Our Semester in a Nutshell!
1. Exploring key ideas of connected learning (within weekly topics and cycles).
2. Contribute to our classroom community in some way each week.
3. Engage with another community outside this course each week.
4. Document your journey as you go in support of your own assessment and reflection, with specific attention to issues of equity.
5. Design a framework for a project you will take forward past this class
6. Share/demonstrate/perform some aspect of this for community input/feedback.
How well do you feel you successfully met these expectations this semester?
I feel that I was successful in exploring the key ideas of connected learning throughout this semester. I feel I particularly enjoyed the maker movement, opening learning and peer supported learning portions of this semester. I enjoyed the opportunity to create weekly makes using new technologies guided by innovative weekly prompts. I especially enjoyed learning about the maker movement and the notion that a student’s interaction with online communities does not have to simply be about consumption but also about production, creativity and innovation. Students are not just parts of an lone community but they are active participants within it. I think I was able to tackle this topic with my Genius.com annotation, my Socrative screencast, my MindMeister mind map, my Pixton comic strip “pop up” and my bracelet make. While the former makes were more typically technology oriented, I really liked the idea of making my bracelet by hand, out of materials I had around me, and sharing a real, tangible product through a digital forum. Making does not have to be purely online but can and should involve making and sharing things that we create using materials and our own two hands. What is powerful about this message is that the “production centered” component of connected learning is not limited to the creation of a blog or a Twitter account but reaches far beyond that to digital forums which allow students to share tangible products. One of my favorite platforms for sharing this which I came across this semester was Voice Thread, a website which allows users to narrate descriptions of their own projects, designs and creations and is based off the the notion that not everything can be properly or effectively conveyed via text or digitally created designs. Sometimes photographs or drawings and your own voice are necessary to keep the human in connected learning.
Another favorite weekly topic which I think proves my commitment to the course was a commitment to peer supported learning. I was instantly intrigued by this topic and how it allowed students to engage with their fellow students in such a way that allowed not only for critical self-evaluation (Do I deserve this particular badge? Why or why not?) but also allowed students the opportunity to design, create and award badges that reflected their own personal values in terms of character and academic achievement and what that should look like in the classroom. I was able to create my own badge, the “Inspired Mind” badge, aptly named after my blog, apply for the badges of fellow ED677ers, as well as incorporate a set of original badges into my final Edmodo page make. In addition to badges, I also really embrace the idea of utilizing student portfolios and other means of qualitative grading into student assessment because I feel that it offers a more holistic view of the student both in terms of character and academics (very similar to the badges) and that it offers an excellent means of differentiated instruction and assessment for students who do not learn via typical classroom activities or perform well on summative assessments. I think that my Edmodo page could be transformed into a student portfolio of sorts in that it stores all of a student’s work in a single location and offers educators the option to create a variety of both formative and summative assessment to track student progress. When I have the opportunity to add to my Edmodo page in the future, I would add an “end-of-the-trimester” assignment in which students would choose their best work from that trimester, place it into a designated online “folder” and then add an explanation which describes in detail why their selections represent their best work.
Additionally, I made weekly contributions to our group with my Finding, Searching and Seeking posts, as well as my many other posts sharing my thoughts about issues within the connected learning community in addition posts which shared resources and detailed my weekly makes. Each week, I would try to connect with a community beyond our own class, whether that be through Twitter, via a link on my blog or the Google+ page, or by using a new connected learning resource with my own students at Kulp Elementary. For example, I was able to incorporate Google Docs, a discussion on the pros and cons of Twitter and other social media, as well as use screencasting and audio recording to narrate student PowerPoint projects. It was awesome seeing the concepts and resources discussed in the abstract come to life in the real world. In terms of equity, I was constantly refining my inquiry until I chose to create a final make that paid special attention to the needs of my autistic support students and learning support students in general. I felt that Edmodo would be the perfect platform to maintain equity in the classroom for these types of learners in that Edmodo allows for open communication between parents and teachers and also puts all student learning materials in one, easy-to-access location – a very important feature for students who often struggle with organization and who so greatly benefit from digital learning resources and tools that appeal to their auditory, verbal, kinesthetic and fine motor needs.
Where do you think you could have improved?
As I wrote about in my final “Seeking” post, I think that I could have definitely improved on the connections that I made with fellow classmates. While I learned so many valuable tools and methods for connecting with fellow learners and was (for the most part) successful in utilizing these resources in my weekly-makes, if I were given another opportunity, I would have put more thought into how I could have shared my makes and my blog posts with the rest of the group and beyond. I feel almost like I created my blog within a vacuum that only I and a select few other people had access to. This was in part due to my lack of familiarity with the Goggle+ community (this entire semester I was sure that I was sharing my posts with the entire Connected Learning community only to just find out that this was not the case!!!!) as well as a lack of motivation caused by the lukewarm responses to my blog posts.
At the start of the semester, I commented that I was discouraged by the lack of traffic to my WordPress and this discouragement made me less likely to check up on the blog posts of other classmates. I think that this teaches a valuable lesson in the world of connected learning – unlike face-to-face communication and interaction where a response is generally required and instantaneous, connected learners need to put forth the extra effort required to keep lines of communication open and flowing. Connected learning communities are only viable and their benefits only worthwhile if all members are equally dedicated to the shared purpose of that community. Networks must remain open and accessible if these online learning ventures are to be accessible. For me, this would have meant more frequent updates to my Twitter, leaving more comments on classmates’ blogs and making sure to post (and most importantly properly post) more resources and inquiries to our shared blog and Google+ community page.
How do your successes and reflections on improvement inform your connected learning moving forward?
Thankfully, I feel that my connected learning successes far outweighed my failures for this semester. I walk away with knowledge of so many interesting and practical tools for incorporating technology and online learning into the classroom. Reflecting on the semester, I learned that connected learning takes commitment and truly requires a group of individuals with a common purpose and passion – whatever that may be. Maybe you want to create a connected learning community of small farm owners geared towards promoting the sale of local produce or a connected learning community of social studies teachers dedicated to archiving and sharing teaching resources. Whatever your purpose may be, all members must be dedicated to contributing to and keeping up-to-date the community so that it remains a viable and active resource that is constantly making, creating and sharing something new and exciting for others. I think my greatest successes this semester, and the most exciting, were the makes that I knew could directly benefit other learners, such as my curation of connected learning resources and the overall maintenance of my WordPress blog. Both of these makes provide instance access to different tools and avenues of exploration for anybody interested in connected learning.
What else do you want me to consider when assessing your performance over the past semester?
When assessing my performance, I would like you consider the amount of self-reflection placed into my blog posts and my weekly finds, searches, and seeks, as well as the quality of my weekly makes. I always asked myself how I could make my “makes” (for lack of better wording!) the best they could be and how I could incorporate technologies that were both teacher and student friendly, such as Socrative, Pixton, MindMeister, Edmodo, VoiceThread, Adobe Filmmaker, and AppsBar (among many, many others). I think that it is also important to consider the effort and time placed into the maintenance of our blogs and the quality of our posts. It was difficult to maintain the pace that I began the semester with (posting 5 or 6 posts a week at times) but I finally fell into a rhythm as the semester progressed, which I think is a more realistic expectation for a teacher blogger!