Saturday, December 13, 2008

What is Web 2.0? Why Do We Need to Know?


All kinds of social networking software characterize the phenomenon known as Web 2.0. Blogging, building wikis, joining Facebook, using Wikipedia, and trying out new tools in our school library programs, tools like Jing, Skype, Animoto, Moodle, googledocs (for more, check the 25 Tools recommended by Annabelle in a previous blog) are Web 2.0 activities. The feature of Web 2.0 that distinguishes it from the traditional web is that it is intended to be built and used socially and collaboratively. Wikipedia represents the powerful capacity of building on collective knowledge. Google leads the field in creating opportunities for working together in different formats to build projects of our own design and suited to our own purposes.

Many of us work together on last-Wednesdays in a real sandbox (as opposed to virtual sandboxes, a Web 2.0 concept that refers to locations within the tool sites where you can simply play with the tool). Rather than the high-anxiety learning that often accompanies learning new technologies (just-in-time) and tools, in the TL Studio context, the focus is relaxed, we have no strict agenda, we are engaged in social learning, and we are involved in the important and supportive process of discovery and thoughtful consideration of the ways these can be useful for school library programs. What has become clear is that there is great interest in more opportunities for learning about Web 2.0!

And on the platforms where the 2.0 cyberworld meets edu-world, there are more contradictions that pepper the discourse than answers.

In Facebook, we know, bad things happen. Yet our wonderful Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) campaign had a Facebook presence. Ironically, if you were at the October School Library Day / FOSL event on Cyberbullying, you would have heard a parent request for educators to provide workshops for parents on using Facebook so they can better understand the software that puts children at risk. Some of our colleagues use this software; our teacher unions advise caution and with good reason as not everyone is clear about the conventions. Administrators and counsellors know that, while our students may not be able to access this at their schools, they don't have any problems using it outside the school. And any student with internet access on his or her phone has full access within our sites to precisely what we block, and we all know there is a certain appeal to circumventing what is "banned."

In a nearby school district, teachers grieved the practice of blocking internet access on the basis of professional autonomy and won. Decisions about suitable resources to support teaching are now made by teachers in an unblocked arena.

Nings are an example of these Web 2.0 applications; they are frequently blocked in districts as Facebook is a ning. In a recent graduate level course in LLED at UBC, School Library 2.0 (the class that converted "our Mary" to the tech-side) with Marlene Asselin and Ray Doiron, the discussions between the UBC and PEI classes and the products of their learning were posted on iBrary. This ning won two of Canada's leading TL educators international recognition for technology innovation.

For secondary TLs, I am keen to forward information about Shane Koyczan, Vancouver-based slam ("talk rock") poet extraordinaire and author. I will refer you to Web 2.0's YouTube for confirmation of his amazing capacity to gnaw at the issues of adolescence and to inspire tears as we ponder the connections to these issues for teens and those of us who work with them. I hadn't heard of Koyczan until I got an email from a member of our Social Responsibility team; his work had been brought to their attention by our Superintendent. Copy of his book Stickboy now read and in hand, I would suggest that every secondary school library needs this poetic novel about the damage of bullying -- and counsellors need to know you've got it. Word is that, after his performance, Stickboy was the fastest seller at the VIWF this year. On further research, here's what I found:

  • Koyczan is an amazing performer who rivets audiences, young and old. He has performed for audiences around the world.
  • His first book, Visiting Hours, was a Book of the Year Selection by both The Guardian and The Globe and Mail.
  • Maya Angelou writes of him, "The future of poetry is in good hands," and that's a recommendation hard to beat.
  • You can see him on YouTube: We are More (on Poetry Network, about being Canadian, for the Canadian Tourism Association), Gramma's Got It Going (on the importance of the inspirational and caring adult in the life of a young person struggling for meaning in his life), Beethoven (on the struggle for expression of the passions of the genius against a stark and brutal family life), and more.

YouTube, like Facebook, is subject to blocking. Teacher-librarians generally prefer not to fetter the access to information but to select the best (like Koyczan's video clips) and to "educate" and guide our students and colleagues in making responsible decisions about using resources, tools, ideas, and the readily-available and highly social internet environment. The school library is a place where teaching for ethical and responsible use happens daily. TLs know what is required to publish and unquestionably see that "online publishing" must be subject to the same rigorous conditions. They see that blocking access at educational sites, as is the present trend, means we lose really valuable educational and professional resources and teaching opportunities.

In an aside, it occurs to me, ever attentive to how we can promote the use of valuable resources, that perhaps we should "block" the databases; that would surely generate keen student interest and awareness and possibly more discourse amongst educational stakeholders requiring us to explain what they are, how they work, and what all the fuss is about!

Web 2.0 represents a shift in the locus of power for knowledge construction, for what is worth knowing, and for who decides what is worth knowing, a role traditionally played by those who wrote and delivered the curriculum; it requires a shift that challenges our traditional notions of teaching and learning to the core. While Prensky rather simplistically applies his concept of "native vs immigrant" to those who enter the cyberworld, some so-called "immigrants" (a concept surely based on age) have lots of savvy while others have simply a lot to learn and a shortage of time, and the so-called "natives" have a lot to learn about responsible "travel" in the cyberworld. We, the "immigrants," not only can learn about this but should, I would contend. After all, we are teaching for lifelong learning and we know the importance of modelling what we are teaching. As educators we need to be there to help and guide our students; we also need to look carefully at the options and consider "the standards" for engagement.

Think of the notion of "the box." In schools, we have always worked inside it. We use the tools provided by the employer and have learned the rules for engagement. (This week, some of us learned to refine the use of the "reply-all" feature!) You may remember, when I started the job here at Head Office last year, I thought I needed to pass along all the information that came to this desk ... and you were inundated with email, a "box" tool that forces the receiver to do something with the communiques as they accumulate; this "box" is down at the moment, meaning that its availability as a tool is not always guaranteed, and we all know it can get overloaded and be overloading. My next "iteration" was the once-a-week email, but it soon became clear that these large missives clogged up your already-burgeoning mailboxes, required you to do something with the pieces in the email, and didn't have any durability or searchability. My days in the "chair" are never without email; it arrives on my phone if I am off-site. I struggle to keep within the size of the box I have been given.

By November, I was blogging. The TL Special Weekly Report blog sits in a place in the cyberworld, and you can ignore it for a while, forever if you wish. Or go to it when you have time, scan for relevant information or use the search feature to look for the bits that apply just-in-time (that is, when you need them). Problem solved, or sort of! You see, it's outside the box. I love the blogging (a common Web 2.0 tool) and I gather ideas all week to send to you on Fridays! Meeting the Friday self-set deadline often finds me spending my Friday evenings getting the post finished. Today is Saturday and the "box" is down again so notices I received this week will have to wait!

When I work "outside the box," I do so cautiously and respectfully, attentive to ingrained rules I know apply "inside"; see the blog entries from Joyce Valenza, well-known US teacher-librarian, and Lisa Nielsen, NYC educator, below, as they grapple with the rules for blogging engagement. I want "the employer" to have confidence in my moving in unfettered ways as I highlight the ways we build our community and give (global) awareness to the scope, nature, and changing landscapes of our work in school libraries. No similar tool presently exists inside our box.

What makes sense is that all the rules that apply for working with resources, students, and communications in schools also apply to our work on and working with Web 2.0, or "outside the box." We know that information about our work and our students and our colleagues and our employer, our social interactions and personal insights, our building learning experiences for students, that is, what is worth doing and using online, will be easier, more relevant, and interactive, but it will also be subject to far greater scrutiny; we need to attend to what lasts in the ether. What is clear is that what we put into and take out of Web 2.0 needs to be of exemplary quality, that it reflects sound current educational thinking, and that we carry on the discourse to create a profile of best practice in our field.

Thanks, Jo-Anne, for these links that give the first space to the discussion of "conventions" for blogging that I have seen:

The Innovative Educator, blog by New York Department of Education Instructional Technology Manager, Lisa Nielsen, showed this post in May 2008: Mandate Against Professional Blog URLs in NYC DOE Signature

Joyce Valenza (from Neverendingsearch in SLJ, a link in the sidebar of my blog) also posted on the topic:

Meme: What NOT to blog (Part 1): "For three years or so I've been blogging and NOT blogging. Often it's hard to not blog. My blogging absences and omissions ..."

What not to blog--Part 2 (from my colleagues): " In the last post, I explored my own blogging off switch. In this post I report back on what happened when I asked my Twitter ..."


BC Red Cedar Young Readers' Choice Award 2008/9

Group Leaders Support Site and Bookcase is posted.


Kari-Lynn Winters, children's lit author, writes that she is available for schools visits: Her first book, Jeffrey and the Sloth, is a picture book about writing. It won the ABCs of Education Award and the Honour Book Award for the BC Book Prize. This book is also recommended by Adrienne Gear--as a "connect book." Kari-Lynn also has eight other picture books accepted for publication. She is very interested in doing more school visits and provides interactive presentations and workshops for students or teachers about literacy strategies, publication, children's literature, and/or drama. If interested, you can email her or visit her website .


Winter Tonic Evening - "Love your Library"
Tupper Library, Tuesday, February 10th, 2009: 4 pm

Welcome at 4 pm will be followed by two workshop sessions and the usual -- 6:30 pm lovely dinner. Watch for the registration flyer in the first week back in the New Year. TLs from other school districts and TLs in training are always welcome, as are colleagues.

This event is sponsored by the Vancouver Teacher Librarians' Association. Cost will include dinner and VTLA membership (where appropriate) along with refreshing ideas, passionate presenters, the ever-popular book give aways, adult reads, and some other lovely surprises.


Free UBC Community Borrower Card

UBC Library extends a special offer to the community as part of UBC’s Centenary celebrations. From September 2008 to April 2009, BC residents can obtain a free community borrower card (a $40 value) and borrow books in person from any UBC Library branch. This special offer is UBC's way of saying thank you to the community that has helped support UBC throughout its 100-year evolution. They are also celebrating the opening of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, an innovative new facility on the UBC Vancouver campus. Thanks to the generosity of one of UBC's most distinguished alumni, Dr. Irving K. Barber, the University now has a vibrant meeting place for community members to take part in events and programs in the spirit of lifelong learning. Learn more about the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre . Click here for way-finding directions to any UBC campus location.

Our UBC Friend Jo-Anne sent this notice along with a suggestion that perhaps some Grade 12 students may want to access the physical UBC library with their families. Unfortunately, this card doesn't give holders access to reserve books and/or to electronic resources -- I know because I asked. Most commonly, our colleagues are engaged in research and would like access to the UBC databases, including JStor. I have had some recent success finding what they are looking for in EBSCO's Academic Search Premier, by the way.


Better a late blog than none? I hope so. I may have missed some of you this week. It's well into Saturday and my Friday self-imposed deadline has passed. I have struggled with this posting; the issues are complex and answers aren't easily found, but searching for them is something we are committed to in school libraries. Next week's will be very short, I promise. Have a great weekend!

1 comment:

Lana said...

Hi, Moira.

Further to your comments about blocking of sites.

I'm against the policy, but have yet to work out a satisfactory way of managing the wandering off into the cyberworld.

Nevertheless, I believe that we cannot teach respectful dialogue and safe surfing using these tools if we do not give students access and guidelines.

It's analgous to teaching children traffic safety, but never going out on the streets to show them the roads and cars!

I've started to develop some ideas and have posted them here for my students.