Building a Community of Learners

WORDPRESS

I started my blog a year ago, but I never posted anything about educational issues, thoughts or ideas.  The purpose of my blog was originally just to have a place to express what I was thinking.  It was a great way to organize my thoughts and I found it be very therapeutic.  If I wanted to rant about something or get something off of my chest, I knew that I could express myself through my blog.  For an example, here is my first post.  Being a shy and awkward person, blogging was a great way for me to voice my opinion.  It’s amazing to see how my writing has changed and I truly believe that blogging has contributed to my increased confidence and my ability to voice my opinion in public over the past year.

Being connected to people all over the world through blogging is very interesting.  It shows that people do read and care about what you have to say.  The blogging activities we went through in this class were very beneficial to introduce many people to the idea of building a Personal Learning Network.  We were able to post blog posts, comment on other posts and critically respond to other comments.  Doing this on a smaller scale is a wonderful starting point in order to learn how to reach a larger audience.  I really enjoyed how we were asked to comment on the blogs of our peers during seminars, especially since we were encouraged to pose thoughtful questions and positive responses.  An example of a thoughtful response by one of my peers is Kari Davis’ comment.  She said something positive about my post and she also posed a question that really made me think about my response back.  Having a well thought out comment on your blog post really shows that the person is engaged and it’s also wonderful to get feedback on your writing.

blog comment

Whenever I got around to commenting on someone’s blog, I had to take a while to really think about what I wanted to say, which I think is a good thing because that means that their blog post made me think.  I enjoyed reading everyone else’s posts because you get to see and understand issues from multiple perspectives.  Some of the things I read were so interesting because I never thought of some of the ideas my peers were discussing.  The way people in our class chose to represent and frame their discussion on their posts really amazed me.  For example, for the post on standardized testing, Eriko Parker chose to search the definition of “standard” and frame her discussion on the startling result.  In this way, I think it is very important and beneficial to read the opinions of other educators because the posts of others will always make you think about your own ideas and maybe those new ideas will help you in the future.  Reading from various blogs will also make you see an issue from a whole new perspective and light.

commenting on post

Through my inquiry project this semester, I learned a very interesting feature with WordPress.  I thought I knew everything about the world of WordPress through my explorations before, but was I ever wrong!  I found out that you could have multiple administrators for a WordPress blog.  This feature is amazing because this could be a great way for educators to collaborate to create a blog.  An image that comes to mind is kind of like an educational magazine, but in blog form.  Multiple perspectives could be portrayed on one blog instead of searching through different blogs.  This could also promote up and coming bloggers so that they can build a larger readership.  The members of an existing blogger’s PLN could possibly read the posts of a new blogger on this collaborative piece and become a part of the new person’s PLN!

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I believe that our experiences through blogging will encourage us to keep on reading and commenting on blog posts we find interesting in the future.

TWITTER

I joined Twitter in 2011, but I hardly ever used it.  When I did, it was mainly for keeping up with what my favourite celebrities were doing.  As you can see from my very first tweet, I was quite clueless about how to use twitter and hashtags.Screenshot at Apr 02 11-25-37

It wasn’t until last semester in ECMP 355 that I actually started using Twitter for educational purposes.  Since last semester was kind of like my introduction to using Twitter as an educational tool, I was not as comfortable with using it yet.  In ECS 210, I feel a lot more comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because I have used it quite a bit now.  I also feel comfortable with sharing my thoughts on Twitter because the people in our ECS 210 class are great with creating conversations on Twitter and supporting the opinions of their peers.  Having your tweets retweeted or favourited is an awesome feeling and it lets you know that your peers and fellow educators are supporting what you are expressing.

twitterRTandfav

Posting relevant and interesting things onto Twitter and knowing the right hashtags to use are very important to branching out to other educators, which is something I’m still learning to do.  I have started actually looking at educational blogs and tweeting out the blog posts I found interesting, which is a new thing for me.

techhacksI’ve also realized the importance of commenting, retweeting and favouriting tweets of others.  This creates a great support system for educators and it also gives others a chance to give feedback on someone’s work.  An example I think of from class was when Raquel Bellefleur posted her slam poetry assignment.  She received encouraging comments from many people, including me, on Twitter and I can tell that she really appreciated the responses of others.

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Check out Raquel’s blog!

I also found it very interesting to look through the tweets that my classmates would share during classes.  It was wonderful to see the multiple perspectives and the key messages they got out of our presentations.  I’ve always had difficulties with creating conversations on Twitter and I really didn’t understand it, but through this class and other past classes, I’ve realized that it’s really easy to create a thread of conversations.  I would include an image, but Twitter wouldn’t allow me to view some of the past tweets that were sent out during the year, which brings me to the thing that I didn’t enjoy about Twitter.  I tried to look back on some interesting conversations that my classmates were having when Claire Kreuger came into our classroom and also when Grant Urban presented.  When I searched the #ecs210 hashtag, hardly any of my classmates tweets showed up on the day Claire Kreuger came and no tweets were visible from Grant Urban’s presentation.  It frustrated me to say the least.  Does anyone know why this happened?

 

GOOGLE DOCS 

I’ve realized that a great tool for educators is GoogleDocs.  For my inquiry project, my group members and I used a Googledoc to organize our thoughts and to share ideas with each other.  It served as a great way for us to have all of our information in one place and it was easy to take information off of it to work on the different parts of our lesson plan and our online space.  I think GoogleDocs would be a great tool for teachers to collaborate and provide feedback.  If a few teachers want to work on an idea together or create a document of some sort, they all have the option to edit and make changes whenever they want.  With that being said, you have to make sure you trust the collaborators because you don’t want to lose important information.  Google Docs is also a great way to share a document online.  Most often, when sharing a document from Microsoft Word, you have to provide a folder for someone to download.  This can become quite inconvenient because downloading can sometimes be slow and tedious.  With a GoogleDoc, you can see an online version, which makes it that much more accessible for people in your PLN to view.  With the different editing tools, you can share the document with all different kinds of privacy settings. google docs

 

FINAL REFLECTIONS

Overall, I think this was a great class and a great introduction into what a PLN is and how to build our PLN.  I feel like the group of educators in our class were very supportive and involved in the learning process of each other.  I think that is the whole point to building a PLN: creating a support network.  If we need advice or feedback, we can rely on the members of our PLN to offer suggestions.  If we want to seek out new ideas or gain a new understanding of an issue, we can read the blog posts or the tweets of the people we are connected to.  It’s wonderful that we can connect to people all over the world, instead of only connecting to the people we are around.  It’s important to connect to those people as well, but creating relationships on a global level will offer you even more support and insight on particular issues.  People from different parts of the world may carry different and unique experiences and sharing these experiences can be very beneficial.  I think that the knowledge we now carry from this class will become very consequential in the future and it will allow us to build a larger support system.  It’s great that we will be able to carry these skills with us as we finish our degrees and also later on after we get our teaching degrees.

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We Teach Who We Are

We teach who we are

 

*I sketched this picture to represent the quote, “teaching holds a mirror to the soul”

In a previous lecture, I remember hearing, “we teach who we are”.  This idea is also expressed in Parker Palmer’s, “The Heart of a Teacher“.  Palmer writes, “As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together” and “teaching holds a mirror to the soul”.  To me, this reflects a connection between the teacher and their students.  Thinking of this in Palmer’s terms makes the experience sound very personal and intimate because it’s a transfer of your own values and teaching.  I think that this has a similar effect, also, if you switched the role of the teacher to the students.  Children and youth have an amazing ability to teach you new and intriguing things everyday and the things that they choose to share is an extension from their own thinking and a reflection of themselves.

These words really resonated with me and I never thought about how true this is!  It made me think about past teachers and professors I have come across over the years.  I’ve wondered about why certain educators teach the way they do and I’ve realized it’s just because they are portraying themselves in the classroom.  Since no one is the same, different teaching styles and attitudes will emerge.  I’ve had silly teachers, serious teachers, laid back teachers, you name it!  If an educator is having a bad day, it is reflected in their teaching.  If they are excited, then the classroom environment changes.  If emotion can have this huge effect in the classroom, imagine how views on social justice will be reflected.  If we aren’t careful about the messages in the hidden curriculum, we could potentially raise students to be racist, sexist or generally oppressive.

Do you have an example of how a teacher’s identity is expressed in the classroom?  Has there been any problems with incorporating anti-oppressive teaching?

Learning ASL: Final reflections and Progress

Throughout this semester, I have taken on the challenge to learn American Sign Language for my learning project in ECMP 355.  I have learned terms mostly from a series of Youtube videos from the channel “Sign Language 101“, and “Smarthands“.  Both of these Youtube channels provide great education and resources to help you learn ASL.  Sign Language 101 is a very informal and personable instruction based learning tool, while Smarthands is geared more towards a younger audience with songs, dances and children instruction.  These are both very good for learning terminology.  I have also recently used Lifeprint, which was very beneficial to my learning.  As I mentioned in a previous post, they provide lessons for language learning, which includes videos, descriptions and pictures of hand movements.  They also recognize different ways of using signs and alternate ways of signing.

It was interesting to rewatch all of my videos to reflect upon my personal growth throughout the semester.  I liked the fact that I tried to include different ways of presenting my content.  I did tutorial videos, voice over videos, songs, a collaboration video and even a silent movie type of video.  My confidence level in front of the camera has definitely gone up, which was one of my own personal goals.

I started out my videos by doing voiceovers or signing songs because I wasn’t comfortable with speaking in front of the camera while filming myself.

In my video about pronouns, I was very nervous because this was my first video actually speaking to the camera.  Note the weird eye contact and fidgeting in the beginning!

My videos on colours and family were somewhat more confident because I had a friend with me, but I still feel like it was a step for becoming more comfortable.

This is the last video I taped myself and spoke at the same time, and I really do believe that my confidence level has gone up in it.  I think my instructional methods can improve, but I think I have more volume and confidence in my voice!

Fingerspelling has been a part of my journey in every topic that I have learned over the semester, which has improved the speed and accuracy of my fingerspelling.  You can definitely see progress from my first time signing my name in my videos.

I think another big improvement with my ASL learning was that I was able to formulate a couple of sentences in a conversation, with the help from Lifeprint!

I was going to sign a song in the end, but I found it to be very difficult because I’m not as advanced with formulating proper sentences yet and I don’t want to get confused with Signed English.  When I was looking at different tutorials for songs in ASL, the people were using signed English, which is not proper American Sign Language.  I felt like it would defeat the purpose of my learning if I learned how to sign according to English.  This journey has been exciting and educational and I plan on continuing my learning of ASL and maybe become fluent in it!

Learning ASL: Conversation!

I took my learning from my lesson from Lifeprint and created a conversation video with myself!  I feel like it is kind of like a silent movie!  Meet Ashley and Amy!  My costume changes are brilliant, I know!

Should Teachers Be Friends with their Students on Facebook?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by SimonQ錫濛譙

Since I’m done for the semester and most of the stress is gone, I thought I’d take this time to blog about some things that I haven’t talked about on my blog this semester in ECMP 355.  The question of having teacher-student relationships or teacher-parent relationships on Facebook came up quite a bit in class.  I personally think that it’s not the greatest idea when you are dealing with elementary or high school students and their parents.  For me, my Facebook account is for personal updates and connecting with friends I have made over the years.  If we have students or parents as friends on Facebook, everything you say or do could be criticized.  It seems as though if someone finds out that their teacher has a life, it’s the end of the world.  I remember when I was in high school, we would think it was the craziest thing if we saw our teachers out at the grocery store or in any public place.  It’s as if we thought that teachers live at the school or something!  I feel like it’s okay once your students are out of school, especially if you have developed a great relationship with that teacher.  For example, I’m friends with my teacher from high school on Facebook and she is one of my inspirations to become a teacher!  I think this is not such a big deal with university students, however.  At this point, we should all be mature enough to be able to do this.  Once you get to university, professors start to treat you as adults and equals.  You may even develop friendships and mentoring relationships with these professors.

I think it’s a great idea to start a page on Facebook or create a Facebook account solely for educational purposes.  We explored this when we looked at the Hackel Hub Facebook Page.  This teacher documents what’s going on in the classroom and what the students are learning about.  This is a great way for parents and guardians to be involved in their children’s learning and for them to be aware of what their children are learning.  Seeing their child’s successes and progress will ensure that their children are in good hands!  Before the teacher posted anything, the teacher sent out a permission form for the students to be shown on the Facebook page.  The options were: I allow my child to be photographed with their name, I allow my child to be photographed without their name or I don’t allow my child to be featured on the page.  The page is completely private, so only people that are friends with this Facebook page will be able to see the content.

Overall, I think using Facebook for educational purposes is a good thing, but only if it is used in the right way.  This is my own personal opinion, but having students access your personal Facebook page may become problematic.  Students and teachers may analyze and criticize what you say on this social media site.  They also may think of you as less of an authoritative or role model figure because of the things you post.  This all comes down to how you portray yourself online, though.  You may not have problems with this, depending on what you post.  Facebook may be another way that you choose to develop your digital identity.  In the end, I think that using Facebook to document and update family members on your students’ progress is a beneficial way to use this social media site.

What do you think? Is it appropriate to accept friend requests from students?

My Summary of Learning

We are at the end of the Fall 2013 semester and it’s time to reflect on the things we have learned in ECMP 355!  Since my speaking skills are not the greatest in this video, I thought I would reflect further on the things talked about in my screen recording.

1. Google+

  • As mentioned in my video, I never really thought that Google+ was anything special.  Through other social medias and conversations, Google+ was kind of seen as a joke by many.  Through this class, I realized that you can do some great things with it.  First of all, it’s a great way to get students together in one group to share ideas, to make announcements and to get feedback from others.  I was used to UR Courses for this kind of interaction, but Google+ has proved to be a more easier, organized and comfortable way to access information.  Google Docs were used on our Google+ page, which was very convenient because they were placed right in plain view for us to access.  Because of this class, I started using Google Docs to share ideas and information with classmates.

2. Twitter

  • I originally used Twitter as a way to ‘stalk’ celebrities and to find out what was happening in the world.  Little did I know, Twitter can be used as a tool to communicate with other educators through hashtags.  The example I used in my video was #pted (preservice teacher education), but there are multiple hashtags like #elemed, #scichat #ntchat, ect.  Educators that follow these multiple hashtags around the world can respond to your tweet by giving advice, feedback or comments.

3. WordPress

  • I had a WordPress blog before this class and I would usually just write about what I was thinking about and reflecting on experiences.  Once I started ECMP 355, I started blogging about technology, reflections and my own personal learning.  I thought I was pretty advanced with WordPress before, but I’ve learned so much from this class.  For example, I learned about drop down menus and ping backs.  I also learned how to use an about.me page on my blog.  We also had George Couros come into our class to show us how we can develop our professional portfolios online.  I had no idea that you could do this and it seems like a more organized and environmentally friendlier way of developing a professional portfolio, while developing your digital footprint at the same time.

4. Edublogs

  • I’ve never actually used Edublogs before, but I’m bringing this up because we looked at Ms Cassidy’s blog.  She uses Edublogs as a way to record the progress of her students, which is pretty cool in my opinion.  I took a closer look at her blog after I made my summary of learning and realized that she does not document only reading and writing, but also other subjects, like math and art.  I think this is a great way for teachers and for parents to see the progress that the students are making.

5. Digital Storytelling

  • Through the 5 Card Flickr Story exercise and The Door Scene exercise, we learned all about digital storytelling.  I thought this was amazing because it goes beyond our basic understanding of how stories are told, which would be physically reading a story and watching movies.  This class has really opened my mind to how many possibilities arise from using technology.

6. Youtube/iMovie

  • Youtube has been a very important tool for me this year.  I posted my learning project videos, The Door Scene video and my summary of learning from this class onto Youtube.  I’ve also used it in different classes in the past and recently.  Youtube provides a quick and easy way to share videos with classmates, students, friends, colleagues and many more!  I use iMovie to edit all of my videos and it’s been pretty good for me so far!  I had to update to a new version because my past one was not working for some reason, but I’m starting to like the new version more now!  It’s easy to understand and function and you can share your videos onto Youtube directly from iMovie.

7. Podcasting

  • Podcasting has always been a foreign term to me and I never really understood it until this class.  We were supposed to create one in a different class earlier on, but we ended up just recording a video of our voices and put it on Youtube because we did not understand how to create a podcast.  Since we were not totally confident in talking about something, we made a music mashup, which is much harder than it seems.  Creating podcasts could be a great alternative to presenting in class and it could also be a way to bring information or entertainment to others.

8. Digital Identity

  • In my video, I talk about the story of Karen Klein and Amanda Todd.  Both of these individuals were affected by the identity they have made online.  Karen’s story ends up happier because someone raised money for her to go on a vacation.  But for Amanda Todd, however, her identity and her activity online contributed to her downfall.
  • Throughout this whole entire class, we have been developing our own digital identities through social medias such as Google+ and Twitter and through our blogs.  These tools have enabled us to identify as educators and share information that we find interesting.

Sext Up Kids

In ECMP 355 last week, we learned about digital citizenship.  This includes how you portray yourself online and proper nettiquette.  Our prof recommended watching a video called “Sext Up Kids”, so I watched it last night.

I was shocked to find out that girls are becoming sexualized at a much younger age.  Kids as young as three are being influenced to be sexualized because they are brought up with Disney stories and Barbies/Bratz.  They grow up believing that beauty is the number one thing to achieve.  I wrote an essay in ECS 110 a couple of years ago about how Barbies affect children and I had mixed feelings about the topic and I still do to this day.  When these children play with Barbies, they may think that looking like Barbie will ensure happiness in their lives and increase their ability to make friends.  In this way, Barbie is producing appropriately gendered females because they are promoting ideals of unrealistic beauty.  The Bratz dolls took a step further because their clothes were getting shorter and skimpier, their lips were larger and their frames were smaller.  These dolls are definitely showing a more sexualized view of toys compared to Barbie.  When I was growing up, I played with Barbies and Bratz.  I feel like these dolls did give me an unrealistic ideal of beauty, but I was never influenced to be like these toys and I feel like I was never sexualized as a kid.  This may differ from child to child and the rise of technology might be a factor because children have more access to content (ex: Barbie.com).  I feel like children are more influenced by the media.

barbiebratz

When you watch TV, surf the net, read a magazine, etc., you will most definitely see a sexualized image of a celebrity.  These are the images I grew up with and I definitely wanted to be like these celebrities because I idolized them.  One of the celebrities that I loved was Britney Spears.  When you are a kid, you don’t really understand that these celebrities are dressed inappropriately or acting inappropriately.  For example, I never thought that “Baby One More Time” was sexual at all when I was younger.  As I got older, girls started looking more like the celebrities I loved.  This is probably because that’s what we were socialized to believe as beautiful and we also saw this as a way to get attention from friends and boys.  Even at my age now, girls are desperate for male attention and will go to great lengths to impress them.  In the video, the young girls explain that Cosmopolitan explains ways to please men and not the other way around.  Girls are led to believe that their own happiness comes second to men.

britspears

With the rise of technology, “sexting” has become a popular act.  Since girls believe that they have to impress the boys, they send naked or semi-nude pictures to them, without thinking about the consequences.  This may become part of their digital identity.  Having an image like that following you for the rest of your life will not be great in future endeavours, so I think these issues need to be addressed earlier on in kid’s lives.  In the video, several women speak to nine year olds about sexualization and how they feel about themselves.  I think this is a great way to get young girls aware of what’s out there and to relate to each other.

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Do you think that the youth today are becoming highly sexualized earlier on in life?  Is there any other factors that influence these ideals?