If you have read any recent posts, you've noticed I'm working on a pretty good size project with classrooms from around the country. The project isn't over yet, but we should have things wrapped up by the end of next week.

I wrote a more detailed post about what I've learned while doing this project and you can read about it here. This post can be found on the Discovery Education Network Wisconsin blog, which I'm currently in charge of.

Please, visit the site, read the post, and comment here or there. Tell me what you think.

A few weeks ago, I introduced blogging to some of the librarians in my department. Along with another teacher-librarian, we showed some of the tools we use to find and keep track of the blogs we follow. I use Google Reader, as does my coworker. For us, it works. It was not always this way for me, however. When I first started using an RSS Reader, I used Bloglines. I thought I wrote a post about why I changed, but I looked back through my archives and couldn't find it. In a nutshell, I liked a few features of Google Reader that weren't available in Bloglines - features that made my experience better. Anyway, Google Reader is my RSS of choice. This leads me to a little advice I'd like to share - whether you're relatively new to the World of Web 2.0 or not.

If you find a tool that works for you, stick with it.

Believe me, you will have plenty of choices to make. RSS readers - Google Reader or Bloglines? Social Bookmarking - Delicious or Diigo? Online photo storage/sharing - Flickr or Picasso or iPhoto, etc.? Blog platform - WordPress or Blogger? And these are the ones that are out now! There will most certainly be new ones that pop up down the road, but my advice is this, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Now, I'm not saying ignore the new stuff that pops up, especially if it's recommended by people you trust. I'm simply saying that if your current tool of choice is working for you, you probably don't need to change. I use Delicious for my social bookmarking. It meets my needs. It does what I need it to do. Should I consider Diigo? Perhaps. Are there features that I might find valuable? Perhaps. Is it worth at least exploring? Perhaps. But why? I've had several people tell me they like Diigo better. I've read quite a few posts and tweets comparing the two. But, the way I look at is this - if I have something that serves the purpose I need it do, why switch? I understand that there may be features of Diigo that are better than those in Delicious, maybe even one's I'd use. However, in my case, Delicious is providing what I need. With that being said, I did export my Delicious bookmarks, created a Diigo account, and imported the list, but haven't looked at Diigo since. I'm not sure I want to take the time, much less have the time, to learn another Web 2.0 application.

I'm curious. Do you think this is good advice or do you think people should check out the new sites that pop up? Should they check them out even if what they're using is meeting their needs? Please give me your input.

Here's a little update on our State Project. As you may or may not know, our 4th graders are studying the United States. Each student has a state to research and will put together a final project at the end of the project. We are trying to conduct interviews with other students to learn more about each state. For example, instead of just learning about North Carolina from a book or website, our students are going to interview someone who lives there. That way, they are getting information from a different perspective. Last year, we used Skype for the video interviews, but could also use Google Talk if needed this year. Our students interviewed entire classes as well as small groups of students. It doesn't matter to us, whatever works best for those involved is fine. We found that taking advantage of the technology available not only is exciting, but also a great way for our students to connect with other students and classes around the country.

The interviews will last about ten minutes with our students asking the questions listed below. We'd love to hear answers from most or all of the questions.

What do you like best about living in your state?
What are a few things your state is most famous for?
Are there any famous people from your state? (What are they famous for?)
What are some things to do in your state that can't be done in most other states?
What is the biggest city in your state and how far away is your school from that city?
If we came to visit your state, where should we go and what should we do?
Are there any other interesting facts you'd like to tell us about your state?

Last year, the students on both ends of the conversation had a blast. I hope that continues this year.

Steve Dembo believes that every teacher is a rock star. I'm not sure I agree 100%, but understand where he's coming from. I just think some people want to be background singers, not on lead vocals or guitars. With that being said, they are all important to ultimately creating beautiful music.

A few weeks ago, I presented a session on Building Your PLN (here's the wiki) with a friend and colleague, Rachel Yurk. We did this presentation as part of the Discovery Education Virtual Conference. Her district hosted a local event for the VC and we decided to give a live presentation to those who were interested. This was the first time I've done a presentation to people outside of my school and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Rachel and I get along very well, have a similar sense of humor and presentation style (I think) so it was very enjoyable. I hope the educators in attendance learned something and will use the information we showed to benefit themselves and their students. One thing I realized while we were presenting is that many of us have been using some great tools for a while, there are still many, many people just beginning the adventure.

If the attendees were anything like me, they probably figured Rachel and I knew a lot about what we were talking about - might have even considered us "experts." I think most conference session attendees consider the speakers to be pretty knowledgable about the topic they're presenting on. If they weren't, I guess they wouldn't be presenting, right? This leads me to another post Dembo recently wrote. Steve wonders when the average person becomes an expert at something. Does it take a large number of Twitter followers? Does it take many comments on a blog post? Does it have anything to do with giving presentations or speaking at conferences? I think it might be a combination of all of these. Steve lists the wikipedia definition of expert and makes a note that for someone to be an expert, they have to have the DESIRE to be an expert. I completely agree. There are a ton of top notch educators working with children everyday, but some don't want to considered experts or put themselves out there. They simply want to do their job. To some extent, I think this is a shame, because I think we should all be sharing the successes we have with students and learning from each other.

Back to the title of this post. I hardly think I'm a rock star or an expert in the ed tech world - I'm just trying to learn a lot as I enjoy the ride. I've been flattered when a few colleagues or members of my PLN have told me they read my blog (which has totally been on the back burner lately) or follow me on Twitter. It's very encouraging when someone mentions that they recommended me as someone to follow. I'm happy about that. I hope to continue sharing my knowledge (or lack thereof) with others. Rock Star? I doubt it. Expert? Probably not, but maybe I'm on headed in that direction, depending on your definition.

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