Saturday, March 29, 2008

Using Facebook to Promote Your Library

In their article, Connecting and Communicating with Students on Facebook, librarians Sarah Miller and Lauren Jensen, discuss how to use Facebook as a potential marketing and reference tool for University or College Libraries. If you are a proponent of using social networking tools in educational settings, many of their ideas could be used for high school libraries, where patrons may also be Facebook users. Elementary and Middle School librarians probably wouldn’t have much of an audience using Facebook, aside from parents of the students.

Miller and Jensen point out librarians who join Facebook groups get minimal student response to library outreach because they create institutional profiles instead of personal ones. As this is against Facebook policy, Facebook deletes the profiles. Facebook encourages the individuals to replace their deleted institutional profiles with personal profiles and then form groups but Miller and Jensen believe a Group is one of the weakest ways to communicate using Facebook. They recommend a more powerful approach to social networking called Friend and Feed.

Using Facebook is about making new friends because without friends, few profiles are accessible. Librarians who want to use Facebook to promote events and services must connect with patrons to be effective. Miller and Jensen suggest a variety of ways to build a community on Facebook including:
-Join the Facebook groups of courses you are doing instructional sessions for and ask all of the students in them to be your Friend.
-Display your Profile during instructional sessions and invite students to seek you out.
-Friend new students at your fall welcome session by making a laptop available or by taking names on a sheet of paper.

New in 2006, the Facebook News Feed uses RSS technology to display updated Profile information from user's Friends. According to Miller and Jensen,

“Because they have the News Feed, most students spend time reading information that Facebook puts in front of them, not what they seek out on their own. We believe this is a critical point that can make or break a librarian's efforts to utilize Facebook. A static Profile, or a simple Group, will never appear in the News Feed. Additionally, if you don't have Friends, the information you share will never be posted in a News Feed either. Our simple Friend and Feed advice will help you avoid these missteps and take you to Facebook nirvana.”

To effectively get the information you want placed directly in front of students, it would be necessary to keep adding current information to your profile because the ones that are read the most are the ones that are frequently updated.

Librarians could use Facebook applications to:

· Get the word out about databases or new resources.
· Share holiday references.
· Upload the library's blog.
· Post contact information and office hours.
· Share favorite books, TV shows, interests, or quotes.
· Reply to questions from students on their own Walls.
· Photograph new books and share them in Albums
· Introduce the library's faculty, staff, and student workers.
· Create a library tour and put it in an album
· Describe how to use library technology, including software and hardware.
· Use the Events application to announce events and invite students.
· Connect with other teacher-librarians

Using Facebook to promote the high school library program may help students learn more about the services the library can provide but is this information what students want to read on Facebook? Some might say using Facebook in this way is not unlike telephone marketing. Just because the technology is accessible and will allow us to reach the masses doesn’t mean our message will be welcomed or received by our intended audience.

Facebook and Education - Is it a Match?

Although increasing numbers of adults are signing up for Facebook, many secondary and post-secondary students using Facebook do not welcome the presence of their teachers in a realm they consider to be their own. "Facebook was created as a place for students, not for professors," says Steve Moskowitz, a sophomore at the State University of New York College at Oneonta. Students should be able to express themselves freely there, he says, without worrying what some professor will think.

Sara Lipka in For Professors,‘Friending’ can be Fraught, reminds us that “The old guy in the corner at a college party can come off as creepy. The same goes for a faculty member on Facebook, the online hangout first populated by students... they are negotiating the famously fraught teacher-student relationship in new ways”.

As a teacher, I value the professional relationship I have with my students and their parents. I would not be comfortable being friends with my students or their parents on Facebook, due to its intended informal nature. Even if my purpose was to share information about school, I think the nature of the social networking tool blurs the professional line.

Greg Notess, in An About-Face on Facebook, says “The main problem with Facebook and similar sites is deciding if it is worth the time invested”. For those who are isolated from family and friends, social networking could be a great way to stay connected. For others, it can simply be a waste of time, compromising time left for real life social engagements. In his article, Notess provides useful information on different social networks, levels of privacy on Facebook and ways to search Facebook (both as a member and a non-member). Notess also cautions potential users about being aware of the changing population of Facebook and how difficult it is to fully delete a Facebook profile.

Facing the Facts About Facebook

To find out more about Social Networking in my community I began asking a range of people about their choices and reasons for using social networks. Facebook seems to be the choice over MySpace, because friends are also on Facebook. Generally people from 16 to 40 years of age use Facebook to communicate with friends, share photos and keep track of old friends. Few of the people over 40 that I talked to participate in social networking and most parents of students under the age of 16 prefer their students not use Facebook because of what they consider its public nature. Neither of my children have social networking accounts. When asked why, they expressed concerns over the way they have witnessed Facebook being used to ‘anonomously’ harass other students. My children are also reluctant to share personal information on the internet, having concerns about how that information may be accessed and misused.

Whether or not students approve, adults and teachers are signing on to Facebook. At the beginning of this master’s level course, we were asked to create a Social Networking account and develop a personal profile to learn about Social Networking. While I understand that participating is the most valuable way to learn, I remain reluctant to set up this kind of profile on the internet (especially after my failed attempts at trying to delete my membership with Jumpcut). A 19 year old friend of my daughter gave me access to his Facebook account, sharing his password so I could explore and participate in order to prepare this blog. Although I needed to do this if I was going to have a true understanding of how social networking works (without creating my own account), this illustrates just how easy it is for those not “invited as friends” to access information.

I am not willing to set up a profile on Facebook, nor any other social networking site, partly because of what I have read in Why You Should Beware of Facebook, by Tom Hodgkinson, who claims “the global rise of Facebook is a matter for concern rather than excitement.” This article takes a close look at the stakeholders in Facebook, their politics and their combined agenda. Hodgkinson concludes there are two options:

“Now, you may, like Thiel [a part owner of facebook] and the other new masters of the cyberverse, find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Here at last is the enlightenment state longed for since the Puritans of the 17th century sailed away to North America, a world where everyone is free to express themselves as they please, according to who is watching. National boundaries are a thing of the past and everyone cavorts together in freewheeling virtual space. Nature has been conquered through man's boundless ingenuity. Yes, and you may decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money, and certainly you'll be waiting for the public flotation of the unstoppable Facebook.

Or you might reflect that you don't really want to be part of this heavily funded program to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodities on sale to giant global brands. You may decide that you don't want to be part of this takeover bid for the world.”

I for one, don’t want any part of this capitalist venture where, as Hodgkinson says, "Share" is Facebookspeak for "advertise”. I agree with Hodgkinson, when he says,

“Sign up to Facebook and you become a free walking, talking advert for Blockbuster or Coke, extolling the virtues of these brands to your friends. We are seeing the commodification of human relationships, the extraction of capitalistic value from friendships.”

Adrienne Felt, a fourth-year student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at U.Va., feels all of Facebook’s users should be concerned about security. Ms. Felt leads a research project on privacy issues surrounding social networking platforms and is investigating the information sharing that occurs when users download a Facebook application. In her study, Felt has found that use of these applications increase the user's vulnerability. An application appears as if it is part of Facebook's platform when it is actually running an on application developer's server. When a user installs an application, that application's developer is given the ability to see everything the user can see — name, address, friends' profiles, photos, etc..

"The Facebook privacy policy always seemed unsatisfactory to me," said Felt, an experienced Facebook application developer who found that 90.7 percent of Facebook's most popular applications unnecessarily have access to private data. Felt proceeds to warn us,

“There are currently no restrictions on what applications (and their developers) can do with user data, and though the Facebook "Terms of Use" warn developers not to abuse the data they have access to, Facebook cannot enforce this rule…In fact, when a user installs an application, the user's computer communicates with the Facebook servers and the Facebook servers then communicate with the application developer's servers. Once users' private data leave the Facebook servers, the company has no way of knowing what happens to it.”

Learning About Facebook

Facebook is a social networking technology, launched in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 that now connects more than 59 million people. Originally started as an outlet to bring together college students on different campuses, Facebook became public in 2007 and is now one of the most visited Web sites in the United States.

A Facebook Profile is a short biography created by the user that may contain personal, educational and/or work information. Users invite others to be their “Friends”. When profile information is updated, it appears in the News Feeds of a user's Friends. The Mini-Feed displays the last 10 updates the user has made to their Profile. Other Facebook applications include Albums, The Wall (a personal bulletin board where others are able to post messages), Status Updating, Notes (a cross between a Post-it note and a blog, including HTML formatting, photo uploading, and the ability to tag people) and Posted Items (similar to Notes, but they format pictures and comments using information from the Web site you want to share). Albums have many of the characteristics of photo-sharing sites like Flickr. Users can post photos and then include descriptions, tag people in the photos, and allow others to comment on them. Organizing photos and being able to make the Album available via a public URL to people who are not members of Facebook is an attractive feature. Users can communicate with their Friends by commenting on photos.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Jumpcut-I'll Give it a Miss

My first look at Jumpcut was to browse through the movies others had made and to make a couple of attempts at editing public videos. The editing was fairly easy and straightforward and certainly the idea of being able to upload clips, edit and add music to create a movie upon which the viewers can readily comment is appealing. One of the problems with this site, in my opinion, is the type of material that is being stored there. Although there is a warning that the site is only suitable for children over 13, the movies that have passed Jumpcut’s suitability test wouldn’t be acceptable for my 13 year old. Teachers who might allow their students to use this site would most likely encounter considerable backlash from parents. A quick browse through the favourites will demonstrate what I mean. Unlike Ed. VoiceThread, and TeacherTube, there doesn’t seem to be an educational (in the school sense) version of this tool. For now, I will stick with Windows Movie Maker.

I did try to upload some video clips to Jumpcut that I had successfully downloaded to Movie Maker (in minutes). I ended up trying several times (which took about 4 hours) and nothing appeared. I decided to give it a final try with small clips from my camera (which quickly loaded to VoiceThreads) and after a half hour of waiting, I gave up. In my opinion, VoiceThreads is a more efficient tool and one that I find more appropriate for use in schools.

Just a little more on Movie Maker. This was only my second time using this software and I would recommend it. It is easy to figure out, provides many options and is generally quick with downloads. Even younger students would be able to use this program. The only problem is, you have to burn the movie to a DVD to share it, unless you show it on your computer. You can email it if you are using the default email (Windows Outlook).

VoiceThreads in Schools

I can see many uses for VoiceThreads in schools. The folks at VoiceThread describe the tool as more like a pencil than a software platform. They introduce Ed.VoiceThread as “a space for creating digital stories and documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices”. I can also see students using Ed.Voicethread for talking about favourite books, sharing artwork, evaluating art and brainstorming on a writing topic launched by a photograph. Physical Education teachers could even use this tool to tape games and comment on play. Parents could be invited into the discussion to comment on student work posted on VoiceThread. Students could comment on photos of class fieldtrips or author visits to share in a class newsletter.

Creating a VoiceThread

The process of making a Voicethread was relatively simple and user friendly. It was easy to set up an account and to import videos and pictures from my computer (one can also import photos from Flickr and Facebook). There is a one minute video on how to make a VoiceThread under the My Voice tab. Your VoiceThreads are stored under this tab after you make them under the Create tab.

On the other hand, getting the VoiceThread embedded in my blog was ultra-frustrating. I really wanted to do this without having to use a link. I watched the video on embedding in Edublog over and over again. I made several attempts at cutting and pasting the html, all of which have been unsuccessful. Perhaps the issue is with Blogger. I welcome any suggestions as to how to make this happen! For now, here is a link to My Voicethread.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Learning about VoiceThread

“A VoiceThread is an online media album that allows a group of people to make comments on images, videos, and documents, really simply. You can participate 5 different ways - using your voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam). It's easy to control who can access and comment on a VoiceThread, which makes it a secure place to talk about almost anything: business and academic presentations, travelogues, family history, art critiques, language study, tutorials, book clubs and digital storytelling. A VoiceThread allows an entire group conversation to be collected from anywhere in the world and then shared in one simple place”. (Received from VoiceThread in an email, after I registered for an account).

VoiceThread offers an audio/photo tutorial on how to use VoiceThread, made on VoiceThread, where you will find the multiple audio voices describing amusing points of view in the Muth family photo (shown above).
The phone commenting feature allows you to leave comments and navigate through VoiceThread from your phone if you don’t have a microphone. VoiceThread's Video Doodling feature allows you to control the playback of a video as you comment using a microphone or webcam; giving you the power to voice comment over specific portions of video. It allows you to move to a specific segment, doodle while you're there, then move to highlight another segment, all while leaving your comment. See it in action! I found I didn’t need a separate microphone as my laptop’s built in microphone worked well.

VoiceThreads in the Classroom offers a step by step guide to setting up a free educator account.

On the Voicethread blog, there is an audio overview of Ed.VoiceThread, specifically designed for K-12 educators and students. Note this is different from and educator account with VoiceThreads. Ed.VoiceThread provides a secure collaborative network for K-12 classrooms that is restricted to K-12 students, educators and administrators where content may be visible to everyone, but only students, educators and people specifically invited by educators can comment on the content. Students can work autonomously from home or school and can create their own VoiceThreads and portfolios, inviting others within the secure network to comment. As students can only add and invite others that are already within the system “all users are known users”. Every class or school is given its own URL.

But this kind of privacy is not free. The base school rate for Ed.VoiceThreads is $50/month or $600/year allowing up to 60 GB of bandwidth. There is a one time start up fee of $200. A Pioneer Class subscription rate is now available for the first 1000 applicants. Pioneer subscriptions are available for $10 for one month, or $60 to subscribe an entire class for the school year and allows an educator to offer every student his or her own account. If a school subscribes to the network within the first year, VoiceThread will refund the $60 paid by an educator who started a Pioneer Class. So hurry and get your subscription if you are interested in introducing your school to VoiceThread as a tool. Visit Ed.VoiceThread for more details and answers to FAQ’s.

Joyce Valenza in the School Library Journal blog, NeverEndingSearch, says

“I've been a huge fan of VoiceThread since I discovered it late last spring. In fact, every teacher I've shown it to falls for it instantly. We love its teeny-tiny learning curve and its huge potential for communicating and sharing stories, artifacts, art, etc.”

Alan Levine is also a fan of VoiceThread, calling it Easy PeasyRich Media in his blog.

In VoiceThreads, Flash and the Problems with GPO’s Susan Sedro, a tech coordinator in an international school in Singapore identifies some of the challenges of working with Voicethreads from within a school, including the changes required in proxy server settings and the installation of Firefox along with the Adobe Flash Plug-in.

Have a look at the videos in the video bar of this blog for an introduction and sample VoiceThread, directions for embedding a VoiceThread, and more instructions in a slideshow.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Concerns about Security

As educators, we must consider the security of sites in making decisions. There are a number of web-based wiki sites that require a password and a login system to interact with the site. I think it would be worth using these sites particularly with younger students and perhaps older students who are new to using wikis (simply because there would be less of a distraction from outside editors).

With both PBwiki and wikispaces, you can choose whether to mark your wiki as public or private with one click. With PBwiki, asking others to join, simply involves sending them the “join URL”, whereas with Wikispaces, you send your invitees the address of the wiki and they must request permission to join and wait until it is granted.
In his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom, Richardson makes a case for keeping your wiki public, to access collaboration in its purest form. He points out that it might be beneficial having the class as a whole monitoring the content of the wiki, as wikis are easily restored if necessary and that students begin to teach each other when the management of the content is left up to them.

Using Wikis in Schools

Clearly there will be (if there isn’t already) concern on the behalf of educators about students using resources like Wikipedia to find information. The following is from Joyce Valenza’s teacherlibrarianwiki:

“My experience so far is that most librarians that I talk to are indignant that you would want to direct students to use a resource that very well may be inaccurate. I guess I agree to a point, but also see that wikis provide another opportunity to teach evaluative skills. I'd be worried if the wiki was an only source...but as one of many...well maybe--why not. It also depends on the project too. Some content is so timely that a wiki may be one of the few places to find information.

What's been discussed is the potential for students to actively create a wiki around a curricular theme. Why not ask students to contribute to a wiki to construct a historical perspective. Imagine the dynamics of students building knowledge--adding content to provide depth to an idea or topic. Could be quite exhilariting!”

I like the points Ms. Valenza makes about how we can teach our students to use wikis with a critical mind, enhancing their evaluative skills with other resources. Like Valenza, I think the real value in wikis is the potential for creative collaboration in classrooms. I also think wikis can be a great place to store, add to, and discuss information and ideas.

I can see using wikis with students create their own class wikipedia, to collaborate on a project or as a place to post students’ work and have others interact and edit that work. Older students could also be involved in helping to create an online text for a course or even contribute to the writing of a book (perhaps at wikibooks).

Below are a couple of great ideas for using wikis with students from the PBwiki blog, The Daily Peanut:

Students could use a wiki for a book review where each each student would create their own page, write a short review on a chapter and perhaps enhance it with links to articles about the author, the book and other articles. Then each student could visit the wiki page of a partner, review their partner’s links and edit the review or comment on the page.

Group the students into teams of three or four and have each group divide a collaborative research project between themselves. During computer lab ask your students to begin researching the topic, have them paste links and jot ideas down on individual pages. When ready to write the paper, have each student work on their own page and allow the group to edit each others pages. Paste the completed project into one wiki page.

Telling the New Story is an interview with a grade one teacher, Kathy Cassidy of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, illustrating how even the youngest students are able to use social software such as blogs, wikis and podcasts to share learning and exchange ideas with the world.

Wild about Wikis -- Tools for taking student and teacher collaboration to the next level by David Jakes, discusses classroom, professional development and administrative uses for wikis. An article in School Administrator, by Lane B. Mills called The Next Wave Now: Web 2.0 urges School Superintendents to look at using tools like wikis to enhance professional development and collaboration from the bottom up versus the top down. Educators could use wikis to collaborate on best-practice, enhancing professional development. Here is an example of a wiki on best practices for librarians.

Some companies are even marketing wikis to schools to augment textbooks. COSTP, (California Open Source Textbook Project) forecasts it will save the state of California more that 200 million dollars per year in K-12 textbook allocations.

South Africa’s national high school curriculum is on a wiki, which is interesting to say the least! You may edit this document if you wish, but your changes will identify your IP address. Hopefully someone is employed to oversee changes that are made; undoubtedly, wikis are creating new editorial jobs.

Teacher-librarians could effectively use wikis with teachers as collaborative tools to collect and share information on resources supporting the curriculum. A wiki could provide a showcase of library events or perhaps house the library website, where it could be easily edited and added to by interested students and staff. A wiki as a webpage would allow students to add to booklists (perhaps podcasting reviews) and comment on these lists.

Setting Up and Working On a Wiki

Setting up a wiki is simple, and like the name suggests, quick! In fact the Peanut Butter Wiki site claims one can set up a PBwiki in just 30 seconds. I thought I’d test PBwiki’s claim and surprisingly, it was that quick! It was also free. As I chose the education option, my site is without advertising, whereas wikispaces charges $5 a month to block the advertising. For me, the most time-consuming thing about setting up a wiki was choosing a name.

Before visiting PBwiki (which I did because I noticed Joyce Valenza ‘s wiki address), I had already set up a wiki using Wikispaces to begin a group assignment. Along with the other members of my group, I muddled along trying to create a virtual handout for our project. I was frustrated with wikispaces because the editing tools were clumsy and limited, lacking options for the basics like font color and size. PBwiki has just updated their editing software to make it efficient and to offer more options. They offer a tutorial on the editing tools by Ramit Sethi, one of the cofounders of PBwiki, which I found helpful. The goal was to make the editing more like what you find in MSWord, thus making it more user-friendly. I like the undo and redo buttons, which wikispaces did not have, as well as how easy it is to use the plug-ins to insert widgets. I also like how PBwiki sent me seven follow-up emails with tips on how to use wikis. It took about an hour and a half to transfer the work we had done on wikispaces to PBwiki and to edit and polish but the new look was worth it. You can compare the look of the two sites by visiting and

In working on the PBwiki today, I inadvertently lost everything on the home page! This turned out to be a good thing as I ended up learning how to delete the changes I had made and restore the page. For those who are interested, go to view pages (at the bottom center of your page), select your page and select “delete” for the changes you don’t want. Voila-it was that easy!

What is a Wiki?

Wiki is a short form of the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, which means quick. A wiki is an easily made web page, where users can create and edit content and link to other web pages anytime they want. Wikis can be made using open source software such as Wikispaces or PBwiki. For short videos explaining wikis, see What is a Wiki or Wikis in Plain English.

Wikipedia is one of the best known wikis with 2, 249,000+ articles, contributed and edited by anyone choosing to do so, demonstrating the power of collaboration. The big questions is: if anyone can edit anything on the site, how can you trust what you read on a wiki? There must be concern for accuracy of information on sites like Wikipedia, but in Will Richardson’s view, it seems there are more people who are interested in getting it right than there are those who want to simply contribute or even vandalize. In the online magazine Slate, Chris Wilson in his blog The Wisdom of the Chaperones, criticizes Wikipedia for claiming to be democratic when in fact there is “authorial domination by 1 percent of contributors”. This certainly isn’t the kind of user-generated collaboration to which Wikipedia attests. Is this kind of management necessary to maintain reliability? Alex Halavais (2004), a professor from the University of Buffalo experimented by creating 13 errors on Wikipedia, which were all fixed within a couple of hours. In December 2005, the magazine Nature compared 43 entries in Wikipedia with the same entries in Encyclopedia Brittanica and found Wikipedia to be only slightly less accurate.

Like blogs, wikis are becoming popular in just about any aspect of life on this planet. You can find wikis on just about anything including Travel, Star Trek and even Teacher-Librarianship. Corporations have started using wikis to manage information and universities and colleges are beginning to use them with their faculty and students. This type of collaboration is becoming more popular, especially with controlled access to a wiki providing a quick and easy intranet.