Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are you ready for the future?

During my grade school years, I remember writing a think piece on living in the future. Two future predictions remain in my memory. I said that you could call people on the telephone and view them on a screen while you talked to them. I said that this may be embarassing if you had just run out of the shower to answer the phone. This prediction has come true if you use an online application like Skype to make phone calls. The video aspect of those phone calls is optional. Therefore, no one will see you wrapped in a towel. Another prediction was for robots that did your housework for you. Unfortunately, this prediction has not yet come to pass. There are robotic vacuum cleaners that will zoom back and forth across your floor sucking in the dust mites. However, most household chores are still accomplished by humans using the tools of the trade (brooms, dishclothes, and laundry hampers).

Cover of "Little Brother"Cover of Little Brother

That writing from years ago was my attempt at science fiction. Published wri
ters of science fiction are actually instrumental in creating vision and reality in the future. This summer I read Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother and Vernor Vinge's book Rainbows End. In Brand's (2006) review of Vinge's book, he mentions Vinge's impact on the world of technology. Perhaps books like this or Cory Doctorow's Little Brother should be required reading for educators who are wanting to prepare students for the future. For example, in Vinge's book, he mentions a computer that is accessed from a folded sheet of special paper. Just this past summer, table-top computers have been developed. If one can use a table-top as a computer, surely the piece of paper computer cannot be far behind. Yesterday I watched a video of students using a unique laptop. (ISTE) The screen could be twisted around so that other students could view the screen. The screen could be detached from the keyboard and carried around. The screen was also a touch-screen so that it could be used for inputting information. (Watch the video here to see this innovative technology tool.)

Before I move into the vision that other leaders have for important 21st century skills, I want to make some of my own predictions. In the world of the future, people will be able to work and live anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. This means that people will look at quality of life and even environmental concerns when choosing where to live. I believe that many young people will be less materialistic in the future--it will be more about job satisfaction and engagement than it will be about the salary. I can see that concerns about the environment and their ecological footprint will drive many life-style choices. People will return to the land in order to grow, harvest, and cook with their own produce. This will be a requirement for life as reduced fuel stocks may reduce the distances that food can travel to come to us. There will be more desire to buy locally while thinking globally. There will be a recognition that we are all in this together. My actions or inactions will impact those on the other side of the globe from me. Recently, after the earthquake in Haiti, someone tweeted: "Today, we are all Haitians." This sentiment is behind the vast outpouring of money, volunteer time, and concern for the Haitian people who are in the midst of a terrible disaster. In my previous blog post, I mentioned another tweet: We are all Twitter volunteers for Haiti. The actions I took last week in building Twitter lists and retweeting important information may have helped to save lives (especially for those buried under the rubble) or bring help to the helpless.

Something else that I learned through the Haiti disaster which I believe has relevance for the future is that those with passion will lead and make things happen. As I watched the CNN coverage of the Haiti earthquake, I came to despise Larry King's approach to interviews with those on the ground in Haiti. It seemed to me that he was willing to give away his suspenders (as a fund-raising gesture) but not his heart. His coverage of the disaster was done in the spirit of--just another day at the office, it's just a job. However, Sanjay Gupta, a CNN reporter who was on the ground in Haiti, discovered in the midst of a live report that the doctors at the field hospital behind him were all leaving because of security issues. Since Sanjay is a doctor, he said that he was staying to care for the patients overnight until the other doctors returned. He said he couldn't do his show that night because those patients took precedence. Anderson Cooper, another CNN reporter on the ground in Haiti, was reporting on some looting in one area of the city. He was there on the ground where people were throwing chunks of cement and security guards were shooting at people. A young boy was hit on the head with a chunk of cement. Anderson moved from his detached observer's viewpoint to pick up the boy and carry him to safety. In the future, this kind of reporter will lead us all in the vision of the global community and how we should respond to those connections.

Just a few more of my own personal thoughts about the future before I turn to the vision of others.

Flexibility -When I work with students, I want them to learn to be flexible so that they can adjust to the realities of the 21st century world. I recently overheard a young woman (probably around 30 years of age) talk about the young people and their crazy texting. All of us will need to do some crazy texting in the future (although not while you're driving, please).

People skills - Even in an online world, one still needs to have people skills. As well, since an online world cannot give you a flesh-and-blood hug or a physical pat on the back, students will need to continue to work on their social skills in order to work with others in a face-to-face setting.

Downtime - We need to give our students the opportunity to enjoy some time off the grid. Time to "go dark", off-line. I think we need to model this to students. We don't always need to be plugged in. There is value in removing oneself from the online tether to experience the world in other ways.

Meta-tagging - We need to teach students to use data-analysis tools. These will combine the Web 2.0 world with the Web 3.0 world. In the Web 3.0 world, people do what they do best while computers do what they do best. As an example, over the last few weeks, I have created some Twitter lists. My favourite list is the list of people who are in Haiti and using Twitter. I had to be a detective to create this list of people (over 200 of them now). I combed through tweets which mentioned Haiti. I read tweets and followed up on those who mentioned other Twitter users. I analyzed information and then synthesized what I had learned into a huge Twitter list. One of my other lists had 500 people on it. That is how I discovered that Twitter lists can only go up to 500 people. Once I had created these lists, then the computer did its thing--it found and listed all of the tweets from those users in real-time. That was how I learned about after-shocks and people's reaction to them.

In the future, our students will need to learn how to use mind mapping, spreadsheets, and pattern finding in data. Then they can direct computers to use that information to assist in data analysis.

Thus far, I have presented some of my thoughts on the 21st century learner. Now I will turn to other organizations and individuals to understand their thoughts on helping the 21st century learner.

In 2002, educators and business leaders came together to establish The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. This partnership included the
U.S. Department of Education, the AOL Time Warner Foundation, Apple Computer, Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Inc., Dell Computer Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, and the National Education Association. Their concern was that the education system at that time was not preparing students with the skills they would need to thrive in the 21st century. They identified the skills set that 21st century learners would need and began to create guidelines and learning materials to assist educators in helping students to achieve these skills.

According to the Partnership's Mission statement, this skills set includes:
  • Information and communication skills (information and media literacy skills; communication skills)
  • Thinking and problem-solving (critical thinking and systems thinking; problem identification, formulation and solution; creativity and intellectual curiosity)
  • Interpersonal and self-direction skills (interpersonal and collaborative skills; self-direction; accountability and adaptability; social responsibility)
  • Global awareness
  • Financial, economic and business literacy, and developing entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options
  • Civic literacy
In June of 2009, a National Summit on 21st Century Skills was held. This video will summarize some of the Partnership's work to date.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has created an online survey to assist you in measuring your own school division's development of 21st century skills. Use the MILE Guide Self-Assessment Survey which provides 14 questions to assist you in evaluating your school division. The survey gives your district a measurement of six key areas under the development of 21st Century Skills. These areas are: Policy making, Educational Leadership, Education Support systems, Student knowledge and skills, Partnering, and Continuous Improvement. Using your answers to the questions, it evaluates each of these areas in terms of early, transitional, or 21st century work. Beside each area, suggestions are given for improvement based on the level of achievement in that area. There is a MILE guide available for download as a PDF file.This guide can be very useful for educators who wish to integrate this skills set into their instructional practices.

Other educators and idea people have proposed their own lists of 21st century skills. Blower (2009) reported on Howard Rheingold's list of 21st century literacies:
  • Attention- knowing how to focus and how to divide your attention without losing the ability to concentrate. It’s more than multitasking; it’s learning how to exercise attention.
  • Participation- particularly the more constructive modes of participation that are useful to others
  • Collaboration- being ready to organize together, and enable a collective response to emerge
  • Critical consumption-aka “crap detection” the ability to spot bad info from good.
  • Network awareness- the combination of reputation, social capital, “presentation of self” and other sensitivity to individual positioning within the network collective.
Henry Jenkins suggests some core media literacy skills (Jenkins):

  • Play: The capacity to experiment with one's surroundings as a form of problem solving.
  • Performance: The ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery.
  • Simulation: The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes.
  • Appropriation: The ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.
  • Multi-tasking:The ability to scan one's environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.
  • Distributed Cognition: The ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities.
  • Collective intelligence: The ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.
  • Judgment: The ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
  • Transmedia Navigation: The ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
  • Networking: The ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
  • Negotiation: The ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.
Daniel Pink examined four sets of standards for learning today (including the AASL, NETS, and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning standards) and suggest a six sense or aptitude approach to preparedness for life in the 21st century. (Mardis, 2008). His list includes:
  • Design - Combine usefulness with significance
  • Story - Understanding and connection with human experience
  • Symphony - See the big picture and make connections
  • Empathy - View things from another's point of view
  • Play - Work is fun
  • Meaning - Use what you know to understand yourself and your world
What will the future look like for our students? How can we prepare them to thrive in that future? As Pink suggests, we need to encourage students to "think beyond fact-based routine, 'left-brained thinking' and propel them to embrace personal, dynamic, creative activities that allow them to change and grow all through [their] lives" (Mardis, 2008).

If you are interested in sorting and organizing all of these ideas about 21st century learning skills, I suggest that you write each skill on a small piece of paper. Take all suggestions. Then spread all of the pieces of paper out on a table. Sort them into similar ideas. Then choose the ideas that resonate with you most deeply. Those are the ideas you should start with because that is where your passion lies. Do your part to prepare your students for the world of the future.


Blowers, Helene. (2009). 21st Century Literacies. In Library Bytes. Online at

Brand, Stewart. (July/Aug. 2006). Vinge’s Singular Vision. In Technology Review, 109, 3, 86. (Online University of Alberta, ProQuest Journals)

ISTE. Implementing the Refreshed NETS-S. Canadian Kaleidoscope: Brookfield High School. (Video) Online at

Jenkins, Henry. Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning. Online at

Mardis, Marcia. (2008). A whole new library: six "senses" you can use to make sense of new standards. Teacher Librarian, 35, 4, 34-38 (Online University of Alberta, ProQuest Journals)

Mile Guide Self-Assessment Survey. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Online at

Mission Statement. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Online at

National Summit on 21st Century Skills: Intro Video (4:43). Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Online at

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2009 MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning & Education: An Updated Toolkit of Strategies and Tactics

Pink, Daniel. (2007). Abundance, Asia and Automation. Video (1:12). Online at
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Monday, January 18, 2010

RT @InternetHaiti We are all Twitter volunteers for #Haiti

Last Tuesday afternoon (January 12), a massive earthquake hit the country of Haiti. I began to closely follow the story on the internet beginning on Wednesday, January 13. I mainly used a free online program called Twitter to follow the story. At first #Haiti, Port au Prince, and YELE (Wyclef’s organization for helping Haiti) were trending topics on Twitter. I just searched through the tweets including those words. I decided to compile a Twitter list of anyone who was sharing information about Haiti. This list can be accessed at (I have 281 Twitter people on this list at the moment. )The interesting thing is that these tweets can be read by people who are not on Twitter themselves. The tweets show up on a web page. However if someone wants to interact (reply or retweet anything), they need to have a Twitter account.

As I selected my Haiti Twitter list and read through the tweets, I noticed that some people were already on the ground in Haiti. These people tweeted about the earthquake a few minutes after it happened. They talked about the devastation they saw. They mentioned missing family members. They rejoiced when the family members were found. All of this occurred within the public forum of Twitter. (For those who don’t know much about Twitter—you can protect your tweets so that only your friends can see them [similar to the way your privacy can be set on Facebook]. However, most people allow complete access for anyone in the world.) As I thought about those people tweeting from Haiti (rather than about Haiti), I decided to create a second Twitter list of those who I believed were tweeting from Haiti. This list can be accessed at At the moment I have 112 people on this list. I try to keep this list current and move people off it if they mention that they have left Haiti. There are some people who are tweeting such great information (such as a doctor stationed in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where they are flying some patients) that I put them on the “in Haiti” list. I invite all of you to click on this list (again, you do not need a Twitter account to read the tweets) and read for a minute.

This morning I am furious because I read of 10,000 tons of water and relief flights coming in juxtaposed with word of people in desperate need with no relief in sight. One person who was already in Haiti serving the people before the quake asked this morning on Twitter how he could get more supplies for distribution. He has already given out all he has.

Early on, I read a blog post about the need for water in Haiti. This got me thinking about the logistics of getting aid to Haiti. So I created a third Twitter list which I called “Haiti logistics”. When people tweeted about maps or locations, I put them on this list. This list can be accessed at There are 53 people or organizations on this list.

I set up these three Twitter lists which helped to bring knowledge my way (for those teachers out there, this would be the first rung in Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills). Since few people were following my Twitter lists (there are now 9 following my In Haiti list), I wasn’t really using what I was learning. Sometimes I would retweet a message that I thought was important. However, if all the people reading your tweets are in North America, this does not help Haiti. Then I read a tweet about Tweaking the Tweet. Project Epic designers suggested the use of #hashtags to help computers compile information from Haiti. ( This brings the power of Web 2.0 (people using the internet to collaborate and communicate with each other) together with the power of Web 3.0 (people doing what they do best and computers doing what they do best working in harmony). Therefore people use their intellect to meta-tag a tweet like this:

RT @rqskye: 50+peopl w/kidsNeedFood,H2O,Supplies. HautDuCanapeV, EntrncSeminary,ImpassAubry,MaisonAubry. SoleHouseStandng.AllSurvivrsTher

Using the Project Epic suggested meta-tags, I could tweet this as

#Haiti #Need Food,H2O,Supplies. #Loc HautDuCanapeV, EntrncSeminary, ImpassAubry, MaisonAubry. SoleHouseStandng.#Num 50 people via @rqskye

Now a computer can find this tweet and pass the information on to whoever is monitoring this information. Over the past few days, I have seen an orphanage receiving water and supplies because people tweaked the tweet. I have seen people rescued from buildings because people tweaked the tweet in this way.

People are also using Facebook to share information. There are Facebook groups set up for those waiting on word of people missing at the Montana Hotel (apparently the favourite destination for tourists in Haiti) which collapsed in the earthquake. One man is also setting up Skype conferences to give people with information the opportunity to share it. I attended one of the conferences briefly (it started as an Elluminate session and then changed to Skype). Reporters are creating podcasts and videos. Many individuals are writing blog posts about their experiences in Haiti.

During this crisis in Haiti, CNN has been on the ground with many reporters. However, CNN has also recognized that they cannot collect all of the information themselves. They have opened a site where people can stop by, sign in, and share their stories, photographs, and information. (CNN I Report However, when I stopped by and left a message asking them to follow my “In Haiti” Twitter list, they responded by saying they are following all of the people tweeting about Haiti. They are getting a lot of chaff mixed in with their wheat if this is the case. They are listening to everyone talking and losing the voices of those who are there on the ground in Haiti.

Now I need to switch gears. This week, along with trying to be a Twitter volunteer for Haiti, I have also been a student in an Information Technologies for Learning class from the University of Alberta. My experience of using the Web to communicate and help others, along with seeing how others have used technology to help Haiti, have made me think about the responsibility of teachers and teacher-librarians to prepare students for the world of today and tomorrow.

Last week I attended a lecture by Michael Wesch (2010) about students of today. Mike is an anthropology professor in Kansas. He suggested that there are no digital natives as we all learn to use the new Web 2.0 technologies to communicate and create. Things like YouTube, DIGG or Delicious, RSS feeds, and Facebook are very recent applications. We are all learning them together. Mike suggested that we need to move from being receptive knowers who simply accept the voice of authority to subjective knowers who will question and possibly reject everything. From there the progression is onward to Procedural knowers who move between thinking inside the box and outside the box (separate vs. connected). In the end, Mike suggests that learners need to be constructive knowers who are integrating the separate (outsider knowledge and thinking) with the connected (insider knowledge and thinking). He wants learners to feel responsible for examining, questioning and developing the systems they will use for constructing knowledge. (I need to watch the archived video of Mike’s presentation several more times to really grasp all that he had to say. View it here

This week I read an article by Asselin and Doiron (2008) that also points out the new approach to knowledge. They say that “Knowledge in the Industrial Age was viewed as fixed, authoritative, discipline-bound, obtained and owned by individuals, and regarded as ‘the truth’. In contrast, knowledge in a knowledge-based society is constantly changing, contested, interdisciplinary, and collaboratively constructed and re-constructed by ‘amateurs’ for massive audiences.” (p. 10) I can see that this new view of knowledge creation has been demonstrated by the information coming out of Haiti.

I also read Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for School Librarians (2007) which is so relevant for today. Joyce speaks about a new digital divide between those who can find information easily in a variety of formats and those who cannot. She suggests that teacher-librarians need to become “info-technology scouts” who help to make sense of new ideas and information. Joyce speaks about “Just-in time, Just for me” learning. Teachers and students need to learn how to uncover the information that they need when they need it. I was impressed the other day that when someone asked (via Twitter) how long the air strip at Jacamel was (since they were enroute with relief supplies in a small plane), many people quickly responded. Some referred to Google Earth; others referred to information gathered from a website on the Haitian town of Jacmel; some went to statistical information from another source. All of these people were demonstrating “Just in time, Just for me” learning.

As I reflect on this past week, I think about the great use of social media to help Haiti. I think about Mike Wesch’s thoughts about students and learning today. I bring in the other articles I have read and my classmates’ posts and comments during our class discussions. I ask myself: How can I, as a teacher-librarian, prepare my students for a world such as this? Here are just a few of my answers to that question:

1) I am concerned about student access to technology. There are still homes with no computer and/or internet access. I believe that teachers need to teach students to use technology tools in classrooms and computer labs. I welcome all the free tools on the internet but these tools are useless if a student has no computer or doesn’t know how to log on.

2) Students need to learn to use technology to create and represent information and knowledge. We need to give students a safe way to share their learnings with the world. I think of Kathy Cassidy’s blog site for her grade one students. (Online at,%20

Her students create blog posts in various ways. They create podcasts (using Vocarro) which their parents and others can listen to. People from around the world visit this blog site and comment on her students’ blog posts. Kathy also interacts with other classrooms around the world. She did a Skype session with another class in which both classes read a poem or book together. When a class in United States discovered a special bone (dinosaur?), they Skyped with Kathy’s class to share what they were learning. Valenza encourages us to realize that “learning can be playful” (2007). We need to encourage students to use and enjoy the benefits of technology.

If you are reading this today and you are a teacher or teacher-librarian, I have an immediate project for you. I need assistance with what I am trying to do to help Haiti. Do you have students who could help me?:

1) Tweak the tweets. If they are not on Twitter themselves, they could rewrite the tweets at and email them to me at Then I will tweet them forward. They need to use the conventions from Project Epic ( I am sure that in the future, this practice in meta-tagging information and putting it in a computer readable format will be very useful for those students. Of course, if the students (or you as their teacher) have a Twitter account, they can simply tweet out the revised information themselves. There would be no need to go through me.

2) Help me to curate my Twitter lists. I am particularly concerned about my “Tweeting from Haiti” list which needs to have more accounts added. This assignment could only happen for those who have a Twitter account themselves. I need people to follow the #hashtag #Haiti and discover people who are tweeting from Haiti but not yet on my “In Haiti” list. There are also people who are no longer in Haiti who could be removed from that Twitter list. Please send me messages as a reply on my Twitter account (@RIElliott) to help me update my information.

We need to harness the power of technology for the good of our world. We need to teach our students to use technology for good. Let’s be a model of “excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm” (Valenza, 2007) as we distribute the tools.


Asselin, Marlene & Doiron, Ray. (July 2008). Towards a Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries 2. In School Libraries Worldwide, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1 – 18.

Valenza, Joyce. (June 27, 2007). Build a manifesto with me: You know you are a 21st century teacher-librarian if . . . On Never-ending search blog (School Library Journal). Online at

Wesch, Michael. (January 12, 2010). The (Digital) Writing on the Walls (and why the walls don’t matter anymore). Archived video of presentation, University of Regina, Saskatchewan. Online at

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Twitter Lists

Haiti experienced a 7.0 earthquake on Tuesday, January 12. On January 13, I began following people on Twitter who were writing about the earthquake. I have now created three lists of Twitter people. Feel free to follow any of these lists. (You will need a Twitter account first. Go to to sign up for an account.)

Here are the three lists (more information about them below):

People tweeting information about Haiti:

People tweeting from Haiti:

People tweeting about the logistics of relief and rescue efforts:

I will continue to update these lists. Feel free to reply to me on Twitter (@RIElliott) to give me any information that will assist me in keeping these lists current or leave me a comment on this blog.

(This photo is of a man named Patrick who was dug out of the rubble of his house after 18 hours. John McHoul posted this photo on his blog site called Heartline Haiti. The address is John is on the ground helping others. Follow his blog posts for updates on what he is doing.)

My first Twitter list is just for those who are tweeting with information about Haiti and the earthquake. Many of these are not in Haiti. Some are relief organizations tweeting from outside Haiti. Others are those who are searching for relatives in Haiti. (I am following 131 Twitter accounts on this list.)

This Haiti list can be found at

As I followed the people on the above list, I discovered that some of them were either currently in Haiti or on their way to Haiti. Therefore I created a new list which I call "In Haiti". As I get new information, I will revise this list. For me, this is the most important list because these are tweets from people on the ground in Haiti. I think it would be most helpful for these people to use names of buildings and streets to assist others in their rescue and relief efforts. Many of these people are seeking to go out on the streets to help people. We need to keep the internet going (by providing diesel fuel to the internet providers to run their generators). As well, these on-the-ground Twitter people can tweet about buildings where people are trapped and still calling out. There are 47 Twitter people that I am following on this list. Please leave me a comment or send me a message on Twitter if you know of others on the ground in Haiti who I should add to this list.

This In Haiti list can be found at

My third Twitter list was created to include those working on the logistics and organization of the relief effort. For example, one person/organization was tweeting about the condition of the roads in various locations. I also include accounts which tweet about the maps which are being created. There are presently 22 Twitter accounts on this list. I will add more as I see tweets which address the logistics of the rescue and relief operation.

This Logistics Haiti list can be found at

What I am hearing so far is that rescue and relief is not reaching the most desperate. Hopefully on this third day after the earthquake, people will get the water and food they need.

Urgent needs:
1. Water, food and shelter needs met

2. Diesel fuel for the generators of internet providers so they can keep operational

3. GPS locations or addresses for buildings where people are still trapped and calling out.

4. Leadership: Someone or organization to take charge and coordinate relief efforts.

Special call out to the Tech community:

With all the tools at our disposal, how can we help with the communication and coordination needs during this crisis?

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