Thing 20: Tools for creating websites, pathfinders, portfolios , etc.

"Officer distributing mail to the crew of Magdalene Vinnen" by Samuel J. Hood, 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

“Officer distributing mail to the crew of Magdalene Vinnen” by Samuel J. Hood, 1933. No known copyright restrictions.

When I started as a teacher librarian ten years ago, I knew that it was important for me to have a web site for both educational and communication purposes. If I expected my students (and also my teachers) to use reputable and reliable library resources, then I had better  start publishing some web pages. Fortunately, I had some tools, some resources, and some know how.

My initial ventures were with html. We use a bulletin board system (BBS) as our communication tool in our school district. In addition to providing email services, teachers also had access to a web page module and individual root web directories. This module, while functional, did not meet my needs. Fortunately, a commercial software product was made available and this better met my needs. I could easily create and post web pages for my different classes as needed. However there remained several key limitations. My resources were limited to the html coding and graphics creation skills I possessed or picked up since we did not have a web master available. Web page creation took time, valuable time that could have been sent providing instruction to students, curating resources, developing the collection, and managing my library.

My next big venture was with blogs and wiki. Through the SLS Office at our BOCES, we had a training on creating blogs for our school libraries. I saw that I could create and post pages of information for my classes easier and quicker than I could with Web 1.0 technologies. Although I was stuck with one layout and some basic colors, using a blog worked for me although I had challenges navigating my blog to find previously posted materials. I had also explored using a wiki with similar results.

Recently LibGuides were made available through our BOCES. It provides design flexibility, easy access to my informational content, collaborative features, and access to resources posted by other LibGudie users. It is a product designed for and used by libraries. Working together with a colleague from a neighboring school district, we built a LibGuide and presented it as a poster at the 2014 NYLA-SSL conference in Syracuse. In addition to meeting my needs, LibGuides are also friendly on mobile devices and this makes my information more readily available to my students.

After this school year, I will officially retire my remaining html pages with LibGuides as the main vehicle for my class project pages and other related information about my library program. As for my teachers needing to create wed sites for their classes, we are encouraging them to use Google Sites since it is easier and more flexible that the html module found in the BBS.

Thing 16: You Pick! Nearpod

The Fifties in 3D
“The Fifties in 3D.” 11th May 11, 1951.National Archives UK. No known copyright restrictions.

This has been an exciting year in my school district in regards to educational technology. During the summer we set up our technology mentor program. The tech mentors are a group of teachers from across the district that are technology enthusiasts, that use educational technologies with their students, and that are willing to support other teachers to use technologies in their classrooms. This year we also had iPads  available for student use in the classroom. One of the technologies we saw at our tech mentor training over the summer was something called Nearpod.

Nearpod is an online presentation tool and it does have an app for tablet devices and smartphones. Just imagine you are giving a lecture. You slides, instead of displaying on a large screen in front of the class, are on display on the students’ computers, tablet devices, or smartphones.  Preprogramed questions popup between the slides at critical points so that your students can submit responses to critical questions. You can instantly see the students responses to gage their understanding of the concepts of your lesson. Nearpod presentations are easy to create and easy to use, and you can also get reports of students’ responses. Nearpod allows you to turn your static slideshow into an interactive learning experience.

During this school year, I collaborated with another tech mentor (a High School science teacher) on a Nearpod presentation for our Board of Education to introduce some of these ‘new to our school district’ technologies for educational use. I have also demonstrated it at faculty meetings, and most recently at a BOCES SLS Council meeting, to discuss how this technology could be used for formative evaluation in the classroom. It is wildly popular in the Elementary and Middle Schools. Some of the interesting applications have included using Nearpod as a tool for reviewing materials and as an exit ticket tool. I find it to be a very versatile tool and I enjoy seeing how my teachers use it with their students.

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.

Thing 4: Photo Sharing, Part 1

I remember many years ago when I was working on my MLS and I was taking the required management course. One of the projects we did, in collaboration with a local library of our choosing, was to create an annual report for these libraries. We had a detailed rubric of items that needed to be included, which included photos of people using the library.

Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912. By National Library NZ on The Commons

Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912. By National Library NZ on The Commons

Photos (and now also movie and audio files) are excellent vehicle for illustrating and documenting library-related activities, including education and training. Back in the late 1990’s when we wanted to share photos, we were limited to printing our photos unless we stuck them onto a web page. Tools like flickr were not readily available like they are today.

Fast forward to years later when I started as a teacher librarian, I was confronted with policies and practices that, while well intended to protect our students, were confusing and less than clear about what I could or could not do with digital photos and related media. Due to this situation, I have not done too much with online photo sharing as part of my library program.

Students should be exposed to taking and sharing their own photos. In addition to learning about artistic and photographic techniques, they should also be learning about things like tagging and licensing of their media files. If I were teaching a course on media use, I would also be tempted to broaden the topic of photo sharing to include file sharing. We often ask students to work together on school projects but they are often left to their own devices on how to best share their files between themselves. While many times the students will come up with acceptable practices (e.g.: using email to send a file to someone), sometimes they will do something inappropriate like sharing account passwords. We need to include in our lessons ways to properly share media files (photos, movies, word documents, powerpoints, etc.) as well as our expectations that our student will use these tools properly.

As part of this lesson, I will further explore and describe my recent experience with using flickr in my library and how photo sharing could be used in a school environment to share information with the community.

(As for the photo of Herbert George Ponting in Antarctica with his camera, it kinda looked like I was there today with our winter weather advisory for the snow storm in Central NYS.)

Personal Learning Networks and Digital Identities

Earlier this week I read Sarah Kessler’s “5 Best Practices for Educators on Facebook“. Kessler’s practices made a lot of sense to me as a teacher wanting to use Facebook as part of my library program. In face, I would say that these practices could easily be adapted for any type of social media, Web 2.0, or personal learning networks in K-12 education:

  • Stay true to your focus when using it
  • Always ‘friend’ with caution
  • Learn about the different ways to use it to best meet your communication needs
  • Consider alternatives that might better meet your communication needs

Then the other day I received the current issue of NEA Today and I found an interesting article by Tim Walker and Rebeca Logan about managing one’s digital identity (“Is It Time to Scrub Your Digital Identity?” dated 9/7/2012). I found this article interesting for several reasons. The authors remind teachers using social media, either as a teaching professional in the classroom with students or as a private individual, that they may have posted things that may come back to haunt them. They also discus the idea of digital footprints and professional digital identities.

So, why do these articles resonate for me? I see two different elements of information, regardless if it is in print or online. First, there is the context is it what the readers were expecting, will it help the readers meet their needs. Second, there is the author providing the information what makes this person an authoritative source of information. These practices will help provide a focus for what  we (as teachers) are doing and, if we monitor our digital footprints and manage our professional digital identities, we will be seen more easily as teaching professionals.

Another Thingie #01

Checked out other’s blogs. It was interesting to meet everyone working on Cool Tools for Schools. I found someone else that I know from a nearby school district, but I didn’t see a soccer player I was expecting to fine. (Sorry to any ELA teachers or the grammer police that might be reading this blog.)

Thing #01: Blogging

Hi and welcome to my blog. My name is Andrew Dutcher and I am the teacher librarian at Dryden Middle and High Schools in Central NYS. I am interested in learning about and exploring how Web 2.0 technologies can be used in K12 education.

I host my own podcast program, have done some blogging, created a wiki or two, and recently created my first screencast. I enjoy integrating digital technologies into the curriculum to both deliver information and to teach others how to use information properly.

This is the first time I’ve used WordPress. I am looking forward to following others on this online adventure.