Monday, March 31, 2008

Educational Benefits of SNS

"Using social networks in the classroom is a bit complicated but one thing is clear, social networks give educators a unique opportunity for just-in-time, peer-to-peer professional learning. No longer do we wait for course offerings or workshops delivered by "experts". We ARE the experts and social networks allow us to teach and learn from each other."
(Social Networks and Education from reinventing project- based learning blog by Jane Krauss - Oct. 2007)

There are a number of Social Networking Sites that are student friendly and enable educators and students to benefit from accessing them. The sidebar of the article If you can't beat 'em, Join 'em (Aug. 2007) from ProQuest lists four of these sites.

1. Imbee (
Content A web-based site developed for the tweener set Features a spot for teachers to have their own class pages and even includes lesson plans. The animated look draws kids in, and the site has all the social networking gadgets of the larger sites, but the teacher areas are open only to whomever the teacher allows in-other teachers, students, and parents. This site gets contributed content from its corporate sponsors, which include PBS and Disney.
Cost: Free

2. TIGed (
Content An offshoot of the global-awareness social networking site TakinglTGIobal (, where teachers can get their students involved in issues that affect the environment, and other contemporary topics. The site features an activities database, discussion boards, thematic classrooms, and other tools, and teachers control the environment. It's currently being used in more than 700 classrooms in 39 countries. Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Canada are corporate sponsors, and more than 10 educational foundations also support the site.
Cost: Free

3. (
Content: A web-based online learning community sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation ( as a safe space for students to collaborate and share knowledge. It features tools to enable students to publish their own websites and to collaborate on projects with other participating students anywhere in the is also used by students participating in the yearly ThinkQuest ( competition, in which students work together to create an innovative website on any topic within a broad range of educational categories.
Cost: Free

4. Haiku Learning Management System (
Content: More than just a social networking site, Haiku LMS is a learning management system that features numerous tools for teachers, including calendars, assignments, and class rosters. Teachers can build their own secure websites and offer collaboration tools such as blogs, forums, and wikis.The site recognizes when a user has multiple accounts for different teachers and can link all the user's class pages. Cost: Free up to 1MB of storage space. Beyond that, from $4.95 per month for 50MB of storage space up to $50 per month for 1GB.

Social Networking Sites have many educational benefits and can be used for a variety of educational purposes;
  • lessons can be presented using blog and chat applications
  • students can correspond with the teacher through private messaging on SNS
  • peer editing and feedback can occur on blogs
  • create multimedia projects
  • create daily newscasts
  • podcasts can be uploaded onto SNS
  • write essays from prompts on the blog tool
  • write blogs
  • post stories
  • improve reading skills
  • improve writing skills through creating a profile, posts, comments and collaborating and communicating with peers online
  • work on collaborative projects
  • book reviews/clubs
  • share music and write reviews
  • creativity through art
  • utilize various fun application with an educational focus
  • develop surveys

Karen Greenwood Henke, chair of the Emerging Technologies Committee at the Consortium for School Networking ( states that a social networking site is only effective as an instructional tool if a school has a plan for using it. She goes on to say that any successful social networking site has a reason to exist and that reason shouldn't be because students are going to use it. With a plan in place and curriculum objectives in mind, I firmly believe that the Web 2.0 tool of Social Networking Sites will benefit both educators and students.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Libraries Get Social!!

Libraries can play a positive role in supporting and protecting students on Social Networking Sites. Should libraries make their presence known on SNS? Seeing how librarians use SNS, students are given a role model and libraries can be promoted and more accessible through a Social Networking Site. However there are problems and concerns with library involvement on SNS that need to be considered and addressed.

"Schools and libraries are working to integrate positive uses of social networking into their
classrooms, programs, and services. By integrating social networking technologies into
educational environments, teens have the opportunity to learn from adults how to be safe and
smart when participating in online social networks. They also learn a valuable life skill, as these
social networking technologies are tools for communication that are widely used in colleges and
in the workplace."(Social Networking Toolkit - yalsa)

This article goes on to give some excellent examples of the positive aspects of SNS in the library;

- create a MySpace site as a way to connect with teens in the community, including quick and easy access to the library catalog and other research tools
- include information on programs and services at the library
- enables teens who are not traditionally library users an opportunity to learn about and use the library, teens can make the library one of their friends and then are reminded of the library whenever they log onto their space
- post on a SNS about what the library is doing to ensure that students are safe online, include information about Internet filters and any Internet Acceptable use Policies the library has
- create an online discussion forum about SNS
- set up a blog application where adults and students can read about the library's activities and can add comments
- post an information sheet about the positive aspects of SNS and include annotated lists of resources
- give teens the opportunity to connect with favorite authors, artists, and musicians on SNS and then they can leave messages which will develop their social and cultural abilities
- empower students to build a library space on a SNS, have students plan the space, what it should look like and what it should include, who can access it and have links to online safety and library resources including your catalog search

There are actually a few public libraries that use MySpace check them out!

Bethpage Public Library
Hennepin County Library
Lansing Library
Library Loft

I wonder if this could ever be possible in the school system where there are alot of filters and blocking of certain sites. It would be an amazing project to take on! But and this is a big but... here are some questions and thoughts to consider before making a decision on this topic. These questions and comments come from School Library Media Activities Monthly, where on March 26, 2008 they linked a transcript of a chat with a High school principal and a popular culture professor discussing social networking, and the educator's role. The questions that we need to ask ourselves based on this article before involving our libraries on a Social Networking Site are:

Should a school library 'reach out' to kids in their digital world?
If we consider it inappropriate to call a student our 'friend' fact to face, is it appropriate to be 'friended' by a student on Facebook?
How will we respond when inappropriate content on a SNS affects the school environment or students? Who is responsible?

The professor who was facilitating the chat felt that kids don't want us in their social spaces, that they are not there to learn but there to be social. I wonder how others feel about this?

On the Library Garden blog, Karen K made the decision to create a MySpace account for her library and was very pleased with the results. As she said, she knows all the kids are there anyway so maybe it would make her library seem cooler and help to reach out to them. Within a week she had asked some to be her 'friends' and more have requested the library to be their 'friend'. She posted info about events and invited their input. She felt that their behavior had improved and their attitude toward the library too, perhaps because the library is now a 'cool' place because they are on MySpace.

On the Information Wants to Be Free blog created by Meredith Farkas, a librarian, writer and tech geek she makes it quite clear that although she thinks it is a good idea to build a presence on a SNS, she feels that most libraries do it really badly. She feels that if the reason is to be cool it is not acceptable. There needs to be a useful purpose, such as getting feedback from students, and to create a library portal. Asking what books and videos they'd like the library to order, asking about services, library hours and collections, getting their opinions, she says is giving them a voice in the future of the library. Farkas goes on to say that libraries that make their SNS an extension of the library Web site with links to the catalog, chat reference pages, research guides, calendar of events, research tools, ask-a-librarian, and links to books, movies, and booklists is much more effective. This was quite an extensive blog with many links and I would recommend that you access it! She has alot of good suggestions that one could utilize when building a presence for their library on a Social Networking Site.

A ProQuest article Librarians on Facebook authored by Kathy Ishizuka in School Library Journal in October 2007, discusses a university librarian's experience with SNS. The librarian, co-founded Librarians and Facebook. Laurie Charnigo says that it has evolved into a valid method of communication but she's has not had much success with students accessing it for educational purposes. I joined Librarians and Facebook today and look forward to accessing this application. It looks like TLs will most likely access it and not students.

In the article, Checking Out The Impact of a Digital Trend on Academic Libraries,(Mar. 2007) Laurie Charnigo and Paula Barnett-Ellis discuss the results of a survey of 126 academic librarians concerning their view of Facebook. It was found that those who are most enthusiastic about its potential, suggested ideas for using Facebook to promote library services and events. While some librarians were excited about the possibilities of Facebook, they felt that it was beyond the role of professional librarianship.
A valid point was made when they stated that as librarians struggle to develop innovative ways to reach users beyond library walls, it seems logical to consider using SNS which appeal to students. Being made aware of students' cultural and social interests through Facebook may help librarians better connect with their students. The article goes on to say that professors who teach online courses(that would be Jennifer!) make themselves seem more human or approachable by establishing Facebook profiles. We are now 'friends' on Facebook! Charnigo/Barnett stated that some libraries that are on Facebook, say that they create a profile to interact with the students in their natural environment.
One of the main goals of the study was to obtain a snapshot of the perspectives and attitudes of librarians toward social networking sites. Most were neither enthusiastic nor dismissive of Facebook. The highest percentage of respondents indicated that librarians need to keep up with Internet trends, including Facebook. When asked if Facebook serves any academic purpose, 54% indicated that it does not, while 34% were not sure. Some academic uses that were suggested, consisted of Facebook being used as a communication tool for student collaboration in classes, using it as an online study hall, using it for conducting online discussion forums, and using it for building rapport with students through a communication medium that many students are comfortable with. Some librarians in the study suggested that libraries use SNS to promote their services, advertising events, creating online library study groups, and book clubs.
The authors made the observation that there is a fine line between what constitutes academic activity and recreational activity in the library and sites like Facebook seem to blur this line further.
The article states that by exploring popular new types of internet services like Facebook, instead of dismissing them as irrelevant to librarianship, we might learn new ways to reach out and communicate better with a larger group of our student users.

In a power point presentation by Mary Madden of Pew Internet & American Life Project, entitled When Libraries Get Social (Feb. 2007) she discusses the role of the library as being connected nodes of information and community exchange that we use to communicate, collaborate, share resources and preserve knowledge. She shared the stats where teens go online, and 75% of the students go on at school. She goes on to say that social computing is where teens and library meet to connect to people and information. I particularly liked her slide of what a library is,
the Library of the future is...
Web-enabled and participatory
Valued as a physical space
Made of people!

Security Issues of SNS!

Although many young people believe that the information they post on Social Networking Sites are private they are not! Students do not seem to realize that these web sites are public places and that posting a user profile goes out to the public in general with sometimes too much private information about themselves.

According to the article, Social-Networking Web Sites Pose Growing Challenge for Educators(Feb. 2006), these sites have given rise to issues that leach into schools in ways that can be worrisome. The author, Andrew Trotter goes on to say that concern is running high that students are posting information that exposes them to invasions of privacy and safety threats. School bullies can turn to social-networking pages as a way to torment their victims. He states that on occasion, students have anonymously created pages-often with humorous intent-that purport to be those of prinicpals or teachers.

Issues like these often result in schools filtering or blocking social networking sites in Calgary. However, students still have access when they are at home or can sometimes get around filters says Trotter through different web sites like and

Schools are encouraged to include lessons on safety and security of SNS and most do. The Federal Trade Commission under Consumer Protection gives a short and useful list of reminders for staying safe on Social Networking Sites. The FTC suggests these tips for socializing safely online for tweens and teens. The list would be beneficial for teachers to use when talking with their students.

Parents need to also be educated the on ways of talking to their child about the internet and what signs to look for if there may be issues. A sidebar on the article, The MySpace Culture (Dec. 2007) discusses the warning signs for parents to be aware of from the Attorney General in the United States;

- spending large amounts of time online, especially late at night

-turning off the computer quickly when adults come into the room

-becoming upset when asked to see what they are doing online

-receiving phone calls, mail or gifts from unknown adults

-making long distance calls using an online account belonging to someone else

From the Heyjude blog of librarian Judy O'Connell, she directs the reader to an article posted in The Guardian (March 25, 2008) warning parents that children are being raised online and concerns about the content they can access and their lack of awareness of parents of what their children are doing on the internet. The Guardian (March 3, 2008) also reported on the results of a survey about the effect of SNS and homework. Apparently, British students are spending less time doing homework then they use to as a result of their use of Social Networking Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. It would be interesting if a similar survey could be done here in Canada and what the results might be!

"Social networking presents challenges for us in schools that we have not seen with any of the previous waves of technology." (Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a New Security Concern for Teens and Schools - May/Jun 2006) SNS are having a huge impact on schools because of the ways in which some students have used them. This article discusses that when students post information on these sites for the world to see, it makes it available to predators. The author, Joanne Barrett mentions the disappearance and subsequent murder of a young girl who had kept a blog on MySpace. As Barrett says it give one pause to think that her thoughts and feelings were recorded for the whole world, including her future killer, to see on MySpace. Barrett goes on to say that another concern is online harassement. Incidences and reports of cyber bullying are on the rise and the ability to use SNS for bullying has intensified.

There have been cases where students have been suspended and expelled from schools due to information posted on their SNS. Even when applying for a job, employers have been known to check SNS for information on potential candidates. Having an inappropriate picture or posting content that is inappropriate may cost you a potential job or the current job you have.

In my opinion Barrett does an excellent job of summing up on how I feel about the security issues of Social Networking Sites. She says the educators have long held the belief that technology is here to stay and the educating our students to the wise use of technology makes the most sense. The successful adults of the future will be those who know how to incorporate the use of technology into all areas of their lives. While we have gained the ability to have instant information and sharing at our fingertips, we still need to educate students on how to use these tools wisely.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Many Spaces and Faces of SNS!

Like the majority of people who know a bit about Social Networking Sites, I am most familiar with Facebook and to a lesser degree with MySpace, Friendster and Nexopia. However, when exploring SNS, I was totally unprepared for the vast numbers of Social Networking Sites!

Wikipedia lists over 100 social networking sites! When I went through them there were some that were definitely social in nature as they focused on a specific social-type feature such as blogging, photosharing, travel, hobbies, books, business, sports, music, video sharing, and games. I took a more critical stance and decided to explore only those sites that would be considered to be a conventional social networking site that included some if not all the previously mentioned features on their site and that appeared to allow only 13 year olds and older to access them. I managed to reduce the numbers to slightly less than a dozen sites. I noticed that there were a number of SNS related to education that were not mentioned on Wikipedia. I will be discussing them in a separate blog entry.

A number of the SNS are international sites, some out of Europe like Badoo and Bahu. Badoo has 13 million registrants and invites people who are aged 18+ to join their site. An interesting feature is developing 'reportages' of their lives. It is a free site but you can pay to promote your profile. Their slogan is 'The whole world can use Badoo!'

Bahu is not nearly as large and just a year old. It is very popular in France, Belgium and Europe. Bahu invites people from the age of 13 and older to join... 'Hey! Here you can express yourself and meet tons of new friends!'

Orkut is a multilingual site, similar to Facebook, Friendstrs and MySpace. It has 59 million followers and is popular in India and Brazil. Because it is affiliated with Google, when I went to the site, it welcomed me back and asked for more information before starting. I did not bother as I already have a Facebook account and that is enough for me at this point in time. Orkut can be accessed at

The SNS of hi5 is popular in Cyprus, Romania, as well as in Latin America and has many Asian teens who register on their site. 'hi5 - Who's In?'... as of 2007, 98 million users!

Faceparty ...'the biggest party on earth!', is a popular SNS out of the United Kingdom with registrations around 35 million. Initially it was popular with teenagers but now people in their thirties and forties access it, utilizing their chat room. I was not impressed when I went to their site as the home page had a scantily clad girl on it and some inappropriate terms on the page. You are supposed to be 16 years and older to register but I question whether 16 is too young and whether even younger kids are accessing this site.

Habbo, created in Finland is popular worldwide. Users create an avatar, there is a virtual hotel, chat rooms and discussion forums. As of January of this year there are 86 million users and 75,000 avatars created weekly. The home page lists a number of activities that a registrant can do on this site and alot of them were games. A list of discussion forums was at the bottom of the home page and some looked quite interesting.

Out of the States, is myYearbook that has 6 million users with 90% being American. This site was created by two high school students based on the concept of a yearbook. The purpose was to keep records of students and to keep in touch with high school friends upon graduation. It continues to grow in popularity as there are alot of friends out there...'myYearbook, You've got Friends!'. A very colorful and activity filled home page which would be quite appealing to the teenage crowd.

The Social Networking Sites that are more well known to us are; MySpace, Friendster, Nexopia and Facebook.

According to Dana L Fleming in the article, Youthful Indiscretions (2008, ProQuest) MySpace is routinely ranked among the top three most popular websites in America. The site was founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson, a graduate student at UCLA. It was initially created to enable musicians to show case their music. Two years later, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. purchased MySpace for $327 million. She goes on to say that MySpace boasts an international audience with more users than any other networking site in the world.

MySpace is very popular with the older teenagers but younger ones have been known to access it too. Teenagers use it to communicate with each other about their favorite music, online videos, pictures and more. While artists and musicians use it to promote their work and network with other artists around the world.

My connection to MySpace is through our 'undaughter' the best friend of my oldest daughter, who spends a great deal of time with our family. When I asked her if she had an account and why, she responded that she has one for the music and music videos. She has attended several 'shows' which feature various bands around Calgary and where she has taken many photographs. One of the bands 'The Hollywood Gods' has asked her to take photos for them after seeing her photographs on MySpace. She took me into her account to see the photos that are posted for that band with her name below acknowledging her as the photographer. They were pretty awesome looking black and whites!

Friendster was one of the first sites to get noticed by the online community when it opened to the public in March 2003. Friendster was founded in California and is privately owned. According to Wikipedia, there are over 50 million users who are mostly in Asia. and is a multilingual site. It has a video page to add to your profile through YouTube, Crackle and Shankle.

Joanne Barrett briefly refers to Friendster when discussing Social Networking Sites in the ProQuest article, Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a New Security Concern for Teens and Schools (May/Jun 2006). She states that the most notable aspect of Friendster was its unprecedented access to the coveted 25 to 35 year old demographic. She goes on to say that wanting access to marketing dollars targeting this important group, a number of big Web players started up social networking sites. While Friendster enjoyed an intial membership explosion, many of the users from the initial demographic seemed to get bored with the technology and moved on to other things. Friendster was considered to be a top online SNS until 2004 when it was overtaken in terms of page views by MySpace. It also receives competition from Facebook.

Nexopia is a made in Alberta product! This social networking site originated in Edmonton and was created by Timo Ewals, a 18 year old 'programming wizard and rebellious renegade' (from About Nexopia). Today there are over 1.2 million registered members.

The 'About Nexopia' page goes on to say that it was initially designed as a way to fight back against his high school for banning floppy discs (that's a flash from our past!). Ewals wanted to connect his friends online. Nexopia prides itself on the fact that its members are outspoken and opinionated about their culture. This culture commentary goes on to say that by supporting, promoting and developing music, art and cultural events they managed to foster an authentic engagement with their members and have made Nexopia oh so much more than just another faceless internet utility. Nexopia creators state that whether they are arguing ideas in their forums, handing out bandanas in a Warped Tour mosh pit, or partnering with the world's leading media companies to put on high profile cultural events, Nexopia is the social network that's become a lifestyle.

I can understand why this SNS appeals to a younger user. My 14 year old who is in grade 9 has an account with them. He also has a Facebook account but says all his friends are on 'Nex' so he wants to be too. His older sisters brought to my attention that junior high students use Nexopia and senior high students use Facebook! Which now brings me to my own use of Social Networking Sites, I have a Facebook account.

I chose Facebook because it was the only SNS that I knew something about as my own children have accounts. They guided me through setting up an account at Facebook and then I have taken it from there.

Facebook was created in New England by a Harvard sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg. Originally it was meant for undergraduates with a .edu email account but has now opened up to include a wider audience. According to Mark Sullivan of PC World in his article Is Facebook the New MySpace?(July 2007), Facebook has reinvented itself to retain its core members as they move on from college life. The site allows you to search for new friends at companies not just at schools. The useful(??) little applications are apparently turning the site into a networking home page. Sullivan goes on to say that these new features and Facebook's clean design are beginning to attract an older audience of high-tech professionals (the class of EDES 545).

Facebook's home page indicates that it is a free social utility that connects you with the people around you. It lists how to use Facebook; to keep up with friends and family, share photos and videos, control privacy online, reconnect with old classmates, discuss interests and hobbies and plan parties and events.This is not a flashy home page and would appeal to a more mature membership.

Once I got in, the fun began! Visually, it actually became quite busy with advertisements, and appeals to sign up for various applications. I wanted to try out all sorts of applications but then quickly realized how time consuming they are and for me personally they had no productive purpose. I still chose a few so that I could experience them. My youngest son quite frequently sends me requests to try various applications such as Which Marvel Super Hero Are You?... apparently I am like Gambit from marvel comics, whoever he is!

I have 3 scrabble games going. One with Katie from our class, with Simon Rose an Albertan author and with three teenagers one being my 18 year old daughter. I must admit I don't spend much time on them. If I have not come up with a word in a few minutes, I move onto something else.

I have used 'The Wall' to leave messages and my kids leave messages there for me too. When I initially used my account, my son left me a message on my wall saying ...'YOU GOT FACEBOOOKK!! does this mean I don't acutually need to talk to you at home or should all our conversations be on Facebook?' ...ha ha funny 12 year old!!

Once I read a message on my son's wall which I felt should have been posted in the private message area so I sent him a private message explaining why he needs to be more discreet about what he puts on his wall as everyone can read it. He understood and is now more careful. The privacy issue definitely is a concern on SNS and will be discussed more in a separate entry.

Katie and I communicated on Facebook during the creation and discussion of our wiki. We have continued to do this and also play scrabble. It has been a great way to get to know a classmate in our distant learning classroom. I can tell Katie seems much more familiar with Facebook than I as she has alot more happening on her site. I like Jennifer's display of favorite books and current books being read. So far, I have used Facebook more for the 'social' aspect and when I have more time, I would like to develop more educational uses for my Facebook account.

Social Networking Sites are numerous and cater to a wide range of ages and interests. Some people have more than one SNS where they keep in touch with friends and meet a variety of new people with similiar tastes and interests. An interesting video which looks at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube takes a positive spin on social networking and is worth viewing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SNS...What is It??

SNS or Social Networking Site according to Andrew Trotter in the article, Social-Networking Web Sites Pose Growing Challenge for Educators (2006) are websites that offer a free, easy way to create personal Web pages and fill them with content: text diaries, digital snapshots, favorite songs, and short video clips. Trotter goes on to say that social networks are formed as members link their Web pages to those of their friends and search through the vast sites to find new friends who share common interests.

Membership into these sites are free and anyone can become a member by setting up an account. SNS can be open to all other members of the site or they can be accessed by invitation only if the user so desires.

Social Networking in Plain English on the Commoncraft show, clearly explains the basics of SNS and why they are so popular. View this video clip here.

A January 2007 survey by the Pew Charitable Trust found 55% of all online youths ages 12-17 have profiles on Social Networking Sites, with 48% visiting them at least once a day. A recent survey by Grunwald Associates found 71% of tweens and teens between the ages of 9 and 17 visit SNS weekly. In the Pew survey, 91% of all social networking teens say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently and 82% say they use the sites to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person. While 70% of older girls have used SNS compared with 54% of older boys, the boys 60% are more likely than girls 46% to use the sites to make new friends. Interesting statistics coming out of the U.S. and I wonder if the statistics in Canada would be similar.

The younger generation are not the only ones accessing Social Networking Sites. Some of these sites are attracting an older audience like ourselves. (I mean that in the most delicate way, ie 'mature' audience!) Keeping in contact with colleagues, friends, and business associates and searching for former high school or university friends are some of the reasons that we are on social networking sites.

According to Kristina Woolsey (Nailing Digital Jelly to a Virtual Tree, Learning & Leading with Technology Dec/Jan 2007-08 36(4)) found in our course readings:

Social networking Websites have taken society by storm and created

quite a stir, a good stir, a negative stir, and a questioning stir. The

important things currently are the implementing of Internet safety,

the distribution of awareness, the differentiation between the benefits

and drawbacks, and the harnessing of its potential in all areas of life.

It is hoped that this blog will address many of this issues and concerns of Social Networking Sites and provide a clearer understanding of this Web 2.0 tool.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Final Thoughts on VoiceThread

VoiceThread is very user-friendly multimedia Web 2.0 and has so much potential for the classroom in a variety of subject areas. Not only is it an excellent tool for independent work, it allows for collaboration. The flexibility of this Web 2.0 tool enables creativity, information sharing, writing and speaking skills to occur. As educators, we need to meet the learning needs of our students. VoiceThread is a multimedia tool which enables educators to differentiate instruction to ensure that learning will occur for all students. Gardner's theory of mulitple intelligences supporting the linguistic learner, the musical learner, the personal learner, the naturalist learner and the logical and spatial learner can be utilized through using VoiceThread.
VoiceThread has really opened my eyes to a number of possibilities in my personal life, in my classroom and in my professional development.

Teaching and Learning with VoiceThread

‘Participation is not optional’
A VoiceThread allows every child in a class to record audio commentary
about the ideas and experiences that are important to them. Whether it’s an
event, a project, or a milestone, children can tell their story in their own voice,
and then share it with the world. For teachers, a VoiceThread offers a single
vessel to capture and then share all the diverse personalities of an entire
class. A VoiceThread can be managed with little effort, creating an heirloom
that can be shared by students, parents, and educators alike. You can hear the
pride and excitement in their voices as the students “publish” and archive
their work.
(from VoiceThreads in the Classroom website)

I think that VoiceThreads is a great multimedia tool that has so much potential in the classroom and in the educational setting. There are many ways to use VoiceThread which I will list for you. I will also direct you to Collette Casinelli's wiki where she is gathering examples to share of how educators are using VoiceThread in their classrooms and in their professional development. Collette is a high school computer teacher who actively blogs and was very proactive in developing this wiki to share VoiceThread uses. (reminds me of Jessie in our class starting a wiki for us!)

VoiceThreads in Schools:
  • studying various countries, geography, cultures, animals, foods etc.
  • solving math problems
  • exploring art forms, reviewing and critiquing
  • creating digital stories (I am very excited about this possibility to support challenged students)
  • research projects in science and social studies, doing a final presentation using VT
  • demonstrating/practicing oral reading skills to be assessed by the teacher (another area of interest to me as I teach guided reading)
  • a creative way to do a book report both visually and orally
  • discussion of favorite books that could be on the schools newsletter website under the Library heading (I contribute monthly to the newsletter and provide recommended reads, VT would provide a new innovative approach to this)
  • through the sharing of photos on a VT, students could develop their creative writing skills(this is an skill that our school is focussing on, to develop student writing)
  • professional educational articles could be commented on and shared
  • support ESL learners in connecting words orally to pictures
  • listen to music and respond critically
  • use as an online discussion tool on current events
  • allow students to share their learning as individuals or collaboratively
  • enabling teachers to interact and support student learning(upload materials to reinforce topics taught in the classroom, explain concepts in more detail)

VoiceThreads allows educators and students to collaboratively share their thoughts and learnings through an audio component or text component while viewing pictures, videos, and slideshows with others online.

Examples of VoiceThread

There are many outstanding examples of VoiceThread for educators and others to access. I would like to share a few here that may be of interest.

I watched Pat Muth's VoiceThread about her family passport picture. She is the mother of one of the founders of VoiceThread, Steve Muth. I must apologize, but I had to giggle as she was too funny when she commented about some of her children looking like they have anxiety issues. She didn't understand, after all..."she was their mother and so they should be happy!" I thought of my own children and wondered how many pictures do we have that I have made them sit through which would have give a similar message to the viewers. Her VoiceThread was priceless and 'a keeper'! This made me realize the importance of family history behind photos and how VT can so effectively contribute by providing additional valuable information and details to a photo. I am so enthused about this prospect that when I go home to Ontario for a visit this summer, I would like to pull out some old family albums and assist my 85 year old Mother in creating a VoiceThread to preserve our family history and share it with others! All thanks to Pat Muth's delightful family VoiceThread!

VoiceThread is used very effectively on K-12 Mathcasts 500 project which is entirely VoiceThread based. Students are able to view a written problem and then with using the Doodling tool they can draw the solution to the problem for others to see. Audio and text comments assist others as well as enables the teacher to view and listen to their understanding of the math problem. Adults as well as students are able to collaborate on solving math problems. A variety of strategies are shared on MathCast which is so effective student learning!

Both adults and students can share their knowledge and pleasure when studying or travelling to various places around the world through VoiceThread. Arlene's VoiceThread about her travel to La Paz, Bolivia gave the viewer a wonderful tour of the city with beautiful pictures and commentary. Sharing what the picture was about, provided details that still photos are unable to do. Students in a class on the Langwitches site studied the Galapagos Island and using VoiceThread, they were able to share their knowledge. As a collaborative project, each student was given the opportunity to speak about what they had learned rather than write. For some students, this would be a good medium to showcase their learning of the Galapagos Island. The opportunity to share student learning about various areas in Canada, various Canadian cultures and the history of Canada could be met through the use of the VoiceThread tool.

These are just a few examples of the use of VoiceThread. There are so many examples that you can access on the VoiceThread site as well as even Google some ideas that you might have. You will be amazed at the number of voicethreads that have been created on a number of topics!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Creating a VoiceThread

I chose to create a VoiceThread about our cabin! I hope you enjoy the tour!

The process of creating a VoiceThread was relatively straight forward. I was able to watch various tutorials which helped to explain and clarify the process of what is a VoiceThread, how to use Video Doodling, the Microphone Set Up for Windows XP and even a 1 Minute VoiceThread was provided to name a few. I appreciated the opportunity to view them several times when necessary. There is even additional support under the Help Tab through Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), a Forum where additional support is provided through discussions on new features, some general questions and answers are shared and ideas for managing VTs in the classroom, also a variety of Tutorial topics can also be found here to assist your learning about VoiceThread.

The VoiceThread site allows you to create only 3 VoiceThreads for free. Should you decide you want to do more, you would have to pay to create more VoiceThreads. If so, as a teacher, you may want to register and pay to create a VoiceThread on the Ed.VoiceThread as this is a site for K-12 educators, students and administrators. I chose to make a VoiceThread for free and I have two free opportunities still available to create additional VoiceThreads.

To begin my VoiceThread, I clicked on the 'Create' tab and followed the steps of Uploading my pictures, Commenting on my pictures and then Sharing my VoiceThread.

First, I took several pictures around the cabin and downloaded them to my laptop. I selected a few photos and imported them to my VoiceThread website. I had initially attempted to upload them all at once but when I realized that it was taking too long, I made the decision to do one at a time, which was more efficient and effective. Once they were uploaded on VoiceThread, I rearranged them into the order that I wanted by simply clicking and dragging them to their new position. I was pleased and impressed when I was able to rotate a photo by clicking on the arrow in the corner of the picture! More pictures were taken and added to the site while others were deleted until I was satisfied with my selection. I liked the ease of using this tool to achieve the best layout.

Next, I made the decision to add commentary to my presentation. I had the option of adding text but chose audio as I felt it was more personal and effective for this type of VoiceThread which is a tour. I already had a suitable headphone/microphone set from creating the Podcast blog so I was familiar with how the equipment functioned. By clicking on the 'Comment' tab, I was able to record a brief comment for each picture. This went quite smoothly except for one problem. Previously recorded comments that I had deleted were still there for some of the pictures. I went to the 'Help' button where I was able to find a solution to my problem which involved using the trash can icon and clicking delete when necessary. I appreciated the fact that I could listen to my recording, delete and start again as many times as necessary until I liked what I heard and then would click 'save' before moving on to the next picture.

Finally, it was time to share my newly created VoiceThread. I chose to make my VoiceThread about the cabin, Public but I also selected not to allow comments from outside. Next, I needed to link it to my blog which was easy to do and you can access it by clicking on the word 'cabin' in the first line of this blog entry.

Considering that this particular web tool was quite unfamiliar to me, I am glad that I embraced the opportunity to learn about it and am delighted with the results! VoiceThread is user-friendly and easy to navigate. I can see so much potential for using it personally and in educational settings.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Introduction to VoiceThread

VoiceThread, a multimedia sharing tool was the first Web 2.0 tool that I had very limited knowledge about. I actually asked several people, teenagers, my colleagues at school, and an IT specialist what they knew about VoiceThread. Some had heard of the term but no one could share anything about it. The students at my own school, when I explained that VoiceThread was a multimedia sharing tool, could talk to me about iMovies but were unfamiliar with VoiceThread.

I became more curious about VoiceThread after reading an article in the journal Learning & Leading with Technology entitled Storytelling in the Web 2.0 Era. Alan Levine who is well known nationally and internationally for his expertise in the application of new technologies to educational environments is mentioned in this article. He used VoiceThread as one of the 50 different Web 2.0 storytelling tools used when producing the same digital story about his dog Dominoe. (Now wouldn't that be an interesting way for our students to share their learning of various Web 2.0 tools!) Levine refers to VoiceThread under a special category called 'Mixer Tools' as it combines a variety of media to tell non-linear stories allowing others to comment and annotate the stories too. Glen Bull, author of the article further explains, that VoiceThread supports the creation of online media albums and allows others to contribute shared text or audio comments.

To further develop my understanding of this tool, I went to the VoiceThread website where it explains that VoiceThread is a web 2.0 multimedia sharing tool which enables people to collect and share images and then allows them to comment in five different ways. VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place.

Joyce Valenza, in School Library Journal, (January 29, 2008) describes VoiceThread as a web-based, multimedia collaborative network. Her enthusiasm and description as to the ease of accessing this tool reassured me that even a newbie like myself could effectively utilize VoiceThread.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Wiki Prayer

Please grant me the serenity to accept the pages I cannot edit,
The courage to edit the pages I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

(from Brian Lamb's Wide Open Spaces, Wikis Ready or Not, 2004)

Wiki Wonderlands!

There are an amazing number of wiki sites for our class to explore and participate in. I will share some of the wikis that I feel are noteworthy. Just click on the wiki title to access them.

  • begun by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001
  • best known example
  • created as a free encyclopedia
  • anyone can register and become a contributor
  • over 9 million articles in 250 languages

Flat Classroom Project

  • analyzed 10 societal trends from book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
  • winner of the 2006 International Edublog Award for best wiki in education
  • develop a deeper understanding of the effect of information technology on the world
  • using a joint wiki, students paired with a global partner
  • explained trend, gave their viewpoints and created a video

Miss Cassidy's Grade 1/2 Dinosaur Wiki

  • Wesmount School in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
  • learning about dinosaurs
  • student art work with explanations of each type of dinosaur
  • very simplistic with lots of potential

Teacher Librarian Wiki

  • created by Joyce Valenza
  • invited to share wisdom and best instruction
  • information on books, information literacy and models
  • links to blogs and other library wikis

Library Success

  • a wiki that has great ideas and information for all types of librarians
  • share ideas with one another
  • replicate the successes of other libraries
  • 17 categories ranging from conferences, leadership, reference services, resource sharing to many more topics
  • a place to get information about technology in the library

Ways of the Wiki in Education!

The wiki is fast becoming a popular tool for increasing the amount of collaborative work done by students and teachers. Students might use a wiki to collaborate on a group report, compile data or share the results of their research, while teachers might use a wiki to collaborate on the structure of a professional day or the curriculum design of a course.

Students need to be aware that because anyone can participate in the building of a wiki, not all the information is of equal quality and reliable. Wiki participants should cite their work and provide supporting evidence. According to my twelve year old apparently astute son, wiki users should cross-reference their information using a variety of credible sources. Apparently his teachers have emphasized the need for evaluating information on wikis!

The following is a list of potential projects that students could generate on a wiki:

  • a wiki reference guide
  • a wiki directory of helpful websites
  • a letter or statement on behalf of the class
  • build a guide to correct punctuation
  • debate issues
  • outline options, make suggestions
  • collaborative research
  • edit a book, guide or manual
  • organize information for a book club or study group
  • collect and organize resources for an electronic portfolio
  • organize links to websites, and blogs
  • create a collaborative study guide
  • share resources as part of a virtual conference
  • create and share book reviews
  • library home page
  • integrate research into curriculum
  • summarize current events and discuss with others
  • virtual tour of a field trip site
  • discuss environmental issues
  • journal daily on a posted question
  • share and discuss original music

According to High Tech Learning, wikis are becoming a popular tool in learning because they involve high-level thinking and information skills. They allow students to participate in a project larger than themselves. Participants are able to learn from each other and expand their thinking about a topic by working as a team. The author goes on to say that wikis involve learners in asking more sophisticated questions related to their topic. Learners begin to assimilate new information and draw inferences. This ultimately leads to reflection and additional questions, more indepth analysis and understandings. These abstract connections are made more concrete through the building of a wiki. Information organization is also examined in this article. It is stated that wikis encourage learners to think about how information can be organized to maximize understanding. Organization might take the form of outlines, visual maps, questions, problems,or organizing material alphabetically, chronologically, hierarchically, and geographically.

Wikis are a flexible tool that utilize hyperlinks, categories, hierarchies, and organizational structure. They encourage collaboration and allow users to edit, add and modify information. They can be used in a variety of ways and are a welcomed technology tool in supporting the education of our students!

Wiki Worries!

Because users can modify, edit, and delete the content of a wiki there are concerns or 'worries' about this web based collaborative tool. A wiki needs to be monitored for inappropriate language, incorrect information and inappropriate content. This can be time consuming and someone has to be willing to be responsible for ensuring that the wiki is scrutinized on a regular basis. When a change is made to a wiki the author is notified that a change has been made via e-mail. This actually happened to me when my partner uploaded our article summary on our wiki. I was impressed that this notification happened so quickly! You can revisit the page and check things out and make any necessary changes. The old version is saved and stored where it can be accessed and redoing the page again is possible. Structuring the content so that it is accessible can be a challenge and must be done carefully and early on so that users and contributors can navigate the site quickly and easily.

When using wikis with K-12 students, a website with ads can be distracting and may sometimes link to inappropriate sites. Choosing a website without advertising would eliminate this concern.
Another issue related to advertising is spam. Wikis are open environments and marketers and vandals can flood a wiki with spam. Having a security protection program may help to alleviate this problem.

Matt Barton's blog on Embrace the Wiki Way! on May 21, 2004 discusses wikis and comments on their vulnerability. He makes a very valid point when he says,
'Wikis are protected not by code, or by law, but rather by the participation of an active wiki community. If you are proud of your entry, you will feel compelled to see what's up if you receive a notification that the entry has been changed and roll it back if it's obvious the page was vandalized or rendered less intelligent.'

An interesting issue was raised in 7 things you should know about Wikis. It discussed how a wiki represents the collective perspective of a group and that over time, the values, perspectives, and opinions of its users can become embedded in the wiki. It is felt that although a wiki is well suited to reflecting current thoughts, perhaps it is not effective in gaining an unbiased perspective on rapidly evolving topics. I am sure some of my colleagues will have formed a very informed opinion about this issue after completing this course.

Peanut...Peanut Butter...Yeah!

I love peanut butter, you love peanut butter....Peanut....Peanut Butter...Yeah!!!

I am singing the praises of the wiki website where I chose to upload Assignment 2! I chose pbwiki...peanutbutter wiki as my website.

Creating the wiki and defining its password was a quick 3 step process. There is alot of support on this website and I was able to watch a 'tour' of the pbwiki website. It has other features that made it appealing such as widgets or plug ins for photos, chats and video. It has a built in connection to YouTube. You can download a pdf or a slideshow. It has easy text editing and visitors can edit. Anyone can make a new wiki any time.

Another feature that appealed to me was the information page for Educators. They discussed ten different questions that an educator might ask before they would sign their class up. Questions such as; Is it safe?, How will this help my students?, Can I control access?, How much does it cost? and more. On this page you could access wiki examples and case studies. Overall I felt it was user friendly and the best choice.

My partner Katie and I will be inviting our class to join us on our wiki on in a few days to collaborate on digital game playing. I hope you enjoy using this site as much as I did when creating our wiki.

The Wonders of Wikis!

A successful and effective wiki will have a number of characteristics unique to this social and collaborative technology as discussed in High Tech Learning: Learning Spaces: Collaborative web and wikis, 2006.
  • Good organization - makes good use of hyperlinks to connect information and ideas

  • Flexibility and structure - although structure is important, there must be opportunity to expand and look deeper into a concept or the content

  • Collaboration - people working together toward a common goal will have bigger and better results than when people work in isolation or independently, a virtual team

  • Passion and enthusiasm - need to maintain a high energy level through quality questioning

  • Evolving - in a constant state of change and neverending

  • Open editing - anyone can add or edit anything at any time, although some wikis require contributors to register

  • Unique content - identify and create something that isn't available

As wikis' use increases in popularity, what constitutes a true wiki will be up for debate. The previous list of fundamental characteristics can be a guide when creating a successful and effective wiki.

Wiki Appeal!

Wikis have been described as a composition system, a discussion medium, a repository, a mail system, and a tool for collaboration that allows users to both author and edit. (7 things you should know about ...Wikis, Educause, July 2005) Their varied uses make them appealing to those wanting to collaborate on a variety of projects. People can use wiki pages to find out more information on a subject or communicate with others who are interested in the same topic.

Wikis are useful because you can share and collaborate on documents without any kind of special software or without having to have special training. Because wikis are web pages, they can easily link to references. Anyone can add, edit or delete material with nothing more specialized than a web browser. Wikis are user friendly with no HTML or special programming to learn. A wiki provides instant gratification as a click of the 'save' button posts changes and updates immediately. A wiki can be open to everyone, there are no restrictions. Anyone can read and respond to information by adding and modifying the wiki themselves.

According to Brian Lamb, UBC, what's unique about wikis is that users can define for themselves how their processes and groups will develop, usually by developing things as they go along. He goes on to discuss that the purposes of a wiki are varied and it only takes a couple of seconds to set up a new page based on whatever purpose be it simple or complex that a person has.

In Lamb's article, in Educause, September/October 2004, he shares with the reader that wiki users decide for themselves how the wiki would fulfil their objectives. He states that technical support and training is minimal and that even 'confirmed technophobes' have grasped and mastered the wiki system quickly. According to Lamb, users do not have to adapt their practice to the dictates of a system but can allow their practice to define the structure of their wiki.

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a free open-ended Web page that can be viewed and modified by anyone who has access to the internet.

The term was invented by Ward Cunningham in 1995. He used the term 'wiki' after riding on quick buses or 'wiki wiki' at the Honolulu Airport. The word wiki (WikiWikiWeb) comes from the Hawaiian word for quickly. According to High Tech Learning, a wiki can be created when a virtual collaborative team quickly constructs an interactive website.

An interesting explanation of a wiki can be found on YouTube, Common Craft, Wikis in Plain English.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Implications for Teaching and Learning

According to Joyce Valenza, librarians are needed more than ever to support student research and to prepare students for a lifetime of efficient and effective information use. She goes on to say the with students expecting to find most of their information on the Internet, it is logical that the 21st century school library website will play a big role. Today's school library will be expected to achieve its mission for learners both physically and virtually , expanding and reinterpreting reference and instructional services, meeting young users' information needs where they live and play and work...on the Web!

Kuhlthau (1997) stresses the importance of virtual libraries helping students internalize the process of learning from information. She feels that 'librarians play a critical role in creating environments that foster meaningful and lasting learning in digital libraries'. Kuhlthau encourages librarians to design virtual libraries where they can accomodate, guide, coach and overall support our students' learning.

Clyde (1997) sees the virtual library's prime purpose as being a means of delivering information skills which is essential.

According to Carol Grantham , Coordinator of Information Services at St Aloysius College in Adelaide, Australia, for the school library to be seen as relevant by students, the teacher librarian must embrace new technologies and offer students access to quality online resources that support the school curriculum. She states that this can best be achieved by a virtual library that meets the learning needs of students and teaches valuable information literacy skills which will enable them to become independent learners.

'If students are going to be effective seekers and users of information, they need two types of guidance: information skills critical for the 21st century; and customised, appropriate and well-designed online learning environments. Virtual libraries do the jobs on both fronts.'Joyce Valenza

Exploring Virtual Libraries

Before building a virtual library, it is advantageous to examine some exemplary virtual libraries. Here are only a few examples and a brief description of some virtual school libraries that I would recommend you explore. Just click on the school name and be taken to their virtual library.

Elementary Sites

Latimer Road Elementary

-built by a colleague in a previous class while taking EDES 545 last term-side bar with information on how to research, small picture icons can be clicked on a takes you to catalogues, books and other links

Grandview Elementary

-attractive, good animation, lots of ideas and items to explore, tree analogy and blogs on a line were interesting

McLurg Elementary

-lots of valuable information in sidebar, has a virtual tour, plenty of pictures

High School Sites

Springfield Township High School

-built by Joyce Valenza, visually appealing, links for students and teachers, click on items and words on home page, has NoodleTools(a new item for me which looks fascinating)

Chico High School

-well organized, using icons it has a list of databases and resources, sidebar has web information on student research topics, easy to navigate

The Greece Athena Media Center - Middle and High School

- this site was chosen as 'School Library Web Page of the Month' in May 2001 by the International Association of School Libraries
-navigation icons can be found on pages, explained what each represents

Another valuable virtual library that is near and dear to my heart is the Calgary Board of Education site.

Calgary Board of Education Virtual Library

This site was built in 2003 and is maintained by a variety of teachers and teacher librarians. There are 3 websites set up, Elementary, Junior High and High School. They are visually appealing and user friendly. The elementary and junior high have several icons, and words that one can click on to find various information. The high school lists the relevant information at the top of the picture. Each page allows you to 'Ask a librarian' and they get back to you as soon as they can. There are two additional tabs on the main page entitled Educators and Parents. When they are clicked on, they take you to your own page with numerous links. The CBE Virtual Library is easy to navigate and I would recommend that you take some time to explore it!

Advantages & Disadvantages of Virtual Libraries

When deciding whether or not to build a virtual library, the numerous advantages and disadvantages need to be taken into consideration. There are several articles that examine these various factors.


1. Immediate access to resources.

  • virtual libraries are available anytime
  • facilitate just-in-time learning

2. Information updated immediately.

  • TL able to respond to immediate needs of teachers
  • provide resources at short notice
  • contains up-to-date information

3. No physical boundaries.

  • people from all over the world can access information
  • as long as there is an Internet connection

4. Support different learning styles.

  • access material in a variety of formats
  • tailored to characteristics of the learner or community of learners
  • range of resources to meet the information needs of different users
  • can be customized for particular schools, grades and subjects

5. Accessible for the disabled.

  • offers an alternative for those who have physical difficulty accessing resources in a regular library
  • through use of audio and video, resources are made available to the visually and hearing impaired
  • integrate voice, video, and text for users involved in distance education in remote locations

6. Present student work.

  • share and showcase student work
  • student-created art, photography, oral histories to support local curriculum and compensate for lack of local resources on the Internet

7. Information retrieval.

  • provides user-friendly interfaces, giving clickable access to resources
  • use any search term such as word, phrase, title, name, subject to search entire collection

8. Teaching tool for information literacy.

  • enables students to find their way more easily around the various search choices
  • as an instructional tool, students learn the skills of selecting and using appropriate search engines, reading URLs and how to use an online database when needed
  • can be taught information ethics ie. plagiarism, reference sources, copyright issues

9. Storage of information.

  • potential to store much more information that traditional library
  • requires very little physical space to contain information

10. Networking capabilities.

  • one digital library can provide a link to any other resources of other digital libraries
  • a seamlessly integrated resource sharing can occur

11. Directs students to relevant resources.

  • students spend more time thinking about information rather than participating in time consuming searching
  • that complement the library's print resources
  • customized to meet the needs of a particular school community
  • resources selected to match research topics, age and reading levels of students

There are some disadvantages or concerns that need attention and consideration when creating a virtual library.

1. Restricted by copyright law.

  • works cannot be shared over different periods of time like a traditional library
  • content is public domain or self generated
  • if copyright exists, permission should be requested

2. Requires connectivity.

  • instability of Internet sites requires regular checks should be carried out to ensure that web links are still active
  • if there is not Internet connection, the VL is inaccessible
  • many people do not have Internet access - the Digital Divide may apply
  • may have access to the Internet but lack skill to utilize the available information

3. Skilled professionals are required.

  • to organize, maintain and help students
  • guide students in their selection, evaluation and use of electronic choices
  • need the knowledge of Boolean searching and advanced searching skills

4. Increased number of resources challenges student selection.

  • purchase of online materials are not tailored for a particular community of learners
  • increased need for instruction in use and evaluation of resources
  • students face difficulty in selecting quality material from the increased assortment of resources

The building of a virtual library requires consideration of both the advantages and disadvantages in order to create an effective library. With careful design and the support of skilled information professionals, virtual libraries can provide a powerful environment for student learning. (Gunn, 2002)


Digital Library. (2008). Wikipedia. Retrieved February 29, 2008, from

Grantham, C. (2007). Virtual library: e-ssential. ACCESS. 21 (3) 5-8.

Gunn, H. (2002). Virtual Libraries Supporting Student Learning. Retrieved March1, 2008 from

Elements of an Ideal Virtual Library

Valenza(2005) and Clyde(1999) have both suggested that there are some common elements that are shared by well designed virtual libraries:

- navigation that is simple and instinctive
- search tools and electronic databases pages are available
- there is a school library catalogue link
- access to bibliographic and citation guides
- access to research guides such as organisers, rubrics, hand-outs, subject gateways and web quests
- reference services are available such as an e-mail link for students to as a librarian for suggestions on how to research a topic or located information
- access to reading lists, book reviews and promotions
- access to pathfinders, which link students to physical and online resources for a specific assignment

Teacher librarians need to embrace and support student enthusiasm for learning with technology by providing online resources, and teaching information literacy skills.
Building a website might seem an enormous task but it is achievable according to Grantham(2007), if the following steps are taken:

- explore other school library websites
- select the best ideas for design, content and navigation
- set realistic goals
- start small and build up over time
- develop a comprehensive selection policy for online resources
- consult journals with reviews of Internet resources
- select from the Edna theme pages as a source of authoritative web links
- encourage teacher involvement in sending relevant web sites to add to subject links
- promote the use of the school's virtual library to teachers and students
- incorporate its use in resource-based learning lessons
- allocate time to work on the web pages

Developing a well designed virtual library will enable teachers and students to effectively search for relevant information and effectively utilize this knowledge.

Virtues of Valenza!

The 21st century student utilizes the internet as a major information source. In Carol Grantham's article Virtual library: e-ssential (2007) she states that the internet has opened the door to an abundance of online resources and the school library can either respond to the needs of students by embracing these new technologies or be seen by students as irrelevant. She goes on to say that many students choose the Internet as their preferred information source but most have a limited understanding of how to search effectively and efficiently.

Joyce Valenza, librarian at Springfield Township High School, observed that students need more instruction as well as the assistance of improved system design if they are to become effective seekers and users of information. Virtual libraries can address these needs. According to Valenza, through virtual school libraries, teacher librarians can 'guide and serve learners where they live, play and work'(The Influence of School Virtual Libraries on the Information-Seeking Behaviors of High School Students,2004)

Valenza in her information on workshops that she offers on School Library Websites: State of the Art Information Landscapes for 21st Century Learners states, 'Our libraries should now have two front doors, and one of them should be virtual. The effective virtual library pulls together, in one unified interface, all of a library's resources..print and electronic. It can be a vibrant, media-rich knowledge management tool for the entire learning community.'

This concept is developed further in her wiki page, A WebQuest About School Library Websites (2007). She discusses the fact that an effective library web page is available 24-7, and provides immediate support and intervention. Valenza makes a very valuable and valid point when she explains that the school's virtual library projects the image of the librarian as a 21st century teacher and information professional. According to Valenza, the library website represents the library program as it offers guidance and instruction while it fosters independent learning, it supports reading, learning and the building of knowledge.

One of the gurus of virtual libraries, Joyce Valenza has shared many valuable thoughts and ideas on this topic.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What is a Virtual Library?

A virtual library is an organized collection of resources stored in digital format which are accessible by computers. A virtual library exists in cyberspace only. There are no buildings or shelves. According to Gunn in Virtual Libraries Supporting Student Learning, 2000 the emphasis in virtual libraries is on organization and access, not on physical collections. The design determines the type of learning, for a particular community of users that the virtual library supports.

A virtual library, also known as a digital or electronic library may be defined as a system that is accessible from anywhere via the internet, to deliver knowledge directly to their users, without being confined to the contents of a physical library nor by being caught in a web of unorganized, unmanaged information. Information from any online source can be managed and shared by librarians with their users, making more knowledge available to users than ever before; the goal of an e-library is to perform online all the functions of the traditional library, plus many more available in today's digital world.(Deb,Kar, Setting Up an Electronic Library:the case of TERI,2005)

The Digital Library Federation(DLF)defines digital libraries as
"organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily and economically available for use by a defined community or set of communities."

There are numerous definitions of what is a virtual library. In research literature, the terms digital, electronic, e-libraries and virtual libraries are frequently interchangeable.