Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

PLN awareness

Posted: October 24, 2011 in collaboration, participatory art

When we were first asked to determine or to think about what our Personal Learning Network was, I was at a bit of a loss. My PLN consisted mainly of myself, I thought. Sure I sometimes bandied ideas about around the proverbial “water cooler”, but I didn’t consider that as learning. I have to change my view on that, Because it IS learning. As a professional photographer I constantly read up on the latest in cameras, lenses, software, and a variety of other facettes of photography. I attend lecture and speeches by visiting Photography legends. One of them, noted American Ralph Gibson, said during a Q&A that everything he learned or watched made him a better photographer. Paraphrasing, he said that every dance performance he attended, every movie he saw, and every language he learned made him a better photographer. Everything he ever read, saw, or heard, was available to him as he framed his shots, made decisions on composition, exposure, and aperture. And this next part I thought was particularly interesting: he added “whether he was aware of it or not”. The more art he saw and learned about, the better was his own art.

And so it is with teaching. Every unit I plan, every lesson I develop, every activity I envisage, is influenced not only by what I’ve done in the past but by what I’ve read, seen in Alan November’s latest video, or a TED session, read in a blog, refered to in a Tweet, discussed in my cohort, and yes, by the “water cooler discussions”. I know this now; and knowing it affects how I teach. Acting on new ideas, suggestions, and concepts has already made me a better teacher, and made my students’ learning experience more engaging, and effective. By engaging more actively with my PLN I am forced to think about what I’m doing, how I am doing it, and especially why I am doing it. The more I interact with my network the better I get at teaching, and being aware of it is crucial in maximizing the benefit to my students and myself.

The sharing process in our case could have used a little more time. There is a warmup period where we informally caught up with what we’d done and how we done it over the last week. In my case the  process of creating a network is slowed down by  a couple of factors, the main one being almost all of my time is currently being used putting my Field Inquiry into action. The second factor is my standing as a relative newbie to Twitter and its functionnings. I’m certainly spending time trying to develop my own PLN, but so far I am still very much in the learning process. I can easily get sidetracked.
I will have to exercise discipline in the form of staying on task while on Twitter. I will also have to do a little more homework on the inner workings of Twitter; some form of organization in whom I follow would be helpful i.e. one group for assessment, one for technology, one for PBL, etc.
I have learned that by following my cohort peers on Twitter, I can see who they’re following and in turn add those whom I find of interest to my list of “following”. I look forward to a day where I can log on to Twitter and use it efficiently as a source of tools for me to implement, but also as a place to share my, and other educators’, successes.
 All of a sudden, in an exponential sort of way, my network is growing in leaps and bounds. From my cohorts, to whom they follow, and in turn whom they  follow, and whom they  follow…
Now, to get my Social Studies students on board!
Our literacy group of four was presented with the task of preparing a 2 to 3 slide presentation to share out about the section in the Jenkins White Paper we were responsible for. Almost immediately we all assumed roles in the creation of the presentation; the collaboration was natural and particularly effective because we gravitated to our strong suits. Rob started the “mechanics” of the presentation, figuring out how to set it up properly in Google Docs so we could all edit it; when he needed help Gina came and help him iron out the details. Karen and Leyla were voicing the important points we wanted to include, and I had already started searching for images because we wanted to use only a few words to convey our message and the accompanying images would be important.
We all contributed editions to the content and layout; when, for some reason my computer wouldn’t download images anymore, Leyla jumped in and started inserting them from her computer. I was still able to work on the layout to make it as visually appealing, and effective, as possible. The result was a presentation I was proud of for more than one reason. The content was ‘bang on’, succint and complete, the visuals supported the content very well, the layout was effective, and we had all contributed. I learned even more about our section than I had gleaned from my own reading in the process of producing the presentation. And then I even reinforced my comprehension during the sharing out to other groups phase of the activity. This is definitely an activity I would like to include in my own practice.