Monday, October 28, 2013

PLE Reflection Post

What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE?

Once I was done figuring out what exactly I wanted to include in my PLE, I took a long hard look at the visual representations and came to a couple realizations. The first revelation was I am a creature of habit. I seldom try new a app., or community if I'm already comfortable with what I am getting out of the current communities I'm involved in. My problem is my attention bounces from one thing to another, then back, and then poof gone to something else. The communities I participate in allow me to explore my interests even when they change monthly, weekly, and yes, even daily.  For example, I was first introduced to Blogger in my first semester at Boise State. During that time, I thought it was great for class purposes and a great avenue to write. Then as I became more comfortable with it and my attention for using blogger purely for school shifted, I found my purpose for it also shifted. I found a blog written by pseudonym Brown Moses, and began following his writing and became fascinated by his journalism covering the Syrian conflict. That sums up my attention span pretty well I think. I started with education blogs and ended up taken in by a war blog. That is the point I realized though, all of my PLE's offer me that variety within their communities, and the same concept once I looked at my fellow classmates PLE’s seemed to hold true as well. I did not have to give up blogger for education to gain blogger for the Syrian conflict; it was wrapped up in a neat package for me to explore whatever catches my attention for that week.  I noticed all of my PLE's offer me that escape. Should I grow tired of looking at Education Technology posts in Google +, I'm a click away from a community that allows me an Economics fix. These communities are tailored for someone who cannot get enough information about EVERYTHING at any given point in time, whether its Malcom Gladwell or Adam Smith, I don't have to go far to be surrounded by people who are talking about what I'm fascinated by at that given moment.  The second revelation was I would not have 3 quarters of this list if it wasn't for my classes at Boise State.  The curriculum written for Ed Tech, has thrust me into these communities and with good reason, every one of them is relevant in their own way.  My final revelation was I choose all of my PLE's selfishly. My PLE's were chosen based on the question, “how can this make my life easier?”. I need my communities of influence or PLE’s  to add value to me or my students, save me time or both. For twitter, I find it easier to compare news and validate that news by taking in all the different sources twitter can offer. Evernote saves me time when I can share lecture notes, and Soundcloud puts all of my Economist Podcasts in one spot.  All have "yes" as the answer to whether or not they add value to my life.  For a long time Facebook added zero value to me. I created an account for this specific class, and I am not sure, if I will use it more after this class ends, but for right now, it still adds value to my life for this class. When I thought about that, I came to realize, these apps today could be fleeting technology tomorrow and open the doors to new and improved value. In that moment, I became like a little kid waiting for new toys. My new toys just happen to be new PLE's as I discover them. 

How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Write a self-reflection and a comparative analysis that discusses similarities and differences between yours and your classmates' diagrams. This analysis should be in terms of content not the type of creation. Post a link to your blog (about what you discovered in creating your PLE diagram and comparing it to your classmates - examine at least 6 classmates' diagrams to get a full picture) in our Facebook page.

Something that jumped out at me when viewing other people's diagram is what I call the big four.  The four communities that everyone seemed to be a part of. Those being Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +. Where I really found the differences in professional and personal style were in what we choose after the big four.  That is where you found some very interesting and unique PLE's.  For me, the newest addition of Storify was what I preferred due to the flexibility it allowed for me to create meaningful lesson plans. It also seemed popular with some of the twitter chats I participated in as a recap tool. Most chats would archive some of the responses in Storify. This allowed me to go back and find people that contributed answers to the questions that I normally may have over looked given the speed of twitter chats, which grow my PLN.  I also added Engrade, which I found to be unique to my PLE compared to other students. Engrade is an online grade book, which gives you the ability to have students turn in assignments by uploading word documents, as well as create wikis for videos and lesson plans on top of being a grade book tool, I use Engrade the most, and have gained the most from it.  Engrade as a resource itself was different in name but not in terms of what it accomplishes once I compared my PLE to the others. While other people may have not had Engrade specifically, they did have interesting alternatives. In addition, where I used Storify and twitter to increase my personal learning and attend webinars I found some suggestions such as as a great alternative I never knew about until comparing PLE's. Another difference I noticed when comparing PLE's is that I have not explored off the beaten path options as much as I could. Most of my preferred environments are the ones that come recommended from itunes, or other blogs. I have a feeling there are so many quality alternatives out there that other students and professional have found. A great point about this project was it allowed different students to observe what other educators are using to grow as professionals. For example, one comment on my Facebook post was "I never used or heard of Evernote or Engrade before".  At one point in time, I had never heard of them either, and now I cannot imagine my day-to-day efficiency running the same without them. I think before the assignment I never had that A-HA moment about how PLE's grow and adapt to the individual. I thought of PLE's as just these established communities you are a part of when you subscribe to a social network, or use an APP that is cross platform and connected.  Then I read that Facebook comment and thought to myself, PLE is a never ending, constantly evolving, living environment where we can grow at any minute in any moment of time, from something as simple as a diagram.  The second A-HA moment came from just how fortunate we are to be as connected to each other through these influences as we are. I spoke about the big four, and how everyone seemed to have similar PLE's. Those PLE's have the ability to connect millions of people from all over the world. There is a reason they are so popular. There is a reason we can grow and learn from each other better than ever. We grow using an invisible network connecting educators and those passionate about education. Our PLE's and our access to each other makes that possible. Looking at every one's different diagram that showed a distinction of their personality with the extension of their networks shows that invisible link that binds us all.  I remember a freshman foundations class in philosophy during my undergraduate studies when we spent a week diving into the head of Nietzsche. There was this one quote that I could not think of word for word, so I cracked open that book(old school PLE’s hahaha) and found it to be perfect for how I feel about this assignment and every one's PLE's in comparison to mine. 

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”-Friedrich Nietzsche

Our PLE's are that connection to each other, and to each other’s intelligences in our specific subjects and interests. The tools and creation we use to form them, and grow them, truly are the strongest ties. A-HA moment complete hahaha. Great job everyone; I truly enjoyed every one's visual, and learned some great new tools as well! 


Monday, October 21, 2013

Real Time and Live Virtual Professional Development

My first twitter chat was a little rocky. Everyone seemed so in tune and by in tuned I mean SUPER fast at responding and participating, it flowed very quickly. It was a little overwhelming. Some of the moderators who would ask questions to elicit a deeper response from you was also a little tough. It is difficult for me to make half a point in 140 characters or to discuss something like the deeper context of what "fun" means in the classroom. I find it difficult to tackle those deeper questions with limited ability to do so, and make sense. I found it hard to make an intelligent response to a fully developed idea. On top of that, by the time I did respond there were already several new topics of discussion.  I think perhaps I approached the whole process wrong. In my mind, I expected the chat to flow a little bit slower and stay on one central topic where people responded to others reactions and thoughts and shared more of a group interaction. I think #edcaht has too big a following for smaller pockets of people to interact with each other. Although it is possible with mentions and conversations. I moved on from there to the #ConnectEd chat. In this chat, I found my speed increasing with pre-written answers to the questions in Evernote. This allowed me to just copy and paste my answers and then comment on other peoples. When I took that time, I felt like I was able to connect with other people and contribute positively to their thoughts.   In the #connected chat we discussed the importance of planning and using the resources available to us to build a better classroom experience.  The conversation focused on what it meant to be connected and how we benefit personally as well from being connected. A point that many people mentioned was one we learned in class. The importance and significance of expanding, building, and learning from our own PLN's and how being connected allows for that bright influence in our lives both personally and professionally. One of the most incredible and honest responses from this assignment came from this chat. 
  "I never knew how much I didn't know, and that's a good thing"

I think at one point or another we have all experienced that feeling, and that particular poster puts it in words we could understand and feelings we have experienced.  The next twitter chat I participated in was #Satchat. I will participate in this chat a lot going forward. The first thing I appreciated was how it felt like a smaller gathering compared to #edchat.  They also incorporated a live video feed during the questions and answers. They also had people that drove to their high school to sit and participate in the chat and answer questions live.  The whole crew had a great personality and spoke with honesty during their replies. In the #edchat feeds there were times I felt like some posters were posting just to post, and had a hint of condescension within their answers. In this chat I felt everyone respected the contributions and provided a really positive engaging atmosphere. My only complaint about this particular chat was how bad it was trolled by fake twitter accounts. I never experienced some of the downright nasty inappropriate tweets some people with nothing better to do with their hands sent in with the #satchat hashtag. I understand you'll have that when dealing with such a large network like Twitter.  In the #satchat we spoke about autonomy in professional growth, something my institution really focuses on and does well. I was happy to be able to contribute and get others feedback on what districts do right and wrong when it comes to professional growth. One big take away that I agreed with with from the conversation was the fact that teachers are the content experts in their subject field and can contribute professional growth by being connected.  Speaking of connected, the concepts discussed in all of these chats seemed interconnected and can easily build off each other for a better educational technology integration district wide as well as individuals in the classroom. It was pretty awesome to see how they can come to together to help those willing.

My last twitter chat was #edtechchat. It followed connected educators month and asked different ways we stay connected in our profession. I will admit I've never seen PLN used so many times by so many people all at once on twitter haha. Some of the key elements discussed were also linked. The links were really hard to track down and actually explore but I did find two links that took you to other archived twitter chats that had suggestions for apps and how to use edmodo. During the Chat, since it was my last one I am confident in saying the theme to education technology in districts right now is the following:
1. autonomous professional growth
2. BYOD (bring your own device)
3. growing PLN's to an unlimited size
4. Curation and Collaboration
5. Twitter is king for connecting

Or pretty much everything we've been discovering in this class ha-ha. The buzz around PLN's was really overwhelmingly popular in every twitter chat and webinar. It makes sense, given how many tools are at our disposal now to form and build PLN's. It is no longer visiting other districts during faculty meeting or exchanging business cards at conferences, I can exchange business cards every second at any time as long as I'm connected. How TRULY incredible is that? 

The webinars were the hardest for me to find, and schedule around. I am lucky it was connected educators months, because a good number of private education companies took advantage of that to promote their services hidden in an open webinar. The first webinar I attended was also what I thought was the best webinar I've attended in person or on line in years. It was put on by three teachers in three different districts in the same state using Google hangout. What I liked most was they brought in successful projects from their districts that had zero costs associated with them, but integrated technology for the students. From collaborative blogs, to using Google hang out, I came away with three solid ideas that played off their ideas for my own use. That to me is the mark of a great webinar. When you can take an idea and use it with your own spin in your own class to build a great experience.  Right after the webinar, I went right to work drafting a plan to use Google hangouts, to do a collaborative stock market game with two other campuses. So far, it is going really well, and the students feel better connected and expanded their network to other students at a completely different campus.  I really connected with what they were talking about and the type of classroom they were trying to create an intra and inter-connected environment.

The next webinar I attended was about using technology to make a better library. This was a webinar that because it was not in my wheelhouse I would not have normally attended and took very little away from.  I was surprised though at a universal concept that can apply beyond the walls of a library. The moderator showed a 10-minute video of students in the library, at first it looked as though the students were all zombified to their phones, but as you saw more of the video you could start to sense that they weren't texting they were using their phones as classroom tools. This then led to the power and affordability that bring your own device (BYOD) theory plays into.

My next webinar was about anchor standards and common cores. This webinar was clearly for administrators and the moderator may have been one of the worst communicators to a lay audience I've experienced. At a variety of points in the webinar the comments box was full of question marks and people asking for clarification. She spoke from a specialist’s standpoint, using jargon, acronyms, and a vocabulary that was losing her audience by the minute. At one point, the total participant count was around 250, at the end in a matter of a seven-minute span 140 people dropped off the webinar and some expressed their disgust with how the webinar was being handled. I saw where they were coming from, but if you attended the webinar as an administrator who was familiar with the concepts it was probably a great webinar to attend. I did appreciate the connected cores they discussed they built off the learning foundation started in 3rd grade and progresses to how students should be performing their senior year.

My last webinar was Strategies for mobile selection.  What I really liked about this webinar was that it followed a school district from the infancy to the implementation stages of acquiring funding, proposing, and going forward with technology in a school district. They were honest with the bonds they sought and about the hurdles, they faced. I asked some specific questions regarding parent reactions and the moderators agreed the community really rallied around the district's initiative. This leads me to a feeling of pure jealousy for what they are accomplishing. I was jealous because a lot of times what we want to do in our area is a much more intricate political dance. The community that we were discussing in the webinar seems to be located in a higher socioeconomic environment. Our market and student population falls from one side of the digital divide to the next. What I liked about the webinar is they addressed the blurring of the lines from formal and informal learning on a budget.  It is frustrating how fortunate some students in the right district are for these initiatives, I'd like to see the lines blurred even more to connect ALL families.  I remember President Clinton started the Home PC in every Home initiative and  I dream of having something like that along with furthering connectivity with those PC's, specifically Wifi for those in the digital divide. For the webinar itself compared to the other webinars there did seem to be less interaction among the participants. I asked about three relative questions, but those were as they came to me. The presentation was more about informing us what these districts did to be successful and not very discussion friendly.