Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: RSS for Educators

Digital Wise - A Magazine for Digital Immigrants
Digital Wise, a magazine for digital immigrants, is a fictitious magazine that I created for my EDIT 490 book review assignment, June 2008. See graphics version on WebCT discussion post. RSS for Educators: Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts and Wikis in the Classroom, by John G. Hendron, is an well organized account of the author's knowledge, wisdom, and insight into Web 2.0, the new generation of the World Wide Web. This book was published by the International Society of Technology Education (iste.org), 2008. Book can can be found on Amazon.com

Wikis, Podcasts, and Blogs, Oh My!
Lions, Tigers, and Bears? Not here! No Need to Fear the “New Web” by Lori Rozelle, Elementary Teacher / for EDIT 490: Web 2.0 for the Classroom

Digital immigrants, and educators, will no longer be wary of all the latest innovations on the World Wide Web once they read this book. In fact, they’ll want to keep this newfound resource close at hand in order to keep up with the digital natives they teach and influence every day. In the book, RSS for Educators; Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts and Wikis in the Classroom, author John G. Hendron (2008) introduces an immeasurable number of read/write applications and tools associated with what he calls “new web” in a powerful “new era” of technological advances in communication, collaboration, and shared computing (p. 1).

As an educator and instructional technologist, Hendron’s goal is to meet the needs of fellow educators by explaining why and showing how the latest web 2.0 technologies can enhance any classroom in the 21st century (p. xi). Endorsed and published by the International Society for Technology in Education in 2008, Hendron’s book defines and explains the basics of blogs, wikis, newsfeeds, and podcasts in addition to giving the reader a comprehensive listing (Appendix A) of 130 web resources for this new generation of the read/write web users (p. 259).

Hendron does an adequate job of defining each category listed in the title of his book (blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts and wikis); however, his discussions on news aggregates were difficult for a web 2.0 newcomer as myself. My preferred learning style, hands on, however might solve that problem. One weakness worth mentioning is the book’s presentation: Hendron’s application tools graphics illustrations are very small in print and so very difficult to read and follow. It isn’t worth straining the eyes, and since there are likely plenty of other more user-friendly resources on the internet, I would go there for further illustrations of the concepts presented. Other than this slight fault, RSS for Educators serves as a very good resource from which to begin a quest for knowledge of the “new web” technologies.

Because Hendron is not only a teacher, but also an instructional technologist who won the 2006 Virginia State Technology Leadership Award from the VA Dept. of Education -- and knowing that the International Society for Technology in Education (iste.org) published this book in the current year, high credibility can be given to the information presented in this book. An additional strength of the book is Appendix C, which provides a vital resource for educators who want to continue their pursuit in digital fluency and information management.

Appendix C is a list of the National Educational Technology Standards for students and for teachers (Hendron, 2008, p. 285). These standards are essential reminders for why educators must at least begin to understand web 2.0 technologies and its many read/write tools. For students, these standards include: creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, information fluency, research, critical thinking and problem solving, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.

The question is … How can educators meet these rigorous student standards without educating themselves first? Not overnight is a sure answer. Is it doable though? Hendron thinks so, if we work at it. Actually, our students are digital natives who will learn new web 2.0 technologies with or without our assistance. They are the clicking generation with no fear of technology. I often tell my 4th grade students that they were clicking in the womb! I believe upper grade elementary school is a time for teachers to lay the foundation for future opportunities that Hendron discusses in his book. It’s a time to begin the habit of building a community that communicates, collaborates and builds information together.

Hendron (2008) writes about the importance of parent involvement in a school’s mission. He quotes from A Harvard Family Research Project report (Patrikakou, 2004): “ … a multitude of research findings point to the importance that parent involvement has in all stages of the educational process.” This involvement increases the chances for success with both students and teachers (p. 56).

Middle school and high school teachers will be pleased to know that Hendron includes a whole section in his book on classroom applications, great lesson planning ideas to modify and run with! He does include 4th and 5th grade for a few lessons, however consistent access to a computer lab would be necessary for success in these grades.

When discussing wikis for the classroom, Hendron (2008) says, “students are powerfully motivated by being able to publish their work online for others to see, hear, and use” and then gives a long list of how classrooms can use wikis for project based learning (pp. 178-179).

A later chapter discusses podcasts in the classroom, which can be easily downloaded on personal audio players. Hendron (2008) notes, “One of the great rewards for writers and creators is knowing someone is using, reading, or consuming their work … Imagine how this makes the work done by student more exciting, authentic, and real” (p. 201).

As a digital immigrant myself, I found the chapters most easy to understand were about blogging. It definitely helps that I’ve have actual experience in blogging and so the prior knowledge would aid with assimilating the information. Overall, blogging seems to be the simplest of all applications. Just start writing and then post! Guests of the blog may comments on the postings and a conversation ensues. In order to keep the blog fresh and thus read, it is encouraged to keep the blog current. As some blogging applications are open source (free but must have a web server to run on), others cost money. Hendron (2008) helps us wade through the choices in making educated decisions to suit our needs both personally and professionally (p. 114).

Before using blogs in the classroom, Hendron (2008) advises educators to be clear on set goals and to define the intended lifespan of the blog as well as define exactly who the blog is for, the educator or the student. This will help in making sure blogging is not only meaningful but successful (p. 153).

Conclusion
RSS for Educators is a good starting ground for gaining knowledge of the web 2.0 tools and technologies available today; however, it only begins the journey into this new era of read/write innovations. A second read with a laptop at hand as reference might be helpful to the novice web 2.0 user. RSS for Educators will serve as a quick reference to resources that exist today and is a handy book for your library; however, it is strongly advised that curious learners explore further on their own on the internet, as applications are being developed every day. Digital natives, be on the lookout! The immigrants are coming!

Bibliography
Hendron, J. G. (2008).
RSS for Educators / Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts, and Wikis in the Classroom. Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Patrikakou, E. N. (2004). Adolescence: Are parents relevant to students’ high school achievement and post-secondary attainment? Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project, Harvard University.

1 comment:

The Mind Machine said...

If you ever want to purchase any of the ISTE books let me know since I am a member and get a member discount. Otherwise it would be a good idea for you to join since there is a plethora of information available to all members