Thursday, 29 March 2012

Final Reflection

            When I embarked upon the learning journey that was to be this course, I had several goals.  I wanted to increase my own comfort level with Web 2.0 tools, so that I could more effectively integrate their use into my classroom practice.  I wanted my use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom to lead to rich, meaningful, and curricularly-linked learning for my students.  I also wanted to explore ways to teach my students to be active participants in the Web 2.0 world, while still being safe, responsible, and resourceful.  While I had used some Web 2.0 tools in my classroom in the past, I had had mixed results, and wanted to increase my knowledge and competence, so that my future technological efforts would be more successful.  I chose several tools that I intended to explore, but I was fully aware that it was a fluid list, and kept an open mind.  The blogs and discussions of my classmates, the readings I did, the needs of my class, and the conversations I had with my colleagues, all led me to make changes in my list as my inquiry progressed.  In the end, my inquiry led me to explore some fascinating new (to me) Web 2.0 tools, challenged me to find ways to integrate technology into my classroom practice in a meaningful way, and helped me to gain confidence in learning and using new Web 2.0 tools.
Synthesis of Learning
            When this course began, I was an intermediate tech user.  I was comfortable using a range of technological tools in my classroom, but had concerns about online security and digital citizenship.  I also found that technology would often be used in schools just for the sake of using technology, rather than to create a learning opportunity that would not have existed in a lower-tech environment.  I wanted to find ways to use technology to augment my teaching and my students’ learning.  My inquiry project allowed me to begin to do this.
            Over the course of my inquiry, I explored a range of Web 2.0 tools.  Some were useful in my classroom, some allowed me to present materials to my students in interesting ways, and some engaged me in professional learning.  While my blog contains details on my efforts, successes, and struggles with each Web 2.0 tool that I tried, I can summarize my experiences by saying that however I used technology with my students, it engaged them.  Technology is the heart of the world in which my students are growing up, and they are excited when presented with an opportunity to incorporate pieces of this world into their school experience. 
            Brian Kenney, in School Library Journal, said the following:
                     For librarian-teachers, this challenge is even more critical. The new Web is increasingly the pen and paper for young people. It's one of the places they experience and create narrative. It's where reading and learning takes place, where recreational needs are met, communities are formed, and knowledge is constructed.  (Kenney, 2007)  
Bearing this in mind, I was not surprised to find my students highly engaged by technology.  I was looking for more than just engagement, however.  I was looking for meaningful learning. 
            While my students were engaged by the Web 2.0 tools that we explored as part of my inquiry, I found that they needed direct instruction and purposeful feedback if they were to use the tools responsibly and effectively.  Just like when students are learning a new low-tech skill, students need to be guided in reflection on their work, and goal-setting for improvement, based on feedback.  They need a chance to become familiar with a Web 2.0 tool, but also with how to interact responsibly and respectfully in an online environment.  My students were at first sometimes silly, off-task, and even disrespectful to each other when interacting in an online environment, but with direct instruction, their digital citizenship improved.  I believe that this learning will transfer to other online areas of their lives.  Will Richardson (2010) states that students are interacting with others on the Web at an earlier and earlier age, and so they need to be taught the fundamentals of digital citizenship.  Students are going to have a digital footprint, regardless of whether we help them to develop one or not.  We can help this to be a positive experience by modelling respectful, responsible use of Web 2.0 tools, and the development of a positive online profile.  I talked to my students about my inquiry project, and showed them some of the tools that I was using and resources that I was creating.  They were intrigued, and I was able to be a positive Web 2.0 role-model.
            Perhaps the most important result of my inquiry is that I became a much more fluent and competent user of Web 2.0 tools, both for my own personal and professional uses, and in my classroom.  I challenged myself to explore new tools, even when I was sceptical, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I began to understand the richness of the possibilities of the Web 2.0 world.  While there is a lot out there that holds no interest for me, there is also a lot that is relevant, intriguing, and useful to me.  Although I barely scraped the surface of the Web, I am a lot further along than I was before this inquiry started.  While I would still consider myself an intermediate tech user, I now have a much clearer idea of the possibilities of the Web 2.0 world, and a much more positive attitude towards them.
Sharing My Learning
            I work in a small school, with a small staff of open-minded people.  Our school is in the process of updating our technological hardware, and is spending a lot of money purchasing projectors, iPads, Apple TV, class sets of lap tops, and document cameras.  Because of this, it is understandable that we would be focussing our professional development and collaboration on using this technology effectively.  So I am in a good position to share my learning with a group of keen, hard-working teachers.  My colleagues and I share ideas, and learn from each other.  My class has a Grade One class for computer buddies, and my students teach them most things that they learn.  We present our tech products at assemblies and staff meetings, as well as on our school website.  We are learning day by day, and we are sharing our learning with others whenever we can.
Imagining the Future
            My exploration of the Web 2.0 world does not end with this course.  Our students live in a Web 2.0 world, so we, as teachers, must plan our students’ learning with this in mind.  I have already, since I finished my blog, set up blogs for each of my students (in the secure environment of Moodle) on which they will blog as the main character of their novel as they read for their independent novel study.  I have developed criteria for their blogs, and am working on setting criteria for them to read and comment on their classmates’ blogs.  As I continue in my career, I anticipate that I will continue to learn and grow.  Next year, our district is apparently going to begin using a programme that will assign each student a school-specific email address.  This would allow my students to access many of the excellent Web 2.0 tools that I explored in this inquiry, as well as many that I haven’t yet become familiar with.  Secure email addresses would open a lot of possibilities for my students.  As well as this development, my school is investing in some exciting technology, and I will need to learn and grow if I am to incorporate its use effectively into my classroom practice.  The future holds many exciting possibilities, and I look forward to exploring them with the open mind and the comfort level that I developed over the course of this inquiry.  Berger and Trexler (2010) say that “school librarians need to become leaders, advocates, and change agents willing to embrace the digital environment to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information” (p 17).  As this course draws to a close, I feel confident that I will be able to be a leader in my school as my learning journey into the Web 2.0 world continues.

Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010).Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital   World. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kenney, B. (2007). You 2.0. School Library Journal, 53 (1). Retrieved from        ew/211823073?accountid=14656

Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Students all over the world, when faced with a research question, turn first, and often exclusively, to Wikipedia for answers.  Teachers and Teacher Librarians, while they often rely on Wikipedia in their personal lives, struggle with what to teach their kids about the site.  I came across some interesting information about Wikipedia while reading Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.  In it, Richardson (2010) provides some information about how Wikipedia is edited.  He says that errors are quickly found and corrected, and that the efforts of thousands of people working together to create an accurate source of information lead to a product that is reliable and constantly being updated.

That being said, Wikipedia should probably not be the only source of information that kids learn to rely on.  While It is a convenient and reasonably reliable way to start  looking for information, students should always use more than one source.  I have found the Simple English Wikipedia to be useful in my Grade 4/5 class.  I have my class use it with Google Safe Search by starting from Wikipedia for Kids for a safe search that is at a manageable reading level.  I copied examples of an entry from Wikipedia, and the same entry from Wikipedia for Kids to demonstrate this.

For the amount of information my students need to know on any given topic, Wikipedia for kids would be more than enough.  I would also love to one day have my students do some thorough research, and edit an entry, then follow their entry to see if their own work got edited.  That exercise would give my students a real sense of purpose for their research, as well as a clear idea of how Wikipedia is created.

I have not yet had my class create a wiki, but I have plans to.  Before I missed 7 days of school in a row due to illness and job action, I had set up a wiki for my class to build in Moodle.  It is a built in feature of Moodle, and Moodle provides a secure, private environment in which young students can develop their social networking skills.  After Spring Break, I plan to have my students work together  to create a wiki.  Our next Language Arts unit is poetry: perhaps they could create a wiki with different pages for different poetic forms.  They could include definitions, famous examples, and examples of their own work, as well as audio or video recordings of dramatic readings of poems.  I think that creating a wiki as a collaborative class project would be a fascinating process.  I am not sure how it would work, but I do know that my students and I would learn a lot through the creative, collaborative process. The next step would be to invite another class from another school to join in the process!

Wikis can be useful sources of information, but creating them would challenge my students to work together for an authentic, cooperative purpose.

One more note on Wikipedia:  one of my profs in an earlier course said that a study comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica was done, and Wikipedia emerged the victor.  Now I don't know if that is true...maybe I should look it up on Wikipedia...

Saturday, 10 March 2012


In Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching and Learning in a Digital World, Pam Berger and Sally Trexler (2010) say that the word "podcast" is a combination of the words "iPod" and "broadcast."  It is an audio or video file that is shared over the internet.  Podcasting is a novel way to share ideas and performances, and a fun new form of entertainment.  Podcasts have applications in my personal life, as well as in my classroom.

I am about to fly to Europe, and I need something to entertain me on the long plane ride.  Podcasts, downloaded onto my iPhone, are a way of bringing hours of entertainment with me in one very small package.  I started searching for podcasts on iTunes, and was immediately successful.  I was able to download, for free, archived episodes of many of my favourite CBC radio shows, from The Vinyl Cafe to The Age of Persuasion.  I also bought a season of the radio drama Afghanada. Berger and Trexler (2010) recommended a number of podcasts, and many of these were available to download through iTunes.  I downloaded various podcasts, in genres from history to comedy to travel.  I also followed their recommendations to several sites that allowed me to listen to podcasts without downloading them, and found some that my students would enjoy.

My students love listening to stories and "radio dramas," so they would love listening to podcasts.  It would be easy for me to direct them to either a specific podcast, or to a site with a number of quality podcasts from which they could choose.  Listening comprehension is an important part of our Language Arts curriculum, so listening to a podcast and completing comprehension activities would be a relevant learning activity, and one which my students would find engaging.  Finding quality podcasts can be a challenge.  As with everything on the web, anyone can publish a podcast, so there are a lot to sift through before you find quality ones.  Berger and Trexler (2010) had some good recommendations for individual sites.  Using the podcast directories they recommended, however, was a bit tricky.  The first one I tried did not load.  The second had seizure-inducing flashing ads.  The third and fourth both had podcasts on topics inappropriate for elementary school (complete with graphic logos) featured on their homepage.  Based on my explorations, I would direct my students to a specific site, rather than having them use a directory to find a podcast.

As well as listening to podcasts, my students would enjoy making them.  I have used the program Audacity (a free audio editing programme) to have my students create oral presentations.  I have had them create broadcasts presenting curricular information (i.e. "properties of light") and "Readers' Theatre." They love recording and hearing their own voices, and were extremely adept at using the editing tools to create effective, engaging audio assignments.  I have not yet had them publish their work onto the Web, so I can't realyy call them podcasts.  Although one can upload a podcast onto one of the directories I explored, based on my findings, I would not choose to do that with my students.  I think that I will stick to the safe, private confines of Moodle.  They are then publishing only for the audience of their own class, but they are still publishing online, and for young students, that is a start.

Podcasts are exciting to create, and so many are available to listen to, on so many topics, that they are a great source of information and entertainment.  Exploring podcasts has allowed me to broaden my understanding of what is available, as well as possible classroom uses.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

More Prezi

I spent some more time exploring Prezi: both the creation of new material and the viewing of already extant prezis.  My understanding of what the tool can be used for, although far from complete, is certainly more thorough. 
Many people have created prezis to present ideas, probably for a specific group or purpose.  I found a number of prezis about education.  This one by Michael Gerard introducing concepts of 21st Century Education was interesting.  When I tried to find useful prezis on a range of professional development topics that might interest me, I found the selection was limited and the quality questionable.  Anybody can publish a prezi, and no source information is required, so I would say that prezis have limited use for independent exploration and learning.  I found the same thing when I tried to find a  quality prezi that I could use to introduce or review curricular content with my class: selection was limited and reliability and quality were questionable.
Prezi does, however, provide a fun, different way to create your own presentation.  I created a presentation to review the properties of light with my grade 4/5 class.  We have done reading and experimentation around each property of light, and this presentation will allow my students a quick, engaging way to review what we have been working on.  It didn't take me too long to make, and I think that my class will find it helpful and enjoyable.  I especially enjoyed how easy it is to embed youtube videos into a prezi.
While making this prezi for my class was great, I would much rather have my class create and publish their own work than just view mine.  The limitation of Prezi, as with Voicethread, is that each account needs to have its own email address.  If I could get around that speed bump, I think that Prezi would be a great tool to use in the classroom.  Will Richardson (2010), in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms has some useful tips and suggestions for having students safely publish their work on the Web.  One of the most important things he recommends is involving parents in any decisions about publishing student work online.  Parents, students, and teachers all need to feel comfortable with the degree of personal information and work shared in such a permanent, public environment.
Publishing work online can help motivate students by providing them with a very real, very global, audience.  With purposeful, targeted teaching, we can help students to safely publish their work in this Web 2.0 environment.  It is then just a matter of logistics: how do we find tools that 30 young children can use at once, when they are not allowed to have email addresses, and our limited budgets make the educational versions of many products an impossibility?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Prezi Beginnings

My blogging project has slowed down a bit lately, because I have been quite sick.  But now that I am back at work (and when I say work, I mean shivering on an "information leaflet line," holding a sodden sign), I am getting back on track.  I spent some time tonight exploring Prezi.  I signed up for a free account, watched a tutorial, looked at a few examples, and then started playing.  My first attempt is very basic, but I figured out the basics.  From here, I will be gaining some proficiency, and exploring educational connections.  It was actually pretty easy and fun to make!  The trouble I see (once again) with using this tool in the classroom, is that each account needs an email address, and that work is publicly displayed, and that school accounts are prohibitively expensive.   So we will see what the educational applications may be.  Warning: my first prezi is about my very cute dog, Lacey.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

More Twitter Thoughts

I've been using Twitter for several weeks now, and am growing to like it.  It is a useful source of news and interesting information, in a very convenient format.  I now get much  of my news by following CBC News Alerts and CBC Top Stories. If a story is interesting to me, I follow the link to the full story, which can include pictures, articles, and videos.  If I don't feel like learning more, I simply pass over the headline.  Very convenient.  Twitter also has interesting educational applications.  The hashtags that I mentioned in my last post often contain links to interesting articles related to education, and, because of the nature of the format and the interests of its users, they are often focused on the use of technology in the classroom.  In fact, my next current event is one that I found under the hashtag #sd33 (my school district).  So the implications for personalized professional development are fascinating.  All we have to do is find someone that consistently has interesting ideas (even in just a few weeks I can tell who from the #sd33 conversation is worth following and who I should just skim over), and check their tweets from time to time, searching for ideas and information that is relevant and interesting to me.

Twitter also has lots of potential for use in the classroom.  I am not suggesting that I am going to sign each of the 9-11 year olds in my class up for a Twitter account and set them loose on the world, but there are twitters out there that would be interesting to follow as a class, as discussion starters, lesson hooks, or writing prompts.  Pam Berger and Sally Trexler (2010), in their book Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World, recommend two very interesting twitters to follow as a class.  One is daily tweets taken from the diary of U.S. President John Quincy Adams.  While this is obviously an American text and twitter, it is an interesting concept, and I have started looking for significant Canadian historical figures who "tweet" in a similar fashion.  So far I have not found any, but I will keep looking, because that could be an interesting Social Studies resource.  Berger and Trexler also recommend a twitter taken from Charles Darwin's diary.  While the tweets provide interesting snippets of Darwin's perspective, I found the associated blog, which features full diary entries, much more interesting.  I also recently came across an interesting Twitter event that celebrates part of Canadian history.  on April 14th, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic will host a real-time Twitter event, where wireless messages, including the iceberg warnings that preceded the event, will be tweeted.  The museum compares Twitter to wireless messages, in that they are short messages sent out to the world that link people across distances, and communicate news quickly using the latest technology.  Information on this Twitter event can be found at Titanic Twitter Event.  This is an event that I might view (not at night time, as it unfolds, but the next day) with my class, encouraging them to think about the ways that technology has changed communication. 

That, I suppose, is the key to Twitter.  Technology has changed, and continues to change, communication.  Twitter is a new form of communication to me, and I am enjoying learning about it by exploring its possibilities for personal, professional, and classroom use.  I still haven't tweeted myself, yet, and I still have that one faithful follower, who I suppose is waiting with bated breath for that first tweet!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Twitter: First Thoughts

I have just started using Twitter, and so am just beginning to understand its uses and possibilities.  I follow several CBC personalities, Ted Talks, and my sister.  I receive news updates from CBC, which I find very useful.  I am also enjoying a few # hashtags: #sd33 (my school district), and #edchat (an international community of educators).  Both of these clusters of tweeters (I'm sure those are not the proper terms) contain some tweets that I just skim over, and some that I explore further.  I think that Twitter has some interesting applications for professional development, collaboration, and communication.  I find it a bit odd, though, that I have a follower: someone I've never heard of.  I've never tweeted, so I'm not sure what she gets out of following me...  More thoughts on Twitter as I explore it further.  It wasn't on my Inquiry Proposal, but I am going to add it as one of my Web 2.0 Tools.