The purpose of this inquiry project was to explore various forms of Web 2.0 technology through use and reflection. The project began with examining myself as a tech user. What forms of technology had I used, what areas of technology was I interested in. From that I created my first VoiceThread – An Autobiography of a Tech user. From this point I had to really investigate what Web 2.0 meant. I watched short YouTube videos that demonstrated the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, as well as read texts such as William Kist, and Will Richardson. Kist states, “The Internet has always been interactive in nature, but this latest iteration of the Internet
(known as ‘Web 2.0’) has featured an intensified level of what has come to be called ‘social networking.’ This kind of community building across interest groups, demographics, and nationalities has transformed the way we connect with strangers, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and even ourselves” (2010).
Richardson describes Web 2.0 to mean the reading and writing on the Internet, which until recently was difficult for users. He states, “The past few years have seen the development of an explosion of easy Internet publishing tools that have done much to fulfill Berners-Lee’s concept of a Read/Write Web” (2010). My own conclusion is Web 2.0 is the ability to connect with others and share information. The sharing of information is no longer one-dimensional, post and let people see, but more interactive. People can respond to the information being transmitted but also add to or adjust where necessary. With the development of Blogs, social networks and YouTube, users can add new information daily, while their networks of followers can “Like,” “Share,” “Repin,” “+1” or comment. Web 2.0 is an interactive media where anyone with access to the Internet can be involved and can participate.
By reaching this definition, I had to decide if I was actually a Web 2.0 intermediate user or an expert user. I already had a Facebook Account, and email. I was able to use Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome web browsers effectively. I used various forms of Internet chat programs and I recently started using Pinterest. I had created a short movie for a course, and often used photo-editing software, but where did I fit in terms of proficiency. I looked at the list of tool my course facilitator had provided, and soon realized I was in the mid-intermediate to beginning expert level of Web 2.0 ability. My goal for the project was move my comfort level away from intermediate and fully into expert.
To reach this goal I constructed a proposal that would help me focus on at least six Web 2.0 tools. I choose to investigate: Google Reader, Twitter, Survey Monkey, Skype, the G-Whizz App, Podcasts (Downloading and Creating), Nings, and Digital Storytelling, Initially, I established a set timeline to help me stay on track. I soon realized that the timeline was not realistic, as some tools required more time to look at, while others were short, and some I used continuously throughout the project. I worked through all of the Web 2.0 tools, and stayed in the order of my timeline, with a small adjustment to Podcasts. Rather than investigating the downloading and creating separately, I merged them into one investigation.
Google Reader “allows you to subscribe to any number of blogs so that you will receive the most recent post from that blog (so that you don’t have to go to the blog itself for each new post; it will come to your reader)” (Kist, 2010). I added Google Reader to my iGoogle account. Anytime I opened iGoogle as my homepage, I could quickly scan through the newest additions my classmates were posting as well as several other blogs I was following. Google Reader really helped save time, and kept my blogs organized. If I had let too many pile up, I could simply click mark as Read and move one, but usually I scanned through them, to see if I could use any ideas as well. I think a blog inquiry project could be interesting to students. They could choose a topic to follow, and find blogs that discussed that issue, idea or debate. As the facilitator, I would suggest to the students they use Google Reader to help organize the blogs they were following, and have them reflect back on what they were reading.
This week a student asked me if I had a Twitter account. I responded, “Did you search for me?” The student shyly responded, “Nooooo.” I smiled and responded, “I think you did.” I realized at that moment, yes I am not invisible on the Internet, especially being on Pinterest, Facebook, and now Twitter. I did not change my name to hide, but I know now that my students can and will look me up. I have always been conscious about what I post on the web, to make sure everything is appropriate and will not discredit me as a professional, but this short conversation really opened my eyes to how easy it is to connect and find people on the Internet.
Initially I thought Twitter was just another way for people to follow each other. I did not think it would be a useful tool. I felt awkward posting about what I was doing. But as I was reading Richardson I realized Twitter is so much more. He states, “What’s evolved, however, is
something much more interesting. Following other educators on Twitter creates a ‘network at my fingertips’ phenomenon where people ask questions and get answers, link to great blog posts of resources or share ideas for projects as they go through the day. For many it’s become a running river of conversation and ideas that has cemented their connections to the community and made the network even more palpable” (2010).
I started watching for posts by Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, and Scott McLeod as well as running through the Globe and Mail. I didn’t always understand what the posts were about, but I tried to follow and decipher the # and the @ symbols. Slowly I figured it out, and I am starting to feel like this will be a very promising tool I will continue to use. I use the app on my iPod much more frequently than checking via the computer. I find it way faster and easier to scan through than logging on through the computer. I intend to continue using the App, and will probably not return to the website.
Since this project is centered on Web 2.0 technology I was curious to find out how many of my colleagues, friends and family members were using Web 2.0 technology. SurveyMonkey is quite easy to maneuver through; to sign up you can use a G-mail account, Facebook, or create your own user name and password. I already had a G-mail account so I used it to log in. To make a survey was a quick process, and SurveyMonkey provides you with links to post or an email link to send to participants. To collect result SurveyMonkey does all to work. It calculates percentages and makes graphs of the result. If the user, however, wishes to print the graphs or results they must upgrade and pay for those services.
With options provided by SurveyMonkey students could easily use the site to develop their own surveys. I can also see this tool used by the teacher librarian in an effort to receive teacher input and staff assistance regarding the collection. It can also be used as a way to start gathering data regarding collaborative teaching units teachers are interested in teaching with the teacher librarian. SurveyMonkey has endless possibilities for teacher and students.
Skype is an instant messaging, video conferencing and phone application. I downloaded the Skype application onto my laptop, which has video chat capabilities. Skype is also available as a portable app for the iPod Touch. Overall, I see the potential for Skype in the classroom. It is easy to download the application, and as long as the computer being used has access to a web-cam, students would be able to communicate with other classrooms in town, in the province, in the country or around the world. My one complaint about Skype was it did not have a directory. I understand that for privacy purposes Skype cannot provide this service, but it would be convenient to have a directory available.
I think this is where the connections made on Twitter will come in handy. As I continue to build my social network of followers, and people I am following, I can make connections with other teachers or teacher librarians that would be interested in Skyping between classrooms. Students could learn from each other and be engaged with other learners. My classes would love to be more involved with computer use, and chat programs. This could be a fun way to learn from each other. For this idea to work effectively there would have to be a fair amount of pre-collaboration before the children started to interact through Skype. What goals do we want to achieve? What do we wish the students to learn? How will students be assessed? What prior knowledge do the students need before they begin?
Kist quoted George Mayo and a project his class worked on. The project was intended to make students aware of Internet safety. The students viewed a YouTube video about a girl doing ‘Dumb things’ on the Internet (Kist, 2010). “George arranged for students from a different school to watch the same video, and as the blogging began, the students from each school read the students’ posts from the other school and commented back and forth. This was followed by a live Skype video conference about it all” (Kist, 2010). Students are learning more effectively in a collaborative technological environment. George Mayo provided this scenario for his students. I would like to do the same for my students when I have a full time classroom or library position.
The G-Whizz App was not originally in my proposal, as I did not discover its existence until later in my inquiry project. The app helped me keep track of my Google Reader feeds and my Twitter feeds in one app. I opened the app, and it automatically updated with all my most recent posts. I added the App to my proposal later, as my experiences with Ning were not going as planned. I wanted to make sure I was fulfilling the project requirements, and also staying caught up with those I was following. This application might also be useful for students transitioning over to the twenty-first century education programs, as it has space to keep Google docs as well as additional tools found in the Cloud. This app would also be helpful if the school was subscribing to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) philosophy.
Frustration and Rebellion!
About half way through the inquiry project I found myself getting frustrated with technology. I was feeling overwhelmed with how connected I was to everything and everyone. I wanted to unplug all of my electronics and purge the house of anything electronic. This is when I remembered a book title, Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the next generation by Ann Droyd, which I had come across earlier this year. I was feeling like the old lady in the picture book, and wanted to throw out all of my gadgets too. I, however, did not go to the extreme Mama Bunny went in the story, but I took a step back, took a deep breath, and pushed forward.
Around this time, British Columbia teachers were also moving towards Strike action. The BCTF went on strike for three days, and are continuing to fight for their rights as educators and for the rights of their students. At this time, I took a break from my inquiry project, to stand in solidarity with my union brothers and sisters. Once the strike action and momentum had passed, I refocused and tried to get back to work.
Podcasts - Downloading
Prior to the job action, I had started working with Podcasts. Richardson states, “Podcasting is the creation and distribution of amateur radio, plain and simple” (2010). My goal was to locate one Podcast that was of interest to me and download it. I followed Richardson’s process to download using the iTunes Store. I downloaded five different Podcasts, with a total of 32 episodes. The first I located was a French tutorial Podcast called Coffee Break French. It helps develop French-speaking skills. I also found The Rookie Teacher, Teacher Connections, Teachers Teaching Teachers and 21st Century learning Webcast. Each of these Podcasts is available on the iTunes store free of charge. Once I had my preferences in iTunes set to allow Podcasts to be downloaded, I added the five to my iTunes Library. I subscribe to three of the five, and now if my iPod Touch is connected to my computer, it will automatically sync and add any new Podcasts from those subscriptions.
Students should be encouraged to use Podcasts as sources of information in inquiry projects or in daily classroom assignments. A person has a wealth of knowledge and opinions on subjects and issues that are available for free legal download. I can see myself introducing a new Podcast to classes in the library once a month, similar to the presentation of book talks.
Podcasting – Creating
Richardson suggests that “Before you get your students Podcasting, [he] would urge you to try it out first” (2010). I could not agree more. Though the overall process to Podcast is fairly straightforward there were steps that I got hung up on during the process that I can now point out to my students. Both Richardson and the Tutorial page I used to assist me suggested using Audacity as a possible software application for recording. Richardson points out that an mp3 encoder is required to “translate your files into MP3s” (2010). This was one of my hang-ups. I initially forgot to download this additional plug-in, and when I had downloaded it, I forgot to install the software before using it. These are fairly minor, but for students, both sets of software should be downloaded onto the computer before the students begin.
My second hang-up was after creating the Podcast, uploading it to my blog. If students are simply to hand in their Podcast, they could save it to a memory stick, and thus not have to worry about this process. However, if the assignment is to upload the Podcast, Blogger does not support MP3 format files in the usual format. If students were to create a video Podcast they could upload to YouTube. Richardson also suggests uploading to the school’s server, archive.org, or the blog site WordPress (2010). He also notes that, “If the podcasting blog bites hard and you start creating regular “shows,” don’t forget to go to various directories to get yourself listed” (Richardson, 2010). The iTunes store is a good place to start. I can see students having a lot of fun with Podcasting, and using it as a way to present class material to their classmates.
I was very disappointed with my Ning experience. Richardson states, “Briefly, Ning
allows you to create your own free social networking site around whatever topic you want, complete with personal profiles, photos, video links, groups, discussions, blogs and more … For educators, the best part about a Ning site is that it’s totally self-contained – meaning all of that sharing and posting happens under one roof, and it can be totally private only to those whom you want to participate” (2010).
Richardson isn’t completely correct in his statement. Ning is free for a 30-day trial. Following that you must pay Ning a fee to use the service. I have issues giving out my personal credit card information to sign up for a website, and Education Ning (which is free) is still under maintenance.
I plan to keep checking back, even after the course is finished, and will set up an Education Ning. I think this form of social networking could be used in the classroom as a safe environment for students to openly discuss topics or subject matter. I also think it could be used as an interactive location for library service. What is new in the library? New book talks, Podcasts, resources or e-resources, or student requests. The Ning could be a way for students to stay connected with the library even from home.
Digital storytelling uses a range of multimedia techniques to create a 2 to 3 minute personal story. Digital stories can include photos, music, personal narratives, and video clips. The digital story I created was a snapshot of my first three years of teaching. I used photographs I collected over three years to document my experiences. I added a voice over, using the skills I learned doing Podcasts, and added music to conclude the video.
To produce my digital story I used the software application iMovie. Students using Windows computers should have access to Movie Maker. iMovie is a drag and drop application, meaning you click on a photo or sound bite and drag it to the location in the video you wish it to be seen. The process took about four hours from start to finish, which included collecting all the images.
I can see students using this form of presentation at the beginning of the school year to express who they are, for example an All About Me project. I can also see using digital stories as a culminating activity for the year. Students would collect photos and videos from their school year and merge them to create an Our Year at a Glance digital story. Students could also use this for project presentations. As Richardson noted with Podcasting, I think it is important that teachers test this out before having their students create. The process for an adult may be easier than for a student. When assigning a digital story the teacher should be aware of the strengths and weakness of the class before beginning.
My Learning, My Conclusions
Before this project, I had spent a fair amount of time distancing myself from YouTube, Twitter, and Blogs. As an educator, I feared that my involvement would be a poor reflection of my professionalism or myself. I now realize that Web 2.0, as long as it is used responsibility, can be such a wonderful tool for classrooms, and providing support systems for educators. It is a reflection of my desire to be a life long learner, and my desire to provide new or differentiated methods to help my students succeed. I use YouTube videos to help visual and auditory learners see and hear concepts. I use Twitter to stay connected to other teachers, and teacher librarians. I am now following at least ten different blogs that have great ideas to be shared in my classroom. This inquiry-based project has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the Internet and the potential for students to safely explore alternative methods to successfully present their own inquiry learning.
Droyd, A. (2012). Goodnight iPad: A parody for the next generation. New York,
NY: Blue Rider Press.
NY: Blue Rider Press.
Kist, W. (2010). The Social Networked Classroom: Teaching in the new media age.
Thousand Oaks, OH: Corwin.
Thousand Oaks, OH: Corwin.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for
Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, OH: Corwin.
Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, OH: Corwin.