Tuesday, November 6, 2012

21st Century Librarian: The Future

Sharing a Vision

I needed to share my new vision of the role of a 21st century teacher-librarian.  I wanted to share my vision with parents, teachers and administrators in my school since I can't do my job without effectively collaborating with in creating learning opportunities and experiences for students.

I find the best adult learning and dialogue in our school environment  happens one-on-one, often in the hallway or staffroom. A lot of the best learning is just-in-time learning. As a result I decided to create a resource about my vision of a 21st century librarian. I wanted to create a reference resource about my role that I could direct staff and parents to as a follow-up or extension to our one-on-one conversations.

I chose to captialize on the wiki I am creating for my school. I thought if I were to share my vision I could also make it interactive and collaborative as well as open up the opportunity for  ascychronous conversations. I chose the wiki also because I felt it would not be a threatening or overly novel form of technology that would scare off peers and parents. I could also use the wiki to create links to my learning blog which I thought would help illustrate some of the concepts of 21st century learning. I also hope it would help build some credibility by sharing that I grappled and struggled with these tools and despite the need to invest precious time still found them extremely valuable.

Unfortunately, I am a little disappointed with my result.I think my choice of going for a less novel presentation tool may work against generating interest. I think what I ended up with was a rather text heavy explanation of my vision. It is a bit of information overload and does require a reader to be pretty jazzed about teacher-librarianship to read the entire resource through. What it needs is a greater variety of media that provide illustrations of what I am envisioning as my role as a 21st century teacher-librarian and provide alternate ways to provide input besides just text.

Fortunately, since my presentation is a wiki, I can invite other teacher-librarians I know to collaborate with me and contribute to my wiki and hopefully create a more inviting and powerful presentation. I would like to create a VoiceThread about learning commons and another about Web 2.0 tools and put them at the top of my webpage. I think this may be more inviting and draw out more contributions.

How Far I Have Come

I can't believe the difference a few months can make in one's professional development. I feel giddy about what I have been able to learn and the potential of the tools I have been introduced to.  I knew a little about some tools and concepts prior to studying them this term. However,I had no sense of confidence or even purpose for these tools  in education until I was exposed to some of the excellent reading material and took the time to just plunge in and play.

My greatest confidence comes from discovering that past technology skills, no matter how old, do have some transferrability to Web 2.0 tools. Yes there has been a revolution in the web but it is not devoid of connections to the original world wide web. I think all technology learners can take some comfort in this.

Some of the greatest learning aids in the past few months have been the use of content aggregators such as Google Reader, social bookmarking and blogging. The ability to sift through large amounts of information using a reader and organize through social bookmarking was a huge stress reliever and time saver.

I also found the blogging extremely rewarding. I have blogged for other courses but I think I only broke out of blogging as a mere diary of learning to the sharing of learning in the past few months. There is no doubt that when you teach a skill you greatly increase the retention of these concepts.

Where I need to Go

I have learned a great deal about how to operate many powerful web tools but I have not learned as much about how to use them with students. My first steps have been to use these tools for personal learning and to collaborate with colleagues. Even though the course readings and the blogs of my peers were rife with ideas and suggestions on how to integrate them, I have been unable to internalize many of these suggestions because I was not knowledgeable of the tools. I think I am now ready to review and reread articles and posts about using these tools with students. I know I can start small by chosing just one idea. Taking one risk should build momentum to take many others.

I also am recognizing the need to change my daily routines to allow more time for keeping up with social bookmarking, following RSS feeds and to participate in social networking activites. There is great potential to build  a vibrant personal learning network which will maintain motivation to take these tools into the classroom. I am beginning to move past seeing the value of these tools to becoming convinced of their necessity.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sharing Really Simple Syndication with My School Community

I have learned an incredible amount about Web 2.0 tools in the past couple of months. I think the world of Really Simple Syndication and aggregators is the one I was the most ignorant about. I had seen the little orange icon on all sorts of news sites but never took the time to learn more about it. I realize now, that no one can really thrive in the information age without using an aggregation site and subscribing to feeds. I found the chapter called "RSS: The Killer App for Educators" in Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Webtools for Classrooms an excellent crash course.
I did a little more web browsing on the topic and came across this informative graphic that explains the basic concept of RSS.


After learning through my current coursework how to use Google Reader to read the blogs of my peers from one location, I began looking at how I could bring it into my work as a teacher-librarian and administrator. Subscribing to feeds from some of the best technology and teacher-librarian blogs and news sites to support my own professional development was a goods start. The discipline and routine of going to my Google Reader page every day is still a work in progress.

My next step was to learn how to bring the power of RSS into my school community. I thought the best place to start was to share information  with students and parents by embedding feeds and combinations of feeds into my school wiki.

I started by creating a parent news page on my wiki and then embedding a bundle of related feeds into the page. I combined five feeds together by making a Google bundle (see below). I embedded the information in two ways. The first was taking the link of my bundle and pasting into Wikispaces RSS feed widget and set it to show 20 articles at once (possibly risking information overload for any one reading the wiki page).The second way was by copying the Java embed code from the bundle and pasting it into generic widget on my wiki which embeds display box of the five feeds on a webpage that can be clicked on so users can subscribe to it using their own RSS aggregator.

Flushed by that success, I then decided to make another page on my wiki for current events projects. I created a RSS feed by turning a search of Google News into an RSS feed and embedding that into a wikipage (see below).

 Google Bundles

Within Google Reader you can make a bundle out of all the feeds you organized into a folder. When the bundle is created you can share it on your public Google Plus page or you can paste the Java Script into a blog, wiki or website so others can subcribe to them. I have an example the subscription bundle I made below. I put the same posting on the wiki I set up for school as an embedded feed and as a subscription box. I have created a screencast that shows the steps.

Creating a News Feed Using Google News

You can view the Jing screencast I created that explains how to make an RSS feed from Google News and paste it into a Wikispace page.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I didn't understand Twitter.

When I first heard about Twitter I thought there wasn't a chance it was going to go anywhere. As we all know it has grown by leaps and bounds. It has been instrumental in political change and shed light on some pretty awful and some pretty wonderful stuff happening in the world. I still didn't get how it worked and after some time with it I still have a ways to go to be a true fan now.
My daughter calls Twitter a text app for those who don't have anyone to text to. Perhaps a bit of a harsh assessment but I have to admit I pretty much agreed.  It seemed all about self-centeredness and navel gazing. Who cares that Justin Beiber bought new pants!

I am starting to get what Twitter is about.

When Richardson explained in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms that Twitter was a microblogging tool it helped me get a better understanding of the tool and changed my perspective a little. I could get my head around blogging to some degree. I admit that I had a bias against blogging too until I had a lot of exposure through my recent online courses. Blogging can still be a practice of paying too much attention to yourself or the value of what you have to offer. However, I am beginning to learn that the Internet is very democractic so you just vote with a click of the mouse and move past the banal and chow down on the quality. Unfortunately you still can spend a lot of time sorting through vacuous text (perhaps mine included) before you find the good stuff. 

Learning that Twitter can be used to build a personal learning network was when I finally got it. You find insightful people in your field and you can get an education pretty quickly-even on demand or just in time learning when you make a tweet requesting help. Again it is all about collaboration as Richardson illustrates in his book by sharing a link to Twitter Collaboration Stories.

Twitter and URLs

I haven't made Twitter a big object of study but I have learned a few odd tidbits that might be of interest.  In the textbooks I have been reading for this course I kept reading tinyurl.com and bitly combined with odd letter and number combinations. I didn't understand that the web addresses in the textbooks had been created using a web-basedURL shortening services. At TinyURL you just paste in a very long URL that is will shorten it into a very short permanent link to that page that won't expire (unless the page is actually taken down). They are much shorter to write anywhere but in a Tweet that is limited to 140 characters they have an even higher value.

Here is a little more information on how to shorten URLs on Twitter.

Keeping Up With the Tweets  

My problem is I can't handle the volume of information. Twitter is just one more information stream competing for my attention. I hate to say it but it is loosing the battle almost completely at the moment.  But I am trying to fight back in two ways.

The first and best thing I have been able to do after finding some good people to follow is to set up my Delicious account to gather all the great links embedded in the tweets. I just have to make sure I get to my Delicious account to tag them.

I have been fighting to get to my Google reader and am making progress on making this a regular habit. So it occurred to me why don't I just follow people on Twitter in my reader. I Googled whether it was possible and here is what I learned from Bill Peschel:

Get the twitter account name you want to follow and take off the @ sign and add it to the end of the following:


Then just paste all of the above into your subscribe box in Google Reader and you have a direct feed into your reader account. You can also use your reader to find out about a person or subject mentioned in tweets. Just do the following if you wanted to get all tweets that mentioned educational technology author Will Richardson.


 “%20″ is just computer code for a space.

Social Networking in Education

Social Networking: What are educators looking for?

It seems like many Web 2.0 applications have a social networking component which has complicated what we exactly mean when we talk about social networking sites. I did a quick Google image search to see what would come up when I searched social networking.  I found quite a mashup of Youtube, Diigo, Facebook, Flickr and the like. The focus of this blogpost will be sites that have social networking as their mandate or raison d'etre. Facebook is the posterchild for what comes to mind when social networking is mentioned but not what most educators are looking to use with their students. The educational environment brings demands for safety, the ability to moderate, customize and freedom from advertising. Oh, and there is that whole issue of cost too.  Most educators don't have ready cash for buying online services. 

Which Site to Use: The tyranny of the dollar vs the down side of advertising!

It is a growing issue in education that a larger and larger portion of library and educational resource budgets need to be set aside to pay for a plethora of online services.  As all the players on the web are trying to figure out how to make money on the web there have been casualties and there are going to be a lot more on the way.  Look at advertisement rich Facebook. Even though this Goliath is hoping to boast a billion users in the not too distant future, investors are not too sure this will be highly profitable. If that is a problem for Facebook how are the smaller services going to support themselves? For this reason the biggest social media tool for educators, Ning, had to become a fee based service for everyone (no exceptions for educators).
From what I have read and seen Ning is still the best act in town when it comes to setting up a social network for use in a school setting. I tried it out and it has some of the same feel of Facebook, Wikispaces and Blogger combined without the advertising.  There is the ability to customize and many ways to add content from other web sources.

Ning: There still is the free option of Mini-Ning accounts! 

There is some good news for those for us who are still getting our feet wet.  You don't have to go for broke and pay the minimum of $25 a month to have a full Ning account. Pearson has left the door open for small Nings of up to 150 users.  You must first signup up for a Mini Ning account and create a Ning which initially commits you to a  membership fee of a few dollars a month and immediately after sign up for sponsorship through Pearson . If you are accepted your subscription is covered for up to three years.  The catch is that there is an ad at the top of your Ning saying it is sponsored by Pearson and you must also invite a Pearson representative to be member of your Ning so as to keep you accountable (you now have 148 more members you can invite). It is really hard to get around corporate partnership in the classroom when you want everything to be "free".
Here is the shell of the Ning I created by applying for a Mini Ning account. It is easier to use than a Wikispace and feels a bit like a simplified blog crossed with a version of Facebook that is much easier to navigate and understand. I really need to look back at the literature and see how to intergrate this environment with my teaching.  All the literature makes it sound like the holy grail of Web 2.0.. It does look to have a lot of potential but I think I need to take small steps.
For the moment I have made this Ning public for the whole world to see (and even join) so that you can see it. I also can make just the main page public and leave everything else private but it still allows anyone to join simply by clicking the join button. The other option is to keep the whole Ning private and still let anyone join or to make it invitation only. There is a bit of all or nothing associated with Ning, unless a full Ning account allows for more viewing options. This can be problematic if you are considering making your Ning a showcase that limits contributers like a wiki can.

If Not Ning, Then Nothing?

There was quite a bit of buzz in 2010 years ago when Ning first announced it was doing away with free educators account and then starting Mini Ning accounts. In October 2012 it abruptly stated it was doing away with Mini Ning effective immediately with the exception of Pearson sponsored accounts for educators mentioned above. 
I read some of the posts about what educators could use as a free alternative. One of the first sites I looked at about alternatives to Ning  is notable in its mention of an add-on to Word Press called BuddyPress.  I think there is a lot here . If you are already using WordPress this would seem like the way to go.  You can capture all the benefits of blogging with your class and add a lot more social networking features. You just aren't going to be creating a social network on the massive scale possible with Ning. I hope to learn a lot more about WordPress  and its add-on features in the near future when I study the world of blogging and education.
In the same blog post I mentioned above Drupal is mentioned. It doesn't sound like something for those who don't want to get a little messy with technology. My impression is that you want to be tech savvy and like to do design and setup before you want to get using the tool. This may be just my ignorance  (please correct me) but I still don't feel like using it as a starting point.

There was one blog post that was encyclopedic in its listing of alternatives to Ning and shows what costs if any are associated with each. It is a good place to get an idea of the breadth and depth of what is available.

Qlubb: Quick and easy tool for projects, clubs and PACs

When I read in Berger and Trexler's Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World that Qlubb is an application for book clubs I was intrigued. It is a dead easy to use environment for any organization that wants to have less meetings or to just keep the outcomes of meetings organized. I have worked as a vice principal and principal and I immediately saw it as useful tool for school PACs, school clubs, staff committees, or even as an information clearing house for an elementary school to keep everyone up-to-date and maximize involvement in school activities. It has potential for helping with collaboration with whole class projects. I especially see the polling and calendar features as having lots of potential.

If you have a DestinyQuest catalogue you have a social network for readers!

I mentioned MyQuest in a  previous post.  If you have not tried it, it is a great safe way to get kids doing some social networking and learn the etiquette and pitfalls involved.  I have had quite a few teachable moments when kids chose to cross some lines. There is the ability to monitor reviews and there is a report abuse button on nearly every page. Here is the link again to my partial DestinyQuest introduction.