perhaps more importantly, the courage to tackle the stress and fear that new tech learning can hold. As Doug Johnson writes, “Whadda I Need That I Ain’t Got? Courage IS a Technology Skill.”

Beyond Curtin’s points, I’ve always believed in the concept of servant leadership - that is, finding out what a staff needs or desires, then working to accommodate it. With that in mind, I think it would be essential to OFFER, not mandate, blogging, as a PD activity at our school. Teachers who are not ready or unwilling to use blogs will not easily appreciate its value and will probably use it grudgingly or inadequately, if at all. Probably a good way to offer PD blog sessions would be at our Nerd nights (we schedule these for interested staff as tech needs or desires arise) or on an individual mentoring-type
Basis (a la Glazer and Page). Once teachers have committed to blogging PD, some realistic goals/deadlines could be collaboratively established to keep the PD flow going.

A good starting point for inservicing teachers could be Blog Basics for the Classroom which has good practical considerations for starting blogs or for safety concerns and issues.

I intend to continue blogging for my own PD and anticipate that the blog I have established in EDES 545 will be a reference source hat I’ll be able to refer to again and again. I can also see the value of blogging as an integral part of research - a key element in any graduate level program.

I’m grateful for my introduction to blogging and hope that I will be able to share what I’ve learned with others. Our tech lead teacher has already expressed an interest in setting up a class blog – could it be the tip of a technological iceberg for our staff?!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


There once was an old school marm
Who said, with edge-ucational charm,
“Think I’ll try a blog -
A pedagogical log-
For teachers. What could be the harm?”

If that limerick doesn’t pack the Understatement Punch of the Year, technologically speaking, then it’s a “contendah” for sure. The “harms” of blogging – beyond their addictive nature and their potential to eat up hours reading them – pale in comparison to their benefits. Blogging in education is one of the greatest things – for school marms and masters alike – since sliced bread. It really is a force that can sharpen the cutting edge in education – something we should all be invested in. This anonymous student post, taken from the Digital Chalkie blog speaks to the power of advancing technological frontiers in education:

“Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I will use a laptop
and you will use paper and a pencil. Are you ready…?
I will access up-to-date information – you will have a textbook that is 5 years old.
I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you will have to wait until it’s graded.
I will learn how to care for and harness technology by using it - you will read about it.
I can see science concepts in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world - you will share yours with the class.
I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.

Score big points for the positives of blogging as a professional development candidate: this blog site – and others – can provide educators with a powerful catalyst for using technology in classrooms. The ability to successfully navigate technological waters should be a fundamental for teachers – blogs can help provide an impetus for them to do so.

Some of the blogs I explored were:
Brian’s Education Blog: Mr. Micklethwait describes his blog as being “libertarian-inclined”. One posting really captured my interest, as I thought it could provoke good discussion. The part of the posting that I’m referring to is “If you educate a man, you educate a person, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.” Hmmm.
Top 100 Education Blogs: The name says it all! This was the site that directed my to Digital Chalkie.
Stephen’s Lighthouse: This blog was highly recommended by one of the Jasper librarians – it has had some very interesting, cool postings.
Escrapbooking: This was a great site with LOTS of links listed.
The Connected Classroom: This site touts itself as intending to creating a constructivist learning experiences” – there are some great posts here.
Rikard’s Weblog: This is a weblog for a third grade classroom, of special interest to me, since that’s my current grade.
Diane’s Discoveries: This had general education news and ideas.
Elementary School Blog: This was a blog for elementary teachers and librarians.
Simply Science: This blog had ideas for teaching science in elementary/primary schools.
LibrarianinBlack: I had added this to my account some time ago…it’s got lots of tech information and is described as providing “resources and discussions for the ‘tech-librarians-by-default’ among us”.
Will Richardson’s Blog: This site needs no explanation, nor does the next:
Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search
Heyjude: Judy O’Connell is an Aussie library/tech info goddess – lots of good ideas here.
Mr. Wright’s 3rd Grade Class ( This is a class blog from a school in Missouri and has lots of cross-curricular teaching ideas. I’ve used some of the weblinks selections in the class blog I set up for my own class ( My class blog is still evolving, but is currently used for communicating things like homework notices, school news, thank-yous and congratulations, and links for math sites.

In addition, I subscribe to the Rick Mercer Blog, which is certainly not without educational relevance. Its witty analyses and examinations of current affairs can ignite discussion and debate on many levels.

Some blogs I’ve earmarked for an later look include:

EduBlog News, which includes links to lots of student blogs.
Educational Blogger’s Network, which is a blog for educators using blogs in the classroom.
Educator Bloglines, which is a site for educational weblogs.

So how can blogging and blogs help with PD? In addition to providing sparks for implementing and integrating tech in teaching (I’m referring to my opening point), blogging can:

Provide a forum to access and share best practices, as well as fresh practices. It can also rejuvenate “mothballed” practices – those great ideas that you used to use and forgot all about until someone reminded you of them.
Build opportunities to brainstorm teaching/evaluation strategies.
Allow teachers to discuss school, student, or other issues.
Provide a platform for teachers to coordinate fiscal housekeeping: grant writing, fund raising, etc. and special events ideas.
Promote critical/analytical/creative/collaborative thinking opportunities.
Allow teachers to connect with subject-area experts on a wide variety of activities and projects.
Encourage, especially through the “comments” options, self-reflection. Readers/comment writers can motivate others to question or express concerns, compliments, confusions, complaints, and challenges.
Provide opportunities for mentoring, a la Glazer and Paige, intended and structured or serendipitous and transitory.
Build collegial relationships – around the world!
Provide a template for communication between educators and the communities they serve.
Link, link, link, link, link……creating pathways and blazing educational trails that might never be noticed otherwise.
Archive and publish professional and other portfolios, articles, etc.
Support research endeavors.

I think that blogging has such potential and such power because of two main reasons:

1. Its audience – or potential audience – draw, for both blog writers and blog readers. To me, blogging is a wonderful contagion – once introduced to its allure, it’s easy to spread the good word.
2. Its ease of use – blogs are easy to set up and foodle around with.

I’m all out of limerick inspiration, but that’s probably just as well, because blogging, and its powerful potential to impact professional development for educators, probably deserves poetry more on the level of sonnets or odes… I’ll leave that to more talented pens.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Social Networking

Being an elementary school teacher means that you are always scouting for educational value in what people would normally classify as fit for the trash heap. For example, discarded cardboard is templated into dazzling, life-sized “guitars”,overturned paper bowls morph into out-of-this-world flying saucers,Thanksgiving turkey carcasses provide the foundation for one-of-a-kind bling,
and popsicle sticks are crafted into bobsled Christmas tree decorations. I take special ecological, creative and budgetary pride in being able to discover and exploit the pedagogical power of almost anything. That being said, I found myself humbled –initially at least - by my lack of ability to imagine academic worth in social networking sites. Aren’t they a social, not an educational construct? What business do I have poking my nose into my students’ and colleagues’ personals? Armed with my doubts and girded with my cynicism, I set out to explore social networking and how it could apply to classrooms and teaching.

I began by turning to a bread-and-butter component of my Web 2.0 investigations: a Lee LeFever video. (I always appreciate the down-to-earth, concise nature of the Plain English videos. To me, they’re reminiscent of Doug Johnson’s salute to Denzel Washington’s line in the movie Philadelphia: “Explain it to me like I was six years old.”) I moved from LeFever to wikipedia, another staple in my Web 2.0 pantry. Wikipedia provided a list of social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, Bebo and Hi5. Delving into the wikipedia stewpot provided lots of good information and links on social networking, including this site which provided great information regarding social networking’s definition, history and scholarship issues.
I learned that social networking can provide connections for business and medical applications. Sermo, for example, is a site set up for physicians to post and read observations, questions and opinions about clinical issues. Both business and medical applications could easily find their way into CALM (career and life management) classes.
I also learned that social networking can ignite and advance social consciences, an integral part of global citizenship and social responsibility components of Social Studies courses. Even very young children can – and should – be in tune with the need to champion social justice and equality in all avenues. The SixDegrees site, initiated by Kevin Bacon and other actors, seeks to advance causes such as UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women), YouthAids and Operation Smile – all worthwhile causes that classrooms could find connection to and rally around.

An excellent site showcasing ways to use social networking systems in educational settings can be found here.
In education, social networking can:
• create outlets for creativity and imagination, through personalizing spaces.
• provide a forum for discussion, planning, brainstorming, critiquing, questioning, supporting.
• allow users to share resources and ideas.
• extend curricula beyond the classroom parameters, allowing for “teachable occasions” from a limitless pool of expertise and serendipity. (You never know when what you contribute will trigger a “Eureka!” moment for someone else.)
• sponsor a sense of community and collegiality.
• support collaborative learning.
• roaden the horizons (geographically, culturally, religiously and temporally) of user groups.
• provide a venue for modeling behaviors, ideas, etc.
• act as a “water cooler” to promote personal introductions and connections.
• connect people and ideas globally.
• supply a venue for announcements and general information.
• become a repository to collect material and subsequently manipulate, synthesize, analyze and present it.
• help streamline searches for information and ideas, aiding the “inflo-glut” battle that McKenzie writes of.
• accommodate Glazer and Page’s collaborative apprenticeship for teachers’ professional development.
• pave avenues for different learning styles to be modeled and suggested, simultaneously honouring Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
• be a platform for study groups, tutoring, or mentoring.

The topic of study groups provides a segue into the cautions that should be observed for using social networking sites; Chris Avenir, a Ryerson University student, is under investigation for allegedly cheating by setting up a study group on Facebook. His instructor had specified that individual work was required on the assignment in question and that bringing a study group into the scene violated the rules. Avenir contends that if what he and others were doing was cheating, so are all the activities related to the university’s tutoring and mentoring programs. Regardless of the outcome of this case, it illuminates Al Roger’s contention that tech tools are transforming our culture. It also reminds us to have close regard for the “netiquette” that Valenza advocates.

Social networking sites have problems other than cheating associated with them. Setting them up for a classroom and monitoring them adequately might entail time that teachers don’t feel they have to give, although I’m guessing that the educational dividends accrued would be worth the effort. As well, I’m certain that parents would express concerns for the safety of children using social networking sites. To gain ideas on how to help alleviate parental concerns, I would recommend visiting Classroom 2.0 . This site describes itself as “a social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education” and has some excellent ideas and links, including this one on cybersafety. It suggests implementing safety strategies such as:
• watching cybersafety videos, like this teacher tube offering.
• using discussion and frequent verbal reminders regarding the need for safety – no addresses, phone numbers, or personal data should be posted.
• creating avatars – in lieu of photographic ID’s for blogs, voicethreads, and other online sites. An example of an avatar creation site is here.
• having an information evening for parents. At the meeting, suggest the parents sign permission forms agreeing to allow publication of their children’s work online and/or to show online photos (preferably group photos) with no names or with pseudonyms attached.
• making provisions for participants without at-home internet access to use libraries for social networking sites. This way, all students may get comments on their sites and tune into proper, polite responders.
• letting the students know that you – and others, such as parents – will be monitoring posted comments.
• educating about and utilizing appropriate privacy settings.
• having students discuss, design and sign codes of conduct/behaviour contracts.
• utilizing the “Queen of England Rule” – treating everyone online as though they were the queen or as though the queen were watching, i.e. using respect for all.
• reminding students that what they put online may have lasting consequences – link it to the old poem: “Your future lies before you like newly fallen snow. Be careful how you step in it, for every step will show.” Some employers, for example, check out the Facebook entries of potential employees.
• reminding students that what they put online may have unexpected results – link it to another poem: “They walked the lane together, the night was filled with stars. They reached the gate together. He raised for her the bars. She neither smiled nor thanked him, for she knew not how; for he was just a farmer lad and she – the jersey cow.” Just as the poem has an unexpected ending, so may postings have surprising reactions – have the students cast a critical eye over them before posting.
• talking to the students about cyber bullying. Bullying is a time-honoured disgrace but student bullying has now developed the insidious ability to enter the previously sanctified and safe realm of the students’ own homes. Bully education needs to extend to the tech arena.
• discussing the Ten Golden Rules.

On a personal note, I have set up my own Facebook account, and, when I have time to use it, see it as a way of connecting with friends and family. My two daughters are ardent fans and frequent Facebook users; they rarely miss a day without checking in on their accounts.

On a second personal note, I came across this site discussing the type of people who do and the type of people who don’t use social networking sites. I intend to look for myself in both categories, as the “Bah humbug!” Ebenezer persona I began this blog with has become more like Liza Doolittle.....transformed…… into a proponent for and supporter of social networking systems.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Multimedia Sharing Sites

Voicethreads and I shook hands at and again at What's a Voice Thread Anyway?

From there, I moved through my memory's rolodex to......(cue the "Twilight Zone" music)....

.....Years ago, when a friend of mine, who worked for a time in an outdoor sporting goods store, told me that he was far more likely to make a sale if he could just get the potential buyer to imagine themselves using the product he was selling; once customers could visualize themselves paddling the canoe or gliding across snowy forest trails on the cross-country skis, or cruising mountain trails on the mountain bike, all that remained (often) was deciding whether it'd be cash or Visa.

I was reminded of my salesman friend in my exporation of Voicethreads, when I came across a "testimonial" extolling the virtues of Voicethread's option of having one account holding many identities - specifically, having 22 students completing one project in a computer lab in 45 minutes. Now THAT was I picture I could paint myself into! Hooked by this tempting educational vision, I became a sort of quiet crusader (it's probably the Easter overtones kicking in there) for Voicethreads, searching out their possible positives....

of which there appear many. For example, voicethreads can:

1. spark story starters, stimulating creativity and imagination.
2. be used to create sequential story segments, building collaboration/community building.
3. be used to create differing story endings/titles.
4. be soapboxes to announce the virtues/shortcomings of movies/songs/books/poetry, etc. - building critical thinking.
5. provide models/playful practise for pronounciation, accents, vocabulary, grammar, intonation, etc. for ESL students and other 2nd (3rd, 4th, etc.) language learners
6. springboard penpal or "epal" opportunities.
7. provide negotiation/debating/conflict resolution exercises.
8. provide forums for brainstorming - cross-curricular/age/culture/gender, etc.
9. link classrooms around the world, contributing to global awareness/citizenship and Rogers' global literacy.
10. link classrooms with parents/community - great PR for schools!
11. allow educators to interact with each other, providing "best practises" ideas, cautionary tales, professional development and collaboration and providing an outlet for Glazer and Pages' collaborative apprenticeship.
12. provide reflections opportunities for posted art work and learning how to evaluate in a constructive, rather than a destructive, manner/promoting "netiquette", empathy, social graces... and providing opportunities to accept/consider/evaluate criticism of one's own work.
13. provide an opportunity to honour Gardners Multiple Intelligences theory, providing optional vehicles for reporting (art/photos/audio/written text) and for responding (voice - microphone, telephone, video, text, audio).
14. help establish equal playing fields for both genders by giving everyone equal opportunity for voice, aiding the erasure of the digital divide Cooper writes of.
15. offer a way for computer skills to be used in a cross-curricular context, giving a nod to Eisenberg and Johnson's appeal for learning and teaching technology in context.
16. expand literacy and computer literacy skills.
17. convert classrooms to "real world learning" situations - eg. have the students explain/narrate events about the digital pictures taken on a field trip and relate them to the curriculum, where possible. Another example: have the students compile oral histories through interviewing grandparents, war vets, etc. Another example: voicethreads could dovetail beautifully with many components of health/safety themes such as bicycle, fire, water and winter safety, and could potentially have life-saving benefits. A final example: students could present recipes like this one real or imagined (like the "sandwitches' my class created for Hallowe'en).
18. extend the impact of classrooms beyond the architectural/temporal walls - as Valenza advocates for libraries.
19. help accommodate/include absent students (I added this suggestion to the Thinking Machine pbwiki, listed below. My picture is the one of the Weimaraner with the ears being held out).
18. help accommodate self-paced learning.
19. collect data/opinions and/or interpret/present data.
20. support inquiry.
21. promote positive school culture while connecting with the curriculum. For example, several years ago, to compliment the Grade 6 Science strand of Evidence and Investigation, my third graders "kidnapped' a 3D, lifesized snowman from the grade 6 classroom. We left a ransom note and clues for the sixth graders to unravel. Our principal was in on the gig and even called in an RCMP officer (one of my students' fathers) to come in and speak to our class. Naturally, we spoke AT LENGTH about the difference between what we were doing and ACTUAL lawbreakers. The whole situation would've been fun to have presented as a voice thread - presenting point of view of the kidnappers, the investigators, the police officer, the principal, the snowman (of course!) and others involved.

Similar scenarios could be set up involving "eyewitness accounts" of staged crimes/activities - again, wht the cautions that real life lawbreaking would not be condoned.

I can also see voicethread themed alphabets being a hoot to present: animal/food/anatomy themes, etc. or using voicethreads to present multiplication mneumonics or suggestions on how to pamper moms on Mother's Day or suggestions on how to wrangle mosquitoes or catch leprechauns or advertise igloos..or use voicethreads......the sky's the limit!

This Thinking Machine wiki boasts even more ways for educators to use voicethreads. Check it out! I'd also recommend asking the students for ideas on how they could use Voicethreads. I find my classes to be literal treasure troves of informational gems.

Letting parents know that Voicethreads communities can be limited /controlled and that Voicethreads comments can be moderated and controlled would help alleviate parental concerns, as could School Advisory Council/parent workshops regarding Voicethreads. As well, parental buy-in could be heightened by informing parents that the students' anonimity would be protected, either by using first names only,or by using drawings or photos to represent the students, or by using pseudonyms (my class made up names for their "Mathematical Heavyweights" math facts records: they called themselves names like "No Guts, No Glory", "Bone Crusher" and "Six Pack" - some fun!) Of course, the biggest advocate for Voicethreads (or Jumpcuts or ....) would be the child' joyful, enthusiastic participation (sounds corny? maybe, but it's true, I believe!)

The voicethreads activity that I set up follows. My voicethread account was, like wikis, blogs, etc. very straightforward and easy to set up. Commenting on the voicethread account (100 ways to Use Voicethreads)was also very easy. Technology's intimidation factor is dwindling gigabyte by gigabyte! One thing I've finally learned in setting up all the tech tools for this class is that I can repeat my password for wikis, podcasting accounts,etc. - this streamlines the process of adding to my tech tool box even more! I like the option of embedding my voicethread in a wiki and I liked the drawing tool option. Voicethreads is definitely something that I will use in my class - and would recommend to others to use.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Today was a beautiful blue sky Alberta day: hoodies instead of parkas, streets in full-flow melt mode, the maverick rabbits in the neighbourhood turning brown….we even heard our first Canada geese of the year! It was probably as close as you could get to Waikiki on an Edmonton afternoon in March….unless you count the virtual connection that wikis afford!

According to Wikipedia (probably the most widely recognized wiki on the planet),wikis take their name from one of two sources: either from the Hawaiian term ‘wiki’ which can be translated to mean ‘quick’, or from the backronym ‘What I Know Is’. (Wikipedia defines a backronym as a term constructed from a previously existing phrase, word, or abbreviation.) Whatever its roots, the growth of wikis is impressive on many levels.

Wikis provide an affordable information delivery/management vehicle accessible to anyone with a computer and internet access. They can operate as an effective way to create connected classrooms for students and to extend learning beyond matriculations and graduations, honouring Asselin’s reference to creating learning societies and lifelong learners. These learning societies can erase political, geographical and other boundaries, encouraging global citizenship and its incumbent tolerance, empathy and understanding. Examples of wikis that promote global citizenship and responsibility include the Horizon Project, global story writing projects and workshops, and Voices of the World, which is a cool project designed to help children develop an appreciation for different languages, accents and dialects from around the world. Another wiki is set up to promote the delivery of laptops to 13,200 school children in Haiti, to try to level the intellectual playing field - giving these students access to opportunities that might otherwise never be offered and helping to open doors to a bright and open future for students in a developing country.

In addition to promoting global citizenship, wikis can aid in the creation of digital citizenship – respecting copyright laws, ‘neticut’, etc. This wiki includes a digital citizenship unit plan and accompanying rubrics and assessment criteria.

Wikis can provide a sandbox for teachers and students to play around with Web 2.0 tools – to practise and refine building technological skills. Wikis can provide venues for students and teachers to publish and share ideas and creative undertakings – stories, art, podcasts, etc. Wikis can provide on-line learning opportunities, interaction and collaboration. Wikis can facilitate communication and professional development. They foster information and digital literacy.

Despite all their positive points, wikis do have drawbacks. Doug Johnson reminds us that there are often two sides to consider and writes that “the same hammer can break window and build cathedrals” and “It probably took the first tool-using ape about 30 seconds to figure out that coconuts and skulls can both be crushed.” Wikis, by their nature, can contain incorrect information and are susceptible to ‘trollers’ – people who intentionally disrupt the wiki or post false information. Wiki users need to be aware, critical thinkers (visiting the Great Spaghetti Harvest website) and taking the ‘Spot the Hoaxes’ Challenges is a good springboard to critical thinking. Verifying or finding additional sources to corroborate information is another reasonable step to take. In addition, restricting users can cut down on the amount of unreliable information posted.

I can see using wikis in several areas in my grade three class. We are currently collaborating on a classroom thesaurus – dreaming up alternate terms, for example, for the word “said” or “nice” or “walked”. This could be done in wiki format, which, if extended as a homework assignment, would serve the twin purpose of communication with parents and involving them with their child’s education. As well, our school has participated in ‘door stories’ where classrooms take turns building a story, based on what other classrooms have written prior to your turn. This could easily be done on wikis and extended as homework assignments, in small or large groups and within or across grades.

I can also see using a wiki to set up field trips – organizing drivers, chaperones, snacks, activities, etc.

I can see using wikis for professional development – pooling examples of favorite math websites, or book reviews, or novel studies…. Our staff even discussed using a wiki to discuss our SCIP (school continuous improvement plan) – something that takes up a lot of our staff meeting time. Discussing the SCIP plan in wiki format could save streamline staff meeting time and give voice to teachers who are more reluctant to speak up.

There are lots of good ideas for using wikis in classrooms posted on this wiki.

Elisa and I set up our wiki for the class using wikispaces. A You tube tutorial for using wikis follows.

As I progress through this course, I am finding myself more and more comfortable with the “techy” tools we’ve been acquiring and refining. I found myself getting completely immersed in this topic, snooping around for hours and sending tags to with a fervor approaching gluttony! I’d better hope for more blue sky Alberta days, to make sure I’m tempted to come up for air in the real world every now and then….!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

virtual libraries

I’ve worked with half a dozen or so student teachers throughout my teaching career. During the final week of their time with me, I always offered them the option of visiting other classes – as many as possible – to observe and “steal” best practises ideas about classroom management, bulletin board/art ideas, lesson delivery, etc. They had a chance to see both what they would and would not want to incorporate into their teaching platforms. The student teachers always appreciated what would likely be their only opportunity to go “shopping” for a pedagogical war chest in this manner; we more than once fantasized about a university class that would require you to roam from school to school, in city after town, harvesting ideas and cataloguing expertise. Of course, the cost of all this travel would be prohibitive……

….unless you were required to do this from the comfort of your own home, using your personal computer….for EDES 545! Exploring virtual school libraries and the qualities of great virtual school libraries is a nice obligation to undertake. It was kind of like a demonstration of Glazer and Page’s collaborative apprenticeship – without notifying the mentors!

I began compiling a list of great virtual library qualities by peeking into the virtual libraries listed on our EDES 545 Weblinks.

From the M.E.LaZerte High School Library, I liked:
Internet research links to resources
Online databases/ search tools and strategies
Citing sources advice
Links to the Public Library and the U of A – providing extensions for the present and planting seeds for the future
Diploma Exam/Learn Alberta links – good opportunities for extending learning and test preparation
I found the layout of the site unappealing and thought the “study skills” portion may not be too popular with the students, although I like the homework help I found in there. I liked the tutorial on word play and jotted down examples of chiasmus: parallel pieces of writing with word, letter or phrase reversal, like “It’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men” or “A magician pulls rabbits out of hats; an experimental psychologist pulls habits out of rats” or “Lust is what makes you want to keep wanting to do it even when you have no desire to be with each other. Love is what makes you want to be with each other even though you have no desire to do it.” But when I returned to the site to link the homework tutorials, I couldn’t find them…..frustrating.

From the Prince of Wales VL, I liked:
The updates – keeps the VL current, in agreement with Minkel’s “cat box” rule: changing some things regularly keeps them fresh
Subject categories – this could speed up searches for specific information
Young Canada Reader’s Choice Awards listed – celebrating our heritage is a good way to instill pride and citizenship; parents would appreciate it when gift shopping, too
New Fiction booklist – generates continued interest in the library

From the fabulous Springfield Township High School VL:
The tour option – made a good overview
Appealing graphics (I noticed the artist shared Valenza’s last name – it had to be her daughter)
Information about the staff, including a photo – this put a human touch on the VL
Upcoming wikis and their potential for collaboration
Information on copyright – a good reminder about ethical work
Online lessons – keeps parents, absent students, beginning teachers, etc. in the loop; cool platform/review for evaluations, encourages teacher sharing and collaboration
General information – hours of operation, contact info including email, fax, phone, physical address
Statement of library policies

From Latimer Road VL
The EDES 545 link! It was nice to see the collaboration extending across different school terms!
The silent reading pass idea – what a great way to add prestige to reading – by making it a special reward
Teacher friendly edublogs, including 10 ways to use blogs with your students – great!
Study skills – How to smarter than a fifth grader is a great title

From Birch Lane Elementary School VL
Student reviews – builds clientele “buy in” – for students and parents
Magazine rack – extends audience appeal, adds contemporary touch

From Belmont VL
Clear, concise, uncluttered format
Current events – great way for cross-curricular discussion, great application to the “real world”
Site Map – gave a great overview

From Highlands School VL
Parent page – good PR
School information page – including student handbooks: saving the environment and streamlining the delivery of information at the same time
Tips on writing and creating good presentations

From Catskill Elementary VL
Online newspapers
Yahooligans link

From my own imagination, I’d add:
A wish list for the library
A celebrations section – showcasing support given to the library
FAQ’s with “help” features or an email avenue for questions
Of course, the VL must be tailored appropriately to suit the needs of its clientele, it must be organized in a clear manner and easy to navigate, it should be appealing visually and the quality of writing within it should be high.

Fusing all the bulleted ingredients together would make, in my opinion, a wonderful VL.

Using a virtual library has many advantages:
- the material that is “borrowed” virtually cannot be overdue
- materials cannot acquire torn pages or coffee stains or be transported through a dog’s intestinal tract
- it’s the poster child for portability – it can be taken anywhere a laptop can travel
- it can accommodate multiple users simultaneously
- it can increase access to material as it’s open 24/7

My VL investigation led me to digital libraries, which store materials in digital formats and showcased even more advantages of “hooked-up, tuned-in” on-line library connections. As a case in point, the World Digital Library afforded accessibility to rare collections – ones that you might never get to see otherwise. Examples? You can view original handwritten lyrics for the Beatles “Yesterday”, you can pour over old maps written in Latin, you can turn the pages of a book about ancient Egyptian treasures….. You can “interact” with books as well – rotate them, move them around, turn pages, magnify, translate text, listen and contribute to comments….incredible stuff. Advantages? In addition to universal accessibility of its collection, this library promotes international/inter-cultural awareness and understanding, provides resources to educators, expands the amount of non-English and non-Western material on the internet, and will do this all free of charge. Exact copies of materials can be made any number of times without loss of quality. Money is saved on storage space, book upkeep,and staff ,but the process of converting print to digital format and for the tech skills to maintain them and to maintain online access [for example, the material in a digital library must be “migrated” every few years to the latest digital media] can be pricey itself….. And, many who could – and should – benefit most from the global reach of the World Digital Library lack the infrastructure to access it – it’s hard to use such a wonderful resource if you don’t have a computer or a socket to plug it into.

Another great digital library I stumbled upon was the Perseus Project, which focuses on materials from ancient Greece. With the Olympics coming up, I’d use this site to springboard Olympic historical research, to create some “information gladiators”. There were some wonderful stories, including one about Milo, an Olympian who was so strong he reputedly challenged all comers to take away a pomegranate he held in his hand. Even though he held the pomegranate so tightly that no one could get it from him, the pomegranate was never damaged. (This would be a good segue to or from the story of Persephone and Demeter and how they- and pomegranate seeds - are connected to the seasons. I read the myth to my class every fall and we follow up with discussion, sampling pomegranates, and student-written retellings of the story.)

We also read and discuss a child’s version of Hercules, then follow up by writing the 12 labours of ___________(a modern day “hero”) – for example, the 12 labours of Ted the Baker. Project Perseus has great information both for Hercules’ biography and for his labours – wonderful resources for student research. A caution about the information on the site – because it has pictures from ancient Greece, some of the drawings of people are featured in full glory nudity. Some parents may object; some students may sensationalize it or become goofy. Teachers will have to use discretion and set an age-appropriate, educated tone for the class. Doug Johnson writes that he tries to remember and apply the Latin phrase “Ex abusu non arguitur in usum”, translated as “The abuse of a thing is no argument against its use.” Johnson advises anticipating the problem, then using the technology anyway. I concur.

I concur as well with Valenza’s statement that today’s libraries should have 2 front doors and that one of them should be virtual. The construction of great virtual libraries can facilitate great teaching…..and great learning opportunities.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Our gym was set up this week for gymnastics stations. Many of the teachers at our school are not comfortable with teaching gymnastics; in fact, most of them loathe it. They are fearful of student injuries, they lack a repertoire/catalogue of appropriate activities to offer, they feel inadequate because THEY can’t cartwheel or walk a balance beam, they are unsure how to lead students through skill development, etc. I probably would be in the same knee-knocking, heart-thumping, nausea-inducing, sweat-soaked mind set had I not taken a summer course in teaching elementary school gymnastics. The course was taught at Saskatchewan’s beautiful Emma Lake. The instructor was one of the national men’s team coaches – a man whose expertise was matched by a gregarious, contagious enthusiasm….. kind of like the Valenza of the gym, operating in what, if it were translated to libraryspeak, would be one of the nicest “librariums” on the planet.

We inept adult students had to lumber through attempts at refining balance, rotations, swings, etc. and while, at course’s end, none of us were invited to try out for the national team (probably because the leotards didn’t come in our ‘mature’ sizes – har, har), we did achieve some small smatterings of success. (I still glory in those long-ago bar pullovers and forward straddle rolls that marked the apex of my abilities!) More importantly, we had been given the theory, the tools, the location, and the instruction that allowed us to confidently, knowledgeably plan and provide effective, safe, enjoyable gymnastics programs for out students…. Something I’m still able to do in my teaching today.

I see parallels between learning gymnastics and the learning that EDES 545 affords. The classroom couldn’t be more physically different, but both are entirely appropriate for their subject. As well, initially, both can be scary, daunting learning situations. But with expertise, enthusiasm, encouragement and good program guidance from instructors, and with a collaborative learning community to lend its support, fear gives way to familiarity, comfort, and a growing confidence and assurance. The more knowledgeable/experienced I become with Web 2.0, the more comfortable I become. As my comfort level increases, so does the likelihood that I’ll use my knowledge in a classroom setting – and that this ability will endure far beyond the last blog posting, just as my gymnastics knowledge, gained more than 20 years ago, still serves me today. Similarly, without experience with, for example, podcasting, I’d be like the gymnastic-phobes, hardly inclined to include podcasting anywhere in any curriculum.

The intimidation of ignorance is powerful, but just as mighty are the twin powers of knowledge and experience. Once I’ve created a podcast or two, I can begin to move beyond the machinations of production and posting, and can apply an eye and energy to the potential for using podcasts in classrooms.

I can definitely see the utility of using podcasts on class blog pages – recapping the day’s or the week’s events or supplying announcements/information of field trips, assemblies, school calendar items, etc. Podcasts could be used to aid second language learning. They could be used as communication links for absent students – those on extended vacations or those whose programs are interrupted by long-term illness or extra-curricular activities. Recalling Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, podcasts could be an alternate platform for students to present research findings, book reports, etc.; podcasts would be a wonderful vehicle to present students’ literary offerings. For example, I know the mock interviews my students wrote for fairy tale characters (“Tell me, Rapunzel, what kind of shampoo do you use?”) would be a kick to present in podcast form. Student writing could be broadcast with sound effects, music, images, or videos to complement them. Care would have to be taken here, as some parents would not want their child’s images – visual or auditory – to be used in this way. Some parents might be more willing to allow their child’ audio podcasts if they were posted anonymously, or using first names only, or using pseudonyms (this opens up a “teachable moment” or two – what pseudonym would be chosen and why? What famous authors used pseudonyms and why? etc.). Another way to bring reluctant parents on board might be to involve them in the creation of the podcasts – maybe bringing certain candidates over to the “dark side”(!) would win the over to Resnick’s notion of “playful learning”. Parents could make great allies. Their permission would have to be granted, and FOIP standards would have to be respected. The fact that there is a pretty low barrier to entry as a podcast producer may help parents -and students - and even reluctant teachers – buy into podcasting as well. All one needs is a mike connected to a computer and some software. (A problem with this at our school immediately springs to mind, as our computers do not have mikes. I may have to grovel before the budget committee....) Then just add creativity and imagination – and you’re in business! Almost all podcasts are available free of charge and there are very few commercials/sponsor messages – hallelujah. And they cover a wide range of subjects – from news to comedy shows to language learning. Uploading podcasts to an MP3 player expands their utility/range to wherever the user desires.

In addition to the preparation of podcasts and all its attendant technological practise involved, students, parents, and teachers could benefit from simply sourcing podcasts and “consuming” them. For example, they could listen to book/author reviews like this review of John Bianchi’s book Swine Snafu. As well, a website called Kidcast had some great ideas for integrating podcasts (and other technology) into the curriculum. Teachers could use podcasts to help implement Glazer and Page’s ideas of collaborative apprenticeship – advancing their own and their peers’ professional development.

I used Audacity to create an audio podcast about Peter Eyvindson’s book Wish Wind. I used Garage Band for my podcast of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Backwards Bill”. I found a video on Youtube that was helpful in guiding me through the steps involved for using Garage Band.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Computers aid in autism breakthrough

This is not related to the blog assignments but IS related to the power of technology in aiding a young girl who has autism learn to communicate. I thought it was fascinating and hope that some of you might agree. Who knows? It may even have an impact on someone from this class - their friend, relation, student, neighbour....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Three and a half years ago, our family got a new puppy. This naturally necessitated many visits to our neighbourhood off-leash area. Puppies being people magnets, many strangers would come up to chat and give advice on dogs – their food, their training, their breeds, etc. I had no idea I knew so little about canines. Every time I went to the “dog park”, I learned something more; I’ve garnered a fair amount of knowledge about dogs and I’ve had a good time doing it.

Taking this EDES 545 course is kind of the same thing – I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Web 2.0! But as I continue walking the trails of these assignments, I naturally find my tech knowledge expanding –each sucessive blog posting brings me to a new avenue for learning. I had never heard of social bookmarking and likely would never have investigated it, had I not been require to through this class. Our obligations – to our pets or to our profs! – serendipitously bring us rewards.

I learned that social bookmarking is a way to bookmark, annotate and share favourites – things like articles, web pages, blogs, music, reviews, and recipes. You can also access your list of favourite links from any computer hooked up to the Internet while using one of these social bookmarking sites – a definite “plus”. The advantages of using social bookmarking sites extend beyond the academic arena – kids can use one of these sites to create a “wish list”: a kind of gift registry complete with picture, description, price and vendor location. Gift givers can then streamline their shopping! People can use social bookmarking to organize vacations, book clubs, fan sites…. The possibilities are endless.

“Tags” (descriptive labels you assign to items on a list) are used to organize information. For example, in posting an article about a hike in Jasper National Park, it could be tagged as “Jasper”, “hike”, “Rockies”, “Alberta”, etc. A pitfall to this tagging system is that if a user misspells a word or uses a different descriptor, other people will not be able to access their information. Care must be taken to avoid “typos”.

Our course readings list provides a link to the National Technology Leadership Summit Report, which reminds us that schools expend huge amounts of teacher hours integrating technology into curricula – social bookmarking can help address this – streaming and shortcutting the search for pertinent, curriculum and age-appropriate information. Reducing the time wading through “info-glut” is a definite advantage to using social bookmarking.

Social bookmarking also honours many of (the library goddess) Valenza’s ideas: expanding notions of searching, having the TL wear a technology scout hat as they figure out how to use information and communication tools more thoughtfully, thinking of a TL’s web presence as a knowledge manager for the school, and cultivating the skills to pull together resources to meet the information needs of individual learning environments.

There are tons of social bookmarking sites. The ones I looked at included Furl, Simpy and Signing up for was extremely simple…..I’m sure it took less than one minute! I did a search for a component of our science curriculum: life cycle of the butterfly. Furl and were both really fast and gave me pertinent, relevant information. Simpy provided me with quick results but the results were not easy to use, nor were they all appropriate for my third graders to view. However, the installation of new buttons on my toolbar proved to be a bit of a hassle in that it helped to clutter up an already cluttered toolbar! I can see this tool being applicable to researching information – especially in classes like social studies and sciences where numerous websites may be utilized to provide students with more avenues for learning. For example, as a compliment to our third grade Science Life Cycles unit, I searched for “life cycle – butterfly”, which returned numerous relevant bookmarks.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blog #2

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Valenza’s Modest Manifesto as I toured the video sharing sites, especially when she writes that your physical space, as an educator, is a “libratory”, extending far beyond the four physical walls that architecturally limit you, and that learners’ potential for interacting – as producers and consumers – is heightened by new technologies. The use of video sharing sites, for both viewers and contributors, honours these ideas of Valenza’s, as students seek out, watch, evaluate, compare, contrast, create (collaboratively and individually) postings.

The sites I snooped around in included YouTube, TeacherTube, Metacafe, (the videos I watched here were preceded by ads – annoying), Sharkle (there was a feature here that allowed you to create your own ad – interesting potential for Language Arts classes; we’ve written “ads” for many things, including gruesome and grisly Hallowe’en products – it would be a great extension to video the ads) and Googlevideo (the Amazing Art of Julian Beever caught my eye – check it out. It would be inspirational to show my students when we do sidewalk chalk art – a standard June project in my class. Eisenberg and Johnson’s recommendations that computer skills be threaded through regular curriculum certainly hit home with this blog assignment – there are videos to support music, art, maths, science, creative writing, social studies, phys. ed., global awareness (tieing in with Rogers’ global literacy and its importance in our continually shrinking planet). I posted a math video on YouTube – the video ties into our math program. It’s a demonstration of a “finger calculator” for the 9 times table. Parents can view it at home with their children (provided they have a computer – public libraries or digital cafes are options for those "sans" computers). It’s a creative way to communicate, educate and reinforce learning for students and adults alike and provides great PR for the school.

The process of creating the video was fun. It made me aware of some of the decisions that must be made when “movie making” – What camera angle was best? Should background music be added? What background colour was needed for my hands? What lighting considerations were there? Should I script or ad lib the commentary?

It was easy to sign up for the YouTube account but posting the video was a challenge. It turned into a mini-inservice for our staff (collaboration in action!), as it wouldn’t post initially. I recruited our tech lead teacher and several others to work with me, trying various things. Finally someone suggested renaming the video. It reposted after the second renaming. So ….. now I’m not the only one on staff who’s a little wiser regarding YouTube and its postings. It’s nice to share my educational experiences with my colleagues….we're getting good vlaue for my tuition dollar!

There was a lag in time – nearly eight hours – between posting the video and having it appear online – good to know if you’re working with rigid guidelines.

I can see the potential for using video sharing sites for reinforcing or extending learning or for absent students – those hospitalized can watch science experiments or Christmas concert numbers; long term vacationers can get classroom demos, etc.

There could be problems with FOIP issues when creating videos, or with schools blocking video sharing sites, or with people posting videos for malicious reasons or without the knowledge of those being filmed.

Super Bowl commercials have been featured on video sharing sites…..if I can post this before 4 o’clock, I’ll be able to watch some on my TV! (I know it won't compare with the Riders winning the Grey Cup this year, but it is an excuse for good friends and good food!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blog #1

Rattling around the photosharing sites has been a nice obligation to undertake! It was fun-and reminded me of Resnick’s Lifelong kindergarten and Playful Learning concepts. I can see why this assignment led the field of posts-it was easy to become immersed in the artistry and wander around the virtual galleries. The potential of these sites to model and inspire and to engender appreciation and awe-that potential alone makes the sites worthy educational tools.

The sites I visited included flickr, photobucket, deviantart, kodak easy share gallery, smugmug, snapfish, phanfare, atpic, webshots, zooomr, woophy, and picasa. I learned that photosharing sites originated in the mid to late 1990’s-arising mostly from services providing online ordering of prints. I learned that some sites are free, while others charge consumers to host and share photos. I learned that captions or “tags” can be added to photos and that photos can be edited and enhanced (as in snapfish). I learned that photos can be organized according to taxonomy-a directory like or gallery structure organized by topic (example mountains) or “folksonomy” (another addition to my technical dictionary!)-where the organization depends on the people in the pictures. I found that some sites include drawings or paintings as well as photos and I sometimes found it hard to differentiate between photo and drawing (check this out). I found the quality and size of photos varied (I liked flickr’s and smugmug’s), but was annoyed by the ads that accompanied some sites especially the webshots, which offered me a congratulatory free laptop for checking in with them (I passed on the offer). I liked sites that provided links to the artist’s page so that you could see the artist’s gallery (like photobucket and deviantart). This is often the way that I choose reading material-if I like a book by a certain author, I’ll often trust that other books that he or she has written will also be ones that I’ll like. I liked the video component of photobucket’s site. I found that you could buy almost anything-cards, frames, mugs, aprons, neckties, blankets, coasters-with a photo of your choice on it from kodak easy share gallery. I liked the way woophy set up its site with the map of the world. This would be a great way for my third grade social studies students to cue into photo information about Peru, India, Ukraine, and Tunisia: our countries under study. I loved the photo titled “they’re not going to be happy about this down at the henhouse” from zooomr-it would be a great photo to use in our oology unit (oology is the study of eggs. We add this unit as an elective to our grade three science program).  

The issue of “virtual theft”-stealing someone else’s art-is one that becomes almost immediately apparent. Joyce Valenza writes about copyright/copyleft/fair use in her blog. She directs us to a good starting point for educating students about copyright with a link to Sharing Creative Works-an illustrated primer by Roberts, Royer and Phillips.

I think these photosharing sites could be useful at any grade level depending on the comfort level teachers have with technology. For proof that even young children can engage constructively in technology view a grade one class’s video.

Our school Christmas concert coordinators are often ringing their hands over concert backdrops. As I wandered around the photos, I couldn’t help but think that if they could be project onto screens for backdrops, it would be awesome. I also thought the art on these sites would make great story starters for creative writing and could be included to enhance and illustrate student writing.  

I also think that visiting these sites promotes collaboration-even making comments on the entries does this and that providing opportunities to use these sites contributes to a spacial intelligence of Gardner’s MI theories.

On a personal level, I can see the utility of using a photosharing site to keep in contact with my friends and family. I can also see it would be a great way to journal-both professionally (following FOIP standards, of course), and personally especially on travels.
I look forward to further exploration and virtual travels(!) of photosharing sites.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why blog?

Here's  a testimonial for blogging enthusiasts: CBC's Test the Nation was just on TV and .......the top individual score (57/60) belonged to someone from the Bloggers team!!!   As well, the Bloggers team won the top overall score (50/60).  Kinda fun!  Can it mean that blogging makes you smarter?!  Or that bloggers are just smart to begin with?!

Friday, January 18, 2008


My name is Linda Morgan.  I'm a third grade teacher at Jasper Elementary School in beautiful Jasper, Alberta, and I'm the mother of 2 great daughters - my eldest is in her second year of studies at the U of A and my youngest is attending Grade 12 in Wales, in the UK.  My maiden name is Appelgren, hence the "human rebus" supplied.

Setting up my blog has been a bold step for me.  I'm a self-confessed Luddite who waited until my mid forties to purchase a microwave oven, I still prefer roll-down car windows to power ones, I secretly harbour the belief that cell phones are bad for my health, I've never understood the allure of big screen/satellite dish television and I applaud those few among us who still use snail mail and survive sans home computers.  And yet, here I am!  Like a smoker who's kicked the habit and becomes the staunchest and most outspoken anti-smoking lobbyists EVER, I'll probably end up as a technomaniac!  (As well I should, given my position as an educator, and considering the powerful roles that technology can fulfill in current classrooms.)

Diving into the information on technology has been a little like holding a water tumbler under the faucet but getting a Niagaran roar when the tap is turned on.  Or, it's a little like herding cats. (You've got to see the cat herding video:  I'm going to try to set up a link to the video at the end of my post.  Hold your breath!)  It seems like I'm being deluged with information and "running madly off in all directions" (can't remember which Shakespearean play to credit that with) at times, but I am determined to soldier on and I know I'll be glad I did.

I chose my blog publisher on the recommendation of one of my daughters and because it was one listed in the Assignment 1 Overview portion of the course.  Setting up the blog was much easier than I thought it would be.  I'm looking forward to expanding it and adding other things - such as links and videos.  I have also signed up for Facebook.  Interestingly, there was an article in Thursday's Edmonton Journal regarding young people (14 to 20 year olds) switching to Neopia more and more, as so many of their parents have signed up for Facebook.  The article suggests that Facebook is a kind of national water cooler for adults, while Nexopia is "the corner convenience store attracting their pierced and tatooed kids" (Edmonton Journal, January 17, 2008).  While my third grade students don't fit the demographic of Facebook users or bloggers, I'm guessing they'll eventually buy into blogging - or whatever shape it morphs into in the future.  Considering that and given the varying teaching positions I've held, it's not improbable that some of my future teaching assignments will be with students who are avid social-site networkers, it would be reasonable of me to keep a pinkie on the pulse of technology as it applies to an important part of my students' lives.

I'm looking forward to the challenges of EDES 545!