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If you’ve been following my blog, you know that a few weeks ago I created a Delicious account and imported all the bookmarks from my home computer, then spent many hours tagging them.  If you’ve seen some of the comments I’ve posted to others’ blogs, you also know that a week later, when I tried to access Delicious from my school computer so that I could import and tag all of those bookmarks, I was horrified to find the site blocked.  I immediately sent a pleading e-mail to our district technology coordinator requesting that the site be unblocked, and I found out yesterday that my request had been granted!  Whew! 

I discovered Delicious just as I was beginning to realize what an inconvenience it was to have two separate sets of bookmarks, one at school and the other at home, so I was immediately attracted to the site as a way of solving a personal problem.  Now that I’ve explored it further I am seeing the value of Delicious as a networking tool as well, and this is where the real shift in thinking is occurring for me through the SCASL 23 Things program.  After all, throughout my entire career I’ve adopted tools to make my job easier, whether it be something as low-tech as a subscription to a professional magazine, or as high-tech as a computerized cataloging and circulation system, so using internet resources to help me do my job better is really nothing new.  It’s the interaction, the ability to connect with other educators to share and collaborate and create that makes Web 2.0 so different and so valuable.  I’m not just working in isolation, passively viewing and adopting the work of others, but rather I’m responding and discussing and contributing to the common good.  That’s the power of a network!

So, I’ve added SCASL to my Delicious network, along with another user who also seems to be collecting school librarian-type websites.  From now on, I will certainly be more aware of which of the bloggers I follow are sharing their sites through Delicious so that I can check them out as well.  I know now how take a look at the most popular sites on Delicious, and when I’m researching a particular topic I can do a quick tag search to see what websites others are finding useful.  And I’ll be sure to share what I find, too, to keep the circle going.

Stages of Personal Learning

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This past summer when I started the 12 Things program through the School Library Journal website, I came across a blog entry from The Thinking Stick by Jeff Utecht that intrigued me.  The post is entitled Stages of Personal Learning Networks Adoption, and it outlines the path most educators take when they begin changing the way they teach, learn, and interact:

Stage 1 Immersion: Immerse yourself into networks. Create any and all networks you can find where there are people and ideas to connect to. Collaboration and connections take off.

Stage 2 Evaluation: Evaluate your networks and start to focus in on which networks you really want to focus your time on. You begin feeling a sense of urgency and try to figure out a way to “Know it all.”

Stage 3 Know It All: Find that you are spending many hours trying to learn everything you can. Realize there is much you do not know and feel like you can’t disconnect. This usually comes with spending every waking minute trying to be connected to the point that you give up sleep and contact with others around you to be connected to your networks of knowledge.

Stage 4 Perspective: Start to put your life into perspective. Usually comes when you are forced to leave the network for awhile and spend time with family and friends who are not connected (a vacation to a hotel that does not offer a wireless connection, or visiting friends or family who do not have an Internet connection).

Stage 5 Balance: Try and find that balance between learning and living. Understanding that you can not know it all, and begin to understand that you can rely on your network to learn and store knowledge for you. A sense of calm begins as you understand that you can learn when you need to learn and you do not need to know it all right now.

Well, I realized last weekend that in exploring the SCASL 23 Things this fall, I had definitely followed this path up right up to Stage 3, and it wasn’t good.  I was feeling totally overwhelmed by how many tools were out there just waiting to be discovered, and I was despairing of ever mastering them all.  Suddenly it seemed appropriate to revisit that blog entry in search of some perspective and balance.  As I scrolled down and began to read the comments on Jeff’s post, certain sentences began to jump out at me.  The first commenter said, “I find that a number of people will reach Stage 3 and then decide that it is all too much and drop their PLN altogether.”  Hmmm, others must experience that feeling of “so many tools; so little time,” too. 

The second comment was even more to the point:  “Somewhere between Stage 3 & 4, if we hope to make it to Stage 5, we must first admit we have a problem. That’s what it feels like–an addiction that can consume us. I’m glad to hear someone else’s spouse is fussing, reminding him that life does exist beyond the keyboard and glowing screen. ”  Wow, I’m not the only one experiencing this determination to learn everything about 2.0 or fall asleep over my computer at midnight trying! 

Obviously it was time for some Stage 4 Perspective!  According to Jeff, this usually occurs when a user is forced to leave the network for some reason.  Well, with no vacation, computer theft, or extended power outages in sight, I just had to give myself a time out.  I took last week off and, except for whatever e-mailing, etc. had to be done at work, I stayed completely away from the computer.  I read no blogs, listened to no technology podcasts, played with no new flickr toys, and created no new web accounts. 

It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  In fact, as much as I have been enjoying these learning exercises, it was actually a bit of a relief to devote my evenings to something other than the computer for awhile, which is probably a sign of impending burnout. 

Remember earlier in this post, when I said I was despairing of mastering all of these tools?  Well, I’ve realized I don’t have to master everything, and certainly not immediately.  My attitude should be that I’m surveying the web, sampling from the 2.0 buffet, not loading up my plate and stoically eating my way byte by byte through it all. 

My goal now is to be a more thoughtful user of Web 2.0, putting more time into the activities that are meaningful to me, rather than spreading myself too thin over a larger number of applications.  After all, by beginning with the end in mind (remember the 7 1/2 Habits?) I can always go back and learn what I need to learn, when I need to learn it, for any project I might care to undertake.  And that’s surely the path that will lead to Balance.

Bubblr Comic Strip

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How easy it is to get sidetracked on the web!  I was just working on editing my bookmarks in Delicious (one of my 23 Things this week is setting up a Delicious account, and when I imported my bookmarks I was staring at 355 sites to be tagged!  But that’s a different post!) when I came across the Bubblr site.  I had bookmarked it earlier when we were exploring MashUps, but hadn’t used it yet.  I did a quick experiment with it so that I would know how to describe it in Delicious, and here’s what I came up with:

Unfortunately, the text is too small to read here, so if you’d like to see a larger version of my comic strip, go to: Lori’s Blog? by Lori

It was fun, and it took almost no time at all.  Bubblr has a Flickr search tool right there on the cartoon creation page, so when you type in your tag(s) it immediately displays matching photos at the top of the screen.  Drag and drop the one(s) you want to use into the cartoon frames, drag in a thought or speech bubble, type your text and voila ~ you’re a cartoonist!

p.s. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was having trouble embedding a flash image into my blog. I again had trouble embedding this cartoon, also flash, so this time I turned to The Edublogger for advice. For those of you using Edublogs, Sue Waters does an amazing job of posting explanations of how to do anything you might possibly want to do with your blog. I always search her posts before I go to the forum for help.  Click here for her post on embedding code.


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 I just spent a little while playing around at ImageChef, and apart from one piece of code for a flash image that just wouldn’t work in my blog, this site is very easy to use, and you can quickly generate a variety of fun images! 

Book Latte

Here’s an image I personalized from the Fun Category.








 Book Fair Safari


And here’s another one I made from the Patterns category that I plan to use on my Library Media Website to promote our Book Fair.





It’s as easy as choosing from the menu of background options and typing in the text you want. I just used the templates and images available at the site, but you can also upload your own photos for many of the projects. Registration is optional; you can create and access the resulting html code without signing in. So what are you waiting for? Go try it out!

ReadWriteWeb Blog

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Okay, am I the only one who found Technorati overwhelming?!  My focus right now is on using Web 2.0 in education, but since “Education” wasn’t listed in the Technorati blog directory, I took a look at the “Web 2.0” category under Technology.  Boy, were there a lot of blogs for tech geeks listed there!  I didn’t understand half of what I was reading! 

ReadWriteWebI did find one new blog to add to my Netvibes page, though.  ReadWriteWeb is a blog that provides web technology news, reviews, and analysis.  It’s not something I really need to check daily, or even weekly, but it should be interesting to scan the posts every now and then to keep up with the trends and buzz words in the 2.0 world. 

To be honest, most of the blogs I’m following, such as The Blue Skunk, are ones I found out about by looking at other people’s blogrolls.  For example, Cathy Nelson has some great ones listed at her blog site, Techno Tuesday.  By checking out the blogs she follows, I found additional links to still more good blogs.  It’s good to be part of a network!

Keeping An Eye On The Web!

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Keeping An Eye On The Web

Using a newsreader is actually something I’ve been doing for awhile now.  I took a look at the Bloglines website, but I confess I didn’t spend too much time on it because I am extremely happy with my Netvibes page.  Netvibes is actually a personalized start page which allows me to put all of my web content in one place, using customizable tabbed pages to keep everything organized.  Through the use of widgets I can easily add RSS feeds for podcasts, blogs, and news, but I can also include photos, bookmarks, webpage modules, html, pop e-mail, and more.

Netvibes allows me to have a public page to share with the world in addition to a private page that only I can access.  I have transferred some of my private items to my public page, Keeping An Eye On…, to show just a little of what you can do with Netvibes, and you are welcome to take a look at it.


Google Lit Trips

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I have been working on another Mash-Up project this past week, this time using Flickr and Google Earth.  I’m creating a Google Lit Trip for the book How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.  Google Earth is a free download that lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings and more. You can explore, save your toured places, and share them with others.  Google Lit Trips use features of Google Earth to plot the events in a book so that students can take a virtual tour of the setting and happenings of the story. 

French Chickens and Egg

The premise of the book I’m using is that when the market is closed one day, a young baker must travel the world to gather the ingredients she needs for her apple pie.  I searched Flickr CC (which is an invaluable site for finding Flickr photos released under the creative commons license) for images to include at each stop on my Google Earth journey, so that students can see not only where each country is on the map, but also a photo of the actual area, as well as the animal or plant providing the necessary baking ingredients.  For example, at one point our heroine travels to France to get eggs, and I was able to find this photo of a freshly laid egg, actually taken in Bretagne, to include in my trip.  

I am currently working on the last step of the project, which is to create a path to link all of the destinations together.  Once I have the Lit Trip completed, I will update this post.

(Flickr Photo “Speckled White Egg” by hugovk)