Silence isn’t Golden.

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Speak Out

Why do we see digital learning spaces any differently than physical? What is it about social media platforms like Twitter and Google+ that cause us to hesitate and resist sharing ideas, providing feedback and engaging in professional discussions? When will we begin to see online communities as extensions of our own face-to-face PLN? How can educators promote and model a positive digital footprint for our students unless we are also engaging in online communities?

Teachers…it’s time to break the silence.

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I’ve come to the end of Coetail Course 5, and looking back at where I started over a year ago, I’m amazed at how my professional learning network (PLN) has grown exponentially.

My journey to building my online PLN began 3 years ago when I took the plunge and finally joined Twitter. I detailed my experience with this in one of my first Coetail posts Twitter & Blogging: Happily Married:

Twitter & Blogging have exponentially expanded my PLN and literally changed my life and the way I teach. Now that this dynamic is obvious to me, the real challenge is sharing this knowledge with other educators and, more importantly, students. Returning to the idea of Prosumers (Reach p.2-6), it’s essential that we model and facilitate an atmosphere of connectivism both in schools and in our classrooms.  I really needed to dive into blogging myself to understand the benefits professionally before I could get my students on board with the idea. As I mentioned earlier, my previous school had a blogging culture, but only a small percent truly understood the opportunities blogs provided. For many teachers, blogs were considered a useful platform for documenting learning, creating a bank of resources and connecting within the classroom, but the real magic happened once teachers took risks left themselves vulnerable for the world to get a peek into their classroom.

Tweetship & Tweetmance

Since 2012, Twitter has been my main platform for networking with likeminded educators and collaborating on ideas to try in the classroom. It’s also been a hub for developing strong professional frienships, what I would deem Tweetships or Tweetmance. I am constantly in awe and inspired by other educators, and these simple, yet frequent connections to schools outside my own keep me motivated, especially during the long winter months when enthusiasm can wane. My main tweetships have been formed through #edtechchat#pypchat, and #edtech.

Since I joined Coetail and #coetailchat, I’ve further broadened my PLN, and found other useful hashtag groups to follow on Twitter such as #ecechat, #1stchat, and #kinderchat. Fellow Coetailer @ChezVivian and I have frequently connected during my Coetail journey over topics and activities we post in #makered and #EdTech. I am so grateful to her for keeping me inspired during my new role as EdTech coach.

@MrsKittoSwitzer (another Coetailer), @paulabaxter67@jackiefrens and @Shei_Asc are former colleagues whom I haven’t worked with for anywhere from 2 to 6 years, yet we continue to collaborate and share professional resources via Twitter. It’s been an excellent way to continue learning and growing together. Below you can see some of the many discussions we’ve participated in using various hashtag communities:

I was lucky to already have found a strong foundation PLN through my Apple Distinguished Educator network, and community of International School colleagues, which then expanded outwards to the 500+ Tweeters I share and collaborate with. As mentioned in my first Coetail post, many of these connections have moved beyond a public digital space to private messaging and emailing, to connect classrooms and share resources. I had mentioned in this post that Shannon O’Dwyer is a Twitter ‘colleague’ I have never met in person, but whom I connect with frequently to share articles and activity ideas. Some may deem this a full on professional #Tweetmance!

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Beyond Classroom Walls

Twitter is also an inspirational space where I’ve discovered and participated in several global projects such as #GlobalEdTed and #Ifyoulearnedhere. It was through Twitter that I found out about these fantastic collaborative projects and expanded my professional learning network.

Global Collaborative Project 1: #ifyoulearnedhere

I detailed my experience in the Global eBook Project “If You Learned Here” in one of my previous COETAIL posts Bridging Global Classrooms.  This project allowed teachers and students to connect globally on various platforms including FlipGrid, where we shared our introductory videos, Padlet, where schools shared about their school environment, the country they lived in, or their daily schedules.

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Again, Twitter was the main platform I used to network and connect with other educators participating in this project. Below are some of the Tweets I shared with other participants, using the #ifyoulearnedhere hashtag:

 

Global Collaborative Project 2: #GlobalEdTed

Another way I’ve built my PLN and connected globally since beginning my COETAIL journey was joining the Traveling Teddybear Project, hosted by former Coetailer Pana AsavavatanaIt’s been a huge success at our school and we’ve engaged with other classrooms through Twitter, Skype and the Traveling Teddy Blog.

These 3 posts can be read on Freddy’s Blog:

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Students Skyped with The Phoenix School, who are located in Massachusetts USA, and hosted Freddy before he arrived in Switzerland. They had lots of questions for each other, and students shared information about their schools, daily routines and favourite memories with Freddy the Teddy.

My Google+ Community

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Through my G+ profile, I’ve attempted to engage with various Google+ communities. Initially I found the response rate slower than on Twitter. Also, there seemed to be less participation as these communities are restricted to Google accounts. However, it’s in this space where I first connected with Phillip Cowell, when I joined the Elementary and Primary School EdTech G+ Community. I posted this question:

How can we balance Play-based learning and tech? What should tech look like in Early Years (3-6 year olds)? (link to G+ post).

This discussion led to me learning about his fabulous Easy Blogger Jr app that I later used in my role as EdTech Coach in EY-G1.

Here is a link to another discussions I posted a couple months later, when I was preparing for my new role. I was trying to find out how to start an Action Research project in the Early Years. There was some great back-and-forth discussion Claudia Lee, who shared her experience and documents with me. @Phillip_Cowell and I continue to engage in dialogue sharing posts about #easybloggerjr, as it was one of the platforms I conducted an informal action research on. I detailed my initial perspectives on a professional blog I created for our school Tech in Early Years.

Once I started my new role, I decided to share my progress with the same Google+ Community. I used Animoto to create a video documenting some of the ways I’d started integrating iPads in Early Years. It generated some discussion with another member, Reuben Bathgateand I was beginning to see the advantage of participating in a network that allowed us to continue discussions beyond 140 characters.

Since Coetail Course 5 started, I’ve made more of an effort to reconnect with the G+ Community and have shared in some discussions in the Tech Integrator’s corner. One discussion posted by Jackie Heinzelmann was about how to manage ‘off-task’ students who tend to check other platforms instead of doing work (see chat here) :

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Martha Thornburgh also recently posted a question in the group Instructional Technology Integrators & Coaches that has generated a lot discussion around the implementation of Digital Citizenship in schools. My response is below.

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Apple Distinguished Educators: #ade2015

I am fortunate to be part of a wide network of EdTech-focused educators through the Apple Distinguished Educators Programme. It’s through this community, that I began to collaborate more with @terSonya whom I only met for the first time last March 2015, at the Learning 2.0 conference. We then found out she would also be at the ADE conference in Amsterdam and following our second face-to-face collaboration, we continued to meet and discuss via twitter both publicly and through direct messaging. Since we both have the same role as EdTech Coaches (she at MIS, Germany), we found ourselves having loads to share and I’ve since been promoting her new iBooks on EdTech with staff at my school. Below you can see a snapshot of a typical exchange where we pose a question or share resources with each other and fellow ADEs in our region. The discussion about pixel coding was quite long and can be read in more detail here.

Full Circle with COETAIL

Lastly, the #Coetail and #coetailchat communities continues to be a place where I am introduced to more and more like-minded teachers who I can follow on Twitter and build my PLN. Recently I participated in a Blogging Twitter chat at #March2c . The questions were provocative and generated a lot of discussion that left all of us feeling like we had a lot more to think about and research as we push blogging in our schools and classrooms.

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Here is a storify of our discussion:

Some of the best exchanges I’ve had since starting my Coetail journey have been the back and forth exchanges through the comments section of our Coetail blogs. I recently added a post from my Eduro Coaching Course, “Show What You Don’t Know”, and was excited to make a connection with another coach. Below you can see another example of the many back and forth exchanges from a previous post, Coding: A Blast from the Past :

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However we choose to break the silence ~ be it on Coetail blogs, Twitter or Google+ communities ~ we need to be open to maintaining these connections over time. Thanks to Coetail, my PLN has expanded across all three platforms and I’ve gained confidence to share my perspectives and experiences through more than just 140 characters. Just like our students, we need to think beyond the walls of our own schools, and be open to connecting globally with each other.

Bridging Global Classrooms

Last week I embarked on a new journey with 4 classroom teachers at my school. We decided to participate in a Global Collaborative eBook Project called If You Learned Here. Based on the book If You Lived Here, students and teachers will connect over several weeks and share what learning looks like in our schools. The end goal is to create an eBook representing learning across the globe.

It’s my first time participating in a global project like this, and also my first time participating in something without having a class of my own! As edTech coach I am helping to coordinate the 4 participating teachers (who are spread across two campuses), and we managed to get our first school video together to post on our cohort’s flipgrid.

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Screenshot from our cohort’s Flipgrid board

Here is our video:

Global Connections

I first found out about the project through Twitter when Kim Cofino posted a tweet advertising this opportunity. Just another perfect example of how Twitter and Blogging inspire each other!

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It immediately peaked my interest as I’m already a huge fan of the Book Creator app, and I tend to jump at any opportunity to encourage teachers & students at my school to engage with tech in unique and meaningful ways. It is also an opportunity for students to connect with students from around the globe, while providing a purpose for teachers to expand their PLNs while learning the concept of a global collaborative project. What I also love about this project is it promotes the use of tech at the top phase of higher-order thinking skills: creation. Each week participating students have the opportunity to create something and contribute to global learning.

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Looking at this project through the lens of SAMR, I definitely see it as operating in the Redefinition phase as the collaborative aspect of this project could not exist without the use of technology. Furthermore, the end goal involves a multi-media eBook drawing on information shared across various platforms, further redefining a new task.

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Image created by Jonathan Brubaker

I’m also pleased that it encourages participants to try 2 new platforms: Flipgrid and Padlet, both which easily enable collaboration between schools. I see potential for both of these platforms to be used in future projects, whether connecting student blogs or collaborating on UOIs. It will be interesting to survey teachers at the end of this project and see what they think about using these tools again.

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Screenshot from If You Learned Here Padlet Board

Change = Growing Pains

After completing week 0 and week 1 of the project, I’ll admit that being in a coordination role has it’s challenges as the participating teachers have different levels of confidence with tech in general. Keeping the ISTE Coaches Standards in mind, I really wanted to be there as a facilitator and scaffold this opportunity for them, while still putting the classroom teacher in the driver’s seat. I knew it would feel overwhelming for some, but I’m working towards taking the training wheels off for staff at our school, and I want them to begin finding answers for themselves, rather than relying on me to find the answers for them. Initially I had an encouraging 11 respondents. Yet after maintaining my position, and continually guiding them to look and refer to specific areas on the blog for their answers, only 4 teachers decided to commit. Nonetheless, as this is my first year in this role and at this school, I see every new project and challenge as an opportunity to ‘sandbox’ it and follow up with evidence and success stories for the following year.

One of the biggest challenges was coordinating the flipgrid video, as we need 1 video on our school’s behalf, yet not all teachers work on the same campus. For this first week’s task I decided to support teachers and asked each class to submit a few photos or collages answering the questions posed on Week 1 Flipgrid which focused on Our School & Community. A few teachers found this task time-consuming, and at the end of creating the iMovie, I realised I needed to video the video itself in order to upload the final product onto Flipgrid. Whoops…huge learning opportunity for me! I ended up contacting the coordinators of the project (Carolyn Skibba and Mary Morgan Ryan) who suggested sharing the flipgrid across the 4 classes, so each class took turns responding to future weekly questions. I thought it was pretty incredible how responsive they were and how quickly they were able to partner with me in finding a solution for our school. This interaction here further emphasises the importance of communitynetworks and connectivism, in order for authentic learning to happen. Without Twitter and email connections, how could educators and classrooms troubleshoot together?

The project also has a fantastic twitter feed to under #ifyoulearnedhere and I’ve already exponentially expanded my PLN just from following participants in this feed. I just love how this project promotes natural integration of social media and collaboration tools!

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Changing Learning Landscapes

Without question, this project illustrates how educational landscapes are changing and expanding. No longer are we confined to the walls of our classroom.. for sharing learning globally is both encouraged and expected in many schools already. No longer is learning separated by its discipline, we can connect all disciplines through project-based learning opportunities. No longer does communication and showcasing exist solely in writing and images..we have opportunities for live video-feed and engaging with classrooms in real-time. No longer do we need to refer to a guide book to find answers…we can contact the creators themselves! I think this project is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the kind of learning that can happen, both for teachers at my own school and beyond. I was inspired by Kim Cofino’s related blog post that outlines Step by Step  how to set up a global collaboration. At the moment, I feel I’m playing catch up on a few of those steps as I troubleshoot and find the best way to support teachers in my coordination role, but overall I am thrilled to be participating in this unique opportunity for students & teachers and can’t wait to see where our learning stands in 6 weeks when it’s all finished.

Twitter & Blogging : Happily Married

“You can’t have one without the other…” Frank Sinatra Love & Marriage

The Courting Phase: Getting to know each other

I remember the moment I realised the important…no…crucial relationship between Twitter and blogging. It was waaaay back…in 2012. I’d recently started a job at a new school in Indonesia that fostered a culture of blogging, yet I had no idea what this culture looked like or its purpose. We’d had valuable workshops to support our learning but I lacked understanding in the role of blogging. Connectivism wasn’t even in my vocabulary yet.

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I did what I thought I should for my first blog post: I documented the learning, posted some photos, added some captions, a few paragraphs…and waited. After a few days of dead silence, I thought to myself, What does an educator have to do to get noticed?

[Enter: Twitter]

I’d heard about Twitter, had been signed up for a year already at that point, but didn’t have the courage to actually create my own tweets (I’d merely dabbled in a re-tweet or two). After sharing my first post with my partner (and then Tech Coach) Tricia Friedman, she encouraged me to tweet my blog using a few relevant hashtags #pypchat #ibpyp and #ellchat.

What happened next changed my relationship with social media forever.

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My interpretation of how twitter and blogging nurture each other. Image from a PD I delivered in Nov 2013


Dinner for 2: Sparks Fly

Shortly after Tweeting my blog post, my eye caught a related article under #pypchat. I realised immediately it would be a perfect connection for our Unit of Inquiry. And so the dance began. I retweeted the post and followed the Tweeter. The Tweeter followed me in return, and favourited my post. Finally, I was connecting, and finally a relationship was forming. I had an audience to share my lesson ideas with and a community to learn from. Suddenly I was blogging like crazy! I documented as many lessons and activities as I could using my iPhone, then took time after school to reflect on the lessons on my blog. It was as much for my own professional development as it was to share the great things my G5 EAL students were doing.

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Evolution of my blogs over past 2.5 years

Once the PYP Exhibition hit, I was able to connect with several other PYP educators through twitter and share examples of how we were integrating technology with EAL students who needed support understanding key concepts and vocabulary. My posts even appeared a few times in various paper.li’s which continued to inspire me to craft my posts for a specific audience: PYP educators & tech enthusiasts.

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All that said, the biggest ‘Ah-Ha’ moment for me was when the connections went beyond retweets and sporadic appearances in paper.li’s. It happened when an educator from a school I had no connections with found my blog on twitter and left a comment. We began communicating over Twitter and email, feeding each other with inspiring ideas, articles and connecting our classrooms. Shannon is now the PYP Principal at BISS and although we’ve never met in person, our pedagogy and philosophy on constructivism in the classroom continues to drive our professional relationship through twitter and email.

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Shannon’s first comment on our class blog that detailed our Grade 4 maths inquiry  “How much is 1000?” in Aug 2013.


Sharing the Love

As we embark on our journey through Course 1 of Coetail I’m guessing there are a few Coetailers out there who are exactly where I began my relationship with Blogs & Twitter…that awkward first date. I guess my advice would be similar to anyone starting a new relationship…Don’t let first impressions turn you off. Yes I felt vulnerable writing to a global audience, and I stuttered and bumbled along  (still do) with a few awkward silences mixed in. But the reflective practice of blogging does in fact address higher order thinking skills all the way up to Analysing & Evaluation…and in fact even Creation itself (depending on the quality and content included in the post).

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This chart taken from Public Schools of North Carolina shows how Blogging allows students to operate at the top level of higher-order thinking skills.

We recently had the privilege of hosting Jeff Utecht at my current school in Switzerland and his Keynote presentations addressed the conflicting message of the traditional Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy diagram. His related blog post from Nov 2012 further unpacks this and he presents an reversed representation of Bloom’s Taxonomy where Creativity is at the bottom, thus illustrating that the most amount of time should be spent in that phase of higher order thinking. During his Keynote last week at our school, he showed us a third diagram, which actually inverses the triangle so it both visually represents ascending up through the phases of higher-order thinking skills, and accurately represents how much time should be spent in each phase. I scoured the internet and google images looking for an accurate model but have been unsuccessful. Thus, I’ve re-created the image Jeff showed us and give him full credit for this idea, as I’ve simply replicated what he showed us:

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Getting Comfortable and Settling into Relationship Norms

Now that I’ve been blogging and tweeting for over 2 years, I couldn’t think of any other way of teaching and learning. Twitter & Blogging have exponentially expanded my PLN and literally changed my life and the way I teach. Now that this dynamic is obvious to me, the real challenge is sharing this knowledge with other educators and, more importantly, students. Returning to the idea of Prosumers (Reach p.2-6), it’s essential that we model and facilitate an atmosphere of connectivism both in schools and in our classrooms.  I really needed to dive into blogging myself to understand the benefits professionally before I could get my students on board with the idea. As I mentioned earlier, my previous school had a blogging culture, but only a small percent truly understood the opportunities blogs provided. For many teachers, blogs were considered a useful platform for documenting learning, creating a bank of resources and connecting within the classroom, but the real magic happened once teachers took risks left themselves vulnerable for the world to get a peek into their classroom.

My grade 4 students learned a lot from their connections online through their student blogs and as a classroom teacher I relied on twitter connections to collaborate with other schools. One successful connection we had for a time was a Grade 5 Teacher at ZIS. This teacher had a fantastic class blog (no longer available) and presented open-ended math problems for any student to solve. My students really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in another class’ learning environment and it motivated them to write to a specific audience.

In my current role as Tech Integration Coach, I am constantly seeking those willing to push beyond their comfort zones. Blogging and Twitter are the pair I rely on to get teachers engaged in digital PLN’s. This article on Connected Educators emphasised the importance of bringing ideas to teachers, and focusing on those who want to sandbox and grow ideas into best practice. Hopefully, with a little time and courage, more educators will reap the benefits of this special marriage between Twitter & Blogs.

Ultimately, I think Diana Ross says it best: It’s a game of give and take…

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlVxEAUqWU0[/youtube]