Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Multimedia Assignment

In my past blog on photosharing, I commented that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, this week, I found out how to add the words to the photos in two very fun, and easy multimedia websites: Animoto and Voicethreads.

Reflection on the process of learning about the tool

I came into the assignment this week with no prior knowledge on how to use multimedia websites to create presentations. I was having so much fun learning about and playing with Animoto and Voicethreads this week that I got so distracted with making new videos and slideshows that I barely left enough time to blog about my experience with these fantastic new tools! I started with Animoto and found it the fastest and easiest application for Web 2.0 that we’ve used yet. Within 15 minutes, I had created my first video. It took four easy steps. First, I signed up for a basic free account that allows me to make an unlimited number of 30 second videos. Second, with a single click of a button, I uploaded 12 of my favourite snapshots from my own album. It was easy to arrange them in the order I wanted to view them by clicking and dragging them into place. Third, I chose music from the vast number of copyright free choices in their program and with a final click, the program ‘mashed’ them together to produce a professional looking video. It only took a mere 5 minutes to receive my completed video. I was delighted with the finished product and chose not only to embed it in my blog, but also email greeting card copies to my family members. The only difficulty I had with copying the HTML code and embedding it my blog, was that it was too wide to fit properly. This was easily remedied by typing over the width in the HTML code to “400” and the height to “300”. There were also plenty of options to embed it in Twitter, Facebook , or send it to an iphone. I also played with the ‘remix button’ to see some of the variations that were available. It was amazing to me that no two videos were alike.

I was also curious about Animoto’s educational website, so I tried to sign up for an account there as well. It was a bit more rigorous, as I had to include information about my school, and wait while they checked my credentials. I still have not yet heard back from them whether or not I’ve been approved. The benefit of this type of account is that it allows educators and their students to make full length videos free of charge. There is the other option of buying an all access pass for $30 per year for full length videos and professional quality DVDs. Professionals can also sign up for a license for commercial use for only $249 per year. A small price, I think for the amazing product that is produced so quickly and easily.

I also tried using voice thread, and this proved to take a little longer to produce the desired product. It was easy to sign up, and start an account, and load my first photo but I didn’t find the recording step to be intuitive. I had to watch a video tutorial to figure out how to add participants and their photos. I also had some difficulty emailing the photo directly to my family members for commenting. Instead, I copied a link and used that in an email to direct them to the photo. My mom had some trouble with her microphone, and since she is still on dial-up, I couldn’t talk her through the process over the phone. Instead she chose to write her memories of that particular day were and add it as a comment instead. It would be nice to have her voice recorded for prosperity however, so I will have to spend some time with her in person, working through the microphone technicalities.

Multimedia as a tool for my own personal learning

I am sick to death of powerpoint presentations. I am tired of using them, and I am bored of viewing them. If I never saw another clipart picture again, I would be a happy woman! I am incredibly excited to learn that there are newer, easier, more interactive and FUN methods of presenting information. I have only been using Animoto and Voicethread for a week, but I have already become addicted to Animoto. As soon as I was finished my first video, I quickly made my niece, Ruth a get well card. She had an emergency appendectomy at 1:00 am Friday morning and was feeling lousy that she didn’t get to carve her pumpkin and was going to miss trick-or-treating all together. With her video, I chose to combine photos from my own files with pictures from Animoto’s extensive collection and also to write some text on some of the slides. She absolutely loved it! Next, I made my step dad a birthday video. Then I called my mom and requested some of my childhood photos so I could experiment some more. I now have new ways to lecture, present information, send messages to loved ones or create unique event invitations.

I am also excited about the possibilities that voice thread has to offer, although I still feel that I need to spend more time learning the intricacies of the program before teaching it to my own students. I really like the idea of being able to annotate family pictures or home videos with personal messages. My mother is an only child and with the death of my grandparents, I have become only too aware that she is the sole proprietor of my family’s history. There have been several recent occasions where she has been brought to tears by looking at a photograph because she no longer has the ability to find out the story behind it. We also have several old family recipes written in my great grandmother’s thin, shaky cursive writing that we can no longer read, and would love to have her explain to us personally. With Voicethread, we now have the ability to document feelings, reflections and personal history to accompany our family ‘treasures’ so that they may be passed on to future generations. I can think of no other tool that is more valuable for sharing information.

Multimedia as a tool for teaching and learning

In our 21st century society which has become much quicker paced, media-saturated, and digital, it has been proposed that a “new literacy is required, one more broadly defined than the ability to read and write." (Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan). This idea of a new literacy includes the ability to interpret media (text, sound, images), to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments ( Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan). It is also the ability to use these skills in a collaborative fashion to synthesize the information, reflect and formulate our own ideas. One of the many challenges faced by teachers who want to develop their student's new and multiple information literacies, is the process of locating engaging, cost effective, intuitive learning technologies (McPherson). Animoto and Voicethread are two examples of free online applications that allow students to easily communicate and express themselves using audio and visual media together.

Animoto is a very easy intuitive program to use, and will quickly engage any learner in it’s unique and fun approach to communicating visuals. Its straightforward approach and its ability to create a one-of-a-kind product with minimum or no frustrations will easily encourage users to return again and again. However, as much fun as Animoto can be to present work, it doesn’t become interactive or useful in collaborative learning until it is shared with others on a blog, or social utilities like Youtube or Facebook. I feel that Sprankle is right in his opinion that Voicethread is one of the better tools to bring “creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration with a global audience into your classroom”. The real power of the tool comes from allowing other people to comment on the content within the voicethread. Comments can be typed, recorded by voice or video, uploaded as audio, or even recorded by phone and you can even draw on the slides to illustrate a point (Sprankle). The other benefit that voicethreads offer is the ability to post student work which “allows for reflection and conversation that can transcend the limitations of the classroom” (Sprankle). Students or parents can add to a discussion from home, and other teachers and students from around the world can also join in. This allows the participants to engage in discussion and explore course material more deeply while practicing critical thinking (Voicethread).

As a teacher, I like the idea of being able to post student work to share with a larger audience, but I also like having the option of moderating the comments or controlling the settings to be public, private or only shared among peers within a class, and this is allowed by voicethreads. I also like how voicethreads can be downloaded as a QuickTime movie which also allows for easy archiving.

So what are some of the best uses for students? The ideas are almost limitless, but I particularly like these suggestions found in Voicethread’s own library:
• Create a portfolio of work with annotated presentations or explanations of the work they have done.
• In English and language arts, students can present stories they have read or written, have asynchronous conversations about books, share poetry and writing combined with their artwork or photos or document a ‘day in their lives’.
• In a foreign language class, it could be used to introduce vocabulary, images or text and engage students in oral practice of the language.
• In a math class, it could be used to demonstrate knowledge (like a geometry lesson or measurement and ratio) or it could be used to get students to work together to develop problem solving strategies.
• In a science class, voicethreads could be used to explain diagrams (like water or nutrient cycles) or as a walk-through a virtual dissection.
• In a social studies class, students could examine historical photos and comment or read and share historical letters.
• In a visual or performing arts class, student artwork could be combined with words, visuals or music.

There are also many ways in which teachers can benefit from using voicethreads. The first use that comes to mind is to engage in conversation with colleagues and use for reflective practice. It could also be used for professional development presentations or while introducing new technology for education. Teachers could also develop instructional videos, tutorials or give a dynamic lecture. This format engages students in an interactive environment better than any ‘downloadable’ (i.e. podcast or videocast) lecture can. It could also be used to improve communication with parents by creating newsletters or putting together a presentation of a field trip so parents could ‘come along’ with their children (Sprankle).

In my opinion, Animoto and Voicethreads are an excellent way to incorporate new digital and visual literacy skills in multimedia presentations which will help to prepare students for multimodal communication in future work and social environments. At the same time, they provide a fun way to create a culture of participation and collaboration in the classroom and perhaps with a larger audience.


Jones-Kavalier, Barbara R. Flannigan, Suzanne L. (2006). Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quarterly. Vol. 29, No. 2.
Retrieved from:

McPherson, Keith. (June 2009). Mashing Literacy. Teacher Librarian. Vol 35, Iss. 5 Retrieved from:

Sprankle, Bob. (October 2009). Voicethread. Urbana. Vol 15, Iss. 1 Retrieved from:

Voicethread Digital Library. Retrieved from:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Wiki Assignment

This week I decided to create a Wiki for the Don Ross Secondary School Outdoor Leadership class’ annual fundraiser. This Winter Gala is the major fundraising event for this class of 26 students who spend their entire semester outdoors; cross country and downhill skiing, learning about avalanches, snowshoeing, building snow caves, orienteering, rock climbing, kayaking the sunshine coast, and hiking the Juan de Fuca trail. Most importantly though, they learn about becoming leaders in their school and community and raising environmental awareness for the amazing area in which we live. This is the seventh year of this special teacher designed program and it would not be possible without a successful fundraising effort. In the past, the has generally raised around $7000.00 to cover the cost of the trips, guides and equipment incurred in the courses. The winter gala fundraiser is generally organized by a committee of parents and the two lead teachers of the program. It involves several months of careful planning and a virtual avalanche of email communication in addition to the face-to-face meetings. I am hoping that by creating this wiki, I can improve the communication and organization for the event planners and contribute in some small way to this amazing endeavor since I am on a leave of absence and unable to be on the organizing committee this year.

The Wiki can be found at

Reflection on the process of learning about the tool

The word ‘wiki’ is a short form of the Hawaiian wiki-wiki, which means ‘quick’ and I found out this week just how quick and easy it is to design and edit a wiki website (Richardson). Once again, I found Will Richardson’s book and excellent place to start learning about wikis. Upon his recommendation, I went to wikispaces found at and signed up for my own site simply by giving a username, password and email address. I choose a wikiname (no spaces allowed) and I was set up quicker than you can say ‘wiki-wiki’! I like how the opening page of wikispaces has a very comprehensive tutorial of how wikis work. I must admit that I didn’t finish the entire tutorial however, because I was anxious to just get started and try it out. With a click of the ‘edit’ button, I wrote a quick introduction on the home page (which I’m sure one of the teachers of the program will edit and alter soon). The only thing that I was unsure of at first was that after I hit the ‘edit’ button, my computer had a rather long pause before allowing me to write. I wish the response time was a little ‘wikkier”. I found that it was incredibly easy to add pages and sub pages. All I had to do was type the page name “Advertising”, highlight it with my cursor and click on the link icon on the toolbar. When the dialogue box popped up, it was already in the ‘Link Text’ and ‘New Page Name’ spaces. As soon as I clicked ‘OK’, the new page was produced. I easily organized the wiki site with various pages for advertising, ticket sales, sponsors, concession, entertainment line-up, set up and take down duties, as well as a list of committee members. When I set up the wiki, I had an option of whether or not I wanted the site to be protected or open, and I have chosen protected for now, so that only the invited members of the committee can made changes. Inviting them was incredibly simple as well; all I had to do was click on ‘Manage Wiki’ and ‘Invite People’ and type in their email addresses. I was planning to embed a calendar from Google calendars, but have not yet heard back from the teachers on specifics for meeting dates and a general outline for when specific duties had to be done. I am hoping that in time, the other teachers will also be inspired to add photos of the students in the program, as well as advertise the sponsor logos. The beauty of the wiki is that it is ever evolving as the planning progresses.

Wikis as a tool for my own personal learning

I tend to use Wikipedia a fair amount for my own personal use whether it is to find the actor in a certain movie, look up a new sailing term or find out the most recommended varnish for refinishing my furniture. Already this week I’ve used wikirecipes to find a chicken pot pie recipe, wikiquotes to find a quote from a movie I’d watched and wikiquestions to figure out how to install the block heater on my car. Wikis are unquestionably a fantastic online resource for looking up these random bits of information. However, even though I’ve found it useful personally, I still had this nagging distrust in the site as an educator. It’s hard to get past the bias that it is ‘unreliable’ because so many different people are contributing to this wealth of information and yet, I have no idea of their credentials. After reading a few articles this week, I am starting to change my mind and realize the impact and important role that wikis can serve. It was encouraging to me that wikis are starting to be critiqued by scholars and their positive endorsements are heartening. I read the article mentioned by Will Richardson called “Grading Wikipedia” and in it, several Colorado scholars were asked to review entries on several topics and rate them. Four out of five agreed that Wikipedia entries are “accurate informative, comprehensive and a great resource for students” (Booth, 2007). The fifth scholar found some details to be “inaccurate by omission” (Booth, 2007). I am starting to become less skeptical about Wikipedia, but I still believe that it should be used as a starting point for research and that the hyperlinks listed in the references should always be evaluated and critiqued carefully.

An interesting thought occurred to me as I was setting up the Winter Gala wiki, and that was although I am an avid user of the wiki for personal reasons, I have never contributed to one before. The whole concept that wikis and Wikipedia in particular are there for “the collaborative construction of knowledge and truth that the new interactive Web facilitates” had escaped me until now (Richardson p.57). The main rationale and principle behind the Web 2.0 technologies is to collaborate and contribute - whether that is to a class or a much larger, global audience. I readily share ideas and collaborate with my colleagues, but why I have never collaborated on a larger scale before? Why have I only been a passive recipient of this type of information? This has made me think back to the blog I wrote on social bookmarking. At the time I was exploring that Web 2.0 tool, I was also starting to wonder if my students not only communicate differently than I do, but actually think differently too? If this is the case,then communicating in an online format is like any other skill – it needs to be practiced and developed to become inherent and effective. I am still not at that stage yet with my blogging, as it is not yet incorporated in my daily life. I am interested to see if the wiki will be an easier platform in which I can collaborate and communicate.I am hopeful that as this course progresses and my comfort level with these tools increases over time, I will have fewer, and hopefully no, hesitations to contribute my own knowledge and information to various wiki sites.

Using Wikis as a tool for teaching and learning

As teachers we all know too well that students eagerly use Wikipedia when starting their research on the computer. As the old adage goes ‘if they are going to be doing it anyways, we might as well teach them the proper and safe way to do it’. Why not use Wikipedia itself as a means to teach students to critically evaluate websites? By getting them to check the hyperlinked references at the end of each page, it not only encourages them to research further, but also allows them to gather information, compare accounts, gain more background information and evaluate the site critically (Davies and Merchant, p. 92). It can also be used to teach students the concepts of community collaboration, and respect for other people’s ideas (Richardson). Most importantly, it can help teach collaboration and negotiation skills and allow students to teach each other and share what they know with a larger audience (Richardson, p. 60). The possibilities for class wikis are almost endless and FUN. Students could create their own virtual textbook. As they progress through the year, small groups could be responsible for updating the wiki on a weekly basis with the topics they’ve been learning and add relevant links, photos or presentations (Hudson). Students could also explore Omnictionary or another book-related wiki and then be challenged to create a wiki for the book they are currently reading in class (Hudson). They could add information about the characters as they develop, or add biographical information about the author. Foreign language teachers could also use wikis as a way to organize vocabulary words by theme or unit of study. That way kids have quick and easy access to an online dictionary customized just for their class. They could also use their wiki to link to places where the language is prevalent (Hudson). Socials classes could also use wikis to follow current events since they allow immediate publication of events as they occur (Davies and Merchant, p. 91).

For teachers, the use of wikis can be very creative, but also very functional. Wikis could easily create a portal for lesson planning and sharing to occur, as demonstrated by sites like wikibooks (Richardson, p. 63). Wikis for teachers could also decrease disruptions of instructional time by posting daily staff notes on a school wiki instead of putting them in daily announcements over the public address system (Nielsen). Another potential benefit of a teacher used wiki could be to make meetings more efficient. All team meetings and planning can be coordinated right on the wiki, giving staff and administration an opportunity to see what is happening in other departments around the school. This wiki could also incorporate discussion boards for conversations to take place outside the meetings (Nielsen). Wikis could also be used to enhance professional development, by putting up any important materials being use in seminars to one wiki site. Again, discussion boards could also be used to elicit feedback and keep the conversations going afterwards (Nielsen).

In the library, wikis can be a useful way to manage knowledge. When I started at my school as the librarian, no information had been previously documented on the use of the computer system, the department routines, standard operating procedures, or the organization and collection policies. There was also no anecdotal information of best practices from the previous librarian. I simply had to start from scratch and it was incredibly frustrating. Over the years, I have documented everything that I do in my role as librarian and the binder of information has become rather large. Since I am on a leave of absence this year, I passed on what I affectionately call the “library bible” to my successor. I can now see that a much more efficient way to share this information and knowledge would have been to create a library wiki. This way, the teacher librarian this year could also add her own knowledge to the framework that is already there. As noted in the article “Wikis in the Workplace”, having a wiki to manage knowledge of this type “can help improve efficiency, accuracy, and consistency of information use within the organization” (Kille, 2006). In addition to our school library, having a wiki or knowledge management system that is similar could “help libraries remain competitive in an era of constant change by facilitating the rapid transfer of knowledge” (Kille, 2006). Once again, the benefits of creating a collaborative system of sharing information and knowledge cannot be denied.

Although the use of wikis for class projects may present some challenges for evaluating work done in a collaborative fashion, I still see the potential uses for wikis as being truly astonishing. I am curious to see how the Winter Gala wiki I created this week evolves and changes as the event is being planned.


Davies, Julia. Merchant, Guy. (2009) Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Peter Lang

Hudson, Hannah Trierweiler. (Sept/Oct. 2009) How to Teach With Wikis. Instructor. Vol 119, Iss 2 Retrieved from:

Kille, Angela (March 2006). Wikis in the Workplace: How Wikis Can Help Manage Library Reference Services. Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal. Vol 16, Iss 1. Retrieved from:

Nielsen, Lisa. (July 2009). Eight Ways to Use School Wikis. Tech & Learning. Retrieved from:

Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Friday, October 16, 2009

Podcasting Assignment

Since I watch the movie “Walk the Line” earlier this week, I’ve had the Johnny Cash song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ stuck in my head.
I hear the train a comin'
It's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when..

My climbing partner laughed at me on Friday when it started to rain in the middle of our ice climb and cold, wet and miserable, I started to sing it as loud as I could. It seemed only appropriate that we could hear the ubiquitous echoes of trains down in the valley below us. He agreed to bail on the climb and come back to the house for a warm drink and be interviewed by me instead for my podcasting assignment.

Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
I was extremely glad that I read Will Richardson’s section of “Getting started with Podcasting” in his book before attempting to podcast myself. I started out by taking his advice and downloading the open-source program Audacity. It was free, and very easy to record with. I then downloaded Audacity’s MP3 encoder (Lame V3.98.2) to translate my files into MP3s. This step took a little bit longer than down loading the Audacity program. (Due to software patents, Audacity cannot distribute the MP3 coding software themselves.) This multi-step process was explained quite well on the website, but I found that I had to keep my browser open to follow the instructions exactly. The tricky part occurred when I exported my first ‘test’ recording as an MP3 file. Audacity prompted me for the location of my “lame-enc.dll” file and if I did not have the browser still open with the instructions, I likely never would have found were it was located on my C: drive. This finally allowed me to export my recordings as MP3 files to be used on other sites or archived.

Once I had the initial set-up complete it was full steam ahead! I had a lot of fun recording and playing with the audio-editing program in Audacity. I will admit that I did end up using the ‘Help’ menu a fair amount as none of the shortcut ‘tool’ keys had symbols that I recognized. I imagine that it would be a fairly intuitive program to use, if one had any prior knowledge of ‘GarageBand’ or other music-making and mixing programs. I chose to import music from and was thoroughly impressed with the selection of free music that was available. It was categorized by topic and mood which made it easy to find a piece that suited the interview I wanted to enhance. It was actually fun to experiment with lining up the various tracks and interview ‘takes’ and fading in music at the end. It is by no means a ‘professional’ recording, but that is what makes it feel authentic and is the charm of this type of recording I think.

What slowed me down to a virtual stop was figuring out how to post my recording to my blogger account as it does not have any automatic support for ‘enclosures’ like MP3 files.
Thankfully, I picked up speed again when my classmate Annabelle Pendry suggested a slide share presentation outlining what to do. I followed the prompts and opened an account on This allowed me to save my audiofiles, and get an html code that I could then copy and embed in my blog. Voila! I had arrived at the destination! The only difficulty with this step was that it worked well only when the archive screen was open. Once it was closed, I could no longer log in and find my own archived material, no matter how hard I tried. (I guess the moral here is to get off at the right station, since there’s no turning around the train.)

Since I am such a big fan and regular user of Skype, I also decided to follow another track to see if I could record a conversation from Skype and then podcast it. I had already downloaded and installed the software for both Skype and PowerGramo, so it was easy to experiment with. I just had to dial up my friends and record; then transfer the file to Audacity, edit it, and export it as an MP3. The process was virtually the same. The only catch for me, was that the basic (free) version of PowerGramo only allows Skype to Skype calls, and if you want to call or conference with a landline, you have to pay for the upgraded ‘professional’ version.

Podcasting as a tool for my own personal learning
Since I discovered the website TEDtalks, I have been a podcasts enthusiast. I love being able to download any of the various shows to my ipod and listen to them while driving or working out. Researchers have found that "part of the appeal of podcasts is that users can listen to these audio files whenever they want, wherever they want, as often as they want and on the device of their choice" (DeVoe, p. 78). Besides the ability and ease of multitasking while listening, there is something more personal and appealing to me to listen to someone’s voice present an idea or a conversation for debate than reading about it. All week in our class discussions about how to personalize our little spaces on the web, my group has been questioning and reflecting on how to develop our own ‘voice’ or authenticating our sites through our writing styles. I can now see how effective the use of embedded podcasts can be as well, and I look forward to hearing my classmates’ voices for the first time this week.

There has also been a lot of concern about whether or not communicating online is an authentic means of forming relationships and it has been noted that the “existence of [a] sense of community in the Web environment, that it is not that far from the sense of community in real social environments”( Kyröläinen). However, many people in the class discussion felt that there needs to be a healthy balance between ‘online’ relationships and ‘real’ relationships. To me, using podcasting or Skype (especially with video) is a much better means of enhancing communication and online relationships and can actually assist with real relationships when separated by distance. I have used Skype so frequently over the past 4 years that I have purchased a Belkin Skype phone (about the size of a cell phone) that I use more than my actual cell phone. My entire family lives on the East Coast and in Ontario and this has been the best way for me to maintain communication in between yearly visits. It is fun to take photographs and record my nephews singing “Happy Birthday” to me. (I suppose I could always podcast these back to them later, when they are older.) I have also had personal relationships that never would have ‘left the station’ so to speak, if it were not for the ability to see each other and talk over Skype while separated for long periods of time.

Podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning
I was ‘derailed’ this spring for several months when I injured myself rock climbing. I was on crutches and unable to return to the classroom for the last two months of the school year. This caused an incredible amount of disruption and frustration for my students who had to deal with and adapt to a number of different substitute teachers. I only wish I had read the article “Injured educator teaches her students via 'Webinar'” while I was stuck on my couch! In that particular article, a teacher taught her class from home while recovering from knee surgery. Her students really “liked the idea of connecting with [their] regular teacher from home instead of relying on a substitute and felt that if their teacher was “unable to be in the classroom, a teleconference [was] the next best thing” (White). I wish that I knew then what I do now, and could have podcasted some key lessons for them that proved to be so frustrating. It would have also served a good purpose for reviewing before the provincial exam, and hopefully would have avoided the additional stress and aggravation that they felt in my absence. At the very least, it might have served to lessen the transitional disturbance between myself and the substitute teachers if they heard from me personally why I was away, and that I did indeed miss them!

In the library, there are several possible applications for podcasts that could also change the way we communicate. There have been some “early developments by public libraries which are starting to use podcasts to advertise library news, market services to library patrons and develop audio books” (Berk et al). Podcasting could also be very relevant in school libraries to ‘host’ book talks with authors via Skype, alleviating the cost and travel inconveniences for author visits. Student reviews of books and recommendations could also be recorded and archived to help other students choose reading materials.

In the classroom, the possibility for engaging students and appealing to different learning styles, especially the auditory learner, is seemingly endless. Researchers have commented that when “teamed with other support material such as print or online guides and face to face classes it can be a valuable addition to the learning process” (Berk et al). However, to appreciate the true value of podcasting as a classroom activity, we have to move away from the common definition of podcasting as a means of speaking our minds or ‘lecturing’ and “consider it as a way for a student to express creativity and share it with others” instead (Criswell). The real power of podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning is that allows students to create material or contribute ideas to a larger audience or store it for future audiences to use (Richardson p. 113). Some of the possibilities for student participation as noted by Richardson include; Language teachers could record and publish daily practice lessons to aid in acquisition of a new language; Social studies teacher could have students do oral histories, reenactments of historical events or interviews (as I’ve done in my podcast embedded below); Science teachers could have students narrate and record observations for lab experiments or dissections which could be too messy to write down; Music teachers could record recitals or concerts or showcase music solos that cannot fit in a major concert (Richardson, p. 114)

We should also consider these additional creative ways that Criswell suggests using podcasting to enhance student learning in the classroom:
• as remedial assistance for special needs students
• as makeup work assistance for absent students
• as a way to provide validation for grades
• as a visual/audible way to share a student's progress at conferences
• as an incredible public relations tool.
In my opinion, the simplicity of equipment needed for digital recording, the low cost involved, the immediacy of producing results and the fun involved make podcasting one of the most powerful classroom tools that we have considered to date in this course.



Berk, Jaya. Olsen, Sonja. Atkinson, Jody. Comerford, Joanne. Innovation in a podshell: bringing information literacy into the world of podcasting. The Electronic Library. Oxford: 2007. Vol. 25, Iss. 4; pg. 409
Retrieved from

Criswel, Chad. The Value of Podcasting. Teaching Music. Reston: Oct 2008. Vol. 16, Iss. 2; pg. 26, 2 pgs
Retrieved from

DeVoe, K. (2006). Innovations affecting us - podcasting, coursecasting, and the library. Against the Grain. Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 78-79, 85.

How to embed a podcast into a Blogger. (n.d.). Slideshare [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

Kyröläinen, Satu Suvikki. (2001) Sense of Community in Web Environments. Master’s Thesis. Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki. Retrieved from

Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Rumpler, A. (2007). Podcasting in Library Research: A discussion of three projects developed using new audio technologies. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the Annual Conference. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1563504601).

White, Davin. Injured educator teaches her GW students via 'Webinar'. Saturday Gazette-Mail. October 18, 2008. Retrieved from:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Social Bookmarking Assignment

I am writing this as I fly from New Brunswick to Ontario to visit my family for 3 days. The sun is setting above a spectacular layer of puffy clouds that stretches as far as the eye can see. There are millions of them out there, merging with and layering on top of each other ….Suddenly, all I can picture in my head are words floating around in the clouds like the tag clouds that have been in my sights all this week while learning about and experimenting with social book marking in an attempt to organize and make sense of the hundreds of websites I navigate every week.

Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
Although there are many different types of social bookmarking sites out there to try, I decided to use this week for several reasons. First, it was the site that pioneered tagging and coined the term ‘social bookmarking’. Second, since social bookmarking, like any other social networking web tool relies on the size of its community and participation for its success, I chose to go with the largest one out there. Setting up a page on was remarkably easy. I didn’t even need to use an email address to register. I followed the clear and easy to read prompts and was able to import my 191 bookmarks within a few minutes. What I was a bit disgruntled with at first (but now love since I’ve seen how easy and quick it is to use) is that it changed the look and settings of my firefox toolbar to include the Delicious tag buttons. I was happy that all my imported bookmarks were saved as private by default, even though it took me a bit of time to sort through and change the settings of approximately half of them to public. Admittedly, it probably would have gone quicker if I had discovered the ‘bulk edit’ button sooner! Now that I have used the quick tag buttons, I have discovered that these are saved as public by default. What I am still not very happy about is that there is no option to only share a bookmark with specific people in my network, but I can see how this could be circumnavigated by using a very unusual ‘tag’ word. The biggest thing that I learned this week is that the most important part of using this method of organization is all in the tag. “Finding and connecting to relevant information is not done through the search; it’s done through the tag” (Richardson p. 96). This is taking me a little bit of getting used to. The first day I tried it, I gave up in frustration, feeling like a grumpy little Eeyore with a black cloud about my head (yes, with tags words swirling in it). I have become so accustomed to my own antiquated method of using folders and sub-folders; I really have to adjust to this new way of thinking and searching. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about and try in Delicious, and I am interested to see how I will feel about this tool later on in the semester after I’d had a better opportunity to build my network of people to share with.

Social bookmarking as a tool for my own personal learning
As I started to ‘tag away’ I found it really interesting to see just how eclectic my tastes and interests are. I had never given much thought to the variety of sites that I visit everyday and the tangents that I go off on when browsing the internet. This tool has certainly made me much more aware of this aspect. When I look at my ‘tag cloud’ that is posted on this blog, I can see a drawback to this tag-based system. As hard as I tried to use similar keywords, I still pluralized some of them accidentally and made a few spelling errors. Since there is no standard set of keywords, social bookmarking relies on a folksonomy, which is not a controlled vocabulary (Wikipedia). Besides making spelling errors, users could potentially use tags that have more than one meaning and further add a confusing element.

Despite this particular drawback and my own personal struggle with using a new system of organization, I am looking forward to building up my network to connect to others that share similar interests and hobbies. Rock climbing has long been one of my passions, and it will be fun to find others with which to share new route information and newly discovered areas to explore in. I also love to cook and bake, and am eager to find others to share recipes and helpful websites with.

It may be a coincidence that this tool was introduced to our class in the same week that we were asked to reflect on how we’re managing to stay organized in the Web 2.0 environment – but I doubt it! While reflecting on that question, and experimenting with social bookmarking, I started to wonder how this is changing the way we interact and communicate with others. I can also see that it may be changing the way we store and find information in general. By tagging information, resources, photos, videos etc., it “may become less important to know and remember where information was found and more important to know how to retrieve it”. (Educause Learning Initiative). This has lead me to question this week ‘Do my students not only communicate differently than I do, but actually think differently too?’ If this is the case, will I be able to change, adapt and evolve my own thinking too over time? Perhaps communicating in an online format is like any other skill – it needs to be practiced and developed to become inherent and effective. I am hoping that I become more comfortable with social bookmarking and the ‘tagging’ system over time.

Social bookmarking as a tool for teaching and learning

What intrigues me the most about social bookmarking sites are the possibilities that they hold to improve collaboration with colleagues, sharing of resources, and enhancing my teaching practice. As Richardson comments in School Library Journal it better “enables us to share our treasure with others”. I have often team taught my science classes with other teachers and we have always had to store our information, notes and presentations on a central laptop which we then wheeled on a cart from room to room as needed. I am happy that I now have a quicker, more efficient method of sharing valuable websites and information with colleagues. I am also excited that my bookmarks can now be utilized from any computer or workstation in the school or when traveling. I also feel more secure knowing that I can download and save all of my bookmarks for security, or easily transfer from one service to another if I find it better suits my needs later on (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).

I am also excited about the possibilities that social bookmarking has to help students organize themselves and work collaboratively with their peers and a bigger community.
Many of the teenagers that I teach in junior high really struggle with the transition of having several courses with different teachers and organizing themselves in general. Teaching students to use social bookmarking can provide them with an overall system or framework in which to organize themselves, but still allows them the flexibility to personalize their sites and form their own networks. Where I see bookmarking becoming invaluable to students is the collaboration and sharing of websites when researching for projects. If the time is taken to properly teach students how to critically evaluate websites when researching it could also mean that they will be more diligent about utilizing and sharing sites of higher quality. (DesRoches) It also has the potential for helping students find links to current events by subscribing to news feeds on a particular subject of interest (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).

In the library, there are several possible applications for social bookmarking that will dramatically change how we research and communicate. Using tailor made social bookmarks for a specific class research project can simplify the distribution of reference lists, bibliographies and resources between students or collaborative groups (Educause Learning Initiative). Teachers and students could also tag interesting reviews to recommend books and DVDs that be purchased for the library, or possibly used in book clubs (DesRoches). Some community libraries, like the Thunder Bay Public Library and the Nashville Public Library now have tag clouds rolled onto their websites so patrons can find information on any number of topics just by clicking on a tag. Researchers have noted that this has been better for patrons than traditional pathfinders and subject guides because it “lowers [the] barriers for participation”. (Rethlefsen)

After getting a ‘taste’ of social bookmarking this week and seeing the benefits that it will offer both my students and myself personally and professionally, I am definitely going to go back for a second helping.


Educause Learning Initiative. (May 2005) 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from

Desroches, Donna. (January 2007) All Together Now. School Library Journal from

McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Social Bookmarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from

Rethlefsen, Melissa. (June 2007). Tags help make Libraries Library Journal from

Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Social Boomarking. Retrieved October 4, 2009 from