Sunday, February 28, 2010

Websites, Wiki's, Blogs and Google Docs

Another week full of interesting new tools and topics. The information on how to create a good school library website was very useful, especially after seeing so many different examples of how websites can be set up. It sounds like Blogs are an excellent addition for interactive, collaborative input and information on school websites and they are easy and inexpensive to set up. The examples that I looked at were fun to look at and read, especially if they were regularly updated. The work involved in keeping them updated may be the only drawback for a librarian short on time. You should also enjoy writing, something that I need more practice doing before I will feel totally comfortable, especially the reflective content. I created a twitter account this week as a way to learn how to micro-blog. I just don't know who to twitter with! Most of my friends think twittering is silly. I like to be open-minded and have not formed an opinion yet. I have added a few comedians and the infamous Lance Armstrong, but who else should I follow? Last word on blogs, it is nice to have added Will Richardson's blog to my diigo library, as he is the expert on the web 2.0 technologies that we need to know about. He is also a very engaging writer.

Wiki's on a school website can help students access organized information and resources to succeed with interactive class projects. I have had a great experience so far using the Wetpaint wiki for LIS 568 and feel the Blackboard courseware is outdated and boring to use by comparison. My son has a wiki he uses for his Robotics team that give the students the specific information they need by teams, subteams, projects, calendars, point accumulated, etc. It is also a place where discussions take place about progress with the building of the robot. I can see many uses for this format. I did look at the Flatclassroomproject, planetmath the Welker's Wikinomics wiki's. They were very impressive with loads of information, visuals, podcasts, online discussions, personal profiles and more. The Flatclassroom wiki even showed you on a map where all the participants were located by dots. If you moved the cursor over the dot, you would get the profile and sometimes a picture of that student. Cool stuff!

Using Google Docs will require more practice to be really useful, I think. It seems like collaboration should require an initial gathering of parties, maybe through a chat room to clarify the goals and visions of the participants. With a plan in place, I think this is a good tool to use. For now though, I think I am googled out and will think more on ways to use this format for collaboration in the school environment later.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This week proved difficult for focused reading with my kids home, especially for a topic as complex as copyright law. I found I could only digest a few pages at a time with chapters 5 & 6 in the Simpson book. I still surprised how little I heard of these laws as I worked in 4 different schools in the last 6 years. I have witnessed many violations of these laws, as an unaware teacher's aide. I understand the reasons behind these laws, for the most part, but I wonder how often these laws are enforced. How does a district/teacher get caught? Is there an agency that monitors materials used in schools? I have the impression that enforcement is not routine, or more teachers would be conscientious of copyright law.

I set up my iSafe account this week and plan to get the certification process started this week-while it is quiet in my house! In my readings, I really liked the article by Anne Collier, "A Better Safety Net". She uses the phrase "Online Safety 3.0" to represent the use of safe social networking for students. Collier discusses how social networking and online gaming can be beneficial for many students. Social networking tends to fall into two categories, friendship- driven and interest -driven. Students learn social skills, explore interests, express themselves and develop technical skills. Online gaming and play is mentioned as benefiting the development of the brain as"players analyze statistics and probabilities, strategize, learn how to budget and market, and explore supply and demand" as stated by Collier. Interest-driven online users will have an opportunity to find a group to connect with, learning the important skills of collaboration in the process. Lastly, she believes school is the best place for students to learn how to use the internet responsibly, by incorporating new media literacy and digital citizenship into the curriculum.

Just a short note on the Doug Johnson reading. He is so right when he states that it is the contents of online materials that can be a problem, not the formant, (Facebook or MySpace for example). Social networking is just a tool that can be used for many purposes and students need to learn how to use these tools appropriately and safely. That will not happen if students and teachers cannot access interactive online social learning formats.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Searching, Info Literacy, Google Squared

Another week full of information. I usually spend at least two hours browsing through the recommended sites, reading posts and creating posts with every visit to the classroom wiki. It just works better to tackle a few chunks of information at a time. My week started with the information literacy topic and the Allen November website. I took his IL quiz to see how savvy I am and I scored pretty well, but not in the geek category yet. It was alarming to investigate the Martin Luther King website that was created by the racist group White Power. It is amazing that the government cannot shut down an operation like that. It was a good example of how corrupt a seemingly legitimate looking website can be. I am glad I now have some good sites to refer to when I need to check on a website.

The discussions involving searching tools for catalogs was very informative. There are so many options now to make searching easy for any type of user. I don't think library users will have any trouble finding what they need if libraries take advantage of newer systems like the Follett Destiny Quest catalog. The types of resources have also become very diverse with the advent of digital resources. I myself have not experimented too much with these features, but I know it will be increasingly popular, so next time I want a book, I think I will see if I can download one into my iPhone. I actually did this once, but it was rather cumbersome. Hopefully, the second time around will be smoother.

Tonight I enjoyed playing around with the Google squared site. I looked for information on cross country skiing in NY, getting only a few possible sites. Skiing is a sport that is primary promoted for downhill skiing, so most of my results came up with this area of information. I tried adding other options to narrow the field, but it did not help much. In the end, I did get some good websites for XC skiing, but these did not show in my squares. I saved and retrieved the squares without difficulty, so I will think of some other ideas to try Google squared again. It seems like a good way to organize a variety of search results. So many new tools for finding and organizing information!

Monday, February 8, 2010

All About ICT, IL, NETS, Webquests & More

I did it again-forgot the blog until it hit me at 3:30am, as I lay in bed thinking about my research paper that is due tomorrow for LIS 532! School work is invading my sleep and I don't know how to stop it. It will certainly help that I put a message to post my blog into a calendar reminder in my iPhone. It is silly not to put that expensive little computer to work in every way possible. Technology is supposed to make life easier, right? That takes me into the topic of IL and ICT. It appears that both are very important to have in our digital age. I was well aware of the issues around information literacy, but had not heard the term "information & communication technology" in relation to library science. ICT is defined as the ability to effectively research and communicate using technology, which is what I am doing on a daily basis, as are most people with access to computers. I am not surprised by the lack of proficiency in effective research and searching techniques. The format is so new, especially for teachers who have not kept up with the ever increasing ways that students find information and use information. There are certainly not many teachers who are using technology to communicate with students in web-based courseware programs, but I think that will change.

"Satisficing" was a term that I read in Joyce Valenza's article called "They Might Be Giants", and it stuck in my head because it defines the quality of information that many students are using through the internet. Satisficing is a combination of sufficing and satisfying; and this is where the student is content with the a quick, satisfactory answer rather than taking the time to truly research from authoritative websites or databases to find the best information to answer questions. I also read that most students are not using school databases, because they either don't know about them or prefer to search from the convenience of their own personal computers. Joyce Valenza also feels that the library need to present information in a new format. Her statement "Young users prefer collaborative seamless environments. Their academic, social, creative and entertainment areas merge online in nomadic multitasked landscapes". I know this is true. I have observed plenty of college students using their laptops or the cell phones to accomplish many tasks at the same time while sitting through a lecture. They do appear to be listening to the instructor, but are not content to take notes on the laptop without the connections to their email or facebook accounts. I can see using courseware such as Blackboard to be somewhat outdated now after using a wiki for this course. It is much more interactive with the podcast, links to informative sites and videos, profiles and photo's of students, and the discussion board is much more user-friendly. So, library websites and databases need to emulate this format for information seeking if we are to get students away from the comfort and ease of "satisficing" work.

Monday, February 1, 2010

AT Reflections

Where to begin? I was surprised by the many options for students with learning disabilities. I feel I should have known more about these products, especially with my having a child on the autistic spectrum, who has significant learning impairments. I also worked for BOCES for 6 years and have seen some AT tools, like the Dynavox communication system for students who are unable to speak in a functional manner. I have also used the touch screen mouse alternative with computers. But there are so many other useful tools to help students learn. Even the Smartboard is a great interactive type tool to engage students who have attention issues and benefit from visual and auditory presentations. I myself find that a great way to learn new things, as it is not always easy to visualize things you are not familiar with. I was better able to understand some of the AT tools after watching a power point I found on these items through one of the many websites and links I perused.

I liked that some of the AT tools are available right in your browser and I plan to try that out for myself. Items such at the Intel reader and other text to speech tools do not seem to be used in any of the learning environments that I have been in. In my SLMC interview at the Bay Trail M.S., they don't use much assistive technology. I was told that the special ed. dept. is in charge of these items. He did say that they have used the FM Sound Sys., where he has worn a microphone clipped to a cord around his neck and the student had a hearing devise in his ear. Something like that could be quite useful for students with auditory sensory differences, that prevent them from staying focused on a speaker, because they are completely distracted by something like the sound of the florescent lights-sounds crazy, but they really can hear these things! I also asked about the use of filters and whether they present any problems for the students trying to access information. The answer was a resounding "no, not at all". In a few cases he has requested that a sight on say "breast cancer" be unblocked, but otherwise, they have not had problems accessing information. Makes me wonder if this is as big an issue for school libraries as I have been reading about? He also said they have social networking sites blocked, but not YouTube, as there are many educational videos they use with the students. I imagine the filters may be a greater problem in the high school, unless they allow greater access. Well, I need to move on to the next topic in this weeks' podcast. Adios.