Down the Rabbit Hole

December 7, 2008
down-the-rabbit-hole-melanie
Down the Rabbit Hole by Stephen and Melanie
AttributionNo Derivative Works
“I felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole.”
– Darren Kuropatwa in Interview with Margaux Watt, “Up to Speed” November 28, 2008. 

That’s how I feel! I feel like I’ve stumbled into an alternate universe populated with enthusiastic educators engaging students in meaningful learning. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my exploration of the Read/Reflect/Write/Participate Web so far:

  • Blogging isn’t easy! I’ve never written for any audience other than students, colleagues and teachers so learning how to begin a conversation with an online audience is quite a struggle.
  • I’m going to change my mind more often now than ever before. For example, between last week and this week I’ve changed my mind about which tool I should introduce to colleagues first. I might follow Chris Rabeck’s suggestion of November 27 – Awakening Possibilities -” If there is only one thing you do after tonight, make it be that you join Twitter“. I would also  follow Vicki Davis’ suggestion – “The first step is to get connected to other educators and keep up with the latest developments.” She suggests a RSS aggregator is the place to start. (“Time to Grow” by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, k12online 08, October 27, 2008) I feel invigorated in my new and expanding professional learning network, and would like my colleagues to share this feeling of “connectiveness”.
  • artwork2My hand-me-down iPod does more than play music – It’s a valuable and powerful Professional Development tool. I’ve turned down offers for rides home because I’m looking forward to listening to a Web 2.0 in Education podcast on my bus-ride home.
  • Keep a notebook handy to write down quotes, inspirations, new ideas and to keep a To Do list – Here are just a few things on my current To Do List:
    • Make an avatar and join Second Life!
    • Try out RuneScape
    • Try out authorSTREAM for for storing, sharing, and presenting PowerPoints
    • Try out Slideshare
    • Learn more about uStream
    • Find out what Moodle is all about
  • People give you a funny look or try to read what you’re writing when you take notes on the bus – Since I’ve started listening to podcasts on my ride to and from school I’ve had to write down a great quote or idea from time to time , which appears to be a great curiosity to the people around me.
  • Be Honest – Don’t misquote, misrepresent, plagiarize or “fudge the truth”. The Web 2.0 world has built-in and authentic accountability measures. Moderators use e-mail notifications and RSS feeds to monitor the content of their wikis and blogs. People are using vanity feeds to monitor what is written about them, and they will keep you accountable.
  • Like Bud Hunt,  I’m Fascinated with the intersection of the private and personal” ( “The Lie of Community: The True Nature of the Network” k12online 08 Audio channel, October 31, 2008) I love Twitter. It’s not only entertaining and lighthearted, it’s helped me network, keep up with what’s new, get inspiration and almost immediate suggestions for my inquiries.
  • I’d rather make mistakes and learn along with my students than lose touch with the reality of their world.
  • There is nothing like the awesome feeling one gets after receiving a comment from someone far away: For example, I took pictures on a field trip to the petroforms in Whiteshell Provincial Park and I posted some of them to Flickr. The next day I noticed my very first RSS feed from my Flickr uploads:

“Hello, I very much like your petriforms from turtle in de snow pictures , and I like to ask permision to use your pictures on a non-profit forum in Holland/Belgium. This forum is about information on turtle/tortoise in general, here is a link www.schildpaddenforum.net (written in Dutch) If you like I can give you credit,
Kind regards
Hans Meijer”

I started an e-mail conversation with Hans Meijer and shared it with the students who were naturally thrilled to learn about this exchange of ideas.

  • “The NeverEndingSearch” is much more than the name of Joyce Valenza’s blog – it’s a way of life. 
down-the-rabbit-hole-magenta1Image by Waking MagentaAttributionNo Derivative Works
And down the Rabbit Hole I Go . . . .

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Blogging Professional Development Pre-requisite: Must be willing to travel the world and back again in your jammies

November 24, 2008

In my last two posts I’ve written about how I very quickly established a personal learning network online (my community of communities) and how I’ve begun to track my favorite bloggers through my RSS aggregator. You can tell by one look at my blogroll on the right that I’m following some very authoritative voices in Web 2.0 and education as well as some fellow Teacher-librarian bloggers that I’ve connected with through various social networking sites.

I listened to almost the entire k-12online08 conference on my iPod on the bus coming to and from school each day over the last 3 weeks with interest and excitement. This truly is an exciting time to be an educator. I get hyped up by the possibilities and strategies employed by teacher librarian power-bloggers like Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog and Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search Blog. At Doug Johnson’s suggestion in “Blogging and The School Library Media Specialist” I added myself in fascination to the the growing number of librarians worldwide on the Librarian Bloggers Worldwide site . I get hyped up by reading blogs like Will Richardson’s New MacArthur Study: Must Read for Educators .

Yet I also truly relate to the Comment to that blogpost by Shirley Smith:

Then there are the days when I can’t seem to convince anyone to pay attention–regardless of the latest research.
I would be interested in someone writing–or pointing to– a “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order. Provide a glimpse that could help bridge the gap from fantasy to reality so the regular classroom teacher could see herself “there”.

Back here in my little corner of the world, and south-east corner of my school, how do I connect with those teachers across and down the hall and help re-define best practices for today’s high school learners? As Dennis Richard states in the k12online08 podcast- There’s Something Going on Here You Need to Know About . . . how does one ” break out of The Echo chamber to introduce their work and web 2.0 technology to a much wider diverse circle of educators “?

Another question that I’ve been pondering over the past couple of months is why I’ve never met visionary and experienced web 2.0 practitioner Darren Kuropatwa. He teaches in my school division and even in the same district! I used to teach two blocks away when I was working in one of his high school’s feeder elementary schools. I’ve visited his school on many occasions for Teacher librarian meetings or to get my flu shot. I’m following him on Twitter and have visited many of his blogs while at home in my jammies and with my dog at my feet, but have never seen his name outside the “web 2.0 echo chamber” (except for an article in the Manitoba Teacher Society newsletter last year).

I know from Darren’s “A Difference” blog that he has provided professional development opportunities for teachers in our shared district, division and province. I have a rare and unique opportunity to request a classroom visit and perhaps even capture that “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order” that Shirley Smith commented on. That would be of true interest to my colleagues.

Yet that doesn’t entirely address the situation stated by Will Richardson in his New MacArthur Study:Must Read for Educators post that educators “have to be more willing to support this type of learning rather than prevent it, but as always, we have to understand it for ourselves as well.”

I find myself in a unique situation in my school division, especially as a Teacher-librarian. I was asked to chair the Senior Years Educational Technology Mentors Group this year. This group meets 5 times a year and has one or two representatives from each high school in the division, and my role along with 3 other steering committee members is to help set the agenda. At the suggestion of the mentor’s last session we’re going to be doing a Knowledge Management Session with ICT Mentors next month. That is, we’re going to use a wiki to create a list of who has experience and expertise in different ICT courses offered through the division. I’m going to ask participants to read and reflect upon Will Richardson’s blog post and the related comments to “The Less You Share The Less Power You Have.” The more exposure others have to how powerful the sharing nature of the read/write web can be – the better!

Will Richardson makes some very good suggestions for getting started with blogging with colleagues close to home in his book: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. He suggests blogging for knowledge management and articulation for staff to communicate internally, archive minutes, collect links and relevant information, store documents and presentations for easy access later on. At the division level educators can share best practices, lesson plans and “learning objects” (pg. 25) . We have the beginnings of such a blog for the senior years educational technology mentors in my school division but as of today only two members have contributed, sigh. Hopefully that will change soon.

How else can I promote the read/reflect/write web in my little corner of the world? Now that I’ve gained a little knowledge and experience in blogging I’m going to watch for opportunities to share. For instance, students took pictures on our recent field trip to the Petroforms in the beautiful Whiteshell provincial park (my new header was taken in that park) and I posted some that don’t identify the participants on Flickr.com. My next contribution will be to create a RSS feed to our school blog. I think it’s a great way to increase student and teacher traffic to the blog and to see how other’s around the world will respond to the photos.

Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/reflect/write web – to break out of the “echo chamber” that is web 2.0 and to bridge the chasm between what some may see as fantasy to reality.

Visit here for more on this next week!

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