PargoNet

Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Edible sites? April 18, 2008

In celebration of National Library Week, one of our high schools hosted a contest for teachers to create “edible books.” The idea was to create some edible representation of a book. My favorite was the cupcake Grovers for “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book” for two reasons: first the cupcakes were too cute (and something I might be able to replicate) and second, it is one of my favorite childhood books and is now a favorite of my two year old. The teachers did a great job!

So this got me thinking, how would you you represent your favorite web site or online tool in edible form? Any ideas?

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Web Filters – A Poem April 10, 2008

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century

Our filter blocks categories
Determined by a committee
Of teachers
And technology specialists
And media specialists
And district leaders

We block sites
To protect our children
Not to block instruction
When a teacher needs access
To a site that is blocked
We Unblock it

Requests to unblock sites
Are sent to an instructional leader
Not a technology hardware manager
Who is not grounded in
Instruction
But is more concerned about
The network

We allow web 2.0 apps
Like blogs
And wikis
And podcasts
And video streaming
And social networks
And social bookmarks
And anything that will prepare
Our students to learn
In the 21st Century

We believe that a web filter should
Allow for creative learning
Not restrict it
We understand that students
Will sometimes encounter

Sites that are not appropriate
I would rather have students encounter
A small number of questionable sites
If that means they have access
To the tools they need to learn
Rather than having inadequate access to learning tools
In order to never encounter risky sites

I believe that students
Need to be taught
How to navigate the web
And all of its glory
And all of its dangers
If they are never exposed
How will they learn to be
Digital citizens

I am sad that there are students
In our state
In our country
Who cannot collaborate
With other students beyond their classroom
Because their school leaders
And district leaders
And teachers
And parents
Are scared

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century

 

Telling a PhotoStory April 7, 2008

We are a dual-platform district. Most of our elementary schools have Macs while most of the secondary schools are PC sites.  I have heard the glories of iMovie for years now and how our schools are using it for digital storytelling. Some schools are buying Macs just so that they can have this functionality. I have been trying to tell the PC schools that there are good products out there for them…for free, but so far have seen little evidence of their adoption of these apps. I believe firmly in the idea that it is hard, if not impossible, to convert users to a product that you have not used yourself, so this weekend, I used PhotoStory 3 for windows to create a photo montage for my mother’s 60th birthday.

I found PhotoStory very easy to use – you download it (for free) and install it on your PC. Then you literally use the wizard to upload as many photos from your computer into Photostory. You can arrange them as needed, change the transition of the photos, add titles, narration, and music to your story. Finally, you can export it into a variety of formats based on how you plan to view the photostory.  Really user friendly. I hope lots of PC user are taking advantage of this free resource from Microsoft. Made my mother’s party a memorable experience 🙂

 

Evaluating social bookmarking sites April 4, 2008

Ross White from LearnNC asked me today on Twitter what value Diigo has over other social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us. So I thought I would look closely at the two sites to see what I could determine. Both are considered to be social bookmarking sites. However, Diigo goes a step further. Diigo is really more like a mash-up of social bookmarking and social networking. It is as if Facebook and del.icio.us had a child and named it Diigo.

Like del.icio.us, Diigo allows you to post your bookmarks online, tag them and share them. However, Diigo allows to to create a network of friends and see what their recent activity is – much easier to see the new items bookmarked by your friends than in del.icio.us. There is also a comment wall which allows for friends to engage in conversation or discussion about sites. Additionally, Diigo allows you to create lists in addition to tags. Tags allow for a dynamic set of resources to be viewed. Lists allow you to create a static set of resources when necessary. It is another option for organizing bookmarked sites. You can also designate sites as favorites.

Finally, Diigo allows you to create groups so that people who might have something in common can share bookmarks with the group that they think the other members of the group might find interesting. Diigo is quickly becoming a favorite resource from what I can tell by listening in the twitterverse. Good site to check out. And share with others. Find me and friend me 🙂

 

Adding Shelfari to my PLN April 2, 2008

David Warlick illustrated his PLN (Personal Learning Network) and really captured the concept well. Since I am currently in the Shelfari exploration mode, I wanted to investigate how I could use this web 2.0 app to expand my own PLN.

The way I find new books to read is by looking at what others are reading. This is especially true when I am looking for professional books to read, whether those are books about educational technology, ed leadership, professional learning networks, culturally proficient pedagogy, and so on. I look at what others are reading and determine if I think it could help me grow.

This brings us to Shelfari. You can create a group and make it public or private. You and any other members of the group can add books from your own shelf to the group shelf. This way you can create a collaborative library. How cool is that!

In my school district, the school and district leaders are constantly reading new books each year in various categories. Wouldn’t it be great if we could share the books we found beneficial with one another and be able to go to a single URL to access it?

OK – I need to help me grow as an instructional technology leader. I have created a public group in Shelfari – Ed Tech Reads – I want you to join the group and add any books from your shelf that are related to instructional technology so that we can all expand our PLNs.

 

Going on a Shelfari

I have been marginally aware of the existence of Shelfari for several months now, but have only started exploring the site and its potential use this week. So I thought I would share what I have seen and what I would like to see in terms of the use of this product in the K-12 environment.

What is Shelfari?

Shelfari is a web 2.0 tool that allows you to identify what books you have read, what you are currently reading, what you hope to someday read, what you own, and designate favorites among them.  You can rate the books, write reviews of them, and TAG them. Like many web 2.0 tools, you can add friends and compare your shelves. You can find others in shelfari who are reading the same book or ask for feedback on a book you might be interested in reading.  You can create groups and focus on specific books in the group.

Books can be added to your shelf manually through a search by title, author, or ISBN. Book lists can also be imported. The books are displayed on the shelf with their book covers shown which makes it really attractive.

How can this be used in the K-12 environment?

School Library 

My immediate thought goes to the library media center. How cool would it be for the media center to have a shelfari account in which they could create a shelf for:

  • new books that have just arrived in the library
  • book of the month themes
  • books for specific projects
  • potential new books – let students and teachers review and recommend
  • summer reading lists
  • teacher reading lists

I’ll bet you can think of may more!  All of this can be done using tags. For example, compare my entire shelf list to my Harry Potter list.  All I did, was to tag each of my Harry Potter books with “hp” and then the shelf is easily generated. You can see how creating a march2008 tag for each book you want to feature in March will let you create special lists for any need you have!

Teachers 

Another thought – many teachers have their own classroom library. They could create a tag for all the items in their classroom and then create another to make a wishlist. Parents could then see what teachers need – you never know, one parent might just expand your classroom library for you! Teachers could also share what they are reading and which books are their favorites. We all know that when children see adults share their love for reading, it increases the liklihood they will read more!

Students

Let’s take this a step further, what if students created their own shelf! They could add the books they read throughout the year and watch their shelf grow. This is so potentially powerful, it gives me goosebumps (not the book sereis, the actual bumps on my skin). One word of warning – Shelfari says that it legally only allows children 13 yrs old and up to create their own account. I can understand this – there is no way to block their access to some of the more adult lit that other shelfarians are sharing. Maybe a good idea for younger users, is to create a classroom account and add books as a class through the year. You could then tag the book with each students name or pseudonym to create a shelf for each student. Might be a cool way to see which books are the most popular.

I am still learning this app and I am sure I will have lots more ideas about this.  How many of you are using Shelfari? Find me and friend me!