Teacher Librarians unite!

The Internet is a wonderful thing. 

Teacher Librarians everywhere are having the same experiences, pondering the same questions, and collectively tackling Web 2.0.  The important thing here – the beauty of Web 2.0 – is that we aren’t alone.  Thanks to things like wikis and weblogs, we are able to learn and grow together.

One Teacher-Librarian I have a great deal of respect for is Joyce Valenza.  She is a role model for everyone, as she has taken her school library online, offering a ‘Virtual Library’.  She maintains a fabulous and informative blog ( NeverEndingSearch Blog )  and has recently started ‘Teacher Librarian Ning’ – an online community for Teacher Librarians and educators (for those who want to lead in new information landscapes).  I love it!  She describes it as a “learning sandbox”, which seems a fitting analogy.  She is responsible for initiating many incredible projects, such as the Teacher Librarian Wiki (topics include: Web 2, School Library 2, Books, Info Lit & models). 

So much to learn!  I am grateful for her and the work that she does, as it helps me to figure things out and inspires me to continue learning and doing more!

Reflecting on Technology

How hard is it to incorporate some of the Web 2.0 tools into your classroom or your library program?  I was looking for examples – specific examples – and I found the following:

Using blogs and wikis in Grade 1! [youtube]qZ8VAef8QM4[/youtube]A Social Studies Wiki

A Grade 4 Class Blog

A Gr. 8 Web Classroom (includes blog, podcast, studycast, class webpage)

A Book Blog (like a novel study but via blog)

A Library Skills Blog

Technology takes time.  That is what I have learned through this process.  It always takes longer than you think it will.  That being said, what specifically takes time is finding other sites to link to, or videos to share via YouTube, or technical difficulties that were more associated with setting the blog up in the beginning.   Now that the blog is up-and-running, it doesn’t seem that hard to continue, which I think I will.   If anything, it keeps a history of all the technological things I have discovered and considered with regards to schools.   Months from now if I want to refer back to an article or website, the link will be conveniently located in this blog.  Plus, I am hoping to generate discussion (comments) as I go.  

I think a good realization I have made is that incorporating technology isn’t too hard, and is really quite important to do.  I hope that my explorations through this blog lead to my use of technology in my library, and that this use of technology makes a positive impact on the lives of my students.

Learning 2.0

As the Internet has changed into Web 2.0, school libraries should be making to the jump into the role of Library 2.0.  The problem is: there is a huge technology learning curve for many teacher-librarians, and morphing their library and school library programs into 2.0 mode requires some training.  Fear not!  This training is available in many places on the Internet (isn’t the sharing nature or Web 2.0 great?!) and best of all – it is free!   PLCMC (Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County)  hosts a series called “23 Things”on their Learning 2.0 site.  The “23 things” are steps you can take to enhance your knowledge of the Internet and Web 2.0 tools.  It is a great tutorial, with easy-to-follow instructions, and podcasts to help you through each step.   Fabulous!TechSoup discusses ‘Everything you Need to Know about Web 2.0’, and provides guidance and helpful links into blogging, using RSS, social networking, wikis, podcasting,and  digital storytelling.  This is another great site with information to help you learn these new tools.

Learning 2.0 has two meanings for me:

*  that we are learning new technologies to understand and participate in Web 2.0 

*  that using Web 2.0 tools effectively in education can enhance student learning, transforming their regular learning into “learning 2.0”. 

Funny really… would that make me Teacher-Librarian 2.0, and my students would be Students 2.0?   Do we become Society 2.0?   Maybe we already have…

Googling Around the Web

Google is so much more than just a search tool.   It includes a whole family of Web 2.0 tools, including:

Google Maps:  Search the world via map or satellite imagery thanks to Google Maps.  You can type in an address and find directions, distances, and length of time to travel.   You can even type in landmarks, like the CN Tower, and you are instantly transported there via Google Maps.

Google Scholar:  With most searching on the Internet, you are skimming the surface of a very big ocean of information.  Using Google scholar gives your search a little more depth as you specifically search scholarly literature.   You can increase the effectiveness of your Google Scholar searches by using the Advanced search option, and fine-tuning your search.

Google Earth:  Google Earth combines the power of Google Search with satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings – it is a great geography tool to explore the world.  It does require a download, but once installed, it allows the following (listed on Googe Earth website):

  • Fly to your house. Just type in an address, press Search, and you’ll zoom right in.  
  • Search for schools, parks, restaurants, and hotels. Get driving directions.
  • Tilt and rotate the view to see 3D terrain and buildings.
  • Save and share your searches and favorites.
  • Google Labs:  This is a very interesting part of the Google website… it provides links to the technology aspect of Google.  There are many technology tools to explore here, including Google Page Creator, which is a great tool for creating webpages.  The only glitch is you need to have a Gmail (the Google email program) account to access this tool.

    Picassa:  This tool is similar to Flickr, in that you can upload and share photos.  One fabulous difference is that Picassa allows you to modify your photos (make colour adjustments, size adjustments etc. )   It is like having Flickr and Photoshop rolled into one program.  A great Web 2.0 tool.

    Blogger:   One of the easiest blogging programs to use is now owned by Google.  It walks you through step-by-step as you set-up your blog.  Before you start, give some thought as to what name you’d like for your blog… Blogger has been around for a while, and most obvious names are gone.

    All students know how to use Google to do a random search for information, but as educators we could be teaching them to be more effective in their research.  Google offers tips on how to search:

    Basic Search Tips for Google

    Advanced Search Tips for Google

    I love Google, although I admit to feeling like they are a monster corporation that will take over the world someday.  Their tools are useful, and they allow you to participate in Web 2.0 easily.

    Library 2.0 / Librarian 2.0

    The more we talk about Web 2.0, the more teacher-librarians think about Library 2.0.   It is a reality that is slowly taking shape as we adjust to our changing roles in this new technology-driven world. Increasingly, students are turning to the Internet and electronic sources for information.   How does this change our role as teacher-librarian?  
    What is our role in the school of the future? 

    Some doomsayers predict the end of libraries,  certainly school libraries.   Who needs libraries when you have access to the Internet?  That image frightens me, but I am comforted by reading an article from the ALA – 10 Reasons Why the Internet is No Substitute for the Library.   My favourite quote from this article is  “The Internet is marvelous, but to claim, as some now do, that it’s making libraries obsolete is as silly as saying shoes have made feet unnecessary.”    Although written in 2001, the article cites reasons that continue to be valid to this day, such as:

      • ** Not Everything is on the Internet
      • ** The Needle (your search) in the Haystack (the Web)
      • ** Quality Control Doesn’t Exist

    The list goes on, but I have singled out these 3 points because they also add to the definition of our changing role as teacher-librarians.   Admittedly, students from this generation feel most at home when searching for information on the Internet.    With this in mind, our roles in Library 2.0 need to include:

      • ** Continuing to teach basic research and literacy skills (how to use a catalogue, how to find information in a resource, how to find the main points and supporting evidence, how to take notes and organize your thoughts, how to properly cite information)
      • ** Teach tools and strategies for effectively searching on the Web
      • ** Teach how to critically evaluate websites

    In Library 2.0, you need to have a 2.0 Librarian, and it turns out this may be one of the greatest careers in 2007!  In an article on Kiplinger, I found a description of our changing role:

    Librarian.   Forget about the image of librarian as mousy bookworm. Today’s librarian is a high-tech information sleuth, a master of mining cool databases (well beyond Google) to unearth the desired nuggets.

    Someone once asked me if I see a future without books.   Personally, I don’t.   Although the Internet is a valuable tool, the benefits of books should not be understated.


    Will people abandon books for the Internet?  Certainly not for personal reading – I don’t know anyone that wants to curl up on the couch with their monitor for some reading.  In schools, I still can’t imagine a library without books.   In any given day, I see students around the atlas, looking through World Book, curled up with a magazine or book, some reading together, some reading alone.  Personally, I experience a fatigue from staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods that I don’t experience when working with books.  

    But never say never (unfortunately)… the “School of the Future” which is conveniently sponsored by Microsoft, has no books, papers, or pencils.  Everything is on the computer.   It makes you wonder – what would happen if there was an energy crisis in the future, and we found ourselves without electricity to meet the needs of our overwhelming population?  Society would be scrambling madly (try to think of everything you use in a day and what needs electricity) and where would I be?

    Curled up with a book.

    Using Wikis in Education

    One of the Web 2.0 tools that has great potential in classrooms and the library program is the Wiki. 

    A wiki is a website that you and a group can create and edit; that tracks your progress and history; that essentially allows collaborative construction of knowledge on any given subject.   The benefits of using  wikis in school is discussed in  School Library Journal, and provides a link to these Gr. 3 Class Wikis.

    How can you use wikis in education?


    Some examples of how you could use a wiki in your school include creating:

    **  a wiki with collections of student work

    **  a class wiki discussing units that are being taught/studied

    ** a wiki of student-created study guides

    ** a wiki around a specific event (i.e. 2010 Olympics)

    ** a wiki for groups that are writing/editing a collaborative report

    As with many Web 2.0 tools, teachers and teacher-librarians may be intimidated by the technology and not sure where to start.  There are online tutorials that can guide you, and people have posted wiki tutorial videos on YouTube that are very helpful, such as the one below that shows how to set-up a class wiki:


    Some examples of how you could use a wiki in your school include creating a wiki with collections of student work, a wiki of student-created study guides, a wiki-style class blog, and for student groups to work on writing/editing a collaborative report.   In the library, visit Library Success for ideas and guidance.

    The potential for using a wiki in your school is huge!   Don’t be scared to try it out – a good place to start is pbwiki.com.   Questions, thoughts, examples of your work?   Let me know!

    Web 2.0 Tools & You

    There are so many new tools that make Web 2.0 possible.  So many, infact, that I am only skimming the surface by discussing a few here.   I will discuss more as time goes on, but today I will suggest a few that may be of some use in the classroom or library program.  Even if you can’t imagine how to use it right away, it is worth investigating so that you might use it in the future. 

    Some more obvious Web 2.0 tools include:

    YouTube  a popular free video sharing website which allows users to upload, view, and share video clips online.  There is a group within YouTube that is designated for schools (YouTube K-12) where students and classes can upload their video creations to share.

    Flickr a website where you can store, search, sort and share your photos.  You could search for curriculum-related photos to share, or upload class photos – when photos are uploaded, you can designate the security level (who will see your photos).  You can have settings so that only ‘friends’ can see photos, where only contacts that are approved as friends have access to your photos.

    MySpace  /  Facebook   Both of these sites are social networking sites, and there is still controversy around the use of these in schools.  Many school districts have their filters set to block these websites based on the possibility of innapropriate content, and safety concerns.  My view?  These are websites that students use outside of schools, and they need to be taught Internet safety, and how to use social networking sites safely.  I am not sure there is a tie-in with the curriculum, so other than teaching Internet safety, these sites may not have a use in the classroom. 

    Some new tools you may not have heard of include: 

    Splashr  a tool that can be used in conjunction with Flickr.  Splashr takes Flickr photos and presents them in any format you select (i.e. slideshow, mosaic, etc.)  You can search for whatever subject (tag) you want, and can specify if you want to search all of Flickr, or a specific person’s photos on Flickr. 

    Del.icio.us   A Social bookmarking site where users can save bookmarks and organize them with tags.  It keeps all your bookmarks in one place, you can bookmark sites for yourself and your friends, and see what other people are bookmarking.

    Scrapblog  This is a very cool site, which allows users to combine photos, videos, audio and text into a multimedia scrapbook!  You could use this for class field trips, projects, and special events at your school.

    Ning  This is a social networking site, but you can create groups within which to network.  You might choose to have a group for your class!  Teacher-Librarians that are wondering about Library 2.0 might want to join the Library 2.0 group where they can share questions and ideas about Web 2.0 and Libraries.

    The article  Back to School with the Class of Web 2.0: Part 1  (written by Brian Benzinger)  offers a huge list of Web 2.0 tools geared towards teachers and students, organizing them into categories: organizers, gradebooks, management, mathematics, resume building, to do’s and notetaking, learning and research, and media sharing. 

    Part 2 of this series expands on the Web 2.0 tools,  with categories including word processing, presentations, diagrams and mind mapping, spreadsheets, and calendars.

    I really like Part 3, as it addresses some things I have already been thinking about, namely educational blogging, photo sharing with Flickr, educational podcasting, Wikipedia and Wikis, and video sharing. 

    There are far more Web 2.0 tools than time you have in the day to learn all these.  My suggestion: take time to quickly peruse the lists, pick a few that find interesting, and start by learning those. 

    If I have missed any good tools, please feel free to leave a comment with your suggestion.


    The Potential of Podcasting

    Off the Shelf Radio presents… 

    Podcast #1 – Podcasting

    If the link above fails to work, use this link:  http://www.archive.org/details/offtheshelf_podcast

    Production Notes:

    Intro; what is podcasting; examples of podcasts; how to use podcasts in schools and school libraries

    * podcast was recorded using a Zen Micro MP3 player

    * editing, adding sound effects, and exporting an MP3 file was done using Audacity  

    * online free storage of MP3 files through Internet Archive

    The Wikipedia Debate

    One of the best known ‘Web 2.0’ tools is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia in which anyone can contribute, write or edit entries.It fits in well with the sharing and collaborative nature of Web 2.0.  The only problem is that it isn’t necessarily a reliable source of information.  Some examples that highlight the potential problems associated with anyone being able to edit entries include:

    •  In March 2007, actor and comedian Sinbad was reported to have died from a heart attack
    • In 2005, the biography of writer and journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. was edited to say he may have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.  While completely false information, the edits went unnoticed for approximately 4 months.
    • In 2005, Ray Charles entry was vandalised with a racial slur.
    • The entry for George Bush has been protected from edits due to repeated vandalism
    • The cheese entry has been protected from edits due to repeated vandalism

    Many secondary and post-secondary institutions discourage use of Wikipedia, or require additional, more reputable online sources of information to be used in addition to Wikipedia.  Recently, a college in the U.S. banned the citation of Wikipedia in academic work. 

    As a Teacher-Librarian, I talk to students about how to critically evaluate websites, and we always talk about Wikipedia (I will allow it, but not on its own).  Even if I provide students with a list of great websites to visit in their research, many of them turn to Wikipedia anyway.  When asked what was so great about Wikipedia, a student replied to me, “it’s easy to read and understand, the way they explain stuff… I like the layout – I can find what I am looking for really quickly.” 

    I like Wikipedia, and given that it is usually one of the first 5 hits on any given Google search, I often start my research there (where I can get an overview or introduction to a topic).  A key point I make to the students is that you always need several sources of information when doing research (you should be able to corroborate your findings).  If they have ever thought of using a single source of information (i.e. Wikipedia), I show them spoof websites, such as the pregnant man, the tree octopus, and the mountain walrus websites.  All sites seem genuine, but all are completely false.  Point being, if they questioned their results and did further research, the way you should if you are using Wikipedia, then you should turn up false information. 

    You could argue the future of Wikipedia is uncertain.  A new “Wikipedia” named Citizendium (the citizens’ compendium of everything) has been launched, and claims to address issues of verifiability by having editors.  Will Internet users make the switch to Citizendium? Will Wikipedia slowly fade away?