PargoNet

Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

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

 

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!

 

Why I Love Technology March 31, 2008

Tiny Baby

There is no denying that technology has become the great re-uniter of the 21st century. On a weekly basis I re-discover connections with old friends whom I have not seen in 20 years. Once I get over the fact that I am old enough to have not seen someone for 20 years, I am amazed at how connected I have become and how frequently I bump into old friends online. These are connections I would likely not have without technology. In many cases they are people I never had a telephone relationship with in high school and would certainly not strike one up now. But I am comfortable enough with the idea of being friends with them online and checking in to see what they are doing now.

What I love even more is the ability to share photos of my child and see the photos of others’ children without having to fill up their email inbox. I have become a huge fan of Photobucket, Snapfish, and Shutterfly. But most recently, I have really appreciated how hospitals are supporting families with loved ones in long term care. Last summer a friend from college had triplet boys (yikes!) born at 25 weeks. The hospital set up a blog and photo gallery for them to update daily so that loved ones could get the info on how the boys were progressing without the parents having to sit on the phone non-stop retelling the same story dozens of times a week. I am seeing this again with a friend whose son was born last month 8 weeks ahead of schedule at 1 pound, 5 ounces. He is doing great thanks to a whole other set of technology – but again I can keep up with his progress online! The picture above is of him from last week – he is wearing his father’s wedding ring as a bracelet. What a beautiful picture. I love technology.