A year is a long time in Web 2.0 (OR… Cue singing, “Happy blog birthday to me”)

My Web 2.0 journey began exactly a year ago, inspired by a few questions at a professional development activity and fuelled by my own desire to understand ‘what all the fuss was about.’

As a way of celebrating this milestone I thought I’d revisit the key discoveries of the past year.  My journey was an informal one, with many paths and many lingering visits along the way.  This blog was my starting point.

One of the first things I did after starting this blog was to explore the amazing array of quality blogs out there.  Many inspired me to develop and maintain the best quality blog I could with my limited talent and experience.

CogDogBlog by Alan Levine proved an excellent starting point.  From there I found the wiki and a list of story tools which fuelled my journey for weeks. I used many of them in my early blog entries and still love the simplicity of tools such as toondoo, slideshare and animoto.

Teacher-Librarian blogs:

As a qualified teacher-librarian I was keen to learn what I could from the online experts in the field.  One of the first gems I found was an Edublogs award winner, A Library by Any Other Name.  I learned about the 23Things Web 2.0 activitiy via this blog and followed it to learn more on my own.

This blog also led to another Edublogs winner, this time a fellow Australian, Judy O’Connell, who maintains the Hey Jude blog.  Judy seems to have an amazing capacity for ‘thinking outside the square’ and has steered me in the direction of many new online connections and blogs, including Dean Shareski’s blog and, one of my all time favourites: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day.

The PLN:

The blogosphere is the sort of place where each new connection leads somewhere else: Twitter, Plurk, Ning, Diigo groups, Second Life etc.  It got to the point where I was signing up for something new each day.  It was several months before I realised I actually had a PLN of my own, a discovery which immediately led to a blog post…an event which in itself demonstrated how completely I had become immersed in the Web 2.0 world.  Something had happened…suddenly I needed to share my discoveries with other educators, suddenly I felt responsible for helping others learn.  More importantly, I began to see the real potential of the connections I’d made and began to change the way I approached my job and my teaching.

The Shape of Learning: One Size Does Not Fit All

The best part of my learning journey is the way I have been able to shape it with my own interests and needs.  Surely, this is the most effective type of learning?  The blogs I turn to have changed, the tools I race to sign up for are slightly different from last year’s offerings.  My new best tools include:

pageflakes, which I used to build an Earth 2.0 webquest;

wetpaint wikis which I use to host a wiki for my Year 11 English students called English @ 11. While they are still getting their heads around this new tool they are also learning a lot.

I’ve also rediscovered the potential of flickr, particularly photographs usable via creative commons licensing.  Other tools which complement flickr are available via Big Huge Labs

My new favourite blogs are

The English Blog: for its cutting edge articles and tools

The Best Article Every Day: for fun and great resources

Free Technology for Teachers: for its outstanding resources

Jane’s e-learning pick of the Day: excellent tools

A Geeky Mother’s Blog: excellent writing, great discussion

The Open Classroom: because I’ve met Jo and love to read her thoughts

and ICT in my Classroom: for ICT ideas and activities in a real classroom.

Earth 2.0: A webquest with a difference!

Just a quick post to share my webquest project with you all…

Earth 2.0:  Is it possible to create a completely sustainable planet?

The best bits about my work on this project:

1. Pageflakes: Using pageflakes as the Webquest Headquarters was a stroke of genius (If I do say so myself!!!) Pageflakes is a great tool for educators: it is flexible, easy to use, vibrant in appearance and the range of widgets available is outstanding!

2. Teamwork: I worked with a colleague to produce this webquest and had far too much fun as a result, mainly because we were able to laugh at ourselves during several ‘manic’ Earth 2.0 moments.  We could have kept going but we had to stop to meet the competition deadline!  (Mark is already talking about our next project.)

An interesting note:  Neither of us had time to take on this projectif you’re an educator there is never enough time! How did it happen then?  We became passionate about the learning, the project and the notion of Earth 2.0.  Discussions led to action; engagement in the task led to refinement and development of ideas and activities. In short, the project became fun for us.  We reacted the way we want our students to react to a new learning task.  There’s a lesson in that for everyone.

3. Local and Global Feedback: We gained valuable insights into the project by asking our students to review it for us.  They thought it would be improved by games so we added games!  I used Classtools, one of my favourites, to put together some simple games based on the sustainability theme and also added the Planet Green Game.  I then asked my PLN via Plurk and Twitter for objective advice.  My  Plurk buddies provided me with some excellent feedback that I acted on straight away. The Plurk eduverse is really something else…I highly recommend you become part of it!

4. Web 2.0:  The possibilities are endless!  2.0 tools help make learning fun and provide teachers with ways to actively engage and challenge students.  In addition to the suite of tools available on Pageflakes we also found wetpaint wiki simple to use and loved our voki characters.  I used Big Huge Labs to create the Earth 2.0 trading cards and EduPic, graphical resources for educators, for the images.

Is it possible to create a completely sustainable planet?

I have a PLN…Who knew?

Last month on Twitter I had to ask what ‘PLN’ meant…I felt like a real twit doing so and said as much in a tweet. I was inundated with people who A, answered my question, a PLN is a personal learning network, and B, insisted there was no such thing as a silly question. Such responses have typified my experiences since.

For me, so far, my PLN provides (mainly) access to information of interest to me as an educator. I join the Nings they suggest, click on the links they recommend, read their blogs and wikis and follow them on plurk and twitter. Because their interests are similar to mine (education; technology; learning) I usually find their recommendations worth pursuing.

One week with my PLN

Last week my experiences were particularly varied and rich. I ‘spoke’ to people attending the NECC conference in San Antonio. One educator, catzpyjamasnz, used plurk to live blog several sessions. She also provided links to a glogster poster on elearning which caused me to revisit this cool tool for another look.

Later, I caught up with the concluding keynote address, thanks to coolcatteacher’s live blogging, and discovered further sites of interest:

http://www.mamamedia.com/ a site for children to learn “technological fluency” via games and other engaging activities. I also found another project to watch, The World Wide Workshop: http://www.worldwideworkshop.org/ . It is committed to developing open source social media technology to enhance learning. I subscribed to the newsletter.

There was a real sense of learning excitement associated with these ‘events’. Although I didn’t feel like I was actually there, I did feel involved in the learning.

New Discoveries:

My PLN also steered me in the direction of these sites. Links I have stored away for future reference and which will help improve my teaching and learning:

Web 2.0 fun stuff: http://www.go2web20.net/ I love these sorts of lists and this one is a very thorough and reliable source of web2.0 tools. Soon, I will explore each one in turn and sign up for those that look useful.

As a twitter user I was also interested to hear about, http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/ a tool that promises to improve the current functionality of twitter (a timely beta given the current appeal of plurk!)

Games: I discovered a new video game of interest at http://fas.org/immuneattack/ and also learned how to play ‘Set Puzzle’ http://www.setgame.com/puzzle/set.htm thanks to one of my plurk buddies. (Educational gaming is a particular passion of mine). Another game I learned about via plurk was scrabulous http://www.scrabulous.com/ . I played my first game last week and loved it!

Like-minded online colleagues

Being able to communicate online with people who share my ideas and interests is a huge bonus. They are usually experiencing a similar journey and can advise me. For example, this week a PLN ‘colleague’ sent me clear instructions on how to embed Youtube in PowerPoint via email after a discussion on plurk. Also during the week my PLN offered me advice on a blog makeover, discussed the educational uses of plurk and participated in a storytelling exercise.

I have mentioned in a previous post how useful I find the links provided by oz/nz educators group on diigo. Last week I revisited a comic generator site I discovered via this group: http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/ and made a comic strip:

While many people ask their PLNs for specific information I find I get a huge response when I simply talk about a project I’m planning or an idea. People are keen to share their knowledge and experience. Recently I mentioned I was planning a teacher session on using wikis and blogs and got 3 immediate responses from a twitter pal who included some great links:




Each of these discoveries will impact on my personal learning in some way. I guess the best part about each of them is that they occurred around my family and work life. PLNs are Learning Gems…I highly recommend you build one of your own soon!

(Music) I want to Ning, Ning, Ning…

The Power of Words in Web 2.0

Has anyone else noticed how happy and carefree some Web 2.0 applications sound? Ning, Twitter, Twhirl, del.icio.us, Jing, Skype…I feel like I’m dancing in Cyberspace rather than surfing it! On the other hand, ‘blog’ sounds a lot like hard work; it reminds me of something difficult, climbing a hill, doing it tough (I have no idea why!) but it’s not a very pleasant sounding word. Neither is wiki (sorry)

I do wonder how the names for some of these applications come about, though, particularly when I mention them to colleagues who are not au fait with Web 2.0. When I told one teacher I’d started a Ning his facial expression suggested twilight zone, crazy, alternative lifestyle, hippy commune, etc (Well, He was a child of the 70s!) Mind you, his look didn’t really change much when I explained the Ning to him!

A Ning for Teacher-Librarians

On a high after a Web 2.0 Conference by the School Library Association of Victoria (SLAV) I decided to start a Ning for Victorian Teacher-Librarians. The conference made me particularly aware of the number of teachers out of touch with Web 2.0 but also a little afraid of it. Teacher-librarians so often lead the way in schools when it comes to the mastery of new technology. Yet, amongst some of the T-Ls I know and those I met at the conference I have also noticed a certain lack of enthusiasm and understanding for the potential of Web 2.0 in education. I thought the Ning might provide a place for them to share, learn and play together.

Lessons learned from Ning…

T-Ls are great networkers: I twittered my Ning and also announced it on the OZ-TL email list. I gained a new member per day. My next suggestion will be that we each invite a fellow T-L to join the Ning. (Nothing less than total domination will be tolerated!)

Girls like Pink books! Our first discussion centred on the impact of location and gender on collections. Many of the Ning members are from single sex schools and/or isolated schools in the country. Location does not seem to impact on collections as far as I can see. Girls and boys both enjoy reading the Cherub series

Stephenie Meyer has a huge following at the moment!

T-Ls are passionate.

The best way to learn about Web 2.0 is to jump in! I’ve been blogging for a few months now but I had no real idea what a Ning was until I started one. A Ning is a great way to connect like-minded people.

If you’re a Victorian Teacher-Librarian (and even if you’re not) join and/or check out the Victorian T-L Ning:

Visit Victorian Teacher-Librarians

The Power of Twitter…

Last year I looked at Twitter and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I eventually deleted my account. Recently I signed up again, this time with some understanding of its potential. Now I’m hooked!

Twitter allows for the short and sharp sharing of information, something I believe suits educators perfectly. We always seem to be rushing somewhere, operating on the edge of chaos, planning on the run or snatching quick snippets of professional dialogue with colleagues on the way to class etc. Twitter can operate within that environment because tweets are limited to 140 characters and only take a few minutes to write or reply to. You can tweet throughout the day!

The educators I have ‘met’ on Twitter happily share links, ideas and professional knowledge as well as personal snippets about themselves. I love it. I feel like I’ve stumbled onto the global virtual staffroom…a place abuzz with activity, ideas and energy (and coffee, of course!). My global colleagues are generous with their knowledge, tech-savvy and passionate about education.

Twitter is a Learning Gem with huge appeal and potential.