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Archive for September, 2008

This is a clip Bud Hunt posted in our PLP Ning. Clay Shirky talks about information filtering and information overload at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York last week. I have shared my thoughts on information filtering below. How do our students learn about this, and from whom?

I believe information filtering is shaped by our age, the era in which we grew up, and how extensively we use social networks. When I publish online I always think about the audience, what I say, how it may be interpreted, but I also grew up in a different time, when my social networking centered on being on the phone as much as possible, meeting friends at someone’s house to connect and talk. When I started participating in online communities I had a lifetime of offline experience to draw from, social face to face situations that shaped how I interact with others. I don’t think it is the same as growing up in a digital social atmosphere, as my own children have, and the students we teach from now on will.

We have chosen how we want to live our lives, what is public and what is private, and we made those decisions based upon our prior knowledge, our face to face experiences in the absence of digital social networks. Our students, my own children, live in another time, they have grown up with other choices, digital gathering places to meet people, talk to one another and connect.

Students are coming to us with no knowledge of filters, yet they have My Space and Facebook accounts, they are interacting in those social networks, in many cases with no models. They have no one to speak to them about digital footprints, what that means, terms of us, who owns the content they post, and how it can be used, how long it is accessible, or what the consequences are, in some cases, when they hit the submit button.

I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to participate in these social networks to be a model, to understand how they work, which will enable me to speak to the success and challenges of these tools with students and adults I come in contact with. Social networking, being part of online communities has changed the way I learn, the way I think, the way I look at everything. I have learned how to navigate these social spaces through those who I have met who have been doing this much longer than I have, they are my models, and they are my teachers. I believe we have to be the models for our students and understand the nuances of living life online in order to help them with what lies ahead in their future. We have to speak from a place of knowledge, how do we expect our school boards, state departments of education, parents and community members to feel comfortable when we recommend creating online spaces for students to work and publish in if we ourselves don’t understand all the implications.

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Clif Mimms has a series of posts on his blog for new teachers written by guest bloggers. I am extremely pleased he extended an invitation to me to be one of those guests. This is the post I wrote for the series, it is based on my own experience, what I want to share with others is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in terms of your own teaching and learning.

I believe the one thing I would say to teachers is be open to your own learning and don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. I believe we all should be lifelong learners. In today’s world opportunities abound to stretch our thinking and open ourselves to experiences never before possible. I have had the pleasure and privilege of stretching my own thinking and learning this past year as I have co taught OpenPD with Darren Draper. OpenPD is a professional development opportunity open to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn about web 2.0 tools to use in classroom practice as well as in their own learning. Last September Darren wrote this post on his blog explaining the professional development he was going to teach in his school district entitled Social Software in the Classroom. In the post he invited anyone reading, to participate, or to co teach, I was interested and willing to co teach and contacted him. He and I did not know one another, I had used the tools he was planning on teaching, but I had never taught with someone I had never met, never taught online and had never used some of the tools in the way we were envisioning. We wanted to model the tools we would be teaching, so all of our planning for the course, as well as the delivery of the course was done through the use of Skype, Google docs, Wikispaces, and Ustream. Our first session was a disaster; everything that could have gone wrong did, even though we had tested everything ahead of time, and we were pretty confident we could make this happen. I learned so much that first night about my own teaching and what I rely on from those in my classes. You can read my thoughts here and Darren’s here.

The important thing to remember is, we didn’t let any of the challenges stop us, we believe in what we are trying to accomplish, feel it is important and we wanted to continue forward. We also knew it was ok to have those in the class see us struggle to resolve any issue we may encounter while using the tools, just as they may struggle using them in their own classrooms.

We taught the class three times in the 2007-2008 school year, presented together at three different conferences throughout the year and met for the first time in June 2008 at NECC in San Antonio. We have had successes and challenges in all we have done, and sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we plan, but we learn something new every time we teach. We learn from each other, we learn from those who attend, it’s a group effort and one that has been invaluable for me both in my professional as well as personal practice. I owe a great deal to Darren Draper for being forward thinking and willing to take a risk. He took a chance on me, and in turn I took a chance on myself, believing I could step outside of my comfort zone, and be successful in a way I never imaged was possible. As a result of my participation in OpenPD I am passionate about sharing my experiences with others and demonstrating the rich possibilities that exist for all of us, all you need is a willingness to take those first steps into a part of our world that is ever changing. And as an added bonus, in taking those first steps, you have the opportunity to learn from so many, make new friends with people whose lives would never have crossed with yours, without these new tools at our fingertips. My life is richer, not only in terms of my professional learning, but in the friendships that have resulted from my online network.

Please take a look at the video clip we have used as a starting point, also feel free to browse our class wiki and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them for you.

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Living in the Moment

I am beginning to inch my way back into my online life. I have been disconnected for the better part of the last three months; I knew I needed to find the balance I felt I had lost the balance between my passion for learning through my personal learning network and living in the moment. I wanted to take a break from the constant flow of information, new tools to try, new links to follow, and new blog posts to read. It isn’t that I don’t want to learn, I just needed to step away from the constant barrage, because I felt if I was made aware of something and didn’t try to follow up, learn something new, that I was somehow being left behind. My family doesn’t understand the personal learning network, and I struggle, especially with my husband, to explain it. In a blog post earlier this summer something Chris Lehmann said in a comment here has stayed with me.

This summer very dear friends of ours suffered a tragedy difficult to imagine, they were on a family vacation when their oldest child Tara died of a heart attack at the age of 30. This post is written for her, Tara Lauren Reidley. We have known the Riedley’s for 20 years, our children grew up together as well as Mark and I growing up with Ginny and Roger, growing up as parents, watching all the school plays, going to sporting events, ski outings, parent teacher organizations, school fund raisers, dances, back to school nights, graduations. Tara lived life out loud with the volume on high and we miss her. I hear the words to the Kenny Chesney song; Who’d You Be Today, all the time. I wear the pain like a heavy coat, I feel you everywhere I go, I see your smile, I see your face, I still can’t believe you’re gone, It ain’t fair: you died too young, like the story that had just begun, but death tore the pages all away. As a parent you never believe you will outlive your children, it just isn’t supposed to happen that way. Our hearts are with Ginny, Roger and Chad, their son, day in and day out.

Living in the moment, understanding time is the most precious gift we have to give another, for once given it can never be replaced, it can never be relived. Our lives can change in a heartbeat, never to be the same again. Don’t forget to live in the moment, to give those you love the time they deserve, for none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

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