Sunday, January 30, 2011

Social Networking and Education

Social Networking holds some enormous potential for education, as Dr. Glen Gatin pointed out in class on Thursday.  Wikis, blogs, Skype, Moodle, virtual worlds, and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can all be integrated successfully into the educational system and students can benefit from the use of these tools.

I can clearly see the benefits of using a class wiki – all assignments and homework can be posted, parents and students can remain updated with the class, and students can always have access to course material at any time.  Moodle can provide similar benefits, and I know I certainly enjoy that I can access course material and information at anytime of day through Brandon University’s Moodle site.  I only wish every professor and instructor would use it and post all of the course work and have us students submit all of the course work via Moodle!   I can also clearly see benefits of using class and personal blogs as demonstrated to me through the use of personal blogs in this course.  Our students could experience the same benefits of collaboration and sharing of opinions/thoughts through the use of their own blogs for a class.  Skype is a favorite of mine as it is great for staying in touch with friends and family who live far away, but I think it also has many benefits for education.  It would be so easy to have guest lecturers or presenters through the use of Skype and create more engaging learning environments for our students. 

Now where Dr. Gatin kind of lost me was when he started discussing virtual worlds and the enormous potential that they hold for education.  I certainly have never been exposed to a virtual world such as Second Life except for in Dr. Gatin’s presentation and therefore still do not truly see the benefits that it can have on education.   So I did a quick Google search and came across this article Another Life: Virtual Worlds as Tools for Learning located at  It certainly gives you some things to think about with using a virtual world as a learning tool.  It discusses Second Life, what people do in virtual worlds, how corporations are already using virtual worlds for their employees learning, and where we are headed with the idea of virtual worlds.  Also interesting was this article - Educational Frontiers: Learning in a Virtual World at .  This article is written by a Professor of Computer Science at Colorado Technical University and discusses how to successfully incorporate a virtual world as a learning tool and the benefits that these virtual worlds can provide to students.   I am personally not completely sold on the benefits of using a virtual world as a learning tool as I think face-to-face learning has many benefits for students, but I can see the possibilities that these virtual worlds possess.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Social Media in the Classroom

This week’s topic in class was “Social Media in the Classroom” and John Finch (MB Ed, LwICT) came to class to present on the topic to us.  There are plenty of examples of social media that are readily available and could be successfully integrated into the classroom.  Examples would include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.  One of the first things we discussed with John was the use of Facebook by schools and schools divisions.  He informed us that Pembina Trails School Division had recently joined Facebook.  He also informed us that Facebook is currently blocked in all of the division’s schools!  It seems a bit ridiculous to acknowledge the potential of Facebook to be used positively by having the division join, but to not be able to access Facebook in the schools.  So then we started researching to web to see what other examples we could find of teachers or schools using social media in the classroom.
As we were searching I stumbled across an interesting blog describing how Facebook was being used in a First Grade Classroom.  In the blog they had used Prezi (online presentation tool) to create a valuable presentation on how they were using Facebook in the classroom and how positive it is.  This particular class was using Facebook as an educational tool by having the class update the status about what they learned in that particular class, to easily communicate with parents through the use of private messages and notes (rather than sending paper notes home which generally get lost!), and to post photos of samples of student work, just to name a few uses.  To check out the full Prezi presentation on how and why this First Grade Class is using Facebook check out:
Now when most people think of Social Media and specifically using Social Media in a Classroom, safety and privacy are two concerns that jump to many people’s minds.  These are valid concerns and teachers and schools do need to exercise caution when using Social Media.  I found an interesting article outlining guidelines that one particular School District uses when using Facebook as a communication tool.  This article can be found at:
Social Media in the Classroom, offers a fresh way to keep students engaged in their own learning, and is very relevant to their personal lives.  Students are all familiar with the various Social Medias available, and many students and parents already use Social Medias for personal use, so why not use them for educational purposes?  I think as educators we need to keep what we are teaching students and how we are teaching students as relevant as possible to the student’s lives to keep them engaged and excited in learning.  It would seem that many schools and school divisions are hesitant to use Social Medias as an educational tool as many divisions have these sites blocked.  How much more engaged do students become when you can show them a YouTube video as an example of what you are learning?  But how frustrating is it when you cannot access this at school?  I think schools need to be actively exploring the possibilities these Social Medias can provide to schools, teachers, and students in class and I think more school divisions need to take a step forward like Pembina Trails has and join some of these sites and begin to actively use them in a positive manner.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Web-Based Courses

This past Thursday Howard Griffith (MB Ed, Web Based Learning) was the presenter and Web-Based Courses were the topic…sounds interesting and unfortunately I was not available to make it to class.  So in lieu of attending the presentation I have been doing my homework and doing some reading about Web-Based Courses, and specifically about the program and the courses offered here in Manitoba to students.  The MB Government’s Education website has proved to be very valuable and you can read all about Web-Based Courses here in MB @ 
Web-Based Courses seem to me to be a natural progression in education from traditional Distance Ed learning courses, where students were sent a large package of course materials via snail mail and were required to send all assignments in via snail mail.  In today’s digital age it makes sense to me that Distance Ed learning be done through the use of the internet, as it is so much quicker and resources for help are far more accessible.
I believe that Web-Based Courses are an excellent opportunity for students in a small rural or northern school where subjects that they are interested in may not always be offered, or are never offered due to limited numbers of students interested in the subject or to not having a teacher available with the necessary background knowledge/training to teach the course.  This way these students can still have numerous options available to them and select courses that they need for their post-secondary education or for their own interest. 
Manitoba is currently offering a variety of courses that are Web-Based to students from Grade 9-12.  There are more courses available in each grade, with the most amount of choice at the Grade 12 level.  While browsing through the list of courses while in Blackboard Learning System that is utilized for these courses, it caught my attention that Phys-Ed is offered to both the Grade 11 & 12’s. This may seem strange to some people, as most people would think it absolutely necessary for phys-ed to be taught in a gymnasium, however I find it interesting.  The curriculum at this level is designed to encourage healthy lifestyle practices and students are responsible for a designated amount of activity hours outside of class.  The implementation of the Grade 11 & 12 PE/HE curriculum has been said to be difficult for some schools, as space can be an issue when timetabling.  A Web-Based Course could be the solution for some schools.  I began to do some searching in the area of online phys-ed courses and discovered that in places in the US it has been offered this way for a few years.  An interesting article on the topic can be located @
I think that Web-Based Courses provide a lot of potential for education and for students.  And they are certainly a great way to provide opportunities to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to take a specific course.  I also think that they provide great opportunities for some schools as Web-Based Courses could provide solutions for certain difficulties that are reality for a lot of schools.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


In our very first class of Internet for Educators we were fortunate to have John Evans (Professional Learning Consultant, MB Education) present with us.  The focus of his presentation to the class was on PLN’s.  Now as I was sitting there in class and wondering what the heck a PLN was, John very clearly demonstrated to us not only what a PLN was, but what steps we can take into creating our own PLN.
So, what is a PLN??  Well it is a Personal Learning Network, which is created by the learner and uses tools available on the internet to expand their personal learning.  It is a network that the learner creates using tools such as social networking sites and social bookmarking sites to build a community that will allow the learner to communicate with and learn from a variety of people around the globe.  Seems interesting…at least that’s what I thought!  I like this idea of building an online community to assist you in sharing information, expanding your horizons, and learning from various people in various locations.  And with technology today your PLN is constantly expanding and easily accessible.
This seems like a natural step in the learning progression for teachers.  Using the resources available to them through blogs, wikis, social networking, rss, podcasts, etc a teachers learning can continue anywhere at anytime.  And this personal network of learning provides the teacher with a community to help them find answers and provide them with creative new ideas!
During the presentation and since, I have taken the first (baby!) steps in creating and developing my own PLN.  It is something I want to further explore and develop as I can see it being very useful and beneficial to both my own learning and my teaching.