Play #10 – To Tweet Or Not To Tweet, That Is The Question?

 Play #10 – How do you decide who to follow on Twitter?

Confession: I had my Twitter account for well over 10 months before I had the courage to send my first tweet.  Why the hesitation?

I really struggled with Twitter because I just didn’t get it!  Do I follow people or hashtags? What do I share? How do I keep up with the endless feed of information? How do I prevent it from sucking up my time and distracting me from my work at hand?  What do all those symbols mean? These were the things I was trying to get a handle on.

And then I had an “aha” twitter moment when reading a blog by David Truss titled,  Twitter, Lurking, and Drinking from a Fire Hose. That was me!  Lurking, mooching, being overwhelmed by all the information, not knowing where or how to start.

Finally, after a lot of hesitation, I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and quickly realized what a great PD tool this can be.  Once I started letting people know that I was new to Twitter and was trying to establish a PLN, people started following me and offering words of encouragement. Last night I participated (ok more as an observer that an active participant) in my first twitter chatroom with #ntchat and I learned all about a resource called Remind 101 for keeping parents abreast of what is happening in your class.

Still struggling with how to manage the flow of information?  Check out TweetDeck.  It is a great tool for organizing tweets and following hashtags, especially during a chatroom session.

To tweet or not to tweet?  I will definitely be joining those who tweet!

 

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Play #9 – Network vs Community – What’s the Difference?

Play #9 –  Do you know the difference between networks and community? Are you currently a member of any online communities? 

Until a week ago, I had no idea what a Ning was and was not involved in any professional learning network; however, as we know in the information age, things change quickly in a week!

I have now joined three online communities that will allow me to network with educators from all over the world:

What do I do now?  Have I suddenly become too connected?  Managing all of these online relationships will take work and I don’t want to join something without being able to fully commit to it.  These are valid questions that people need to work through when developing an online community.

Developing an online network is as important as developing face to face networks; however, the goal isn’t about having a network of 300 people around the globe because you will never be able to engage with that many people in a meaningful way. You have to find a healthy balance.

Last night I participated in my first session of The Connected Educator’s Book Club.  Signing on to Blackboard/Elluminate I was able to engage with the 3 moderators and over 75 educators from all over the world.  It was a new experience for me and an exciting one at that.  Over the next 10 weeks we will be able to explore the book and participate in a number of DIY activities where we can explore our understanding of connected learning.

My advice to new teachers like myself: Get started, get connected, join some networks, explore the resources that are available within the community, interact in a meaningful way with other members, and begin building an online community that meets your own learning needs.  Soon you will have developed a great support network, one connection at a time.

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Play #8 – Delicious or Diigo – Which Social Bookmarking Site Do You Use?

Play #8 – Do you know what tags are? Can you get to your favorite bookmarked websites stored on your home computer when you are at school?

I use iGoogle as my home page and have always like the way I can save my favourite bookmarks and access them from any computer that I am working on. Despite having access to this function, I started to encounter problems with my google bookmark list when the volume of bookmarks I wanted to save started to escalate.

Fortunately, I discovered the social bookmarking site, Delicious, and now my life has become more organized.  Moreover, I have been able to tap into a wealth of resources that other people have tagged and shared. I do love this tool, but I don’t think I am maximizing its features fully.

Perhaps someone out there can help answer a few questions for me:

1.  Should I be using Diigo or Delicious?  I started using Delicious first and tend to favour it; however, I now find other people who are using Diigo.  Currently, I am flipping back and forth between the two sites and this does not seem to be very efficient.  Is there a way to sync the two sites or is that really necessary?

2. Is there an optimum number of tags that you should give each site?

3. I have begun to realize that tagging needs to be intentional.  In the heat of the moment it is easy to slap a tag on something and move on.  However, if you are not thinking about how to organize this information as you go, you will end up with just a jumble of sites without any real order.  For those of you working in education, do you have a list of tags that you refer to when organizing your work.  A common tagging language seems like a necessary thing to have.

I know that I will eventually find the answers to my questions through further research and trial and error; however, if anyone has any useful advice or insights I would love to hear from you.

Keep on sharing!

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Play #7 – Lights, Camera, Action

Play #7 – Learning about online video sharing.

I tried making videos 18 years ago when oldest daughter was born, but they were so boring my brother-in-law, who later went on to have a career as a film producer, said he would boycott any future family screenings.  I lost my confidence at that point and packed the video camera away until my girls were old enough to make their own movies.  I even shied away from digital cameras as well and left the photo documentation of our lives to other family members.

I was happily living in my video/camera free bubble until the advent of Facebook and Youtube, when I soon realized that my camera shy tendencies were beginning to be a real detriment.  We live in a very media rich world.  Kids love sharing their learning through photos or video because it is a very creative medium to work with. Moreover, digital and media literacy are important 21st century skills that students need to be exposed to.  How can I be one of those teachers who flips their classroom if I can’t create engaging videos for my students?

Thankfully, after working through play #7, I have discovered TeacherTube and Youtube for teachers, two sites where  people with real talents for creating video are sharing them willingly with others. Until I find the confidence to develop my own abilities as a videographer, I can still incorporate quality videos into my lessons.

I have a feeling that my students will always have the upper hand when it comes to this medium, but I am willing to learn alongside them as we discover how to express our learning through film.

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Play #6 – Using a Wiki in the Classroom

Play #6 – How might you use a wiki in your classroom?

As a student teacher I have not had an opportunity to use wikis in my practice; however, I was thinking of a situation where a wiki would have been a useful tool for my daughter when she was required to make a study guide in grade eight science class.

After the class had completed all the science units in May they were instructed to go back through all the units they had studied and create study notes for the final exam. Working together with 2 other friends they divided up the units and, independently, began making notes on word.

A few problems quickly arose.

Firstly, if you were diligent about keeping your notes organized from the beginning of the year it was relatively easy; however, not all of the students had done this so it involved going back through disorganized notes, quizzes and the text to pick out important information on topics that were discussed 7-9 months prior.

A second problem was that some group members were more diligent about making up their study notes than others.  Thus, in my daughter’s case, she ended up redoing some of the work of her classmates because of missing information.

A third problem occurred when the word document disappeared into cyberspace one late night (due to operator error with saving) and she had to start everything again…in tears.

Finally, after all their hard work, the teacher never looked at their final study guide, nor  provided any feedback on how they could have done it differently.  In the end, I am not even sure if my daughter found this a useful tool for studying, which was the purpose of the whole exercise in the first place.

After witnessing my daughter’s frustration with the assignment, I started to think about how I would have approached this task differently.

I think it is very beneficial to make review notes on a unit; however it would be more beneficial to do this immediately after the unit is complete rather than waiting until May and doing all the units at once.  Also, collaboration is important because if one group member forgets an important point then other group members can add to the discussion. Forming a group and then working independently within the group is not collaborating!

This is what my plan would have looked like:

  1. Students form a study group in September of 3-4 members
  2. There is a clear expectation from the onset that all members must contribute content to the unit summaries.
  3. They set up a wiki during the first unit that becomes a working document for the rest of the year.
  4. As they work through each unit they can add important information to the wiki, including written notes, videos, diagrams, and images.
  5. At the end of each unit they can review what they have created to make sure that they have a good set of notes that they can review from in June
  6. After each unit the class has a show and tell where different groups share their wikis so that students can see how their classmates organized their notes and improve on how their organize information for the next unit.

This could work to individual strengths as well.  Students who like to write can do written notes, students who are more visual may contribute good diagrams to the wiki, and other students might be able to search for videos or other media that will help them with their learning.  The end result will be a personalized “textbook” of all the important concepts that students need to demonstrate their mastery of.

Good study habits do not just happen, they have to be taught.  Often we tell students to create study notes without giving them guidance on how to do this.  How do you read a non-fiction text? What do the diagrams and pictures tell us? How can I make questions from the chapters headings and subtitles that will guide me in my studying? What videos or other media is out there to support my learning?  How do I find them? Provide a good scaffold and some useful tools and then let the students explore strategies that work to their strengths and help them to gain mastery of a subject.

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Play #5 – How Did I Manage to Get 150 Blogs in My RSS Feeder?

Play #5 – Do you know what RSS stands for? Have you heard of it? If so, do you use it? How?

I set up my RSS Feeder on Google Reader last summer and have been slowly collecting blogs that I like to follow.  Last count I had over 150 blogs in my reader.  Usually what happens is when an author I like references another blogger I click on the hyperlink to the new blog and paste the URL into my reader.  As I start to accumulate more blogs I   categorize them into different folders (i.e. educational tech, teacher blogs, pedagogy, other, etc) to make for more manageable reading.

At first I use to get stressed out about not being able to keep up with all of the posts coming through my reader; however, I am slowly learning that the important ideas keep circulating around  so when I begin to see a topic mentioned a number of times by different bloggers I start to take more notice.

Completing this task helped me realize that keeping up with my RSS feeder requires a new type of literacy skill, namely, skimming items quickly and being able to process a lot of news items in a relatively short time span.

As and educator, developing a RSS reading habit is an excellent way of keeping informed of current trends and topics in education and provides a forum for you to participate in the conversations.  I would encourage all teachers, especially new teachers, to subscribe to a RSS feeder because it is an important and easy step, in developing your personal learning network and becoming part of an online community.

 
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Play #3 / #4 – My Personal Struggles with Blogging

Play #3 – Create a blog / Play #4 – Begin blogging!

These next two tasks were relatively easy since I already have a blog and have been posting reflections since February.  That being said, I don’t find blogging particularly easy and have had a number of struggles keeping my momentum going with my blog.

When I stop to reflect on why I have found blogging so challenging, I keep coming back to one factor: FEAR!  Why would I want to put my thoughts and opinions out there for the world to see?  What if someone doesn’t like what I write or outright disagrees with what I have to say?  Do I actually have views worth sharing?

In school I always struggled with writing.  I remember my grade 7 teacher giving me a hard time because I didn’t know what paragraphing was and in university I spent many a tearful night writing term papers.  Obviously I was a glutton for punishment because as  an Arts Major I had to write a ridiculous number of papers!

Memories of failure and frustration still haunt me as I hit the new post button on my blog.  Still I have tried to persevere because I know great learning happens when you choose to step outside your comfort zone. Last week I discovered another blogger, Stephanie Rivera who wrote an excellent reflective piece titled “How Social Media and Blogging Changed My Life”.  Stephanie talks about the important role blogging played in helping her to find her voice and how empowering it was once she identified the true purpose for her blog.  Reading her piece helped me gain the confidence I need to just get blogging.

Why should I blog and what purpose do I want it to serve for me? For me blogging is a way to overcome some of my fears of writing, to provide a forum for me to reflect more deeply on some of the issues that I am passionate about in education, to discover how I might be able use blogging as a way to encourage my students to write and to connect with other educators around the globe.  The thoughts that I express here are my own and I am no longer afraid to put them “out there” for people to like, dislike, share, or just ponder over.

“So often, I think, we as women stop ourselves from trying because we don’t want to risk failing.  We put such a premium on being approved of, we become reluctant to take risks.” – Arianna Huffington

 

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Play #2 – What is Web 2.0 and Why Does it Matter?

 

Play #2 – What is web 2.0 and why does it matter?

A couple of summers ago I stumbled upon a back issue of Educational Leadership (March 2009, Volume 66, Number 6) that caught my eye.  Reading through this issue dedicated to Literacy 2.0, I had my first introduction to blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS feeds, gaming, digital citizenship, and media literacy.

I was certainly intrigued by everything that I was reading; however, I never jumped on the web 2.0 bandwagon because I never felt a pressing need to do so.  At the time, I was working as an educational assistant in an elementary school and the teachers who I worked with were not yet incorporating many web 2.0 tools into their classroom practice.

Fast forward two years and I am now halfway through my preservice training to be a teacher and am regretting that I didn’t see the need to embrace this information age  transforming learning and teaching.  Someone posed the question: “How might you use these tools to engage today’s digital learners and why would you want to?”  The more important question, I think, is “Why would you not want to?”

Instead of sitting passively in their seats listening to some teacher blather on about their subject area, students now have the ability to connect, collaborate, create, contribute, share, and participate actively in their learning. Teachers play an important role by helping students sort through an abundance of information, ask good questions, think critically, and create appropriate content.  We have a responsibility to embrace these new and sometimes “messy” ways of discovering the curriculum, accept that change is necessary, be willing to take risks, learn along side our students. and actively reflect on what worked well and what went totally sideways.

Unlike my students, I did not grow up with technology and until now have not used it extensively to create, collaborate or network with others.  For me it has had a more functional role: surf the net, send e-mails, create the odd excel spreadsheet to track our family finance or a word document for my lesson plans. As I dive into the world of Ed Tech and get a better handle on connectivism as a learning theory, there is a tsunami of information coming at me and I am trying to absorb and digest as many new ideas as I can.  Most days I feel like a deer in the headlights; however, I am so inspired by the possibilities that can be explored using web 2.0 tools and am thoroughly impressed with all the sharing and support that is available when you begin to develop your personal learning network and join online communities of practice.

For anyone just learning about web 2.0, here is the link to the wikispaces page that we had to read.  It has a number of great video that are worth watching and provide good food for thought.

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Quote of the Week – How We Measure Wealth

 

“The real source of wealth and capital in this new era is not material things.  It is the human mind, the human spirit, the human imagination, and our faith in the future.”      -Steve Forbes

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Quote of the Week – On Dreams

“There’s always obstacles.  If dreams were easy, we could go down to the Walmart and buy a six-pack.” – Waneek Horn-Miller 

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