It Takes a Village

village
Personal photo taken in the village of Cusco, Peru

 

To be honest I started #coetail because of my PLN.  There were people I respected and followed that were former COETAILers who raved about it. I also saw the #coetail popping up on lots of posts, so I took a journey down the rabbit hole and was hooked.  After the first reading of the first course, I knew this was the right decision to join the COETAIL community. Since my first course I feel I have moved from between Stages 4-5 to between Stages 6-7 of Silvia Rosenthal’s Seven Degrees of Connectedness infographic. I feel that throughout my COETAIL journey I have become a more connected educator through continuing to build my PLN and strengthen connections in a more authentic way. COEATIL has been my village to help me expand my thinking, gather ideas, solicit feedback, and grow as an educator.  Thanks to my final project I feel like I am more friends than colleagues with the wonderful educators and people I learned alongside.

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Stronger Relationships Through #GBCreatingInnovators 

I learned how to think deeply about students’ developmental readiness and how to encourage little moments of innovation from Joy.  

Thomas taught me how to be flexible and to transfer the big concepts of our book across grade levels, as well as how to listen intently with an open mind.

Suzy inspired me with her final project and her keen ability to reflect upon her practices in order to engage students and parents in the learning process and collaboration.

Katherine, who joined our group at the recommendation of Joy, gave insight into providing time for prototyping and reflection. She shared many classroom experiences and I appreciated her transparency.

Liz only got to join us for the last meeting, but her constant support and sharing throughout the #GBCreatingInnovators project spurred ideas and gave me new perspectives.  

Collaboration and Passing the Spark 

I titled my blog SPARK, because of this quote 

The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have the idea spark another.  ~Marva Collins

Throughout this journey I have been so inspired by fellow COETAILers (past and present), and although I am not in the classroom right now I have tried to spread their projects/ideas to my teachers at my school.  

Joel’s final project immediately sparked my interest, to which I shared it with our early education teachers and through Twitter.  To me it is such a powerful combination of all aspects of COETAIL and so empowering for the students and classes involved, I just had to share. 


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Another little collaboration I tried to organize and pass on was to connect our 1st grade teachers with other teachers around the world.  I knew Joy, Suzy, and Joel all taught lower grades so I created a Google doc for people to sign up and share about their students’ and class responsibilities in their respective locations.

Prior to deciding upon my final project idea I created a Final Project Feedback document for COETAILers to share their ideas and give/receive feedback about final projects.  I tweeted it out to get a wider audience.  I loved reading others ideas and also valued the feedback I got.

Learning

I feel one of my responsibilities as a learning leader in my school is to share and connect teachers. Twitter and my PLN have enabled me to do this far more easily than before.  Before I was active and built my PLN I spent hours researching and finding articles that applied to teachers (and my needs).  Thanks to my PLN and the beauty of #hashtags I find more relevant articles, examples, and connections almost momentarily.

One educator, whom I deeply respect and who challenges me to rethink my approaches to learning is a fellow COETAILer, Tricia.  I was on the COETAIL site one day and read one of her posts, and from there I was hooked.  She has such a divergent view of the school culture and environment, I enjoy listening to her podcasts and reading her posts.  

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I have followed #sisrocks for years, stealing ideas like an artist from their teachers and administrators. Through the hashtag I have deepened my PLN connections and passed on ideas to our teachers. Their hashtag encouraged me to start a hashtag for our school, #wearegiants.

I value my PLN so much, it is the genesis of my learning and ideas. I find it much more useful and relevant than traditional courses and books.  It is real time, authentic, needs based, and encouraging to me as an educator.  I can only hope to grow my PLN as I progress in this wonderful field of education. And thanks to being in the #coetail sorority I will forever be a lifetime member of a network of professionals who value learning.

#GBCreatingInnovators Meeting 1

Sunday morning I woke up and my husband informed me our internet wasn’t working. Normally that means more focused time with family, but this particular morning it meant moving into problem solving mode because the first meeting of #GBCreatingInnovators was scheduled.  My husband and I brainstormed ways to work around the blackhole of connection and finally realized I could just host the global book club in our apartment building’s lobby.  I went down beforehand to test the connectivity and it was all a go.

The meeting went well, but there is always room for improvement. As far as preparations one thing I learned is I should check with the members to make sure that they understand how to join the Google Hangout before actually sending the invitation to them.  Another thing I want to work on is not talking as much, I think I was so eager to share all that I learned that I spoke too much.

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I’m working on a little synopsis of the first two chapters to share out with my colleagues, PLN, and our parent committee at school.  This will help refine my design skills and inform our school community of important learnings from the book. I’m hoping it will lead to further discussions with teachers and parents.

Here are some connections or resources we discussed:

When Success Leads to Failure  (article)

Redefining Failure (video)

Videos from the book 

I want to give a huge shout out to the members that could attend the first meeting of our global book club and thank you pushing my thinking and sharing your ideas.

Joy is having her 1st graders create digital portfolios for her final COETAIL project.

Suzy‘s continuous effort to grow her PLN and spread her ideas truly inspires me.

Thomas Hammerlund  gave interesting insight from a middle school perspective to all of us elementary educators.

Katherine whom I had never met before, but she jumped right in and shared some very great ideas and reminded me to allow for students (and teachers) to play and plan for multiple opportunities.

I’m going to end this with a complete geek out moment, Tony Wagner retweeted my tweet! Day = made.

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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.

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.

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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?