Thing 8: Collaborating, Connecting, Sharing

Telephone Boxes

Some of the first telephone boxes to grace Dublin’s streets. Installation was in preparation for the thousands of people who descended on the capital from all over Ireland, and from all over the world, for the 31st International Eucharistic Congress in June 1932.
Telephone Boxes. Independent Newspapers PLC. [1912-1936]. The Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Collection, National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The role of a school librarian continues to change. Long gone is the image of someone that just checks out books and shushes noisy students, although some people probably think that this is what I do all day. From my experience- collaborating, connecting, and sharing with teachers and students more accurately reflects my activities in the library. Two tools that I am currently exploring for this blog post are Google Docs and Skype.

In late January at the technology committee meeting, it was announced that Google Docs would soon be made available at in the district. The way that it is set up for us is that we have access to Google Docs with cloud computing and document sharing within our district yet we cannot share outside our school district. While I had heard of Google Docs years ago yet I had not yet explored it in any great detail. Until now. I did log in and explored some of the basic productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) and document filing. I also read about the ability to create and share editable documents with others, and I saw that blogging, photo sharing, and many other apps were available. This was going to be fun, however, it was going to be a learning and exploring process. While I am fine with this type of learning, I know that it drives others nuts.

This week I have had some interesting experiences with Google Docs at school. First, I was sent a copy of the minutes from a technology user group  meeting. The group met the previous day after school and one of the teachers took the minutes during the meeting to later share this document with group members shortly after the meeting, It was a pleasant surprise the next morning to see this document since I had not been able to attend this meeting. The next day I received calendar invitations from Google Calendar. These were from one of my Spanish teachers, we were planning for Foreign Language Week presentations next week and she was sending me the dates and times of the different presentations. Way cool, different aspects of Google Docs that were created and shared with me on two different collaborative projects. I am looking forward to learning how to create and share similar files and information with others at school.

The other tool I am currently exploring is Skype. Earlier during the winter holidays, I helped  my mother set up her Skype account so that she could easily communicate with her granddaughter. While she has not called me for technical support since then, so I really don’t know if it is working for her or if she has not yet used it. I have also played around a little bit with FaceTime, however since I don’t use either one my experience is minimal. Welcome back to Foreign Language Week preparations. Two of the presenters, and perhaps a third, are not local and these people asked if they could Skype into the library to meet with our students. Skype had been used a couple of times last year at our school and I heard stories of how difficult it was to use. While I am comfortable coordinating and supporting educational technologies in the classroom, I did not know what to expect on this topic. I am not sure what has changed, however when I asked, it appears that now Skype is something that can easily be done. While we still need to get the software installed and then tested before the presentation, I am excited to see this happen. I could easily see this technology being used for brining guests into the classroom, to meet with others that are unable to meet in at school, and to participate in webinars for professional development.

Other experiences with collaborating, connecting, and sharing include: curriculum writing with a business teacher using a wiki as a collaboration tool, using Dropbox to make my files available remotely on my mobile devices and to share with others; using Doodle to schedule meetings; using Survey Monkey to create online surveys to gather information from students or teachers; collaborating with another school librarian to create a LibGuide to share with other school librarians as part of a training on LibGuides; and exploring how students could use Diigo to collect and annotate resources for their research projects. There are a lot of neat, different tools that meet specific needs and sometimes this is just what is needed for the task at hand. In industry they talk about ‘just in time delivery’ of products and services. Tools like these allow school librarians to provide this same type of service with information and documents to further support classroom instruction and related programs and services in the school district. No longer is sophisticated informational technology relegated to just the computer technology department.

Thing 7: Podcasting and Screencasting

Several years ago I was first introduced to podcasting, or more accurately, I discovered a podcasting module in the online communication system used by the district. (This system also provides email, web page, file sharing services.) At that time, I had only heard of podcasting, so I took the opportunity to dig deeper to find out what this was all about. This was the start of my adventures with podcasting.

I created my first podcast recording using this online communication system. It allowed me to capture the spoken word and it put this recording onto a simple web page with an RSS script. It was a turnkey solution that created a very utilitarian, Spartan product that, while functional, sure was not very pretty. I knew that I could probably do a lot better. I soon found Audacity, open source sound recording software, and a cheap headset microphone. Shortly afterwards I discovered Apple’s GarageBand (with all kinds of filters and sound effects) and a program to create RSS feeds (FeedForAll). Together with my knowledge of web page design and some space on the web server, I had the tools to create some serious podcasts.

I picked up two books on podcasting (Secrets of Podcasting by Bart G. Farkas and Podcasting for Dummies by Tee Morris and Evo Terra) to learn about podcasting techniques. These resources described podcasts as collections of audio or video files, found on a web site with an RSS feed for delivery of the media files. I soon learned that an online podcast program could be either be designed as a serial or a monographic publications. Farkas also indicated that a podcast creator could use hyperlinks or other methods for sharing one’s recordings. Several other books (see below) describe podcasting in K12 as the creation of media files that could easily be put onto the Internet.

With these tools and this background knowledge, I pursued a two-pronged approach to podcasting at my school. I would produce a podcast program and I would demonstrate how podcasting could be integrated into the curriculum. My program is called the Visitor Showcase Podcast, and together with classroom teachers, we interview guests that are invited to our school to work with our students. This is the 6th year of this program and we have had a lot of fun with it. While primarily audio, I have done some video recordings as part of this program. This podcast can also be found on iTunes. In the classroom, we use either iPods with mics or pocket digital video cameras to capture audio or video recordings of students’ learnings. One of the Spanish teachers has her students use podcasting technologies to demonstrate their learnings. I was once told by her that sometimes students will re-record the same lesson several times because they were not satisfied with their initial recordings. We have also recorded student poetry as part of the creative writing class, creation stories as part of mythology class, and historical narratives as part of a social studies class.

Most recently, I have also learned about screencasting as an instructional tool. I use Camtasia 2 because it allows me to easily annotate my movie files and create captions. My screencasts can be found on YouTube.

People have responded enthusiastically when I describe how we use podcasting at my school. In addition to working with the students, I have lead workshops on podcasting through our Teachers Center and at the state-wide conference organized by the Section of School Librarians of the New York State Library Association. These podcasting technologies, techniques, and skills can easily be incorporated into other classes like physics, business communications, public speaking, music theory, media creation, and script writing. Podcasting can be lots of fun and I am enjoying this adventure in my library media center.

For additional information about how podcating and screencasting can be used in education, see:

Berger, Pam and Sally Trexler. Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2010.

Farkas, Bart G. Secrets of Podcasting: Audio Blogging for the Masses (2 ed.). Berkely, CA: Peachpit, 2006.

Morris, Tee and Evo Terra. Podcasting for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006.

Notess, Greg R. Screencasting for Libraries. Chicago: ALA TechSource, 2012.

Richardson, Will. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010.

Shamburg, Christopher. Student-Powered Podcasting: Teaching for 21st-Century Literacy. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education, 2009.

Solomon, Gwen and Lynne Schrum. Web 2.0: How-to for Educators. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education, 2010.

Solomon, Gwen and Lynne Schrum. Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007.

Verdi, Michael and Ryanne Hodson. Secrets of Videoblogging: Videoblogging for the Masses. Berkely, CA: Peachpit, 2006.

Thing 6: Curation Tools

Many years ago when I started my studies to become a librarian, the Internet was still relatively new. I remember the challenges I saw finding material with subject directories. I remember the challenges I had creating and maintaining web pages of hyperlinks that would seemingly never be as ‘up to date’ and ‘content volumous’ as any readily available search engine. I also remember the frustration of trying to compare different search engines to find which one worked better for me. There had to be a better way to tackle this monster. Tools have emerged to allow us to easily organize and share bookmarks, curate digital content, and aggregate online information.

Earlier I described my experience with using Delicious (see Thing 3: Social Bookmarking). I needed a tool to act as a database of hyperlinks that would automatically put this same information onto instructional web pages so that I could easily recycle my content onto different pages as needed without having to edit everything whenever something new emerged. This worked fine until it was relaunched in 2011 as a reinvented product in a beta format. At that time I began to explore Diigo only to discover at that time that it was blocked by the school web filter (so was Delicious until I requested it be unblocked). The Delicious product has since settled down to become more reliable for the way that I use it.

Both Delicious and Diigo allow users to save, annotate, and tag bookmarks so that these can easily be found, clustered, and shared with others. Both allow you to follow and be followed by others. Both also offer plugins for web browsers, apps for mobile devices, and support for API or javascript allowing sophisticated users other avenues to interact with their bookmarks. Diigo does offer services for education (K-12 and higher ed) as well as specific tools to promote literacy and higher order thinking skills. I could easily see Middle School and High School teachers using Diigo as a research tool to collect and organize their resources, and as a literacy/plagiarism-prevention tool so that students could annotate these resources.

I joined Pinterest shortly after it started only to be overwhelmed by what it wanted to do. This was put onto the back burner until I had time to figure out how I could use it. I did revisit it as part of this online course. Pinterest allows users to ‘pin’ images (or movies) from one’s computer (or ‘repin’ someone else’s images) onto a virtual bulletin board. Numerous board can be created for these boards and each pin includes a URL and a description. It also appears that you can follow others and that others can follow you. While not as overwhelming as it was before, I am looking around for other school libraries (and libraries in general) to follow so that I can see how they use it for instructional purposes. I could see something like Pinterest being used to create virtual bulletin board displays to celebrate or promote different events. I do need to check if it is accessible on the school network in which case I would use it as part of student instruction, otherwise it could be used as an outreach vehicle to share information to the community.

I discovered Flipboard about a year and a half ago when I purchased my iPad. All the online news, magazines, and blogs, all organized in an inviting visual format that flips open when the app is launched (nice animation by the way) with access to older material from these sites. Preloaded with many resources and users can add additional resources as desired. This app is available for iOS and Android devices. While other information aggregators are available, this is the coolest one I have encountered so far. When I wrote the proposal for an iPad lab at school, this was one of the apps I requested to promote student literacy.

Clearly as information professionals and educators, we now have tools available ‘other than search engines’ to make online information readily available in ways that our students (the consumers) can easily use it. I also find it neat that many of these curation tools will also allow both the content creators and well as the content consumers to share this information through other forms of social media. It is indeed a good time to be a librarian and a teacher.

Thing 5: On Digital Storytelling & Presentation Tools

Soldiers and local kids telling stories, during World War I

Soldiers, many of them with children on their knees, have formed a semi-circle around a soldier who looks like he is telling a story. There is a building and bicycle in the background and they are in a dirt square.
Once troops had entered a village they were often housed with local families. This was a welcome opportunity for rest and a diversion for the locals.
Ernest Brooks. ‘On the British Western Front. Not a drawing room fire, but it answers the purpose.’ [N.d.] From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). National Library of Scotland. Used under Creative Commons, Attribution-Noncomercial-Share alike 2.5 UK: Scotland.

I first began working with digital media as a communication tool about 15 years ago. At that time, both web pages (html) and Power Point were relatively new technologies to many people and, because I had dabbled a little in both, I was instantly the resident expert. I soon learned about the relationship between content, graphical design, and technology. While I have learned new information and design ideas, and technologies have emerged (or in some cases, disappeared), I continue to hone my skills at this craft.

I was first exposed to Prezi (http: about a year ago. I don’t remember where it was when I saw it or who it was that might have shown it to me. I do remember being blown away by the really neat prezis  that I saw. The idea that one could easily create a presentation on a topic, present relevant micro- or macro-information on the topic, and to either present this information in either a sequential or non sequential manner with animation, this was truly amazing.

(It appears to me that Prezi with a capital ‘P’ is the name of the Web 2.0 tool, that a prezi with a lower-case ‘p’ is the thing one creates, and that the plural of prezi is prezis.)

This almost unrestricted freedom was initially overwhelming the first time I created a prezi. I searched Prezi for good examples and found many wonderful artistic creations (I wish I had that kind of talent) and others that were others that were painful to look at (either due to a lack of understanding of good graphic design or due to a general disorganization). Couple this with the fact that I couldn’t create a prezi using my iPad, I decided to put this tool on the back burner.

Fast forward to this past December. A ‘new to our staff’ science teacher lead a Prezi workshop that was sponsored by the teachers center. Using an interactive white board, he both introduced the idea of a prezi and demonstrated how to use it as an instructional tool. Together with ‘new to me’ features like predesigned templates, the ability for multiple users to work on the same prezi at the same time, and iPad compatibility, I saw that I needed to give Prezi another look.

This week I had the opportunity to work with an 8th grade ELA teacher needing to do a ‘multimedia research project’ and I suggested that her students could create prezis for their final products. Considering the skills and abilities of her students, I created a prezi template that the students could copy and use. I would then post links to these prezis onto the class project page so that the teacher could easily show these to her class.

I also talked with one of the family and consumer science teachers  about her experiences using prezi with her students (she had also gone to the prezi workshop and it was new to her). Overall her students really liked it and I think I’ve got steps in place to deal with some of the challenges she faced. When I demonstrated prezi to my English teacher, we were unable to create her account due to ‘network difficulties’ (another reason for offering the students an option on their finished product), however, she was enthusiastic about prezis and she is planning to attend the science teacher’s next prezi workshop later this month.

We spent earlier this week engaged in the research process and today I presented the idea of creating prezis. We also gave them an option of creating a Power Point slide show instead should  difficulties emerge. The same content, the same organization, and the same expectations regardless of which tool they chose to use for their product. By the end of the class, probably a third of the class had started their prezis, a third were Power-Pointing, and a third were finishing up their research.

One of the central ideas we talked about with the students was the need to cite everything that they use in their research. With this in mind, we (the teachers) decided that the students should not use graphics since we did not discuss with the students how to cite images and the challenges faced when trying to citing images. Sorry kids, boring prezis and Power Points. One enthusiastic student asked me if he could create a ‘fun’ prezi instead of using the template I presented. While I am a big fan of creative expression, it should not come at the expense of the lesson. Sorry kid, give me all of your content first and then we can talk. If we had all kinds of time available to work with these students on this project, I would have really enjoyed introducing the students to ideas related using images properly (e.g.: citations, Creative Commons, etc.) and to communicating effectively through graphical design. Perhaps these ideas will be presented to these students in the future.

I am satisfied with this collaboration. I have worked with this teacher before and we’ve done some really neat projects together. I believe that I have met her instructional needs and that we met the learning needs of all of her students. I look forward to seeing their end products.