Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

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!


A Laptop for the 21st Century March 31, 2008

I finally got to see the eeePC this morning and man, is it cool!  Here are some of the features:

  • 7 inch display -small, but that is part of what I like about it
  • Linux OS – I do not have a lot of experience with this, but the desktop and navigation are incredibly user friendly
  • Comes loaded with Open Office and a link to Google Docs – ready for 21st century collaboration. No need to load lots of apps
  • Built in web-cam and speakers for online collaboration
  • Small HD – 4 GB (can get 8GB) – but not an issue if you have network storage or store all your docs online!

We are opening a new elementary school in August and this small laptop would be great for the students! And at $399 it is highly affordable. The one big complaint I see online is that some users do not like the small keyboard and display – but I am thinking this is a benefit for Elementary students!


Why I Love Technology

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.


Watching Leaders Evolve March 25, 2008

(Cross posted at LeaderTalk)

I have targeted my efforts in increasing the capacity of web 2.0 in our district towards administrators. It is my firm belief that until these tools become part of the regular work that our district undertakes on a regular basis, we will never see saturation in the classrooms. So I thought I would take some time here to highlight the ways our district has begun to infuse new technologies into the work we do.

  1. Our district web site is now syndicated with RSS
  2. The Assistant Superintendent of Support Services began the Bow Tie Blog to keep the community up to date on the construction of new facilities.
  3. All of the Board meetings are made available via podcast.
  4. One of our high school principals makes a weekly phone call to the homes of all the students. He then converts the files each week to MP3s and posts them on the school web site as a podcast so that families who missed the call on Sunday night can still access the information.

This is an exciting start towards becoming district 2.0. There is still quite a lot of work to do and some of it is in the works. Our Superintendent challenged the textbook adoption committee to look beyond the textbook for materials and to make a greater use of technology. The elementary level embraced this idea and is going textbookless next year for Social Studies and instead will be relying heavily on technology for information needs. However, our high schools are still buying a book for every student. The middle schools are, well, in the middle. They are purchasing a class set of books for each teacher and using the remaining money on technology.

I would like to see more blogging and reflective practice coming out of our Instructional Services department. I understand the time challenges, but how can we expect our teachers to use these tools with their children if we don’t model good use of the tools for them?


The Parody Mashup February 13, 2008

The rise of YouTube has given a new stage to politicians and the corporate sector. They can run their ads for free and rely on the viral video craze to disseminate their message. There have been some very creative and thought provoking videos produced for this purpose, but from this has arisen a secondary phenomenon – the parody of those videos. See below for a couple examples of the original video and the parody. video for Barack Obama’s campaign:

Parody by using John McCain’s campaign

Dove’s Evolution of Beauty

Parody – The Evolution of the Slob

I see tremendous potential for the eduverse. What if students used the content from their classes and mashed it with the style of a popular viral video and re-posted their work? Talk about engaging. If you have already seen some exampls of this being done in education, leave me a comment.


Parenting 2.0 February 12, 2008

dsc01510.jpgMy daughter turned 2 last month and as any parent is, I am constantly amazed at all of the things she can do and understand and how that seems to grow exponentially each day. But what amazes me the most is how uber-aware she is of technology in her life and how different her childhood is from what mine was. Here are a few examples:

1. When we get into my car she immediately asks, “Mommy, you have your ipod?” She knows that all of her music is loaded on that little white box and if I leave it in the house, we cannot listen to her music. I have freed myself from CDs and have even created a playlist of her favorite songs so that I can quickly and easily get to the ones she wants to hear without causing a wreck. She is starting to show some interest in listening to some of Mommy’s songs so I am thinking of making a playlist of songs I like that are not inappropriate for her age.

2. We limit her television time and really only have 2 or 3 shows that she is allowed to watch, but rather than have our day dictated by the airing of the shows, we record them on Tivo and play them for her when it is appropriate. This has given her a very skewed vision of how TV works. She thinks all TVs work this way. This was clear when we went to the beach this summer and she asked to watch Dora. I told her it was not on the TV at that time and that there was no Tivo at the beach house. At that time, my then 18 month old looked at me, laughed out loud, and said “No Tivo? That’s silly!” It became the running joke of the vacation.

3. If I take out my laptop at home, which I try to do as little as possible, she immediately declares that she wants to play with Elmo. The Sesame Street web site is the only one we have really let her browse and she likes several of the games on the site. She has been able to play a few of them on her own for months now. While this may seem like a waste of time to some, it is one of the ways I have been able to determine her attention to things. She actually listens to the characters and clicks when they tell her to – not just randomly as she did when she first started to use the site.

I have provided these examples of my 21st century child to other adults, many of whom immediately roll their eyes and give the look that says I am ruining my child’s imagination by exposing her to these things. I disagree. I do read to her all the time and at 2 she can “read” most of her books back to me by memorizing all of the words on each page – word for word. She can also do 12-24 piece jigsaw puzzles by herself and has an active imagination. However, the technology in her life results in a different way of growing up. I limit her exposure to all of these things, but they are all a part of my life and have changed the way I interact with media. Why shouldn’t they be a part of her life?
Wow – what will her expectations be when she starts school? Will we be able to meet those expectations?