Tuesday, 30 September 2008

What Web 2.0 tools are available to help me?

What Web 2.0 tools are available to help me, (a teacher) or my students stay organized online?

The heading for Topic 2 was Getting (and staying) Organized in an Electronic, Web 2.0 Environment. Since we have been feverishly immersing ourselves in the WEB 2.0 environment already, I decide to delve deeper and take a look at “what Web 2.0 tools were available that could help me (a teacher) or my students stay organized online”. I found a number of different categories of organizational tools. The first I am going to call “online note-taking and note-assisting tools”, the second are “online to-do lists”, the third are “online goal-setting tools” and the last is the “social book marking tools” that we are all probably playing with this week. I decided to focus on the first three categories and leave the social book-marking to our blog posts.
When I investigated each of these sites I looked at the following criteria:
· Was the site an online tool or was it promoting a downloadable program
· Was the tool easy to use and understand
· Did the tool have a cost associated with it
· Did it work with my current computer configuration, and what configurations would it work with.
· Did the tool seem to be useful and helpful rather than just more work!

I began my investigation with a simple Google search for “Web 2.0 tools for organizing myself” and that led me to two sites this one called Organize 2.0, and this one called 13 Great Tools For Organizing The Web. From there the possibilities were endless!

I found many “online note-taking and note-assisting tools”, but I will focus on two I thought might be useful. I was excited to find MyStickies as its format fits with the way I tend to organize myself offline (I go through about a thousand post its every time a take a class!). It allows you the ability to place digital “sticky notes” on any web page, annotate them and then it keeps track of them all for you in a central location. This is a downloadable program that is free of charge (although they do ask for donations to help keep the tool free). It seemed like it would be easy to use, so I signed up only to find out that it was only formatted to work with Firefox and not Internet Explorer, which is what I am currently using.

(Maybe those of you that use FireFox can check it out and let me know if you think its any good. It might be worth switching from Internet Explorer.)

The second tool I found was iLighter, which is a similar, free downloadable program that allows you to add a function button to your browser’s tool bar. Whenever you find something useful, you click on the button and highlight it. You can then store these highlights in a central location, which can be accessed from any computer with online access. So in a way it is both a downloadable program and a Web based application. It is formatted to work with both Internet Explorer and Foxfire, so it provides more flexibility in that sense as well. Another thing I liked about iLighter is the ability to blog, tag for delicious or dig, email, or twitter each of the highlights with the click of a button. (Please note I am not that familiar with twitter, delicious or dig, but I hope to be eventually!)

I eagerly downloaded the program and attempted to use it. Unfortunately, something happened during the download, which I must get my husband to help me fix (I definitely know more about Web 2.0 than him now, but I still can’t figure out how to operate the rotten computer! RRR!), and so I am unable to actually highlight anything. Therefore, I cannot tell you with 100% certainty that the tool is easy to use or if is in fact helpful.

There are a plethora of on-line to-do list tools available for use. I looked at Remember the Milk, Gootodo (see more info on Gootodo here), and e2doList. All three are web-based tools, but Gootodo does have a cost associated with it. The site does provide a 30-day free trail though. All three are very easy to use, but Gootodo is not at all visually pleasing and does not offer as many perks as Remember the Milk and e2doList. I liked e2doLists because they allowed you to set up email reminders for each of the tasks on your to do list, reminders that could be sent on a date of your choosing. I was impressed with e2toList, until I discovered Remember the Milk. Remember the Milk allows you to set the priority level for each item and the items on your list can be annotated (this goes for e2doList as well). It allows you to send email reminders, it has an online calendar, and you can monitor your progress as you complete items. You can also set tasks to repeat themselves regularly (i.e. work out every 2 days), set time limits, tag items and add different locations for each item on your list. This particular feature would be handy for people who travel for work or commute long distances. You can even subscribe to an Atom feed of your to do list with Remember the Milk. Over all I believe that Remember to Milk is the superior site for my purposes.

One last thing I found was an online goal -setting tool. It was quite interesting and might be something you could try with that really disorganized student you have. Joe’s Goals is free, available online and very easy to use and understand. It allows you to set a number of goals, both positive and negative, check them off as completed or not completed and it even keeps track and provides a score for your goal achievement. It will also provide you with charts and graphs to keep track of your progress. It even allows you to have a logbook (or a few logbooks) to keep track of any notes or thoughts you might have on your goals. This could potentially be a very useful tool in my opinion.

There you have it. A very short list of what’s available online to help us, and our students, stay organized in this Web 2.0 world. I will personally be using the iLighter (as soon as I can get it to work!) and the Remember the Milk site. I may even use Joe’s Goals to track my work out and weight loss goals! Check them out and let me know what you think.

I forget to mention that I also found this book called Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst if anyone is really intent on studying this whole issue further! If you click on the link, you can read a sample chapter online.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

A Thought Provoking Look into Video Sharing

You’ve seen them. You know, those cutsie little videos that your odd aunt sends to you via email, like the laughing babies:

Or what about the just-plain-weird videos you get from that quirky physicist cousin of yours, like this:

Personally I have always liked “The machine is Us/ing Us” the best. (If you have not already seen this one, then you don’t get online much!)

I also recently received this one called “Did you Know?” via email. I don’t know if the stats in it are accurate, but its still quite thought provoking.

In fact, that was my aspiration when I created my video. Something educational, yet entertaining, something thought provoking, yet amusing. I do believe I have achieved this with “Lynon and Agador Discover Diffusion”

Here is my amazing video:

I admit I was stumped at first, like all good artists are at one time or another. How do I create an applicable video that’s amusing but doesn’t require a lot of extra props (I didn’t really have a budget!)? The answer came to me while I stared at the rec-room that once belonged to the adult domain, but has since been taken over by an army of tiny girl toys. “Use the toys, Christine!” I thought. Any of my students who see this video, will no doubt know it as my handy work. My sense of humour is well known throughout our school building!

Once I started, and had decided on a format for the video (i.e. the silent movie) I found it incredibly easy. I searched for Creative Commons music in the silent movie theme and actually found a whole website of royalty-free silent movie sound tracks. I decided on “Old Timey”, mostly because I thought it would be the most ridiculous. I then created my dialogue and “cartoons”. Now that I look back on the video, I would definitely increase the font size if I were to create an entire series of “Lynon and Agador Discover . . .” videos for my science classroom (maybe!). Thanks to my wonderful and patient husband who gave me a very quick tutorial in video editing and showed me the ins and outs of file conversion, I was able to create my masterpiece without much effort!

When it came time to upload my video is when I ran into trouble. I had decided to go with Teacher Tube, as I am a teacher. But I found their site slow and cumbersome and I tried, unsuccessfully, 4 times to upload my video there. I finally abandoned Teacher Tube for You Tube (Canadian version of course!) and was able to upload in one attempt.

Unlike my previous escapades with Flickr, I can see boundless applications for video sharing in the classroom. I have been having my students create videos for assignments and projects since I first began teaching and so taking the next step of sharing those with the world, doesn’t seem so far fetched. What I did find interesting was how video sharing can enhance and enable teacher professional development.

On You Tube alone I found a video about Reading Recovery, Dyslexia, and one on Being Cyber Smart which I found very interesting and applicable to being a Teacher Librarian. This is really where Teacher Tube comes out on top, as teachers can subscribe to an RSS of the Professional Development Channel where I found this moving video:

Most of the pros post videos to their blogs for the purposes of sharing their own views and teachings in a more visual way. The fact that I can make a video on a topic near and dear to my heart, about my own profession, and geared towards my fellow teachers, and post it for all to see and use is profoundly powerful for me. I can participate in the professional development of teachers around the world. I had never even imagined that application until I started this class, and I had only an inkling about the extent of the possibilities before I started this post!

I fear you may all get very sick of seeing my videos taking over the web!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

An Educational Artist Transforming Humanity

I like to pretend I’m an artist. You see there are many very creative people in my family, including my uncle who is a well known muralist here in Winnipeg named Charles Johnston, my mom who is a writer/playwright/aspiring novelist and has had a number of her plays produced and just finished her Masters in English doing a thesis on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, and my cousin Rika Hawes who is becoming quite an established glass artist. So I like to think, since I am surrounded by creative genes, that I too am creative. Then you can imagine how EXCITED I was to even entertain the thought that the world could see my beautiful photography with just the click of the mouse! I was convinced that having the world experience the wonders that are my photographs would transform humanity . . .

(ahem . . . sometimes the little egomaniac in me escapes, I apologize and will hence forth keep her in check)

Seriously, I was eager to try Flickr because I do like to share my pictures with people and after “Taking the Tour” and following the Trailfire links to watch the video suggested by Joanne, I was intrigued by a number of things. Mostly, the fact that I can control the privacy levels and allow limited access to my masterpieces appeals to me. (sorry, egomaniac slipped out again . . .) This still remains one of my biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to sharing photos online, whether through this type of venue or through a social networking site. I would love to use these sites to share photos of my gorgeous children with my family who is spread all over Canada and the US (they really are gorgeous, no ego here, I swear). In fact, I first joined Facebook so I could keep in touch with those far-flung family members. But I am so protective of my girls that I fear none of you will ever lay eyes on their beauty through the magic of Flickr, no matter the privacy restrictions. I do have some photos of them on my Facebook page, which I have set to the very highest security and only select friends can view them.

Once I worked through the paranoia (boy do I have issues!) I began the process of uploading photos. I first went through all my photos and chose only the very best and most dramatic ones to showcase, mostly the ones I thought were pretty! I easily uploaded many brilliant photos and relabeled and tagged them. I was able to create 3 sets and then to my dismay found out that if I wanted to create more I had to “upgrade” to “Pro Flickr” at a cost of $24.95 per year!

It was at this point that I got stuck. I could not figure out what the benefit of this photo sharing site was, except as a place to back up my photos in case of a computer catastrophe at home. So I turned to Chapter 7 of Will Richardson and was enlightened and inspired to try the Annotation tool, the Editing tools in Picnik, to look at the Creative Commons licenses, to try the Flickr mapping function and to search the “pro’s” blogs to see what they have to say about the value of photo sharing.

Of course, I first started out at the site itself, playing with all the above noted features (see my previous blog entry about being a button-clicker!). I was able to annotate my photos with very little effort, and I decided to create a “tour” of the city of Ottawa, where my mom lives. I was able to easily post my pictures to my blog, just by going through a quick process and you can see those efforts below. I also added a slideshow gadget that links right to my Photostream on Flickr and showcases all my magnificent photos à.

I also decided to look at the Creative Common Licenses because as noted above, I am still a bit paranoid. I changed all my photos except my wedding photos to “Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons” and I changed my wedding set to “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons” just because I don’t want people to be able to manipulate my wedding photos, but I don’t mind others using them. I then decide to try the edit feature using Picnik. I took my already awesome photo “Tree in Winter” and “created” a new picture. See my previous post “More Flickr Fun”. I did investigate adding my photos to the map feature, but this is seems much more time consuming and requires more of my time, at a later date! But I did find an interesting article about Geotagging, which I have included here for your enjoyment.

I definitely see the potential of the Flickr site now that I have “played with it”. Richardson talks about a student using Flickr to explain her project with notes, and the idea of using the annotation feature as a form of assessment where students add notes to a diagram or picture of, for example, a fetal pig dissection (Richardson, p. 104). It seems photo sharing in general and Flickr specifically have many varied applications to the classroom. I liked the ideas that Richardson posed where students and teachers can use Flickr as a way to stimulate discussion, share school events with parents (both from p. 102), use it as a way to showcase art or other school work (p. 105), use it as a way to inspire budding photojournalists (p.106) and even go on photo field trips using the map feature (p.107). Flickr also gives teachers the ability to create interesting and applicable learning objects, with the touch of a button.

I think Richardson said it best in this post from October 2004:

“Doh! I get it. Have kids upload pictures they take to flickr, tag them, add titles, descriptions and hot spots with mouseovers, look at other similarly tagged photos from classmates or students far and abroad, comment back to the creators…and then blog about the whole experience. Construct. Collaborate. Communicate.”

Can I possibly be that far behind in my knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools, that Richardson was blogging about this very dilemma I’m having now, way back in 2004! I need to get it in gear!

This quote about Life Caching I found on Richardson’s blog, but attributed to Jeff Jarvis (dated August 2005), is also very interesting and has many ramifications for the way we incorporate this technology into our everyday classroom use:

“LIFE CACHING is enabling GENERATION C to become a generation of true storytellers, helping them to visually and compellingly share their experiences with friends and family, which makes them stand out and feel special. In fact, sharing an experience may become as valuable if not more valuable than the actual experience itself.” (emphasis mine)

I think the quote speaks to the importance of teachers and other adults embracing these technologies and showing students how they can be safely and appropriately used. If the sharing is becoming more important than the experience, then we need to ensure the experiences are also worthy of sharing! (Remember our discussion about online reputation on the class discussion site?)

This also leads me to believe that our students will really feel the way I jokingly did: that having the world experience the wonders that are their photographs will transform humanity. And maybe it will.

More Flickr Fun

Tree in Winter B & W
Tree in Winter B & W,
originally uploaded by CRobi-Blog.
This is a photo that I "created" using one of my own and the Picnk feature of Flickr. I both inverted the colour and then made it black and white. I also cropped it to focus on the tree more. I'm thoroughly impressed with the result.

Ottawa Aerial Tour 4

originally uploaded by CRobi-Blog.
This is the last photo. Hope you all enjoyed the aerial tour of downtown Ottawa.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Ottawa Aerial Tour 3

originally uploaded by CRobi-Blog.
Here is the third photo. If you get a chance to visit Ottawa, I highly recommend visiting the Library of Parliament.

Ottawa Aerial Tour 2

originally uploaded by CRobi-Blog.
This is the second photo. Ottawa is a very beautiful and lovely place that all Canadians should visit at least once.

Ottawa Aerial Tour 1

Ottawa ,
originally uploaded by CRobi-Blog.
This is the beginning of a series of four aerial photos of downtown Ottawa, taken from the top of the Peace Tower. Note the annotations, each of which points out a sight to see. There are matching close up photos of each sight in my Flickr photostream. Enjoy!


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

How do I “be myself” online?

So how do we “create a visual presence in our own little places on the web”?

I have to admit I really had no idea what to say about this! Ask me to comment on assessment practices in Mongolia or pedagogical beliefs of 18th century mathematicians or even create a lesson plan integrating all known knowledge on Earth and I can do it without even thinking (well maybe not without thinking, but at least I’d have an idea how to start: Google!). But for some reason this small task of thinking about my visual presence online stumped me completely. So I did what any good teacher should do, I asked for help. A late night email sent frantically to Joanne asking for “clarification” resulted in a prompt response and set me on my way in search of a related inquiry topic that would entice my psyche to reflect. I decided to start by looking at all those professional blogs I have decided to follow. After much careful reading I found this quote from Stephen Downes in the article Seven Habits of Highly Connected People:

“The idea behind "being yourself" is not that you have some sort of offline life (though you may). Rather, it's a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets are all represented and work together.”

How do I “be myself” online and make my blog represent all the facets of me?

Again, I decided to see how the “pro’s” do it, so I took a closer look at their blogs. First I went to David Warlick’s 2¢ Blog. He has an About This Blog link where he talks about “pimping out his blog” (his word, not mine!) but he does mention that even though he believes “blogs are for communicating, and that the message should be the primary focus of its operation”, he does admit to including some little goodies to personalize his space. One thing he has included is a Tag Cloud, which is quite interesting, and I will be searching for this tool in the future. He also includes a Blogging From link that shows his travels. He has many Flickr photos of his travels as well. One last thing he included was a side bar “add on” that shows the books he’s been reading. As for colour and layout, David Warlick did stay true to his quote above with a very simple layout with lots of white space, and small splashes of colour. This simple layout seems to be what most of the professionals are doing including Darren Kuropatwa, Tim Wilson, Anne Davis and Stephen Downes. Some of the “pro’s” use a Visitor Map to show where people are viewing from, and Tim Wilson has a “What I’m doing Now” feed, much like Facebook’s. Last but not least I looked at Will Richardson’s blog. He has a “My Stuff” tab at the top of his blog, which includes links to You Tube and other videos by him, Flickr photos posted by him, Twitter posts, posts he has made to other blogs, del.icio.us items of his, a calendar, and many other interesting online items by or about him.

So how does my blog reflect me? I did choose a template that is understated, not because its what the “pro’s” are doing, but because I just liked the way it looked. I changed some of the colours to suit me better, and of course I added some “gadgets” to the side bar. I found the sheer number of gadgets to add a tad bit overwhelming and I suspect I will revisit some of my existing elements and either remove or add as time goes on. Currently I have a “This Day in History” gadget that I chose because I love History and believe it is a very important thing to know and learn about. I also added a “Picture of the Day” gadget from National Geographic because I love looking at the beauty of nature, especially in well-done photography that uses unusual perspectives. As soon as I set up my Flickr account, I will include some pictures of my own that I think fit this category. I may also change my Picture of the Day gadget periodically to include other types of art I’m interested in (like Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, Escher, Jackson Pollock, sculpture and others). I also have included a “Useless Knowledge” gadget, mostly because I wanted to see what it would come up with and if any of it would be applicable and/or appropriate in the classroom because I do interesting facts with my students. At the beginning of every class (Science, Social, Math or LA) I try to give them an interesting fact about the topic for the day, just to hook them a bit. In the future I hope to include a Book List of books I want to read, I want to figure out how to do the tags so I can add a Tag Cloud, and I also want to try out the Wordle thing that all of you have been talking about and Heather used to make the header for her blog.

I think the visual appearance of your blog is important, but I believe what you write and how you write it speaks more about who you are. I named my Blog Crobi-blog because it’s a nickname some of my teacher friends gave me after I got married. They couldn’t stop calling me by my maiden name and so started calling me Crobi to remember I was Robinson not Bunce! I thought it would make a great on-line alter ego! I sign each of my posts with a smile, because I want people to feel welcomed and invited to comment. Plus I am a very happy outgoing person. I write in a way that invites laughter, encourages thought, opens dialogue and questions everything. Or at least that is what I strive to do. I’ve never been afraid to “put myself out there” so to speak and so I decided early on that when I wrote on my blog I would put my personality into my writing and so far I’m pretty happy with the result.

I do wonder about the purpose of the blog and how much of yourself you “put out there”. Above Downes says that it’s important that ALL facets are represented. I disagree with that slightly. I think you have to think carefully about the purpose of your blog and then edit your ”facets” accordingly. If I’m writing a professional blog where the intent is to share learning and reflections on teaching, then I don’t feel I need to include information on my kids or my dog or what I wore to the mall this morning. I do need to make sure that I represent all facets of me as an educator however.

I think one of the most important things we do as educators is model what we want our students to do. I know that I will be able to refer to my classmates’ posts as well as my own posts, to show my students what I mean when I say, “put your personality into your writing”. I also think its important for us to experience what our students will experience. Reflecting on how I make my blog represent all the facets of myself has helped me think about how I will encourage my students to do the same when I finally start blogging with them. Do I limit their customization? How can I know that everything they are putting on their blogs is age appropriate and has suitable content? Do I discourage flashy colours and blinking icons or do I let them make the space their own? How do I impress upon them the importance of being careful with their personal photos and information? How do I broach the subject of how much of themselves they should “put out there”? So much more still to learn and reflect on . . .

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Connectivism . . Interesting

I’m a button-clicker, a techno-fiddler, an action taker. Whenever I’m trying to learn new software or technology (or anything for that matter) I just go in and start clicking, tinkering and doing. No fear!

This is what I did when I first set up CRobi-Blog. There are pros and cons with taking this approach. You end up learning quickly and become more confident in your ability to problem solve and learn new skills. But sometimes you end up having to learn the same thing twice, once the action-taker way and once the book-reader way. (I can definitely relate with some of my students for this reason!) I set up the blog, tried a few things and then read up on blogs in my textbooks. Oh I had gleaned the basics from the texts, but I had only skimmed enough to get me started. I admit I did this on purpose, partly so I could experience the typical blogger’s anxiety and partly so I could experience the excitement. Let’s be honest here: most people setting up a blog for the first time don’t have a text book (or multiple texts) sitting on their coffee table waiting to be read when they hit a snag. I know my students certainly won’t and I thought it was only fair to experience just a little bit of what my students may feel when I ask them to start blogging.

Two things interested me in Will Richardson’s text (see his blog for more from Richardson). I guess the biggest thing I got from it is that blogging is connective writing and “truly a constructivist tool for learning” (p. 27, Richardson) which requires students to learn and use a whole new set of critical thinking skills. I find this very exciting. At first glance this seems like alot to take in, but after some reflection I don't think it seems overwhelming in the least. It just seems natural. Like it’s the way teaching and learning should be, and I’m starting to realize that this is the way I’ve always wanted to teach, but I just never knew how. I find I’m always looking for new ways to get my students to express themselves and participate in the class discussions. I’m always encouraging them to just get involved in something important to them, right now at this time in their lives, so they are ready to get involved as they become responsible adults. I’ve long been an advocate for focusing on the skills necessary to learn a content area rather than focusing on the content itself. Especially in an age when content is ever-changing and human kind is adding to their stores of knowledge at an incredible rate. This concept on connective writing may just be the way to achieve all these things. I’ll have to spend some more time reflecting on this and I’ll come back to it, I promise.

But in the mean time, I’ve decided to try writing in a more connective way. So I signed up for some blogs and news feeds on topics I’m interested in. Many were recommended by Richardson, one is by David Warlick the author of one of the books I’m reading, and my personal favourite find so far is Rick Mercer! I set up a Bloglines account and added a blogroll to my blog (as you can see --->).

(Apparently there is something really big going on at the University of Manitoba worth checking out regarding connectivism. Anne Davis writes her first impressions of it here. I have only just skimmed the site, yet another thing to revisit in a later post!))

Another thing that struck me is that Will Richardson suggests being a “public Blogger” (p. 47, Richardson). I had previously not posted my personal data or credentials, as my knee jerk reaction was to be careful about my privacy. He makes a really good argument for being a public Blogger though, when he talks about students learning to be critical readers of other’s blogs and using blogs as resources. He suggests that one of the ways to discern whether a Blogger is reputable & reliable is to check the blogger’s qualifications, profession, authority, etc. (p. 47). This made me think about what I would like others to get from my blog. I’m famous for sharing everything with my fellow teachers, and encouraging even the most self-conscious of my colleagues to do likewise. Of course I do want others to gain from my experiences both in learning about Web 2.0 tools and as a professional educator reflecting on learning and teaching. I realized I needed to let people know that I am actually qualified to be posting on these subjects (most of the time!) So I added my professional credentials and a bit about my professional interests to the “About Me” section.

Happy Connecting . . .

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Word files?! Not on Blogger!

The last post was me trying to figure out how to include a link to a word file or a pdf file into my blog. I posted the question to the Blogger Help Groups and got two kinds of advice. One was to use Scribd to upload my documents to and then link them to my blog from there. I tried this with my recipe, but I'm not sure I like the fact that you actually see my document in a web page for Scribd, rather than just as a web page of its own. The other advice I got was to set up a quick website say with Google Sites, and just use it as a place to store my files and then link them to my blog from that website. Both of these options seem awkward and a lot more work than simply creating a link. I was hoping to try to avoid creating a whole new website just for my class to use, and have them instead refer to my blog. What I can't seem to wrap my head around is why I can create a link to a picture file, or a video file or an audio file (all of which would be considerably larger that my word documents), but not add in word documents or pdf files of my own creation?

I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm starting to think that Blogger is just not going to provide me with the features I need when I incorporate blogging into my teaching.
I'm just trying something so bare with me! This is my recipe for Banana Cream Pie.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Saga of My First Blog: Part 2

Hello again. Let us continue the tale of my first blog . . .

From what I read in Web 2.0 by Solomon and Schrum, I was very interested in exploring Class Blogmeister (
http://classblogmeister.com/index.php) because according to the authors “Teachers can evaluate, comment on and publish students’ blog entries in a controlled environment.” (p. 219, Solomon & Schrum). I also wanted to check out Edublogs (http://edublogs.org) for similar reasons. I am hoping to incorporate my blog and blogging in general into my classroom teaching when I return to work in January, so these sites seemed ideal.

I first looked at Class Blogmeister and found that in order to sign up for a blog, you first have to register a classroom blog as a teacher. I’m not yet at the point where I’m ready to sign up for a classroom blog (far from it!) so I felt I should look at other options. However, I may think about going back to Blogmeister when I’m ready to share the blogging experience with my students.

I then decided to investigate Blogger. As you can tell, it’s the one I decided to use. I chose it mostly because it was recommended by two books and my instructor as a very easy blog site to use. Being a first timer, this definitely appealed to me. It was certainly as easy as the site said it would be, but not as fast, mostly because I’m picky and I read everything. When reading the Terms of Service I was a bit dismayed to read that you have to be at least 13 years of age to use the service. Obviously I will be looking elsewhere when it comes time to introduce blogging to my students. :(

As soon as I had my blog set up, I immediately set about customizing it (because I have to be different from everyone else, even if only minutely enough so that I know!) I have to admit I didn’t fully understand what a blog was until I actually set it up and looked at my first post! I was surprised to see that it looks just like a website. (Yes everyone, you can laugh. When I said I was a newbie, I wasn’t kidding!) Excited by this revelation I began to try to figure out if I could insert word files or pdf files into my posts so that I could get students to link to their course work through my blog, instead of having to set up a website also. I was again dismayed when all my attempts failed and I could not find any help links to answer my question. I will post the question to one of the help groups as soon as I have a spare moment, but this led me to check with Edublogs to see if they provided that service (seeing as they are specially designed for educators).

I surfed the Edublogs site for some time and was impressed by what I saw. I could have a blog set up for each of my students and the site's software would allow me to monitor each of the blogs. I could set privacy controls and blog parameters for the students’ blogs, monitor blog posts for content plus they have tons of other appealing features including (I think) the ability to upload various file types.

So I was absolutely shocked to find out that YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT! Tell me what cash strapped school in Canada or the US is going to approve a cost of $900 US to have up to 100 blogs (which is what I would need as I usually teach 75-80 students every year, 3 classes). I would have to write up a whole proposal just to even get considered for the money! The good thing is, they do allow you to set up a limited time free blog, but I haven't been able to access this feature of their website for some reason!

So back to Blogger for me! I edited my profile, put up my picture, added some 'gadgets', posted my second post and it all seems VERY easy! Now I’m busy trying to dream up creative ways to integrate blogging into my teaching. Like a RAFT blog where students blog as a character from Ancient Egypt, or Reading Response Journal Blogs (a J-Blog), or Virtual Literature Circles, or how about Discussion Groups set up to enhance Social Studies Debating, or a Current Events J-Blog, or a Science Experiment Learning Blog or what about . . . . . . . .

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Saga of My First Blog: Part 1

I love textbooks. I say this so you understand that I’m not some crazy teacher’s pet type when you read the rest of this post. In fact I’m a self-professed keener, for MY benefit though, not for the sake of praise from others. So when I found out what the text books were going to be for this course (EDES 501 Exploration of Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning at the University of Alberta for those not in the class) I immediately went online to search them out, buy them and greedily examine them trying to glean every ounce of information I could (without actually reading them) before the class started. That would be why I’m a keener J.

Of course when Amazon.ca kindly showed me that I could get Richardson’s book (
http://www.amazon.ca/gp/reader/1412927676/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link) as well as Brain Friendly Libraries by Judith Anne Sykes for the low low price of a gazillion dollars I leaped at the chance to have alternate sources of information. And then I also bought Web 2.0: New Tools New Schools by Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum and Classroom Blogging: 2nd Edition by David Warlick. Yes I am a sucker!

I have found Web 2.0 New Tools New Schools quite helpful and I recommend it to those of you in my class. It has a list of Web 2.0 tools in the Appendix (pgs 219-229) and lists where each tool can be found online. It also has a whole chapter of tutorials on some of these tools (Chapter 10, pgs 191-212) including Zoho Writer, Num Sum, Tux Paint, Audacity, del.icio.us bookmarks and others.

Logically then, I turned to the Appendix of Web 2.0 by Solomon and Schrum when I was told I had to set up a blog for this course (something I knew nothing about). There I found Blogger (also recommended by Richardson), Class Blogmeister, and Edublogs, among others. I then proceeded to find the sites, bookmark them and begin to investigate which of them was for me. Of course it was at exactly this point that both my girls awoke and my investigation had to wait. As this blog entry does right now . . . for the very same reasons!

Why Blog?

This is the blog I've set up as one of my assignments for EDES 501 Exploration of Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning. It is a course that is part of the Master's in Teacher Librarianship by Distance Learning at the University of Alberta. This is my first time blogging, just fyi!

Oh, and I cannot write anything without making it into some sort of amusing story, so be prepared for a tale!