Sunday, March 30, 2008

Social Networking Sites

Blog Posting #8- Social Networking Sites

Ahhh…finally something I have had some experience with. I must say that with some of these blog postings I have had little or no experience at all, with social networking sites I was a fence hopper for months and finally jumped in with the rest of them. I was always one of those people that claimed if I wanted to stay in touch with someone I would call them or go for coffee with them, I didn’t think an electronic relationship was sufficient for those I was even mildly close with. I was wrong, I admit it! Through facebook I have come back into contact with people from high school, people from the old small town I used to live in, friends of my family, family itself etc. I find out who has had babies, bought a new house, got married and graduated and much, much more. It is hard to change the way you think in regards to things of this nature, you must admit to yourself that what you once believed has, yet again, been changed by technological innovations. I remember a time when my father (now addicted to the stock market) said that computers were a waste of time and people needed to learn a real trade. Now when I think about that statement I laugh…the man now has 2 large computer monitors and the best computer money can buy. I was the same way with Social Networking Sites…I thought of them as immature ways to “hook up” with boys or chat MSN style with friends. It turns out that these sites can be incredible forms of communication and great fro sharing life’s precious moments via pictures and quotes. Facebook is a social networking site that I frequent on a daily basis. I have not often thought of its uses in school because it has had quite negative stigma attached to it in my school. Principals warn teachers to not allow students on their facebook profiles (which I obviously completely agree with if it is a personal profile) and principals also do not allow it on the District computers. I do have several of my colleagues on my facebook and this is the only real professional/social relationship I have had. It is nice to see what your colleagues do outside of the school doors, really schools are not our complete world. I did notice that some of my colleagues have parents of the students in their classes on the profile…that seems like a bit of a fine line, but I think it is acceptable. I can now see having a facebook profile that is dedicated to your classroom or library and all of your students and their parents can have access to it. I believe that teachers must have their personal lives separated from students outside of the school, but not in an obsessive way. I think that it is a great idea to have a class facebook profile as a teacher or a teacher-librarian .


Before I rant on and on about the uses of Social Networking Sites let me define them in the way that I understand them.
“…web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.” (


This is the best definition I found for all that these sites entail. The possibilities of these sites are endless, but I have narrowed them down to…building electronic communities for people who share common interests and activities, or want to share in those of others.
Some examples of Social Networking Sites include Facebook, Friendster, classmates, Flickr, Flixster, Librarything (a great site for book lovers) and MySpace. The one I used a lot is Facebook, but I also use MySpace for music interests. To set up my Facbook account I simply went to Facebook. Com and followed the easy and free registration instructions. This is something else that is fantastic about these sights-they are free to join and use for everyone involved.

Are they beneficial in the classroom?

I can see some Social Networking Sites being useful in the classroom, although I do not see them as being as beneficial as some of the web 2.0 tools like Flixster and Wikis. I think that much of what they offer in terms of games, writing on each others walls and buying each other items is a complete waste of time. However some of the options available could be useful. For example I could see the teacher and each classmate being a part of each others facebook profile to learn about each others families, home life etc. I could also see it as a collaboration tool. Students could collaborate about group projects and teachers could assign projects and keep parent sin tune with what is going on in their classrooms. Parents could be on the class facebook to see their children’s friends and class participation. MySpace would also be useful for these reasons.

Cons to Social Networking Sites:
I do find some negative attributes to Social Networking Sites though. Many times when I go on mine people have left notes, pictures etc that I am not interested in nor do I want any part of. Although there are security measures I am sure it wouldn’t be difficult to “hack” into someone’s private profile. Also I think that these sites are hard for parents to monitor. Students could have private settings so their parents/teachers could only witness some of what is going on; also they have private passwords so that parents wouldn’t even know they had a profile. Also, just like in chat rooms, when you are dealing with virtual relationships, anything is possible. People could claim to be someone else… this could be dangerous even on a classroom site. When reading J.A. Hitchcock’s article “Cyberbullies, Online Predators and What to do about them,” I learned about all kinds of bad situations. In one example from the article some students pasted a classmates head onto the body of a cow. I could see this happening on a classroom site. Also the article mentions that many online predators have false identities and can influence the minds of young children. I hear about these cases all the time on “Dateline” and other News channels; it seems that it is too easy to be bullied by these predators, even on a closely monitored site. Hitchock definitely mentions some great advice when dealing with these situations, but you can never be too careful when introducing your students to a web 2.0 tool that could be negatively used. I guess you can say that about many of these tools, however this one seems particularly negative to me.

So all in all I think that there are better Web 2.0 tools for collaboration and classroom uses than Social Networking Sites. I think these sites are more beneficial for personal use.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Multimedia Sharing Sites

Blog Posting #7

Well I cannot say that I was beyond impressed by the idea of this particular Web 2.0 tool, not because it could not be useful, but rather because I have seen it used innappropriately so many times it has lost its appeal. You tube is an example of a multimedia sharing site that has been more than controversial at my school. Students spend a lot of time perusing music videos and funny clips rather than using it for educational purposes. I have decided to take my negative feelings about You tube and not let them sway my opinion while I research other multimedia sharing sites. In stead I will try and remain open-minded and develop educational uses for this tool in my library or classroom.

Having said that, let’s start out with a basic definition of Multimedia sharing sites. One of the websites I discovered that gave me the most understandable and basic definition was The definition they used was “Multimedia sharing sites facilitate the storage, sharing, and sometimes creation of audio, images/photos, and video.” This definition seems to include all of the benefits of multimedia sharing sites I have thought of while learning about them.

One of the first questions I asked myself when inquiring about multimedia sharing is why wouldn’t I just have my photos stored on my home computer and make a slide show from the program already on it? Well the answer is simple…It takes up way too much of the available storage space on your computer. Also you could not share these photos with the public, including friends and family, without e-mailing them. So if you use a multimedia sharing site you can not only save massive amounts of space on your computer, but you can also easily download photos and videos onto one of these sites to share with the public.

Voice threading is another reason that these sites are useful and one of the main reasons I can see them being useful in the classroom. Voice threading is when you can record an audio commentary that relates to an image you have uploaded to your computer. For example I could have a slide show of my family and have all members of my family record a voice commentary on their take of the picture. My mom and dad would obviously come from far different perspective than my sister and I.

What I Learned:

From researching some of the multimedia sharing sites I have learned you can do the following;
- You can upload pictures directly from your scanner or camera
- The up loader can create a movie for you with your own pictures (A fantastic option)
- You can “grab” any video, audio or picture clips to use in your own sites. This is an incredible tool for the classroom because students or teachers could “grab” pictures of videos of the resources relevant to their presentations.
- You could make your website/class website public so that you can get feedback from others.
- Voice Threads can be available all the time to create dialog for others and get feedback on your own.
- You can make voice comments on videos (FUN!)
- Security features allow you to decide who can do what. I still don’t know how “secure” these are.
- You can “doodle” and edit pictures and video files. So a teacher presenting can use the multimedia site like they would an overhead projector.
- One account can have several different identities. This would be beneficial to students collaborating on a project.

The above mentioned ideas are just some of the benefits of multimedia sharing sites offer.

How can these sites be beneficial in the classroom/library?

If you explore the suggested websites (Jumpcut and Voicethreads) you can see several examples of what I have just mentioned. I was very impressed that I could move around and zoom in and out while listening to commentary about the picture. I can see this being beneficial in classrooms in the following ways;
-multimedia sharing sites allow you to share ideas, information, charts, images and videos in an efficient and easy way.
-Students could learn from digital lessons i.e.; a scientist could show a science experiment on a multimedia sharing site and the kids in the classroom could add comments to it.
-Multimedia sharing sites would be great teaching tools for visual learners.
-Students would likely have an increased interest in presenting information in this digital format.
-Essentially, teachers could use these sites as digital whiteboards. For example a teacher could create a slideshow and the students could brainstorm ideas that could be presented on the site.
- Voice threads would capture the attention in any classroom and a human voice is a lot warmer than text in a book.
- Voice Threads could be presented in a style that would promote collaboration within classrooms and groups work.
- The flexibility to take part in the presentation at any time from any computer makes this a great web 2.0 tool.
-Students in a classroom could use their own voices to tell a story to the entire world via a multimedia sharing site. This would be a great idea for pen pals from anywhere in the world. Students could show pictures and describe them in their own words to pen pals that live in other cultures.

These are just a few ideas that I have considered using multi media sharing sites…the possibilities are endless.


Two major problems that I can foresee would be security and wrongful use. I researched a few possibilities for securing one of these websites because I could see students taking advantage of their ability to comment publicly on these sites. This could end in disaster if students decided to use these sights for the wrong reasons or make inconsiderate comments where they don’t belong. It seems to me that even if you secure your site there would be ways to get around this.

Also, as I have witnessed on You tube, these websites can be carried too far and be used for purposes that are far less than educational. I guess these web 2.0 tools are like anything else we are teaching our students…we can give them the tools and the best we can do is teach them to use them appropriately.

Setting up my own voice thread!

To set up my own voice thread I did the following;
-Went to and registered for a Yahoo account (Easy Peasy)
- Once registered I chose to create a “wizard” account to make a movie
-I uploaded the only 2 pictures I had on my computer from a recent trip to Mexico
-I went to Audacity to create an audio file for each picture. I created audio files with my computer microphone and saved them to my computer desktop.
-I re-opened my Jumpcut account and uploaded the two audio files I had made.
-I clicked on the picture and chose to “add an audio file”.
-Once I had added the audio files I had a very short example of a Voice Thread.

Although I would like to spend more time with this tool and try it out in the classroom, this brief introduction allowed me to remove purely negative thought in regards to mulitmedia sharing sites. I have such a negative feeling about Youtube that I had a hard time realizing the real benefits of this type of site in the classroom. Now I have already decided that I will create one of these movies to show my students a few amazing sites I have pictures of from a trip to Europe! They will likely benefit more from seeing my real pictures than that from a history textbook!

A very brief example of Voice Threading!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Hooray for Wikis!

I love this Web 2.0 tool…It is easy to use and very beneficial socially and academically.

To start off my exploration of wikis I watched “Wikis in Plain English.” Although I did have a limited amount of experience in wikis, this video put it all into perspective. The example set out was easy to follow and allowed me to understand how a wiki was more beneficial for collaboration than e-mail. Once I figured out how wikis could be used I immediately started exploring wiki sights to begin assignment #2. The following are wikis (recommended by the video mentioned above) that I perused to figure out what I would use:

I liked the way that had a video that showed you how wikis and their site worked.
I find these videos very beneficial, more so than written instructions. was great as well, although it bothered me that you had to create a wiki before you received instructions on how to use it. is the site my partner Jessica recommended for assignment #2 and that is the one we went with. I did like the fact that this sight had templates for your wiki spaces. Since I am a visual learner I LOVE templates. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use once I started to edit information in our wiki.
What are wikis good for? By Meredith Farkas is an article I found while searching through wiki facts on the web. This article was great because Meredith suggests several websites, some of which relate directly to teachers that were fun to look through and really showed the benefits of wikis. The following websites were the ones I looked through that Meredith recommended;
The first sight that was mentioned was a wiki creator designed for teachers. It seemed a lot like a networking wiki sight. They claim to have over 10,000 educational wikis, which is beneficial to teachers. The wiki sights started to blend together and they all seemed as easy to use as the you tube video suggested. There were the three buttons, Edit, Save and Link, which were similar on all the wiki sights. I decided that creating a wiki was all about personal preferences, such as template design, rather than discovering the one perfect wiki sight. Really, I would be fine using any of them, but most comfortable with pbwiki because I have used it for the creation of assignment #2.
The benefits of wikis in the classroom/libray
The following is a list of some of the benefits of using wikis in schools;
- They involve students in the building up of knowledge.
- They are ways to use and so students focus on the information rather than using a new technological tool.
- Students can feel like they have a say in all wikis because they can edit the pages.
- Wikis allow for class collaboration and would lead to discussions frequently because they would always be changing.
- They can teach students how to collaborate
- They can be used as a source of information and knowledge
- Wikis are a great way to complete group projects.
- Wikis would teach children co-operative learning skills.
- Wikis would enhance students understanding of building on each others ideas and how beneficial this can be.
- Wikis would be engaging to students because they are so interactive.
- Teachers could create class wikis and students could participate from home. Students would feel like they had a voice in classroom politics etc.
- Students could use a class wiki to collaborate and share information and ideas for class projects.
- Teachers could monitor student’s participation on a wiki.
- Wikis will help student reflect because they will get feedback on their input and also have it recorded so they can re-read it.
- Students can learn to review and peer-edit classmate’s work and ideas.
- Wikis can be used for presentations by students. For example assignment #2 in our course was a wiki presentation. I can definitely see this working in a classroom or library setting.
- Teacher-Librarians could create library wikis so students could leave comments about books etc. The links could take students to author’s websites.
- Students could use wikis to record school work so that they have a record of the years work. This would be great for teachers as well.
As you can see the list of wiki uses is long and students and teachers alike would both benefit form the use of this tool.
The only problem I can foresee with wikis in schools is the fact that teachers would need to be enlightened in their positive and beneficial uses. I think it has proven difficult to entice teachers to pick up these web 2.0 tools on their own in order to benefit their teaching techniques. Karthigeyan Subramaniam’s article “Teachers mindsets and the integration ofcomputer technology,” was included in our class recommended readings. She discusses the need for teachers to better understand computer technology when she states, “A better understanding of teaching with the use of computer technology is now urgently needed.” Subramanian’s suggestion rings true in every school now and in the future. Teacher’s mindsets need to be overhauled to include the idea that computer technology will help and not hinder their teaching. With wikis I could see teachers using them if they just learned how. If you could have a 30 minute workshop and show the youtube video mentioned above teachers would likely explore the benefits of tools such as wikis on their own. As Subramaniam mentions, they just need a better understanding. This hold true with all web 2.0 tools, not just wikis.

“Digital game-based learning once removed: Teaching teachers” by Katrin Becker is another article I discovered on training teachers. Two quotes stood out for me:

“Teachers cannot be expected to embrace digital games as a tool for learning unless they have a sound understanding of the potential as well as the limitations, and are confident in their ability to use games effectively to enhance learning.”

“Teachers need resources that are readily available. If games are going to be put to use as technologies for teaching and learning, teachers must not only be taught how to use them, but the resources they need in order to do so simply must be made available and easy to find.

This article discusses the use of computer games and how they can benefit student learning, but I think the premise of these quotes can relate to wikis as well. Teachers cannot be expected to see the benefits of wikis unless they understand wiki’s potential and they are confident in using it. Once teachers were confident in using wikis, they could introduce them in the classroom. Also, in relation to the second quote, teachers need these resources to be readily available. For example professional development should involve the uses of wikis and the school software should make creating wikis easy. If schools trained their teachers in using wikis (and other web 2.0 tools) and then made sure their software allowed for its development, wikis could be hugely beneficial.

So, in conclusion, wikis could definitely be beneficial to teaching and learning. If teachers were made confident in using wikis and made aware of their benefits, I think they could be used in classrooms and libraries everywhere!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blog #5

Blog #5
Virtual Libraries

At first this term scared me, as a virtual library seemed to be something that would take the place of our school libraries. Once I explored the concept however I realized that the two could co-exist. A virtual library was just a virtual public or school library. So we still needed the actual building and librarian that was in it…Phew!
I read an article in Topic 3 of our course readings called
“Electronic books versus adult readers: effects on children’s emergent literacy as a function of social class.” As soon as I saw the title I got a bad feeling about the article, just like I did when I saw “virtual library”. However, after reading the article I did begin to see several advantages to electronic books. I read this article during the same time that I was exploring virtual libraries online, they seemed to relate to one another, and this is why I am mentioning it. Now one thing I cannot differentiate is whether or not virtual libraries have electronic books. I will go explore that and come back and let you know. But before I do that I will tell you that the advantages I saw to electronic reading material were in the fact that the kids would definitely be interested in an interactive book than one that they had to read through. I could see students be very interested in learning to read when they were doing it on an interactive website where they could press words and play games with the words on the screen. Now I will go find out if virtual libraries would have electronic reading materials, or just be networking links to several different library sites.

…Ok, Nope…don’t think they have much to do with one another. Initially I believed that virtual libraries were making our school libraries a thing of the past and that virtual libraries along with electronic reading materials were the way of the future. Upon reading and investigating further into the topic I discovered that virtual libraries were actually just networks. As far as I know and have learned they are actually extensions of school libraries…a way to take them other places so others can use their resources.

Virgil Blake is the author of an article that discusses virtual libraries and defines them for those of us who have never come across the idea. He states, “The virtual library is a metaphor for the networked library.” (Blake, 1994) I still questioned what exactly they meant by virtual libraries at first, even after reading this definition. Were they going to take the place of Elementary School’s Library so there was no such thing as a room in the school called the library? Or was a virtual library simply a webpage designed to globally network libraries? The article goes on to suggest that virtual libraries simply make it possible to go to a library’s website and have access to several other libraries as well. For example if you went to the Surrey Public Library’s homepage you could have access to libraries all over the Lower Mainland. After reading this article my mind was changed somewhat. I realized that what they meant by virtual library was not taking the place of the actual library, but rather creating an electronic network of the buildings so that people could have access to them from other places. Now this is not to say that our school libraries will not eventually be virtual, but not yet anyways. Phew!
An article that I came across called “Helping students use virtual libraries effectively” by Mary Ann Fitzgerald and Chad Galloway discusses that Departments of Education across the United States are incorporating virtual libraries into their education systems. Students were able to access a wide variety of information from these virtual libraries for school projects or general reading purposes. When I attended SFU, my local University, I had access to a virtual library. I found it very useful for my University studies and also remember thinking that it would have been great to have it in high school. Now I see that educators are realizing the benefits to virtual libraries and they are becoming more popular. Some of the benefits of virtual libraries in teaching are as follows;
- Virtual libraries are not the same as the internet. So students will learn that internet searches are not the only resources they can use for research purposes.
- Students will have access to resources from different libraries, not just their own.
- Resources from a virtual library will be scholarly articles and they will all be fact checked, unlike Wikipedia articles.
- Teacher-Librarians can use virtual libraries to entice teachers to trust that technology needs to become more a part of the curriculum.
- Virtual libraries are constructed collections of information, not like the internet which has scattered collections. These collections are organized for specific users and designed to meet the direct needs of students and teachers.
- Virtual libraries offer many different types of sources and many different formats as well, including digital formats.
- Virtual libraries provide immediate access to materials.
- Virtual libraries don’t close.
- Virtual libraries can bring information home to those with learning disabilities or physical disabilities.

As great as this is I think virtual libraries are they come along with the same problems as incorporating any other type of technological innovation into schools…the students learning to use it the right way. We would need to teach students to use this virtual technology in order to benefit them. Also another avenue of exploration is whether or not virtual libraries would be as beneficial to primary students. I know that the article on electronic books.
So…after yet another exploration of a technological innovation I am again please and impressed. I would love to see all libraries have some sort of virtual part to them!