I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been really busy, and I’m on the final checkout sheet that teachers must have initialed before they can leave, so I sit here ready to go, and just waiting for the ones who still need a signature by the library/technology statements. Earlier this week a school library student ( a current practicing teacher working on a grad degree in library science) contacted me asking if i would be her interview for a paper she was writing in one of her grad classes. The topic? Blogging and 2.0. We tried a couple of times to arrange a skype interview, but my crazy schedule kept getting in the way, so finally she asked if i would just respond in an email. After doing my best to complete it, I decided to post some of it here (removing specific school references that I did not feel at liberty to publicly post.)
I say it is an “End of School Year Reflection, Sortof” because it is more like a summary of my knowledge at finger-depth’s level in the world of blogging and 2.0. While I seek to be a role model and exhibit best-practice, this makes me realize I have such a long way to go and grow. But that’s the nature of 2.0–ever evolving and changing daily, isn’t it?
So this may be long and tedious to read, but I will post anyway. So much for my promise to post shorter entries from back in January.
The Interview: Questions and My Answers
Question 1: How do use your school media center blog? What are its purposes?
I have used my school media center blog as a forum for discussions. I thought (or intended) to use it for book discussions) but never did really push it in that direction. I may even scrap the whole school blog next year, and go with a wiki for different projects or discussions so I can invite students to add. Right now the school media center blog has too much “ownership” by me and not the students.
Question 2: Describe the responses to your blog by Administration? Teachers? Students? Parents? Other community members?
Ho Hum. When I push it, kids will use it to respond to discussions. But if I don’t remind or point blank ask students to use it, it basically goes unnoticed. One of my teachers reads and comments on my blog. I have made him a 2.0 convert and junkie. It seems to have made him more interested in lesson plans and collaborating or brainstorming for ideas, and his students seem to get very excited about his class.
Question 3: What inspired you to first create your both your school blog and professional blog?
My inspiration began several years ago (maybe 2004) when Alan November was a keynote speaker at 2 different conferences that I attended (and both were basically state level conference.) But he awakened a part of me that no other educator on a speaker circuit had ever done before. He introduced me to Skype then too, which I used for a while, but gave up. It was too new then. I got back into skype in 2006 and actually intro’d it to my Mom. Now my Mom says, “Do not call me, Skype me.” Lately though I’ve had very little time to use it. But the point here is that Alan November introduced me to global learning and global tools. I began to seek out other educators who blogged, as it was becoming a buzz word in the educational technology world. In 2005, I decided to attend NECC in Philly. I literally had my eyes opened. Now my district then was way into the Schlecty material (engaged learning, Working on the Work.) The educational technology mantra then seemed to morph into relevant and meaningful learning with 21st century tools embedded–NOT teaching and then trying to find a way to integrate technology. So suddenly I was gaining a richer understanding of meaningful work for students. Here (NECC) is where I learned names of some of the top movers and shakers in educ’l tech and library, like Alan November, David Warlick, Will Richardson, David Jakes, Gary Stager, Kathy Schrock, Joyce Valenza, & Doug Johnson.) At least those were my “first” bloggers that I followed. I wasn’t brave enough then to write one, but i devoured these bloggers’ written word. Since then I’ve attended many conferences, specifically NECC annually, and these conferences help me network with other forward minded educators that inspire me to explore and do more.
Question 4: What advice would you give to others, whether classroom teachers or media specialists, who want to start blogging?
I would say find a group of bloggers who resonate within, and read them. Once you have begun reading more than a handful, learn to use a reader (like google reader or Bloglines) for management (as these free programs will tell you when there is new content, and you won’t waste time visiting blogs that do not have anything new.) Learn about the bloggers you read. Learn who they read. Once you have done that, decide if you want to be a blogger. One doesn’t have to jump in to be a part of it. Being a reader/commenter can be just as rewarding. If one decides to develop a blog, seriously reflect on who the intended audience is as well as the purpose for the blog. Research the blogging platforms well. Ask what other bloggers use and why. (I currently use Edublogs, primarily b/c it is not blocked as much as other blogging platforms. I also find the interface easy to use. Many beginners use Google’s Blogger, but I seriously detest it. I find it somewhat unprofessional in the look and feel, though they have made some improvements and changes.) If one creates it, don’t get discouraged if there are no comments for a while. That will come. To cultivate a readership is a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. Simple things like adding your blog to a signature file can help. The best way to draw readers is to comment on other blogs, and leave the URL for your blog in the place calling for a URL. Often times bloggers will visit the links that commenters leave, including your own blog. If your comment resonates with them, they may add you to their reader. Also other visitors to that blog may read your comment and decide they want to “follow” you as well. Eventually you will have cultivated a readership. So don’t get discouraged or feel like you are writing to yourself. Reflective writing is very rewarding in itself.
Question 5: Have you encountered any issues concerning privacy, access, etc. that you would consider noteworthy? If so, please describe them. What are your thoughts on blogging and copyright issues?
I have not faced any issues of privacy or access. But being in a public school that uses filtering, it is constantly on my radar. I try to cite all photos used in my blog, and I also strive to use pictures that have a creative commons license. As an LMS, I feel I should model citing when I use material (especially pictures) that are not mine.
Question 6: I also saw that you have a professional blog called TechnoTuesday that offers lots of useful information and technology tips for both classroom teachers and media specialists. Can you tell us a little about that blog and how it differs from your school media blog?
This is my primary blog, the one I spend more time on. It allows me connections to other educators, both teachers and LMS’s. Networking through the tools gives me a wider perspective on issues. I like to consider this a vital part of my professional learning network (PLN).
Question 7: Have you involved any students/teachers in blogging? If so, how, and what were some of the results?
Being in the library has not really afforded me an opportunity to do that. It may be that I just have not pushed it either. But I have tried to get other educators on board, and I can say I have successfully gotten other LMS’s to do some, and I have 2 teachers here who have created blogs. Only one uses it regularly, and he loves it. He uses it for parent information as well as student info. He is at http://mrgranito.edublogs.org. I am very proud of his accomplishment as a new blogger, and yes, we collaborated a good bit on his creation, and even got a few kids to do it. They are in his class, and they have their blog in his blogroll.
I was asked back in March to do the “teacher” career for career day here at school. I wanted the kids to hear a fresh voice instead of me, so I arranged for several educators from all around to speak using Skype to my 3 groups. I had a 5th grade teacher, Lisa Parisi, from Long Island, New York. I had a 6th grade teacher, Chrissy Hellyer, from New Zealand. I had commitments from Dean Shareski and Alec Couros, both educators from Canada, one a k12 level educational technologist, and the other a college level professor. I had Doug Johnson, media coordinator from Mankato, MN. All were to skype in at certain times. Too bad after my first two, we lost our school’s internet connection. It was very memorable though.
Question 8: I noted from your professional blog that you have been involved in several professional development activities with blogging and using other
Web 2.0 applications. Can you tell us a little about those? Were you facilitating the workshops? What are some highlights you would mention to
For the last few years I have been presenting at local and state conferences, and recently I have begun to present on the 2.0 topics. I have done several presentations on the value of reading blogs and using a reader at the library conference, a couple of teacher conferences, our state technology conference, and our annual administrator’s conference (3 yrs in a row for them.) I have also begun visiting schools and districts to do workshops (half-day) on podcasting or just global 2.0 in the schools. I wrote in my blog a good while back about a parent workshop i did at school. This garnered me an invitation to come to Charleston, SC to do this same preso at school for their parents. I said I would come if they would modify it some, and include a panel of experts that included an admin, teacher, guidance, social worker, SRO, lawyer, college entrance officer, and students. Yes Students. I suggested they allow me to do my spill, and then turn it over to a panel discussion that included me and the others they could get, and it was beyond belief how well it went, AND how wonderful the discussion was. OH, and they paid me. How awesome is that? This one is the one that stands out the most, but I do love spreading the message to parents, students, and teachers. It seems the toughest sell is teachers. Go figure. The administrators who have heard me have been highly complimentary, and they are the reason I get invited to do workshops around the state. I say I am cultivating my next job in 6 years when I can retire–>Consultant. But who knows, in six years I may not be as up on the tools. I can’t back up a lot of what I’ve learned with real world classroom experience–yet. And my interest and focus could change too. So who knows?
9. Are you aware of other media specialists in your district who blog? If so, what is the level of collaboration among them in developing this tool?
No other school level LMS’s in this district blog, but I do have a folder in my reader of SC LMS’s that blog. I am sad to report its very small in number but the ones who are blogging, either through their library or personally are very progressive. Our district media coordinator has set up two blogs for summer reading, but it is in its earliest stages–very knew to many in the district. (The rest of my answer here has been cut for personal reasons.)
10. What do you consider the biggest advantages to blogging in the school media center?
I’m not sure I see any advantages yet for students. They see blogging as “schooly” if I can use that word. But I think educators who use it in the classroom have caused that, which is another reason I have not totally pushed the media center blog. I don’t want it it be like school-work. But it does allow students to read and see that they have different perspectives, and it does give them a forum to express their opinions.
11. Can you provide any insight as to the future of blogging in school libraries and classrooms and what the implications are for students and
Blogging per se I fear will be molded into something schooly, and lose steam. Like most new things, schools adopt them and then “beat them to fit, paint them to match.” It will lose its authenticity then. I don’t want to say blogging will not work, but I do want to say that the use of them will have to be authentic and engaging for student learning, and not just something else students and/or teachers have to do. I can only think of a few examples where educators use it as a vehicle for learning, and they have a “walled-garden” type set up, either with private blogs, moodles, nings, or class blogmeister. I don’t necessarily agree with the walled-garden concept. If educators can create social network atmosphere similar to face book or myspace, they will probably have more success. Students want to see the tools they use out of school in school. Having a blog will not necessarily meet that need, especially if it is not provided with exciting, interesting school lessons. I hope that makes sense.
12. What are you thoughts on/experiences with using some of the other Web 2.0 applications (podcasting, social networking, etc…) either separately or in conjunction with blogging?
I love the tools and use them myself quite frequently for my own learning. I have used Twitter for quick help or a place to vent. I am on some of the nings (Classroom 2.0, TeacherLibrarian, etc.) as well. These allow me to network with other educators who use 21st century tools. I can get many ideas for real classroom application as well. Ustream is really beginning to play a big roll in my use of 2.0 tools as well, and I’ve heard that much of NECC and November’s BLC Conference will be Ustreamed so virtual attendees can participate. I follow many podcasts, and have gotten teachers to explore podcasting as a vehicle for demonstrating concept mastery. We are also playing a lot with video editing, though we are not publicizing it through the 2.0 tools yet.
I still feel very much like a beginner at a lot of this stuff, and don’t really use it as much as others. This summer at NECC in San Antonio I will be sitting on a panel discussion with Joyce Valenza and others to discuss using 2.0 in school library. I can only hope I have the expertise they have.
Steffon. “Skype Phone” re-ality’s Photostream. 8 September 2005. 7 June 2008. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/re-ality/41676755/>.