Networked Professional Learning

As I sit and reflect on my new understanding of networked learning I realize that I have come a long way. Perhaps, easier to do when you start far back…. This term I have created a new WordPress Blog as part of my learning project, used my twitter account daily, enjoyed writing and reading on our Google+ community and interacted on BlueJeans with my cohort, most of whom I have never met. My blog now has a nice clean theme and proudly boasts categories and a Twitter feed. No easy feat for a former Weebly fan. My twitter account was updated with a picture of me rather than a pretty picture (because I went to an Edcamp event and realized that I recognized many people from their twitter pics, but they had no idea who I was until I gave my name). I also made an effort to grow my PLN and follow more people. I spent hours combing through the lists of leaders in the edtech field to see who they followed. Over the course my followers grew from just under 300 to 433. I was amazed at how easy it was to interact with tech gurus and authors. I even sent a DM to Gary Stager asking for his PHD dissertation that wasn’t available to the public and he sent it to me!! I tried to read and comment on as many blogs as I could posted by my cohort and learned so much from all their comments and ideas. While I never quite got over my reluctance to speak on the Blue Jeans site, I enjoyed commenting in the sidebar chat and felt every bit a part of my class. I was rather sad when the class first came to an end, but now realize that I can keep these connections going through Twitter. So yes, I do feel like a networked learner. I still have so much more to learn, but am very comfortable taking my time to grow a meaningful and helpful PLN. Thank you to everyone who continues to help me on this journey.

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WordPress Learning Project Recap

Seems strange to do a final blog post on a learning project that will probably continue long after the course, but I guess that’s the beauty of authentic, real world learning. It doesn’t just stop when the classes finish. Jane will still have an interest in playing the guitar and Melody the ukulele. Harprit will still be a good cook and Heidi and Tanya will still be finding their inner zen. Not to mention all the other great learning projects that have occurred this term. My project was not particularly creative or flashy. I started out wanting to learn something to improve my fitness by learning squash. I managed one blog post (https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/learning-project/) before my basement filled with water, life came crashing all around me, and I realized that I had more ‘pressing’ issues to learn.

In blog #2 I decided then to focus my time on a skill that was valuable and necessary for the course. Blogging. I had some experience with a Weebly class account but only used basic features so vowed to learn more about blogging and specifically create a WordPress blog. (https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/learning-project-re-visited-colds-and-floods/)

Blog post #3 detailed the skills learned in starting up a blog. And just to be clear, I started at zero knowledge of WordPress. I was excited to have choices of themes and colours and spent hours picking and choosing my basic design. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/wordpress-work-in-progress/

Blog post #4 was entitled “Change is difficult” and was basically a vent about how difficult I found navigating the WordPress site. Interestingly, now when I read my words I’m laughing at all the things that I found hard to do. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/change-is-difficult/

Blog #5 detailed my participation in an online MOOC that I found entitled “WordPress Bootcamp”. It was a good, basic introduction to the platform and allowed me to interact with other people who were also learning. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/wordpress-bootcamp/

Blog #6 I presented my thoughts on blogging in a Haiku deck format. Matching visuals to my thoughts helped me to think about the emotions and images related to blogging. https://gallowayjourney.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/learning-project-update.pdf

Blog #7 was created using emaze http://app.emaze.com/@AOWRTIQT/wordpress-learning-project-update-copy1#3. I enjoyed playing with the new format to demonstrate the new additions I had made to my blog, but looking back it seems a bit over the top. The emerging flowers, while beautiful, take away from my message. Not sure I would use this tool again.

Blog #8 https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/finding-a-better-fit-learning-project-update-8/ detailed my continuing frustration with WP and my search for other blogging platforms.

This last blog was intended to be a Dear John style letter to WP that would go along these lines.

Dear WordPress,

This is just not going to work. It’s not you, it’s me, well maybe a combination of both. We simply aren’t matched and want different things out of life. I don’t understand your jokes or the coded way in which you communicate. You seem detached from me and often go out of your way to make simple things difficult. I am tired of being frustrated, of having you block my wishes and desires by being obtuse. Why does everything have to be a battle?

But the interesting thing is, that as I have been using WP for a number of other blogs, I have now become more familiar with the platform. Looking back at my previous blogs shows me that the little things that I found so difficult have now become easy. I have gotten used to the idiosyncracies and hidden content of WordPress. I am now faced with the difficult choice of continuing this blog or reverting back to Weebly. Initially Weebly would have won hands down, but now I’m not so sure. I may have to keep my Dear John letter after all. WordPress, despite all its faults, is starting to grow on me…..

Once upon a course…A summary of learning for EDCI #569

My summary of learning takes the form of a story. I was inspired early on in our course by #cogdog and tried to use a variety of new formats when blogging. I was also influenced by a recent fairy tale unit with my class to try to create a narrative of sorts. I first wrote out the story and then tried to find a digital way to present it. Turns out, that’s not the best way to do it. Many of the apps I tried- Puppet Pals, Book Creator, Comic Life and Toontastic all have restrictions on the number of settings, characters and time for dialogue. After many failed attempts I ended up drastically simplifying my script and choosing Toontastic as my method. Gutting and purging my script was an excellent exercise in itself. I only had 1 min per slide and had to make my words count. Endless retakes trying to fit in my words before I got cut off resulted in new and bigger cuts. I really had to think about the crucial understandings and big ideas that I had attained in the course. Frustrating at the time, but looking back, actually quite a valuable lesson. I had never tried Toontastic before but, despite my time crunch, really enjoyed learning it. I ended up not using the app as it was intended (which at the beginning of the course would have bothered me, but now makes me feel creative 🙂  I will definitely use this app in the future with my students as it clearly lays out the stages of story telling and provides many cues and guides along the way (not that I followed any of them). The app provides a huge array of characters and settings to choose from with options to rework and create your own and is very easy to follow. My final product is not perfect. Learning how to move the animations in just the correct way, and playing with the options is like falling down the rabbit hole… I eventually needed to say enough! So here is my story… I hope you enjoy it as you all provided inspiration in one way or another over the course.

Ps. I have included the full script below in case my précis version doesn’t make sense 🙂 Once upon a time there lived a teacher who lived in a beautiful land surrounded by magical forests and glistening waters. She lived happily with her husband and two children and enjoyed teaching in the village school. She loved the energy and enthusiasm of her students and delighted in sharing new discoveries with them. Over the years she began to notice that her students had started talking about a magical land over the rainbow. The children spent less time playing on the playground and instead huddled around communicators said to provide gateways to the new land. Most of the adults of the village were too busy to notice the change and were just happy that their children were occupied and not out chasing dragons and getting into mischief. Some tried to enter the land with their children, but it was a difficult journey full of secret handshakes and coded language that few had time for. Some of the villagers became concerned that witchcraft was at work and they tried to raise the alarm but for the most part the adults saw the fascination with the new land as a phase that the children would outgrow.  But the teacher became more and more curious and could feel changing winds blowing in the air. So she tried, with limited success, to use the communicators so prized by her students and began to go for nightly walks in the hopes that she might stumble across the magic that was infecting the land….  Things might have continued on like this for many moons had it not been for a powerful fairy godmother, Val of Irvine, who noticed that the village children needed support to navigate this new world.  Being a strong and capable fairy, she didn’t call for the knights to save the day but instead took things into her own hands. She knew that there was power in a collective and that she just needed to assemble the right characters who were interested in a personal quest into understanding the new land.  The teacher volunteered her services and found herself on the winning side of a lottery of discovery. She had so many questions and couldn’t wait to start her journey but new that she needed help to ensure that she didn’t get hopelessly lost.  Val of Irvine pointed her towards a respected and resourceful guide- Couros the communicator, an insightful and curious character, who was known to travel and explore many mystical lands. One night he approached the teacher and offered to take her on a journey into the magical land she sought.  The teacher was pleased with his friendly and encouraging nature so agreed to follow him. They soon left her small village far behind.  Couros explained that the magical land she sought was an overgrown, hidden garden of sorts, and that if you really looked carefully, and knew how to pick and mix the right ingredients you could find, and in fact create, the most beautiful and unexpected treasures. But, he warned, you also had to be careful because new and complex dangers appeared when least expected.  Couros felt that in order to understand the land you needed to become familiar with its structure and life. He helped the teacher to understand the value of Twitter and blogging as networking tools to work the land. He explained to the teacher that if she really wanted to understand the land she needed to immerse herself and contribute to the story. This land was unlike any other and required full participation and a desire to connect and learn with others. This was difficult for the teacher as she was a private individual by nature. But over the moons she learned to be more open with her thoughts and reflections and to cast her questions out into this new and exciting world. The teacher soon realized that she was not alone on this journey and in fact was joined by a strong band of loveable characters that she travelled with. Like fairies they flittered in and out of her journey seemingly knowing when they were needed most. Their open and honest reflections inspired her and their encouragement and support kept her going on the darkest days when she felt like she still had so far to go. Her journey took her to places she had only imagined and often left her with many more questions than answers. As they travelled, Couros introduced her to his magical friends who were only too happy to share their knowledge. Shareski the joyful one taught the teacher to seek out and make time for joy during her journey and made sure that she freely shared her new knowledge with other visitors to the land. He encouraged the teacher to contribute her skills in order to improve the land and to see sharing as a moral imperative. Cormier the gardener encouraged the teacher to look below the surface of the new land to see and appreciate the ideas and learning that spontaneously occur when a community of learners gets together. He helped her to see that the paths that she took in her quest shaped her understanding and in turn created new avenues for her to explore. She stopped looking for the end of the road and began to appreciate the journey and the rhizomes of learning that she created along the way.  Martinez the Maker shared her passion for creative tinkering and inspired the teacher to not only visit, and view the land but to dig in and play with it and rework it. Martinez showed the teacher how to get the most out of her journey by experimenting and playing with personally meaningful ideas.  Cogdog the storyteller helped the teacher to find her voice. To understand that a story can be many things and that her journey was her own story to tell. The teacher loved the freedom of thought he inspired and resolved to find new ways to express her ideas, and to take more risks while sharing her ever-evolving story.  Just when she thought she had thought of everything there was to know about this magical land she met Watters the Wise who helped her to look critically at the history and future of the land and to ask important questions about power and control. The teacher loved the twists and turns in her journey. Some days she met dead ends and had to retrace her steps, some days she forged new ground and once in a while she even felt that she had left her mark- like the day Cormier the gardener asked if he could replant and rework one of her ideas. One day Couros the communicator told the teacher he had to leave her for awhile. She felt rather sad and still had so many questions. But she soon realized that her journey didn’t need to have an end yet. She didn’t need to know her destination in order to move forward. She could continue exploring with her new tools and band of characters for support. She didn’t need to live happily ever after, she just needed to live in the moment, explore with her students and be open to all that it brought to her.  To be continued………      

Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it….

Since listening to Audrey Watter’s guest chat I have been thinking more about the issues of gender and power in the tech world. This morning I also watched the archived chat that Mardelle organized to further explore gender issues. Thank you so much Mardelle! At my school many of teachers involved in tech are female, so while I was aware of gender issues affecting science and math I hadn’t given it much thought in regards to tech. Then I realized that there is a divide. The programmers, tech support and developers at my school are all male and the innovators and creative forward thinking techies are mostly female. Hmm… As I listened to my tie grad cohort give personal examples of gender bias that they are exposed to and the gender/ cultural issues that they experience with their students I found myself relating more and more and realized that gender inequality is a big issue in all aspects of our lives. I remember being a teenager and having an older man tell me “don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” I was furious but didn’t do or say anything because I felt that he was well meaning and that he would be shocked by my response. It was easier to take it and do nothing. I was very interested to read how Audrey’s talk inspired other cohort members. Tanya’s blog on Bending Gender had me nodding in agreement and appalled when I followed her link and viewed the Global News segment on the bullying of  pregnant meteorologist Kristi Gordon. I have also been following the media reports on Monica Lewinsky and her Ted talk on public shaming. How easy it is to use our new media tools to propagate stereotypes and shame those that refuse to comply. But public shaming and gender stereotyping have been around long before technology appeared.  Power and control are issues that have plagued humankind since life began. Most ancient religions are based on strict ideologies surrounding the roles of men and women. While I think North American society has made good inroads into at least acknowledging the issue, I am continually horrified by reports from around the world about the brutal treatment of women that is cloaked in religious or cultural dogma. Reading Harprit’s reflection, about the horrific rape case in New Delhi, I too was struck by Harprit’s observation that “what is especially disturbing is the lack of remorse felt by the guilty parties and their justification for their actions.” It is hard to believe that in the 21st century we are still trying to convince people that women are just as important as men. It is tempting, when surrounded by so many horrific examples of gender discrimination, to stick one’s head in the sand, to pretend everything is ok, because the alternative of standing up and challenging these ideas puts you at risk. At risk of being shamed, or judged, or in many parts of the world physically injured. But, technology has also shown us another side. The side that sticks up for what is wrong. The 14,000 people who supported Kristi Gordon on Facebook. The 2,503,938 people who have watched Monica Lewinsky’s Ted talk. The global social media outrage that resulted in rape convictions for the Delhi rapists. Audrey Watters helped me to realize that we shouldn’t let the little things slip, because awareness of inequity means doing our part to stop those little things from growing and multiplying into something very dangerous. She made a very important point that in the tech world it matters who builds computers because people solve problems that matter to them. So the next time someone tells me not to worry my pretty little head about it, I will tell them exactly how I feel and why it is important for them to listen.