To Share or Not to Share?

When blogging your voice is really important, you want to make sure you are making sense and appealing to your target audience.  I hadn’t thought much about this until Trina sent this tweet to me.

Twitter Voice

She is absolutely correct, the voice I write with on here is totally different than the voice I use for my personal blog. My personal blog is to document my life for family back home, my future self, and my son, and I basically write stream of consciousness and captions for photographs. Whereas this blog is to document and share my learning. I never realized how I code switched in my blogs. My two audiences are different and I switch to to fit the need.  I doubt my family cares about PLN, embedding technology, etc and I highly doubt that you all care when my son sits up on his own.

That got me thinking. How much of my personal life do I share on my professional profile. Jeff talked about mixing our Flipboard with our Facebook and Instagram so that we will go there to read more often.  Will mixing my personal and professional online presence create a stronger PLN?  Some of my PLN like Clint and Liz mix their personal and professional lives online, while others such as Ku and Pernille tend to stick to only sharing professional content. Do I feel more connected to one over the other?

I normally just share professional content on twitter, but sometimes I will link my Instagram to Twitter.  I don’t have a problem sharing, but for some reason I have just used it to build my PLN.  What about you?  Do you mix your lives online?  Do you code switch between different blogs? Do you feel a stronger connection with people in your PLN that intertwine their lives?  Thanks Trina for bringing this up, I enjoyed reflecting on it.

Embedding or Adding On?

In education we are constantly bombarded with embedding things, I looked up embed on my Mac dictionary and it states, “to implant (an idea or feeling) within something else so it becomes an ingrained or essential characteristic of it.” This definition is intense and changes the thing from its original state. I feel the term embedded is used too loosely and has become too watered down. We think we are embedding things, when we are just adding them on. So often in reality technology isn’t ingrained nor essential in our students’ learning. Sure it is the intention of every educator to have it embedded, but it is a hard task to authentically embed something. I have this visual of food coloring being dripped into a glass of water. There is no way to separate the water or the coloring, they are now one. That is how we should look at technology.  So, how do we truly embed technology in an authentic way, where it is mixed into all areas?

Before moving to the how, I want to look at a little of the why we should effectively, practically and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas. In Living and Learning with New Media the authors state, “Geeking out in many respects erases the traditional markers of status and authority.” Education isn’t changing, it has changed.  As Jeff Utecht says, “Either you are a 21st Century school working on preparing students for today or you are a 20th Century school that just doesn’t get it.” Being a “21st century” school or embedding technology is no longer an option.  We aren’t doing our jobs if we don’t give our students opportunities to learn and experiment with technology.  (Sidenote: I had to laugh when the article mentioned MySpace, and of course because I am a clicker and remembered something I saw on my Facebook feed about where Tom is now.)

Tom

Now, where to start? We start with making sure students have the basic skills to use the technology tools we will use. I found Colorado’s Technology Skills Scope and Sequence, which aligns with the Common Core, ensuring that students have the skills to reach the standards. Gone are the days there is a stand alone technology class, every teacher needs to be reinforcing the technology skills.

Thanks Flipboard and our COETAIL Course 1 magazine I found Anne Karakash’s article on how to plan around technology. She reflects on her teaching practice and recalls the shift when her “focus went from adding technology to her lessons as an afterthought, and instead the technology became the starting point of the lesson”. She proceeded to give five steps (plan, research, engage, explore, and synthesis) on how to plan your lessons around technology. Anne didn’t say, but I am assuming she begins with the standard or learning objective and then focuses on the technology to get her students there.

SAMRDuring all my readings and research this week I kept coming back and reflecting on how I have used and use technology in my teaching.  I am a tech lover so this got me thinking about the purpose.  I tend to overuse it and just like the term embedded, it loses its value when I do that. I need to be more purposeful in my use of technology. What do I want students to learn and how can I use technology in the most authentic and effective way?  I had flashbacks to when I added on a cool technology tool or app to a project and it actually took away from the learning objectives. I spent so much time teaching the technology that the students were focused on that and missed the content.  I need to do a better job of clearly defining my learning objectives and then working backward from there. Then thinking about the purpose of technology in that unit

It all comes back to SAMR, I said it in my last post it’s about balance. I would like to amend that and add purpose to balance. I came across Jeff’s tweet of a brilliant visual for SAMR.  It really struck me because we want our technology to go to unknown places and dive deeper into content.

The Balancing Act

Connectivism and Constructivism

Can you separate the two learning theories?  In constructivism you gain knowledge through your experiences, where connectivism is all about learning through connections and community. If you are in a community and making connections to me that is a learning experience. So are connectivism and constructivism woven together? Can you have one without the other?

As I read more and more about connectivism lots of questions kept spinning in my brain was, do learners that prefer to learn alone exist anymore? If they do, how do we support them in connectivism? The world we live in today requires teamwork and collaboration, so how do we make sure we do not leave the independent learner behind?

The positive side to connectivism is that learners can now personalize their education and because of technology resources they can learn from anyone across the world at anytime.  Thanks to Twitter, blogs, Wikis, Periscope, and so on and so on, we can learn without knowing our teachers or having to meet face to face. Now for some that works, but to others it may sound horrible. Since learning should be an individualized journey, I come back to my question from before, how do we support all learners through connectivism?

Balance

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Flickr image click photo for source

Because of my all or nothing personality I always try to make myself come back to the question of balance.

I am a hanger outer (without the teen drama) and a messer arounder, and it got me thinking, how much of what I read do I actually digest? A quick search on handy dandy Google and I found this article, How the Internet is making us stupid. The author states, “People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages.” I immediately thought of how often I am side tracked or link happy in my reading.  Is it because of I am genuinely intrigued to learn more or is is just another site to check out?  If I am doing this than I’m sure my students are. Is it beneficial or harmful?  Where is the balance or is there any?  How do we utilize the information without being overloaded with it or just skimming the surface.  Speaking of skimming, I just signed up for a daily Skimm so I can keep up to date with important news.

With my PLN I try to gain as much information as possible and also be a honorable prosumer too, but I have to wonder how much of it am I actually learning and applying.  Am I just getting great ideas and storing them away in my memory filing cabinet with a hope to be found in the future, are they just fleeting or am I internalizing and growing from them?  In the same article  the Roman philosopher Seneca  is referenced and the author thinks Seneca “may have put it best 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”” How do I find my balance in learning through my PLN?

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Now how to apply these theories to engage and motivate our digital students?

Coming from an elementary background I see this happening more in the class setting at first and then evolving into students experimenting to find their comfort level and their learning community. For example, creating a class Twitter account.  My class did this last year and my students were in awe when we actually had a twittersation (twitter conversation…I just made this up) with the author of the book we were reading. After that a couple of my students started their own twitter accounts and followed their favorite authors, building their connections.

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The learning theories aren’t new, but do challenge educators affective thinking. I think so often we the teachers let our feelings and attitudes about technology get in the way.  We are scared that we don’t know all the programs or how to teach a certain skill, so we let that stop us.  Perhaps we should expand our learning network to our students. They are whizzes with tech, so why not use them as a source.  The first training I went to of Jeff’s at Learning2 he brought up Google Ninjas at ISB, what a brilliant idea. Our school recently began using Schoology as the funnel that all things flow through. So instead of having our tech team train everyone we are dispersing the sources and having students, proficient Schoology users teach parents and teachers how to use it. When we look to non-traditional sources we learn new things and give them opportunities.

Another thing I thought about was the whole “Google It” directive we give our students. George Siemens asks some great questions that we need to explore,

How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?

That is just a start. As a learner myself I know that I don’t gain knowledge linearly, so how does this change my approach to learning? What impact does it have?

SAMR and Bloom’s

I gave a presentation on SAMR for my school’s teachers last year and I’m familiar with the Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy , and again I come back to balance, or more so purpose. What is the learning goal and is the technology going to be purposeful in reaching it?  Is it always best to be in the HOT or can you over use Redefinition so it no longer is a powerful punch.  Does the technology for that learning goal hinder or help the learning? With limited contact time how do you manage teaching new technology programs, skills, and tools to students alongside the content? An experienced  COETAILer said it way more eloquently than I could, and also brought up the whole balance issue.

Because I’m a simpleton, I just don’t buy it. When should technology integration ever be typical, and what does educational benefit really mean?1 Does it mean higher test scores? Does it mean lots more fun?  Surely balance is in the equation somewhere, and hopefully today’s lesson is engagingly different than yesterday’s. If we, as educators, are shooting to be typical, then it’s little wonder why our kids are so bored.2

Our students are growing up in the digital age and I completely agree we need to teach them how to learn through connection and networks, the important part is knowing your school, students, and learning goals then figuring out how to best go about opening the connections for ALL learners.

Wow, I’m not sure if that post answered or posed more questions.

Connecting Through a PLN

I found both required readings very interesting and connected in the sense that technology is evolving so fast and it is up to us to use it to its potential.  Jeff’s Reach chapters resonated with me because figuring out who I am as a learner is something I am learning (no pun intended…okay maybe a little). I feel a bit like today’s youth, with the world at my fingertips but a bit overwhelmed at all that’s out there.  It is freeing, but also a bit scary at the same time.  Do I have anything worthwhile to contribute?  What if I reach out and no one answers?  What if I put myself out there and am wrong?  These are just a few of the questions I have asked myself.  Not to mention the good old comparison game. 

As I read about PLNs and creating communities I snapped myself out of my own head and realized that if we want our students to be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn quickly than I better be doing it myself.  I am a learner and thanks to technology I am a prosumer. I have this great tool to communicate my learning process. Jeff says, “If we are to teach our students to become prosumers of information in today’s connected digital world, then we need to understand and become prosumers ourselves.” I couldn’t agree more. We need to model and live out what we are preaching to our students. Student learn more from what we do than what we say, so we ourselves need to be flexible learners.  

I love how PLNs are personal and how “the people I follow or friend creates my unique network.” Laura Sockman from this article is a prime example of connecting with others.  She learned from experts and developed such a large network she in turn became an expert and resource for so many people at the ripe age of ten!

What I love about online PLN is that you don’t have to sit and wait for an invite to join, or you can.  You go at your own pace and comfort level.  You can still learn being a lurker, but your thinking and practices will be stretched further if you interact and connect. As I was saying in the beginning of my post, it is difficult to put yourself out there, connecting isn’t easy. While creating my PLN I have had to learn more about who I am as an educator and what I am comfortable with.

I like this infographic below by Silvia Tolisano on her blog, it goes right along with Jeff’s comment, “The more active you are within a community the more visible you become to other members. The more visible you become, the more potential connections are created.” When it comes down to it, you get what you put into PLNs. I think I move between stages 4 and 5, although some collaboration is just for a project and not continual. One of the first people I collaborated with was Paul Solarz, he is an amazing teacher from the US and really shared a lot with me. It’s been fun to watch his reach grow over the years and he just recently published his first book

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Individualized learning mirrors what we should be doing in schools. Therefore we should teach students how to create their own PLN so they do not rely on teachers. They become the driver of their learning and learn how to construct their learning in a way that works for them. Flipboard and blended learning are both great examples of this, students learning doesn’t stop when class is over. How powerful is that? Yet, if we don’t teach our students how to do this than we are doing them a disservice.

Two more thoughts that I kept having with regards to my school.  One, how do we get other teachers to create their own PLNs. Right now our PD is very traditional (pictured below), but I think if you can create a tipping point and get enough people into the right cart than others will follow and start owning their PD. If we put PD in teachers’ hands than they have a more personalized experience as opposed to sit and gets AND they will see the power of PLNs for their students in their classes.

faculty meeting
https://www.someecards.com/usercards/unsubmitted/MjAxMy1hZGQ1ODAzMzc2ODc5ODdi

My second thought was, if we are teaching students how to create PLNs than why not teach parents.  Being a new parent myself I have had to create a PLN of all things parenting.  It’s not easy to be a parent to a student nowadays, so shouldn’t we as educators help them navigate by pointing them toward other parents and resources. The Educational Technology Guy, David Andrade, thinks parents need to be connected too. Now how do I go about rolling this out to parents? Anyone have experience?

 

 

3, 2, 1…Go!

I have wanted to do COETAIL for awhile now, but with completing my Masters and finding out I was pregnant I thought I would be too busy to give it the attention it needed. Fast forward and now I have a new baby, new job, and just started back to work after a glorious 5 month maternity leave and I realized I am always going to be busy. I need to feed my brain and have some me time where I can grow and learn, so here I am. Ready or not, here I am.  Because isn’t that part of life, just showing up.