Monday, February 24, 2014

Week Five Blog Post - The Tools of Web 2.0

These two weeks worth of discussion have been a real eye opener for me.  I knew that I was ahead of the curve with the people that I teach with every day (my frequent efforts to convince people to use Twitter and the like has proven that), but I didn't realize how far ahead I was of people outside of my little Byfield (the town I teach in) bubble.  When I saw the list of tools that we were supposed to look at this week, I was happy to be so familiar with many of them, and those that I wasn't, it took some fairly quick research to figure out what they did and how they could be applied to and educational environment.

What I have enjoyed the most about all of these conversations is the opportunity to help people learn about the so many wonderful ways to use the web to have students create new ways to use the information beyond a "pen and paper" assessment.  It has been these weekly conversations that have convinced me that I am making the right decision in working on my library/media science degree.  While I feel that I am having a great impact on the students that I am teaching and helping them to figure out what web 2.0 tool to use best for their purpose, I believe that I can impact more students by helping teachers feel more comfortable using technology with their students.  Instead of the 100 students that I impact every year, I could help teachers and have an impact on 800 students.

Of the tools that were on our list this week, GoogleDrive is my typical "go to" site for so much.  I can have students post writing assignments as a GoogleDoc, work on presentations in GooglePresentations, give my students formative quizzes using GoogleForms, etc.  Of course, it probably isn't a fair competition, given that so much of my life revolves around Google products.

My biggest concern about some of the web 2.0 tools, such as Voki, is that a number of them require flash and so many of my students have iOS devices.  I would love to be able to use Voki more, as I think it is a great formative tool for students to use.  I am not a big fan of Jing, but I would like to have my students create screencasts in the future, and that could be a simple tool for them to work with.  I use screencast-o-matic for my flipped classroom videos, and have found it to be much easier to figure out than Jing.  That could be something I play with and figure out some way to add it to my students' toolbox.

I am looking forward to using the technology that is to come and to encouraging my classmates to come along for the ride and use it as well.  The more tools that we can add and help each other discover, the better for our students.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week Four Blog Post - Where Do I Get My News

When I set up my blog a few years ago, one of the first things I did was to set up a blog roll.  I found a series of bloggers that I was interested in reading more from and placed links to their blogs in it.  What was nice was that the roll updated automatically with the date and time of the last post.  When I asked my students to create their own blogs, I created a blog roll for them as well, and it allowed those to populate as well.  I never had a need for an RSS feed, and as such, never set anything like that up.

My wife finally convinced me to get a "big boy phone" a couple of springs ago, and, while I never thought I would need one, I now don't know what I would do without it.  I added the Flipboard app, and used my Twitter feed and the people that I followed to get whatever news I needed.  When I received my tablet for Christmas a year ago, Flipboard was one of the first apps to be downloaded, and is the first thing that I check in the morning, when I get home from school, and before I go to bed at night.  I suppose that this is a little bit obsessive, but with so much good information floating around, it is hard not to try and get as much information as I can.

Diigo is certainly among the greatest web 2.0 applications that has certainly come along.  It has become the repository of just about everything that I find useful for my classes, and with its connection to my Twitter account, anything that I favorite on Twitter ends up there as well.  I love that I can create any number of tags for my bookmarks, making them much easier to find.  I can save anything that I find interesting for and tag it for use later.

I did try to use Diigo with my classes a couple of years ago, but found it hard to have my students keep up with it in the way that I wanted them to.  I may go back to this in the future, but I am asking them to do so many things, it may take a while for me to get back to it.

As I read people's posts this week, I was interested to see how many people were not using any kind of bookmarking site.  I guess I was so familiar with Diigo, that I just assumed everyone else would be in a similar position.  It does give me more confidence that I can help people with their learning curve when it comes to tools like Diigo and that, by doing things like creating a group for our course on Diigo that will be used not only by this class, but, hopefully, courses in the future.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

LBS 850 - Living in a Wiki Reality

Week Three Discussion - Living in a Wiki Reality

posted Feb 5, 2014, 12:36 PM by Dan Boyle
    Let me start this by saying I loved my wikis (Honors and College Prep).  I used it for a couple of years and it was able to house all of my materials for class.  I uploaded PowerPoint presentations, TED Talk videos, assignments, worksheets, anything and everything for my classes.  It was a great spot for me to host everything.  My students had access to it from anywhere and everywhere that could I find an internet connection.  We all still had our blog spaces and were updating those frequently, if not daily or weekly.
    Over the last year or so, however, I have had a change of heart with regard to wikis.  While they are still valuable and a few people that I teach with use them on a daily basis for their classes (A 3rd year teacher in my department, and someone I mentored), I believe that they no longer serve my purpose as much as this website does now.  Yes, the website lacks the interactive back and forth that can be so valuable in a wiki, but it more than makes up for that with the variety of pages that I can have on this site and they portfolio that I can create for myself here.
    As a librarian, the interactive feature of the wiki is its greatest asset.  Lists of titles/authors/subject could be cross-referenced and comments about the title or author could be included and updated as frequently as readers wanted to.  As an elementary school librarian, this could be a class project with the librarian leading students through a variety of ways to post these reviews, from simple text, to a book trailer, to a podcast style "interview" with the main character or the author.  As students get older and no longer have a scheduled library period, it would be more difficult for a wiki to be updated by readers.  They would have to do it on their own time and might only do it if they were reminded to do so.  A high school library might find a wiki not as effective as a website because of this lack of interaction.
    If collaboration is the goal of the library wiki, then there are a number of different Web 2.0 tools that could be used by students to work on a project together or share information about a title or author.  They could start a GoogleDoc and share that address with a teacher/librarian to be updated as students saw fit.  This GoogleDoc could be linked to from the library web page so that a prospective reader could get the information that they needed and decide from there whether or not they wanted to read that title.

LBS 850 - Week Two Discussion Blog Post

Week Two Discussion Blog Post

posted Feb 5, 2014, 11:52 AM by Dan Boyle
    When I started getting into this Web 2.o world about 4 years ago, it was a very minor introduction.  I had just heard about podcasts becoming a part of the classroom experience and wanted to see how I could create a different way for my students to present information.  Too many of my students seemed to have anxiety issues surrounding standing in front of a room and making a presentation to their classmates, and having them make a podcast seemed like a fine compromise.  I went down to Nobles & Greenough School in Dedham for a couple of days, learned the basics and off I went.
    I was fascinated by the reaction of my students.  It inspired me to take a three-day course the next summer called "Teaching History with Technology."  It was the greatest content specific PD I have ever done.  It inspired me to start a Twitter account, to start my own wiki page, to have my students create more things to share on the web, and, by extension, create blogs of their own to publish and share that information with whoever happened to come by their blog.
    The point was made during that course that if I was going to have my students blog, then I should be doing it as well.  So, I started my own blogger page  ( and away I went.
    As with many new things, my motivation to post things in the beginning was great.  I was excited to share the things that I was doing in my class and what my students were doing with their pages.  I found that the blog became a great place for me to share my reflections and that it really helped my grow as an educator and feel more confident with what I was asking my students to do.  I was certainly an "early adopter" at my school (a title that I, unfortunately, retain), and hoped that people would be excited to jump on board and follow me down the Web 2.0 path, which few did, but most did not, which is still somewhat disheartening.  
    I think my students enjoyed having their work out their for a larger audience.  I believe that they want to have many people look at their work and comment on it.  One of my favorite student assignments was to have them make a short 2-minute documentary about someone from the 1850's.  I have always tried to describe them as you are going to be "Ken Burns," but over the years, this means less and less as fewer of them are familiar with who Ken Burns is.  Anyway, one day a student that I had asked to do this assignment came bouncing into my room, with "Guess what" coming out of her mouth.  I was nervous for what was coming next, but she went on to tell me how excited she was that her documentary about Dred Scott that she had posted to YouTube had almost 2,000 views (here is the link and it now has over 4,000 views).  While she was excited about the number of views, it was what she said as she left the room that stuck with me: "I may have taught someone about Dred Scott."
    Even as I have blogged less and less, my interest in having my students use Web 2.0 tools and publish more and more of the work to the web has increased more and more.  I have move on from having my students use blogs to creating their own web sites, where they can curate the material they create more easily and still have the important reflection piece as a part of it.  I have blogged less, not because I don't want to, but because I simply forget to do it or run out of time in my day.  I have started to do more of it with my efforts at "project based learning" this marking period, and, hopefully, this will inspire me to keep going with the daily reflections.  I do understand how important the reflection can be to make me a better teacher and need to find a way to do it more consistently.