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


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!


Owning Wikipedia November 1, 2007 has an intriguing article today on a college professor’s use of Wikipedia in her classes. In short, rather than having her students write a final paper for her class, they either have to write an original Wikipedia article or do major revisions to an existing one.  Wow!  This would be a great assignment for any K-12 classroom as well. Dr. Groom notes the quality of the work her students are doing in Wikipedia exceeds what they were doing on traditional papers.  Below are my thoughts on why this is such a wonderful idea:

1. Authentic audience = increased engagement = higher quality work

2. Student work now benefits all of the humanity rather than just enriching the knowledge of the teacher

3. Students learn to how to view information critically so that they can both create their own credible work and improve on what is already out there

What else can you add?


A Graduation Project for the 21st Century October 25, 2007

Yesterday I had the privilege of co-facilitating a meeting to kick off the planning process for developing a Graduation Project for our school district. NC is now requiring that seniors must submit a graduation project in order to graduate from high school. This will begin with this year’s sophomore class. While the state has given some guidelines for what this will encompass, there is definitely room for each school district to customize it to make it work for their students. Our district is committed to making the project an opportunity for students to demonstrate their proficiency in 21st century skills.

I was asked to come to this meeting to facilitate a discussion on what 21st Century Skills are and how they can be incorporated into the Graduation Project. I decided to take it a step further. I developed a wiki to house all of the resources for the committee and set up and shared a Google Doc for each of the sub-committees. My thought process here is that the teachers and administrators on this committee need to begin to understand the tools that are available to students (and teachers) in order for them to help the students think creatively about developing their product. It went great although there was a funny piece – I had created a blank Google doc for each group to use for collaboration during the meeting, shared it, and in the email told them not to worry about the doc until the meeting. Being the go-getters that they are, many of them tried to open the document and when there were no words on it, emailed or called me to say there was a problem with it. Beginning of their learning process.


T + L 2007 – Nashville October 18, 2007

I am currently in Nashville, TN at the National School Boards Association’s T + L Conference. Below is an attempt to summarize each session I have attended thus far and any big ideas I was able to take away.

Global Learning Initiatives: Building 21st Century Literacy for Student Success in 21st Century Life

This was lead by a team from Broward County, FL. The big idea here is the implementation of GLIDES (Global Learning Initiatives through Digital Education for Students) in all of their schools. The concept here is that each school selects an essential question and then classes or teams of students work together to create a digital product to address one component of that question. Amazing essential questions and amazing student projects! This is one of the essential instructional strategies I need to take back to our district. Powerful learning taking place there!

Social Networking Research & Presentation: Lost Opportunities: What Happens when Districts Disallow Web 2.0 in the Classroom

This was a 2 part presentation. The first part was from NSBA on a study they commission on Kids’ Social Networking Habits. Interesting data. Glad someone is finally collecting some. Part 2 was from McREL on their experiences with going into districts to work with schools on 21st century learning only to discover that most of the tools they need are blocked by the district in the name of security and student safety. Again we see the need to educate students to be safe rather than just blocking. I am getting concerned about our own filtering practices. Time to take another look at what we are filtering. Saw an online resource I was not familiar with –

Keynote Address: Peter Diamandis – The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it Yourself

Inspiring, just the way a keynote should be. Peter is the CEO of X Prize and Zero Gravity. Got me thinking that we should do a scaled down version of the X Prize for our school systems to inspire them to rise to the challenge of preparing all students for the 21st century! I would love to see what we could come up with.

Personal Computing: New Solutions for the Classroom @ Web 2.0

Jim Hirsch from Plano, TX lead this session packed full of 21st century learning tools. I love going to sessions like this one because I always pick up a handful of new sites that are so cool but I knew nothing about. Here is Jim’s list. And another one.

New Literacy for 21st Century Students: Reinventing School Libraries for the Digital Age

John Canuel from Jefferson County, CO lead this session. We focused mostly on what 21st century literacies are and how they can be applied to libraries. Sounded to me like the Librarians in Jefferson County are also doubling as Tech Coordinators.