Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 9, Thing 20: YouTube

I am a frequent user of YouTube, both personally and in my classroom. Okay, so I spend probably a lot of time on YouTube.  When I need a distraction, I look for musical theater clips, stand-up bits, or just fun material that you wouldn't find anywhere else.  In the classroom, I have found excellent clips that I have used for my World War II unit.  I also used YouTube to find campaign videos during my election unit, as I taught students how to find appropriate sources of information.  I find that when I use YouTube, the students are more engaged simply because I am using a resource that they are familiar with and that they use for recreation.  It is almost as if for a brief moment they can plug back into the digital world that we ask them to step away from during the school day.  And I think that when we begin to connect their school world to their home/recreational world, they will be able to make connections to learning in a more powerful way.

During this experience, I spent some time looking at Common Craft videos, as well as exploring the Teacher Tube site.  I had never been to Teacher Tube and I was really pleased to find some excellent resources for the classroom.  The clips I found were short enough that students would not lose attention and they would bring a visual component to the lesson being taught.  In regards to Common Craft, I have seen several of these videos that explain 2.0 technologies.  I enjoy the presentation style of these videos, as well as the "Plain English" that is used to explore each technology.  As libraries look to instruct learners of all ages how to interact in a 2.0 setting, these videos could be an excellent way to begin building background and make people more comfortable to begin diving in.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 8, Thing 19: Library Thing

I am a big fan of Library Thing. I have not gotten to the point where I have been networking with other people, but I love the online catalog aspect of it.  I have started creating my catalog for my classroom library and have added a searching tool on my blog.  When this project is complete (I have about 500 books), my students will be able to search my database for books of their choosing.  I could even link it to my class website for remote access.  There are also possibilities for creating collections within my collection.  This would be a great way to recommend particular resources for topics in class or to keep up a list of "Top Titles".  As an example, here is a link to my collection for a unit on Minnesota's involvement in the Civil War (  I am really excited about the possibilities for it in my classroom!

Week 8, Thing 18: Online Productivity Tools

I had heard about some of these tools, like GoogleDocs, but I had never given myself the opportunity to use them.  I can see where this would help people be more productive.  It does allow one to work and post online, making the product available wherever you are, instead of just on your home computer.  To be honest, there have been many times where I have not started something at home because I would not have access to a printer.  So I wait until I go to school and work on it there.  Zoho enables me to type in an online setting, making it available wherever I am.  I am currently using it to create my blog posting.  I like the enhanced editing features in Zoho (as opposed to blog) that will allow me to make more polished posted and then send them to my blog.  I have also started uploading some of documents to make them accessible at school as well.

With students, if we allow ourselves to take a little risk, this could really pay off.  Giving students an opportunity to finish work at home that was started at school, has always been tricky.  By using an online word processor, students can access this document on their home computer.  Teachers may be initially concerned with some dishonest completion practices, but I think it is a risk worth taking.  By showing students tools that are not only usable in school, but also in their "plugged in" existence, we have helped make our tools more applicable in their world.  This could be a gap bridger!  Just a thought...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week 7, Thing 17: CL2.0 Wiki - Curriculum Connections

I  guess that I came away from this experience a little confused.  As a wiki, I see the purpose: a gathering spot for curriculum ideas using 2.0 tools.  However, I did not find much there that was usable for the classroom.  Was I looking in the wrong places?  I started on the Blog page and I found some suggestions on ways to spice up my avatar.  I did create a new M & M avatar and posted it in the Sandbox, but to me this seemed like a fun idea to add to my own blog and not necessarily to use in the classroom.  As I went to other pages, there were whole pages that had nothing on them. In the Sandbox, I am still not sure of what the purpose is.  My understanding is that the Sandbox is an area where one can just play and not be afraid of what it looks like.  But can't one also do that with a normal wiki page and just not save any of the changes?  Or go back and edit later?  Also, the content on the sandbox seemed less about play and practice with 2.0 tools, and more about storytelling.

This wiki illustrates to me the dangers of creating a wiki for a wide audience with a wide purpose.  Wikis are an extremely valuable tool for collecting information in one spot and allowing more than one person to add content.  However, it does open itself up to creation of content that is less than quality, especially if opened to a wide audience.  What if the managers of this wiki, posted examples of content that could be posted as way to model what this could look like?  Maybe this would help establish some guidelines for posting without setting any stringent rules, which would be hard to manage and would limit the freedom that wikis afford.  Just a thought...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 7, Thing 16: Wikis

I have been sold on wikis for about a year now, but have not used them in my class yet.  However, starting this year, all of our classes have our own 2.0 class portals which include wikis, blogs, discussion boards, etc.  In the past we have had to find appropriate hosts and set up the tools ourselves, but now they are already set up for us!  No excuses now, right?  The hardest part here I think will be working together as staff to integrate these tools into our curriculum.  Although at first teachers may be hesitant about these new tools, they will eventually see how much they enhance the curriculum, as well as the engagement of the students.

The library wikis that I saw this time around were used as an information hub.  One such wiki, Library Success: A best practices wiki acts as a collection site for librarians to contribute any information or best practice ideas that they have come across.  What a great tool for sharing, as well as gaining information.  Another wiki, Library Bloggers, lists the various library blogs throughout the country.  Because it is a wiki, bloggers can add their own information, without depending on a manager to do that for them.  I found blogs on this wiki that are extremely valuable and I would have never found otherwise.

As for the classroom, I think that the application possibilities for this tool are endless.  Collaborative projects could be done using a wiki.  Reluctant readers could be enticed into a book discussion group with a tech component, like a wiki.  The collaborative nature of the wiki makes this tool more compatible to discussion than a blog (in my opinion).  Wikis could also be used as the "hub" for gathering information from a WebQuest or other exploratory activity.  As we plan our 6th grade teacher potluck, I am even thinking about introducing a wiki to help organize who needs to bring what.  This could save a lot of our team time.  Just a thought...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week 6, Thing 15: Creative Commons, Copyright and What's Coming

When working on my coursework last fall, I had developed a blog about public domain.  Through the preparation of the blog, I found Creative Commons and was drawn to it immediately.  Again I am reminded, through the video introduction and another tour of the site, what an amazing resource this is!  People are having great ideas all the time.  Ideas that could be shared, could be refined, or could be adapted to a new audience. Copyright doesn't always allow us to do that, but with the Creative Commons licenses, materials can be protected but also available for public use and even manipulation.  The information on how the materials can be used is available by clicking on the Creative Commons license itself, which then links you to the description what rights the owner is preserving and what he/she is allowing.  By using the searching tool at the Creative Commons website, users can find materials (through Google) that are able to be used freely or with only some restriction.  For teachers, this is a little known site that could make a huge difference in the classroom.  Often times, we plead ignorance in the case of copyright.  But here, we have full disclosure of what is available and how we can use it.  With more and more material not only available online, but also created online, this concept of copyright will only get more hazy.  Creative Commons will help us navigate through the haze.

Week 6, Thing 14: Technorati and Tags

Technorati is a helpful tool for navigating web content.  I especially like the unique design of the searching tool, allowing you to either click on a blog search or a posting search.  I found that both yielded relevant material to a search about "Classroom Learning 2.0".  However, if you wanted a blog that was focused on this particular topic, than the blog search would be recommended.

In an age where user-created material dominates as a primary source of information, tools such as Technorati are essential.  They provide the guidance we need to find the material that we are looking for.  And because there is so much material, the idea of having a controlled vocabulary as a way to index material is impossible.  Sure, tagging might not make it possible to find all relevant material, but there is a high likelihood that the language you use in your profession or avocation, will also be used by the bloggers in that field.  For example, I know that I can find blogs about literacy, middle school, and PLCs, because this is a language is commonly used in my field and most likely act as tags.  The benefit here is that tags are made by people who care about and know about that material.  The deep understanding helps them tag in a way that describes the heart of the material, making the tag a true representation of the work.  I know that don't think like a cataloger and my guess is that most people on the web don't either.  So maybe when looking for blogs or other web-based material, it might be less of guessing game to find what heading will get you what you need.

I don't know that I would using Technorati with students, but how about tagging?  Most likely, some are already assigning tags to material.  But even if not, what a great way to work with students on determining the main idea of a passage.  Especially for students with who are English Language Learners, this could be a positive and less remedial-looking way of teaching them how to find the main idea.  Students could tag materials written by other people or could tag their own material.  This could be kind of motivating, don't you think?  Just a thought...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Week 6, Thing 13: Tagging and

Well...I am hooked!  I really had pull myself away from this tool so that I could write my blog and move on to another activity.  I found immediate application to how I manage my own bookmark and making them more accessible.  I have always wondered about how I bookmark, fairly blindly.  Some I keep in folders, but most I don't.  So what results is a mess of bookmarks that I will rarely use because I don't know where they are.  However, in, the tagging makes it so that I can still bookmark blindly, but now I associate tags to those bookmarks, making them more accessible.  Searching by tags will help me re-discover great sites that I may have forgotten, which actually helps me reach the desired purpose of bookmarking in the first place: actually use the links in the future.

There is a definite future in social tagging.  It really puts the cataloging of material into the hands of the user.  Users can now assign meaningful tags to items and will be able to use it more effectively because the labels should make sense.  With the social nature of a tool like, people will be able to share tags and bookmarks, and really work collaboratively in cataloging web material.  It may lack in a controlled vocabulary, but social tagging aids the user by providing a new form of organization that will guide them to the material they are looking for.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Week 5, Thing 12: Rollyo

I do think that a tool like Rollyo helps provide a more contained atmosphere to teach students online searching.  Teachers can control what students find by establishing what resources will be searched, instead of hoping that students know how to separate the good from the bad.  This would work great for research projects or assignments based on choice.  The Rollyo I created includes sources that describe MN's role in the U.S. Civil War.  I was able use my knowledge of the topic and more advanced searching skills to hand pick materials that they can search from.  It was easy to do (although on Safari this was very slow) and I was able to test for user-friendliness.  The searches I tried came up with desirable results.

My only concern here is that it would seem to take a lot of the evaluation out of searching.  Because we have pre-selected the material, students will not have to evaluate the reliability of the source.  They still will have to sift through information and decide which pieces are useful to their assignment, but they will need exposure to and instruction in how to wade through a number of sources and choose the best ones.  So, although I could see this being used with great success, teachers should also pair it with using other online databases and search engines.  I do think that the format of search engine will automatically make students more comfortable with the searching process and more successful if designed correctly.

Below is the link for my Rollyo, MN and the Civil War:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week 5, Thing 11: Web 2.0 Winners

I have more Web 2.0 Award winners to browse through, but I really spent some time getting to know Library Thing.  I just realized that this site is one of our future "Things", but I am really excited about the possibilities of this tool in my classroom.  Immediately, I was offered a tour and I took it.  This helped me get acquainted with what this tool offers.  As an end-user, I want to be showed the tour not forced to look for it.  That was a nice feature.  The registration is one step and within 30 seconds I can start exploring.

My 6th grade classroom has a library of about 500 books.  I have been collecting ever since I've started teaching and have developed a decent collection.  Although I have had the students organize and manage the library in the past, I have never had a catalogue.  As I was touring Library Thing, I wondered if this could be a tool for my classroom library.  Making it public, my students could use this as an online catalog to search for books.  I could print it out and keep a copy in my library.  I have added about 25 books so far and found it very easy.  Easy enough that students could help me input books.  I have used the LC information so subject headings are also included.  This will allow my students to even search by subject.  Because it's based on a controlled vocabulary, the success may be limited but it is definitely a start.

This site has me excited about starting my own catalog!  This could be a great tool for classroom libraries to catalog what they have and make it accessible to students.