Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inquiry Update

It seems that I have been doing a lot of inquiry and playing, and not a lot of updating.  I think this is mostly due to the fact that many of the tools have become part of my daily routine, and less a "thing" that I am learning about and exploring.  I think this is a good thing :), but I thought I better spend some time commenting on my "findings."

Twitter - This has been a huge surprise for me.  I, like some of my classmates exploring this tool, have been surprised by the educational advantages of Twitter.  I expected Twitter to be a lot like Facebook, with people updating what they are eating, or where they are, but have discovered a wealth of information and a great feeling of connectedness with peers from all over Canada and the US.  I like that I have control over whom I "follow" and that I can choose to not follow people who tweet simple "I am at Starbucks."  During this stressful time in education in BC, I have also appreciated the feelings of support and a way to communicate our "issues" with others through Twitter.

Personally, I tend to "tweet" things that I am trying in my inquiry, like class blogging, or I "retweet" ideas and information that I think is worth sharing.  I have been using my inquiry blog as a place to store some great tutorials for Twitter and other tools in my inquiry, and I have also "favourited" ideas that I want to revisit.  I definitely have a "why reinvent the wheel" philosophy about Twitter.  So many people have already asked a question and many have written how-to articles or created videos to answer those questions.  I have found that some things are already becoming dated as Twitter has evolved but, especially among education Tweeters, the information provided is very useful.

There are a couple of things I am still working on with Twitter.  Firstly, I watched a video about "retweeting" but am still a bit unsure that I am doing it "correctly."  The video talked about copying the original tweet and then adding "RT" and pasting the tweet after this.  My question is then, why is there a "Retweet" icon?  This does the same thing but without the "RT."  Is the "RT" necessary?  By following others' retweets, it seems that many use the suggested format, and others just use the "Retweet" button.  I have done both and don't really see that it makes much difference for me as a follower other than knowing it is a retweet right at the beginning.

My other question is about the smaller URLs some Tweeters use for links.  I have not done any inquiry into this but it looks to me that this is another Web 2.0 tool available.  It definitely helps in limiting the number of characters in a tweet so I need to look into this.  I did have one thing I retweeted result in a "mention" that led me to the following link:

I have not been able to trace the tweet that resulted in this "violation," but I will be checking out TinyUrl to learn more.

UPDATE: - I realized, thanks to the comments of my classmates, that I have a bit.ly link on my AddThis toolbar. Cool!

Kidblog.org - I have stuck with this blog site for my class blog and have been very pleased with the results.  I have not encountered anything that would cause me to change sites at this time.  My students have found it easy to navigate and we were even able to upload some of their visual found poem assignments to share with other class members.  The students seem to like the format and responded well to doing their writing on a blog.

As the teacher, I too find it easy to navigate.  I have been able to evaluate their posts and responses quite easily and I like that I can see who posted and when so that I can remind them to keep up-to-date with their assignments.

My husband, who teaches grade 6, is also using this site with his class. There were some initial "emergency" phone calls to me the first time they used it - my husband is a bit on the technologically challenged side - but once they got going he said they wanted to do all their discussions on the blog.

The security of the site is nice, especially for elementary students and I suspect this is why the site says it is ideal for these aged students.  Visitors can see that there is a blog but they cannot read any of the posts unless they are logged in.  I also like that I did not have to provide any personal information about my students, and even though I used their real names, it would be easy to set it up with nicknames or something similar, to create complete anonymity for the students.  I can make my class sites public if I want and I may explore this option next year.  It would be nice to find a similar class in another school to blog with so that the students could get feedback and comments from outside their class.

RSS/iGoogle/Google Reader - When beginning my inquiry into RSS feeds I, as I said in an earlier post, was surprised that I was already "signed up."  I then made iGoogle my internet home page and I haven't looked back.  What a time saving tool this is!  I can see who has updated blogs or sites that I visit regularly without actually having to go to the site - I love this!  It has also allowed me to comment on my classmates blog posts and I have really appreciated the feedback I have received from them.

I have added Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, Google Calendar, and even my local weather to my home page.  I want to add Pinterest, as I prefer this to Delicious, and if I am following others' posts correctly, this could soon be an option.

I try to clear my Google Reader feed a couple times a day but I have also used the "mark all as read" feature a few times.  I realize I don't need to read every new post and that I will need to adjust some of the subscriptions I have added.  One site, YALSA, seems to have upwards of ten updates a day.  Do I really need this as a subscription?  This will be part of the adapting process as I continue to develop my PLN.

Google Apps - I am using iGoogle, Google Reader, and Google Calendar.  I am also in the processing of introducing Google Docs to my students.  As the librarian and technology support person in my school I am trying to get students to use this tool to prevent the issues that arise when they have a PC at home, and we have all MACs at our school.  I have used Google Docs personally in other classes to work collaboratively, and have really liked the ease of use.  The teachers I worked with and I also really liked the "chat" feature as we worked on an assignment.  We could discuss and edit at the same time.  After spring break my English 12 students will begin their Lit Circles and I think this will be a good time for them to blog and use Google Docs to share their discussions about their novels.  The online nature of the program is great as they do not have to be at school to work together.

There have been a couple of great links for using Google Apps in education that I still want to investigate further.  I would like to try using Google Calendar for our computer lab bookings so that teachers can do this without having to physically come to the library to reserve lab space.  I would also like to get more staff members using these tools so that we can share ideas and lessons.

Survey Tools - This is one area of my inquiry that I have not explored much yet.  I did set up an account with Survey Monkey and attempted to create a survey about our school and library web sites.  I began by using one of their templates but became frustrated because it wouldn't let me do the changes I wanted to make to the questions - which it claimed I should be able to do.  Admittedly, I did not give myself enough time for this exploration so my rushing probably had something to do with the frustration.

I maintain both the school and library web sites and would like to at least have a poll to see who is using the sites and why.  I use Weebly for the web sites and I do have access to a poll option so I am going to explore that.  I am not sure how much use I really have for a survey in my teaching and library.  Right now I am more focused on directing people to the sites and the physical library and I am not sure we are ready for a survey yet.

iPad and Web 2.0 applications - I am loving the iPad - or more accurately, my three year-old is loving the iPad, LOL.  We have added lots of great apps for her to play with and I am amazed at how quickly she has learned how to operate this device.  We created a "folder" with "Apps for Lily" and she knows how to use all of them.  She can also get to her favourite shows on Netflix, save her art to the photo gallery, and listen to music.

I have been using the iPad to read my first ebook and am really liking this, despite my initial resistance.  I do feel a bit disloyal to books, but I think they will get over it, ha, ha.

I am curious to see what the new iPad 4 will offer.  I ran into my first "you need Flash to view this" problem yesterday when I was trying to view some video of my union demonstration when Premier Clark was in our town.  I could view the photos on Facebook but I could not go to the photographer's site to see the images and video in a slide show.

I have added the iGoogle app so I get my RSS feed on the iPad and I am using iCloud to connect my laptop, iPad and even my daughter's iPod.  I also am reading the Vancouver Sun through an app and am exploring iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo to compare different eReader options.  So far I do not really see much difference visually.  I think access to ebooks is the main difference.

I also signed up for some iTunes U "courses" to explore this app on the iPad.  I chose a technology course that I intend to view during my spring break.

Web 2.0 mentoring - My principal is being stubborn, LOL.  I sent her a friendly "prodding from the demonstration line" today hoping that she might be able to find 10 minutes over these next couple of days to do a blog update.  I know she is busy but I know that once she makes a habit of posting she will see the benefits of this great communication tool.

My inquiry has led to other staff members using the tools I have been exploring.  There are now 5 or 6 of use on Twitter and two other staff members are using iGoogle.  One of my colleagues is exploring Tweetdeck so I am curious to see how he likes this tool.  We also created Facebook pages for our school and library that I and one other staff member keep updated.  It is exciting that other staff members are now emailing us with things they would like us to post.  Facebook can be such a great tool, especially for connecting with students.

Inquiry leads to inquiry - If anything, this inquiry has gone well beyond the six tools it was originally suggested we explore.  I am using my AddThis tool bar regularly, especially to post ideas from Twitter to my blog or other links to Twitter.  This is one of my favourite "accidental" finds.

Another benefit of this inquiry has been the continued development of our school and library web sites.  I had created the library web site in the fall and planned to redesign the school web site after Christmas.  Through my inquiry into Web 2.0 tools I have been able to make the web site even better than I had originally hoped.  We have links to our Facebook page, slide shows, and "share this site" buttons so others can help us communicate with our learning community.  The speed of this tool was especially evident as our teacher job action began to unfold.  We were able to post information for parents and keep student updated on what to expect this week.  I tried to remember what we did back in 2005 when we were on strike for 2 weeks - signs on school doors and lots of phone calls I suspect.

I am also exploring Evernote as a way to connect my devices and perhaps get rid of my paper "to do" lists.  I have not made this tool a priority, yet, but I would really like to become as paperless as possible so I am hoping this may be an answer.

Thus far, I am very pleased with how my inquiry is progressing.  I like that I am actually using the tools I am exploring.  I continue to be amazed by the wealth of information and tools available to me.  At times it is a bit overwhelming and I am envious of people who seem to know all the latest tools.  I realize too, that I could spend entire days exploring these tools but that I have to set boundaries so that my "regular" work still gets done.  I do appreciate however, that these tools are making my "regular" work better and more efficient.

I have accumulated a stack of reading, both online and in print that I would also like to consider and add to this inquiry.  Most of my exploration has been my own but I would like to now "back it up" with some research and ideas from "experts" in various fields.  I think this will add some depth to my inquiry, and perhaps lead me to better practices in using Web 2.0 tools.


  1. Hi Lenora,
    Two things I have noticed when using Twitter that I can share are, yes there are applications and website that make a "tiny URL" from a big one. Tiny URL is one, plus bit.ly and there are others. And yes, although I think it is a violation in Twitter use to spam, I have noticed some people who follow me are just that. I don't follow them back, reply, or click on their links. I could report them, but that would take time.


    1. I have added the bit.ly extension to my Chrome browser. This puts a button on my browser that I can click to shorten any URL. This is useful not just for Twitter but even for newsletters to parents or sending links to teachers - it just shortens some of those ridiculously long URLs.

    2. I just realized I have a bit.ly extension on my AddThis tool bar - who knew?

  2. I too have been surprised by "people" whom I have never heard of and seem to have no connection to, who are "following" me. And I am pretty sure I haven't had some profound tweet that has attracted their attention. Thanks for the info on smaller URLs.