NETWORKED PROFESSIONAL LEARNING: KEY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE LEARNING OF OTHERS


Photo Credit: cbucky Flickr via Compfight cc

Teaching is a profession that requires careful reflection and ongoing professional development in order to stay up-to-date on current ways of teaching and learning. Furthermore, as professionals, we seek personal learning networks (PLNs) to work collaboratively with other educators with similar interests as us from both near and far.  As you can see from the above Wordle, there are many ways of describing PLNs including many of the larger font words that really resonated with me regarding PLNs. Key learnings for PLNs are educators collaborating, giving advice, sharing resources, and having conversations with other educators. The ultimate goal, of course, is to improve our teaching so that our students get the best education we can give them. I will share some examples of these key learnings below from my experiences in ECMP 355.

Blogging

Check out my screencast for my contributions through blogging and comments. I am also including a google doc of the Comments I have made on other blogs, and the Comments on my Blog if you would like to see them. Also, something I didn’t talk about in my screencast was a post I made called Expanding my PLN Horizons using Twitter. In this post, I discussed my experience in #saskedchat and finding other chats such as #ditchbook where I stumbled on many resources, a resource sharing site, and hyperdocs link for teachers.

Twitter

I decided not to do a screencast on this element of my contributions to others learning as it can be easily viewed in much less time than a video. If you check out my Twitter account you will notice that I created a professional Twitter account. I have been tweeting and retweeting regularly using appropriate hashtags to tweet out resources as well as tweeting links to my own blogs posts. Also if you wanted to check out my contributions using Twitter you will see a list of screen shots that fall under various categories that demonstrate my contributions to other learners. I must admit I am still warming up to Twitter as a part of my PLN using Twitter chats but my struggles with using Twitter chats is more the result of not enough free time at the moment with the end of the school semester tasks, wrapping up courses that I am teaching, and completing this course. I certainly understand now how to get involved in these conversations and contribute and I recognize these as valuable resources that can contribute to one’s PLN.

I thought I would also throw this picture of me helping Bailie Shindle out with her PLN using selfies.

GooglePlus

I feel like I was the recipient to all of the great help contributed to the GooglePlus community as many of the technologies we were using in this course were new to me. However, on a few occasions, I was able to contribute.

My most recent contribution:

  • Screencast – Screencastify video into MP4 format 

Others:

  • Chelsea – Pingbacks 

 

  • Sometimes asking a question answers a question someone else has!

 

  • Finding Sleuthing Partners!

 

  • Helping Pam with Feedback on her blog

 

  • Other smaller questions and introductions

HOOKED ON SOMETHING: CROCHET!

When I first started this learning project for ECMP355 I wasn’t really sure how my project would turn out. I had no experience with crocheting EVER! I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between crocheting and knitting! I mean I didn’t even know crocheting used hooks instead of needles until a colleague and friend of mine brought a hook and yarn into work for me to get started on this learning project before my first post. Oh, but what, didn’t I tell you that I had once tried knitting! Well, that is most certainly true and I attempted to make the most beautiful scarf. But the resulting product fell way short of a scarf and it was the most hideous creation ever made!

Back to my crocheting project! Taking into consideration my past success with knitting (cough..cough.. ) I mean failure, I thought I would set an ambitious goal in my first post. I set out to create a newborn hat and a set of newborn booties.

Now just to make sure everyone understands the scrutiny I faced from my friends, family, and colleagues for crocheting, I thought I would show you a few pictures of me in what they see as my natural habitat.

Now I can’t blame them for having a little fun at my expense, but if you couldn’t tell I am kind of a hands-on learner so crocheting is really not all that different from my hobby. But let’s get back to crocheting!

This learning project was not only challenging but also taught me how much of a visual, and auditory learner I am when it comes to hands-on activities such as crocheting. For this project, I really sought out youtube videos to help me with difficult stitches and of course to crochet my hat, and booties. For the hat and booties, I used the Sewrella.com website. This site was by far the most useful site that I used during my learning project aside from youtube to refresh my memory on certain stitches. I also enjoyed the videos created by simplydaisy on youtube and her crocheting tutorials for beginners. These videos really taught me the basics of crochet, and without these basics, I obviously wouldn’t have been successful with my project. Lastly, the site thewhoot has a lot of great resources to learn crochet but I found the mobile site to be difficult to use. This project also taught me the power of technology in an educational context. There are a lot of resources available as a result of the internet and technology in general. It is wild to think that I can learn anything from something as small as a cell phone or computer, anywhere in the World.

I also follow simply crochet, major crafts, The Crochet Crowd, and inside crochet on Twitter which is nice to give me inspiration and energy to crochet and will help remind me to continue to crochet once this course is complete. I also followed a fellow classmate and crocheter Lila Gaertner as she has been creating some fantastic pieces of crochet.

To wrap things up for this learning project I wanted to show my collection of crocheted items that I have done throughout this learning project to highlight where I started (the blue small patch, to the blue hat and boots!) I still need to make the matching blue boot for size, and also crochet a set of boots and hat in pink but now that I have the skills I should have no problem accomplishing that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING

What a journey this course has been over the past two months. I simply cannot believe how much I have learned in one single course in such a short period of time. Coming into this course I was the person that would never shy away from technology at all. However, there has always been a few pieces of technology and social media tools that have always puzzled me, and I always felt intimated by. Of course, I am talking about blogging and Twitter, and the platform for this course is structured mostly around these two areas of technology and social media. Yikes!

Although it took a lot of hard work to set up my blog by looking into all the resources that were available through the class resources, and experimenting with various formats, I was able to set up a blog that I felt was professional, simple, and above all, functional. Blogging is important to me as I want to introduce blogging into my own classroom for teaching purposes but also to allow students to actively participate in their own learning and the learning of others. However, I wanted to be able to experience blogging for myself and be comfortable with blogging before introducing it to my students so that I could troubleshoot any issues that may arise. I look forward to exploring Edublogs as a possible platform for blogging in my classroom.

With respect to Twitter, this course has taught me how to setup a professional Twitter account that can be used to network with other educators as well as find and share resources. I also had no idea that Twitter chats even existed before this course and I am blown away by how many educational related chats take place on a daily basis. Twitter can obviously be used then as a personalized PLN that can serve the specific needs of each individual teacher wherever they teach. I cannot believe how far I have come with respect to these social media platforms that before this class kind of scared me.

Of course, we learned about much more than blogging and using Twitter. We learned and discussed many important topics surround the appropriate use of technology in the classroom (SAMR), as well as issues surrounding cyberbullying, digital identity, digital safety, viral shaming, digital literacy, and digital citizenship. I do not want to underestimate the importance of these topics as our society is deeply entrenched in technology and we need to use technology in meaningful, productive, responsible, and most importantly, in a safe way.

We were also introduced to countless applications such as, Feedly, TweetDeck,Twitter chats, screencastify (which I used in conjunction with iMovie for the video below), other chrome extensions (AdBlock, Grammarly), backchannel chats, and countless Google based programs such as google plus, google drives/docs, and my favourite that I cannot wait to explore further: Google Classroom!

BABY BOOT TO BE PROUD OF

In my last learning project post, I reflected on my previous experience trying to crochet newborn sized boots and how with my next boot I was going was going to slow down, take my time, and try to overcome the issue I had with my first boot that I created. Although my first boot certainly looked okay, the size of the final product was nowhere near a newborn size.

For this post, I am thrilled and truly proud to show off my latest accomplishment with my baby bootie project.

Although this boot is small and the author Ashleigh where I found this pattern and resource says that this is a simple pattern, but for me, this was no simple task.

My last learning project post I was trying to understand what I was doing wrong when I created my first baby boot. Although I can not specifically pinpoint exactly where I went wrong I did have some learning moments as I completed this boot.

  1. Keeping track of the number of stitches is critical when following a pattern. (This might seem like an obvious revelation but it is certainly easy to forget or lose track of how many stitches you have done)
  2. You need to try to be as consistent as possible with how tight your stitches are.
  3. You can change the size of the boot by using a different size crochet hook. I did use the same crochet hook (4.50mm) for both my boots, however, I tried to make my stitches on the second boot more tight and consistent.
  4. I still am having troubles with knowing where exactly to slip stitch at the end of the round. While watching the video I have a better feeling for where and how I am supposed to accomplish this.
  5. I still need to reference my cheat sheet occasionally. Especially if it has been a couple days since I last crocheted and definitely for the more complicated stitches like back post crocheting.
  6. IMPORTANT: When doing decreases the goal is to reduce the number of stitches (hence the name) but it is important to keep them tight and the loops close together to achieve a tight and easy flowing reduction.
  7. I still need to reference the newborn hat video to remember how to add another color (green) for accents.

Below was my progress throughout this “bootie build”

* Not sure why the boot looks like a different color in some pictures, I assume this is because of lighting*

 

 

Good Digital Citizen or Digital Slacktivist?

 Photo Credit: Elijah Flickr via Compfight cc

The idea of moving beyond our current framework of teaching digital citizenship that is predominately centered around personal responsibilities and more toward active online citizenship has never occurred to me until recently. This notion of shifting our efforts as educators and digital citizens to a more active approach focused on targeting positive active participation in order to curb justice and equity issues that exist in online and face-to-face contexts were highlighted in a recent post co-authored by Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros titled What kind of (digital) citizen?

So the question posed in the article What kind of (digital) citizen? was: Can digital citizenship look similar to citizenship in face-to-face contexts?

To me, the simple answer to this is absolutely it can. However, like many great initiatives, there will most certainly be issues that will arise as a result of shifting toward a more active digital citizen. For example, the current buzzword used to describe some digital activists is slacktivism, which has been highlighted in endless blogs such as, The Problem with #slacktivism, Don’t Mistake ‘Likes’ on Facebook for Real Social Change, and UNICEF Tells Slacktivists: Give Money, Not Facebook Likes. Slacktivism is clearly visible to a lot of people online as people often make comments with social movement hashtags, creating videos for awareness, changing profile pictures, or growing facial hair or body hair to raise awareness. However, beyond creating a post that is part of a particular trend, many of these people are not actually donating money or doing anything above and beyond to help that cause.

But let me clarify something. I certainly believe that some slacktivists are still at least speaking out in some form to help raise awareness for the cause that might ultimately lead to someone else with more financial stability to donate money or by adding to the sheer number of people online wanting change in hope that political leaders and decision makers take notice. So if slacktivism gets people talking and might possibly bring change in the World, is it as terrible as it sounds?

But this is also about teaching digital citizenship!

Like many leaders and captains of professional sports teams, teachers often teach and lead by example. As teachers and professionals in the education field we are definitely looked at by students and society to set a good example in many aspects of our physical lives so it does make sense that we should be portraying an online presence that mirrors our daily lives as a model for active citizenship. It is certainly easier to say nothing than to stand up for what is right and just, but as educators, we have the voice and audience to make a positive change in both the physical and digital Worlds.

My belief is that digital activism needs to be conducted in a meaningful and respectful way that promotes positive change and creates a strong voice for those that are marginalized. Activists and educators must also be informed about what we discuss and stand for so that we do not inadvertently do more harm than good.

Learning and Introducing Coding to My Class

If you are anything like me than I am sure you have heard the term coding before. For me, coding involved computer savvy people sitting around a table or sitting in their decked out gaming layer with computer screens all around them typing feverishly for hours on end developing programs, games, social media sites, and computer viruses. Of course, my prior knowledge of coding is lacking in any real fact based knowledge of coding and the only real knowledge of coding I had was based on Hollywood movies. So obviously I hit on a lot of stereotypes around coding but I wasn’t wrong about coding used for developing programs, games, social media sites and computer viruses. Of course there are many other examples of when coding is used but for the most part, coding is used in most electronics we use every day. Coding is obviously important as much of our lives are surrounded by technology that involves coding. For more information about the importance of coding check out this article published by CBC written by Erik Missio Why kids should learn how to code (and how to get them started).

So what is coding?

This video does a great job explaining what code actually is. Also known as programming, coding is like a set of instructions. These instructions are not typically seen but are the blueprint or instructions that tell your device or electronic equipment to do what it is intended to do. These instructions are like languages and can be “read” or “understood” by a computer to perform a function. There are different languages of code but for this blog, I will not be discussing these.

My Experience with Coding:

I have little to no experience with coding except for a short tutorial using small robotic hamster like balls and an Ipad during a professional development session. During one of my ECMP355 classes, I was introduced to the website code.org and the interactive and user-friendly coding games and initiative known as Hour of Code. Hour of code is one-hour tutorials designed for all ages of kids and adults to learn the basics of coding through fun interactive games. For me I had a lot of fun learning the basics of coding while my inner kid side had a blast playing games such as flappy birds and hot wheel racing.

For these games, the coding is pretty easy but it allows you and students to learn the basics of coding while having fun. Of course there are games for all kinds of ages and difficulties can vary with each game. Even with these basic games like the flappy game for younger students, you can still challenge older students to create complex and harder games near the end of the tutorial where they create their own game to challenge friends.

Introducing Coding to My Class. 

After experiencing coding for myself through code.org’s Hour of Code I thought what better way to experience what it would be like to teach and introduce students to coding than to try it out with one of my classes. After completing the flappy game tutorial myself I thought I would create a Google doc with screenshots of my “answers” for each of the 10 steps of the program. This would allow me to troubleshoot any potential problems that might arise when allowing my students to explore coding. My experimental class was an energetic grade 9 class, ready to start summer holidays with absolutely zero experience with coding. I started class by writing a few terms like coding and programming on the board and had students brainstorm what they knew about them and to discuss any experience they have had with coding. I soon realized that this grade 9 class had no previous experience with coding and like me didn’t really know much about coding. I thought to myself, this is PERFECT. What better way to experience this than with students with no experience. Our focus during the class was strictly the flappy bird game until they were able to finish and print off their certificate of completion. Once they finished they were free to explore any game they wished. I was amazed at how the class reacted to this activity and really embraced the new concept of coding that was so unknown when they walked into the room. They were having tons of fun and loved exploring all kinds of games once they completed the flappy birds game.

Feedback from Students Using Socrative

I also thought this would be a great opportunity at the end of my lesson to try out the socrative app that I previously reviewed but have yet to try out in the classroom. I created a really simple 4 question quiz that included one multiple choice question, two true or false question, and a short answer question. All questions were about the hour of code practice that they had done which included a feedback questionnaire that asked them what they liked or didn’t like about coding. As you could expect that answers produced by my grade 9 class were not elaborate but the app worked great! It was easy for students to log into and complete the quiz. Also, like advertised and explained in my review the data compiled from the quiz was done instantly while students completed the quiz and created a report seen below.

Overall

My experience so far with coding has been joyful and fun. I can definitely see myself introducing more coding into my future classes.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

Since my last crochet project post I have been focusing on taking my time to create my second “blue” baby bootie. If you recall, my last baby “blue” bootie didn’t go as well as I had planned and although it doesn’t look that terrible, it is by no means a new born sized boot. My experience with my first boot did confirm my thoughts on my own learning preferences and learning styles. I have always thought that I am a kinesthetic and visual learner and this project has really cemented that notion that I do in fact have learning preferences. As an educator understanding that I myself have preferences in learning is an important reflection as it is important to understand that our students that we teach all have differing learning preferences. Now of course I also realize that this is my preference and doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the only way I can learn. For myself I think my learning preferences vary slightly with what is being taught/learnt.

Back to my progress!

In my last post I mentioned that when I first attempted the baby bootie there was only a pattern posted and no video. Since then a video has been posted and is shown below. The pattern, video, and details can be found here.

Needless to say I have been taking a lot longer to work through this boot as I really want to learn how to read patterns correctly and obviously execute the pattern correctly. So I have been taking my time making sure I am counting each row carefully so I don’t make the same mistakes. Also I am watching the video while reading the pattern to make sure I am ending each row correctly as I suspect that my last boot wasn’t done correctly with respect to my slip stitches. Furthermore, I think the number of stitches in some rows wasn’t correct in my last boot leading to a larger boot.

My progress so far:

I should also mention that when it comes to hands on projects and building things I am somewhat of a perfectionist. So although this boot is taking much longer I am hopeful it will turn out much better than the last boot.

How We Can Make A Difference

In recent discussions in an ECMP355 course we have been discussing the importance of digital citizenship and more specifically during our last class, we have been talking about digital identity and digital health. We also talked about the implications of related topics such as viral shaming, cyberbullying, and the serious effects this can have on a person’s health such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

As part of this discussion we were asked to review documentaries, TED talks, and research other relatable content to the general topic of digital citizenship, identity… etc. As a result of watching, and reading information related to topics of cyberbullying and digital identity there are definitely some lessons we can learn from tragedies such as the case of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons. We also need to learn and understand the impact that social media shaming can have on individuals as outlined in the TED talk by Jon Ronson: How one tweet can ruin your life.

I would like to point out that I am by no means an expert on any of the cases that I will be discussing and of course I am no expert in this field. However, open discussion about these topics and these cases are important because as educators and members of society we need to not only be aware of what is happening around us, as well as what is happening when we are not around. This last point is of great importance as we live in a society that is deeply entrenched in an online social environment and as much as we think we know what our kids are doing it is difficult to truly know the extent of what they are doing online or with their powerful devices. More so, it is no secret that trends, social phenomena, and the way society operates and interacts changes dramatically from one generation to the next and it is more important than ever to know and understand the World that students live in.

I am not suggesting that we need to dive into the same trends and do what our kids are doing to understand everything. We just need to be aware of what is going on and understand the benefit and potential consequences of the things they are doing so we can help our youth in times of need.

One of the documentaries involved the tragic death of Amanda Todd through a documentary produced by the CBC titled: The Sextortion of Amanda Todd. For those who are not familiar with the story, Amanda Todd was sadly a victim and target of sexual extortion, online bullying and subsequent bullying and harassment from both online strangers and peers at school. Her harassment stemmed from an online incident where she flashed an audience online and photos were taken and later used in various malicious ways. While watching this documentary and also the TED talk by Jon Ronson: How one tweet can ruin your life, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the people in their lives would have chosen to help and support the people like Amanda that made a poor decision. The documentary talked about how she had moved to a different school and was constantly bullied and made fun of. If we could try to teach kids to be stronger people by supporting people like Amanda and not follow the easy mob mentality than perhaps more lives could be saved. Of course, this is difficult to do and it is easy to kick someone when they are down to make their own lives appear better in some way but by reaching out it could make the world of difference for someone in need.

Another important takeaway that I noticed from the Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons cases but more specifically the TED talk by Jon Ronson: How one tweet can ruin your life is that information today travels at incredible speeds. Jon Ronson was discussing the implications and fallout of the infamous tweet sent out by Justine Sacco. Although according to Jon Ronson the tweet was not intended to be racist, however, this is not the point I am trying to make. Within hours of sending out this tweet, her tweet went viral and her life would soon be turned upside down and leading her to health problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This example demonstrates the tremendous power and implications of social media shaming and highlights how we must teach our youth to be careful with what they put on social media but also how they react to stories like these. Students might not fully understand the ramifications of their replies and responses to posts such as the one by Justine Sacco.

Lastly, we need to be informed as adults, parents, teachers, friends…etc as to what our students and children are doing online. An extreme example of this is the blue whale challenges, where an anonymous group or person targets teens online in various parts of Russia. The teens are given instructions on things to do over 50 days, such as cut the blue whale symbol into their arms, and at the end of the 50 days, they are instructed to commit suicide. The people running the challenge would allegedly sell their photos online. Although this is an extreme example of the danger youth can get into online it is important for us to understand that vulnerable people can be subjects of dangerous and harmful manipulation.

The take home message from all of this is that we can not be silent about the problems youth are having in their lives and the potential danger associated with viral shaming, cyberbullying and other related online issues. We need to have open, non-judgemental, communication with our youth about difficult topics in their lives. As teachers, parents, friends we need to make sure we are not adding to the mob mentality and reach out and support people who need it.

Benefits and Challenges to Teaching Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Photo Credit: University Library of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Flickr via Compfight cc

Education is a broad area of learning and has many roles in shaping the lives and minds of people young and old. One of the major roles of education is to prepare students for the realities inside and outside of the classroom. We are currently living in a society that is dominated by technology and electronic devices with people more “connected” than ever before. At times it is hard to comprehend the power we hold in the palm of our hands or the things we can do with our devices.

Who teaches us how to use these powerful tools appropriately?

Do we as educators simply let students learn as technology evolves? Do we try to teach basic principles that will apply to various scenarios as technology evolves?

I believe that teaching digital citizenship should be taught in schools in a way that empowers students to make the right choices inside and outside the classroom. The use of technology in society, the workforce, and in the education system is dramatically evolving and changing and we as educators need to prepare our students.

There are clear benefits to teaching digital citizenship such as those highlighted by Jason Ohler in Character Education for the Digital Age. However, I do see some challenges of teaching Digital Citizenship in the classroom.

I do think that technology and digital citizenship can be integrated into almost any curriculum. However, because technology is beginning to become such a mainstream part of education and society, should the education system think about having a technology and technology literacy course taught as a core subject?

With infusing digital citizenship into current curriculums I do see some issues that would need to be addressed. First, not all teachers have the same experience and exposure to technology. Like anything in education, I think this subject should be taught by qualified individuals to make sure content is taught appropriately and in an authentic way. This would mean that teachers would need to receive proper training and ongoing professional development to stay current and relevant with an ever evolving subject like technology and digital literacy. Of course sticking to the nine elements of digital citizenship as outlined by Mike Ribble is a good start, I still believe that we as educators need to be trained to ensure we are doing our best to teach students digital citizenship.

Like anything we teach to students the material and way in which we teach it to students also needs to be authentic. If students are not taught digital citizenship in a real and authentic way we might witness the opposite effects of the learning goals we sought in the first place.

Costs!!!! In an era of tightening budgets in the education system, we need to have financial support to ensure we have the right resources and materials to teach digital citizenship in an authentic way. It is clear that technology has a huge role in society and the economy, therefore we must make it a priority to fund the education system to meet the needs of an evolving society.

 

Learning from my Mistakes: Bootie, Take 1

After my last learning project post where I crocheted a newborn baby’s hat I decided to take on the newborn booties project that was found on the same site (Sewrella) as the newborn baby’s hat. 

When I first set out to tackle this project I clicked the link and there was a picture of what the booties were supposed to look like, there was a pattern, but there was no video like the newborn hat. At first, I thought this was going to be a good test for me to see if I could crochet something from a fairly simple pattern. While reading and watching the last video on the newborn hat, the author said the hat and booties were a simple design for beginner crocheters, but as I soon found out, I made a few mistakes along the way. Although it is difficult to tell from the pictures I posted, I know I made a few mistakes. The boot itself is WAY larger than a newborn. I actually think it is much too big for my 18-month-old.

For this project, I printed this pattern out after I finished the newborn hat. As I was struggling throughout this boot and had to try things a few times, I did not take multiple pictures of my progress throughout.

Although many of the stitches involved were basic stitches that I learned in the past like chaining, single crochet, half double crochet, and double crochet, I also had to learn some new terminology and reading patterns along the way.

As mentioned, the pattern can be found here, and these are a few things I needed to search in order to complete the boot.

Hdc in back loops

  • For this like always I went to Google and found this video to help me
  • And this picture was also a big help to me

Sc Decrease

  • This is like a single crochet: Insert hook into stitch, yarn over and pull back out (2 loops on hook), insert into next stitch, yarn over and pull back out (3 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through all three.
  • Here is the video I watched to help me.

Bpdc (back post double crochet)

  • I did something similar with the hat but I still needed a refresher tutorial to finish this round.
  • Here is the video I used.

I added the green accent stitch around to match the hat. This wasn’t on the pattern and I know I am in no position with experience to be able to tell people when this can be done but I thought this was a good idea and wasn’t a big deal.

Since printing the pattern off and working many hours on this boot, I returned to the same site where I found the pattern and noticed she posted a video tutorial on June 5th, 2017. For my next boot, I am going to attempt to follow along with both the video and the pattern that I printed off to try and determine where I went wrong on my first boot.

Hopefully, I can figure this out and make an actual newborn boot and not a toddler size boot.