literacy-with-ict1I feel fortunate to teach and collaborate with teachers in the school, school division and province that I do. Like any school, things are not always perfect but in terms technology, I think our provincial and divisional educational consultants, and our divisional and school administrators understand the importance of technology in preparing students for their lives in the 21st century. Since February, 2004, Manitoba educators have been working toward full implementation of a Literacy with ICT across the curriculum continuum in the 2008-09 school year. Teams of educators have been working together both at the divisional and school level to ensure that all teachers understand the importance of ICT and that they have the skills to implement the continuum and give quality feedback to parents. At my school, implementation of the Literacy with ICT across the curriculum continuum has been one of five top priorities articulated in our school plan.

I have been fortunate enough to be on my school’s ICT implementation team for the past two years. During this time I have talked to many educators both within my school and my school division about ICT, I have had the opportunity to learn new Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, digital storytelling and multimedia applications such as Voicethreads and Jumpcut, I have taught several teachers how to use these applications and helped them design authentic ways to use them in the classroom. I have also been involved in discussions regarding best reporting practices for ICT to ensure that parents are kept well-informed of their child’s abilities when it comes to using ICT tools in schools.

Despite all these very positive “moves” in the right direction, there are still many teachers struggling to understand what literacy with ICT means and how they should go about infusing it into the curriculum. Some educators believe that ICT education means instructing students on how to use Word, PowerPoint, Publisher and perhaps Excel. Although it’s important that students learn these skills, what I have heard in this course and in discussions with our division’s implementation committee and divisional consultant is that literacy with ICT is so much more than demonstrating ICT skills on a limited set of software Web 1.0 applications. It’s also about choosing and using ICT responsibly and ethically to support critical and creative thinking about information and communication across the curriculum and it’s about working and collaborating with others both locally and globally online through the World Wide Web using Web 2.0 tools to add and build on the collective knowledge of the people.

Seeing the Big Picture

At school, I have found myself teaching others how to use blogs, wikis, del.icio.us, digital stories, Jumpcut and Voicethreads and modelling how they can be used effectively as learning tools in the classroom but I never realized the significance of the “read/write web” as a whole. I was basically teaching these tools in isolation but not really understanding just how much potential there is to engage learners with these tools. I certainly understood why students like to learn in this way as I’m sure most of my fellow staff members understand this since we’ve discussed it before at various professional development sessions but I don’t think I was really “connecting the dots.”

If I wasn’t connecting the dots and seeing the “big picture” and I’m involved with technology issues every day, I can’t imagine that many others on my staff are getting it either. Although there are a few teachers on my staff who are well on their way toward infusing Web 2.0 tools into the curriculum, I know that there are many teachers on my staff who are not so enthusiastic and probably some that are just going through the motions adding ICT into their programs because the government has mandated that they must. I think that all teachers would be far more willing to find time to learn and adopt new Web 2.0 tools into their classes and get excited about the possibilities inherent in Web 2.0 tools if they could understand just how significant they can be to enhance student learning.

Getting Teachers Excited about Web 2.0

So how do I go about helping more teachers to see “the big picture” and get excited about using Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms? I know we’ve got a good start but where do we go from here? To answer this question, I wondered if I had a particular turning point in this course that led me to see where education is headed and become truly excited about what the tools of Web 2.0 have to offer. Although I found my confidence and enthusiasm grow with each new tool I studied and learned in this course, I believe it was my RSS aggregator that helped me to understand the significance of Web 2.0 for today’s students.

rss-feeds-pictureWhy an RSS aggregator you ask? Both Will Richardson and Mary Harrsch use very similar terminology to describe RSS; Richardson states in his book, Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful tools for the classroom, that RSS is “the new killer app for educators” (p. 75 and Harrsch calls RSS “the next killer app for education.” Harrsch defines a “killer app” as “a program that provides the capability for an average person to use technology to solve every day problems and enrich their lives” and Richardson believes that RSS has the potential to add to a teacher’s knowledge base, help them communicate and improve their teaching (p. 77). He also writes that RSS is one of the new technologies that “are helping make Web 2.0 a reality, transforming the way we live in the 21st century—and the way we learn” (Merrily Down the Stream).

rss-reader-person1RSS was the one tool that truly made me feel a part of the bigger picture of what is happening in education today and this felt truly inspiring. “Rarely an hour goes by,” writes blogger Dave Winer about RSS feeds, “without something interesting happening, my mind is stimulated, I get new ideas, and of course I share them” (What is a News Aggregator?). This has been my experience, as well.

In just ten to fifteen minutes a day, I witnessed myself moving from a casual observer to a committed participant in the edublogosphere and thereby becoming a committed Web 2.0 educator. Not only have I learned from some of the most knowledgeable educators in the field of Web 2.0 today using my RSS reader but I have also started to make real professional connections in the edublogosphere and because of that I am excited to move forward and keep learning. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Google Reader was voted the third most useful tool for learning in 2008 behind del.icio.us and Firefox as tabulated by social media and learning consultant, Jane Hart. (Note: To see the entire list of Top 100 Tools for Learning, see http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/recommended/top100.html I would have voted del.icio.us number one, as well, but I’ve already taught my staff how to use this Web 2.0 tool).

This is what I envision for teachers. To be shown how to set up an RSS feeder, find some engaging bloggers to follow in the field of Web 2.0 and any other field of interest and just start reading. I think that by doing this, they will not be able to help but become enthusiastic about what Web 2.0 has to offer their students. This will serve to cement the beliefs about the benefits of ICT in those who are already highly interested and motivated like me and hopefully bring those that are not so enthusiastic in the first place to understand what all the fuss is about. Once they’ve been given time to “soak it all in,” then it will be time for me to offer my services and help them learn more about any Web 2.0 tool of their choosing and help them infuse it into their day-to-day teaching.

Some Specifics

Like most schools, the time we have for whole-school professional development is limited. Combine this with teachers who are constantly stretched to the max and it’s difficult to envision how professional development in terms of RSS feeds should unfold. What I do know is that whatever I have to teach them about RSS feeds needs to be concise and eminently useful for both themselves and their students. Whatever I do, I need to convince teachers that RSS feeds can not only save them time but can also help them stay “on top of” the latest information the field of education. As Geoff Butterfield writes in Edutopia, RSS feeds can help teachers “sort out the new from the mold” by feeding them the latest news in their field of expertise. In an environment where information is seemingly endless, having a tool that brings information to teachers and students rather than them having to search it out is, in my estimation, indispensable.

Before introducing RSS feeds to my staff, I would first want to ensure that they are clear on what is meant by the term, “Web 2.0.” Although I know some teachers on my staff know what is meant by the term, I know that there are some that do not so this would be my starting point. I think the most effective and efficient way of doing this would be to show them a video at a staff meeting or whole-school professional development session and then follow this up with a short presentation and question-and-answer period. For a video on Web 2.0, I think I would show Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/Ing Us:

For a more detailed look at the educational implications of Web 2.0, I would base my presentation on Michael Nieckoski’s PowerPoint presentation, “Web 2.0: A Primer.

After discussing the Web 2.0 and how it relates to education in general, I would then introduce my staff to the idea of RSS feeds and how this tool can help them begin to get a sense of what the Web 2.0 world has to offer them and their students and save time in the process. Once again, I feel that a short video presentation such as Common Craft’s “RSS in Plain English”

followed by a short discussion period would be the most effective way to introduce teachers to this Web 2.0 tool. For staff wanting a more thorough explanation of RSS, I would recommend Will Richardson’s article, “RSS: A Quick Start Guide for Educators.”

One of the most important things that I would stress about RSS feeds is that they are not the same as email. This is the single most important aspect of RSS that helped me to enjoy reading my RSS feeds throughout this course. I don’t want the teachers on my staff thinking that their RSS feeds are a burden so it’s important that they know that RSS feeds do not have to be read everyday, that they can quickly be deleted if they don’t want to read them and they don’t have to respond to anything if they choose not to. Having said this, however, I would encourage teachers to get into the habit of reading their RSS feeds on a regular basis. As Will Richardson writes, the most important part of using the RSS tool is to develop the habit of reading your feeds daily. He suggests taking a few minutes to read them right after checking email to get into the routine (2006, p. 86). This is what I did throughout the course and found it to be most successful and truth be told, a bit addicting!

From there, I would begin making appointments to visit each teacher individually to show them how to set up an RSS reader, help them find sites that interest them, show them how to add sites and how to read them. (I’ll be starting with our technology committee who can help me to “spread the word” once they get going!) I would come equipped with a list of possible blogs, news sites and podcasts that I feel might interest every department but I would ideally like the suggestions to come from them so they will take ownership over their readers. In addition, I would encourage them to read at least one blog relating directly to education and technology such as Will Richardson’s Webblogg-ed, Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog or Vicki Davis’ The Cool Cat Teacher Blog to get them started thinking about the bigger picture of Web 2.0.

My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader. This is the reader that I would like to help them set up not necessarily because it’s the best reader (I find all RSS readers very similar) but because they can attach it to an iGoogle page which can be accessed easily from any computer. If they don’t already have an iGoogle page, I think this would be a good time to show them how this application can help keep themselves organized in an electronic world. On my iGoogle homepage, I can access my Google reader, my del.icio.us account, my calendar and my “to-do” list and many other cool add-ons that serve to personalize my space. I think this fun tool might be one way of getting some teachers more excited about the possibilities of Web 2.0 and help simplify their lives online.

rss-reader-blogosphere1As teachers are hopefully reading their RSS feeds, I will continue to mentor them on an individual basis to suggest, plan, teach and assess lessons, assignments and/or projects that use Web 2.0 tools to create authentic learning experiences. This collaborative teaching model has been used successfully in the past to teach new Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, voicethreads, Flickr, del.icio.us and digital storytelling. Now that I have more experience with podcasts, I hope to add that application to my Web 2.0 toolbox, as well. In the future, it is my intention to keep up-to-date on the latest Web 2.0 tools by continuing to read my RSS feeds, learn how to use them much like I have done in this course and then teach them to other staff members on an “as-needs” basis.

It is my hope that as staff members become more comfortable with Web 2.0 tools, they will be encouraged and excited to try others. I found in this course that the more tools I learned, the more interested I was in trying to learn more. After all, success breeds success! I also noticed that as time went by, I lost my initial “fear” of trying new tools because I knew that if I just kept at it, I would eventually figure out how to use the tool. I also discovered that the great thing about Web 2.0 tools is that they are remarkably easy to use. I hope that more teachers will discover this as they begin working more with these tools.

Long Term Objectives

My long term goal for RSS feeds is for teachers to not only get excited about Web 2.0, but also to get excited about the latest information available in their field of expertise. Eventually, I hope to show them how to subscribe to feeds using Google Alerts, del.icio.us, and Ebscohost so that they can use these tools to enhance learning, as well. Once they have the concept of RSS feeds “under their belts,” I think these will be easy lessons to teach.

Ultimately, I’d like to teach students about RSS feeds so they can use them as learning tools. I think Stephanie Quilao’s explanation of RSS “the Oprah way” might be particularly useful teaching students about RSS. If students knew how to use RSS feeds, they could keep track of the changes made on teacher or classroom blogs, wikis or nings just as teachers can keep track of changes made on student blogs or wikis. They can also subscribe to the blogs of their classmates and suggest their own feeds to create a collaborative learning communities within the classroom. In addition, students can be taught how to use RSS feeds to conduct research on any topic imaginable. Once the students know how to use RSS, they can pass that knowledge on to their parents (this might best be done at a formal tri-conferencing session) who could set up RSS feeds for both their child’s blog or wiki and the classroom blog or wiki. Having parents using RSS feeds would certainly keep them up-to-date on the latest classroom events, lessons and assignments, in addition to highlighting the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

Overall School Technology Plan

I believe that educating teachers, students and parents about Web 2.0 and RSS feeds will bring focus to our school’s technology plan as a whole. We are currently doing many things right in terms of moving teachers in the direction of embracing the power of the read/write web. We are primarily using a mentorship model that provides on-going support for teachers interested in learning and implementing various Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. Although this model is working well, there are still teachers who do not understand what Web 2.0 has to offer their students and are therefore reluctant to move forward. By educating teachers how to use RSS feeds and asking them to read at least one or two feeds that deal directly with Web 2.0 educational technology issues, it is my hope that our staff will come together and create a unified vision of what education in the future will look like for our students who have grown up in a digital world and in doing so, provide the best possible education for all of our students.

As a teacher-librarian, I am prepared to do my share of teaching and collaborating to ensure that Web 2.0 tools are used to their fullest advantage in my school. In the future, I will be highlighting more Web 2.0 student work on my virtual library wiki and I’m considering creating a whole new blog or ning and inviting teachers to join in on the discussions And, of course, we won’t forget to use our RSS feeds to find out when anything new has been added! I will also be encouraging teachers to create classroom blogs or wikis that will allow them to showcase student Web 2.0 work and share it with other students, teachers, administrators, parents, school board officials and other interested parties around the world. A few of the schools in my area have a parent evening once a year to showcase their students’ use of ICT throughout the year. Perhaps it’s time our school did the same.

References

Butterfield, G. (July, 2007). Tech Teacher: Cut Through the Web Noise. Edutopia. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from http://www.edutopia.org/tech-teacher-RSS

Harrsch, M. (July/Aug., 2003). The next killer app for education. In The Technology Source Archives at the University of North Carolina. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from http://technologysource.org/article/rss/

Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. (2006). Literacy with ICT across the curriculum. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Retrieved Nov. 17, 2008, from www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/tech/lict/index.html

Quilao, S. (n.d.). How to explain RSS the Oprah way. Back in Skinny Jeans Blog. Retrieved Nov. 28, 2008, from http://www.backinskinnyjeans.com/backinskinnyjeans/2006/09/how_to_explain_.html

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. California: Corwin Press.

Richarsdon, W. (July, 2006). Merrily down the stream. School Library Journal. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6348380.html?industryid=47078&q=social+bookmarking+in+the+classroom

Richardson, W. (2005). RSS: A quick guide for educators. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from http://www.weblogg-ed.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/RSSFAQ4.pdf

Winer, D. (Oct. 8, 2002). What is a News Aggregator? Retrieved Nov. 21, 2008, from

http://www.scripting.com/davenet/2002/10/08/whatIsANewsAggregator.html

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maoI’ve just finished reading a deeply philosophical essay by Isaac Mao from The People’s Republic of China called “Sharism: A mind revolution. This essay is part of a collection of essays gathered by Joi Ito to celebrate the power of Web 2.0 and “all the people who are willing to share.” It was first brought to my attention by Will Richardson who reflected on Mao’s thoughts in his own blog last week as he lamented that there are still educators out there who are not willing to share their best teaching practices and lessons with others online (Nov. 18, 2008).

Though neither Richardson nor Mao’s thoughts relate directly to this week’s course topic on blogs and blogging for professional development, I believe that what both men have to say about the worldwide benefits of individuals freely sharing information speaks to the learning potential inherent in the blogging process. “The Less You Share, The Less Power You Have” is the motto of Mao’s essay. This is a twist on the wise-old saying “the more you give away, the more you receive.” Richardson interprets the notion of the power or gifts one receives as a result of sharing as both the knowledge one gains from creating blogs and the lasting learning relationships that can develop as a result of blogging.

Isn’t it knowledge and a supportive network of educators we hope to gain in every professional development opportunity we take part in?

I challenge any educator to read any one of my blog posts or the blog posts of any of my classmates in this course and tell me that blogging isn’t one of the best professional development tools available for educators today. I don’t have to turn to any experts to tell me that what I’ve witnessed and participated in throughout this course with blogs and blogging has been some of the best, if not the best, professional development I’ve ever taken part in. I’ve increased my “power as an educator” by being willing to share my thoughts and ideas with others through my blog, helping them to grow as educators and I have grown as an educator by reading and participating in the blogs of others.

Talk about a powerful symbiotic relationship which I believe is at the heart of most personally significant professional development endeavours.

In my school division, teachers are expected to develop their own professional learning plans according to a “Professional Growth Model” designed by a committee of divisional personnel, school administrators and teachers. The model emphasizes “reflection, inquiry and collaboration, challenging educators to focus on the Professional Standards and seek knowledge and experiences to improve the quality of their practice” (Pembina Trails Professional Growth Model, Preamble). By the end of the year, teachers are required to show evidence both of their own learning and how this learning has benefited the students they teach.

If you’re at all familiar with blogs and blogging, you will notice immediately how closely they resemble the primary aims of this professional growth model. Has blogging allowed me to be reflective of my current teaching practice? Yes! Has blogging allowed me to develop my own inquiry questions? Yes! Has blogging given me the chance to collaborate with others? Yes! Has blogging challenged me as an educator to focus on professional standards? Yes! Has blogging given me the opportunity to aquire new knowledge and experiences to improve the quality of my practice. Yes!

When it comes time to have my final professional learning plan meeting with my administrator this year, will I be able to demonstrate my learning and show how this learning has benefitted the students in my school? There is no question in my mind that the answer to this question is a firm and enthusiastic, “absolutely!” In fact, I can’t wait to share my blog with my administrator at the end of the course and show her all I have learned about the powerful learning tools of Web 2.0 for schools and libraries.

As David Jakes writes in his blog, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” blogging is all about personal growth, extending yourself out of your comfort zone and getting involved as an educator. It’s about “becoming a catalyst for change…reflecting, questioning, getting uncomfortable – and then perhaps challenging the assumptions of your foundation.” If professional development asks you to consider how you can grow as an educator and what you can do better to help students learn, then blogging can help you reach your professional development goals.

With my blog, I have a tangible and searchable record or evidence of all my learning as it pertains to my professional learning goals articulated in my professional learning plan. I have already started to use or are planning to use many of these tools in the near future with various staff members and classes. It is my intention to gather feedback from at least some of the teachers and students I have worked with throughout the course of the year to show my administrators that students have benefitted in a positive way from my learning this year.

Blogs and Blogging as Professional Learning Tools

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not heard of the term “blog” in today’s technologically-driven society. Unfortunately, many believe that blogs are merely places where individuals tell others about their day, their feelings and perhaps hopes for the future and those that are close to them can add a sympathetic “ear” by leaving them comments on their posts. By its very nature, a blog is a perfect vehicle to share feelings, thoughts and reflections and make connections with others and I’m not suggesting that these are not valid uses of a blog. However, if structured with learning in mind, the blogging process can be “a significant learning and networking tool that can help individuals, groups, and organizations learn in new and interesting ways” (Karrer, p. 1).

This course is a perfect example of how the blogging process can be structured in such a way as to maximize the learning potential of blogs for professional development or any other type of learning, for that matter. In each of the posts for this course, I was required to show evidence of research and further reading of the topic, demonstrate my critical thinking and new knowledge on the topic, reflect on the process of learning one or two new Web 2.0 tools each week and discuss the implications of the tool for teaching and learning purposes. A tall order, indeed, by but structuring the blogging process in this way, my blog became a wonderful tool for me to both consolidate what I had learned about the various tools and think about how they could be used in an educational setting. Due to the deep thinking that was involved in preparing for each post, I found that my metacognitive skills improved immeasurably throughout the course.

As I analyzed and synthesized the information for each post and chose appropriate links, pictures, videos and podcasts to share, I was also required to consider my audience and writing style in order to keep the readers of my blog “hooked.” I found that this desire to keep my readers engaged in the blogging process to be powerful learning motivator. It was much like preparing for a presentation at a more traditional professional development session in which I needed to know my information well and at the same time keep my audience thinking and somewhat entertained. In “Learning and networking with a blog,” author Tony Karrer discusses the similarity between writing a blog post and preparing for a meeting (p. 2). In both cases, you need to know both your subject and audience well.

However, blogging for the sake of professional development is so much more than writing for or attending traditional professional development sessions which are often static, expert-driven affairs. Blogging is all about sharing and making connections in a very collegial, interactive and give-and-take atmosphere in which everyone has the potential to learn something new, even the so-called “experts.” Every time a blogger writes a post there is the potential for a meaningful dialogue and relationship to develop with anyone in the world, near or far. Since blogs are ongoing, this dialogue can be sustained over a far greater period of time and therefore there is the potential for a much more meaningful and deeper relationship to develop.

I believe that it’s this ability to develop deeper relationships amongst educators that may be the spark some teachers need to encourage them to take charge of their own professional development. I know I have developed a deeper relationship with my classmates over time in this course to the point where I have an honest desire to keep our professional dialogue going into the future. I want to see them succeed just as much as I know they want me to succeed in helping our students and fellow teachers learn and use Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.

As I became involved in the blogging process for this course, I found it fascinating to realize that I learned just as much about each of the various Web 2.0 tools we’ve studied in this course by reading and commenting on what my classmates have said about learning and working with the tools than my own reading, writing and experimenting with them. You just don’t get that kind of deep knowledge and interaction with others in more traditional professional development courses. My classmates ideas, reflections and questions have been invaluable to me as an educator dedicated to improving my teaching practice and providing the best education I can for my students. I have come to understand first hand through the blogging process that the collective knowledge of a group of people is far deeper than the knowledge anyone person can ever hope to know and understand. I know they have learned from me, just as I have learned from them through our blogs.

blogs-pictures

I have also been amazed at the amount I have learned about Web 2.0 tools for schools and libraries by following some of the “big” names in the field. Just by following a few key educators like Vicki A. Davis (The Cool Cat Teacher Blog), Will Richardson (Weblogg-ed), Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog), David Warlick (2Cent Worth Blog) and Jane Hart (Jane’s e-learning), I feel like I’m at the “cutting edge” of the field of education and everything Web 2.0 – from tips, to tools, to conferences, to people, I can’t believe what these people are willing to offer the educators of the world and it’s all for free! Their enthusiasm for education is truly infectious and I can’t wait to share what I have learned from reading these blogs with my fellow teachers. If professional development is “teachers talking to teachers” as stated in our provincial teachers’ society handbook, then blogging as a professional development tool is second to none.

Blogs: The Flexible and Affordable Learning Growth Plan

On top of it all, blogs as professional learning communities are not limited to any particular location, time of day or group. Blogs can be used as professional learning tools within schools, divisions, provinces and countries – there simply are no boundaries. Anyone can access their favourite blogs from anywhere in the world, day or night and there is no limit to the number of professional learning groups any one person can join. As of December 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs (Wikipedia). Other sources for exclusively educational blogs that teachers could find blogs to follow are the: International Edublog Directory, November Learning Communities and UK & Ireland EduBlog Directory. Surely teachers can find one or two blogs that will help them to grow as educators. Add an RSS aggregator to your personal learning plan and you’ve got it made. Professional development was never so easy and self-directed!

Can’t get to your favourite conference this year, no problem – someone is sure to blog about it almost as soon as it happens. Although it can admittedly be difficult to read if you’re stuck in a freezing location while your blogger is enjoying the fine weather in a more southerly location, you’ll still be able to get the latest details from the conference from at least one blogger or two. In fact, it’s probably those that “Twitter” who’ll get the information about a conference or event out to you first. Twitter is a form of micro-blogging in which individuals stay connected to the latest news and events by writing short, concise statements much like Facebook’s “What are you doing now” comments. (For more information about other micro-blogging tools, I suggest you check out Jane Hart’s article, “Microblogging/Real Time Messaging Tools”).

Although the information in “Twitters” is limited to 300 characters, these short statements alert readers to new, emerging information in the field and often point “followers” in the direction of more detailed information. I am currently following approximately twenty different educators and a few groups who use Twitter and I find that it helps me to keep abreast of breaking news in the field. If there’s anything happening in the world of technology and libraries, I’m sure to know it almost as soon as it’s been announced. Currently, my favourite Twitter group is from the School Library Journal and Schlib.

Can’t find a Twitter group to suit professional development needs and interests? Then look no further than Twingr which will allow you to create your own microblogging network.

There is also a growing trend toward “live blogging” which is sure to enhance the blogging experience for educators even more in the future. Live blogging, according to Aliza Sherman writing for “The Web Worker Daily,” describes blogging that “captures the words, sounds, and images at an event and posts them online to a variety of Web 2.0 enabled sites with the goal of sharing the experience for those who cannot attend while preserving key moments in an archive.” CoveritLive is software that has emerged in the past year or so that enables bloggers to cover live events like keynote addresses, press conferences and meetings while interacting with their readers during the event. So you don’t even have to leave home to be a part of a dynamic learning experience.

Live or recorded podcasts and webcasts are also another way for teachers to stay connected professionally. Although it’s often not possible to participate in live podcasts due to the times they are offered, teachers can subscribe to their favourite and most informative digital audio recordings through an RSS feed and listen to the podcasts when it’s convenient for them.

What does the research say about blogging and professional development?

To be honest, very little. Since using blogs for professional development is a relatively new concept, I could find only a few anecdotal reports on how using blogs for professional development has benefitted teachers. In “Taking faculty development online,” author Krista Hiser describes how using a blog for professional development has nurtured the dialogue between faculty members from various disciplines, different backgrounds and from all levels of experience at her university (p. 1). Analysis of the discussion boards from their online “Teaching and Learning” course has shown that their faculty members are more than pleased with being able to interact with their colleagues through blogs.

Although I could not find the complete article, the abstract of April Lynn Luehmann’s article, “Using blogging in support of teacher professional identity development: A case study” infers that blogging was used successfully as a professional development tool by a middle school science teacher. I wish I could get the full article since it also outlines several ways that teachers can enhance their professional development needs using blogs.

Since there is so little information on blogging and professional development, I applaud educators like Joanne de Groot (the instructor for this course) and Jennifer Branch from the University of Alberta who not only revised an information technology course in the teacher-librarianship graduate program at the University of Alberta last year to include blogging as the primary vehicle to demonstrate student learning of various Web 2.0 tools but also undertook an extensive analysis of the learning process to determine whether the format of the course was an effective way to prepare teachers and teacher-librarians for teaching in a Web 2.0 world. Although their work in this area is far from complete, their initial findings based on the transcripts of the participants’ blogs and course evaluations show that teachers taking the course to extend their professional development of Web 2.0 tools were more than satisfied by the amount of learning that took place (p. 19).

Can professional development get any better than this?

Isn’t this what we want for teachers in terms of professional development? To keep them engaged in the teaching process by giving them access to the latest information in their field and by giving them a voice so that they can share in the collective wisdom of all and pass it on to others to improve teaching practice? There is a big push in our school division toward establishing learning groups. I think a blog would be an excellent way to communicate between the members of the group. They can communicate whenever they want and as many times as they want. I’ll have to suggest this idea at our next professional development committee meetings both at the school and divisional levels.

I can think of no other professional development activity that I have been involved in that has led me to greater personal fulfillment as an educator. I have grown and learned so much as an educator and I can’t wait to share my learning with others. I am looking forward to continuing to find my voice in the edublogosphere. There is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored and relationships to be developed. What a professionally exciting time for educators around the world and best of all, I’m a part of it!

References

de Groot, J., & Branch, J. (2008). World class learning and literacy through school libraries: Preparing teacher librarians for a Web 2.0 world. Paper presented at the IASL Conference 2008, Berkeley.

Hiser, K. (Aug., 2008). Taking faculty development online. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 25(14), 1. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2008 from, the Ebscohost database.

Ito, Joi. (2008). Essays. FreeSouls Captured and Released. Retrieved Nov. 18, 2008, from http://freesouls.cc/

Jakes, D. (Oct. 17, 2008). Tragedy of the commons. The Strength of Weak Ties Blog. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2008, from http://strengthofweakties.org/?p=277

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