Teachers are Learners Too – A Reflection on Professional Development, Being a Mentor and Teacher Inquiry

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by William M Ferriter: http://flickr.com/photos/plugusin/14823535028
 
It is so easy as educators to fall into the trap of: do as I say, not as I do. Education constantly gives lip service to lifelong learning, but how many actually practise it in a meaningful way? A part of the problem is that so often we neither know what it actually means to learn something as an adult or simply where to start. For some it is confronting to take the teachers hat off and approach this from the perspective of a learner. What is sometimes even more confronting though at times is teaching teachers, mentoring them through the learning process.
 
This year I have been lucky enough to be a part of the DEECD’s ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’ program. The premise behind it is to introduce educators to 21st century pedagogy and technologies through the use of the inquiry process. What could be understood as the ways of working, as well as the tools for working. This has involved a large amount of learning by doing for both myself as a coach and the participants I am responsible for.
 
As a part of the program, I have mentored a group of teachers through their own project(s). The group was initially brought together around the common theme of collaboration. From there we explored, chatted and posed a range of questions online, through a range of platforms. This finally led to the formation of our driving question: “How can we use technology to enhance collaboration in the classroom?” The thought was that instead of collaborating on a big project, that we would each work on something specific to our own context. Some chose to investigate the potential of Google Apps for Education as a means for students to collaborate in and out of the classroom. While others explored the power and potential of student blogs.

Throughout the process, there have been two aspects that have really challenged me. Firstly, what exactly is my place as a coach and mentor. For at times there has been little activity in the Google Community we created. Whose problem is this and what then is my role in elevating this situation? Secondly, I feel that there is a need at times to unlearn preconceived notions. One of the challenges is that it is not a traditional approach to professional development where educators are simply spoken to and told what to do or think, instead the programs involved a large amount of personal buy in.
 
In a recent post on the role of the instructor in student centred learning, Mary Stewert suggests that three key elements:
  1. authority and responsibility for the task
  2. providing guidance for the sidelines
  3. presence rather than defined role
The purpose of each is to continually find a balance between learning design and space for emergence in the push to facilitate collaborative learning communities. I really liked how Stewert outlined the place of the instructor as being important, but in a different way than usual. Erica McWilliam describes this as the ‘meddler in the middle’, still their, but with a different purpose. While coming from the perspective of coaching, +Cameron Paterson borrows from Needham in suggesting the leader needs to not only enable the conditions, but make sure learning in linking back to students.
 
The whole process has been challenging for although I have provided guidance and been present, in hindsight I fear that through my fervour and enthusiasm, I have been too present and provided far too much support, ironically undermining the space for the emergence of learning. Another coach actually allocated the role of leader to another team member, they therefore acted as a support for the support. I am feeling that this may have been a better model to push for. Associated with this need to lead without always being the actual leader, the other challenge I have faced is the need at times to unlearn.
 
In an interesting post discussing the constant to and fro between instructionism and constructionism, Paul Dunbar suggests that at times there is a third ‘ism’ needed to evolve the learning process, what he calls ‘destructivism’. As he states, “at certain points on the learning curve, some deconstruction needs to take place before the learner can move on to the next level.” The most obvious area for unlearning often relates to the roles and expectations in the learning space. Although this does not apply to everyone, many of us have a default setting associated with professional development which involves others doing the work for us. 
 
In addition to learners needing to ‘unlearn’, I have found that instructors sometimes need to unlearn certain habits too. For as +Cameron Paterson puts forward, “if we want teachers to take ownership for their learning, the coach cannot be the expert, as this creates learned helplessness on the part of the coached teachers.” Initially I would answer every question that was asked of me, overload the space with a wide array of resources. The problem with this is that I was taking the messiness out of the whole process. After this was pointed out to me, I turned to Diigo as a place to share various resources. My thoughts were that I was still sharing, but in a way that people had to go and look for the resources if they wanted it, rather than being served on a platter.
 
 
There have been some great posts relating to the challenges relating to professional development. From +Steve Brophy on the connected nature of learning, to +Corrie Barclay on the endless journey of being more effective. However, the one constant is that the best learning environments are driven by us not for us. Something often easier said than done. Just as Fisher and Fray suggest that we do not need another generation of teacher-dependent learners, so to do we not need another generation of leader-dependent teachers.
 
What has been your experiences of professional learning? What worked? What didn’t? What were the biggest challenges? How were you empowered? Or empowering?

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What Apps Do You Use? – Advice for a New iPad User

A teacher at school saw me sketching away during the PD and asked me what apps I use in the iPad to support teaching and learning. Having recently been given an iPad as a part of her leadership role, she was wondering where to start. Instead of writing a simple list of applications, I thought that it might be better to go through those apps that I go back and what I like about them:

Sketching

Inspired by the work of +Amy Burvall I have really taken to sketch noting of late. This has come to include my own professional learning notes , but also as a portable whiteboard for small group group. Initially, I was using Inkflow. However, I have since moved to Paper by FiftyThree. A couple of things that I really like are the ease of drawing and the ability to zoom in and out. The one thing that I have found important though is the use of a stylus. Although you can use your finger, using a stylus is so much better.

Organization

What I love the most about using the iPad is its portability. Whether it be capturing visual or audio information or taking notes, I often start with Evernote. I like that I can then open things up on other devices, such as my phone and computer. In addition to this, I also use Sheets for recording information and Docs for working on planners. Since the ability to access offline documents was added, this has changed the way I use Google on the iPad. More recently, inspired by a post from +Steve Brophy, I have started using Trello to organise myself. What I have found most useful about it is the ability to forward emails to different boards to create new notes.

Reading

In regards to engaging with written texts on the iPad, there are two different aspects: texts that I find elsewhere and read on the iPad and texts that apps bring to me. In regards to reading texts from elsewhere, I use iBooks for epub texts as the app allows you to search, annotate and email information. In regards to PDFs I use Documents as it not only allows you to search and annotate, but also link to Google Drive where I often save PDF documents to. In regards to consuming texts that comes to me my first port of call is Feedly. I have a quite extensive list of blogs which I follow. In addition to this, I often send interesting links from Twitter, YouTube and Google+ to Pocket. Linked with this, I have recently started using Lisgo to listen through the various posts in Pocket. Although many swear by news aggregation apps, such as Flipboard and Zite, they are still often my last port of call, while sadly I find Diigo frustrating on the iPad.

Images

In addition to sketching, I use a range of apps when working with images. There are a few apps that I often go to in regards editing images, including Vintage Scene HD and Comic Book!. In regards to creating images, my go to apps are Phoster and Meme Generator. An app from left field in regards to the creation of images is Foldify. This app actually allows you to create and colour 3D shapes. In regards to storing all these images, I usually use Flickr to not keep them, but assign them a creative commons licence.

Presentations 

For presentations, my go to is Haiku Deck. Not only is the platform smooth and simple, but it also allows access and attribution to a wide range of creative commons. Another app that I have come upon recently is Adobe Voice. Like Haiku Deck, Adobe Voice not only allows access to creative commons images, but also the ability to record audio to support.

Now I know that there are others, such as Google Hangouts and Edmodo, that I use that I have not mentioned. However, I use them more on my laptop so I didn’t really feel that they earn a mention.
 
So what about you? What apps do you use? Is there anything that you would recommend? Would love to know.

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Why I Put My Hand Up for #gtasyd and Why I’m Excited

 

 

 
When I found out that I was accepted into Google Teacher Academy to be held in Sydney in September, I went and shared with a few staff members in the next office. One staff member asked whether that meant I would come back and get everyone going Google. I was startled, that has never been my intention. I have always pushed for encouraging communication and collaboration in and out of the classroom. Something that +Steve Brophy and I spoke about at the recent DLTV2014 conference. Sadly, many staff who I have worked with often see Google Drive as just a tool and not much more. I was then left wondering, why did I want to be a part of the Google Teacher Academy and what do I hope to get out of the experience?
 
I think that there is a misconception, and maybe that misconception is my own, that Google Teachers Academy is all about getting a whole lot of teachers using more Google products and somehow becoming inadvertent ambassadors for the corperation. Let me state clearly, I am not going to Sydney as some sort of fanboy. Fine, I have presented on Google Apps for Education before, and fine, I’d love to learn some awesome new tips and tricks, still remembering following +Rich Lambert‘s journey when he went a few years ago. However, I am going to the Google Summit in Melbourne the two days prior to the academy, so I am sure that my head will already be brimming with possibilities. In addition to this, I don’t think much is ever gained through blind faith in one company or product.
 
What I am looking forward to most is connecting and collaborating with a range a teachers in the push to evolve the education landscape. At the opening day of the DEECD’s ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’, +Will Richardson made the point that he wants his students to connect with strangers, to extend their thinking, to engage with difficult topics. I think that I want the same for teachers. They are learners too? What I look forward to is getting to know a whole lot of new educators and growing my PLN.
 
Another point of discussion that seems to be going on is who will be in which group or which mentor we will be allocated to who. I am going to be honest, I actually hope that I am in a group that doesn’t include any of my closer connections. I want to be challenged and to me a part of this is engaging with people who I don’t necessarily know what they think, what they believe and how they will respond. Too often professional development is organised around pre-existing groups – KLA’s, year levels, sub-schools -whereas I think that something special happens working with those who we are forced to get to know along the way.
 
There has been some criticism leveled at Google Teachers Academy as being one big clique, based on who you know rather than what you may bring. I think that a part of the problem is still some people’s fixed mindsets. For some it is another tick box, something else from the bucket list. Fine I will be calling myself a Google Certified Teacher afterwards, but it won’t be the first thing that comes out of my mouth. I entered with the dream of being able to work with +Tom Barrett and the awesome team at NoTosh. To me I see it as the opportunity to be a part of one massive Collaborative Problem Solving project where I will hopefully have the opportunity to make a greater difference to the lives of students around the world. To me, this also includes giving back, paying it forward, sharing whatever ideas and information that I gain with those willing to listen. For it isn’t one company that changes the world or one group of teachers, rather, as +Dan Donahoo put it in his keynote at the ICTEV13 conference, it takes a village.
 
Have you ever applied to be a part of the Google Teacher Academy? Have you ever been to one? How are you trying to make a difference? What are your thoughts? I would love to know.
 

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So You Don’t See Yourself as a Connected Educator, What is that Really Saying?

 

 

 

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14929330102WALL-e quote
A teacher at school came into my office the other day excited that he’d just received a new document at a recent network meeting. The document was ‘Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’. A document produced by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy as a part of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global project. The teacher in question was disappointed that we weren’t also apart of the project.
The odd thing was that I had already seen this document. Firstly, via +Jenny Ashby on Twitter and then through her blog post requesting opinions and perspectives on the various skills. While I then came upon it as a part of the WMR 21st Century Network that +Sam Irwin and I set up. +Chris Karageorge shared how his school had also joined the project.
This whole situation highlighted two things to me: one, we are all influenced in life by networks whether we care to recognise it or not; and two, are we missing the point in focusing on being connected, is that what it is all about?
In a recent post, Quinn Norris painted a picture of life in a networked world. In it she spoke about the usual – Internet, passwords and trojans. However, what struck me was how in a modern world we are all dependent on networks (not just the Internet) in some way. As she stated, “We live with and in networks every minute of everyday.” Whether it be food networks, the legal system or roads and transport, our lives are built upon an array of networks that more often than not we simply take for granted. What I felt was missing in this discussion though was the human network, the personal networks that we form. Although social media and other such platforms capture such connections and help to strengthen them, they do not take in everything. Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, which would mean that you would not be reading this, then your life is connected – to family, friends, colleagues, communities – whether you like it or not.
This perspective of being forever connected got me wondering about the notion then of the connected educator. It is easy to caught up in a discussion of the supposed benefits of being connected. However, like the discussion around having children of your own, surely what is important is the openness to new experiences, not the actual experience itself?
As I have suggested elsewhere, one could easily have children and not necessarily learn a single thing. What matters most in my view is your perspective. I think then that when people say that they don’t have time to ‘be connected’, that they are in fact saying something completely different. To me, what these people are really saying is that they already know everything and that, just maybe, they have nothing else to learn in life. They in fact don’t have time for learning.
I didn’t actively become connected to become connected. I first stepped outside of the world of Facebook and stories about high school weddings and babies into the open world of Twitter in search for greener pastures. I was in a situation at school where there were a few things that just weren’t working and I was after a different perspective on things. Ironically, I feel like I know less now then I did before I stepped out. As +Katelyn Fraser quoted, whether it be the principal, the network coach, the subject association, early on in my career I thought that it was someone else’s job to tell me what the supposedly ‘best practise’.
Through my journey, I have come to the belief that there is no one approach to rule them all. Instead, I feel that the challenge is finding the best solution for the situation at hand. That is what I tried to explain in my post on pedagogical cocktails. The idea that our pedagogical practise is a concoction of different ideas that is constantly evolving. It would be easy to argue that I have come to this position because I am a connected educator who curates a lot of ideas and information. However, I believe that I came to this position because first and fore-mostly, I am a lifelong learner, being connected accelerates this whole process.
Coming back to Norton’s discussion of networks, I would argue that all our learning is linked to networks in some shape and form. For learning involves interaction, whether it be with people, ideas or simply the world around us. Learning is never in isolation. It is complicated. It is messy. It always involves others. +Doug Belshaw provides an excellent discussion of this in regards to the myth that literacy is an isolated activity in his book, ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’. There is no escaping interaction, there is only ignorance of such associations.
I am reminded again and again of +Clive Thompson‘s piece for Wired, ‘Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter’. Thompson’s point is that whether strong or weak, our interactions constantly influence us. “The things we think about are deeply influenced by the state of the art around us: the conversations taking place among educated folk, the shared information, tools, and technologies at hand.” The act then of curation and critiquing not only forces us to be more convincing, but also accelerates the creation of new ideas and information. It can then be argued that the measurement of learning is not what you keep to yourself – scribbling in a notebook, essays kept in a filing cabinet – but how much you share with others, what you add back. Instead of the question: ‘Are you really connecting if you are not giving back?’ Maybe the real question is: ‘Are you really learning if you are not sharing that learning?’

 

Using +David Weinberger‘s notion that ‘the smartest person in the room is the room’. Learning is then about how big your room is. If you keep your learning to yourself or simply share it with colleagues in your school, how deep is your learning? +Steve Brophy made a really interesting point, suggesting that “The best professional development requires giving, whether it be your opinion, your story or your skill.” Often we set out on a journey for solutions, however if we are not open to the unexpected, the responses, the alternatives, how deep will the learning be?
Coming back to Norton, “Networks have shapes and geographies, and once you can see them you can use them.” If this is the case and all learning is connected then the challenge is understanding how you are connected and to best use these connections to come up with the best solution for your context and situation.
It is important to remember that connections, like learning, should never be a thing in themselves. The challenge is to take this learning, this knowledge, these ideas, and make them new again. Change them, adapt them, pay them forward. +George Couros sums this up best in his recent post, where he states, “The network is where the information has been found, but the ability to remix it for your own context is where innovation happens.”
So what are you learning right now and how are you using your connections to accelerate this process. I would love to know.

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Leveraging Twitter – My Thoughts on How To Make the Most of Every Situation

Image by Amy Burvall http://tmblr.co/Zb8aBo19NdENy
 
I recently got involved in a conversation about the best use of social media, in particular Twitter, to engage and gain traction with a wider audience. Often people are simply told to collectively tweet at a certain time and that will be enough to get something to trend, but really is that enough? For it is one thing to sign up to Twitter and put out a few tweets, but it is another thing to gain interest in your cause online. Fine you could simply write the same tweet hundreds of times and you might get something literally trending, however traction in my view is much more complicated than simply getting something trending. For who is watching? How are they actually responding? And most importantly, how will they respond if you use the same strategy again and again?
 
The reality is that there is a fine line between engaging and disengaging someone online (and offline for that matter too). Many people seem to think that traction is simply a numbers game, but this is naive and far too simplistic. For example, if your strategy is to repetitively send out the same tweet and simply tag different people in each post, you need to be mindful that those people may not feel significant if they discover this. Instead of spreading your message, those who you include may consider you as spamming, as +Alec Couros did when he was tagged in a tweet by Biosgraphy. So instead of spreading your message by retweeting it or engaging in some sort of dialogue, such actions often risk developing a negative view. Even worse than this is actually asking people to retweet, as pointed out by +Dan Donahoo recently. To me this is saying that your message isn’t strong enough to gain interest and attention, are a few retweets going to solve this? 
 
Maybe I have misunderstood the medium, but to me Twitter is heavily based on branding and association. Whether it be personal or associated with a topic embodied within a hashtag. This notion of ‘branding’ is difficult to develop and is unique to each situation. What needs to be considered is how would you respond if you were on the other side? Would you follow? Would you connect? Or would you be put off? Disconnect or even worse, unfollow if you were following in the first place?
 
The first step in my view when it comes to branding revolves around what +Anne Mirtschin describes as our ‘digital badge’. This includes:
  1. consistent image
  2. clear username
  3. detailed profile. 
Mirtschin argues that unless we create some sort of identity then often people will be unwilling to connect with us and subsequently our ideas. Using the example of Ning’s, she explains that moderators of such sites will not allow people in if they don’t give anything of themselves. The same though can be said about all forms of connections. Unless you provide some sort of background, then people don’t really know who they are connecting with and are often unwilling to engage.
 
After addressing identity, the next area of concern is the content which you share with the communities you connect with. Some feel comfortable using social media to simply lurk, while others feel it is enough to simply retweet. I would argue though to get the most out of any social media platform you have to get involved and give back. However, this is easier said than done. 
 
The task associated with what to ‘give back’ and what to post is often twofold. Firstly, I would argue, giving back and adding to the conversation is about constantly evolving the story as to who you are, whilst at the same time inadvertently connecting with others with similar concerns and beliefs. For the real challenge online is getting others to join the cause. It is easy enough for a person to compose one hundred posts. However, it is a much harder to coordinate an effort where one post is shared by one hundred different people. (That is unless you are ISIS and take over the accounts of all your followers, listen to the Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast.) In this respect, sharing with who you are helps to identify your tribe of believers.
 
The next step is what we post when it comes to trying to gain traction and airspace. Some get straight the point. Stating the message in a simple fashion with little scope left for continuing the conversation. Sadly, this misses the point of the medium. In my view, there are many ways to carry a conversation, they include providing clear statements, pose questions, using #hashtags, connecting with other users, link to information, using images not just words and responding to others.
 
Take for example the ongoing campaign around the Gonski Education Reforms. One could compose the tweet:

Gonski is a change needed by all for all.
Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs)

This is a fine sentiment and there is nothing actually wrong with the statement. The problem is that the actual message lacks clarity. Some of the issues include clarifying what the actual ‘change’ is and why is it needed for all. An alternate statement could be:
Equitable funding provided through #Gonski reforms is a change needed for all students 2 provide the opportunity for success in life and edu
Although most ideas and argument cannot be deduced to 140 very well, such a statement still needs to have some semblance of clarity. Where possible, it needs to capture not only the what, but more importantly the why.
 
Another way of getting a message out is by posing a question. So instead of making a statement, you turn the problem into a question:
How can we say we are giving every student an opportunity to succeed in life & education when the funding scheme is not equitable? #Gonski
Although using the same ingredients as the statement, by putting it as a rhetorical question encourages the reader to consider their own perspective on the matter.
 
Associated with producing a message or question is linking in other users and/or ideas. This is done by making reference to various handles (the name given to an identity on Twitter) and hashtags (a form of digital categorisation that aggregates across platforms). In the case of Gonski, an obvious handle to attach would be @igiveagonski, while in regards to hashtags, some possibilities include #gonski, #auspol and #springst. An example then might be:
Equitable funding provided thru @igiveagonski is a change needed 4 all sts 2 provide the opportunity for success in life & education #auspol
It needs to be noted that handles do not always read well, as they are about branding more than readability, while words are often abbreviated or substituted in order to fit more information.
 
In addition to content and connections, the other thing to consider is linking to other details and information. The most obvious example is quoting a source. For example:
“The highest-performing education systems across the OECD countries r those that combine quality with equity” http://t.co/mYKxG4njUk #gonski
The purpose of this is to use evidence and statistics to bring credability to the argument. 
 
The problem with quotes though is the problem with Twitter, sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough. In this case, the alternative is to capture the quote in an image. @igiveagonski have been producing a series of graphics linking quotes from key academics with the call to sign up to the campaign:

@pasi_sahlberg on why #Gonski is critical to closing the achievement gaps in Australian schools pic.twitter.com/OKDnJP0XxG
— I give a Gonski (@igiveagonski) August 7, 2014

The only issue is that not everyone has the time and nous to create such slick graphics (although, as +Bill Ferriter points out, with programs like Canva, it can actually be quite easy). A simple alternative is using a program like Quozio to quickly turn a quote into an image:

New image: Australia has its own education solution: #Gonski added to Flickr pic.twitter.com/brope0cfdz
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 9, 2014

This allows you to fit more in and then provide other details in the actual tweet.

 
Moving away from quotes, the other alternative to adding your own ideas is adding various links, images and videos. Coupled with quotes, it can be good to add links to other sources in order to provide people with more information or a space to continue to engage with topics in question. The obvious link associated with the Gonski campaign is the www.igiveagonski.com.au site. However, the other option is the multitude of commentary out there attached to the topic. Take for example tweet referencing a piece from Pasi Sahlberg:
#Gonski education funding model draws praise from Finland http://t.co/80VWeVYlDv via @smh –> Good for @pasi_sahlberg why not us @cpyne ?
Not only does this add some substance to the discussion, but it also brings others into the fray. 

In regards to images, the other common alternative to quotes or photographs are creative responses. This can come in any shape and form, but the most common is through the use of various meme generator websites and applications:

We need an equitably funded education system #gonski @igiveagonski @PutEducation1st pic.twitter.com/DRCh3ZjWj3
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 2, 2014

It needs to be noted that a ‘meme’ is not in itself an image, but rather a an artefact shared within a culture. The term was actually coined by Richard Dawkins to refer to the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena, including melodies, fashion and technology. In this sense, this blog post is actually a meme itself.
 
The other option is to create an image by hand, either digitally or by taking a photograph of a sketchbook.

In democracy, equity should be at the heart @cpyne is it? #gonski @igiveagonski pic.twitter.com/mhp8dJYG7T
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 2, 2014

It is often stated that sketching ideas engages both sides if the brain, I would also argue that the originality inherent in a sketch often increases the engagement with the idea. A great proponent of sketching is +Amy Burvall. See for example her magnificent collection at her my-conography site.
 
The other option is to link to a video from a site such as YouTube. One that did the rounds a few months ago was this short video explaining the Gonski model:

What is Gonski? http://t.co/oxvKeBHHv3 via @7mrsjames
— Matt Esterman (@mesterman) May 21, 2014

Like quotes and images, videos can allow you to include a range of ideas in the one tweet.

 
These then are some of the possibilities for getting an idea across. Whether it be connecting to others or linking to additional material, the most important thing to consider is your purpose and which means is going to best communicate this. So if your purpose is to engage the media, then quotes and links to evidence and research would probably make sense, while if your purpose is to engage the wider community then humour that does not exclude anyone is probably your best bet.
 
Coming up with a clear message is often the easy bit when it comes to Twitter, it is how we make sense of such an over abundance of information that is the real challenge. For some Twitter can simply be a whole lot of noise and lack much meaning at all. There are however some tricks that can help.
 
Clearly, I don’t want to replicate what has already been discussed elsewhere in regards to understanding how to actually use Twitter (see for example +David Truss‘ excellent introduction). My interest is in the additional applications and add-ons that can make things easier.
 
The biggest challenge that many face is how to keep track of all the different followers. For some, the answer is to limit the people who they follow to 150 in the belief that 150 is the maximum number who we can meaningfully engage with. However, the other option is to use lists to organise people into different categories. Like the idea of circles in Google+, lists allows you to add different users so that instead of scrawling through the endless stream, you can then isolate the conversation more easily. Another good feature of lists is that if you make them public then others can simply subscribe to them, rather than go through all the rigmarole of creating their own.
 
One of the other challenges is consistently posting. You see some people who tweet sporadically because they don’t know what to post. Not only does this say something about how they see the medium, but coming back to Mirtchen’s point about digital badge, it does not really provide much of a feel as to who you are and what you believe in. If you are to gain any sort of traction on Twitter then you need followers, but to get followers you really need to be someone worth following. One answer to this is the the use of such services as IFTTT to post on your behalf. There are a range of ‘recipes’ which once setup automatically run in the background. In regards to Twitter, the most obvious use of IFTTT is the cross-posting from sites such as Google+, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr. However, you can also use it to automatically post any new RSS news feed items or send a tweet to new followers.
 
Another great program that allows you to manage the abundance of information is Tweetdeck+Sue Waters has created a fantastic resource which is a must for anyone trying to get there head around it. However, in summary some of the benefits include the ability to schedule tweets, important if you are trying to engage with people all around the world, as well as add different columns. Clearly this is useful for monitoring both your own feed, but also any notifications without changing screens. (Hootsuite also offers much of the same functionality.) What is awesome is that you can add custom columns. These can be hashtags, lists or even handles. This can be useful in monitoring a particular hashtag and engaging in a particular conversation.
 
There are also some other programs which can be useful for monitoring a hashtag. The best is Tagboard, a site that will collect all the different posts associated with a particular hashtag from sites such as Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Tumblr. Another useful site is Storify. This site allows you to curate information surrounding a hashtag and add a narrative to it in order to fill in all the gaps. While the last site is Trendsmap. This site aggregates what is trending. If the goal is leverage, this can be a useful barometer. Although it must be noted that just because something is trending, it does not allows guarantee traction. That is forever left to a certain degree to chance.
 
 
So there are my thoughts on Twitter and how to make the most of it. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Have I missed something? I would love to know. Feel free to leave a comment below.

POSTSCRIPT

Here is a presentation that I created associated with the post:

Advocating with Social Media – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires


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Being Connected, What is Your Story? – Originally Ran on Finding Common Ground (30/5/14)

This post was first shared on +Peter DeWitt‘s blog Finding Common Ground on the 30th May 2014.


There is a documentary series called Who Do You Think You Are?, the premise of which is to to trace the journey of a celebrity back to their genealogical roots. From the odd episodes that I have seen, the show works because it takes someone whose life is seen as extraordinary and it finds their story in the odd and the ordinary.

This idea of tracing our identity back to the roots got me thinking about being a connected educator. There is often so much written about getting people connected. However, one of the biggest hurdles that I have found is bridging the gap between those in the shadows, lurking in the background, to creating a more engaged community which includes commenting and collaboration. One aspect that I feel is missing are the stories of how those now connected –  those sharing, engaging, participating – actually got to that point.

In his Ted Talk presentation on The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies+Doug Belshaw suggests that new technologies often create new opportunities. “Every time you are given a new tool it gives you a different way of impacting upon the world.” What I feel is overlooked in this situation is what that impact is. No one was born connected, well at least not consciously connected, the question then is how they got to their current situation.

In many respects social media has been around in education in some shape or form for some time. However, there is still a gap in regards to the take-up. There are many different reasons for this. For +Dean Shareski, there is a digital dualism that needs to be overcome, while for +Tom Whitby the battle is over control and comfort zones. Often the arguments presented about the various benefits associated with being either connected or disconnected, however such arguments often provide little discussion of the middle ground, that space in-between and how to venture through it.

As I have discussed elsewhere, being connected and having a personal learning network is not something that is done, rather it is something that we do. My answer then is that instead of sharing the plethora of benefits, maybe we need to share our journey in all of its failures and various points of confusion.

It is important to recognise that when it comes to connecting that everyone does it differently and to borrow from +Doug Belshaw‘s work on digital literacies, sometimes coming to an understanding of what it means to be connected is just as important as actually being connected. For me, being a connected educator has involved five different steps:

Although each of these events can be considered in isolation, more significantly they can each be seen as interconnecting with and adding to the other. For example, I feel that my connections online have only been strengthened through the elaborations of my thoughts via my blog. The big question though, is what does it mean to be connected for you and how did you get to this point?

Late last year, Peter DeWitt wrote a response to the PLN Challenge that was going around. In it he shared 11 random facts and answered 11 questions set by Tony Sinanis. What was interesting though was that instead of setting 11 questions in return, Peter posed the question, what inspired you this year? This openness allowed those responding to make of it what they would.

In the same spirit of Peter’s openness, I put out the challenge, what are the markers that stand out in your journey in being a connected educator? You may not wish to write a long and elongated response as I have, but at the very least share something. Although I would love to hear your story, more importantly, it maybe the impetus for others to take the next step, whatever that maybe.


This post was turned into a video as a contribution to Alan Levine’s 2015 K12 Online Conference presentation ‘True Stories of Open Sharing


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Creative Expression as a Form of #EduVoice – More Reflections from #DLTV2014

 

I took to the recent #DLTV2014 Conference with a renewed sense of creative vigour. Instead of simply recalling information and posting titbits here and there (which I did as well), inspired by the likes of +Amy Burvall, I set myself the challenge of being more visual and more imaginative in my postings. Using creativity as a medium to express my voice. So here then are some of my ventures:

#DLTV2014

Leading up to the event, I created a couple of memes to stir up the conversation around DLTV2014.



#EduVoice

I created a couple of images in the build up to +Steve Brophy and I’s session ‘Listening to the Voices in and out of the Classroom’.

Sketch made using Paper 53 app on the iPad 

 

Original image via creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by hackNY: http://flickr.com/photos/hackny/5685391557
Edited using Phoster on iPad

 

 

I think that maybe this one has mixed messages

 

Made using Trading Cards app on iPad via +Corrie Barclay post ‘1 iPad, 1 Task, 15 Ways’


#WhereisHa

Armed with +Dean Shareski‘s recent suggestion that Twitter can be a creative medium, +Corey Aylen, +Eleni Kyritsis, +Bec Spink, +Mel Cashen and I started a hashtag #whereisHa (link to Tagboard) in response to +Michael Ha‘s absence from the keynote on the second morning. As a part of this playful folly, I created the following memes to add to the Tweets:

Playing on the hysteria around the Beatles, I thought that I would extend the mania.

 

This was in reference to the fact the +Michael Ha was meant to present during the first session, yet he hadn’t even arrived yet. Interestingly, +Samantha Bates jumped on the comment, even though she wasn’t at the conference, and argued that he could via a Hangout etc …


#LegoPoetry

This was created in the ‘Games in Education’ space under the guidance of +Dan Donahoo. Really we just chatted while discuss the myriad of potentials associated with the idea of Lego poetry.

This Lego poetry is clearly in jest, because I clearly value my Twitter connections and the awesome work of +Alec Couros


+Riss Leung‘s Keynote

 

My take-away from +Riss Leung‘s keynote, ‘be the change’. Was a common them throughout the conference. 


ABC Splash

My summary of some of the great things on offer through the ABC Splash website

 

This is my sketch of a Splash live event coming up on the 10th September

Accelerating Innovation In Your School w/ +Richard Olsen

This was my initial sketch based on Olsen’s key questions as well as the Modern Learning Canvas
In Olsen’s overview as to way our current attempts to bring change, reform and innovation into the classroom, he made the statement that “Heroic teachers have little impact on schools”


Best Conference Ever

While a few days afterwards, I created this to sum up my experience at #DLTV2014. I agree with +Rick Kayler-Thomson on the Two Regular Teachers podcast that it was the best conference that I have been to. However, I think that in some part that this was because I was willing to let it be. Whether it be taking a risk in collaborating with +Steve Brophy for our presentation or going outside my comfort zone in embracing the games in education space. Instead of entering as a teacher, I feel I entered as a learner.
 
This is a play on Juan Antonio Samaranch’s statement after each Olympics that ‘I declare this the best olympics ever’ or something like that.

 

In many respects I think that professional learning as a whole needs a shake-up and DLTV took a step in that direction with this years conference. Although the spaces could have been more flexible and conducive to participant driven learning, for what do you do in a lecture theatre? Lecture? I still feel that the push to collaborate and communicate within streams, as explained by +Kynan Robinson in his fantastic post, was an excellent idea. For as I have stated elsewhere, the smartest person at the conference is the conference. 
 
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences of the DLTV2014 Conference or any other conference for that matter. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Influences and Inspiration – A Reflection on a Year of Blogging

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14606572678
 
I have spoken elsewhere about how I have become a connected educator. However, I have not necessarily spoken about those who have had an ongoing influence on me. +Cameron Paterson talks about finding someone who scares you to drive you, but I feel that it is more important to find some who inspires you and drives you forward. Sometimes such moments can be intimidating or awe inspiring. They provide us with a choice, we can either say that is too hard and baulk at the challenge or say that although it is a lot of work, with a bit more effort and endeavour I could achieve that too.
 
Although ‘influence and inspiration’ exists outside of gender, I am inspired by a tweet from +Julie Bytheway to be more equitable. So I have decided to split my list between two five men and five women. So in no particular order, here are ten people who have made an impact on my journey and my first year of blogging …

+danah boyd

I can’t remember the list I found, but Boyd was one of the first people I started following when I got on Twitter. I would read her posts and relish the different perspectives which she provided. Boyd’s work has helped me realise that there are different ways of seeing teens and internet, as was documented in her fantastic book It’s Complicated, which I reviewed here.

+Peter DeWitt

DeWitt completely changed the way I saw Twitter and being a connected educator. Although I had connected with many other teachers, DeWitt was the first leader who I connected with. I had grown up surrounded by some great leaders, however they did not always share so openly and honestly. I can’t even remember how I came upon DeWitt’s blog, but it soon became a staple of my digital diet. Even when talking about tales and topics with little direct influence on my own day to day happenings, it is his endeavour to always keep the conversation going is what I aspire to the most and keeps me coming back.

Jason Borton

Although I had engaged with various school leaders from abroad both directly, as in the case with +Peter DeWitt, but also through such spaces as Connected Principals, Borton was the first ‘local’ principal who really changed the way I saw things at home. (Bit ironic how in a global world Canberra and Melbourne become local.) Whether it be questioning homework, reporting and whole school enabling, he has engaged with all those big topics on both Twitter and through his blog that from my experience many leaders baulk at. It was actually through Borton that I came upon Edutweetoz and the +TER Podcast, two other priceless points of perspective and great ambassadors for more empowered voices in education.

+Jenny Ashby

As I have discussed elsewhere, Jenny was very much the start of my connected journey. I am always inspired by how much she manages to achieve. Whether this be her podcasts (RU Connected or AU2AZ) or here involvement in such projects as Skype Around the World in 24 Hours and Slide2Learn. What amazes me the most about Jenny is that it would be so easy for her not to be involved in many of these things, distance to travel or quality of internet connection. However, from my experiences with Ashby, she often seems to find some reason to be involved, rather than an excuse not to be. Great mindset.

+Doug Belshaw

I came upon Belshaw via his phenomenal work around digital literacies. However, what stands out the most to me is his sharing and giving back. People tell me that I write a lot, then I ask them if they follow Doug’s work. In addition to this, he is always pushing the envelope, question and critiquing, innovating for tomorrow, rather than living for today. Take for example his recent push to take back ownership of his data by self-hosting his own email. Although this may seem an impossible task, many great changes in history have been started by a lone nut who takes a stand.

+Richard Olsen

If ever I want a different perspective on something, I often go to Olsen. He always finds something that I have missed or puts a different spin on things. As I have stated elsewhere, a part of me lives for such critical engagement. Really though, what I respect most about Olsen is that instead of simply writing things off, ignoring them, carrying his own conversation, he puts in the time and effort to fuel the wildfire of learning and keep the conversation going.

+Pernille Ripp

Ripp has been a constant inspiration ever since i got online. Unlike many who perpetuate change from the top down, Ripp is a great example of what is possible from the bottom up. One of her greatest attributes is her openness and honesty. Although it can be easy to consider Ripp as taking ‘risks’ and going beyond the perceived status quo, what she has taught me is that in some respect we are all risk takers, whether we like it or not. That we are all making a choice. I think that what makes some people like Ripp empowering and important is that they own the choices and decisions. I must admit that I spent the first few years as a teacher thinking that it wasn’t my roll or right to make big decisions, I thought that was the role of those above to feed down ‘best practise’. However, when those answers never arrived I realised that change starts with me today in my classroom and that there is no time to wait.

+Amy Burvall 

Like Belshaw, Burvall’s ability to seemingly achieve so much is a constant reminder that there is always something more I could be doing. In addition to her awesome amount of sharing online, she has also influenced the way I consider the assessment of art and creativity. She has also introduced me to the potential of some amazing applications, such as Mozilla Popcorn and Paper53. To me, Burvall demonstrates that there is no limit to engagement with and through digital literacies, instead the only limit is ourselves.

Inquire Within

I am not sure exactly when I came upon +Edna Sackson‘s group blog, Inquire Within, however it has become an important part of my growth in regards to teaching and learning. Having had a mixed past when it comes to inquiry, something I have discussed elsewhere, Inquire Within has brushed away so many misconceptions. I think that my greatest fault was to think that inquiry could actually be defined, rather than be what it actually is, a myriad of combinations which form to make different pedagogical cocktails. During my time following the site, I have come upon so many great posts and awesome ideas there, such as +Bianca Hewes ‘Managing the Mushy Middle’ and Kath Murdoch’s ‘How do Inquiry Teachers Teach?’ Along with Ripp’s blog, Inquire Within is often one of the first sites that I recommend to other teachers in regards to teaching and learning.

+Ed Tech Crew

When I think of influences, I find it hard to go beyond the +Ed Tech Crew. Whether it be guests on the program, such as +Ian Guest and +Alec Couros, the community curation in the Diigo group or the dialogue and discussion between +Darrel Branson and +Tony Richards, there is so much sharing that occurs. I have lost count of the thoughts and ideas that have taken seed via the +Ed Tech Crew. In addition to this, I have also been lucky enough to share my thoughts of Melbourne Google in Education Summit 2013, as well as my thoughts on leading ICT and where we have come in regards to technology in education. It was sad to hear that the +Ed Tech Crew would actually be going into hiatus. However, it is also a recognition that it takes a village.

The Word ‘I’ Refers To …

It is good to recognise our influences in life. However, one of the problems with such a practise is that there will always be someone missed or overlooked. I was really taken by Jack Welch’s statement that “nearly everything I have done has been accomplished with other people” as quoted in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. In some vague attempt to recongise some of these ‘other people’ I have listed all the people who I have mentioned through my many blogs over the last year: +John Moravec +Kevin Miklasz +Troy MONCUR +Tom Whitby +Andrew Williamson +Joe Mazza +Peter Kent +Rich Lambert +Corrie Barclay +John Pearce +Deb Hicks +Seth Godin +Ian Guest +Suan Yeo +Jim Sill +Chris Betcher +Anthony Speranza +Mike Reading +Jason Markey +George Couros +David Truss +Tom March +Vicki Davis +Ben Gallagher +Rebecca Davies +Anne Mirtschin +Adam Bellow +stephen heppell +David Tuffley +Tony Sinanis +Dan Rockwell +Alf Galea +Mel Cashen +Matt Esterman +Darrel Branson +Ashley Proud +Ryan Tate +Roland Gesthuizen +Aubrey Daniels International +Catherine Gatt +Celia Coffa +Kynan Robinson +Mark O’Meara +Lois Smethurst +Darren Murphy +Mark Barnes +Chris Wejr +Doug Belshaw +Miguel Guhlin +TER Podcast +Bianca Hewes +Luis López-Cano +John Spencer +Tom Panarese +Edna Sackson +David Zyngier +Cameron Malcher +Mariana Funes +dave cormier +Dick Faber +Ewan McIntosh +Darryn Swaby +David Price +Alan Thwaites +Stephen Harris +Corey Aylen +Simon Crook +Nick Jackson +Simon Ensor +maureen maher +Keith Hamon +John Thomas +Margo Edgar +Jan Molloy +Kim Yeomans +John Bennett +Will Richardson +Bec Spink +Sam Irwin +Corinne Campbell +Rick Kayler-Thomson +Adam Lavars +Heather Bailie +Dean Shareski +Stephen Collis +Michelle Hostrup +Starr Sackstein +Charles Arthur +Craig Kemp +David Weinberger +Eric Jensen and +Katelyn Fraser. Although extensive, these are simply people whose thoughts and ideas I have been conscious of, emerged from the noise. For as +Keith Hamon recently suggested in an interesting post on authorship, “while I can find sources for all of my ideas, I’m not sure that they are my sources, but I am sure that it doesn’t matter.”

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