Saturday, December 4, 2010


"Web 2.0 Icons" via Flickr by zipckr

It seems that every time I feel competent about a Web 2.0 tool, another one pops up.  Until this course, I felt like I have been trying to "get-there" in my learning. I  wanted to get to a place where I understand most of the tools available, but this course taught me that learning about Web 2.0 is so much bigger than that. It is about living differently because of what the combination of these tools provides.  It is about literacy and learning changing because of the tools. Throughout the course, I not only found myself learning about specific tools, but I found myself thinking and living differently, knowing what was possible. My own learning changed as I learned from others who shared their learning through our eClass site, Twitter and blogs.  My habits changed as I began to take more photos once I understood Flickr and other photo sharing sites more deeply. I became more focused in my reading as I organized my Google Reader and Delicious accounts and started "following" other people's aggregators.  Although each tool was incredible in its own way, it is the collective use of the tools that had the most impact on me.  As my learning evolved, I could see how the blending of these tools, rather than any particular tool, was the key.

My Own Personal Learning Journey
I am amazed every time I look at the calendar and realize how much I have learned in such a short time. When I began this Web 2.0 course in September, I felt like I had a good handle on the ways Web 2.0 tools could impact our own learning as well as the learning of our students. However, my learning before the course had been self-directed and sporadic.  I knew a little bit about a lot of things and I used some things well and had minimal experience with others.  But the design of the course and the online conversations pushed me in a direction that changed the way I think about these tools.

The weekly "focus tools" were an incredible way for me to learn about Web 2.0 tools.  By focusing on one type of tool each week, I found myself thinking differently during the week because of the tool, I was using.  For example, when we learned about photo sharing sites, I found myself living my life as a photographer with more opportunities for taking and using photographs popping up everywhere.  Being immersed in one tool helped me to use that one tool consistently and in a variety of ways over a short period of time.  A full week gave me the opportunity to really build the habit of use into my daily life-to live my life as "user" of the tool. And because I was teaching K-5 students during the course, I found myself constantly reflecting during the school day, on the possibility of the tool of the week.

One of the biggest things I realized was the difference in my learning, comfort level, and frustration  based on the prior experience I had with the tool.  For tools like Flickr, podcasts, and wikis, I was comfortable moving forward because I already had a base of knowledge about the way these tools were used as well as a bit of experience with using them. I was able to jump in and explore in a non-frustrating way.  But, for the tools that I had very little experience with, such as Google Earth and video sharing, my frustration level was much higher and it took me much longer to see the value of these tools. This learning has been huge as it relates to my expectations of collaboration.  I can no longer expect others to jump in and learn something that they don't see value in. I truly understand the stress of learning something quickly and the time that it takes to feel competent with a new tool.  Until this course, I had learned at my own pace, when I saw the need, and because I wanted to.  Seeing the stress of learning a new tool in a week gave me new insights into the stresses of classroom teachers trying to learn a tool quickly, while teaching full time.

I was excited to read about One Tool at a Time on Joyce Valenza's blog recently.   This webinar series invites people to learn about one tool in depth from an expert through a series of webinars. After experiencing the power of learning one tool at a time and immersing myself in this way of learning, I look forward to continuing to push myself with this opportunity.  I also think this will be a great idea to share with teachers who are interested in learning more about some Web 2.0 tools.

Web 2.0 Tools and My Role as a Teacher-Librarian Working With Students and Teachers
The learning I did this semester has already had an impact on the work I do with students and teachers.  Because some things were in place with new tools already, I constantly found myself rethinking the way I was learning about them, the opportunities teachers had, and the effectiveness of use with students. There are so many options that prioritizing use for both me personally and in the library has been a challenge.

So much of my learning was different because of this course. With the tools I was learning about in the back of my mind, everything else connected to them.  I was amazed at how my learning came together at the School Library Journal Leadership Conference in October. The entire conference was around the idea of "The Future of Reading."   Donald Leu's quote really impacted my own thinking when he said, "The Internet is this generation's defining technology for reading." I realized that it isn't really the technology at all but what the technology is allowing us to do that makes literacy so different for our students.  Following the SLJ Summit, I looked closely at my collection development plan for the library and added a few more electronic resources such as Pebble Go to our collection. It seems that with the informationthe speakers at SLJ shared, we can no longer offer only traditional books to our students. Finding Web 2.0 tools appropriate for young children is a challenge for elementary libraries.  Tools like Pebble Go is a first step with very young children to expand the ways that they are literate.  Although this tool does not get to the social nature of Web 2.0 tools, it does provide different experiences for our youngest learners who may not have those experiences at home.

Because the future of reading was on my mind, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on the ways Web 2.0 tools are changing reading for our students.  I revisited the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learning often throughout the course.  Thinking about what the statement about information literacy means for children today was a large part of my thinking this semester.  "The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.  Information literacy has progressed from the simple definition of using reference resources to find information.  Multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual and technological have now joined information literacy as crucial skills for this century."  Part of my presentation at NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) in Orlando this fall centered around Web 2.0 tools and the ways they are expanding reading for readers of all ages. I shared many new tools--Web 2.0 tools that allow for interaction around books, ipod apps that allow for interactive reading experiences, and more. As we think about these tools and the ways our young children are using these, we must think about the new skills they must have to become literate.  Many of the tools I shared can be found in this part of my presentation.

Tamzen twittered a link in our group's  conversation on blogs that really helped me rethink my work with students.  .  This blog post, "Preparing Students for Blogging with Wall Blogging" as well as Lee Kolbert's post on a similar idea "How to be a Good Commenter" helped me to remember the goals we were trying to meet with blogging and to backtrack a bit with our use of the tool.  In the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners, I revisited the standard that reads, "Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society."  I realized that we had focused so much on the tool, that we had forgotten the skills needed to use them effectively and to change the level of writing and collaboration students were doing.  This thinking helped me to see how to better support students in their use of any tools. I think this is especially true of young children who have very little experience with using Web 2.0 tools in effective ways.  This comment and link from Tamzen added to other learning will help me to more effectively scaffold the use of tools with students and to remember the bigger goal with use in the future.
This course will definitely change the ways I work with colleagues.  The course has given me the time to dig into these tools and see the possibilities for teachers and for students.  I have realized that learning new tools is not as easy or as fast as I previously thought.  But as the librarian, I think it is important that I am knowledgeable about tools that might be of benefit to both students and teachers. By having a menu of tools that might help a teacher with a project, I can become a different type of resource. Often teachers come to me, asking for support with a project. They are looking for something different, but they are not quite sure what that is. Having a toolbox to draw from, I can better meet their needs.  In the book, The Socially Networked Clasroom, William Kist states, "One of the educators interviewed for this book told me that the biggest obstacle to real reform in her building are the filing cabinets in the classrooms filled with old lesson plans and ideas. She said that so often teachers are just so tired that after a few days of trying something new, they will burn out and eventually fall back on the filing cabinet –“the way they did it last year”- just to make things easier for a few weeks until they gain some steam and are ready to break the pattern again." (p. 122)    Librarians can be a resource to help teachers when they lose that steam that is becoming more and more difficult to keep u in school.

I was also struck by a statement that Bud Hunt made during one of his presentations, "Infrastructure Matters" at NCTE. He said, “I don’t care what you use. I care how you use it.”  One of the main learnings I have coming out of this course is that there are so many tools that do similar things.  But we have to keep our eye on the bigger picture. How are we using the tools that are available?

How Can These Tools Benefit the Library?
As I began to take in all of the information I was learning in this course, I created a plan with my principal about how to use many of the Web 2.0 tools to support learning and communication for our elementary library.  We wanted a plan that gave our library a web presence.  In Joyce Valenza's 2005 article in Educational Leadership titled "The Virtual Library", she states,  "Given that today's students are truly “born with the chip,” today's school library must meet their needs as both a physical and virtual space...  To maintain relevance, the 21st century school library must expand and reinterpret library service. " Valenza's work has really helped me to see how critical these Web 2.0 tools are to the work of the school library and has helped me begin to envision how they can be best utilized.

I also discovered the following presentation titled "Using Web 2.0 Tools to Connect With Parents", created by Aviva Dunsiger, a Grade 1 teacher, but it has been a huge support to my thinking.  The presentation focuses on ways to use Web 2.0 tools to connect with parents but this thinking has also helped me think about ways Web 2.0 tools can be used for communication and student learning.  

Combining my course learning and outside research, our school goal is to begin to create an online presence for our students, teachers and community.  We want students and community members to be able to access tools and resources 24/7.  I have been looking hard at great elementary library websites. There are so many great examples on the The School Library Website Wiki. The wiki has several examples specific to elementary libraries (both good and bad).   We feel that by creating a site with a variety of Web 2.0 tools specific to our school, we will be inviting staff and students to become users of these tools in a risk-free way.  

We are in the midst of putting the plan into place and we are excited about the way it is growing. Many of the pieces to our plan are "in process".  
Our plan includes implementing the following this winter:

The Riverside Library has a page on our School District Website.  This page will serve as our community news site--highlighting links and events in the library. It will be updated weekly or so in order for the community to see what is happening in the library. We will utilize the password protected wiki/blog that has been set up by the district for us for collaborative work such as project work, book clubs, etc. The district site will be our "home page", providing links to the other tools and resources.  

Links to online tools such as Pebble Go, TumblebooksInfohio, etc. will also be provided on the site.  

The Riverside Library Page of our school website

We will design a website using WEEBLY page that will be the "virtual library" for kids. Highlighting new books, sharing videos, projects, etc.  This will hopefully grow over the next few years to be a resource to support all areas of the curruculum.

We will create a library SHELFARI account. Since our 3rd and 4th graders already have accounts as part of their classroom work, I will create a library account that highlights new books, etc. I will also be part of the classroom groups so that I can have conversations with students about books, announce new books, etc.

A library Delicious Account will be managed by the library staff (with input from students when appropriate) Sites that we visit in the library will be bookmarked and tagged so that students can access those from anywhere, anytime This tool will help students begin to understand the concept of social bookmarking without having their own personal account. It will also be an easy way to share important sites with students.

We will create a FLICKR photo sharing account for the library in order to meet the visual literacy standards.  A library of photos that students can access and add to will be important as they create projects, learn to cite sources, Creative Commons/Copyright issues, etc.  I see this as a library of photos of Riverside events, etc. Our district policy does not allow us to put student photos on the web and we believe it will be easy to build a library of photos on Flickr while following this policy. For example, on field trips, we are including photos of speakers, scenes, etc.   Pictures of art show, author visits, staff members, ducks in courtyard, etc. can be added as things happen. This photo library (searchable by tags and topics) will allow all teachers and kids to better find images to support curriculum when creating projects.  Although Flickr is blocked in our district, the tool will allow teachers to model the use of photo sharing tools.

A TWITTER Library Account will be  used to share news of library events and resources for parents/community in terms of literacy. Our school building, our district, and our PTO each have Twitter accounts so ours will deal specifically with library news. 

Once these tools are up and running, we will look into a SchoolTube account paid by Riverside Library funds. By having our own Riverside channel, our students can add videos and gather information from others’ videos on the site. Being a contributor to a more global audience is important and part of the ALA standards and SchoolTube offers a scaffolded environment for that.

Final Reflections
I end this course with mixed emotions. On one hand I am relieved to be finished. The course was the most time-consuming project I have taken on in a while.  The deep study of one tool a week has nearly consumed me for the past several months as I have been active as a learner as well as actively thinking about ways to best utilize tools with students and community.  On the other hand, I have had an amazing experience of learning that has change me.  I will miss the intensity of this learning once the course is over and I don't have the support of the course community to learn with.

My changes over the course are not easily measured.  I cannot clearly explain what I understand now that I did not understand in September.  But I do know that from September through December, I began to live my life differently.  I saw possibilities that I had never seen before. For me, once I know the possibilities, I will begin to see new opportunities to use them. 

In one of my earliest posts, I shared the following photo:
This picture was a great image of the way I was feeling due to the fact that I was overwhelmed with all of the tools available and the learning needed to understand them.  I am happy to say that I no longer feel this way this about Web 2.0.  I know that there are always new tools coming that will help me live my life as a learner differently.  I can now see that it is really not about the tools, but rather about the things that happen because of the tools.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am excited about the possibilities of what will come.  

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