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

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. 😉