Week 6: Communication

boy sending first email on laptopWeb 2.0 tools can make communicating across time and space a breeze! This week we are going to look at some of the newer communication tools and ask you to think about how your kids and family could use, or already are using them.

Way back when...people used to marvel at the speed of email communication. It would revolutionize the world! Want to send a letter to your cousin in Germany? Just click send! No hassle, not hidden fees. In time, you could even attatch photos and insert links. Email was once 'cutting-edge' and has now taken a back seat to other means of communicating in your child's life. The tools we will briefly explore this week are:

  • Chat (online conversation between two or more parties)
  • IM (Instant Messaging, text-based conversation)
  • Video Chat (chatting online through use of video)
  • SMS (Text Messaging on mobile devices)
  • Gaming & Virtual Worlds

These are all quick and easy ways to connect with your kids on the go, but make sure you have the right plans to avoid surprise charges! Since these are the preferred methods of communicating for most teens, it is important to make sure you are familiar with them as well.

There are many ways of chatting online now. For young people, the days of the anyonymous chat rooms are long gone and the ability to chat with friends online now comes in many forms. Kids can use Instant Messaging, set up private chat rooms using sites like tinychat, chat through their email (Google Chat) and even within social networks like Facebook.
    compilation of chat service logos

There are many different providers of IM services. The most popular are:
*AOL Instant Messenger (download free application & web-based, account is free)
*Google Talk (web-based application built into GMail, account is free)
*Yahoo! Messenger (download free application, account is free)

These applications are fantastic for allowing you to live-chat with others who have accounts with the same providers, but that does not mean you need to keep track of lots of different accounts in all those different places! Programs like, Meebo and Pidgin act like an aggregator (remember that phrase from the RSS lesson?), which allows you to add multiple accounts into one application to chat with anyone in your Buddy Lists! For Mac users out there, accounts can also be added into iChat for free chatting. Here is a great overview of how Instant Messaging works.

Some university professors are using these chat services to create a 'backchannel' and chat allows students to discuss lectures in real-time without actually saying a word in the classroom. I've used Chatzy at conferences before with great success and has served as a record of sorts. Another popular backchannel is Twitter, a micro-blogging site that will be covered in Week 10's lesson.

    Many of these chat clients allow you to type with another person, but screenshot of family using video chatadditionally, now allow you to use video to communicate with others! This has been fabulous for me since all of my family live in different states. I am able to chat with my sister and nieces in AZ as well as my dad in MN and friends in TX - all for free! Many video chatting services are free, but not all. Some companies like Skype have free downloads for the applications, but may have rates applied when using it in substitution for phone service. Oovo is a competitor to Skype.
    Video chatting is relatively new, but catching on quickly. A new site called, Chatroulette is garnering attention for both good news (created by a 17 year old!) and bad (Dangerous Website Parents Must Know About). Video conferencing has been used by businesses, but the market is expanding to the everyday computer user now. Admittedly, it was awkward seeing myself on camera at first, but I got over it. Having a strong relationship with my 4 year-old niece despite only seeing her once a year - is worth it! Do you have family spread around the country or globe? Why not give free video chat a try?

SMS (Text Messaging):
    SMS, stands for Short Messaging Service andblack & white photo of girl texting on iPhone is a service that allows people to send short messages of up to 160 characters via cell phone. There are costs involved and many different plans available from your service provider to both send and receive texts. With around 500 *billion* text messages being sent per year, it is a powerful means of communicating and kids love it! Given the schedules teenagers keep, is it any wonder that they appreciate the convenience, speed and privacy of texting? You don't have to be text-illiterate though. Read up on how teens use mobile phones, texting while driving, and the dreaded phrase, "sexting."


Virtual worlds and online games are abundant, growing, and slowly merging into each other as sites incorporate the social elements of online communication with the activity of playing games. Choose carefully what is approriate for your child's age and your pocketbook!

For younger kids Club Penguin, ToonTown and Webkinz still rule the market for moderated, safe online communities for kids while sites like Teen Second Life, Habbo Hotel and Runescape have the Teen virtual market cornered. XBox and other gamling platforms have taken playing games from one-on-one to global communities! The TeenAngels are an extreme and organized example of how teens are good at self-moderating. If you show them right from wrong, they will often choose right.


With all online communications, please make sure to talk with your child, no matter how old, about online behavior. Review safety precautions with your children, including:
   1. Never give out personal information, such as your real name, age, location, phone number, or school.
   2. Never share your password with anyone except your parents and legal guardians. Someone else might use your password and pretend to be you, or give out your personal information or do something that may get you into trouble.
   3. Tell your parents and legal guardians if someone says or does something on the Internet that makes you uncomfortable, or if someone asks you for personal information.
   4. Choose a username that does not reflect your real identity. Avoid names that are in any way suggestive, even if they seem innocent to you. (Parents, sound like familiar advice?)

Remember parents, you are in charge and can set rules and guidelines with your children's internet use. Read more about Internet Safety:
Chat Room Safety
GetNetWise, Chat
Microsoft Online Safety, Protect Your Family

Communicating through technology has gotten a whole lot more sophisticated, but if you apply the same rules and guildlines online that you would if were sending your child to the mall alone, they will have an enjoyable and safe experience. The advantages for you as a parent are numerous! You can also have real-time communication with your kids! Other than the clicking of the keyboards, chatting and texting are quiet activities that allow your child to feel connected to other people and are is not disruptive to other people. But with those advantages comes the responsibility to show and teach your kids how to navigate this world that is free, open and uncensored. Remember that there is no 100% fool-proof way to shield anyone from offensive or questionable content online, but you can establish an open conversation with your child about what your behavioral expectations are.

Now, finally, we come to...

THING #9 - Use one form of chat or text and write a blog post about it.

Tell us what you think of Instant Messaging; Do you like it? What concerns do you have using a tool like Instant Messaging? Does your child use it? What about the faculty at his/her school? Have you ever used it while performing a transaction shopping online? Try chatting with your child in another room then talk about how it was different. How did you feel about the speed?

If you're nervous and not sure where or who to start with, you can IM the Darien Librarians! You can contact the Knowledge and Learning Services Librarians through the Contact Us page OR you can IM us in the Children's Library on AIM! Our handle is "DeweyDarienKids" and we're happy to talk books, programs or answer any questions you may have! 

Remember that for the duration of your program, you will be recording your experience through your own personal blog. If you haven't sent your link to the Children's Librarians yet, please do so - childrenslibrarians@darienlibrary.org - and we will assign you a mentor! See Week 2 for more information.

Photos by Flickr Users: afsilva, kmakice, BdWayDiva1

Social Bookmarking 2010

Raise your hand if you've ever been frustrated because you can't remember the name of that interesting/useful website and it's only bookmarked on your home computer and you're at work (or vice versa)? 

Well, social bookmarking is here to save the day.  Social bookmarking sites allow you to save webpages you like to one bookmarking website, so you can access them from more than one computer or place.  Convenient! 

What is social bookmarking?  And what can you do with it?

With social bookmarking, you can search your bookmarks from any computer or mobile device just by logging onto your social bookmarking account (different sites are outlined below). 

The "social" aspect refers to the interaction between users of bookmarking sites.  You can label, or "tag", your bookmarks to organize them the way you want, like "Investment Info" or "Cool Games for Kids".  You'll be able to see sites that other people have tagged with the same label, and they can see sites you've bookmarked or tagged*.  This helps you save time by introducing new sites on topics in which you are interested.  

 Diigo:  Bookmarking, highlighting, and notation made easy

Diigo is a website that allows you to collect other websites and information and store them for access from anywhere.  It's compatible with iPhones, iPads, and Droid phones, so you can find (and re-find) what you've saved.  You're can highlight information on a certain page and view your highlights, or notes, even when you visit the page from other computers or web devices!  Pretty cool.

This video shows you how to use Diigo and its tools.

Diigo V5: Collect and Highlight, Then Remember! from diigobuzz on Vimeo.


Which leads us to...

Thing 8:  Create a Diigo account and bookmark 3 websites you like or use frequently

After creating an account, at the upper right corner of the Diigo website, click on Tools to download the Diigo toolbar or Diigolet: 

The Diigo toolbar will display all of the Diigo tools whenever you're signed in to your account.  If you don't want a permanent toolbar, the Diigolet doesn't need to be downloaded, just drag the Diigolet button to the top of the browser window as shown on their page and click it--a temporary toolbar will appear.

If you're feeling ambitious, try highlighting or adding a sticky note to a page.  Play around with the tools Diigo offers, there are no mistakes!

*No one will be able to see your tags unless you'd like to share.  You can adjust your options in "Account Settings" in the drop-down menu under your sign-in name at the top of the page, once you're signed in.  You can also choose not to see other people's notes on pages you visit.


Some other bookmarking sites:


One of the most popular bookmarking sites is Delicious, which is very similar to Diigo.  If you have a Gmail account, Google has Google Bookmarks.  There are also some social bookmarking sites that are "amped up."  On these sites, you can vote for your favorite articles that have been bookmarked by other people that day. Examples of these are Digg, and Reddit.  These are fun to look through if you like to see what people online are talking about right now.  Some of the articles are quirky or about topics you might not necessarily gravitate towards, but that's what makes it so interesting!

On a side note...check out this post for some guidance about starting your own blog from Week 2.

Week 3: Browsing and Searching

We all browse and search the web because that is what the web is for!  This week we are going to focus on different searching features.

Often times, we use the browser that comes with our computer; Internet Explorer for PCs and Safari for Macs.  But there is another browser which has some great features.  I use it a lot.  And that is Mozilla Firefox.  Which brings us to...

Thing 4: downloading Mozilla Firefox onto your computer and playing around with its tabs. 

What is Mozilla?  Mozilla is free, and is open source technology. Click here to download.  One of the best parts about Mozilla is the tabs feature.  You can switch back and forth between multiple websites on the tabs; directions to NYC, a list of museums, a restaurant reservation site.  Planning your day is easy peasy.  Watch this video about how to use tabs

There are also some cool add-ons.  Think of them as apps for your computer!  Some are for personal organization such as Read It Later, for you to save the website for when you have more time. Another add-on you might like to try is KidZui, a search for kids!

Thing 5:  download an add-on feature in Mozilla.  Write on your blog what you thought of the one you chose.  Did it live up to what you thought it would be?


Now...start your search engines!  Thing 6. Do the same search (of any topic you'd like) in Google and Bing

How was the process?  Write your thoughts on your blog:  did you get similar results, or different results?  Also for thing 3, click on Bing's visual search.  How was the same search in visual?  Or, do you think that visual search only coalesces with certain topics?


This week we looked at a browser, which is the application that gets you onto the web (like Firefox or Internet Explorer) and search engines that search the web itself (like Google and Bing.)  As a parent, you can change search engines' settings on the computer that your children use most frequently. Google has SafeSearch Filtering for easy filtering at the browser level.

Try a few searches on kid friendly engines:

  • Yahoo Kids (no results for "breast" but good results for "breast cancer")
  • FactMonster (good relevant results for same search)
  • AskKids (a little inconsistent, good results when misspelled "breas," no relevant results with correct spelling "breast")
  • KidsClick (a site created by librarians, but very tough filter)

What kind of results would you want if your child was doing legitimate research for a school assignment? Protecting younger children from stumbling across questionable content is one issue, allowing your older children to access reliable information for learning about life and health is another.

There are many ways of controlling the access your children have to the Internet and this is an issue that will weave through many of the lessons in this program. See this great article over at CNET for an overview of security options for parents. Kids deserve Intellectual Freedom (pdf), but it is up to us to help them learn to how to find good information and evaluate those resources.The focus of this program is not to teach any one area of technology in depth, but to strengthen your own use and understanding of Web 2.0 so that you may more confidently exercise control at your own comfort level. For more resources on Internet Safety, please see this link for additional resources.

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