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?


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
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


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 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 had a child and named it Diigo.

Like, 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 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 ūüôā


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!


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!


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!


Transforming My Own Work to Transform the Work of Others November 30, 2007

For the past 2 years, I have created professional development opportunites during the summer for our teachers and any other faculty member who wished to join on web 2.0 tools and strategies to use them in the classroom. While the workshops have been well attended, I have only seen “pockets of excellence” as my superintendent calls it. In other words, the workshops have not transformed the way all teachers teach in the district. Rather, a small number of teachers have begun doing amazing things in their classrooms, but the number of teachers doing so is small.

So I have changed my strategy. While I will continue to offer summer professional growth opportunities in this area, I have begun attacking this problem with another approach – and it really is nothing radical. I have begun modeling the use of these tools for every meeting and interaction I have with teachers, administrators, and my technology specialists and media specialists. Below are some examples of the way I have modeled the use and the effects it is already having:

  1. Graduation Project – The Director of Secondary Education, Sherri Martin, asked me to work with her to facilitate a series of committee meetings to develop a 21st Century Graduation Project that will be required of all graduating seniors beginning with this year’s sophomore class – this is a state requirement. It seemed to me that if the students were going to be asked to incorporate 21st Century Skills into their project, the educators working with them better learn pretty quickly what those skills and tools look and feel like. So I did two things: rather than create a traditional web site with all of the committee info, Sherri and I created a wiki and shared the password with the committee. Additionally, the committee is divided into five work groups, each of which has a specific aspect of the graduation project to work on and a document to produce. So I set up a Google doc for each group and have them working in these docs collaboratively even outside of the committee meetings. I shared Common Craft’s video on Google Docs in Plain English with them so that they would understand why we were using this approach rather than the traditional Word Doc over email method. They were all very excited about this concept and one teacher asked, “you mean my students could use this to collaborate on their projects?” With a smile, I said “Yes they Can!” One of the administrators left this meeting to immediately set up a Google doc to work on with one of his groups, and more importantly, created a Google calendar to share with her co-workers – and another one with his wife to replace the paper calendar on their fridge so that they can keep track of what plans they have when scheduling new ones. He is totally psyched about this use!
  2. Workshop sign ups – I have grown weary of trying to explain how wikis can be used to various groups, so rather than explain, I have increasingly begun using them. I have started a series of Lunch n Learn sessions for central office administrators (and any other central office staff) on web 2.0 tools. Rather than send out in an email the lust of dates and ask them to respond if they plan to attend, I created a wiki and asked them to edit the wiki to add their name beside any date they planned to attend. Do you know I have not gotten a single complaint about using this method or about how to go in and add their name? Instead, I have had a few administrators who were so impressed with this concept they have asked me to help them set up wikis of their own to do a similar sign up with their own groups. And we have not even done the session on how to create wikis yet! I have seen more progress made in a week after modeling the use of wikis than I have in the past 2 years of trying to explain them to the same people.
  3. Organizing Work – with my technology specialists and media specialists (we have one of each in every school) I have been using so many wikis and Google docs, that I needed a place to organize them all so that they were easy to find rather than digging through emails. So I created a Google Group for each of these groups to organize the work we do. Now, rather than have them email various products to me, I have them post them in the group space. This has transformed my work significantly. I was getting bogged down in trying to track who had sent me the products I was asking for and compiling all of them – it was taking a tremendous amount of time. Now they are compiling their work for me and it is in one place for me to find – I love this.
  4. Sharing Best Practices – Each month I have the technology specialists submit a best practice use of technology in their schools. Again, they would email me the link and then I had to create a web page and post the info. very time consuming. Now I have created a wiki that they post the best practice to by the end of each month. I then send out the wiki link each month to the teachers so that they can see all the projects going on around the district.

I know this has been one of my longer postings, but in a short amount of time, I have seen major progress made by using the tools rather than by evangelizing about them. It reaffirms my belief that teachers and administrators will not use new tech tools in their work with others until they have had to use them in their work for others. We have to become users before we can be leaders.


NCSLMA 2007 November 16, 2007

For the last 2 days, I attended the NC School Library Media Association Conference in Winston-Salem, NC. Although I am the Director of Instructional Technology and Media for my school district, I come to the position from the field of Instructional Technology and have to do and continue to do a lot of learning about School Library Media, so this conference is always high on my priority list each year.

On Wednesday, I went to a workshop led by Peter Genco called “Assessment Leads to Focus.” I had hoped this session would help me better learn how to evaluate a school library media program, or that it would focus on assessing student learning of information skills. It really did neither. It was a very interesting workshop and I cam away with a lot of rich discussion and ideas – just not on the topic I had hoped.

Peter was also the Thursday keynote speaker and did a lovely speech about the School Library at the center for Diversity. One of the topics I am passionate about, so it was good to hear. Even more impressed that NCSLMA held diversity and cultural connections as its key theme this year.

Attended a couple of sessions lead by David Warlick. One on web 2.0 and another on social networking.¬† I always learn something new in these sessions or am reminded of something I have forgotten. In the social networking session, we talked about Twitter.¬† I’ve been a twit for a while, but not an active one. So I am trying to get back in and send out some tweets. But I thought about how this could be used with School Libraries – what if a tweet went out each time new books arrived or a new media center contest or activity occurred? This seems like a great fit for school libraries and hope to encourage mine to embrace this kind of technology.

I also attended a session on Assessment of Student Learning for High School Students – yay – finally what I was hoping to hear. Big idea here – the TRAILS online assessment for 9th graders and they are piloting 6th grade now, too.

Finally, I went to a session from NCDPI on building 21st media center facilities. Some neat pictures there – wish I could access them to share them with you.