And now, the end is here…

( with apologies to Frank Sinatra for stealing one of his opening lines ! )

Time to round up a fascinating journey in the world of PLNs, digital learning and Web 2.0 tools – for now.

Many thanks to everyone in the VicPLN team – I have learnt so much from your course and truly appreciate the efforts of all of you to keep us on track and enthused !

I have a new appreciation for those of you who made the screencasts for us to watch in the course. My humble effort ( attached below ) took forever to record…too many umms and ahhs in the first 10 or so attempts ! Am sure with practice I’ll get better – would be great to have a few more of these on our Library homepage to help our students and teachers, though Di is rather handy with Voki !

Here’s my screencast using Screenr on the features of a blog page – am sure you’ll find it rivetting, but rest easy – it only lasts 1:43 minutes.

I’ve also created a very short digital story on my PLN journey using Animoto – have now signed up for the Educator’s account, so will be able to make them longer in the future !

As for blogging – am now a fan ! Have read many other blogs from professional to hobbyists’, but never knew how easy it was to do my own. Hope to find the time to continue mine and check out what everyone else is doing on theirs ! Blog on !

Thanks again, Angela.

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Our digital environment

digital

I’ll be upfront here and tell everyone I remember card catalogues, paper journal indexes, travelling miles to certain libraries that held copies of the articles I needed and photocopying them, snail mail… the list is endless. Are times better now ? Yes and no.

Yes – definitely – to accessing a huge volume of information anywhere anytime.

Yes –  to so many more teaching and learning tools and methods that far surpass anything that was available when I was at school or uni, or even when I first started teaching.

No – ( or maybe ) when we consider the our digital footprint and the content we’ve naively published ? Will this blog come back to haunt me ?

My progression with technology has been huge – from maintaining the card catalogues I mentioned earlier to being amazed at a program called Librarian’s Apprentice that magically printed any kind of set you wanted once you’d entered the data into the computer ( though we still had to print them out using a state-of-the-art dot matrix printer ! ) to using a fantastic library management system like Destiny which we have here at Barker College

Destiny

which bring so many resources to the user via the catalogue. I never would have envisioned such a rapid progression when I left university.

All day, every day I use technology to improve what I do and how I do it.

From communicating via email, preparing pathfinder-like pages ( but so much more ! ) on our Library LibGuides, doing presentations using Powerpoint or Popplet, curating articles for HSC topics on Scoop.It!, QR codes for info treasure hunts……….the list goes on. I think many teachers, librarians and Teacher Librarians have been at the forefront of the digital revolution as its such a better way to learn – would you rather look at a static model of the heart, or something like this ? http://vimeo.com/8321006

Most of the teachers I have worked with have demonstrated the ethical use of technology in their classrooms – using appropriate digital tools, citing their sources and guiding students in their progression from digital literacy to digital fluency. Obviously some are better than others and often that’s just a matter of being confident to use technology in the classroom. TL’s are well placed in schools to offer the support and/or training some teachers need to enhance their skills. At our recent conference, we looked at this topic and I spoke about using YouTube ethically in the classroom – being confident that what we are showing is appropriate for our students. This includes exposure to comments and related or suggested videos. I offered them two tools that assist with this – Quietube and ViewPure which allow them to show relevant material without any concerns over any additional material that might appear. We need to be mindful that as teachers, what we demonstrate in the classroom is what many students implicitly accept is good practice – though I will admit students are becoming more vocally critical about this !

Risky

Reading Judith Way’s article on cybersafety reprinted from her blog in Connections ( 2013, pg 1-2 ), highlights many of us are dealing with similar issues with our students and their use of technology. Whilst we as teachers might emphasise digital citizenship in terms of not plagiarising / citing sources including images / using reputable websites etc., the real issue for many of our students is what they do with technology outside the classroom.

As Judith mentions in her article, students not yet teenagers, are posting all kinds of material on the web, not realising the possible impact now and in the future. Childrens’ skills with technology often far exceed their social maturity levels and being out of sync here can lead to worrying consequences ( mind you, same could be said of some adults ! ). More concerning statistics come from a recent study by the Pew Research Centre in the US, cited in an article on Edudemic:

stats

http://edudemic.com/2013/05/what-teens-actually-share-on-social-media/

Here, our role as educators moves from teaching students not just to be digitally literate, but also digitally fluent. One definition of the difference between the two is provided by Briggs and Mackie, quoted by Amy Southerland in her article Digital literacy is good, but fluency is better :

“literacy means you know what tools to use and how to use them, while fluency means you also know when and why to use them”

and many digital citizens of all ages may struggle with their “fluency”. I chatted in general terms to a few of our senior students as they were working in the library after school one night. They all felt they were digitally fluent, though only a couple could actually define what that meant. They told me they knew all about Privacy settings when using social media such as Facebook, but didn’t seem to be overly concerned about keeping up with changes to them – I felt that once they set up their accounts, they rarely revisited their settings. Whilst a couple of them had “Googled” their names for fun a few years ago, none knew about setting up a Google Alert for themselves – I think a couple of them were going to do this once I’d left the discussion. The impression I got from them all was they kept their social and school digital lives very separate. They liked using technology in the classroom, especially with teachers who used it well and confidently, but most of the “interesting” use of technology happened outside the classroom – mainly on Facebook. As these were older students, I also got the impression they didn’t think there was too much teachers could teach them about social media… all the more reason for important lessons such as Jenny Luca’s with Year 8.

effective

Briefly:

  • Curious – an enquiring mind explores endless possibilities
  • Adaptable – if one skill or train of thought isn’t working, be open to trying another
  • Collaborate – learning can be a two way street – actively participate and share to get the most out of it
  • Creative – new digital tools are being developed and shared all the time – find the ones to express yourself in the best possible way
  • Engaged – react, respond – passive is passe !

future

 

 

Predictions are never easy, and you can embarrass yourself forever and day when you get it wrong…remember Bill Gates’ famous RAM quote “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” ?

So, I’ll try not to be too specific, but here are a few ideas:

  • E-learning  will become more popular for everyone, including school students. The curriculum can be differentiated to suit the individual  needs of many more students. Face to face teaching ( including using Skype ) will still be important ( I hope ! ) but with more flexibility and focussing on practical skills, not theory.
  • The big school bag of textbooks will be no more ! Everything they need will be on, or accessed from, a mobile device so their backs will be safer, but they’ll need to protect their eyesight  !
  • “classrooms” won’t be defined by 4 walls – they’ll expand across the country and across age groups. I’m hoping technology will encourage lifelong learning in so many more people than ever before !

References

Dunn, J 2013 New Study Uncovers What Teens Actually Share On Social Media, Edudemic, accessed 27 May 2013, <http://edudemic.com/2013/05/what-teens-actually-share-on-social-media/&gt;.

Southerland, A 2012, ‘Digital Literacy is Good, but Fluency is Better’, Atlantic, 28 June, accessed 25 May 2013, <http://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/workforce-of-tomorrow/archive/2012/06/digital-literacy-is-good-but-fluency-is-better/259143/&gt;.

Way, J 2013, ‘Digital Citizenship’, Connections, no. 85, pp. 1-2.

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Information is power…

“Information is power” is often quoted and I think its relatively true. Those who can find the information they need for whatever purpose feel more empowered than those who struggle to do so.

To that end, I think one of the most useful skills we can teach our students is effective web searching.  Many of the activities we do with a range of our students ( and, incidently, staff at our recent conference ) focus on effective web searches. In the past, I often used to do an activity with Year 10 or 11 History students that compared the results of entering the following terms into a search engine – usually Google:

  • World War II
  • World War Two
  • World War 2
  • Second World War

Obviously, to look at this list it appears the topic is the same – there are no sub categories etc. therefore the search results should be the same – correct ? Students were often surprised to find that this was not the case, so we’d get into discussions about how search engines worked, order of words in the search string etc. I wish I’d had Matt Cutts explanation then – I think it explains Google search results wonderfully and hope to use it with students soon.

I did the search exercise on Google with these terms and was usually prompted to World War II, although a simple search brought up all three terms on the first page which I think is good for students as they will immediately see there are a range of search terms they can use for this topic.

DuckDuckGo and Bing produced similar results, with Bing being similar to Google and offering a range of related search terms on the first results page. All of these prompts certainly help younger students refine their searching skills.

The website I’ve chosen to evaluate is http://www.farmingahead.com.au/ Farming Ahead, by the Kondinin Group in Western Australia. Part of my TL role here at Barker College is to support the teaching of Agriculture. Having previously worked at an agricultural high school for 15 years, I know that finding reliable, current Australian agricultural information can be quite difficult at times. Whilst our first options are often the government websites such as http://www.daff.gov.au/ or http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/ which do provide a wealth of reliable information, often students are asked to find information regarding practical issues in agriculture such as research reports on advances in technology by users ( i.e. farmers ), which is not generally available on the government websites.

Its important therefore to be able to direct them to a website such as Kondinin’s which certainly meets the CARS concept of evaluation. The information is updated regularly , authority is easily established both in the website and via the hard copy journal. Whilst not backed by a large organisation such as CSIRO, the Kondinin Group has been providing agricultural information and services for over 50 years and I am satisfied it meets the reasonableness and support criteria in the CARS evaluation checklist.

Our Science teachers have built resource evaluation, particularly websites, into many of their teaching units as they are aware that some students struggle to recognise a reputable website. Snopes is a popular one they show students and I think its important to show students that anyone can publish information on the web which might not be credible.

Tag !

Hmm, used to just mean a children’s game…

Tag

Image source: http://englishaholicextreme.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/childrens-games.html

but now we add them to our blogs ! Have gone back and edited all my previous posts and added tags – I like the way WordPress offers suggestions to you. I know I’ve used tags on other blogs to find related information, so they are a really useful tool.

Have also added a Tag Cloud – how easy was that !

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The scoop on Scoop.It !

Scoop.It

I can’t believe what a valuable tool Scoop.it is and most of it can be used for free ! It can be used purely as a search engine or you can sign up for a free account and create/curate the most impressive magazine style data collections with amazing ease. I’ve been using the bookmarklet for about a year on my work laptop, and have now found out its also available as an app through iTunes for iPhones/iPods and iPads.

Now for the fine print…

Scoop.it doesn’t require you to sign in if you just want to use the search facility. Substantial suggestion lists are offered for most keywords entered and I think students find it very user friendly in that regard.

Creating an account is required to curate your own topic or follow others. You can sign in with an existing Facebook/Twitter or Linkedin account, or create a new Scoop.It account. Limited information is required to create the account – full name; email; password and profile picture.

I’m rather impressed with the ease of finding all of their legal information:

Scoop.It legal

Its available via links on their homepage and also when a new account is about to be created. Reading through their Terms of use / Privacy Policy and Copyright policy isn’t as onerous as some sites, but I do have to admit that I didn’t bother when I created my own account. I knew others who had been using Scoop.It for some time and had never had any issues – but this is not a valid reason as I did commit to a valid contract to use their services. On reading these policies for this task, I note that users must be over 13 years of age, and the guardians of users between 13 and 18 years of age are cautioned about instructing them to never give out personal information about themselves whilst using the Scoop.it websites. As a TL, I would probably tend to show Scoop.It to older students as a means of collecting current information on a topic, so the age restriction would probably not be an issue of concern for me.

Trying to close your account seems to be a bit of an issue however. Under Settings, there is an option to delete the account, however, in their Privacy Policy they note that

Even if your account is terminated, Scoop.it may still maintain and store for as long as it wants or needs, in its sole discretion, your non-Personal Information, including without limitation your IP addresses, browser and topic information, and any anonymous information, including any IDs attached to anonymous users. (http://www.scoop.it/privacy-policy#12 )

I daresay it would be difficult to terminate the account completely if a person has linked it to Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, however I have not tried this. Scoop.it also notes, however, they may terminate an account for continued breaches of their Copyright policy, which is something I have not seen noted in too many user agreements – not that I actually read most of them L

The main purpose of using Scoop.It for me has been the attempt at curating an Australian Agriculture Scoop.It for our senior Ag students. One of their major topics is Technology in Agriculture and it can be difficult to find information, particularly Australian. One of the issues I’ve had with Scoop.it is refining my keywords as I have had many useless articles suggested by Scoop.It based on my keywords. However, I should mention that this is another positive attribute of Scoop.It – you don’t even have to go looking on the net for your articles – Scoop.It sends suggestions either daily/weekly or monthly according to your preferences. Of course, if you come across something, you are able to add it to your topic easily via the bookmarklet. This is the link to my Ag Scoop.It, though I do need to do much more work with it: http://www.scoop.it/t/australian-agriculture

Our library uses LibGuides as its homepage (http://barkerlibrarynsw.libguides.com/library ) which enables us to centralise a huge variety of information for both students and staff. My aim is to embed my Scoop.it on the Agriculture subject page so that students can access it easily. I’d also like to create another one for Science since it is such a dynamic subject – new discoveries are being reported daily and this is such interesting presentation format for that. It could also encourage students to share their research discoveries with me, so they can be included on our Scoop.Its.

I would place Scoop.It in the Transformation category of the SAMR model of assessment. It redefines how information on a topic can be collated, curated and shared, both individually or collaboratively. There perhaps also some Augentation as collecting information on any given topic is not new – being able to curate the topic online to be shared instantly is a definite functional improvement on the old newspaper clippings folders !

I highly recommend Scoop.it to anyone needing to find or collate information on a topic in a visually appealing way. For those not yet familiar with Scoop.It, here is a short promo on You Tube:

Enjoy !

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Be afraid, be very, very afraid !

A little dramatic, but probably sums up my thoughts towards facebook in particular ( as far as security of my information ) and Twitter in regard to chewing up my time with useless drabble 🙂

Online professional communities, however, have always had my enthusiastic support and these have often been the source of my inspiration, my instant TL Q & A, and my font of wisdom as to how to approach a professional crises or two ! I guess I have never viewed facebook as a professional online community – I was always fearful about the amount of personal information it would be able to extract from me and who that would be disseminated to. The fact that you could never really disable/close your account also bothered me.

Instead, I should have perhaps looked at the other side of the coin – what facebook could do for me – connect me to a range of people and companies that I can exchange ideas with on a much bigger scale than email or one-way RSS feeds. Am happy to investigate more about Facebook within the safe community the PLN has set up. I am particularly pleased that since we are on holidays, I have done this task at home and my internet security program actually made suggestions as to changes to privacy settings I could make, which I had missed !

As my Barker colleagues have already noted, facebook, Twitter ( and Hotmail ) are blocked on our school network which causes some staff and lots of students considerable angst. Perhaps Facebook and Twitter are also not seen as online educational communities by our network administrators, though this may change as we have implemented a BYOD program and students are obviously able to connect via 3G/4G.

Twitter – we have a very strong advocate for Twitter in our office ( won’t mention any names, Di ) who almost daily shares info from a tweet she’s found really useful. I used to counter her argument saying I would get almost the same information, albeit much later, from that same person’s blog/ a website / RSS news feed… so why would I use Twitter ? The obvious advantage is the speed of the information, which most of the other online sources/communities can’t match. I’ll be interested to see whether I find it a useful tool in the next couple of months – I think having a good Twitter feed on your desktop is partway to providing the answer. My Twitter handle is @AngelaBrady_BC

I found this unit’s readings quite interesting – probably due to my lack of exposure to these two tools. After finishing “5 reasons why Educators should network” Roscorla, 2010, I moved on to her other article “ Why Educators should spend 15 minutes a day on social media” Roscorla, 2012 in which she quotes new Principal Derek McCoy:
“Each educator will find a different way to find and spend their time connecting online. And that’s fine, McCoy said. It’s a matter of understanding the PLN (personal learning network), then it’s a matter of understanding the tools, and then it’s a matter of making it work for you.

Which for me, also goes hand in hand with Will Richardson’s blog post about the dangers of not teaching Facebook – if we’re not familiar with the tool and how to make it safe, we can’t teach our students. We don’t have to promote it ( or any other tool if we don’t want to ) – we just need to know enough about it to guide our students, as believe it or not, they still ask teachers questions !

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Keeping on top of it all !

Term 1 is always a busy time of year for teachers and ( teacher librarians ! ) as we all try to get the new year underway. This year is exceptionally busy for us at Barker Library as we are breaking in a new boss ( sorry Jason ! ) and are preparing to deliver 3 x 90 minute presentations on Digital Literacy tools at our staff Conference during the first two days of Term 2.
So really, this is the perfect time to assess our personal organisational practices and explore new methods that may be better than the ones we are currently using. I am fairly conservative when it comes to storing / accessing /sharing my data ( and just a little bit of a hoarder ! )

I dream of the day going from this cluttered

to this
neat

Well, I’m not quite that bad – I’d probably be thrown out of our office if I was ! I store many of my work files on the school server, use external hard drives for back up at home and at work, have my Google bookmarks reasonably organised – as I say, all fairly traditional and conservative. I have resisted using Cloud storage – having a husband in IT who brings home horror hacking stories ( the one about the Evernote passwords did the round of the office ) has made me wary. That said, I do think it is a very advantageous way of accessing and sharing data, and look forward to using my new Evernote account !

I love my iGoogle homepage – RSS feeds are such a good way for me catch up with a number of sites & blogs as soon as I log in, rather than wade through a swathe of emails that I don’t end up deleting – just in case ! A number of teachers here have been using and recommending Google Chrome for a while now – I didn’t realise how versatile it is. Will definitely be using it as my browser from now on. Will also be adding diigo to the toolbox ! Others here have used it for a while – love the group sharing possibilities.

Back to the questions for this task…. I think today’s busy digital world makes good organisational skills a must – and the earlier students are able to master these, the easier life will be for them. A complication can be the restrictions on a school network – we often have frustrated students who have saved work to Dropbox for example and then can’t access it as the site is blocked. We do notice that students who are more organised are less stressed – an obvious point I know, but one worth remembering, I think. Digital technologies and the internet have opened up a whole new world of information access – and now, also storage in the Cloud. As always, we need to teach our students to use these tool responsibly and ethically and to remember – when its out there – its out there ! Maybe I should remove the hoarding comment before I post ??? Will work on that image placement for the next one !

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My shared note

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s321/sh/ac0018a0-ae02-4e57-b68d-de896496ce8d/ee4d5da16dc2f4c720eac092c63013ee

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