building my PLN

PLN

This post is Assignment 2 – Part 3 for ECS 210

Besides being about the many types of curriculum and the implementation of anti-oppressive teaching strategies, ECS 210 focused a lot on the construction of both a positive online identity and a Professional Learning Network (or PLN) through both Twitter and a blog.

While I did have both of these outlets set up in a professional context before this class, I find that my skills with these technological tools, my interactions with others through these mediums, and my realization of the responsibility I have to communicate with my colleagues and followers has grown tremendously over the course of the last few months.

This post is going to highlight some of the experiences and knowledge that I have gained throughout this journey of professionalism.

Just a few stats to start off (these were recorded from January 13-March 17):

Since ECS 210 started, I have:

  • followed 91 new people on Twitter and gained 68 new followers
  • tweeted 177 times (66 of which were either about ECS 210, an interaction with a classmate, or a retweet/response to post from a classmate)
  • used the hashtag #ECS210 27 times
  • followed 29 new blogs on WordPress and gained 23 new followers on my blog
  • gotten 25 new comments on my blog posts and commented on others’ blogs

This just goes to show you how much your PLN can grow in such a small amount of time!

The following section is comprised of screenshots of some of my most memorable interactions with others in the past few months…

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Here (above) is a comment that I wrote on thinkbannedthoughts‘ blog in response to an article that connected to my Inquiry Project (also an assignment for this class). The response I got is below; I was very excited to have challenged someone else’s thinking to the point that they even did some research to back up their opinion. To me, that is the goal of blog comments – to create a reciprocal atmosphere of critical thinking.

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Below, a post by TerryTutors ended up relating to a classmate’s tweet about supporting grieving students in our classrooms (an event that, unfortunately, is a part of life but something we often fail to think about). I ended up being able to give that classmate (@CassHanley) a resource that answered her query, which felt really good. It was also fascinating to see how many links I was finding between my Twitter and WordPress accounts.

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And here is another example of a WordPress referral that I made  to another classmate (@ItsJ02) via Twitter… I am still constantly in awe of how many useful resources and intriguing people that can be utilized by educators. It is very comforting to know that if you are ever having trouble, asking questions, or planning lessons, there is probably something out there that can help you achieve what you want.

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One of the interactions I was most excited about – and most proud of – was with Alec Couros, the resident technological and social media guru in the Faculty of Education. I noticed that I had many new followers after being mentioned in a few of his tweets via our ‘Twitter-sation.’

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(To any Education-related Twitter users out there, I highly recommend that you follow @courosa, as he is an expert and always tweets great stuff!) To have my blog and Twitter profiles (which I refined as a result of this class) complimented by someone who is very well versed in that respect was such an amazing feeling. Life lesson learned: if you go to a PD event, follow the presenter’s advice, because you never know how it may help you down the road. It also pays a huge compliment to them that you listened to their tips and actually applied them to your practice.

Most of all, I really enjoyed having a course hashtag to constantly be checking for new resources, food for thought, and inspiration. I predict (and hope, for future Education students’ benefit) that all Education classes will have Twitter hashtags in the future. It is such an easy and interactive way to connect with your classmates, especially when you have such a big lecture and only get to know a small portion of your classmates personally in the smaller seminars. You can end up making a professional relationship with someone who you may never get the chance to see in person. Eriko (this is her blog and her Twitter address is linked later on) and I interacted back and forth many times throughout this course, on both Twitter and WordPress.  It is very rewarding to have certain ‘critical friends’ that you know are going to read your posts and give honest, constructive feedback (and you do the same for them).

The following is a final example of how one tweet of mine allowed me to connect with several other ECS 210  students (@karidavis8, @karae_danielle, and @CloeAllard) through #ECS210.

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(Here is a link to the quiz we are referring to, if you are curious)

During my blogging this semester, I have become more aware of giving due credit to anyone that I mention (hence the links that are sprinkled all throughout this post), and there is really no excuse not to link to someone else’s blog or Twitter when WordPress makes it so easy (and strangely fun – just me?) to embed links into your text.  My post ‘improving professional communication‘ (February 24th) was inspired by a tweet from a fellow classmate (@parker3e), and I made sure to let her know through Twitter that I had mentioned her in my post, as well as adding links for my readers to follow her in my actual post. I did the same with my post ‘news awareness, gender equity, and music’s influence – oh my!‘ (March 2nd), but this time I was referring readers to the social media outlets of my instructor (@jmachnaik).

In regards to my previous posts (the two mentioned and linked above) about professional goals, I have been following up! I’ve been trying extra hard to truly listen when someone else is speaking and take in what they are saying. After they are finished, I give myself time to think and respond thoughtfully. Also, I have been checking my news apps fairly often (I am being kept on the edge of my seat with both the happenings in Ukraine/Russia and the missing Malaysian airplane). I currently have five news apps on my phone:

  • CNN
  • NewsFlash
  • Newsify
  • Globe News
  • News360

So far, I’m using CNN most often, and I really like that it shows breaking news updates on my lock screen, but doesn’t clog up the corner of the app icon with notifications.

Two assignments in this class also pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experiment with two new online tools – StoryBird and Wikispaces. Though it was a bit frustrating at times when my inexperience meant not knowing how to accomplish a task, I actually really enjoyed both of these sites! They have become two more resources to add to my technological repertoire and I would highly recommend them to all educators.

A final warm, fuzzy moment for me was when my blog was pointed out during my seminar and my instructor had me teach other classmates how to add Widgets to their blogs. It was lovely to know that viewers appreciated my blog and thought that I had something to offer. I know that some of my peers have had a hard time getting used to tweeting and blogging and, although I cannot personally understand their struggles because I love tweeting and blogging so much, I try my best to share tips that may help them dive into technology as a means of presenting themselves as a professional online and enjoy it as much as I do.

In closing, I now have so many more ‘tools in my educational toolbox,’ in the form of colleagues, resources, and knowledge. My growing professional identity and engagement with others’ content has created numerous learning experiences and moments of critical personal reflection over the past few months. My learning as a result of ECS 210 has encouraged me to keep experimenting with new technology that can be used in the classroom and my own professional practice, periodically revise my professional goals,  and continue challenging my ideas regarding education so that I can grow into a critical and reflective educator.

 

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technology links us in

I recall something that Julie Machnaik (@jmachnaik) said way back when in ECS 100.

“You don’t need a class on technology because children innately know how to use these devices when they come to school.”

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Technology is a big, overarching theme in education, and I think this is what makes it so easy to tie into each and every subject. Students don’t need computer classes because they should be learning how to use computers in Math, English, Social Studies, Science, Art, etc., etc. The same principle applies for social justice and anti-oppressive education: it can be integrated into all subject areas. So what happens when you bring the two together?

Technology provides endless opportunities for creativity. A little imagination and innovation is all you need and – voilà! You have a brand new Science lesson that teaches students to use stop motion animation diagrams in order to explain how gay/lesbian couples can use artificial insemination to have children. Or maybe a YouTube video for English class that reads a story in both English and Cree. Or perhaps you Skype with an expert about how socioeconomic status directly affects overall wellbeing for Health. In our society today, we can utilize technology as a means of introducing students to these kinds of issues. Technology also provides a more interesting path towards deepening students’ understandings in these areas – and their learning will probably be more permanent if they used an app to create a project rather than writing a paper on a certain topic.

I believe that as the internet becomes the first (and fastest) route we turn to in order to learn new information, teachers need to realize and accept the fact that they are no longer their students’ only lifeline to knowledge. If children can answer a simple query with a quick Google search, it changes the role of the teacher from a bearer of information into a prompter of deeper thinking, a guide for the efficient and safe navigation of the vast wealth of knowledge that the internet holds, and a helping hand to assist their students in learning new avenues with which to explore, display, and critically examine their newly found knowledge.

How do you think technology ties into social justice and anti oppressive education? In what ways do you see technology altering the roles of educators?

online reading resources

Here are a couple of the great sites I have found so far:

RIF Reading Planet

This site has a lot of different icons to click on its home page. I really like the Poetry Splatter game under the ‘Game Station’ icon!

Starfall

Starfall is a site designed for those who are just learning to read. Under the ‘Learning to Read’ item, there are short stories that focus on many different letter sounds to reinforce a specific one!

Kindergarten Resources

This site is a hidden treasure! It is just a page FULL of links to other great games and activities! My favourite (so far – I haven’t had time to try all the links yet!) is Bembo’s Zoo. It has an animal for every letter. When you click on the letter, it says the name of the animal, and then the letters jumble up and create a picture of that animal! Very cool! It would link perfectly with a lesson idea I had for students to draw a picture with only letters (see my post ‘music as cultural integration/alphabet art’ on March 7, 2013).

ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library) 

I am IN LOVE with this site! It has thousands of books, all scanned online for you to read! The Advanced Search has helped me greatly to narrow down the vast, vast selection. It has parameters for age, language, length, even cover colour for goodness’ sake. I have no doubt that this will be a favourite of mine for a long, long time!

lots of ideas stemming from STEM education

I just finished reading another issue of Instructor magazine and, not surprisingly, came rushing to my computer to get all of my thoughts down! My favourite article in the latest issue (Spring 2013) was about the up-and-coming topic of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or STEAM (the A is for Arts) Education.

The article provided multiple, simple ways to integrate a STEM-based approach in the classroom without previous experience, such as building boats out of clay in order to understand how items that normally sink in water can be made to float.

The biggest reaction I had to these ideas was ‘ugh.’ I always found the ‘engineering’ type of lessons to be frustrating and a waste of time. As a ruthless memorizer, I found school much more rewarding and personally successful when I could learn a formula, keep it stored away and use it forever after. Now that I am in the Education program, however, I understand that being a memorizer only can be a huge disadvantage for a student. And that is why I am so glad that I see the future curricula reflecting a hands-on, inquiry approach to learning. I hope that the educational system puts a stop to making children believe that they cannot be successful in their academic career unless they can remember tables and formulae. Learning through personal discovery and question posing is much more beneficial because it is realistic.

So while I may have found my Grade 10 Physics project of self-designed, balloon-propelled cars the most difficult and useless thing in my high school career, I now look back as a future educator, and applaud my teacher for incorporating (and still continuing to incorporate – much to my younger sister’s chagrin, I guess her opinion on the assignment was similar to mine) this lesson in his introductory Physics unit because it allows the students to fiddle with their cars and notice what improves or impedes their cars’ success.

Personally, I found this project so angering because there was no right answer or steps to follow in order to get to the desired outcome, something that school taught me would, 99% of the time, work! It went against my learning style, which, so far, has allowed me to achieve lots of success as a student! However, I am constantly wishing that I were a tinkerer and an iron-willed problem solver who won’t stop until a solution has been discovered. Unfortunately, though, I just got frustrated with the project and eventually gave up (I know, not a good example to be putting out there, but I figure honesty is the best policy). As a future educator, though, I hope to put an end to a generation of young thinkers who can succeed by merely memorizing (which, admittedly, in some cases and subjects, is required). I want my students to learn through their own mistakes. As the article so eloquently puts it,

Introducing kids to the engineering process – having them start again and fix the mistakes – at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

-Monica Foss, Instructor, Spring 2013, “STEM: Everyday

Engineering,” Page 41

This really rang true for me because, as a student, I would always dread to give the wrong answer when a teacher called on me. Students are so afraid of getting the wrong answer that they are losing the opportunity to learn through their failed attempts! I hope to foster an environment where mistakes are okay, and even encouraged, in order to work towards the right answer!

In closing, I hope to use lots of these hands-on, engineering/building activities with my students in order to give them a chance to learn real-world principles on a smaller scale. I know that using the arts in my classroom will be easy to do, because I have a connection with them, but I also want my classroom to be a nurturing environment for the world’s future engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technological gurus!