Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pinterest: Create Digital Inspiration Boards

As a visual learner, I can still remember when the Internet and the web first were developing. One of the biggest disappointments and early realizations of those who design was that the web was this wonderfully powerful tool that in its beginning was all text and no images. Slow dial up Internet really limited the quality and amount of images that were able to be displayed on a page...seems like ancient history, but the web used to be mostly words and hyperlinked text. Fast forward to the 21st century and here we are in a bombardment of visual imagery all streaming to us at speeds unimaginable and we can hold this information in the palm of our hands if we want too, AMAZING. It is to this end that I eagerly subscribed to Pinterest, the ultimate tool for the visual learner.
Pinterest enables its users to pin images and video to an online board, kind of like your bulletin board. The boards are set up by the user in any number of categories. There are preset categories you can choose or you can make your own. You can invite friends to join Pinterest and you can also make follow people the way you follow on Twitter. You can also make your boards into group boards by inviting others to join the board. This collaborative aspect of Pinterest is the most appealing to me as an art educator. Pooling your thoughts and the images you find and sharing them with each other could be a very powerful teaching tool. You can add a written description of your pin complete with links and any other information you wish to share. This adds to the level of value. The pins and boards can be simply visual or they can go farther with words and links.
I have played with Pinterest mostly as my own toy...collecting inspiring knitting designs and joining one group board about iPad and iPod apps. I have sung the praises of my personal learning network in the past on this blog and Pinterest is just one more way I can connect with the PLN. I am following a lot of the same talented art educators whom I already follow on Twitter and on Art Ed 2.0 ning network. I don't own an iPhone or iPod yet, but hope to get one for Christmas. I have learned so much about the many art related apps from this pin group. What I like about this shared board is that the teachers pinning do a nice job of describing their pins so you get more than just a picture.
There are many ways to capture your web content and save it. First there was the idea of Bookmarking sites, which resided on a single computer, then came Diigo and Delicious, which enable the user to bookmark and see their library of Bookmarks anywhere. Then came livebinders, which has you collecting web content into digital binders and adding images and words to the binders if you choose. Each of these are powerful, but the websites often change their content and the exact image that had drawn you in may not be there the next time you visit the site. Pinterest allows you to pin that actual image to your board and keep it as inspiration. As a visual person it is often the image, the colors, the light and shadow that have pulled me to the page, not so much the written content. Pinterest celebrates this type of person and how we think...visually.
As an educator I'd love to have my students start using Pinterest, but several things stand in the way. The first is the inability to make your pins and boards private. I would like to be able to set up a class group for my students where we could collaborate individually as a class and only the student members of the class would be able to see the content pinned and discussed there. Diigo has done a fabulous job of offering an Educator version of their site and I wish and hope that Pinterest will do the same some day. Currently the other big thing holding my students back from using this is that they are not allowed to download and install anything to their laptops. This means that they can't install the easy to use Pin It button. This button is what allows you to pin anything you find on any site. Without it, the whole interface doesn't work. I am hoping the IT department will consider installing it for us...we'll see.
Have fun with Pinterest...but beware. One other thing I noticed is that it is pretty easy for images to be copied and passed around with Pinterest...that's the point of it, but it seems pretty easy for people to get images that maybe weren't supposed to be able to be copied. There is a lengthy page about copyright on Pinterest and they've certainly done their best to discuss this in their Pin etiquette, but I noticed that I had an image on my own flickr account that I pinned to a board. Because I can't make my board private, 3 other people re-pinned the image. On my flickr the image is copyright protected and can't be downloaded by others. By my pinning it others can now get it and do what they want with it. Being able to have private boards and pins would resolve this issue. I like that on Diigo and Delicious and Livebinders I can choose to collaborate and share or not....I wish this was an option on Pinterest.
Aside from the privacy thing I think Pinterest is a great tool for the visually inclined person. I collect scraps of fabric, torn out magazine images, my own photos and more into sketchbooks and journals. Pinterest allows you as the artist to continue that practice while you're online. That visual brainstorming is my favorite part of Pinterest and being an artist.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Video-Singin' The Praises of My PLN

I've decided to post the final project video I created for my grad class on Developing Your Personal Learning Network.  I had fun creating this video because it really highlights the new approach to teaching I've adopted since  integrating technology into the courses I teach.  Art has moved from studio to mac lab and back to studio with organic use of both traditional and 21st century tools to make art.  Students have learned valuable job skills and developed connections to many people beyond the school building.  My PLN ROCKS!!! and this video celebrates the reasons why they are so fabulous.  ENJOY!

Thanks to so many in my PLN, but especially Matt Cauthron, Ian Sands, Theresa McGee, Craig Roland, David Gran, Kendra Farrell, Tricia Fugelstad to name a few.  They have all inspired me to go beyond the 4 walls and create a truly connected classroom.  Thanks!

Connected Teaching: Developing Your PLN from Jeanne Bjork on Vimeo.
I created this video as a part of a grad class on developing your personal learning network. All of the artwork in the video belongs to the students I teach at Pewaukee High School.

Friday, April 22, 2011

LIveBinders vs Diigo Bookmarks

Lately thanks to my PLN, I have been experimenting with some new web 2.0 tools. (new to me that is!)  I put a question out  on the arted20 ning asking how to teach art history in the 21st century making it a non-lecture-based-watch-the-slides-go-by, interactive class.  There were many innovative responses as I mentioned in my previous post.  Theresa McGee, an art educator from Illinois and one of the keepers of the Teaching Palette website and blog,  shared her LiveBinder sites with me and a whole new way to save and organize web-based media was introduced. 

Like Diigo, LiveBinders allows you to bookmark and save sites that you find on the web.  Unlike DiigoLiveBinders gives you an actual visual copy of the website and it's content as if you've copied a paper page and put it into your 3-ring binder.  This is pretty awesome for a visual learner.  LiveBinders also allows you to upload documents, images, videos and more.  So your binder can become this wonderful, online, multimedia resource that can be shared with anyone...students, colleagues or your PLN.  The binder pages can be organized in tabs or sub-tabs just like a real binder.  All of the pages saved come in with the links and embedded content intact so you can view and click through from your binder. 

This video explains in 90 seconds how simple it is to use LiveBinders.

I still love Diigo, as a bookmarking and research tool.  I also think Diigo is fantastic for collaboration within groups, but being able to organize everything I'd want in a list or group into a binder that is available online is fantastic!

This is one more example of my PLN coming to my rescue and teaching me how to do something new on the web.  I think most of what I've learned and experimented with over the past couple of years has been because someone in my ning community or twitter feed has mentioned it and I've checked it out and been happy with the results.

I will be teaching Art History next year and I've already begun to organize my Art History binder online using LiveBinder It the simple tool button you install on your toolbar.  Thanks to the many resources shared with me by my PLN I've got a rich collection of resources to use with my students next year.  I think I will have students keep their own LiveBinders as a way to organize notes and other materials for the class.  It will be a great way to personalize their own experience of art history. Eventually I'll make my binder a public one, but for now I've made it private while I continue to learn the tool and develop the collection. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

PLN IN ACTION: How It All Works

My PLN is pretty well-developed and so this week I decided to lean on them for help.  I learned that I will be teaching the Art History class next year in the art department.  My goal is to revamp the class and take it from a lecture-based, watch the slides go by kind of class to an interactive, student-centered course.  I want my students to build the content of the class with my guidance.

I asked my Tweeps and my ning colleagues what resources they would use to do this.  I also asked for their ideas on how they would make Art History into a more interactive, student-centered class.  I am still collecting information, but already I've received some great feedback.  I developed a diigo list for gathering all the links.  It is public so others can see it and I hope they might consider suggesting other links to add.  To see the diigo Art History link click here. 

Immediately I got a response from Melinda Larson-Horne, the talented French teacher at Pewaukee High School.  She suggested both and google art project Smarthistory looks really promising with wonderful ways to search including by artist, time, style or theme.  It features a timeline that you can click on to see what was happening in art.  The timeline is image based so visitors can immediately see the works of art and then click to learn more.  You can also create your own content, browse the blog, download podcast to iTunes and watch videos embedded on the site.  There is also a link called Teach with Smarthistory, which has a number of other fantastic resources. They have a flickr photo group that I joined.  Members contribute their photos of famous works they've visited and seen.   Lastly I see that they also have a Youtube channel and a Vimeo link as well.  Fantastic resource that I will definitely use.  Thanks Melinda!

I already knew about google art project from  Theresa McGee, another PLN person whom I follow on Twitter and the Art Ed 2.0 ning community.  She also does a blog and shared her own use of google art project there at the Teaching Palette.  I had fun exploring the the virtual art museums and galleries at the Google Art Project.  I think it could be very powerful for students to view.  I especially loved how I was in the Uffizi and then suddenly headed outside and was actually on the street in front of the Uffizi where I'd really walked a few years ago on my trip to Italy.  VERY COOL....Bella!  You can create your own collections on the site and customize your visit.  This could be a really powerful tool for student-centered explorations. 

I was especially pleased with the suggestions of Ian Sands, an artist and art educator who I follow on .  Ian shared a link to his school website and ning network.  He already teaches art history this way, sending his students on webquests using mobil phones to find the information they need to develop the content for the course.  I like the use of cell phones and also the fact that Ian has a vimeo video of himself explaining the entire process.  I'm guessing his students watch this for the first time when things are introduced.  Teaching is so isolating so to actually feel I am a fly on the wall in another teachers' class room is really powerful.  Thanks Ian for your help.

Why have a PLN?  In less than 2 days I received answers and numerous resources that I may or may not have stumbled upon in my own research.  I found people who are already doing what I want to do and grew my teaching community and the community for my students.  Perhaps I will collaborate with Ian, maybe my students can quest for art history knowledge with his students, chatting online or even via their cell phones.  Love it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week 4: Social Bookmarking & Other PLN Connections

This week I actually taught a section of the class on Diigo, the powerful social bookmarking tool.  I have written in this blog in several past posts about the value and power of Diigo.  I think it is hard to beat the many features of Diigo.  The ability to immediately organize your bookmarks with tags, lists and groups and the ability to collaborate within class groups or other social groups makes it very powerful.  The now defunct Delicious allowed for some of this, but the interface was less intuitive and required a lot more knowledge to organize and sort through information.  I also found it more challenging in Delicious to join groups.  Delicious didn't have an Educator Console like Diigo.  This console makes Diigo fantastic for organizing your class groups and working together on research, sharing, highlighting and commenting back and forth within the class groups.  This just wasn't possible with Delicious.  The Educator console even allows you to print out student logins in easy to cut apart and pass out strips.  Very cool!  Another feature of Diigo is that you can follow people and read the bookmark lists they've found to be helpful.  This is another way to further build your PLN.  I don't really chat with the people I follow on Diigo, but I do like to look at the bookmarks they have amassed, especially on topics that I teach and have in common with them.  Most of the educators I follow are people I met through ning networks or on Twitter.

During the second part of class we further explored the concept of social networks that are specifically for educators.  Ning networks are some of the most common. You don't have to be an educator to join a ning, but they are very popular amongst teachers.   I joined the various networks that were introduced in class, but I must admit I haven't really networked much on these sites yet.  I feel I already have a pretty developed PLN and by adding too, much to the mix I may actually dilute the quality and frequency of my interactions.  I think the ning networks that I belong to are useful and effective because the members of the nings are very actively involved in the conversations.  They are checking the posts daily or at least weekly and get back to you if you have posted a question or comment.

I am already following the Art Ed2.0 network and also the NAEA secondary educators ning network.  Both of these are vital communities that have taught me so much.  The conversations range from nuts and bolts to highly intellectual and philosophical.  I have learned a great deal about other web 2.0 tools through these networks and have also enlarged my Twitter community because of them. Lastly when attending the National Art Education convention a few years back I didn't feel I was there alone, because I got to meet and mingle with many of the online PLN members I'd met through the ning. 

I have fully embraced social networking both on a personal level and as a professional.  I decided this week to draw a line between these networks.  I un-friended people on my Facebook network that aren't really my friends on a social level.  I decided that from now on Facebook will be for me on a more social level.  I will still post art eduction sites and links and comments because as a person I am an artist and I can't undo who I am.  I will use Twitter and the nings I belong to for more professional networking.  I like that there will be a distinction.  There are still some professional ways that I will use Facebook as my Art Club has a page and so do my AP Art students.  Facebook is the easiest and fastest way to get a message to students so it will still be there for that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 3: Further Developing PLN Through Google Reader and More

Fingers flying, eyes straining, pin-drop silence and then exasperated sighs were just a few of the things we experienced during this past class on March 22nd as we tried to keep up with the #edchat on Tweetdeck. It was intense and I found my eyes getting dry as I forgot to blink! I loved it though. I had participated before through Twitter, but never through Tweetdeck. I liked Tweetdeck better this week as it helped me to have a second column open with mentions in it. If somebody replied directly to me and mentioned me with an @bellafiore then I could see it while still participating in the chat. I think participating in a live chat greatly illustrated to some of the doubters in class how dynamic and powerful Twitter can be when used in this way.

In addition to the Tweet-fest we also learned how to use Google Reader to sort blogs and other feeds that we might be following. We learned about RSS (real simple syndication)as a way to follow blogs and other sites. I had used Google Reader last year, but the interface was annoying. You couldn't set up folders without doing a lot of extras after you had begun to follow a feed. This time the interface appeared to borrow from bloglines. I think Google must have re-designed their interface. This meant that it was a few easy clicks to set up folders and organize your reading. Loved it! I don't read everything that I follow regularly, but I do go back to various blogs when looking for certain info.

We learned about a lot of other tools for socially connecting with people and building your PLN in other ways. My favorite was Goodreads, which allows you to develop an online bookshelf. I love to read, but often don't read much during the school year as I don't have the time or mental patience. In the summer however, I devour books 2-3 in a week. Goodreads features groups that you can join, who may have common interests and discussions. I joined one on Art, but it appeared the discussions were a bit too, general. I will continue to explore this one. It could be like being in an online book discussion. You can also connect and be friends with people through this site. I don't know if I need to do this. I feel like I'm already connected in so many places, but it is fun to see what people are reading and what they might recommend. I also saw that you can link your Goodreads account to Facebook. One of my favorite early Facebook features was the favorite books thing that let you create a book shelf and rate books you'd read. I wonder if Goodreads copied Facebook or vice versa? Either way I love to read and this is another great way to connect.

Another site that I have used that is similar to Goodreads is Scribd. The difference with Scribd is that many of the documents available are self-published articles and booklets. There is an interesting collection there for educational purposes and you can also friend people and recommend articles etc. Many of the presenters at this year's NAEA conference published their presentations on Scribd, which allows for graphics rich documents. I learned of several of these documents through tweets that I was following throughout the conference at #naea11 on Twitter.

We discussed a number of other PLN builders that I didn't have the time to try this week. Some of them I was already familiar with such as TED Talks and PBS for Teachers. The PBS for Teachers is one I'd just set up an account with a few weeks ago. I love the resources and the videos that are available. I teach using the Art21 website that is powered through PBS and it is an awesome resource so I look forward to exploring even more with the full Educator access. I didn't have time to explore any of the other tools so more will come later on those. I am excited to use Goodreads and further develop my book shelf. Now if only I had that iPhone so I could access my list while I'm at the book store shopping!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Developing a PLN-Week 2 Using Tweetdeck

This past week in class we experimented with using Tweetdeck to manage our tweets and the various feeds that we may be following. While I understand the reasons for Tweetdeck I found it to be a bit overwhelming. I don't know if I am still too, new on Twitter, but I found it to be too, crazy to watch multiple columns of tweets at the same time. I installed Tweetdeck right after class the first week and began playing around with it. I had it running in the background of my laptop while I was working on other documents or other things on the web. I found it to be distracting, but sometimes interesting to have the tweets pop up on my screen. Distracting in that I would stop to read the tweets and if someone had said something good, sharing a link etc. then I'd be off and running to follow that link. I started to be more off task than I am when I try to work at home and have Facebook up at the same time!

I think that Tweetdeck is outstanding for organizing columns of tweets so you can monitor multiple conversations at the same time or isolate certain people's tweets so you don't miss any of what they are saying. I tried to follow the #edchat and #wiunion tweets at the same time on Tuesday evenings class. There were so many tweets in both streams it was hard to keep up, much less respond. I was also trying to follow the PLN2011 chats and felt like it was all I could manage. I think for reading and just following, Tweetdeck is cool, but if I want to participate and respond I am still trying to become familiar with the tools to do this through Tweetdeck. It sort of feels like the interface is a bit hidden/compact compared to the easy, straight forward tools on Twitter. I think Twitter took off because of its simplicity.

I think Twitter has infiltrated many people's lives because of that simplicity. I read in the New York Times today how there are groups of people who are experiencing Twitter envy over the posts of people attending events that they wish they could go to. Some Twitter users feel people are just bragging when they tweet things like "I'm standing in line next to Danny DeVito etc." I think it is fascinating how this is taking over our social mores and Twitter etiquette is now part of the social structure amongst some groups. I think again that Twitter is able to do this because of it's simplicity.

Can you use Tweetdeck from your phone? If I'm at an event following multiple conversations on my phone how does that work? Not sure? Still experimenting with Tweets by phone. I am not entirely sold on Tweetdeck. Bottom line might be a design thing. I think the graphic design of Tweetdeck is a bit cluttery and since I'm a visual person maybe that's why I'm not thrilled with it. I wonder if HootSuite is designed better? I went to download, but it looked like you had to pay for HootSuite so maybe not. What do you think? Is there a better, cleaner design for following and organizing your multiple feeds?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Developing a PLN-Week One Twitter

In the midst of all the chaotic WI state budget talks and threats to teachers I have found being a connected professional with an already healthy PLN to be a godsend. Websites like Twitter and Facebook have spread the word about the movement. Even if you are on the opposite side, the social networking sites and microblogging communities have helped to mobilize a movement. As an educator I find this part of what has gone on to be especially intriguing.

Educators enlighten, inspire and teach students how to learn. I have learned more this past week about the dynamic power of Twitter than the past year or so that I've been casually puttering around with it. Twitter became my news source. If you follow the right discussions or thread it is POWERFUL especially during a crisis. Yesterday as the state Capitol building went into lock down mode after the controversial vote on the bill, reporters for the state were sending rapid fire minute-by-minute tweets of what was happening. I tried to find info on the local news websites, but their updates seemed to be biased, less journalistic and very slow in reporting exactly what was happening. The Twitter feed was quick and very specific and objective. Facts were being stated objectively through pure observation; this is what journalism is supposed to be. Both sides were being reported and I felt almost like I was there. The tweets spurred me to action and I felt compelled to head to Madison that evening to be part of history.

This personal experience was powerful for me. I think a connected educator can empower her students to be intelligent consumers of the media driven economy that we live in today. Inspiring students to be informed and to use social media for educational purposes, to gain knowledge and to be inspired can be a great thing. Using social media to connect to learners around the world expands the teacher's expertise, too, allowing her to bring a more diverse experience to her students. I communicate with some of my students via social media. I try to keep my communication professional, critiquing their art work or sending them links of art exhibits and other online resources that I know they might enjoy and derive inspiration from.

Being a connected, networked educator requires some commitment and perhaps a change in perspective on the part of the educator. We can be connected 24/7 if we choose to be. I am ok with a student asking me a question at 11:00 at night while I'm on Facebook or texting me a comment during the summer like, "Mrs. Bjork, I'm at the coolest art gallery right now and you would love this one painting." I don't mind being connected to my students 24/7 because being an eductor and artist isn't something I do just between the contracted hours of 7:15 to 3:15. I am always ON, refining my craft as an educator and artist. If I don't want to connect I log off or silence my phone.

Lastly I think developing a dynamic, lively PLN has been instrumental in helping me learn how to be a 21st Century Educator. Many of the skills I needed in my field of art weren't available here within the district so going beyond and connecting to educators worldwide allowed me to get the knowledge I needed to expand my curricular area. The mac lab and new technology based art courses that I teach are a direct result of the knowledge I learned from my PLN.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Digital Media - New Learners Of The 21st Century Great Show from PBS

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media - New Learners Of The 21st Century.

This is a great show on Digital Media and the skills that 21st century students need to succeed and survive in everyday life. It celebrates how educators have taken on the challenge of teaching in the new environment. There are some really inspirational models for what schools could look like if we embrace technology and teach utilizing it in authentic ways. Students utilize trial and error to problem solve real technology projects such as game design.

Another thing I love about this is that students are encouraged to play and to tinker and to naturally, organically arrive at solutions. The video also shows students pursuing things they are passionate about pursuing not just for school, but as a career. My favorite part was the media work segment where kids were developing films, videos and graphic design portfolios. The teacher, Nichole Pinkard talked about media work and how students had to build on traditional literacy skills, but then needed art literacy, the ability to decipher and understand colors and shapes in order to build a successful media project. The arts are critical!! It illustrated the integrated use of art, literature, music, writing and more. Loved that part!

Another thing this video illustrated is how students became more engaged citizens. Their excitement for digital media caused them to share it with family and friends and eventually to become volunteers in their community. FANTASTIC! I also love how the video showed students connecting with museums through educational programming. I used to work at a Children's Museum and greatly value the learning through play that a Museum environment can foster. It changes the atmosphere and can engage students more than they may be engaged in the standard classroom. There are more options and more possibilities. It is fantastic when students connect with their community and the organizations that exist in that community for educational purposes. Museums that are active and creative can really be a huge part of 21st century learning.

So excited to see that one entire segment was filmed in Middleton, WI. Students are working on Design problems and are using location-based education to learn about the city plan and the uses of the Middleton city plan. What an amazing real world way to teach. The students left the classroom and went where they needed to go to complete the project and solve the problem. It inspires me that this is going on right here near where I live. Students were using their own cell phones to do this. They didn't need big fancy, expensive equipment. I also liked how the students were really meeting with the actual city planners and others that they would meet with if they were doing a real design job. I wish we'd done this at my school with the re-design of the art room and building project.