Monthly Archives: April 2017

My PLN: an on-going labour of love

A post about my community/online engagement of PLN cannot be written strictly from a course 5 perspective.  If I were to focus only on my engagement with my PLN during the narrow time of a few months, it wouldn’t be telling the whole story (This is a link to my post “Networking is High Maintenance” from the beginning of my Coetail journey.)  

Before Coetail, my PLN consisted of those I could reach out and touch: current colleagues–in particular colleagues with whom I worked in close proximity (same building/grade, etc.)  I didn’t use the term PLN, and didn’t really give my professional learning a whole lot of thought once a 3 day workshop or conference was finished.  Since starting my Coetail journey, my greatest learning comes from former colleagues living oceans away, or from people whom I have never actually met.  

Twitter is my new Facebook (now deleted from my phone)–I check it several times a day, almost always finding some nugget of joy/truth/interest.  I often tag colleagues for whom I think the resource might be of interest.  Granted, not every resource share or ‘shout out’ is always followed up on. This is where I try to be careful not to overshare and ultimately overwhelm.

As a result of regular engaging with Twitter I learned of and joined a Global Collaboration project as a result, (#GlobalEdTed).

Tweeting regularly about our time with the bears to the ‘before and after’ teachers (those who had bears before our school–and those who received them after) allowed for a sustained interest in the project– inspiring Skype conversations with one class and our stop motion “Millie gets up to mischief” video prompted the next class to add an element of ‘Millie gets up to mischeif’ of their own for their video.

Twitter (and Coetail) has prompted me to share some of the great things my students and school are doing:

 (click here or below to see my share/reply)  

I have also joined the online community for Seesaw ambassadors using the Google + platform. I’ll admit, I use it mostly for consumption purposes, or asking a question, rather than actively sharing and answering. Maybe it’s just one platform too many.  I did however, use it to find a blogging buddy class for one of the first grade classes at school. Many, many emails later (and on-going) the relationships between the two classes is slowly building.

Some of my best PD has come from a handful of Twitter Chats, as summarised in the following ‘storifiy here’:

Tricia Friedman on Twitter: “@BevansJoel @horofraser You’ve been quoted in my #Storify story “#Learning2’s 1st ever #L2chat!” https://t.co/KIyGdqxyxc

And another Twitter Chat:  A portfolio discussion with Kimberly House here :

These Twitter chats, organised and hosted by the incredible Tricia Friedman, were all intended to get the conversation started early and lead up to my ultimate PLN builder, the Learning 2 conference in Europe, where I attended along with 6 of my school colleagues . My reflections are here, where I describe engaging with this new and expanded PLN at the conference. Sharing my learning in the form of my own teacher led workshop was probably my biggest learning.

The conference reminded me there is definitely something to be said about good ol’ face to face time–existing relationships were solidified and new ones made after extended time with my colleagues from across campuses, in both more ‘academic’ settings as well as social.  Of course, once the conference ends and face to face time opportunities are limited, it doesn’t mean the learning and conversations have to:

Here is an on-going dialogue with a colleague from the high school based on his blog post about a mutual interest: portfolios.

Some of this on-going PLN engagement happened within the ‘confines’ of course 5, some began well before, and most will (hopefully) continue well beyond. This is the power of having an active PLN.  Thank you again Coetail.

Include, Inquire, Inspire

Include, Inquire, Inspire.

The Learning 2 Europe conference hashtag and catchphrase have been running through my mind since it finished two days ago.  The conference may have ended, but the ideas generated and connections made will hopefully last beyond the 3 day event.

A Chance to Play with AppleClips:

I had very high hopes for this year’s conference at ASW in Poland after an unforgettably high energy L2 conference last year in Milan.  Last year’s learning curve was steep—I was not yet in my current role as Ed Tech Coach, and so much of what I learned and took in was brand new (to me).  I attended a wide range of sessions, joined every social opportunity and networked like crazy.  I was in awe of people’s experiences, connections and skills.

This year, as part of my Personal Learning Plan to challenge myself, and to support my final project inquiry into e-portfolios,  I volunteered to lead a teacher workshop on Seesaw.

The conference started with a great session on ePortfolios and documenting learning by Kimberly House.  Now, I have been living and breathing e-portfolios this last year and a half and what was brand new and inspiring last year, was more like review and affirmation this year. It was great to be in the session with my colleagues from the High School and the benefits of the opportunity to hear their perspectives and to develop shared language and understandings cannot be understated.

Image Source: AboutAlbertEinstein.com, flickr

Learning 2 has the fabulous tradition of hosting its ‘extended session leaders’ on the stage over the 3 days to deliver a series of Ted-style key note talks. A-mazing.  One talk was given by a High School student, Nico who explained delved into Einstein’s quote on why ‘imagination is more important than knowledge.’  Josefino Rivera, who specialises in training students to deliver Ted Style talks, insisted we teachers must ‘walk the walk’ we expect of our students. John Mikton convinced me of my moral responsibility to model responsible device use in front of my students and children.

Another great aspect of the Learning 2 conference is the cohorts.  I joined a technology leader cohort (there were 3!) to find like-minded people to learn with and from.  This year, L2 challenged us to come up with cohort hashtags and memes.  At our first session, we discussed the sometimes random and confusing nature of our job titles and tasks.  This resulted in our never-ending ticker tape response to #WhatIDoAllDay, encapsulated in film, and 360 degree camera:

#WhatIDoAllDay #Learning2, Image Credit, Mark Shillitoe

My extended sessions (‘Change Makers’ with Sonya terBord and  Hosting a Ted Ex Club/Event with Josefino Rivera) were thought provoking and informative, although perhaps not as hands on as my sessions last year (physically re-arranging a classroom and learning to program a variety of robots are hard to beat in terms of immediate, hands-on learning.) I don’t think I walked away with as many new tools or skills or ‘I’m gonna do this Monday” kind of thing as I did last year.  Although I do plan on using this animation lesson using TED ed: lessons worth sharing one of these Mondays (I host a Digital Design After School club on Monday.)

Another fabulous aspect of L2 are the unconferences—random meetings of like minds interested in discussing what is immediately relevant and of interest. My first unconference I joined the Maker Space in the library and ‘hacked’ my conference badge by figuring out how to complete a circuit in order to light up an LED. The next day I discussed the addictiveness of the new Serial produced podcast series, ‘S town’  (I half wrote this post and half listened to the podcast on my journey home) and compared and contrasted our respective school’s tech integration model with someone sitting next to me on the couch. Fabulous.

I think ultimately my biggest learning was leading my own workshop on Seesaw. Public speaking/presenting is the single most dreadful experience in my #firstworldproblem kind of existence. I’m terrified of it-but this terror was what made me skip lunch, lose sleep and work extra hard to make sure I knew my s—.  My session had a great turnout and people had great questions and I actually knew the answer to most of them.  Many were self-proclaimed ‘converts’ after my session.  My Seesaw ambassadorship and Coetail forced me out of my comfort zone and insisted that I give back and share.

One of my main conference take-aways, however was actually not from any of the sessions/unconferences/workshops or speeches, but simply the connections made (and hopefully maintained and kept…) Madeline Brookes’ #BaconNumber talk alludes to the power of connections.

There is so much value that comes from the opportunity, time and space to connect with colleagues from around the around the world (and from my own school!) The power of meeting your teaching idols is great, but one can’t beat those conversations with emotional impact on the path to ‘finding your tribe.’

Finding your tribe: It’s not about who jumps highest… Image Credit: tpsdave, Pixabay, CCO public domain,

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Taking a slight break from my focus on ePortfolios & course 5 project (not really–I was just earlier going over my workshop for Learning 2 in Warsaw next week), I thought I’d throw together a few things I’ve been working on/thinking about over the last few months.

Wondering how to incorporate AR into the classroom:

My 3 year old twins as my test subjects:

Animal Alphabet and Augmented Reality

Clearly loving the special effects

I’m still not sure how effective this is at learning the alphabet.  It’s definitely cute and fun.  It entertained us for an hour or so. I’m still looking for ideas and inspiration in this area…

What do you do when you are asked to introduce Minecraft and you are completely clueless?  Find some experts!

Second Grade Minecraft Experts Introducing Game to First Graders

A teacher wanted to use Minecraft as part of a unit of inquiry into homes–how/where/why they are built the way the are.  Having never played before, I looked up some basic guidelines, watched a few youtube videos and played around.  No way was I going to catch up to the expert level that even some of the kids in the class were likely to be at.  Time to call in the experts: second graders!  They made a simple Google Slide presentation and shared their knowledge with the first graders.

Shared iPads, team work.

Here is a link to a pair’s final Minecraft Homes project .  The students were incredibly proud, it prompted students to share and reflect on their process to Seesaw and to open the blog option in order to share their project and learning globally.

I’ve been playing around with the ‘new’ Google Sites and quite love it.  Mind you, I didn’t really use the classic version– it wasn’t nearly so intuitive.  I struggled with formatting and saving things and mangled my way through it when writing the online Google Certification test earlier this year- (pretty much the only time I’d used it) but the newer version is all one could ask for: simple to use,  all Google apps are easily accessible/importable within the sidebar, and formatting is a relative breeze.

Here’s a sample of my efforts:

Tech in the Early Years Google Site

I have no immediate plans to share this–perhaps with like minded colleagues at next week’s conference? I’m lying in bed and motivated to continue to tinker with it, rather than sleep.  I do feel that the easier a platform is to use, the more likely people will use it.

Platform Blues

I am seeing (and hearing) this mantra firsthand form my colleagues.  Back to portfolios for a minute, lower elementary teachers (EY-Grade 2) use Seesaw, with its super easy interface, large simple buttons, easy uploads, no HTML, no fuss with public vs private…and love it. While Upper Elementary teachers are using Blogger and are having a significantly harder time with it (grade 3-5).

Blogger and (no offence) Word Press don’t motivate me/teachers, and the students in the same sense.  Yes, these are blogging platforms and encourage wordiness and reflection–Seesaw and Google Sites are more meant for images and multi media, I suppose.

After Course 3–I very much lean towards a simple,  visual style— you can get your message across much more quickly and effectively with an image/video and a short caption (rather than a long winded blog post that is not-so-motivating to read, let alone write.)

And on that note…