Discovery: iMovie

I’m an advisor for the Class of 2015.  I love these kids.  They make me laugh.  And they make me cry.

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My Fave Chrome Tools

Are you using Google products?  Gmail?  Google Calendar?  Google Drive?  If you’re using Google products, you should also be using Google’s browser – Google Chrome.  They work best with Chrome.

And here are a few of my favorite features and extensions that make Chrome work even better for me.

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Chrome Settings

Chrome Settings

1. Signing in to Chrome

Hands-down, the best feature, in my opinion.  Sign in to Chrome and all of your bookmarks are synced.  Sign in and the tabs you had open on another device are synced.  Sign in and passwords that you saved on other devices are synced.  If you’re opening Chrome for the first time, it’ll ask if you want to sign in.  If you missed that chance, click the Settings button to the right of the omnibox (address bar).

2. Multiple Users

You can have multiple user accounts open on Chrome.  Want to separate the personal bookmarks from the ones that you need professionally?  Create a second (or third or fourth or…) user by clicking on the white head in the top righthand corner.  There are options to create a new user account.  You can also customize that icon and name your account.

Chrome User

Chrome User

3. Pin Tabs

Find yourself with 20 tabs open at once and half of them are ones that you need ALL THE TIME?!  Right-click on the tab and select “Pin Tab.”  The tab now merely takes up a large enough space the icon.  I have 6 tabs pinned all the time: Netvibes, my school e-mail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, my personal e-mail, and Facebook.  It keeps my Chrome window looking neat and tidy.

4. Manage Search Engines

Chrome takes Google’s site search to a whole new level.  You can go into “Manage search engines” in your Settings and set specific protocols for regular searches that you do.  I’ve changed mine so that simply typing the letter “a” into the omnibox and then hitting the space bar means that I’m doing a site search on Amazon for a particular book or product.  Other ones that I have set up and use with frequency: cc – Search Creative Commons, f – Flickr, i – Google Images, nt – NoiseTrade, and yt – YouTube.

Chrome Site Searches

Chrome Site Searches

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Thus far, the tools above are ones that Google actually provides for Chrome users.  However, there’s a couple more tools that I like that are extensions of the Google products.  Extensions can be found by visiting the Chrome Web Store.  Don’t let the word “store” stop you.  Both of these extensions are free!

Turn Off the Lights

I love using this tool in my classroom.  Turn Off the Lights blackens all on your screen except for the video that’s playing, allowing your students (or maybe you) to focus on the important.  There’s a little flashlight to help you navigate around the screen.

Turn Off the Lights

Turn Off the Lights

OneTab

This is a new discovery for me…as in this week!  Back to the age old problem of: “I have twenty tabs open, my browser is slowing down, and I actually don’t need these tabs until later this afternoon.”  Click on the blue funnel to the right of your omnibox and voila! all of your tabs in that particular window are condensed down to one tab.  You can restore all of them later or just open one at a time, as needed.  There’s an “export” option that I think would work very well for students who are working on research with a number of tabs open.  One word of warning: right now, OneTab doesn’t save your history so, when you restore your tabs, you won’t be able to use the back button.

OneTab

OneTab

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I’m always looking for ways to make the Internet work for me…and these features of and extensions for Google Chrome do that for me.  What are your favorite or go-to features and extensions?

Nifty Tool: Smore

I stumbled upon a new tool last week through a blog entry from Angela Stockman that turned out to be quite the hit for me, for my students, for my supporters, and for my family.

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The Smore tagline is: “beautiful pages instantly.” They weren’t lying. It didn’t take long at all to figure out the simple features of the tool. In a matter of minutes, I created an online flyer to introduce my school community to the features of Destiny that they now have access to and to “house” the screencasts I had recorded to walk them through the process. It was simply a matter of starting off with a title and then adding one element after another – first a textbox with an image, then a header, followed by a video, with a shorter textbox underneath that.  And then I repeated those last three elements in two more sequences to get all three of my screencasts on the page.

Click on through to the Smore flyer!

Click on through to the Smore flyer!

I took another three days to send the flyer to others for feedback, to revise the wording to reflect exactly what I wanted to say, to change the theme and font to easily readable ones, to move the videos from YouTube to Vimeo (accessible on school computers), and to wait for a day that I knew more folks would take the time to read their e-mail thoroughly.

When I finally sent the e-mail on Monday morning, a school holiday, it took just 3 hours before the flyer reached 100 views. And, since sending it out three days ago, it has been viewed 357 times. Telling are the other analytics that are provided.

I can see where the views are coming from (both geographically and the various digital sources), how people are using the flyer, and whether they’re leaving the flyer to access the provided links.

Introducing: DESTINY Analytics

Introducing: DESTINY! Analytics

Ultimately, the feedback on this tool has been very positive. I showed it to a student on the night before his group was doing a presentation. He quickly made a content-rich flyer to help spread the word about Half the Sky: link. They all ooohed and aaahed over the flyer and a number shared it on their own facebook walls.

I also used it for personal communication with my friends and family in between my regular quarterly newsletter: link.  With 303 views in three days, I’d say that I got the message out.

I’m definitely looking forward to showing this site to more staff and students.  I love that it can be sent via e-mail or linked to on a website.  However, there are still kinks that Smore needs to work out.  No matter how much I try, I have been unable to get the actual flyer to embed on a blog or website.  As it moves out of beta and gains more features, I think Smore will become an even more valuable option for spreading the message in this digital world.

Shaking Off the Shackles

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As I scrolled through Facebook about a week ago, something caught my attention.  It wasn’t the ads that seem to have taken over my newsfeed.  It was a little statement in blue below a news article that a friend had linked to that read, “Click here to read more articles from ___________.”

Here we are almost 2 years after Eli Pariser’s Beware Online Filter Bubbles TED Talk was first posted online and the personalized web is so ubiquitous and pervasive that it took one little line to both call my attention to a personalization option while, at the same time, making me wonder if Facebook was giving me the tools to break out of my filter bubble.

Despite their age in this time of frantic change, so many of Eli Pariser’s statements, claims, and pleas still ring true.  We live in an age of immense digital and real-world personalization.  Burger King says to us, “Have it your way!”  We expect to have OUR music, OUR videos, OUR apps at our fingertips on our smartphones.  Starbucks has transformed the entire coffee culture with the green boxes on their cup allowing the ultimate personalized order.  Our news is tailored to our liking.

Pariser asks us to think about the costs of the “web of one.”  With the specific tailoring that comes of our own favorites sites and sources, but also with the computer-generated algorithms, comes a world in which our focus is narrowed to what the Internet “thinks we want to see, but not necessarily to what we need to see.”  As Pariser states, we “don’t see what gets edited out.”  This is incredibly detrimental to our ideals of being well-informed citizens of a “functional democracy.”  How can we be well-informed if we aren’t even seeing the vast majority of the information?

We need to not be contained in an information bubble of an algorithm’s making.  We need a balanced diet of information coming in from a variety of sources.  We need our information vegetables as well as our information desserts.  Pariser calls to the engineers of the world’s largest digital companies, many of them sitting in his TED Talk, to instill journalistic ethics into the algorithms.  He pleads that we need to see not only the relevant but also the “important, the uncomfortable, the challenging,” and, ultimately, “other points of view.”

With that statement in blue on my Facebook newsfeed, was Facebook heeding Pariser’s call to allow me to see what is getting filtered out?  Or were they simply trying to personalize my experience even more?

My guess is the latter.  Pariser’s 2-year-old cry to beware online filter bubbles appears to be going unheeded.  It may even be worse than two years ago when Pariser challenged those sitting in that auditorium…and I have an ethical responsibility to make my students aware of that.  Personalization, while providing numerous benefits, is also highly dangerous when it comes to getting a balanced view of the world.  They need to truly embrace the adage, “There’s two sides to every story,” in their digital lives as well as in their personal lives.  They need their “information vegetables” along with their “information desserts.”  They need to see the relevant, the important, the uncomfortable, the challenging, and other points of view.

My students need guidance from their teachers and their librarians in this process of learning what a balanced diet looks like.  They need voices to remind them that the other side of the story exists.  They need to be empowered to actively seek out the truth.  They need the tools to help them shake off the shackles of personalization to see a broad and, ultimately, a more accurate view of the world.  It will be then that they become well-informed citizens of a functional democracy.

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Pariser, Eli. “Beware Online Filter Bubbles.” Lecture. TED2011. Mar. 2011. TED. May 2011. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html>.

Transfluency

Some of the stops on my research path to understanding more about Transliteracy this week:

And, finally, I felt like I hit the jackpot of truly valuable information when I found Lane Wilkinson’s presentations and blog posts documenting his understanding of transliteracy and the essential differences between information literacy and transliteracy, including:

  • His view of transliteracy in a blog post entitled “Literacy Sucks”: link.
  • Further thoughts and very helpful revision to his Literacy diagram in another blog post entitled “Reorganizing Literacy”: link.
  • And a Slideshare of and comments on a presentation entitled “Skills That Transfer” delivered at the ACRL/NY 2011 Symposium: link.

The results of my research and learning process:

  • A VoiceThread in which I explained my understanding/definition of transliteracy: link.
  • Seeing transliteracy ideas in my personal Internet browsing over the last couple of days:
    • In an interview with Kori Schulman, President Obama’s Director of Online Engagement: link.
    • With an animated summary of Daniel Pink’s Drive: link.
    • Checking out another animation tool, PowToon: link.
    • And, in the Nokia advertisement I critiqued here: link.
  • And heaps of ideas and possibilities and dreams running through my head!

My musings…

Pretty early on in my research, I knew that I needed to figure out the difference between Information Literacy and Transliteracy.  I could tell that they were two different things and, yet, I could not define those differences.  Lane Wilkinson’s diagram was a godsend.

Image Credit: Lane Wilkinson

I used his definition of transliteracy as the communicative side of literacy by means of print, with signs, visually, with computers, and digitally as my guide for my “Defining Transliteracy” VoiceThread.

But that still wasn’t enough…or quite right.  And the first line of my VoiceThread speaks to this.  I start with, “So you can read and write.  But are you really literate?”  In the same way that the simple ability to read or write is not the same as being literate in the truest sense of the word, the ability to use print, signs, visuals, computers, and digital tools does not mean that a person is transliterate.

I think we need to be looking to educate, to guide, to help students achieve fluency as they transfer information between mediums.

Image Credit: Christian Briggs

Christian Briggs on his post entitled “The Difference Between Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency” on his website SociaLens talks about this in terms of digital fluency but I think his description very much applies to transliterate fluency as well.  He writes,

“Note that a literate person is perfectly capable of using the tools. They know how to use them and what to do with them, but the outcome is less likely to match their intention. It is not until that person reaches a level of fluency, however, that they are comfortable with when to use the tools to achieve the desired outcome, and even why the tools they are using are likely to have the desired outcome at all.”

When our students reach a level of fluency on the communicative side of Wilkinson’s diagram, they can ingest information in one medium, critically choose which medium to transfer it to in order to achieve the desired outcome, and then capably and clearly present that information in the new medium.  That’s truest sense of transliteracy…transfluency.

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Briggs, Christian. “The Difference Between Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency.” SociaLens Blog. N.p., 5 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

Wilkinson, Lane. “Reorganizing Literacy.” Sense and Reference. N.p., 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

The 4th Screen

If the last three seconds of this video were cut, I don’t think most people would think most viewers would recognize that it is ultimately an advertisement for a Nokia phone.  I certainly didn’t the first time I saw it.  My students didn’t when I showed it to them.

The video pushes the premise that we are in the age of the 4th Screen.  The first screen was the shared experience of films shown in theatres.  The second screen, the television, came into the homes of private viewers.  The computer, but, more specifically, the Internet, heralded the age of the third screen which turned the screen into an even more individual or solitary experience.

And then came the 4th Screen.  And, although this video is specifically an advertisement for Nokia, I think you could make the claim that the 4th Screen encompasses all smart mobile devices.

The basic premise that we are in the age of the 4th Screen…I completely agree with it.  However, there are some aspects of their premise that I really have to disagree with.  In some ways, I think the pocket device, take-it-with-you-wherever-you-go, get-back-out-in-the-world, promotion-of-the-social isn’t quite as strong as Nokia presents.

Yes, pocket/mobile devices can do all of those things.  But, for the most part, they aren’t.  I think the most common image of a pocket device in the hands of someone is one with that person’s head down, face illuminated by the blue glow of a screen, earbuds closing them off from even the sounds of the world around them.  And is that really the presented premise of the 4th Screen in Nokia’s video?

On the other hand, I think it’s amazing that we have devices that can do all of those things and that they’re small enough to fit in our pockets!  What power!

What does this mean for librarians, for educators?  I think it says that we need to promote the possibilities that exist with these devices.  I know that I personally don’t even touch the tip of the iceberg of what is possible with the devices that I have in my hands.  I wonder how many of my students don’t either.  How do I create an environment in the library that promotes play to learn?  How do I accommodate the possibilities?  How do I make the library a space where we all (students, teachers, and other community members) can have conversations about the learning that we’re doing?

Despite the fact that the above advertisement was released in 2007, I don’t think we’ve come close to the warm fuzzies that Nokia claims their 4th Screen brings.  But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be in our future!

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The true irony of this post?  I’ve written it on a mobile device, in the most social part of my library…with my earbuds in, cutting me off from the rest of the activity and noise of the library, and doing the solitary business of my online grad school work.  Or perhaps it just proves my point.

Dynamic 8

Written in response to this video from Michael Eisenberg defining Information Literacy:

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Two years ago, when I came on board as the Library Director, there was a large bulletin board in our IT Room along with a number of different table-top signs describing and then encouraging our students to use Dynamic 8 in their research process.  From what I gather, Dynamic 8 was the creation of our previous librarian in response to the gaps that she saw in the Big 6.

In listening to Michael Eisenberg’s video on the Big 6, I identified two rather minor flaws that I think ultimately led to the lack of use of Dynamic 8 in our school.  First, we weren’t using the terminology and creating a common vocabulary across our school.  The librarian wasn’t using it in conversations with students or the teachers.  And teachers weren’t familiar with it nor were they using it with their students.  The Big 6 can become ingrained in the culture if everyone is using the same terms consistently.

Secondly, the fact that there were 8 steps in the process made it all the more intimidating for anyone to adopt it and use it.  It was difficult to remember 8 steps.  I think 6 steps may be challenging at times with students but 8 is nearly prohibitive.  Eisenberg references this fact in that they still carry the Super 3 up to older students by sorting the Big 6 into that same common vocabulary.

I very much appreciated Eisenberg’s recommendation in response to the question “How do I implement the Big 6 when we’re all so busy?”  You start tomorrow.  You start by using the vocabulary in conversations immediately.  Label what you’re already doing.  With teachers, you let them know why you’re using that terminology.  You start to create a culture of information literacy.

So what am I going to do in my library on Monday?  I’m going to start using the vocabulary as I converse with students about their research tasks.  I’m going to chat with the Grade 8 English teacher who I know is already using the Big 6 with her students on their major research project and ask how I can collaborate with her to learn how she’s implementing this and continue to spread it around our school.

While not perfect, I think we can definitely use it to help our students learn the INFORMATION LITERACY PROCESS.  It is a process and, right now, far too many of our students think of it as “the magical thing that will just happen at 1 am on the night before a major term research paper/project is due.”

Spring 2013 Recommendations

Some reading recommendations for my high school students…

Observations

I read an article last week that I didn’t realize was still rolling around in my head.  But now that I’ve referenced it two times in two different conversations, I’m wishing that I would have marked it so I could go back and read it.  That’s my problem with reading from Twitter links…I can never remember the exact details of where I read something and I can’t go back!

But that’s not the blog post that I intended to write…another time, perhaps.

I had a new (to the school and to teaching) teacher observe me this week as part of our Peer-to-Peer observations that our admin asks us to do.  This was my second observation by a Bible teacher, oddly enough.  Something about the literature and discussion aspect of English that they wanted to see in action.

My seniors are currently working in book groups (lit. circles) for their final whole-class novel (Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga).  One day per week, after a pre-determined number of chapters, we all come back together into a large group and discuss the reading, the controversial issues, the author’s choices, etc.  The whole group discussion can be a bit difficult to manage, a bit of a challenge to find a good tempo, and sometimes a bit intimidating for both the teacher and the students.

I told my supervisor that one of things I want to work on this year was clearly communicating to my students…giving concise instructions, providing multiple forms of the instruction (verbal and visual), and following up to make sure they understand.  I didn’t say anything to my observer but that was one of the first things mentioned when we met afterward.  I felt that I was being careful to have the attention of my students and careful with my word choice and it was nice to see that he recognized that.

Later, during the discussion, I posed a question and then waited for someone to respond.  The kids snickered a bit with the deafening silence.  I just continued to look around and didn’t make a move to fill the silence.  Hello, wait time.  But a student did.  He filled the silence by asking another question and putting it out to his peers to answer.  It was one of those things that I saw as distinctly poor about the discussion.  However, when discussing things afterward with the other teacher, that was one of the things that he saw as distinctly positive.  That student picked up the conversation and was genuinely curious about what his peers thought about the topic.  I saw it as a response to the “awkward pause” while he saw it as a student taking an active interest and role in the discussion.

With the fairly low-pressure nature of a peer-to-peer observation, I could tell that I was very consciously thinking through my words, my body language, my eye contact as I was communicating with my students but without the nerves that come with my supervisor coming in for an observation.  A nice change to an observation, indeed.

Obvious/Amazing

Challenging myself to contribute to my community rather than simply consuming…

Obvious to you. Amazing to others. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.