Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response Blog # 1 - My Own Social Network

As I read the title of this response blog, I began to ponder the term "Social Network." The more I thought about it, the more confused I became. Not because I do not understand the term, but because it is hard to describe one's own online social network. I recently read a comment on Megan Fritz's blog about the number of social networking tools available and which one's to encourage students to use. I admit that I find myself in a similar situation. I feel like I use many different tools and use different tools for each aspect of my life. I use specific tools for pure socialization, be it myspace or blogging. These social networks have become such an important aspect of my life that I use them everyday.

I also use professional social networking, but that has been slower to develop. I think that I was resistant to the thought of using these because I was almost afraid that using these tools might make work more important than family, etc. Instead, I am amazed at how they have made my job easier. For instance, I recently created a ning for teachers at my school. The purpose of this tool is to bring teachers together to share tools and instructional strategies since the face-to-face meeting time is so limited. I would like to see this grow into a place where creative thinking can be developed and shared problem solving can occur. Similarly, I use my google reader to keep track of educational blogs and new related to my profession. I use this network to stay on top of new professional practices and communicate with my fellow teachers. This has also been helpful when searching for lesson ideas because I have certain blogs that I know have links to specific topics or lesson plans. I have recently begun to explore using blogs to communicate with parents and students. My new science fair blog has only one official "follower" but several parents and students have mentioned it, so I know that more have viewed it. I think that resources such as these are going to become even more valuable in the realm of parent/teacher communication because of our fast paced, busy society. Instead of staying late, I can post a quick update, etc. Parents can quickly email me a question, instead of calling and leaving the message on a voicemail that I may or may not get anytime soon.

I think I need to explore a little more how these tools can be used with elementary schoolers. I have been exploring voicethread, which allows students to share their work with other students in my class, but sharing work with the world is a little scary to me. I checked out imbee, and was encouraged that creating an account is a little more challenging. Adults have to confirm their identity. Although I need to research more about what this means, it still made feel like the site was safe. I will need to look into it more to determine if it would be appropriate for my students. I do think it would be appropriate to teach them about these tools and perhaps, much like I have learned myself, which type of tool is best suited for professional vs. personal interactions.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Class Reflections

What is the culture of learning in this country? Are we the middle of the cookie? Are other historically less developed countries the crust of the cookie? That seems to be what Solomon's reading and Seeley-Brown were alluding to. It will be interesting to see how things evolve currently.

These are some thoughts that I had as a result of our conversation this afternoon. The conversation this evening was certainly heady. It is interesting to learn about new tools, but I agree that they have to be used appropriately, not just because they are there. I look forward to sharing this class with other teachers and business professionals as we learn about new tools and how they can be used effectively across environments. I think that web 2.0 teaching can certainly open the door for students to think, explore, and create knowledge.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Communities of Practice Ning Mindtool Reflection

The mindtool I created was an online community of practice at This Community of Practice was created in order for teachers to share ideas about current reading practices and seek out new strategies to try in the classroom.

This software functions as a mindtool because it provides teachers with a way to share ideas, discuss current practices and develop new instructional strategies after critique and reflection. The ning allows teachers to have electronic conversations using discussion boards and join groups around topics of interest. Teachers can also create new groups, add online content, and upload work samples, etc.

Due to the nature of this mindtool, I am using a rubric to assess the quality of the website content. I feel that this will authentically tell me if the mindtool is being used and how it is being used effectively.

I am very excited about where this mindtool can go. As I developed some of the content, I tried to use examples of different kinds of content that teachers could add. One person had a very good suggestion for adding grade level groups as more and more content is added. I think this would be great and then teachers can not only search for general reading tools, they can share ideas specific for their grade. I think another way to look at this would be to add additional groups for people that may want to work on inter-grade projects.

I enjoyed learning about other people's mindtools as well. I learned a lot about voicethread and plan on adding it to my content. I think I will first have my students do a sample, embed it on the ning and then let teachers see real student work. Wouldn't it be great if a student went back and said, "You have to get on the reading ning so that I can share my writing project with the class." In this fashion, the link to the ning would be needed in order for the teacher to discover voicethread and look at the student's work.

I have nothing but high expectations for this mindtool. I cannot wait to see where it takes us...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Communities Of Practice Presentation

I have designed a very brief presentation that describes why online communities of practice are great tools for educators and how one can be developed. I have used the social networking website to develop a community of practice for staff members at my school to discuss strategies for differentiating reading instruction.