The great challenge of the new age of information, where the “total amount of digital information will double every eleven hours,” will be that of sifting through waves of minutia to locate and be in touch with what is relevant to each individual. This affects not only our classrooms — in that web-literacy will enable students to see through the fact that even though a search for MartinLutherKing.org yields a hate site as Google’s first source (not only that, apparently the Pacific Northwest’s Tree Octopus is endangered!), it may not be the most reliable source of information for next year’s Black History Month Independent Study — but our own professional development, as we struggle to work net-exploration into the business of our daily teaching loads and the tantalizing sunshine outside.
I have had success with three web tools that, used in the chorus of an extended personal learning network, have made the vast expanses of the web much more manageable and personally focused:
· Google Reader: Google Reader acts as a subsection to your Gmail Account that enables you to subscribe to various internet pages of interest -> news sites, educational blogs, and on and on. Here is an instructional video to get you started: Getting Started with Google Reader.
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· Delicious Bookmarks: Ok, so your Google Reader is keeping you up to date with a personalized array of articles, web pages and other ‘net resources: What to do now? Archive and organize these pages with a Delicious account (Here’s the instructional video for this one: Using Del.icio.us); creating a network of educators already using the site casts a wide net (ba-dump-ching) for filtering relevant articles and material. It is also easy to search by topics – education, social studies, literature, etc – and turn up the most “marked” pages of each day. This is what is meant by Social Bookmarking. Find us: Dave Matheson, Mark Liao, Cindy Quach, Bryan Jackson, and Dave Truss.
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· Twitter: You’ve heard about it, but for fear of plummeting into the abyss of teen-texting-Facebooker’s online existence, haven’t thought much past the “What is Twitter?” In short – as Twitter is all about brevity – Twitter enables users to build a network (there is a common theme here), and thereby “follow” (this is Twitter’s self-developed – not to mention creepy – term for “friending” someone) 140-character updates of people you are interested in hearing from. In plain English? Here’s the video.
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Really, there is nothing too techie about any of this: all three sites are très user-friendly, and once set up can become a singular thread of infinitesimal webformation that is personalized by your own personal selections as well as those suggested by the people in your various networks. The time-to-result ratio is more than favourable: unless endless Google searches or reading the Vancouver Sun aren’t getting in the way of keeping up to date.