Building a Community of Learners

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Technology and Social Justice?

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When I was in elementary school, the only thing we needed technology for was learning to type and researching topics.  New technologies over the years have opened up countless opportunities to engage learners and teach in different ways.  I believe that the changed nature of learning and the rise of technology is related to social justice anti oppressive education because we can connect to a larger audience to receive guidance and feedback.  Teachers use internet sites like Pinterest to get teaching ideas and they could also reach out to a community of educators through forums and Twitter.  Educators can connect with millions of people all over the world to create a support group or to have a discussion about ideas.  Collaboration is a big thing for education and the fact that you can post and access teaching materials is pretty great.  The internet offers another way to seek out help and support for your teaching goals towards social justice and anti-oppressive education.

We can use different technology tools to create digital stories with anti-oppressive content.  In my previous post about treaty education, Claire’s students used apps like Puppet Pals to portray their versions of the signing of Treaty #4.  The students also created songs and podcasts, which I assume was done by Garageband.  These projects offer a more engaging and fun way to learn about content in the classroom.  This also makes learning more memorable and we as educators should strive to make anti-oppressive content relevant and fresh in students’ minds.  Using the internet and other technology tools allows students and teachers to have their content seen and commented on by a much larger community.  These anti-oppressive ideas and projects will keep educators and others around the world aware and inspired to do the same in their own classrooms or households.

How do you think technology and new modes of learning are related to social justice and anti-oppressive education?

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.

Zite As An Educational Tool

For ECMP 355 last week, I decided to check out the app called, Zite.  This app is pretty much like your own personal magazine because it shows you intriguing articles based on your interests.  I downloaded this tool on my iPhone a while ago, but I just revisited it to actually give it a try!  The app is free and can be downloaded at the App Store.  The sign up process was very fast and convenient!  Navigating is very easy to figure out, which is very beneficial.

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You have a Quicklist of the categories you are interested in and you can navigate that way, or you can click on “Your Top Stories” to navigate articles from all of your interests.

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You can customize the font size to your liking, which is pretty cool!

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A great feature of this app is that you can post articles from Zite onto Twitter.

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Unfortunately, it was not working for me and I am not sure why.  Anybody have any suggestions? I’ll try a different day and see what happens!

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This tool would be great for students because they can search up a very global variety of material on politics, history, pop culture, anthropology, and many more!  Zite is a great way for students to explore their interests and share content to others.  This would be a great source for blogging material because there’s a bottomless pit of content, whether that be an opinionated piece or an educational source!  This is also a great tool for teachers because they can educate themselves about new and noteworthy information and upgrade according to that.  I looked at the Education category and there are tons of articles about ways of teaching and different approaches to use in the classroom.  There’s also a category for crafts, which is a dream for us Pre-K to 5 teachers!  This tool is just great for everybody because it catches you up with current events and new and upcoming ideas, trends, etc.  I think it’s beneficial for anybody to learn about global issues and content and I believe that this just opens up our minds to all sorts of ideas and practices!

Have you used Zite before? How did you implement this tool into the classroom?

Digital Identity

Today in ECMP 355, we talked about the idea of digital identity and how important it is to keep a professional view of yourself online as an educator.  I’m assuming that most people have heard of the math teacher, named Carly Mckinney, that was fired earlier this year for posting semi-nude photos of herself and photos of her smoking marijuana on Twitter.  What I found interesting about this story was the fact that she was not fired right away because she argued that she was free to post whatever she wanted.  Meanwhile, in 2011, Ashley Payne was fired for posting a Facebook photo from her holidays of her holding both a glass of beer and a glass of wine.  She was forced to either resign or be suspended right away. I think it is reasonable that Carly was fired for obvious reasons, but I feel like Ashley’s punishment was a little dramatic.  I don’t believe that a teacher holding an alcoholic drink is necessarily a bad thing because everybody has a casual drink every now and again!  It baffles me that this is worthy of automatic suspension!  I would understand if the photo was of her being blatantly drunk and irresponsible, but this was just a few drinks on a holiday!

My ECMP class today reminded me of how important it is to keep a professional digital identity, especially as a future teacher and especially since different schools and parts of the world will not be accepting of everything.  We do need to realize, however, that teachers are still human beings and they do have lives other than teaching.  I believe that teachers should be able to embrace who they are online as a teacher and as an everyday human, obviously within appropriate standards.  For example, I think tweeting about your life, whether it’s about family, achievements, feelings, etc., is a great thing because it shows that you are willing to share those personal moments with students, friends, followers and parents.  It shows that you are not just a teacher, but a friend–a person you can rely on and talk to.