Final Reflection for EdTech 543

Wow, I can’t believe that I am finishing up this final post for the course. There are lots of things I have been thinking about and I hope that I can touch on a few of them here. Reflection to me is a very personal thing. Reflection is part of the path to understanding – something which I differentiate from knowledge or skills. If you acquire knowledge, develop and practice skills, add in time and genuine reflection, then maybe . . . just maybe you have understanding. That is how I see it anyway.

I need to set a little context before I can go into more detail. I have been teaching for 16 years, my parents are teachers, my sister is a teacher, my wife is a teacher. Education is an important part of my life. It is not and has never been just a job. I’m not trying to sound pious, it is just that this course has had a profound effect on the way that I think about things and for me to say that means a lot. Last year I went to hear Will Richardson talk and he was inspiring. He relit a fire that had been smoldering in me and to cut a long story short it resulted in me signing up to do my M.E.T.  I stepped down from my leadership role at school – going from Head of the Upper Elementary to class teacher so that I would have time to study, be a dad, be a husband and an effective teacher. I was daunted at first, I had not studied at this level since I completed my teaching qualification. Things are working out ok though.

Times are changing in education. Social media and the tools available today to educational professionals are beyond anything we could imagine 15 years ago. If we embrace them and use them then we really can change the status quo. What I have learned in this course is huge. I have new knowledge on a variety of topics, I have new skills in a wide range of online tools which are impacting my pupils as I use them in class. Glogster, Edmodo, Kidblog – all being used by my pupils now. Directly as a result of what I have learned on this course. But more importantly I think I have come to some real understanding on a few key things.

Social media is not going away. It might change form but humans are social creatures and the easier it is to connect the more we do it. Social media in education has the possibility to achieve very powerful things – it can bring people together and connect them. Maybe teachers, maybe pupils – those of different faiths, religions, ideologies, background and cultures can come together. Not easy but the only way change happens is if people worth together. This course has helped me to understand that I should not look to blame when things don’t work out for me but look for someone to help. E.M. Forster wrote about the theme of connecting in his book, ‘A Room with a View’. I read it in High School and it has stuck with me for 20 years -‘only connect.’

Connecting as a professional educator is easier, quicker and more manageable than it has ever been. I have learned about how to do it safely and effectively and have begun to know how to teach my pupils about it. I have enjoyed my course. It has been hard at times – real life goes on in the background, but I am proud of my efforts. I have blogged with my heart on my sleeve and tried to be critical of my performance and honest about my learning. I am not sure how much has been read by anyone else. . . but that almost doesn’t matter. There was a cathartic effect to writing and blogging. So what next?

I will keep blogging, tweeting, and finding webinars. I will strive to encourage my colleagues to do the same. I will connect with others and expand my PLN. I will continue to curate and share. If it was a poker game. . . I’m all in.

I have connected with some of the people on the course. I am confident Matt and I will be friends for a long time to come. We have learned together. Thanks to all of you who have shared, read and commented and I wish you all the best going forward. I have a lot of learning to do but this was a great start.

Grading myself on my blog performance: Hmmm not easy. Someone told me once that the definition of a good teacher was someone who was constantly dissatisfied with their own performance. It stuck. I have written and reflected to the best of my ability, listening to myself and others and being honest with my thoughts so  I would give myself 74.5. Not perfect but it rounds up to 75.

Thanks Andrew

Real-time Professional Development

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on professional development for my EdTech 543 class. I have been using Twitter to participate in different #chats and also participating in different webinars. The experience has been rewarding and enriching but not without its frustrations. What is clear to me is that by taking charge of my own profesional development, I feel empowered and know that I am driving my own learning in the areas where I am passionate. The downside is that there is no guarantee that the quality of the experience will be good.

The Twitter chats have been amazing. I returned twice in subsequent weeks to the same chat for new teachers #ntchat which is a great place to pass on knowledge to young teachers and to learn from them as well. The ‘feeling’ in the chat was welcoming and supportive and I followed a number of participants on both occasions. I was able to share advice on a  number of issues including good practice for parent conferences. Listening to other educators share their experiences in real time only helped to give me more ideas.

I also participated in the Connected Educator chat (#CE14) with Arnie Duncan which was a very different experience. The pace was fast and relentless and I wish I had known some of the tips I learned from Alice Keeler in a webinar later in the week. It was rewarding to join in with a wider range of educators and it was enjoyable when participants  retweeted or favorited a tweet – it give me a sense of validation – equal to anything I have experienced in face to face training.

The final chat which I took part in was #satchat which was another great experience. Lying in bed at 7.30 on a Saturday morning sharing learning experiences from my phone . . . not something that I could imagine myself doing just 12 months ago. We discussed game changers in education – which I took a little issue with semantically because  I’ve never seen education as a ‘game’. That aside lots of teachers sharing their favorite tools to use in class.

The webinars were more of a mixed bag. What I learned was just like any PD course or conference, there is often no way to know what quality to expect until you begin. I think as I become more experienced I will learn to source webinars from more ‘trustworthy’ sources. The first webinar was boring, dry and not engaging to me as a listener. I forced myself to sit through the presentation but did not ask questions. A learning curve. The second and third webinars were wonderful.

The second was a fast paced webinar on how to use Thinglink with google docs. Very useful and interesting and I listened attentively. My main contribution was to find out if there would be a recording to go back over the content. There was a chat box running throughout the webinar and I contributed by helping a number of people with questions as the session progressed. I forgot to take a screenshot of my contributions!

The third webinar was on how to use Twitter with Alice Keeler. She was fantastic and the hour sped by. I picked up a number of tips for how to use it and how to best use Tweetdeck for face paced conversations. There were a number of BSU students in the webinar and I am confident that they found it useful too.

The fourth and Final webinar too place today, hence my lateness in posting this blog. I wanted to wait and participate in a webinar which was linked to a hot topic in our school. I was scheduled to take part in one yesterday but decided that the content was not appropriate to my learning at the moment. Instead, I took part in an Education Week webinar on the future of Assessment from K-12 which was both enlightening and challenging. It made me feel confident that I am on the right track with assessment in my class – making assessments learning and engaging topics and making the most of formative assessment and quality feedback.

The result of this activity has been to open my eyes to how much is out there. I have already planned how to share this with staff in our school – cascading my learning.

Sometimes my questions were not answered – and I forgot to take screen shots because I was engaged in the learning. Next time I am going to use Voila to record the sessions myself to have my own copy. I have also realized that if the content is not what I expect or the quality is not up to my expectations, then I can just leave – unlike a real face to face where I would never walk out!

A great few weeks which has really impacted my learning. I have put together a google slideshow with annotated screenshots to act as evidence of my participation in the webinars and twitter chats.

Evidence of participation

Thanks  – as always comments welcome. 😉

Digital Curation

Digital curation was something that I had never even heard of until a few weeks ago. Now I have a great collection of resources that will hopefully benefit me and others who are interested in the same topic. Our assignment was to learn about digital curation and then explore and find a tool to use to curate a topic. The first week of the assignment we worked in mini-PLN’s to read up on the subject and create a list of criteria which we would use in the second part of the assignment to assess our peers’ curated topics.

It all sounded very confusing and then. . .  as I read on . . . the light came on and I got it. I chose to curate resources on the flipped classroom for beginners because I want to experiment with it in my own context. I set about curating the topic using scoop.it. I really enjoyed the process of reading through resources and watching videos in order to build up a collection. It is mildly addictive and the site made it easy to do. As a beginner, my comments and insight are still pretty basic and don’t include a lot of synthesis but I hope that will develop with time.

To finish the assignment each of us in the group read and analyzed each others’ resources using the criteria which we had created the previous week. All in all a successful module. I gained new knowledge, began to develop new skills and enjoyed the activity and experience. A well constructed activity which has once again impacted my day to day teaching.

Fantastic. My collection on the flipped classroom can be found here: http://www.scoop.it/t/flippinglesson

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