Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wow! I made it!

Here is my Prezi about what I learned.

I loved being able to take the time to explore tools that I think will engage my students, such as Kidblog (something I am super excited about trying even though it didn't work out for me to have the students use it during this course) and the digital storytelling tools. I also found tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest interesting for personal and professional reasons and to inform my teaching. I learned so much from Joanne and from what each of my classmates contributed to the course. Thank you everyone! Thank you to Brenda for setting up the class Wiki. I will be making my contributions over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Playing with Prezi

The last tool that I chose to investigate was Prezi. I started out the course making my "Autobiography of a Tech User" on one and I wanted to play around a little more with this tool. There were so many options that I could have chosen with my first Prezi and I wanted to try them on my second one.

The second time around, I started off by watching this video. I'm not sure why I didn't watched it the first time...

My goal was to group my objects according to theme and then to zoom into each of them individually. I ended up spending quite a few hours on this second presentation and learned much in the process. The most valuable trick that I learned was that I could edit and create a path at the same time without losing my path.

Another trick that I learned was that I could interrupt the presentation and then edit, frame by frame, if I needed to do so.

I would use a Prezi to introduce a new social studies or science unit or to teach a new math concept. I can also see myself using a Prezi to put together a presentation on the different steps to be carried out in a research project.

After my experience using Prezi, I would not have younger students use it. If anything, I would teach it to a small group of grade 7 students. I think that it would be difficult to teach a whole class how to create a Prezi. For myself, I really had to take the time to play with it and that was how I learned best. In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson says that it is important that we choose tools that we are passionate about and spend time learning them for personal reasons before we can effectively use them in the classroom (Richardson, 2010, p. 9). Although I found Prezi to be a complex tool, I am intrigued by it and can see myself using it again, hoping to learn more to improve my presentations. Stay tuned for my next blog post to see my second creation!

Works cited:

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful Web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Looking at blogs for students...

Midway through the term, about 3 weeks ago, I decided to cancel the exploration of an online pathfinder since I realized that it would be very similar to Livebinders that I explored here. In its place I decided to explore blogging with the group of grade 7 students that I have been working with since January. I became intrigued by when I read Joanne's and Lenora's posts on this Web 2.0 tool.

I am going to have the students start blogging in two weeks. We are just finishing up a unit on digital citizenship and how to create a positive online presence. Blogging will fit right in with this unit and it will also be a great segueway to our research unit on Mesoamerica. I will have the students use their blogs as an online process journal for the research project.

Setting up the blogs was very simple. I signed up for an account which gave me my own blog within the system. I then added in the 29 students individually, which didn't take any time at all.

After I completed this step, the program created a drop-down menu with all of the students' names in it. I have added a link to this login page to my library website making it very easy for the students to log in.
Kidblog promotes its product as being safe and simple. Their blogging environment is very private, with the blogs being only visible to the teacher and fellow classmates. Parents could view the blogs if given a special password by the teacher. The platform is simple, with limited backgrounds to choose from and no widgets or gadgets to add to the sidebars. They do, however, offer an authentic blogging feel with comments, RSS feeds, and blog rolls where their classmates' blogs are listed. You can also upload or insert images, video, audio or files. So Kidblog feels like the real thing, yet is so much easier for the students to navigate.

Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator, writes about giving her own children, and her students, the opportunity to create for a real audience using blogs and websites. She documents her own children's experience in this blog post, Why I Let My Kids Have Internet Presence. Through my own teaching, I have seen how much more engaged the students are when they are completing tasks that mean something to them or to someone else.

I hope that the grade 7 students that I will be working with will feel a connection to their classmates as they write in their blogs, just as I have felt connected to the cyberworld through my blog for this course. I am still finding my blogging voice, but I plan on continuing with this blog to further document my experiences with Web 2.0 tools in my teaching.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Social networking about books we love on {Destiny Quest}

Destiny Quest, which is part of the Follett Destiny OPAC system, has some very cool features. We made it our library search default page in January and the students really enjoy using it. When someone clicks on library search, this is what comes up:

 It allows you to do the following:

Students are finding the different tools very useful, especially having suggestions for books pop up that are similar to the ones they are searching for. Book covers also usually show up and this is appealing to students.

After spending a month using Destiny Quest as our default searching interface, I wanted to try the social networking aspect of it, called MyQuest. I decided to get my Battle of the Books students to be my guinea pigs. It was easy to set the students up with their usernames and passwords in the back office of Follett Destiny.

The first thing that I showed them how to do was to find friends and send friend requests.

The next feature that I explained to them was MyQuest shelves. I showed them how to put books on their "have read" shelf, their "now reading" shelf and their "want to read" shelf.

Writing recommendations has turned out to be very popular with the students. They are currently writing very short ones, and I will spend more time with them on how to write a good recommendation that will really "sell" the book to their friends.

Since my Battle of the Books club has now disbanded for the year, I plan on introducing MyQuest to my grade 4 class. I will take the time to give them some examples of well written book recommendations and this will become a writing assignment. If the level of activity on MyQuest is any indication, I would say that it has been popular with the students. Note the date on the above recommendations: Spring Break! 

Kist writes in his book, The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age that "teachers...seem to be guilt ridden over what might be called 'The Entertainment Factor' of these new media, worrying that, by opening up their classrooms to Web 2.0 and other new literacies, they disrupt the seriousness of school and 'dumb it down'" (Kist, 2010, p. 118). I feel that quite the opposite is happening in this situation. Students are enthusiastic about recommending books and writing recommendations because they know that they will be read by their friends.

Works cited:

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The possibilities are endless with Pinterest

The possibilities ARE endless with Pinterest. After reading Stephen Abram's article Pinterest and Education, which was a summary of an article written by Best Colleges Online, and after doing some exploring of my own, I came up with a list of my top possibilities.

Classroom Ideas:

1. Collect ideas for organizing and decorating your class or library.
2. Pin great lessons.
3. Collect ideas for art projects or research projects.
4. Pin great education related blogs.
5. Create boards for writing prompts.

Web 2.0 Ideas

1. Pin Web 2.0 tools that I would like to try out
2. Pin great educational technology blogs

At this point, I see myself using Pinterest as a way to organize the inspiring ideas that I find online, both for professional and personal interests. I do not, however, see myself getting students to use Pinterest, as I have found that not all material is appropriate for elementary age students, and maybe not even for high school students, in the school setting, for that matter.

And yes, it is true! Pinterest is addicting... you could spend hours exploring this site...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I {like} Facebook!

After I joined Facebook, I set up my profile, added a picture and also added some wall photos. When I first joined, I was told by Facebook that my profile could stand a little sprucing up. Facebook recommended I check out a friend's profile to "get inspired".

I updated my status on a number of occasions, commented on my friends' status, and joined a group. I actually found that I enjoy playing on Facebook; it is a way to keep up with friends that I don't get to see on a regular basis and also a way to keep up with certain things going on in the world through the groups that I have joined. I had been told that it was easy to send a quick note while you are on Facebook, something that might not happen by email. I was surprised to find that this is true.

I am happy that I set my privacy settings high and I feel safe about being on Facebook, following what Ronnie Burt of The Edublogger said in the comment section of his article,  The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All! : "In some ways, your comment reminded me of exactly why I wish we focused even more of teaching students about facebook and posting on the web. No matter what privacy settings we have, who are friends are, or how safe of an environment we think we are in, we should always post and comment like everything we say could and will be read by anyone – its just safer that way. Especially as educators in the public eye." With that in mind, I will continue to enjoy Facebook for personal reasons and to teach my students about online citizenship.

{Friends} with Facebook

One of the main reasons that I chose to investigate Facebook for my inquiry was because I was planning to teach digital citizenship for the first time to the grade 6 and 7 students at my school. It is my second year in the library and with everything being new last year, combined with the fact that I am only 0.4 in the library of a school of 315 students, I wasn't able to teach this important unit last year. I knew that it was important to actually experience Facebook if I was going to be teaching about social networking, so I joined Facebook during this course.

There is much discussion over whether or not we should be using social networking sites, or even blocking social networking sites in schools. Just last week it was one of the topics on the LM-NET listserv (a listserv for teacher-librarians or library media specialists worldwide, but most are from the US).

David Di Gregorio wrote on the listserv: "I feel that every school needs to make a policy:
  • No social media in schools. 
  • No teacher / student contact through social media (Facebook and the like). 
  • There is no place for an educator to use this and it should be blocked in schools. 
  • Parents and schools need to prohibit its use until the student  becomes 18 at least. 
  • Those educators who use it are inviting trouble for themselves and their students."
(LM-NET archives, March 19, 2012)

Ronnie Burt of The Edublogger disagrees in this article: The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All!  He acknowledges the fact that students are tied into social networking and we, as educators, cannot ignore this fact. Burt outlines a couple of options for friending students that would keep your privacy options high. One of them is to include your students in your personal Facebook page but to have them on a list that only sees the bare minimum. The other option is to create a Facebook Fan page to communicate key information to the community (students and parents alike). Burt states that:
  1. "The fact is, the majority of your students and their parents are probably already on Facebook
  2. Even when schools have a policy against being “friends” online, there are tools you can use that won’t violate policy
  3. Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information
  4. We have an obligation as educators to model appropriate online behavior and learn right along our students"

Part of my inquiry project was to create a Facebook page for my library. I went through the process, creating one linked to my personal page, as this is the only way to do it. I wondered if anyone accessing my library page would be able to access my personal page in any way. When I checked into this, I found out that no one would have access to my personal page. In the end, I realized that creating a Facebook page for an elementary school library would essentially be a lot of work for nothing. I would still have to promote my library Facebook page in a major way to my community. As such, I decided that my energies would be better spent on promoting my library blog that already contains the information I would include on the Facebook page. If I were in a high school, I would definitely create one since I know that in this way information about my library would reach almost every student. At the elementary school level, only a few of the older students actively use Facebook. 

The figures in the above infographic illustrate how tied into social media students are. It also illustrates the concerns that schools have about social media.

I fulfilled my goal in becoming familiar with Facebook so that I could teach the grade 6 and 7 students about social networking, "netiquette", privacy settings, and the importance of creating a positive digital "tattoo" or presence. Even though I used an excellent unit through Media Awareness Network called Passport to the Internet, it was very important that I know how Facebook works so that I could speak from experience and add other appropriate resources to my unit.