Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tech Shop

As a tech leader, I try to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible. When I was presented the opportunity to attend Act 48 workshops for free I took it. In addition to trainings offered through my school district's summer professional development for free, there were also funds available from a PDE Act 183e Grant to take certain technology workshops at MCIU. Which is where I am right now...and where I was on Monday afternoon.

After reviewing MyLearningPlan I realized that I have spent 31.5 hours this summer in technology workshops. Phew. I'm actually in one RIGHT NOW learning about...blogs, wikis, and forums. I like to attend workshops on topics I don't know about...and topics I DO know about, like...blogging. The thing about technology is that the more things change, the more they...change. Technology is never static, never stable. There is always something to learn. These workshops also afford me the time to play with applications that I may have been really meaning to get to, but there is always, always, always something else. For example, I just learned about technorati. I had heard the word before, but never investigated further. Technorati is a search engine for blogs. And I'm not there...that will have to be remedied. Soon. I'm pretty sure I have to start tagging my posts. I'll get to day. I also played, just now, on a site I signed up for during its inception when there was absolutely NO content. Now it is full to brimming with great ideas, even for teaching lessons in the library. So I'll have to get back there. I added both Technorati and Curriki to my Diigo page which will automatically update to the Delicious page as well.

So, what else have I been doing for 31.5 hours?!?
  • Intro to Smartboard Notebook 10 - Why the New Version? (again, I am relatively well-versed in Smartboard, but since mine was delivered mid-way through September there was no "official" training, so this offered the opportunity to review post-maternity leave year and to learn about updates to the program.)
  • Moodle Overview (Moodle proved to be relatively non-applicable to me and something I didn't see an application for at my level/position. It seemed more geared to online course creation.)
  • Lead Teacher Workshop (Mandatory)
  • Solo Software (A program that our district subscribes to that "reads out loud" for students on the web and on ebooks. It also has a component to "write out loud" with students as well as many other awesome applications that can be utilized by students with special needs OR any students who might take advantage of these tools.)
  • Using Google Docs in the Classroom and to Organize Your Life (While I already used Google Docs, I learned more about the available templates and the opportunity to write live in real time on the same document with a collaborative group. I've now created spreadsheets to keep track of budgetary expenses and a calendar for school as well as a document to input all my lesson plans. Starting from scratch has its benefits!)
  • Restorative Practices Book Club (A new program for school wide community building - an initative for this fall and an opportunity to talk about it.)
  • Elluminate (A tool for online learning - I had a class two days later utilizing elluminate so this refresher reminded me of some important aspects and helped me to familiarize myself with elluminate.)
  • Safari Montage (A video program that our school is subscribed to starting this year. We will continue to have a year of overlap with Discovery Education United Streaming, but this should offer us a place to upload our TV Studio morning show for students to watch from archives.)
  • Wikis, Blogs, and Forums (Here...right now...)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Murphy's Law of Blogging and Technology

As soon as I sing any praises, problems arise.  Shelfari is giving me trouble logging in and staying logged in for any stretch of time long enough to input some information.  This is the same thing that happened when I first signed up for the account.  Patience.  Has anyone else experienced this glitch?

Next Up In the Ring: Library Thing vs/ Shelfari

And it's a knockout!  A few years back, again while in my class with Calvin Wang at Arcadia, I learned about a tool called Library Thing and it changed my life.  That may be overstating its impact, but sincerely.  I've always been a reader and had begun a while back keeping a reading journal, after I started a book club, yes...I am a book geek.  And I'm not ashamed of that at all.

Regardless, Library Thing became my fascination with uploading all my books, and indicating books I would like to read.  This was really the kicker for me, because in general my "to-read" list has always been a bit unmanageable.  Since that time, I've had a baby and tracking my reading has fallen a bit by the wayside, though since "What to Expect When You're Expecting" is listed as one of my last entries into my personal Library Thing, I can tell that I was ever vigilant up until the point that darned baby (just kidding) made her appearance on the scene.  So, in class I created my own Library Thing and added a widget to my own personal blog.  This was also my first experience with widgets and the beginning of an obsession.  I'm sure that apps will be a similarly pre-occupying habit once we get our iPhones this week (p.s. I'm getting an iPhone this week!!!).

So, I had a personal Library Thing.  I also created a "faux" school library account under the name...ontheshelf4kids as part of a group project, but I thought of the name and was quite proud of it, so I have no reservations continuing to use it for my own professional blog/twitter/library thing/shelfari (we'll get there in a bit)/delicious/diigo/flickr/image chef, etc. etc. accounts.  So, I had planned to utilize the Library Thing account to build my own reviews of children's lit as I read it and utilized it in my school library.  Then, I read not once but twice about a limit for a free account of 200 books.  Now, I'm not one to pay for something if I don't have to, so this gave me pause.  I decided to check out the competitors.  Shelfari and Goodreads.  Shelfari looked great, but I had trouble signing up for my account and subsequently actually signing in.  Hmmm.  Goodreads didn't look all me.  So, I went along my merry way.

Later, I went back to Shelfari and successfully logged in.  I was IN LOVE.  I thoroughly enjoy gimmicks and the shelving in Shelfari is just, well, cute.  The visual appeal is huge and if you're going to judge a book by its cover, you might as well do it on Shelfari.  You can create reviews, edition notes, tags, and indicate if you plan to read, are currently reading, or have already read the selected title.  There is also a widget to embed, though I haven't gotten around to that step just yet.  I've also created a FB page for ontheshelf4kids and wanted to add the visual bookshelf there.  I have one on my personal FB page, but haven't been able to add a tab to the ontheshelf4kids page.  Worst case scenario is that I link it to Shelfari and that's not a bad case scenario at all as it will prevent me from unnecessarily double uploading to both Shelfari and FB (which is a personal problem with Snapfish and FB, but I digress).

Also, my district recently invested in Follett Destiny upgrade to our circulation system, linking all three buildings in the district.  It seems that Destiny has many of these capabilities housed at Shelfari, such as review-writing, rating, and tagging might just be referred to as subject search :).  As I learn more about DestinyShelfari may become less vital, but for now, I enjoy its capabilities.  I can tag books that I'd like to use for lessons so that I can search for them later.  And I don't have to pay (ahem Library Thing).  And last but not least, the sharing capabilities of a site like Shelfari will, hopefully, offer guidance for other librarians or teachers looking for a "good read" with some information about lessons as well.  Shelfari is the winner in my book (pun intended)!