Thoughts from #Byte2013

On Friday I had the privilege of attending the Byte 2013 conference in Neepawa. I originally was not going to attend but the Tuesday before I attended the MANACE TIN and after I had met a few Tweeps from Twitter I realized that it would be a good idea to go and see what it was all about. I was a bit apprehensive at first  but because it was such last-minute decision I didn’t have anyone to go with. Luckily I knew that there would be a few people from my Twitter PLN in attendance in the conference so I wouldn’t really be ‘alone’. As I sat down  in the gym full of attendees I had a moment of “Oh dear what did I get myself into…” but luckily with a few Tweets by my first session I met @MissL and we were off to a running start!

Here are my big take aways from the conference:

The first session I attended was “Global Education – Flatten your Classroom” by Eva Brown, Kate Hallett and Jennifer Kasprick. This session was great and introduced me to a few tools and sites that I haven’t used before. The fist was MentorMob which is a site where teachers can create playlists from the internet.

The second resource I was introduced to was the Flat Classroom projects website. This site has a wonderful number of projects that can help you make your global connections in your classroom through a number of different projects. There are projects designed for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and is well worth a look.

My second session of the day was “They All Have Computers… Now What? Teaching in a BYOD School” by Roy Norris. I chose this session because we are currently reviewing our technology policy at the school I teach at. The debate is centering on what devices students can bring to school (and whether they should be able to) and what they should be used for. It is always interesting for me to see how averse people are to students bringing their devices to school but that is a post for another time.

Roy’s presentation focused on his schools journey into BYOD and what they learned through the process. One of the things Roy said that if you are considering going BYOD take a year of PD with your staff to learn about BYOD and how to implement it before jumping into the fire. The other big take away for me was when Roy was asked about equity of devices and what happens when you have students who bring different quality of devices with different programs on them into the classroom. His response was simply it is not about the device or the program on the device but rather it is all about what the students are doing on the device. Does it really matter if a student is reading a book on a computer in PDF file or on Kindle or in a physical book? What really matters is that everyone is on the same page reading the same material. The same goes for writing and collaborating. It doesn’t matter if they are writing in a Word document, a Google doc or in the body of an email what matters is that they are doing their assignment.

Another point that Roy made in response to a question about distraction caused by the devices made me think about the current BYOD debate at my school. Many of the objections about students bringing in iPods or computers centers around them being distracted in class. A member of the audience asked what he did about students who weren’t focused 100% of the time because they are accessing other sites on their devices. His response was that students will zone in and zone out but as long as they get the work done it isn’t an issue. I would liken the distraction to doodling in the classroom or daydreaming it is just happening in a different medium. During all the talks I was on my laptop checking out links and writing notes from the presentation and occasionally would Tweet or check out something unrelated. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t focused but rather was that ‘zoning in, zoning out phenomenon”.

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A history lesson for the mini Clones and the Mini-Stormtrooper

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

The third session I attended was “Connecting, Reflecting and Creating: Why We Blog” By Kirsten Landen  (Miss L) and Tyler Letkeman. Kirsten and Tyler ar both preservice teachers at Brandon University and regularly blog and Tweet. I regularly connect with Kirsten on Twitter to share ideas and thoughts. It has been nice to have someone out there who is also a new teacher blogging and Tweeting – Helps me not feel so alone! I particularly like their session as they walked through the different reasons why they blog. It was nice to see their motivations and how similarly they lined up with my own. Perhaps the biggest take away for any new blogger from their session would be to find a focus and to go for it!  Another thing that really struck me was Tyler’s focus on creation when blogging. This struck me as it is the highest level Blooms Digital Taxonomy and is something that I should be doing more on my blog.

The last and final session I attended was “Building your PLN/PLC” by Phil Taylor. As anyone knows I am a bit of a Twitter addict and a big advocate for it as the  best free PD out there for teachers. Phils session introduced me to two new sites that I haven’t used before. The first is News.me which aggregates all the Tweets from you twitter stream and sends you an email with the Top 5 Tweets of the day. This is especially useful for people who often feel overwhelmed by their Twitter stream and need a nice easy way to get the best content out of the constant flow of Tweets. The second site is Rebel Mouse which is a site that aggregates all of your social feeds into one beautiful page.

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Pinky & The Brain photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

My head has been spinning from all the things I learned at the conference and all the connections I made on Friday. The coolest moments were when I finally got to meet some people I follow on Twitter. Making those face to face connections really makes you realize that Twitter is a human network and that you really are sharing with colleagues around the province and world. I look forward to learning from my PLN and attending more conferences in the future!

Things to look out for:

EdCamp is coming to Winnipeg June 1st http://edcampwpg.org/. Come get involved or attend and learn with others!

Maple 4 Teachers is a networking tool for teachers coming out of the Manitoba Department of Education. It is currently in Beta but as it rolls out it should be another fantastic resource for educators around our province  to use.

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Why all this Mooc’ing Around? Rhizomatic Learning at its finest..?

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Mucca Curiousa photo credit: mastrobiggo via photopin cc

Last night I caught up on Monday’s #etmooc session on Rhizomatic learning. All I can say is ‘wow’, great session! Dave Cormier delivered a thought provoking hour lecture that is well worth the watch and after effect ponderings.

(P.S. Blogpost has been written in the midst of feeling sick – so excuse any disordered thoughts).

So how is #etmooc and rhizomatic learning a match made in heaven? Well…

It’s unstructured – One need only look at what is going on it #etmooc (http://etmooc.org/) to see that there is a loose structure with very few limitations.

It is difficult to control  and we don’t know where we will end up– The course creators haven’t told us what to do or where to go with the course. It is simply up to us to see where the adventure will take us.

– It is pretty disorderly – With such a big course there is lots of discussions going on. Communities have grown out of mutual interest and there are people from every part of the education community participating.

– Independent learning – There is no set path in this course. It really is unpredictable and responsive. We blog and discuss the topics that interest us. We are responsible for our own learning and that of others. 

 Community is our curriculum – #etmooc is all about community and connection.

So now why all this Mooc’ing around?

  • It’s all about the learning. I don’t need to have course credit in order to motivate me to learn.
  • It helps build connections and expose me to ideas I may otherwise have never encountered. ( E.g. Rhizomatic learning)
  • It works with your schedule. If you don’t participate or miss a session you won’t be in trouble.

Are Moocs for everyone? No.

(The chaos is breathtaking sometimes)

Will it work with every type of course? No. The model is by no means a one size fits all solution.

Should you try them out? Most certainly!

Related articles:

What MOOCs Will, Won’t and Might Do by Paul Glader  http://edudemic.com/2013/01/what-moocs-will-wont-and-might-do/

Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach? by Dave Cormier  http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/

Digital Identity: Express Yourself

This week has been  very thought-provoking in week in the #Etmooc adventure. As we are  entering our second week on the topic of “Connected Learning” I have started to see rumblings about identity and a digital presence. (May also have to do with the start-up of #edcmooc). One of the things that has struck me about #etmooc is the openness to expression. Participants are encouraged to try different tools to express themselves. There is no right or wrong medium. participants are using twitter, Google+, Vlogs (so cool!) and a number of other tools. As a participant you can use your medium as a sounding board for ideas, a space for creation or simply a way to share what you know.

Here are two really great posts I read this past weekend that got me thinking. The first is about being authentic (great posts by Karen Gitchel Kgitch on Authenticity  and the second is about  digital identity Erin Leestark On digital dualism (or why, in 2013, are people still fear mongering the Internet?).

When I tell people (usually other educators) that I tweet and blog regularly for PD I often hear concerns around digital identity and footprint. Many people fear that they will somehow ‘mess up’ and that there will be long-term consequences. While this is a completely possible outcome I would argue that if you conduct yourself professionally the benefits that come with blogging and tweeting far outweigh the negative outcomes (I could have said that more eloquently if it weren’t for Monday evening teaching brain). Besides it is better to be known for the amazing work you put out there than for the random things that could possibly pop up if you weren’t?

Perhaps one of the hardest things when it comes to writing and creating is finding your voice. It takes time to figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Perhaps this is where much of the above mentioned fear comes in to play. Do people fear being misinterpreted, misunderstood or judged? Of course we do. Putting yourself out there takes courage but it also doesn’t mean that you have to reveal everything about yourself. (Just like anything in life it’s all about balance). The online educational community is supportive and kind who can challenge and critique to help you push your thinking.

Karen Gitchel’s  (Kgitch on Authenticity ) post reminded me that being authentic is what helps draw people to us. We all crave connection in some form or another. After all connection is what makes us human. Seeing people taking joy in what they do is one of the greatest parts of being part of the online educational community and partaking in a courses like #etmooc and #edcmooc. It is probably why I am enjoying the courses as much as I am: connection. There is no pressure if you can’t commit hours to the courses and communities but yet we commit what we can.  We are learning for the sake of learning. No one is paying us to create, share and discuss we are doing it for the joy of learning.

Here’s to expressing ourselves and being a little bit more human.

(Gotta love Star Trek!)

A Culture of Share

Yesterdays Blackboard Collaborate #etmooc session “Sharing is Accountability” was one of the most interesting sessions thus far in the #etmooc course and has really gotten me thinking. I also read Max’s post “What I’ve learnt so far: the meaning of ‘sharing’ ‘which got the cogs turning even more.

  origin_4464982807photo credit: denise carbonell via photopin cc

It would seem that we have entered the age of a culture of share. Go on almost any website and you will find a button that says ‘share this”. The culture of share is ever present among educators on Twitter and educational blogs. There is also a healthy culture of dialogue, critiquing and collaboration in these communities. I see my students taking this culture of share one step further and entering the stage of share and remix. The remix often helps them find their voices when they are struggling to find it on their own. (Perhaps a blogpost for another time…?)

Being a new teacher I have am blessed to have found the culture of share’that is out there on Twitter, Pinterest and even amoung  colleagues in my building. My own fondness for sharing didn’t start until the first few months of pursuit of my education degree after I realized that this was a profession where living in ones own bubble can lead to a feeling of isolation and disillusion quickly. At fist I started small, sharing and working with people in my cohort and moved into the world of Twitter where sharing is the norm for many educators using the service. Being exposed to so many people so willing to share helped me realize sharing is something I value as a professional. I do not share because I expect anything in return but rather I share because it brings me joy and helps me become a better teacher.  Sharing ideas with colleagues in my building has helped me refine them and make them better to serve my students.

Some people are overwhelmed by the amount of information and resources out there and sometimes come off as not wanting to share and participate. Some simply aren’t open to sharing.  (When people say they don’t share because they don’t get anything in return when they share always reminds me of the principle of reciprocity from my first year social psych course. Oh the things that stick!)

Anyone who has tried to explain the awesomeness of Twitter for PD or emailed a few links gleaned from your Twitter stream knows the looks you get that can range from “this is cool” to “this is too much information to for me to handle” in no time at all. After experiencing the dazed looks a few too many times I have learned to tone down my ‘sharing’ and to keep it to my Tweets, Pinterest and my blogposts. That way people an choose to filter and choose what they would like to look at and use. When people ask where an idea or resource that I found on Twitter…. all bets are off and I go into share mode.

How do you share with your colleagues and peers? Are you scared to share?

 

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Live, Learn, Lead photo credit: ljperales via photopin cc