Connected Pro-D

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! 🙂


 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 – and 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 – but 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 – through 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 “sustainable edge,” a democracy requires its citizens to actually risk something, to test the limits of the acceptable; the “trajectory of capability-building” they must devote themselves to, above all others, is the one that advances the capability for making trouble. If the value you’re espousing is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you’re 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 🙂 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’re 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”! 🙂