Okay, I've decided what to do first. In an earlier blog, I noted how overwhelmed I am with the abundance of Web 2.0 tools that are out there. Taking some advice from a comment Bud the Teacher left me, I've decided to start slow and pick one tool to focus on....blogs! Now, I've been blogging for a little less than a year and am really enjoying it. When I first started, one of the things I did to keep up with some of my fellow bloggers was to list their blogs on my blog page. If I came across a new blog I wanted to read, I copied the URL, went to my blog, edited the layout and added the blog to my list. Then, I'd visit all the blogs and see if they wrote anything new - some did, some didn't, but I checked every one. I ran my total up to 29 blogs listed on my blog page as "Things I Read." Some of you might be thinking - hey dummy genius, there's an easier way!

You're right, there is. I discovered Bloglines and have been using that as a great way to keep track of the new feeds from my blogging friends. This has really been a great tool for me. Earlier this week, I made another discovery - Google Reader. Sure, Google is behind a wide variety of 2.0 tools, but some of them are pretty good. Currently, I've divided the blogs I read and subscribe to into 2 groups - Educational Technology and Other Stuff. I'm using Bloglines for one and Google Reader for the other. I figure this way I'll use both for a while and then decided which one I like better. Perhaps I'll like them both and continue with my current plan. Either way, I'll have to agree with a comment from Darren at Drape's Takes that these tools can make your online time more efficient. I now have way more than 29 blogs I'm keeping track of and I'm probably spending less time doing it now than I was before. In addition, when I come across a new blog that interests me, I can simply click on a button in the toolbar of my browser and it's instantly added to Bloglines or Google Reader.

Now, my next tool to learn more about is going to be del.icio.us! I've played around with this personally and have an idea on how to use this at school.

Please give me your thoughts on this. I'm in charge of our school web page. Among other things, I manage lists of links for our parents and students to use. Every time I want to add a new site, I either add it to the general list of links or put it on the specific grade level page. We use Contribute for creating the web pages and I must do all updates from the computer in my library. This can be a pain the butt because sometimes I find things to add when I'm not at school. If teachers want something added, they tell me about it in the hall (wonderful stupid idea) or email it and then I add it when I have time. I was thinking about using del.icio.us as a better way to keep track of the links we use. I could create a link to a del.icio.us page I've created for our school from our school site. Updating or adding links could be done from anywhere. In addition, if I properly trained the teachers, they could also add links to the list. We could label grade level specific sites with specified tags for better organization. Teachers, students, and parents could narrow the list to the grade level or subject area they need by selecting a specific tag. This sounds like a great idea and just might work, but perhaps I haven't thought of everything. If you've got a thought on this, let me know - I need your collective brainpower!

I'm getting overwhelmed. I'm finding so many outstanding blogs that I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start. There are tons of teaching blogs out there and tons of Ed. Tech blogs that I'm really starting to enjoy. However, I'm finding out this world is much bigger than I imagined. My bookmarks on del.icio.us are growing by the minute. The list is still very small compared to what's out there, but I guess I better start small - there's only 24 hours in the day.

I have to start narrowing down my interests. There's so much I want to learn more about - RSS feeds, Google Reader, Twitter, Ning, and others. I haven't even touched wikis yet. I'm using Bloglines - and I find it very useful. I'm in the very early learning stages of Twitter, recently signing up. I have no idea, at this point, how it works. If you have an idea, let me know. Look me up or something - if that's possible. I'm pretty sure my user name is imcguy. Should I learn more about this before moving on to something else?

Should I focus more on my blogging and less on other Web 2.0 tools? Should I focus more on reading the good stuff that's out there commenting on it rather than worry about how many people will comment on my blog? I'm upset when I don't get any comments - should I even care? Should I continue learning more about del.icio.us and how to share my bookmarks? What tool should my students start using? What would they benefit from first? So many questions.

This learning environment is huge. There is no way I could get this information from the teachers in my building, my department, or even my district. This is truly incredible. Now, how can it benefit the kids? How can I get classroom teachers to see the value of this? How can this increase test scores - or can it? While we need to prepare students for a future that most likely doesn't exist yet, how can we teach these skills when there is so much focus on getting our students to be proficient learners. These tech skills will help them as they get older, but I'm not sure how they will get kids to pass the test now!

Time for Thanks

Thursday, November 22, 2007 | 0 comments »

Happy Thanksgiving!

Time to give thanks for:

Good families,
Good jobs,
Good friends,
Good blogging!

Yesterday wrapped up our third evening of parent teacher conferences. Spending three evenings at school followed by a day with students can be very exhausting. Now that I'm out the classroom and working as the Library Media Specialist, my thoughts on conferences are a little different. During the time we have for conferences, I get to get work done that I don't have a chance to do during the day. What a concept - uninterrupted (almost) time to work. Classroom teachers do get a little jealous when I tell them I had a chance to get some work done, but I guess that's just part of the job.


There's been a lot of blogging about Web 2.0. I'm just starting to catch up with some of the great ideas that are out there and how these technologies can be put to use in the classroom. I've podcasted, use Flickr, GoogleDocs, del.icio.us, Bloglines, etc. and have some experience working with these great tools. I need to learn about wikis, but Andrew's Web 2.0 tutorial for Teachers is one place I'll look. Obviously, I've created more accounts on a variety of sites, thanks Clay, than I thought I would. If I had a classroom I know I could put these to use. However, in my position and Library Media Specialist, I have a little bit of a problem. I've blogged before about the lack of collaboration between classroom teachers and me. Sometimes it's good, most times, it's not. Yes, some of the problem can be contributed to me, but I'm going to put most of the problem on the teachers. Now, I'm not throwing them under the bus. The problem isn't the lack of interest, it's the lack of time and knowledge. It's also the pressure put on them to make sure they have a balanced literacy program, 90 minutes of math, and other crap they have to do to try and get all students to be proficient. I truly believe that if there was time built into our schedule on a weekly basis to meet and plan for upcoming projects, we'd be doing more. We don't have this time and I (we) need to find a solution. There's so much I'd like to do with the kids that can help them become better writers and readers, but since I only have the students in the computer lab for about 30 minutes a week, my time is severely limited. The other huge problem is the lack of knowledge of Web 2.0 tools. I guarantee that if I asked my staff, especially third through sixth grade teachers to tell me what they know about Web 2.0, all 9 would say they knew very little or would say nothing. They may have heard about podcasting and blogging, but as far as how to do these tools or incorporate it into their lessons, they'd be lost.

It's not their fault - or is it? Many teachers keep up to date with new reading strategies, classoom management techniques, and new ideas related to instruction. Should teachers also be on the cutting edge, or at least be up to date with technology? Should the school district put more emphasis on new technology and how to use it? If some can become competent with "what's new" in education, shouldn't everyone? I think these are all good questions that may have different answers. Those of us who have more knowledge about new ideas, such as Web 2.0 tools, need to step up and start teaching the teachers more about this. We need to get the kids excited, we need to get the teachers excited. You know we don't want to leave any educators behind!

eBay story

Thursday, November 15, 2007 | | 0 comments »

This isn't going to be education related, but it is technology related and made me realize I better monitor my four year old a little closer when he's on the computer.

My son collects Disney diecast Cars characters of which there are many. We've visited the Wal-Mart and Toys R Us stores around us to gather what we could. Hey, at $3.50 I don't mind spoiling him a little. Anyway, we've had to pick up a few on eBay since some are hard to find. My son loves looking at the list on eBay at all the Cars for sale - the list is usually well over 1,000 available. He likes to see what new Cars are available and compare those to the 40 or so he has.

This morning, he wanted to look at the list again on the computer in the basement. I went down to say good bye to him before heading off to school and found him BIDDING on a car! Wow, a four year old doing a little shopping. I'm sure this isn't the first time it's happened, but when I gently told him he couldn't do that, he started to throw a slight temper tantrum and question why he couldn't buy a car.

Technology is really taking over the lives of our children. Just think, five years ago, who would have imagined that a four year old would do a little shopping on eBay!

And then there's the Webkinz World!

As many educators know, blogging can bring out some great discussion. We all like throwing ideas and questions out to the blogging world to create discussion. Comments are great and often lead to other posts, comments, and questions. Many teachers realize the impact this could have on student writing. It immediately creates a real-world audience that can provide feedback on student writing. The feedback could require the student to take a stand on an issue or back up what they've written. For some, this is great. For others, this feedback could end up being more than they are looking for.

Here's an example. Our local community has a web site that allows some community members to run blogs on the site. These bloggers come from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and attitude - a great representation of the real world. I made the brilliant idea mistake of responding to a blog about a decision my school district has made. I won't get into the details, but the creator of the blog, and many of his readers, disagree with the decision. I've known about the decision for a while, and don't have as big of a problem with it as the writer and the readers who have commented. Although I do see where they are coming from.

After submitting a few comments to the blog discussing the "other side" to the spending - not necessarily supporting it, but not not supporting it either, my simple discussion has turned into something I wasn't looking for. I felt like I had to comment on every comment that was made to my comments - if that makes sense. I also had to defend myself while sort of being gently attacked for bringing up the opinion the blogger and the readers didn't have. Now, I really don't have too much of a problem with defending myself, but I really didn't go into this with wanting to do that. I simply made a comment and it kind of turned into a monster. One person wanted to know what my connection to the district was - I never stated it, but they inferred that I had a connection. I decided that I did need to disclose that I taught in the district, but felt compelled to mention that I didn't support all decisions the School Board makes. Should I have to defend myself? What started out as a simple blog and discussion put me on my heels. Sure, I could never return to the blog, but I want to know what people will say. Now, I'm wondering how much digging some people might do to find out who I am. I'm using a pen name, not my real one - like some of the others.

Is blogging something that could hurt students? What if they write something and get in a situation like this and then start getting attacked for what they've said? On the positive side, it would be a quick lesson in making sure you can back up your opinions and what you write. They could learn about what battles to fight and what battles to ignore. It could show students the power of their words. On the other side, it could really shut down someone's voice. The writer could fear that it's not worth putting something out there and get attacked for it - they might feel taking the abuse simply isn't worth their time or something they want to deal with.

Your thoughts?

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