The end

Wow. So this is it, the final post. PLN 2013 is coming to a close. At the beginning of the course I was a little nervous. Technology had changed so much and I was worried I was a bit behind the rest of the world. However, working through the course, having online tools explained in simple, easy to understand terms, has really helped put me at ease. I know I am on the right track which, to be honest, is quite a relief.

That’s not to say I can put me feet up. Far from it. The library world is still evolving. But at least I know now that I am on the right path. Things that used to terrify me, such as Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube channels etc, are now (slowly) becoming part of my routine. But I need to keep going. What I intend to get stuck into next is my filming and editing techniques. As such this last task for Unit 7 proved timely.

I spent a bit of time working on my story using Windows Live Movie Maker. It was definitely a good learning experience but in the end I wasn’t really happy with the result. So I used Animoto instead. But at least I have given it a good try and will happily go back to this software in an attempt to master it. And I guess really, that is the overall message from all this. Keep learning and trying out new things.

So on that note here are my final responses:

First is my Screencast of Scoopit. (Apologies, I said Blog by accident in there somewhere).

And here is my video summary of the course.

Thank you to everyone involved in running PLN 2013. It has been a great experience.


Crossing over (i.e: I am no longer afraid of technology)

The more I get sucked into the Web and its possibilities, the more I think that the education system, its structure and delivery, is failing to keep up. This is not to say there has been a deliberate choice to do so, but change has occurred so rapidly it’s been hard to fit it all in. I am definitely guilty of this.

Recently it was pointed out to me that Web 2.0 has already been around for about 7 years. For adults that might not seem like a long time, but for kids and teenagers this represents a significant chunk of their lives. Today’s students use technology as part of their daily routine and to expect them to shut that off once they cross the school gate seems unrealistic and in a way kind of stupid. Talk about lost opportunities.

The reluctance of organisations to embrace social networking tools is not without good reason however. There is an expectation that students will learn, not be “social” and definitely won’t bring themselves and by association the school, into disrepute. The pressure to restrict, to create a virtual lock down of campus, is immense. Schools are hard enough to run normally without all the hassle of dealing with morals, social etiquette, personal responsibility etc.

But at the end of the day, that is exactly why educators should try and tackle this. Schools can’t and don’t exist in a bubble. Ignoring issues doesn’t mean they disappear. The consequences that can result when this is overlooked are significant. Technology is now an integrated part of young people’s lives and this means teaching should and must embrace it, if only to remain relevant and engaging.

For example, one year seven student showed me his phone and it had about thirteen social apps on his screen. This was considered totally normal, as was the idea you used your real face online. Some students indicated that they had initially been cautious about privacy but seemed to have become more relaxed about this as they had gotten older. The tweens used “cartoon” avatars while the older kids “didn’t care” and showed their own image. A few said they were cautious and selected the private chats option in Minecraft rather than chat on the public forum.

Of the students I talked to, any sort of censorship or concern about their online privacy came, not really from any school authority, but rather came from their peer group and how they would be perceived. They didn’t want friends, friends of friends (or even friends of older brothers and sisters), making fun of, or using personal information against them.

So students were aware of privacy issues, but many admitted that some of their friends were posting inappropriate stuff online. They used Facebook, but some weren’t keen to use it in school because it was social and they didn’t want to merge two worlds. As one Year 12 student said “I might not get any work done”. Twitter wasn’t really a thing (although that might be about to change), but they were using Skype in a big way.

Of the students I spoke too, most were very aware of the number of “friends” they and others had. Some thought maybe that’s why some of their friends picked up “randoms”. In other words it was a way to boost their numbers (i.e. popularity). Here we see a perfect opportunity to teach students about how this isn’t a wise move in terms of privacy and safety. This could also tie in with other disciplines (i.e. PDHPE, Pastoral Care, Christian studies) learning about inner confidence, self-worth and what constitutes “popularity”. All lend themselves to class discussion and debate.

Given the mounds of evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that kids and teenagers use a range of technologies there is a need for schools to teach students about citizenship and acceptable online behavior. Right now the system seems a bit ad-hoc and not an immediate concern. To simply tack on technology as frequently occurs, isn’t good enough. Instead it must just “be” if that makes sense, with guidelines for behavior tackled and modeled as routine. Students learn by doing and experiencing. Educators must embrace technologies rather than try and limit them.

An effective learner is adventurous, comfortable, open, supported and supportive. Computers, associated software and instructions, assist this. Through sheer weight of numbers, technology will radically transform the teaching and learning landscape. How long this process will take is up for debate. I suspect the next ten years will see the education sector integrating technology as well as we do in all other aspects of our lives. I will do my part and try and keep up.

Get Grokking.

Can I just say straight off thank you. I don’t know if I had been out of the room or hiding under a rock somewhere but I had “missed” InstaGrok. Thanks to you guys I now know about this very cool search engine. I think the visual layout and summaries make a nice distinction between other search engines and will appeal to different types of learners.
The search term I used for the task was “Young Adult Historical Fiction”. The Google results were pretty standard with some big names on display (i.e. Amazon). Bing had similar hits which is a good example of why I never really use it. Google is just more convenient. Duck Duck Go had a nice mix of results and I like the options for searching within Amazon, YouTube etc. I didn’t bother exploring the advanced search options though simply because our library users don’t use it. Rightly or wrongly it’s all about the quick hit. For ease of use Google comes up tops, but I loved the fact Duck Duck Go offers a private search.
This unit has made me realise how I sort of take for granted exactly what constitutes a safe or suitable web resource. I suppose that it a good thing, meaning I must have enough inbuilt knowledge to make quick judgment calls, but of course it definitely doesn’t hurt to pause and consider what makes a good resource.
I use and recommend Kids Web Japan for teachers and students at my work. Beautifully presented it shows the creators love of everything Japanese and how that would relate to kids around 9-14 years of age. There is as range of information that is updated regularly and is current. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of the site lending accuracy and credibility. There ‘About’ section makes it clear who their target audience is and how content can be used in the classroom.

Who ever checks the Terms and Conditions anyway?

I have to admit I rarely do and I don’t think I’m alone on that one. Having admitted that, I will say that knowing the T & C’s does influence my decision making process. I think I’m about the only one I know who doesn’t have the Facebook App on my mobile, if only because I don’t like the idea of granting Mr. Zuckerberg access to my text messages. Of course this might happen anyway, especially with the increased connectivity between Twitter, Outlook Express, Facebook etc. but for now I am happy to keep my distance (see, such a Luddite).

Because of some of these restrictions, but more so because of parental concerns, I avoided Facebook and started using Edmodo with my students. Its format, mobility and ease of use were contributing factors. Because this was for school I did in fact read the conditions before signing up. I liked applaud the informal yet informative language they have adopted. For once I wasn’t about to fall asleep :-). The instructions for deactivating your account were straight forward and easy to follow. They stress that all content will be lost should you choose to cancel.
Because of this, while I would recommend Edmodo to other educators I would stress that all unsaved information would be wiped should they decide to deactivate their account.

Another online service I use is Scoop it! This is an online curation service.

Basically it allows you to select and store a variety of online links, articles etc in an attractive magazine style format. To sign up requires a full name, telephone number, D.O.B, nationality, gender, password and email. You can also log in via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (which I didn’t do because I wasn’t sure if that gave them access to more of my details – yep, there’s that Luddite creeping in again).

Initially, I did not realize when I first joined was that this service is restricted to those over 13 years of age. It makes sense though. Some of the suggested content can be a bit heavy sometimes. As a result this is not a tool that could be used for primary school students. For senior students however! has lots of potential, although it would be up to the teacher to ensure their class was aware of proper online behavior (which is another post in itself).

One of the reasons I would recommend this tool is because it can work on so many different levels. At its simplest it can be used as a search engine – with no need to sign up at all! Benefit from other peoples hard work and search for topics you are interested in.
If you decide you want to give it a crack, then sign up and create a topic. This could be for your own individual benefit (i.e. a librarian in a law library might collect articles on legal cases), or you might decide to share it with your professional network or clientele. Because this is open (at least on the free version, I can’t speak for the paid versions), other Scoop it! users can comment on the articles and links you have “Scooped”. This taps into the principles of Web 2.0 with emphasis on sharing, creating and collaborating.
If you are an educator you could also share or collaborate with your students. They could select items to be “Scooped”, justify why and comment on what others have chosen. While this can be done in a traditional way (such as cutting out/printing off articles, hand writing comments etc.), the! format is easy to navigate, allows access to resources world-wide and encourages interactions with people both in and outside the school. This makes this online tool more transformative when considered within the SAMR framework.

Here is a! I have created Language Links for the Classroom.
I have also embedded it on out Library Website if you wanted to check out the widget.

Getting online and onboard.

I have really dragged my feet when it comes to adopting social networking tools. Being constantly up-dated on what someone ate or who they had broken up with just didn’t really interest me. I also didn’t like the idea of putting my life online for everyone to view. I still don’t. So initially I resisted.
What convinced me to give it a try was the realisation that I was missing out. With Facebook, my friends and family (especially long distance), were keeping in touch and I was out of the loop. It was the same with Twitter. People in the library world were doing great things but I was hearing about it well after the fact. This was significant. In effect I was relying on other people to tell me what I needed to know.
Now, by engaging with social networks, I am much more proactive in the learning process. While I am still a little cagey about my privacy settings and my public profile, I have found the online world to be ultimately beneficial. Twitter has become a wonderful news feed for me and I check it regularly to find out what’s happening. This information can then be used in-house or passed on to the various subject departments I liaise with.
This is not to say I have a perfect system in place. There is still a lot to learn and I really need to work on my engagement levels, (I am quite happy to read other people’s tweets but am less likely to send my own). This has been changing over the last few months, probably coinciding with my growing confidence and also how useful I am finding Twitter. I am definitely a convert. Now when people comment that Twitter is only for ‘Twits’, I oscillate between outrage and pity. Yes there are idiots who post stupid comments but there have always been idiots. In fact, some of these idiots write in traditional formats and yet we have no problem with our kids using textbooks, or good old pen and paper. The format should not be blamed for the message. Really, it is all about quality and delivery and that is where we as educators can step in.
With regards Facebook for professional networking, the jury is still out. I know it can be good but so can other platforms such as Blogs, Edmodo etc. I wonder too if my hesitation in using Facebook is because it is viewed more as a social than an educational tool. Certainly I see it in this light. In terms of using it with my students I hope they wouldn’t start to resent having something they use for fun, turned into something they use for work. I guess we just have to wait and see how things evolve.
Of course, the school I work at makes these issues easy to avoid by blocking access for students. I believe however, that inevitably this policy will have to change. Web tools are becoming more and more a part of our daily routine, for both staff and students. The tech revolution is here and happening and schools shouldn’t be put in a bubble and isolated. It does no one any favors. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, if you aren’t on board it’s simple – you miss out. It’s a difficult balance and one all of us will continue working on.

Order from chaos.

To be honest I am a feeling a little overwhelmed with my work flow at the moment. I’m worried that I’m “missing” good content due to the relentless stream of information. It really is a case of sensory overload. It’s not uncommon for me to suddenly realise I have about ten tabs opened and I am definitely guilty of having way too many bookmarks. Diigo has helped sort that out. This is one of the reasons I was keen to undertake this course. It was a chance to learn about new tech tools and create some sort of order from the chaos.
Currently the files I have are stored on my work computer and the main server. This isn’t ideal in terms of access, especially when wanting to work from home. Using Evernote will be a great way to overcome this. Having said this I do have some concerns about privacy and the risk you run storing things in the cloud. Aside from this, I think Evernote will turn out to be incredibly useful, provided I keep on top of my folders/tabs etc.
I think the students where I work would have similiar problems to me in this regard. I don’t know how many times I have heard “Miss, what do I do? I’ve left my USB at home and my assignment is due”. A way to transition from school to home would be ideal.
The school I work at encourages students to store everything on the main server which can be problematic at times (i.e. drop outs and server maintenance). I will definitely be recommending Evernote and Dropbox (and have) to students as an alternative. I like that it is a sophisticated yet relatively easy way to share and store information.
So, on that note (no pun intended) here is my shared link.

Kicking things off

Hi everyone. I am Mel Webster, a Teacher/Librarian at a Secondary School in Sydney. I had been flitting around schools and libraries for a while, trying to find my feet and then I scored this, my first proper gig. It has been amazing so far.
Coming from a Public Library background I am into Reader Services and love recommending books to students. I also enjoy hearing suggestions and talking about books in general. From the teaching side of things I like assisting teachers and students with their learning and can see how technology plays an essential part in this.
In terms of my Web 2.0 usage I am not busy trying every tool that comes out, but I am happy to adopt new technologies when I can see their use. For example, with our School book club here, I needed to communicate with the students and so I picked up Edmodo. Likewise, I use WordPress because I work on the Library Book Blog and this format is a great way to share information.
In a way I am lucky because I sit right next to Di Laycock. She always tries out new stuff so I can peer over her shoulder and then pester her with questions when I see something that looks interesting. I think the trench coat wasn’t for me but! was (she is going to kill me for this 🙂 ).
So I guess currently my Personal Learning Networks consists of co-workers and what I find and read online. To be honest, as someone who values their privacy I have struggled with the idea of putting myself “out there” and having my name splashed around on the internet. Of course with our new world order this is increasingly difficult to avoid, especially when there is so much to learn by connecting with others.
I hope this course helps me navigate these dilemmas. I also hope it gives me greater confidence in using Web 2.0 tools, managing my networks and adopting the open philosophy approach that surrounds both the web and the profession as a whole.