Learning through Glogster

Another amazing site using social online learning is Glogster eduGlogster allows students to posterize themselves or topics of study.  Students can add graphics, photographs, voice, music and backgrounds.  Once completed, students can read and comment on each other’s posters to share in the learning .   There are many different possibilities for using Glogster in the classroom such as beginning of the year introductions, informational displays on various topics, book reports or literature circle summaries, visual displays to add to blogs or as avatars and many more.

I discovered an excellent example of integrating Glogster in Social Studies by Canadian educator, Neil Stephenson.  (See link: http://s018.calgaryscienceschool.edu.glogster.com/NancyPanel3/)  Briefly, he gave his students a time-span in Canadian History that led to a significant event, in this case it was Confederation but the same idea could be used for another contentious issue in history.  He  divided his students  into two groups of people that would have witnessed the history in the making from different perspectives.  As his students read, researched and digested this span of history, they were to decide what events were the most significant in leading up to Confederation which ultimately impacted the way Canada is today.  The students had to narrow their choices, so that they could create a timeline that described the most significant events with detail using visuals, sounds, text.

The following link is an example Glogster from one of his students.  It is a superb culmination of this students learning both in history and in technology:  http://thinkinginmind.blogspot.com/2009/03/creating-historical-timelines-with.html#comment-form.  Neil Stephenson is definately using  a constructivist approach to learning in his classroom.

Neil Stevenson’s blog is titled, Thinking in mind and the link is http://thinkinginmind.blogspot.com

Social Studies and Web 2.0 – Check these Out!

I wanted to see if I could find any other tools or examples of lessons that educators have taught combining Social Studies with the use of Web 2.0.   I was fortunate to discover some excellent ideas:

On the Trail of the First People   Educator, Karen Kliegman, designed a collaborative online project for 4th and 5th graders to research Native Americans across the country.  Her hope was to have students from all different parts of the United States research the natives that lived closest to their own homes and present the information through the use of Web 2.0 tools for all participating schools to learn from.  The tools involved the use of digital mapping, wikis, and blogs.

(My Thoughts: While this particular project has come to an end, it would be a wonderful idea to model after on a range of historical or geographical topics, having students research on something close to home to be shared with other students country wide.)

 Meet Me at the Corner   Meet Me at the Corner is another website asking students to research and record something interesting in their own neighbourhood, this time using video, to be shared with others across the world.  Then the other students participating or viewing the site can learn about different places.  In essence it is a virtual field trip produced entirely by kids.  The site itself will actually complete all the editing for the kids with the students completing the original filming, script and addition information.  The videos on the site give clear instructions and offer filming tips. 

(My thoughts:  One of the best ways to make learning meaningful for students is to bring it close to home.  Students find learning about their own community concrete and purposeful.  The benefit of participating in this Web 2.0 site is that students have the added bonus of learning about areas beyond their communities and benefit from comments from around the world.)  

Museum Box  Museum Box is a creative website that allows students to choose objects to place in a virtual box.  Critical thinking skills can be applied to have students build an argument or justification for why they placed the object in the box as a means to illustrate a certain thought.  You can display text filed, photos and movies.  The site enables others to comment on completed museum boxes and students can view other boxes thus creating a social learning environment.

(The minute I visited this site, I loved it.  I immediately wanted to play and create my own museum box and if I am inspired that quickly, I’m sure students will be also.  I can think of so many uses for this site that could involve critical thinking skills for Social Studies.  A few years ago, I did a similar activity with my grade 8 students where they created real boxes belonging to the Canada’s Prime Ministers.  The only drawback to the assignment at the time, was the length of time involved.  I think many of the same objectives could be achieved in shorter amount of time using this site.)

Chapter 12 – How Can I Integrate Social Studies Instruction with Web 2.0?

Chapter 12 discusses the difficult task of teaching Social Studies in that the subject area covers such a vast amount of content and can involve many different areas of study including politics, geography, psychology, economics etc. (Roblyer and Doering, 2010, 347-48).  Having majored in history as well as having taught history and geography off and on for the last 11 years, I completely agree with this statement as very little of the history I took in university has actually be the content for which I have delivered lessons.   This means, I am always trying to increase my own content knowledge.  Time is always a problem because there never seems to be enough to cover what I would like to offer the students so it is challenging; Yet, I actually think this is why I enjoy teaching Social Studies so much because there are always new things to be learned and new and exciting ways to approach its instruction. 

My own middle grade students have always struggled conceptualizing days long ago and many wonder why it is of any relevance to their own lives.  I am aways trying to help them find ways to make connections and to realise that understanding the past, helps us to guide us in the future.  I would love to be able to better engage them by involving technology.  One of the major challenges is that it cannot be too time consuming due to the the vast amount of information to be covered. 

While there are many great suggestions listed in the textbook for integrating technology with Social Studies, the only one that would fall under the category of Web 2.0 tools is a using a site called VoiceThread.  “VoiceThread allows students to post content  ( e.g. photos, video and pfds) and comment on each other’s work in an online learning environment.” ( (Roblyer and Doering, 2010, 351).  Through my own researching on the Web, I discovered that VoiceThread comes highly recommended by other educators.  (See Larry Ferlazzo’s, The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education 2007).   I decided to set up a VoiceThread account to experiment and discover what it was all about.  I think it is a very intriguing tool.  I was trying to brainstorm and research how different educators may have used this for social studies when  I located a very helpful Google Doc entitled Seventeen Interesting Ways* to use Voicethread in the Classroom.(Barret, October 19th, 2009, http://tbarrett.edublogs.org/interesting-ways/ )

There are many possibilities for this creative Web 2.0 tool. 


Roblyer M. D. & Doering, A. H. (2010) Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.)  Toronto: Ally & Bacon.

Chapter 9 – Keeping Pace with New Literacies

Chapter 9 in Roblyer and Doering (2010) describes literacy as a “process of continual learning” (p. 279).   The definition of literacy is constantly changing as new literacies and ways to communicate evolve  and thus it is the responsibility of good educators to stay abreast of these new learnings (p. 279).   While this can be a challenge, the benefits are large as students are engaged in meaningful learning with the technological world they relate to on a daily basis.  As the text suggests, TPACK teacher moves beyond having students type up their stories in a word processing program and hand them in for teacher marking  to sharing them online in a safe, storysharing facility for others to comment and offer feedback as well (279).  Educators who do so have considered the pedagogical, content and technological benefits of this type of learning.  It is Web 2.0 at its best.

While I have largely recognised this throughout my teaching career, it continues to pose a constant challenge.  The emerging technologies are changing at such a rapid pace, it is very difficult for educators to learn them while also dealing with the many other challenges in education.   Even finding other team members to collaborate with is difficult as often I have felt far more competent in technologies and willing to take more  risks than fellow colleagues.  Having recently begun a family of my own, they now take priority so I have to squeeze in bits of time here and there to keep up with my own learning or sometimes, if  am lucky, I get to to learn along side them.  The other challenge is also with the school boards keeping up with the equipment needed to support this learning and since I teach in one of the lowest incomed neighbourhoods  in Ontario, this is definitely a struggle.

Some  excellent suggestions that the  text discusses for  using  Web 2.0 tools in Language Arts are writing blogs, online storysharing with the facility for commenting,  video sharing of student media productions, threaded discussions at a distance, electronic penpals, networked literacy projects, electronic publishing for writing (Roblyer and Doering, 2010, p.p. 284-286).


Roblyer M. D. & Doering, A. H. (2010) Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.)  Toronto: Ally & Bacon.

Make that Another Round of Facebook Please

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got… Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…”


Remember that infamous opening to Cheers ?  The strange thing is that now we no longer seek this solace from our local pubs but instead by logging onto our favourite social networking site to catch up with the latest news amongst our friends and seek affirmation for our lives.  

For years I was hesitant about joining the facebook phenomenon, fearful of its invasion to my privacy and afraid for my personal information to be “out there” for anyone to get a hold of.  Working as a Guidance Counselor, I encountered so many scary situations involving my students and the Internet.  Some of the situations were shocking and it seemed urgent to me to design several Internet Safety Units for the various grade levels in my school.  I was consistently counseling students and parents on how to keep their information private and their identity safe, thus becoming more aware of the potential dangers.  

The problem is that if you are not apart of the new technologies it becomes increasingly harder to understand how these technologies work, how to teach students about them and how to teach them safety.  I finally decided to “take my head out of the sand” and joined Facebook for the first time this past winter.  I soon realized how great it was to be connected to so many people I have known – all at the same time, all in the same place.  I loved how I could post something on my page and get immediate feedback from all over the world.  Thus- the excitement of Web 2.0!  Yet, I was still very wary and set up many privacy controls.  It got me thinking about the huge dilemma behind these new technologies.  I actually created a Web Dilemma to use with my students for one of the courses I was taking – Facebook Web Dilemma   (Feel free to use this with your students if you like).

Over the last few months and especially in setting up this Blog, I have come to realize that in order to be a part of these exciting tools, we also have to be willing to share of ourselves.  I have come to realize that the biggest difference between journal writing and Blogging is that “Blogging” has an open readership without condition.  I can get immediate feedback on my thoughts, good or bad, rather than just safely reflecting unto myself.  Now this might have been obvious to those who have had experience with Blogging but since this is all new to me, it took me awhile to realize this. 

 Now, if only I can get someone to read my Blog.  I have spent the last week reading many articles on how to gain a Blog readership:  Here’s My Five Top Tips For Building Your Blog’s Readership –What Are Yours?  Some of the suggestions for gaining Blog readership seem to be to join Twitter, subscribe and comment on other people’s Blogs, keep my Blogs regular and interesting and actively linked.  It seems that the saying fits “What you put in, is what you’ll get out”.  My new goal is to get others to read my Blog.  If you have any other suggestions let me know….  



(Walker, D., 2007,  http://weblogcartoon.com)

Web 2.0 at Summer Camp???

Camp ReunionI just spent the weekend at a camp reunion.  The camp I spent 15 summers at is in the middle of the wilderness in Algonquin Park.  It has no road access nor electricity in the cabins.  It was always a return to a simpler way of life, an opportunity to learn about ourselves in a place tucked away from the rest of society and to share in the beauty of nature with a group of whom I consider an incredible gathering of other women and girls.  

Little has change in the last 10 years I have been away.  The same rocks jut out in the paths I use to navigate in the dark ( many times without a flashlight), the same trees shade the cabins – perhaps a little taller but not by much and the same smells and sounds emanate from the surroundings like the scents of baking  from the kitchen, the cedars by the lodge, and the fires up at Woodcraft.  The bell still tolled to let us know it was morning dip and the singing and laughter in the dining room made me smile just as it always has. 

While my friends from days gone by have gotten a little older and now have important careers or marriages or children, they are the same at heart.  They share with me an incredible love of the camp we grew up in and that which shaped us into the women we are today.  The same giddiness of the first day at camp was felt by all and the tears and hugs that occured at every departure was just the same as it always was.

But there was one significant change.  To my amazement, even as removed as the camp seemed, evidence of technology was able to make its way into the protected wilderness of Algonquin.   Most noticeably, the camp now has cell phone reception and wireless access.  With this comes such a shift in the entity of camp.  So while I felt far away from the stresses of  the busy city life, I could instantly be back in touch by picking up my cell phone and dialing right from with in the rustic wooden cabin only lit by my flashlight. 

We were told stories of how a camp counsellor saved herself from a baby bear who had mistakenly entered her tent by using her cell phone to call the camp office for help and how the staff are now able to have wireless access use of laptops in the lodge.  Long gone are the days when handouts are run off on a ditto machine and we had to wait for hours to use the one and only camp payphone.

Several of my cabinmates, who were well versed in Web 2.0 tools, sent photos and text updates of the trip up to camp using their cell phones and facebook applications.  We had comments on our trip before we even set foot on the property.  Even my husband was shocked to see his wife’s photo appear on the screen just hours after I left.  

But I have to say, as strange as it was, it was so fun!  We were immediately connected with many alumna’s from all over the world who could not make it to this year’s reunion.  They sent well wishes our way or asked us to swim in the lake for them.  How wonderful it was to share the experience beyond just the immediate cabin of friends.  It is no wonder the students I teach are using these tools day in day out.  They are always connected.  They can reach out and seek support and feedback 24 hours a day. 

Having reconnected to many staff on facebook prior to the reunion saved time in getting caught up.  We already knew what many of our friends had been up to having seen photos of their kids, homes and partners.  Now that I am back at home, it is nice to think that I will be able to keep in better touch with many of these incredible women.  5409_268217440121_806715121_8730166_3994593_n


For me, the world seemed to become surprisingly smaller this weekend.

Are Widgets Funny Creatures who live in a Far Away Land?

Today, I learned what a widget is and they not strange, little creatures (although, I actually think it would make a good name for some).   Widgets are small application programs that can be embedded into any HTML website and running seperately from the page itself and from other widgets.  They involve programs such as clocks, calendars, weather etc.  (Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_widget,  retrieved August 25th, 2009.  

Widgets and Blogs

Widgets and Blogs - (blaugh, http://blaugh.com/2007/03/12/the-widgetized-kawasaki/, retrieved, August 24th, 2009)

Once I had set-up the basic appearance of my Edublog, I wanted to see what other educators had done.  Edublogs has a wonderful online resource site entitled, The Edublogger;  It contains online tutorials, help pages and many sample edublogs.   When I was looking at what many other educators had done for their blogs, I discovered that they had some really fun widgets.  Immediately, I wanted to see if I could add some to my site.  Two of the ones that caught my interest were:

 Shelfari – an interactive bookshelf which seemed like a wonderful addition for an educator.  With this I will able to add either my favourite books to display, ones I am currently reading or ones my students might be reading or enjoy.  What a wonderful way to promote literacy in my classroom.

Cluster Maps – an interactive map of the world that places red markers from the locations of visitors from all over the world.  This is a wonderful way to promote social learning with students so that they can visually see how using Web 2.0 tools for communication can enable them to  reach a worldwide audience and invite information sharing from millions of people.

After signing up for both these widgets and learning how to attach them to my blog – I now have some really interesting widgets!!

Chapter 6 – What is this Web 2.0 Anyway?

Chapter 6 in our course text discusses six main types of Web 2.0 tools. It provides a brief description of these tools but doesn’t contain a large amount of information on each as it reads, “ideas for harnessing the full potential of such technologies is only in their infancy…”(Roblyer and Doering, 2010, p. 199).

 The tools are described as the following:

Blogs    – an online “journal” or website created and managed by   an individual writing regular entries, allowing the ability to share with others for comment and feedback .  The blog can contain images, video, links and documents.  e.g. WordPress.com, Edublogs.org

Wikis   – a collection of webpages on which individuals can plan, brainstorm and collaborate their ideas on an ongoing basis. eg. Wikipedia.org, Wikispaces.com

Podcasts  – digitized audio files that can be downloaded over the Internet and saved as MP3’s.  Podcasts can be syndicated and subscribed to by online users such as a radio broadcast.  e.g. Apple itunes

e-Portfolios – websites created by individuals to showcase their abilities and skills in a digital format  e.g. ePortfolio.com; Pebblepad.co.uk

social networking communities– online communities of individually designed but connected websites, used for social interaction and sharing of content such as personal profiles, blogs, photos, slideshows, music and videos e.g. MySpace.com, Facebook.com

video and photo sharing communities– provides the webspace for easy uploading and sharing of video and photographs, giving the ability to post comments and tag content.  e.g. Flickr.com, Smilebox.com, YouTube.com, Vimeo.com

(Roblyer and Doering, 2010, p. 197-198)

To meet my goals I would like to experiment and work with each of the 6 types of these tools.  Once I am more comfortable with these tools, I would like to try to create two different lesson plans – one for Language and one for Social Studies to use in my classroom.

The first type of tool I have chosen to experiment with is the Blog – thus here I am writing my second entry.  The Blog is the medium of choice for logging all of my reflections and readings so that I may become more comfortable with Blogging myself.  I know that in order to effectively teach this tool I will need to also model its use for my students.  Having my own students see the different ways in which a Blog can be used, as demonstrated by their own teacher, will be important for motivation and understanding.


Roblyer M. D. & Doering, A. H. (2010) Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.)  Toronto: Ally & Bacon.