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A Whole New World of Possibility

August 16, 2009

“We all feel, at times, like the world of Web 2.0 is leaving us behind,” (Branch 2009) which is why I was excited to take this course, so that I am not one of those who are “left behind” by web2.0. Despite being eager to become more technologically literate, I was initially a little anxious about the fact that my colleagues left for the summer and that I would be on my own, with no one to turn to for support. However, I was pleasantly surprised that throughout this course, not once did I feel as though I was left stranded. With the support of our EDES501 learning community, I have conquered my fear of technology, I have acquired new skills in using web2.0 tools, and I feel more informed on the issues surrounding the use of web2.0 tools in an elementary library and classroom.

MY JOURNEY

Before beginning my guided inquiry into the world of web2.0 tools, I decided to closely follow Khulthau’s (2007) Information Search Process model, as I knew that the emotional factor of this journey would greatly impact whether I felt successful or not. My initial anxiety and uncertainty about what was to come turned out to be quite normal at the initiation stage of the inquiry process (Khulthau, 2007). While it was definitely comforting to see rubrics for how we would be assessed as well as a list of the tools we would investigate, the work load did seem somewhat overwhelming. During the selection stage, it did not take me long to narrow my five inquiry questions down to two:

 

  1. How can each tool be used to teach students appropriate online behavior as a proactive approach to dealing with cyberbullying?
  2. How can each tool be used to enable differentiation in the classroom and library?

These two questions became slightly more specific to my teaching context, as I located and processed many relevant articles, videos, and podcasts. I chose to reflect on my role as the teacher-librarian in creating a bully-free online environmnet, as cyberbullying is an issue I have been dealing with the past 3 years at my school. Differentiation became another focus as this is one of our school wide goals. When considering how I might share my new knowledge and skills with my fellow teachers, I felt that having investigated ways that web2.0 enables differentiation would be a great motivator for teacher participation in their own web2.0 journeys.

Other questions I addressed in each of my posts were

Would teachers in my school see the value of learning and using this tool?

What issues need to be considered when considering the implementation of this tool?

What are some practical applications of this tool?

What obstacles and successes did I face when learning this new tool?

What are the implications of this tool for professional development?

In the exploration stage of each tool, I certainly felt the confusion, frustration, and doubt that Khulthau (2007, p.19) identifies in this stage. There were several occasions where I was nearly in tears, either because I was having technical difficulties (broken computer, losing internet connection, Korea blocked from uploading to YouTube, etc) or because I simply could not figure out how to use a particular tool.

In the formulation stage, I didn’t find it all that difficult to discuss the questions above, but there was definitely more research for some web2.0 tools than there was for others. Making connections between what I was reading and my own context offered a lot of clarification, as I became more able to articulate the real potential of these tools.

During the collection stage, I did, in fact, feel as though I remained focused. I have developed my information searching skills in this course, using tools like del.icio.us, Google Reader, Teacher Tube, the University of Alberta database collection, Ning, and Twitter. With these tools, I was able to search for information far more efficiently than I ever have in the past. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I now have a lovely collection of articles and research that I plan to use when facilitating professional development workshops this upcoming school year.

The presentation stage, which I experienced when demonstrating knowledge for each web tool, was really what kept me motivated to persevere, even when I was frustrated. Creating my first podcast, uploading a video to TeacherTube, developing my blog, and using VoiceThread left me giddy.  Discovering del.icio.us, Ning, and Google Reader left me eager to share with my colleagues. It really was, as I have mentioned before, an emotional roller coaster. During this stage, our instructor’s feedback was invaluable in helping me to strive to improve in my next post.

And finally, the assessment stage is where I am at now. While I do look back on my posts and criticize my work, I also feel that I have made tremendous strides when I think back to where I have come from. I am, at times, tempted to go back to my posts to edit, but as was discussed with my discussing group, the genre of blog writing permits errors and incomplete thoughts. As I journeyed through experimenting with new tools and researching relevant resources on the issues surrounding these tools, I learned first hand how our students must feel to be overwhelmed by the massive amounts of information available to them. My saving grace was my blog, from which I could link to my social networking sites, RSS feeds, videosharing, photosharing, and multimedia accounts. It was on my blog that I was also able to process my experiences, struggles, and research findings, and make connections. My blog was essentially, my “information space” (Loertscher, 2007).

My experience affirmed my belief that students MUST be taught how to create their own information space. The careful instruction of how to manage yourself and manage information within an online space is one way to address, prevent, and deal with issues such as cyberbullying. Creating an information space also enables differentiation. “In the world of differentiation-varying abilities, differing learning styles, and individual skill levels [novice to expert)–kids can construct basic spaces to manage their work and then construct more complex systems as they develop the management skills to handle those spaces and themselves” (Loertscher, 2007). Issues such as privacy, ownership, credibility, and appropriate online behavior can all be addressed by scaffolding students through the process of creating their own information space. One question remains; at what age do you begin this process?

LEADERSHIP

One of the most valuable lessons I will walk away from this class with is that web2.0 tools can be a highly effective way of facilitating professional development. In Gibson and Oberg’s research paper (2004), they found that in Canada, the internet is used to support student learning and to support instruction. The only mention of the internet being used to support teacher learning is the finding that only 21.8% of teachers surveyed use the internet to locate professional development resources. Granted this article was published 5 years ago, but I think that the web and web2.0 tools like social bookmarking, social networking, and RSS aggregators remain untapped professional resources for teachers. “Effective professional development goes beyond introductory level, skill-focused workshops; it needs to be differentiated for individuals, ongoing throughout the implementation period, supported by in-school networks, and focused on instructional issues (Ross, Hogaboam-Gray and Hannay, 2001)” (Gibson and Oberg, 2004).

I had an “aha” moment when one of my classmates, Patty Simpson, discussed having students help with teaching teachers how to use web2.0 tools. After reading Lagesten’s (2007) article on having students take leadership roles in the library, I expect that selecting a pair of students from each class and assigning them to return to their classroom teacher to teach the skills they learned with whatever technology they used, would be an effective way to engage teachers in developing their technological and information literacy skills. It would also be worthwhile to have students provide guidance in using web2.0 tools during professional development workshops, as students will become motivated to challenge themselves further and teachers will receive individualized attention.

Regardless of when students begin to learn about managing their behavior online, continuous improvements and reflections must be made on the students’ blogs. The same holds true for teachers. Many teachers resistant to a change toward integrating web2.0 tools might argue that web2.0 tools disrupt the amount of time spent on actual academia, distract student attention during lectures, and are disturbing when there are issues with predators, privacy, and identity theft (Cohen, 2008). Many teachers will also resist using new web2.0tools because they have not been a part of the decision making process on which tools best suit their needs (Gibson and Oberg, 2004). They key for me to advocate the use of these tools is threefold. First, listening to teachers about their needs, their students’ needs, and what they feel they can accomplish means that teachers are involved in the decision making process. Second, is to help teachers find which web2.0 tool works for them. Third, is to be prepared with a counter argument and solutions to these issues of privacy, intellectual property rights, safety.  Why is it so important that I take on this challenge? One of several reasons is that principals view instructional leadership as the most important role of the teacher-librarian in schools (Branch, 2009).

PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH

While I am uncertain about how much time I will devote to writing blog posts in the future, I am certain I will continue to follow and comment on the blogs of others. By making Google Reader a routine part of my day, I expect that I will be motivated to respond to and ponder issues in education that I read about. My RSS aggregator will also be a medium through which I will learn about new tools making an appearance on the web and in education.

I plan to use social bookmarking, wikis, Nings, multi-media sharing, and podcasting to teach information literacy skills to students in our school.  I will only be successful in implementing these if I first introduce these tools to teachers and discuss with them whether or not the tools I mentioned will meet their needs and those of their students. This first introduction will occur at the end of August in a PD workshop. I also plan to email blog posts, podcasts and vodcasts to teachers on a weekly basis in order to keep teachers updated with what skill and knowledge are necessary to develop as information literate citizens. The aim would then be for teachers to take it upon themselves to subscribe to news feeds, whether for PD or for leisure.

By modeling life long learning and sharing the information seeking/processing/sharing tools available on the web, I hope that my enthusiasm for learning is contagious.

References

Branch, J. (2009, June). Practising What We Preach: Information Literacy For Teacher-Librarians in the 21st Century. Feliciter, 55(3), 98-100. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Branch, J., & Oberg, D. (2001, December). The Teacher-Librarian in the 21st Century. School Libraries in Canada, 21(2), 9. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Cohen, S. (2008, September). Taking 2.0 to the faculty. College & Research Libraries News, 69(8), 472-475. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Everhart, N. (2007, March). LEADERSHIP: School Library Media Specialists As Effective School Leaders. Knowledge Quest, 35(4), 54-57. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database

Gibson, S., & Oberg, D. (2004, September). Visions and realities of Internet use in schools: Canadian perspectives. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(5), 569-585. Retrieved August 15, 2009, doi:10.1111/j.0007-1013.2004.00414.x

Khulthau, C.; Maniotes, L.; Caspari, A. (2007). Guided Inquiry Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited, Connecticut. 17-20.

Lagesten, C. (2007, June). students as library leaders: student team builds leadership skills while helping to battle budget cuts. Teacher Librarian, 34(5), 45-47. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Loertscher, D. (2007, December). children, teens, and the construction of information spaces. Teacher Librarian, 35(2), 14-17. Retrieved August 15, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

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One comment

  1. Great post! I encourage you to continue to learn and teach. You’re making the world a better place!



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