My Online Learning Journey

I’m currently taking the Teaching Online and Blended Learning course at Powerful Learning Practice, I wanted to revamp some of my courses that I teach at PLP, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reflect and adjust some things.

Tonight, while I was trying to catch up with work I noticed a conversation about how most of us approach eCourses and even though I had lived it, I had never truly paid attention to my transformation as an online student.

It started in my Master’s program where a majority of my classes were online, I completed assignments, usually by myself, participated in discussion boards, where we were we had to respond to so many people…and my instructors were usually absent. There really wasn’t a lot of meaning behind the work, I wasn’t concerned about making connections with others, and I absolutely hated the discussion boards.

About four years ago, I took my first PLP eCourse, I went into it expecting to sit back and watch, just like I had always done and I was totally wrong. Who knew that one class would change everything….my approach didn’t change over night, I think I still tried to sit back and observe in that class…but as I took my second and third and I began teaching my own, there was a shift.

I didn’t notice it though until I took a course outside of PLP, it was definitely a wakeup call. There was no value on the relationships between participants, no trust building at all, but at the same time we were asked to share quite a bit in live meetings. I struggled with it, I missed the connection and community.

The conversation in the course space tonight brought this further to my attention and I’m wondering, is this how we’re conditioned to learn? That we go in expected to be passive learners? And many times we struggle or grumble when we have to participate and engage with others?

But through my experiences I’ve seen how valuable those connections are and how much growth can come out of the courses that develop a community.

As educators, how do we fix this? Can we fix it, if we don’t address it for ourselves?  I know many teachers and online facilitators already are, and are doing wonderful things to encourage their students/participants to be active participants in their learning…but there is still a long way to go…

Now I’m wondering what this looks like Professional Development? We have edcamps, but what if you’re brought into consult for a day, what kinds of things can you do? Somehow I’ve ended up back with the same question I had the other night, building trust quickly.

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#28daysofwriting Day 19

I don’t think there is going to be much to this post tonight…I spent most of the day organizing instead of doing “work”…but I think we all need days like that…where sometimes the focus just needs to be one something different.

Maybe because it’s the middle of February which means March is in sight….I’m feeling the need for an early spring cleaning? Or…since it’s been so cold here in the North Eastern United States and my kids have been sick on and off since November we’ve barely been able to get out of the house…I needed a change.

So that was the focus today…organizing and rearranging. In thinking about it though, I think it does help with my work(since I work from home), having some organization and space to do work, really helps me to focus.

I got really inspired today and have three different projects lined up, but I’m making myself take them one at a time, I figured each project will be motivation to get through the one before it.

I’m really excited about the second project…a frame so I can rotate out my son’s artwork. I already know where the frame is going to go. I just need to decide what I want to do(and get through my first project), here is what I’m thinking…(Click images for full posts on how-to.)

frame1

From Shannon Makes Stuff

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss

He’s been so proud of his artwork lately and I really want to encourage that, right now everything goes on the fridge and eventually rotates down the pile then put in a folder.

In thinking about this project, it makes me want to create a space for him where his materials are set up and available to him at all times. Looks like I’m now up to four projects!

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My relationship with Twitter

is…..inconsistent? hot/cold? love/hate?

Right now we’re getting along, I’m checking in frequently, mostly due to the #28daysofwriting. If I’m stuck for ideas, I spend some time reading other’s posts for that day and it gives me time to get into the writing “mode”. Where if I had just come into WordPress and opened up the a new post, I would probably end up on facebook or checking my email 10+ times before I decided to get serious about the post.

I’ve also started participating in the #gafechat, which I’ve really enjoyed and have even started to look for others to try out.  The amount of ideas and resources I gain in one hour on Twitter is amazing, and last night I was actually able to provide a resource for someone to learn and try something new.

But…in the back of my mind…I’m wondering if it’s coming….the overwhelm that usually happens. This would be where Twitter and I start to have problems. I’m not sure what it is…the constant flow, constant consuming…I check out, usually for a few weeks(it used to be months). I do always come back though….it is one of the key ways I support my professional learning.

This time though might be a little different…I’m starting to make connections, I’ve tweeted to people or replied to tweets, I’ve seen the great value Twitter chats can have, and I’m gaining inspiration from others ideas. I’m not just consuming, I’m adding content. As I write this, I’m wondering if that is the key? That Twitter can be too much if you’re trying to just consume, there is so much being shared all the time..there is no way to stay on top of all of it. But..if you stop to engage and focus on the things that are important to you, do you get more out of it? Does that take away that feeling of overwhelm?

Moving forward this is how I need to approach it, focusing on what’s important to me, using hashtags to really narrow down my focus, not just scanning through the content trying to take it all in, taking the time to read and connect a few things.

I’m wondering if this is part of the learning process when it comes to social media, that I needed to make the transition from consumer to contributor on my own? Or if I had been introduced to it differently, maybe in a structured setting would have I have used it more efficiently from the beginning? I don’t know the answer, but I’m thinking/hoping that I’ll be sticking around this time.

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Supporting Self-Guided Learning for Educators

Last night I wrote about supporting others as they make change and how one thing I’ve noticed for myself was that I made changes or really dug deep into content when it was something that directly related to me and my goals.

I’m wondering how do we make this happen in training sessions? (I’ll clarify by saying I haven’t done this yet, this is me thinking it through…and envisioning what I want my training sessions to look like.)

  • Listen, really listen. Hear the teachers goals, hopes, dreams, concerns….try to discover what they are interested in. If this is a training session with a lot of people, this might not be realistic, but maybe leading an activity that guides participants to think about these things could encourage them to focus their goals? I feel like the first step in moving forward is to look at where you are and then think about where you want to be.
  • Time, build in time for participants to work and apply the concepts or tools in their own situation.
  • Encourage connections and sharing of ideas. Lead brainstorming protocols, have as many ideas or examples shared as possible and document all of them. Maybe a Google Doc? Something that people can come back to. Especially if someone is feeling overwhelmed, maybe it’s been along day and they reached their limit….but a month later, they think back to that one idea that was shared, image how helpful that resource would be? I also feel like if the ideas come from them and their colleagues, they’ll be more open to trying something new.
  • Give participants a voice, share the goals of the session or plan, ask for their input, what do they want to learn about this topic? Even if there isn’t time to address everything in a live session, is it possible to provide resources even after the session is over?
  • Give a template or guide to support them as they create their own path(have it available in a variety of formats, print vs digital), encouraging(and celebrating) small steps!

This all comes from a variety of different courses and experiences I’ve had as a learner…I’m trying to figure out where they all fit and how they can be used to best support educators in a meaningful way that allow them follow their own learning paths…in the context of a required training. Is this possible?

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Supporting Change

As I think about my next steps professionally, I know I want apart of it to include supporting teachers as they make changes. I’m always trying to think about the ideal situation for change to occur, how can educators best be supported as they implement new tools, try new strategies and work through new ideas.

What I’ve come to figure out, is that it’s just as it is with our students, everyone has their own ideal learning environment.

Thinking back my best professional development was when: 

  • I choose my path
  • my facilitator modeled the concepts they were teaching
  • I had freedom to apply what was presented in a way that best fit me
  • I had the opportunity to reflect
  • it was a safe and supportive environment

I think that last one is most important. If people don’t feel safe, how can they be expected to make a change? 

I’ve realized though, now that I know this, I find it hard to stay motivated in situations that don’t have these characteristics. I recently completed a training that hardly included any of the characteristics from my list. I found it hard to truly learn and think deeply about the content, even though the content itself was very interesting and was the knowledge that I needed to support teachers. I had to really force myself to stay on-top of of it.

I’m wondering, if you’re a coach or a consultant that is coming into a school only for a few days, here or there, how do you build that trust? How do you create this type of situation quickly? Is it possible?

Here are some thoughts on what this looks like: 

  • online presence, have a space that participants can go to before to get to know you
  • include your goals or beliefs as a facilitator
  • have a lot of examples that show a variety of change, to emphasize the idea that change is different to everyone
  • celebrate even the smallest successes
  • really listen, use body language to show you’re listening

I have a lot more to think through as I begin developing Google Trainings, but I feel like this post has got me going in a good direction. If anyone has any tips or ideas for developing trust in workshops or brief trainings, I would love to hear them! 

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Being kind to ourselves, create an inspirational image in Google Drawing

A few days ago, I read post that was directed to moms, A Mantra for the Most Overwhelming Days, from Creative with Kids.

It came at perfect timing, since I’ve been thinking about unplugging, trying to use time more wisely and really focus on what’s important. I shared it out to twitter, where most of my followers are educators, since I felt this could really apply to everyone.

As I thought about my post for Valentine’s Day, I wanted it to be about kindness, I started thinking about teaching students kindness, educators being supportive of one another, but nothing seemed to really flow. Then I thought back to the post from Creative with Kids, about being kind to ourselves.

I think most people can agree that images can be inspiring, and I feel like the image in the Mantra Post really adds to it. I began thinking about easy ways to create your own and immediately Google Draw came to mind. There are many photo editing tools out there, but I thought this would be a nice fit for teachers and students already using Google Drive.

Below you will find a brief tutorial for creating an inspirational image in Google Draw. First here are some ideas for this type of project in your classroom:

Ideas for classroom use: 

  • Create an inspirational bulletin board in the hallway or classroom.
  • Have students put it in their writers notebooks.
  • Put the image in a Google Doc, have students explain their thinking and reason for choosing the image and quote.
  • Create your own for your grade or plan book.
  • Create a full class one, vote on a quote that represents your class, include the image on your webpage, blog or wiki.
  • Use it as a writing prompt.
  • Have students create one from a famous person’s point of view.
  • Using the collaborative features students can co-create images and use the commenting feature to explain their work.

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My Goals and Beliefs as an Online Facilitator

Throughout many of my courses I find myself saying “that is a goal of mine”, although I’ve realized that I have never really sat down and written out my goals as an eCourse facilitator. I’m wondering if it would be helpful for my participants to have an understanding of how I approach my courses and what I hope to achieve, so here we go!

  • I want to help everyone achieve their own individual goals. If you have a question, something is unclear, or an assignment doesn’t quite fit your situation, I would be happy to work with you to adjust assignments and answer any questions. If I don’t know the answer, I will do my best to find it.
  • I want all assignments to be meaningful. This goes along with the goal above, but I want all of my assignments to be useful. If a project or assignment does not fit your situation or needs, we can create another to fit your goals.
  • Even the tiniest change is a step in the right direction, I like to celebrate the little steps! Try not to compare to other participants, we’re all at different points in the journey.
  • I’m flexible, with assignments and due dates.
  • I understand you have a lot of responsibilities outside of my class, I’m available even after our course is over to go over any questions you might have.
  • I strive to create an online community where everyone feels safe and comfortable to share their ideas and questions.
  • I value everyone’s ideas and contributions, one of the best aspects of facilitating online is the wide variety of experiences and backgrounds that come together. I learn something new every time a section of my course runs!

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