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With the abundance of online communities and tools now available to all of us there has been a lot of conversation lately of how people use these tools, for what purpose. The conversations have mentioned the fact some are seen as using these tools for self promotion, followings, name recognition, which I admit I believe some people do, but this is no different than what happens in our day to day, face to face lives, is it? We all have the same ability online, as we do face to face, we may chose to ignore what we find offensive, or follow along, either way the choice remains with the individual.

I am, as Sue Waters used to describe herself, a reluctant blogger. I am not skilled in writing, and it is something that does not come easily to me. I feel blogging is a means of reflection, having an opportunity to talk out loud, and maybe have someone listen, and respond who is interested in the same topic, is experiencing something similar or have an opinion on. We are all attracted to content for varying reasons, we are all attracted to different writing styles as well. What matters is this, I have a mechanism to write, publish, and possibly engage in conversations that would not be available to me otherwise. In order for those opportunities to present themselves to me, I also understand I have to make the effort to do the same thing with others, to be a good virtual citizen as well. Making connections, participating in conversations, extending myself beyond my blog to cultivate relationships – just as I do in my life everyday.

I believe we all contribute, we all have a voice and we all make a difference, although not everyone’s contribution and or difference may not be evident through a blog or online. For me my contributions to the greater good may not be through this blog, but I feel my participation in OpenPD with Darren Draper, the presentations we have done together about our experiences in providing professional development in a way not possible before now, have been important, have made an impact on those who attended the classes and the presentations. I know too I make a difference in my district; I am able to learn from those in my network and in turn share that knowledge with those I interact with face-to-face everyday. My contributions may seem small to others, but it is relative, the contributions I make where I work may never be seen by others in the online world I participate in, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist, or I do not matter either. I believe the words on this image apply to all of us,”There are some things we cannot do on our own” and “a strong and cohesive sense of community is essential to expanding opportunity to all of us”, maybe EdubloggerCon in San Antonio will be a time for all of us to talk about our sense of community.

Flickr Image Source user opportunity agenda

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Our OpenPD session this afternoon was designed to introduce blogging, my hope was the conversation would be beneficial for those in the class who are new to the concept and thinking about starting a blog of their own. Well once again my expectations were exceeded, and I am so grateful to all of those who participated today. Sue Waters was asked to join us and speak to those participating in class why she blogs, how she got started and if she would share any thoughts, and tip, for writing good posts. Well, Sue wrote a post about our OpenPD session, the topic for class, asking others contribute a comment on the impact their own blogging has had on them, their learning. It is full of interesting stories and suggestions, please take some time to read it. Sue also invited some other bloggers to join in the conversation as well; we were fortunate to have with us the following people:

Thank you all for making another session of OpenPD so worthwhile, I learned a great deal once again. I am grateful for the true sense of collaboration, and sharing everyone brings with them to class, what we are able to learn from one another is phenomenal. This is a wonderful experience for me. Sue thank you for all of your wonderful contributions to this class as well as your work in the edublogger world. On the wiki we do have an assignment for this coming week, look at and respond to 4 other blogs we have some listed on the participants page as well. Also to set up a blog at Edublogs so you are ready to start. Hope to see you all again next week.

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I did feel out of step on Monday talking about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, ISTE NETS standards, and the role I believe both need to play as different content areas go through the curriculum review cycle within our district. Out of step because of the 57 people I was talking to, only 8 had any inkling of the relevance either of the organizations had in relations to education, or why the information they publish would have any bearing on what happens in classrooms. I don’t believe there is not room somewhere in our curriculums for things to change, for students to be given the opportunity to help create their learning, be part of their learning, as my hero Cathy Laguna does. Look at Cathy’s classroom, http://team8blue.wikispaces.com her students are doing wonderful meaningful work and best of all its FUN for them! How many times do you hear 8th grade students talk about having fun in science and math? Granted, Cathy is fearless and will try anything and always has a plan B if something doesn’t quite work out the way we planned, but she tries to engage her students using things they like in their lives. They make movies, podcasts, voicethreads, use smart notebook software, probes, graphing software. Her room looks like a studio, similar to what Clarence Fisher talked about in his K-12 Online presentation in October 2007. I wish I had more teachers like Cathy, Sue, Chad, Judy, theses are ones who make going to work a pleasure, always looking for ways to engage students more in their learning.

Our students are only with us a finite amount of time in their K-12 lives, they don’t have time for us to think about whether or not this may be a good idea to talk about for the next 5 years, we need to begin to move now. To bring teachers into the 21st century, then maybe they will see the possibilities for students. So where have you started in your districts? I have suggested holding an administrator’s academy on Web 2.0 this summer, what it means, what it has changed, and the implication for professional practice. Have not heard yet whether that is being considered a valid offering during administrative staff training days, but I hope it will be. What is anyone else doing in his or her districts to get conversations going, or are you having less resistance than I am? Any suggestions are truly welcome.

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Here it is the second week in September and it has been an incredible summer for me in terms of my own learning, which is what I want to talk about today. I have been thinking about this for the past several weeks and talking about it to anyone who would listen. I do get a lot of skeptical looks and many have a difficult time understanding what I get so excited about because social networking is not something they have experienced, or in many cases fully understand, let alone participate in. I believe most of the people I come in contact with view social networking as something teenagers or college students participate in. The sad news is many don’t realize the benefits it can have for everyone. In the past few months I have come in contact with and feel as though I belong to a wonderful community of people who are as passionate as I am about education, learning, children, personal growth, professional development, the list could go on and on. The truly remarkable part of this is that for the most part I only know these people virtually, a few I have met face to face, but mostly I know all of them through their blog, wikiflickr accounts and Twitter. I have been an avid blog reader for about a year, didn’t really enter into conversations on blogs until I attended a conference in February organized by Steve Hardagon, lead by Will Richardson, hosted by Chris Lehmann at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Those two days are what started me on this path of building and wanting to be part of an online community for my own learning and I will tell you it is the best thing I have done in a long time.

I attended NECC this year in Atlanta as well and was fortunate enough to meet face to face some of the people whose blogs I have been reading. This is where Ryan Bretag introduced me to twitter also. At first I didn’t understand what the attraction to twitter was, but as the summer progressed and I added people to follow and others began to follow me I understood completely. You begin to develop friendships through these text conversations, people link to blog posts they have written recently and ask your opinion on things they are doing at school, new software they are trying, web tools they are using in classrooms with students or for professional development in their districts. There is a wealth of information; all are so willing to share. If you have a question someone usually offers what their experience has been or their opinion on what you are asking or ask you a question in return to stretch your thinking as their blogs posts always do as well.

Through my social network not only have I benefited personally, but now the students and teachers in my district also have opportunities for collaboration which I am not sure would I would have been aware of or had the chance to participate in. In this past two weeks I have been working to arrange collaborations with the Shanghai American School through Jeff Utecht and Lockleys North Primary School in Australia through Graham Wegner. Also I am going to co teach and online course with Darren Draper, Jordan School District in Sandy, Utah the title, Open Staff Development, what a great concept. Hopefully the teachers in our respective districts in Utah, and Pennsylvania, will take a course together and build communities for themselves, what better way to model the use of social networking. I want to say thank you all for including me in this great community, for stretching my thinking, for helping me to grow both personally and professionally and for the opportunity to be part of wonderful conversations centered in education and preparation for the future.

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Last night I sat in on a meetup at EdubloggerWorld with about a dozen others from around the world. It was great to listen to and be part of the conversation, although I say that loosely since my microphone was not working. One of the requests was for those of there to post a picture of what we look at while blogging.
Where do I blog? I have two pictures, when I blog at work and when I blog at home and here they are. This one from work, I like to look at the world map and dream of  the possibilities that exist for connections for all of us with others around the world. blogwindow3.jpg
The next one the view out of my kitchen window.
window2.jpg

How often do I blog?
I blog as often as I can, sometimes once a week, this summer with so much to do at work less even than that. I am hoping to get back into a routine now that students are returning.  In the world of blogging I know I don’t hold a candle to those who post daily, but that is ok with me.
What do I blog about?
I blog about issues in education as I see them from my space in the world.  I blog about questions I have, thoughts spinning around in my head, ideas I have for using technology in best practices and in ways that hopefully will interest students and increase their level of engagement when at school. I love feeling as though I am part of the conversations going on about change in schools, teaching, learning and feeling as though I can contribute in a positive way through sharing experiences I have had. I like to make others aware of what has been successful in the district where I work and what challenges we have faced as well and asking for and receiving thoughts and ideas from others.
Why is blogging important to me?
Blogging is important to me because it gives me the opportunity to be part of the conversations taking place around the world in education. I love to learn and this has been the most exciting learning I have done in a long time. Blogging has afforded me the opportunity to meet people from around the world that I never would have otherwise. It is a wonderful way to build your own learning community and have a network of colleagues who will become friends through the writing process. I don’t have many people where I work or friends outside of work who truly understand what I do as an instructional technology specialist. In that respect I am rather isolated in terms of my thoughts and vision and having anyone to bounce ideas off of and get feedback or suggestions from. Through the world of blogging all of that changes for me, the read/write web becomes a lifeline to others who I can learn from, who teach me and stretch my thinking. In turn I like to think I can do the same for others.

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Meme 8 random things

I’ve been tagged by mstina on the 8 random facts meme

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

1. I am going to be a grandmother for the first time in the spring!
2. I love to go camping, we have a 28 foot travel trailer and call it our summer house on wheels. We have several other families we camp with and it is a wonderful way to spend time.
3. Summer is made for reading by the pool or the ocean
4. My favorite times are those spent with my family, both those we are related to and the family of friends we have chosen
5. I have been married for 30 years
6. We have a 1972 MGBGT we bought before we got married and I love to drive
7. I would love to go to New Zealand
8. I love to cook and enjoy cooking classes

I am tagging

Lisa Durff
Jason Hando
Maria Knee
Cathy Wolinsky
Barbara Dieu
Jose Rodriguez
Dave Cormier
Doug Symington

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I just read Ryan Bretag’s post on TechLearning blog and it is funny because I had conversations in SL last week with several people while visiting ISTE SL headquarters about this very topic. Is it time we started to have more directed conversations in SL, for example focus groups centered on topics people are interested in? I believe it is. SL is a place for me to meet others in education who want to continue to have conversations about changes in education, web 2.0 school 2.0, changing pedagogy, social networking for adults, what the value is. I don’t know about anyone else, but as an instructional technology specialist, I am responsible to introduce new useful technologies to teachers in my district for their personal productivity and for classroom use.  I would say for the most part I find these tools on my own, or I depend on people I know and share project ideas with them. I also learn a great deal through blogs I read, and conference attendance, these are the sources for my own personal staff development. SL opens a whole new world for me beacause I am able to meet, connect with, and share experiences with people from all over in regard to my professional learning. It is an environment that is social, you feel as though when you are with a group, you literally are with a group of people, taking about issues that are relevant, you have that personal connection through this virtual environment. I think this is what people have to understand, SL is just the vehicle/environent to bring all of us together regardless of time or distance.  I know in my own district after doing a presentation on SL and even having someone who works for IBM in SL join us with a co worker many of those in attendance talked about how SL avatars looked or walked and I wanted to scream it is not about that! Look at the opportunities for creating personal/professional networks and creating our own personal learning environments. I am ready for those conversations to begin in SL  BloggersCafe here I come!

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