Archive

Archive for October, 2009

Exploring Wikis

October 24, 2009 2 comments

Another Web 2.0 Tool

This week I have once again had to learn about, and interact with, a technology that I knew nothing about.  But through the process, I have been introduced to a tool that could be immediately incorporated into the library or a classroom with little extra work for the teacher.

My Reflections on the Process of Learning about Wikis

Setting up my Wikispaces account was a pleasure.  As Richardson puts it, it is “an easy authoring tool that might spur people to author.” (2009, p.55)  Everything is clearly laid out and anything you have a question about is readily answered in the comprehensive and easy to use help menu.  For those of us who are more visual learners they even have various screencasts that walk the new user through the process of creating an account, personalizing a space, adding text, creating links to pages, adding pictures and video, and setting up groups of users.  Through Wikispaces, KG – 12 educators can also sign up for free education plus plan which allows the teacher to create student accounts in bulk, rather than one at a time, and it allows for up to 100 accounts at once.

Upon setup I was given a number of choices on how I could set up my wiki.  The first was fully interactive.  With this setting anyone could read and edit on my wiki.  The second was partially interactive.  Anyone could read my wiki but only those invited few could add and edit.  The third option was fully restricted where only those I invite can read and write.  These settings can easily be changed at any time should ones needs change.

It all went so fast and smoothly that it was only after setting up my account that I started considering what I would use my wiki for.  I was intrigued by the class described in book, Web 2.0 for Schools that used a wiki to create a story.  The class was divided into groups and each took turns writing a chapter building on the work of the previous group. (Davies &Merchant, 2009)  With this example in mind, I approached our middle school language arts teacher who is keen to be involved in my Web 2.0 projects, but the timing wasn’t right as we are in the middle of parent-teacher conferences and have five days of early dismissal.  We agreed, however, to try this idea out at a later date.  I also thought about creating a library wiki with a page where students could write reviews of books they had read and a page where students could make recommendations of books that the library might purchase.  After talking with our district tech advisor about this wiki, I have had to put the brakes on this idea for now as well as with some of the other interactive web tools we have been exploring.  I ran into the same issue with setting up a library blog: we work under a high level of security.  The security concern is not for the students but rather for the protection of company secrets.  We live in a country of secrecy, and our employer is not a school, but the world’s largest and wealthiest oil company.  To say that industrial security is one of their top priorities is an understatement.  Nevertheless, because the wiki function is part of our company approved NESA blackboard program, I believe I will be able to use it, however, that will take longer to set up than the week that I have for this assignment. For now I have created a page about the Amys.

Wikis as a Tool for my Own Personal Learning

Although I didn’t fully recognize it, I have been benefiting from wikis for some time now through the use of Wikipedia.  As I have searched the internet for information more often than not a Wikipedia option is high on the search list.  I have found their entries to be informative and useful.  Due to the buzz about their questionable reliability, I have most often used them as one of several sources I consult.  As much as I have used Wikipedia it has never crossed my mind to contribute to it.  In fact I don’t think I even know anyone who has.  This caused me to wonder who all these people are who are contributing to the millions of entries in Wikipedia.  This also caused me to more deeply understand that collaborating in this fashion is a mindset that can be taught and learned; a mindset which I don’t seem to have. 

Beyond Wikipedia it seems that I have not yet had a use for wikis in my life.  However I am starting to recognize their potential benefits, particularly as I start to move further into my masters program.  Although my experience with online education has, so far, not felt overly isolated it could become so.  Granted, it’s not quite the same as being face to face in a classroom but it does involve interaction.  We have discussed questions and ideas and have read and seen each other’s work.  With the use of wikis interaction could easily turn to collaboration.  Two or more people contributing to and modifying each other’s work could add up to a project that is greater than one individual could accomplish.  But more than the product would be the process of evaluating and negotiating to come up with that end result.  As beneficial as this would be it is also the scariest because there would be some loss of control.  My due dates and marks would be somewhat at the mercy of another person.  Although the idea of collaboration in this way sounds great it would certainly push me out of my comfort zone. 

For personal endeavors I could also see the benefits of using wikis.  With the ability to imbed photos, videos, and audio into a wiki we could, in a similar way to a blog, use it as a place to share our lives overseas, with family and friends back home.  With a wiki, however, family and friends could add to the wiki thus sharing their lives with us.  Unlike a blog, where the sharing is one-way, they could add their life experiences to the same space turning the space into a family and friends site where everyone contributes their lives.

Richardson gives a variety of examples where wikis could be applied to a person’s life (2009, p.58).  Wikitravel.org particularly caught my attention.  Hobbies, sports, politics, and other special interests could also be further served through the use of wikis.  However for me at this point, my attraction to most of the sports and hobby activities I enjoy is the shared experience that goes with them and by shared experience I mean being physically together in time and space with others. For example I enjoy trail running and mountain biking but I would much rather be on the trails with people than be talking about it in a wiki.

Wikis as a Tool for Teaching and Learning

Wikis as a tool to teach students to learn.

This 2.0 stuff is not part of some educational bandwagon that will be replaced by another bandwagon next year.  These improvements in the information and communication landscapes reach way beyond our little K12 worlds and change the way the world does business.  We cannot ignore them.  Our world is driven by the transfer and sharing of information.” (Valenza, 2009, 8th paragraph from the end)

Already in this course we have talked about huge, permanent, and ongoing social changes the information age has brought about.  No longer is it possible for students to take in and store factual knowledge; there is just too much information out there.  Knowing how to find, access, and organize information is the new intelligence.  “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  (Alvin Toffler Thursday, 19 March 2009 as quoted at http://www.slideshare.net/heyjudeonline/21c-school-libraries-leading-learning?src=related_normal&rel=1940022)  Even economies are no longer founded largely on producing “things.”  Outsourcing has taken care of that.  The new wealth is in ideas and information.  Lyndsay Grant (2006) calls it a “knowledge economy” (P. 1).  She writes:

Therefore, knowing how to learn and how to participate in creating new knowledge are increasingly essential life skills.  The focus on skills of ‘learning to learn’ and knowledge creation in a knowledge economy mean that the use of wikis in education is starting to be recognized as having significant potential. (Grant, 2006, p.1)

We are teaching students who are facing a work world that is considerably different than that of previous generations.  It is the school’s job to prepare them for this world.  Although wikis are not the complete answer, they are one tool, a powerful one that can be easily used.

1. The wiki in Wikipedia

Up until two or three years ago I was under the impression that Wikipedia was not a very reliable source of information.  I have since come to recognize that this is not necessarily true.

Wikipedia embodies the idea of synergy; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  When it comes to wikis, one cannot talk about personal learning or learning as a teacher, without discussing Wikipedia.  When I need to find out information, Wikipedia is usually one of the sites I check.  I find that it provides clear concise definitions or explanations and I have certainly had many students use it as a reference.  In general Wikipedia entries are clearly written and include a plethora of links to help with additional explanation.  The biggest danger here is wasting time surfing link after link until you realize you are far from the shore of your topic.

Teaching students about Wikipedia and how to use it is an important piece to include, as I help students with research.    In addition to walking students through practical things such as productively using the hyperlinks provided, it is another opportunity to discuss issues of rigor, reliability, and the authenticity of sources and not just as it relates to Wikipedia.  Teaching and encouraging students to read and evaluate critically; to view sources with curiosity and to use them creatively, is an ongoing part of our job.  Although it seems to be dying down there is still some debate regarding how accurate Wikipedia entries might be. Richardson lays out some very strong arguments supporting the reliability of Wikipedia.  “…thankfully, there are vastly more editors that want to make it right than those who want to make it wrong.” (p. 56, 2009)  Through the discussion and use of Wikipedia the opportunity arises to plant in students’ minds the idea that anyone can be a contributor.  As Richardson puts it, “…people just like you and me, take on the job of collecting the sum of all human knowledge.”  (p. 56, 2009)  What a powerful idea for students to take away not just for the purpose of contributing to Wikipedia but as a concept that they are able, or will become able, to contribute something worthwhile in multiple settings.  In this way passive participants (users) become active participants (contributors).

2. Wikis Beyond Wikipedia – using wikis in the classroom

As I have read about and played with wikis this week the common threads of community, collaboration, conversation, and an easy interchange of ideas has continued to be evident in  this Web 2.0 tool.

Richardson outlines so many ways to apply wikis in the classroom that the possibilities seem endless.  “Whatever topic might lend itself to the collaborative collection of content relating to its study, a wiki is a great choice.” (p. 66)  As I read through his many examples, what struck me most was the breadth of skills students would be developing through the use of a wiki.  Whether they are creating book through Wikijunior, or editing someone else’s book, they are learning to collaborate and negotiate and to think critically and creatively.  In addition, students are also learning about intellectual property, open source software, and public domain. (Richardson, 2009)  “Further involvement in wikis can help learners become more aware, critical readers, understanding that texts are constructions with particular viewpoints.  Teaching learners how to check and evaluate sources within a wiki can of course also lead them to become more skeptical readers of paper-based texts.” (Davies & Merchant, 2009)

The wiki is one that is intended to support other learning activities that the children are involved in – and in involving them in a wiki, the pupils act as researchers supporting their own learning.  This is enquiry-based learning that places the children in control. (Davies & Merchant, 2009)

I was amazed at the power of the use of a wiki in vignette 12 in Web 2.0 for Schools, page 100.  In addition to all the critical thinking and collaboration there were so many areas of learning involved: technology, reading, writing, vocabulary, economics, environmentalism, photography, geography, community involvement and I’m sure many more were there.

Wikis have provided yet another dimension to the research students will be doing with me as a teacher-librarian and it has given me something new to offer when collaborating with my teachers.  Collaborating through wikis will also be a great way to motivate and inspire students in their projects. 

3. Wikis beyond the classroom.

One of the schools in our district was recently closed down due to an outbreak of the flu.  Although teachers were able to deliver lessons through our NESA blackboard, this did not allow for student-to-student interaction.  Student-to-teacher and teacher back to student were the only directions information could flow.  With a class wiki, collaboration and discussion among students could have continued with the teacher monitoring and prompting from the sidelines.

Wikis offer the opportunity for students to participate no matter where they are and no matter what time is most convenient.  This opens up many intercultural possibilities such as the one illustrated in Web 2.0 for Schools, page 98 (Davies & Merchant, 2009).  Students in the Netherlands joined students in Macedonia through a wiki space.  Written in English, students were able to practice language and communications skills.  By extension they developed a new intercultural understanding.  The “Flat Classroom” wiki is another example of students reaching out globally.  It is a project created by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay and mentioned in Richardson’s book, is a great example of providing students with an experience beyond their classroom.  One of the founding classrooms is in the U.S.A. and the other is in Qatar.  In their ‘About Us” page of their wiki they write: “One of the main goals of the project is to ‘flatten’ or lower the classroom walls so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, 2 or more classes are joined virtually to become one large classroom. This will be done through the Internet through Wikispaces and Ning.” (http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com/About+Us) How might global politics change if the new generation of politicians had this kind of intercultural experience as their norm?  The biggest barrier to reaching out around the world is the language barrier.

4. Wikis as a tool for teachers.

In her article A Wiki Gives a Worthy Book New Life, Amy Bowllan describes using a wiki to develop lesson plans for the novel The Mzungu Boy.  Despite the numerous lesson plans for novels on line, she could not find any for this novel.  Without a ready-made lesson plan to get her started she decided to create her own using a Wetpaint wiki.  She set up the wiki in such a way that students would be inspired to, participate actively in researching and responding to the many aspects of the book.  She included links to information, pictures, and video on Kenya to strengthen vocabulary and to deepen their understanding of the setting of the story.  She even hoped to partner with a Kenyan school. (Bowllan, 2008) 

There are 6 schools in our district.  My school and one other are small enough that we have only one class per grade level.  Driving distance between schools is between one and two hours so collaboration is difficult.  Presently we share ideas and resources during professional growth and development days as well as emailing resources to each other.  Having district grade level wikis for elementary or subject specific wikis for middle school could greatly help teachers in smaller schools feel part of a team and benefit from the collective wisdom.

Professional development also lends itself nicely to the use of Wikis.  Teachers supporting, sharing, and collaborating allows all of us to become better teachers.  Wikis facilitate this learning beyond the set professional development days given by a district.  A great motivator for this kind of professional development can be found in this Slidshare.   My experiences of sharing and collaboration within schools have been great.  Taking that beyond our school could benefit students and teachers even more.

What is holding us back?

There are certainly barriers to schools becoming involved in the use of wikis.  As with other Web 2.0 tools, there is certain level of skill required to implement the tool effectively.  However, most teachers in western schools could, with a little time and effort, overcome any deficiency.  Another barrier, related to the first, is the inclination for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and learn and implement something new in their practice. 

“This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. Students need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.” (http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/knowledgable-knowledge-able – Michael Wesch, 2009 Thursday, 19 March 2009)

A third barrier to fully realizing the potential of wikis is easy access to computers.  Most western schools have one or two computers in the classrooms and often there are computer labs available on a limited basis.  In order for the full benefits of wikis (and other Web 2.0 tools) to be evidenced, greater access to computers would likely be required than many larger schools are able to accommodate.  Unequal availability of computers at home could be an additional barrier.  And finally, the language barrier mentioned earlier, could limit the intercultural collaboration through wikis. 

However, after my one-week preliminary experience with wikis, I feel that they indeed are a powerful tool for community, collaboration, conversation, and an easy interchange of ideas.

 

References

Bowllan, A. (2008, September 1). A wiki gives a worthy book new life. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/‌article/‌CA6590061.html?industryid=47065&q=a+wiki+gives+a+worthy+book+new+life

Davies, J., & Merchant, G. (2009). Wikis: the death of the author? In Web 2.0 for schools (pp. 89-102). New York: Peter Lang.

Grant, L. (2006, May). Using wikis in schools: A case study. Retrieved from Futurelab website: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/‌resources/‌publications-reports-articles/‌discussion-papers/‌Discussion-Paper258

Richardson, W. (2009). Wikis: Easy collaboration for all. In Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed., pp. 55-68). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Valenza, J., Ph.D. (2009, October 14). My 2.0 day and the response/‌rant about our cover argument [Letter to the editor]. School Library Journal Mobile, neverendingsearch. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/‌blog/‌1340000334/‌post/‌1530049753.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Exploring Podcasting

October 18, 2009 3 comments

PodcastingAnother Web 2.0 Tool

Video may have killed the radio star but podcasts could bring them back. 

There are three forms of podcasting available: audio podcasting, enhanced audio podcasting, and video podcasting also called videocasting.  (Podcasts for educators, schools and colleges)  As we have already talked about video-sharing on this blog, the following discussion will focus primarily on audio podcasting.

My Reflections on the Process of Learning about Podcasting

The convenience of downloading a podcast and taking it with me has made me a big fan of podcasting.  On many planes, trains, and automobiles and on many runs and workouts, podcasts have, for me, been a rich source of entertainment, educational content, and a means of staying current with what is happening back home and in the world.  So going into this week, with my enthusiasm for podcasts, I was looking forward to exploring it more and using it with students.   This enthusiasm continued as I read up on what others were doing with podcasting in their schools and classrooms.  I was impressed with the podcasts on the various school websites Richardson suggested in his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.  I was also impressed with the website, Just One More Book, created by Mark and Andrea Ross.  Their passion for books and for authors and illustrators comes shining through.  Seeing all this amazing work kindled all kinds of ideas for podcasts on a library web page. 

The whole process of creating a podcast was great.  Garage Band (audio recording and editing software) on our Macbook made it smooth and easy.  A convenient feature in Garage Band is the ability to create and use music that is free of copy right restrictions.  Garage Band is also capable of producing enhanced podcasts.  However, if you don’t have a Mac, there are other sites that offer free-use music as well.  By searching with Google I found many free-use music sites offering a variety of music genres and of varying quality.  Some sites offered this music free and others were selling it.  For non-Mac computers Audacity is a free audio recording and editing software which seems to be very similar to Garage Band and as easy to use. With Audacity one can record, edit, and modify most digital audio and with an additional piece of software compress the file into an MP3 format.  Both pieces of software are free and can be used for any personal, commercial or educational purpose.   I also noticed that there is an Audacity version for Mac OS as well.

Having recorded and edited my podcast I felt like I was home-free.  Videos and photos had been relatively straight forward so I was anticipating the posting of my podcast to be simple also.  The short version is that after hours and hours of searching and reading and trial and error I still had not been able to imbed my podcast on my blog.  If I could have paid a bit to WordPress to upgrade the allotment of memory I could have uploaded my audio file directly to the page.  But as I was unable to do that I needed to upload my podcast to an internet host site.  Finding a free service provider that works was my challenge.  They all seem to cater more to those who want to broadcast their podcasts through an RSS feed and not for a one-time podcaster.  One site that was recommended was Odeo.com.  I signed up only to find that they do not seem to allow one to upload anything.  They simply help people “find, play and enjoy” their catalogue of video and audio casts.  I tried a few others such as Pidango and Podpress, without success and then found Internet Archive.  I again signed up and this time was able to upload my podcast.  I was then provided with html code to imbed in my blog and, although I couldn’t get the fancy player buttons I did have a link that could take me to my podcast. (I did find some WordPress code that gave me some play and pause buttons in my blog but I could not link it with my podcast.)  Feeling pleased I closed Internet Archive only to find that by doing so the link was broken.  Try as I might I could not get it to work the way it was advertised.  I persevered, and eventually found a way to pay for more storage space in WordPress, and presto, my podcast uploaded with a few clicks of my mouse.  A few good information resources for creating and uploading a podcast were the How To Podcast Tutorial, and a site sent to me by Annabelle Pendry which can be found here on Slideshare.  With my test completed successfully it was time to repeat the process with a student podcast.  The grade two class just happened to be planning an interview with some long time residents of our community.  I approached the teacher with the suggestion that I record the interview and create a podcast.  She agreed and was excited about the possibility of emailing the result to the parents.  The following is the result.

Podcasting as a Tool for my Own Personal Learning

I am a big fan of the CBC.  Giving up listening to all my favorite programs was something that I knew I would miss while being away.  I was thrilled then, to find out that I could subscribe to any program I wanted through iTunes and listen to them on my iPod.  By subscribing, new episodes of the programs I chose are automatically downloaded to my computer, ready for me to transfer onto my iPod.  Now as I run or work out in the gym I can stay connected to all my favorites.  In addition to all the great programs on CBC I have also found a large variety of podcasts through iTunes and other sources.  I was able to download a Luminary Lecture series from the University of California on issues in librarianship.  One of my colleagues learned that he would be teaching a history class so downloaded a variety of university lectures on ancient civilizations.  In addition my wife has downloaded Learning Spanish podcasts.  The number and variety of podcast available seems endless.  Slightly less portable but more interactive is enhanced podcasting.  In this form podcasts combine audio with some image elements as well as links which a listener could connect to, adding another dimension to what is being presented.  Enhanced podcasts can also be set up in sections or chapters allowing the listener to easily browse forward and back in a long cast.  I particularly like the podcast format because it is so portable.  Whether exercising or traveling, taking a small device loaded with great bits and bytes is very convenient.

As a kid growing up in Bolivia I can clearly remember sending and receiving tape-recordings from our extended family members back in Canada.  Telephone service within the country was sketchy at best, let alone international calls.  Once in a while, when all the variables in the stratosphere were aligned we could connect live with Canada via a chain of ham-radio operators.  Even mail was consistently slow and unreliable.  So when a tape recording arrived (at first it was a reel-to-reel tape and then hi-tech cassette tapes) it was a big deal.  How things have changed!  Jet travel, Skype, Vonage, email, Facebook, blogs, photo-sharing, video-sharing, and video and audio casting have all revolutionized our ability to reach out and touch someone.  Who knows, with podcasting in my tool box, I may even share something of myself with others at some point.  But for now most of what I will be sharing will be in my professional life.

Podcasting as a Tool for Teaching and Learning

Imagine visiting a library web site and being able to listen to a podcast of students reviewing books or having a book talk. Or imagine, perhaps, listening to young authors reading their latest stories or reading an installment of a serial story podcast enhanced with illustrations by the author.  A library sponsored poetry week could feature podcasts of poetry readings in a classroom or a school-wide poetry slam.  School Daily Bulletins could be podcast as news programs with theme music and student news and sports anchors, featuring reports from student reporters in the field.  Class blogs could include podcasts of career interviews or interviews of authors or other notable people.  A history class might podcast a “Today in History” spot, either in the daily bulletin or as a part of a class blog.   Language teachers could also find and download existing learning language podcasts or they could record and post their own lessons or readings as a tool to help students with language practice.  In his book, Richardson gives many other examples of how podcasts could be used in school.  Inexpensive radio broadcasts, principal’s messages, history reenactments, narrated science lab procedures, and music recitals, are all great examples that he gives. (Richardson, 2009)  I think podcasting is one of those tools where the more you use it the more creative its use becomes. 

Audio recording in schools is not a new phenomenon.  Language teachers have been recording language lessons for many years and music teachers have been recording practice tapes to help their students learn their parts in a musical number.  It also tends to been standard practice to do audio, and more commonly these days, video recordings of special events.  However, an ordinary recording becomes a podcast (or video cast) when it is published; shared with a larger audience and easily accessible by the audience when it is convenient for them.  In my experience, most of the recordings made in classrooms or at special school events are only used once or twice for a limited audience and then rarely seen again.  With the internet to publish to, we now have the ability to share, with a larger audience, our school and classroom events through podcasts or video casts.  Grade 2 can be drawn into what is taking place in grade 5 or grade 8 can see what is happening in kindergarten.  Parents can also be more connected with what is taking place inside their child’s school.  What a great way to build community within a school and be involved in each other’s learning.

Podcasting and videocasting can also be a valuable tool in professional development.  As mentioned earlier, lectures, refresher courses, discussions and a myriad of other professional development material could be downloaded by teachers who could then listen or view them at their leisure.  Women of Web 2.0 is a great example of material available to educational professionals that is relevant, inexpensive, and convenient. Other good examples of what is available to teachers include, Podcasts for educators, Schools and Colleges, Apple Learning Interchange,  and David Warlick’s Connect Learning site.

The big advantage of audio podcasting is its ease of use.  All that is needed is a means of recording digital audio, a computer with software to edit it, and an internet space to share it through.  In addition to being easier and faster to produce than video the size of an audio file also makes it easier and faster to download and share. When working with students time and ease of use are important considerations.  I have often chosen not to use technology for a lesson simply because the process of using the tool would overshadow the educational goal.   Another advantage is that it has few of the privacy and security downsides of video.  Without pictures, students can be considerably more anonymous than with video.

As with all educational tools it is important to have a learning purpose behind using podcasting in schools.  Playing with these tools can easily become an end in itself, just a gimmick to have fun with, rather than a tool used to help meet a learning goal.  Often teachers find a fun activity and then “work it into” a lesson rather than having a learning outcome and finding an activity to foster that.  Nevertheless its ease of use and its unlimited applications make podcasting a valuable tool to enhance learning. 

A quote from the Podango site reads, “Now that the written blog is slowly inching out of fashion, there are tons of podcasting services that offer you the chance at profiting off of your podcasts, and Podango is just one of them.”  (Killer Startups)  Whether you agree or not that written blogs are going out of fashion, there are still many reasons to get into the swing of podcasting.

References

How to embed a podcast into a Blogger. (n.d.). Slideshare [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/‌Paty.Savage/‌how-to-embed-a-podcast-into-a-blogger

Richardson, W. (2009). Podcasting. In Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed., pp. 109-119). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Van Orden, J. (n.d.). How to podcast. Retrieved from http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/

What is educational podcasting? (n.d.). Podcasts for educators, schools and colleges. Retrieved from http://recap.ltd.uk/‌podcasting/‌info/‌podcasting.html

Why it might be a killer. (n.d.). Killer startups. Retrieved from http://www.killerstartups.com/‌Blogging-Widgets/‌podango-com-hosting-for-podcasters-with-revshare

Categories: Uncategorized

Exploring Social Bookmarking

October 7, 2009 3 comments

Exploring Social Bookmarking

Another Web 2.0 Tool

My Reflections on the Process of Learning about Social Bookmarking 

Before starting this assignment I had no idea that Social Bookmarking existed.  For the most part I have been happy to use the Favorites tool on web browser.  I have had others tell me about a great site and if I liked it enough I have bookmarked it on my computer.  I’ve even watched students while researching, jump up from their computer and rush over to a neighbor who had discovered a great site.  They then write down the URL and, more often than not, type it in wrong and have to try again.  So in all this time the thought that this whole process was cumbersome and that there must be a better way didn’t even cross my mind.  I really am a Web 1.5 (not quite Commodore 64) person.  So my learning has had to start at zero.  I began by reading opinions and reviews of the various online social bookmarking tools and settled on using Delicious because that seemed to be the most popular if not the most powerful.  To start with I felt like I needed a basic level without all the features.  Signing up for an account was very straight forward as was importing my computer based bookmarks.  After importing them I decided to take the time to go back and tag them as it seems that much of the benefit of the tool is in the various tags one applies to it.  As a beginner I almost felt that this tagging process was too easy.  With no clear guidelines it seems that some of the benefit of tagging might be lost.  As I have read more I realize that this is the case.  However, with more experience, I am sure one would be able to refine the tagging protocol (particularly among a group) to gain benefit from it.  After the tagging process I then spent time searching sites using tags and the search tool.  I also tried to set up Delicious on my work computer.  Although I was blocked from installing the Delicious buttons on my Explorer Brower I was still able to use my Delicious account through the web.  I even managed to export my browser favorites and then import them into Delicious. 

Social Bookmarking As a Tool for my Own Personal Learning

As I’ve been learning how social bookmarking works I have decided that I would like to tag everything in my life.  All those things that I spend so much time looking for and organizing could just be tagged and all would pop up with one click.  Think of the benefits!  We spend your lives tagging things and sharing things so that when we get old we can find thing easily or borrow from others.  Until I can figure out how to organize and store stuff and not just information I will just have to try to organize my on-line life.

I have never had huge numbers of favorites bookmarked on either my home or work computer.  A site would have to be very good with the potential of being used often in order for me to bookmark it.  I organized sites in file folders and it was not a big problem.  Nevertheless I do see the benefits of using a bookmarking service for organizational purposes.  As I try to organize all the information that has been coming to me in this course and as I try to reach out and further research I can see that social bookmarking could be a great tool to use and become proficient at.  As I have just begun working on my masters I can start building up my store of professional learning sites right at the outset.  As we do a fair amount of travelling, either to other countries or back home to visit, it would certainly be advantageous to access all our favorites from anywhere and from any computer.  Previously on our travels we have been using our hotmail accounts to store important sites such as airline, hotel, or travel information sites into emails and send them to our accounts so that we can access this information from any computer.  Beyond being an organizational tool I can see other personal advantages to social bookmarking.  It seems to me that Social Bookmarking can be used as a search engine only it is more selective in its results.  The results that do come up have been evaluated and rated by people and not by a computer running an algorithm.  To refer back to the traveling example we could research a country and tap into other sites that travelers have found helpful.  Using a social bookmarking tool could be a great advantage in sifting through the mass of information to find those valuable sites. 

So far I have only had two frustrations with social bookmarking.  The first is that in order to use it at school, and to use it fully at home, I have had to log into the online site.  This is not a big deal but it is another username and password and yet another favorite on my browse.  For this reason I will still keep those favorites up to date.  My second issue with it has been finding a specific favorite amongst the 50 or so I have.  Nevertheless, I am using the tags and as I get more adept things will be fine.

Social Bookmarking As a Tool for Teaching and Learning

In our discussion group, Katherine asked the question’ “How do you teach organization to students in a Web 2.0 world? Is it important anymore? What is more important process or product?”  As a group we focused more on the process vs. product question and did not get around to discussing the first two questions.  As I read through the Trail Fire for the week I came across this quote from Will Richardson.

“Today, information literacy implies an ability to organize the world around us, and that encompasses the big ol’ Web. While traditional library methods have effectively tamed print resources, the digital content residing on more than one billion Web pages is a different beast altogether.” (Richardson, 2007)

Teaching students the skills necessary to be organized themselves and to organize information has always been an important part of a teacher or librarian’s job and is all the more so now.   Organizing information has certainly been one of the challenges for all of us in our discussion groups so it is little wonder that it is a challenge for students.  Social bookmarking, our tool for the week, can be one of answers to this problem.

The first benefit of social bookmarking for students is that it allows them to bookmark important sites that they can access from any computer.  Most students that we have do not have their own computer so they rely on the family computer or one of the school computers in any of the labs or the library (McGraw Hill).  Having the ability to have their own personal bookmarks that they can build and access could motivate them to start creating their own list of favorites.  This will no doubt be comprised mostly of their own personal favorites but undoubtedly sites that they need for school assignments will slowly creep in.  A second and very important benefit of social bookmarking for students is the ability to tag and then share their bookmarks with other students in the class.  Often, when doing research with students in the computer lab, the place is alive with student’s running back and forth from their computer to their friend’s computer as they show each other sites that they have found.  Often a good amount of time is wasted as they try to read out the URL address while the other student types it into their browser.  With social bookmarking a student could simply save it as a favorite, tag it in a specified way and that site become available to all the students in the class.  Teachers could also find and tag sites and share them with students.  Collaboratively then, a class can build a collection of great resources that every student in the class can access at anytime and anywhere. 

In addition to helping teachers and librarians organize their personal and professional favorite sites, social bookmarking could be a collaborative tool among professionals.  Last year, as the only 5th grade teacher in our school it fell to me to find any additional materials beyond the curriculum manuals we have to enhance my lessons.  Another school in our district has 6 divisions of grade 5.  Their group naturally collaborated together for their program where as I did not have the same opportunity.  They were always happy to share but it was not a natural thing to do.  Social bookmarking could be one natural way that all the grade 5 teachers could work collaboratively together in the area of gathering valuable on-line resources.  Professional development could also be enhanced in a similar way through social bookmarking. (Richardson, 2009)  As mentioned earlier the tagging process would be a key element to work out within a collaborative group so that maximum benefit can be derived.

Another tool that is similar to social bookmarking in its use of tags is a tool called LibraryThing.  Although Will Richardson referenced this tool in his article on social bookmarking (Richardson, 2007),  LibraryThing seems to be more of a social book club or large reading group that gets sorted out by the books one chooses.  I have only begun to play with it but it seems like a great way to get connected to books through the descriptions and recommendations of others based on other books you have read in common.  Though it is not a bookmarking site it could be another great way to sift through all the book choices out there and narrow it down to something of value to you.

From what I have seen so far social bookmarking has the potential to solve some of life’s inconveniences and open some new power to uncovering great websites.  This could be of great benefit to both teachers and students.  However to fully explore and evaluate this tool and all its potential will take more time and more play.

 

References

Anderson, L. S., & Hildenbrand, E. (2009, September/‌October). Can facebook replace face-to-face? Learning and Leading With Technology, 37(2), 8-9.

Richardson, W. (2007, March 1). Taming the beast: social bookmarking. In School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/‌article/‌CA6420397.html

Richardson, W. (2009). Social bookmarking services. In Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed., pp. 88-98). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Roeder, L. (2009, September 28). 5 social media lessons I learned from working with a Hollywood actress [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from Coppyblogger: http://creatingfame.com/‌video/

Social bookmarking. (n.d.). Teaching today [How-to article]. Retrieved from McGraw Hill Education website: http://teachingtoday.glencoe.com/‌howtoarticles/‌social-bookmarking

Categories: Uncategorized