[Trail]. Retrieved August 15, 2009 from http://southerndocumentaryfund.org/projects/bridging-rails-to-trails/
Six weeks ago, I embarked on a journey. A journey to learn as much about Web 2.0 tools as possible. This journey was filled with peaks and valleys. There were trees fallen in the path that needed to be moved and there was beautiful scenery to view along the way. Let me share with you some of the hilights of my travels.
Peaks and Valleys
Every journey is filled with peaks and valleys and this one was no exception. When I began this journey, the road ahead looked long. In fact, it looked very long. Not only did I not know anything about Web 2.0 but I also need to complete this journey in only 6 weeks? Surely that was not enough time to learn several applications and blog about them. I am proud to say that I did complete this leg. I did find it difficult to balance the time needed to learn the application and complete the blog along with parenting my kids and preparing for a new job. Well, in reality, there probably has not been balance for these past 6 weeks. Perhaps, next week?
Learning how to blog was one of my greatest challenges. When I began this course, my blog was not even what I would call a simple blog. As time has went on, I have found it easier to create a blog, find a theme, and use it to build a "hook". I also learned how to use links and weave them into my writing. I am afraid that my first couple attempts at this were dismal at best. While I still am not a complex blogger as defined by Richardson, with time and perseverance on my journey, I will be able to accomplish this.
Another valley I went through on my journey was in attempting to organize all of the information being thrown at me in this Web 2.0 world. In particular, I have had difficulties building a routine for reading my RSS feeds that come through my Google Reader. Still struggling with how to organize myself, I began searching for some tips on how to organize RSS feeds. The blog 43folders in particular offered me some very useful advice. It said that grouping your feeds was key. However, the suggestion was to NOT use topical folders to sort feeds as all this does is tuck feeds neatly away where they will never get read. Instead, use the following headings to prioritize feeds: News, can't miss, skip 'em, and not news. Perhaps the best piece of advice offered, know when to cut your losses.
For every valley I encountered on my journey, there was a peak to go along with it. While I felt considerable intimidation when beginning to learn some of the first Web 2.0 resources, in particular, podcasting, I am happy to say that those feelings no longer exist. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and user friendly all of the resources that we used were. This gives me confidence that my students will be able to use the resources as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed our weekly discussions. The tallest peak for me was having the discussion regarding literacy. This is a passion of mine and I was very excited to engage in an intellectual conversation around reading in an online environment. While there still are no answers as to how to best read in an online environment, researchers such as Coiro have done an excellent job at identifying the differences between reading text and reading online. There have also been some strides made to identify particular strategies that could be used for reading in an online environment such as grab and go, skim and scan, and chunking. But, I digress.
Using Delicious was a pinnacle moment in my journey. Social bookmarking has changed the way I use the Internet. It is now so simple to find the bookmarks that I am looking for. Delicious has also changed my search practices. Instead of defaulting to just using Google for searches, I have now began using searches of Delicious tags as well. I found many excellent resources for this course via Delicious. In fact, this is the first tool that I want to introduce to my staff as I believe it will benefit them both personally and professionally. I am planning on referencing, Rodd Lucier, aka the Clever Sheep, in my introduction to the staff as he makes an excellent case for using social bookmarking and views it from an educational perspective.
In any journey, it is important to stop and smell the roses. One of the beautiful sites in my journey, in my humble opinion, was the creation of my Animoto video. I love Animoto! Tedious powerpoints goodbye! From now on every school slide show that I create will use Animoto. I couldn't believe how simple it was to create a professional looking presentations. What a treasure!
Some of the most lovely and serene scenery on my journey came from reading my fellow student Shirley's blog. Shirley's blog really shows what true blogging should look like. She has an ability to weave a theme into her blog, hook you immediately, and keep you reading. While my blogging is certainly not to her caliber, she inspired me to keep trying to find the artistry in blogging. Thanks Shirley!
Reflections on the journey
Now that I have completed this leg of the journey, what are my thoughts on the process as a whole? The beginning of the journey was all uphill for me. It took me about 2 weeks to establish a routine that would enable me to spend the time required to learn about the Web 2.0 applications and then be able to thoughtfully reflect upon them. The amount of content that I needed to learn was great and the time was short. This required me to be very disciplined in terms of scheduling my days. Thankfully with time, the process did get easier and the blogging flowed more freely than it initially did. I feel that I have had little time to reflect upon my learning in depth and will now need to go back and sort through my new knowledge and the implications that is has for my teaching practice.
Have I arrived at my destination?
My Web 2.0 journey is not over. In fact, it has just begun. The beginning leg has been completed and I am now at a crossroads. Which path do I take next?
I would like to begin by incorporating some Web 2.0 based lessons into my classroom. Given the age of my students, I think I will begin by using a wiki for our social studies class based upon our community. The layout of the wiki is simple enough that even my young students could contribute to the content.
Given my role as vice-prinicpal in our school, I would like to be able to provide some support and leadership for teachers looking to incorporate Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms. My first step needs to be the procurement of better technology for our building. It will be very difficult to push forward with web-based learning with outdated and unreliable computers. This will be an uphill battle but is one path that I need to take before we can begin fully implementing the Web 2.0 applications in our school. Once the technology is secured, we can begin the slow, deliberate professional development for teachers as we begin to learn about Web 2.0 together. Mike Curtin offered some insightful thoughts about professional development that will be my guide in my journey. He says that effective professional development programs have the following characteristics:
* They are sustained, occurring over weeks, months, or even years.
* They are gradual and incremental, involving a lot of short but connected steps with moments of reflection and integration in between.
* They are collaborative, involving questions, support, and conversation with other teachers in similar situations.
* They directly meet the teacher’s needs, offering solutions to real problems in our every day experience in the classroom.
* Over time, they change the way we see the world and therefore what we do with our students each day in the classroom.
One question I am still left with is how do I sustain my use of Web 2.0 tools once I am back to work in fall? In particular, I am trying to figure out how to make time to check Google Reader, my social networking sites, and blog in an already busy day. I would like to find a time at the beginning of the day to check Twitter and Google reader as I check my G-mail account. Facebook doesn't need to be checked every day. As far as blogging goes, I am still sorting out how that will look for me.
Once I work out a blogging schedule that will fit my lifestyle, I would like to continue working on developing my blogging skills. With time, I want to engage in complex blogging where I can draw on previous blogs or followers comments to build my blogs. This will take time to do and I need to be patient.
[Change]. Retrieved August 15, 2009 from http://anne.teachesme.com/2008/11/07/thinking-about-change/
Will my journey ever be over? I hope not. One thing that we know for sure is that the Internet will continue to change. Anne Davies discusses the importance of teachers being willing to move with the change or risk being left behind. I would like to continue my journey for both my betterment as a professional and so that I am able to offer leadership to my staff. With time, this will lead my school to be on the cutting edge of technology rather than trying to play catch up. After all, we are in the business of doing what is best for kids, and I believe that it is best for kids to use technologies that will help enhance their learning. So with that final thought I say farewell and safe travels!