Category Archives: PLN

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,

Final Project, Course 4: An ePortfolio Proposal

I’ve done a lot of inward and outward groaning this past week trying to grapple with my final course 4 project–and ostensibly my course 5 project.  ‘Why did I do such ambitious final projects in the earlier courses?’ I’ve moaned. ‘Now I need to top/go above and beyond what I did earlier…the project needs to be bigger, better…’ etc.

I’ve looked at several course 5 final project videos and descriptions, trying to get a handle on some that fit within my role as Ed Tech Facilitator/Coach for Early Primary and Early Years Teachers.  

I’ve lamented that now being out of the classroom, I have less control and can’t actually implement a redesigned unit plan, without at least first convincing a class teacher–or even more problematic/challenging–but potentially transformative– an entire grade level, as my school tends to strive for consistency across grade levels.

Even if I do manage to convince them of some great re-designed tech infused unit plan, I will be challenged to be available to document all the wonderfulness. Most teachers receive tech my integration ideas well, but they tend to be ‘one-off’ ideas, and aren’t looking to completely revamp an entire unit.  Some ideas, like using a few select apps to tell stories/communicate/reflect on learning (Spark Video or Book Creator) have certainly gained a lot of mileage with teachers, but I don’t (quite) see their implementation as a final project idea.

One area that I and most teachers have focussed on a great deal this year is the effective implementation and use of Digital Portfolios to highlight student learning.  I am thinking that this is the topic/project that I want to use as my final project.  I am just not sure how yet.  

I was initially reluctant to choose this as a topic, since two other Coetailers at my school have just both recently finished their own projects on the topic and I wondered how I could approach my own project from a different angle.  (I haven’t yet see either’s project’s in their entirety–just pieces, and I actually don’t even know their “angles.”)  In any case, their projects are about their own understanding and context–not mine.  

Looking back on the Seesaw Implementation Plan, a Google Doc about my school’s chosen e portfolio platform, Seesaw, created by my wonderful predecessor, I note that after January (January’s goal: possible introduction of the blog feature, or looking into quadblogging) the implementation plan is blank.  Obviously it is left up to me to drive the direction and next steps of the plan.

 

The more I think about it, figuring out how/when to best document and share student learning –and using this process as formative assessment both of/for and as learning has ultimately been and continues to be the bulk of my job.   Documenting my own, others and the students understanding of the process of (digitally) documenting learning and pushing both the understanding and the process of documentation itself to its highest potential will be my project.

Reaching the Highest Potential. Unsplash: No attribution required.

  1. Describe the project: What will your students do?

*I will include teachers as “students” throughout my project–as I work more directly with teachers and other staff than with particular groups of students.

The on-going examination and documentation of my school’s eportfolio story:  how to best share student learning–using our existing platforms–Seesaw for lower primary, blogger for upper primary (and Schoology as an SMS).  

Students and teachers will develop and practice their digital citizenship skills by actively seeking the feedback of and engaging with an authentic audience (students, parents, school community members and ideally, people beyond our walls).

Encourage teachers (ideally one rep per grade level at a minimum) to begin to use additional platforms more effectively by developing an online PLN to learn and share beyond our walls.  

  1. How does this project reflect your learning from COETAIL?

Coetail has taught me the importance of establishing a positive digital footprint by being more thoughtful and skilful in what we chose to share with the world, that developing key digital citizenship skills are paramount to success now and in the future.   I have experienced first hand the benefits of seeking, developing and engaging with an online PLN–which lead to the exposure to new ideas and connections and to see the value in sharing–that sharing is in fact our moral imperative.  

Through the act of blogging, I have become more reflective about my own learning and teaching practice.  The more we understand the significance of and engage with an authentic audience, the more careful and thoughtful we become about the learning we are sharing.  I hope to take students and teachers through a similar reflective journey via their portfolio platforms.

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve with this project?

My Project Goals:

  1. Teachers will improve in their ability to document a wide variety of student learning and will use this documentation more meaningfully in the classroom to enhance student learning.  Reluctant ‘posters’ (to Seesaw) will post more often. Frequent posters will post more reflectively.  Reflective posters will include more range in the technologies they use to document the learning.

2. I hope to use the blog feature of Seesaw in some of the classes/grades and to promote its use as a collaborative learning and reflection tool for students.  

3. I would like for the  younger students I work with to also use both the digital portfolio (and/or blog feature) more independently and reflectively.  

4. I hope to encourage more teachers to join Twitter, (or other online learning communities: e.g., Facebook groups or Google +) and for those that are currently using the platform, to use it more interactively & proactively by sharing examples of student learning.

Making those PLN Connections

  1. Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

The digital documentation and curation of student learning is now a school wide goal and expectation.  Many teachers are new to the process and are looking for guidance.  Speaking from an early primary perspective, I can say that so far this learning journey for (most) teachers has been embraced enthusiastically.  But, many need new ideas, strategies and assistance in this process.  It continues to be a big focus for many teachers and most young students are just beginning to develop their own understanding of the process and its benefits.  Students will need additional and continued guidance, too, in order to be more reflective about their learning and autonomous when sharing/posting their learning.

  1. What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

(Not really a unit re-design, but more a thinking about teaching and learning and documenting re-design: this year my school has moved away from Paper portfolios, but some still cling to old ways and ideas, and making this an effective transition and an actual pedagogical shift takes time and constant inspiration.)

One thing I really do want to push/introduce/explore, according to the Seesaw implementation plan, is the blog option and helping classes connect with other classes–whether that be simply within our own school, or globally.   That  being said, many are not (yet) willing to branch beyond our chosen platform of Seesaw (for lower primary) or Blogger (for upper primary) in order to share learning more publicly via local/global collaborations using (public) blogs, or making/sharing learning more publicly (via Twitter, Google +, etc.)  Many feel that this year they have had to learn one too many new digital platforms (and they have–new student management systems, reporting systems, parent conference systems, etc.) and that picking up and maintaining yet another is just too much.  A few teachers have Twitter accounts, but most tend to use them for consumption purposes.  An even smaller number of teachers have started their own blogs to document their professional learning.  

This other aspect of pushing the digital platform to its highest potential–the making Learning Visible–i.e., public, is a big ask, and many teachers don’t (yet) see its value vs risk/extra work.   I hope to encourage more teachers to branch out of their comfort zone (which is typically private, what happens in the classroom, stays in the classroom, except for sharing with parents)  and expand their learning in the form of public sharing of both student and teacher learning and developing (and understanding the value of) an expanded PLN.  I’m not sure if this is actually a second idea, and worthy of another project entirely, but it is also something I hope to pursue.

  1. What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

I hope to learn how to maximise teacher and student learning using Seesaw by becoming  a Seesaw ambassador. I am hopefully accepted into this program, which will not only get a me a cool badge to put next to my name–but ultimately complement other course 5 goals–which are participating more fully in my own PLN in order to promote its effectiveness with teachers, and of course directly benefit teachers and students I work with by learning more about Seesaw’s possibilities via webinars and twitter chats and determining how to best share/relay/implement this information, as part of being an ambassador. So far, I have dabbled/lurked in webinars and Twitter chats, but I would like to further develop my own confidence when using these learning tools, and promoting their use with my staff.

Since I ultimately work most often with teachers rather than students, these aren’t technically shifts in pedagogy, but I will be looking at different ways of spreading information and improving my oral and visual communication skills and ability to influence teacher practice.

  1. What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Teachers (and eventually students) will be more frequent/thoughtful/creative posters of student learning in Seesaw.

Teachers will (begin to use or) improve their use of social media/other digital communication platforms to share best practices and share student learning.
(Again, I am not entirely sure if these 2 areas of exploration are one in the same or if they are indeed two separate goals and ideas worthy of further exploration, but this is my thinking so far…and this being the first day of my well deserved Christmas break, I think I will leave it at that.  I am sure, with time away from the daily grind, this will encourage further reflection and I will continue to develop my project ideas.

Unsplash: No Attribution required. Happy Holidays!

Tuned In, but Tapped Out

Definitely having trouble with this last post.  Not because I haven’t been reflecting and giving a ton of thought, time and electronic back and forth with my Course 2 Final Project Collaborators…but because of it.  I’m all tapped out.

the-village-well-587867_640

Tapped out. Image from Pixabay (Attribution Free)

This course I have not spent as much time keeping up with the weekly readings and ensuring I make lots of comments on fellow Coetailers blogs as I promised I would (Networking is High Maintenance, and you get out what you put in…So, I am going to  step up my game in the karmic commenting department myself.” ).  One of the main reasons for this lack of commenting is simply because all the collaborating that I also promised I would do is so time consuming!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 14.31.34

First unsuccessful attempt

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Second attempt (mixed results…)

There's a bite!

There’s a bite!

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Collaboration? Helping a colleague on another campus and learning something in the process? Check!

 

Some attempts this year at collaboration have panned out well: fellow Coetailers are highly motivated to collaborate as part of this final project, but they also accept and embrace the collaborative mindset.  (I notice my fellow collaborator Amber Dryer already uses Skype in her classroom as a tool to connect to and learn from the outside world. Both Amber and another collaborator, Linda Grunwald regularly tweet about current events coming out of their classrooms.) Coming up with a truly successful collaborative project, where all parties see the true purpose, are equal contributors, and feel the collaboration “supports and complements” what is happening in each classroom, is more challenging.  

 

Amber has involved her tech coach, Andrew Chiu in our process, who kindly offered to set up our shared blog, Little Idea Swap.  Lengthy email discussions about purpose and logistics of students groupings began in earnest.  Andrew, keen to involve others, invited more schools to our idea swap.  

 

So far, the idea swap has consisted of Amber’s and my students making brief video introductions and sharing what we like to play at recess.  When I shared Amber’s anecdote that children in Hong Kong play on the rooftops (due to limited space in the city for playgrounds), my 4 & 5 year old students couldn’t move past the (to them) dangerousness of this situation.  See their funny video response here.

"Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know." -Gabi, 4 years old

“Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know.”
-Gabi, 4 years old (Attribution free) Image from Pixabay

As our project is in its infancy and we have yet to hear from some of the schools, it is difficult to judge its success or effectiveness. I myself am a bit hesitant at so many schools being involved, and even keeping track of the two that we will ultimately communicate with can be daunting…especially when I want to ensure it is much of a relevant learning opportunity for them as it has been for me!

 

Certain things that one takes for granted when working with older students, one has to stop, consider and do a lot front loading with younger ones.  Telling my students we have friends in China really means nothing to them–hanging a map and putting pins where our collaborators live (de)evolves into a huge side tangent inquiry into where we all live/are from (because of course each of my 7 students come from somewhere different, and they haven’t seen where they come from in relation to each other represented on a map before.)  

Learning about maps...Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

Learning about maps…Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

This of course gets into a discussion about the symbolic representation of land, space and distance on the map in the first place.  As adults we are used to this abstract representation of political boundaries, but to a 4 year old it really doesn’t do justice to just how far away our buddies in China actually are, or what a miracle it is in the first place that we are communicating with them so easily.  

 

Other attempts at collaboration with colleagues from my school (different campus) have not fared so well.  The few posts on our Collaborative Padlet that children from our other campus posted didn’t happen until I physically went there (on a job shadowing morning with our current tech coach) and worked directly with the children…Disheartening, but I have recently had interest from another teacher in China (see tweet above) who will join us, and we will begin our “Look Closer” photography collaboration next week.  

 

This kindness from strangers reminded me of the many words of advice I received from Learning2 Colleagues for my role next year:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 15.38.25

Thanks Learning2 community!

These challenges don’t dissuade me at all, but make me realise that ensuring a global/local collaboration is meaningful and purposeful (in the way we intend) for everyone is no easy feat. So far my students and I have learned tons–just not (yet) what I had assumed we would.  But, I have been looking at “failure” in a new way…as an opportunity to find growth…to identify ways to see failure as a learning opportunity…and to create and tell myself new stories about my own learning.  

Here is the final project for Course 2:

Networking is High Maintenance

@horofraser thanks for joining our discussion so actively and great ideas! #aisrpl #aisrthinktank #thinktankchat

A year ago I might not have known what the above comment meant.  First of all, I would not have understood the symbolism. I suppose I still don’t really understand why # is used, really, but I know to use it to search topics or chats in Twitter.

Secondly, I wouldn’t have believed that the above comment would be describing me–typically quiet during a group discussion–being actively engaged and opinionated.  This comment was tweeted to me during a scheduled twitter chat that I happened upon during my Planning Time earlier this week.

Meant to be working on my COETAIL assignment for week 2, I initially felt guilty for getting easily sidetracked by random Twitter posts on gender.  I am a self-proclaimed feminist, and my husband will claim I tend to gravitate towards bias-supporting articles.  Yet, I was intrigued by the rather neutral title, Gender Gap in Education Cuts Both Ways.

After reading the article and chat questions, but before committing to actually participating, I checked over this week’s topic and assignment.   The Networking topic and loose reflection assignment about our changing thoughts brought me to the realisation that this was exactly the kind of thing we were meant to be doing!  This is the networking in the form of active online participation that is so powerful that I am meant to be reflecting on (and therefore blogging about). 

The public nature and digital representations of these relationships require a fair degree of maintenance.

Although this sentence comes straight from the article Living with New Media and actually refers to teens using social media to publicly manage and curate relationship tidbits, I thought it also applies to the development of an active and engaging online PLN.  I am more recently aware that in order to really learn, it takes more than simply connecting digitally.  Learning digitally (and publicly)  is effort and maintenance.  

So, I have been rather consciously proactive on Twitter activity this week, and I noticed that Andrew Grover, a fellow online 6 Coetailer had posted a visual map about learning communities.

Coetailer Andrew Grover's PLN Tweet

Coetailer Andrew Grover’s PLN Tweet

After hinting to him that I may very well borrow this fabulous idea, and reflecting that it nicely complemented my exploration of what modern day networking is all about,  I set about the task of creating my own mind map of my current Personal Learning Network.

Having earlier tinkered with Popplet  after an In-service session at my school, I decided that would be the tool I would use to map out my network.  Andrew’s original had created additional links, showing his University ties, but I decided I would only use current, or developing links, not severed links to the past…which sadly, is how I think of my university and early teacher training and professional development courses.  Quickly, I came up with this:

  (*Can’t seem to add a proper caption to  my “Work in progress PLN” above without the formatting going all wonky…so this note will have to do.)

Looking at the “finished” product, I realise I could have continued to branch out and be even more specific: listing specific twitter hashtags or google groups. I could have listed blogs I follow or podcasts I listen to, but as these lists are growing and my time this week is not, I decided to save those for later and anticipate revisiting this map in the future, as I am curious to see how it evolves.  

I want someone in my PLN who is going to give me constructive criticism and also accept it….I want someone who wants to learn, listen, and consistently share. I want someone who provokes my thinking. What I don’t want in my PLN is someone who is going to blindly re-tweet something I post.  -Andrew Marcinek

After reading “Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect”  a blog post by Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia, I still feel I am my tweeting early years, and while I post the occasional blind re-tweet (with the full intention of referring to re-tweeted article when the more pressing need or interest arises)  I also feel I have already come a long way in making sure to learn, listen and consistently share, both on and offline.