Time to Stop and Reflect

Harbor way by (davide), on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  (davide) 

For EC&I 831, my challenge was to create a digital project which would allow me to understand the potential uses of social media and Web 2.0 tools in the classroom while at the same time, be a useful product that could serve my school. As I am not a classroom teacher, but a school-based administrator, I wanted to create something that could benefit staff who were looking for information about these open source technologies. My decision was to create a Blog, Caught Up in the Web!  that  houses information on why the implementation of social media and web-based resources were useful, how and why to set up a bloghow to effectively comment on Blogs, the use of Twitter and Facebook in the classroom.

Originally I began building a website with the use of the free web building and hosting tool,  Weebly. This is a fantastic resource that is very user friendly and has a slick and professional look. However, like most websites it didn’t afford me the opportunity to provide regular posts and comments and I found it difficulty to embed certain sources without paying for an upgrade. I ultimately, abandoned the web in favour of a Word Press Blog which allowed my teachers to provide feedback regarding the usefulness or difficulties in accessing the suggested resources, as well as the success and challenges of using social media in the classroom.  I had also considered a Wiki, but I will admit I find the visual appearance of the free Wiki sites rather dated. In addition to creating my teacher Blog “Caught Up in the Web!” I also created a student/teacher Blog for use in my school called “Royal Subjects”, playing on the nickname of our athletic teams, the Royals.  This was as a result of a teacher inviting me into her ELA class to discuss Blogging. My plan is to continue to use this Blog in my work with classes on cyber bullying, school safety, drug and alcohol awareness and numerous other topics I address with small group discussions and class presentations. On this Blog I have created pages for students providing them information on digital citizenship and netiquette, tips for Blogging and commenting, similar to the pages on the teacher Blog but geared towards student use.

I have spent the last year attempting to broaden my understanding of Web 2.0 something I blogged about earlier and discussed in the following Xtranormal video:

A few short months ago I was still pondering on the impact of social media in the classroom, not totally convinced that the risks to privacy and the potential misuse of the medium outweighed the benefits. However, as a result of my experimentation with it and feedback I’m receiving from staff regarding its use, I think the potential rewards far outweight the risks. As I stated in an early post “Oh Wow, Oh Wow, oh Wow” – it is an exciting time to be an educator and I am anxiously looking forward to the future and my continuing journey with technology. If you missed last week’s post  “One journey ends, another begins” featuring a prezi chronicling my experiences in #eci831 – go back and take a look!

I have come along way, but most certainly is not the end destination, just a momentary stop. I plan on continuing this journey!

road to success... by paojus, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  paojus 

One journey ends… another begins!

Wow, hard to believe we have journeyed through the Cloud from different cities, provinces, countries, and time zones for the past four months to arrive to a point where EC&I 831 Fall 2011 is a wrap! Have I reached my  final destination? Absolutely not! For me much of the journey has been to explore new forms of social media, new Web 2.0 tools for the specific purpose of breaking down many of the biases and misconceptions surrounding these tools in the world of education. These biases held by parents, teachers, school administrations and the general public are ones that I have shared when the weekend fight plays out in the classrooms and hallways of the school in the form of bullying, harassment, breech of privacy, and plagiarism. How could I as an administrator endorse and promote the lifting of restrictions on Facebook and Twitter, and the relaxing of rules and procedures pertaining to personal electronic devices?  Would chaos ensure? Would my veteran teachers revolt? Would the IT”s refuse to take my calls? Would my parent community have confidence in my abilities to protect their children form cyber predators?

My goal was to find practical ways to harness the potential of open sources and social media in the educational setting while still respecting the boundaries between public and private, professional and student. Was it possible? Happily, the answer is yes! The key, as it is for any successful lesson, was preparation. Step one was to prepare myself by experimenting more with Word Press Blogs and Twitter. The second step was to prepare the students. To that end, I created several resources on netiquette and digital citizenship. The third step was to invite teachers along for the ride.  I was fortunate in that many of my younger staff members were eager, simply waiting my stamp of approval. They in turn served as mentors for other teachers in their departments who were interested in coming along for the ride. I created a Blog resource – Caught Up in the Web! that provided even more resources, tutorials, lessons, and suggestions for implementation. This lead to my being invited into the classrooms, lunch hour in services, and a concerted effort by many of our subject areas to further develop technology goals around social media. So far so good. I even received a thumb’s up from my Community School Council. Are there still issues regarding social media and its misuse by our students? Yes, but I am happy to say that it is not in the context of its use for learning. My hope is as they become more familiar with the protocols and responsibilities of digital citizens I will in fact see an improvement!

So, my final summary of learning is a Prezi. For those of you who love this jazzed up version of a PowerPoint, but are disappointed by the fact that it does not allow an audio component, might I suggest using a video screen cast program as well? I used Techsmith’s Jing. It is a free program that allows you to capture screen shots and add comments and embed them as well as video up to five minutes in length. For an extra $15/year you can upgrade to a Pro account which allows you to link directly to Facebook, Twitter, and with one click, upload to Youtube. Check out my video below:

If you have any other great ways of creating and uploading videos let me know! In particular I’m looking for a free resource with editing capabilities.