Archive for 21st century

I had a chance to attend BLC08 compliments of my school this year. I was very excited and even blogged about it some time back. So why did I not go? There is a story there, and I will attempt to share it. I feel I owe it to my network that celebrated with me when I thought I was going.
BLC07 Remembered and Shared At the beginning of school, I shared with my principal about BLC—I had virtually benefited from BLC07 through the breadcrumbs of backchannels from the likes of David Jakes, Ewan McIntosh, Barbara Barreda, and others willing to open up their skype chats for any who wanted to respond to backchannel discussions. These people were physically in the audience and invited anyone from their network to join in. Those out in the network did not have the luxury of U-Stream then, nor were we privy to listening in using Skype (I still wonder why no one thought to do that?) But still it was a phenomenon I will not soon forget. I think this alone is what made me realize my professional learning centered around conversations more so than speakers, classes, or presentations.

Interest grows at the district level So my principal shared with a district administrator who works with the school library folks. He asked me about it, and I excitedly told him all I knew. I also shared that I had wanted to go every year since its inception, about which SC districts I knew had been, and that due to the cost, and what I saw as a suggested requirement→that schools and organizations should come as a group→I had never seriously pursued it. (I have always floated my own boat at national conferences-paid for them right out of my own pocket.)

District Decides to GO! The next thing I know, this district leader has gone back and shared about BLC to others at the district level, and a group was formulated to go. I found out later, and was VERY excited. There were six going from my district (already registered and scheduled for flights/lodging.) I told my principal, who told me to go ahead and plan to go with them—she would pay for me and another teacher to attend with that group. I tried to get a teacher to go, but many were reluctant to use summer-time to do this (which is shocking all by itself-that few would consider using their summer for PD–is that just a Cathy phenomenon?).

Too High a Cost As time lapsed, I also began to think how dare me use school money for such an expensive extravagant trip. I kept rationalizing that registration for two teachers alone would be right around $1300, and that is not including airfare, food, and lodging. I kept saying jeepers how much more we could do with more teachers if I would just NOT do this. I have a pet peeve about anyone who fleeces the school of much needed money (like color copies of family photos, or baby-shower thank-you cards made AT SCHOOL in color on school cardstock and FILLED with baby-shower photos, oh gee I could go on an on here.)
My BLC Dream Ended So I let it go. The district is doing what I thought needed to be done→they are sending a group from the district. It is representative of district leaders, building principals, and I do believe a teacher, so I am satisfied in that. My hope of the group going is that they will catch the vision of 21st century learning and then bring this vision back to the district. I already have the vision (I think) so why should I go? I should allow others who haven’t gotten that vision yet to go. I should have my principal spend our professional development money, limited as it is, to get more teachers in pd that will help them grow.

Missing Friends, Virtual & F2F So there you have it—that is why I am not going to BLC this year. I will, however, very much MISS a reunion of virtual friends, including Joyce Valenza, Liz Davis, Lisa Thumann, Alice Barr, Colleen King, and many others I have met virtually in professional social networking tools and f2f from Educon 2.0 in Philly. I DO plan to go again to Educon 2.0, and once again, ask that my school help by splitting the costs with me. Last year I asked to go with this agreement in mind, and said if I could do it for under $500, I would. That is my plan once again—hope the gas prices and airfare will allow it.

Breadcrumbs will have to suffice… Please know that as I sit and reach out for breadcrumbs of information coming out of BLC, I am solidly kicking myself for NOT going ahead and attending, all expenses paid by my school. There are breadcrumbs available though, in the format of blog posts, wiki edits, twitters, and U-Streams. It’s the next best thing to being there.

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My survey on K12 Filtering is done for now. I probably should re do it in September, when school is back in, and things have settled down (since many SC Schools go back mid-August). I don’t know if I will though, as I feel I got good a fair representation with the 55 responses. That in itself is amazing since 55 people took my survey since Thursday of last week, and it’s summer break and vacation time for many.

The respondents represented seem relatively balanced over the grade bands (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) with the exception of post k12, where I had 4 respondents (7.5%) Overwhelmingly 87% of the respondents agree that filters are needed in k12 schools, and almost equally, that many folks have encountered a blocked website. The vast majority said that their district technology department decides what content is to be blocked. Surprisingly though 35% of the respondents indicated they either were not aware of or had ever read CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act.) (Read ALA take on CIPA.)

When faced with a blocked site, most respondents seek alternative relevant content (which is not surprising), but what was surprising was that almost 70% take measures to request blocked material be reconsidered. When asked who should have a say in what is filtered out, many indicated school personnel, such as a district superintendent and high level district administrators, district technology departments, building level administrators (principals), and teachers. Few thought the school board, parents, students, or the community should have a say. Most respondents feel safe even though filters do not always work, but I was surprised to learn that almost 30 do not trust existing filters. However, the respondents said overwhelmingly they would continue using online resources even without a filter, though 36% said they would use it w/ reservations. None, though, would stop using it.

So my curiosity is appeased. I do not hope to “change” the way filtering is done where I work. Quite frankly I’m pleased as punch that I have a “back door” to most blocked content, and can also request relaxing the filter on sites I or my collaborating teachers desire to use as a resource. But I do have reservations that it seems most areas have the filter set up and executed without having it explained to users (students, teacher, or higher) in detail. Perhaps some would find that irrelevant or boring, but I very well may have a discussion about this as a part of my orientation in the library this year—for all of our learners, professional and not. I think dissecting that acceptable use policy and discussing the Child Internet Protection Act may reduce anxiety and help the learners understand the need and use of filtering. Maybe, and that is a big MAYBE, it will keep the learners from trying to “get around” the filter. Maybe…(in my dreams??)

Here are the responses to the open-ended question that simply read “Your final thoughts.” I have BOLD PRINTED my personal “take-aways” or things that will effect the way I talk about or teach about filters in the future. I’ve added or responded to their comments with my own comments in parenthesis, italics, and a different color text.

I am in a charter school. Our tech person works with filtering. She is very concerned with liability issues and I feel she blocks too much, however it is easy for me to get a site unblocked. I don’t have an override password yet but I think she will provide me with access next year. She is still learning the system. I feel that our charter school board should be looking at filtering processes and assisting in making those decisions after being sufficiently informed of the issues pro and con. Putting the decision on one person is not fair to that person nor to the users.

It is about teaching ethical behavior on the internet

Despite their limited effectiveness many teachers and administrators would probably choose not to access the Internet with students if filtering was not in place. (The survey did not support this statement.) Fortunately, I have override access at all times and can request any site to be unblocked without a lot of red tape. In almost 100% of the requests permanent access is granted unless IT finds providing access would open up too many portals. School access is no different than workplace access–limits are imposed. We have the responsibility to help students understand that access in this arena is not the same as access at home–just as they will find in their places of employment. (True! I will include this in my instruction.)

We have two levels of filtering in our system. Level 1 is the provincial government and it is set in stone. There is no way to contact them to plead your case. Level 2 is with our local district. They have been very reasonable in unblocking sites for specific uses when requested. We have access to a fairly wide variety of sites including blogs, wikis, Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail so I feel fortunate compared to many other places I read about. One site that was recently blocked at the provincial level was Awesome Highlighter. I don’t know why and have no recourse for finding out or launching an appeal. Interestingly enough I had planned to introduce it to staff next term. My big concern with filtering is, how do we teach kids to use the net safely if we can’t show them the pitfalls of certain types of site? I plan to show students my Facebook account in the fall so they can see how to set privacy levels as many have no idea this feature even exists.

I’m very lucky. Very little is blocked. I used to be in charge until the church hired someone to take care of their services and we were included. It is really just x-rated blocking.

I think there should have been more questions and a choice for other – if a response did not meet your needs (Excellent point!)

It’s a waste of time, money, and human resources.

Filters can’t block every inappropriate site. Our students need instruction in cyber safety & digital citizenship for real “protection”

When done right, filters can block the extreme cases of indecency. I don’t think filters should block every single case of profanity or indecency. Kids will find that stuff anyway.

I am the director of libraries for a school district in Texas and arrived at your survey via your blog. My district is one of the few in the area where filtering issues are decided by instructional personnel, rather than network administrators. We are also one of the few that allow teachers an override password to access sites that they feel are relevant to their curriculum. Currently we have a committee that looks at requests to unblock a web site, but I feel that anything requested by a professional staff member should be unblocked without question. We are considering revising our policies to address web 2.0 tools in the near future. Hopefully, we can make the filtering less restrictive while remaining in compliance with CIPA.

LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALISTS SHOULD BE INCLUDED ON #7. TIGHT FILTERS PROVE FRUSTRATING WHEN TIME IS AN ISSUE. MY DISTRICT IS SUPPORTIVE IN GRANTING ACCESS WHEN NEEDED, BUT IT TAKES TIME.

I’ve read about schools with no filters where students have extensive instruction about “proper” surfing, and they seem to have few problems. The students eventually police themselves. Maybe this wouldn’t work in all communities, but it probably would in the majority of them. (I’ve witnessed the same at SLA in Philadelphia. I agree, but in SC I just don’t see it happening.)

To elaborate on questions: #4: The content that is filtered is done by category. Categories chosen to block are typically non-educational such as games, gambling, violence, sex, etc. Unfortunately, good websites get caught in the filter because they are categorized under multiple content headings to increase traffic to the site and become a casualty in the war against exposing students to inapporpriate websites. It’s not like someone is picking and choosing sites on an individual basis. Also, the filter we use does have reliable people behind it making sure that in addition to the site being educationally appropriate, it does not contain any “hidden” malware, spyware, or backdoor viruses which some otherwise terrific websites may contain. As to #9, even if no filters were in place, a good teachers will review online resources appropriate to his/her curriculum and not allow students unsupervised use. I know this would not eliminate the possibilities of students wandering (intentionally or not) but I have seen so many teachers give up control of what resources they use and tell their students to “get on the Internet and find”…… BAD approach. (Excellent points! I have seen teachers do the same (last statement) and treat the existing filter as their personal babysitter. We revised our computer lab policies this year to state that unless face to face instruction is occurring, the teacher may not be on a workstation, but should instead be moving around supervising and monitoring online activity. This is just like a teacher’s responsibility outside during student free time–we must be ever vigilant, and being honed in on a single workstation just does not allow that.)

Librarians need to be able to access unfiltered internet on at least 1 computer on campus (not student-observable) and be able to unblock site for temporary/time-limited use, then have it reviewed by IT for permanent unblocking (WOW–what a great idea!!)

I think that with consistent communication between all parties a balance can be struck.

Even with Destiny’s web path express, some of the links will be blocked. I can’t watch every student every minute on a computer. I’m glad we have filters in school. Most of the students with computers at home will go to the site later to finish research if they really need it.

They are imperfect at best. They block the obvious stuff, but my experience tells me that the students who want to get around them will get around them.

There’s a lot of truth in the statement, “Follow the money”… I am fortunate enough to work in a small district and have a great relationship with the county IT folks; I am able to email or call regarding a site and will generally have something unblocked within 10 minutes at the longest. (Lucky you!!) I have also witnessed firsthand, individuals that have teaching credentials, that walk into a lab of 30 computers, fill every one with a student and then announce “just go look for information”; I then watched as the teacher proceeded to complain that her shopping sites that were blocked. Filters seem ridiculous to folks who view the internet as educational/information resource. Many of my colleagues view the internet as a great big playground as opposed to a source of meaningful learning… We are dealing with many issues that are multi-sided and they cause GREAT angst for those trying to find the best for students, teachers and learning. ….. (The remainder seemed more like a private message to me and was not related to the survey.)

Filters are a reality that is not going to go away. As an LMS, I feel that I should be allowed the ability to override the filter when I deem appropriate. But apparently, I’m trusted to purchase books and databases, but not trusted enough to use good judgment when it comes to the Internet.

My district has been very prompt in removing blocks–however the sites are blocked by broad categories–”entertainment; games; sports” so many things get blocked that never should be in the first place.

K-12 is a broad range. High schools would be fine with no filter, but with guidelines. But the little kids might need some filtering. Porn is really ugly. I think the filtering is too stringent in our district because teachers do not have the override capabilities. However, the filter is outsourced to Secure computing.com and if we plan ahead with sites, we can request that they be recategorized and it happens quickly. But, the filter is IT driven, not instruction driven. The “illegal” V tunnel override is what many teachers and students do. We are actually thinking that maybe that is what we are supposed to do and it is a big secret! Working inside a bureaucracy is never ending frustration in many way, not just filters. (BINGO–prior planning is really a godsend to get material unblocked for me as well. I would never expect a site I requested unblocked on the same day-that would be wishful thinking for me.)

I agree that there is definitely a need to protect students from undesirable sites and if a teacher/LIS prepare his/her lesson in advance – they should be able to use sites that are not blocked due to content, etc.

I have no problem getting sites unblocked. I just tell the technician what I need, give them the URL and they unblock it.

In my school, the filter tends to limit the teachers, but the students are given the power because they use proxies.

If you have any other insight you’d like to add or share, please don’t hesitate.

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Just tell it like it is

June 24, 2008

Today is an optional staff development day in my husband’s school district. He is as busy as ever making sure 120 presenters have their needs met including making sure there are students for the session that calls for it. Yes–students. Marc Prensky is in the building, and I’ve just sat through 2 sessions–a keynote titled “Engage Me or Enrage Me: Educating Today’s Digital Learners” and then a panel discussion with students titled “Interview with the Digital Natives.”

Brutally Honest

The kids were fabulous! All I could think was once they had their nerve up, they were more than willing to tell it like it is! When asked about the amount of time students spent using technology in school, across the board students said very little. When asked to speak about a memorable project or assignment, the students visibly struggled. And when they were describing it, you could almost read “guilt” on their faces for not being able to share something really dynamic. Only one could share about a memorable project that allowed him creativity and to reallly think outside the box, and his was in a “technology” course–>he worked with a business to design a website that would allow them to showcase and advertise their product. Authentic–real world. The school has had an influx of interactive boards and technology, but across the panel the kids said their teachers did not seem to know how to use it effectively, and gave examples of it being an expensive screen for the projector or a super-sized worksheet. I loved it when a student described how the teacher would scan writing, and then the teacher and/or kids used their board to edit. I was embarrassed, as I have done exactly that activity myself before. My question is how is this any different from former complaints by teachers of the “one computer in the classroom?”

What’s Next?

I go back after lunch to hear Prensky again, and the title of that session is “Turning on the Lights: Why Schools Must Compete, and How to Do It.” My guess it is going to be about taking the learning global. I was fairly familiar already with his keynote, so hopefully he will give me something new to take away. I’m carrying my laptop to the next one, even though I won’t have connectivity. I will be able to take notes, and maybe post them here in my blog to share. Pictures to share later this afternoon! (I don’t have the cord for the camera with me.)

After Lunch take away–>Get on YouTube

Well I went after lunch to his session, and he was as relaxed as ever, and encouraging folks to just voice concerns and ask questions. It was interesting to hear the fear in their voices–a fear I do not have. One teacher brought up his comment form this morning that kids should be allowed to use calculators, and that long division and multiplication tables were time wasters in the class (my phrasing, not his.) I loved his example of how the clock became a standard piece of classroom teaching–how formerly we learned to tell the time by the sun. What did I leave with? Gaming, while very relevant to kids, has yet to be made into a concept ready for school. (Oh no, I don’t know if I’m ready for gaming to become “schooly.”) He says those in the field who are doing great things should post their great things to YouTube. He strongly suggests teachers while gathering resources for units of study check YouTube to see what is there. He says we as teachers can bring down the walls of our classrooms by using social networking tools geared towards educators. OK, so nothing really new here. But it pleased me that the educators there were very much in-tune with his message and recognize that he is like a fountain slaking their thirst to be better educators, and they want learning to be relevant to our 21st century learners.

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Lucky ME!

June 20, 2008

Next week right here in little ol’ South Carolina, I will be privy to two expert voices!! Welcome to true southern charm and manners Marc Prensky and Ewan McIntosh!

Welcome Marc!

Coming to Rock Hill (my official hometown) Marc Prensky is giving a keynote at a local conference for this school district. My husband is part of the planning committee, and yesterday he informed me that the coordinator of the conference (which I am not officially attending or participating in) said I was welcome to come hear Prensky. I guess this coordinator knows how excited I would be–meaning, I suppose, he recognizes that I’m a forward thinker too, and clamor after forward thinkers, either virtually through blogs, ustreams, and other networking or in person, like conferences. Whatever the reason, I am so excited to know I can attend for at least Prensky’s part of this conference. I won’t be able to ustream so don’t ask. The school district does not allow outside computers connectivity (wonder how they will deal with Prensky’s?) I’m still very excited. Will it look bad if I steal a front row seat for a conference that I am neither a paying or contributing member of? The uber-geek in me will be in full swing for sure. The ultra nerd in me also wants to talk to him AND get maybe I’ll even ask for an autograph. Confession–I’m an edtech groupie!

Welcome Ewan!

Ewan McIntosh will be keynoting the first day of the Greenville County School District’s Upstate Technology Conference. This one is absolutely FREE! I have a preso there at 8:00 am, and then at 9:15, Ewan does his keynote! I am so excited! Ewan was very instrumental last summer in making sure many virtual participants could participate in back-channels at NECC and the Building Learning Communities conferences. It made me realize there is a whole different way to enjoy conferences and get professional development, right from the conference I am at AND from my own living room if I am not present. I just emailed the UTC coordinators to inquire about Ustream possibilitis, and I will let you know what they say.

On a sad note, I will not get to enjoy David Jakes as keynote speaker for day 2 of the UTC. Isn’t it cool though that he will also be in SC? And he does indeed have a history in SC as part of the CSRA and the Department of Wildlife, though I’ve heard him talk about that time in his life, and though he is complimentary of his job, well, I’ll just say he doesn’t seem to like SC as a home (but of course that is my take after some “virtual” conversations.) Maybe next week when he is here, someone can get an official and 100% accurate opinion from him directly. Thursday I’ll be in Columbia, SC working with a group from across our entire state to hash out concerns relevant to school library media specialists. Perhaps more details to come later. Then Friday, we fly out to San Antonio for NECC.

Yes this is going to be a VERY exciting week coming up!

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Marc Prensky 1

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Where are the leaders?

June 19, 2008

Today I did a session at our annual principal’s conference on social networking. Since the vast majority of tools like MySpace, Facebook, and even professional networks like Classroom 2.0 are blocked, I took the stance that we as educators must educate ourselves and our parents, especially in light of how issues stemming directly from student online interaction seems to find its way into our classrooms, guidance offices, right up to the administrators desks. I’ve presented at the conference several years, but usually in the morning. I was taken aback by the “ghost-town” feeling I had for my 2PM afternoon session. I had roughly fifteen participants. One lady assured me that my topic was popular and relevant, but after lunch folks attending this conference seem to find to “other” things to do. Factor in that it is the next to last day, and well, the lure of the beach was calling too. But honestly, when I attend conferences, I go to 90% of the offerings, and many times you can find me near the front row if I can get to a session early enough. Does this make me an uber-geek? Even in my session today, only one participant sat near the front. This was a new experience for me.

Don’t Preach to the Choir

My attendees seemed generally complimentary, and even one of the conference directors greeted me warmly by name when I arrived. But today I was a wee bit disappointed. Our SC State Department of Education library liaison (Martha Alewine) encourages us to get out and speak at different conferences besides our own. She suggests if we are to gain respect in the field, we must stop “preaching to the choir” (presenting to ourselves at our own conference) and branch out and spread our message about information literacy, ICT, and standards-based collaboratively taught engaged learning by presenting at other conferences. What better way to market what you as the teacher librarian have to offer the school and its curriculum? We must help the teacher population see that we can address standards and impact student achievement.

Spread our Message, Support our Colleagues

I generally try to present at our state edtech conference (SCEdTech), the middle school conference (if I remember to do the proposal), and this one. There are not very many “techy” sessions at this conference, as my friend Dennis Richards has noted before, and from his post here, this goes all the way up to the national level. I really like SCASA’s SLI, as I strongly feel administrators are the ones who MOST misunderstand what should be happening in a library, particularly a 21st Century Library. They are also in a position to “from the top down” help us become more of a collaborating and contributing partner for student learning. In years past, I’ve had wonderful reception and positive feedback from my sessions. My session today was later than I’d ever had before, 2PM. I never expected such a low turnout. It was quite frankly a little disheartening.

I Solemnly Promise…

I promise to all future presenters who draw an afternoon or late presentation I will strive to attend if I’m at the conference. Been there, done that. I know what if feels like now to present to an empty room. I’d have liked to have been out on the beach today too. I especially thank the ones who came.

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The Power of Networks

June 18, 2008

I hate when presenters ask the Twitter Networks to simply say hello to their audiences.  I do like it when I’m asked to say hello and tell where I’m from, though, as this shows how far and wide reaching your network is. And I like it even better when folks ask for an opinion or idea along with this warm greeting, which is what  did today for a workshop I did today in Columbia, SC.  (I asked for folks to tell why networks are powerful.) I had recently been far removed from Twitter for assorted reasons, and so was a wee bit scared no one would comply.  Network, you absolutely amaze me.  And my participants were super impressed too.  It was funny to be able to read through the greetings and be able to tell the group an anecdotal comment about how each and every one has expanded my knowledge and expertise in some way. Thanks for coming thorugh for me today.

I read this quote today and thought about making a motivational poster to display in the library. It seems to go hand-in-hand with what we in the library world are all about. This one shows reading or researching print resources. I may make a matching one that shows a library patron using online/digital resources too. KEWL!

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Wordle Anyone?

June 16, 2008

Okay so Wordle has been the rage in the bloggosphere of late, and many are making tag clouds for their Delicious Accounts. I can’t because I hate to admit this, but my delicious account is a mess, one that I seriously need to take the time and clean up. Why? I have tags that only have meaning to me. My tags would not mean anything to anyone else. Like what? Well like dates for when I need something–it is a tag. See what I men? Meaningless to anyone but me.

So I was missing out on the Wordle fun! This morning I took time to check out Wordle, and wow the possibilities. I discovered that Wordle will make a cloud out of any writing. I made a cloud (above) of my June archive in my blog. My hot topics are school, blog, learning library, media, teachers, & students. I’m pleased to see I focus more on “learning,” but disappointed that the word “teacher” and “student” still seem to be prominent words in m vernacular. I had a goal not too long ago to try and replace those two words synonymously with “learner.” Well at least I can see the effort is there.

I can definitely see the possibilities of this in the classroom, particularly a classroom where writing is emphasized. It will help writers see what words are used in abundance (or overused). I can just imagine the word “like” hugely displayed in most middle-schooler’s writing. I can also imagine a lot of txt-talk there as well. I am looking forward to sharing this with the learners who lead in the classroom at my school.

Who wants in?

June 7, 2008

June 18, 2008 I am scheduled to give a half day a.m. workshop on Web 2.0 tools and I’ve been given some freedom and flexibility on what I do and how I do it.  I am planning to show a few short videos, get a Twitter hello w/ advice, and Skype in a few folks.  I have personally contacted a few already, but have decided to use my blog (and Twitter) to solicit more volunteers.  I just want some people to allow a skype (w/video or not–the choice is yours) to talk to my audience about how you personally use any 2.0 tools for professional development or projects with students.

I am not talking an hour commitment or anything like that, just a short, sweet “hello” and “here’s an idea or example I’d like to share.” Actually I’ll limit volunteers to no more than 10 or 20 minutes at the most.

Please contact me if you are willing. I am on the east coast, so eastern time rules. I’ll help with the time conversion if you need it. This would be so AWESOME, and what better way to talk about and/or showcase 2.0 tools than to utilize them in my session?

Did I mention my target audience is teacher-librarians–AKA school library media specialists?  These are your potential head collaborators at your schools, and I want to equip them with some knock-your-socks-off project based learning ideas they can take back to their schools.

Okay, if you can’t be available to help out, perhaps you can make a video or podcast hello with a tip, example, or advice?  I would be MOST appreciative! Use the comments here or the contact form on the blog to join me for this endeavor.

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I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been really busy, and I’m on the final checkout sheet that teachers must have initialed before they can leave, so I sit here ready to go, and just waiting for the ones who still need a signature by the library/technology statements. Earlier this week a school library student ( a current practicing teacher working on a grad degree in library science) contacted me asking if i would be her interview for a paper she was writing in one of her grad classes. The topic? Blogging and 2.0. We tried a couple of times to arrange a skype interview, but my crazy schedule kept getting in the way, so finally she asked if i would just respond in an email. After doing my best to complete it, I decided to post some of it here (removing specific school references that I did not feel at liberty to publicly post.)

I say it is an “End of School Year Reflection, Sortof” because it is more like a summary of my knowledge at finger-depth’s level in the world of blogging and 2.0. While I seek to be a role model and exhibit best-practice, this makes me realize I have such a long way to go and grow. But that’s the nature of 2.0–ever evolving and changing daily, isn’t it?

So this may be long and tedious to read, but I will post anyway. So much for my promise to post shorter entries from back in January.

The Interview: Questions and My Answers

Question 1: How do use your school media center blog? What are its purposes?

I have used my school media center blog as a forum for discussions. I thought (or intended) to use it for book discussions) but never did really push it in that direction. I may even scrap the whole school blog next year, and go with a wiki for different projects or discussions so I can invite students to add. Right now the school media center blog has too much “ownership” by me and not the students.

Question 2: Describe the responses to your blog by Administration? Teachers? Students? Parents? Other community members?

Ho Hum. When I push it, kids will use it to respond to discussions. But if I don’t remind or point blank ask students to use it, it basically goes unnoticed. One of my teachers reads and comments on my blog. I have made him a 2.0 convert and junkie. It seems to have made him more interested in lesson plans and collaborating or brainstorming for ideas, and his students seem to get very excited about his class.

Question 3: What inspired you to first create your both your school blog and professional blog?

My inspiration began several years ago (maybe 2004) when Alan November was a keynote speaker at 2 different conferences that I attended (and both were basically state level conference.) But he awakened a part of me that no other educator on a speaker circuit had ever done before. He introduced me to Skype then too, which I used for a while, but gave up. It was too new then. I got back into skype in 2006 and actually intro’d it to my Mom. Now my Mom says, “Do not call me, Skype me.” Lately though I’ve had very little time to use it. But the point here is that Alan November introduced me to global learning and global tools. I began to seek out other educators who blogged, as it was becoming a buzz word in the educational technology world. In 2005, I decided to attend NECC in Philly. I literally had my eyes opened. Now my district then was way into the Schlecty material (engaged learning, Working on the Work.) The educational technology mantra then seemed to morph into relevant and meaningful learning with 21st century tools embedded–NOT teaching and then trying to find a way to integrate technology. So suddenly I was gaining a richer understanding of meaningful work for students. Here (NECC) is where I learned names of some of the top movers and shakers in educ’l tech and library, like Alan November, David Warlick, Will Richardson, David Jakes, Gary Stager, Kathy Schrock, Joyce Valenza, & Doug Johnson.) At least those were my “first” bloggers that I followed. I wasn’t brave enough then to write one, but i devoured these bloggers’ written word. Since then I’ve attended many conferences, specifically NECC annually, and these conferences help me network with other forward minded educators that inspire me to explore and do more.

Question 4: What advice would you give to others, whether classroom teachers or media specialists, who want to start blogging?

I would say find a group of bloggers who resonate within, and read them. Once you have begun reading more than a handful, learn to use a reader (like google reader or Bloglines) for management (as these free programs will tell you when there is new content, and you won’t waste time visiting blogs that do not have anything new.) Learn about the bloggers you read. Learn who they read. Once you have done that, decide if you want to be a blogger. One doesn’t have to jump in to be a part of it. Being a reader/commenter can be just as rewarding. If one decides to develop a blog, seriously reflect on who the intended audience is as well as the purpose for the blog. Research the blogging platforms well. Ask what other bloggers use and why. (I currently use Edublogs, primarily b/c it is not blocked as much as other blogging platforms. I also find the interface easy to use. Many beginners use Google’s Blogger, but I seriously detest it. I find it somewhat unprofessional in the look and feel, though they have made some improvements and changes.) If one creates it, don’t get discouraged if there are no comments for a while. That will come. To cultivate a readership is a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. Simple things like adding your blog to a signature file can help. The best way to draw readers is to comment on other blogs, and leave the URL for your blog in the place calling for a URL. Often times bloggers will visit the links that commenters leave, including your own blog. If your comment resonates with them, they may add you to their reader. Also other visitors to that blog may read your comment and decide they want to “follow” you as well. Eventually you will have cultivated a readership. So don’t get discouraged or feel like you are writing to yourself. Reflective writing is very rewarding in itself.

Question 5: Have you encountered any issues concerning privacy, access, etc. that you would consider noteworthy? If so, please describe them. What are your thoughts on blogging and copyright issues?

I have not faced any issues of privacy or access. But being in a public school that uses filtering, it is constantly on my radar. I try to cite all photos used in my blog, and I also strive to use pictures that have a creative commons license. As an LMS, I feel I should model citing when I use material (especially pictures) that are not mine.

Question 6: I also saw that you have a professional blog called TechnoTuesday that offers lots of useful information and technology tips for both classroom teachers and media specialists. Can you tell us a little about that blog and how it differs from your school media blog?

This is my primary blog, the one I spend more time on. It allows me connections to other educators, both teachers and LMS’s. Networking through the tools gives me a wider perspective on issues. I like to consider this a vital part of my professional learning network (PLN).

Question 7: Have you involved any students/teachers in blogging? If so, how, and what were some of the results?

Being in the library has not really afforded me an opportunity to do that. It may be that I just have not pushed it either. But I have tried to get other educators on board, and I can say I have successfully gotten other LMS’s to do some, and I have 2 teachers here who have created blogs. Only one uses it regularly, and he loves it. He uses it for parent information as well as student info. He is at http://mrgranito.edublogs.org. I am very proud of his accomplishment as a new blogger, and yes, we collaborated a good bit on his creation, and even got a few kids to do it. They are in his class, and they have their blog in his blogroll.

I was asked back in March to do the “teacher” career for career day here at school. I wanted the kids to hear a fresh voice instead of me, so I arranged for several educators from all around to speak using Skype to my 3 groups. I had a 5th grade teacher, Lisa Parisi, from Long Island, New York. I had a 6th grade teacher, Chrissy Hellyer, from New Zealand. I had commitments from Dean Shareski and Alec Couros, both educators from Canada, one a k12 level educational technologist, and the other a college level professor. I had Doug Johnson, media coordinator from Mankato, MN. All were to skype in at certain times. Too bad after my first two, we lost our school’s internet connection. It was very memorable though.

Question 8: I noted from your professional blog that you have been involved in several professional development activities with blogging and using other
Web 2.0 applications. Can you tell us a little about those? Were you facilitating the workshops? What are some highlights you would mention to
listeners?

For the last few years I have been presenting at local and state conferences, and recently I have begun to present on the 2.0 topics. I have done several presentations on the value of reading blogs and using a reader at the library conference, a couple of teacher conferences, our state technology conference, and our annual administrator’s conference (3 yrs in a row for them.) I have also begun visiting schools and districts to do workshops (half-day) on podcasting or just global 2.0 in the schools. I wrote in my blog a good while back about a parent workshop i did at school. This garnered me an invitation to come to Charleston, SC to do this same preso at school for their parents. I said I would come if they would modify it some, and include a panel of experts that included an admin, teacher, guidance, social worker, SRO, lawyer, college entrance officer, and students. Yes Students. I suggested they allow me to do my spill, and then turn it over to a panel discussion that included me and the others they could get, and it was beyond belief how well it went, AND how wonderful the discussion was. OH, and they paid me. How awesome is that? This one is the one that stands out the most, but I do love spreading the message to parents, students, and teachers. It seems the toughest sell is teachers. Go figure. The administrators who have heard me have been highly complimentary, and they are the reason I get invited to do workshops around the state. I say I am cultivating my next job in 6 years when I can retire–>Consultant. But who knows, in six years I may not be as up on the tools. I can’t back up a lot of what I’ve learned with real world classroom experience–yet. And my interest and focus could change too. So who knows?

9. Are you aware of other media specialists in your district who blog? If so, what is the level of collaboration among them in developing this tool?

No other school level LMS’s in this district blog, but I do have a folder in my reader of SC LMS’s that blog. I am sad to report its very small in number but the ones who are blogging, either through their library or personally are very progressive. Our district media coordinator has set up two blogs for summer reading, but it is in its earliest stages–very knew to many in the district. (The rest of my answer here has been cut for personal reasons.)

10. What do you consider the biggest advantages to blogging in the school media center?

I’m not sure I see any advantages yet for students. They see blogging as “schooly” if I can use that word. But I think educators who use it in the classroom have caused that, which is another reason I have not totally pushed the media center blog. I don’t want it it be like school-work. But it does allow students to read and see that they have different perspectives, and it does give them a forum to express their opinions.

11. Can you provide any insight as to the future of blogging in school libraries and classrooms and what the implications are for students and
their achievement?

Blogging per se I fear will be molded into something schooly, and lose steam. Like most new things, schools adopt them and then “beat them to fit, paint them to match.” It will lose its authenticity then. I don’t want to say blogging will not work, but I do want to say that the use of them will have to be authentic and engaging for student learning, and not just something else students and/or teachers have to do. I can only think of a few examples where educators use it as a vehicle for learning, and they have a “walled-garden” type set up, either with private blogs, moodles, nings, or class blogmeister. I don’t necessarily agree with the walled-garden concept. If educators can create social network atmosphere similar to face book or myspace, they will probably have more success. Students want to see the tools they use out of school in school. Having a blog will not necessarily meet that need, especially if it is not provided with exciting, interesting school lessons. I hope that makes sense.

12. What are you thoughts on/experiences with using some of the other Web 2.0 applications (podcasting, social networking, etc…) either separately or in conjunction with blogging?

I love the tools and use them myself quite frequently for my own learning. I have used Twitter for quick help or a place to vent. I am on some of the nings (Classroom 2.0, TeacherLibrarian, etc.) as well. These allow me to network with other educators who use 21st century tools. I can get many ideas for real classroom application as well. Ustream is really beginning to play a big roll in my use of 2.0 tools as well, and I’ve heard that much of NECC and November’s BLC Conference will be Ustreamed so virtual attendees can participate. I follow many podcasts, and have gotten teachers to explore podcasting as a vehicle for demonstrating concept mastery. We are also playing a lot with video editing, though we are not publicizing it through the 2.0 tools yet.

I still feel very much like a beginner at a lot of this stuff, and don’t really use it as much as others. This summer at NECC in San Antonio I will be sitting on a panel discussion with Joyce Valenza and others to discuss using 2.0 in school library. I can only hope I have the expertise they have.

Image Attribution:
Steffon. “Skype Phone” re-ality’s Photostream. 8 September 2005. 7 June 2008. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/re-ality/41676755/>.