About Me

My name is Kristie and I'm an elementary teacher in BC. As part of my Master's program I've been tasked with creating a blog. I'm nervous about sharing my educational journey with potentially the entire world. I'm reminded of the countless times I've put my foot in my mouth during casual or professional conversations. Creating a permanent record of what I have to say is a scary proposition.

On the other hand, I'm more than a little intrigued by the possiblility of using blogs with my class. An hour each week of typing practice and Yukon Trail seem like a waste when I consider what I could be teaching my class. So, with some trepidation, here I go. I hope all who read this blog will find something useful in it, and a great big thank you in advance to all those who post suggestions for my teaching practice!

The New World of Blogging

When I was in Kindergarten, someone invented this amazing thing: a game you could play on your television. It was called ‘Intelevision,’ and it let you play games that filled the screen with colourful images. Some people had an Atari, but Intelevision was just as good. We just couldn’t play Q-bert. About five years later, Nintendo came out with their first system. I loved Super Mario Bros. Everyone did. Here was a nice, linear game with just enough timing and memory challenges to make things interesting. The only thing I liked more than Super Mario Bros was Super Mario Bros 2. It had the same timing and memory challenges, but with a few more opportunities to move back and forth, up and down.

When I was in my late teens, something terrible happened. The Nintendo people released a new unit. I think it was the Nintendo 64. Anyway, gone was the old, linear, jump and shoot Mario Bros of the past. This was a whole new game. Characters could spin around in 360 degrees and choose any direction. There was no clear way to go. I tried, but I was soon frustrated. I asked other people, “How do you know what to do?” I was told to search around by some. Others told me there were magazines I could look at that would reveal the tricks and secrets. Lacking the time to search virtual landscapes and not having the magazines at hand, I gave up. Video games became something the other people did, as I am reminded every time I look at my favorites bar and scroll past the numerous ‘cheat sites’ bookmarked by my husband and children. I pretend disdain for these games, like they waste my time, but really they represent a nonlinear way of thinking that my brain just couldn’t master.

Web 2.0 is the new Nintendo 64 in my life. It represents a new, nonlinear, multi-strand collection of information that makes me dizzy. Yet, unlike video games, I can’t choose to just walk away. So, I will endeavor to go on the same quest as my pal, Mario. Just as he’s squished monsters, swam through infested water and jumped over lava, so shall I squish, swim and jump my way through the perilous world of Web 2.0. Here’s hoping that I too shall graduate from linear courses to a more three-dimensional conception of the multifaceted, ever expanding web.

The First Challenge: Choosing a Character

So, what do you do at the beginning of a Mario Bros game? Pick a character. Each has their own unique attributes that make them more or less suitable to each level. Choosing a blog platform is the same. I chose Blogger because Will Richardson recommended it in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010) and, upon trying it out, I found it easy to use. Basically, all I had to do was sign up for an account, pick a background and post. The one problem I did encounter was trying to take the ‘next blog’ button off my blog. Richardson suggests that teachers do this as the suitability of the next blog might be questionable. I tried to edit the code and thought I had done it, however, there was the button at the top. I’m afraid to mess with the basic code now that I have the blog set up, so I guess it will have to stay. Other than that, this blog seems easy to use. I was even able to change the background after the initial set up (the first one was too dark and difficult to read).

Now that I have the blog, it’s time to see Kristie in the land of Flickr and Google Earth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

Friday, December 3, 2010

Final Reflection

What have I learned?

What have I learned,
When to tech in class I turned?
With new technologies I must play,
I make time each and every day.
The first use was great, but I know there are more;
The first interaction is simply an open door.
Carry a camera, take a photo,
Maybe I’ll put it on Animoto.
Bought a headset with microphone,
Maybe record a video on Rome,
And upload it to Voice Thread,
With audio, “Is that Caesar dead?”
All computer time I must nab;
Wish there were computers outside the lab.
Take all opportunities to talk about tech,
And what we could accomplish with a few dollars more
And a Smart board and projector and lap tops galore.
Keep in touch with parents through the class blog;
It’s better than writing in a student log,
For pictures and video and samples of work,
Uploaded for viewing are quite a perk.
To Universal Designs for Learning
All my units now are concerning,
Which means all students feel just great.
Sometimes frustrations bring me to tears,
Wish I could rip out the computer’s gears,
Or at least the programming that will refuse
To let me download stuff my students will use.
Always something new to explore,
Always willing to try I swore,
Who cares about mastery in Web 2.0,
As long as the ideas continue to flow,
And authentic activities my students perform,
As the standard classroom norm,
And with glowing enthusiasm burning away,
Answer the question, ‘What did you learn today?

My Last Entry

This will be my last blog entry, or at least the last one I write for this class. I’ll pause a moment to let my readers get a tissue ~ yes, both of you.

As I’ve stated often in my blog posts, this course has represented the steepest learning curve for me of any course I have ever taken. It has also been one of the most challenging and rewarding courses, as I’ve found my enthusiasm for each topic to be genuine and often contagious. So many times over the last 12 weeks I’ve accosted co-workers in the hall and dragged them into my room to see something new I’ve done. Several times co-workers have prompted me to share at a pro-d event, although I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
One of the best parts about my experience with this course has been the hands-on learning. I’m sure that most people prefer to learn in an interactive way; I know my students do. But I always secretly wondered how I’d be at performing tasks I read about or studied. It’s a long way from reading about anatomy to performing medical procedures, a long way from studying how to put out a fire to actually putting one out, a long way from carefully observing how to comfort a crying infant to holding a wailing infant in your arms and trying to soothe him. A long way from reading about tech in the classroom and actually using it. I have a lot of experience with book learning. 90% of my education has taken this form.  Exploring and experimenting to create knowledge for myself is new. Not surprisingly, I’ve enjoyed it. What I’ve learned is that the more I interact and play with technologies, the more I discover functions and new uses.

Revisiting the Tools

            My commitment to myself at the beginning of the course was to make sure that I tried as many of these tools as I could with students instead reviewing them for the course and forgetting about them later. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Topic: Photo Sharing

What I learned or what worked well:

For photo sharing, I chose to try out Flickr.com. Since then, I have revisited the site often. I used it with my students to annotate maps of Canada, indicating where specified aboriginal groups traditionally lived. The example below is the one I created to show students.

map of canada

I was surprised at how easily the students adapted to the assignment. They had some trouble using the textbook for the initial research, but the maps were a snap. Actually, I find that students are surprisingly adaptable when it comes to technology. I admit to feelings of frustration over how slowly Flickr loaded onto the computers in the lab and how long it took for students to scroll through and find the map I had uploaded and named as theirs. Students, on the other hand, were stoic.
            In addition to this lesson, I have used Flickr to find images for writing assignments and to load video for inclusion on the class blog. For some reason, I can upload pictures straight from my computer onto my blog, however, I have to run video through Flickr first. Never-the-less, the video gets uploaded easily enough and Flickr’s privacy settings allow me to limit who views the video. I have also started to upload my personal pictures to Flickr, so that they can be saved in an additional place and shared easily with others.

What didn’t work or what was challenging:

            I do find it challenging to find images in the public domain on Flickr that fit my needs. Also, even though the images are somewhat screened, I found a few that were inappropriate or that had inappropriate tags or notes. For that reason, I likely wouldn’t let my students have free access to search the site for pictures. I can easily work around that by creating my own groups of pictures.

Future plans:

            I would still like to take advantage of Flickr’s potential for creating virtual fieldtrips. Also, I plan to explore Picassa, as most of my attention thus far has been on Flickr.

Google Earth

What I learned or what worked well:

            Google Earth has huge, untapped potential for making geography come alive. I found that creating virtual tours, virtually visiting landmarks and searching for previously created tours were all quick and easy. Google Earth even has applications that allow users to explore under the ocean and in space or add their own photos to a landmark. Google Earth even leads users through the process of saving tours and sharing them using an email.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            The biggest stumbling block for using Google Earth with my class was that it wasn’t loaded onto the computers in the computer lab. This means that I would have to install it (out of the question) or call each child over to my own classroom computer and have them each add to our tour. While the ‘cool’ factor is present, I wasn’t sure what was to be gained, especially since I have no way of sharing the final product without gathering all students around my computer and playing it while we all squish together. I haven’t ruled the tours out completely yet, but with so much to do in the class, it has definitely been pushed to the wayside.

Future plans:

            Provided I can get Google Earth onto the lab’s computers, I will use it throughout the geography unit. In addition, with the use of a projector that attaches to my class computer, I could use it anytime our studies lead us to a different part of the world. A colleague once commented that having maps available for the geography unit alone wasn’t enough – we have to have access to maps to show students where places are when it happens to come up in lessons and discussions. This is what Google Earth could potentially provide.
            Working with Google Earth lead to an epiphany on my part: I need to move away from a reliance on paper maps and atlases in my class. While there is still a place for their use, total reliance is not only antiquated but counterproductive. Atlases and maps, especially political ones, become outdated quickly as place names and political boundaries change often. In addition, paper maps and atlases get damaged easily. Throughout my geography unit, students were constantly bringing me pages ripped from the middle of our atlases. I don’t believe this is due to student misuse, but rather that the atlases are soft covered and therefore less resilient. I can only blame myself- I was actually the one to order them a few years ago and I went with the soft covered ones because they were less expensive and atlases lasting 20 years would be outdated anyway. Fast forward to this year and I find that budget freezes are making me wish I had thought otherwise. Finally, with only about 60 atlases in a school of almost 400, sharing is essential. With an electronic alternative, students could have access to up-to-date maps and atlases that were damage resistant and available at the push of a button. I’m not sure that Google Earth alone is all I need, but it is a start. As with so much else, I’m walking away with an intent to think about it.

On-line Video Sharing:

What I learned and what I liked:

            I love YouTube. I liked it before, but now I am a devotee. And Teachertube goes right along with it. I’ve known for some time now that most people are visual learners. Showing a video clip or picture is an effective way to teach something. Since researching video sharing sites, I have seen the wisdom in moving away from showing long videos to showing short, pointed snippets of videos and having students perform a task to help further retain what they’ve just learned. YouTube and Teachertube allow me to do this easily.
            For example, below is a YouTube video about the phases of the moon.

The accompanying assignment is from Kidspiration, a program installed on all the computers in the computer lab.

By having students watch the short video then bringing up the related assignment, I have allowed them to learn independently about the moon at their own pace. If a student misses something the first time, he or she can go back and replay what they missed. If I had given a lecture on the phases of the moon, anything missed could only be accessed by asking me. If 10 students have questions, that’s a lot of waiting. Admittedly, giving a reading passage would do the same thing, however, showing the video allows for success for all children, including those who have a learning disability or who are ESL. The video could be an initial lesson, one accessible by all, with reading passages and experiments added to differentiate delivery and add complexity and challenge during subsequent lessons.
What didn’t work or what I found challenging:
            Given the age of my students, I still do not feel comfortable having them search YouTube on their own. Teachertube is different, although currently I believe it is better for me to preselect videos. If I was to move to teaching an older grade, things would be different. Also, I’m still having difficulty with the copyright issue.
            From a technical standpoint, many of the computers in my computer lab do not have sound and watching a video on mute only offers half the story.

Future plans:

            Working through the copyright issues and including more short videos in my instruction are on my list.

Social Bookmarking

What I learned or what worked well:

            I found that social bookmarking is something that I am using for my own needs as a teacher and not something I am using with students yet. Everything I bookmark now goes in Diigo. I still use the favorites tool bar, but only for items I want saved in both locations. This has been a big step in creating a seamless transfer of work from school to home and back again.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            I’m still unpracticed at using the screen capture and note functions. I think that mastering these will lead to paperless note taking.

Future Plans:

            I would like to be able to use the screen capture and note functions on documents and then make them available to students. This could allow all students to work independently reading a document and writing about it. This is a function that some LD software allows for, yet I think it would be invaluable for students of all abilities.
            I am also now a fan of Del.icio.us, although mostly for searching for items that others have bookmarked. Any future research will include looking at Del.icio.us to see what is trending or what others have found useful when researching similar topics.


What I learned or what worked well:

            I have not yet had a chance to use podcasting with my students, but am super excited to. I have seen how easy it is to record a podcast using Audiboo.com and I have purchased a headset with microphone. Now all I need is a reason to use it.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            Nothing yet. I anticipate that having only one headset with microphone may present a challenge; however, we are becoming master sharers.

Future plans:

            Book reviews! The school TL has already signed on for collaboration and we will be going ahead in late January. She has invited me to email her over the break and we should have a solid plan in place by the New Year. In the meantime, I’ll be checking journals and blogs for ideas. Next year, I hope to use podcasts in conjunction with the BBC’s World News for Children in my news unit. Each student will be able to create a news broadcast and upload it to the class blog weekly.
            In addition, I am interested in exploring the video function of podcasting, especially from a remote location. I believe this could make our fieldtrips that much more exciting, but also, if students are able to capture events themselves, this could bridge the gap between school and home, creating a wonderful ‘third space’ for the class to share.


What I learned or what worked well:

            I used a wiki to create a web quest on constellations and it worked very well. Like using a Word document, I was able to add in URLs that students could click on and visit. However, a wiki offered additional functions that a Word document couldn’t. First and foremost, the wiki was online, which meant that it was accessible anywhere. Students could work on it in the classroom or computer lab, parents could visit it at home and colleagues could use it with their students. Second, using a wiki allowed me to embed YouTube video right on a page, which limited wait time. Finally, a wiki is set up like a group of pages. Students could click on the tab they wanted and navigate to that page. This organization made it easy to store everything, from web links to the initial assignment, right there on the wiki. With a Word document, there would have been a lot of scrolling and losing of places.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            The one thing that didn’t work well was the formatting of certain pages and what that meant for printing them out. I originally wanted students to be able to print out a worksheet and record their answers on it. The worksheets printed in one narrow strip and in an impossibly small font. In the future, I’d like to figure out a way of having students complete the assignment right on the computer, perhaps on a Word document that was open at the same time as the wiki. I originally thought that would add a complexity that students weren’t ready for, but my class’ adaptability to other computer applications makes me hopeful.
I also created a wiki for another space assignment, but this time with an eye to creating a class-generated web quest on the planets and other objects in the solar system. This project flopped. Initially, I thought it was a problem with the students not understanding my instructions.  It turns out that the real problem was with how I had instructed them to share. I gave all the students my user name and password and instructed them to add links and describe what they contained. Unfortunately, when everyone was signed in as me, the site read the changes as a series of changes and only showed the most recent change. Obviously, I needed to set up my students with their own accounts and give them permission to edit the wiki.

Future plans:

            Obviously, to figure out how to allow students to add to a wiki so that we can all add at the same time, from different computers, and the information will be amalgamated onto one page.

Multimedia Tools

What I learned or what worked well:

            There’s too much to put in here. This was by far my favorite topic and I spent two very enjoyable weeks learning about these tools and wishing I had more time. Instead of listing everything I worked with, I’ll focus on the two that I loved the best: Jing and Animoto.
            Jing is the ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ program that allows users to capture and annotate pictures on the web. I love being able to capture and store pictures. Actually, I became a little addicted. I’ve captured and stored my son’s online art work and anime pictures, step by step instructions on how to set a program up, pictures of Facebook pages… you name it, I’ve captured it.  Today I was trying again to figure out how to disable the mouse on my laptop so that it wouldn’t click on random parts of a page and mess up my work. I found a set of instructions and found myself wishing they were accompanies by Jing pictures.
            Animoto is a video creation site that allows users to create videos with their own pictures, videos and music (stored on the computer or another site) or with those already stored on the Animoto site. Their catch phrase is “Animoto: The End of Slideshows,” which is almost true. The videos Animoto produces are easy, quick to format and so much more captivating than a traditional Power Point slide show. Just like with Jing, I got a little addicted to using Animoto. Right after learning about it, my son came home with a video assignment. The text was already done, so we spent the night filming and taking pictures and uploading everything to Animoto. Here’s the result:

            After that, I decided to do Animoto videos with my students on the various Health and Career Education topics we covered this term. They can be viewed on my class blog.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            As stated above, Animoto is almost the end of the slideshow. Almost, but not quite. Where it falls short, from an educational standpoint, is in its text limits. Animoto is only set up for short snippets of text, like titles, which makes more detailed descriptions difficult.
            As for Jing, I was unable to download the program to my work computer, which has seriously hampered my ability to use it at school for instruction purposes.

Future plans:
            In the future, I would like to explore using Jing to create instructional videos for my students. I think this will free up some of my time from answering process questions so that I can focus on content questions. 
Also, I will absolutely use Animoto to create videos with my classes in the future. I would urge others to do so, too. As a matter of fact, it is so easy to create and share using Animoto that this has to be one of the two tools I will share with colleagues. I would, however, recommend allowing students more time to write scripts and take their own pictures or videos. I allowed students to use public domain pictures as well as pictures and video from the Animoto site, however, I don’t think I needed to do that. With the addition of a few cameras borrowed from willing parties, students could create their own raw footage.
There are a number of other multimedia tools that I would still like to explore: Glogster, Zoho, Openzine, Toondo, Mindmeister, flipbook, Bitstrips, Xtranormal… and others I have yet to learn about.
I list them here not only for my readers but so that I can look back and remind myself at a later time.

Social Networking and Twitter

What I learned or what worked well:

            Using sites like Classroom 2.0 or education related Nings are a great ways of finding out about what others are doing in their classrooms and maybe figuring out what I could do. Facebook has untapped potential to create a learning atmosphere for students where they can help each other or recruit experts to help them.
            Surprisingly, I discovered that there is an entire world of people out there debating the issues around Facebook and its use with students. It opened my eyes not only to the issues surrounding Facebook, but also to the autonomy teachers in my district are extended and just how lucky I am to work in a district that trusts my judgment and values my rights.
            Twitter isn’t useless. Actually, I am quite excited to use Twitter as a jumping off point when looking for sources or ideas for the classroom.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            Using Facebook with students is out of the question for me, since my students are too young and I will not violate Facebook’s policy’s regarding the minimum age for an account.
            I still can not get Twitter to accept my profile picture, something that probably cuts into my credibility on the site. I am also still struggling a bit with what to post. I feel that being a part of Twitter is like going to a staff meeting. It’s not enough to just occupy space. I need to contribute in meaningful ways to feel like I’m pulling my weight. I would like to contribute meaningful links, but I’m afraid I’ll just be reposting what others already know. I’m hopeful that eventually I get into a groove where I check Del.cio.us and my RSS feed for ideas and use Twitter to post my most relevant finds.

Future Plans:

            If I was to ever teach an older grade or switch to a library position, I would consider starting a Facebook group. Specifically, I think that starting a Facebook group within a middle or high school with an eye to achieving a specific social responsibility goal has major potential. Twitter could be used to promote the group. Classes with a social responsibility bent (like my elder son’s Me to We class) could very much benefit from this.
            Spending more time on teacher-specific social networking sites is a long term goal, something to be accomplished if I ever miraculously have more free time.

Blogs and RSS feed

What I learned or what worked well:

            RSS feed is brilliant. I love that all updates to worthwhile sites come to my Google Reader account and feel that this will make life a lot easier when I start my literature review course down the road.
            If Animoto was the first thing I would share with my colleagues, blogging is the second. I love the ease of Blogster and would recommend it to anyone. The more I used it with my class or for my own Education 501 blog, the more I learned about its features. Blogster actually has a very intuitive design, allowing users to use it with little extra research involved. It is also recognized by most other sites, making exporting, embedding or creating an RSS feed simple and efficient.
            Blogging has huge potential for solving parent communication issues. If I could do nothing else with my class blog, using it to communicate with parents would be enough. I would urge co-workers to set up a blog for this reason alone. However, students motivation, providing a link to an authentic audience and providing real experience with Web 2.0 technology all make blogging worthwhile.

What didn’t work or what I found challenging:

            Creating viewership was the most difficult thing, however, if all teachers on a particular staff were blogging, more parents likely would seek out their child’s class blog.

Future plans:

            MORE BLOGGING! Student blogs are on the agenda for next year, as well as a class blog for more general posts and news. Promotion of the blog from the very beginning of the year will hopefully create more viewership. I think I will ask all parents for their email addresses during the first week and send them an email link.

Where to go from here?

I was going to end this post by pledging to be an advocate for increased access to technology in my classroom and in my school. Then I read the post “To be a "technology" advocate is meaningless” (Johnson, 2010) which challenged my position. Yes, I truly think that increased access to technology in the form of computers for every child and projectors and Smart Boards for every classroom is a vital step in the right direction. My imagination soars when thinking about what could be accomplished when we no longer waste time rewriting an entire story after editing or when we can actually show students what the Eiffel Tower looks like, in real time. Yet, it is easy to get carried away with wanting before a sound plan is in place for using. I am led to librarian Shannon Miller’s account of the change in educational practices at her school. She states that

We are a 1:1 laptop school at Van Meter (Iowa) and it is amazing how things have changed.  And you are so right....It is not the technology alone.  The thinking has changed.  The playing field has leveled....not just with students, but with teachers.  The teachers are not the only teachers anymore...the students are also the teachers.  And this is okay.  This is the really powerful transformation that we have all been lucky enough to be part of.  We are part of an environment filled with respect, creativity, collaboration, connecting, thinking, learning, and one of CHANGE…(that offers)the chance for our young people to have a VOICE in their education…
(Johnson, 2010)

            Is it meaningless to be a technology advocate? Perhaps it is, if my advocacy is for something not entirely thought through. Why do I want more technology in my class? In my school? Do I have a solid plan? Will increased access to technology create a truly different and more relevant type of teaching and learning, like that described by Miller, or will it just allow us to do more of the same?

            Larry Cuban, education professor at Stanford and technology critic, challenges the use of technology in the classroom if its aim is simply to produce more of the same in the classroom. He states that

“Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online.”
(Cuban, 2010)

The appeal here is to use specially crafted projects, like inquiry projects, to help students obtain the education they need to become critical thinkers and fully functioning adult members of society. These types of projects, described in such texts as Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by S. Harvey and H. Daniels and Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century by Kuhlthau, et. al, are the future of education, if we truly want to produce thinking individuals. Teacher-centered teaching needs to give way to these more student-centered educational endeavors. So, the caution here is not to advocate for more technology use, but rather a change in educational practices, with technology as just one more tool at each child’s disposal. Johnson comments that, “educational technology can "amplify" either a teacher or student-centered approach to classroom instruction” (2010) and that it is the approach that needs to be considered in each classroom, with technology secondary to the point.

So, before I pledge myself as an advocate for technology or anything else, perhaps I need to consider what it means to have a truly relevant, student-centered approach to teaching, using all tools at my disposal to support my student in their pursuits. Then, maybe, it will be the students who pledge themselves as advocates – or leaders in Johnson’s thoughtful revolution.


Cuban, L. (2010).How one science teacher integrates laptops into lessons. Retrieved

Johnson, D. (2010). Being a “tech” advocate is meaningless. Retrieved from:

Johnson, D. (2010). When students also teach: guest post by Shannon Miller. Retrieved

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blogs, Blogging and RSS Feed

RSS Feed and Blogging

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (Richardson, 2010) and it refers to using a service that allows you to subscribe to sites and have new information brought to you. There’s no need to go looking around to find out who’s got new content on their sites. Services like Google Reader allow users to subscribe to interesting blogs or other sites, then sit back and wait for all new entries to come to them. You can then scroll through the information on your reader or click on the title of the article to be redirected to the original site.
A blog, short for weblog, is an online journal. It allows writers to communicate a range of topics, links, anecdotes, pictures, ideas, lesson plans… the list is endless. And it lets these ‘bloggers’ communicate these things to a pretty much endless world of viewers.
Together, RSS feed and blogging have formed an information revolution: RSS feeds allow users to quickly and efficiently collect data from blogs and other websites and blogging allows writers to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences with a potentially international audience. RSS feed buttons are attached to almost every blogging platform, completing the circle. With the streamlining of data collection, users gain additional time for data synthesis and analysis.  
My First Experiences with RSS Feed and Reading Blogs

Setting up RSS feed using Google Reader was easy enough, especially since I had a number of recommended sites to add right away. The more I explored sites, networked through Twitter and searched using my search engines, the more sites I found to subscribe to. I admit that most of what I subscribed to appealed to me professionally, but my husband soon set up his own RSS feed and subscribed to a number of store fliers (those of you who have been reading my blog have probably realized by now that my husband is a flier and sale junky).
Setting up the account and subscriptions was the easy part. Reading through all the data was slightly more daunting. Initially I was only checking Google Reader periodically, and often I’d have literally hundreds of unread items. And it felt like hearing the telephone ring as you get out of the shower – you know you don’t have to dash out and get it but the continuous wail of the ring creates an urgency to answer. There are articles to read and I must read them!  
Through discussion with others, I realized that I have the power to be selective. In the words of my prof, “I’m brutal when it comes to reading on Reader. If the title doesn’t interest me, I mark it as read and move on.” I quickly adapted that approach and am enjoying my Google Reader time all the more.
One of my most memorable first reads had me inadvertently stumbling into a debate about the nature of schools. Not surprising, since it was September, and many bloggers and their children were back to school. I read a post on Weblogg-ed, which is a site maintained by Will Richardson. This is the same person who wrote the text that has become a god-send during this course and has literally changed my teaching, so obviously, I was especially interested to read his blog. The first post I read was entitled A Parent 2.0’s Back to School Dilemma. It outlined a visit by Alec Courosa to his child’s first grade classroom. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Richardson’s post outlined Courosa’s tweets complaining publically about what he saw during his visits to the classroom. While I believe that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, publically tweeting things like
made me nervous. This really seemed like a public attack to me. I imagined teachers and parents walking away from my first parent-teacher night this year, tweeting about how much of a moron I am and openly subverting my efforts to work with their children. I seriously started to wonder about the course of education I had decided to persue.
Then I read the come back, posted by Lee Kolbert on A Geeky Momma’s Blog. Entitled “I’m Not Who You Think I Am,” it took exception to the criticisms Courosa had levied against his child’s teacher and sounded reasonable and moderate. This blog was suggested reading too, and I began to realize that perhaps it was the discourse I was intended to hear and not just the criticism. I decided to keep reading.
A More Experienced Reader  

As I’ve spent more time with blogs, I have begun to realize that blog posts roughly seem to fall into one of three categories.

#1 Philosophical and Reformist

Proving that the time spent considering my teaching philosophy during teacher training wasn’t wasted, I have seen that many posts seem to center around the ‘why’ of teaching and how that influences the ‘what.’ It is heartening to read personal and revealing accounts of what others are thinking about such topics as being a teacher or what really matters in the curriculum. For example, just before Halloween, David Warlick’s 2 Cents Worth blog featured a post entitled the “Qualities of an Effective Teacher.” In it he quotes commenter Betsy Gross’ definition of an effective educator:
...I believe effective educators must be creative thinkers with an ability to inspire and empower all learners. They must be compassionate, understanding and unwilling to give up on a child. They must be explicit and systematic, yet generously flexible, in their instruction. They must be knowledgeable of subject matter as well as the technologies of the day’s prevailing information landscape. They must be observant of student behavior to identify what each student does and does not understand, and how they can apply what they understand. They must be able to read and understand test data and read the faces of their learners. In short, teaching is a very difficult job and requires many characteristics to meet the needs of diversified learners. Teachers are also among the most powerful people on the planet.
This is an excellent example of the type of inspirational and CHALLENGING posts I’ve read time and again on the various education blogs. These bloggers are not only musing about what educators should be or what school could be, but they seem to be challenging readers to live up to the task. Reading this quote, I find myself challenged to ‘read the faces’ of my students and show compassion and understanding when a child has repeated the same mistake for the 20th time or has been rude to my face. Perhaps firm compassion and understanding, but compassion and understanding none-the-less. It can be a scary thing to publically write of ideals, as so few of us truly live up to all of them. Yet, without ideals, how can we know where to go?
            In the same vein, Warlick’s post entitled “10+ Ways to Promote a Learning Culture in Your School” suggests things like starting staff meetings with a talk on something you’ve learned, stopping students in the hall and asking them what they’ve just learned or asking teachers to write about what they learned on vacation and post it to the school’s website. While some of his suggestions may seem like a pain (write? Who, me?) and others are not possible in my setting (my school doesn’t have a website) each point does make me wonder, “what more could we do?”
            Likewise, posts on the problems in education abound. Following Edutopia using my RSS feed, I can see a stream of Tweets about conferences and other links to education reform. In addition, I encountered this:

“We’re not really motivated to learn to gain knowledge,” Ranganathan said. “We just want to memorize it and get a good grade and get into a good school.” … “Especially after the final exam, you just forget it afterward.”
(Richardson, October 2010)
This quote, taken from the movie Race to Nowhere and provided by Will Richardson in his blog Webblog-ed, addresses the problems with standardized testing and the rote learning of facts. From testing to technology in the classroom, there isn’t much that escapes the attention of education bloggers. And maybe it shouldn’t. In my undergrad years I had a TA who once carried on about the value of dissent in our society. He mused that without dissent there could be no change. Playing nice only supports the status quo whereas dissent brings into focus the problems in a system and forces at the very least a closer look. I personally dislike public dissent, especially that which is proffered without an eye to providing suggested alternatives. Complaining for complainant’s sake only produces hard feelings. However, I can not deny that respectful dissent with specific, constructive purpose and concrete alternatives to current practices is necessary for growth.

#2 Technology in the Classroom

            I suppose that it only makes sense that those who blog should also have an affinity for technology. If not, then their writings would likely be in journals in their top desk drawers (like mine were) or sent to journals or magazines. However, the extent to which so many bloggers are posting time and again about technology in the classroom is astounding. Numerous posts are a general outcry for the inclusion of technology and websites in the classroom so that students do not feel the sense of isolation from the ‘real world’ that they currently feel.
            Doug Johnson’s post on his Blue Skunk Blog entitled, “Dear Students, please lead a thoughtful revolution” (November 2010) sums up this outcry well. Having been asked to address the Student Advisory Council about the future of technology in his school district, Johnson states his intentions to advocate for a “1:1” ratio of students to computers, stating that he hopes for “every student (to) have an individual computing device - a laptop, netbook, tablet, or some yet to be invented thing-a-ma-jig that will link wirelessly to our school network and the Internet” (Johnson, November 2010).  In providing students with access to technology and accompanying education on how to use it, Johnson hopes that students will graduate with skills ranging from being able to “find and evaluate information that (they) can use to solve real problems” and becoming more “self-directed in (their) education” to “understand(ing) and practic(ing) global citizenship” (Johnson, Novemeber 2010).
            What is interesting is that Johnson is quite careful to state that technology on its own can’t provide a better education. This seems to be in direct antithesis to the point of the video he embeds in his post. (I’ve embedded the same video below).

Having just last night gone to a local electronics store to price out an IPad, this video was particularly interesting to me. At first, this video seems to indicate that teaching could be done directly through the IPad, rendering class time unnecessary. This is likely a scary proposition for many teachers. Yet, if you look at what the IPad is providing, it is all supplemental to the initial teaching. Students are testing what they’ve learned using the quizzing function and being provided with INSTANT CONTROL OF ERROR, so that mistakes do not become ingrained and need to be unlearned, like relearning how to spell onion o-n-i-o-n after spelling it oinion for years. In addition, studying becomes social and portable, which means it is more likely to be done, and guest lecturers (or perhaps replays of your own lessons) can be accessed for further instruction. The initial teaching is not irrelevant, rather the technology entrenches, enriches and expands the initial teaching. Overall, his post does a great job of arguing for technology in the classroom.
Other posts give more specific examples of technology use in the classroom. These are the posts that appeal most to me, as I am already a convert of including technology in the classroom and I am now looking for specific ways to do this.
One of the first such posts I encountered was from A Geeky Mamma’s Blog. Kolbert was reviewing the IPEVO document camera. Of course, this led to the question, “What’s a document camera?” Her post included a description of the camera and her reasons for liking it (low price, size, ease of use and clarity of images). She also suggested that the camera was “perfect for science experiment demonstrations, any dangerous demonstrations or where supplies are limited” (Kolbert, September 2010). I didn’t exactly consider buying the camera because I don’t have a projector. However, this post allowed me to dream about what I could use in the future and start to plan what I need to acquire to get there. Currently, when I want to share something with my students, I either have to print it out and give it to them or make an overhead. If I want to share from the computer, we all have to gather around one computer and look at the tiny screen. (I’m not kidding! We do this all the time, even in the computer lab as there is no projector there either.) Thanks Kolbert, for helping me start to put the pieces together. I know my winter break will be full of research on how to get a projector.
            Posts on technology and how to use it in the classroom are everywhere:
  • Kirsten Winkler of Edchat posted recently that Facebook has linked with Livestream, allowing people to produce their own shows on Facebook (Winkler, November 2010). Teachers can take advantage by streaming lessons live on their Facebook page for students to view.
  • Stephen Abram, author of Stephen’s Lighthouse blog, has taught me about QR codes (those black patterns arranged in a square that you can scan with a smart phone or other device to reveal additional information) and Netflix in Canada and has got me thinking about eBooks.
  • Buffy Hamilton, the Unquiet Librarian, has me thinking about using Skype as an interviewing tool, as she did with author Allan Stratton (Hamilton, November 2010).
  • Judy O’Connell has me really wanting an IPad after seeing a preview of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula on the device (October, 2010). Her ‘Student Tools - Let them Fly’ section lists a myriad of sites offering tools for students to accomplish what they want to do. Highlights include links to sites like http://www.soundzabound.com/ (a royalty-free music site), http://classtools.net/ (lets teachers create their own games, quizzes, etc. for their blogs) and a number of blogging platforms.

#3 Comments on Current Educational Trends

            Many posts also take up debates on current trends in education. Obviously, educational reform, educational philosophy and technology in the classroom constitute current trends. But there are others. From detailing webinars and conferences to debates on whether or not to spend money on books or technology in the library and the appropriateness of ‘friending’ students on Facebook, if it’s happening out there in the educational world, someone is blogging about it.

Take this cartoon, reproduced from Kolbert’s blog:

(Kolbert, 2010).
I was warned during teacher training not to let parent’s expectations factor when assessing and grading students. It’s true that keeping parents happy seems to be a trend in education recently, so it’s not surprising to see bloggers blogging about it. Want to know what the latest trends are in education? Look no further that Twitter and education blogs.

RSS in the Classroom

            While subscribing to blogs makes up much of what I used Google Reader for in the classroom, there were also some other great sites that I subscribed to.
  • World News for Children is an audio podcast produced by the BBC. It delivers radio quality news for children on current topics. Initially, I went to http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/wnc, then I set up the RSS feed and the new podcasts come to me.
  • http://www.sciencefix.com/ is a site that contains, among other things, videos of science experiments. My RSS feed captures the new additions and sends them to me.
  • Just One More book is a site that offers podcasts of reviews of literature. It can be found at http://www.justonemorebook.com/, and you can subscribe to have new additions sent to a Google Reader or other RSS account.
  • YouTube also lets users subscribe. Type in a channel or user you want to follow into the ‘add a subscription’ box and you will be notified of future posts. I subscribed to CATvolution after watching the YouTube video on the Air Car.

My Classroom Blog

            With the creation of a blog to showcase my own work, it wasn’t too much of a leap to starting a classroom blog. Among classroom or student blogs, four basic categories can be distinguished: the classroom news blog, the mirror blog (featuring student reflections), the showcase blog (featuring student work) and the Literature Response blog (Zawilinski, 2009). Without fully intending it, my classroom blog is a combination of the news and showcase blog, although, the fact is, it has morphed into an entity of its own since I first launched it. It can be viewed at http://www.divisionfourclasswebsite.blogspot.com/.

            The learning curve has been steep with the creation of the blog. I have found that some things I thought would be a problem were not, yet problems have cropped up where I thought there would be none.

Problems I anticipated

First, I anticipated some administration resistance, because I was the only one in the school planning to set up a blog and because of the ability for parents to comment in such an open forum. In actual fact, my principal was all for it. Interestingly, I came across an article outlining how one district had mandated that all teachers needed to use blogs to communicate with parents. The author clearly pointed out how the blogging seemed inauthentic and shallow as a result, and stated that,
If you want classroom technology to be used in imaginative and effective ways, you have to let teachers discover those methods on their own. You cannot force innovation.
(Bushweller, 2006)
I realized that perhaps the lack of top-down directives ordering the use of technology such as blogs was likely the result of respecting our professional autonomy, rather than a lack of support for use of tech in the classroom.

In addition, I anticipated that I would not get permission for all students to use the site. I sent home a fairly detailed notice regarding the blog along with a permission slip asking for signatures giving students permission to do three different things: contribute to the blog, post work to the blog and have pictures or videos of themselves posted to the blog. (I have reprinted the notice and permission slip on the page with the same title. Click the link to the right.)  I split the permission slip up in this way in anticipation that some parents might be uncomfortable having work or pictures/video published, but would still like their child to contribute to updates to the blog. What I found was that 22 out of 27 students returned permission slips allowing them to do all three. This was a shocker. I really hadn’t anticipated such a high percentage of students being allowed to post work and pictures/video. In addition, of the remaining 5 students, no one asked to be omitted entirely from the project. Each of these 5 students were allowed to at least post updates to the blog. What was even more interesting was that 2 of the 5 students who had permission limited to posting updates had their parents revamp their permission to do all three things later in the term. (I suspect that the recent video assignment probably produced a change of heart.) Of the remaining 3, two students have voiced that they themselves were the ones to decide that they didn’t want their work or pictures/video on the blog.
Finally, I anticipated that there could be the occasional negative comment from parents or even the general public regarding the blog. In an informal survey of school superintendents, it was found that many chose not to blog as a result of previous negative comments on blogs or due to the fear that “they would never be able to manage comments posted by members of the public and would end up in perpetual debate through the blog (Rochelle, 2009).  My fears were similar, however, unfounded. By setting the parameters early about what is and isn’t acceptable, and through the good fortune of working with a group of supportive parents, I have found that all comments posted to the blog have been relevant and positive.

Problems I didn’t anticipate

While it is true that there haven’t been any negative comments, unfortunately, there have been quite few comments at all. I have a couple of students who are following the site or who have commented, but that’s it. I worry that this reveals a problem I hadn’t anticipated – that relatively few parents are accessing the blog. Some students claim that their parents can’t find the site. I have sent home the URL several times and given out my email so that I can send a link, but I suspect that this continues to be a problem. In the future, I believe that spending more time promoting the website will lead to more wide spread usage and visits from parents. Closer to the end of the term I plan to send out a quick questionnaire asking parents about the blog. (The questionnaire can be found on its own page. Look for the link to the right). It is my hope to gain insight into what is working and what needed to be revamped.
Before I started the blog, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have time for it. I was given the sound advice to, “just build it into my day” (Branch, 2010). I started the blog with the intention of building it into my day by having a new student post updates each day. This way, the students will learn about summaries by summarizing our days and they would do all the work. All I would have to do is give each student 10 minutes at the end of the day, about the same amount of time I would give students to fill in planners and stack chairs. There were a few problems with this plan. First, by the time November hit, the class was busily trying to finish up projects and that last 10 minutes became quite precious to some. We started to go several days between student updates, and I often filled the void. Also, many students seemed unclear about what they should post. A few sentences were all some of them posted. Others could only recall their favorite parts of the day (like PE or recess) and had difficulty with the summaries. Virtually everything was text. Even when I suggested the use of pictures to document the day, this was hampered by the fact that we only had access to the school’s camera, which meant borrowing it when it wasn’t in use, then returning it to the secretary and waiting for her to upload the pictures and email them to me. This was eventually solved by bringing my own camera to school for students to use. More than anything, I sensed that students were not focused on creating updates at the end of the day. They knew it was home time and were more worried about making it out of the class on time than about what to write or display. I realized that I had built the blog into my day, but at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Upon reflection, next year I plan to:
1.      Spend the first 2 or three weeks creating posts of my own. In doing so, I will create examples of what I want the students to do. Many students are visual learners and having an example to follow is invaluable.
2.      Each student would be responsible for posting on an entire week, not just a day. This will provide more opportunities to highlight interesting events.
3.      I would call the posts ‘school news reports’ and not summaries. I think the term summary made students think that they were to capture events in as briefly as possible. To the contrary, I want students to make the events come alive. Given an entire week to chronicle, I am hoping that each student will become a reporter, carrying around a note pad and camera to each event, in hopes of capturing a photo or a story.
4.      I need to adjust the due date of the post. Posting at the end of the day doesn’t work. Posting on Friday mornings would omit Fridays from the posts, and many of the news worthy activities in our school occur on Fridays. Posting on a Monday means waiting through the weekend, and weekends are a time when many would check the blog. I am lucky enough this year to have a prep Friday afternoons. Perhaps I can build in posting time during the prep.

The future of blogging in my classroom

            One thing’s for sure: I will continue to maintain a classroom blog in the future.  Once the problem of viewership is dealt with, I think that a classroom blog has the unique ability to bridge the gap between school and home. As a working parent myself, I have often felt cut off from what my child is doing in the classroom. ‘Fine’ and ‘nothing’ are the only answers I ever seem to get from my boys when I ask about how their day was or what they learned. I was first attracted to setting up the blog so that parents could venture into our classroom and see that, while all is fine, we certainly aren’t learning ‘nothing.’ This is what will keep me blogging.
            Later this school year I plan to introduce book reports to complement our Literature Circles, Habitat videos in science and, possibly, Glogster posters. All of this will go onto the blog.
            Next year, I am hoping to branch out into having each student create and maintain his or her own blog. The true power of the blog seems to lie in its ability to let students communicate with others by posting their own ideas and work. No matter how much I try, this year’s class blog has my personality all over it. The student’s personality is relegated to the background. In addition, I am the one doing most of the ‘tech stuff’ when posting. It is my hope that creating individual student blogs will allow students to learn valuable tech skills, as well as maintain a record of their learning and develop their voice when writing for large audiences. The class blog will continue to function as a source of information and news reports on school business, while student blogs can be a more subjective record of individual journeys through school.

Abrams, S. (2010). QR codes infographic. Retrieved from:
Abrams, S. (2010). Netflix & Libraries. Retrieved from:
Branch, J. (2010). Personal correspondence.

Bushweller. (2006, November). CLASSROOM TECH: Thou Shalt Blog. Teacher
Magazine, 18(3), 45. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1182063871).
Hamilton, B. (2010). Literature/inquiry circles meets research: author allan Stratton visits

Johnson, D. (2010). Dear students, please lead a thoughtful revolution. Retrieved from:

Kolbert, L. (2010). I’m not who you think I am. Retrieved from:

Kolbert, L. (2010). The IPEVO document camera at $69.95. Retrieved from:
O’Connell, J. (2010). Sink your iteeth into Dracula. Retrieved from:
O’Connell, J. (2010). Student tools-let them fly. Retrieved from:
Richardson, W. (2010). A parent 2.0’s back to school dilemma. Retrieved from:
Richardson, W. (2010). You know this is true. Retrieved from:
Rochelle, N.. (2009, August). To Blog or Not to Blog? School Administrator, 66(7), 17-
19. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1810719721).
Valenza, J. (2010). Apps for student teacher librarians. Retrieved from:
Winkler, K. (2010). Host your own show (classes) on facebook with livestream.

Warlick, D. (2010). Qualities of an Effective Teacher. Retrieved from:

Warlick, D. (2010). 10+ Ways to Promote a Learning Culture in Your School. Retrieved
from: http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?s=10%2B+Ways+to+Promote+a+Learning+Culture+in+Your+School

Wikipedia. (2010). QR Code. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code
Zawilinski, L.. (2009). HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher
Order Thinking. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1707486871).

Sunday, November 21, 2010


A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Wednesday morning schedule:
4:55                        Get out of bed. Kind of hard today. As last night’s tweet shows, I was up late helping my son use Animoto to create an All About Me video
5:10 to 5:30            Run on the tread mill (only time for 20-25 minutes most mornings lately)
6:00                         Out the door
6:30                         Drop off husband at work
6:40                         At work and ready to start the day
6:40-7:30                 Double check day plan, catch up on e-class discussions, check email, read a few articles
7:30                        Check Twitter

I’m sitting at my desk while the morning custodian is cleaning the room. He and I are the only ones in the school for probably at least another half hour. We exchange pleasantries, then he goes on to sweep and mop while I check my Twitter account for anything new in the educational world. Today, I come across the following tweet:

langwitches    6th gr.stdents learning &formulating own opinions abt ethics of animal dissection in schools. Help by adding ur thoughts http://bit.ly/9x0rXa

Interesting. Teaching grade four, dissection isn’t something I’ve really thought much about since my own experiences in grade eleven. So I clicked on the link and explored. What I found was impressive but shocking. A middle school is questioning the continued value of dissection in a world newly equipped with virtual dissection programs. Some of the facts shock me:

  • (some animals) are vivisected (this means that they have a procedure done to them while they are alive.)
  • Undercover investigations of biological supply companies found nightmarish acts of animal cruelty including the drowning of rabbits and embalming of cats while they were still alive

The students have done their homework and I’m at least rethinking my years on the pro-side of the dissection argument.

Clicking on the link provided by the National Geographic tweet, I find myself looking at the brilliantly coloured tombstones in the cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Mental note: must show this to my class. We’ve been looking at landmarks as part of our geography unit and this cemetery will be a sharp contrast to the gray-stone filled cemetery down the street.

After researching Facebook and thinking about privacy, Courosa’s tweet catches my eye:
courosa    RT @sjciske: Watch your tweets! Are Canadian Police Getting More Access to Your Internet Data? [TNW Canada] http://bit.ly/cwTMdE
I try to bring up the link, but the school computer isn’t letting me.

A quick glance at the Target tweet advising that Black Friday is approaching, then I have to log off. It is after 8 now and a co-worker is coming through the door to talk to me. Then I have to talk to the librarian and figure out why the newly donated telescope has magically appeared in my room. Another day is about to begin.

The hall is abuzz with the excited chatter of students returning to classes, thrilled to have had play time on a day that has transitioned so quickly from blustery rain to beautiful sun. The trees are still dancing, leaves shimmering in the wind, and the crystal clear blue sky almost takes my mind off of the mess in the class. Art materials clutter desks, waiting for students to come back. The paintings will have to wait until the students return from the library.

My new schedule has the added benefit of opening up time for reflection and professional development during the day. I photocopy in the mornings, missing the jam of people usually clogging our tiny photocopier room during recess and lunch. Now I can use my preps and breaks for other things.
So, I go back to Twitter and am greeted with

shareski    I wonder how my slow cook meatballs are doing?

 and I think, “whoops! I forgot to check the popcorn chicken situation before leaving for work this morning. Hope there’s enough for dinner.” This was posted only 20 seconds before from via Tweetdeck, which reminds me that I had planned to check out taking Twitter mobile.

Pushing past this tweet, I’m greeted by a new National Geographic post:

NatGeoSociety    The Milky Way Is Blowing Bubbles: http://on.natgeo.com/dhm978 #space #mystery #science

Having spent the morning in the computer lab with my students, working on our Spaceology Inquiry projects, I’m pretty stoked to open this amazing picture

A post from Global News BC is asking for a ‘person in their sixties who is still working with no plans to retire at 65’ while Mashable has a link to a video interview with Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook and the History channel post is reminding me to check out the newest ‘this day in history’ video. So many places I could take my research, and only 15 minutes left until the students come back. I decide to pull myself away from the tweets from people I’m following and turn to the task at hand. I had stumbled across the group edchat last time I was on Twitter and I wanted to take a peek at what was going on. I’m rewarded with the tweet:

birklearns    50 Ideas for Project Based Learning --neat ways to engage learners! http://bit.ly/c9KH1M #edchat #cpchat #bcpvpa #edreform

So I click on the link and find a list of helpful suggestions on how to use inquiry in the classroom. I only have time for a cursory scan before I’m off to pick up my students. I’ll have to revisit the site later.

A busy afternoon ensues. Three o’clock arrives and parents are waiting outside my door to talk to me. I have a meeting with one of my own son’s teachers scheduled for 3:30. No time for Twitter after school. No problem. There’s always tomorrow.

My Initial Experiences with Twitter
I have to admit to being underwhelmed by the idea of researching and using Twitter. Like many, I didn’t know much about it. I somehow had gotten the impression that Twitter was like Facebook and that Facebook’s popularity would somehow eventually make Twitter obsolete, so why bother using it. The only person I ever knew that used Twitter was, ironically, my 70ish year old Grandfather. He came to town for a visit a year ago and the first thing he did was put a Twitter icon on my Dad’s computer. As my Dad complained later, he never asked if he could do this nor did he ever explain why he used Twitter and it never occurred to me to ask.
                In reading to find out more on the subject of Twitter, I encountered Brett Young's initial views on the subject:
Are you kidding? Why on earth would I join a site where all it is is updating my status over and over. I have Facebook, thanks, that's enough for me. This Twitter thing sounds dumb. It will be here and gone like MySpace. I don't even know anybody that is on it and how can I keep my privacy protected by people I don't want know anything about! Plus, you only get 140 characters to type something. BLAH! (2010)
Some of this sounds familiar, except that no one was bugging me to join, so I didn’t need to recite the speech to anyone else.
                I first signed up for Twitter in early July of this year. The process was simple, as illustrated below:

As you can see, I created an account, started following the recommended people, then logged off and didn’t think about it again until September. As it turned out not to be a required part of the course I was taking, I simply didn’t see the need to use it.
                Unfortunately, this initial jaunt into the Twitterverse caused a fair amount of stress upon reading the requirements for this course. Knowing that I needed to follow Twitter and having previously found very little that I could do with it, a panic started to seep into my subconscious. I needn’t have worried. One Saturday morning lying in bed with my husband, lap top propped on pillows, skimming through the tweets on my home page and I really started to see what Twitter could offer me. Maybe it was because I didn’t quite understand what they meant and my eyes were drawn to what my brain wanted to puzzle out.  Or maybe it’s the nature of the people I initially started to follow. Whatever it was, the first thing I noticed were the links. All of these people sharing links to sites containing solid educational ideas, theories and resources. I spent a lot of time clicking on links and discovering what was being shared.
                Over the course of several days, I discovered other things I could do with Twitter. The cool thing about Twitter, as with so many social networking sites, is that you can find other people or organizations to connect with by looking at the people you are following and checking out  what they are doing. If someone you are following retweets (forwards) a message, the original tweeter may be someone you want to follow. I’ve found a number of people to follow using this feature. In addition, using the search box to the right, you can search for people or institutions to follow. Initially this was not all that successful. I tried searching for the authors of some of the books my class will be reading, but found only private individuals with messages professing undying love or excitement over an approaching holiday. Some searches did reveal useful links. Searching for the History Channel, I discovered not only the link but also the ‘this day in history’ videos that I can’t wait to use in my class. I also went back to some websites, like the Target store website, where I had seen the ‘follow on Twitter’ links and signed up to follow that way. My husband was quite impressed with this, stating, “That’s so cool! Now the new deals come straight to us instead of us looking for them. Now all we need is an Iphone so we can follow when we’re down in the states or out and about.” I was well on my way now to using Twitter to meet both professional and personal goals.

Twitter for Personal Use
          At a party the other day, I asked a friend of mine if she was on Twitter. She smiled and shook her head, saying that she was really resisting joining as she had enough on-line activities taking up her time. Her boyfriend, however, was as devoted a tweeter as he was a sports fan and would send her texts of the news he found on Twitter all the time. He was thrilled with the ability of Twitter users to find out up to the minute sports news and share them. My friend pointed out that even sportscasters were using Twitter, siting a trade that was posted on Twitter, then broadcast on the news 4 minutes later, with the sportscaster admitting that he might not have heard of the trade this early had it not been for Twitter.
          This is the part of Twitter that excites me. Sharing information and exchanging ideas in real time. I can post a question and someone will likely answer it quickly. I can be notified when the next Fred Meyer flier is ready and then check it out through the link or on the RSS feed. The minute something happens, let's say, in the Canuck hockey world, not only would I know about it but also what all my contacts think of it. Twitter may be the end of blank looks on my part when someone says, 'hey, did you hear about.."

Twitter for Professional Use

                Twitter is gaining popularity. The following slide show outlines a variety of ways Twitter can be useful for education professionals.
Twitter Nuts and Bolts

                Twitter itself represents a new way of communicating and collaborating with others, and, much as one learns a new language and set of norms when immersed in a new culture, there are a few things new tweeters need to know.

                Once your account is set up and you are following others, it’s important to decide what your goals are with this account. If networking with other education professionals is your goal, then you need to create a personal learning community (PLN) and actively participate in it. Start by searching for education professionals you know of – people you know in real life or whose blogs you read, for example. Click on their names and visit their profile pages. Check and see who they are following by looking at the list of posts on the profile page and try following some of those people.
                To build up you Twitter presence, actively post items that would be of interest to others.  Personal information is fine, but it will probably only be of interest to people you know well. Posting links to useful sites that outline professional development opportunities, resources or lesson plans seems to be the best way of sharing information. Due to the limited number of characters allowed in a tweet, there are sites that allow Twitter users to shrink the url of the site they want to direct others to. Let’s say that I want to direct people to a video of CTV BC’s news cast on the resignation of BC Premier Gordon Campbell. If I copy and past the following URL - http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20101103/bc_campbell_announcement_101103/20101103?hub=BritishColumbiaHome
I wouldn’t have any room to explain what the url is or post my opinions. Using a URL shrinker, like Bit.ly, allows me to create space in my tweets for more than a url (Ludwig, 2010). To use it:

It is also a good idea to make sure that you come off as a legitimate person to follow. Upon creating a practice account (to get the ‘how to’ shots) I was instantly followed by two women claiming that ‘cool men message me’ and that they hoped not to spend another night alone. Since I deactivated the account quickly, I didn’t need to go through the process of blocking them from following me, however, it was a little disconcerting. Librarian Bobbie Newman states that her criteria for following someone includes making sure that he or she has a real name and bio and that this person is not relying on the default avatar (2010).

Oops! That includes me. So I tried to add a photo, but each time I ended up with this error message:

I admit that I haven't yet solved my problem, although I plan to keep trying. Maybe if I tweet about it, someone will have the answer.

One final thing...

I wasn't on Twitter for very long before someone suggested that I use Tweetdeck. The following set of pictures out lines the process I went through to set up and use Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck not only brings my tweets to me on my desktop, it also allows me to read tweets, reply to tweets, retweet and search at the same time. If I had a portable device, Tweetdeck would be even more useful.


Bradley, P. (2009). Using twitter in libraries. Retrieved from http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295581

College@home. (2010). Twitter for librarians: the ultimate guide. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295582

Johnson, S. (2009). How twitter will change the way we live. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/328540

Kingston, C. (2010). Twitter for Beginners. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295578

Ludwig, S. (2009). Top 10 twitter tips for beginners. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295579

Nelson, C. (2009). Cultivating a PLN through your reader. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/789220

Newman, B. (2010). How to decide who to follow on twitter. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/1541195

Newman, B. (2010). 10 ways twitter will make you a better employee, better at your job and benefit your library. Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/2466229

O’Connell, J. (2009). Making twitter work for me – and you! Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/916667

Tech & Learning. (2009). Nine reasons to twitter in schools. Retrieved from http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/297714

Wikipedia. (2010). Twitter. Retreived from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295574

Young, B. (2010). Is this thing on? Retrieved from: http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/1195312