Saturday, October 27, 2007

Comment's on Doug Johnson's slide show

Doug Johnson is way more articulate than I will ever be so I don't think I can add much information to his warnings about online safety. However, I can add a couple of anecdotes that illustrate his points.

What you put on the internet can indeed be more harmful to you than what you read or see on the net. A few grade seven girls having a sleepover were playing around with their techno toys and posted naked movies and photos of themselves. Needless to say, word spread like wildfire and those images were viewed by other students from their school.

Two students at my high school impersonated two teachers on MySpace. They posted photos and comments and interacted with students as if they were the teachers. The two male teachers were horrified when they found out and wanted to go public to denounce this and to reassure other students that they had not really been chatting with them online. Administration and police convinced them to keep it under wraps to avoid copycat situations. One of the teachers was especially worried what his female students must be thinking of him and how they were interpreting his actions in class and "his" messages online. My own son, who has had that teacher for classes, just scoffed at the whole situation saying students would realize that it wasn't really the teacher on MySpace. I disagree. Teacher/student isn't an equal relationship in power, age, authority, maturity, etc. I think there is a huge amount of room for misunderstanding.

I think back to my first weeks in this Meet the Stars course when I was reading Star Signs by Shelley Hrdlitschka. One of the themes that jumped out of that book was a warning that people are not always who they appear to be on the net. Characters in the book misrepresented themselves to the main character and she was hurt by their betrayal. Some people argue that the net is a great equalizer. People can interact without consideration given to their physical appearance, race, handicaps, age, sex, etc. Although this can be a great equalizer there are also dangers inherent in interacting with someone who may be concealing part or all of who they really are. It cannot be stressed enough to students that they must not reveal personal contact information online.

While at an elementary school I used Blackboard, available through SaskLearning Centralischool for my students to discuss, interact and post online. I liked it because it was password protected. Many of the tools we have learned about in this class are out on the world wide web for all to see and read. I am hesitant about using some of them. For one thing, most of them (as Jane found out) require you to sign up for accounts and passwords. I'm not sure I want to require that of students. Also several of the tools had students posting photos of themselves on the net, like the assignment to illustrate vocabulary words with photos. I don't want to seem like a ludite here but I think some caution is needed. This year at school we had to have parental signatures on a media release form to even have students pictures included in the yearbook and student directory. I'd definitely ask for administrative permission before I'd put student work out on the net.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fan of Citation Machine

I used Citation Machine regularly when I was taking my Masters classes. One son uses it for his undergraduate classes and the other for high school assignments. Rather than dreading making my bibliography like I used to and procrastinating until the very end, I now start it first using CM and add resources to it as I use each new resource. The APA Handbook was always on my computer desk as I wrote my thesis and was checked constantly.

I have introduced CM to teachers and students at my high schoool over the last year and a half. Many teachers are delighted to have students use it. However, there is a core group of teachers who say students should have to learn how to make a bibliography from scratch. I don't personally believe students need to learn all the formating and punctuation. What they do need to learn is to respect copyright and cite their sources. They are far more likely to do this if they have a user friendly tool like CM.

I notice that many resources, especially online ones, provide a formatted citation for use. I like CM instead because you can choose APA or MLA style, it offers many different types of print and non print resources. It will also generate a citation even if you don't fill in all the spaces or if some of the information is missing.

In order to use citation generators like CM, students still need to be able to find the needed information on the title page or verso of books. Other forms of print resources like magazines and encyclopedias are more challenging but if the generator is used it prompts them what to look for and how to type it in (example: author first initial. only) Non print resources present their own challenges. Students need to be taught how to truncate, find home pages, read the "about us" pages, etc. to find copyright info like dates and authors. Another huge advantage of copyright generators like CM is that it is simple to copy and paste long, complicated URLs directly into the format.

I find Citation Machine an excellent tool and have encouraged students to use it by linking it to my library website.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Considering Copyright

Only a few short years ago, breaking copyright was much more difficult. Students had to copy out of books and encyclopedia by hand or at best type text out on a typewriter. Teachers could defy copyright with the use of a photocopier. Homes did not contain photocopiers so breach of copyright occurred mainly in schools, libraries and businesses where photocopiers were located. Other types of media were also difficult or imposible to copy. In my high school days, cassette tapes could be made from record albums or the radio.

Nowadays, people have ready and immediate access to the same type of media as the original so copyright is extremely easy to violate. A CD or DVD can be burned or ripped to another disque. People readily own the equipment to do this in their home. Because of the amount of print information available on computers, students can copy and paste "stolen" text into the same medium they use to do homework and hand in assignments. No transposition is required. Many students do not even understand what plagerism is or what to do to avoid it. Many teachers do not have a good grasp of it either or what copyright regulations and laws really allow and prohibit.

I find a lot of confusion between what is allowable under 'fair use' in the U. S. in comparison to Canada. It is difficult to keep the two separated and straight. I use to console my conscience that I could use anything for educational purposes as long as I credited my sources. Sort of an It 's-all-so-complicated-but-at-least-I'm-making-an-effort attitude. Not very responsible I'm afraid.

In my work in the library, I find it most difficult to deal with student use of images and pictures. They seem more willing to try to understand copyright when dealing with text - take jot notes, try to substitute their own words, credit sources, etc. But images and photos are used willy nilly for art projects, added to reports, used on posters, added to PowerPoint presentations, and so on. This week I have added a link to my library home page offering copyright friendly images (a link to our class wiki amoung others!). I am pessimistic it will see any use - Google images is just too easy and what repercussions does the student ever experience anyway?

How do we instill a "copyright conscience" in teachers and students?

Reaping the benefits

Well, that didn't take long! I have checked my Google Reader twice and both times hit gold. I read the blog of a colleague who spoke about Comic Creator on the Read Write Think site. I have been planning to use Comic Life with a grade 9 class at school and was able to add this online program to my tool bag as well, thanks to the posting. Comic Life is a much more versatile program and students will be able to develop a richer product. However, it is only available in the one multimedia lab (Apple computers) in my school. I think students will be keen to play around with comics from home as well and for that they will be able to use Comic Creator.

Tonight I read about Wiziq for the first time. It was fun to tour around and play with the demo even on my own. It would be much more fun to have a buddy to try it out also. Wouldn't students love doing group projects with this tool?!

The other day I learned about Jing from a classmate's blog, Tanya. (I'm still waiting for a microphone to try it out.) There are so many new tools available and so much to learn. As Donna said we will never learn it all, it will always be changing and messy. But unless we open ourselves up to the possibility of learning new things either by blogging, following rss feeds, starting a reader or account, or taking a class like this, we will never even hear of innovations let alone use them!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Social networking in schools

I was reading a couple of articles in SLJ today about using social networking on the web for educational purposes. In the first article a librarian noted that she has had little success with Facebook as an "outreach" tool. It seems students are not interested in using Facebook for educational purposes.

This reminded me of an experience I had with a group of students who are avid graphic novel and manga readers. I showed them samples of graphic novels I had been sent by Scholastic and some publishing companies. Famous events in history had been retold in the graphic or comic book format. The kids were immediately scornful. They didn't want a medium that they know and like to be used to sugar coat school content. They criticized the poor artwork and felt the poor quality writing and art was an insult to good quality graphic novels.

The other article
reported the results of a survey that said 60% of polled students reported using social networking sites for educational purposes. I would like to see a definition of or examples of "educational purposes". The same study said that 52% of school districts block social networking sites.

What educational defensible uses can be made of social networking sites in a school setting? Do school districts need to rethinking their blocking software?

Friday, October 19, 2007


Hi everyone, I am still catching up on last week's activities. I have created a list of bookmarks on delicious this evening. I cleaned up my Favourites on Internet Explorer on my home desk computer and now, thanks to the power of delicious, I will be able to access them from whatever computer I am using. I still have another folder of miscellaneous "stuff" to sort. Many links are so old they have rotted or I no longer use them, so I need to go to each one and decide whether to keep or to throw out. Hey, it's like cleaning closets out!

I am stuck on one thing so if any of you conquered this before me perhaps you can make a suggestion. I have the notification for my bookmarks on my blog but it is not linked to my delicious account and the five sites which were to be listed aren't. I have watched Donna's Screenomatic several times and am no wiser how to solve my problem.

Perhaps Friday evening after a long, tiring week is not the time to solve this. Tomorrow morning perhaps with some help!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Comparing Search Engines Google and Ask

One thing that I immediately notice when I tried out Ask was that it is constantly suggesting search terms as I am typing my request. This helps very quickly to narrow one's search. I think it would be especially beneficial for students who don't tend to type in any more than one term or two at the most or for anyone who has difficulty thinking of search terms. Ask also offers to expand or narrow my search at each step. I got helpful results as I searched terms pulled from Sun Signs like astrology, horoscopes, etc. However, on a personal note I checked out tickets to Stomp performances in Las Vegas and got many results that had nothing to do with Stomp but only to Las Vegas. Checking out the help section tells me you can use questions, natural English, word strings, etc. to search. It mustn't use the same search logic as Google to provide results.

KartOO made me feel old!! The sprinkly lights zooming around to highlight my search on the web were very distracting. I was very overwhelmed by my results when I tried the same search terms as I did for Sun Signs above. However, searching a topic I had used in grade three, burrowing owls, did bring up several of the sites I had found previously and used. I think it would be interesting to watch students play around with KartOO and see how they search with it. I didn't feel it was my "style".

I realize what a rut I've been in always using Google as my seach engine. Is it worth the effort to learn another one? Hmm.....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Articles on the advantages of blogging

SLJ chats with Diane Penrod about Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy

In this short article Diane Penrod challenges teacher librarians to use their tech knowledge to help bring blogging to K to 12 school students. She explains many advantages to students in using this Web 2.o tool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wiki ready to discuss 10 Snow Willow nominees

I thought some of you might be interested in looking at the wiki I prepared for the grade nine class I will be working with. I finished reading my last of the 10 books on the weekend. Here is the address:

There will be three kids reading each title. They choose and respond to 5 of the discussion questions. Also they are required to repond to at least 3 postings by other people who read the same book. I tried to avoid strictly factual questions about the book in favour of comparing books, extending their learning, making decisions, etc. We'll see how the students respond to this style book project. Their teacher says we won't likely start until first of October. I'm getting anxious!

I also have a friend who teaches grade six who thinks she will use the ideas (although maybe not all the books) with her class. I simply asked the good folks at Wikispaces to make a copy of my wiki before the students started responding. So likely I will be able to compare the interest of another age of students at another school with mine. Should prove interesting!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Floor plan for Kaleigh's bedroom in Sun Signs

So... this was more fun. There are more options and control on Gliffy. I watched the video first before proceeding and then had few problems operating.

Mind Map for Sun Signs

I found this mind mapping tool,, very rudimentary. I have used the software Inspiration and Kidspiration a lot with students and find it much more versatile and satisfying. I will head off and experiment with some of the other online tools mentioned as well.