Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reflection...Good Times!

Final Blog Posting…for EDES 545 : (
Blog Posting #11-Reflection
Well…I have written about reflection several times in my previous blogs. I see reflection as a great tool for personal growth and professional development. I am glad that I can now reflect on the happenings in EDES 545!
Highlights of my Learning:
Now that I look back on the long journey through this course I realize how much I learned and, of that, what I will carry with me throughout my career as a Teacher-Librarian. When I first read the name of this course, “Information technologies for Learning” I was not overcome by enthusiasm. I must say…I was one of those teachers who was a little hesitant to drive on the technology highway (so to speak). My integration of technology consisted of teaching my students how to look up a book title or the works of an author on the library computer. Now, I feel much more confident in this area and I must admit I am looking forward to converting many of my colleagues into “techies”. So, the biggest highlight of this course for me was gaining confidence in my ability to use Web 2.0 tools in my library.
Collaboration is another highlight for me as it was hugely beneficial in my journey as well. I am used to reading an article for a class and having to dissect it on an individual basis, and then having the familiar feeling of, “Am I understanding this correctly?” I once even tried to have my mom read one of my course articles so we could converse about it and I could see if she would come from the same perspective…she did! What I am trying to say is that having the opportunity to follow up an article with collaboration now seems almost essential in the learning process for me. I would read an article, connect it to my life and teaching experiences, read what others thought and then discuss! The collaborative aspects of this course were definitely one of the highlights for me.
Another highlight from this course was how useful it was in preparing me for my future role as a Teacher-Librarian. Not only did I learn what that role entailed, but I also learned tools that I could use for the rest of my teaching career. I learned about the tools, researched them and even got to use them in this course. The saying “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime,” makes sense to me, but I think it should include, “Fish with a man.” I am a firm believer that in order to truly learn something you must do it. This course has taken inquiry-based learning methods and given me an opportunity to really learn by doing. I now have the tools to create my own wikis, podcasts, blogs etc… into my library and teach them to my colleagues. These are tools I can take everywhere with me.
The last highlight I will mention is that this course has really taught me that information technology really can transform learning! We no longer live in a world where text-base, pencil and paper teaching will prepare our students to be successful and productive members of society. Our everyday lives are bombarded with technological innovations that have preceded us and will continue to. In order for our students to walk proudly and confidently and feel prepared for this world they must be information literate. Information literacy skills are imperative in preparing for the jobs that are available to our youth today. We must start teaching these skills to our students at a very young age. This course not only exaggerated this idea, but also helped prepare me to prepare my students and colleagues in these skills. I now have the ability to use the appropriate resources to teach this generation of students how to effectively use the technological tools they were born into.
This course has been tremendous in my Professional Development as a teacher and I look forward to using all of the tools in my future. I cannot say that about many of the University courses I have taken!
Lowlights of my Learning:
The lowlights of EDES 545 are a lot more difficult to come up with. Obviously the first would be the amount of time, effort and frustration it took me to learn and perfect the tools. Creating my blog was very challenging at first because I had never “blogged” before and I did not know if I would enjoy it. Once I figured out what was expected of me I did find blogging easier, but weekly blogs still plagued me in my sleep!
Another lowlight of my learning is this course is the fact that it is ending and all of the collaboration that took place is going with it. The constant ideas and feedback from peers was not only relevant to my present job, but also very interesting and entertaining. I will miss hearing stories about others libraries and gaining valuable insight from those whom have been in this profession a lot longer than I have.
The last lowlight I will mention is that this course was online. I think about taking this course in a classroom environment where I could see examples of the tools being used and contribute directly to live conversations. There is something to be said for face-to-face contact and learning and I really do feel that I would have gained more valuable insight with personal interactions in EDES545.
I cannot say that any of these lowlights would ever sway me from recommending this course to others as they were only minor setbacks. Even the lowlights weren’t that bad!!!

Future Plans:
When I initially started this course I didn’t really know the full role that a Teacher-Librarian played in their school. Now that I am more aware and confident of this role, I have no doubts about continuing in this field. This is my first year as a TL and I will definitely be continuing as a TL in the future. My immediate plan is to complete my coursework so I can be professionally trained as a TL and then continue to work to work in my District. I would love to become more involved in the integration of technology in our libraries and I will find a way to do this. I have even considered starting a blog on integrating technology into Elementary libraries so I can network and gain insight from people all around the world. I will definitely try to incorporate the web 2.0 tools I have learned into my current school. I plan on beginning the foundation for a library website in my school that contains links to several outside sources that my students and colleagues can use for resources for their own Professional Development. My future plan is to have my own library that has a traditional community-like feeling, but a modern outlook on incorporating technology into schools.
I have already circulated several of the articles I have discovered through EDES 545 and I will continue to do so. Joyce Valenza’s work has been inspiring and I definitely want to learn from much more of her work. I would like to introduce my colleagues to some of her podcasts as I think they are impressive and beneficial to all teachers.
I have learned as much from others in this class as I have learned from the articles and Professors. Through constant collaboration I have learned and incorporated several ideas into my library already. For example I have recently introduced a comfy reading corner where students are welcome any time of the day to sit and read or just reflect. Several of us collaborated on this idea and a few course members suggested similar situations in their libraries. I have found that my students love knowing they can come to the library just to think and take a breather. I always thought of my library as having an open-door policy, but through the suggestions of my peers I have realized there is much more I can do to promote this idea.
All in all from day one until now this class has been a lot of work, but very beneficial. It is by far one of the only classes I have ever taken that I am leaving knowing I will use most of what I have learned. Initially I doubted my own ability or interest in learning about technology, but now I have the confidence to continue building this knowledge. When collaboration and blogs were being built I thought to myself, “These people must have taken some introductory course that I have never heard of.” Beautiful, professional blogs were created out of nothing and all of a sudden an empty WebCT section was transformed into a world of information. I did not feel as though I was contributing to this and so I had to take extreme measures and re-learn the basics of creating a blog. With some help from others blogs and some trial and error I eventually created a somewhat comparable blog. I feel as if I will perfect it in the future for self-satisfaction. Maybe a few strays will pass by and be impressed by what I have done through learning about Web 2.0 tools.
So goodbye for now….but not for long!

Blogs for Professional Development

Blog Posting # 10
After much thought and deliberation on which of the fascinating Web 2.0 tools would be most beneficial to introduce to my staff I have chosen the first and last one that this class introduced me too-Blogs!
There is a substantial reason for my choice; I think that blogs and blogging have the potential to enhance learning and incorporate reflection; also you can literally create links to ALL of the web 2.0 tools we have learned throughout EDES 545! For example blogs can contain links to wikis, photo sharing (Flickr), podcasts, multimedia sharing sites, virtual reading (including virtual books), voice threads, social networking sites. So, because of these potentials, it seems to me that blogs would be best web 2.0 choice to introduce to my staff!
Most of us are aware that this “Information Age” we are living in requires us to be more information literate than ever before. We are living and teaching in a new and complex generation in which technology plays the leading role. We, as teacher-librarians need to instill information literacy skills in our students to prepare them for their futures in this world. When questioned about how Web 2.0 tools, like blogs, can help with the teaching of information or literacy skills Joyce Valenza responded that they allow students and teachers to “... record, manage and reflect on major research projects. These make the chaotic process more transparent and more interactive. They allow teacher, librarian, mentor, and peer intervention. They can also prevent research disasters.” I agree that web 2.0 tools, specifically blogs, can make learning way more interactive. Francis Harris suggests that blogs can transmit a sense of voice and personality. She introduces us to an example of this transmission with Northfield Mount Hermon’s School library blog site. The website contains blog entries and pictures of students in the library doing various activities. It really does transcribe a feeling in users as they read the blog entries and look at weekly “library lounge lizards.” This site is a good example of one of the many benefit class blogs could provide. Harris also reminds us that blogs are great tools for “self-expression, communication and information exchange.” These are three very important factors in my desire to push for the integration of this web 2.0 tool.
I also think that reflection plays a major role in good teaching and learning practices. I would like to remind my staff that through reflection, they themselves have likely come a long way in their profession. Introducing blogs to their classrooms could allow teachers to reflect on their own, and their student’s ideas, suggestions and opinions. Blogs are essentially electronic journals, and journals have a use in mostly every classroom I have ever been in.
As well as creating their own blogs for classroom and personal use, teachers and students can learn how to use educational blogs for professional development. In initiating my proposal to introduce blogs I would showcase some of the professional blogs I have come across. There are many educational blogs that I would introduce and stress that could be beneficial to learning for both students and teachers. Joyce Valenza has a “NeverEndingSearchBlog” that is an incredible resource for teachers and administrative staff. The TL-DL Blog that we were introduced to through EDES 545 is another great example of a blog I have used for professional development. There are also many educational blogs for students to discover and be able to comment on. They include KW Zone (Kids World Zone), which is a fantastic site for kids to discover blogging. This site is not purely educational, but it definitely has the potential to get kids excited about blogging. Also 21Classes is a great student-centered resource for educational blogs. Most of these blog sites are free; you simply have to register to become a member. Therefore another great reason to incorporate this learning tool is that it is cost effective. This would also appeal to administration who may present a challenge in the implementation of this tool if it was to be costly!!
I also think that blogs are a great introductory web 2.0 tool for teachers because of their potential in the future integration of more of the web 2.0 tools. As I mentioned earlier, all of the other 2.0 tools that are beneficial in the classroom (wikis, podcasts, and multi-media sharing sites) could later be integrated to classroom or individual blogs. In EDES 545 we were first introduced to blogs and then step-by-step we integrated other web 2.0 tools into them. By the end of the semester we had created blogs that looked professional and would be great learning tools for others. So I think that this same idea would work with my staff. I would share my idea that teachers could firstly introduce their students to a simple blog site like The teacher could have previously set up their own blog to get students interested in blogging and then have their students each create their own. Once students were comfortable with the blogging tool, the teacher could incorporate another web 2.0 tool like a wiki. Teachers could lead by example and slowly build up these tools along with their students to eventually integrate many web 2.0 tools. I think this would also be a great idea for a teacher workshop. If I had the time and administrative support I could introduce teachers to one web 2.0 tool at a time, all through our blogs, and they would learn of the benefits to their classrooms by actually using the tool. I could also use an aggregator to link together some of my favorite blogs so that teachers would realize that blogs were also great social networking tools. An aggregator would also make it possible to connect all of the individual student blogs to a central class blog or school blog…I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t be impressed by that!
I think that it is important to create something impressive so that you could capture teacher’s attention immediately. For example I would create a library blog site and send the link to teachers so they could learn about new resources in the library, author’s visits, collaborative schedules etc. This would likely capture teacher interest in this teaching tool by showing them some of its benefits. One of the first teaching techniques I ever learned about successful teaching was to begin every new unit with an attention grabber!!!
I understand that one of the challenges in incorporating this tool includes some teachers being uncomfortable with the thought of incorporating technology into their classrooms. Many teachers, including myself several months ago, may be fearful of integrating tools they know nothing about. Maybe they cannot figure out their DVD player at home and so cannot even imagine technology as having a place in their classrooms. I would encourage these teachers to give blogs a try by introducing simple techniques to get them started. If they did not feel overwhelmed they may become more open-minded about this great tool. . “Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts…Oh my” would be a great introductory video to introduce staff to blogs as a web 2.0 tool. The video discusses that blogs are one of the tools that can be very beneficial to learning because “students respond to technology more quickly than they respond to pen and pencil.” I think it is important to remind teachers that these web 2.0 tools are not only beneficial teaching tools, but they really do help students learn better. I also discovered a great web link called “The Year of the Blog…” which gives teachers great ideas for introducing blogs to their classrooms. I would definitely incorporate this site in my push for reluctant staff to integrate this great web 2.0 tool. “Using Blogs in the Classroom” is also a great video on YouTube because it interviews real teachers on why blogs are beneficial in the classroom. I wouldn’t use this specific video as an introductory video to blogging, but it does state some incredible benefits of blogs in the classroom from a teacher’s perspective. The video also addresses the importance of blogs in allowing teachers to “live something from a student’s perspective.” I think blogging is an incredible way for students to be able to voice their perspectives. Teachers can gain valuable insight into their student’s perspectives by reading their blogs.
So, I think I have created a sense of what I would do to integrate blogs as a Web 2.0 tool to introduce to my staff. I have mentioned several articles, websites and videos that would aid in my journey to do this and I have also discussed the importance of blogs in professional development for teachers and students. I have included ways to motivate reluctant teachers and also a bigger plan for the future of my technical integration. I have also addresses potential challenges in the integration of this web 2.0 tool. Let’s take this blog and implement it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Today...I went for a blog!

Blog Posting #9

Blogging? Hmmm...what can I say? I am so used to blogging now it seems that is has become a habit more than a conscious effort. i do enjoy it and have created a personal blog that I am not yet confident enough to show many. I must say that I think the number one benefit of blogging (in the classroom and outside) is refection. Blogging allows you to look back on your writing and see what you were thinking at that time. A friend of mine has always been a big "blogger" and I read her blog, but never created my own out of fear I would have nothing to say that interested anyone reading it. Through blogging in this course I have realized that it is not only about the people reading your blog, but as well it is about you recording thoughts and being able to later read and reflect on them. When you are recording your thoughts and re-reading them you learn a lot about the way you think and reason. I think this would be beneficial for students in their learning process. If you had students create a blog it would be a virtual journal/diary and could potentially be a real life changer.

Blogging uses in the classroom;

-Reading students blogs would allow us to understand them better. We could have students create weekly blogs and through this we could understand what is happening in their lives. This would be especially great for introverted students who chose not to talk in class a lot.
-Blogs would be a good way for students to better connect with each other. Through blogging students could communicate and form connections outside the classroom that could carry through within the classroom. A community like feeling could be created from blogging amongst peers.
-Blogs would be a good way for students to converse about anything that is going on in their lives. Maybe for those that don't have close relationships with parents/teachers/peers blogs would offer a way to have a virtual conversation. Students could blog about anything they wish to in order to get their thoughts out.
-Blogging would allow your students to practice their writing skills. If you had your students create blogs that would be marked you could use them to assess their writing skills.
-Blogging would be a great way to introduce students to the beneficial uses of computers. Especially for those students who were not confident using computers, blogging would prove that they could definitely use one.
-Blogging is a way to get out whats on your mind. Unlike many of the other Web 2.0 tools we have come across, blogging is a way to record personal thoughts and feelings. Blogs don't have to be public, but can be just the same. Students could have one blog that is just for personal use and a public one for friends/family etc...
- If students have a blog in school it forces them to write for an audience. Students would likely put forth more effort and imaginative writing skills when writing for an audience.
Those are just some of the many examples of ways that blogging can be beneficial in the classroom.

Creating a blog:

Creating a blog is amazingly easy. I have explored several blogging sites and here is a list of some of my favorites;

Essentially a blog is a personal space for your mind on the Internet. ! It can be a collection of thoughts, pictures, ideas, links, political beliefs and anything else you can dream up that is organized in chronicle order and can be viewed in an HTML browser. You definitely do not have to be a "techie" to figure out a blog. The blog sites that I explored all made it very simple to set up an account...and most of them are free. From my explorations I found that most blogs are updated quite frequently and are usually kept up by the same person. I didn't see many blogs that were written by a network of people or even more than one person. I also found that most blog sites were written on specific topics. There were many personal blogs that were diaries of people's lives, but there were also several blogs that were topic specific. Here are some of the features that I found on most of the blog sites I explored;
-Archives-This includes links to past entries and websites etc.
-comments-others who read the blogs can usually leave comments about the blog writer.
-Photos-Most blogs have pictures posted within them
One of the greatest things about a blog is that you do not have to go to separate sights to download all of your information. For example you can just go to your blog and download pictures, record information, download web links etc.

Articles related to blogging:

I found some interesting articles when I was exploring blogs. One of the articles was called "What we are really doing when we blog."
Meg Hourian, the author, mentions a few things about blogs I found very interesting. She introduces us to an article she reviewed that suggested that after September 11 blogs took on a different tone. Blogs, the article suggested, used to be personal diaries, but after September 11 they became political sites that commented on news channels etc. This I found interesting because not once did I come across this type of blog in my search. I agree these extreme political blogs are likely out there, but this seems like an extreme generalization and it really got me thinking about whether or not others don't blog because they think this is what blogs are all about. I must admit that the first time I heard the word blog I thought about websites in which people rant and rave about wordly issues (which can be good at times) and self-consumed worries. I had a negative outlook on blogging myself so that is why this statement caught my eye. The author puts a more positive spin on blogging as a wonderful form of communication rather than political badgering. She suggests that it is a system that allows us to say what we need to say...which I agree with.

One of the other articles I found interesting was called "Blah, Blah, Blah and Blog." This author refers to blogs as transforming journalism as we know it and being the way of the future. He also brings up an example of how blogs are being used as a tool in the corporate world to inter-connect people in different regions within the same company. When you think of this idea many of the other Web 2.0 tools come to mind, but never blogging???? The author suggests employees that live in very different areas but feel like they really know each other because of blogging. So I guess blogs can connect people in the same ways as tools like wikis do. They are a great way to learn about people.

Blogs related to professional development:

K-12blogWrite - A blog site for teachers from K-12. They describe this site as a that is very informal. People can come and go, chat, close the doors or open them on blogging.

-This blog site is run and written by a technology coordinator, but the topics range from technology in the classroom to philosophical issues in teaching. -This web link provides us with several of the best teacher blogs there are. It seems to me that this would be the place to go if you wanted to look through a list of topics before looking at a blog for professional development.

The one that I reviewed in detail was called "Teaching Generation Y" ( This blog site reviewed issues from cyber bullies to problem-based learning. I liked the fact that there was a categories section where you could highlight a specific entry based on its title. This was convenient because you didn't have to go through the blogging in chronological order but rather you could just jump to the blog you wanted. This blog is fantastic for professional development because it allows you to explore a wide variety of controversial and non-controversial issues. It also organizes them in an easy to follow way with no time wasted!

So, I think blogging is a tremendous tool, not so much because it is a useful teaching tool, but more so in terms of reflection. Students can use blogging more for personal motivation and reflection than they could to learn new material. Reflection was one of the most important tools I learned in my teacher training and I have definitely carried that through to my students. Blogging is one of the Web 2.0 tools that allows this ritual to be practiced.