Don’t You Forget about Us

We’ve completed another #tiegrad term and grown even closer as a cohort of connected educators. We were lucky enough to be learning with Alec Couros this term and he brought with him an outstanding collection of guests. He concluded this term with a touching reconnection to the big ideas of connecting, sharing, learning and relationships. He reminded us that it is not about the tools, but instead about learning. However, we must always be mindful of the influence of our tools.

My big takeaways from this course are:

  • Be a part of the conversation. Hearing Dean Shareski speak to US brought the point emphatically home: there is a moral imperative to share our learning and teaching. You don’t need to judge yourself too harshly and censor yourself before you begin, you can grow and find your voice and your people.
  • Ask questions and reach out.
  • It is way more fun to work together. Get into the global staff room and have a coffee together. We do that in #tiegrad – we organize our own coffee chats and morning get-togethers. We pair up, group up, and work together well.
  • Identity matters. We need to consider our own online identity and help our students develop an identity for themselves.

Areas of strength for me as a connected educator are connecting behind the scenes, joining in on Twitter chats, collaborating and working with others, and contributing on backchannels. Most of my areas of weakness center around my insecurities about sharing my voice and opinion. I’m hesitant to disagree, to rock the “global” boat, and to share my simple ideas. I still hesitate to post every blog or tweet, I have piles of drafts on both sites. Sharing my blog publicly causes me anxiety, because I feel a little safer to be myself, have fun and be a little ridiculous here – believing that no one will read much past the first paragraph… right???

Two goals as I go forward are:

  1. Dean Shareski’s challenge: “Can I find your best work online?” You can find my students’ best work online. They proudly tweet from our class Twitter account and their individual blogs. I share my work and learning, but I don’t think that my best stuff is online yet. Sometimes I haven’t realized that there is value in my work until it gets a response on Twitter! I need to be a little more transparent, or at least celebrate some of my efforts in the classroom. There are things that I am proud of, and it might be worthwhile to share them out.
  2. Rethink my metaphor, a challenge by Alec Couros. I have always seen myself as an amplifier of some sort. I’ve called myself a megaphone, a soapbox, etc, with the vision of being a platform of some sort to raise my students’ voices/works/ideas/creations/energies/etc and help them to find their audience and people.

Inspired by Alec’s sweet goodbye “Don’t forget about me… I will always be your co-learner/collaborator” – sticking the Simple Minds lyrics in most of our minds… I’d like to end with:

We found out that each one of us is a learner, a fitbit all-star, a ukulele rockstar, and a tweeter, a blogger, and part of a family that will extend beyond our #tiegrad years together. We were glad to have you join us, don’t forget us!

Sincerely yours, the #tiegrad cohort (your co-learners, collaborators and co-conspirators)

(oh, we should remix this one for our cohort! Challenge extended…)

 

 

Sharing Joy and Learning

Our #tiegrad cohort was honoured to welcome Dean Shareski to class last Thursday night. I have been orbiting Dean’s work on Twitter after being given his name a couple of years ago when I became a STAR Discovery Educator. When our cohort first learned that Dean would be joining us, he was identified by certain traits: “Oh, the pants guy”, “The Jumping guy?” and I said “The Joy guy”. He is recognized by the fun that he brings to the spaces he occupies. Besides the late night Twitter games, my favourite Dean lesson comes from his TEDX talk on Joy in Education.

When Dean spoke with us, three themes resonated with me after our talk: Joy, Sharing, and Learning.

Joy

This link to an article about Joy in School by Steven Wolk was shared. One thing that stood out to me was the difference between Joy and Fun. He quotes Random House Dictionary with the definition of joy being “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying.” It’s easier than expected to find Joy in our schools, as simple as offering choice, freedom to explore, getting outside, and creating. I’ve learned that over time I have had to defend some of my choices as an educator: giving my students freedom to choose their own course of study in #geniushour, teaching outside, or engaging in 10 unstructured minutes of play with another class. My happiest days are the ones when I go home with a sore stomach from laughing too hard. You don’t get those moments when you stand at the front of the room reading aloud from the textbook for extended periods of time.

So, how can I make Joy a priority in my teaching? I think that it might be the same way I set every other goal: put it in writing and share it with my people. Get help on it. Commit and re-commit to doing it.

While trying to find evidence of Joy in my classroom, my one source of pride and hope is the fact that many former students return daily to my classroom. They come to share their stories, to laugh and to reconnect with old friends. In my daily practice I try to provide as much choice as I can. Choice in assignments, choice in working space, choice in topics to learn. I wish that I was given similar choices in how I assess my students’ learning.

Sharing

I struggle with this. I enjoy sharing great ideas that I come across, and I re-tweet on Twitter frequently, giving credit to the original sharer or author. However, when it comes to originality, I don’t feel like I have a lot to share. I am also sometimes a little put-off by some sharing that comes across as a little aggressive. When a blog link is shared out by the author 8-12 times targeting different hashtags or chat forums, it feels a bit much. Authoring and then sharing an idea repeatedly moves from generosity to commercialism quickly.

Where’s the balance? I prefer to look at Dean’s message about sharing to be more about connecting. He called the “moral imperative”. I agree with that, it is no longer about closing your doors and keeping the best ideas for yourself. It is about sharing the good and knowing that it will grow and return to you with even more layers of icing and awesome. I will continue to share where it feels right to do so. I do not keep my ideas to myself, and part of my current job is to share how my students use technology, so it is important that I curate great resources and ideas to bring to my colleagues. So, sharing is essential, even if your primary role is connecting other peoples’ brilliance with people who are looking for those particular ideas.

Learning

One series of questions posed by Dean that had me thinking was about learning. He asked us:

  • How did you learn from others?
  • What did you contribute?
  • What will your students say if I ask them how they think that you learn?

The first question was easily answered: everything! I learn from everyone I encounter: face to face, through Twitter, through my amazing cohort, and at conferences. I love speaking with people, hearing their ideas and feeling inspired by the great things happening. I wouldn’t be on the teaching and learning path that I am on today without the interactions and support I have had along the way.

The second question is harder. I try hard to share. I have a few colleagues that I feel like I do an “ok” job of sharing the right thing at the right time. I have had a few ideas land well on Twitter, but mostly I feel like I pass along the brilliance of others.

The final question is easily answered by my students. We talk about learning all of the time. I talk about how I learn (and how I don’t learn). I talk about my process and the resources that I need to feel successful. As part of building our community we had frank conversations about what worked for each person, and we built respect and understanding for the shared learning space. There is a sense of empathy in the room knowing that not everything is supposed to be easy, and that we are all in this together. I have shared openly when a Professional Development opportunity was disappointing (and why) and about what I do when I am “stuck” in my Masters work. I model crowd sourcing in my classroom by refusing to stay stuck by myself. I ask my students for help. I did not choose my learning project alone, my students offered direction and guidance. I also show my students how to reach out for help respectfully on Twitter. I discuss how I need to WRITE notes to learn material. I also discuss how my teaching is biased toward teaching in the style I learn best. I reflect on my learning and teaching with my students, and ask them to do the same. It’s an honest dialogue and a shared experience that opens the door to getting help that otherwise may not have happened. Truly learning together has provided all of my students the opportunity to be leaders in unexpected ways. By the end of the year, everyone is identified as an expert in some way – even me.

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the best parts of this profession, Dean. You left our cohort inspired, recharged, and seeking Joy.

IMG_0430As a completely unrelated aside, I wore orange pants while completing this blog, and spent the afternoon engaged in Joyful play with my students. I am trying, Dean.

Fair Dealing

In Canada we use “Fair Dealing” as our language around using materials or work created by others. The laws around copyright in Canada have recently been updated to reflect the broad spectrum of available media and how that media is being used.

The way we use and interact with media is constantly undergoing change. Where we once were satisfied being an audience to other people’s “Funniest Home Videos”, we now upload our own, or make mash-ups of thematic videos we find online. Public domain becomes a grey area; someone shares an image on Flickr that may have originally been copyright protected by the original author, but is now an image of an image with the option to download and share freely. There is a cultural shift towards sharing the wealth of information and resources and knocking down some of the paywalls that exist. MOOCs, open learning and PLNs contribute to the ideals of open source initiatives.

As teachers, what does that mean for how we teach our students to access and use information? For me, the biggest issue is working with images. Every year, I have students who cite “Google Images” as the source for an image that they have copied and pasted into their work. When I show what an actual link to an image looks like (often 4 lines of text long, filled with random numbers and percentage signs), the students exhale and say “Ohhhhhhhh”.

And then I muddle them further by discussing that those images are actually owned by someone. How is that possible, they wonder. Any efforts to relate the ownership of online images to images in books are not understood, not relatable.

I try to set the bar for image use high for my students. Because I am hoping that the blogging and tweeting that my students do in class becomes a habit, I want them only using creative commons licensed images, or images that they have permission to use. I am hoping that my students continue to write and create publically and feel that they can expect to have their words and work respected.

My favourite search tools for copyright free material:

compfight.com – mainly searches Flickr for images

cc search – a tool to help you search multiple mediums, including sources for sound and video

If you are interested in learning more about Copyright law in Canada ERAC offers a free course for members.

Or, you can learn a bit about Copyright law from the “Fair Use” privileges in the United States, one of which allows for use of materials for the purpose of satire. Enjoy!

My own Digital Participation

Like several #tiegrad cohort members, I spent some time this weekend reflecting on my online presence. In our very first term of our Masters work, we were fortunate enough to have a visit with Bonnie Stewart who posed a similar question asking us to think about who we were online. Unfortunately, that was one of the blogs lost when UVic was hacked, but even so, my answer has changed over time. She shared our professor, Alec Couros as an example of someone who seamlessly blends his professional and personal lives online.

I am only digitally active in a few areas. I have a Twitter account, this blog, a Kidblog account with my students, a classroom Twitter account, a couple of social bookmarking sites, and dormant About.Me and LinkedIn pages. Oh, and I also was starting to develop a Fitbit PLN, until my Fitbit decided to part company with me. I am my most true self on my two blog sites. I try to include personal stories, and a few more personal pictures. I was very saddened to lose my UVic blog where I shared how I learned to read, with a picture of my brother and me outside of the Prince George public library. I still have a Word copy of that post, but I heartbreakingly lost my treasured comments from my family and my #tiegrad cohort. It’s funny that we teach about the permanence/footprint of our online identities – maybe it’s only the stuff that we wish we could forget that is actually permanent!

I am more careful with my words on Twitter. 140 characters leaves a lot of room for context collapse and I worry about what to say or share. I feel great when something I tweet is re-tweeted, but when I retweet, I feel like I might be perceived as fangirling!

I think that the main difference between my blog and Twitter is that few people actually read through my blog in its entirety, but anyone could stumble across my words on Twitter. We often snoop through each other’s lists to see whom people are following and what they have to say. My visualization of blogging is like walking through a semi-deserted street verbally telling a friend a story or answering a question. However, Twitter is like graffiti – very visual and left to linger for all to see. I still hesitate and hover over both the “Publish” and the “Tweet” buttons.

I liked the ideas by Melody and Suzanne of creating a Task List for developing a more well-rounded digital identity.

My Task List:

  1. Refine my About.Me and LinkedIn pages (or start fresh!)
  2. Be more active on Twitter: I loved co-moderating our #anxietyined chats, and participating in #bcedchat, #byodchat, and #mschat. I am currently only participating in #bcedchat. Hesitate less, share more.
  3. Blog more frequently. It is an expectation of this course, but I also enjoyed completing the 30 Days Reflective Blogging Challenge in September. I need my blogging to serve me, not just be an assignment to complete. I may need to examine or reflect upon other areas of my life, not just my thoughts and learning as a Masters student. I’ve been managing to blog twice a week since the term began, but it has been entirely assignment-based. These posts will only engage my fellow Grad students. Time to broaden my focus.
  4. Get to know my PLN. I have gotten to know a few of the people I have connected with on Twitter, but mainly by asking questions. I need to look for more opportunities to connect and give back.
  5. Re-read and reflect on the article that was shared out by Valerie Irvine: The Guide to Social Media Time Management. Keep my task list in mind and refine my goals as I work.
  6. Maintain balance. Cultivate my in-person relationships as I develop my digital relationships.

EDCI 569 Initial Reflection

Inspired by Angela Dopp, I am beginning my weekly blogs for our new course EDCI 569 promptly. Our new course is titled “The Distributed, Blended and Open Classroom”. This is an area of interest for me long term, as I hope to shrink the walls in my own classroom. I believe in breaking down the divide between the learning that happens outside of the classroom walls and the learning that happens during formal class time.

Six years ago, I established a wiki for my learners. At that time, I admit that I was not fully informed about FOIPPA, but did establish some routines and expectations to keep my learning community safe online. For the first few years the wiki was driven and managed by me. Two years later, my students completely owned the wiki, authoring Khan Academy-style videos extending lessons on everything from the math being taught that day to novice lessons in Japanese. I became a learner in my own class as the students curated resources and connections for their peers and shared their expertise in other areas of interest. This wiki was profoundly exciting for me, but admittedly limited in its openness. Last year, my class began connecting on Twitter (@MrsJamesFamily) and individual blogs. That was when the walls of our classroom became more transparent! We experienced a humorous moment when we found out that a classroom thousands of miles away was more familiar with what was happening during our day than the teacher in the next-door classroom. Connecting on public blogs has given my students far more opportunities than I could ever offer as an individual teacher. My students have been more receptive to feedback from other sources, and eager to apply their new learning. My students discussed favourite novels with students in Italy. One of my students was asked to write a guest blog post on a teacher’s blog site. Blogging has opened a window to the world, shrinking distances and offering a perspective into a day in the life of students in other countries.

Using Twitter allows my students the freedom to participate in global micro-blog projects and receive the gratification of fairly immediate feedback. We find active hashtags to connect with, and share out our learning frequently. Twitter provides a window into the events, discoveries and learning in our classroom, and invites others to provide feedback, encouragement and conversation.

This year I am working with several teachers who are interested in having their students blog as part of their work on their #geniushour projects. They are starting with closed blogs where only the linked classrooms can read, post, comment or provide feedback. I am looking forward to seeing how writing for a larger audience impacts these students and their writing process.

I am still taking initial steps in my journey towards exploring alternate methods for my learners to connect, reflect and share. I really appreciate it when my students suggest alternate ways to share their learning. I hope that this course gives me new ideas to invite my learners to connect, share their voices and develop their own learning networks.

Research Focus 1

Last year was a time of professional growth and exploration for me. I was given an opportunity to work closely with other teachers to support the implementation of technology in more classrooms and to be a part of a pilot project where our Learning Support team deployed iPads to support student learning. One of my goals last year was to develop and launch a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for our school. I met with parents and our administration during the summer of 2013 to begin drafting the policy. We looked at several other schools and the wording of their documents to formulate the language of our own policy. Once school began, I created a Technology Committee for our staff and then a second Technology Committee for our students, with the hopes that all three committees (parent, staff and students) would soon work together.

For a variety of reasons, I was unsuccessful in meeting my goal of school-wide implementation of BYOD. However, I was very pleased with the BYOD practices and launch within my own classroom. We enjoyed months of personal device use, and shared out our ideas and experiences regularly through a classroom Twitter account and at a conference.

My research interests for my #tiegrad Masters of Education assignment revolve around student use of personal devices for learning and connecting with a global audience. I am interested in discovering what prerequisite skills and habits should be fostered in students as schools begin to move towards BYOD (Bring Your own Device). I am interested in what discussions should take place, and who should be a part of those discussions. I am interested in discovering common language in successful BYOD programs. I am curious about how other schools are using student devices.

My focus will be on Middle Years schools (grade 6-8), and I will be seeking research to support that there is a need for some scaffolding and a bank of ideas to support learners in developing digital literacies while using their personal devices in and beyond an academic setting.

The resource that I hope to build through this research might include:

  • Suggested strategies and rationales to implement BYOD for students, teachers, parents, and administrators
  • Links to resources to support all stakeholders
  • Suggested initial steps in creating a strong foundation in digital citizenship skills
  • Links to sample BYOD documents
  • Examples of how devices are currently being used and ideas to extend beyond initial steps
  • Suggestions on building a positive school culture to welcome the use of student devices for learning

 

Some questions I have about this topic include:

  • What are some examples of good pedagogy in developing responsible use habits?
  • How are personal devices being used?
  • How can we support our learners in developing appropriate skills, habits and awareness to carry them through independent use at school and beyond?
  • What resources are available to support teachers in developing BYOD practices in their classrooms?
  • How can we leverage the possibilities of technology to amplify student voice and create rich global connections?
  • How will writing for a global audience impact student engagement and output in writing?
  • How can personal devices be used to bridge learning between home and school environments?
  • What language and habits should be common within a school culture to support an effective roll-out of BYOD?
  • How do we support learners who are not able to bring in a personal device in a BYOD school?
  • What do students need to know in order to interact safely with a global audience?
  • What resources are available for teachers who are looking to take the first steps in BYOD?

    The list my students generated last year when asked "Why BYOD?"

    The list my students generated last year when asked “Why BYOD?”

I intend to try BYOD again this year. I witnessed value in how my students used their devices last year. When asked why my students wanted to use their own devices last year, the response that resonated most for me was “So we can learn how WE want to learn”.

It’s all about the learning, after all.

Reflective Teaching – Day 27

Te@chThought‘s Day 27 Challenge is: “What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Whew, right now my weekends and the all-too distant holidays play the role of bonus “catch-up” time. Teachers in BC are only two weeks into teaching after a period of job action. So, it still feels like the beginning of September. I am tired every day! My mind is completely overwhelmed with the problem-solving that begins every school year: who are these learners? How can I best support their efforts? What plans do I need to work on? How do they fit together? Do I need to make changes to our classroom lay out? How can I ensure that they feel welcome? Why is my room such a mess still???! What could this space be like if we got rid of all of the desks? How should I review math concepts in order to best meet the needs of the most learners? What book should I read to them? Will they like me?

My mind does not stop when I get home. It does not stop when I lay down to sleep. If anything, sometimes the questions get louder!

And, that is only one piece of the puzzle. I am almost half-way through a Masters of Education program. And I am enrolled in TWO courses this term. I have class meetings regularly. And homework assignments. And blog posts to write – I have not completed any of the three that I thought I would have done by now. I have Twitter to respond to. Blog posts to read. Two text books to read and respond to. A book club. A MOOC. A Literature Review to craft- um, and I guess I will need to actually begin reviewing that literature!

The most important part of my life is my family. My wonderful husband has not yet complained that the cookie plate (that was full all summer) has not been filled in over a week. And that I am too tired to be any fun. My dogs, however, have been giving me “guilt eyes” and needing extra cuddles to make up for our new time apart.

My weekends are filled with work right now. That is a necessity so that I can keep up with the academic and workplace demands. Balance will eventually be restored. I know this. I am COUNTING on this!! Soon my weekends will be times where I can recharge my batteries, devote some time to planning fun learning opportunities for my students, learn things to help improve my practice, AND spend time with my loved ones and do the things that I love to do.