Tag Archives: connections

PLN expanded

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Throughout my COETAIL experience I have steadily been building my PLN.  I began with Andre DeKoker and other people I had previous connections to.  It’s always easier to approach friends and former colleagues than strangers.  I was new to the idea of posting comments on blogs and other online forums (ok, I admit it, I had posted on Facebook), and I was nervous.  Despite my command of the English language,  I had the usual fear of posting and being judged by others for my content, grammar and presentation.  As time went on, I add additional COETAILers to my reader as well as other tech bloggers.  My PLN began to slowly take shape.

I moved into searching for information throughout the web and joining newsletters for teacher technology.  I sought out help from online contacts and teachers at my own school to help expand my tech knowledge and keep me moving forward.

My latest excitement in my own PLN development was two recent emails at school.  YIS is far from a tech savvy institution.  Rarely is technology mentioned and I find most teachers are frightened of anything tech related (a fair fear as anything requiring electricity is liking to fail for large portions of the year). Yet twice this week I received emails sent to the entire staff highlighting tech topics.  One was the article Flip Your Students’ Learning, which I was sent a scanned copy of, and the other related the use of iPads in the classroom.  7Ways to Use Your iPad In The Classroom got me excited as many of our students use iPads on a regular basis and have begun to consider how I can use them in my new role as the MS ESL teacher next year.  But really it was seeing my pen and pencil school helping to expand my PLN that gave me hope.

My PLN has helped me move in a positive direction, support me through my rough patches, and remind me that we are not alone in this vast digital world.

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Back in the saddle, sort of

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My course 5 experience has been fraught with challenges and obstacles.  It’s been an uphill battle.  Funny thing, working on the actually tech project with my students has not been the challenge.  Sure, I had the usual issues with students and the Myanmar internet, but all in all the students were quite successful.  My giant challenge has been my health.  I was encouraged by fellow COETAIL and Yangon resident Kate to blog about my challenge.  So I am taking her advice and sharing with all of you.

I have been diagnosed with hypopituitarism.  I know you are all blinking, shaking your heads, wondering what on earth that is.  Clicking on the link may not help you much.  It’s complicated. The quick version is that my pituitary gland is not sending the right message to my other glands and my body is not producing enough of a few different hormones.  Turns out that makes you feel pretty terrible.  I won’t go into the details, but the biggest obstacle to my completing this course, or frankly anything this semester, is the exhaustion.  I get worn out walking to work everyday, and I live behind the school!

So, technology has been my savior this semester.  When I was having to miss school to be in BKK for doctor’s appointment, or to spend time in the hospital, my class blogs were my main source of communication with my students.  I had already planned several tech projects for this semester and my students were able to work on all of them.  I have begun to realize the primary reason why teachers avoid technology – it’s so time consuming!  With me having to sit a lot in class, working on technology projects was a gift.  I was able to give them the needed time to work on their projects. I had my grade 12 students create blogs dedicated to the book 1984. It was a great way to try to have discussions and write reading responses.  I was out of the country so I could keep up with the students’ work and comments along with their peers.

As my health improves and my doctors appointments in BKK begin to lessen, I am now taking on the challenge of finishing this school year and completing course 5.  Although I know I will not be able to do either at the level I would like to, I will be proud to look back in June and know I did the best I could.

Distraction

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Having taught at two schools now that require student laptop use, I have given much thought to the management of laptop usage.  In essence we have given our students a tool for endless distraction, a fun toy, and then we ask them to ignore all the games and other entertainment while they write an essay.  We are fighting an uphill battle in many ways.  Think about the average staff meeting where teachers have their laptops.  How many of them are really taking notes rather than playing on Facebook or chatting to someone across the room?  Perhaps I fear what my students are up to on their laptops during class as I am one of the biggest offenders.  I can blame my ADD all I want, but really it’s that I have limited self-control.  How can I ask my grade 8s to have more control than I do?

My grade 8s and their endless Mac products

But I do.  I walk around my room demanding Facebook and other chat sites be turned off.  In Yangon it’s all in the name of bandwidth, but let’s face it, I just want them to get to work.  The words “lids down” consistently comes out of my mouth and I spend time on my teacher Facebook account checking out who is online.  It’s a delicate dance.  Without the internet or computer access within my room, research would be impossible.  We simply lack the resources.  So the uphill distraction battle I will fight!

I find that a few classroom guidelines beyond the school’s limited AUP has helped.

1. Use of any chat program in class results in the loss of online privileges for the rest of the period.

2. Laptops are only used when necessary.  We have dictionaries.

3. A word processing program is essential.  Work handed in using Text editor is not accepted.

4.  Limit the number of screens that you have open.  Students do notice the extreme different when all of them are on at the same time and all have sites open that constantly refresh.

5. Playing games is never ok.  This behavior may result in being plugged into the projector for future online sessions.

In the end, like any educational tool, we must teach our students to use it

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appropriately and keep distractions to a minimum.  Staying focused is key to effective technology use.

Now, I should probably close all my open tabs and stop chatting with my four friends on Skype.

 

Connected?

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The online world has created a sense of global connectivity.  The use of computers and online social networking connects us all.  We are told that the future of learning and education is online social connection.  People continue to be lifelong learners as they now have access to others around the world and can connect to their educators from the privacy of their own home.

But are we truly connected? Technology is leading us down the road of independence.  Gone is the necessity for students to find their way to actual classrooms and interact with their peers face to face.  Concepts like MOOCs and  University of the People allow students to continue their education without ever setting foot in a learning institution.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I can’t seem to understand how this strengthens our connection.  COETAIL is a great example.  The people I regularly talk to from this course are people I knew before or meet in person since the start of the program.  How does a group of people sitting at computers around the world, typing, bring us together more than sharing classroom and discussion space?  I need to meet with people to feel truly connected and invested in our collaborative educational journey.      

The future of education is independence.  The future of education is self-motivated students who do not require teacher cheerleaders or incentives to learn.  The future of education scares me a little.

I don’t think the majority of social humans are ready for this independence.  Most of us enjoy our daily interactions with our peers, and something is lost when those interactions are moved to a computer screen.  

As a middle school teacher, I find a number of students every year who will struggle in this new independent educational world. They are not internally motivated.  Dan Pink explains in his video that humans are internally motivated when it comes to creative projects, but I wonder is that truly for middle schoolers?  I must prepare my students for this new reality.  My students don’t appear to be all that motivated by grades, or by consequences like detentions, or even the candy their math teacher gives them.  There is no one thing that motivates them.  In essence, the majority of my students seem to only work hard and well when they enjoy the project.  Ah, maybe they are more internally motivated than I give them credit for.  Maybe my middle schoolers have already moved toward the independent educational future where they will able to study what they like, when they like and from where they like.   As the embark on their journey into their educational future, I must let them go on their own to find their own motivation.  After all, independence is the future of education.

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We are all in this together

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Technology is not the job of one; it’s the job of many.  Students need to experience technology tools in a variety of subjects to help them understand how to transfer their skills.  It’s no different from writing.  In all subjects you need to write and develop the skills to master that particular type of writing.  Technology follows a similar pattern.  Students need to develop their tech skills in new environments to ensure mastery.  Looking over the AASL standards  it’s clear that tech teachers cannot go it alone.  There is simple too much.  In addition, many technology standards require a shift in thinking and attitude which simple does not happen in a class that meets twice a week for 45 minutes.

Unfortunately , it appears that accountability for covering these standards must rest firmly on the shoulders of administration   I have been told by more than one colleague that they simply refuse to meet to collaborator unless required by admin.  In the meantime,  I spend time discussing with the technology teachers what skills they are focusing on and getting tips for working with tech tools in my own room.  But students should not be the only class benefiting from adult collaboration.

Currently, all technology standards are left for the technology teachers to cover in their various classes. There has been no discussion about technology integration into mainstream classes or how other teachers can use technology in the classroom.  Looking over the student profiles from NETs, my students need my help to become the digital literate individuals outlined on the site.

In my mind, language arts and social studies easily lend themselves to technology integration.  Presentations and research demand students have a working knowledge of a variety of tools.  My students have always enjoyed the idea of new programs to work with and dive into any tools presented to them.  Their passion reminds me how technology can enhance creativity and allow students a new method of expression.  As teachers we must inspired our students to be great innovators.  By exposing them to technology skills and tools, our students will have the ideal conditions to become the creative, innovative individuals we wish them to be.

Endless Connections

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The Web.  It’s a seemingly endless supply of information.  Anything can be found; lesson plans, news, a tracker for my training schedule, just to name a few.  The power the internet holds is knowledge and connections.  The web allows anyone with the tech capabilities to access knowledge and the global community.

Being the social creature that I am, the web appeals to me as a method of maintaining connections to my friends.  Sure, the obtaining of knowledge is a great side effect, but I would still rather visit a library.  In addition, things like banking and buying flights have become so much a part of my online experience that I am not sure that I could even check my balance or buy a flight without a computer.  Have I become that dependent upon technology and the ease that it provides?

Perhaps it’s my general lack of organization, but I am frequently overwhelmed by the information that I have obtained online.  I have no set method for organizing my documents or bookmarks.  I spend more time than I would like to admit searching of things that I have already discovered.  This maybe the number one reason I chose to use the internet as a means of socializing rather than knowledge acquisition.

But the web boils down to one important thing: connections.  Everything is connected on the web.  Connections make everything easier to find, to search, to lose yourself in the sea of global information. Connections are what keeps us coming back to the web for more.

Who are you online?

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I am friends on Facebook with many former students.  I follow the rule that once we are no longer in the same country, I will allow them to be my friend on Facebook.  I am often shocked and disappointed at what my former students are posting.  Although many of them I got to know in a social setting, I stunned to see who they are online.  Their comments create the image of extreme ravers and foul-mouthed sailors. Yet this is not who my former students are.  Would I hire them after college?  Not a chance.  In this digital age, students need to learn that everything they post online is out there for the world to see and formulate an opinion about who they are, and leave lasting impressions on people they have never met.

In China, I used Edmodo to teach my students how to be responsible online.  In essence, Edmodo is Facebook for educators.  I would post discussion questions and homework and other school related information.  Students would comment and start interesting conversations.  Naturally, since I was teaching grade 6, my students would often push the boundaries of what was acceptable online.  I was able to use the inappropriate comments as a teaching point.  The students discussed what impressions they got from their classmates comments.  We often would discuss the greater implications of comments and how they would transfer to their personal lives on social network sites.  It was an effective tool that I felt helped shape my students’ digital footprint.

After a quick search online, I found this article that supports what I was trying to do with my students through Edmodo.  It explains how students do not understand the gravity of their online activity.  It also shows how to use the applications that are available for Facebook and Twitter to be able to reflect on your digital footprint for the year.  Students need to examine who they are presenting themselves as online.

As an educator, I hear rumors of recruiters that ask to see your Facebook profile during interviews, or search for you online.  I actually find this frightening, not because my digital persona is one to be embarrassed by, but it remains me of the idea that teachers must be saints.  We are often not allowed to appear to be regular people.  How can I separate the online me from the online teacher me?

Connections!

Technology is slowly chipping away at my protective shell. Being the social creature I am, I am discovering the beauty of socializing online.  I am beginning to make online connections and use the internet as a convenient way to continue to other relationships that began offline.

Let’s start with Andre DeKoker.  We met in China in 2008, working together at SIS.  I hold Andre responsible for my participation in this course.  The two of us have been through a lot together during are short friendship.  Despite having lived on two different continents for the past couple of years, Andre is a great source of support, and I admit that my COETAIL questions are directed at Andre first.  I feel free to sound stupid and use him as a sounding board. The internet has allowed us to continue our friendship and maintain a collaborative spirit.

And then there are my new connections through COETAIL.  Sure, I had other meet and greets on the internet previous to my COETAIL experience, but this course has allowed me to expand my network of online contacts.  The most exciting part has been meeting these online contacts in real life.  I went to a yoga class on the shores of Inya Lake in Yangon.  In between downward facing dog and a couple of sun salutations, I looked over to see Kate, my fellow COETAILer.  I also ran into Kate in the Yangon airport and convinced her to embrace the duty free whiskey in preparation for our flight to EARCOS.  Photo coming soon!

 

While at EARCOS I finally met Jeff Utecht, who gave me some great running advice.  Sure, we could be talking about technology, but we were able to connect about long distance running.  And, I finally found a great long distance run in BKK.

 

There are countless other connections I have made just from COETAIL alone (like the woman I met in the bathroom who presented at the conference on her final project).  In the end, I realize that the online world and real life are starting to blur and compliment each other.

The connections are what really matters in both worlds.