social networking

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?


Where’s the warning label?

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In the article School heads called parents in cyberbully case, Chris Kenrick reports on a situation of cyberbullying and its handling in the Gunn and Palo Alto high schools. Make no mistake that this is not a one-off  unique situation that has happened only in California’s Silicon Valley. This is a global phenomenon that continues to grow as access to technology continues to increase. The rules of acceptable use and acceptable enforcement of unacceptable use are currently being written (and rewritten) around the globe as I type this blog. A couple of key questions arise in the case of Facebook hate groups and negative posts and comments posted on social networking sites: Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online? Whose responsibility is it to handle unacceptable online behavior?

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

Without a doubt, home is where all learning begins. However, let’s face it! All homes do not possess the time, awareness, knowledge, and expertise in the proper combinations to teach anything and everything. I, for one, am very thankful for those who impart their knowledge of numerous subjects to my children on a daily basis (Math is one that comes to mind) as my areas of expertise are limited. In our home, we all have a high level of comfort and ability when it comes to technology. Social networking, privacy settings, along with appropriate pictures and posts are frequent topics of conversation. Many parents, however, do not possess even a basic knowledge of these topics and often become very uncomfortable when confronted with a new piece of technology. So, at least for now, the responsibility frequently falls to the education profession to take on a significant role in guiding students through the 21st century and all of the amazing networking options it has to offer. In addition, I would strongly suggest that schools also have a leading role to play in the education of parents. By helping parents to develop their own understandings of social networking and online safety, we not only enter into a partnership, but we are able to shift more responsibility to parents as time goes on.

I am also of the mind that social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube share in the responsibility to teach children to be safe online. How difficult would it be for major websites frequented by minors to create online safety campaigns offering advice and guidelines to children and their parents? These websites certainly possess the medium and skilled employees to create instructional videos, infographics, billboards, and memes. O.K., so apparently there is a Family Safety Center on Facebook and Safety: Parent and Teen Tips on Twitter, but is this enough? My vision would include the use of media that parents are more likely to encounter in their daily lives including billboards on their commute to work, TV commercials during shows that parents watch (or on those annoying TVs at the grocery store cash registers), and ads on websites frequented by parents.

Cigarette companies are obliged to put a warning label on their product, perhaps Facebook needs to also consider something similar.

WARNING: You may encounter bullies.
WARNING: Your emotions may be deeply wounded.
WARNING: Facebook can harm your children.
WARNING: You may encounter mean people.


Whose responsibility is it to handle unacceptable online behavior?

One might argue who is responsible to hand unacceptable online behavior. Once again, one’s first instinct might be, “Well, the parents, of course!” However, I can tell you (as the wife of a Middle School Principal) that all too often the first instinct is, “How are you (the principal or the school) going to handle this?” This may very well be because, oftentimes (as is highlighted in the Palo Alto case), the offensive comment begins off campus on a social networking site, but then spills over into the corridors and classrooms during the next school day.

The responsibility to handle unacceptable online behavior becomes a team effort with the school administrator working with both the students and the parents. This intervention typically results in a learning experience for students and parents. Recently, my principal husband revealed to a group of students, whose problems were exacerbated by social networking, how he was able to read all of the their status updates and ensuing comments without even being their “friend.” The result was advice and a quick lesson on privacy settings. Another situation unexpectedly revealed to parents that their child actually had more than one profile on a social networking site and that each profile was being used for very different purposes.

When it comes to online safety and acceptable behavior, it is extremely important that everyone in the lives of children take on a role of responsibility. It is difficult to hold a teenager accountable for her negative rants about school officials if she sees her parents using Facebook to air their own annoyances with employers and family members. It is also difficult to hold teenagers accountable for the pictures they post when they can Google a teacher only to find compromising pictures posted on the teacher’s public MySpace page. It probably goes without saying, but in the realm of creating responsible digital citizens, it takes a global village.


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

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Ka2rina. Now. 2009. Photograph. 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.


Any Time, Anywhere

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Vlacek, Rudolf. Landscape. Photograph. Flickr., 6 July 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2012..

It is difficult to dispute that technology is changing the learning landscape. Learning has quickly moved from an activity that happens within four walls requiring an instructor to a mobile process that can easily happen any time, anywhere. The ability to learn anything at any time in any space supports the freedom of individual choice. Everyone now has the ability to tailor an individual program to meet personal learning goals. A person can choose to learn independently, self-paced, synchronously, asynchronously, face-to-face with a friend or an expert located on the other side of the globe.

The blogosphere is one example of technology’s impact on independent learning. Just a decade ago my reflections on my teaching practice might have only been able to happen over coffee with a colleague, in my head, or in a personal journal. These options each provided a very limited audience, most frequently an audience of one: me. Now I can offer up my reflections, wonderings, frustrations, successes, and questions with a simple click of the “Publish” button on the right-hand side of my screen. At that moment my potential audience immediately multiplies exponentially. This particular act of publishing in the life of a learner exposes writing to a world of reviewers and commentators who can offer peer review or even a mentor relationship. The option of the world as an audience vs. the audience of one offers a variety of perspectives that enriches the learning experience in ways that were previously limited. Blogging allows anyone to write for a live audience in real-time, rather than an audience of one, e.g., the teacher with a red pen.

Fdecomite. Kaleidoscope V. 2007. Photograph. 12 Mar. 2007. Web. 17 Mar. 2012.

In addition to blogging there are numerous options for creating a product for a global public. Through the creative process we stretch ourselves, grow, and learn. My 14-year-old is becoming rather adept at employing this method of learning. In the 21st century he can be an author, an editor, an instructor, or a music video producer whenever he chooses. I watch him frequently create and produce for a global consumer base. His list of accomplishments currently includes YouTube videos and fanfiction.  For Youtube his creations involve editing video clips from video game sequences that he has actually played with friends. He lays in a music track to compliment the action and, voilà, he produces a music video. Some days he chooses to be an author who writes elaborate fanfiction stories. The plots involve multiple characters and universes from his favorite book series, movies, and video games. He publishes his stories online at where his growing fan base reads, subscribes to, and comments on his written work. The feedback provided for each of his projects serves as a kaleidoscope lens revealing a diverse set of comments unlike the oftentimes one-sided-task-specific-commentary provided by the audience of one. Feedback from multiple vantage points can support meaningful growth and development as a writer-creator. The lessons in creating for an audience have great impact on each subsequent project.

Individual learning can easily be paired with collaborative learning experiences. An individual can partner up and share in the creative process. This can be done independently or through online workshops such as the 1001 Flat World Tales Project. The 1001 Tales Project provides “a global writing workshop between international and public schools around the world.” In this format, students and teachers can find others with whom they can connect and create. The Flat Classroom Project site is a hub that serves as a classified listing of online classroom collaborations that deal in “real-world scenarios based on The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.” The endgame is the flattening of classroom walls allowing students to learn with others in one large classroom developing cultural understanding. This is all made possible through the advent of Web 2.0 tools. These are exciting interactive opportunities that would have been challenging, if not impossible, to accomplish in that time period known as B.I. (before internet).

Learning is currently anything but a lonely journey. An individual can seek as little or as much companionship as required throughout the process. Technology offers access to a partner, a teacher, an audience, or a critic to those who seek. This public is always ready to view, comment, collaborate, subscribe, follow, edit, and create. Anyone. Any time. Anywhere.



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.


Anticipation Scaffolding

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In the article, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, George Siemens asserts that “as knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.” In other words, the knowledge that we are able to come by in a spontaneous manner is paramount to the knowledge that we own at any given moment. The ability to quickly glean useful, reliable information is a clear priority in the 21st century. The creation of a network is crucial in the set-up of being able to access knowledge tomorrow that one doesn’t even know is needed today. A robust network of numerous connections serves to strengthen the knowledge base at our fingertips.

In the 21st century the ways in which we are connected are ever-changing. These connections  take the notion of “six degrees of separation” to a new level. In fact, through various social networking models, we may actually be decreasing the number of steps (or clicks) between individuals.

According to a study of 5.2 billion such relationships by social media monitoring firm Sysomos, the average distance on Twitter is 4.67. On average, about 50% of people on Twitter are only four steps away from each other, while nearly everyone is five steps away.

In another work, researchers have shown that the average distance of 1,500 random users in Twitter is 3.435. They calculated the distance between each pair of users using all the active users in Twitter.

It is through these varying degrees of separation that we establish requisite connections to knowledge, knowledge that we don’t even know we will need. Therefore, when we are confronted with a situation that requires knowledge that we do not possess, we can activate our connections via Twitter and other social media sites. We drop our pebble in hopes that it will create a ripple in the sea of users. When the correct series of connections are made, the knowledge that we seek will eventually flow back to us to answer our questions and to increase our knowledge.

Awareness vs. Unawareness

As educators, we often anticipate the needs of students. In turn, educational leaders also anticipate the needs of teachers by anticipating what they will need to know in order to facilitate student learning. Student skills and teacher skills are greatly impacted by anticipating the knowledge necessary to learn or strengthen a new concept. Such a process is facilitated when supports are provided in order to scaffold the development of key learnings. This is of particular importance at the introductory stages of new concepts. As learners demonstrate increasing levels of  competence, the supports become fewer and less necessary.  Growing skills that build towards mastery can make scaffolding a clear cut activity.

Perhaps a key new skill is the ability to engage in, what I will call, “anticipation scaffolding.” Since, according to Siemens, “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today,” it may be advantageous to create a systematic series of steps to anticipate what we don’t know. As Siemens points out “when knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.” So, it is through established social network connections that we can most easily practice anticipation scaffolding by accessing and growing a knowledge base before we even know that we will need it.

The initial stage of anticipation scaffolding is the ability to recognize what we need to know. In general, this is relatively easy. I know that I don’t need to know the particulars of string theory. The day-to-day flow of both my personal and professional lives will not be affected due to my ignorance of this topic. On the other hand, there are many things that I do need to know in order to be successful in the various facets of my professional life as a curriculum coordinator. The knowledge that I need shifts depending on the curriculum project that I am working on. Most recently I have needed to know and understand the steps of Backward Design planning, current standards in Physical Education, and how to establish student outcomes as they relate to Mathematics curriculum. All of this needed knowledge, once identified, was easy to find using various social network connections including Google, Twitter, and real world colleagues.

The next stage of anticipation scaffolding is the ability to recognize what we don’t know. But how can we recognize what we don’t know? Perhaps using diverse social networking connections can help us to recognize what we don’t know. Information aggregators  such as Google Reader and Netvibes allow the creation of a knowledge base of our choosing by subscribing to blogs. These blog collections are always available and regularly updated. Through reading blogs of our choosing, our knowledge base increases. In addition, personalized magazine applications like Zite and interest-based web surfing applications like StumbleUpon increase exposure to new and unfamiliar ideas. Each exposure to a new idea is a support in the scaffolding of the knowledge that we do not possess, of the many things that we do not know. One seemingly insignificant reference today could be the springboard that directs/supports what we need to know tomorrow. This exposure to knowledge becomes the anticipation scaffolding of tomorrow’s learning.

Once what we don’t know is recognized, then we can choose to act on and grow what we are learning. We may find that the “connections created with unusual nodes support and intensify existing large effort activities.” This idea underscores the importance of establishing diversity in our connections to increase exposure to knowledge that we are able to access during the process of anticipation scaffolding.

When science fiction becomes reality…

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My love of technology most likely stems from my love of science fiction. In the early 90s I would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and envy the PADDs the characters carried around. They would use these tablets for reading reports, voice recording their daily logs, and recording the health status of patients in sickbay (often using a stylus). Only 20 years later, I have my very own iPad. Gene Roddenberry was so ahead of his time!


Videos like Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” speak to me as a fan of science fiction. The future and its technologies are presented in such a beautifully poetic manner where life is the epitome of perfection. This perfection is achieved through futuristic sci-fi technologies. Ah, the utopia of it all! But, wait! We all know how these fictional scenarios of utopia end, right? Think of Jonah, Ender, and Katniss. Behind the glass perfection and everyone learning in their own little pod that is best suited to their learning style lies the dysfunction that is dystopia.

It’s the impersonal reality that I dread. Is it a good thing to live in a society where activities are tailored to the individual, thus creating a very ego-centric society? Social networking is interactive and collaborative at its best, but it can also be used to create a hand-crafted world where what a person sees, reads, and/or contributes is very narrowly focused. For example, on Facebook I can hide people who overpost insidious political or religious views that I don’t want mucking up my news feed. I have intentionally left some with different viewpoints in order to have access to a wider understanding and awareness of ideas and beliefs different than my own. It is important that youth (adults, too, for that matter) understand the value of understanding the other, the different. Or will there come a point when hearing voices that differ from our own will not be so important while everyone operates in their own personalized world where they only hear and see what they want?