Are You a Digital “Sasquatch”?

In many of my past posts, I tend to pull examples from childhood. Whether it be from parental love or nostalgia, this piece is no different in that vein, and if you have read the title to this piece, you probably have an idea of where this might be going. However, I think, like our child versions, we believe one thing to be true and find out differently in the end. It’s not a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of perception.

As a child, teacher, and parent, I LOVE Schoolhouse Rock. In fact, I probably know every word to most of the songs, even the “newer” science songs since my girls love to watch these DVDs in the car on long trips. One song in particular came to mind as I was researching this week. Here are the lyrics:

For years this legend has been told

Of a creature seldom seen

He leaves a footprint so immense

It could make a grown man scream

Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti

He goes by all those names

But now there’s something scarier

And our world’s not quite the same

There are beasts who are leaving footprints

That make Bigfoot’s track look small…

You gotta learn what to do and what to watch

Don’t be a carbon Sasquatch” (Dorough, 2009)

~”Don’t Be a Carbon Sasquatch

While this song focuses on our carbon footprints, I couldn’t help but see its relevance today as we navigate the digital world. Couldn’t we replace the word ‘carbon’ with ‘digital”? What does your personal digital footprint look like? Does it match the perception match the person? Have we left a Sasquatch-sized print? One that we wished was a myth? Or one that is completely non-existent?

Though we’d like to think we could stay invisible, this is just not possible in our current society, which is why it is so important to examine and manage your digital footprint before irreparable damage is done. We have to stay vigilant in what we “say” and do online as it becomes who we are, for better or worse, despite the entire truth of it or the spin others may put upon it.

That being said. I was curious about mine own, and in my personal search, I
was relieved and a bit dismayed that I had to search a bit more specifically to find myself. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in good company. “Angela Wagner” is a doctor, a life coach, an athlete, a yogi, an engineer, a lawyer, etc., and there’s me, a teacher and doctoral student. I found all of my profiles, my blog, website, LinkedIn, Twitter, et
c. only after adding my state to the search equation. This got me to thinking about how common my name is in the U.S. and decided to check out the website www.howmanyofme.com.  

There are 439 people in the U.S. alone with my name, so I can attribute part of this to the commonness of my name, which makes me wonder about the ease with which some folks can leave a positive print effortlessly with a unique name. Or could it just as easily leave a footprint that is harder to erase? What are your thoughts?

Either way, “we gotta learn what to do and what to watch…don’t be a [digital] Sasquatch.”

References:

Dorough, B. (2009). Don’t be a carbon sasquatch. On Schoolhouse Rock- Science Rocks!. Buena Vista: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Twitter for Just-in-Time PD Learning

Twitter for PD. It’s not a totally new concept for me. In fact, a doctoral studies cohort member of mine is researching this very area of educational technology, and I know from our many exchanges how valuable are its unique learning opportunities. It’s a place to share and connect, and it’s always available. This week in my Social Networking course I had to follow five new hashtags and share some of my discoveries. I decided to add at least one hashtag from each of my interest areas Secondary Education, English Language Arts, and Educational Technology.

The following hashtags were added to my Tweetdeck: #2ndaryela, #ALedchat,    #edtechbridge, #engagechat, and # googleforedu.

Though I know I will learn far more over time, I’ll share a few here:

#2ndaryela : This is a hashtag dedicated to my teaching content area, and I was delighted to find SEVERAL new books to add to my reading list, both personally and professionally. I also noted some cool ideas and sources other teachers used for summer reading, which I will definitely check out.

#googleforedu: This hashtag is for everything related to the Google for Education suite. While I am a Google Level 2 Certified Educator, there are still new tips and tricks to learn, especially with the apps I do not use as much. Currently, I am in the process of using Google Sites to make some Digital Breakouts/Escape Rooms for my classes. This can be a time consuming concept, but now you can easily duplicate a Google Site with a few clicks. Voila! Editing and creating a new Escape/Breakout will be much easier to edit an existing page as a template.

#engagechat – This hashtag focuses on education and engagement in schools across contents and grade levels. As I was perusing recent tweets, the most striking concept was related to the teaching experience and my participation in this week’s exploration of Twitter.  Essentially, it stressed the importance of collaboration (the foundation of social networking), but educators cannot possibly lead students where they haven’t been themselves, right?! It noted that if teachers don’t collaborate, then how can they expect it in students? It’s true. We need to actively practice the skills we wish to impart in others.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think I could possibly capture the Twitter learning experience in one entry, but I will end it here with a few final thoughts on Twitter:

  • Connections are important for growth and in forming partnerships.
  • Sharing really is caring, whether it be a really cool tool or a moment from the human experience.
  • Learning is unique and endless.

Putting It All Together: Connectivism, Personalized Learning Networks, & Communities of Practice

As I began exploring the concept of Connectivism, I couldn’t help but liken lifelong learning to building puzzles. Puzzles range in skill and complexity, much like one’s learning, whatever it may be focused upon. “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, complexity… Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements…Learning is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.” (Siemens, 2004, p.1)

Even as children, many of us can remember putting together our first basic puzzle. It was probably primary in its colors and contained a small set of pieces. At the center of my image, we see a lightbulb representing the concept of learning, with component pieces representing Personalized Learning Networks (PLNs) and Communities of Practice (CoPs), which are different and yet the same in that each tie back to the initial learner (Me) and may/may not be comprised of other similar participants. One thing is certain, these fit together like our childhood play puzzles. We select them based upon our interests whether it be our favorite butterflies, dinosaurs, or technologies.

The Ripple Effect

As we grow older and become more skilled at piecing concepts and ideas together, the puzzles grow larger and entail more pieces. This is much like our PLNs and CoPs. Gutierrez (2016) notes we should conceptualize PLNs in layers with ourselves as the starting points. The PLNs closest to us may include friends and personal mentors, and this layer expands to another with groups of professionals sharing our interests (CoPs). As the layers from which we learn ripple outward, the people within these layers may not involve much personal interaction, but we may view them as inspiration and learn from them. The concentric rings of networking icons and silhouettes of professionals graphically represent this.

As we grow older, our puzzles are not merely selected from those offered to us; we seek them out based upon our personal interests and skills. Our CoPs are the groups we recognize as professionals who share our interests. We seek guidance from them to help us piece ideas and concepts together; we learn from them and share, another skill obtained in our childhood years. Our childhood skills of solving and sharing evolve much like our CoPs. “The dynamic nature of communities is key to their evolution. As the community grows, new members bring new interests and may pull the focus of the community in different directions” (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002, p.1). As we change through practice, our skills and learning expand, often into other related areas, thus representing the growth of our connected learning in the center of the image to those in the outer circle.

Often, we reflect upon our younger years as times of folly and inexperience, But I’d rather think of those years as full of wonder and excitement that grew from our favorite activities and how we shared them unabashedly. They are, afterall, what helped us piece together our learning then and formed the foundation for making our current connections.

References:

Gutierrez, K. (2016). What are personal learning networks? Retrieved June 8, 2018, from https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/personal-learning-networks

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved June 05, 2018, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge-seven principles for cultivating communities of practice. Retrieved June 8, 2018, from: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/cultivating-communities-of-practice-a-guide-to-managing-knowledge-seven-principles-for-cultivating-communities-of-practice

Social Network Learning: EDTECH543

I know. I know. A course on social network learning seems a bit late to be taken as my last elective for edtech coursework, but let me explain.

Yes, I have already had accounts for many of the social networks we will be using in the course, and, yes, I have used them for professional and instructional purposes, but not consistently. (As you can see, I have not posted to this blog in months. Maybe this course will help change that.)

In many areas, consistency is key, so I hope to learn how to better manage my social and professional outlets. I’m here to learn more from others and expand my personal/professional learning network (PLN). I’m here to learn new ways to harness social networking for my students and colleagues.  I want to know what has and hasn’t worked from others who have tried it out. I’m here to learn some new ideas, tools, strategies to better utilize the 1:1 technology in my classroom

Speaking of life in the 1:1 secondary classroom, I have noted the various options in social networks that students choose to use, but I am most curious to see how to integrate it consistently within a classroom and/or which option works best to gain buy-in.

So, here’s to a summer of social network learning and sharing.

Connecting with Students via Flipgrid

The new school year just started this week, and like all teachers, the task of learning about my students and connecting with them needed a touch of tech creativity.

Aside from the innate attractiveness of using the 1:1 technology available to my students, I was also tasking myself with a new way of getting to know my students without all the “about me” paperwork since our copy numbers were reduced this year.

At first, I considered the typical verbal icebreakers, but often students don’t want to stand up or speak out of the first day or two. Solution: Flipgrid

Flipgrid is an interactive discussion board. Teachers can post a topic and invite students to record a video response. Other students with the link or code to the grid may post their replies and respond to classmate video responses.  It’s a great way to get students talking, and it also opens doors for collaborative discussions with other classrooms across the hallway or across the world. It can also be easily integrated into your favorite educational platforms.

Flipgrid One is the free trial for educators, allowing for one grid and topic. A classroom subscription is $65/year, a value for the quality interaction and engagement amongst students. However, you can try the full classroom version for FREE until September 30, 2017 by using the code JORNEAERWIN. She’s a local instructional partner turned Flipgrid advocate. I had used Flipgrid during a PD session, so I figured I would try it in my own classroom.

This year I began a new learning journey with my freshmen. I posted a personal introduction topic using the 3-2-1 strategy. Aside from their names and blocks(periods), I wanted them to share three things about themselves, 2 things they were excited about this year (Did I mention I have freshmen?), and 1 way I would be sure to remember them. Of course, I began with a video about myself, and I share the link via our course LMS.

Not only has this been a wonderful tool for me to put faces with names, but it has also allowed my students across blocks to interact with each other.  I not only can name my “kids,” but I can also say I know a little more about them within these three shorts days at school. So far, I would say this has been a great success in making the technology work in the classroom, and I look forward to more online grid discussions.

Classroom Communication Poll

We all know school is about to start for a great many of us, and one aspect of teaching is extremely important: communication.

Please participate in the following poll about classroom communication tools. Thanks!

Classroom Communication

Audio Poe at its Best

Like so many other English Language Arts teachers, I am always on the hunt for  audio options for books, poems,  and short stories, BUT not just any audio will do. I, as well as many students, like to listen to a well-read narrator with inflection and/or voices. It’s highly entertaining, and it offers up a wonderful model of reading fluency.

We’ve all heard boring monotone audio tracks, but I thought I would share a personal favorite of mine: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” read by Mr. Matthew Gray Gubler. Some of you may be more familiar with his character on the television show Criminal Minds (Dr. Spencer Reid).

Do yourself a favor, and listen to this suspenseful tale as Gubler incorporates all of the thrill and paranoia of the narrator through his tone. You might even consider having students discuss what makes it a good read in terms of voice, pacing, and background sounds. Take a listen, and let me know what you think.