There were two initial goals that I had entering this project: to grow personally, and to develop professionally. The two main vehicles for this progress were media creation and digital information management. As a new teacher-librarian in a secondary school, I realize that my scope of influence is limited by my reach to the students and the school community, and my ability to connect with these communities in current and meaningful ways. This blog project, the discussions I’ve had during the term with classmates and colleagues and the practice of writing for an audience have greatly helped with both of my goals.
At the start of this inquiry, I was a novice Web 2.0 user. I had built a few wikis, relied heavily on Prezi and was just entering into the applications inside Google. For much of my career, I have worked in media creation and presentation using computer-based software, so moving from computer-based apps to cloud-based apps seemed like a natural choice for this Web 2.0 focused assignment. I hope to be inspired to create more media through the web 2.0 tools of communication and collaboration. I have worked hard to improve the quality and effectiveness of my digital footprint during this inquiry assignment using all of the six tools I chose which include: Voicethread, Diigo, Evernote, Glogster, Audacity and Jing.
My greatest resources in progressing with the inquiry project fell into two categories: technical help and philosophical help. I found that I was using the recommendations of Berger and Trexler recommendations almost daily, for guidance in how to begin the technical work in media creation and information management and how to engage more deeply with the tools. Berger and Trexler (2010) have found that “Social bookmarking tools are a natural to support twenty-first-century learning skills; they offer a structure that is intellectually engaging, encourage students to not only locate but also to collaboratively tag, organize, and evaluate resources—thinking more deeply about the process” (p.50). Knowing beforehand the extent of a tool ‘s potential , has made it easier to guide my inquiry process with it.
Philosophically I returned to Will Richardson and William Kist to engage more deeply in the inquiry process, to guide my work and reaffirm my beliefs in the power of Web 2.0. Particularly, Richardson (2010) described the 10 “Big Shifts” in his conclusion. These shifts emphasize the importance of active participation of teachers as learners in the new complexities of Web 2.0. They inspired me to courageously explore the limits of the tools I chose. Kist (2010) focuses on literacies and how working in Web 2.0 is similar to the continuum of learning how to read (p. 8). Together Richardson and Kist have taught me that I need to work on developing a digital literacy continuum and to aim to teach the basics to all staff and students in an equitable manner. This understanding has led me to conclude that I need to focus on accessible tools that cross hardware platforms, rely on commonplace equipment.
Of the six tools, I now put Voicethread, Glogster, Audacity and Jing into the same category. They are tools to help with media creation, but they are not going to change how I work online. Most of the time these four applications could be just as easily adapted to offline software. Only in taking the final step of embedding the media creations of these tools, are they then online tools. Although I will use Voicethread, Glogster, and Audacity, I still favour computer-based applications for the same media creation, producing identical results. Voicethread was difficult, nearly impossible to embed. Glogster was juvenile, and unimaginative, perhaps better suited for beginner computer users. Audacity was clunky, and not user-friendly. Of the four, Jing stands out as most useful, and I will continue to incorporate it into my online work.
Social bookmarking tools, like Diigo and Evernote, are paradigm shifting applications. They will change the way that students, including myself, approach and complete inquiry projects. I am really glad that I began the inquiry project with these two applications because they have already become integrated into my work process. As an educator who has both written and taught online courses, I have become uncomfortable with the phrase “21st century skills”. This phrase seems to oversimplify the complexity of preparing our system for the major overhaul needed to be relevant and meaningful for today’s students and their future needs. In Empower’s recent blog post 21st Century Skills are so Last Century! (2011), it is emphasized that platforms and hardware have very little to do with the achievement of skills. The blog also implies that it is useless to ask teachers and schools to keep up with this demand (Empower, 2011). On the surface, this may appear to make our education system irrelevant, but actually there is simply a greater need to put technology to work to do the collating for users to allow greater time for the users to engage in critical thinking. Harnessing this understanding and helping our students to autonomously guide their own learning through technology will be our greatest achievement in education.
The emergence of Web 3.0
The definition of what is next is beginning to emerge. The catch phrase for Web 3.0 is “the semantic web” (Morris, 2011) and it also seems to be an indicator of the next decade of developing applications. More and more, we will see tools interacting together to cross hardware formats, using metadata. Web 3.0 will put the internet to work to start collating documents together, and assisting in publishing. Of the two applications I explored in this project, Diigo and Evernote have the greatest potential for morphing into Web 3.0 tools. Diigo is very close to being a Web 3.0 tool, as it is already a collaborative tool for collecting and sharing ideas. This tool needs to progress to where it is recommending documents and experts based on tags. Diigo also needs to work to include items that aren’t web-based documents. Evernote does this by allowing the tagging of any image, and a variety of file types but doesn’t allow the ongoing sharing of catalogued items the way that Diigo does. Both applications need to work more synchronously with publishing applications in order to move into the realm of Web 3.0.
During this project I also experimented with an application called If This Then That (ifttt.com) which programs user-defined tasks to be completed. So for example, using Diigo and ifttt.com, I created a task that says if I tag something with the phrase ‘booklist’ that it will be tweeted by my library’s Twitter account. In this way, I am using the internet to find information (a booklist), then cataloguing it with Diigo, then publishing it with Twitter, all automatically. This is the essence of where Web 3.0 will go.
The new developments in Web 3.0 will have implications for education, especially teacher-librarians. As we aim now in Web 2.0 to create a dynamic online presence 24/7 for our students, so too the automation of Web 3.0 will allow teachers to be dynamic publishers. The shift from a publisher-created textbook, to an online, dynamic content created by the teacher speaks requires the tools of Web 3.0. The expectation of autonomy in our students will greatly increase, forcing us to allow them to have access to individualized information while maintaining an individual level of privacy as they practice social networking. It will be my role in the next decade to develop a continuum of digital literacy skills that will allow all students to access and manipulate digital tools to enhance their learning rather than having the teacher or the tool dictate the students’ learning.
My next steps are to continue to seek out web 2.0 tools that will help me as a student and as a teacher-librarian. As a student, I have gained a much deeper appreciation for social bookmarking. As a teacher-librarian, I am asked to present regularly to my staff on topics including digital literacy, and best practices for online teaching. I plan to enhance my own Googlesite, maintain the blog I’ve created for this course and hope that my scope of influence increases within my board, province and beyond. I am going to continue my quest to find tools that help teachers to teach critical thinking strategies, and focus on merging creation, communication and collaboration.
I am working on a continuum of research and writing skills from grades 9 to 12 in my school, but I’d like to add digital literacy. I plan next to work on a shared media space where students can safely publish their own multimedia works, allowing their parents to view their work. I hope this will build a greater connection between our school and the community. Also, I hope to examine online classroom management tools like Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) and Classroom Dojo http://www.classdojo.com/. I initiated six b-learning (blended online and face-to-face learning) classes this year. Students continue to struggle with the limitations of their digital literacy skills, as their content for courses goes online. I’m beginning to feel that it is a disservice to ask them to simply learn these skills on their own time, and I plan to make it a mandatory part of their education, at least in my school.
James Herring (2005) predicted that the role of the teacher-librarian would become obsolete unless we worked very hard to change our roles. In the two years that I have become teacher-librarian at my school, I have become fundamental to the whole-school approach to ensuring student success in this digital paradigm shift. Looking ahead at issues in education including Web 3.0, digital literacy and equity, I know that my role will become even more important. This inquiry project has helped me gain some important web 2.0 skills but more importantly it has reaffirmed the imperative nature of my position.
Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Empower. (2011, December 3). 21st Century Skills are so last century! [Web log post]. Retrieved from eLearning news: http://empowerlms.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/21st-century-skills-are-so-last-century/
Ferriter, B. (n.d.). K–12 Teaching and Learning · from the UNC School of Education. In Using VoiceThread to communicate and collaborate. Retrieved November 29, 2011, from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill website: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/6538?ref=search
Fontichiaro, K. (2008). Podcasting at school. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.
Hazzard, B. (2008). Podcasts. In learning, together. Retrieved from http://benhazzard.com/?page_id=4
Herring, J. E. (2005, October). the end of the teacher-librarian. Teacher Librarian, 33(1), 26-29. doi:918912361
Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Morris, R. D. (2011, January). Web 3.0: Implications for online learning. Tech Trends, 55(1), 42-47. doi:2264637261
Richardson, W. (2009, January 9). Why blogging is hard…still [Web log post]. Retrieved from Weblogg-ed: http://weblogg-ed.com/2009/why-blogging-is-hardstill/
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.