Month: July 2014

The Hashtag through a teacher’s lens (and the power of twitter)

It is important for educators to use twitter to establish a positive digital footprint for themselves and to directly model this for their students. Twitter can be repurposed for educational use. I’ve been able to connect with many different people and find out about professional development sessions. I can also follow the back feeds of conferences that I am unable to attend. Why do I do this? I want to better my practice, as a teacher. In a sense, the hashtags I follow give me professional development. By being active on Twitter, I am becoming a part of the world’s bigger conversation. Twitter is an organic discussion that is short, simple, and to the point.

An affordance of Twitter is the brevity of having on 140 characters to get your point across (Harari, 2011). People are more apt to read more and obtain more information because of the succinct manner of these messages. I’ve created a ThingLink to bring attention to the brevity of Twitter. In 140 characters or less, I can find out the essentials of who, what, and where. If I wanted to seek more, I can use that key information to conduct a deeper search. The point is, short messages spread information faster.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtags identifies messages that are related to a specific topic.

In order to fully repurpose twitter for education, hashtags need to be informational rather than comical. Personally, I use Twitter as a tool for note taking to remember experiences and things I’ve learned. I can revisit the hashtag afterwards and follow up. The global conversation surrounding a hashtag may continue after that said event is over with. Sharing ideas and collaborating with other educators is extremely powerful and valuable.

While studying abroad in Ireland with Michigan State University’s MAET program, I was able to show my colleagues the power of Twitter and expanding your personal learning network (PLN). Michael Medvinsky (@mwmedvinsky) is in my PLN. I connected with him at #edcampou during a session on #AR (augmented reality). Come to find out, he used to teach music at the school I was currently working at. Small world, right? So the connection became stronger and we connected at other professional development sessions. Sitting in class in Ireland one day, I had tagged Michael in a tweet regarding #AR. This sparked a conversation that evolved into the maker movement, #makeymakey, the power of Twitter, using Twitter as an educator, etc. Michael became curious about what #MAETy1 was all about (the hashtag for masters in educational technology year 1 students). He continued to share resources and follow the hashtag. We collaborated, communicated, and shared from Ireland to Michigan in an instant. This was a completely authentic example of what Twitter can do.

The hashtag is extremely powerful especially to teacher because if you were to use this with your class you could create a unique classroom hashtag. You can teach students how to be a full participant in a digital world. Students can learn how to be a part of a discussion by retweeting, favoriting, and replying in a meaningful manner. This will also help your students establish positive digital footprints for themselves. In the classroom, students can connect with each other and other students around the world. This transfers to their everyday life because Twitter is accessible to them 24/7. Your students could interact with authors, experts, organizations, and become politically active. As a teacher, you can communicate with your students and families through a digital medium. The connection doesn’t end when your students leave you. You can be a connected mentor to them through the rest of their learning.

Below you will find a handful of hashtags that I followed this past year:

#michEd #kinderchat #5thchat #2guysshow #iste14 #notatiste14 #edcampou #edcampwbwl #edcampnovi #edcampdetroit #colchat #youmatter #satchat #edchatie #podstock14 #makered #AR

Resources:

Harari, H. (2011). Harmful on-liners, an ocean of facts and rewired minds. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think?  Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/10611

 

Thoughts on the Anti Education Era

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After reading James Paul Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning, I had a lot of information to digest. Gee expresses the idea that, as a society, humans are becoming more stupid. He painted a picture of what exactly it is that is making us stupid. My take away is that we usually use words not to say how the world is, but to say how we would like it to be (Gee, 2013, p.67). This means that we are not highlighting truths and reality, but rather ideal fantasies. To me, it is almost as if we are running from what is real and hoping our fantasies will instantly become true. If we hope to become smarter, we need to work hard for our ideal fantasies. To achieve this, humans need to decompose and analyze experiences to determine what needs to be done to reach intelligence.

We are stupid because we lack reflective action, context, experience, and agency. We are constantly searching for status, evading knowledge, and flee complexity. Gee states, “humans do not like to carry heavy things around in their minds” (p.133). These problems are wicked. Gee asks, do we have the will to save ourselves? I hope the answer is yes. As an educator, I have the power to be that change. What can I do to save my students?

There are limitations that prevent us from solving big, complex problems smartly. This is because wicked problems have a domino effect. There is no single perfect solution. When you think you’ve found that solution, another one arises. We can solve complex problems smartly by learning to understand one component of the wickedness so that we can attempt a best bad solution and work within our constraints. Being aware of these limitations can help us behave more intelligently, even in the face of overwhelming complexity.

Collaboration and mentoring is a big piece to solving wicked problems. “Humans are not smart alone. They are plug-and-play devices that are meant to link to good tools and good collaborators who serve as tools for each other (Gee, 2013, p.167). We need to feed off of each other and work together to reach intelligence. There is a wealth of digital tools out there today. In order not to use these tools poorly, we need to be cognizant of purpose and intent. Educators can use digital tools to blend with face to face interactions and for educational purposes that go beyond entertainment (Gee, 2013, p.197). Thinking about purpose and intent, there needs to be thoughtful planning and design for using digital tools. Planning is so much better if you have a mentor or someone to help drive you and facilitate your personal learning. As mentors, we can help each other develop as educators.

“Getting smart is now a 24/7 enterprise because intelligence comes from cultivating our lives and all our experiences in the service of learning and growth” (Gee, 2013, p.215). I have a better understanding of what my job truly entails. I am not just a teacher. I am a mentor to my peers and my students. My job is to allow students to find their passions and greatness. I do not want my students to go through the motions in their educational journey, just so they can get a good job. I want my students to embrace their quest for knowledge, so they can live a good life.

Resource:

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

The PLN

As a part of a quick fire I had to do for my MAET year 1 class, we were asked to visualize our personal learning network.  I chose to use Mind Meister as my digital tool to help me do some mind mapping to visualize my PLN. Developing and remembering the entirety of your PLN is important because these are the the people that you are going to learn from.  They will help you to grow as an educator and individual.  A personal learning network is your support system.  They are the people you will collaborate with. These are the people who will help you enhance learning experiences for your students. It is necessary to have a PLN if you plan to better your teaching practice and directly model life-long learning for your students.

How do I expand my PLN?

Having an online presence can help your PLN grow. Be an active participant on social media. Create a website or blog. Your online presence will help you connect with countless amounts of educators. Having this presence of being known in a digital world is also modeling appropriate digital citizenship for your students. If you are active online, you are more apt to find out about professional development sessions, conferences, tweet ups, upcoming trends in education, events, and more. People who have things in common are drawn together. If educators communicate in a virtual world, the possibility for connections will exponentially increase.

PLN from first day we did this quickfire

Following the quick fire, I realized that I have a lot more connections than I though. This mind mapping exercise was very powerful because I was able to see my thinking and connections. I chose to map my PLN by separating it into four major categories: school, work family, and social media. I wrote down individual twitter handles and names because I wanted my map to be very detailed. I chose to map it in this specific way because I wanted to be able to revisit the map and use it later on.  I want to continue adding to it.  My map reminds me of an address book. It tells me who the person is and where I know them from. This will make it easier for me to contact them in the future.

A couple weeks later…..

Our class was given time to refine any one of our quick fire assignments we hadn’t had a chance to finish.  I chose to revisit my PLN map.  I chose to do this because after being overseas for a while, I truly felt like a part of the MAET family.  I wanted to reflect on how my PLN has grown and changed.  What was I able to add when I went back into this mind map? I was able to add old connections that I ran out of time to add before. I was able to add old connections that I hadn’t thought of the last time.  I also was able to add all the new connections I’ve made through my MAET family.

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Mind Meister was an easy tool to understand quickly. Going back to my map a second time gave me a chance to mess with more of the features of Mind Meister to see how I actually liked the tool. Before, I spent my time just getting everything “down on paper”.  This helped me see how many people I actually can go to and that I have a lot of connections. It can be easy to forget who all of my resources are. It is busy and big and I don’t know that I necessarily like the design of it but because I designed it and filled it in with specifics.  It isn’t visually appealing but it is informative.  I think there could be better tools, such as Popplet, that could retain the data from my PLN in a more appealing way.

My continually growing PLN

 

You are going to FLIP!

Below you will find a video that I produced using Camtasia.  I created this video with a couple purposes in mind.  First, I envisioned this video being used as a tool to use in the classroom because it is something simple that I could leave for a substitute teacher to play. My students would still be learning from me, their teacher, even in my absence. Secondly, I created this video for the purpose of flipping a math homework assignment. In the end, this video was created for my students. They are my audience. This video was made with the intent that they would benefit and learn from it. According to Finkel, “in-house videos align better and more closely with the district’s curriculum, and students prefer seeing their own teachers” (Finkel, 2012). My hope is that by cohesively incorporating visual, audio, and text students understanding will heighten. This video is also powerful because it could potentially have another audience: parents. Parents can watch this video also to understand what their child is learning in school. The mathematical methods students learn today differs from the way their parents learned math. Other educators could also show this video to their students and parents. If this video helps just one person in my audience to better understand the concept of PEMDAS, I will consider it a success.

Video can be a very useful tool in the classroom because they can be utilized for a variety of purposes. I hope to create many instructional and tutorial type videos for my students and parents. However, I also want my students to not only be consumers, but also producers. I want my students creating. I want them to understand how to make a video. If I make videos for them, I can model for them the video making process. Videos are seen as more engaging. However, in order for a video to be engaging, there needs to be a lot of thoughtful storyboarding. Videos are not just automatically engaging. The work behind making a good video is very mindful and involves thinking across many mediums. Keeping in mind the story or message you are trying to portray and supplement that with dynamic film and audio is not an easy task.

In the future, I hope to flip my class using augmented reality. Aurasma and Daqri are great tools that will support this flipping. I have flipped 4th grade social studies, in the past. I managed this by using a wiki and weebly student blogs. I integrated social studies with our technology time. Videos that I used in the wiki were already created and found on Youtube. I also put helpful videos up on my classroom website. A foreseeable goal I have for myself is to try to flip another subject using other mediums and by creating my own media.

If I flip the classroom, my class will be able to dig deeper following the video lesson, which will lead to more meaningful learning. Flipping homework can facilitate a deeper discussion and better understanding, as a class. When students begin creating, students who grasp concepts can create their own videos to help students who may be struggling. This peer collaboration can be so powerful and I want to have that kind of learning environment with my class. When planning a flipped classroom, remember to keep in mind the purpose. Ask yourself: Why are you flipping? Who is your audience? What is the message? You are going to FLIP!

Resources:

Finkel, E. (2012). Flipping the script in K-12. District Administration. Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/flipping-script-k12

 

Learning & Understanding

Learning is growth through exploration, metacognition, experience, and transfer. My understanding of how people learn is that they need to explore and reflect upon their experience they had exploring. They come to understand new ideas by including previous experiences and prior knowledge to what they are learning. This is part of the reason that the learning processes of novices and experts differ. Everyone is transferring their own unique experiences and applying it to what they are exploring. I believe this is an important concept to embrace because no two people are exactly alike or have lived the identical lives. Every person has their own story that has brought them to where they are in this moment. People change their minds about what they thought they knew by recognizing learning gaps or misconceptions through failure or making mistakes. Not everyone may realize that they are using metacognition or be aware of their own thinking advancements. That is why it is important, as teachers, to directly model how our thinking has changed so that we can teach students to be reflective with their learning and experiences. We are not teaching robots to memorize information. Teachers are here to help learners understand and make sense of the world we live in. One of my favorite ways to model how thinking changes in my classroom is to use the “I used to think, But now I Think” Visible Thinking Routine. This teaching method supports learning and its related concepts of understanding and conceptual change.

According to Bransford (1999),  “all new learning involves transfer” (p.78), which means that students need to be transferring academic knowledge to the real world and everyday knowledge to school. I think this is key because when the learning is more meaningful and relevant to students, they can easily transfer and apply their learning to any situation. Our goal as teachers is to foster life-long learning and what better way to do that then by making learning meaningful and relevant. I want to mold my students to be self-learners because they aren’t always going to have a teacher. At some point in their life, they will need to become their own teacher, which is why I think it is important to let them love learning.

Ito (2013) says that 1) formal education is often disconnected and lacking relevance 2) learning is meaningful when it is part of valued relationships, shared practice, culture, and identity and 3) young people need connection and translation between in-school and out-of-school learning. Another method that couples understanding and conceptual change is Connected Learning. It knits together three crucial contexts for learning: peer culture, interests, and academics (Ito, 2013, p.62). A powerful activity that I implemented in my kindergarten classroom was Genius Hour. My students were able to learn about a topic of their choice. There were no guidelines on how this needed to be presented. They just needed to be the experts and be able to teach someone else about their topic that they were so passionate about. When my students were given time to learn about what they wanted to learn, I had very few students off task. Kids took this home with them and began to notice and apply what they were learning about to the real world. My students would be so excited to share their findings with me when they got to school, in the morning. The high quality work and innovation that came from Genius Hour blew me away. It was clear that Genius Hour was relevant, supported by valued relationships, and was translated to out-of-school contexts.

Some words that describe my teaching mindset are collaboration, transfer, motivation, patience, critical/deep thinning, flexibility, play/making, self-learners, problem solvers, perseverance, creativity, connected learning, high standards. This is what drives me to teach the way I teach. I integrate new technologies into my classroom because I feel that it is necessary for my students to be literate with the technology we use today. The world is always evolving and technology is always changing. In order to make learning relevant for them, the use of current technologies is important. Ito (2013) says that “new media plays a role in connected learning” (p.82). I believe that my job as a teacher is to change with the change. I cannot be close minded and stick to what I know. It is important for me to go outside of my comfort zone and learn new technology because that is how people learn. How can I expect my students to do this if I don’t?

 

Resources:

Bransford, J., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (1999). How people learn brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Mizuko Ito (2013).  Connected Learning an agenda for research and design.  Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/sites/default/files/Connected_Learning_report.pdf

 

Getting Things Done (GTD)

After watching David Allen’s TED Talk on The Art of Stress Free Productivity, I was really intrigued. It got me thinking about my own personal productivity, both inside the classroom and outside of the classroom. Allen says that there are 5 stages to mastering workflow: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do. After thinking about these stages, I used a low tech tool (pen and paper) to notice and document what kinds of technologies I use to manage my life in order to be more efficient. In the TED Talk, Allen says it is important to “Notice what’s on your mind”. So, I created a list. This list was divided into the 5 stages and I noted tech tools and resources that I already use (or have used in the past) or thoughts I had about each stage to decompose my own workflow. Here is my list….

Collection: 30/30 app, pencil/pen and paper, EvernoteGoogle Docs

Process: My email organization.  I leave “unfinished business” in my inbox to make sure that I take care of it.

Organize: PinterestDiigo, Google Docs, Evernote, Google Calendar

Review: I look over and revisit all of my lists and organization tools

Do: Star or Highlight priority items (or put them in a sequential list, high priority at the top)

One technology tool that I use, in the classroom and at home, is 30/30. This app is helpful to me because I can create several lists. I can design them by prioritizing, sequencing, and color coding. The most effective feature of this app is that it allows me to assign a certain amount of time to each task. When the task’s time is up, a timer will go off to let me know I need to transition to my next task on the list. The initial task will be moved to the bottom of the list. If it is completed, I am able to delete it. If it is uncompleted, it stays at the bottom of my list to revisit at another time. One example of how I use this in the classroom is to time each stage of Reading Workshop (Mini Lesson, Guided Reading Groups, Student Conferencing, Wrap Up). This helps me stay on task so that I don’t get too wrapped up in one aspect. This is also a nice tool to use just for creating lists that do not necessarily need to be timed, such as a grocery list. As I grocery shop and put things from the list in the cart I remove them from the list, by a simple swipe. When my list is empty, I can check out.  30/30 is free and user friendly.

Allen says that “if you set up a personal organization system structured with a projects list, a calendar, a next actions list and a waiting for list, not much will be required to maintain that system”. After reflecting on my current workflow, the area I would like to be more consistent in is the Reviewing Stage because I think that this strategy can help boost my workflow. I do look back at my lists. However, I revisit them at random times. Ideally, I would find time to do a weekly review to process and update all of my lists and stay current and updated. Rather than solely focusing on what I have left to do, a personal goal is to take note of what I accomplished for the week. I can then begin to recognize my productivity. Down the road I would begin to notice trends in my productivity, which may help me realize what is working and what isn’t. Next, I will be able think of ways to better my practice.

A tool that I think will help my workflow is Evernote. I listed this as a tool that I have used. However, I know that I do not use it to its full potential and that I only do surface level work on it (create lists). I’ve only created two lists ever with this tool. A travel packing list with checkboxes so I could check off each item as I packed it and a list of contents inside a box that was packed away. I think this tool would increase my efficiency because it is capable of keeping everything in one central place. I think that my students can also find this tool useful. I look forward to learning more about Evernote and tweaking my Reviewing Stage of mastering workflow.

Resources:

Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin.