Unit 7 – Learning Folios

One of the smartest tools that I have learnt about during the course has been Google Chrome.  Below is a link to a short video about Google Chrome:

Introduction_to_Google_Chrome

My Animoto reflection on the course can be viewed at:

VIC_PLN A Learning Journey

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Unit 6: Learning Here and Now

Being a fairly early adopter of technology in teaching (I started my Masters of Education – Technology in 1996 while living on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait – I had to go up to the primary school of an evening to access the internet as it was one of only two sites on the island that was connected at that time) I have watched and actively participated in the rapidly changing space that is educational IT.  Over the years, I have completed a number of qualifications (both of the semester long university variety and the short, online course variety) online but I would have to say that the PD I have enjoyed in the past twelve months through blogs and twitter has probably changed my practice more than any of my previous, more formal learning experiences.  The reason that I have found this personal learning network professional learning so valuable and practice-changing is that it has opened my eyes to the wealth of knowledge that is freely available and provided me with a means of sharing information with the teachers in my teams at school.  I have also found (and I think I would share this with most teachers) over the years that while I might enjoy a conference, I usually did not change much once I was back in my school and my classroom.  I have found that the knowledge that I have gained from my personal learning network has resulted in change in my practice – while I am still reflecting on why this is so, I think that it is because the information comes in small, bite sized chunks that have one central thought.  I can then determine if this idea is useful and either put it into practice or store it for future use.

In regard to the impact of technology on us as citizens, I think that technology has had a massive impact and will continue to have huge impacts on notions such as privacy, ownership and even what it means to be a community.  I think that another interesting question is “what has been the impact of technology on teachers as citizens” as I think there are particular implications for us as teachers.  The impact of a teacher having an inappropriate photograph taken and distributed electronically could be significantly different to that of a bank manager or an architect.  It also raises the question of what is considered inappropriate and who determines what is and what is not appropriate.

In regard to the use of technology in learning, I think that as technology is a part of life, it must be part of learning.  To separate the classroom from the world is neither ideal nor desirable.  However, doing this effectively is not easy and issues such as teacher confidence with technology, connectivity and band-width are real issues that can significantly impact on teaching and learning.  My experience has been that the ability level of the teacher (in regard to technology) is the least important aspect of the use as the students will understand and use the technology regardless of the teacher’s skill level.  However, we “don’t know what we don’t know” so exposing teachers to technology tools to enable teaching and learning is an essential part of the process of incorporating technology in to teachers’ professional practice.

Five Characteristics of an Effective Learner

Curious – The web has enabled us to find out virtually anything at any time but it is only the curious who take the time to look.  A curious person is also a life-long learner – someone who will continue to develop their knowledge, understanding and skills long after they have left formal education and even the workforce.  I often wonder what old age homes will look like in forty years – I know that I will be asking about the home’s connectivity and wireless set up.   It doesn’t matter what I need to learn, I am confident that it is either available now online or will be soon – I need to sustain my curiosity so that I want to continue to learn and grow, both as a citizen and a teacher.

Reflective – While being curious is essential, it is also vital that I reflect on what I have learnt in order to determine the value of what I have learnt and where I want that learning to take me next.  Without reflecting on actions and learnings, we cannot successfully move onto the next step.  Blogs are an excellent tool for reflection (such as this blog entry).

Organised – The glut of information available has heightened the need for learners to be organised.  Without organisation, there is just too much information to process meaningfully.  Tools such as Evernote and Diigo have allowed me to store and access resources, thoughts and images that form a body of knowledge that I can access from any where and share as needed.

Self-motivated – Learners have to self-motivated to be truly successful.  There are many successful students who are motivated by extrinsic rewards but this form of motivation is short-lived.  I am not sure that technology can make a learner self-motivated as I believe that this can only come from within.  For those who are self-motivated, technology provides a wealth of information and tools to support their drive for improvement.

Critical/Analytical – I believe that learners must be critical thinkers – that is, they must be able to determine the validity and worth of information and then use it meaningfully to answer a question or create something new.  At a time when anyone can publish any information (this “information gate-keeping” used to be controlled by publishing houses) the need for critical appraisal of information is more important than ever before.  Teaching students to check all information from a variety of sources is a basic way to validate information.

Predictions about the future of schooling are quite different to predictions about the future of learning (and I think are much more difficult to give so I will stick to the future of learning).  Learning in the future is going to be fabulous for those who love to learn – we are going to have access to so many high quality, thought provoking courses and learning opportunities (such as this course) that we will be able to learn what we want when we want.  Only last night on Twitter is came across this course class.stanford.edu/courses/Education/EDUC115N/How_to_Learn_Math/about which is highly relevant to my Mathematics teachers, is free and is from Stanford University – professional development does not get much better than that!   Inherent in this, however, is a significant equity issue as technology has a cost and for some families and individuals, this cost is prohibitive.

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VicPLN Assignment 5 – Effective Searching

Effective web searching is a fundamental skill that teachers often assume students have completely mastered in primary school.  My experience has been that even in Year 12, students’ search skills can be improved through the explicit teaching of the development of effective search strings and the exploration of the many features of Google.

I have also experimented today with the alternative search engines listed in course.  I felt that duckduckgo and Bing were not as effective as Google.  Instagrok, however, looks to have great potential – I am particularly impressed with Instagrok’s ability to share a search string, through a variety of methods including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and the graphical representation of the search result as shown below:

Driver Fatigue Research Effect On Driving | Learn about Driver Fatigue Research Effect On Driving on instaGrok, the research engine

A trusted web resource

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/nns/2011/00000014/00000003/art00001

Following from the search I conducted above using Instagrok, which relates to the impact of driver fatigue on safe driving, the link above is to a journal article that I located through a Google Scholar search.  I believe that this article is reliable because:

  1. I conducted a search on the journal (Nutritional Neuroscience) and found that it has been published for 16 years.
  2. The journal is based at the University of Texas – I believe that university based publications have a higher likelihood of reliability than non-university based articles.
  3. I conducted a search on the main findings of this article (it was related to the effects of caffeine) and found many other articles that corroborated the findings of this paper.

In addition to learning some useful new search techniques, I also had an “ah ha” moment with my blog which I have now reorganised so that my posts are more sensible.  I will leave the other posts that I have made today on the PLN page (which is correct for the links I sent earlier today) but I will send the correct link for Assignment 5.  I have now also added tags to the correctly posted earlier assignments.

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VicPLN Assignment 4 – Evaluating and using online tools

Quick review of Diigo

The Terms of Service were relatively easy to locate, easy to read and seem to provide relevant information.  I must admit that I do not read this information before I sign up if the tool has been recommended by a friend or if it is a tool that has generated wide-spread talk/discussion in journals, blogs or other professional material.  Diigo has tools to export a library in a variety of formats which is good to know and the process of deleting an account is very simple, requiring only the user’s password.  Based on these findings, I would be happy to recommend Diigo to a friend.

Review of a free online tool for learning

After looking through the list, I decided to review a tool that I had not used before but that potentially could be very useful for my students.  I chose Citelighter (http://www.citelighter.com/) as teachers often comment on the poor quality of students’ bibliographies and I thought that this tool maybe useful in addressing this issue.  For ease of reading, I will provide answers to the Unit Questions below:

  • Does the service require a login? If so, what information needs to be provided when signing up for an account?

The sign-up process was quite fast with Citelighter requiring personal information such as your name, email address and a password and on the following screen information regarding whether you were a student or professional (professionals then had to nominate a category of work) and where you had learned of the tool.  This process took minutes and there was no confirmation email.

  • Read through the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of the site (if applicable). Do you see any potential issues for staff or student use?

Without any background in the law, I must admit to finding most TOS and Privacy policies fairly repetitive and leaving me not sure of the actual legal ramifications of what I have read.  The following section of the TOS for Citelighter raised an interesting question for me:

If you submit material to this site or to CLI or its representative, in the absence of a contrary agreement, you grant Citelighter a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, copy, and display such content throughout the world in any form, media, or technology now known or hereafter developed. You also permit any other user to access, store, or reproduce such material for that user’s Personal, or Academic use. You grant Citelighter the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content.

I wonder if this means that Citelighter will create their own database of research information based on the searches performed by users?  If this is a correct understanding, the intellectual property gained by Citelighter from the work of the users of this tool would be of significant value.  There is currently both a free tool and a user-pays “Pro” tool version of the product.

  • How could you use this tool in your professional learning? Can you see it being useful to someone else in your organisation? Why?

The ability to store research information and provide citations for that information is a powerful tool for profession learning and for sharing learning with others.  As I expand my PLN, I am constantly accessing information from a variety of web based sources and the ability to highlight data under project headings and have the information source saved in the same tool automatically will be of great benefit.  This is perhaps particularly relevant as a school administrator where I am constantly working to enhance the professional learning of my middle leaders and, in turn, encouraging them to enhance the professional growth and learning of the teachers in their teams.

  • Could this tool be used in an educational setting? What tasks might students complete using the tool? How could it change the tasks students are already doing? Where does it fit in the SAMR model of assessment?

As mentioned above, I believe that Citelighter could be very beneficial for my own professional growth and that of my staff.  I am concerned that students may see it as a very easy tool that enables them to “cut and paste” and assignment together and it creates a correctly formatted bibliography as a bonus.  The development of such tools reinforces the imperative for teachers to create assignment tasks that involve higher order thinking such as decision making, problem solving and invention rather than old-style, pre-internet essay tasks such as “write a biography of Bob Hawke”.  Tools such as Citelighter invite student plagiarism if challenging, thought provoking tasks are not designed by teachers.

  • Were you able to create something useful with the tool? Is it easy to share what you’ve done by either publishing it online or even embedding it into your own site? If so, share what you created by pasting a link into your blog entry or embedding the item.

Citelighter allows the user to share via Facebook, Twitter and G+.  I was also interested to learning during my fairly basic testing of the tool that it would not capture from  an online pdf document – more research through the FAQ page will be needed to find out why and if there is documented solution to this issue.  The notes that you highlight in Citelighter can be exported to email or a word document which could then be copied and added to other online pages.

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VicPLN Assignment 3 – Personal Learning Network tools

Darwin

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this post.  With all of the best intentions to get this task finished on the school holidays, I find myself sitting down to this reflection two weeks into Term 2.  On the positive side, the beauty of a reflection is that I have now been thinking about this task for the past month, so I have a lot of thoughts on this unit!

I have been exploring the idea of Personal Learning Networks for the past year and I believe that they are going to become the dominant method of teacher professional development in the next decade (possibly even in the next five years given the pace of change in the “online world”).  My main reason for this belief is the potential for a PLN to enable a personalised method of developing and growing professionally rather than the old mindset of “my school will provide me with the PD that I need in a whole-of-staff or even small group setting” – in a rapidly changing world (that is most likely going to change at an increasingly rapid pace) the growth needs of the individual can no longer be met in this way.  What is required is for each teacher to determine their personal growth needs and to source and acquire the knowledge and skills they personally need to continue on their learning and development journey.  Surely, if we are going to talk of differentiated learning for our students we must be looking at differentiated learning for teachers (for everyone?) also, and a personal learning network not only makes that possible but is uniquely designed to accomplish this purpose.

In regard to the tools explored in Unit 3, I find Twitter to be much more useful than Facebook.  As an administrator in a secondary school, I must admit a personal bias against Facebook, most likely due to the amount of time I spend managing inappropriate online behaviour facilitated by Facebook.  Twitter, on the other hand, is a fantastic tool for my PLN – the wealth of information on Twitter for educators is unending and, as such, necessitates a solid understanding of how to filter Twitter posts as an essential first step in introducing teachers to the Twitter-sphere.

In conclusion, I would add that as teachers we spend a great deal of time espousing the need to make our students “life long learners” and “independent learners” (the latter being a particularly dominant theme in the senior years of secondary) – if this is our rhetoric, then as teachers we must be embracing the new tools of Twitter, blogs and Ted to learn new skills to enable us to shape our own growth and learning in a time of exponential change.

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VicPLN Assignment 2 – Organising information for your PLN

Assignment 2

Be reorganised

My current techniques for keeping my online resources organised have included Diigo, Pinterest and lots of emails to individuals.  I have found learning about Evernote to be very useful and changing to Chrome seems to be a very positive step also.  I will be interested to see how it works at school this week on our College network.

As I only teach my students for one lesson per six days (I teach the same lesson four times in a six day cycle – hopefully by the fourth lesson, I am teaching the concepts very effectively!) there is not a lot of work to organise so it is not a focus of my lessons.  I currently use Sharepoint on our internal portal to organise student resouces and the girls generally use OneNote to organise their own subject notes.  There may be merit in looking at Evernote as an alternative to this in the future.  My students are generally very positive about the difference that having their laptop has made to their ability to organise notes and research material – the biggest challenge is ensuring that the other distractions of technology are not also at play during the lesson.

The greatest benefit that I can see from the latest online organisation tools is the web-based nature of the tools and thus, the ability to store information and then access it on a variety of devices.  I find this invaluable when I am at PD and meetings away from the College.  The “dark side” of this, of course, is the 24/7 access to work and the suggestion by parents and students that teachers should be available to check a draft (for example) at midnight.  The ability to share all of this information with others is also only possible because it is web-based and in a collaborative profession such as teaching this is both revolutionary and challenging.

The link to my first entry on Evernote is here.

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VicPLN Assignment 1 – An Introduction

I have been a secondary teacher in Queensland for 27 years and I have taught across a wide range of subject areas having started as a teacher of Typewriting, Shorthand, Accounting and English I have constantly sought new knowledge and experiences and through constant study have since taught Chinese (after living in China for a year in the early 1990s), Information Technology (I was the Head of IT at my current school before becoming Deputy Principal) and Study of Religion.  I now teach Thinking Skills to Year 11 students and I enjoy the challenge of teaching the girls about metacognition and the importance of mindfulness.

In regard to my experience with Web 2.0 skills, I have more of a historic knowledge of web tools now that I have been Deputy for five years (and five years is a long time in technology).  Fortunately, I use the skills I have to master new tools fairly quickly.

Currently, I would say that I have a disparate PLN – I look at Twitter every few days, I love Pinterest and I have had an empty blog for about a year so I don’t think it even counts. I tend to view blogs that I connect with from Twitter – Google Reader has opened up a whole new world for me tonight. I use all of these tools in isolation from each other and I am hoping that through this course I will learn how to integrate these (and other) tools more effectively.  I also attend a number of conferences each year.

My goals for this course are to:

  1. Integrate the online tools that I current use (Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress);
  2. Learn about more online tools and become proficient in the use of these tools;
  3. Gain the confidence to make entries in my blog on a regular basis.

Pinned Image

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