I finish my course on Web 2.0 tools with the understanding of the possibilities of the tools. More importantly, I have tried enough of them to know that I can try any of them, if I so choose. The web has been spun, and I am trapped in it. Spin away, spider! Let the web continue to grow!
The Story of Spinning the Web
photo © 2008 Bogdan Suditu | more info (via: Wylio)A spider's web doesn't just appear, although it may seem that way. You go to bed one night, and nothing is there. By the morning, though, there is this beautiful, delicate web. It appears as though it has been there forever; a permanent fixture in nature. The reality is, it was intricately woven; a series of steps connecting one point to the next, using a different platform to secure each strand. The World Wide Web is very much the same. It seemed to appear overnight - as though one day we woke up and there it was; however, the process was a series of steps. Each step continued to grow the Web until the Web literally extended around the world. That is a big web to spin!
My process of learning about the Web 2.0 tools is also very similar to this process. The course I took to learn about these tools really had an experienced spider facilitating web weaving. I was the rookie spider learning how to grow my web. This facilitating spider must have understood the process well because the way she had scaffolded the web weaving lesson was so genius.
Step 1 - Assessing Your Foundation
The first day of my learning involved assessing what I already knew about the World Wide Web and technology. Perhaps my facilitator had read some research on constructivist theories, because our learning grew from this foundation. The web weaving was really differentiated for each rookie spider. If you look at the various webs we created, you can see they are all very unique and reflect the prior knowledge each rookie brought to the course.
photo © 2006 jonas_therkildsen | more info (via: Wylio)Assessing my knowledge of computers and web tools prior to this course was not easy. As I indicated previously, the arrival of the computer and the worldwide web seemed to occur without much grandeur. I couldn't remember the first time I had used a computer - I suspect it was in junior high. I couldn't remember the first time I had emailed someone or received my first email (you would think this would have been exciting and I would have remembered it). If I were to make my best guess, however, I would say it was when I was working in the bank during the early 1990s. There were many other details to consider; you can check out my Autobiography of a Computer User if you want to know all the nitty gritty details. Basically, my knowledge was limited to Facebook - and my use of Facebook was basic.
Step 2 - Building Your Frame
With the foundation of knowledge assessed, we began to weave the framework for our web. Of course we were asked to look at the big picture, but it is hard to picture that when you didn't know what the big picture involved. I was advised to read a few of the recommended course materials completely once through before the course began, but with it being September, the start up of my teaching year, and the start up of everything my kids are involved in, I wasn't able to do more than barely keep up with the weekly readings. So, quite honestly, I maneuvered the exploration rather blindly.
To begin, I set up my blog. Yes, Web2pt0Me was my first step. I had to choose between different platforms for blogging. I narrowed it down two main options; Blogger and Wordpress. In the end, Blogger just seemed easier. I wish I would have taken a screen shot of Web2pt0Me the day it was created. It is like taking pictures of your children - you like to see how they change and grow. I didn't know it at the time, but the blog really did become a part of me - I definitely have an attachment to my "baby".
Step 3 - Assembling Your Team
With the blog set up, my master spider teacher wisely required us to set up certain social networks. I already had Facebook and Twitter. I joined a Ning - Classroom 2.0, as well as a book club, Shelfari. Lastly, I set up a aggregate reader for my RSS feeds - I used Google Reader just because it was there on my iGoogle homepage. I suspect the intent of the master spider teacher was to provide us with a strong support system - other rookie and not-so rookie spiders who were either learning to weave webs, or who had been weaving for a while - all of who were sharing their learning with others along the way.
So now that each of us rookie spiders had frames for our webs and support systems established, our next step was to connect with each other. Within our big group, we were assigned smaller groups. It was in these groups that we could get to know one another a little better. I'm not positive, but I suspect we were grouped with other rookies who were starting out at similar places in the learning curve. I say this cautiously because I was always in awe of what others in both my small and large groups already knew. I felt like the rookie-rookie spider!
Step 4 - Reading the Instructionsphoto © 2010 Thomas Shahan | more info (via: Wylio)With our learning teams established, we pressed forward. Each week we explored a new tool, read more from our Web 2.0 tools "manuals" (OK, they were the required reading materials), researched using our RSS feeds and Twitter connections, shared links to other great resources, discussed topics to critically assess the impact of Web 2.0 tools on our lives both personally and professionally. I'm not going to sugar-coat this - it was a steep hill to build a web on. The learning curve brought sweat to my brows. (Remember, I'm going with the metaphor of spiders, so you know spiders have many eyes which would logically mean they have many eyebrows - so lots of sweat!)
Step 5 - Reviewing the Tools
Tool 1 - Photo Sharing
The first tool we added to our web weaving toolbox was photo sharing. This was a fun topic to explore. I had only tried a couple of photo sharing sites previous to this. One was an online photo editing and development site, Kodak Gallery. My experience with this site had been good - I preferred this site to any other photo development I had tried. The quality of the pictures was always superior in my experience.
Facebook is another site I had used to share photos; however, I had never edited photos on this site.
photo © 2008 Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter | more info (via: Wylio)Those tools are good tools, but they are only good for certain jobs. In the world of web weaving, sometimes I would need a different tool to make the connection to the next point. It was great to explore other photo sharing tools. I looked at Picasa and Flickr, to name a couple. These two particular tools fit nicely with other Web tools, such as Google Earth and Blogger. Creative Commons Flickr has been a gold mine for me - I finally understand copyright in relation to public photos. I have good options of where to get pictures which I can use without fear of copyright infringements. I know better how to teach this to the little rookie spiders I am facilitating learning for.
As far as what this meant to me as a rookie - I learned how to share pictures of screen clips and other photos that helped me explain certain things. When I researched things on the Web, pictures that others had shared also helped me better understand things. Instructions on how to do something are so much easier to understand when there is a picture demonstrating the process. A picture is worth a thousand words! Plus, sometimes the pictures are just plain interesting to look at.
Tool 2 - Video Sharing
Naturally, the next tool to explore was video sharing. I have not had a lot of success with videos of my own in the past. I have a hard time getting them off my video camera and into a format I can do something with. Videos frustrated me, period. I did find some tools to help me with this frustration, though. Smilebox, a tool I used for photo sharing, is also capable of sharing videos. Windows Movie Maker was also another tool I found I could experience some success with. I could publish this to YouTube and then share even further.
On the flip side of this, I also found numerous sites with videos already made that I could use. I set up a YouTube account and began adding favorites to it. I explored alternative sites to YouTube. It opened my eyes to the resources out there.
Just as with the photos, videos are invaluable when trying to understand something better. I love the story I read about the boy who was trying to build a fire but was having no success. He video taped what he was doing, shared the video on the Web, and received feedback on what to change so he could be successful. That is the best demonstration of the how powerful this tool can be.
Side Note: One thing I learned with these tools is there are always two components to sharing - what we produce and what we consume. This applies to all tools we encounter. If the tool can be used to produce something and people are willing to share, then there is always something to consume. As I continued to work with the tools, I became more aware of this fact.
So, when I look at Flickr with this in mind, I realize that it is important to contribute to the community I am consuming from. As you can see in my previous posts, I relied on this site often. As a good citizen of this group, I have a responsibility, in my mind, to contribute to the resources in some way. So I do plan to go back after this course and get my Picasa and Flickr accounts working both ways (production and consumption).
Tool 3 - Social Networking
By the end of September and the beginning of October, we were adding the next layers to our web weaving. We began looking at social networking and the roll it played in connecting to the next points on the web. Again, if you can create, you can share. You can share your bookmarks with others, as well as looking at bookmarks others have made. Often I could find categories of information, such as with Diigo, where information was organized based on tags and groupings. This is when I realized tagging information effectively is important - it makes finding it so much easier.
photo © 2008 Dave Duarte | more info (via: Wylio)As a rookie web weaver, I get the big deal with this. I like that I can search my topic on a social bookmarking site and then find information that people have already bookmarked for that topic. It saves me a lot of time searching through the endless amount of information out there. If I need to know about a new tool for my web weaving, or I need to ask a question, there is a community available I can go to. Likewise, I may be able to help someone with their web weaving in such a place.
Tool 4 - Podcasting
This was new to me. I can say my stress level was up with this tool. I am thankful I had some master spiders I knew personally to get some help from. I had trouble with my microphone due to some default settings on my laptop; however, once I got the technical issues out of the way, the podcasting was quite easy.
photo © 2006 Wesley Fryer | more info (via: Wylio)This is a neat tool to use. Knowing how to create a voice recording is useful in many ways. A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you need the words to interpret the picture correctly. I loved listening to many of the podcasts - they reminded me of the radio shows I used to listen to as a kid.
And then there are the enhanced podcasts which provide visuals as well. I was particularly excited to find the cooking podcasts. I have been trying to find resources for my Foods 8 class (One video I found created specifically for teaching cooking courses was $100 whereas this podcast was FREE!)
Plus, podcasts can be mashed-up with so many other tools. Having this in your toolbox is a necessity, in my mind. It gives you many options for extending your web weaving.
Tool 5 - Wikis
photo © 2007 kaurjmeb | more info (via: Wylio)Just look at Wikipedia and you will get the idea. That is a major web extension alone. I was once told by a professor to not rely on Wikipedia too much. I had used it for some basic definitions in a PowerPoint presentation I had made. I felt embarrassed that I didn't understand the collaborative nature of this tool. However, I have come to see this collaboration as a good thing. I agree, this is not the resource you want to use for major research - but it is a good point to get you started in your exploration of a topic. Whether you have a PhD. in a topic, or just a passion for it, you can add your knowledge to the discussion when you are part of a Wiki.
As a rookie spider in web weaving, I love that there is a collaborative place I can go to when I need to discuss something. I like that I can put a question out there and someone may be able to help me. I like that often the questions I have are already out there, and someone has already answered them - because all I have to do is read their conversation. Often I find I learn more from the conversation than I did from the site.
Tool 6 - Multimedia and Presentation Tools
Can you say FUN??? Sometimes frustrating, but man are they fun. As fast as I created using these tools, I shared. And as fast as I shared, I had other people wanting to use them to create. There are some real duds out there - lots of bells and whistles, but you seriously wonder where you'd ever use them. Then there are others that will change the way you teach.
photo © 2010 Tanti Ruwani | more info (via: Wylio)As far as web weaving goes, this is what makes your web fancy and effective. If you want to link this to inquiry, this is the create phase. When choosing the tool for weaving your web, you have to look at where you are and what you are trying to achieve. You don't want to use a tool just to say you have used it - you want to use it because it is the best tool for the job.
By this time I was also getting familiar enough with my blog, that I really started to add widgets to it. I could often embed many of these presentation tools into my blog. This is what gives your blog a personality - your personality. I like to think of my blog as my digital face!
Tool 7 - Social Networking Sites
photo © 2009 Mark Smiciklas | more info (via: Wylio)
These can be for fun and for work. Well, sometimes work is fun. This is where we are connecting with others, as we do with Facebook. But there are so many other sites beyond Facebook. There are book clubs, such as Shelfari and Goodreads, and Nings on just about any topic you can imagine. It is a community of people sometimes based on connections, such as friendships, and other times based upon interests, such as education. If you think of it like a series of night clubs, you gather at the one which matches your demographics, interests, preferences, etc. Since I don't visit night clubs anymore, this setting provides me with the opportunity to chat and hang out with others who chose the same "club" and have the same interests.
Tool 8 - Twitter
Twitter - you have to follow lots of people to really get the effect of this. Follow people who share your interests and passions. Search for them everywhere - on Twitter, on blogs, on brochures you receive...where ever! Add them to your Twitter list, and then sit back and let the information come to you. You will learn so much about the topics you have chosen. Of course, lots of the information is just noise, so ignore it like a teenager does their parents. Sometimes you get information which you feel is inappropriate, so block those people out. In the end, you will have a personalized minute-by-minute news reel.
photo © 2009 The Next Web The Next Web | more info (via: Wylio)You need some kind of platform, such as Tweetdeck, to really help you understand the full potential of this tool. Tweetdeck can bring many of your social feeds together into this one spot.
This is another tool that can grow you web weaving immensely. I just caution people about two things; you need to use it regularly (daily for 20 minutes), and you need to limit how much you use it. Seriously, this can be addicting. If you don't limit it, you can begin to feel overwhelmed by the information coming at you. There is always more information than you will ever be able to read. Lots of this information is good information. But it is okay to let it pass you by and get the next one. It is about managing your information and maintaining balance in your life.
Tool 9 - Blogs, Blogging and RSS Feeds
photo © 2008 Pimkie | more info (via: Wylio)Reading blogs, writing blogs and managing it all with RSS feeds is what this is all about. Learn and share; share and learn - these are the 21st century learning skills we are talking about. The answers are out there, we just need to know how and where to find them. Blogs and blogging can be about absolutely anything, and all of it is useful to someone. When you find the blogs you like, you manage the information by subscribing to the RSS feeds so that information will come to you (I suggest setting up an aggregate reader to manage your feeds). It is like custom building a newspaper that is updated 24/7.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Better question - where don't I go from here? It is like learning to walk and then realizing there is a world beyond what you previously knew - so you start running. Sometimes you fall, sometimes you scrape a knee - but you keep running. My web weaving has only just begun. There is a world out there to explore, and it is growing and changing everyday. I will always be a rookie spider web weaver because there will always be something new to learn. I may become experienced with the tools I currently know, but they will never remain the same because they can always be mashed up with other tools to be used in new ways.
While we were learning to handle the tools, we were also participating in online discussions about specific topics. The topics during the exploration of the tool were reading, managing and organizing information, personalizing and writing. We explored the differences between online and traditional text for these topics, and how to facilitate the development of these skills in our students. When did this type of reading and writing start happening? When did we realize it is different than reading and writing with traditional text? What is the effect of this type of reading and writing on brain development, comprehension, etc.? What does this mean for how we manage information?
All of this snuck up on me...kind of like computers and technology did (and continues to do). But I get it - reading and writing online is different in many ways from reading and writing traditional text. I am aware of these differences now when I teach.
So this is where I begin - but the web weaving is endless and has infinite possibilities. I am open to them. In fact, I am looking for them. I am looking for ways to incorporate all of the Web 2.0 tools into my teaching practices, if for no other reason than to educate my students how to use these tools responsibly.
photo © 2009 dullhunk | more info (via: Wylio)As far as where I am going to go with this, let me summarize. Personally, I can't wait to continue exploring for personal uses. I want to create and share for my own family and friends, just for the pure enjoyment of it. Professionally, I am already sharing. I have incorporated Museum Box into my latest AISI project - and my colleagues are excited to create their own. I have shared sites for creating digital storytelling - ZooBurst is a three dimensional pop up book that has caught some teachers' eyes. I showed another teacher a Prezi as an alternative to all the PowerPoints they see (yes, I would argue it is different from PowerPoint due to the non-linear ability - I used it to quite successfully demonstrate the complexity of major and minor themes in my last novel study). I have shared my Web2pt0Me site with my administration, and plan to share it with many others who have been asking me about Web 2.0 tools. These tools support the create phase of the inquiry model which is one great reason to start sharing them. As an AISI lead, I am introducing the tools one at a time, when it fits. I only encourage the use of these tools if they are the best tool for the job.
I think all of these tools are beneficial to teachers; however, I don't think all teachers are ready to weave webs. I would argue that everyone can benefit. Whether people like it or not, the Web has entered all of our lives in one way or another. You may not love it, or even like it, but you do benefit from knowing how to navigate and survive in it. There is more information out there than we could ever manage, but we need to learn how to manage the information important to us personally. These tools enable that.
My Final Five
1. Web 2.0 tools help you to find, manage and share information.
2. Learning about the tools is not as stressful as you think - try it!
3. RSS feeds and Twitter - so much information; so interesting!
4. Don't worry about reading every great article - there are always
5. Set a time limit - don't let it take over your life!
That is a summary of my web weaving course. It is time for a little rest.