Diigo stands for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff.” It is a way for you to manage, annote, share and collect information. It can be used to simply ‘bookmark’ things but has the potential to transform the way you research.
Diigo provides a free, efficient, effective and reliable way to save and organise your favourite websites, online articles, blog posts, images and other media found online. Check out this link to learn how to bookmark sites with Diigo. Go to http://help.diigo.com/how-to-guide/bookmarking
Diigo allows you to highlight and annotate the important parts of any website so that it is easy to find again later.
Diigo provides a lists feature that allows you to share carefully selected bookmarked websites with your friends and teachers.
Diigo allows you to gain access to the ‘collective intelligence’ of the internet. By joining groups of like minded users, you are automatically able to access all of the bookmarks that other members of the group have chosen to save. The many, many users of Diigo all saving to their accounts adds up to a lot of great websites identified, tagged and reviewed – much more than one single person could ever identify in a reasonable timeframe!
Diigo allows you to develop your own professional learning network (PLN).
Diigo allows you to access your information from any computer, or even your iPhone or iPad!
Watch this tutorial to learn everything you need to know about Diigo. https://vimeo.com/6747389
What is a Blog?
The word ‘blog’ comes from the combined words web-log, meaning electronic diary. The blog that you are about to create is where you will share your work and reflect on all of the wonderful things you are up to in your life at ISSH. Your teachers will sometimes ask you to write about something in particular but you can always write about anything that interests you. You might like to write about a book that you have read, a movie that you have watched, a recipe you tried or a place that you have visited. This is your space to write about things that interest you. Your blog should include pictures, videos, hyperlinks, music and anything else that you can think of or create.
Widget, Gadget, Plug-in – What do they all mean?
Use this guide to help you to understand the key words commonly used in blogging.
Who can Read my Blog?
It is very important for you to understand that your blog will be open for anyone to see it. That doesn’t mean that everyone will want to read it but be aware that they could if they wanted to. This means that you must always remember the following things:
Now it is time for your very first post. Write about what you would like your blog to be like. What kinds of things do you think you would like to write about? Who would you like to share your blog with? What guidelines will you have to remember when you are writing? What makes a good blog? How will I try to make my blog interesting? You can call your first blog ‘My Blog and I’
Here are some blogs that you might like to follow. Please take a look at them and think about which ones you like and why.
Blog Post Number 2. A Review
Choose one of the blogs from the list above. Write a short review explaining what the blog is about, who might enjoy reading the blog and share something that you learned from reading the blog. Create a hyperlink to this blog on your blog so that your readers can easily find it. Call your second blog ‘Check this Blog Out’
How can I be an Excellent Blogger?
Search the internet to find 5 top tips to being an excellent blogger. Write them in your third post - How to be an Excellent Blogger’.
My life and the Internet are gradually becoming more and more intertwined. I used to rely on my husband to direct me to places but Google Maps has given me my independence. I stay in touch with people by ‘friending’ them on Facebook and I follow the events of the world as they happen on Twitter. I use Google Docs to collaborate with colleagues and students and my Google Reader provides me with stimulating reading that develops me professionally. I use Amazon to shop and have not stepped into a travel agent or bought a paperback in years. I watch my favorite shows by streaming them over the Internet and my music comes from online radio stations. More and more I find it hard to imagine life without the Internet.
Image by Wellington Grey
So why has the Internet so successfully permeated my life? http://www.smallpieces.com/content/preface.html says it well when it highlights that the web has changed not just my life but the very fabric of society itself. It has given us a new way to satisfy our natural desires to make connections, networks and communities. This natural desire to make connections was also highlighted in the 6 Degrees of Separation where it is noted that “not only are we connected, but we live in a world in which no one is more than a few handshakes from anyone else. That is, we live in a small world. Our world is small because society is a very dense web. We have far more friends than the critical one needed to keep us connected.
It is not surprising then that the ability to make quick, fluid and easy connections with people, ideas and documents on the Internet is the basis for its success and the reason for my life becoming more and more enveloped by it. Hyperlinks really are at the heart of the web and the major contributing factor to its success. So how can I harness the power of the Internet to make me a better educator, not just a more efficient shopper, travel agent, navigator and viewer?
I believe that WordPress is the most practical answer to my question. By maintaining a blog I am practicing all of the skills that I hope to pass on to my students. I am generating content, connecting with other educators, considering the implications of publishing names, images, videos and opinions, interacting with vimeo, youtube, flickr and other publishing communities, generating a positive digital presence, strengthening my ability to comment and respond to other peoples’ work and playing with my brand or online identity. All of these things are things that I would feel privileged to develop in my students.
Now that I am convinced of the value in maintaining a professional blog, I am going to push myself to transfer this blog and make it not just another COETAIL Blog. I am also going to play with the widgets available to me and consider designing a look that suits my teacher identity. I am going to aim to continue to write about my experiences in the classroom and my professional development but also expand it to be something that my students can read and comment on and something that reflects my day to day experiences in the classroom. I have to thank misternorris for inspiring me to take this path. I so enjoy reading about what he is doing with the students and what he is learning about. His site has had a big impact on my decision to go down this road. Watch this space.
The first unit of COETAIL has changed me. My opinions about the use of technology in the classroom have dramatically shifted and the urgency and passion that I feel for the need to revolutionize and personalize education have been affirmed. For the first time I can articulate the need for technology in the classroom as a way to make learning authentic, collaborative, connected and personalized. This course has not just been about computers, it’s challenged the very purpose and nature of education and I have loved every minute of it.
As part of the assessment for Course 1 of COETAIL I had the opportunity to collaborate with Mr. Norris, Mr. Baker and Hosei Sensei. This really was a highlight of the course for me. It was fun to share ideas and watch them evolve into better ones as we worked together. Our final project will involve working together to provide students with the framework and skills to produce and publish digital media about their learning and their lives. The purpose of the website is to give students a voice and a connected learning community. We hope that the student driven site will provide faculty and our administration with an opportunity for professional development and growth and that overall, the profile of learning technologies will be raised.
I am looking forward to working on the project because it will give me an opportunity to apply some of the things that I have been learning about it in the course. I prefer working with other people to working in isolation so that is another exciting thing for me. The aspect of the project that I am most enthusiastic about is the potential it offers for professional development. I hope that the website can be used as a forum to display the types of things that teachers at our school are working on but also as a vehicle to drive discussion.
Over the past couple of months I have been challenging myself to develop my understanding of how technology can be used to further the learning of my students. The COETAIL course has taught me the importance of allowing students the opportunity and freedom to develop authentic and expert connections as well as the opportunity to collaborate via digital mediums. I have very much enjoyed reading the blogs of the cohort and am reaping the rewards of my efforts in the fruits of Twitter, Diigo, Google Reader, Google Alerts and Blogging, none of which I used before this course. Improving the way that I receive and manage digital information has had a trickle down affect on the tasks and activities that I ask my students to perform.
With all of these new and interesting possibilities in mind, it has been with a spring in my step that I have traversed the hallways of late and great enthusiasm for learning technology has underpinned conversations with my colleagues. My brain is teeming with ideas and excitement at the potential for education in the future. That was until I assisted in the moderation of the PSATs last week. Being a Middle School teacher, I have little to do with these tests, in fact I had to ask what it meant and what it was for before I went over to supervise. Upon arriving in the stuffy room with single desks lined up in columns and rows, I took the time to page through the test. I was horrified and disappointed with what I found. There were grammar questions requiring students to circle the grammatical error in the sentence and lines to fill in the missing word from a list of vocabulary. The alternative sections were filled with questions relating to the distance of the side of a triangle and other Mathematical related questions. My mind struggled to reconcile the vision of collaborating, connecting, creating and inventing with fill in the blanks and calculate the sum.
I concluded that for education to properly change and for the landscape to look different, we as educators must evaluate how we assess students in the end. As long as students are required to complete a general standardized test, the temptation is to teach to it in an effort to prepare them. Once we have agreed on what we want 21st century learners to look like and what we are preparing them for we should allow the final assessment to evolve with the vision. Until it does, I’m afraid that not a lot of change will happen. That’s not to say that I won’t try.
In my first year of teaching, the Victorian government provided me with a laptop. For the first time I had my own computer and I actually started to find uses for it. At around the same time, I bought my first ipod and was forced to learn how to drop, drag, install and manage folders etc. I used my computer to format documents mostly and research content on the Internet. I discovered programs like Rubistar and started dabbling with Excel spread sheets. I would design lessons that required the Internet for research purposes and allow students the choice of how to present their work but it’s fair to say that on the whole I was doing old things in old ways.The Victorian government was good to me and provided me with many opportunities to learn about technology in the classroom. They had an agenda to make schools more technology friendly in the interests of progress and that suited me fine. Although I was still very suspicious, I had begun to see for myself some of the potential that technology had to offer. The more I learned, the more confident I became. I started to do old things in new ways. I designed a website for the students to access class documents and important dates and experimented with Prezi and electronic whiteboards as ways of communicating information to students. I found that all of these strategies were resulting in less work for me, or more enjoyable work at the least, however the assessment and activities that the students were completing did not look all that different from when I was at school.
While technology had changed my classroom, it had not transformed it. My classroom had not been overly affected by the introduction of technology but my attitude towards it had. So what does a new thing done in a new way look like and how does one get there? As I reflected on my own personal journey, I concluded two things. Firstly, for new things to be done in new ways, technology needs to be personal and omnipresent. It wasn’t until I had my own laptop and that I started to engage. Secondly, for new things to exist they should be relevant to everyday life and extend outside of the classroom. I think that education worth having will involve students collaborating and connecting in ways that have never been able to be done before. I have started to focus my energy on planning for experiences that involve immediate feedback from peers in the form of comments left on blogs, collaborating on Google docs and social bookmarking sites. I believe that for this to work to its full potential, every student should have access to their own laptop all of the time. Technology should be implemented consistently and purposefully across the curriculum and students should be allowed to take a leading role in teaching the skills necessary to navigate technology. I am excited by the idea of teaching and learning in new ways and looking forward to the journey.
The article Connectivism – A Learning Theory for the Digital Age advocates that actual knowledge is not as important as learning the skills required to source, organize and connect information; therefore learning occurs when we are able to connect various information sets.
So how does this definition fit in with my philosophy and indeed the Bloom’s Taxonomy? Is connecting the same as learning? I think not! In my opinion learning is evidenced by a deep understanding that has been crafted with layer upon layer of experiences and explanations. To say that learning is a matter of finding something out is selling the experience short. That is not to say that there is no value in teaching students where and how to search for information in this knowledge rich world, that should certainly be a part of our role.
In his article ‘Does the Internet Make you Dumber?’, Nicholas Carr argues that “a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the Net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is also turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers.
To me, this seems the exact opposite of learning, which leaves me with more than a few questions. As we move away from the constructivist approach to learning, will students feel more removed from things having not experienced them for themselves, instead relying on making a connection to something or someone that has? Will life-long learning cease to exist? Will we produce a generation of people who know nothing but know how to find everything out? What about the joy in learning, the struggle and then the satisfaction when the penny drops? Are we robbing students of a fundamental part of learning, that of understanding? Or am I being too dramatic?
I agree with this summation however my view is that the curriculum should drive this transformation rather than technology. The article ‘Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education Is the Future’ seems to suggest that technology is the answer to a transformed classroom. “Employing a disruptive approach presents a promising path toward at long last realizing the vision of a transformed classroom.”
Unfortunately, the article fails to discuss or even acknowledge the curriculum that will be the catalyst, in my view, of this transformation. The curriculum is the all-important framework on which everything else hangs. How can we have a discussion about technology without first purposefully and rigorously identifying our objectives, scope and sequence? Surely technology is a means to an end rather than an end in itself.Once the end has been clearly defined, debated and decided then, and only then, can technology be implemented where it is appropriate. I too agree that schools should embrace technology but this comes with a lot of challenges. I believe that the following (amongst many others) need to be explicitly taught by instructors rather than connectors before any life-long learning can take place:
- The basic skills of reading and writing
- The art of purposeful communication
- How to manage and secure digital identities
- How to critically evaluate sources
- How to correctly acknowledge sources
I think it is a mistake to think that students can learn these things with teachers as facilitators. Some things need to be taught explicitly and a thoughtful, purposeful, rigorous, integrated and challenging curriculum is essential for any of this to follow.