My Digital Footprint

footprintIf I was to summarize my journey in this class in one simple phrase I would have to say that this class has been all about the footsteps I am making in the digital world. For many years I had been taking baby steps into this new world, but this I think that this class has really encouraged me to discover new ideas, develop a learning network, and make connections in a way that I would not have on my own. My digital footprint has most definitely grown this semester and I hope that it does not stop growing while I continue taking steps in the digital world.

One of the biggest steps I have made through this course was the realization that my lifelong professional goal will be to be a master learner. And through being a master learner I need to learn how to not integrate technology, but to integrate literacy. I don’t think that we really have to teach kids how to use the technology in general – they know way more about the tools, programs and interactive games than we do anyways – but we teachers need to teach them how to find information online, understand what they are reading, and critically evaluate before deciding if it is true. This is how we will prepare them for their future. Their unknown future. Their future, not ours.

But in order for me to become a master learner I first of all have to discover – who am I? And who am I online? My entire personal learning experience through this class has been all about that – building my digital identity. My screen name is sarahhill05 and I think that this name has really became like a second name for me. I find myself often referring to Alec, Dean, and Kristina as their screen names, and when attending the iT summit conference, on many occasions I did not know who a person was until I was able to relate their real name to their screen name on Twitter.

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant about forming a digital identity in January – I was nervous about sharing ‘too much’ and have someone steal my real life identity. But now after a bit of experience with building it, I have become quite comfortable with the idea of having a known digital identity. I think I owe it all to Twitter – without it I wouldn’t have been able to build the PLN that I did.  My friend and colleague Kristina feels the same way.  She has done a really nice reflection on it which you should read if you have not done so already.

Since we all know what Twitter is, I won’t get into what it is in this presentation; however, it you want to know more about it then please check out our wikispace page to learn a bit more about it and how to use it in your classroom.

Through Twitter I was not only able to build my PLN, but was able to learn about other people’s latest discoveries and blog posts and post a links to my own blog posts that I have been posting since the start of this class. I think I have close to 40 posts now, which definitely exceeds the limit that I had to meet for this class and shows that I truly enjoyed this assignment and took full advantage of the experience.

With my blog I was able to see that I really did have an audience. Watching my blog stats go up blog-stats1and the spots on my clustr map grow and increase in numbers was proof of that. I was receiving comments, both positive and critical, and I found it really rewarding to realize that people in my professional learning network were actually interested in what I had to say. Some people commented regularly and I would assume that it was because they were notified when I posted a new entry. Someone may have subscribed to my blog! What a complement.

On my blog I posted and reflected on many of the steps I was taking in embracing the tools available online. If you have read my blog at all you would see that I have used Voicethread, different Google Apps, Wordle, Glogster, Vocaroowikispaces, Jing, and much more. The professional growth that I have experienced has definitely left me with a ton of ideas for my classroom next year.

One of the best ideas that I was left with was the idea of communicating with other students via a blog or other form of an e-journal. I communicated a few times with Kelly Hines‘ class in Washington, North Carolina on this blog and received nothing but positive feedback from her about it. Her students loved answering the questions I posted for them and loved seeing the snow when I called them on Skype.

The kids were also able to see me as me – not just who I am online. If these kids were to connect with me again in a few years time they will realize that my real life identity and my digital identity will have changed. Identities are constantly shifting and I expect mine to change immensely even over the course of the next year through the growth I will be experiencing with the support and encouragement from my PLN. In the years to come I will continue to expand my digital footprint. I will continue becoming a master learner – a master learner who will never stop learning.

Playing Around In The Virtual World

Ever since our class last week about Second Life and Teen Second life, I haven’t been very busy trying to understand it. I was very excited to create an account on Second Life and enter the virtual world. I figured why not try something new! I love the Sims game and from what I could tell during class and from listening others speak about it, SL was just like an interactive, realistic version of it. So I downloaded second life (during class time, I apologize hehe) and believe it or not, waited until after class to try it out. I created my avatar and chose the tutorial room. This was where I became frustrated. The first thing I did was walk around the room to practice walking and flying. This was not difficult at all, but there was not exactly any step by step instructions to tell me about how things work. People were trying to talk to me in the chat after walking up to me and since I wasn’t there to meet people, I was a little irritated by this. I just wanted to figure out what the exactly I was doing.

So after wandering around a little I decided that I wanted to change my appearance and outfit. I found the change appearance option under the ‘Edit’ tool bar and was completely overwhelmed by how many options I had to choose from. I could change anything about my face, my hair, my body, my skin color, my height, and my outfit. After about half an hour I still couldn’t decide what I liked so I just decided to leave it as I had it right at that moment and do some more exploring. I found the map of different places I could go and decided that I wanted to leave the tutorial and find a few places that were mentioned in class. But I had no idea how to find them and I had no idea how to switch locations. It looked a lot easier to navigate in class.

Since my first experience was leaving me feeling frustrated I decided to leave it and come back to it another day. I decided to try it out again a couple of days later, but still experienced the feelings of confusion and frustration that I had had on my first attempted. It was then that I decided that SL just wasn’t for me and that I would stick with the Sims. Maybe I made this judgement too soon, but without someone walking me through it I just do not have the time and the patience to explore it and understand it on my own. I think it would be very time consuming until learning how it works.

However, I think that what Erik, Garnet, and Marcel are doing with it with their grade 8s is really neat. They are using Teen Second Life (TSL) to become familiar with and explore the many different cultures that are found around the world.

In this unit students will explore the cultures of people around the world through seven common cultural patterns: economic, political, kinship, artistic, religious, educational, and recreation and play. The activities are designed to help students develop an understanding of how cultures are defined and acquire respect for cultural diversity. They will learn that all cultures have similarities, and they will come to value the differences among cultures for the richness and variety they bring to our world and way of life.

TSL is very similar to SL; however, only people between the ages of 13 and 17 can take part. Adults are allowed to join but they have to have some ties to educational institution, have completed a CRC and are limited to staying on the island that was created for Regina Public Schools. If you are interested in more information about this, please see their website to learn more about their engaging project.

Even though I decided that SL isn’t for me, maybe using TSL would be a different way for me to connect with more of my students if I was to teach an older grade (a new way of differentiated instruction?). I couldn’t see myself using this tool with young students. And maybe with a little more practice and someone to walk me through SL to show me how exactly it works, I would be able to decide that SL really is for me. But for now, I will just stick with The Sims.

Here are some websites that I found interesting and helpful:
http://secondlife.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life
http://teen.secondlife.com/
http://erikvandusen.wordpress.com/
http://garnett-gleim-rps.blogspot.com/
http://web.rbe.sk.ca/support/

iT Summit Conference Voice Thread

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I decided to try something new and reflect on my experience at the iT Summit Conference via a Voicethread.  For some reason I can not get it to embed into my blog post, but please click here to listen to what I learned about E-merging Learning.

E-merging Learning Day One

I have to admit that I was pretty tired after learning all that I did today at the IT-Summit Conference, but my brain was quite content after feeding on the knowledge about literacies, SMART technologies, open networking, and how schools are in a serious need for a change. Here are some of the key points and my learning from a few of the sessions that I attended today.

Reading Across a Dozen Literacies – Jamie Mckenzie

- When talking about literacy in class, find common words and categories to allow interconnection to take place             – Education focuses only enhancing reading and mathematical numeracy; this is not the best thing because students should be good at all literacies
– Students need to embrace complexity; our job as a teacher is to take simple minds and have them question complex issues
– Good ideas form over weeks and thoughts need to be shaken off balance in order for a good idea to be thought of  -Researching should be more than just scooping and smooshing
– Research should involve one’s own ideas – comprehending > considering > wandering > wondering > pondering (all interchangeable)
-Visual Thesaurus (www.visualthesaurus.com) is a great visual diagram of one’s wandering thoughts
-People have lost their ability of natural and environmental literacy/the ability to ‘read’ signs in nature and the environment
– Because of this, people today grab onto complex scientific situations and make simple decisions
Explore possibilities – be open-minded

Integrating SMARTboards Into What You Are Already Doing – Melissa Gavel

- When working with technology, expect the unexpected and plan accordingly
– A board is just a tool – use other tools also i.e.) SMART Senteo, digital cameras, laptops, projectors, etc.
– You need your own board in your own classroom to fully embrace the interactive experiences available; does not work best if students have to go to another room to use it or if it is transportable
– Senteo Clicker: gives students who don’t volunteer answers a voice; all can answer anonymously and not have to raise their hands; give the same clicker to a student every time and the clicker will save the information/data
– Senteo Clickers involve many forms of answers: multiple choice, true/false, yes/no
– Smarttech.com has slides/lessons/etc available for you to use
– Include as many students up at the board as possible and have the rest of the students working on the same sheet at their desks
– Discussion at the board = power of collaborative learning; can see lots of light bulbs going off
– Students never get bored of the board; it seems like a fun game in their eyes even after years of using it

Be Kind Rewind – Clarence Fischer

- Society is changing so how can classrooms/education change to keep up with it?
– Are kids different today?
– It is your role as an educator to find out what is interesting to your students and incorporate that into your lessons/classroom
– Students know all about having access to the world because of society; therefore, why take that away from then when in the classroom
– 20% of Canadians are on Facebook
– 85% of people born after 1980 are on a social networking site of some sort
– Classrooms can be a snooze to some kids because they are used to getting a lot of stuff from lots of places at different times of the day – realize this and make adaptations!
– We have kids ‘power down’ in class when they are not really used to this
– Allow electronic devices (laptops, ipods, etc) in your classroom to promote open mindedness and save your school division a pile of money
– Digital Native vs Digital Immigrant does not always mean young people vs old people – can be vice versa
– Tools don’t really costs anything anymore; software is free online
– Facebook and blogging will probably be dead and done in less than 5 years due to the constant change in societies

So now what? How do we support the chance of society in our classrooms?
1. Classrooms should be considered studios – kids work when its best for them, expanded time and space, lots going on at the same time
2. Teacher = Network Administrator – connect students with knowledge and help them navigate through to the information you know they need

- School = preparation for life, but what if school = life?
– Networks = Power = Schools=Community=GLOBAL
– Audiences drive but communities drop in – Collaboration with others provides motivation for students to find their voice
– We want kids learning together and thinking together long term
– Students need choices to show what they know; use a variety of tools and students will learn what they are good at – Students need to see rules out front in order to successfully meet the goals and objectives
– We are responsible to teach kids in a way that is meaningful to them
– Be aware and make choices for the benefits of your classroom – change needs to happen slowly but fast enough to make it happen
– Technology will not transform your classroom but will make it more authentic and engaging – more opportunities to reach more students and for them to make connections

I was not exaggerating when I said my brain was full – I learned SO MUCH today! I cannot help but look forward to all of my learning in tomorrow’s sessions!

The evolution of the web on the mobile medium is completely inevitable… I’m looking to Generation Y. They’re the mobile generation and they’re going to be the guardians of the web in the coming decades.  -James Pearce

Vocaroo – the premier voice recording service

vocaroo1

While browsing some blog posts this morning I came across a very interesting idea that Kathy Cassidy has for students to practice reading smoothly (reading fluency) and record and learn from listening to themselves read using Vocaroo. Students can hear if they are reading fluently or not and compare it to what fluent reading should sound like. I think this allows students to take a bit of responsibility of their own learning and be able to identify their own growth.

The program that she used to help her grade one’s improve their communication skills is Vocaroo (she found out about it via Twitter…surprise surprise)

“Vocaroo’s website says, “Vocaroo is a shiny new service for sending voice messages across the interwebs.” It allows you to record your voice, play it back to listen, and then provides you with a url or the html to embed an icon into a webpage or blog.”

After experimenting with it myself, I found out that this tool is extremely quick and easy to use. I decided to read a nursery rhyme while recording my reading on Vocaroo to see if I read smoothly or not.

I could see myself using this tool in a variety of ways as well; I think that since it is so easy to use, you could use it as a center for students to practice their reading independently and for you to listen to it later on to assess their communication skills. Since there were not any complicated steps to it, Vocaroo is easily linked to your class blog for parents to listen to as well. Students can be proud of their progress and it can be heard by using this tool throughout the school year.

The only con I found with it, besides the fact that it won’t upload directly onto my blog, was that if a student makes a mistake with his/her reading, he/she cannot edit the recording and has to begin recording again from the very beginning.  Despite the one very small con, this tool will definitely be on my list of things to try with my class next year.


Tweet Tweet

twitter-birdSo if you would have asked me a couple of years ago, along with many others in society, if I knew what Twitter was I would have said no. But now, almost everyone has heard of Twitter, uses Twitter, and speaks the Twitter Lingo – from Tweets, to Tweetpic, to TweetDeck, to be TWEEtchable! I am hearing conversations about Twitter almost every day. While driving out to a friend’s place the other day I heard Crash speak about it on the radio and how celebrities and other big names are using it answer the common question – What are you doing? Everyone is using it! When taking a look at the Top Twitter User Ranking and Stats, you will see names such as Obama, Britney Spears, Al Gore, Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Fallon, and Lance Armstrong all in the top 10. I was surprised that Alec Couros wasn’t in the top 10 – everyone knows that its Alec who is pretty much to thank for Twitters big boom. His name is used in Twitter examples all the time, from interviews on CBC’s Morning Addition to How to Use Twitter pages on the internet. What is one word you think of when you think Twitter – Alec Couros ( :) no lie, I bet some people do think that! Alec Couros is pretty much a celebrity online!). Or maybe you would think Ellen and P. Diddy when asked about Twitter?

Twitter is a fantastic way to develop your PLN and communicate with others. After all, communication is the essense. Why not zoom into the world and find out what others are doing in your social network. Or maybe you are looking for some resources for a lesson in your classroom. Well why not send out a tweet and ask on Twitter? Your answer an much more may come to you instantly (not always the case, but most of the times it isn’t hard to find an answer when you have many people in your network). Twitter is becoming so popular that even Facebook wants to be like it. The homepage on Facebook now looks very similar to a column on Tweetdeck. “Twitter currently controls the most contemporary thought stream humanity has ever seen” so what are you doing about it? Or should I just simply ask “What are you doing?”



Back Chanelling – The Latest Form of Group Discussion

While working on our final ecmp 455 project last night, Kristina and I had an excellent discussion about back channelling and the benefits of allowing it in your classroom. I never knew that there was a specific term for this, but  apparently I have been using it for pretty much my entire school life (minus the years were a) I couldn’t write sentences yet and b) was too afraid to getting caught by the teacher). For almost as long as I can remember I have been chatting during class, mostly about what ever it was that I was learning about. My friends and I would ask each other questions about the content we were learning about and share whatever connection we were making to it in regards to our lives outside of the classroom. In the era of technology students do not pass notes or try and whisper quietly to one another, they send text messages from their cell phones or Facebook messages to one another if on a computer during class. These actions are done silently and do not cause a disruption in the classroom. But is it distracting? Maybe. Is it beneficial? I think so.

Why not use this ‘chat’ as a teaching strategy and a way to enhance the learning that is taking place in your classroom. With cooperative and experiential learning being pushed in today’s classroom then why not allow students to discuss as they are learning. This discussion I am talking about does not involve the teacher stopping her lesson for small group discussions; this discussion is taking place while the teacher is teaching. I would be curious to set up a room at todaysmeet.com and find out what my students are talking about and asking one another in regards to my lesson.

I see this as an assessment tool to not only assess what the students are learning, but assess your teaching of that lesson – Do the students get it? Or do they not get it? There are many benefits to using Twitter, Today’s Meet, or a class blog in your classroom or presentation. Take our chat during our ecmp class; we have side conversations about what is being said, add our own thoughts and feelings, make connections to the lecture, and pose questions that we would like answered. These questions cannot only be answered the the instructor, but by other classmates as well without disrupting the lesson. There is immediate feedback and shows you as the teacher if you are reaching your target of being heard by your students/listeners. The more silent discussion taking place on the side = interesting topic!

Pistachio has a great blog post about backchanelling during presentations (which I have related to classes/lectures) and has listed 8 benefits of the back chanell to the audience:

1. It helps audience members focus

As a presenter, you might be worried that the back-channel will be distracting. The opposite seems to be true.

2. The audience gets more content

People tweeting during your presentation add explanations, elaborations, and useful links related to your content

3. Audience members can get questions answered on the fly

In the past, you might have lent over to you neigbor and said “What did she mean by that?” or you remained confused. Now, audience members don’t have to wait to clarify things they don’t understand. They can tweet their question and another audience member will tweet back with the answer. Audience members who tuned out because they didn’t understand now stay engaged.

4. The audience can participate

The back-channel blurs the line between the presenter and the audience. Now everyone can be an active participant.

5. The audience can innovate

As your presentation sparks ideas, audience members can tweet them and build on each others’ thoughts.

6. You don’t have to be physically present to participate

Not only can you watch a live videostream of the presentation, but you can also tweet or chat with the physically-present participants.

7. You can connect with people

Being at a conference where you know no-one or only a few people can be intimidating. People who know each other cluster together and you can feel out of the action. But if you participate in the back channel, you’ll get to know people virtually, and can then introduce yourself physically at the next break.

8. You can do something else

And lastly, if the speaker is tedious, you can get on and do something productive and no one will know.

It would be interesting to see this work first hand in a setting other than ecmp class with Dean and Alec. Has anyone else given this whole back chanelling idea a try?