Sunday, 26 October 2014

So you are a Connected Educator - what now?

The final week of CENZ14 is starting tomorrow, coinciding with New Zealand celebrating Labour Day, traditionally a weekend to get stuck into chores around house and garden. No different in the BeLchick's household, especially as we are getting ready for our move to Brisbane where I will join the fabulous team at Expanding Learning Horizons in January. So how to manage it all? I have blogged about FOMO and trying to stay sane this month, and I highly recommend for you to read +Catriona Pene's post on 'The Art of Switching off'. 

TeachMeetNZ ran a second session this month, celebrating CENZ with a combined session with TeachMeet Sydney on Saturday 25 October, 2pm NZDT. I had a deck to water blast, and I have enough plenty of (too many?) devices I can play with - so I decided to combine both! iPhone in the pocket, headphones in my ears I set off, water blasting, while I was listening to the presentations - and weren't they stunning! Please visit teachmeetnz.wikispaces.com to visit individual pages with recordings, presentations and reflections. Here is the full recording:


Why did this work for me on a Saturday afternoon?
I was interested in the presentations (admittedly also because I want to find out more about Australian educators). I was familiar with the tools I needed to connect - and as an auditory-sequential learner listening is my preferred mode of learning anyway. And I chose to connect. The former two points are the main outcomes from my Professional Inquiry into building capacity for blended teacher learning, but I am starting to realise how important the last point is - CHOICE. Choice makes the difference between Professional Development (done to you) and Professional Learning (your choice).

Connected Educator
I am proud to be a connected educator, it is my choice; though it helps in my profession to be modelling to teachers what I want them to do, it would be a lot less effective if this was the only reason for me to connect. A lot of other educators have chosen to get connected also. While I was listening to the TeachMeetNZ session, I kept on thinking "what now?" Once you are connected, is that it, or what happens next?

Image Source
Connections do nothing for us if we don't use them. Imagine a garden with pathways initially marked out; unless they are used and maintained, they will overgrow and disappear. So what are we doing with our connections?

When people ask me why I use Twitter for example, I usually talk about the great ideas, links and resources I get from my PLN. I am talking about consuming what others are putting out there though I keep on going on in my schools that we need to create in order for someone to be able to consume. So why do I only talk about taking? Do I give anything back? Do you give back and what?

(Off on a little tangent here, feel free to skip!  I am not out for any ego-stroking here, I just wanted to share with you the thought process I have gone through as there might be other people in a similar situation.)
Image Source
I know I give back, but whether it's 'a Kiwi thing', modesty or lack of self-confidence, I usually think of everyone else's work much more highly than of my own. I had a couple of interesting conversations about this lately, and I have come across the metaphor (I think via +Catriona Pene) of your own knowledge filling a balloon, with the balloon surface representing what you realise you don't know. The more your balloon is filled, the bigger that surface becomes. So to a certain degree the people who realise how immense the amount is they don't know might be the people with the biggest balloon of knowledge...
If I don't think highly of my own work, what does this say about the people who value what I am doing? Am I calling them liars, or saying they are simply too polite? So now I have decided that I will value myself more highly, I will honour the opinions of the people who think I am adding value. In all honesty I can say I work very hard and I think I am pretty good at what I am doing, especially at filling up that balloon more and more into the void of what I don't know yet...
(End of tangent)

Giving and taking in online spaces reminds me of growing children; when a baby is first born they are utterly dependent on someone to take care of them. As they grow up, they become more independent and eventually take care of others. Similarly a twitter newby will start out lurking, consuming. Favouriting and RTing reinforces messages and starts them down the 'creating' pathway. Share links you come across, share resources, discuss, debate, ask questions etc.

I have learnt so much through my PLN, just the other day +Sonya Van Schaijik shared a +Pam Hook video about #SOLOTaxonomy and #Minecraft. Where do I fit in on the rubrics?

From recollection it was Julie Lindsay who talked about collaboration and co-creation at TeachMeetNZ. I think I collaborate a lot, but how often am I involved in true co-creation? How would co-creation shape that garden with its well-used pathways?

So you are a Connected Educator - what now?
Your choice of being connected means nothing unless you use the connections. Lurk and consume, learn from others. Get creating and share your learning, and allow others to consume, to learn from you. Keep on stretching your balloon into the void of 'not yet knowing' and keep on asking yourself question over question: Am I doing this yet? What should my next step be?
Being connected is just the beginning...
Image Source

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Are we Digital Citizens, or rather Citizens in an increasingly Digital World?

The “Digital Natives” discussion has been going on for many years (1). I generally subscribe to the definition of “A digital native is a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater comfort level using it.”

A more narrow definition of this term to include all persons born after 1985 has regularly been criticised as it does not take account of the variability in exposure to and confidence in use of technology (2). Acknowledging the variability and at the same time the efforts our schools, communities and society are making to allow all our young people to access technology, I belief it is fair to say that in many of our schools we are teaching Digital Natives, and many of we teachers are Digital Immigrants (that is we started using technology later and are less comfortable with it than our young people).

Image Source
Attached to the notion of being a citizen is the term citizenship (3). There are different sub-definitions of citizenship, one thing they seem to have in common is the notion that rights and responsibilities are attached to this citizenship. Where the digital world, which our students increasingly frequent, differs from the real world is that with just a mouse-click you could be visiting any state on earth without even knowing. How do you know what rights and responsibilities apply in this context? Who makes the rules, who enforces them? Does the breaking of rules necessarily preclude from participating in the digital world or is adhering to the rights and responsibilities a voluntary act?

Commonly we speak of  Digital Citizenship in regards to rights and responsibilities in the virtual world. In New Zealand we have come to understand digital citizenship to include digital literacy and cybersafety skills as well as values and key competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum:
According to Netsafe (4), a digital citizen
  • is a confident and capable user of ICT
  • uses technologies to participate in educational, cultural, and economic activities
  • uses and develops critical thinking skills in cyberspace
  • is literate in the language, symbols, and texts of digital technologies
  • is aware of ICT challenges and can manage them effectively
  • uses ICT to relate to others in positive, meaningful ways
  • demonstrates honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour in their use of ICT
  • respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of speech in a digital world
  • contributes and actively promotes the values of digital citizenship
This definition of digital citizen appeals to me as it shows how there is much more to it than simply cybersafety. However, the anonymity of the global digital world combined with its infinite memory leaves careless users with a digital footprint that is nearly impossible to remove and can affect their life both in the virtual as the real world.

Image Source
The advent of the access to the digital world (5) has led to an explosion in internet use (6). Via social networks, more people than ever before can connect with each other and can work towards a common good (7). Understandably, some users are struggling with the anonymous nature, with the sheer size of the internet, the amount of information available. It is easier to fulfil your responsibility when you are face-to-face with someone, when there is little temptation around you to make you wander off task. However, the world-wide-web, with its multitude of colourful visuals and enticing games, apps and programmes, provides lots of distraction and temptation to our young and even to older people as they navigate their original task. Be honest, how often have you been on another pathway when listening to a speaker in a workshop?

The argument can be made that not everyone has access to digital tools and information hence the term ‘digital citizenship’ should remain. However, the use of the phrases: ‘connected [...] learners’, ‘effective users of communication tools’, ‘international citizens’ in the vision of  the New Zealand Curriculum (8) makes it very clear in my opinion that we are tasked with preparing all our young people to actively participate in our increasingly digital world. Do we really need digital as the descriptor? Why not just call it citizenship?


Let’s look back at the Netsafe description.  By removing the references to ‘ICT’ or ‘digital’ you end up with the description of a citizen we’d probably all agree with:
  • is confident and capable
  • participates in educational, cultural, and economic activities
  • uses and develops critical thinking skills
  • is literate in language, symbols, and texts
  • is aware of challenges and can manage them effectively
  • relates to others in positive, meaningful ways
  • demonstrates honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour
  • respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of speech
  • contributes and actively promotes the values of citizenship

Our students and we are no longer just citizens of a country, New Zealand, we are also citizens of a digital, global world. To separate citizenship and digital citizenship is no longer relevant in a world that is permeated by digital use; teaching them as two separate topics makes them harder to grasp and less embedded. Keeping ‘digital citizenship’ and ‘citizenship’ separate is continuing to live in the world of the ‘digital immigrants’, not preparing our young people for the future where digital tools are as accepted and taken for granted as today’s electric lights and flushing toilets. 


To be responsible citizens in our increasingly digital world, we need to fulfill our rights and responsibilities in all settings we frequent, both physical and digital spaces.




Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my critical friends +Andrew Cowie, +Annemarie Hyde and +Sonya Van Schaijik for their incredibly helpful feedback and comments to my ideas! Special thanks to +Sonya Van Schaijik von inviting me to be part of #edbooknz!

Google Maps and more to create and consume information

Friday, 17 October 2014

Ulearn14 Connections

With Dr Wendy Kofoed (left) and Sonya van Schijik
Ulearn14, truly an inspirational event connecting educators from all over New Zealand and beyond! For me it started out with my running into +Sonya Van Schaijik+Wendy Kofoed and more teachers from their school at Auckland Airport, upon which we ran into @GregReynoldsTTS who kindly offered me a ride from the airport to the Convention Centre and running into +Mary-Anne Murphy almost as soon as I stepped through the door. And that was just the start of the connections!


Day 1
I joined Prof. Yoram Hapaz' keynote late, however, he challenged a lot of us in our thinking - I have no doubt you will find a lot of good blog posts reflecting on this out in blog land. At the end of it, on the lookout for my twitter buddy and host +Annemarie Hyde it took me at least 15min to move to the morning tea area as there were so many people to connect with, hug and shriek about! It is very interesting how many connected educators I have met in different venues again and again this year, of course my colleagues like my buddy +Catriona Pene+Angie Simmons+Tania Coutts,+Allanah King+Anne Kenneally and many more, my co-presenters +Annemarie Hyde+Kassey Downard and +Caroline Bush, fabulous educators like  +Marnel van der Spuy+Steve Katene (one of our Minecraft buddies), +Diana Wilkes+Philippa Nicoll Antipas+Bridget Casse+Juliet Revell+Myles Webb+Mark Buckland+Heather Greaves  - I could go on like this forever!

For Breakout 1 I chose "Educators in Pond - Getting the most out of Pond as a teacher". I see the Pond as a very positive development, provided by N4L but driven by teachers for teachers. It will be a very powerful platform if we make it that. Features include deep searches, adding resources to the Pond (own and other resources, now including an indication of ownership), collating resources in buckets, labeling of and commenting on resources, and connecting with other educators. As this is all behind the ESAA logon (which you might also use for eTap, asTTle and NCEA), you will have to go through your school (principal) to ensure your ESAA gets extended to Pond access, then you are fine to sign up here. My remaining questions are about the relationship with the VLN with its multitude of groups, discussions and resources, monitored by very capable moderators, also about the intellectual property right of resources added to the Pond, something every school and organisation will have to make a decision on unless the resources are CC.

During Breakout 2 I presented on "Supporting Universal Design for Learning with Google Apps for Education". The Museum Classroom was quickly filled to capacity, but unfortunately the connectivity was an issue, luckily resolved the next day for other breakouts. My presentation can be found here. I felt honoured to have so many dedicated educators come together, connect and collaborate around UDL and GAFE, despite connectivity issues.

The afternoon keynote by Adam Lefstein again was thought provoking, and I came to the realisation that for many of us Twitter has taken over the note taking from paper and Google Docs.

Day 1 finished with a fabulous Twitter Dinner, organised by the equally fabulous +Annemarie Hyde, hours of connecting face-to-face interspersed with a yummy dinner at the Pig & Whistle Pub.

Day 2
Dr Katie Novak started us off with a Keynote on UDL - she was FANTASTIC!!! Not only did she have lots of useful tips about UDL, she was demonstrating it in her keynote! From the way she set out her slides, to the activities she asked us to complete, to the way she walked through the 1000+ strong audience to connect with us - WOW! The conversations at the table and with other attendees afterwards were very interesting; while I don't claim I am the expert on UDL, I have researched it a fair bit (hence the presentation on day 1), and not everyone I talked with had the same level of understanding I had. At the same time, a few of the educators I talked to have implemented UDL so effectively into their teaching practise that they felt her keynote was not quite hitting the mark for them. It is extremely hard to cater for such a diverse audience, I thoroughly enjoyed the session, and one day, when I grow up, if I can't be a tui I want to be a Katie Novak!

Breakout 3 I joined +Tara Fagan's "Future Learning: Programming, robotics and missions of code". I want a ROMO!!! Lots of fun, not all of it completely new to me, but right up my alley, I'll have to connect with Tara more!!! Resources from her session can be found here

Look at the cool article in
the Rotorua Daily Post :)
Breakout 4 we were on, trying to spread some Minecraft Magic with "Minecraft Magic - It's all about the learning!" The star of the show was Thomas, a 13y old from +Kassey Downard's classroom. +Caroline Bush+Annemarie Hyde and I joined them to discuss with teachers how Minecraft might enhance learning in their classroom. While we had good connectivity, the setup did not allow us to run a server, so participants were exploring individually and in groups Minecraft on the laptops we provided or on their tablet devices. As we said during the session, we are not the experts, it's the Thomas's of this world, and just about every school will have one. In fact, the underlying idea is that you do allow your students to take the lead, that you stand back and provide the guidance and support they require to support them to show you their learning. If you are interested in Minecraft, please feel free to visit Minecraft in NZ Classrooms on G+, Minecraft Teachers on the VLN and Minecraft Magic, a resource site.

After this session, we joined the GEG NZ Happy Hour, organised by Fiona Grant and other GCTs to connect with Google certified teachers and other Google interested educators. I have to admit, for a while I was extremely jealous that I was not chosen to go to Sydney for the GTA in September (you can check out my application video here). I barely wanted to look at anyone's blog post about it, that's how childish I had gotten. Thinking about what is going on in my life at the moment, I know it was not meant to be, I could not have done everything justice. It goes back to FOMO and trying to stay sane... (feel free to read my blog post about this here). Anyway, meeting up with them face-to-face was really good, they are all just as lovely as they have always been. So I can officially declare here I am thankful that I was not selected to go this year!

Quick dash home to pluck some parrots get dressed for Ulearn14 Dinner - it looked like a whole flock of parrots had been plucked by the time we were done (guess why)! It was a great opportunity to connect with yet more educators, and lots of fun was to be had as you can see:
A little collection of my Dinner Selfies;
Apologies to everyone for poor quality
due to lack of my skill as photographer!
For various reasons I was unable to stay for the Friday, but I have enjoyed reading other people's tweets, blog posts and comments about it.

There was a little bit of chatter on twitter if we should have overseas keynotes or rather showcase NZ talent. My humble opinion is that we don't get to see and hear enough overseas experts in New Zealand and I really appreciated the opportunity to be at their sessions in person. Being online for much of my professional learning, I still really appreciate the opportunity to connect with people face-to-face. I can see the point though to ensure we have our fabulous NZ talent represented in Keynotes, too.

Twitter
Image Source
Watching the #ulearn14 twitter stream on Tweetdeck was adding a whole new dimension to this and other sessions; reading the reflections, quotes, comments other tweets made about the presentation, the connections they made with other context, the replies to left to other tweets, adding to the original thought, was simply mind blowing! Where shared Google Docs give us a digital piece of paper to collaborate on, the sheer number of people trying to access them made it impossible for me to use reliable, but instead I am reading the tweeted notes of my buddies, special mention to +Kassey Downard here, which have been storified for easier access, some of which you can find here:

Twitter has also allowed for the presenters to connect with the audience in a new way; with the tweets being viewable by everyone on the big screen via strea.ma, the backstream allowed for presenters to react to audience questions, comments, confusion, straight away, something esp. Katie Novak made very good use of.
Image Source

Connecting the dots
Overall I can see that a lot of the topics I have involved myself in over the last year or so are very relevant to education in New Zealand and further afield. We are talking about personalising learning, about making learning accessible to all students, about taking down classroom walls by connecting with educators and learners beyond our classes, our schools, our communities and our country. Technology is an essential tool to this when used efficiently. At the same time, we (as the education community) are taking students' knowledge and skills gained outside the traditional classroom more seriously; teachers are no longer the only experts. A wider range of topics than previously is now entering the classrooms, even at primary level, including robotics, coding etc.
I was mulling about the keynotes I heard for a while. As I have said above, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr Katie Novak's session. I have been thinking a lot about Prof. Yoram Hapaz' session, the main ideas I took with me was that a school needs to follow one 'ideology' (I would like to say vision) to be most successful, and that the dominant ideology in NZ schools was not what the attendees thought should be the dominant ideology. I like to work in my schools from the school's vision for learning, but I am planning to think more about how schools can ensure that this vision is represented in the way learning happens across the school. Sadly I don't think I paid enough attention to Adam Lefstein's keynote though he talked about professional learning which is my field! Note to self: How can I ensure I am fully present at afternoon sessions??

Summing it up
This year, my second time attending and presenting at Ulearn has been a very different experience from last year. I have truly felt connected on many different levels. Friendships that have begun online have been deepened and extended - thanks so much everyone, especially +Annemarie Hyde! I started missing people as soon as I hopped on the plane very early Friday morning! While my adventures will take my abroad next year (more on this in another post), I truly feel I am connected to the NZ education community, and while geographical distance will have an impact, the online connections will continue.
One a more personal note I have also learnt about myself that indeed I do have things to share that others feel useful (which still surprises me often!). My efforts to connect better with attendees at my UDL / GAFE session have mainly stemmed from my experience from last year (you can read about this here). This year my evaluations have been positive, and while I wish we wouldn't have had to deal with connectivity issues, we coped well.

Image Source
I would like to thank Cognition Education for giving me the opportunity to attend Ulearn14 on their behalf, the attendees for booking into my workshops, attending these and asking some fantastic questions, and the organisers and support staff for making it all happen! I will try my best to attend Ulearn15 in Auckland!

Monday, 6 October 2014

FOMO - or How to be a connected educator and (try to) stay sane

(This post supports my presentation at Connected Educator EducampNZ on 7 October 2014, 7:30pm)

I sometimes have to LOL about all these abbreviations, +Kathy Scott put it really well in her recent post The Tyranny of Acronyms. In German we used the term "AbK├╝Fi" to describe this (German has a tendency to use compound words within compound sentences, so abbreviations are common). FOMO needed a translation though, thanks to +ariaporo22 for educating me on this a few months ago - Fear Of Missing Out. This is something very common for connected educators...

Let's take it a step back: Why do we want to be connected educators in the first place?
Our New Zealand Curriculum has a Vision
Image Source
What applies to the children applies to the adults in my opinion (ako in action). "Connected, actively involved, lifelong learners" is a phrase that gets quoted regularly, but there are many more points in the vision that relate to being a connected educator "members of communities",  "international citizens", "participants in a range of life contexts", "active seekers, users and creators of knowledge" to name the ones most obvious to me. To sum it up: To be an effective partner in the learning of our students, being a connected educator is no longer optional.

Image Source
The problem is that a lot of us connect in addition to our regular work. The more we connect, the more we feel we are missing out on when we don't connect - until you could find yourself trying to be connected all hours of day and night. How many of you have (like me) heard from your partner "get off the device, I thought you were {insert not-connected activity of your choice} with me?". How many of you have (like me) replied "I just quickly have to..."



I had this conversation with colleagues many times - where does work finish and life start? Do we live to work or work to live? How are we managing our connectedness? What example are we setting for our families and our learners? What do we want to be remembered for?



Connected Educator Month CENZ14 is a perfect opportunity to be connected, online, take PD into your own hands. However, it is also a perfect opportunity to consider when to connect, and when not. I love this little poster by Common Sense Media:
Image Source
It shows clearly that to be a (digital) citizen your need to balance your time online and offline [more on the topic digital citizen later this month]. However, that's where FOMO comes in: What if I am offline when an important question / link / resource etc. gets shared???? The answer I have to remind myself of over an over is that if it is important, it will still be there when I get back online. If it is meant to be, it will happen. There is no point in having your life completely ruled by what ifs!

To (try to) stay sane, here are some tips that seem to work for me

Time Management:
Image Source
  • Be selective about what forms of connecting work for you. You don't have to be everywhere all the time. Trial and discard if it is not worth your time.
  • Try to set yourself certain times when you check your Social Media, e.g. for me it seems to work to do this in the morning and then again at night. [Note: When procrastinating over an important task, I find myself checking a lot more often than that!]
  • Don't think you have to have seen every post in all your streams every day. If people want you to see something, they will learn to tag or mention you. Many people tend to post at times that others are most likely to view.
  • Tag your own contributions with the names/handles of people you want to see the post and/or use a hashtag that connects your post to a conversation.

Set up Notifications:
Use the Notification functions of your selected platform, here are a couple of examples:
  • For VLN you find them under Settings - Notifications 
  • For Google+ go to Settings and customise your notifications there. 
Outlook Rules / Gmail Labels & Filters
Use rules (Outlook) or labels and filters (Gmail) to keep your inbox clear from notifications until you have time to view them:
 

FOMO still strikes me regularly, but these little tricks help me stay sane. How are you as a connected educator trying to stay sane?