Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Look at Blogs and Blogging for Professional Development

Blogs & PD & RSS

Blogs and blogging for my professional development in this course has been thought-provoking, educational and a phenomenal experience for me! The opportunity to learn through collaboration by sharing information, thoughts, ideas and asking questions on blogs positively supports my learning. I can now relate and clearly understand that, “Sharing thoughts through self publishing and harnessing the collective intelligence of all users to generate information and solve problems, creates huge changes in how educators (me) and students (myself and those I teach), receive and respond to information. (Next Wave Now: Web 2.0-2007) Accessing various educational blogs and the actual process of blogging for professional development is how I keep and will continue to keep informed of the latest trends and developments in education and teacher librarianship. Blogging enables me to share and reach out to my colleagues with questions and innovative ideas.

Stephen Abram in Teacher Librarians: Sharing and Taking Care of Themselves (Sept/Oct2007) - mentions that he follows about 600 blogs a day, to try and get a sense of what is happening in all types of libraries. I look at a few blogs everyday and that is enough for me at this point in time. He has an extensive list of favourite blogs related to teacher librarianship, school libraries and learning technologies which I have 9 of, so I think it is a pretty good start. By having created my own blog and commenting on our classmates’ blogs and other educational blogs I am able to get ideas out into the world at an amazing speed which benefits me and others.

In the blog, Library Garden(2006) one of the contributors, Robert Lackie blogs about librarians and educators using Web 2.0 technologies which include blogging to communicate, interact, share, create and publish information online. This is exactly what we have been doing in EDES 545! Accessing Library Garden has influenced me to assess how effectively I connect with those who currently access the library at my school and those who will in the near future.

He also suggests that we try setting up a library blog and that we start receiving library or other related topics using RSS feeds via Bloglines. Jennifer had also suggested we do this at the beginning of our course, which I did although at the time I did not realize how beneficial it would be.

As our course progressed, I was amazed at all the information on other blogs online about education, teacher librarianship, technology and so many other related topics. I realized I wanted to be able to access them with ease and remain current. That is when I started to pay attention to what RSS was all about. Browser based Real Simple Syndication aggregator was indeed the solution as readers like me can subscribe to content on blogs and at many other sites. The feeds, also known as RSS feeds, XML feeds, syndicated content or webfeeds, contain frequently updated content published by a website. They are also used for distributing other types of digital content like pictures, audio or video.

When you first view a website, if feeds are available, the Feeds button will change color. You simply click the Feeds button and then click the feed you want to see. You can subscribe to a Feed to get content automatically which I have done and have experienced reading up to date material many times now. You can view your feeds by going to the tab in the Favorite Centre and clicking the star button then click the Feeds button. So easy and so amazing that current material can be accessed with speed and efficiency with just a click of a special button!

Blogging & Professional Development

Teacher librarians, who are isolated from others in their field, benefit from blogging in order to keep up with the latest research, share information and receive support from others in the profession. The article Ending Isolation ( Sept.2006) gives an example of this. However, it also reminds me of our own class. We are scattered all over Canada, but through blogging we can connect, learn, share and support one another in our professional development.

According to Laurel Clyde, author of Weblogs & Libraries not only do blogs bring current trends and issues to our attention, but they also allow us to keep up to date by reading and participating on library and information weblogs. I personally want to know what are the latest developments, how are other educators using Web 2.0 tools in their schools, what issues do they have to address and how do they effectively address them.
Subscribing to educational blogs and utilizing the RSS feeds keeps me current and answers questions I might have. I have learned that there is a lot of support that we can access.

One of the benefits of blogging for professional development is the opportunity to build my own professional network with my colleagues in this class. I can comment on their thoughts and links and they do the same for me. I feel much more confident about the possibility of going on the ‘gurus’site to leave comments and ask questions too. The following quotation is so applicable to our situation in this class. “Learning with others makes the difference, since learning is a social process…and has now gone online with blogs. Learning with others means you take control of the flood of information and data coming into your life.” (Miguel Guhlin – Blogs: Webs of Connected Learning – 2006)
Teacher librarians and educators like us, need to start leaving comments and linking those back to our own blogs for our own professional development, to learn more and to share knowledge. I will most definitely continue to do this even after this course is completed!

Examples of Blogs for Professional Development

As Dr. David Tobin notes in Building Your Personal Learning Network, blogs give us access to a variety of information sources and to people of whom we can ask questions, who can provide us with coaching and mentoring and who can challenge or extend our thinking and our professional development. There are a large number of blogs maintained by librarians and information specialists that provide valuable information. Deciding on which blogs to discuss in this section was a challenge as there are a number that I find very beneficial. One way to decide is by accessing well known bloggers sites such as Will Richardson and explores which weblogs they subscribe to. I must admit that when Jennifer asked us to subscribe to five educational blogs, at the beginning of the course, I depended on the list by Will. However, when I decided to update my blog, give it a fresh look and add more links, I took a more critical look at my original blogroll. I agreed with some of my choices but then added several more. I finally felt confident in knowing which blogs and bloggers truly influence and support my professional development and who I wanted to share with others. I look forward to accessing my classmates’ blogs to learn about some additional quality blogs and bloggers and to include some additional education blogs to my currently extensive blogroll!

Here are a select few blogs that I find very informative.

Anne Davis, EduBlogInsights covers many topics of interest to me such as collaboration, conferences, evaluation, literacy, professional development, social networking, teaching, Web 2.0, writing and many more. She is well known and well respected and her name appears in numerous articles. I like the fact that she has a lot of experience and knowledge to share.

David Warklick’s 2CentsWorth is a familiar blog to many of us. I appreciate Warklick’s open mindedness, his knowledge and his ability to share. According to David with regards to his blog, “It is a conversation. I blog to learn. I do not promise answers here. I will ask far more questions.” I would like mention that this is my philosophy on blogging too. I also blog to learn, and ask lots of questions and need to ask even more for my learning!

Doug Johnson speaks from the viewpoint of librarian and educational technology leader in his The Blue Skunk Blog. His blogs are quite amusing, full of witty comments, while encouraging his readers to think about libraries and technology in a different way. I have found that after reading his blog I do exactly that! Do I always agree with him? Not necessarily, but he does give us some inspirational ideas to consider and often in a humorous fashion!

Jenny Levine, the blogger behind The Shifted Librarian is well known for her knowledge of technology gadgets. She often posts information about ‘cool tools’, along with comments about how librarians could use them in their daily work. After reading her blogs, I am inspired to discuss cool tools in a blog that could be accessed by the teachers at my school. Sharing technology and getting their comments and feedback would be beneficial to my learning, support their learning and benefit the library. Jenny Levine is very good at explaining our profession and the role of technology in it. As she keeps telling librarians, the time to shift is now, hence the name, The Shifted Librarian!

Joyce Valenza’s Neverending Search is well known and one that I often check for updates on my RSS. I find that she frequently blogs and her topics are current and very practical, so I have to keep checking for updates which can be overwhelming at times. I don’t think that I will ever be able to keep up with her. Now that this course is winding down, it is amazing what a better understanding that I have of Joyce Valenza’s 21st Century School Librarian. We are truly living it!

I really enjoy the site of Hey Jude, created by Judy O’Connell from Australia. She has a lot of practical ideas on her well organized blog. I particularly like to access the section on her blog about Judy’s Web 2.0 tools. She has selected ones that she feels are beneficial to students and educators. Judy very deservingly was awarded Best Librarian blog at the 2006 EduBlog awards. (See her comment that she left on my blog in response to SNS security issues and concerns from last week’s blog assignment.)

Will Richardson, Weblogg-ed is another popular blogger that I return to. His site is dedicated to discussions and reflections on the use of various Web 2.0 tools. Will discusses the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, social bookmarking and other read-and-write technologies. His site is one that I would utilize with staff to support their learning of various web tools and how to successfully apply them in the classroom. I am hoping to purchase his book for our Professional Library at my school.

Closing Thoughts on Blogs/Blogging for Professional Development

The blog tracking and searching site Technorati published the following statistics in April 2007,

- 70 million weblog
- about 120,000 new weblogs each day, or 1.4 new blogs every second
- 1.5 million posts per day, or 17 posts per second
- growth from 35 million to 75 million blogs in 320 days

I personally had no idea of the popularity of blogging. The statistics are incredible and impressive! More and more educators are becoming active in blogging including myself!

Michael Stephens, the author of the article Tools from Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software Revisited (2007) discusses that, librarians join the blogosphere to participate in a community, share expertise and gain recognition within the field. According to Stephen’s, today, the library blog has become its own platform and I would have to agree with him. We know that almost anything can be embedded in a blog now from Flickr, to audio (podcasts, voicethreads, avatar), to video (YouTube). I have explored these tools in this course and hope to introduce some to our staff and students when blogging.
Eventually, if not already, school boards will look for administrators with experience blogging and using other technologies. I am planning on applying to administrative positions with our school board and will add a technology strand to my vitae upon completion of this course!

Mary Ghikas, The Green Kangaroo Blog discusses her amazement at the vitality and generosity of the professional exchange that takes place on blogs. Like her, I too have shamelessly grabbed references to other blogs and web sites, as well as to interesting papers and new books to read. She is also struck by the reflectiveness of many posts, the thoughtful consideration of context, of related issues and concerns of evaluation. Last of all, she is amazed by the personal voice within the blogs which reveal frustrations, happiness, anger and optimism. I have read and felt these emotions in my colleagues blogs and am learning to develop my own personal voice and feelings when blogging.

I have discovered that I find blogging quite gratifying! I look forward to viewing my colleagues’ posts and how they approached the various Web 2.0 tools that we have explored in this course. I find myself reading and checking out their links which connects to other interesting sites which leads me deeper into my learning. It is like a domino effect! I am beginning to feel more confident in my abilities to effectively blog. I look forward to continuing blogging and accessing blogs for my professional development. Learning from others and sharing with my fellow educational bloggers has and will continue to be a part of my ever evolving teaching profession.

I would like to leave you with this closing thought on blogs and blogging for professional development…

"You have great ideas. You’ve done great work. Keeping your innovations and learning to yourself, won’t let your light spread. Everyone can find 15 minutes a week to blog about something they learned or did that week; comment on an idea in Ning, on a wiki or on a blog or start an article preferably with a partner. Share. Your ideas will spread, and learning and libraries will improve. To paraphrase the old saw, in times of extreme change the spoils go to the learners-not the learned.”." (Stephen Abram- Teacher Librarians: Sharing and Taking Care of Themselves)


Katie said...

Lookin' Good!! You've done a lot of work here!

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said...

This is a wonderful post for those who are just starting to look into blogging. I am going to share it with a group of teachers in NYC who are just getting started in the blogosphere!

I have added you to my feed. I will be back.

Val said...

Cindy how great is that. NYC teachers will be learning from your blog. Congratulations. Great information.

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