The Future of Learning

This course has been a great learning experience and one that I have found very rewarding as it has developed my confidence and knowledge of web 2.0 tools. In particular it has provided a deeper understanding of specific web 2.0 tools that are available and how they can be best utilised in an educational environment to assist in effective learning. The course, in particular, impressed on me how these tools can play a significant role in increasing students’ engagement as well as supporting me in a range of areas such as organisation of information, communication/networking, and creating content.

I would like to thank the PLN team for the course, and the course participants – it has been a very interesting journey, gaining insights from both the participants and PLN team. Thank you to the PLN team for your comments and encouragement, you have been a fabulous support team, and the course materials are excellent.

One of the highlights for me was broadening my knowledge of the social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter. I had not previously appreciated the use of these platforms for use in a professional work environment and I found it enlightening to learn about their wider usage, including the benefits that can be derived from tapping into new ideas and information for professional development. My aim is to become even more familiar with these platforms and endeavour to use them more fully. I also enjoyed following other PLN course participants blog reflections.

I began the course looking forward to the opportunity to gain knowledge in an area that is of interest to me, but also one where I knew I had a lot to learn. The course didn’t disappoint and generally exceeded my expectations in terms of its many interesting and insightful aspects. There were times where I did have some difficulty balancing the requirements of my work with those of the course which led to some degree of frustration and pressure. And I did encounter some technical issues early on in the course. However, overall I was able to manage this and work my way through each unit.

This course is well worth doing, and I would highly recommend it to other teachers/ teacher librarians. Undertaking the course as a team definitely has benefits, in being able to consult with colleagues on the ground so to speak, particularly in sorting out technical problems, and I would recommend subject faculties to take this approach. Time to complete the units is of course, a main concern for anyone attempting professional development, and perhaps an allocation of 2.5 weeks per unit would ease the pressure the additional workload places on peoples’ busy lives. I enjoyed the blogging reflections more than I had anticipated, and all the unit tasks.

Below is a link to my screencast on using Scoop.it.

http://screencast.com/t/Pi4Xum7PkX

My digital story

http://animoto.com/play/URWs3j6DAumXQzP08fk0dQ

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Digital literacy and fluency

My experience with the use of technology prior to the PLN course included, but not exclusively publishing and managing various sections within our Library website, using wikis with staff and students, using webquests with students, using search engines to locate relevant resources for student assessment tasks, as well as teaching students search strategies for use in databases and the internet. My professional practice prior to the PLN course consisted of seeking information on the web in the way of professional development courses, websites, articles etc. that informed Teacher Librarianship. I now can see the benefits of having information of a professional nature coming to me particularly through Twitter and the VicPLN Facebook group, and it has already changed the way I am learning in a professional context, particularly following up on Tweets from educators and Teacher Librarians, although as yet I haven’t tweeted. My organisation is perhaps a hybrid combination of prior organisational strategies and new strategies. My digital literacy is developing and participating in this course has given me insights into a range of tools that I have not previously used or explored, to name a few, Google chrome, Google +, Edmodo, Diigo, WordPress, and Evernote. My aim is to continue to become more digitally literate and eventually digitally fluent.

Technology and our use of online technology has meant that we have had to consider how to be responsible citizens who leave a positive digital footprint, by being safe, secure (creating strong passwords, being aware of the issue of identity theft), and ethical users (acknowledging the content of others) of the internet. I feel that we should be creating online content that is creative, inspiring and worthy. It was interesting to see how my concerns about managing online privacy and reputation were also reflected in the responses from the two year 12 girls that I interviewed, although they used their real names and photos on Facebook, whereas I was far more cautious and conservative using a derivative of my name and no photo. Their concern was that Facebook could change its privacy settings policy at any time. They only had Facebook accounts, and hence didn’t use multiple personae. They communicated with their friends and family via phone, email (school and private), and Facebook, even using Facebook to stay in touch with other students in a particular class. One student’s music and biology teachers used Edmodo in her classes. The girls were not overly enthusiastic about using Facebook in the classroom though.

As educators we have the responsibility to prepare students for our digital society, educating them to make informed decisions. Educators need to demonstrate leadership in the use of digital technologies – effectively taking on the responsibility of being role models for best practice in the use of these technologies. With educators modeling best practice through such tools as Edmodo, Google+ and even Twitter, with the aim of empower students to better manage on-line risks and be good digital citizens.

Listed below are the characteristics of an effective learner, as I see them, and how technology can be used to support these characteristics.

Engaged
In achieving positive learning outcomes, it is important that students are enthusiastic and constructively involved in learning. Because students are generally interested in new technologies and actively use these technologies in their daily lives, it is likely that their enthusiasm, enjoyment and motivation will be enhanced when technology is integral to the learning process. The type of technologies used can also be varied to add interest and enhance the learning experience. (Maddox, n.d.)

Organised
The ability to get things done efficiently and effectively is influenced by our ability to be organised so that we are well prepared and able to handle competing demands on our time. It follows that being organised can support learning. Practical organisational benefits of digital technologies such as Evernote include the ability to synchronise information across multiple devices. There are a wide range of tools that can be used, and in this regard, digital literacy/fluency is critical to best assess when and why tools are used and which tools lead to the most productive outcomes.

Curious
Technology brings the world to us and allows us to readily access diverse opinions, research, videos etc. The impact of technologies means that students can learn anytime, and anywhere. This is likely to be a positive factor in boosting students’ curiosity and interest in learning. Watching an event take place, can for example, spark more interest or curiosity than simply hearing about it. Using a variety of tools would no doubt further enhance interest in the subject matter that is being taught.

Open-minded and flexible
Being open-minded and prepared to embrace new ideas, perspectives, techniques, as well as challenging our current views is another important aspect of learning and growing as individuals. Technology gives us ready and easy access to a broad spectrum of ideas, research and opinions. Through this exposure I see technology as having an important role in helping learners to become more open-minded and accepting of other views. On-line forums promote a sharing of ideas and a collaborative approach to learning which is likely to assist in a more open-minded approach to learning.

Problem solving
The ability to solve problems and be pro-active in accomplishing tasks is an important characteristic of being an effective learner. Technology can help in approaching the task of problem solving more effectively by creating the opportunities for communicating using tools such as Twitter, Google+ and Scoop.it.

How will technology change the way we learn in the future?
In all probability social media sites, allowing students to form social connections and cloud based technologies will dominate in the near future. And as Bush (2012) states “the cloud and more ubiquitous connectivity is driving a significant increase in the blending of informal and formal learning. Driven by the digital content revolution, powered by eBooks and apps and so on, many students are studying when and where they choose and, in many cases, coming into the classroom already pre-wired with content”, from web services such as the Khan Academy.

References
Bush, T 2013 Exploring the future impact of technology on teaching and learning, The Guardian, accessed 13 May 2013, .
Maddox, A n.d. Technology’s Impact on Student Engagement, pdf, accessed 11 May 2013, .

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Evaluating

Evaluating a Search
It was interesting to see the similarities between the search engines Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing when using ‘Ancient History’ as a search term. I looked at the first eleven results for each search engine. The order in which the sites were returned in these search engines varied, but there was more commonality between the search engines than I had anticipated. The algorithms that each of the search engines are using must be fairly similar. Wikipedia was the first result returned in Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing.

DuckDuckGo had four results that Google didn’t return in the first eleven (ancient-egypt-online.com, historyforkids.org/learn/Egypt, simple.wikipedia.org.wiki/Ancient_Egypt, and crystalinks.com/Egypt-html). Bing had six results that Goggle didn’t return in the first eleven (bing.com/images, simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egypt, newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ancient_Egypt, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ancient_Egypt, historyforkids.org/learn/Egypt, books.google.com/books/about/Ancient_Egypt.htm)

InstaGrok had no results that matched Google’s results. The only result that matched with Bing or DuckDuckGo was simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egypt. It has a limited number of results for the search on ‘Ancient Egypt’ (18). This would seem to be a better search engine for primary aged students to use, except the results vary considerably in the type of content and age appropriateness. However, it is likely that the interactivity of the visual display would appeal to primary aged students.

I think it is useful to know the number of results that the searches return, to enable refinement of a search. DuckDuckGo doesn’t indicate how many results are returned for a search. Google returned 60,400,000 results, and Bing 13,700,000. When using an exact phrase ‘Ancient Egypt’ Google returned 19,700,000 and Bing returned 5,200,000. Google and DuckDuckGo returned the same results in the same order whether a simple search or a phrase search. Bing, on the other hand returned two results in the exact phrase search that were not returned in the simple search.

When I searched Bing’s videos for ‘Ancient Egypt’ 47,400 results were returned. The look of the page is crisp, with videos from National Geographic, and You Tube on the first page. You can choose ‘safe search’ – which is strict), a good feature for children. You can choose the length (short 20 mins.), resolution or source. You can choose Ancient Egypt documentary, Ancient Egypt music, Ancient Egypt You Tube, Ancient Egypt movies. There are even suggested related searches. Google’s You Tube returned 385,000 results for the same search ‘Ancient Egypt’. The search can be filtered by upload date, result type, duration, and features. In this respect, I think Bing offers a more superior product than Google.

Bing and Google image searches on ‘Ancient Egypt’ bought up the same images. In both search engines you can select size, colour and type. Google also offers time and by subject to narrow the search, whist Bing offers layout and people. Bing actually returns the images in the web search on ‘Ancient Egypt’, the fifth result which is a good feature. DuckDuckGo’s images are in photopedia; there isn’t a separate video or image search facility. Videos can only be accessed by searching History.com (a suggested site by DuckDuckGo).

Because there wasn’t a huge difference in the types of results returned for the web search on ‘Ancient Egypt’ between the search engines Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing it is hard to differentiate between them and determine whether one was any more effective than the other. If you take into account the ability to search for video and images, Google and Bing are superior products to DuckduckGo.

Evaluating Resources
I chose to evaluate the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare site (http://www.aihw.gov.au/). The AIHW is a well-recognised statutory body in Australia, providing a wide range of published material on Australians’ health and welfare. The AIHW collect and report on a range of topics and issues including “health and welfare expenditure, hospitals, disease and injury, and mental health, to ageing, homelessness, disability and child protection.” (AIHW, 2013) The data and reports that the AIHW publish are used by the Federal and State Governments to aid them in making policy decisions on health, housing and community services.

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare. We are an independent statutory authority established in 1987, governed by a management Board, and accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Health and Ageing portfolio.” (AIHW, 2013) Thus, the AIHW is a reliable and authoritative website, providing authoritative information and statistics. They also provide resources for teachers (worksheets on a variety of health issues).

I used the CRAP test to evaluate the AIHW site, examining the site’s currency, reliability, authority, and purpose/point of view. Either the CRAP test or the C.A.R.S. checklist could be used to effectively evaluate websites. The CRAP test is the test that we have on our Library Website on the Research Help page, under Selecting Information.

I enjoyed tagging the posts on my blog and forming a tag cloud; it was great to see the instant results in the tag cloud.

Reference:
About AIHW, 2013 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, accessed 26 April 2013, .

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Online Tools

Evernote

When I signed up to Evernote through the PLN course I didn’t read the terms and conditions and privacy policy pages due to the requirement to sign-up as part of the course, and I made the assumption that it would all be fine. These policies are lengthy legal documents, particularly the Terms of Service document with numerous hyperlinks (including websites, and to other sections of the ‘legal information’ contained on the site) that take some time to read carefully. I found aspects of the Terms of Service document, due to the legal language being used, not always easy to understand, and this created uncertainty as to my obligations and the potential implications of agreeing to the terms and conditions.  It would be easier to read if the documents were written as ‘plain English contracts’ and considerably shorter in length.

They are ‘up front’ in these documents with how they deal with their clientele, and provide updates to their legal documents. There were aspects that I can understand are necessary, such as the right to have a limit to the storage available, the number of transmissions and email messages, and that they can suspend access to or close an account with or without notice, including accounts that have not been used for an extended period of time. They don’t indicate what an extended period of time is, though. Children under 13 years (in the United States) can use Evernote (though the service isn’t directed to children), with guidance, supervision and consent of parents. In addition, it states:

“If you are outside of the United States, please ensure that you are complying with any laws applicable to you before submitting any child’s personal information or permitting any child to submit personal information to us. If a school outside the United States wants to enable its students to use Evernote for Schools, Evernote will work with such schools on a case by case basis to ensure compliance with any applicable laws regarding the collection of information from minors.”

The law that applies to an individuals’ use of Evernote, states that “If you reside outside of the United States, Canada, and Brasil, these Terms and the relationship between you and Evernote (including any dispute) shall be governed in all respects by the laws of Switzerland and shall be considered to have been made and accepted in Switzerland, without regard to conflict of law provisions.”

Hence, children and adults in Australia, using Evernote are subject to the laws of Switzerland.

An individuals’ use of Evernote is determined by the following condition:

“By using the Service, you represent and warrant that you are not located in any such country (U.S. embargoed countries ) or on any such list (U.S. Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S. Department of Commerce Denied Person’s List or Entity List.), and shall not use the Service in any such country.”

It would be useful if the Terms of Service listed these embargoed countries.

I have Evernote on my PC as well as Evernote web. On the Evernote web site under Support – knowledge base, and under the article ‘Backing up and restoring Evernote data under windows’ it states that there are two copies of my information, one which resides on my Windows PC and one on the Evernote server, but I can also back up this information by exporting all of my notes into an Evernote archive (.enex) file. This is done by right clicking “all notebooks” and choosing “export notes”. right-clicking “All Notebooks” and choosing “Export Notes”. This will prompt you for the directory where you’d like to keep the resulting .enex file.right-clicking “All Notebooks” and choosing “Export Notes”. You are then prompted as to where you would like the .enex file to reside. This process was easy, but windows didn’t recognise the .enex file, so I would need to download software to complete the process.

Content on Evernote can be deleted at any time, and you can stop using Evernote at any time you choose. Deactivating an account is located under account summary. Prior to deactivating an account, notes and notebooks can be deleted and the account synced so that all information is removed. This process seems relatively clear and simple.

Perhaps it would be prudent to investigate the laws of Switzerland before recommending this product. Evernote should include a hyperlink to the relevant Swiss laws in their Terms of Service, making it easier for all clientele to have all relevant information.

Scoop.it

You can use Scoop.it like a search engine without logging in. To be able to curate content though, a login is needed, with the following details, name, email and password. There are various types of accounts, free, or the premium accounts pro, business and edu (which allows for 20 curated topics, each with 30 co-curators).

Like Evernote, the Terms of Service and Privacy policies are lengthy legal documents. Scoop.it actually states some of the U.S. embargoed counties – Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, or “any other country to which the U.S. has embargoed goods or which is subject to other applicable U.S. trade sanctions”.

Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to use the site. “YOU MUST BE AT LEAST 13 YEARS OF AGE TO (a) USE THE WEBSITES OR THE SERVICES, (b) USE ANYTHING ACCESSIBLE OR AVAILABLE ON OR THROUGH THE WEBSITES OR THROUGH THIRD PARTY PLATFORMS, (c) CREATE AN ACCOUNT, OR (d) TRANSMIT/SUBMIT/POST ANY SUBMISSION, ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION OR ANYTHING TO ANY FORUM OR ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE WEBSITES.” Teenagers, 13-18 years must have parental/guardian consent to register with the website and/or services. And the parents/guardians must “AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS IN RESPECT OF SUCH TEENAGER’S USE OF THE WEBSITES, THE SERVICES AND/OR ANYTHING ACCESSIBLE OR AVAILABLE ON OR THROUGH THE WEBSITES OR THIRD PARTY PLATFORMS”.

Scoop.it can be used as part of my PLN, by choosing to follow certain people/educators. Its main purpose though, is as a topic curating tool on areas of specific interest. Teachers and Teacher Librarians can create learning resources or curate topics relevant to student assessment tasks, or curate and share educational topics amongst themselves. Curating involves critical thinking – synthesising and evaluating, and as Nancy White (2013) says of content curation, “publishing the curated resources, you add value to the collection as a whole by allowing others to share in that knowledge, comment on it, add to it, and participate in the learning that it generates”…. It’s great for teachers to curate learning resources for students, but isn’t it the students that we want to do this deeper thinking and reach these enduring understandings? So wouldn’t it be more powerful for students to be the curators? The act of true content curation allows students to construct knowledge”.

Design and Technology students could use Scoop.it to identify design experts in their particular field of study, architecture, product design, furniture, or fashion and connect with them to build a PLN, as well as having these experts act as mentors to the students with their design projects. Students could use Scoop.it to curate across number of curriculum areas. In PDHPE it could be used in the ‘healthy food habits’ unit. Using Scoop.it as a way of sharing information with others fits into the transformation stage of the SAMR model, where the learning task has been modified.

Scoop.it can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TumblR, WordPress, Google+, Pintrest, and Stumble Upon. It can’t be embedded in WordPress though. Here is the link to my Scoop.it topic, ‘Education hot spots,’ a work in progress. I plan to use Sccop.it to create learning resources for a number of research tasks, and embed them in subject guides on our Library website.

http://www.scoop.it/t/education-hot-spots

Reference:

White, N 2012, ‘Understanding content curation’, blog post, 7 July, accessed 20 April 2013, <http://d20innovation.d20blogs.org/2012/07/07/understanding-content-curation/&gt;.

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Social Media

I had not previously signed up to Twitter or Facebook. However, I can now appreciate the professional development aspects that these social media tools provide. They are another effective means of widening my PLN, increasing my informal learning opportunities and keeping up to date with a wider range of information related to education, technology and teacher librarianship. These tools also offer an effective means of collaborating, sharing ideas, assessing and revising teaching practices and tapping into new opportunities.

Barker College has Twitter and Facebook accounts for communicating to the Barker and wider community information on events, student activities and student achievements.

I feel more comfortable using Twitter and Edmodo than Facebook, primarily because of the need to be vigilant in ensuring that Facebook is set up securely for the purposes of privacy.

At the request of the SRC (Student Representative Council) Facebook at our school is blocked, as the students are of the view that they have enough time outside of school hours to use Facebook as they see it as purely a social media platform.
However, as Facebook is a web 2.0 tool used by many students, I believe that there are opportunities for educators to tap into students’ preference for using this form of social media and incorporate this into their units of work with the likelihood that students will be more engaged.

There are a number of teachers at our school using Edmodo as an on-line classroom similar to the Victorian PLN. Just as Edmodo is a secure social media tool for schools, I can see that Google+ offers teachers another secure social media tool with a high level of privacy. It is a tool which is perhaps more suited to education than Facebook because of the greater privacy it affords as well as features such as video conferencing, the ability to integrate with You Tube and unlimited video and photo storage on Picassa.

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Organisation

Currently, I organise my work in subject folders classified on a yearly basis. These folders are located in my briefcase area (C drive of my computer) which I synch to the staff server. I have short cuts on my desktop to web sites or databases that I need to access on a daily or weekly basis while web sites that are needed less frequently are saved in “my favourites” in internet explorer. Any resources which I share with staff are sent as either an attachment in an email or as a hyperlink in an email using our work email system. Resources which I share with students are placed on the student server under the particular subject faculty year group and topic. Other resources which I share with students are placed on the library web site under the particular subject guide, year group and topic. Any documents/web sites/information that colleagues or external contacts have sent to me via my work email that are directly relevant to my scope of work, are filed under subject/topic folders within the email system.

The use of the tools covered in this unit will improve the effectiveness of my management of workflows, particularly given their ability to be used across multiple devices. I have already set up Google chrome, bookmarking the web tools we are using in this course as well as the PLN web site and can see that this is an efficient way of bookmarking web sites that are used frequently. It also provides the benefit of synchronising to my home computer. This will alleviate the need to take my work computer home, giving me greater flexibility in managing workflows. The share groups of Diigo would provide an easy-to-navigate repository for resource sharing and would be a significant change to my current approach of sending and receiving useful web sites. The Evernote clipper is proving to be a very useful tool for collecting web sites and information in preparation for our staff development day in Term 2.

Students at our school are taught how to set-up their folder area on the student server with particular year folders and subject sub-folders to ensure an efficient organisational structure is in place for the saving of their work. The students can upload documents from their home computer to their school folder area via the school portal, or bring the document on a USB memory stick to school and then save their work. However, students can be haphazard in the management of their work. With the advent of BYOD for students this year, I can see that there is a need for students to embrace different workflow and organisational techniques, such as those that we have used in this unit.

Digital technologies and internet access has enabled the change from a paper based storage and retrieval system to one that allows us to perform these functions on-line at anytime and anywhere, and across a range of devices. As there is ready access to greater amounts of information we need to “work smart” in how we access and/or receive information. Digital technologies give us the means to do this. It has given us greater flexibility and convenience in how we organise ourselves, and allowed for greater time efficiency.

My first Evernote note

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s313/sh/8cac362a-5526-4c4a-a0b4-c8f2de9e7506/b619e3e145b1e7911f9337f644e0045f

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An Introduction

Hello fellow PLN course participants. I’m Sue Richardson, a teacher-librarian at Barker College located in Hornsby, a northern suburb of Sydney. Prior to working at Barker College I was a teacher librarian at a State high school in Sydney. However, I began my working life teaching mathematics at various State high schools.

My interest in participating in the PLN course is to widen my exposure to web 2.0 tools and increase my proficiency in this field of technology. I have attended courses on web 2.0 tools for teacher librarians and gained some early stage knowledge in this area.

My personal learning network includes my fellow teacher librarians at Barker College and the wider AIS teacher librarian network which provides professional development through network meetings and conferences. I am also able to benefit from the professional development sessions conducted regularly by Barker College. These networks are invaluable in terms of gaining knowledge, sharing ideas and benefiting from the experience, support and advice of others.

My objective is to build my own skills in the use of web 2.0 tools and develop my knowledge with respect to the application of these technologies for the 21st century classroom. The ICT skills of investigating, creating and communicating form the basis of our primary focus on digital literacy within the library in 2013. By the end of the year I would like to be able to identify where these tools could be best incorporated into faculty teaching units, and provide the help and guidance needed for their implementation.

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