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.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tweeting on Twitter

I originally signed up for Twitter never intending to tweet. I saw it as a way to find out what was going on in the world of educational technology. It has been fabulous for that reason. Whenever I had a few minutes I would log on to my Twitter account and browse through a few of the daily tweets sent out by the people that I am following. I found some excellent blog posts this way. In fact, I can count on finding at least one or two interesting articles a day just by checking Twitter out for a few minutes. I often have more success using Twitter for this reason than using my Google Reader simply because if someone has tweeted about a blog post, then it must come recommended, much like a book review for a book. 

A couple of weeks after signing up for Twitter, I took the plunge and started tweeting. I am mainly retweeting interesting articles, but I also tweeted about one of my own blog posts to a couple of colleagues who I thought might be interested in the digital storytelling tool that I had reviewed. It is easy to connect with different people on Twitter and I also like Twitter for this reason.

To date, I have tweeted 21 times and I can see myself continuing to do so on a regular basis. I am enjoying being able to contribute as much as I am enjoying following people.

I found this interesting tutorial on how to Build a Professional Learning Network with Social Media using Twitter. The creator, Miles of Miles' Tomes in Teaching and Learning  does a great job of breaking down how to set up a Twitter account for professional reasons in a simple step-by-step way.

The website Edudemic wrote a blog post in June, 2010 entitled The Ultimate Twitter Guidebook For Teachers. Included in this blog post are a list of ideas for using Twitter in the classroom. I have included a few of them here:

  1. Communicate with parents and students. Twitter assignments, important events, deadlines, and more to keep parents and students updated with important information.
  2. Daily summaries. Give a daily update on each school day so parents can stay in touch with what their children are learning.
  3. Collaborative planning. Teachers and students or students working together can use Twitter to document ideas and share with their collaboration team.
  4. Teacher collaboration. Many teachers collaborate on their lesson plans and teaching techniques and tips. Twitter allows collaborating teachers to share ideas and stay connected easily.
  5. Learn a foreign language. Using a service like twitterlearn or just practicing conversation skills with other Twitterers around the globe, students can practice a foreign language.
  6. Connect with other classrooms. Find a classroom in a different geographic area to create a modern-day pen pal situation where students can learn from each other through their Tweets.
I like these ideas, but am not sure that they would work well at the elementary level due to management and privacy issues for younger students.  For now, I will continue to use Twitter as a way to expand my knowledge of educational technology and all things educational, for that matter. On a side note, I have found Twitter to be very useful for keeping my finger on the pulse of the action surrounding BC Teachers at this time.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Lego Stop Motion Animation

Have you seen these videos before? Where have I been? They are so clever. I'm trying to think of the learning outcomes that I could teach while getting the students to put together one of these videos. I need to check it out. I know that I would have some pretty excited grade 4 boys! My own sons would love it, too. How can I incorporate writing into the making of these animations? ;)

Monday, 12 March 2012

{Focusing} on Digital Storytelling

I really enjoyed playing around with the three digital storytelling tools Xtranormal, Storybird and Zooburst. It helped that I had a willing assistant in my 10 year old son. Even though I am learning so much from the social networking part of my Web 2.0 inquiry project, investigating Facebook and Twitter, I felt that it was much easier to concentrate on the task at hand when I was exploring the above mentioned digital storytelling tools. Maybe that is because Facebook and Twitter are vehicles for learning (vehicles that often bring me to unexpected destinations! ~ more on that later!) and these storytelling tools are just that, tools to create with.

Xtranormal would be fun to use either to present fictional dialogue between two characters or as a way to present biographical research in an interview format as I discussed here. Storybird is a vehicle that could lead the students on a path to create rich writing, finding inspiration in the wonderful artwork available with this tool. Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool that the students will have fun with given its 3-D and virtual pop-up book presentation possibilities. All three tools could be used in the classroom setting and I can see using Xtranormal and Zooburst in the library setting as a way to present research findings.

I know that I am always looking for ways to help get the students excited about writing. Kist says that "new literacies classrooms are places of student engagement in which students report achieving a "flow" state" (Kist, 2010. p. 44). It is my goal to introduce these types of activities so that writing can bring joy to the students and be less of a chore in their eyes. I think that we came pretty close to achieving "flow" when we worked on our writing projects on Glogster and I am hoping that my students will find Storybird and Zooburst as much fun to use.

Works cited:

Kist, W. (2010). Choosing Web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Digital Storytelling {Zooburst}

My third exploration in the world of digital storytelling was with Zooburst. 

There are a number of uses for Zooburst. It can be used to publish a picture book or it can be a way to present the findings in a research project. Zooburst is original in that it's got the virtual pop-up element to it. But, it also has another really cool feature: "augmented reality" or 3-D. To view the book in this option you need a web cam. Click on Webcam Mode.

When this box pops up, click on "allow".

On the left, you will see these instructions. Click on the image and print it on a standard sheet of paper.
Place the printed image in front of your webcam and the book will now be in 3-D. There will also be the option of turning the pages by moving your hand in front of the camera. What a fun idea! Try it out yourself with this book that I put together with the help of my 10 year old son.

Creating this story was easy. Since Zooburst has a pretty good selection of clip art, students could take a story that they have already written and illustrate it in this pop-up book format. They might have to change their story a little if exact pictures are not available. But, working on the story in this way would allow the students to create something with substance before they start "clicking" around on the site. I find that working with digital storytelling applications can be distracting for the students, so if you want to have quality writing, it is important to have the bulk of the story written before you put it together on Zooburst.

The Basic Account, which is free, allows you to make ten books, 10 pages each in length. If you upgrade to the Premium Account for $49.99/year you can have 250 student accounts for an unlimited number of 50 page books. The Premium Account also gives you the following classroom management features:

Since I did not sign up for the Premium account, I was not able to access these features, but I can see how this would be the only way to go, since we always have more than 10 students in a class ;)!!  The 3-D viewing feature would most likely have to accessed at home. Although, I'm sure some classes have webcams on a classroom computer and could therefore have the class view the projects together in this way.

I can see myself using this tool in my grade 4 class for a creative writing assignment, but I can also see myself using it in my capacity as teacher-librarian as a way to present research projects. I think that it is good value at $49.00/year for 250 students.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Digital Storytelling {Storybird}

My next exploration with digital storytelling was with Storybird. I found out about this digital storywriting tool on this blog early on in the term. I was very impressed by the quality of the artwork available to use as illustrations for stories. There is also a huge variety of artwork which means that most students will find something to their liking.

It was easy to sign up. I did the usual: chose a username and password and entered my email address. I set up a free teacher account right away with the option of having up to 3 classes with a total of 75 students.  Storybird has fundraising options available which may be why they can offer a free account for teachers. There are a few more options with the Storybird Pro for Teachers account for $69/ year such as:

With the Storybird Pro for Teachers you also get one free PDF book download per student (you can have 150 students with this account).

The fundraising option looks interesting, as parents always like to have copies of their children's work.

The actual writing of the story was fairly straightforward. I got my 10 year old son to write a story with the program. First of all he chose the artwork he wanted to use. This gave him the option of choosing between many pages created by this certain artist. The next step was to simply drag and drop a few pages onto a screen. After he had chosen the pages he liked the most, and placed them in order, he set to work writing his story.

I liken the process of writing stories with Storybird to using the "Picture Word Induction Model" of writing or "PWIM". If students are familiar with this process, they will have an easier time writing stories based on illustrations.

My son, who is a reluctant writer and who was so happy to volunteer to help me out ;), wrote a short, simple story. He even said that he had a little fun writing it! Here it is:

Super Alien Stuff on Storybird  I agree with how Storybird promotes their product when they write: 
It was true that since the interface was easy to use and simple by nature, one didn't have to spend a lot of time fiddling around with digital side of things and could just focus on writing a story to go along with wonderful illustrations. Some of them are just stunning! You should check it out. I will definitely be trying out Storybird with my grade 4 class, after I spend a little time introducing my students  to PWIM.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Digital Storytelling {Xtranormal}

Xxtranormal is an animation tool that allows you to create a scene using one or two actors. You simply choose the set, your actors, and then start typing. You can put it on the default option for the camera, or you can be more artistic and move the camera the way you like, add facial expressions or have the characters point. For my Xtranormal video, I left it on the default option and I am happy with the way the camera focused on the two different characters and with how it panned in and out. Students will have fun working with the different options.

I signed up for the free version which basically allows you to produce two no-frills videos. The teacher account is quite expensive in my opinion.

If you wanted it for even two classes of 30 students, it would be $40.00 per month. When I compare this to Glogster, it seems quite expensive, since I can buy an educator's account at Glogster for $99.00 per year which is good for 200 students.

Xtranormal for Education allows you to work within your own class which means that students' work is not open to the public. It also has grading tools that you can use and a system in place that gives you access to students' accounts. Unfortunately, Xtranormal does not offer a free trial period for a teacher +student account, so I am not sure how the grading tools or the organization system works.

Here is my creation with Xtranormal.

by: MJHunter

If you had no budgetary concerns, or perhaps a grant from PAC to buy special subscriptions to Web 2.0 tools, I would recommend Xtranormal as a fun digital storytelling tool. It would be great to use as a final product for say a biography of an influential or important person. The research could be presented in the form of an interview. I think that Xtranormal would be appropriate for middle school grades, but depending on the group, it could work with students as young as grade 4. These videos would just be a lot simpler than videos produced by older students.

Technology to create or technology for rote learning

I came across this moving blog post by Miguel Guhlin in my twitter feed. He makes an excellent point about the different uses of technology in education. Are we teaching students to create with technology or are we simply asking them to complete rote tasks? I guess it depends on the learning outcomes.

In the past, computer programs that were available at school were mostly used for rote learning: quizzes, fill in the blanks, read and respond. With this course I am learning more about Web 2.0 tools that have the students synthesize their learning and create interesting end products such as: glogster, voicethread, prezi and the many educational apps available for use on personal devices. In our online discussion for this course Haley highlighted some apps that promote critical thinking and problem solving in math.

I see having the students blog about their learning as a way to use technology in a way that has them think about what they are learning and gives them the chance to take advantage of all that technology has to offer.