What’d ya learn at school today? A Summary of My ECI 831 Learning

Posted: December 2, 2014 in EC&I 831 Social Media & Open Education, Ed Tech, Professionally Speaking

This semester I have been very busy learning online about learning online…

That is, I’ve been taking ECI 831 Social Media and Open Education with Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrant as part of my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. I have never been a student of a class with so much freedom as this one. I loved having the opportunity to reflect on my online experiences and our weekly course topics.

Photo Credit: JaulaDeArdilla via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JaulaDeArdilla via Compfight cc

As a child of the ’80s I’ve experience a lot of technological shifts that have had such an impact on our society. When I was young my dad used to say the phone was a communication device, not for visiting. To him it was still technology, to me it was part of daily life. I remember our first (expensive) VCR, loading game tapes on a Commodore64, using floppy discs and typing essays on an electronic typewriter. I learned how to email at university and once owned a clunky flip phone.

As far as teaching goes I’ve recorded (first with mic and tape then with digital recorders), copied (dubbing tapes then burning cds) and shared music parts via wiki (or tried to!) I’ve set up email groups to communicate with twelve schools about our joint band program and purchased music notation software licensing for my school. I have seen the change from overhead projector to data projector and used laptops, a document camera, Skype and iPads in the classroom. And I’ve only been teaching since 2000.

My online presence began when I started FaceBook around 2006 so I could ‘hang out around the water cooler’ while on maternity leave. It was nice to feel connected to friends and family from home. I got my first iPhone a few years ago (so I could text with the real world) and now feel a little lost without the easy access to information, my contacts, my email and even work projects. Technology and being connected has changed how I do business–from checking in with my spouse and making babysitting arrangements to collaborating with other teachers and reconnecting with old friends.

It has even changed our language and social rules. Last week our prof and guest speaker, Alec Couros noted his son’s use of ‘buffering’ to describe his siblings confused pause and I hear it in my son’s use of ‘pause’ (as in video games) rather than ‘just a second, mom!’ I’ve sat at gatherings watching friends socialize on their phones and simultaneously curate events with Snapchat or Instagram.

As Marshall McLuhan discovered, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc

 

Participating in ECI 831 has definitely shaped me. As part of this class we were required to develop our Professional Learning Network through Blogging, Twitter and Google+….not to mention complete a major digital project through the course of the semester.

Here’s my recap on my networking experiences:

 

 

BLOGGING

why i blogThen – I had started blogging about a year and a half ago when an accident left me off work for a few months. I took that opportunity for some professional development, namely trying some new digital tools I hoped one day I could implement in my classroom. I spent a lot of time setting up my blog and loved writing about my recovery, career aspirations and parenthood. I set my publishing settings to automatically publish to my facebook and twitter accounts but my few posts were read mostly by my facebook friends.

Now – I have really enjoyed all the writing I have done for my blog this semester and I’m excited to have a wider audience by nature of our class blog hub. I’ve also extended my publishing messages to Google+ and include different hashtags that relate to my post and consequently have gotten an even wider audience than before. I’ve made a few tweaks to my blog layout by including category tabs at the top of my home page and my twitter feed but what I’m most proud of is the richness of my blog posts now compared to back when I started. I’m using lots of hyperlinks (to articles or people) and pingbacks when I remember which colleague’s blog I read that inspired me! I’m including lots of images and videos that I’ve found on copyright free sources like compfight and learned how to embed them and their source seamlessly into my text. And, finally last night I figured out how to add sources as captions and align pictures on either side of the text. YES! I think my titles and writing engage my audience and I’m really excited about getting the occasional comment from people outside our class community. I was also really stoked to discover I have over 400 followers! What?! When did that happen!

Next Steps – I’m still debating about whether or not I need an About.Me page since Twitter and my blog are the main sites I want public. I guess Google+ would be another though I’m not sure how many identities I can manage! (I intend to keep my Facebook account private for now though it is becoming a great space to connect with teachers and find teacher resources.) I do however, need to do a few updates on my About me section in my blog as well as the Ed Tech section now that I have so much new learning to add to it. I’d also like to tweak the category tabs at the top of my page into drop down menus so visitors can more easily see what I’m writing about.

I’m also really excited about starting a classroom blog sometime in the new year and I’ve spoken with our tech consultant about getting my grade 2 students on their own blogs as well. It is such a motivational platform for writing and I know they would be really excited to publish their work on their own site. I’m looking forward to connecting with +Lisa K and +Justine Stephanson who have implemented student blogs this fall and will serve as my model. Sue Waters also put me on to a fabulous teacher’s blog that’s another great example of blogging in the classroom. I already have a list to check out and am excited to add mine to the fray!

TWITTER

Then – I started my twitter account around the same time as my blog when I had some time on my hands to experiment. I searched for topics of interest and followed lots of people that Twitter suggested based on those interests. I asked a few colleagues about the use of hashtags and started to group the people I follow into lists. But, mostly it just seemed like work filtering through all the noise so I didn’t make much use of it. I locked my account so people had to request to follow me and was a little weirded out that everyone can see my thoughts online!

Now – I’m really excited about how my use of Twitter has changed this semester. A shout out to Kelly Christopherson for his Tweetdeck tutorial that revolutionized my use of Twitter! Now I have hashtags of interest set up in columns so I can see at a glance what is happening in the communities I am interested in. I am using hashtags in my bio and posts with much better fluency and with more purpose in order to reach out to the communities I am interested in (like #gamification or #dgbl…digital game based learning) or communities I am a part of (#saskedchat, #regteach or #yqrlearn).

tweetdeck capture

I have taken part in some twitter chats (#saskedchat, #moedchat, and one about gifted learning) and I’m really excited about having connected with new people who have liked my blogposts or responded via twitter. It’s pretty cool that someone I don’t know has taken enough interest in what I’ve contributed to reply with a comment.

At the same time as developing my professional twitter account, I have also been using a classroom account (set up by my job share partner, Amy Lawson). I am tweeting out the happenings in our classroom and even started a twitter measurement challenge with my grade 2 students. Still waiting for takers but at least we put it out there!

Next Steps – I plan to continue reaching out! There’s a whole list of hashtags I’d like to explore as well as chats I’d like to take in. I’m also wondering if it’s worth it to take a second look at the ‘list’ function to see how that can help me further develop my PLN.  Though I’m not sure how much stock to put in the follows vs. followed by ratio, I’m sure my ‘follows’ list could stand some weeding! As far as using twitter in the classroom, I would like to get my students more involved in the actual writing and posting of the tweets and in using hashtags to find information and communities that would benefit our learning.

GOOGLE+

Then – I few years ago one of my young colleagues was trying to connect our isolated community of band directors via google docs. Though she even set up a common google user name and password it never really took off and we were back to the email circus! Around the same time I was introduced to DropBox as a way to share student account information. Because I didn’t have to use it often I was nervous and clumsy each time I logged in….what’s that password again?! My next Google doc sharing experiences were about the same.

Jump ahead to last winter when in my first grad class my group, including our current classmate, Krista Gates, worked together via Google Presentation for our major project. I loved it! So, when my job share partner and I were setting up our partnership I immediately suggested it as a way to communicate and plan. She was onboard as she had already been using google docs with her collaborative projects.

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Now – Being a Google Plus member didn’t mean much to me then but now I see what a great platform Google Communities can be for collaboration and sharing. Our ECI 831 community site has been a great way to not only navigate the course but also to connect with fellow learners, ask questions, and share ideas and resources.  I’ve enjoyed being a part of a group of like-minded individuals and know that if I throw a question out there someone is bound to know the answer or have a similar situation. I’ve really appreciated the collegial relationships and learning that has developed on Google+ over the semester and look forward to continuing them beyond the confines of this class.

Next Steps – Michael Wacker reinforced my belief that Google docs is a great way to collaborate and I’m looking forward to further exploring all that it has to offer including the Add-ons that I’m recently learning about. I’m also looking forward to doing more sharing through Google+. For example, I have a couple of students will be away on extended trips and we’re looking at the possibility of sharing some assignments through a google doc. No more stressing about trying to put together a package of 1-2 months’ worth of learning!

I’m not sure how much I will pursue my Google+ identity (in terms of circles, communities, etc.) unless the need arises. I have yet to explore those other aspects so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing!

LEARNING ONLINE

As Alec Couros stated in his presentation, Living and Learning in the Digital Age, we truly are in a new culture of learning. Digital learning and connected literacies (like Twitter and blogging) need to be central pieces in our classroom learning. More than ever we need to help our students become critical and creative thinkers and consumers. We are preparing them for a job and society that likely doesn’t even exist yet. That’s a daunting task. As Tagore said,

Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

We need to not only give them the digital skills to participate in the digital age but also teach them to curate a positive digital identity right from the start. No more teaching in little boxes anymore. We need to encourage rhizomatic learning and teaching since now, more than ever before, we are so interconnected. So…

spirt of open ed Embrace change.

“If technology is an event at your school you’re doing it wrong.”

Let go and be the lead learner.

Thanks for supporting my learning this semester during EC&I 831. I learned a LOT!

 

 

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Comments
  1. Beige B says:

    Great Post about your learning this semester. I feel like I can relate to so much of your journey. I also feel like EC&I has shaped me. I see my use of social media as so different than I did at the start of class. It is not just something to browse on my phone to kill time but something to engage and participate in to improve my learning as well as others. Thanks for sharing with me this semester.

  2. Wonderful job! Very catchy song!! Awesome harmonies while showcasing all that you have learned. I wish I had a million hours! Wow, yes I would try it all! Thanks so much for inspiring me throughout your learning journey. It is crazy to think back just a few months ago that I had no clue about Twitter, hashtags, Googleplus, etc. I look forward to keeping in contact and connecting our classrooms sometime in the future!

  3. […] Ah, well, the moment has passed. Here it is in case you missed it on my final summary of learning post. […]

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