Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Personal learning is a job?

I don't often do these kind of "in response to" posts, but I'm taking this online course where we have to dig through our reader and share a post that is particularly meaningful to us. Looking through my own reader, I ran across The Job of Personal Learning from injenuity. Although I will have already blogged about it for my class, I felt compelled to cross-post here as well.

I only wish there had been time to read this before I did my presentation, Time for a PLaN, at GaETC. Had that been the case, I think I may have changed the approach I took just a bit. Why? Because in her post, she approaches the building of a PLN by looking at it as a job. I knew that building a PLN was work, knew that it takes time, and knew that you have to dedicate yourself to your tools of choice and to fostering the connections. Even knowing all of this, I didn't think of it as a job, probably because I eat this stuff up. I quickly realized the benefits of my network and I was hooked!

This part really rocked me, that rang true with me (the grace of 20/20 vision after the fact) was this,

"When I look at it as a job, I can see why introducing it to groups en masse doesn’t lead to successful adoption."

Yes, I enjoyed a rather self-depreciating laugh. After all, that's exactly what I attempted to do. But hey, so did David Warlick and Steve Dembo, too. At least I was in good company, right? Of course. My expectations were a smidgen too high though. Yes, I am a glass 1/2 full kind of girl, but I believe in the power of positive thought. Yes, I thought I might could possibly start a PLN wave. I think perhaps it was more like a pebble dropped into a large lake though.

Regardless, Jen's quote above is all too true. After reflecting on it, I realized that I have had much more success with colleagues becoming involved in aspects of building a PLN because I have been able to intimately demonstrate the power of my PLN and I have been able to, in effect, mentor them. Those who I have been able to do that with have stuck with it. Given that, I think perhaps exposing people to the concepts of PLNs is fine en masse, but if I would truly like others to embrace the possibilities a PLN can bring to their professional practice, then I need to think small.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Steve Dembo - Extreme Makeover: Education Edition

I have been looking forward to attending at least one of Steve Dembo's (aka Teach42) sessions at GaETC 2008, both because he's in my PLN and I have heard great things about his past presentations. I introduced myself before he started, which was odd in itself. I mean how many times do you go up to someone and say, "Hi, I'm cobannon from Plurk"? Thankfully, he recognized the name.

His session was titled "Extreme Makeover: Education Edition" and before the session began he gave me a quick overview of what he would be doing and told me that I didn't need to be in it, that I probably knew everything because this was going to be geared for the Web 2.0 newbie. That was exactly what I needed though - an approach to introducing teachers in my district to Web 2.0 tools. He further described his presentation as non-linear and that this was would be his first time doing a session like this. That alone intrigued me.

As he began, I felt a little like an audience member of a game show. He chose a newbie out of the audience and sat her at his computer. Then he brought up a game show grid, like something you'd see on Jeopardy or "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?", and had her pick a category of interest. Each category was then linked to a particular Web 2.0 site that he had his volunteer, Fiona, sign up for and use. During the presentation the rest of the audience got involved by yelling out the names of categories they wanted to Fiona to explore.

In the end, I did learn of a few sites that I had not seen before, but more importantly, Steve gave us all ideas about how to incorporate these sites into classroom instruction, which to me was the most valuable piece. Had his session lasted two or even three hours, I think we could have kept on using a variety of volunteers. I plan to set aside some time (hopefully soon) to exploring some of the ones that were featured.

For a complete accounting of his session, I live Plurked it. Steve said that he'll upload his presentation including the links to the sites he used to his blog.

Photo Source: Gamerscore on Flickr
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

TIme for a PLaN - My Presentation at GaETC 2008

After years (Okay, so it only felt like years) of preparation, I finally presented at GaETC this morning to a rousing crowd of less than 10 people. Granted the session began at 8:15 am and often people choose to sleep in (aka "ditch") the first session of the day. Regardless, I am very pleased with the way the presentation went and learned that what I presented cannot be done in one hour!

I thought, which was my first mistake - never assume, that my presentation itself would last half an hour leaving me with another thirty minutes for my participants to explore some of the PLN sites. Nope. I think we had oh, five minutes? Even though I went long, my evaluations were very positive. (Wipe sweat off brow).

I chose to Ustream my session, which I have never done before and it worked! I was very pleased that I could share my presentation with some of my PLN since without them I certainly couldn't have done it. Adding to that, my Plurk buddy csgodfrey, who I had not met until the day before, was there for both moral support and to lend a hand. I hope others get the chance to meet her because she's a sweetheart in person!

On the downside, I was so nervous that I forgot to record my Ustream. (Insert expletive here). I want to thank everyone who did watch and also to those who replied to my Plurk shout out. Can I say how much I loved it that within 10 minutes I had over 15 replies? I sincerely hope that I what I shared resonates with them enough that they pursue building their own PLN. Whether it's using microblogs or simply reading and commenting on blogs, it if allows them to feel more connected and to learn, then it will make my day.

The wiki for the presentation includes all sorts of links for beginners to help build their PLN. Right now the wiki is public, so if you'd like to add to what I have there, feel free. I'll shift it over to protected within the next few days most likely. My presentation is also uploaded to slideshare and posted on the wiki (and here). You can download it and modify it to meet your needs if you'd like. If you weren't able to listen to my presentation, then some of the slides might not make sense. If I get time, I'll use Camtasia to record the presentation with audio.

Time for a PLaN
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: pln networking)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

GaETC Keynote - Ron Clark

I just left the Keynote at GaETC given by Ron Clark of the Ron Clark academy. I had heard incredible things about him, but to say that I was blown away by him is putting it mildly. It makes me want to go back to teaching (almost).

One of the first things that he spoke about was the Presidential Rap song that his kids did that was recorded and put on YouTube and has since gone viral and gotten attention from major networks. He performed a bit of it for us and here is the video of his students.

The man is a dynamo of energy and creativity and much of what he said really touched to the heart of what teaching is all about - at least for me. He spoke of innovation and creativity and how we cannot expect our students to be innovative or creative if WE are not allowed to be. Teaching to the test has become the mantra in so many of our classrooms. We have to teach "down" to our brightest kids, they have become the tutors for those struggling, but what about them? He says that we have "flipped the script" entirely in teaching to attempt to not leave any child behind. He approaches things from a different angle, teaching to the brightest instead and raising the others up and he had succeeded.

Music in his classroom, finding what "clicks" with his students and incorporating that into his daily instruction is key. He says it's all about the atmosphere in the classroom. Set the tone, smile, let the kids know that you care because if you don't care about them and let them know about it, how can we expect them to care about themselves and to take ownership of their learning? We've got to think outside the box.

He has 55 rules in his school. I was shocked to hear he had that many, but he defended them by saying that they provide a strict structure that his students appreciate. They know the expectations, they are aware of the consequences. Once those are in place, then he can be as crazy, innovative, silly, and jump on as many desks as he wants to. Set the structure in place first. Being proactive in the beginning gets better results in the end.

Some of the funnier moments in his speech is when he spoke about promoting his book on Oprah. He said that it was she who encouraged him to write a book and after sending her a copy she invited him back to the show. She showed the book to her audience, told them to buy it and then hugged it. From Ron Clark's mouth (loosely), "When Oprah tells you to write a book, you do it." "When Oprah hold your book close to her bosom, you're in." The next day, his book was number two on the best seller's list - right behind Harry Potter.

It was the proceeds from his book that he used to found the Ron Clark Academy in an abandoned factory in South Atlanta. They had 19 break-ins during construction, but he did a four month tour of the neighborhood introducing himself and speaking about his school, eventually the community took ownership of it and helped to build it into what is today. He said that buildings to the right and left have graffiti, but it's like his school is this fortress because not a mark you'll find on his building. He even got some of the street walkers to pitch in. "If you call them, they'll come. They won't stay long, but they helped." And these were some of the very people who were trashing the neighborhood in the first place.

Clark says, if our schools aren't what we want them to be then it's our fault. If you want to make changes, if you want innovation, then everyone has to be on the same page.

Clark says that he doesn't like every student that he's ever had and tells the story of Rondell - a child who he particularly disliked. And of course, Rondell was one of those kids who was never absent. He might be late, letting Clark think he had a reprieve from his nightmare, but then he'd show up with the tardy slip in hand. On the outside he'd tell Rondell, "It's great to have you here, I thought you weren't going to show up today!" but on the inside he'd say "Oh shit!" However, Rondell never knew Clark's true feelings about him because he had established a relationship with the child and an atmosphere in his classroom where students knew that he cared about their success.

One of the last examples he shared with us was of a baseball game of a student that he attended. The student asked why he was there and he told him that he was there to watch him. Not even the boy's mother was at the game. The student would continue to look at him during the game to see if Clark was watching and he was. The next Monday, that student who had not been engaged in class was paying attention and even telling other students to be quiet. Others have said that they have families and don't have time to visit homes or spend three hours at a game. Clark's reply? Three hours at a game can save you a year of heartache.

I think my favorite example that he shared with us was about his chocolate milk chugging. His Harlem kids loved chocolate milk, to chug it in fact. He brought in carton after carton of chocolate milk and told them that he was going to teach them about dangling participles and for every three minutes they paid attention, he would chug a carton of chocolate milk and continue to do so as long as they paid attention and eventually they could see him throw up. They did, and after 14 cartons, he threw up. Now that's sacrifice to get your students engaged in your lesson. It also created conversation within the homes of these children, conversations about school that wouldn't have occurred before and that helped him gain parental support.

The key to it all is high expectations. Continue to teach to the brightest. Be innovative, creative. Think outside the box and engage the students. Find what interest them and bring it into the classroom. His test scores are proof. Can everyone teach like Ron Clark? No, but there are certain ideals that he embraces which every teacher can take to heart.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Harnessing The Power of My PLN : Part II

After making the decision to apply to present at GaETC this year, I turned to my PLN for help. First, I needed a name for my presentation and I knew I could get some creative help from my fellow Plurkers. I wasn't disappointed either. Here are some of the suggestions they came up with. You can click on the screen shot to take you to the Plurk page.

I was able to take these great ideas and combine them into my title : Time for a PLaN: The Power of Connectivism and Collective Intelligence. With my title in hand, I created my proposal summary and once again turned to my PLN for their invaluable feedback and received many replies with great suggestions.

Thanks to their assistance, my proposal was accepted and as I write this, I will be presenting in two days. Being able to harness the power of my PLN in order to educate and encourage others about about building one of their own has been invaluable. This presentation will most definitely live up to its title. From the development of my proposal to the content of the presentation, none of it would be possible without them. A true example of collective intelligence at work.

It was about this time last year that I embraced the idea of building my own network of support and I haven't looked back. It's been a whirlwind of a year with a huge learning curve that at times made my head spin from the information overload. However, I wouldn't trade "them" or the knowledge I've acquired for anything.