I was recently invited to speak with the #eLearnOnt “Game Changer” series where I discussed various options around building online and/or blended course environments via Google Hangout. I began with traditional LMS options and moved to the more nebulous concept of “Small Tools Loosely Joined” course/environment design.
Recently, pre-service teachers in two of our classes at the Faculty of Education,University Regina, participated in #saskedchat, a weekly Twitter chat hosted by and for Saskatchewan educators. Although the chat typically runs on Thursday nights, organizers scheduled a “special edition” of the chat on the topic of supporting new teachers. Almost instantly, our students were immersed in a global discussion about education – and what’s more, they were instantly connected to a large network of practicing teachers who were able to provide them with advice and tips for success. But while the Twitter chat was an enriching experience for our students, participation in events like these is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to preparing new teachers to learn and flourish in a digital world.
As the field of education changes rapidly, it’s no longer enough for faculties of education to deliver static, technical courses on the methods of teaching. Instead, we need to help pre-service teachers develop the skills and understandings that will allow them to navigate and succeed in today’s global classrooms. And perhaps even more importantly, we need to help future teachers build the personal learning networks that will provide both the support system and continuous professional development opportunities needed to become and remain successful educators.
As instructors tasked to take on these challenges, we have focused on a number of key areas that support students’ successful entry into these new digital spaces. We’ve shared and described a few of these considerations below.
If technology has shaped and altered every aspect of society, then learning is no different. Unfortunately, much of what we do in schools hasn’t changed to respond to these shifts in culture – many educators continue to teach the way they were taught and try to keep the digital world out of the classroom. But for today’s students, online and offline life is inseparable. Teachers need to understand the reality of students’ digital lives in order to make education relevant and engaging for today’s young people by bringing the digital into the classroom.
2. MODEL APPROPRIATE INTERACTIONS IN DIGITAL SPACES
If we want teachers to open their classrooms to the world, we need to model effective and appropriate uses of connected spaces: both new and experienced teachers should have opportunities to see how lead learners interact in networks for professional learning. For instructors working with pre-service teachers, this means demonstrating appropriate interactions in spaces such as Twitter (as in our introductory #saskedchat example) or modeling the curation of a professional digital identity through an About.Me page or anacademic blog. In the field, principals can model appropriate digital presence through the creation and maintenance of a professional social media presence, like Chris Lehmann’s Twitter account or Tony Sinanis’ weekly video updates.
Of course, in order to demonstrate high levels of connected learning, instructors (and other lead learners) must be able to leverage their own existing online networks. For example, in order to support our students and practicing teachers, we were able to tap into Alec’s considerable personal learning network to create a collaborative document of writing prompts for pre- and in-service educators. This means that lead learners must actively work to build their own networks so that they can be effective role models and collaborators.
3. DEMONSTRATE THE PEDAGOGICAL VALUE OF NETWORKS AND TOOLS
5. UNPACK ISSUES OF POWER AND PRIVILEGE IN ONLINE SPACES
As we encourage pre-service and practicing teachers to bring the digital world into their classrooms, we must be sure to address oppression and inequity as they play out in online spaces. On a technical level, we need to help educators understand the legal aspects of terms of service agreements and the implications of big data when asking students to enter online worlds in their school work. Additionally, pre-service teachers are oftenhesitant to speak out about “touchy” subjects online, fearing that it might affect their future careers, but this type of silence on the part of educators creates a dangerous hidden curriculum that announces that these topics are unimportant. We need to have frank and open discussions about how gender or racial inequity can be both reinscribed and deconstructed online (for example, interrogating the GamerGate hashtag, discussing the events in Ferguson and the subsequent Black Twitter movements like #BlackLivesMatter, or examining the rise of #IdleNoMore). We also need to provide opportunities for students to reflect on these topics in digital spaces both through course assignments and by providing support for student initiatives (such as the StarsRegina site set up by pre-service teachers to create a hub for information about anti-oppressive education). And as lead learners, we need to model the importance of having these discussions out in the open.
Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done if we want to prepare both new and existing educators to teach in ways that take up the incredible affordances of our global community and digital spaces. But there are also so many inspiring examples of teachers, principals, and other lead learners doing great things online – we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s already being done around the world. What amazing things have you seen in your own learning community, and how are you helping the next generation of educators to be connected future leaders in our field?
My popular open-boundary course, EC&I 831 (Social Media & Open Education), is back for the Fall of 2013 and we’d love you to participate as a non-credit student, or possibly, a network mentor. If you’re interested, please use this form to sign up!
Here’s a brief description of the course from the about page:
EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education is an open access graduate course from the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. This course is available to both for-credit and non-credit participants. It features openly available, weekly, interactive presentations with notable educators & theorists. More importantly, the course encourages and nurtures rich interaction through a number of open spaces such as our Twitter hashtag (#eci831), our Google Plus Community, and our student blog hub. The open nature of the course. and the sharing that it inspires, benefits current and former participants, especially as the goal of the course is to foster and develop long-term, authentic, human connections.
Non-credit participation officially begins on September 24, 2013 and the course ends on December 3, 2013. There are many ways to participate, and the commitment is up to you. But, collectively I know that we will make this experience amazing for everyone involved, so it would be great if you could join us.
If you sign up, more details will be sent to you via email as we approach the 24th.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for considering. I hope that we can continue to learn together, but in a different way.
I just returned from the grocery shopping with my five-year-old son. As we approached the fruit section, my curious little guy asked, “Do bananas grow with tips up or with tips down?” Since we don’t have a lot of banana plants in Regina, I didn’t actually know off-hand. But, being the connected father I am, I pulled out my iPhone, Googled it, and in less than 30 seconds, we were looking at photos of banana plants and we no longer had to wonder.
We no longer had to wonder.
I did that entirely wrong. At the very least, I could have asked my boy, “Well, which do you think son?” perhaps followed by “So, why do you think that?” But I didn’t. And because I didn’t, I messed up a great learning opportunity.
Instead of providing my boy with an extended opportunity to be curious, to imagine deeply and to think creatively, I reinforced one of the worst habits of our generation. I demonstrated to my boy that you can solve a problem without thinking. And, I won’t do that again.
I’ve been discussing memes such as Gangnam Style in my recent presentations. I’m particularly interested in memes as an emerging information literacy and their study is important for comprehending the way in which information flows through systems. Dae Ryun Chang wrote that one of reasons why Gangnam Style has taken off is that “the song intentionally lacked a copyright so that people would be encouraged to create their own online parodies, in essence their own ‘XYZ Style'”. It’s not quite factual (as argued elsewhere) that the song ‘lacked’ a copyright, but it is certainly clear that Psy has encouraged the remix and reuse of the song which has led to some incredible statistics (such as being the first video to reach 1 billion views). And, besides the ability to reuse/remix, the song is just downright catchy.
The video was shot over a two week period at various locations around the school. Once all the post production work was completed, the school held a ‘spirit assembly’ last Thursday and the reception was astounding. Not only was the crowd entertained, laughing and cheering to the on screen antics, but for the rest of the day students could be heard excitedly talking about it or mimicking dance moves.
Creating such joyful events at school are vitally important for an overall healthy learning environment. Combine this with complex, project-based work that seamlessly integrates new literacies through media development and your institution has just made great strides toward the development and modelling of a positive digital footprint (for the institution and for the individuals involved). And these sorts of activities can go a long way to ease some of unwarranted fears regarding social media felt amongst parents, teachers, administrators and students.
And the Grade 11 French immersion students at Holy Trinity Catholic High School (from the Ottawa Catholic School Board) have taken the Gangnam craze even further by creating a French version of the song. Even if you are not a French speaker, you will quickly notice the creative effort that has gone into this parody. That, and the students look like they are having so much fun!
These last two examples demonstrate the successful intersection of emerging media and school learning. It can also be seen as an example of what Thomas and Brown describe as “The New Culture of Learning“.
The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries.
So how is your educational institution embracing this new culture of learning? Or, how are you as a teacher, administrator, or learner creating opportunities to critically discuss and/or participate in these new media environments? I’d love to hear from you.
During my sabbatical year (July 1/12 to June 30/13), I plan to focus on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as one of my key areas of research. To do so, I’m considering planning, organizing and facilitating a semester-long MOOC focused on educational technology starting January 2013. I am envisioning the course to be somewhat similar to my EC&I 831 course, but with the focus more explicitly on the integration of technology in teaching, learning & professional development (hands-on sessions exploring major categories of tools with a focus on pedagogy & literacy).
I’m thinking that this course would be relevant to teachers, administrators, preservice teachers, teacher educators, librarians, parents and likely many others hoping to sharpen their understanding of emerging skills and literacies. Also, it would be great to have newbies involved (people that are fairly new to educational technology and/or those we wouldn’t normally find on Twitter). However, before I get too far along in this, I want to make sure there is interest from both those that would enroll, and those that would help develop & facilitate the experience.
So, is there a need for this sort of thing? Is there anyone willing to help plan the experience? Anyone interested in participating in a course like this? Any thoughts on what we could do to make this successful? I’d love to hear from you.
Edit #2: I wanted to capture the responses of potential collaborators/participants, so I put together this Storify. I’m really excited about this, and will get back to everyone by early September at the latest.
Two years ago, I was asked to do a co-keynote with Graham Attwell in Barcelona for the inaugural PLE Conference. At that time, Graham and I decided to crowdsource our ‘unkeynote/keynode’ and to invite participation from anyone who wanted to contribute to the live conversation. The original call is found here. The contributions from others were amazingly creative and generous, and we both felt that the experiment was a success.
So, if you have a few spare minutes, this is where I could really use your help.
The question that I am hoping to facilitate is, “Why do (social) networks matter in teaching & learning?”. To help answer this question, I am hoping that people will do one of the following things:
Submit a short video or audio clip (between 30 seconds and 1 minute in length) that helps to answer this question.
Submit a single PowerPoint or Keynote slide or image that in some way represents your response.
Respond to this question on your blog or similar personal space.
Respond to this question via Twitter using the hashtag #WhyNetworksMatter.
While I am happy if you respond in any way possible, I would love to have at least a few video or audio responses so that I can feature these during the presentation. And respond in any way you wish – whether it’s very personal (from your own experience) or something more ‘academic’ – the key question is broad and ambiguous to allow for multiple interpretations and responses.
To submit, use a medium of your choice (e.g., Youtube, Soundcloud, blog, etc.) and send me the link at firstname.lastname@example.org. OR, submit the file directly to my Dropbox folder using this link with the password ‘pleconf’ (this option will only work with files that are 75MB or less). For Twitter responses, I’ll likely use Storify to archive and arrange your tweets.
And, because the conference is coming up very soon, I am hoping to receive your responses by July 8, 2012 so that I can sort and arrange your work in some meaningful way. Sorry for the short notice!
For the third year in a row (see 2009 and 2010), I wanted to use the last post of the year to share a few examples of the great work that is being done by my graduate and undergraduate students. I am so very fortunate to have creative & hard-working students who are committed to improving their knowledge of teaching and learning in light of our new digital landscape. I hope that some of these examples will inspire you to take up new challenges in your own context.
From EC&I 831 (Open graduate course, Social Media & Open Education):
There were many other good projects to share, but this represents a good sample of the student work from the semester. I’m looking forward to one more great semester before a 16 months hiatus from teaching as I move toward my sabbatical planning.
The University academic year begins tomorrow and I am delighted to announce that I will be teaching my open graduate course, EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education, once again. This will be the fourth time I have taught the course since 2007, and based on student feedback and network reviews, I believe it has been very successful.
However, being a critically reflective practitioner, I am hoping to advance my practice and further improve the course based on feedback from and interviews with course participants. This year, I am hoping to improve specifically on levels of trust between for-credit and non-credit students. I believe that increased levels of trust will lead to a more collaborative and rich learning space for all course participants.
EC&I 831 is an open course. This year, I have approximately 20 for-credit students (learners enrolled in the course for university credit). However, the course is also open to non-credit participants. This means, you, your friend, your neighbour, and your sister’s roomate’s dad’s hairdresser are all welcome to participate, especially if they are interested in topics such as social media & open education as these relate to K12 and university teaching. In the past, we’ve had over 200 non-credit students per term participate to various degrees
I have made this course open for three main reasons. First, I am philosophically committed to the concept of open education in all forms. That means I choose to publish only in open access journals and books (e.g., Emerging Technologies in Education), I attempt to model my professional life as a public scholar (e.g., my Open Tenure & Promotion Application) and I license my work under Creative Commons licenses (e.g., Considering CC-NC). Offering open access courses/experiences is an extension of this philosophy in practice. Second, I believe that there are powerful pedagogical affordances available to us when we leverage forms of open & networked learning. I have written about this previously here and here (also see comments for rich insight). And finally, it is my belief that in order for students to best understand topics such as social media and open education, they are well served through immersion in the context guided through authentic, experiential learning.
While I see much of this as common-sense, I’ve had my critics and was once even labeled as a techno-communist. As an aside, here was my response in the form of my own attack-ad.
How Can You Help/Participate?
So, in light of what I have learned in running the course the previous three times, I am proposing two options for non-credit students. First, there is the somewhat passive option that I have offered in the past. Participants can come to our weekly synchronous sessions (staring September 28/10) and learn from our guests (more to be added soon). You can comment on student posts, add suggested readings and tools to our Delicious tag, or perform other things mentioned here. There’s not much commitment, but you still get to participate, and we’ll certainly learn something from you. However, this semester, I am also proposing an advanced, non-credit participation mode in my Call for Network Mentors. Basically, I’m looking for knowledgeable and savvy volunteers who get to participate in the course sessions, but also will focus a bit on supporting/mentoring learners along this journey. I have written some ideas of what this would look like here but I’m really hoping it simply evolves into something good – good for my students and everyone involved – something I could never have anticipated.
So if you are interested in option #1, the more passive route (and really, there’s nothing wrong with that) – you may consider adding your name here.
And, if you are interested in becoming a network mentor, whatever that will soon mean, consider adding your name to the list found here. From the interest seen so far, I know that I will have many non-credit volunteers per for-credit student, so the workload may essentially be light.
Other important information:
Course is open to the public starting September 28/10.
All information about the course for all participants will be posted at the course site.
I will be emailing all Network Mentor volunteers information re: their role with necessary information (e.g, student feeds, twitter lists, etc.) by September 28/10.
Weekly sessions are listed here. They are held every Tuesday at 7pm Saskatchewan time. Currently that is equivalent to MST, but after the first Sunday in November, it is equivalent to CST.
Thanks everyone for putting up with this rather long blog post, and congratulations for making it to the end! I hope to connect with many of you in the months ahead. Thanks for considering this opportunity.
Today, Graham and I met, went through all of the responses, and decided to go with format outlined below. However, to make this work, we would really love your responses. Please help!
How (We Think) the Session is Going to Work:
We have put together a a list of questions (see below) and are inviting your responses. We will put together a joint presentation based on your slides.
We will present the ‘keynote’ together but will be encouraging participants – both face to face and remotely – to contribute to the keynote as it develops.
Where We Need Help:
We’d like you to respond to one or more of these ‘key questions’ found below. We suggest responding through the creation of a (PowerPoint) slide, or creating a very short video (less than 1 minute?). Or, if you can think of another way of representing your ideas, please be creative.
We’d like you to provide questions for us. What did we miss? What are some of the important questions for consideration when exploring PLEs/PLNs in teaching & learning.
With all of the available Web 2.0 tools, is there a need for “educational technology”?
What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs on traditional modes/structures of education?
What are the key attributes of a healthy PLE/PLN?
What pedagogies are inspired by PLEs (e.g., networked learning, connected learning)? Give examples of where PLEs/PLNs have transformed practice.
What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs beyond bringing educational technology into the classroom, and specifically toward workplace/professional learning?
If PLEs/PLNs are becoming the norm, what does it mean for teachers/trainers (or the extension: what does it mean for training teachers & trainers)?
As our networks continue to grow, what strategies should we have in managing our contacts, our connections, and our attention? Or, extension, how scalable are PLEs/PLNs?
Can we start thinking beyond PLEs/PLNs as models? Are we simply at a transitional stage? What will be the next, new model for learning in society? (e.g., where are we headed?)
We’d love to get as many responses as possible to make this work well. It doesn’t have to be much, or anything comprehensive. Just pick up on one of the pieces and let us know what you think on the matter. Again, we need these by July 6/10.