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

Social Media as an Instructional Tool

Social Media in the Elementary classroom
Social Media in the Elementary classroom

This week I have been investigating how teachers are using different social media in elementary classrooms. What I found out was  practical, useful and I can say with a high degree of certainty that it will find its way into my classroom. After reading the activity through, I decided to focus my search on 4 tools which I already new about but had very limited experience with. There are many many tools out there but I wanted my research to have focus and a point. I knew that I could get sidetracked reading about new things for hours. I already wanted to use these tools but had not got round to it. To a certain extent I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Research without a practical purpose is just . . . looking.

I chose, Skype, Kidblog, Edmodo and Twitter and found some wonderful teachers who are using these tools in a variety of ways. I chose to use Scoop.it to curate the articles and I have included a link at the bottom of the page to my curated articles. I didn’t use the built in search tools, I spent hours just searching for examples – I wanted the search to be more organic and to come from me. I was a little overwhelmed at first trying to find the right kind of reflective pieces but as I read more and more, I found some excellent pieces – mostly educators blogging about their experiences.

There were several key themes that kept coming up and that all the educators embraced in some explicit or implicit way. Firstly, the purpose of using these tools is clearly linked to learning – not just doing. All the educators spoke about connectivity and real-world preparedness. Educators are using these tools to help their pupils to connect with others, communicate more effectively and reflect upon the experience. The second clear theme was that these tools are not hard to use with any age of pupil. With a little planning, thoughtfulness and collaboration they can be adapted to work with pupils in any grade level.

I learned so many practical tips that I will have to revisit the sites numerous times to make sure I have it all down. I have set some goals for myself. Conduct a Mystery Skype as soon as possible, embrace Kidblog as a place for pupils to build portfolios and love writing, open an Edmodo account and change my attitude towards Twitter. I will now see it as a tool for all of us in my class, not just a tool for me.

Classes are social places – I firmly believe one of the most important things we do in schools is to help children learn to socialize and interact with others. The world that my current 5th graders live in is very different that mine was 30 years ago. I owe it to them to help them connect and understand that world and social media must play a part in that process. It will play a part in their lives. As I teach younger pupils, obviously care needs to be taken with how these tools are introduced and used. But that applies to all that I do as a teacher so it is not a barrier to success simply something to embrace. Look out for @Quitoclass coming soon (our class is called Quito).

Thanks Andrew

http://www.scoop.it/t/social-media-in-the-elementary-school

MY PLE Diagram – The PLE KITCHEN

For the final part of our assignment this week we had to create an original image which represented our concept and idea of a PLE. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted my image to be. I am quite a visual person so I wanted it to look good but spent too long playing with Photoshop. I even went to the IT department and borrowed a Bamboo drawing tablet and pen so I could create an original drawing. As usual, I was off on the wrong track. If I could only remember my wife’s advice that I am always wrong, then I would regularly dismiss my first idea and go straight to plan B.

Anyway, I realized the art was not as important as the metaphor so I listed the things I wanted the image to say. They were in no particular order:

  • My PLE is unique and dynamic
  • It will be different each time I access or use it
  • Even if someone else create the same PLE it would be different
  • I have to be a creator
  • There has to be a change for learning to take place
  • The end result (my learning) is created from a mixture of what different inputs I have.

Just by listing those things, it came to me. My PLE is a recipe. I use ingredients and select, decide, choose, add, adjust, taste and create something for myself or others. The subtlety is mine, the final flavor might be different from what I expect and if done correctly I feel satisfied. Yup. My PLE is Pie, Soup and Casserole.

I have created this image to reflect that. The PLE Kitchen. I used Glogster which is limited but did the job. I hope it makes sense to you all. It does to me.

As always feedback is much appreciated. Thanks

Andrew

Link to original Glogster diagram. The PLE Kitchen

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 2.33.04 PM

 

Addition.

After posting this, I spent some time reviewing and commenting on my peers’ images in our Facebook group. A couple of thoughts jumped into my mind in terms of comparing their images to my own. Firstly, all of the images I reviewed involved the use of icons to represent different sources, combined with a different and personal interpretation of how each person processed and made sense of them. To that end, mine is very similar.

Where mine differs from some, is that my image is quite linear. Input, process, output which is different from a few who had chosen the circle concept to represent their processing. Matt’s was similar to mine in that respect. All of the images I looked at had thought and refection evident in both the concept and the execution. I went for a metaphor to deliver my message which again was different from most images. It is just my own style – I learn from analogies and comparisons. What was evident was the caliber of my peers on the course. Everyone had put in effort and thought to their images and while many of us took a similar approach I got something out of each image I reviewed. Thanks to everyone.

Online Learning Communities – Finding a heartbeat

I have learned another good lesson this week. For a community to be valuable it has to have heart. It might seem obvious but online committees are just like real world communities; they grow, develop, thrive and then often die away as different factors move the members on. Like a city, what is left can be stronger than what existed before but can also be full of empty spaces. Look at Detroit. The communities that are left are strong but small. The devastation and ruins are everywhere.

I think that online communities are exactly the same but these events happen in double-time. The big difference is that the internet doesn’t really rot away. Everything is just left – it doesn’t purge itself. Maybe it is easier to disconnect from an online community because the community is virtual. There is less of an emotional connection because it is not grounded in real-time human interactions. Certainly that is something I have thought about as I have gone through this week’s activity.

In looking for communities to join, I found many places where comments were old, replies were few and nobody was really using the community. Everyone bar a few seemed to have moved on. I wanted to join networks which I could add to and which would add to me as a professional so I had to dig.

I eventually realized that the responsibility was mine. I had to engage, look around, meet a local and if it didn’t fit, or was a ghost town then move on. And so I did.

I have been a member of LinkedIn for a while now but had not joined any communities. I did so this week and found a good dialogue taking place. A teacher asking for advice had replies about an issue and a number of people jumped in with good advice. There was a connection. I joined the Teacher’s lounge and an E-learning group.

I joined several different groups on Google+ and enjoyed just reading. Easy to be a lurker and consumer. I added a few comments in the edtech group and will go back again this week. There were some groups which were more active than others but there was a beating heart which was good.

I joined eweb.net which has a huge amount of communities. I joined a few – non edtech ones as well as tech focused ones. My participation was limited but involved gaming and coding for elementary pupils. I’m not sure how frequently others will respond.

I also joined the Flipped Learning Network where I found a lot of information but I’m not sure there is a lot of activity. My posts are still on the front page as most recent and it has been a couple of days. I feel like Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn might be where I focus most of my time. Scoop.it is also a tool that I am using to source information. I want to be careful and ensure that I have quality not quantity experiences.

As with my last post, I have created a google slideshow with screenshots of my different contributions to sites.

My final thoughts are this: All communities are organic. They start small, grow, but often die away or morph into something else. I need to make sure that in order to get the best from my online communities, they are a good fit for me, have a pulse and that I become a creator not just a lurker.

Here is a link to some screenshots of my participation.

Thanks

Andrew

Digital Footprints and my Management Plan

Unlike the footprints we leave on the sand – our digital footprints last. They are so much more permanent and it is my responsibility to investigate, evaluate and then create the footprints which I leave behind. As an elementary teacher I have always been aware of the impact that I have on those students around me and so sensitive to what I say and do in public and private. When I began teaching the internet was far less wide reaching that it is now and far fewer people were connected. With the explosion in connectivity and the digital environment in which I live, I now need to take control of the footprints which I leave.

I had already started to think about how I should ‘brand’ myself and how well maintained my main social media feeds were, but through this assignment I learned that there is so much more to do. I should not just be managing but taking ownership of the way I am represented in the digital world. There are opportunities to share, connect and really establish my identity as well as clear steps that I should be taking to  limit any negative or misplaced information. This is important to me as a person – as a father as well as a professional. The internet has changed the way we live and so I must change the way I manage my online presence.

I thought that I wanted to use new media again with this assignment and so decided that I would create an infographic style image with Venngage and then add my words and comments in Thinglink. The reason was, that I wanted it to be something that I would look at time and time again so that I would use it. A plan is just a list of words unless it is used.

Below is a link to both my thing link document and my references in google docs which I could not seem to attach to the image. Help happily accepted if you have any ideas.

Looking forward to your comments.

Andrew

http://www.thinglink.com/scene/573237142604480513

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HPjoQkQq-5QPm8b2fr9-f-NWsyifdcAtqwVd-0_D5s8/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

Twitter as a source of Professional Development

I was really happy when I saw this module because I can say with hand on heart that the experiences I have had in just over a year of using Twitter have been transformational. Put simply, I am a better professional and teacher as a result of the things I have learned. If I can digress and put things into context a little. . .

Last year at this time I went to a PD day to listen to Will Richardson speak. He was inspirational in so many ways – especially with relation to social media. If you have never heard of him, and you are taking 543 you should look him up. Prior to that day, I had avoided Twitter with a venom. I assumed it was the haunt of those who could stand the Kardashians and other vacuous celebs. Watching TV journalism descend into, ‘who can read the most tweets’ was killing me!” So I stayed away. Big mistake – ignorance was not bliss.

I teach in an International school with pupils of over 60+ heritages. We use the UK and International curricula and we are connected with 20+ schools around the world who are in our group. We need to connect but in many ways we are an island in Boston  – a unique school in a unique educational environment. Twitter provided me with a way to connect.  Essentially I see it as advertising of ideas. You read something, create something, or have a question about something then share it. There is an anonymity and speed to it which makes it work well. There is a crowdsourcing aspect to it but also a ‘watch and see’ which works for me. I have gained so many good ideas in the last year. The down side is that you can follow too many people and have too much information thrown at you. Filtering is key.

Anyway, I have selected these 5 #’s to my TweetDeck for this module. #edchat #ukedchat #globaled #flipclass and #ipaded. They are not all new to me the first two are staples, but I can’t give them up. I have used ideas in my class that I have found directly on Twitter and had led CPD sessions in my school for staff who were interested.

Today alone I have found a source of some non-fiction apps for iPads, reflected on a growth mindset classroom which is a key component in raising standards and high performance learning in our school and read a blog post on iPads in Primary (elementary) education. All delivered to a screen in front of me. It is easy, convenient, flexible and appropriate for my needs. I am a convert. There are limitations, but why focus on them? For my whole career, teachers have talked about, ‘wanting to share’ and how, ‘talking to other professionals’ is the best PD. Twitter is one of the tools that makes that possible.

Tweet away.

A

Social Bookmarking and my thoughts

I had never used Diigo before last week. This week my team in school will all get an introduction and short overview and we will be using it to share resources that we find for changes we are making to the curriculum. I think  that’s a great example of learning in action. I have spent the last 2 nights reading up on Connectivism, PLN’s and CoP’s.

To educators whom for far too long were disconnected from others or found sharing difficult – surely this is one of the ways forward with professional development. I think I said in a presentation to teachers last year. PLN – why wouldn’t you?

Anyway I wanted to keep writing just to get into the habit of reflecting on my learning.