PLN Reflection

This was then…

The bubbles in the graphic organizer above illustrate how I believed my PLN (Personal Learning Network) fit into my learning process and what it was composed of when I began this course 4 months ago.  In unit 2 of the Google Training course I started last summer, PLNs are described as a place to connect with advice on tools, transitions, and for professional development.  They are a place to connect,  hear about and discuss best-practices, and be inspired.  My definition has not changed, however my diagram and the bubbles inside have.

In an iTeachU video about PLEs, Dan LaSota (2018) observes that “What makes PLEs effective is metacognitive practices, human communication, and purposeful daily routines.” Despite the risk of sounding whiny, my days are extraordinarily full.  In order for a me to effectively connect, collect, reflect, and share, I need the fewest amount of mouse-clicks. 

In acknowledging that consistency is the key, I notice that almost everything I placed in my connect box above is something I have to do: a place I have to seek out or an extra motion I have to add to my day.  Things that I will not do consistently…  Twitter is another connection possibility that was suggested this semester, but it is also just one more thing in the list of stuff I won’t have time to do today.  What I am finding that works for me are connections that happen throughout the course of a normal day, like email.  I recently subscribed to/joined some services that send me emails that are relevant to me: SmartBrief, Common Sense Media, and the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).  I could also subscribe to email updates when people I follow update their blogs. Just this week, I received information about a social media teaching model and how to create a culture of innovation.  Yes, my inbox fills up, but I have to look at it anyway.  This is where I have made adjustments to box number two, collect.

As a means of collecting and storing potentially useful information – whether about emerging edtech or helpful classroom practices related to personalized learning – the only collect bubble shown in the organizer above that works for me is email folders. I have folders for things to act on immediately and some to come back to read later. However, a bubble that I am now able to add to my box is Raindrop.io.  This is a chrome extension that allows one to easily save websites to folders to return to later.  I was less than enthusiastic when first introduced to it, but have really grown to appreciate its ease of use. This is especially important, because the 3rd box, reflect, is something that doesn’t happen very often.

If the 3rd step above were apply, instead of reflect, I might have more to report.  Mostly, my grad courses are making me take time to apply/practice/research emerging education technology. This action is sometimes hard to work into my schedule, but is very doable for me.  However, slowing down to think about, chew up, process what I am learning isn’t a strength of mine.  This was evident in my peer review grade. I think I have to focus on reading so much as an English teacher, that I don’t often read critically outside of school. Maybe this goes back to adding to a day’s “to do” list.   If it is any more involved than a single mouse-click, like sharing on Facebook, it is hard to make a part of a consistent routine.

The last element in the process illustrated above is to share one’s gleaned  information with their network.  Twitter comes back into the picture as a way to retweet articles and links, but I haven’t yet successfully incorporated visiting Twitter daily into my routine.  For easily sharing websites, this is another place where Raindrop.io could be useful; one can share an entire folder of collected sites out. Emails can be forwarded.  Group emails within the workplace can be sent.  I recently received an allstaff email from a peer who found a way to convert text-to-speech as an MP3 (I didn’t open it, but instead put it into my edtech file). 

While doing one of my assignments this semester I convinced myself of the value of purchasing a subscription to the ISTE.  I haven’t really had time to do with it yet, but there are loads of apps/tech ed, reviews, and discussion about all of it.  It definitely seems like it could be a time-saver down the road.  I have discovered the value of a type of networking that I didn’t even acknowledge a few months ago. 

This screenshot from my email of December 13 demonstrates some of the connections one can make in the ISTE Commons.

Annotated Bibliography Blog Post

As a culminating assignment in my ED 431 class, we were asked to create an annotated bibliography of useful websites regarding ed tech.

What follows are some of the articles that stood out to me and my observations about each:

Al Ghamdi, A., Samarji, A., & Watt, A. (2016). Essential considerations in distance education in KSA: Teacher immediacy in virtual teaching and learning environment. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(1), 17-22.  I was a little concerned about the fact that this article was based off of data from research done in Saudi Arabia. I think it is hard to draw conclusions on what women and men do in cultures where women and men have very different roles.

Ehiyazaryan-White, E. (2012). The dialogic potential of eportfolios: Formative feedback and communities of learning within a personal learning environment. International Journal of ePortfolios 2(2), 173-185.  For me, the relevance of this article depends on whether we’re including resources about research in the field of educational technology in K-12 or higher education.  Obviously on the high school level, there are more problems with protecting a student’s data…

Jahnke, I. Bergstrom, P., Marell-Olsson, E., Hall, L., & Kumar, S. (2017, 17 May). Digital didactical designs as research framework: iPad integration in Nordic schools. Computers & Education 113, 1-15.  I looked up digital didactic design because I had no idea what it was, but this article gives a good definition within the first few pages. I like how it discussed designing a lesson plan within this DDD framework as containing the following elements: teaching goals and intended learning outcomes, learning activities, assessment, social relations and multiple social roles, and web-enabled media tablets. These are good jumping off points for any lesson plan (I always include three of these five). This article is a keeper.

O’Flaherty, J., & Phillips, C. (2015, February 17). The use of flipped classrooms in higher Education: A scoping review. Internet and Higher Education, 25.  This article could be useful, because it discusses what an instructor would need to understand about the pedagogy of flipped classrooms before building them into their curriculums. But again, I question the relevance of articles about higher education as having value to me as a secondary teacher.

Media Creation

I decided to do a screencast for my ED431 media project because I hadn’t even heard the term a few weeks ago.  Besides,  I am also taking ED659 and have to do 3-screencasts by next week, so it made sense to practice with this assignment.  I chose Screencastify because it was recommended by my other professor and seemed pretty user-friendly.  Since I do not do very technical things in either of the high school classes I teach, I opted to explain a complicated essay topic I assign every year in my American Writers (Am. Lit) class.

I started by creating a sort of storyboard for how I would discuss the assignment and opened up all the tabs on my computer.  I then created an infographic to further illustrate my ideas.  Finally, I downloaded the Screencastify app and just did it!  I didn’t do any research into how to do it, because my first attempt was supposed to be rough.  After I completed my first attempt and shared it, I read the material provided by my instructor, edited my ideas down to just over 4 minutes as recommended by Hibbert, M. C. (2014), investigated some of the tools available to use with Screencastify, and then I made a new video.  To polish and edit my video, after I downloaded it to YouTube, I downloaded it again as a MP4 and went to iMovie on my computer.  I attached some music that I found on SoundCloud, added a title and a credits page, and put in some transitions to wrap it up.

I can see so many useful applications for and improved teaching practices from the creation of my own media in the classroom.  I am trying to implement personalized learning, and media creation definitely fits into that criteria.  With videos I create, I can accommodate students who do not succeed in a traditional classroom, I can reinforce lessons I taught in class, and I can offer students the opportunity to work ahead.  Students will have more choices, and I think that is what personalized learning is all about.

However, teachers creating media can find themselves in some disappointing scenarios. Days designated for media use can always go wrong: the internet or power can fail, carefully chosen apps can crash or malfunction, and/or student engagement can fail to measure up to what the teacher anticipates.  Ambitious intentions for improving instructions are great, but time is a hungry thing (I certainly never have enough of it).

I think if I were fortunate enough to teach the same content for a few years in a row, I might be able to add a few new pieces of media to my instruction each year.  That would give me time to try things out and judge if they are effective or not.  I’m excited about the video I created today.  I think that the essays turned in will only improve, now that students can go back and get the instructions again at their own pace.  Only time (and grades) will tell…