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.
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.
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.
Creative commons File:Bamboo 2.jpg
I was so inspired listening to David Cormier @ talking to my Grad cohort about his philosophy of education and assessment. He asked some very powerful questions and espoused a view of education that made me pause and take notice. So often we simply accept the status quo, or as traditionalists, believe that because something has been so for so long it must be good. David gave us a brief history of public education that started in 1870 in Birmingham, England with a standardized curriculum that included:
- reading basic text
- Writing a sentence
- the ability to do basic arithmetic
In the 1800’s if you could do all these things you were deemed fit for release to the local factory to start work. The current education is still based on this same factory model that prized obedience and attendance. Dave didn’t need to point out how ridiculous this is. Sir Ken Robinson also made reference to our outdated models of education in his 2006 Ted Talk “How Schools Kill Creativity”
Dave believes that this standardized one size fits all model of teaching and assessment does nothing to enhance true learning. He stated that “if people don’t care- nothing will happen”. The core of learning is to figure out how to make people care and to figure out where the nexus of caring lives. I love that term “The Nexus of Caring”. As a primary teacher I know that building a close relationship with my students is key to their success. I know that if they feel respected and feel listened to they will work harder. It pains me to have to write report cards that boil children down to a number and compares them to their peers. On the other hand, I have also been in courses where my sole goal was to figure out what the teacher wanted me to say so that I could get my ‘A’ forget the useless facts picked up along the way and move on.
As Dave pointed out, it is incredibly difficult to quantify and judge someone else’s learning experience. People come to learning situations with a huge range of backgrounds, belief systems, and ideologies. Dave describes learning as rhizomatic. Just as my garden bamboo is spreading shoots and canes in all directions, and can’t be contained, so does true learning. I love this analogy, as not only does it address the multiple and often unexpected directions that learning may take us, but it also takes into account that much of this growing is done underground and unseen. In the spring I marvel at the fact that I find bamboo shoots in far and unexpected corners of the yard (my pristine architect neighbour doesn’t share my excitement) and admire the tenacity and resilience of the plant.
Unfortunately our current educational system is more of a bonsai tree mentality – the kind that you know in advance what you want, and take great pains to tweak and form into the perfect specimen. How to care for a Bonsai Tree tells us that you need to first pick a worthy plant and then become a skilled ‘expert’ to painstakingly trim and prune it to fit into a preselected container. There are a number of traditional bonsai training styles to choose from. Your successful specimen should be displayed for all to see. You are advised to discard unsuccessful attempts.
While bonsai trees are beautiful and can be appreciated for their perfect structure and design, I would much rather sit under a wild bamboo plant listening to the whispers and rustlings of potential, blowing in the wind.
Thanks Dave, for helping inspire a new rhizome in my wild jungle of learning.
Link to MOOC exploring Rhizomatic learning https://p2pu.org/en/courses/882/rhizomatic-learning-the-community-is-the-curriculum/
Oh joy where have you gone? I must admit that lately I have struggled with finding joy in my learning. Learning has become a list of looming deadlines and an endless list of things to read and write about. Listening to Dean Shareski, speak to my UVic Masters class, last Thursday night reminded me that joy needs to be central to our learning and that taking time to reflect on what brings joy is an important part of the learning process. Reading Alfie Kohn’s post Feel bad education-The Cult of Rigor and the Loss of Joy helped me realize how far sideways things have gone in our schools. The attainment of joy is often seen as interfering with real learning. Laughter is seen as a sign of misbehaviour and enthusiastic chatter and movement is viewed as a lack of control on the teacher’s part. I admit that sometimes there is a fine line between joy and complete off task silliness. As a grade 1 teacher, I am lucky to be teaching children who are new enough to the system to still be joyful. Their natural inclination is to be thrilled with learning something new. They will often break out in spontaneous song or dance at the sheer joy of discovery. Their faces light up in glee when they finally finish that story they have spent days working on. They do a happy dance when they persevere through a math problem and figure it out. Of course, not all learning can be joyful. There is nothing exciting or new about practicing printing which is an important skill that must be developed through repetition. I also realize that my students find joy in different things. Some love to read others to write and some to build. I think the trick is to value joy in our classrooms. Not to seek it constantly or berate ourselves if it is not there but to value and recognize it when it appears. To be ready to set aside the lesson plan and go with the flow. To identify those unscripted moments that build community within the classroom. There is nothing like a shared laugh to bring students closer together. We value collaboration and community – is shared joy not a great way to get there naturally? Why is it that as children go through our school system they seem to lose their joy and creativity? Sir Ken Robinson gave a powerful Ted-talk exploring this topic. Why do we continue to educate students in a factory model when innately we know it isn’t right?
As I was writing this post my husband came into the room and asked if I wanted to go to the beach to watch the sun rise. My first inclination was 1. to be annoyed by the disruption when I was on a roll and 2. to say no as I had too much to do. Luckily, I came to my senses quickly and recognized the irony in refusing a beautiful morning with my husband because I needed to finish writing a blog about ‘joy’. Taking the break on a frosty morning to listen to the seagulls calling, watch the fishing boats go out and experience the beauty of a calm, sunny morning at the beach brought me more joy than writing a thousand blogs. I realized that making time for joy should be a priority both in my life and in my classroom. How many times have I missed out on a joyful opportunity because I was just too busy or it wasn’t the right time? I resolve to add joy to my to do list. Not as a specific activity or time but as a constant presence and reminder to watch for it, to nurture and encourage it, in my family and my students. Thank you Dean for reminding me that joy isn’t superfluous but rather a much-needed and valued part of a good life.
I was so excited when I found out that Sylvia Martinez was going to be talking to our Tiegrad cohort. I had just stumbled upon her work the week before while doing research for my lit review. My research question involves how to bring the Reggio Emilia Approach up the grades. The Reggio Emilia Approach to learning originates in a tiny town in Italy but has been hailed as one of the best educational philosophies in the world by Newsweek. It embraces the ideal that children are competent learners who should have a strong say in the direction of their learning. The Reggio approach states that:
- Children must be able to learn through hands on experiences using their all of their senses
- Children learn best through a project based approach
- Children must have control of their learning
- Children must be given ample opportunities to express themselves
While researching articles for my lit review I came across the Maker Movement and was immediately struck by the parallels between the two approaches. The Maker Culture according to Wikipedia
I began searching the literature to see who else was researching the parallels and the implications for bringing Reggio up the grades in the 21st century. I found Gary Stager and his Digital Reggio philosophy, did a little dance for joy, and was immediately hooked. This Summer there is a Summer Institute put on by Constructing Modern Knowledge that is committed to making connections between child-centered learning theories and the creative construction of knowledge with computers. It is so exciting to see the blending of theories that value child-centered learning, an inquiry, project based approach and technology!
I am now hard at work finding articles to support creating a Reggio inspired Maker space at my school. I will be moving up to Gr. 3 next year and can’t wait to use my Reggio background in a new and exciting way that will also incorporate digital technologies for my students. Listening to Sylvia talking about all the opportunities and technologies of the Maker Movement was truly inspiring and has me all fired up! I would love to connect with anyone else interested in creating a hands-on maker space in their class or anyone who is already trying this out.
The following Ted talk by Adora Svitak ties in so well to the constructivist philosophy of learning and really helps to celebrate the power of the inherent wisdom of children.
“The Best Schools in the World”
Newsweek, 2 December 1991
Jane and I created the following screencast of a media tool called Coggle that we have been experimenting with at school. I currently use it to collaboratively plan upcoming units with my teaching partner and recently used it to map out my research focus. I enjoy the ease of use and the simplicity of the image it creates. Sometimes simple really is better. Please watch the video below for our step by step review of it. Let me know if you can think of any other uses for it.
After hearing Alan Levine (@cogdog) as a guest presenter in our EDCI569 course this past week I have found myself reflecting on my own teaching. The focus of his presentation was on digital storytelling and the myriad of ways in which students can ‘tell’ a story. I am currently immersed in teaching a Grade 1 fairy tale unit and am trying to reconcile Alan’s forward thinking, innovative ideas with my current lessons which are teaching students the ‘correct’ way to write a story. The BC Grade 1 outcomes state that students need to know that stories include characters, settings, problems and solutions. I like to use a unit on fairy tales to explore storytelling and writing. One of the first lessons I do is to ask the students “what is a fairy tale?” We divide our class books into piles of yes, no, maybe and have great debates and conversations regarding the genre. The student responses are always interesting and are often based on the latest Disney movie. My 6 year old students are convinced that ‘Rapunzel’ the story was based on ‘Tangled’ the movie rather than the other way around. When we begin to explore the historical basis on fairy tales and add the element of medieval times students begin to see the importance of oral traditions and the timeless power of language. Learning about jesters and minstrels has helped them to see that stories can be told in many different forms. Students who have difficulty writing will often amaze me by standing up and singing a story, others will act out a tale with puppets, or dance a story. I have tried this year to offer more story telling options such as having the students build a story using materials, paint a story, mime a story. We have a classroom full of costumes to retell and act out stories. Using apps such as Puppet Pals, Story Creator and Stop Animation has allowed technology to provide another vehicle for their ideas. We are now beginning to write our stories and I can already feel some of the magic leaving. The strong writers will be fine but it is the students with the wonderful imaginations who struggle to print that I worry about. How can I help them learn the necessary skills of printing and story structure without squashing the joy of the story? Currently I try to separate aspects of writing into different areas because at this age it is impossible to do it all at the same time. So we focus on beautiful printing in our printing books, and practice our best spelling in our spelling books. We also have writer’s visual notebooks for drawing our ideas about stories and journals for printing our ideas. I will conference with students individually as they are writing to work on editing and coherence but am careful to pick only one or two things at a time. Alan helped to reinforce for me that there is no one way to tell a story. I am thankful for that reminder as I sit down to write my report cards. Yes Johnny’s letters go off the lines, and his punctuation is non-existent, but boy can he tell a good story.
Over the last few weeks I have had an opportunity to reflect on my digital identity and to think about how I manage the information that I put out into the world. I must admit that I am still mostly at the lurking stage and often second guess myself as to what I want to put out to the world. As a rather private person, raised in a stiff upper lip British household it is not natural to draw attention to myself. “What would the neighbours think?” was a common line used in my childhood to describe any behaviour that seemed out of the norm. The idea being that you don’t want to stand out, that only brash and egotistical individuals constantly tell everyone what they are doing or thinking. With this in mind, I approached Twitter with deep skepticism and trepidation. It is a very vulnerable feeling putting your thoughts into cyberspace. I have often wondered how to overcome this reluctance, as try as I might, it is hard to reframe years of thinking.
As my group of followers grows, and begins to include experts in many areas, it becomes even more intimidating to put my thoughts permanently into cyberspace. Trying to decide on the persona of my account is also a concern. Do I want my employers to read the same things as my friends? Do my Masters colleagues need to know personal details or should I stick to informative articles? I know that some people have multiple accounts, but the idea of managing even more information in even more places is too much for me at this stage. I like Google Plus for its ability to put people in different circles. Why can’t Twitter do that?
In order to improve my identity I have so far changed my profile on Twitter, tried to check it and post daily. I have combed through the followers of people I admire and have found new people and new hashtags to follow. I am trying to set aside time each day to check feeds, post comments, and add to conversations. I am still more comfortable retweeting interesting articles and tweets than creating my own so my personal goal for this week is to try to post more original content- pictures from my class, ideas I think are important…. Who cares what the neighbours think!
A recent retweet on @_valeriei- Does Posting More Content Lead to More Engagement? New report tracks 2 years of data: made me think that perhaps the neighbours are so overwhelmed with their own data that they don’t really notice or care. Perhaps the key is not to create a giant PLN but instead a manageable one in which I feel supported and listened to and can make meaningful contributions that lead to active engagement.
As part of my Masters in Innovation and Technology I am meant to be blogging about important developments in my scholarly thinking and Literature Review progress. I am supposed to be becoming knowledgeable in current educational theories and philosophies. However, instead of focusing on these very important areas I find myself thinking about a deceptively simple black band around my wrist. My latest tech toy- the Fitbit Charge, has been consuming my life this week. It is a device meant to promote a healthier lifestyle by recording steps, stairs, distance, calories and sleeping stats that you can view on a downloadable app.
I initially bought the Charge because I was curious about how many steps I took in a day at work as a Grade 1 teacher. I am seldom sitting down and was secretly hoping that I could reach the magic 10,000 steps a day simply by going on with my day to day activities and I would be off the hook for any other form of exercise. Unfortunately, I only achieve about 7,000 steps during a typical day so right away found myself doing laps of the kitchen while cooking dinner, pacing while on the phone and jogging up and down my stairs while putting away the laundry.
Words cannot describe how ridiculously happy I am when I reach the magic 10,000 mark and my Charge vibrates. I actually pump the air and let out a whoop of joy. I glow with pride when I receive an email telling me I have added a stair walking or distance badge to my collection. Interestingly, I see this same reaction in my students when they are playing a motivational app. My whole family and class have gotten into the spirit and they now regularly ask me how many steps I have and how close I am to my goal.
The best part of the device is how it constantly reminds me that exercise is important and that I need to make an effort to make it a priority in my life. Being a mom of two with a husband who travels constantly means that I always have something more important to be doing than worrying about my fitness levels. In the past I always justified my lack of fitness by falling back on the old “I don’t have time excuse”. The Charge shows me that every little bit counts. I can add steps any time of the day by going for a walk and talk meeting with a colleague at recess or jogging around the car a few times before getting in (not around the kids though- they find it embarrassing.) I recently discovered that a number of students in my Grad cohort also own Fitbits so we have created a community group where we can see each other’s progress and compete for the title of top walker. There is nothing like seeing your name at the bottom to motivate an impromptu walk!
In fairness, I am only a week into using this new gadget and the excitement might wear off soon but so far, I am loving the effect that a simple motivator has had on my psyche. Analyzing my reaction to the positive reinforcement that I have received and seeing the dramatic lifestyle change that has occurred this week makes me think of my students and how I could use some of these same concepts to help motivate them in the classroom. Imagine the powerful learning that could occur if we were able to measure and set goals for how often we used math in our day (Mathbit) or how many times we used a powerful word in a conversation (LAbit). I think the Fitbit might be on to something that perhaps isn’t so far removed from my Masters work after all. The Fitbit philosophy might become the next motivating, relevant and personal learning environment of the digital age.