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City Refraction, City Reflection
Image by lrargerich via Flickr

Here lies Heather Kennedy-Plant’s final required blog post for the Summer 2009 EDES 501 course through the Faculty of Education at the Universityof Alberta.  The post focuses on the mission given to me and my classmates just six short weeks ago and contains reflections and recommendations for moving forward with bringing innovation with technology into our classrooms. 

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action ~ Peter F Drucker

It is now time to reflect 

Our course mission for the blog assignments was to undertake an independent inquiry exploring Web 2.0 tools.  Through the blogging assignments we had the opportunity to discover, experiment with, and reflect on these new technologies and their use in teaching and learning.  Our proff and facilitator, Jennifer Branch, both taught and learned with us over this past six weeks! 

Thank you Jenn!

Thanks for the wonderful collaborative approach that you started us off with! The welcome discussion in eClass is a must keep assignment for this course. The written feedback and tips you provided when you graded each blog assignment and our discussion groups helped me find my way.  I started to find my “voice” as I took each of your tips into consideration for subsequent blogs. 

In the beginning of the course, I tried to read about what makes a good blog because I had not really discovered that for myself yet.  The assignment at the beginning of the course to search and find blogs that we checked in on over the course was an excellent idea!  I started thinking about what it was that was made me return to the blogs I enjoyed visiting more than once, and several times reflected upon why I kept going back to several and never returned to others.  Before the class I had not frequented any blogs.  If there was one tip for future students in this course that I could pass along it is to frequently view and consider what they like about the blogs that keep their attention and draw them back.  For any future blogs that I might create I will be asking myself for each and every post, why would someone want to come back and visit me again? 

I am sure that future students will continue to be like our class and many may never have exposure to many of these tools until they start this course.  I had never paid attention to blogs until we were assigned to and I know that was the case for several of my classmates too.  Copyblogger is an exceptional how to site and I wished I had come across earlier in the course!  I am sure that it was a resource recommended in either our eClass links, the trailfire links for our class but it didn’t come to my attention until a classmate brought it up in an eClass discussion, several weeks into the class.  Perhaps this is for the best though because I did find my own style and now I can use the points from Copyblogger to improve my blogging but they are not my only considerations for how I blog. 

I am not sure yet when I will next blog but I am not adverse to the thought of it and I will definitely keep up with most of the other tools that I am coming to have a rich understanding about and will use them for either work and/or for personal interest.  I plan to get back to Picasa, which I happened upon for my blog about photosharing and I am eager to use videos as discussion starters for ethics and business etiquette training, which I blogged about in my videosharing blog.   

Social bookmarking will be very useful for organizing all of the superb resources that are online for career counselling purposes and my other work related topics of interest.  I also enjoyed creating a podcast and believe this tool has great potential for marketing our program and/or for putting together lessons or tutorials.   

With virtual libraries open 24/7 I know that our students have access at all times to a vast array of resources.  I am confident that I will continue to benefit from the many services available from our online libraries.   

Wikis are an exceptional tool for collaborative learning.  I love the idea of living knowledge that I conjure up when I realize that Wiki’s are always changing and improving and the content improves as more people contribute, and the community continually grows stronger which creates “a powerful, positive cycle!”  

I found one of the most fun tools while researching for my blog on multimedia mashups. It is animoto and it is sure to be used by me lots more in the future, as I bought the subscription and am curious to see how they further develop this most excellent tool. 

There is no doubt that I will continue with facebook which visitors to my blog on social networking are sure to quickly realize.  I love it for my personal use and see many benefits to using the group capabilities for student groups.  It is also a tool which we can use to educate our students about the power of social networking and also about privacy, safety and digital identity.  Twitter certainly grabbed my attention and although I do not think I will bring it into my work anytime soon, I will keep up with the tool and do not have a difficult time seeing its potential.  Blogs, Blogging for PD, and RSS were all topics covered in my August 9th post and I will return on a regular basis to my RSS feed to catch up on the latest news on a wide range of topics.   

Thank you classmates!

Now that I have reflected upon the core topics of my assigned blogs, I would like to reflect upon the discoveries of my classmates and a few key things that jumped from their blog posts to capture my interest, further my understanding and engaged me with the topics, in even greater detail.  Thank you to every classmate for your welcoming introductions, your eClass discussions and eClass “coffee talk” and for the major efforts you each put into your blogs.  I found that even though we were examining the same topics I was able to learn something new from every single one of your blog posts.  Every contribution was and is important and when I consider bringing any of these tools over time into my work, I will return to your past blogs for insights, thank you all!   

The workload has at times been gruelling, as those of us who are at our dashboards instead of our backyards, and at our computers, and frequenting our “in class” eClass discussion groups, can truly understand.  We have just accomplished an utterly mind-blogging (yes, intended play on words), amount of research, writing, and collaboration! 

Classmates: I continually learned from your unique perspectives on the very same topics I was blogging about!  What we did in this short six weeks is truly amazing and epitomizes the collaborative possibilities of blogs and class web portals! 

You all rock and your blogs are all HOT! And I would like to wrap up my reflections by thanking each one of my classmates personally and individually now.  In alphabetical order, (by last name, with the last name removed) here are my amazing, dazzling, mind-blogging classmate’s blogs and a brief note about just some of the gems that they shared on their blogs that I feel are worthy of remembering: 

  • Dan introduced me to “torrents” when we engaged in a discussion on his blog post about photo sharing, where the topic of plagiarism was introduced into the discussion and the topic served as the spring board for my blog about using YouTube videos for teaching ethics.  Thanks Dan!
  • Ruth engaged me with her positive eClass discussions and took the initiative to arrange an in person meeting when she was passing through Edmonton on her way back home to Saskatchewan.  Luckily, I was able to make it to the High Level Diner, as was our classmate Gerta. It was a great experience to meet in person and discuss our class.  The sense of camaraderie was heightened when I learned that all three of us were finding that this course, although great, is intense and very time consuming.  Ruth has energetically approached and grasped twitter and even discussed artistic ways to play with twitter.  I will be sure to check out twitpic and the rest of Ruth’s list in the future. Thanks Ruth! 
  • Gerta was also in attendance at our breakfast meeting with Ruth and it was a great experience to meet in person and discuss our class.  Two videos that Gerta discovered and shared in her blog on the topic of twitter really caught my interest and so I shared them in my vodpod.  One was just plain fun and the other had entertainment value but also is a great teaching aid for my work – it is the how to lose your job in 140 characters video and you can access it from my vodpod or in my blog. It is a great teaching aid for lessons focused on personal identity and online persona. Thanks Gerta!
  • Shirley shared an anecdote in her blog about twitter that resonated with me.  “The larger issue in this application however, is to not to confuse information with authentic communication. Or as my gifted administrator friend said to me, “remember that our most effective teaching still comes face-to-face, palm-to-palm, and in the safe and caring schools we have all worked so hard to create.” This is a message that I will continue to remember because I agree that face-to-face is when I best get to really know my students. Thanks Shirley! 
  • Debbie titled her blog The Reluctant Blogger.  She provides a critical analysis of web 2.0 tools and in her blogs she seeks to consider if these tools are appropriate or useful for educators to implement and she approaches many of her blogs from both a pro and a con side for each topic.  Her conclusion on her blog on the topic of social networking shows that even though she may be believe she is a “reluctant blogger” she is willing to consider using technology in her classes, “One thing I have to seriously consider are the potential benefits to using social networking tools that students may already be comfortable with before I make any decisions to dismiss or try out a new tool. Will teaching on their turf motivate them to be more actively engaged in the learning process?”  The question Debbie asks is an appropriate one for all educators to keep in mind, and I believe that it is important to keep up to date with the technologies that our students are engaged with and when and if appropriate we should reach and teach on their turf. Thanks Debbie!
  • Tara has an exceptional ability to break down information to provide her audience with guidance in a step-by-step manner.  She is also early with most of her assignments and so when I was still researching for the topic of RSS and I was ecstatic that she too had the same problem as me, information overload, and she had already devised a 5 step RSS plan for success to help sort through her 1000 + feeds.  I liked her advice so much that I shared her tips in my post on the topic of blogs and RSS and I am happy to accept advice on how to manage my information in a meaningful way and thought my audience would like the advice too. Thanks Tara! 
  • Carol shared some great ideas about professional development through online collaboration and her ideas set me thinking of the idea of actually “getting to know” and work with people even when we are divided by distance as a very real and potential use of Web 2.0.  It is something that I foresee as beneficial for our staff and ultimately, when we share and build upon best practices, it will also benefit students. This video that Carol shared speaks to the potential of creating conversations online for mass innovation and is based on a book by Charles Leadbeater, ‘We Think’ explores the potential of the latest developments of the internet . Thank you Carol! 
  • Lori reminded me of the term that was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t recall from our guest speaker eClass with Mack Male.  She commented about Mack’s visit and mentioned continuous partial attention in her blog about twitter.  Lori wrote, “It was interesting to hear Mack D. Male agree that his best approach to accomplishment is continuous partial attention; i.e., multitasking. That is a clear statement on how many of our students function.”  The concept intrigued me too and I am happy that Lori remembered and shared it in her blog.  I was intrigued by and would like to look into the concept further in the future.  It would be interesting to know if there is research on the topic and I wonder if we can educate ourselves about how this concept works, how it can be optimized, if it can be taught, and to gain a deeper understanding of the concept.  Thanks Lori!

Thanks classmates!  You all rock and your blogs are hot!

Thanks again Professor Jenn for the learning opportunities!

Thanks Joanne for the great trailfire links!

Thanks Mack for your exceptional guest appearance!

Thanks Will Richardson for the text and the ongoing wisdom shared in your blog!  As you note in your text: Blogs are hot! (2008, p. 20). 

As you can see from my classmates contributions, this exploration into Web 2.0 has truly been a collaborative adventure.  But this is not the end, it is the beginning.  As we set off with new knowledge and understanding we will need to promote these new technologies and bring innovation into our classrooms. 

We’re never done learning technology.  We can’t truly learn in isolation and we’re not ever settled in our roles as collaborator and teacher… We must know how to select, adopt, and promote new technologies… to a place of prominence as innovative models for teaching and learning in our schools.”(Brooks, 2008, p. 14)

I believe that technology alone will not enable us to be better educators and we must have good, sound, teaching practices and then we can use the tools to enhance our teaching.   As well, just adding a tool for the sake of demonstrating that we can now use the tool is not an adequate enough reason to rush into using any new technology.  I have discovered many great uses of Web 2.0 tools and shared them in my prior blogs but it will take some further planning before I am ready to implement these valuable tools.  I need to come up with sound rationale for each tools use, and when I do come back to each tool and begin planning for its use, I will start my plans by considering David Jakes list of tips for making IT stick that I have included below. 

David Jakes, in a conference keynote presentation, described the “characteristics of school culture that are required for an innovation to become seamless and transparent.”  In other words, to become “sticky.” Here are his thoughts:

Making IT Stick

  • There must be a high degree of organizational readiness for the innovation.
  • The innovation must have multiple entry points for a spectrum of usership; each of these entry points must support effective use by teachers and students.
  • The innovation must clearly address an instructional need, with benefits for both teacher and student.
  • The innovation must add value to an instructional process.
  • There must be visible and tangible results indicating that the innovation improves student learning.
  • The technology has been taken out of the technology or innovation.
  • The teacher has become a confident, active, and visible user; use becomes seamless and transparent. (cited in Solomon & Schrum, 2007, p.22) 

In addition to Jakes making it stick tips, Solomon & Schrum (2007) ask several key questions that can move Web 2.0 integration plans ahead:

At what point will new tools and new methods catch on enough in schools to reach the tipping point? What forces are pushing school change? From this vantage point, it looks like the confluence of having new tools (both pedagogical and technological), the future economic need, the access to bandwidth, and tech-savvy students are driving change. 

If you are an educator and you need one more reason to bring about change by bringing Web 2.0 innovations to your class or school, I highly recommend this following video that shows us how much students exist in the digital age so that teachers can understand their need to get up to speed with the technologies at hand.  I discovered the video on my classmate Debbie’s blog – good find and thanks for the share Debbie! 

Since most of today’s students can appropriately be labeled as “Digital Learners”, why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices?  The above video presentation was created in an effort to motivate teachers to more effectively use technology in their teaching. Please see http://t4.jordandistrict.org/payatten… to learn how you can become a better teacher. 

We as educators can effect change and lead the way as change agents

What will make change happen? Gladwell (2002) identifies three factors necessary for change to occur: exceptional people who drive  change by their own habits, stickiness or memorable qualities of the ideas that move others to act, and the power of context, which includes the skillful use of groups and the power of communities. (cited in Solomon & Schrum, 2007, p.22)” 

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~ Alvin Toffler

With over 35,000 words written in 38 posts, I would say I have come a long way in an extremely short period of time, towards driving change through my own habits.  I have played, learned, created and came to understand many of the most useful Web 2.0 tools.  I look forward to keeping up with them and also to discovering new tools along the way.  It has been a very busy six weeks for me and I have been challenged and at times, sleep deprived, but I am eager to declare that the mission has been accomplished! 

I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and share this final video with you to ring out the old and welcome the new!  I wish you all happy Web 2.0 adventures!  I leave you now with a little Auld Lang Syne, to ring out the old and rush in the new.

Best to you all from me!

 ~:) Heather Kennedy-Plant, the curly-haired co-op coordinator!

 

References

Brooks, L. K. (2008).  “Old school” meet school library 2.0:  Bump your media program into an innovative model for teaching and learning.  Library Media Connection, 26(7), 14-16. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=31853628&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Lombardi, M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Boulder, CO: Educause. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf

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

Solomon, G. and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. 

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Tasty travel, edible ethics, and career advice with a cherry on top – it’s easy and simply Del.icio.us to get hooked on social bookmarking.  Bookmarking and tagging are such great ways to get and stay organized in our online world and with Del.icio.us you are sure to be coming back for seconds!

WordPress has a widget for sharing del.icio.us bookmarks and you can add the widget to your sidebar on your blog to share your saved bookmarks with everyone who visits your blog. The widget allows you to enter a title and you then add your del.icio.us login in a field and choose the number of links you would like to have displayed when a user goes from your blog to your del.icio.us account.  When a visitor opens up your bookmarks, your favorite tags that you list in the bottom field of your widget are available for your visitors to see and they can find all of your bookmarks and other tags with just a few clicks of the mouse.   You can see my widget sidebar at the top of the right column of my blog –  click on the link and you will be directed to my bookmarks and tags. I have chosen to highlight multiple tags to share which fit well with my current interests. 

For a complete guide to using the WordPress Del.icio.us widget watch the video below.  The support area in my blog contains great advice on all of the available widgets on WordPress and on several support topics they even have videos and categorize this section of their support area as WordPress TV.  The entire video catalogue is available online at WordPress TV

Some of my current favourite tags include travel, ethics, career advice and co-op.  Career advice and co-op are constant topics of interest because they are integral to my work.  Ethics is a new favourite topic as I research how we might integrate this topic into our curriculum. Travel is a favourite subject of mine both personally and professionally.  I provide advice on working abroad to students and have tagged several URLs where I regularly direct my students to research topics such as visas, country profiles and the culture of their preferred destinations abroad. 

I also have an international travel bug myself and because I just recently returned from a trip abroad to Italy, where I completed an archeological field school for three weeks in May, and I have used the travel tag to capture some of my favourite links that I used when planning my trip, such as Hotels.ca where you can book hotels around the globe but pay in Canadian currency, using your Canadian credit card.  I booked my hotels for my trip to Italy both from Canada and while in Italy and did not need to worry about exchange rates and hidden costs, the price I saw was the price I paid and my room was reserved and paid in advance. 

When I was planning my trip, I came across several locations that I did not have the fortune to make it to and by bookmarking I can come back and view these for future travel planning, in months or even years down the road.  For instance, I did not make it to Cinque Terre, and likely will not be heading there in the near future but it is one of my favourite Unesco World Heritage Sites, of which there are 890 sites in total, and I am sure that I will learn more about this destination and plan to travel there someday.  Bookmarking is great for travel sharing too.  There were so many great places I did make it to, such as Florence and Cortona, and not only would I love to return someday, I am also very happy to be able to recommend my tried and true destinations to potential travelers.  To nurture my travel dreams in the meantime, I receive an email newsletter from Travellerspoint and I have bookmarked their website to share with any of my likeminded friends who might join my bookmarking network because they too have caught the travel bug.

Sharing your bookmarks in this way makes the act of bookmarking fall within the realm of Web 2.0 technology, as it takes bookmarking to a social level where it can become a social activity.  You are no longer just saving favorites, like you did in the old Web 1.0 days, on your computer’s browser for only that computer’s users but you can now save, store, and share your favourites online adn access them from any computer with internet access.   You can also make your bookmarks public and can even create networks to share bookmarks. 

Another very popular social bookmarking site is Digg.  It is a news related site that offers community members an opportunity to share bookmarks and blogs.  All members of the community can rate stories with either a thumbs up thus, “digging” a story or with a thumbs down and thus, “bury” a story.  Highly “dugg” stories rise to the top and become part of the Popular Stories which are listed on the main page.

A final bookmarking site that I looked into seems to come up often in the bookmarking literature, it is StumbleUpon.  Although I only briefly took a look at it the concept seems appealing if you like to learn as you go and discover or “stumble upon” like pages that are similar to past topics you have visited.  You must download a plug-in browser that enables you to bookmark and rate your chosen websites. Relevant pages can be found by clicking on the “Stumble” button which gets added on to your browser toolbar with the download.  Given more time, I think this would be a fun site to further explore and though I do not really see how it might relate to sharing for my work purposes it does seem interesting.   

I would have liked to explore other social bookmarking sites in further detail but I only briefly investigated about five other than the ones mentioned above to ensure that I wasn’t missing something major.  Lund, Hammond, Flack, and Hannay (2005) noted a few years ago that “As these services have matured and grown more popular, they have added extra features such as ratings and comments on bookmarks, the ability to import and export bookmarks from browsers, emailing of bookmarks, web annotation, and groups or other social network features.”  This remains true today and not only do most bookmark sharing sites have a full complement of features there are many sites to choose from too.  I believe that my appetite for social bookmarking and the features I choose to top my plate with has been fulfilled and I am now addicted and dedicated to Del.icio.us. The features in my chosen bookmarking site are very well suited to sharing for my work purposes and I can imagine creating an account specifically for resources related to topics for our students, for example, cooperative education, career advice, business news, and working abroad, to name but a few.  I could then invite colleagues and students to join the network and we can collaborate on building our very own online resource site.

What interests you?  Who would you want to share your favourite online places with?  You know from my blog that I am a fan of the Unesco World Heritage Sites, if this interests you too consider a trip to my bookmarks to visit my travel tag, and explore my Unesco links in my Del.icio.us bookmarks. If you find any of my topics are also of interest to you, feel free to join my network and we can build and share our favourite links together.

Many friends and family members have shared with me how they loose hours on video sharing sites like YouTube and although I easily understand, I have not been lost there often.  However, I do find that time just seems to escape me when I start playing around with Del.icio.us.  I believe that once I am finished my course and have time to spend organizing and categorizing all that I love on the www that I also will have the potential to loose sections of my free time, in large chunks with this tool and similar tools.  Just starting with a few favorite topics that I frequently research online got me spending hours online and I imagine as I learn to fully use the site to its fullest potential, it is likely to become my favorite tool this summer! 

Want to read a wee bit more about social bookmarking before you decide where to begin? Visit the following link to read an article that provides brief descriptors for 125 social bookmarking sites (the link is also saved at my bookmarking site if you need to find it in the future, just join my network and view my tag titled bookmarking, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/125-social-bookmarking-sites-importance-of-user-generated-tags-votes-and-links/6066/.

 References

Lund, B., Hammond, T. Flack, M., and Hannay, T.. In: D-Lib Magazine 11, Nr. 4, 2005, Retrieved July 14, 2009.

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