In An Internet Minute

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Personal Privacy

In many ways, I don’t pay too much attention to personal privacy on Facebook.  I  have set my filters relatively high and I know I have signed up to post information to a public site, but most importantly, I use good judgement before posting which I think is one of the best filters of all.  Irritated with work? Not going to write about it on FB.  Mad at my husband – nada on my newsfeed.  Why?  Because that is not the forum in which I choose to air my frustrations. I do join groups based on my interests but again, I am mindful of how much information the people in these groups need.

 

This is not the approach everyone takes. I read about a case in Baltimore, Maryland about a 12 year old girl who was abducted and raped after her attacker initiated contact (which she reciprocated) through the live chat channel on her XBox. Her mom said she knew her child was chatting online but wasn’t aware of nature of the conversations.  Prior to her abduction, she engaged in another chat with another user in which she expressed remorse over the depth of information she had shared. After reading The Myth of Online Predators (which is over 5 years old) I would say that while we don’t want to solely focus on the doom and gloom of potential predators, I do think that the evolution of the internet is happening at such a fast pace, that we do have to continue to be vigilant rather than seek solace in the statistics quoted in the above article.

According to police in the Baltimore case:

Kik has become quite popular with minors, and anyone who knows a Kik account name can send messages to that user, which has made Kik an apparent hit with pedophiles, according to anecdotes from law enforcement officials across the country and around the world. One self-acknowledged pedophile told New Jersey’s The Trentonian that Kik was especially effective for obtaining pornographic images of children, particularly when combined with an app called Hit Me Up, which is no longer available in the US iOS app store.

Student Privacy

If you take a look at the Kik website, it looks harmless. I think this is where the value of strong internet safety teaching comes in.  Students need to be aware of the potential dangers and act responsibly even when parents or teachers are not watching.

At the same time, when parents ask me about how to keep their kids safe online, one of the first things I suggest is having computers used in public spaces in the home – not the bedroom. While this is not obviously a one-stop solution, I think it creates an atmosphere in which parents and children can co-exist and hopefully not get so deeply into inappropriate chat situations.

One of the things I talk about with my students with regard to privacy is the idea of optional contributions. There are so many ways in which websites can seek out our personal information. One of them is to add an asterisk* to indicate the field must be filled in. Other fields are either left without an asterisk or with the word (optional) beside them. I tell my students to think about why they may or may not fill these fields in. Primarily, my argument is that if they don’t really need the information, why give it to them?

Another is the chat forum.  How much time spent here is too much? We all know that the internet can “suck you in” – one click to another…but how much is too much for our students?

User Created Image. Photo Credit
User Created Image. Photo Credit

Take a look at what happens in “an internet minute” and you will see that this is a platform that is mind-blowingly huge.  Trying to block every user with ill-intentions is not going to happen.  Teaching our children to make smart choices, that is something we can (and should) do.

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Course 2 Final Project: Seeking Collaborators!

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Option 2: In a small group that contains at least one person outside your school, create a unit planner (using the UbD template) on the enduring understanding of this course that helps teach students about 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. Include a reflective blog post describing choices you made in developing the unit planner i.e. strategies used, topics covered, unit evaluation etc. In your blog post embed your unit planner from Google Docs.

I would like to work on creating a unit planner for Digital Citizenship for upper Elementary students (Grades 3-5). We have some resources for this in place already, primarily from the Commonsense Media curriculum and the ISTE standards but I would like to create a unit that not only embodies these but also:

  • celebrates the awesomeness of the internet
  • focuses on the ways in which the internet is used for good
  • encourages the development of a personal brand
  • helps students develop a positive digital footprint

I am at a PYP school so this would be wrapped up in an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning.

Interested?  I knew you would be!  Leave a comment below if this is something you are interested in joining me on!

“The Internet” Killed Grandma

DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR STUDENTS

I got a request from a teacher to share some ideas about Digital Citizenship with her class. No real specifics, just ‘anything’ on the subject.  We had already started by signing up for Digital Passport and they had been working in class on this idea, but she wanted a bit more.

I had been reading about the use of props to explain Digital Citizenship and whilst I didn’t have the props with me, I had the next best thing: a photo slideshow.

SIDE NOTE: I made my slideshow using Google Slides.  If you are unfamiliar with Google Slides but familiar with Keynote or Powerpoint you will find it an easy transition.The best reason for switching to Google Slides? The search features are the same as Google which means you can filter images for only those which allow noncommercial use with modification.  You can also filter size, picture style, color and upload to your presentation via URL.  So handy!  Here is my Tool Kit presentation. 

EXTRA SIDE NOTE: I made my presentation last week to use with students. Today I found the slides already created with additional guiding questions which I have shared with the class teachers as an addition to our discussions:

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Each picture was supposed to connect the students with an idea to do with digital citizenship: the padlock represents strong passwords, the toothbrush to remind you that you don’t share your toothbrush so you shouldn’t share your passwords (love that one). The picture of Grandma was to remind you to ask yourself “What would Grandma think?” – would you be comfortable doing what you are doing if Grandma was watching? Seems logical except that some kids said “Don’t post pictures of your family because bad guys will track you down and know where you live and they will kill you and your grandma.”

Seriously.  Dead serious.  These kids were not playing.  Fourth graders.

This really bothers me.  Why is the internet and online activity put in such a harsh light? Are our practices in need of evolving? Do we need to educate parents? Ourselves? Is the idea that a photo of a loving grandma triggers the thought of death in the mind of a fourth grader not worrisome?

Most of the reasoning behind talking about internet safety and responsible use came down (in the minds of many students) to the idea that “bad people” were out to get us. I really feel that the internet gets a bad reputation primarily because people don’t understand how it works. The Myths and Truths article is great in that it debunks popular thoughts (myths) and sheds more important truths for parents and educators. I am all for safety measures but at the same time, pretty much anything can kill you if done in excess, inappropriately or without caution. Case in point:

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A popular image has been circulating that sums up the more positive aspects of citizenship and digital citizenship in one.  I particularly like the extension questions that help to clarify the thinking at each point. But are these things alone, enough?

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DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHERS

Just before our October break, I got an email from someone I have never met in person but we share mutual friends based on the Venn Diagram of our Twitter followers and have worked with some of the same people.  Based on following my blog for the past nine months, reading my resume online and feeling a connection with the ideas that I share, this person asked me to consider moving to her school to be the Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator.

I love that. The power of an online presence right there in my own little case study!

I was told a few years ago by a recruiter at the Search Job Fair that he googled everyone who applied.  He said that your online presence was instrumental in how you would proceed with him:

Online Presence Doesn’t Reflect the School’s Values: End of the road in your recruitment journey. 

Online Presence is established or growing, mindful, thoughtful, and empowering: You were still in with a shot. 

Online Presence doesn’t exist: You were not ready for his school. 

In his words, the job market was competitive and he had to think of ways to determine who he would spend time with.  Using his logic, a poorly constructed digital footprint was just as damning as an non-existant one. For some, this could be a daunting thought!

Both of these recruiters were looking for connections. They wanted to connect with people who share the same ideas or are inspired to work with those that can articulate their thinking and are looking to connect with others. As I have been helping another friend with her Search Associates applications, the word that keeps showing up in the job descriptions is connected.  Recruiters are looking for connected educators who can connect ideas, connect with other educators, connect with their students. It is one thing to say that you are connected, it is another to prove this via a number of avenues – including your connected, online presence.

I like the idea of adding the idea of connectivity to our repertoire of tools when teaching kids about digital footprints. The topic is much broader than simply being safe and thinking about your posts. It is about creating an online impression similar to your real-life impression.  It is about connecting with others who share the same ideas, adding to the conversation in order to spark new ideas, and sharing generously of yourself with a community of learners.

As technology expert and education advocate, Will Richardson explains:

One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all.  Will Richardson

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With this in mind, I think that some of the leading creators of Digital Citizenship materials, such as the fabulous Commonsense Media, would do well to update their materials to include reference to the idea that ‘good’ digital citizens use their online time to connect with ideas that inspire them and share their learning in community with others.

I think if we create the image of the web as something positive, something we can learn from and contribute to, we we start to see the evolution of even greater innovation and idea spreading – and fewer dead grandmas.

 

My Field of Dreams – Course 1 Assignment

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This unit planner is a mash-up of what is currently proposed for a new unit for fourth grade, the math curriculum and current unit of work on data handling, and my desire to work with our fixed IT schedule (45 minutes, once a week per class) to make the time spent with me connect more closely with classroom learning. I am in the process of negotiating a flexible schedule with all teachers as IT teachers and me pushing into classes to further support teaching and learning with technology. Until this type of schedule is enacted, I have used this assignment to better plan out my ‘one off’ lessons so that they lead towards students being independent in their use of technology and aware of how they can use technology to document, share, and reflect on their learning.  As much as possible, I want to use what they are currently learning about to introduce new technologies and then have them revisit these technologies in the context of their unit which will begin in January. Is this ideal?  I don’t know.  But I do know it is better than what is currently happening which I don’t think connects all that well to current classroom teaching and learning.

We are currently in the process of planning a new unit under the transdisciplinary theme Sharing the Planet. The current thought is that it will be about accessibility and who has access.  I will be involved in the planning of this unit but it is largely driven by the PYP Coordinator and the fourth grade homeroom teachers. As part of German class, students will be taking a field trip into Munich.  It has been proposed that they take a wheeled suitcase or stroller with them on the trip to simulate the issues faced by those who rely on accessible access in order to participate.

At the same time, students are working on data handling in math.  I would like to see these skills be transferred into a context that asks the students to use what they know to convey a message and support their opinions. This is something we ask of them in the Exhibition (in our school, Exhibition is done at the end of fourth grade).  In addition, students have to present weekly on the book they are reading and I will have them do this through the creation of a book trailer in iMovie so that they can become familiar with how this works. Their next unit of inquiry focuses on Migration and this will be the context with which I will introduce Tour Builder for students to map their own migration stories and the migration stories of people they research.

The assessment for all of this will be in the form of the one point rubric.  This is something that is new to me but that really resonates and something I really want to try out. I posted about this rubric on my own blog a few weeks ago. I would focus only on the NETS standards at this point (not the curriculum standards).  This is partly due to how the teaching of IT is structured at my school and partly to draw attention to the NETS standards as discrete, important learning goals in their own right.

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In the embedded planner (below) I have included a potential outline of the next eight weeks of IT classes.  It does seem quite ambitious but I think unless you ask kids to push themselves beyond what comes easily, you are not enabling them to grow as learners. Learning occurs when it all gets a bit uncomfortable – and that goes for us as teachers, too.

As is implied by the intentionally mis-quoted graphic at the top of this post, my hope is in planning, sharing, and being willing to open this unit up to other teachers to collaborate and modify, we will start to develop a more holistic and integrated approach to teaching and learning with technology.

Mindset, Purpose, Connection…GO!

Global Collaboration.  It sounds daunting but with the development of technology it is a very feasible option for teachers and students. What makes it work?

Mindset

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I think collaboration on this level needs a mindset that says, “I am willing to do this thing even though it may not work or it may be hard or my students may be more familiar with the technology that we will be using than I am.”

This week I came across a graphic from a fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson which underscores the key attributes of a modern teacher. I think step one of global collaboration is reading this list and nodding along. Vigorously.

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Purpose

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Step two…define your purpose.  What do you want to achieve from your collaborative effort? Who is initiating the collaboration?  Are we supporting the students or are we directing them?

An opt-in program which introduces students to the idea of global collaboration might be a good place to start.  For the past three years I have participated in Dot Day.  My level of involvement has varied from year to year.  We have Skyped with one class and shown our work, we have sent art to another and then Skyped them to discuss.  I have tried to get across to my students the idea of being connected through a common purpose.

I have also been part of the Teapot Project.  This one was challenging but authentic and I think as I continue to move on with this project, my ideas are evolving as to how it can help students broaden their connections. *NOTE: I currently have a teapot from a fourth grade class in Nanjing.  Does anyone want to participate?!

I recently saw a NYT slideshow on breakfast around the world and was inspired to do a similar “What’s in your lunchbox?” photo-sharing with schools around the world.  I created the Google Slideshow for sharing and even made a screencast of how to go about uploading your image, but then I had to ask myself, “For what purpose?”. This was so driven by me and not by the kids in Grade 2 who barely care about what is in the lunchbox of the kid next to them let alone a kid half-way around the world.  Why were we doing this?  Again, what was the purpose?

It made me think of two things with regard to global collaboration projects:

1. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. 

2. Who is driving the inquiry?

The latter question made me think of Hart’s Ladder of Participation which I have used to talk about authentic action with students. Are some global collaboration projects simply the mastermind of the teacher who can then check that off their list?  This sounds more sinister than needed but I think is worth thinking about when considering WHY you want to start a global project.

 


 

Connection

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I think the biggest drawcard of online, global collaborative projects is the connections you will build with fellow, like-minded educators.  I do think there is incredible value in exposing children to people, events, and ideas beyond the classroom walls.  I think there is just as much (more?) value to us as educators in participating in these ventures.

As has been alluded to since the beginning of this course, putting yourself ‘out there’ is not easy but it really does pay off.  To be able to expand your network and therefore your idea base beyond your own school is invaluable and has a major impact on who you are as a teacher.

My connected journey started with me writing my own blog, sonyaterborg.com.  From here, I asked to become a contributor to the shared inquiry blog, Inquire Within – a blog I found through Twitter. Sometimes I cross-post content from my own blog and other times I will write something specifically for this audience of (mostly) PYP educators. Soon after, I was asked by the IBO to work in a small team to develop the PYP blog, SharingPYP.

Without a doubt technology is changing the learning landscape and global education. The question is simply, are you going to be a part of that change?

 

Shaping Tech For MY Classroom

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This week I have been thinking about digital portfolios for our fourth grade students. I have been tasked with investigating their use in other schools: looking into what is included in them, how they are managed, and the digital platforms they are hosted on.

Old Things in Old Ways

I started by looking into what we already have in play: Edublogs.  Each student at our school has one by default so this seemed like a good place to start.  I sat down and started tinkering around, creating pages in a similar vein to the subject dividers in our tactile portfolios. The idea would be to separate the process from the product.  Even as I did this, it didn’t sit well with me as I have long been a proponent of process over product. It felt like duplication of an idea that I already wasn’t a huge fan of.

Sample Blog

Old Things in New Ways

So I met with another Learning Technology Teacher at our school and we discussed the idea of no static pages and instead all content within the blog posts, using categories to tag the work so they they can be sorted by the reader.

We talked about letting the students decide if they wanted some static pages for things that were important to them – links to websites, subscriptions – and giving the students autonomy over how their blog looked.

We liked the idea of process and product being mixed in together with the option of filtering one from the other.  We also talked about the option for students to password protect their reflections, goals, or particularly personal posts that they only wanted to share with a smaller audience.

We would be giving the students the opportunity to move on from sharing only what could previously fit inside an A4 plastic pocket, to sharing their voice, their image, video, scanned work, collaborative pieces, reflections, wonderings, creations and more.  Still very similar to what was already in play, but with new possibilities for students to really communicate their thinking and understanding.

The Big Tech Barrier: One to One

We don’t have a 1:1 environment for our fourth graders.  Classes of 20 students have 10 MacBooks and 6 iPad minis per class.  There is also a cart of 20 MacBooks for the grade level, but as Prensky points out “when used well, computers become extensions of students’ personal self and brains”.  If a teacher wanted 1:1 they could make it happen, but not on a device dedicated to that one student.

The Social Barrier: Digital Immigrants

This could be the bigger hurdle.  Without going into extensive detail (in line with Kim’s digital footprint blogging guidelines) let me just say that during this entire section, I found myself nodding along.  Vigorously. And it made me realize that in my role, I was going to need to work harder at articulating purpose and providing appropriate (differentiated) support to teachers and students along this journey.

I left school for the long weekend and Prensky’s summary quote was on my mind:

Prensky Quote

New Problems, New Solutions

When I got home my phone beeped and I was notified that someone new was following me on Twitter: @shaza33 I typically like to check out new followers so I clicked on her handle and then her website.  Scrolling through, I came to this post about…Digital Portfolios!  She had great ideas and some great examples of things included in the portfolio.  I wasn’t in love with everything she shared but I was inspired by her work and it assured me that this was going to be possible. I particularly liked the way she linked her purpose back to the Role of ICT in the PYP document and the PYP Making It Happen document.

Then I flicked through my RSS feed of COETAIL blogs and read Kirsty Godbout’s post on Reflections on Why?  In her post, she spoke of Simon Sinek and the understanding he shared that we should ‘start with why’ which is typically the opposite of what most people do (instead starting with ‘what’ they are going to do or ‘how’ they are going to do it, but leaving the all important why out of the equation). She reminded me that this was a facet of my equation that I was missing.

Both of these interactions were important and inspiring and reminded me that sometimes the answers or the inspiration we are looking for can come from places that would previously not have existed.

New Things in New Ways

So, what are we waiting for? I think of my own blogging journey that started a couple of years ago and I know so much of what I get from it is the opportunity to reflect on my own learning. This sentiment is echoed by George Courous:

If we do not take time to look back, how will we ever be able to move forward?

I want our kids to have the same opportunity to share their learning journeys in ways that were not previously possible and in ways that really allow their creativity, innovation, thoughtfulness, and insightfulness to flourish.

Our kids deserve no less.

And then, as a nod to messing around, I came across this story of how a three-minute film was watched by over 120 world leaders at the United Nations two weeks ago as part of a campaign on Climate Change. A more important issue at hand than my portfolio dilemma (of course!) but sharing a sentiment that could transcend to our use of technology in education:

We can make today the day we stop thinking that the changes required to get there are impossible and beyond us, and start realizing that they are not only possible, but what the future requires of us.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vaajVtgRuI[/youtube]

The 411 on Authentically Embedding Technology

This assignment/reflection has me stumped.  Instead of the 411, I feel like I need to be dialling 911 and screaming for help!  I have been racking my brain as to why this is so – the other blog posts have rolled out somewhat painlessly and “authentically embedding technology” is my new job as Learning Technology teacher, so what’s the hang up? Why do I feel like this reflection and I are stubbornly butting heads?

The more I think about it, all that comes to mind is the introduction to David Foster Wallace’s address to the graduating class of Kenyon College:

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As Wallace says, “The most obvious realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and to talk about.”  That is how I feel a lot of the time about tech integration.

As a classroom teacher, I used technology a lot.  I would plan out my lessons by thinking ahead to how I would share student learning with my parents: What would my blog post say?  Why did we do this?  What was our purpose?  Thinking this way helped me focus my teaching. Posts were partially written before a lesson started (and sometimes deleted before an entirely new lesson began!).   At any given time you would find students using technology in my class:  making a video reflection, searching websites, sharing their thoughts through blogs, collaborating on google docs, reflecting and sharing via Socrative or Padlet, making stop-motion movies, interviewing people via Skype, creating timelines, adding books to their bookshelves… This was my “water”.

I liked trying new things and I wasn’t scared that the technology aspect wouldn’t work (don’t confuse this with me not being irritated when the technology aspect didn’t work – because sometimes it just isn’t going to!). It was exciting and engaging and my kids were learning about our unit but also a bunch of skills that could be applied to many things beyond that one lesson.

Now remove me from my fourth or fifth grade classroom and put me in the role of Learning Technologies teacher.  My job description reads:

Learning Technologies JD

No problem, right? Ahh….right. Except what I am finding is that we all inherently bring bias to the classroom to some extent.  And not all teachers are starting from the same point of willingness, ability, knowledge, or overall level of comfort with the integration of technology. I would even go so far to say that some teachers are yet to leap from the sidelines into the following cycle of collaboration:

Credit: Kim Cofino
Credit: Kim Cofino

 

It is not as if the standards are not clear. The standards for coaches are particularly interesting (and challenging!) for those of us in this role within our schools and give me a lot to think about as I tackle my job.

So again, what exactly is my hangup with the idea of authentically embedding technology into teaching? Ultimately I think it is the ‘moving target’ nature of technology integration.  How do we authentically embed technology in our curriculum when the technology itself,  is constantly evolving?

Hang out. Mess around. Geek out.

Essentially, just try stuff.  And don’t be afraid of it not working.

I posted on my own blog about teaching above the line.  And then I read this post that cries foul on the idea that integration be typical or linear – two things inquiries rarely are.

Ultimately, I just know that I need to keep learning, keep trying new things, keep communicating with my colleagues, and keep open to all the possibilities that abound when technology is utilised in the classroom.  This in itself is not a particularly satisfying conclusion for me.  I really do (secretly?) want a step-by-step guide to authentically embedding technology – some kind of machine where you drop in your units of work and out spits an integrated technology plan.

What I do know for sure is that it should not be the device doing the driving of the integration but the collective brains of my colleagues and my PLN and the willingness to collaborate, research, try, and commit to the process in order to unleash the possibilities.

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Note: I tried finding the original source of this picture on Flickr but had no luck.  I did an Image Search and got loads of hits but none with anything other than the attribution on the side of the picture.  

You’re Not The Only Teacher In The Room

The theory of connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age that:

  • believes that knowledge can reside in non-human artifacts.
  • thrives in an environment that values diversity, autonomy, and freedom.
  • suggests that learning occurs when ideas are connected.

Is this an accurate description of our current education system? Are we more concerned about collecting ideas than connecting them? Does the role of “the teacher” as we know it, need to change?  I wish I had all the answers!

I am fearful that education won’t change until the teachers in the room realize that they are not the only teachers in the room. We have all heard of the adage “Sage on the stage, guide on the side” and most teachers would gravely nod and agree, but is this the reality for students once behind classroom doors?

The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. –George Siemens

I was surprised (and yet not) to see that this article was written ten years ago. It seems like the ideas around the need for change in education have been shared but in many cases, have fallen on deaf ears.  It is almost impossible to read any kind of educational literature that doesn’t highlight the increasingly digital and connected nature of ‘school’ and yet we still seem to resist the change that is upon us.

The digital world lowers barriers to learning, provides opportunities for peer teaching, allows students the chance to make their own choices, learn at their own pace, delve deeper into topics that ignite their passions and connect to others in ways that were previously impossible. Living and Learning With New Media showcases many of the ways in which youth interact digitally and the impact this has on the way they learn and the way they differentiate between ‘life’ and ‘learning’ (it’s one and the same).

Einstein

Einstein figured out that providing the right conditions for students is the best way to promote, encourage, and support learning. This math teacher came to the same conclusion once he gave up his teacher-centred ways and focused more on a student-centred approach to teaching. He shares that the “integration of technology into every subject and at all grade levels allows unprecedented levels and types of exciting collaboration and learner to learner connectivity.”

One of my favorite authors on the subject of technology and 21st Century education is Marc Prensky.  In this ASCD article, Marc talks about kids ‘powering down’ when they come to school – and not just their devices.  He talks of students in the past as ‘coming into the light’ when they went to school – enlightened by the knowledge that was imparted upon them.  Today he describes students as being ‘born into the light’ -surrounded by and connected to knowledge from birth.

I found the readings this week to be encouraging and inspiring at yet at the same time, I found myself increasingly bogged down by what our education system isn’t. The problems, the faults, the gaping holes that need filling.  Then I read some more of Presnky’s work in which he reminds us of what an exciting time it is to be alive and offers the following advice to teachers:

Today’s kids are fledglings on the ledge of a new, and towering future and our job is help them leave the aerie in a way that allows them to soar.The most important thing any teacher can say to any kid in our new context is “Surprise me!”

Surprise ME

Connect, Connect, Connect.

The first ‘desired goal’ of our first course is to:

Goal!

As I read this, I am having that great feeling you get when everything just slots into place.  I have long been a big fan of the importance of being connected as an educator.  To not take advantage of the wealth of information that so many teachers share so willingly seems borderline crazy to me.

In The Connected Educator , Nussbaum-Beach and Hall write of the emergence of a new culture of teaching in which “conversations turn to topics of practice rather than staffroom complaints.” They go on to describe the evolution of the teacher as a process in which there is “a shift from seeing education as a series of things we do to students and instead as a dynamic learning environment in which learners take ownership for their own growth and pursue it passionately.”

This is why I am part of this course.  I am so inspired when I sit with a colleague at lunch (as happened today) and they recommend the ideas and passions of their former colleagues and it turns out they and I have long been connected, virtually.  I have stopped expecting someone else to take care of my professional development and I am dedicated to ‘passionately pursuing’ my own growth.

From links to articles, to ideas on lesson plans, my Personal Learning Network is a real time professional development network of educators that I rely on to help me do my job as an educator. –Jeff Utecht REACH, p 10.

I agree with Jeff wholeheartedly although I would go so far as to define ‘educators’.  I was intentional in the way I set up my Facebook and my Twitter accounts (although the lines in Facebook are becoming more blurred as educational organizations like Edutopia, Mind/Shift, Making Thinking Visible, and various PYP groups are pushing a more visible presence on Facebook).  My intention was to keep Facebook for keeping up with friends and family and Twitter for education and educators.  And authors.  And humanitarians, poets, activists, innovators, ruckus-makers, and disruptors.  I made a conscious decision to not follow friends who tweeted about their coffee/dinner/workouts. I love these friends but Twitter was my sacred ground for teaching and learning.

I started my blogging life with a blog that was a little bit of everything – personal, professional, cooking, crafting, photographing.  Then I found myself leaning more toward the education side of things, buoyed by comments from friends and parents of children I was teaching or had taught.  My education blog evolved from there. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say but I blogged anyway.

When Jeff talks of the time it takes to develop a PLN he is spot on.  There have been times over the course of the past two years when I have felt like quitting the blog.  Who would miss me amongst the excess of 200 million blogs already in existence? So I eased off and then I stopped (and had a baby) and then I got going again because I missed not being connected.

Yesterday my dad sent me a message on Facebook.  It read:

Dad Love!

Dads are great, right? But he touches on the same issue that Jeff mentions: blogging when no one is looking (or reading).  My stats indicate that I have a lot of ‘lurkers’ and I would confess that I too, am a lurker at times.  But when I get out there and post and comment and respond, that is when the learning happens.

A quote that has stayed with me since I first read it in his book, Creating Innovators is as follows:

Looking forward to getting plugged in to all of you over the coming weeks and to seeing what we all can do with what we know!