Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reading some of the posts written by Alec Couros' new group of students has taken me back a few years to when I was just dipping my very tentative toes into the ocean of new technologies. I read about how they are feeling overwhelmed and somewhat skeptical and this made me think of one way to approach the steep learning curve that technology represents for most:

The Green approach to learning about technology.

Reduce the number of applications you are trying to learn. Start small and build.
Pick one of two things to learn well. See how they fit into your world. I would recommend using for social bookmarking. Learn how to tag effectively, seek out other educators and add them to your delicious network, learn how to use delicious as a search tool. This will help you keep your learning organized as you collect pages of ideas, tutorials, information and sources of inspiration.

Reuse the ideas of others by adapting them to your own purposes.
Using Twitter and reading blog posts by other educators is like having your own gold mine. As you learn a new technology, look to see what others have done. Chances are someone has:

-reflected on their learning process.
-come up with ways to use it in the classroom
-written a tutorial or screencast about it
-posted student examples using it
-collected their own set of bookmarks for all of the above

Recycle your ideas by sharing with others through Twitter and your blog.
Everyone sees things in a slightly different light and beginners too have something to offer. Share out your ideas, experiences, reflections or questions. You never know when something you say will spark an idea in someone else's mind or provide a key idea for them to move forward with.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Bookmark Dilemma

I have spent some time this summer cleaning up my delicious bookmarks, posted some thoughts here. and joined in conversations on other blogs about using online bookmarking.

I think of my delicious bookmarks as my online library. I find it useful but overwhelming at times. Today as I read through my RSS feeds and glance back over some recent Twitter posts I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of useful links and resources. I want to save them all!

This could become a full-time job in itself. As a librarian with more than a few years under my belt I remember the days before we used centralized processing. The days before I had a library clerk. I remember the stacks of new books that arrived in boxes and how I would dive into them in a frenzy of categorizing and sorting to get them on the shelves and into the kids hands as quickly as I could. Before the books arrived I spent hours pouring over catalogues, reading book review periodicals, writing up cards for my consideration file. Now I turn to my PLN online and use delicious to help me flag books for purchase.

So the focus of my job is shifting in regards to the number of hours I spend on various tasks. Less time on book selection and processing, more time online sifting through feeds and bookmarking. I can sometimes feel lonely and unsupported as I do this. The Internet doesn't come with manuals, guidebooks or a set of time tested procedures. As I bookmark sites for my staff and students I wonder how many of them will ever be used.

When I add books to my collection everyone can see them on the shelf each time they enter the library. Not so with my bookmarks. They remain hidden until I can point them out, embed a link to them or teach my community how to search through them.

I'm left with a number of questions:

Am I tagging resources in the best possible way for others to find them?
Am I reaching my staff and students effectively so that they will start using those bookmarks as an online library?
How much time is time well spent when it comes to saving bookmarks?
Are there more effective ways to 'organize' the web for staff and students?

And all this leads me to think that I am reinventing the wheel as I consider that I am probably not alone in this dilemma. So I soldier on, hoping that I am using the best ways to harness and promote this online library. And I wonder what will become of it when I have moved on. How do I pass this collection on to my successor? Will they even want it or know how to use it? Will it make any sense to them?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

"Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future." Edwin H. Friddman

If you are a school administrator what is your vision for the future? Have you articulated your vision for education in the age of technology to your staff? Are you leading the change or have you developed a 'let's wait and see where this is going' policy?

More than ever leaders need to be learners. Have you ever said to your staff, "Here's something I learned about on Twitter." Or shared something from your RSS feed? A few months ago an administrator handed me a magazine with an article in it he thought I might enjoy. That same article is available online. It can be shared out to multiple people simultaneously and then conversations can be started.

Why leaders as learners?

- Taking even 15 minutes a day to learn something new will change your world and that of your students.
- With perhaps only a handful of people in your district who do the same job, using technology can enhance the ways in which you connect and support each other. Start a blog. Use Twitter. Create a wiki of resources for admin. Start a collaborative collection of bookmarks using delicious.
- Technology is not a passing trend. It's not going away. Ever.

Resources and Starting Places

I asked my own PLN to suggest the names of people that administrators might follow on Twitter. While this is a matter of personal choice and learning style these will get you started. Look to see who they are following as well. One person suggested following @shareski's blog, in fact most of these people write blogs that are well worth reading.
@shareski (read his blog too: Ideas and Thoughts
@wfryer @chrkennedy
@chrislehmann @courosa
@datruss @dogtrax

There is a list on the Twitter4Teachers/Principals page. If you can suggest others please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

David Truss has sites for administrators bookmarked on delicious.

A few suggestions for blogs to follow are listed on the Seycove Library wiki.

Read these summaries of other's reflections on effective school technology leadership from Scott McLeod's blog :
Dangerously Irrelevant - Leadership Day 2007
Dangerously Irrelevant - Leadership Day 2008

And for some inspiration, take a look at this Wordle created when Ann Johnston (@amjohnston) asked, "Which words would you use to emphasize an administrator's role in technology?"

"In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." Eric Hoffer

Don't say things are moving too fast. It may work out for tomorrow's students but our concern is for the students who are sitting in our classrooms today. Are they being well served? Are you leading the change?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Playing Tag

Image used under a Creative Commons License by ocean.flynn

Let's face it, many of the things educators learn these days are done on the fly, squashed in between lesson planning and marking. Done in a just-ahead-of-time way to use in class with students the next day. There's a price to pay for this kind of learning, one that I am dealing with this week as I attempt to tidy up my online bookmarks in delicious.

By some standards I have a great many bookmarks. As more of the resources I direct students and teachers to become available online my list of bookmarks grows. This week I began some spring cleaning by weeding out similar tags. For example, I'll keep resource and delete resources.

In workshops I explain tags as similar to the words one would see in the index of a book. Some people recommend using as many tags as possible, others say fewer are better. As I look at the way I've used tags I think I've come up with a better plan for tagging, keeping in mind how I will search for the links later.

- use subject tags like English or Socials
- consider the type of information: resource, tutorial, howto
- use all singular or all plural tagging: tutorial or tutorials
- add the author's or creator's name if there is one
- decide how to deal with multiple word tags, some popular ones are the hyphen, underscore, forward slash or period. I'm tending towards using the period: copyright.friendly

When I recently searched for some examples of how blogs are used in English classes I used these two standard tags: blog, english and added in other tags as needed: poetry, guidelines, commenting, writing etc.

So there you have it, some of my simple rules for making sense of my delicious tags. If you need me, I'll be slogging through my tags, cleaning them up and wishing I'd had these guidelines in mind when I started tagging.

Some resources for learning about delicious:

Finding other educators who use delicious in the Delicious4Teachers wiki. Add your name to this wiki.

Firefox Add-on for using delicious.

Chris Betcher's "I Like Delicious Things" from the k12 online conference.

The Delicious Blog has great tips and tricks.

From YouTube "Getting Started With Delicious"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Not at NECC09

Mulling over the many wonderful ideas I gleaned from NECC09. The sessions I attended were inspiring, as were the conversations I was able to take part in. "But you didn't go to NECC09 did you?" I hear someone say.

Well, in a way I did, virtually. For all you who were there in person I would like to say: Thanks for making my own experience so rich. Thanks to all who made their live-blogging accessible, thanks to those in the back channels and chat rooms who engaged in rich conversations and provided links to resources, and thanks to my Twitter friends who alerted me to the places where those online conversations and events were taking place.

Here are a few of the things I've gotten from NECC this year:

- from Tony Vincent's Learning in Hand iPod session - stay posted, he'll be adding his session as a series of podcasts from his blog.

- from someone's tweet - Leslie Fisher's handout on iPhone/iTouch application support

- many great session notes from Wesley Fryer on his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog.

- Steve Dembo's Top 10 Web2.0

- Edublogger's Web 2 Smackdown session. With my favourite part being when Kevin Honeycutt skyped in to talk about how he uses keychains in training sessions from the train on his way into NECC.

So there you have it, my week at NECC. All sessions attended as I sat in my PJs in the still of the early morning before the rest of the family emerged. The time difference worked in my favour. I may have missed the face to face meetings but I took so much away to mull over and plan with for the coming year.

And I have to ask myself, which might have been the richer experience, attending in person or virtually? I had no jet lag to contend with. I was fresh each morning as I arose from a good night's sleep in my own bed. I may have missed the excitement of meeting twitter friends for the first time. There were sessions that provided no live streaming and therefore I could not attend.

It's something to think about.