Connected Pro-D

The Hub of My Final Project

Posted in ECI Final Project by tchcruiser on November 28, 2009
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Hub Cap

Originally uploaded by Heaven`s Gate (John)

Thanks to some comments and feedback and the chance to “think outloud” about what I really wanted for my project, I have decided to use a wiki format as the main hub for all my work, and then branch out from there to my blog for the reflective pieces, links to resources, etc. I am finding my time this weekend putting some meat to the site has been fairly easy going and wikispaces is quite easy to work with. However, with that said, I am finding it does have its limitations – namely that I am unable to find easy ways to move text and pictures around the page and have been frustrated at times with that. I think the only way around it is to select the alignment for the picture and text separately. Too bad they did not have text boxes that could then more easily wrap around images. ūüė¶

Here is the link to what I have designed so far Р

If any of you have a few minutes to provide some feedback as to what you think might be improved (other than getting some content onto most of the pages!) I would welcome any feedback. I set it for PUBLIC so that anyone is welcome to edit each page – please add any links or resources you know of that apply to each area and let me know what you think so far. It is a mammoth project, I am finding out, and clearly the first steps in a career-long endeavour. But you have to start somewhere, and it is in this project where I can see the benefits of SHARING and COLLABORATION as others come in, give a bit of what they know, and take also what they can.

If you know of any other similar sites that might be a resource for me to look at for formatting ideas, ways to display links, document files, etc, I would love to see them. My idea is to try and get not only static links, but also embed some media on as many of the pages as I can. This will be my ongoing work now, as it feels like it is set up roughly the way I want it for now…. until I see something better and get ideas from other places. I really wanted to add images to each page to help bring in some interest rather than just links, as that is boring. That took A LOT of time – much more than I thought it was going to. But I also am easily distracted by all the amazing art work out there!

Wish me luck!

Piecing My Final Project Together

Posted in ECI Final Project by tchcruiser on November 23, 2009
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When a Body catch a Body

Originally uploaded by ms_quarantine

I liked this image as a way to capture my current frustrations around my final project this week. I usually enjoy spending a ridiculous amount of time putting jig saw puzzles together and am finding that creating the space I want to build for my final project is feeling much like it does when you first dump the box of pieces on the table and start sorting. You have a really good idea about what the final end picture or product should look like, and what components and pieces you will need to achieve it. But what is still nebulous and challenging is finding out which of those pieces need to be connected, and how they should be connected, in order for the entire thing to come together. This is where I am at with my final project. Let me outline the basic premise and then perhaps you might provide some ideas and suggestions to help me select the best pieces for the best fit.

Project idea: continue to expand and build upon ECI 831 blog space for professional development personally and for my work as a consultant to help support other teachers who want to connect to professional development readings, links, discussions and other content.

Rationale: I have to read professionally and respond to books in book circles, PLC groups and other areas. I could record my reflections and thoughts about what I was reading in this space, and invite other teachers in my division and world audience to also respond and participate, lessening the need to drive long distances to still participate and feel part of the conversation and learning.

I also am asked to locate and share resource links and materials with teachers in my division. I would like to do this work once, and then store these links in a more permanent fashion with others more effeciently and easily than by one-one emails.

I would also like to share my collaborative efforts and professional growth (required formally in my PGP and informally because I am interested in recording this in a more public way) with others in a more transparent way. Telling someone else and knowing that others are watching for results is a powerful motivator for me to actually carry out my plans and goals for the year.

1. Use the blogspace already created to act as my “homepage” and make more pages/categories to extend the topics, subject specific curricular areas and professional growth areas of interest beyond ECI 831.
2. Connect to other sites that do a better job of housing links and media (such as a wiki site for links that others can contribute to) and youtube channels for videos, etc.

As I am working at this, I am wondering of I should not use a wiki as the home page instead and connect out to the blog, as Alec has modelled with our course. Although basic and not as fancy, it does seem to offer more flexibility for linking to so many other forms of social media. Maybe it is just the blog site I have chosen, but the more I try and get indepth with wordpress, the more it is not working for me. I am feeling flashbacks of working with Joomla- not at all intuitive. ūüė¶ Does anyone else feel the same way or have ideas about how I might piece together my parts for reflection on professional readings, useful links to websites and resources, and connections with media in a neat, tidy and efficient manner?

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of using a wikispace as the main hub, and branch out from there. It does allow others to add easily to the work in progress as they find things (kind of in keeping with the “find a penny, take a penny” container at the cashier…). I know I like to feel helpful and a contributor to someone else’s journey and not always be taking, taking, taking. That is the beauty of the wiki vs the blog. And am I right in thinking that not all parts of the wiki needs to be open to the world? That you can lock areas that you want to not be changed?? If so, then maybe this is the way forward?

Who has got the missing pieces of my puzzle? And if you have one, would you please share it?!

Block, Filter or Enhance Our Vision of Citizenship – Education’s Response to Media Literacy and Digital Identity

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on November 16, 2009
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Autumn Park Rflection in Sunglasses

Originally uploaded by

I selected this image to capture my discussion about literacy and identity formation in schools. I think it is symbolic of education’s typical responses to these challenging and complex sets of skills. The glasses represent our tendancy to try and block or filter knowledge – especially web sites and digital media – from our students, rather than face head on the more important work of teaching how to find material, assess and evaluate for accuracy and relevance, how to create their own content that is worth sharing, how to create and manage their own identity and personality in a digital learning, work and social space and above all – to do all of this work as citizens of a digitally connected world with class, integrity, honesty and respect for themselves and others. I think that this is the most important and most left-out piece of the literacy and identity puzzle that is not being adequately addressed right now. We are still hung up on learning how to use the tools, rather than how to relate responsibly within the tools.

In Nov 11th’s Globe and Mail there was an article about protecting your digital identity. This is connected with another article/editorial I saw in this same publication last week from one of their columnists who was talking about how someone had created a Twitter account under her name (and it was not her). She came to realize that not only was this account set up, but that she had been tweeting for almost a year and had created quite a following because of her tweets. This made me wonder about this for my own sake- what would I think and what would I do if this had been done to me by a student or worse case scenario, a parent group looking to get rid of a teacher from a school….. it is scary to think what can be posted under the pretense of it being you, by someone who has created accounts in your name. A similar conversation and sense of wondering was brought to a discussion in a session at my convention last week around this same topic in reference to cyber-bullying. Are kids doing this to each other? What kind of pressure is there to establish a digital presence on the many social networking sites out there before someone takes it upon themselves to do it for you?

I also wonder about this in relation to famous people, politicians, etc tweeting and facebooking…. no one really expects that the actual people are sending out these transmissions and no doubt understand that paid communications experts are taking care of this kind of media exposure. And if this is the case, how much of it is genuine and can be trusted and taken seriously? As professionals, is this something we need to be thinking about more carefully? How much do we have to manage, supervise and protect our digital presence so that we are still taken seriously and maintain our dignity and integrity? I am hoping that I can work through this alongside colleagues and students.

I will be making efforts to remove the temptation to shield students and filter what they see and interact with in schools and will be a voice for teaching how to use it properly, as Dean Shareski and Bud the Teacher’s blog post suggest. Doing so will also require clear “big picture” vision knowing that the temptation is there to replace shields and filters with a rosy-tint of idealism – but I am willing to give it a go. Maybe Elton John has a pair suitable for the task?

Game Building and Playing In Education

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on November 11, 2009
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Flip-Flop Hop-Scotch

Originally uploaded by seebeew

I like what this picture says about games and education – namely, that kids want the play the games they build and make and find them more interesting than any built for them. Many children find the pots and pans in the bottom cupboard far more interesting than the expensive manufactured toys their parents bought for them. I think it might be because they have to experiment and make their own connections, conclusions and adaptations to the new objects and it is the unknowing and experimenting that is the fun part of the process.

Sylvia Martinez presented to our class a few weeks ago about gaming in education and suggested some reasons why it is ok to be critical and skeptical about using computer games in schools. Essentially, it is not the best use of resources if students are brought together in groups, only to be isolated at individual computers to essentially do drill and practice activities under the guise of it being a game. If it is a glorified worksheet or set of flashcards, then perhaps calling it a game is not being truthful and is not using gaming theory to bring out the best learning in our students. I would tend to agree with Sylvia and I think that we could and should be using our time together in classrooms to be thinking deeply about content and processes and working together in more collaborative ways to practice how to work together to solve larger more complex problems.

This is where games and computers have a positive place in schools, according to Sylvia. Done properly, games can support educational objectives, but it is not in the playing of games, but rather in the conceptualization, the building and design and the problem solving when working out the bugs that the real learning takes place. The content of the game, what once used to the most important thing to be learning, now no longer really is. Instead, we can be using game design as a teaching method that addresses many of our most pressing educational goals and objectives:
1. engagement in their learning: Tell me this girl above is not totally engaged in what she is doing! And she is because she holds the chalk, was able to decide how big the squares are, what order the numbers go, what pattern to make the board and what the rules will be to get to the end. It was not made for her, which invites instant passivity.
2. real life problem-solving: when this girl jumps through her game a few times, she will come to know very quickly what is working and what is not and will formulate some ideas about how to fix it so it plays better for her and others. If her feet don’t fit in the boxes, she will make them bigger.
3. Critical and Creative Thinking: by playing other people’s versions of hopscotch in the past, she has perhaps made some choices about aspects she would like to see in her own version to suit her tastes, but also to make it recognizable and inviting for others to play.
4. Collaborating: although not visible in this picture, it is likely that the game maker here worked alongside others, informing her design, clarifying the order of the numbers, giving opinion to the colors she should use, etc.
5. Teacher as facilitator: we do not see the teacher making the grid, but we can assume that the teacher/parent helped supply the materials, gave permission to use the space and possibly helped with the initial conception of the idea. From there, freedom was given to build and play through the experience, giving feedback where helpful and when asked. Presumably, the teacher may even learned something they did not know about hopscotch design by listening to and working alongside the students that day.

I wanted to use a common and relatively low-tech game analogy to think about my thoughts about gaming and education. Although out of the classroom this year, I had certainly used games as a method of allowing students to show what they learned, much as they would have a poster or pamhlet. I never did anything related to working with students on building an actual game in a digital way (other than the power point jeopardy review type activities) but now that I think about it a bit more, I can see how my pedagogical beliefs align with the use of this strategy. I don’t know the first thing about digital game building or design, nor do I think I have to…. but I do know that it would be very interesting to see history come alive for my students by layering it a game of some type. I can see a lot of rich potential, even if it is only in the design stages, to see how they might take a familiar format of a video game they know, and apply the historical time period and events into in in some way to show they understand the charachters, the time period, the settings, the actions and consequences of those actions…. or possible ones if not the actual. I also think there is powerful learning in layering this kind of understanding alongside other people, other nations, other cultures that may have been living and involved at the same time and to see how they might layer that within the game. There is much potential for meaningful collaboration, research, analysis, creativity…. and I would be right in there with them, as engaged in the process as this girl is.

Web 2.0 – Story Telling By the Flickr of the Global Campfire

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on November 11, 2009
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The magic of beautiful Spanish lake in this British Columbia summer landscape Explore

Originally uploaded by Jacques Daigneault

I chose this picture to frame my entry about digital story telling as it symbolizes to me what story telling is about – sharing experiences with others in a safe environment, with others around you willing to take in your story, and in turn having that story re-told and added onto around other “camp fires” or dining room tables or today – computer screens, with others totally unkown to you.

Story telling is a giving over of your lived experience to others to learn from and find connection to and then to pass it on. It is the ultimate and perhaps the oldest of “green” acts that encourages and demands a recycling of common and familiar settings, plot lines, characters, endings and lessons learned.

The fact that we now do this with computers makes it no more less so than in times past when it was done entirely by word of mouth and memory. In fact, digital story telling has shifted back into a necessity to re-mash and re-mix and share it again with an audience to keep it relevant, personal and connected with the context of the community it is being shared with. This has always been done in story telling – characters name change, the age changes, the location changes, the action taken slightly different to account for regional quirks, but it is done in a way to make it recongnizable to those hearing the larger human story that is woven into the details.

I think what makes web 2.0 tools and story telling different is that it now relies primarily on a visual form of telling the story. In the past, sitting around this fire, you would only have needed to hear the story being told to you, or read the words of the story as you sat in your deck chair…. but now, we are sharing stories with predominantly pictures and video as the main form of “words” and the story comes from being able to read what the images are saying about these common human themes. Visual story telling does have some benefits, however, even though you may not be able to do it by the warmth of this fire!

Visual stories, I feel, allow you tell longer, complex stories in perhaps less amounts of time than it would take to tell the story in written or oral form. I also think that it allows for more layering – adding in oral, written text, music, movement, etc which makes the message more compelling. Digital 2.0 forms of storytelling also allow for many times to replay and take it in – and each time you take in the story, you may get different things from it.

I also think that the potential size of the audience you are sharing your story with in a digital world also impacts the story. When you are sitting around a campfire such as this, you are intimatley connected with your audience – you can see their facial expressions and sense their emotional connection with your story. You can see and hear clearly if they are connecting with you and you can adjust your story telling style instantly as you get this feedback. I wonder if this makes a difference in the kind of story you tell and how you tell it when you are so close to the audience and do not have to wait for feedback – if you get any feedback at all. Sometimes, although published to a world-wide audience, your story may not even be “heard” by anyone, or at least anyone who cares enough about you to listen.

I also think about how the “distance” from your audience that a digital story teller has may have some positive benefits in the sense that if you are not as personally connected to the audience, it might allow you to feel more free to take risks in your story telling. I am guessing this may be the case and is why we see so many publishing and sharing their stories with the world via the internet today.

I think that the availability and ease of web 2.0 story telling tools makes everyone capable of telling stories and it is no longer exclusively for those who have good memories, know many languages or can read and write – as it once was. Although we spend less time sharing stories around a campire such as this, we are still sharing and telling stories, only now we are doing this increasingly by the glow of our screens and the flickr of images on the internet, rather than the more intimate settings invoked by this image.

Blogging To Build Personal Learning Networks

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on October 13, 2009

What are 3 questions (and why) you would like answered on educational blogging or building personal learning networks?

1. I know Sue now blogs for a living – but how do people manage the time to put into reading and responding to blogs in order to cultivate a learning network? What are some people doing to build this into their professional development practice in unique, individual and creative ways? (I am thinking about setting a 30 minute timer each day and developing a reflective practice, not unlike yoga or exercise, in order to make it a habit before other things take over my day! Anyone else have ideas that work for them?)

2. How do you get your blog read by more people if public response is important to you?

3. Is there a one-stop location for upcoming webinars and virtual conferences someone in the educational field might be interested in checking frequently incase they want to “attend” virtually and expand their learning network in this way?

What are your thoughts on educational blogging after reading Sue Waters blog¬†“What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? ? Have they changed?

I am interested to see that so many people are concerned about the legalities and worried about how they might be liable for student comments and behaviour in the virtual world- not unlike taking students on a field trip and feeling like you are responsible for their behaviour while they are in your care. This was not really something I was thinking about, but I can see how I maybe should have been.

I was also amazed to see the range of how teachers got their kids blogging – from protected safe spaces within a course management system where it could be moderated and controlled a bit more, to full web access – depending on the comfort level of the teacher and the maturity and motivation of the students. I also was interested in the kinds of ways that teachers were getting their kids blogging in relation to school- content areas. It reminded me of Dana Boyd’s video that we watched for this class a few weeks ago and her discussion about how the tools we like to use as adults are not the same ones our students like to use and how this might relate to blogging…. do¬†our students resist this kind of activity because they see it as a lame adult thing to do on computers? Or do they resist because to do it well requires more than just cute one liners and thinking that shows deep reflection and connection with the material? I am not sure they are all that comfortable with this kind of reflective practice and therefore resist at the beginning because it is hard work! ūüôā


 Do you have ideas where you could use blogging in professional reflection, network building, or in your classroom?

I am not in the classroom this year, but I can see how I might use blogging as a platform or mini-website of sorts to share my reflections on current professional readings I am doing, compile useful links and resources for colleagues in curricular areas that I work in and help organize and connect PLC work within my school division that I am directly involved in. I like the looks and approach that some of my previous colleagues in Prairie South have started such as Joyleen Orescanin (as a fellow consultant) and Al Stange  (a teacher who still manages time to be be reflective and connected). I can see the value in housing my work in one place where I can keep adding content, and yet still be open to allowing others to comment, make references to their knowledge and resources and further the learning of others beyond myself.

The Networked Student by Wendy Drexler – A Humble Response

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on October 12, 2009

What are you thoughts on the concept of the networked learner? Potential for school transformation? Existing supports and barriers from your experience? What does this mean for teachers and our relationships with students

The networked learner certainly would be challenged by the current educational system – as evidenced in the video that I have seen before in other places . We are starting on this road for creating space for networked learning, but we really are trying to operate within a structure that does not fit the limitless edges of this kind of approach. It is a much larger issue than a round hole in a square peg – and one that we have to seriously grapple with if we want to truly engage students and prepare them for the challenges of learning and working.

What I find most difficult for myself, and for students, is TIME. You need lots of it in order to find the related resources you need in order to create your virtual textbook – you need to find, sort, read through/listen to/watch… and then you need to think about, evaluate and sort through the multitude of possible resources to find ones that best fit your question or your passion… and sometimes even then, you need time to go deeper, find the not so obvious matches for the ways in which they can connect and expand your learning in more interesting and diverse ways. There would be time within a school day to do this – if we were not concerned about teaching specific content and could spend more time teaching the skills needed to deal with the content they find once they do search. As well, I think there are issues with the silo-approach to subject areas and set times spent in each area. Learning that is meaningful, at least for me, often happens in chunks of time. I can get engrossed in a task and want to spend hours pursuing it until I am either satisfied, bored or spun off in another direction. I will then often not go back to it for awhile and spend chunks of time doing something else until my brain is ready to think about it again. This approach does not work well when it has to perform for only 30 minutes each day and then have to switch and start thinking about something else completely different. I can imagine it is the same for students – frustration about having to stop working only after just nicely getting started. And not only stop working, but put everything away, pack up and move to another spot!

What does it all mean for teachers and learners?

1. Well- the notion of set times for teaching and learning has to stop. There is no way that you can contain it to a small bit of time each day for a few months only, if you want networks to be built, repsonses to come from all over the world, ideas to flow between related topics. Not everyone works at the same time and for the same amount of time at a task. Schools really have to re-think about what a school day looks like, and where teaching and learning can operate from. With communication tools, it is entirely possible to work from home, from the library, from around the world and still be connected to each other for parts of the day or week  AS NEEDED!

2. The products and demonstrations of student learning certainly must change in order to meet the needs of networked learners. Blogs, wikis, uploaded videos, pod casts, etc – all are creative compositions that require not just a written response, but also rely on audio and visual representations of knowledge and experience. I am excited by this, but I know that it scares many teachers becuase they do not know how to create this themselves.

3. There will be a shift from teacher and publisher created texts as the only official resource, to student created and compiled references based on individual student interests and study that reflect a bredth and depth of the subject being studied.

4. There will also be a shift from teaching content to teaching skills Рand this is a HUGE change for many teachers and is what makes them very nervous. It is easier to master a discreet area of content and find a few ways to teach how to know it Рbut it is very difficult to teaching how to think about any content, and then teach ways to share what you think about it with others all over the world in a multitude of ways. Our teacher training and government ministry of education is not geared for this yet and we are still training teachers to teach subjects to kids, rather than teach skills so that kids can learn any subject from anyone, anywhere and share their learning and further wonderings with people beyond their friends, family and local community.

Thankfully, Wendy’s video did highlight the fact that the role and place of the teacher is not dead or obselete! Perhaps what we teach is, but not our importance and impact in shaping student learning. There is still important work for us to be doing – even though we will have to find the training and knowledge about how to do this from our own professional development and learning communities that model networked learning so we get a feel for how this kind of learning happens.

We are still needed to show students explicitly how to manage information properly Рthrough setting up RSS feeds so they are aware and can track the most recent postings relevent to their subjuects of interest and study, through using and showing students how to use synchronous communication tools, by showing kids how to set up their own network of teachers and learners and how to contribute and share to that network in meaningful ways (blogging, twitter management, wiki spaces, etc), model and teach appropriate communication skills that politely and respectfully ask for information that is needed, and to think critically, analyze and evaluate content that is found and created within the networked learning space.

The teacher’s role in the shaping and support of the networked learner is even more powerful and important than it ever has been because we are on the frontier of this work right now. There is no formal training that proclaims you as certified, and yet we are expected to do this AND maintain our old professional practices which has me¬†feeling like¬†I am caught in no man’s land at times – does anyone else feel pulled in two directions at times and not sure they are doing a good job of either one?

How can we avoid being seen as “useless” – get connected!

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on October 5, 2009

“The work of democracy involves espousing those values that in a less democratic society would get one sent to prison. To maintain its ‚Äúsustainable edge,‚ÄĚ a democracy requires its citizens to actually risk something, to test the limits of the acceptable; the ‚Äútrajectory of capability-building‚ÄĚ they must devote themselves to, above all others, is the one that advances the capability for making trouble. If the value you‚Äôre espousing is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you‚Äôre useless.”


I am thinking about this quote in relation to my previous response to Alec in regards to who, what and how should and can¬†informal, non-formal¬†learning communities¬†and recognized and officially sanctioned PD opportunities such as PLC’s, conferences, conventions and for that matter master’s degrees from a university¬†co-exist…. after responding in my comment, I went back and read this article that was recommended in the backchannel during George Sieman’s presentation last week for our class… and I think the quote and my thinking connect and bump into each other. This quote, in George’s words, “resonated” with me because I think that it says something about the implications of what¬† connectivism means¬†for educators, students and citizens today.

What it means is that in order to create change – in how we shape, define and conduct or own professional development, how we relate and communicate and carry out our work with students and parents, and how we participate as citizens in our world requires risk and courage – without it, and without the freedom to do so, is limiting our impact and power to be full participants in our own destiny. Nothing is changed by staying the course, or working within the boundaries of what is tried and true. The innovative and creative is always on the edges, the margins and the bumping up of those edges with others who are also reaching out in their own unique ways. Together in the¬†periphery spaces, and what is created in the relationships when others reach in and out when they need to¬†and can find the opportunity¬†for moments to talk, glimpse, share, add to and take away from the conversation and sharing, is what is innovate, inspiring and¬†meaningful learning. No part of this can be mandated or directed, as each person’s outer reaches and webs of connections are unique and varied – and each person knows what they need to grow.

If democracies require risk takers and a¬†testing of acceptible limits- than we owe it to our students to model this in how we learn from¬†and relate to others near and far through creative, inter-relatated and complex webs of community. And the best part¬†is that we have the tools at our disposal to do this, more so that ever before¬†ūüôā¬†We simply have to show and live a life that allows for risk, for rebellion from the status quo, for adaptability, flexibility and respect for different learning styles. We say we should be attuned to this for our students – but I am not sure we really are truly respecting their learning preferences- and the learning styles and preferences of many of our colleagues. If we did, we would be more open to encouraging and growing more open learning communities that can be connected across, through and within varied¬†disciplines, time zones,¬† educational systems and communication tools so that ALL find a way in to the community of ¬†the learning space – lurking when they need to, contributing when they want to and feel inspired to, and supporting others in their journey as well. Giving and¬†taking…. listening and responding… with an attitude of¬†courageous risk taking, confident¬†in¬†knowing that there is not only one path to learning. If we have to “differentiate” our instruction for students, why¬†should our own professional growth not also¬†allow for differentiation, choice and flexibility?¬† If we want our future citizens to be risk takers, we have to model and show them the ways in which they can do this.

By not taking risks¬† and valuing/maintaining¬†a learning structure that essentially ”¬†is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you‚Äôre useless.” – YIKES! ¬†Who wants to see their life’s work as useless???????????¬† This motivates me to find the places where I can step out and be more couragous in my support and linking¬†of teachers I work with in my school division who already are learning in those non-formal places with as many others as I can. Most don’t care for the publicity and are generous and more than willing to help others – becuase they are, as one of my colleagues put it, “from the school of beg, borrow and steal”. They are not possessive of their resources, ideas or materials and more than willing (and flattered) to give them to others. We need more, not less, of this kind of connectivism, which tends to be nurtured and grows exponentially in the open learning spaces we create for ourselves when we give ourselves permission to jump into the swiftly flowing rivers of open education and social media. Otherwise, we risk feeling within ourselves¬†and being seen by the public as “utterly useless”! ūüôā

What is our role in non-formal learning?

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on September 27, 2009

Knowing that we work within very formal learning spaces does not mean that we also do not participate in non-formal learning. What I think is very important is to model all the ways that we are learning in non-formal situations (technology enahnced or otherwise) when we talk about what we do with our students. It is critical that we show them our RSS¬†readers and talk about how they work (as I know no students of mine who ever used this tool…), show them our blog space and talk about how we use it to share ideas and opinions, mention participation in book clubs with friends where we read books and share our thoughts about them in a social setting rather than a highly formalized study that a classroom would conduct around a book. I would also bring in and show them ideas about how to learn within their community – neighborhood centres, churches, libraries – they all have learning opportunities. It is also a chance to talk about networking and chit chatting strategies with people when they are out and about in the world. These are skills that need practice, but often turn up into surprising bits of connections… people you meet and talk to when in line at the store when you mention something about what they are reading or buying, conversations with people beside you on an airplane, bus or restaurant counter around topics that come up or extending conversations when they meet people at family functions or commmunity events.

What I have found is that the opportunities and reasons to want to venture into non-formal learning comes after contact with people in more formal settings – once the contact is made, there then becomes reasons or ideas on how to follow up and click into their extended circles of knowledge, expertise and aquaintence – if only from the periphery at first. Much like the idea of “loafing” or “lurking” that came up in the back channel last week. Then, you can find ways to contribute to the teaching and¬†learning going on in that particluar sphere for as long as you need or want it.

I guess I see this and have expereinced it myself with teacher PD… often it starts as a school division imposed initiative (the formal learning structure) where you all are in the same place becuase somone has asked you to be there, not necessarily because you initiated it. Then…. you get to talking to a few in the room, as well as some others who may not have been there, or maybe are in another division but also working on the same things, and you decide that there are bits there that you want to work more closely with, but in your own way and in your contexts. You decide to keep in touch via email, sharing files, assessment tools, lesson plans, exemplars with each other. Then…. you decide that you want to learn more about your topic and have bought in enough that you are willing to meet on a weekend or evening so that you have more time together to talk about what you have learned and share your resources (or you schedule a synchronous session online where you can file share, talk, and work together in real time).¬† What started out as a formal learning experience, evolved into a non-formal learning experience.

I think also though that the formal and informal weave in and out of each other, depending on who has the skills and how they can be accesses. I think that we dip into more formal learning spaces from time to time becuase that ends up being the most effecient, or accessible, means of learning what we are wanting to learn, at the time we are ready to learn it…or it is the kind of learning that is going to be “recognized” as valuable by others higher in our power structures.¬† I think students need to see that this is likley going to be the case for them throughout their livesw- just¬† becuase they graduate does not mean they are completely done with formal schooling…. they may wade into formal pools for work or recreation (I am thinking things like coaching certification and similar programs) but primarily, their learning spaces will be more non-formal as they get older.

With that being said, I would like to see school divisions and our own profession recognize more informal/non-formal learning experiences as equally valid forms of Professional Development Рdepending on what we think we need to access and be a part of in order to learn more about what interests and challenges us. I think there is much to be gained by shifting time, money and resources into different professional development models Рwhere perhaps time and money we would have once spent on registrations, travel and accomodations to attend a 2 day workshop could instead be spent on release time for teachers to get together to work together, share materials and resources and teach and learn from each other if that is what is more pressing and meaningful for their context at that time.

Does anyone else feel the same way?

Social Media and Youth – The School’s Place

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on September 27, 2009

I watched the video for this week and read this related article about social media, youth and schools and have a few things to say in response. Jesse B in our ECI 831 class also had some questions he is concerned about posted on his blog that were connected with the topic Рmostly around what and how much schools can police and control in relation to social media (he is concerned about this as a school administrator).

I found a few things in the video interesting:

Kids and adults don’t use the same social media tools, and if they do, they don’t necessarily use it in the same way. Kids don’t want to be sharing the same space as adults, or run the chance of being “seen” in the same place, and they don’t use it in the same way. For instance, they are not necessarily sharing all of their most personal and intimate details on the very public walls- they know to keep those conversations within the more private discussion spaces.¬† Kids also are more likely to share everything from one space or tool – they are not into delicious tagging of links or sites and they don’t use twitter. I find this very interesting, as these are the tools we were asked to use for this class. The students we work with are more likely to use a tool like Facebook for almost all of their sharing – pictures, files, links, and micro-blogging information. Frankly, I would also prefer to use ONE place for everything also ūüôā¬† What is also not possible to control is what tool they are using – as soon as adults figure it out and start using it or blocking it, they quickly move on to another tool. However, our video guest did highlight the fact we all need to use what ever tools for our selves first and figure it out and get comfortable with it, before we can even hope to use it in our school and work environments. I totally agree and for this reason, I¬†find policies that prevent or severely limit¬†using workplace technologies and tools for personal use go against this basic premise. If you are not allowing me the freedom to use it on my own time, then when am I supposed to figure out how to use it???

What our role as educators is¬†becomes a bit more¬†clear for me¬†(and is discussed in the final minutes of the video presentation). We need to teach them (and ourselves and others who we use these social media tools with)¬†how to recognize and deal with power issues in relationships, as they become even more nuanced and tricky to deal with when you can’t always see facial expressions, hear tones of voice, etc. Relying on text communication is limiting in that way, but it is not impossible to learn the social graces of social media.¬† Knowing how to get along with others and at the same time, how to exert your own independence and uniqueness, has always been an underpinning of education and will remain so. Indeed, it will be come even MORE important to explicitly teach relationship building and effective communication skills in this “new age ” as our modes of communication change. The fact that we still reach out and need to communicate has not changed – how we do it and who we do it with has.

I also really like what the video has to say about being intentional about opening dialogue and relationships between adults/teachers and students so that students can show us how they use social media and how they create things (as this is often the place where adults find difficulty) and we can in turn, as a response to the sharing and reciprocal part of the dialogue, probe and get them thinking critically about how they are using the tools (which is something we tend to be better at).  Producing content just because you can, without having purpose or without thinking about the implications of the finished product for yourself and others, is something we all need to take into consideration.

I also think it is important to teach students and colleagues¬†about the power the tools have to do things that may not ever be intended and that those things can’t be controlled no matter how many policies are put into place. Information that is published and shared in social media forums can stay for a much longer period of time than one could possibly imagine, it can be duplicated and copied and put into different contexts that you had never intended, it can be shared with potentially millions very quickly¬†(even though you only “whispered” it to a few close friends) and it can be searched and linked back to you easily. These realities are very humbling, scary and powerful and need to be discussed and thought about often and intentionally in classrooms, staff rooms, boardrooms and at home with the support and backing of parents at the dining room table.

What can be very easily and quickly created can be very difficult to take back or fix once it is placed in the public domain ūüė¶

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