Saturday, 31 March 2012

Reflecting on Technology: Looking to the Future

Besides applying the tools I’ve explored during this inquiry into my own educational practice, I hope to share what I have learned in this class with others. First of all, I hope to host after school workshops for colleagues at the school where I work. I designed a Google survey to better tailor these workshops to their needs. My ultimate goal is that one of these mini-workshops will develop into a workshop that I could lead at the annual CTABC conference for independent school teachers. I have never led a workshop and feel it would be a great opportunity for professional growth. I also plan to continue blogging professionally, as it has been an enriching and challenging experience that has resulted in much professional development.  I plan to continue exploring the relationship between art and technology on this blog. I would also like to learn more about podcasts and screencasts to experience writing in different genres. I want to explore Edmodo as an alternative to Twiiter for micro blogging and plan to investigate and JUX. The journey continues!

Five years ago, I did not even own a cell phone and often experienced technology induced panic attacks. Five years later, things have changed- both in my attitude towards technology and the technology that is available. LIBE 461 first challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and grow in my knowledge of technology. Every step I have taken in that direction has helped my confidence grow and helped me push further. LIBE 477 provided me with the chance to take my first intentional steps towards developing a positive online footprint. Exploring the world of Web 2.0 (a term which I could not even define at the beginning of this course!) has helped me discover a wealth of free tools that are really quite simple to use. The successes I’ve experienced using these tools and my deepening understanding of the role of Teacher Librarian motivate me to want to learn more. "Teacher librarianship is not just something extra. It’s a brainstorming, mind shifting, electrifying opportunity to meet 21st century learning needs in all its dimensions head on" (O’Connel, 2012). I truly feel like I have really just embarked on my technology journey and am excited to see where I’ll be five years from now!

Historical Figurez Movie
by: ememmott

Works Cited:

O'Connell, J. (2012, February28). Rat Cunning and Library 2.0 [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Friday, 30 March 2012

Reflecting on the Journey: Artists Who Tweet

Diatom Art
The goal I wish I could have developed further was my third goal, “To explore the relationship between art and technology.” Art and technology have a long standing relationship. For example, in a lesson I teach on the design strategy of magnification, I introduce my students to diatom art. Created during Victorian times, diatom art was made by arranging diatoms, single celled organisms not visible to the naked eye, into interesting patterns using the technology of a microscope. Lately I have been intrigued by the beauty of Raster Fractal Graphics created using raster animation. I plan to continue using this blog to explore more ways artists today are using current technology to produce art. 
Raster Fractal Graphic
During this course, I did have a chance to be inspired by some artists who reference technology in their art and use social media to promote their work.  At the BC Art Teacher's Conference, I was introduced to Sonni Assu and Evan Lee.  In my research for this term, I came across Canadian artist Mandy Stobo. “A Twitter newbie, she began pulling photos of celebrities she admired off the Internet and then painting them as unsolicited Bad Portraits. She then emailed the digital version to their Twitter accounts” (Davis, 2011). Through her Bad Portrait Project, Stobo encourages people to send her photo portraits that she then paints using water color, and posts on her site, Facebook, and Twitter for the world to see. I also recently discovered artist Chase Jarvis. He is practicing photographer who actively explores the use of social media and the world of Web 2.0 in his work. He believes “...deeply in teamwork, community, and collaboration” (Jarvis, 2012). He does things like organize Photo Walks using Twitter and encourages people to share their work online.  I hope to find more artists who combine art and technology.

In my own practice as an art educator, I will definitely want to use two Web 2.0 tools further. I really enjoyed exploring online comic creators and their use in education. Art education is a natural place for the study of cartoon and comics with their rich visual content. I am considering ways I can incorporate the study of comics more into my art curriculum for next year and hoping to design a unit on cartooning. I also love the idea of bringing an expert into the classroom using Web 2.0 technology. When I worked full-time, before having my own children, I would frequently bring in guest artists- as I felt it truly enriched my students’ classroom experience. A friend of mine recently asked me for my husband’s E-portflio link, as she has friend that teaches in Australia who was looking for photographers to profile. Skype makes having my husband be a guest speaker at a school in Australia a very viable option! As a teacher, I desire begin developing these types of connections with artists around the globe myself. I currently use Skype to communicate with family, but hope to one day use it to have an expert visit my students. Web 2.0 tools certainly open up a new world of opportunities.

Works Cited:
Davis, A. (2011, November 23). Bad portraits gone good. Macleans. Retrieved from

Raster Graphic Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Reflecting on the Journey: Professional Application

The second goal that I had for this journey was, “To explore how I might integrate Web 2.0 applications into my current practice as an Art teacher and my future practice as a Teacher Librarian”

The greatest challenge for me in this area was lack of time with students. I work .3 or two mornings a week as a middle school Art Specialist. Because I am not a homeroom teacher, I do not have a computer lab time slot for my students; instead I have to beg, borrow and steal time. I did have a group of Grade 6 students make a Leonardo da Vinci avatar for the VCS Art Blog. And I did inspire the colleague with whom I share a room to try using Prezi and Glogster and my husband, also an art educator, to blog. My hope is that with more foresight and planning next year, I will be able to use Web 2.0 tools more with my students. For example, I would like to have my Grade 8 students present their artist biographies using Voki. I could see using Glogster next year with my Grade 7 students to illustrate the Elements & Principles of Design. I could also potentially see having the Grade 8 students create their own blogs as e-portfolios of their art work; an idea I inspired my husband to try with his senior Photography students. Finally, I could imagine having all my students create Voice Thread critiques of their work to share with parents at student lead conferences. I plan on including these ideas into my course outlines, when I revise them in April.

I definitely did find ways to use the Web 2.0 tools I explored to aid my own educational practice. Prior to this course I was not using any social book marking tools. Now I regularly use Diigo and Pinterest to record and comment on great resources I find to enhance my teaching. I love the Diigolet and Pin-it features, that I installed directly onto my dashboard, because they allow me to easily select and store both written and pictorial information. I now have 3 professional Pin Boards (Art to Remember, Favorite Reads, & Online Comic Creators) and even showed one during an interview last month! In terms of online presentation tools, I loved using Animoto as an alternate way to present my student’s art. This is a tool I will most definitely use again.  I plan to share the Art Animoto I created with the school community at the spring concert; currently it is posted on the VCS Art Blog. I also posted my Art Sytles Glog to my art blog and hope students use it as a means to access online resources about art. I plan to use this poster as a visual aid when teaching my art history unit next year. For now, these tools really enhance my blog.

In terms of my future practice as a TL, the knowledge I gained through this course will most definitely enhance my ability to the job well. Practically speaking, I have gained a host of tools that I could use. For example, setting up  library blog, using survey tools to conduct effective collection evaluations,  or considering how I could employ the use of tags  in the traditional cataloging system and expand it to include valid wed resources, creating a meaningful 24/7 virtual library space.  I plan to continue exploring Web 2.o tools because, as Richardson writes, “To teach these tools effectively educators must learn to use them effectively. “ (Richardson, 2010, p.154). The trick as a TL will be trying to stay on top of the trends, but I am confident that the excellent blogs and resources I subscribe to via my Google Reader will help me keep abreast of the latest developments. I also plan to attend two technology related workshops at the CTABC conference next year including one on Google Apps for Education. This journey was only the beginning!

Beyond practical skills, my understanding of what it means to read and write in a web based society has grown. I truly believe we need “…a more complex definition of what it means to be literate…” (Richardson, 2010, p.148). This broadened definition of course includes what it means to learn and teach in the Web 2.0 world. A few words echo in my head as patterns I have noticed in this regard:  connection, collaboration, conversation, creativity, contribution, production. Richardson explains that beyond teaching students to read and write well (of course taking in to account how this looks on-line) educators must teach students how to critically consume information, manage information, publish information, and network to find information (Richardson, 2010). This has major implication for the role of TL; as Ned Potter in The Time for Libraries is Now  writes, "We used to be the information vault, now we've become the launch pad.” This task excites me, as much as it daunts me. It excites me because I am passionate about education, about my students, about my own children, and see the potential the Web has to make “our classroom become as big as the world” (Kist, 2010, ix). I am daunted because I know I have so much to learn yet. What comforts me is the idea that as educators in this online world, “We can’t pretend to know everything any more, and we can’t be effective if we don’t tap into the work of others who are willing to contribute their ideas and content as well” (Richardson, 2010, p.155). I am a learner on this journey and I’m not alone!

Works Cited:

Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>

Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Potter, N. (2011). The Time for Libraries is Now [online slides]. Retrieved from SlideShare:

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts. and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Reflecting on the Journey: Getting Connected

My first specific goal for this inquiry project was, “To begin developing an online Personal Learning Network that will support my learning and teaching beyond LIBE 477.” The best action step I took in this direction was setting up a feed reader. I was surprised to discover that I already had a Google Reader account prior to this course, but I had no idea what RSS feed was, why I should use it, or how to use it! Learning this has literally been transformational. Will Richardson was right when he wrote, “RSS is a technology that will change your life, if you let it” (Richardson, 2010, p.72). During LIBE 461, I would literally spend hours searching for course related content. Setting up an RSS feed has dramatically reduced the time I spend finding quality resources for professional development. Course readings, class mates, the TLs I follow on Twitter, and following links all led me to discover some great blogs and resources to follow; I have created “The Daily Me” (Richardson, 2010, p.72) personalized to my information needs and interests. This term, I have been particularly inspired by two educational blogs, Will Richardson’s Webblogg’d and Judy O’Connell’s Hey Jude. Checking my Google reader has become part of my daily routine. I am still working on developing strategies for organizing this information such as creating folders and adding personal tags, but this network of resources that I built for myself will endure beyond this course and continue to be a source of professional development for me. I also look forward to finding a way to stay in touch with fellow classmates, as no one understands better than those in the trenches with you.

Will Richardson describes Twitter as “…a network at my fingertips phenomena where people ask questions and get answers, link to great blog posts or resources or share ideas…” (Richardson, 2010, p. 86). I was reluctant to believe Twitter could be a resource for professional development, but being diligent about checking the tweets of the various teacher librarians I follow during this course certainly resulted in my being exposed to great professional resources. One step I did not take was to actually tweet myself. As a classmate and I reflected on why we were having trouble taking the plunge, we determined that we didn’t know what to share. As a newbie to the TL world, I definitely suffered from stage fright and now realize I could have posted some of the links I was posting on my blog, as Tweeting is essentially “micro-blogging”. But I realize two other factors hindered me. The first being that I do not have a mobile device that I can tweet on. Having to wait to tweet until I can access a computer definitely hurts the “…running river of conversation” and “sixth sense” element of tweeting that Richardson describes (Richardson, 2010, p.86). Secondly, as you can tell by this reflection and my posts in general, I am a wordy person by nature. Being limited to 140 characters seems almost like torture to me. I am learning to be more concise, while trying to remain engaging and informative in my blog posts, but need to lose some of my word weight before moving on to mastering the compact language of hash tags. However, I did find other ways to be more than a consumer of information this term. I actively participated in TeacherLibrarianNing and made a concerted effort to post on the blogs of fellow classmates; both things I had never done before. These types of cyber conversations just seem to fit my personality better.

Speaking of conversations, a major area of growth for me during this course came in the practice of blogging. The only blog I read regularly before this class was my best friend’s mommy blog and even that was sporadic. Blogs as a tool of professional development, at their best, are meant to be conversations. “We write not just to communicate but to connect with others who can potentially teach us more” (Richardson, 2010, p. 28). “Writing stops; blogging continues...Writing is monologue: blogging is conversation.” (Richardson, 2010, p.30). Blogging was definitely a new form of writing for me and I tried to take Angela Maier's suggestion of blogging not just to pontificate; "Maier advocates that 70% of what one posts be sharing resources or providing links..." (Kist, 2010, p. 62). I attempted to find and share good resources on the tools I was exploring. I also attempted to engage my readers in conversation by posing a question at the end of each post. I certainly do wish the questions had led to more conversations, but realize I only really had a handful of people reading my blog. Maybe one day there will be more!
For more clever comics visit Savage Chickens by Doug Savage. He is very gracious about licensing his work to bloggers and teachers!

Works Cited:

Image Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>

Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts. and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Reflecting on the Journey: General Thoughts

Photo Edited using Picasa
My eldest son is turning 5 in a few weeks. This milestone birthday- that signifies the start of school, the loosing of baby teeth, the loss of my baby- has me feeling very sentimental. Every sideways smile and giggle makes me overflow with love for my children these days. However, as all parents know, the complete opposite can be true. There are those days we count down the hours till bed-time; days when our kids make us want to pull out our hair and scream in despair. My Technology Journey mirrors my parenting journey. This inquiry project for LIBE 477 has had its moments of elation, when I felt pure joy at learning something new, and those of frustration, when I felt like chucking my lap top out the window (a familiar feeling as documented in my Autobiography of a Technology User). 
Image 3: Autobiography of a Technology User

I stated in my Project Proposal at the beginning of this journey, “My main purpose in taking LIBE 477 is to push myself in the area of technology.” Pushing can be painful. I identified the area of technology as one of my weaknesses during LIBE 461 and intentionally took this elective course, before my required courses, to remedy this. I am pleased to report that my husband recently remarked how he has noticed a transformation in my confidence levels when it comes to technology. This confidence has brought with it a new attitude towards problem solving technology hiccups.  This journey also leaves me with a new wealth of knowledge and a host of new tools to improve my teaching. Just as with parenting, in the end the pain is worth it!

At the beginning of the course, I was excited but equally intimated about entering unknown territory. I was pleasantly surprised in my explorations using Web 2.O tools such as Voicethread, Voki, Animoto, and Xtranormal how user friendly many of these tools are. In hindsight, this makes sense, as these sites need users to be sustainable. In all these tools, I found the formulaic 3 or 4 step process marked clearly with picture icons intuitively easy to navigate. The best part was the pay off- often for minimal effort. In particular, I love the way my Technology Mascot Voki and Art Animoto turned out; they were final products I shared with everyone and anyone who showed the least bit of interest. The ease of using these tools coupled with the strong final products definitely helped build my confidence level and motivated me to want to explore more.

Although, many of these tools are designed to be easy to use, it is inevitable that you encounter road blocks. The first for me was not knowing how to embed the Voki I had made onto my blog. Picture icons did not provide enough knowledge. I needed more detailed instructions. I found these in an online web tutorial posted by two middle school boys; this was a humbling experience for me. Lesson Learned: Now, if I don’t know how to do something web related, I Google it! 

I also encountered glitches in the tools themselves- a login loop with Voki and having my text repeatedly freeze while using Xtranormal. In the past, these types of hiccups would have made me easily feel like giving up; by nature, I am the type of person who feels like I need to have all the right answers and wants results right away. I had to practice problem solving with a new attitude in this course. After trial and error, I realized that certain tools worked better with certain browsers. For example,Voki works better in Firefox, while Xtranormal works more efficiently using Internet Explorer. Although I don’t understand the why of it all, I have gained the ability to problem solve better when it comes to technology related issues. This has been a great personal accomplishment for me and has opened me up to learning more about technology. 

Reflecting on my children’s growth and going through the process of trying something very challenging myself, reminded me of one of my all-time favorite Sesame Street clips, a formative message that I re-learned through this process- try and try again!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Comic Creators: A Last Laugh

"Many Adults, even librarians who willingly add comics to their collections, often dismiss the importance of comics" (Tilley, 2008, p.23). There are many reasons why this might be the case and many reasons why it shouldn't be case. In my opinion, the most compelling argument as to why this shouldn't be the case is the potential to engage learners. My students love reading comics from Manga to Garfield (one of the most checked out comics as determined by the Collection Evaluation I conducted of the library last year). "[I]llustrated narratives are approachable by many reads who may be reluctant to pick up regular prose. The imagery increases the reader's enjoyment of the stories as the complimentary blend of pictures and the written word tell a tale" (Poitras, 2008, p.49). Comics are another platform teachers can use to enhance teaching and learning.

Comics in Education

Maryan Molishus divides the application of comics in education into 3 categories: Reading Tools, Research and Learning Tools, and Writing and Presentation Tools. While all these applications are valuable and worth exploring, for the purpose of this blog I will focus on using online comic creators as writing and presentation tools. Students can use online comic creators to:

•Tell stories digitally
•Storyboard for videos or plays
•Summarize novels or films
•Create How-To instructions on various topics
•Present research on a curricular topic
•Write a biography or autobiography
•Report on current events
•Express poem and art interpretations
•Document a historical event
•Reflect on their learning

Online Comic Creator Tools

I created this Pinboard using Pinterest as a resource of online comic creators.

Personal Application
To apply the use of an online comic creator, I chose to to reflect on the learning I have done during my Technology Journey through LIBE 477. I chose Xtranormal as my tool of choice because it allows you to make animated comics. The comic I created bookends the hand-drawn cartoon I presented using Voicethread to document my Autobiography of a Technology User at the beginning of this course, depicting the transformation I have made since that point.
Historical Figurez Movie
by: ememmott

The process of using Xtranormal to make an animated comic was surprisingly easy. Making a Movie in Xtranormal Movie Maker: The Beginner's Guide provides detailed instructions. I also found this Getting Started for Students video helpful. 

I signed up for an individual account and was given 300 points for free (points allow you to purchase sets and characters that you can use multiple times). Once you're registered, you click on "Create" and begin by selecting the theme for your movie from the choices pictured below. I chose Historical Figurz.

You then choose from 1 or 2 actors and are directed to the editing screen. 
Step 1 has you select your background; I chose the moon.
Step 2 has you select your character; I chose Neil Armstrong but opted to give him the voice of American Girl 1 from a long list of possible voice choices.
Step 3 allows you to choose background noise or music. I chose neither as I wanted to focus on the sound effects. 

Step 4 involves writing and editing your movie. The text-to-speech format is a bit tricky to use and you have to modify some words to make them sound right. For example, I had to write "Web 2 point o" to make the character pronounce Web 2.0 correctly. The edit feature allow you add camera angles, motions, facial expressions, pauses and sound effects from a list of choices in each category.


I created two versions of my story using my Flash browser and both times the text froze at a certain length, making it impossible to continue editing. I attempted the process a third time using Internet Explorer, shortening the length of the narrative as I was told not to exceed 1024 characters, and did not face this problem again. Although, I was only able to click and drag the edit choices using Internet Exlporer which was much trickier than inserting them using cursor placement, as Flash had allowed.

All in all, I found this a very fun tool to use and would definitely consider using it with my students as I see the potential for engaging learning and am confident they would enjoy the process. I like that the educator account allows you create class accounts, assignments, and assess student work using the teacher dashboard. Online Comic Creators are certainly a creative avenue for exploring writing and presenting student learning.

Further Resources for using Comics in the Classroom NationalAssociation of Comics Art Educators 
 Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools & Resources for Teachers Tap Into The World Of Comics Question: How do you use comics in your classroom?
Works Cited:Poitra, G. What is Manga? Knowledge Quest. 36(3) 49. Tilley, C. (2008) Reading Comics. School Library Activities Media Monthly. 24(9), 23-26.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Survey Tools: A Compass Pointing you in the Right Direction

One of the most important roles of a Teacher Librarian is to ensure that user needs are being met. What better way to determine what users need than to ask? Surveys are a compass that can point you in the right direction and there are a plethora of easily accessible online survey tools including Zoomerang, surveygizmo, Kwik Surveys, Polldaddy, Wufoo, and Poll Everywhere to name a few. Many of these tools offer a free option that allows you to create a limited number of surveys with a maximum number of questions. I conducted a paper survey as a part of the Collection Evaluation of my school library last year, but was eager to attempt using a paperless method. I chose to explore Google Forms because my school uses a Gmail based system for staff communication, and SurveyMonkey, as this is a tool I have heard spoken of frequently.

Through my navigation of the Google universe a few weeks ago, I discovered that you could create surveys using Google Forms through Google Apps for Education. This is a free tool which offers an unlimited amount of surveys and space for well over 1,000 responses. I created "Technology Questionnaire" (below) that I could send out through our Gmail based staff email to survey topics of interest for in-service workshops I hope to lead to share what I've learned from taking LIBE 477. I plan to send it out to staff after spring break, but took the survey myself to test the process.

The process is quite easy. You simply go to Google Docs and create a new form. You work on blank template and select from a number of questions types including multiple choice, check-box, paragraph, choose from a list, scale, or grid.  Once you are satisfied with your questions you can edit the look of your survey by choosing from a wide range of themes; I chose the Digital theme. To share your survey you can email it or embed it onto a blog or website. I tried both methods and received the emailed version promptly, but found the embedding option a bit tricky as I had to re-size the survey to make it fit my blog. The data of completed surveys is then tracked for you in a Spreadsheet. Once the surveys have all been taken, the Summary Report visualizes your data in a number of ways, including pie charts, bar graphs, and more. The ease of use, wide selection of choices, and summary report were all features that I really liked about this tool; I would definitely use it again.

Survey Monkey

My son's school sent out a Survey Monkey survey via email last fall regarding a development campaign. I found this to be an effective and easy format to use and preferred it to a paper survey which would have required that I make the effort to return the survey to the office (the chances of this being slim for a mother of 2 year-old twins and a 4 year-old). Although I am not currently working as a Teacher Librarian, one of my first goals in a new job as a TL would be to conduct a thorough Collection Evaluation to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the library and set goals for the future. “Collection assessment... provides library administrators with a management tool for adapting the collection, an internal analysis tool for planning, a tool to respond systematically to budget changes, and a communication tool and data for resource sharing...” (Arizona State Library) Thus, I explored Survey Monkey as an option for surveying staff, students, parents and community members. I designed a library use survey that could easily be emailed out or embedded into a blog or website, as I have done here. Click here to take survey.

All in all, the process of creating a survey using Survey Monkey is very similar to creating a survey using Google Docs with a few differences.The Basic Free Plan Survey Monkey offers is quite limited compared to Google Forms, allowing only 10 questions per survey and 100 responses. However, Survey Monkey offers many more options when it comes to question types than Google Forms. Although Survey Monkey does offer some options for editing the look of your survey, they are really minor changes compared the themes offered in Google Forms. One feature that Survey Monkey does have which Google Forms does not, is a question bank from which you can select ready made questions on a certain topic or use them as models to create your own. I searched through the "Education" topic and found only one question related to library use, but did model many of my questions after the banked questions regarding schools. The fact Survey Monkey's Free Plan is so limited and that the next plan costs $19 per month, would cause me to use Google Forms again before using Survey Monkey.

Other Applications of Online Surveys

I focused primarily on using surveys in the process of Collection Evaluation. However, there are others ways online survey tools can be used in education. Surveys can be used:
  •     as teacher/course evaluations
  •     to survey the parent community on a particular school issue
  •     to collect feedback about an event, activity or field trip
  •     as a Get-to-Know form given to students at the start of the year
  •     to gauge student knowledge about a topic before teaching a unit
  •     to have students collect data for projects
  •     as practice tests or to assess student knowledge
  •     use Poll Everywhere to poll students in class while teaching a lesson, as my classmate did during her math class
Read about Tonia Lovejoy's use of online survey tools with her Grade 6 students. Whatever the application might be, online surveys are another tool educators can add to their tool belt of free online Web 2.0 resources.

Question: How do you survey tools in your educational practice?

Works Cited:

Arizona State Library (2011). Collection Assessment & Mapping. Retrieved from

Image Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>