PLN

COETAIL, Part Deux

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Now that I have successfully completed the COETAIL program, I feel compelled to blog!

I already find myself anticipating the next course…only there isn’t one.

Really? No full Master’s or PhD? Wouldn’t it be awesome to be “Dr. COETAIL”? Hey, one can dream, right?

The good news is that COETAIL, Part Deux does exist…as an independent study of sorts. The bad news challenge is that now I’m driving, planning, and organizing what it looks like. This is both exciting and intimidating. Through the COETAIL program, I have developed some real skills and habits that, at a minimum, need to be maintained. These include:

  • a regular blogging habit: weekly blogging reflections were definitely motivated by the requirements of each course. However, in the process, blogging has become a way to put myself, my thoughts, my ideas, and my actions “out there.” As a result, I gain feedback that challenges my thinking and connections with others who only make me better at what I do.
  • a solid, ever-expanding knowledge base: this began with building up a personal (now ill-fated) Google reader. I regularly use other aggregators and curation apps (like Zite, Flipboard, and Netvibes) that help me to mine the gems within a variety of my interest areas as an educator, a runner, a vegetarian, and a tech geek.
  • an amazing PLN: via Twitter, I have crazy access to people with all kinds of knowledge, talents and interests! I am often humbled by the projects that are proposed, acted on, and shared across the globe. Of course, this doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction (although some days it does the trick!), but let’s face it, most of us only come into contact with a very limited number of the same people on a daily basis. Regardless of how collaborative and creative these people might be, it’s a bubble that can be very limiting.
  • Presentation Zen: this has been a game-changer for me. I can no longer create, nor sit through, slides of text. Presentation Zen is a concept that should become part of every school’s taught curriculum! There is still far too much death by Powerpoint happening in today’s world.
  • Doing and Sharing: integrating technology to enhance student learning is definitely something that I am very passionate about. I think that I have typically been a very good sharer of ideas and resources. COETAIL has provided me with a new  perspective on what can be shared (images, ideas, opinions, presentations) and how to share (Twitter, blog posts, iMovie presentations, YouTube, blog comments, Google Hangouts).

So, the big question is: how will I go about maintaining these skills and taking them to new levels?

  • Blogging. Well, here I am blogging without the extrinsic motivation of a course grade. 🙂 I see myself continuing this habit, but I will admit that maintaining a regular schedule concerns me.
  • Learning. Reading and keeping up with professional, eduction-related blogs is something that I see as being very easy for me to maintain. This is a habit that has become something that I do every day at some very predictable times.
  • Networking. I was getting great ideas and recommendations from Twitter connections well before joining the COETAIL program. Now I have a deeper and wider PLN which includes COETAILers from all over the world, at various stages in the program, and at different levels of tech integration. Within my PLN I am not only a learner, but am also a teacher at times. The really fun part of having a PLN is establishing a virtual connection that becomes a real live connection at a NESA conference, IB training, or some other professional meet-up.
  • Presenting. This is a new level of challenge that I would like to explore. I think that my learnings , activities, connections, and reflections that resulted from the COETAIL program have been significant confidence builders. I have often thought about presenting at a conference, but a lack of confidence has been a significant obstacle for me. I think some of the behind-the-scenes activities like blogging and tweeting have been really helpful for me in taking some risks, sharing my ideas, and being met with positive feedback and encouragement. Presentation Zen has also been instrumental in helping me to develop concepts and ideas on deeper levels. The power of using visuals to communicate big ideas has had a great impact on me. The search for the “just right” image to convey meaning requires me to dig deep into an idea. An in-depth image search leads me to clarify what it is that I am presenting. The end result is that I feel more confident in the knowledge and ideas that I am using to engage an audience.
  • Doing and Sharing. My current position finds me interacting far more with teachers than with students. I will need to be creative in how I continue to integrate technology. Integrating technology has a slightly different context in the ways that I work with teachers in collaborative groups. However, these opportunities will provide me with occasions to model and encourage the use of technology. How I go about doing this will be worth sharing through blog posts and the occasional summary video presentation. I think the challenges here are remembering to share and taking the time to organize projects worth sharing into an engaging presentation format.

So, there’s my vision for my COETAIL, Part Deux.

What is your plan for Part Deux?

How will you maintain and build on your COETAIL learnings?

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Course 1, Final Project: The 21st Century is Now

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Ka2rina. Now. 2009. Photograph. Flickr.com. 12 Oct. 2009. Web. 17 Mar. 2012.

As a Curriculum Coordinator with a passion for technology integration, I find myself more and more in the realm of teaching where the learners are my colleagues. As my school quickly moves towards 1:1 iPad adoption for the 2012 – 2013 school year, the need for professional development support among colleagues is becoming increasingly critical. The need for teachers to find the support they need to experience success is the focus of my final course one COETAIL project: The 21st Century is Now.

Key learning activities would help teachers to build a comfort level with their own technological understandings and skills. Through an opportunity in supported dabbling, a community of users could evolve. The final product of this project would be a thriving Professional 21st Century Learning Community established by and for teachers at my school.

 

Demonstrate. Collaborate. Communicate. Model.

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I have collaboration on the brain. It is also on the brains of other educators and curriculum coordinators, as evidenced by my Tweep, Stacy, in her recent blog post. I love to collaborate. Some of my fondest teaching memories are those brainstorming, planning, developing, moderating, and creating with numerous colleagues over the past couple of decades. However, in a new position that finds me in an office all alone, well, my opportunities to collaborate are not quite as numerous as they once were. Perhaps they could be more plentiful, but collaboration doesn’t feel as easy as it was back in the days of planning as part of a grade-level or subject-specific team.

When lists of 21st century skills are compiled, collaboration is one skill in particular that is a constant. When considering the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), it is clear that the collaborative process is key to meeting many outcomes successfully, thus strongly implying that a collaborative process be in place. The NETS-T document puts forth

The standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge educators need to teach, work, and learn in an increasingly connected global and digital society

The third standard addresses “model[ing] digitial age work and learning.” Through this standard “teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.” In order to successfully meet this standard, teachers in the digital age should be able to:

Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations

For me, this is perhaps the easiest of the four outcomes. I live and breathe this particular outcome. Through demonstration, those around me have observed my comfort level with and ability to use technology, both personally and professionally. I used to disregard the comments and compliments from my colleagues, but I have gradually grown to accept that I really have achieved a level of technological fluency that is certainly not possessed by the masses. So, I forge ahead learning new apps, reading articles, reflecting, blogging, and growing through a program like COETAIL.

Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation

Teaching in a classroom allows for collaborating with the student population. However, the thought of moving out into the next layers of the school community provokes a feeling of overwhelming futility. This may be a slightly extreme reaction, but the thought of transferring my knowledge of technology to my peers feels like an enormous task.

Firstly, there are about 180 teachers on staff. One hundred and eighty! To accomplish the feat of just working with the sheer volume of bodies would require a small army. This is where a support team of technology coaches would be useful. These coaches would ideally be full-time positions with no other job responsibility than working to support teachers. However, even a handful of teachers willing to take on small tasks with teaching teams would be helpful.

Secondly, like students in a heterogeneously grouped classroom, my 180 peers possess such a wide range of  comfort levels, background knowledge, skills, and motivation that a one-size-fits-all approach seems destined to fail. In this situation a differentiated approach to professional development would be the only way to go.

Thirdly, addressing the needs and varying levels of interest and abilities of an entire staff requires a vision, support, and time. In order to reach for the NETS-T a clear plan of action is required.

Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats

Communicating information and ideas effectively is certainly simplified through blogs, newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, and email. These tools for communication allow for the wide dissemination of information in a timely manner. As a direct result of familiarizing myself with the NETS-T document, I realized that the communication piece might be an area to address in order to foster an increase in meaningful collaborations. This week I began the Curriculum Weekly blog.  My intention is that this blog will help to facilitate the sharing of some basic information about 21st learning that will reach a significant percentage of my 180 peers on staff. If I am really lucky, this blog will serve to nurture a collaboration or two for myself, as well as many others.

Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning

This is about “sharpening of the saw” as referenced by Stephen Covey. It is through “balanc[ing] and renew[ing] resources, energy,” and knowledge that we develop our skills and remain effective. For me, this is where my social network plays a role in helping me to achieve this standard. It is through following all of those links shared by friends and strangers on Facebook and Twitter, watching TED talk videos, reading the Mashable blog, and ‘messing around’ with new media that we develop proficiency in “model[ing] and facilitat[ing] effective use of current and emerging digital tools.” It also takes courage to blaze the trail to show others how it’s done!

The four verbs that introduce each of these outcomes hold the key to the 21st century skill of collaboration. Each action is connected to, and can lead to, the establishment of a collaborative environment. Through demonstrating our technological fluency, we present ourselves as capable to assist and lead. Through collaboration with various stakeholders, we learn from each other as we build relationships and make connections. Through communicating our knowledge and experiences, we open ourselves to new possibilities. Through modeling our learning about, and use of, emerging digital tools, we position ourselves to be ready to grow ideas within a collaborative situation.

 

A Never Ending Loop

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While reading Jeff Utecht’s blog post, “Stages of PLN adoption”, I found that I could identify with each of the stages of adopting a personal learning network. I have experienced each stage to varying degrees in conjunction with the establishment of the myriad PLNs that I have experimented with (including: Twitter, Classroom 2.0 Ning, Curriculum 21, The International School Teacher, CEET NING). The intensity of each stage is directly tied to the level of personal engagement that I feel in connecting with a platform. The look and feel of a PLN, the voices contributing, and the topics of discussion are all key elements tied to my personal interest level that determine just how immersed I will become.

For me, these stages not only apply to PLN adoption, but to the broader journey into the world of 21st century educational technology: the learning, the growth, the implementing of an idea, the ebb and flow of interest, the lack of time, the loss of time, the frustration, the desire to know it all, the realization that knowing it all is an effort in futility…

I am entering the COETAIL program with the intention of gaining perspective and moving towards a state of balance. The stages of immersing, evaluating, and knowing it all can easily create a never ending loop from which it can be difficult to emerge. Being stuck in the Sisyphean task of learning, and keeping up with, technology often gets in the way of my progression to a stage of deeper thinking about the application of all of the knowledge gained.

I have recently arrived at a stage of acceptance. I accept that I possess a lot of knowledge about technology, how it can be used in the classroom, how it should be used to reach a level of creating on Bloom’s taxonomy; however, getting what I know out to colleagues is an aspect that I find challenging. There is so much that is important to share, that it is overwhelming to know where/how to begin. So, I intend to make this an opportunity to learn and reflect, an opportunity to develop my plan, to take some steps forward towards the next level of collaboration in hopes of inspiring those around me to take a few steps forward.