Tag Archives: connectivism

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,

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

At the start of this school year, The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe was reaching its pinnacle in terms of media attention and pleas for support.  A parent was involved with “Backpacks for Syria” (similar ideas, with different names have spread all over Canada and the US) and wanted us to ask the children to bring in backpacks/items to donate to refugee children.  Rather than simply write a note to parents with this request, I knew it would be much more powerful when the requests were coming from students’ mouths themselves:

Screen shot from bunkr Slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items to backpacks for Syria

Screen shot from bunkr slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items for Syria

  After a successful haul as a result of our plea, I’ll be honest and say the day to day demands of the classroom, (not to mention Coetail obligations!)  pushed charitable thoughts from my head. Recently, while attending the Learning2 conference in Milan, the idea of students “making a difference” was re-ignited by Warren Apel’s keynote:

 

 

Warren’s talk and subsequent blog post ( Keep it Real: Authentic student publishing can raise money to change the world)  describe the idea much more eloquently than I will here, but I will summarise: It is about moving from the traditional bake sale method of raising money for a cause to harnessing  the power of student’s creativity by publishing and selling their work to an authentic audience.

“Teachers know that students do their best work when they have a real audience. That’s why we have them blog.

“But what if we could publish and sell student work, generate income, and use that money to help people? What if we could use the same real platforms that professionals use to publish and sell their own works?” -Warren asks us to consider a new model:

By publishing and selling student work through a variety of online companies, (Amazon, Google Play, Etsy) students create for a real purpose and audience, and possibly, they can more effectively raise money, and with organisations like Kiva: Loans That Change Lives, they can choose to send their money directly to those in need, and to projects that directly support curriculum, or school initiatives, like environmentalism.

“Instead of collecting dust, we could be collecting momentum.”

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Warren suggests that rather than allow children’s art projects to gather dust in an attic, their enthusiasm and creativity gains momentum, in that they see true purpose and value in their work and contributions. Nothing is more powerful than that.

 

 

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.  Oddly, the folks at learning2 and Coetail think alike…

 

I will focus on the overlapping word, Empower, highlighted in this week’s TedX video resource: “Extracurricular Empowerment” about student empowerment through extra curricular (i.e., self directed) learning projects, like the lead story about a high schooler’s critical, funny and engaging blog about her school’s lunch program.  Her blog ultimately garnered enough attention (some good, some bad…although as the saying goes, “any press is good press”) to force the school to make real changes and improvements to the food.  How empowering for her and ultimately beneficial for those students!  

"Get out of their way and let them be amazing." From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

“Get out of their way and let them be amazing.” From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

 Engagement, Empowerment and Evolution through Collaboration:

Tom Whitby says in his article, The Connected Educator begins with Collaboration:  “The idea of collaboration requires a mindset of believing there is room to learn and grow. It is also a belief that we are smarter collectively than individually.”

I would argue these same qualities that make an educator connected and relevant, are the same qualities that empower both the teacher and his/her students.  

He  and Steven Anderson wrote the book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, and list several qualities of the  Connected Educator.  The 3 that stick out for me:

  • Is a relevant educator, willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So far my email dialogue with fellow Coetailer Amber Dryer and her Tech Coach Andrew Chiu about  course 2’s final project  (A collaborative blog/space to start a discussion about environmentalism where we live) has been about just that: exploring, questioning and advancing ideas.  So far the connections my students have made beyond our classroom have been very empowering for my students.  What we ultimately come up with together, will be greater than what any of us could have come up with alone.

 

  • Views failure as part of the process of learning  

8489654285I love A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s  (FAiL: First attempt in Learning”), and “NO” “Next Opportunity.” Despite feeling frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm over my proposed Photography Collaboration with colleagues from my other campus, I am trying hard not to see it as failure, or their lack of response as a “no,” just that I need to re-examine my approach, and to keep looking for that meaningful “Next Opportunity” to connect and collaborate.  

  • May put creation over content, and relevance over doctrine.

Our Early Years programme, (I have to say nicely complements my general philosophy and approach to teaching) has 4 loose, year long inquiry units and a play based/student interest driven approach.  It really allows much more emphasis and value on the process of (relevant and timely) learning, creating and formative assessment, rather than on product, prescribed content/curriculum and summative assessment.

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

And finally, there were so many great descriptions about the web as a collaborative and empowering place from the lovely little gem of a website, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A unified theory of the web by David Weinberger.  (The website actually serves to advertise the book by the same title, and is itself is a bit outdated, but the ideas presented are so, so relevant.)

“The Web gets its value not from the smoothness of its overall operation but from its abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets.And, most important, the Web is binding not just pages but us human beings in new ways. We are the true “small pieces” of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.”

The kids version of Small Pieces is great, too, and summarises the kind of web we all should aspire to be a part of: 

“So, here we have two worlds. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the

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The Web helps us to become better people, according to Small Pieces Loosely Joined

vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together – they connect – because they care about the same things.

 

The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web – built out of hyperlinks and energized by people’s interests and passions – is a place where we can be better at being people.

And that is what the Web is for.”

Empowering?  I think so.  Now, off to sell Art and save the world, one small piece at a time. 

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.