Monthly Archives: June 2013

Unit 7 : Wow

This last unit was quite a challenge for me, and gave me the full experience of trying out a new online tool. It is one thing to put the tool to use, but first you have to get the tool! I tried to use Screenr on my Mac devices at home, and to begin with, found that I had to load Java to allow recording. That seemed to be going well until our home internet blocked Screenr from loading. Back at work, everything proceeded without a hitch. I chose to make a “how to” about the Insideadog website. It is Inky Awards time, and our school spends the next couple of months promoting the titles on the long list and encouraging our students to contribute to the voting. Each year, we usually spend some time reminding the students about the website, and showing them where to go for voting. The resulting Screenr is definitely a first attempt only! It is not a shining example – but it was fun! Here it is…

http://www.screenr.com/AESH

The final task was a delight to do. I spent quite a bit of time deciding how I would present my final reflection, but I have gradually been won over by Storybird.  Working in a secondary school library, I initially felt that Storybird was only for the Junior schools. However, as more and more PLN participants posted their Storybird reflection, I knew that I wanted to present my “story”. Who can resist a beautiful picture book? Here is mine…

http://storybird.com/books/my-pln-journey-2013/

Thank you to everyone on the PLN Team – you have all been so generous with your time and your support. The format for this year’s PLN worked particularly well for me. I think that, by having to submit our tasks via our blog and Edmodo, it certainly kept me on track and motivated to complete the course. I am very excited about the upcoming Advanced PLN, and am very keen to sign up.

Apart from all of the wonderful new skills that have been introduced through this course, one of the highlights is the enthusiastic group of people who have now become a learning network. It’s been great to be part of this journey, and I look forward to keeping up with everyone’s progress.

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Unit 6 Learning, learning and more learning

My  development as a digital citizen has grown very quickly over the past 12 months and a great deal of that is due to taking part in this PLN  course (twice!). Originally I felt quite dubious about tools such as Facebook and Twitter, but with experience in both these applications, I understand that there are very powerful and positive uses for them. Like any tool, it is knowing how to apply them appropriately, in order to achieve the best outcomes. This has had a large impact, both on the way I learn and has also complimented the changes in professional practices now being seen in most libraries.

The idea of introducing the concept of citizenship provided a good opportunity to consolidate ideas of operating on a digital level. Citizenship shouldn’t be any different in digital form – in any type of community setting people work best together when they are polite, respectful, helpful and mindful of each other. Aspects of our personae are usually influenced by the group who we are interacting with.  I like to keep my online personality strictly professional – that is, it is important to be your true self but at the same time, like being at work, you do not need to reveal all personal details. My 15 year old son operates his facebook account at a very private level, but I do notice that he controls his image to a certain extent by the choice of photos that he chooses to post.

Operating online can obviously make some feel anonymous and so, operate in a negative way because they are not accountable. Particularly for younger students, this can lead  to making unwise choices as to how they may behave online and I strongly believe that full understanding only comes with experience and maturity. For this reason, I do believe that schools are in an ideal position to help guide students in their understanding of how to best operate in a digital environment. I  believe that a boundary should applied initially, while students become more experienced and are in a better position to understand the consequences of their online choices.

In terms of being an effective learner, the characteristics that came to my mind were, to be curious, reflective, organised, motivated and collaborative. These attributes have certainly been important in undertaking this current course. One needs to be curious in order to be able discover anything new – including new forms of technology, and students seem to be naturals at this!It is also important to be reflective, (perhaps a trait that we oldies are better at), so that a deeper understanding is reached. In any form, learning can be best achieved through being organised, and technology now offers multiple tools for this to be managed. Motivation is a powerful tool for for learning, and the new choices of technological applications seem to provide many students greater motivation for getting their tasks done. Collaboration is an important characteristic for many learning tasks, as it requires good communication, and one must be able to be receptive to the ideas of others. I believe that technological tools are facilitating this by allowing more numerous ways to share information within a group. Operating within the Edmodo “classroom”, for this course, is a very good example – I haven’t actually met most of the people on this course, but I feel like we have all been connected and have communicated very well with each other.

We are at the very beginning of a very exciting new way of learning – this online course is, again, a perfect example and the online options have been embraced by Teritiary Institutions. In the secondary school situation, the many tools available to students to use, the many ways to access information, the many ways to submit assignments, continues to grow. However, as with any new innovation, the success of the method depends on how appropriate the tool is to the application, and in these early days, we sometimes see new tools being used for the sake of them being new, rather that adding any value to the exercise. It is, however, a great time to be involved in the school/library profession – I am so glad to be part of this evolution, and am just sorry that I probably will only be part of the workforce for the next ten years – what am I going to miss out on?

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Unit 5 : Evaluating searches

What a useful unit! It was a real eye-opener to examine the different search engines listed in this unit. My Yr.9 son is currently undertaking a project for English on Gothic Horror, and in particular is looking at the films of Tim Burton, so this was the perfect opportunity to compare the various search engines. I am definitely not a big fan of students starting any research project task by “googling” it – but this time started with a quick look. The list actually appeared to be quite reasonable, but I didn’t immediately feel convinced about some of the sources. However, links to the New York Times and The Guardian were listed and so that looked good. Next on the list was “Bing” and, like many others have found, didn’t appear to offer an alternative to Google and looked frighteningly similar. I was interested to see that the 2 newspaper links, that I liked from the Google search, did not come up on the first page of Bing. “Duck duck go” was a find. The graphics of the site were very clear and I really liked the summary of site links listed on the side of the page – I felt that gave a very clear choice about what links could be searched. I was also impressed that there were related suggestions for searches, such as “gothic fiction”, and the fact that a history of searches is not kept is a positive – but that probably isn’t the same concern for our students. Finally, InstaGrok! Well, for this particular situation, it was a winner. The visual presentation was stimulating and information was clearly presented. I think that, for junior and middle school students, this would encourage them to search around the different areas of their topic without losing interest.

When students have been assigned a research topic, I definitely have my favorite web resources that I will refer them to, depending on the topic. With my son looking at Tim Burton and Gothic horror, and my daughter, in second year at Uni, looking at “Wuthering Heights ” and the Gothic genre, it was time to examine the web resource of Blooms Literary Reference Centre. At the school that I work at, we are very privileged to be able to subscribe to some very useful online resources and Blooms is my absolute favorite. In terms of the CRAP evaluation list, it certainly passes test. This resource is published by a well established American company, Chelsea House which has been publishing both print and online resources for many years. The company has teamed up with Professor Harold  Bloom, of Yale and Havard Universities, to publish this particular online resource, which is a one stop shop for access to information that is also available in print form. There are analyses of texts and genres by Professor Bloom and many other authors, as well as information on all aspects of literature that a secondary school student or tertiary student would be focusing on. It is, however, relevant more to classic literature and European literature, while Australian literature is not featured.

Tagging has become an absolute essential. As we gather more digital information to store in our various  tools/apps, like an index in the back of a book, there is only one way to put your finger on what you are looking for. I like to see what tags are suggested, or used by others and I think that it is important to start off with a controlled choice of terms so that groups of  subjects are clear. As more resources are added, then it helps to start tagging with more specific labels which can also be added retrospectively when required.

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