Check out the latest news about the University of Alberta archeological field school in Cortona Italy!  This is the site where I participated in an archeologial field school in May 2009!

An Italian archeological site that been the life’s work of a University of Alberta history researcher and where grandsons of a Roman emperor once lived has been transformed to create part of an interpretive park.On July 11, the town of Cortona, Italy, officially opened the site during a ceremony with some 150 people, where Helena Fracchia, professor in the Department of History and Classics, has led a dig for the better part of two decades.

“People here in Cortona consider this park another link in the co-operation that has been going on for so long between the university and the town of Cortona,” said Fracchia. “People have always been interested in archeology in Italy, and are interested in the pre-Roman period, particularly in this area, so this is quite gratifying. The people who live in the area love [the park] and are very supportive.”


Stairs leading to second floor in area three of the villa of Ossaia, image from Express News article, follow link to read the entire story.

~:) Heather Kennedy-Plant


Once our course content opened up on eClass and I began visiting the resource recommendations, with a trailfire for each topic, and also a links section with resources for educators entering a Web 2.0 world, my panic began to ease.  Then I jumped into the our assigned text Blogs, wikis, podcasts: and other powerful web tools for classrooms, where I not only learned from Richardson (2008) that “blogs are hot” but also discovered that blogging can have a great deal of positive influence on students and adults because blogs can:

  • Promote critical and analytical thinking;
  • Be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associated thinking;
  • Promote analogical thinking;
  • Be a medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information; and
  • Combine the best of solitary reflection and social interaction (p.20). 

I believe there is the potential to use blogs in our program in lieu of a newsletter and as a way to bring current information to our students. staff and employers.  I think newsletters have met their match.  Blogs can capture and bring back your target audience when done well and when kept up to date in a routine manner.  The ability to combine reflection and social interaction could be sole enough reason to consider having our student’s blog while they are in their work term placements.  We could set it up so that it is private and confidential and students would interact with each other and the university while they are away, making them feel like they are less on their own when they leave campus to do a work term. 

While I was gaining a context for understanding how blogs are important in education  through the text and assigned readings, I decided that since I needed to soon create a blog of my own it was also time to start seeing what others do with their blogs.  

I set out to find and consider a variety of blogs so that I could get a feel for what blogs are all about.  I chose to seek out blogs on topics that interest me for both personal and professional reasons.  I purposefully also kept my eye out for blog designs and structure’s that appealed to me visually and spatially, so that I could determine how I might proceed.  I also tried to ponder what it was about a blog that made me subscribe so that I could return.  I was trying to figure out what bloggers are doing when they have a successful blog.

At the beginning it is so amazing to discover blogs and blogging and it was a relief that I already had a bit of experience with the ability to subscribe to online RSS feeds for without that it would be easy to loose track or keep on top of many favourite and useful blogs.  RSS stands for real simple syndication. If you have never used RSS feeds I highly recommend you acquaint yourself now because this one simple tool is your way to organize blogs, podcasts and other sites that you deem important from your explorations in cyberspace!  If you are new to RSS, you may want to read a quick tutorial.  The tutorial explain RSS aggregators too which you will find in the wiki on RSS aggregators are a must have web tool: 

Really, REALLY BIG RSS feed button
Image by HiMY SYeD / photopia via Flickr

“Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or “personal newspaper.” Once subscribed to a feed, an aggregator is able to check for new content at user-determined intervals and retrieve the update. The content is sometimes described as being “pulled” to the subscriber, as opposed to “pushed” with email or IM. Unlike recipients of some “pushed” information, the aggregator user can easily unsubscribe from a feed.”

 If you find that you are repeatedly returning to a blog to see if there is a new post an RSS aggregator is just what you need!  I personally use Google Reader and if you want to review this aggregator you will likely find Molly McDonald’s RSS tutorials to be very clear and straightforward.  She demonstrates how to add, manage, find and subscribe to feeds through a ten part series of tutorials.

For a short explanation of RSS and how it helps you save time reading the web.  This video is also available in an unbranded “presentation quality” version that can be licensed for use in the workplace. 

Exporting subscriptions from other services

Most feed readers allow you to export your subscriptions as an OPML file and once you save the file you can import your subscriptions from your various readers, into Google Reader.  Instead of saving my links into Google Reader I will often use my Microsoft Explorer RSS feed button because it is on my toolbar and with just one click I can subscribe to the feed and I remain on the site that I am visiting.  The RSS button on the toolbar turns from grey to orange so that I know if the site has feeds and when there is more than one feed on a site the RSS button provides a drop down list of all feeds.  With just one click my feed is saved and I can access it in the future from the feeds tab which you can find be clicking on the favourites tab in Explorer.

This has been the simplest method I have found to subscribe to feeds and to know if a site has feeds (I don’t need to go hunting for the RSS link in the webpage) and with just one click I am subscribed to the feeds of my choosing without a need to go to copy and paste URLs into Google Reader.  I have found this is the simplest way for me to store my online finds.  Using the two mechanisms works for me and I am able to export my feeds from explorer into Google Reader on a regular basis.  I started with using RSS in Explorer early this year and until this course I had not been exposed to feed readers.  That is why I find it comfortable to keep using the ease of the Explorer feeds. 

There are a couple of reasons I decided to get an aggregator and not continue only using Explorer.  One reason is that Explorer stores feeds only to the computer you are using and so if I store feeds in my home office that is the only place that I can access them.  If I store them in my work office then I can’t gain access at home.  As well, I had to keep going back to sites to see if they had a new blog post and that is a primary selling feature of aggregators.  

One other aggregator that was mentioned in many of the articles I researched on the topic of RSS aggregators is Bloglines.  You might want to subscribe to more than one aggregator to see which one best suits you and with the ability to export feeds you can put all feeds in one location, once you find your dream aggregator. 

Bloglines tagline is “Your Paperboy Just Got Smarter: It’s the same Internet minus the clutter” and the homepage breaks the process down into three simple steps that you can take to enjoy the web again:

  1. Take everything you love on the web.  Choose the kind of content you like to read.  News, blogs, weather. It’s up to you.
  2. They deliver those faves to your homepage. Imagine browsing all your favourite websites in one simple page.
  3. Enjoy the web again. Grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy your internet.

 My classmate Tara had her blog on this topic done a couple of days early – she is super organized to be this far ahead of schedule.  Tara also uses Google Reader and she had more than 1000 unread feeds to deal with so she came up with some great techniques to help her sort her feeds in a way that has meaning to her and I want to share a condensed version of her tips with you here.

  1. Tara’s Plan for RSS success:
    Cull the amount of feeds you receive. I decided to cull the feeds I was receiving to only those that I would read. I know that 15 feeds was not a lot, but in my case I needed less information until I became used to using the aggregator.
  2. Set aside a daily time to read the feeds. I have decided that I need to make reading the RSS feeds a part of my daily routine, just like checking e-mail is. In fact, I have decided that when I check my e-mail in the morning, I will also check Google Reader.
  3. Don’t feel obligated to read everything. Initially, I felt a need to read everything that came across the screen via RSS… decided to opt for the skim and scan technique and only read items of interest.
  4. Sort usable information. Google reader has several features such as starring items and marking them as read which help to sort information. Louis Gray suggests using the share or share with note option to leave comments on interesting items. If these items are public, you may even start an interesting conversation around an item.
  5. Be choosy when adding new feeds. The temptation is always there to add more and more feeds as you travel through the Internet. Some bloggers such as Om Malik have raised concerns with RSS feeds becoming spam like in the content that they are sending through as feeds.

Thanks for the great tips Tara! And thanks for being so on top of the game so that I could use your great material and consider it while I too joined you to lighten my RSS feeds overload. 

Deciding to blog for professional development by frequenting blogs with the best practices

Okay now that I have shared about why I might consider using blogs in education and I provided some tips on keeping organized with the blogs you do find and look to as exemplar’s, I will talk about blogs that I follow for best practices in using Web 2.0 tools and for professional development in my field.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and finding and following blogs that highlight the potential in our field, is a useful professional development practice. 

Sharing of best practices amongst colleagues and across like organizations is a form of flattery, I believe and I have found blogs that will help me and my colleagues improve our instruction.  Another favourite discovery is worth following as a way to constantly consider and improve blogging methods.  I also already have many personal favourite blogs, some will help me plan my next trip abroad and one that is actually created in Blogger, is just down right pretty

I came across a site that delineates many ways blogs can be used by faculty and students in universities.  There is also a must visit blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is an amazing example of the potential for bringing blogging into practice, for any educator teaching or working beyond the K-12 classroom.  Higher education bloggers provide us with models for using Web 2.0 tools in programs that are similar to ours. 

As you can see I explore many blogs on various topics and several are listed in my blogroll links that are in my sidebar on this blog.  You will find blogs on the topic of Cooperative Education (aka, co-op) and blogs related to career advice that I found interest me.  There is also a list of my classmates blogs in the sidebar.

The majority of blogs that I follow are related to business and career advice and I also have several higher education blogs I follow.  The knowledge that I gain from these insightful blogs will enable me to provide informative instruction and guidance to our students and will allow me to show staff some best practices being used in our field. 

One blog that I found very early on was a blog that combined how-to blog advice with a business focus. Business Blog Wire has the tagline, “Business Blogging News and Advice for Business Bloggers” and I instantly found this blog visually appealing.  It was created using the open-source blogging software at WordPress.  Another blog that also uses the WordPress blogging software is Work in progress.  This Time magazine blog shows off the full potential of what a blog can become; it is informative, entertaining, well-organized and jam packed full of information! 

With several exemplars of what I thought pleased me the most aesthetically, I decided to dive into WordPress, as did one other classmate, Dan.  The rest of our peers all chose Blogger as their blog host.  It is owned by Google and came highly recommended by Richardson (2008, p. 48). With the backing of Google and all related Google tools it is an excellent choice to consider. 

If you choose to blog with WordPress you will find great tutorials at WordPress TV and I recommend beginning with the how to video on the topic of writing and publishing a blog post. 

In addition to the help and tutorials you can find in your blog platform there are an overwhelming amount of great resources online.  If you are looking to find some blogs that might capture you as an audience member check out the blogs designated as Winners: Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs for 2009.

 Happy blogging! 

~:) Heather Kennedy-Plant – EDES 501, Web 2.0 for teachers, summer 2009 with Jennifer Branch


Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (Second Edition.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

 Recommended articles

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The University of Alberta campus showcases the natural beauty in Edmonton. It is my favourite location for photography. Any amateur photographer should agree that Edmonton has so much scenery and superb images.
Did you remember to cast your vote again today? You can vote daily and voting gets you the chance to win an iPod shuffle!
Vote, once a day, everyday, until September 15 at http://www.edmontonstories.ca/story/beauty-in-edmonton, please spread the news to your networks (did you send a note to your department, friends, LinkedIn contacts, alumni group friends, recruiting network, professional association… it sure would be appreciated, thanks) and thanks for the support! 
~:) Heather Kennedy-Plant
the co-op coordinator with the curly hair and smiley face   
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Thanks for the blog post you did on twitter Gerta – your choice of videos was great and so I too want to share your finds on vodpod for my future use and consideration after we finish this course. 

This first one is a great teaching aid for having our students consider their online persona and the second is just great fun and I will post it here too, in hopes that others might find and enjoy both! Thanks a bunch!

Both will remain availble in my vodpod account if any of you need to find them again.

~:) Heather


For some reason? It appears that the videos are not loading from YouTube? If they don’t appear here they are located in my vodpod sidebar, in the right side column of this blog.  There are arrows in the sidebar so that you can search for your chosen video right from the sidebar.  These videos are worth a peek!

~:) Heather Kennedy-Plant

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Curse you twitter!

Here I am

behind the 8 ball,

trying to finalize my blog post,

on the topic of twitter,

when the free,



Web 2.0,

140 character,

service is down!


Curse you twitter!


Fortunately, much of my research has been accumulating on this topic, for a couple of weeks now, since I signed up for twitter in July and have been reading and learning about it since then.  It was a wise idea for Jenn, our proff, to advise us to set up an account early in our summer course.  I have had time to learn about the service before considering it here in my blog and am ready to post about twitter and its possible uses for education, work and personal use.

Multiple post-secondary, and higher education institutions, are already integrating social networking sites into their curriculum, as is the business world.  According to Wikipedia, micro-blogging, which is one of the hottest social networking sites of the day, “has the potential to become a new informal communication medium especially for collaborative work.”  

The sentiment that twitter can benefit group work was supported at this year’s international conference on supporting group work:

Micro-blogs, a relatively new phenomenon, provide a new communication channel for people to broadcast information that they likely would not share otherwise using existing channels (e.g., email, phone, IM, or weblogs). Micro-blogging has become popular quite quickly, raising its potential for serving as a new informal communication medium at work, providing a variety of impacts on collaborative work (e.g., enhancing information sharing, building common ground, and sustaining a feeling of connectedness among colleagues). This exploratory research project is aimed at gaining an in-depth understanding of how and why people use Twitter – a popular micro-blogging tool – and exploring micro-blog’s potential impacts on informal communication at work” (Zhao & Rosson, 2009)

I believe that the idea that micro-blogging has the potential to provide positive impacts on group work can be fittingly applied to group work in education, in addition to collaborative work in business settings.

Twitter is micro-blogging and there are many online resources available to help you learn how to set up and use twitter but first watch this Twitter in Plain English episode that provides a quick and plain intro to the micro-blogging service Twitter.

It’s simple to set up an account on twitter but to get started with tweeking the finer points of twitter and to learn about the vast array of possible uses, I recommend you frequent Twitorials.com.

There are vast quantities of valuable online resources that support using twitter for educational purposes.  The paper, Can We Use Twitter for Educational Activities? for example, is worth a thorough read,

With a solid experience in using Web2.0 technologies in education, the authors are trying to provide arguments for using Twitter as microblogging platform / social network in education, underlining its advantages, but also possible bad points”

In the paper, Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) provide some direction on measures that they believe need to be adopted for twitter to function in educational area.  For instance, they note that allowing your network time to respond is very important and recommend that students should be included in the evaluation of the approach.  They also make an excellent point that “Twitter is meaningless without a network, which must be willing to share, to engage, to provoke, to discuss etc.”

25 Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom is a presentation that is geared towards K-12 but has several strategies that could be adapted for higher education.  For example, #17 – communicate with experts, could be used in universities and the experts that students communicate with could come from the fields that the students are doing majors, minors or their degree route in.  #18 – use a twitter widget for instant updates on your website, is a way that twitter could be used in any school or business.  For personal, professional or educational use #23 – track your trip with twitter, would be a fun way to communicate.

Time to check back to twitter

I try again and think maybe, just maybe, when I close my browser and bring it up again with destination twitter as my number one tweet to check out hat if I cannot login, I will at least find an image of twitter’s Fail Whale this time, instead of finding the disconnected from server notice that happened earlier.  No, I am again not able to get to twitter – not even able to find a Fail Whale page!  

I would have liked to place an image in my blog post to show you the fail whale logo that you can view from the link in the above paragraph but according to the wiki:

“This is a logo of an organization, item, or event, and is protected by copyright and possibly trademark. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, of logos for certain uses involving identification and critical commentary may qualify as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other uses of this image, on Wikipedia or elsewhere, may be copyright infringement. Certain commercial use of this image may also be trademark infringement. See Wikipedia:Non-free content and Wikipedia:Logos…”

Therefore, no fail whale logo will appear in my blog.  I could likely chase down the logo elsewhere, for example, on twitter if it were working, and investigate the copyright information from its source if logos were the topic of this blog (teachable moment about copyright just occurred in blog post – check mark).  No fail whale and yet no twitter – back to my twitter dialogue.

Considering twitter for our cooperative education program

Our Cooperative Education Program is operated from the Business Career Services Office at the University of Alberta, School of Business and I found a tweeter institutions who seems to have the same combination of services.  They appear to just be getting on board with Web 2.0 tools too and have just recently began to tweet.  They announced it on their website and created a YouTube announcement too!

I will definitely be checking back in on them in the future to see if I can find some best practices that we might want to consider. 


It has become readily apparent that I am part of the ‘older demographic!’  According to a news bit from Canwest News Service, the national Twitter boom is driven by us old people – us over 25 that is!  The news feed from Canwest on The Vancouver Sun website divulges the evidence:

Twitter is exploding in popularity, but that’s not thanks to the young audience that drives many online trends.  The under-25 crowd is greatly under-represented in the micro-blogging site’s demographics, the Nielsen Company finds. As of June, Twitter reached 10.7 per cent of active Internet users in the U.S., the market research firm says, but only 16 per cent of those tweeting their thoughts 140 characters at a time were under 25. In contrast, 64 per cent of Twitter users are aged 25 to 54, Nielsen says, and 20 per cent are 55 or older.”

Since the majority of the student audience I work with are in the under 25 crowd, I will be quite cautious with how and if I proceed with using twitter for educational purposes.  If I decide to take up tweeting for co-op students I would likely start by using twitter to pass along resources that provide them with professional advice or help them transition to the workplace from school.  I am following tweets currently, which are from career advisors and educators in similar roles to me, as well as tweets from educators with a focus on web 2.0. 

Tweets that interest me are those that will assist with reaching our teaching objectives. I would not have students subscribe yet because I want to sift through the tweets and figure out how or if there are tweets that are consistently providing good sound advice and information.  Not all career advice or professional tips are sound advice, for our given context. 

I have been saving tweets that I want to come back and check on further, for example the link, Top 5 Interview Mistakes to Avoid http://tr.im/vzkr, might provide some fodder when we revise our upcoming workshops on interviewing.  As I explore more and more advice I find in tweets I am sure my confidence will grow and I will be able to find some positive twitters to follow and recommend to colleagues and potentially to students.

In our field we are always looking to connect with new employers and develop interesting work experience placements for our students and I am confident that there will be ways to use twitter to make these connections.  TweetMyJobs.com is a new recruiting twitter that brings together companies and job seekers, for example and I know that there are others I can check out in the future.

There are many other resources that I will consider in further detail, when we do contemplate how we might incorporate twitter into our work.  100+ Serious Twitter Tips for Academics has tips for how to get started with using twitter for business, communication, and education.  13 Odd Ways to Use Twitter has aticles about Twitter and how you can use it for businesses purposes and The Twittering Teacher  provides tips on using the mere 140 characters to answer twitter’s one question – what are you doing? 

On a personal level, I have not come close to loving twitter, not yet at least.  I find that it is not very productive for me at this point in time.  I enjoy following many tweeters and am even being followed by many but I find that I have lots of spam.  I realize that there are ways to filter and many twitter applications that might complement my twitter usage and am sure that once I spend more time I will find something to suit my needs. 

For now, I have a shared calendar in our office that keeps my colleagues informed enough about where I am, during the hours that they should be privy to that information.  My students know my office hours, we schedule our site visits one-on-one, and they have our workshop and seminar schedules.  I already have the capacity to update my status in Linked with any big ideas that I might want to share with my professional network and have update capabilities in facebook that keep my friends and family up to speed.

I will continue to use and become familiar with twitter though because I have found practical uses for educational purposes already, as mentioned above.

To you twitter spammers or icky marketers: no, I don’t want to come and see your nude pictures or your XXX or view your sexy videos – thanks anyway, tweet heart!

For those of you considering diving into twitter for any application consider the following my first RT (means, re-tweet and there are supposedly RT Rules of Engagement) to you:


Make your tweets worthwhile, especially if using professionally. Don’t need to hear “sorry I didn’t tweet much yesterday.”

Love twitter?  Perhaps, you should consider attending one of the 140 characters conferences

At the 140 Character Conference (#140conf) events, we look at twitter as a platform and as a language we speak. Over time we will be expanding our scope to include additional platforms. #140conf is not an event about microblogging or the place where people share twitter “tips and techniques” but rather where we explore the effects of twitter and the real-time Internet on Business.”

Richardson (2008), the author of our primary text for our Web 2.0 course, divulges in a round about manner that he is addicted to twitter and recommends that addicts “follow InnerTwitter at innertwitter.com.  Check it out and you’ll see why” (p. 87). 

Want to become an expert tweeter?  140 characters: A style guide for the short form is a website dedicated to creating a style guide for twitter and they are also working on a book and an app to fill the need for twitterature guidance.

It seems we need a style guide for Twitter and other services for the short form.  This will be a compendium of styles and tips to help you become more effective in writing for such a small space.

It can be a challenge to pack a powerful, emotional sentiment into 140 characters or less!  This is not to tell you what to write.  Instead these are suggestions on how to write, from some of the best and more prolific writers out there.  Learn to be more effective — and communicate more – using these ubiquitous short message services.”

In the video below, Jan Sluizer of Westwood One radio in San Francisco interviewed 140 characters authors at an event that marked twitter’s 3rd birthday which occurred on March 21st, 2009.

 Twitter is still relatively new and the momentum of growth appears to be continuing and as it does, I am confident that more of my peers will find great uses for it and I will happily await the sharing of best practices to come!

A few final items to share

Good Tweet Vs Bad Tweet: A Guide To Being Not Boring On Twitter ,

A final section to share some local goodies

Edmonon Twitter Hashtags 

A hashtag is a way of visually categorizing your tweet. They are very simple: the pound/number sign followed by some characters. Here are the hashtags used commonly in the Edmonton community:

 Twellow – the yellow book for finding Edmonton twitter usesrs 

Twitter and facebook, social networking sites, are back up and running again.

Well, twitter is back up!

You question: how do I know?

Well I logged into my blog and see that my WordPress sidebar twitter widget that I named, “Twitter Tweetings,” is working.   There is news that twitter was hacked:

 Sorry, twitter!  Curse you twitter hackers!

And finally, Want Breaking News? Try Twitter rather than CNN (unless twitter is down, of course) and then I recommend you do a Google news search for twitter.



Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (Second Edition.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Zhao, D., and Rosson, M. B., (2009). How and why people Twitter: the role that micro-blogging plays in informal communication at work. As cited in, GROUP ’09: Proceedings of the ACM 2009 international conference on Supporting group work, pp. 243-252. Retrieved August 6, 2009 from, http://www.citeulike.org/group/9689/article/4677230

Beauty in the Heart of Edmonton – by me Heather Kennedy-Plant
~:) the curly-haired, smiley face, co-op coordinator

Follow the link above and vote to support Edmonton Stories by Edmonton supporters and you could win an iPod shuffle – be sure to return daily to increase your odds of winning – thank you!

Any amateur photographer would agree that Edmonton has so much to offer for scenery and superb images.  I did not need to look very deeply into the digital photos that I have captured, over the seasons, to find images that showcase the beauty that can be found in Edmonton.  

There are so many great images that I captured in and aroud the city but I had to make some hard choices and selecting just one location for a focus made it a bit easier to select images to load into my video entry for the Edmonton Stories contest which went live at 5:00 pm August 5 and will remain open for voting until September 15, 2009. 

I am extremely partial to the University of Alberta, this is where I have worked full-time since moving here from BC in 1999 and where I completed my BA and will complete my MEd from in two weeks time.  As a location, it has diverse scenery that morphs magically through the seasons, so that at any point in time you can become intoxicated in it’s natural beauty.  It is my community within the community and I chose to focus on some of my favourite images that I captured while practicing photography on campus. The natural beauty Edmonton offers makes learning photography an enjoyable hobby.

Please visit my Edmonton Stories entry, and all of the other wonderful stories that exhibit our fine city on the Edmonton Stories website, and be sure to cast your vote.  You can vote once a day for video entries, so return daily and please share the website URL and encourage your network to help spread the word about this contest and the great work of Edmonton supporters!  Thanks.

How to Vote:

  1. Check out the stories.
  2. Look for the eligible stories with the icon.
  3. Choose your favourite written and video stories. Pick the stories that you think best show what makes Edmonton special.
  4. Scroll down to the voting bar beneath the story, and click on “Vote for this Story”.

You can vote twice per day: once for a written story and once for a video story. Remember, every time you vote your name is entered into the draw for an iPod shuffle. So vote every day! 

Maybe you have a story too – Edmonton Stories contest is closed but submissions are always welcome.

A special thank you to the fine staff behind the scenes who are growing this great site that showcases our city! Good job and thank you for accepting my entry that shows off our city – my city and the University of Alberta  campus – my campus – my community!

Campus blossoms in spring

Campus blossoms in spring

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In our Cooperative Education workshops and seminars we touch upon the topic of online persona’s but with all of the research I am doing for this blog I will now be able to work with my colleagues to enhance this portion of our seminars. Our student group for Cooperative Education, CESA (Cooperative Education Students’ Association) has a Facebook group, as does the Business Students’ Association who’s Facebook group recently posted an announcement for the launch of their new website, and I must say it looks great!  I also follow University of Alberta Alumni on Facebook and joined an alumni Facebook group.  I belong to multiple other Facebook groups. 

In addition to professional uses, I am an active Facebook user for personal uses:

If it wasn’t for facebook, I wouldn’t know that my cousin Ralph is heading off to work in Kaslo and he doesn’t know for how long and already he is missing his daughters and beautiful wife.

Considering the topic of social networking for this blog has been fun and has enabled me to explore aspects of social networking that I have never taken the time to in the past.  Living over 7 hours away from my family, Facebook has become a favourite personal communication tool of mine and I use it to send private and group messages to friends and family on a regular basis. 

There are also many fun diversions that friends send my way and sometimes I even partake in those! I can imagine that once I complete my master’s degree this summer and my schedule lightens a bit, (many who know me would make me insert a big ol’ lol right here, so here goes) lol, I may take my friends up on some of the many requests and invitations that I have been ignoring (yes, if you don’t want to accept or participate with an invitation, you can click on an ‘ignore’ button and move on with your social networking life).  Dakota, Terri, Kim, Lori and others I just might be accepting your FarmTown invitations in the near future and I realize that with 15,047,731 monthly active users this application is a popular place to be and I am sure that is because it is loads of fun!  With Facebook Scrabble coming up in numerous conversations with friends, I am sure that this too will be one of the first applications that I will give a fair try, when I have more free time.  Facebook Scrabble already purports 457,902 monthly active users and I have friends that have shared with me that it is their “sole reason for keeping their Facebook account;” not that I buy that of course, because after all they are using Facebook as the medium to send me that message.

As mentioned above in my introduction, I also use Facebook for more professional purposes and in many of these cases I joined Facebook groups which were already in existence.  My Facebook account serves as both a personal and professional tool and it provides more than enough options to keep the two separate, if that is what you desire.  The main reason I first signed up was because of the students I was working with at the time. I was the promotions and volunteer administrator, as well as the Asia study abroad advisor, with the University of Alberta International, Education Abroad Program Office and with over 100 volunteers to manage who were readily available to eagerly promote our various exchange programs, I was game to explore all the promotional tools that my volunteers recommended. The hands down winner, just two years ago, was overwhelmingly Facebook.  Not only recommended by nearly every volunteer I casually surveyed, it was deemed by my two assistants, Dennis and Ode, as the “place to be to engage our student audience.”   Both of my assistants were continuing university students and both had recently been on exchange and had their pulse on our audience and all things international on campus and so it took very little convincing for me to agree that we should give it a try.  Ode and Dennis were set to the task of creating our first Facebook group.  It was a success! Students shared pictures, stories, travel and cultural advice, and networked with peers that had like minded interests and I was able to join the group and it did not require me to become “friends” with every student.  

Groups can be set up to be private or public and can be managed in a whole host of ways.  For a great resource on how to create groups for courses or for student groups, see the video below which is from the “American Democracy Now” teaching tools for success Facebook series. This step-by-step instructional video will show you how to set up your group using Facebook.

Although safety and security are considerations for anyone who makes use of social networking tools, we in post-secondary settings do not experience quite the same array of concerns that my peers working in the K-12 system must deal with.  However, there are common safety tips which are necessary for everyone to consider, when socializing online.

Think before you post, is great TeacherTube video which I imagine will become a valuable tool that I can share in order to begin social networking safety discussions with students, staff, and family.

I have an ever growing online presence and support that we educate our students and ourselves in the best practices of online etiquette.  I believe that the collaborations which are already occurring online will only heighten and so since many of us are already there, we should be dialoguing about what it means to have an online persona.  Social networking is already in full force, as you can determine from the number of registered users listed on the extensive wiki list of major active social networking websites.

There are no guarantees of privacy online, so no matter how you set your privacy settings it is crucial to conduct safe online practices.  If you would be embarrassed if a prospective employer, your mother, a teacher, a colleague or someone else you respect, saw something about you or from you in cyberspace then that something doesn’t belong online.  It is important that users learn about the safe practices and appropriately set their privacy settings in all online accounts. There are many articles online that can point users in the right direction.  For example, About.com has articles on

and more…  As well, always visit the social network sites own help topics, for tips on privacy settings and safety.  For instance, if you will be using Facebook a great place to start is with their webpage, http://www.facebook.com/safety/ where you will discover many important safety tips and links to additional resources.

Common Sense Media provides a Social Networks: Facts of Life list that is directed towards parents but the list provides several important reminders for all social networking users:

  • Sites like Facebook and MySpace have privacy controls;
  • Some sites require kids to be older than 13 to have a profile, but younger kids set up accounts anyway;
  • Social networks keep kids connected to friends, provide a space for self-expression;
  • There are no guarantees of privacy (even with settings) since anything can be cut, pasted, and sent;
  • Inappropriate pictures, posts, or messages can result in damage to kids’ reputations; and
  • Kids can “tag” (or identify) their friends which can violate their privacy.

Visit the Common Sense Media website for more tips and an informative video that provides parents with tips for social networking.

There are plentiful resources, opinions, and recommendations about safety in social networking.  I came across a diverse selection of articles on the Life 123 website which provide many excellent tips and considerations to share with all audiences who are developing an online persona.  An article by Dachary Carey is about simple safety rules for your kids and addresses some of The Dangers of Social Networking Sites.  The same author also has articles about Online Social Networking Pros and Cons and in order to realize that there are many great reasons for social networking be sure to read the article, What Are the Advantages of Social Networking?.  At the same website you can also read about Internet Social Networking Etiquette, an article by Rochelle Valasek.

Facebook is constantly growing and adding new applications and features to the social site.  There are news feeds, Facebook notes, instant messaging, photo albums and applications to do a multitude of amazing and creative things with your photos.  There are games, calendars, groups and the ability to create events and send out invites.  There is also a private message feature that is much like email where you can send a private message to any of your Facebook friends.  I have noticed in my time on Facebook that the privacy features are updated as the site grows too.

You can become a fan of facebook, which I did and I now am one of over 4,474,015 fans (that was the fan count when I wrote this post). Not only are new apps are created every day on Facebook but new groups are also created every day on Facebook.  Facebook is seemingly everywhere, from The History Channel Facebook to the Make Poverty History Canada Facebook, which is a social campaign that I support and actively participate in and which I also now follow as a Facebook fan.

I firmly believe that there are many great things coming out of social networks, including an ability to advocate and support causes that interest us by joining various social networks or groups within networks, such as, ‘facebook groups’ to discuss issues and gain support.  As well, through Facebook events, we are even able to set up f2f (face to face) events and meetings, if our groups see the need.

Many people are finding a way to make a difference in the world through Facebook.  There is an application for Facebook Causes that allows individuals or groups with a passion for a cause to create a “cause” in order to mobilize and gain support. 

There are countless applications inside facebook, as mentioned above, and now facebook connect has applications outside of facebook too, so that developers can implement facebook sharing on external websites and users can share these external sites with their facebook account by connecting on the external site and bringing the apps into facebook.  One example of an external stand-alone social networking site that is now also able to be shared to Facebook is myTripBook, a social network where you can keep a travel diary and future trip planner.  You can keep your travel diary private, share with friends or have it open to all online. It is a site where you can keep a record of all your trips and travel experiences. You can enter trips that you have taken and ones that you are planning for the future.  You can add photos and videos and also keep a diary for each trip. There is also a section to add recommendations for any hidden gems that you have discovered and want to share, such as a bar, restaurant, hotel or hostel or just a particular activity.  You can add friends on the site and see their research and you can share your travel diaries or keep them private.  You can also add content from other sites, such as Flickr and myTripBook has an integrated trip diary application for facebook users.

There are several other social networking sites that I will now briefly consider:

Chain Reading is a social networking site with a focus on books for book lovers.  “Chain Reading is designed to cater to those of us who have an addiction to reading” and the site enables users to:

  • Let people know what you are reading, planning on reading, and recommend;
  • Suggest books to your friends;
  • Browse books recommended by others;
  • Write book reviews to share your opinions; and
  • Keep track of books that your friends suggest.

The University of Alberta Online Community is getting on board with social networking in hopes that they can engage past alumni and other target audiences. They report that they already have a network with over 15,000 people and they are hoping to keep ties with alumni, students, faculty and staff in one online system.  This is a work in progress and it is reported that the newest version includes:

  • Social networking: Similar to other Social Media sites, the OLC offers you a detailed profile page where you can share information with other members of the U of A OLC;
  • Photo Galleries: Create photo albums to share with other OLC members;
  • Contact lists: Connect to other U of A alumni by building a contact list;
  • Groups: Set up interest groups, arrange a study group, create a class page, plan a reunion…; and
  • Personal Messaging: send a personal message within the OLC. Notifications will be sent outside of the system letting people know that messages are waiting for them.

As the University of Alberta keeps apace of all that is Web 2.0 they note in their coming soon announcements that “New features will be added regularly including: RSS feeds, blogs, faculty landing pages, career advice centre, and file-sharing.” 

The final social network that I will comment on is LinkedIn.  I am a fairly new user of this network and am just getting a feel for how I might use it for my work.  The wiki on LinkedIn (pronounced /ˈlɪŋkt.ˈɪn/) states that this social network “is a business-oriented social networking site founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003 is mainly used for professional networking. As of May 2009, it had more than 40 million registered users, spanning 170 industries.”  This social network has some great add-ons and just last week I was able to install the WordPress add-on so that my blog post updates can be found on my LinkedIn profile page.  If you want to learn more about my work, and maybe you have a co-op job or two for my students that you would like to send my way, then visit my LinkedIn user profile to learn more.

With my past blog posts, I discussed how my colleagues and I might use the Web 2.0 tools that I was considering and for the most part the tools were all new to me.  For this post my approach was to consider how I, our students, and my colleagues are already using social networking.  Facebook and other social networking sites are already in high use by post-secondary students and many staff are also actively creating their online personas.

I have an ever growing online presence and support that we educate our students and ourselves in the best practices of online etiquette.  I believe that the collaborations which are already occurring online will only heighten and so since many of us are already there, we should be dialoguing about what it means to have an online persona.  Social networking is already in full force, as you can determine from the number of registered users listed on the extensive wiki list of major active social networking websites.

In a USA Today article Jon Swartz (2009) reveals that not everyone is keen on social networks, “social-networking services such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter may be generating lots of buzz. But old-fashioned, non-digital, face-to-face conversations aren’t out of vogue just yet.”   He comments on a market research survey that,

About 87% of 1,000 adults questioned in June said they prefer to deal with other people in person instead of via computers or smartphones… What’s more, half of the respondents said that they do not use social networks.”

Will it last and to what degree?

Watch the YouTube video embedded below, where TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington asks YouTube CEO Chad Hurley and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg what their respective companies may look like five years into the future. 

“Social networking applications and sophisticated mobile devices are combining elements of the real and virtual worlds, and delivering an augmented experience of reality.  How is this digital experience changing consumers and communities?”  The World Economic Forum tackles these questions and more in their forum on The Next Digital Experience which includes the excerpt shared in the above YouTube video.

The USA Today article by Swartz includes current statistics that support that social networking has caught on and is being used in full force:

Facebook has 250 million members, 50 million of whom joined in the last three months. In April, its members spent 13.9 billion minutes on the site, up 700% from April 2008, says Nielsen NetView. MySpace has nearly 130 million members.”

Although there may be adults who are reporting that they do not yet use a social network, we know our students are already there. As a concluding reminder of the intent of this blog post I will reiterate that I believe we have a responsibility to educate students on how to responsibly use these amazing Web 2.0 tools and the first step is for us to use and understand the tools ourselves, so that we can share best practices with our students.

If you haven’t started with a social network yet and are interested in setting up a Facebook account, I recommend you visit Molly McDonald’s tutorials on the Finer Points of Facebook.

 She demonstrates everything from un-tagging yourself from unflattering photos, super charging your privacy settings, creating your own Facebook family page, adding a Facebook badge to your site or blog, and even hiding parts of your profile from certain people, like your boss, your co-workers… or your Mom.  In this 10-part series, Molly runs down tips that will make you a Facebook power user in no time.”


Swartz, J. USA Today, In survey, many adults say they’re not sold on social networks, 08/03/2009. Retrieved August 3, 2009 from Canadian Reference Centre Database (AN J0E314785080909)

Want to explore more social networking sites?

Top 10  http://social-networking-websites-review.toptenreviews.com/

350 + list of sites: http://mashable.com/2007/10/23/social-networking-god/


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