What is teaching and learning in the 21st century?

RSS/Twitter in 2011

January 24, 2011 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

It’s been three years since I gave a presentation on the topic of RSS to principals of our division. After the 45 minute presentation, I concluded to them that all of my presentation was useless…unless it became a habit. Fast forward to today, and I wonder how many use their Bloglines or Google Reader account.

When I first learned the power of RSS from a presentation from Dean Shareski, I knew that it would forever change the way that I acquired knowledge. Prior to RSS, I would click on my favourite web sites such as CBC.ca or SI.com for updates on content. Slow to say the least.  Today, I’m updated by 69 different subscriptions (feeds), on a variety of topics both professional and personal.

On to Twitter…as an early adopter, I admit I wasn’t a fan of the micro-blogging service, perhaps because at the time, it didn’t have much to offer me.  However, as the service matured, I began to see how the connections began to fit, and as Joanna Sanders Bobiash points out in her post, advanced search in Twitter can be a very rich source of information. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a master user of Twitter, but I am much more open to it than I once was. Unlike my voracious consumption of RSS feeds as an online habit, I haven’t yet embraced firing up TweetDeck as a regular practice. I plan, however, to set up TweetDeck to open upon login, so that I can see if my habits change.

Fusion: Lit and Social Networking

January 1, 2011 by · No Comments · online tools, teacher-librarianship

One idiosyncrasy I possess is examining the idea of duality. Perhaps it began at birth with my dual citizenship, continued with my bilingual education in university, and currently sees itself in my two children.

Doug Johnson’s post articulates my Teacher-Librarian duality issue when he speaks of the divide between the lit and the research teacher-librarians. Although the vast majority of educators that I follow fall into the tech/research category, it would seem that the majority still see the role of the Teacher-Librarian as solely being the keeper of the books. This post will explore the fusion of these two worlds.

One of the major challenges at my school is communication. In the past, I used to share the new acquisitions to my collection in staff meetings or book talk my collection with English classes. With fewer opportunities for our staff to meet as a whole and instructional time eroded by assessments, I needed to create a forum available to my staff and students to share new books in the library. To this end, I began by looking for tools that would help me communicate on my web site. I wanted a tool that could easily log my books, provide a widget for my web site, and update automatically.

My first stop was LibraryThing. LibraryThing is a robust Web 2.0 site that allows for easy input of books, by manual input of ISBN or by the handy $15 CueCat scanner. I add tags for categorization, rate using a star system, and can add a review. Helpful information such as all of the tags and  member reviews of that book are listed below its entry, as well as the ratings given by various members. Here’s an example of a LibraryThing page for An abundance of Katherines by John Green.

What caused me to abandon LibraryThing was the flaky nature of its widget. I found that on the school library web site that the widget didn’t always load in properly. Reliability was questionable at best. It should be mentioned that I haven’t returned recently, so perhaps these issues have been resolved.

Due to the questionable reliability, I migrated to GoodReads. Again, I found that inputting books into its database was quite easy. I requested and was given librarian status within the service, which allowed me to change/add data into the site. This was necessary, as some of my entries, particularly of academic books, lacked cover images. GoodReads pages for each book is not as robust as those of LibraryThing, but my colleague, Chris Wilkie, liked the fact that GoodReads sent my recommendations to her via e-mail.  Here’s an example of a GoodReads page for An abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Overall, from my experiences with both services, these book club Web 2.0 services are both valuable tools. It should be mentioned that, because LibraryThing is ad-free, it is a paid service after the first 200 books, but it is a lifetime membership for $25 or $10/year if you want to try it. GoodReads is supported by advertising and is free to use.  Both services serve well to share information with students and staff, and would aggregate reviews that we create for ourselves.

My decision to choose GoodReads was largely due to the stability of its widget for use on my web site; however, I intend to retry LibraryThing shortly, as its widgets, richness of data, and ad-free environment are superior for school libraries.

Why do teens use social networking?

March 10, 2008 by · No Comments · information literacy, online video, Uncategorized

Thanks, Wesley Fryer, for pointing out this video in his blog. For my advisory group, I have created a Ning group, so that I can get to know my group better. On the main page, I’ve added an RSS feed to our daily announcements and Google Calendar appears.

Despite setting up a Facebook-like presence, I still feel somewhat like a poser. I’m wondering if the students think I’m just like the Diet Pepsi ads…trying to relive my youth.

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Shift happens video

August 26, 2007 by · No Comments · online video, professional development

This video complements the book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. The Did you know video and the book are two examples of wake-up calls for educators.

Of course I’m preaching to the choir, if you’re reading this blog.


Summer short courses – 2007

August 22, 2007 by · 1 Comment · digital storytelling, online tools, online video, professional development

For the second summer in a row, a crew from Regina travelled to attend Dean Shareski‘s trilogy of STF workshops. This year, we engaged in geocaching, podcasting, and digital storytelling. Thanks once again, Dean, for allowing me to share your workshop ideas. Your ideas from last year’s workshops continue to influence me through my continued use of blogs and wikis to transmit information.


Last year, we discovered how valuable these courses are to our practice. With students’ interests and ways of thinking ever changing, the participants in these workshops have one more way to network and to collaboratively use technology as a tool to better address pedagogical needs. With our division’s progressive initiative of putting laptops into every teacher’s hand and developing wireless laptop carts for every school, there will an increased urgency for teachers to step up and to learn how to use them. Too often we blame a lack of training on the Division; we as teachers have a responsibility to collectively invest in our personal teaching practice. Our students deserve it.


The last few posts are examples of podcasting using Garageband and of digital storytelling using PowerPoint and MovieMaker. This video takes advantage of the online service VoiceThread. Using digital still images in a slideshow is pretty old hat for many of us. What’s great about VoiceThread is its ability to easily record a personal vocal narration to accompany the stills and for others to add their voices by way of comments. My wife and daughter would have also chimed into the production, but were too shy to add their voices at this time.


Here’s my VoiceThread project on our Geocaching excursion to Rouleau, SK (a.k.a. Dog River):


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Work-around update

August 21, 2007 by · No Comments · online tools, online video, professional development

In my post about working around YouTube blocking, I gave a recipe on how to upload video from blocked sites. One of the key components was the use of Zamzar.

To simply the conversion of online video, Zamzar has created a very convenient button that automates this process. Check it out at http://www.zamzar.com/tools.

About me

August 15, 2007 by · 1 Comment · digital storytelling, online video, teacher-librarianship


Garageband podcast (converted to .mov)

August 14, 2007 by · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Download Podcast


July 28, 2007 by · No Comments · online tools, online video, professional development

One of the most valuable resources I create are instructional videos. The tool I use for screencasting on my MacBook is iShowU. Apart from being one of the only screencasting tools available for OS X Tiger, its price is very reasonable – $20.00 USD.

Here’s one of the first screencasts I’ve made:


Trying to work around YouTube blocking: Common Craft videos on wikis/RSS

July 28, 2007 by · Comments Off · Blogging Issues/Publishing Ethics, information literacy, online video

I use this blog as an instructional tool and as a personal repository of digital objects. The blocking of YouTube is a hinderance to my potential audience of teacher-librarians within my division. My division works around the YouTube issue by providing staff with a repository called WebFiles.

To view video found on YouTube I had to follow this process:

1) Video on YouTube can be downloaded using the UnPlug application;

2) The .flv content was then converted to QuickTime (.mov) using Zamzar;

3) After downloading the converted material from Zamzar, I uploaded the QuickTime movies to Webfiles (access available only to Regina Public teachers)

4) Finally, I copied the newly created hyperlinks into my blog, which Edublogs interprets into a video player.

The Common Craft movies are nicely created to explain wikis and RSS: