Web 2.0 integration and New Issues with AUP

Last week, like many of my peeps (my affectionate term for those in my personal learning network), I had the opportunity to provide a workshop or two on web 2.0 tools. I provided a brief presentation on podcasts and on wikis in the classroom. My deepest thanks to those who gave me some awesome resources to highlight during my presentations!

I was very encouraged by the responses of the teachers for whom most of this was quite new. We have the infrastructure and tools in our school to make using podcasts and wikis very easy, so it is my hope they will try to take some small steps at trying them out.

Later in the week, two teachers unexpectedly approached me about using moodle in the classroom. I was thrilled!

The BIG issue our administration is currently facing is how to adapt our current Acceptable Use Policy to reflect the changes that have taken place on the Internet. Just as TIME magazine so clearly showed us a few weeks ago, ANYONE can now upload content onto the web. And with social tagging, it is now even easier to have a truly global audience to whatever is posted.

How do educators and administrators go about setting a policy regarding such services as YouTube, Google Video, Podomatic, and Flickr?

Fortunately, I have heard that the administration at my school does not want to just simply block these services on the campus, but would like our teachers to be able to use them for educational purposes (as I intend to do this term).

Vicki Davis and I had a skype chat about this recently. I had approached her to ask how they had handled this issue for the Flat Classroom Project.

Together we have started a wiki to discuss these issues. If you are an educator, please help us out! We would like to know what your school is doing about its Acceptable Use Policy and if you have any suggestions for us.

I intend to return to my own students and see what they have to think about it. In a conversation I had with Terry Freedman and Drew Buddie the other night, Drew described how he had taken the issue to the students and they drew up a wiki with their suggestions.

What a great way for students to take ownership of the policy!

Do you have any thoughts on this issue?

A Real Teen talks about Blogging and Social Spaces

There seems to be quite a debate raging in the edublogosphere about classroom blogging – what it is, how to do it, and whether it can be done authentically in an educational environment or whether it is even worth pursuing as an academic goal.

I have been following this debate and scratching my head about how to best go about using the blogging spaces to which I have access with my students. As I thrash through this problem – as one who has blogged and communicated in social spaces for a few years now – I am convinced that class blogging, for my students at any rate, has improved their writing skills. Should there be more as a goal? I am not certain. I know that I do want to explore showing my students the benefits of tagging and hyperlinking as they write.

Here are some of the very interesting blog posts that I do recommend reading if you are also interested in this engaging topic:

Blogging to order and control consciousness (Wes Fryer)

Teaching Teaching Teachers (group blog – Paul Allison, Susan Ettenheim)

Asking Questions (Miguel Guhlin)

Educational Blogging with Will Richardson (Steve Hargadon)

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my youngest daughter and the topic of myspace and blogging came up in the course of our conversation. I was intrigued with her use of social spaces, so I asked if she would permit me to audio capture our conversation for a podcast. She agreed.

She and the teens she knows do NOT read blogs and rarely post. They are using myspace, iLike, Facebook, and other social spaces (Fictionpress) for other communication purposes.

When asked about class blogging, Meg responded that it would be something that she would probably enjoy – as long as it was in a safe “walled garden” environment.

Please listen as Meg, a “real” teenager, tells us how teenagers are using these online social spaces.

This is also my first attempt to link a podcast to my blog. Let’s see how it all works out!

Podcast of interview

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Book Review: A Whole New Mind by D. Pink

This is the first draft to a short book review of A Whole New Mind that will also appear in the upcoming publication – Coming of Age: An Introduction to the New World Wide Web. My editors have not had a go at it yet, so it may still change for CoA. 😉

It will accompany the review of Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat.

I have added some more personal bits to the review below.

The Review

Friedman has not been the only one to mention this book [A Whole New Mind] lately; perhaps, because of his attention to A Whole New Mind, I have noticed that recently others have mentioned Pink’s book on their blogs, on their podcasts, and at conferences. Indeed, I have heard that at least one conference made this book required reading before attendance. Once again, I found myself picking up a copy to see what all the fuss was about.

I would classify A Whole New Mind as a self-help book. Most of the time, these are not my favourite genre of books, but overall, it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. Pink’s intent was not to provide commentary on or insight to global trends, politics and relations, such as Friedman had done in his book. And the book is so much more than classifying distinctions between left and right brain behaviour, although he does provide some fascinating background information about neuroscience. Mostly, the book is designed to challenge the reader to engage in what Pink calls right-brain thinking to provide balance to what he states has been a left-brain dominated focus in education and culture during the last century.

From Information Age to Conceptual Age

In the first part of the book, Pink makes the argument for a shift to the Conceptual Age from the Information Age. During the Information Age, the focus was on creating knowledge workers for a knowledge-based economy. However, just as Friedman points out in his book, Pink warns that those kind of workers and that kind of work can be had cheaply now overseas, citing China and India in particular. As Western society evolves from industrial, to knowledge, and now to conceptual age, we need to be using more “R(ight)-Directed Thinking” in order to possess a whole new mind.

The New “Six Senses”

Pink selects “six senses” to develop as we round out our L-directed brains – design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. After each chapter highlighting one of these six senses, he provides a “portfolio” section filled with ideas, titles of books, and websites that contain exercises that will help stretch our senses of R-directed thinking. In the weeks that I have handled the book, I have found myself taking up some of his recommendations. I think my office workspace would certainly benefit from some design changes – I have called it “the gulag” for far too long now!

Story-telling and Empathy

As a teacher of English language and literature, the sense most special to me was “story”. Story-telling has transcended culture and time; it is encouraging to hear his perception that story-tellers and story-telling have an important value in this new culture. Pink practices what he preaches about its value by including many stories to illustrate his points throughout the book. The quality of empathy was also identified by Friedman as an important one to develop, and both authors, unfortunately, spent far too little time expanding on this idea in their books. How to promote and encourage empathy in our children and students is sometimes a difficult and complex task in our western culture. Empathy also is related very closely to skills in collaboration, which we also need to be promoting in our students.

Meaning and Spirituality

The final chapter about meaning probes the value of spirituality. Pink claims that this is the most important sense of the six, and he does include a number of interesting research studies that explore the importance of a faith-based lifestyle. Many readers will be delighted to discover that spirituality is beginning to be acknowledged as an important facet even within a secular-based workforce. In fact, that chapter of the book has challenged me to try not to compartmentalize matters of faith so much.

Overall, A Whole New Mind is an easy and engaging read. It reminded me to broaden my interests beyond the textual, to become more mindful of the visual and aural, and to appreciate the nuances of design. As a techie-minded teacher, I felt it was important to stretch my mind – and I have been happy that I have. I think I have appreciated life a bit more….

I was impressed enough with the book to give out several copies as gifts over the recent holiday season.

The Surprising Power of Wikis and Podcasts

Last year, the moodle was my fave online technology tool/environment. I hosted a moodle on my own server and enjoyed exploring some of the nifty modules that made the environment so flexible. It was a little slow, at times, but it provided a great environment for our students involved in international projects to communicate and collaborate. I am using a moodle again this year, but I haven’t given it as much thought or attention as this time last year.

Two other tools, this year, have surprised me this year with their power and potential.

I had tried using wikis last year, and clearly was just fumbling around without seeing how it could be used effectively. We had also been using it within the moodle, so there were limitations to its usefulness.

This year, I had a few good models of how to use wikis. Vicki Davis is a master of educational uses for wikis and I was fortunate enough to catch on to her school’s wiki very early in the school year.

First, I had my students explore Vicki’s students’ wiki work. This provided them with good modelling of how to communicate information on a wiki.

The novel we were studying in gr. 9 English was A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry – a novel set in Edmonton, Alberta in 1971 by Canadian novelist Ian McGillis. Within the novel, there are many cultural and historical references that could have been difficult for a 14 year old student to understand. The students were asked to use a wiki to create encyclopedia-type references for one chapter of the novel.

The resulting Glengarrypedia exceeded my own expectations of my students. The author himself was impressed with what the students had accomplished!

I am very proud of my students!

Next term (next week!), we begin two international collaborative literature projects using the moodle and the wiki with a class in Israel and a class in Russia. The students have been communicating for the past two months or so in the moodle forums. During our next stage we begin handling short stories and poetry that have our home cities as a central theme.

For an example of another very excellent cross-cultural wiki project, check out the Flat Classroom Project between Vicki Davis’s students at Westwood High School in Camilla Georgia, and Julie Lindsay’s students at International School Dhaka in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Very, very impressive stuff! I can’t wait to see who wins the awards!

And it was actually Julie Lindsay who inspired me to explore that next tool. I attended her presentation at NECC 2006 and “reported” it to eschool news.

Now on to the second unexpected tool – the podcast. Actually, I want to broaden that a bit more and say audio recordings in general. Yes, I have certainly downloaded and listened to a number of very good podcasts. But I wanted to put the power of creating content into the hands of my own students. So I bought a few recorders (Olympus model – at Julie’s recommendation), and had my students do a few projects with them. Because we have many laptops in our school, as well as some spiffy computer labs, editing is not that difficult.

One thing I discovered was that my younger students appreciated my audio recordings of dramatic readings of the literature we were studying. I would read the novel out loud to the recorder in front of the class, then upload the file to FirstClass so the students could listen again at home. Cool application!

I have been fascinated with how engaged the students have been with using the audio recorders and editing software. They like this stuff and they like listening to themselves afterwards!

I have a long way to go polishing my podcasting skills, but it is one of my new year’s resolutions and ongoing self-training projects.

Next week, the day before our students return to classes, I will be making brief presentations on what I know about wikis and podcasting to some of my colleagues. Let’s see if I can pass on some of the vision!

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At Last! A Big Blogger Award!

Well, sort of….

Big Blogger text box

Terry Freedman, in the wake of all the “hullaballoo” surrounding the recent announcement of the top 100 blogs in education, has helped all of us non-placers by creating a little excel programme which will generate results such as the screencapture shown above.

Clever guy, isn’t he?

Just download his excel programme, and voilà! You, too, can be a winner! In fact, you can prove it to all your friends by ordering the mug!

Thanks, Terry. I feel so …. special!

Big Blogger Award

Update on Blog Tag

A week ago, I discovered that I had been tagged and shared five items my readers may have not known about me.

Tagging five more bloggers was even more fun! And now, all but one of them has responded.

Jen Wagner, one of my partners in Women of Web 2.0, was the first to realize she had been tagged . She was also popular – at least one other blogger tagged her.

I had to nudge Chris Betcher – who, like me, was just figgering out this social tagging thing. He has had a very interesting life!

Terry Freedman called me a cruel, unkind woman (sticks and stones) for leaving a comment on Dave Warlick’s blog about waiting to see how long before he would notice. Terry was a popular guy – three people tagged him! Maybe he was pretending not to notice to see how many people would tag him…. nah, not Terry.

Cheryl Oakes, another one of my partners in Women of Web 2.0, was the last to find out, but she had a good reason – she was up on the mountain skiiing for ten days – lucky her!

My fourteen year old daughter, Meg, was the fifth person I tagged. She is a myspace blogger. She said she felt uncomfortable sharing things personally about herself and couldn’t think of anything.

So I thought I would share five interesting things about Meg, my middle child.

#1 Meg is short for Margaret.

Not Megan. The name Margaret is a family name – two grandmothers, one on each side.

#2 Meg wrote her first book when she is was in grade five.

She loves to write fiction. Unfortunately, she lost the many pages she wrote, and proceeded to write a second book. Meg is also an avid reader. Makes her English teacher-mom proud!

#3 Meg once had waist-length blonde hair.

When she was 12 years old, Meg had her hair cut very short so that she could give her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that takes hair donations to make wigs for children who are cancer victims. She did all the research, all the footwork and even packaged up her hair all by herself.

#4 Meg has been posting her own poetry online for over a year now.

She has always been my most computer-savvy and Internet-savvy child. Meg had been posting her writing on Fictionpress for months before she told me. She represents the thousands of young teens who have discovered online social spaces. To her credit, she is very careful with what information she shares about herself online.

#5 Meg has maade the choice to become a vegan.

Meg cooks most of her own meals. She has made responsible choices so far with her diet. In fact, I would say she has made better nutritional choices since she has made the choice for a vegan lifestyle.

So there you are – some interesting facts about my daughter Meg. As you can see, I am very proud of her.

She will have to choose her next five victims all by herself!

How Web 2.0 has brought my family closer together

Because we have been thrown together for hours at a time – most unusual in our family situation with THREE teens – this holiday season was a fascinating study in how web 2.0 technology is changing how families relate to each other.

For example, we have watched very little television – or even DVDs – in our family room together over the last two weeks. Astonishing!

Instead, we have been showing each other REALLY fun stuff on youtube or google video. We have played Internet games together. My daughters have been sharing music from bands on myspace with me. Some of it is surprisingly good!

Entire episodes of our fave television shows can now be found on the Internet. Current box office movies can also be easily found on the Internet.

Here are some of my faves from youtube:

Okay Go

Barat’s and Berata – Mother’s Day (I just about died laughing!)

Just Wonderful

Budweiser – The Ferret Posed Nude

Baby Got Book

How can one go back to television after watching such really fun “amateur” films?

I think youtube has amazing potential for educational applications! We teachers have to give a videocamera to our students and see what they come up with!

What are YOUR favourite youtube movies? Please share!

Flat Classrooms Podcast

Last week, I had the GREAT privilege of being interviewed over skype by Chris Betcher about Flat Classrooms – international collaborative projects. Chris is an Australian teacher who has been on exchange here in Canada for the last year. Even more flattering was the opportunity to be interviewed alongside Janet Barnstable, who is a great lady and such an inspiration as an Internet collaborative project pioneer. Janet and I are working together this year on the same team for the Global Virtual Classroom Web Design Contest. I have learned so much from her already!

Chris interviewed us by using Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat as a lens through which we now see the world. The global flatteners include such leveraging technologies as the Internet, online telephony services, web-based management software (i.e. Google docs and wikis) and so on. These have greatly facilitated communication and collaboration between groups at a distance. What a terrific opportunity we now have to provide our students with training in cross-cultural communication, collaboration skills, good netiquette practices – all while we can be also addressing our curricular goals. During our interview, we offer up some good tips and strategies for making use of these tools to participate in projects, big and small, that involve students from different places around the globe.

Please do check out the podcast which is posted over at The Virtual Staff Room – Chris does an awesome job of editing and presentation. I asked him later which software he uses and, besides audacity, he uses something called the levelator (little app that will bring all the audio levels to the same level) that I want to pass on as a recommendation.