The Imitation Game

Imitation. We ALL do it. Whether we realize it or not, we subconsciously follow the examples set before us, making our Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) so important. We seek out inspiration from others in our fields, and though an identical outcome is not feasible, we learn from the experience and are better for it. Emerson noted that imitation is a form of flattery, and as an educator, I constantly seek out fresh approaches to teach English Language Arts while utilizing technology from the best source out there: other teachers.

In curating projects from others for teaching ELA, I noted a common theme running through other literary classrooms and their social media use, and it involved a form of imitation. Classes all over were using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as a means of character analysis. Whether it was from mythology, drama, novels, or short stories, students were learning about characterization  by assuming the identities of the characters they had read about in class. Some teachers had even asked students to keep their character identity a secret, making it a classroom guessing game of Who’s Who through carefully crafted tweets or posts. Another unique perspective was asking students to imitate a character’s personality and visually represent it through pictures on Instagram. Students are curating boards on Pinterest while imitating a character and blogging in character on a regular basis, and it’s working.

Now, to the unassuming or critical eye, it may not seem like much, a frivolous use of class time, but it is so much more. These teachers are providing students with authentic learning experiences. Social media is a growing part of teen communication, and by combining classroom content with these platforms, students are given an opportunity to showcase their creativity and critical thinking skills through a real-world communication medium. Students are doing far more analysis in trying to represent another identity than basic worksheet questions, and I dare say that these activities will help the knowledge stick far longer than the school term.

This exploration into social media use in ELA is far from in-depth, and there are thousands of other ideas and resources available for anyone willing to take the plunge and experiment. These examples are proof that this approach is working, and while some might question an idea, we should at least be willing to try something new. Context differences are a given, but worst case scenario: we try it and move on or try it, adjust it, and try it again. Our students deserve the best we can offer them, and in evolving 21st-century classrooms, we must provide authentic learning opportunities. We must dare to imitate classroom strategies that will produce growth for our students as well as our professional craft.

Social Media Policies

In an ever-growing world full of bureaucracy, sometimes we tend to question if all the rules, guidelines, and policies are really necessary. However, when we take a second to think about WHY they are in place, a great deal of clarity and understanding emerges, and hopefully, this appears before we do anything to harm ourselves or, in this case, our digital selves.

In examining how to create a set of guidelines for educational social media use, I have created the set of online parameters given below to use within secondary classrooms.

 

Due to the vastness and availability of the Internet and social media tools, students can reach a broader audience, which entails responsibility from all users. Students in the classroom should adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Students participating in the district’s 1:1 Initiative are responsible for their online behavior and must comply with the Student Handbook, Code of Conduct, and the Internet Acceptable Use Policy.
  2. Be respectful and responsible when online. Please follow appropriate netiquette guidelines.
  3. Present your best social media presence by posting thoughtfully. Be positive nd avoid posting disparaging, discriminatory, or confrontational remarks/behaviors.
  4. Adopt and maintain careful privacy settings for all your social media accounts. Be sure to review and adjust accordingly on a regular basis.
  5. Respect classroom instruction time and do not access social media for personal reasons during school hours unless directed otherwise.
  6. Practice online safety. Do not share your personal information or passwords with others through social media posts or messaging.
  7. Follow copyright rules. Verify that images and content are designated as permissible for your purposes, and please be sure that any images or content you choose to use are properly attributed to avoid plagiarism.
  8. Avoid content on social media that promotes profane, obscene, illegal, violent, or dangerous activity. If you mistakenly access inappropriate material, immediately report it to your teacher.
  9. Think before posting on social networks. Digital footprints last, so be mindful of your online habits.
  10. Remember that you are representing yourself, the school, and the district. Present yourself as capable, resourceful, and supportive through all social media channels used for educational purposes.

 

Remember that access to technology resources in the classroom are a privilege, not a right, and they may revoked if abused.

 

Guidelines are necessary and seemingly ubiquitous, but often we take for granted the process of creating them. It is an involved process requiring the consideration of an organization’s culture, needs, and future direction coupled with feedback from stakeholders.

This list would serve students for the entirety of their secondary years, but before implementing any new set of rules in a public setting, it would be wise to seek feedback and input from all stakeholders involved. Often one person can consider many angles, but just asking one person is rather shortsighted. Asking others who may be affected is not only an effective strategy, but it can bring issues or aspects to light that had not been previously considered. In this case, I would seek input from faculty, administrators, parents, and a selection of students. It would be very easy to gain input from either a survey tool for easy data analytics, but I would also like to gather a few persons involved in providing this data for a focus group-style meeting to discuss the wording as well as the way to implement them for the new year.

Bibliography:

11 Sample Education BYOT Policies To Help You Create Your Own. (2017, July 6). from http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/11-sample-education-byot-policies-to-help-you-create-your-own/

Anderson, S. (n.d.). How to create social media guidelines for your school. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/edutopia-anderson-social-media-guidelines.pdf

Athens City Schools. (n.d.). Digital citizenship. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from https://www.acs-k12.org/Page/480

Just-in-Time PD

Professional Development (PD)…two words that can trigger frustration and eye rolls among working adults. This is not to say that PD has nothing to offer but rather that PD is often doled out in a one-size-fits-all fashion. We all have our own unique situations, skills sets, and issues, so, often, PD tends to become monotonous and irrelevant, making it feel like a waste of time.

However, technology has brought forth a way to relieve this negativity. Many professionals are utilizing webinars and social networking sites like Twitter to engage in more meaningful and relevant PD conversations, while also expanding their professional learning networks.

Over the past three weeks, I “attended” and participated in four live webinars and four Twitter chats of my choosing. (see table)

Webinars Twitter Chats
The Intersection of Design Thinking & Leadership #engagechat
ISTE 2018: The Game Plan of What You Can’t Miss #flipgridfever
Project-Based Learning with Agile Project Management #21stedchat
Why Are We Learning This? Strategies to Help Students Find Relevance in School Work #aplitchat

Interestingly enough, the topics suited a broad audience of professionals from all over the country and even internationally. It is an interesting dynamic that online PD presents…almost paradoxical. Face-to-face PD delivered to such a broad audience can sometimes fall flat or seem irrelevant due to the lack of contextual examples or applications of the content; however, the online sessions delivered to us affords this same broad audience the opportunity to be comfortable, to interact with one another, and to share personal experiences without being “disruptive” or monopolizing the time allotted for the training. One major difference is that participants in these “just-in-time” sessions, such as webinars and chats, choose to be present (even in pjs) and are allowed to interact as little or as much as desired. Their feedback and input is valued and adds to the richness of the conversation.

During my webinar and chat sessions, I started out by making my presence known through introductions, answering moderator questions, and gradually built up to sharing personal experiences. I have made some new connections with teachers within my content area, and I look forward to collaborating with them and sharing ideas. I gained a better sense of professional community by seeking out what best worked for me. As selfish as this may sound, when we seek out solutions and ideas for our personal gain, we strengthen our skills much more than any prescribed “sit and get” session. Moreover, the convenience of the real-time sessions were flexible and plentiful, so I felt more comfortable in choosing what would best “work” for me and, in turn, serve my students best. I foresee many more online PD sessions in y future, but I would also like to see a wider acceptance of this form of PD from employers in lieu of the traditional and often mandatory sessions. Whether tangible credit will be accepted as such is still unknown, I will continue to seek out new and engaging ways to prepare my current and future classes.

“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.” — Bruce Lee

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.