Looking back ~ Looking forward

I didn’t want to write one of those cliche reflect on last year, set goals for this year blog posts but I think that’s what I’m doing. I wanted my focus to be on looking at what might be ahead this year. Reflecting on last year is an important part of that.

Looking back – 2014

Looking backPersonal highlights

2014 was an eventful year for me both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary.
  2. Completing and submitting my Master’s thesis. This was the end of two years work and boy was I glad to get this done!
  3. Accepting a new job with CORE Education. An exciting and challenging career move for me which also includes now working alongside some of the people I have looked up to in regards to e-learning and education.
  4. Getting a passing grade on my thesis. I found this out in the same week as being offered and accepting my new position. It was a good week!
  5. Having the opportunity to be involved with some great PLD through Virtual Professional Learning and Development, Ulearn, Connected Educator Month, and Twitter (including #edchatNZ).
  6. Graduating with Master of Education in E-Learning with Merit.

    A pic of my capping photo. #graduation #Massey
    Graduation at Massey University – 28 November 2014.
  7. Getting the #edblogNZ hashtag up and running. It’s not hugely used yet, but it’s growing. The main reason I tried to get this going is that many blog posts were being shared on Twitter and disappearing quickly due to the busy-ness of the Twitter feed or #edchatNZ stream.
  8. Being voted onto the BLENNZ school Board of Trustees. This was unexpected, but as I have two children who are supported through BLENNZ I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to this fantastic school!
  9. It was also exciting to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday, my sister-in-law’s wedding and my youngests 5th birthday (no more pre-schoolers for us!).

Okay, so numbers 2, 4 and 6 are really all part of the same thing, but they were all separated by time and each one was a separate highlight for me.

NZ education

There have been three stand-out happenings in NZ education in 2014 from my perspective. None of them are necessarily new, but have been areas of growth.

  1. The first one is the increase in teacher-led/teacher-driven PD. This has come through a couple of avenues. Connected Educator Month certainly had an impact on this as we saw a huge amount of PD available for free during a single month. There appeared to be a huge growth in the number of teachers trying out twitter, webinars, online discussions, blogging, and more! The other BIG part of this was the continuation of the #edchatNZ Twitter chats as well as the #edcchatNZ conference that was fully run by teachers. I was disappointed not to be able to attend.
  2. The second thing I’ve noticed is the shift from looking at/implementing Modern Learning Environments to using Modern Learning Practices. This has come about a lot through many schools simply being unable to create large open plan spaces as they are limited to single-celled classrooms and/or prefabs. It also takes the emphasis off the space and the furniture and puts it back on the teacher and their practice.
  3. The final area of growth that I’ve seen is around Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Interest for this, I believe, grew through Katie Novak’s keynote at Ulearn. While it’s far from embedded, having such a well presented/facilitated keynote that demonstrated some of the principles of UDL has certainly raised awareness of it.

Looking forward – 2015

Blogging goals

Claire Amos in her recent post Reflections and Resolutions has decided to write a weekly Ed blog and has asked who wants to join her so I’ve decided to join in on this and write a #weeklyedpost.

Along with this I’ve decided to set another blogging related goal. That is to comment on at least one blog post every week. The comment must also go on the blog and not on Twitter or elsewhere.
So this is my first #weeklyedpost.

#oneword2015

Question Everything / Nullius in verba / Take nobody's word for itI’ve noticed too that many people have decided not to have goals/resolutions for the New Year. Instead they’ve chosen one word that they will focus on/live/do for the year. So my #oneword2015 is QUESTION. I want to question more. This might be questioning people, ideas, concepts, theories etc. It might be physically questioning someone, or it might be questioning in my head. I already do this to some extent but I want to do it more, take it further, and seek out more information on certain things that I’m just not sure about or not happy with.

I also want to grow my questioning skills with people, particularly with the adults I’m working with. I want to learn to ask questions that help others to think and, wonder, ponder and perhaps question themselves and their own thoughts and beliefs.

NZ Education

In regards to NZ education in 2015, I think we’re going to continue to see growth particularly in modern learning practices and UDL. I think these two things go together so well, as MLP allows for much great student-centered, personalised learning and UDL give opportunity for students to learn in ways that are most appropriate for them at the time.

Introverts and Social Media

Over the past year or so I’ve also developed quite an interest in understand introverts more. I am one. Since I first read an interview of Susan Cain on the TED blog I’ve started to understand myself better and why I do what I do. I’ve also realised that we need to consider introverts in education much more than we do. Both students and teachers. Throughout the last few years there has definitely been an emphasis on collaboration and group work. While I think this is valuable it doesn’t suit all students all of the time (actually in my Masters research, most of the students I interviewed who liked to do group work also really liked to work on their own). I believe UDL could help with supporting the introverted student and I hope that we see more of an emphasis put on introverts throughout 2015. E-learning can help some introverts, even in group situations. I’m interested in exploring this much more and how introverted teachers like myself can manage in situations like open plan, team teaching, modern learning environments.

 

So that’s it! I’m really looking forward to see what comes through this year!
Have a great 2015 and keep sharing, reflecting and learning!

Collaboration through twitter?

Last Thursday’s #edchatNZ has had me thinking a bit. The focus was on Collaboration. This in itself is a great topic and I’m really keen to see much more collaboration amongst teachers. However, there seemed to be a lot of people saying that the Edchat and Twitter were some of the best collaboration they had.

This really bothered me.

I did a quick search and tweeted this:

The problem I was having was that I could see that twitter and twitter chats are great for connection, for discussion and networking, but I couldn’t see much collaboration going on.

Twitter might start the discussion that lead to collaborative opportunities but I question how much collaborative work is being done “to produce something”.

Now, I’m not saying that collaboration cannot occur through twitter, I just wonder if true collaboration is occuring. How often is discussion/collaboration through twitter happening that results in an end product?

I want to see much more collaboration occuring amongst teachers. Particularly collaboration amongst colleagues within their own schools. I think that often this doesn’t happen to the extent that it should. I love hearing stories of where it is happening and hope that it’s spreading.

I also love hearing stories of the connectedness that is occuring thanks to Twitter, the VLN and other online (and offline) sites. It’s really exciting. I often wonder though about the ratio to those educators who are truly connected to those that are not yet connected (particularly online). Those that read great blog posts and get involved in the twitter chats that get them reflecting and improving on their own practice is probably minimal. Are the people that read these posts the ones that need to hear the messages? It’s a bit like preaching to the converted sometimes.

On the other hand, it’s good to keep sharing as if even one person takes something from a comment on twitter or a blog post that they can reflect on or take away to improve their practice then that is a great benefit not only to that teacher but to all the students that they teach.

I’ve got a bit off topic here, so maybe there’s another blog post to come at some point. Oh well. I’ll keep writing and hopefully some of what I say sometimes will resonate with someone!

Thanks for reading!

 

Surviving #edchatNZ discussions

I thought I’d write a quick post on how I survive #edchatNZ discussions.

When #edchatNZ first kicked off a couple of years ago, it was relatively easy to keep up. Now, the twitter stream moves so quickly that there’s no way that I can read every tweet that comes through (I usually try to begin with, but have had to give up).

So this is what I do to manage these fast-paced evenings.

Firstly, I start with the Twitter client, Tweetdeck. I’ve been in love with Tweetdeck probably since about 2009 when I started using Twitter and well before Twitter bought it (I think it had slightly better functionality before they bought it too, but it’s still good). There are other twitter clients like Tweetdeck but this is my favourite so I’ll ignore the others. 😉

Tweetdeck streams tweets in. No need to refresh or “load more tweets” etc. It’s constant.

Tweetdeck also gives you the opportunity to have multiple columns open with your standard Twitter stream, your notifications, messages and whatever search/hashtag you want to follow (and more). I’ve always got #edchatNZ and #edblogNZ open (and several others) but on our discussion nights I also open open #edchatNZquestion.

#edchatNZ tweetdeck columns
#edchatNZ tweetdeck columns

I also ensure that I have #edchatNZ, #edchatNZquestion and my Notifications column right next to each other. This way I can always see what the question is but I can also see what people are saying specifically to me. I often get distracted by the side-conversations that go on during a twitter chat, but I think that’s half the fun and where a great amount of learning and reflection occurs.

The other thing I do is know a few quick-keys. In Tweetdeck, pressing ‘n’ will start a new tweet. So I just press ‘n’ and start typing. Ctrl-Enter on PC or Cmd-Enter on Mac will post the tweet.

I’ve been using a Mac for a few months now and found (paid for) an app called text expander that allows you to create snippets where you type a code and it changes that code to whatever word/sentence/paragraph etc you want. I’ve found this fantastic for hashtags where I just have to type, for example, “;ec” and it will translate this to “#edchatNZ”. It’s great when you’re doing something with multiple hashtags like we had last night when we also joined with #aussieED.

I’m not aware of a similar program or app for PC, but there probably is something around!

My last tip is this. Don’t use a mobile device for a twitter chat. I’ve found they just don’t respond fast enough. Plus, although I can type quickly on a phone/tablet, I’m MUCH faster on a full-size keyboard… but that’s just me!

Happy chatting!

Ulearn14: Learning & connections

Last week I had the privilege of attending NZ’s most awesome education conference – Ulearn. This conference always has great speakers from around New Zealand and the world, and attracts a large number of teachers—this year was no exception.

Connections

This was the third Ulearn conference I had attended, but the second time that I’ve really made the most of being there by connecting with other teachers and educators, most of whom I’ve “met” virtually through Twitter. This for me is a big deal because, as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not great face-to-face. I’m quite happy to talk online but sometimes find it hard in person. However, I think because I’ve already connected with many of these people through Twitter, I felt like I already knew them and could already relate!

I was also able to attend my second Twitter Dinner. This is an evening where fellow tweeters get together to share a meal and meet face-to-face. It’s great to hear all the, “Oh, you’re <insert twitter handle here>!” Thanks Annemarie for organising this great event!

Capturing learning

I started the conference strong, taking notes, tweeting, capturing my learning. It was long before my notes got shorter and shorter and then eventually non-existent as I headed back to 140 character note-taking and continued connection with others through Twitter. I’ve never been a big note taker so this is where I love twitter as I can benefit from the collective note taking/key points of other conference attendees through the back-channel. It’s also an opportunity to be able to grab any key links or other resources that might get shared by the attendees so you’re not limited to what the presenter can share themselves.

Presentations/keynotes

While I could probably write a lot about all of the keynotes and breakouts I went to, I’m only going to briefly mention two of them. These are the two that really stood out for me.

Katie Novak

The first is the keynote by Katie Novak. Katie shared about UDL—Universal Design for Learning. [You can find her presentation and other links on her website]

UDL is [from Wikipedia]:

Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be unique, the UDL framework, first defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s, calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:

  • Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.

Probably the biggest questions that was coming up on Twitter around UDL is, “How is this different from differentiation?” and “Aren’t we already doing this?”. I quickly found an answer to the first question in this blog post. In regards to the second question, I imagine that some might be doing it, but I would argue that many aren’t, even if they know about it. What i think often happens at conferences like Ulearn is that we get the people that do know or want to know more and are willing to put the effort into their teaching practice etc, but those that aren’t already doing it and need to know about it are the ones that don’t come. But of course that’s another issue!

While I really like UDL and plan to find out a lot more about it, and she shared a lot of excellent stuff to get people thinking, what stood out for me from this presentation was actually her style of presentation. Yes, she was keynoting so there was a bit of talking from the front of the room. She did have over 1700 people she was talking to! But… she also got people talking amongst themselves. She engaged them! Katie also answer questions from the twitter feed. But probably the biggest thing for me was that she got down off the stage and talked to people during the discussion times. That’s what really stood out for me. It wasn’t simply a lecture but an opportunity to engage and engage with the people in the room.

Michaela Pinkerton

The second stand-out presentation for me was a breakout by Michaela Pinkerton called “Kai for kaiako”.

Michaela really focused on teachers and in particular their professional learning. She shared some excellent thoughts. Instead of me summarising what she talked about I’m going to embed a few of the key tweets.

Nearly at the end…

So all-in-all Ulearn was once again fantastic! There were a lot of takeaway messages from great presenters. Connections were made and networks have grown. AND friendships were also developed!

The best part in my mind is that the learning hasn’t stopped. We’re 4 days since the end of the conference and the #ulearn14 hashtag is still going on twitter as teachers are reflecting on their learning through blogging, sharing with their colleagues, asking further questions and continuing to build connections.

And since Ulearn fell into Connected Educator Month, we’ve still got 17 more days of #cenz14 goodness to go! Keep connecting, learning and growing!

Finally… I just have to share this last tweet. Annemarie took a few of us on a little bit of a tiki tour on Saturday morning. I arrived back at the airport with about 1 minute to go until I was supposed to board my flight! Luckily I had already checked in!

24-7 professional learning

connectionOne of the most exciting things that has happened over the past couple of years in New Zealand education, in my opinion, is the uprising of professional learning that is occurring online.

The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is an online community of practice space which was launched in 2011. Since then the VLN has grown to a community of over 15000 teachers. Many teachers have benefited from the conversations, sharing, questioning, learning and professionalism that has gone on since it’s inception. Many students will have also benefited from the sharings on the VLN as well—they just won’t know it!

Even more exciting in my mind is the growth of Twitter amongst New Zealand educators. The amount of quality professional discussion that goes on in this forum is unquantifiable as it occurs at all hours of the day and night! Teachers are wanting to do much more for their students and as a result they are using their time (if there is such a thing for teachers) to learn more; to grow professionally; and to share what they are doing.

In October 2012, Danielle Myburgh launched #edchatNZ to get teachers talking regularly on specific topics. #edchatNZ occurs on Thursday at 8:30pm every fortnight and has been a huge, growing success. As more NZ teachers take to Twitter, #edchatNZ gets bigger and bigger. While it can be a challenge to keep up with the incredible conversation at times, the sharing and learning that goes on is both inspiring and exciting.

Following on from the success of #edchatNZ, two new chats were instigated and kicked off only last night (the other Thursday in the fortnight)—#engchatNZ (kicked off I believe by Alex Le Long) and #scichatNZ (Matt Nicoll). The first of both of these chats were a success with I believe over 400 tweets made in both of them! These are our educators—committed to lifelong learning and the best for the children of New Zealand!

While a lot of this professional learning is happening online, there has also been an increase of teacher-led/organised face-to-face PD going on as a result! Danielle Myburgh and her awesome crew are about to host the first #edchatNZ conference almost 2 years since the launch of the first Twitter #edchatNZ discussion evening. Just last weekend I was following the Educamp Auckland hashtag trying to keep up with the goings on at the face-to-face meetup of awesome educators (who were certainly not all from Auckland)! Following the discussion kept me quite busy on a Saturday morning and I had to remind myself that my wife wasn’t home and I needed to check on the kids!

It’s exciting to see teachers wanting to keep learning during their time. It’s certainly not exclusive either. Recently Ngatea Primary School decided to try to get whanau involved in Twitter chats by launching #ptchatNZ. This chat is to encourage the wider school community to get involved and is certainly not exclusive to Ngatea Primary School. Principal Neil Fraser and DP Karla Hull are keen to get this discussion going throughout the country!

If you haven’t gotten involved in the great professional learning that is going on constantly in New Zealand, then jump in and give it a go! Join the VLN and/or get involved in the amazing #edchatNZ Twitter community. If you’re not sure about how to get started on Twitter go to the #edchatNZ site for info.

Monday Mentions–19 November 2012

It’s been a while, but I thought I’d try out getting some Monday Mentions going again. These are my favourite blog posts and articles from the past week in no particular order. Enjoy.

Skills for Learning 2.0 – by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) from Learning with e’s.
In this post Steve discusses the shift from the 3 R’s, to the 4 C’s – Connection, Context, Complexity and Connotation.

8 Tips to remember what you read  by Ross Crockett from the committed sardine blog.
As the title suggests, this post gives 8 tips to remember what you read. It starts off stating that many people don’t read particularly well, possibly due to all the screen time and then continues into 8 tips.

Great Teaching in Preschool – by Josh Stumpenhorst from Stump the teacher.

Josh outlines some great lessons all teachers can learn from the early childhood sector. Early childhood educators are fantastic!

Principles of the tweeting Principals – by Ainslie MacGibbon from The Sydney Morning Herald.
This is an article about how Australian Principals are using Twitter to continue learning and to collaborate.

Are you really engaging your students? –  by Cherra-Lynne Olthof from Teaching on Purpose.
In this post Cherra-Lynne explains what engagement is. This is a topic I’m quite passionate about as I don’t believe student engagement is well understood by educators. Many people have different views as to what student engagement is. It’s more complex than you might think!

“Label the parts of a microscope…” – by Doyle from Science teacher.
This is a very good blog post that makes you question why we’ve always done certain things. Why do we get students to label the parts of a microscope
 
Is it time to drop the Digital? – by Chris Betcher from Betchablog.
Chris suggests we can drop the word ‘digital’ from a number of terms in our vocabulary. What do you think?

Has twitter killed the art of blog commenting? – by Stephanie (@traintheteacher) from Teaching the teacher.
Stephanie discusses how commenting on blog posts seems to be changing.

Continuing to learn…

As a teacher, it is so important that we continue to learn and be willing to learn! Along with this is that we have to do what Ardis Cochrane suggested at the International Conference on eLearning Futures 2011 a couple of weeks ago. She suggested that:

teachers need to be respected as learners

This is so important for those who are involved in eLearning in some way – particularly promoting it with teachers in your school or organisation. Some teachers are nervous when it comes to using ICT and they need to be given time, space and support to learn how and when to use it appropriately.

Of course the experts also need to be continually learning, so I thought I would share a couple of the ways I try to continually learn.

  • As you can see, I go to conferences. To be honest I’ve only been to one this year. It was good, but conferences can be quite expensive so might not always be possible to attend. Conferences of course are great for networking.
  • Blogs – I read blogs, and quite a few of them. I follow blogs of academics, teachers and educational technologists. Using the RSS feeds and an RSS reader such as Google Reader it’s not too difficult to keep up with blogs. I also use an iPad app called Flipboard where I can read the blogs a bit like a magazine. It’s a good, enjoyable way to find out what’s going on in the educational world.
  • Twitter – this is probably the key way I find out things that are going on. I don’t follow just anybody. Again, I pick teachers, principals, academics and so on that relate to the topics I am interested in (education, eLearning etc). Twitter, like conferences is great for networking. I’ve ‘met’ quite a few people on Twitter that I chat to and they give me advice/suggestions etc that are very valuable. (I wrote a blog about Twitter some time ago…)

I hope this is useful to someone. I’ve also been doing some extra-mural study and just completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Next year I am hoping to complete my Master of Education (eLearning). The learning continues!

As much as possible don’t keep your learning to yourself! It needs to be shared with others!

As Steve Wheeler said at the conference:

Knowledge is like love. You can give it away and still get to keep it.

Tweet easier with TweetDeck

Ever sign in to Twitter and look at the pages of tweets you need to trawl through? Well here’s a possible solution to this problem.

This is one piece of software I really like. TweetDeck is a free download from http://tweetdeck.com that will help keep you up to date with all those tweets that are coming in. TweetDeck will receive tweets from Twitter and you don’t even have to be in your browser! It alerts you as they come in. Another feature is that you can have more than one twitter account. Perhaps you have an account for home and one for work? You can even receive your friends status updates from Facebook.

What about posting? You can post to Twitter or Facebook from TweetDeck. In fact you can post to them both at the same time! It will let you know how many of your 140 characters you have remaining AND it has a URL shortener for those long web addresses.

You can upload a photo if you like, or TweetShrink your post (get it down to 140 characters automatically). You are even able to translate it!

Well, as you can see I’m a fan of TweetDeck. It really is a great piece of software for keeping yourself up to date! Try it out!

The wonderful world of Twitter

What is Twitter?

You’ve heard of blogging? Twitter is microblogging. It’s like a blog, but you’re limited to 140 characters to say your piece. This is less than a txt on a cell phone! It’s a way to let people know what you’re doing, or what is happening. It’s like Facebook but with only the status updates!

How does it work?

A user posts tweets which his followers can read. On the users homepage they can read the tweets that the people they are following have written.

Why Tweet?

It’s a good way to let people know what you’re doing. It’s also a good way to catch up on what your friends (or others) are doing. You can follow news sources such as BBC or Time Magazine, even NZ news is available! I use Twitter to find out more about ICT and education!

Tips for Tweeters

1. Post something relevant and regularly. Once a month is not regularly. You probably will want to tweet at least once a week, probably every couple of days. Some tweeters tweet several times a day.

2. It may be a good idea to tweet about a certain topic (eg. I have recently started tweeting and this is mostly about teaching and ICT).

3. Choose who you follow carefully. The tweets for everyone you follow will come up on your homepage when you login. You may not want to read through 5000 tweets!

4. You don’t have to allow everyone access. There are privacy settings available.

5. There are heaps of applications for your browser to do with twitter. Just search for them!

6. Have fun – and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter if you enjoy the blog!

http://twitter.com/ http://twitter.com/nlouwrens/