Professional Development 365: Personalize Your Learning


Digital Collaboration for Learning

In this day and age, educators must take responsibility for their own professional growth. Taking time to fully develop your personal learning environment (PLE) and your personal learning network (PLN) is tantamount to attending state conferences, local workshops, and edcamps, and the price is right!

How many times have you been asked,

“I always wonder… when do you sleep?”

I get this quite often from folks who imagine that I must consume and regurgitate all things tech ALL THE TIME. I just play around in my PLE during my spare time. The fact is, those who have a great grasp on instructional technology are either naturally inclined, or inclined spend extra time practicing with tools until they get it. I’m a good mixture of the two. We must remember one thing: for the sake of education, it’s time to shift the focus. It’s not about the technology or devices. It’s about the information one can find and the products one can create with them as a result of learning.

I’m here to tell you that you can acquire almost any skill or knowledge you so desire with a just a little bit of searching. It won’t take the place of a formal certification or degree, but you can read various blogs, watch tutorial videos, search for certain hashtags on Twitter, or look for innovative ideas on Pinterest and Facebook. In other words, be resourceful; you can do this all from the comfort of the couch, the deck, the beach, or bed at any time that is most convenient for you!

One misconception I’d also like to clear up, is the true definition of a personal learning network (PLN). Do not be thrown off by the word, personal. Some believe that it is learning that pertains to matters outside of work. Not so. It is learning that belongs to you. It is prescribed by you, by your own means, and consumed in your own time.

I recently realized  that I have trouble selling teachers on developing a strong PLN, because I have not shown them the components of a stable PERSONAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT (PLE). Your PLE is the environment that you afford yourself to use technology to learn from the web and trusted sources, and exchange knowledge with other professionals both within and outside of your local area. Below are the components of a PLE and some examples.

CPLE cropped

Click the graphic for an interactive version!

It is not suggested that you have a membership with each outlet shown above, however networking is about learning and sharing. Therefore, you should try to establish a well balanced system for doing so. Your PLN is the people with which you interact with, using the tools above. They are your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and the people in your Google+ circles (to name a few).

For example:  Take a look at the TechChic’s PLE and the tools she uses to interact with her professional learning network.

How I Facilitate My Own Learning

Technology: I use my HP laptop and Chromebook, an iPad, and my Samsung Galaxy note 3 to set up my environment and network (not all at once, of course…but I’ve been known to on occasion).

Web 2.0: A revamped interactive web experience that allows users to share and comment on information. Before (Web 1.0, users could only read information that had been posted to HTML sites, and little else).

Social Media: I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit, and Voxer. I look in these places for valuable information that may help me with instructional technology, often. If something catches my eye, I will retweet, share, or repin the information. Whenever I blog about something that I think is newsworthy, I share it to those platforms. People who see that material, and think it deserves to be shared with other people in their networks, do the same.

Specifically on Twitter, I create lists of influencers who tweet about certain subjects. For instance, I created an instructional technology list comprised of professionals around the world. When I want to see what’s new in my craft, I pull up that list. Most posts are loaded with helpful links and graphics that assist me in my quests. There are certain chats that I follow like the Breakfast Club (#BFC530). That chat starts at 5:30 am, but I can search the hashtag later in the morning, and get caught up on the question of the day, and everyone’s responses. Simultaneously, there’s a spin-off Voxer chat going on where people from the group are sharing voice recordings of their philosophies regarding the topic of the day. It comes straight to my phone. Sweet!!!

Blogs/News/Feeds: Huffington Post, Mashable, The Bible AppFree Technology for Teachers, and Fantasy Football Today  are my favorite places to go for information. Again, when something valuable appears on my screen, I send it to Evernote or add it to Pocket to read again later, and share it with my PLN (the people in my network). Personally, this blog is a WordPress.com site. I think it’s user-friendly, the themes are great, and the mobile app is highly functional for editing and sharing on the go.

Productivity: Evernote is my favorite note-taking tool of all time. I can use the Web Clipper, or the Clearly extensions (find them in the Chrome Store) to send materials directly to my notebooks. It’s just plain awesome!

Grolier OnlineOnline Searching: Google is the engine that I use most frequently, however it’s wrought with Wikipedia articles. There is a alternative to this. You can go to specific sites and search within the site for the information you’re trying to find. Encyclopedia Britannica has a hefty amount of information available to kids looking for trusted research materials. For the record, NC Wiseowl is just deep.  When you search for resources in this space, it chauffeurs you directly to legitimate sources.

Bookmarks: Diigo is a great bookmarking tool that allows you to annotate your findings before saving the source to your list. I use the Google bookmarking tool and save the icons only to my bookmark bar (edit the bookmark and delete the title. The tiny icon appears on the bookmarks bar. When you hover your pointer over it, the name of the site is revealed). Information that I want to pull up later, I’ll send to my notebook or add to pocket.

Collaborate: This year, the instructional technology facilitators in our district will run our professional development sessions through Schoology this year. Like in Edmodo, not only can we flip our PD by providing the materials early, but we can post discussion questions for our teachers to ponder, based on the materials. There are also several groups and communities that we can join to share ideas with and learn from.

Online Video: There are three online video sources that I go to for learning. YouTube (anything you can think of), TED Talks (inspiration, philosophy), and iTunes Video Podcasts (graphics and photography).

Online Audio: Stitcher Radio is my favorite place for radio podcasts. You can make playlists and find experts speaking on just about everything. Audible.com is my go-to when I wantStitcher to get in some reading, but I’m just too busy (or just plain lazy) to hold up my iPad or Kindle Fire to read the words. Besides, sometimes when I listen to an audiobook as opposed to reading an eBook, I can catch things I may otherwise miss, or hear things read in the proper context, whereas I may have read it with a different context in mind.

Take the time to build your personal learning platforms. Teach your students to do the same. It will all pay off, by and by.

Resources:

Web 2.0 http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Web-20-or-Web-2

How to Create A Personal Learning Environment

Students Explode Onto the Blogging Scene!


We all know it…it’s very difficult sometimes to get high school students excited about writing (and almost anything else these days). We proved this week however, that once you give them a voice, add a dash of guidance, and a splash of technology… viola! We’ve got kids writing like crazy at one high school.

This week, three classes at Bertie Early College  were exposed to training on blogging. Mr. Michael Everett allowed me to come into his Creative Writing class and conduct a workshop for his students on Evernote Web, Evernote Web Clipper, Clearly, and of course, WordPress. The kids were enthusiastic and engaged!

Let me tell you just a bit about what started the blogging revolution. Earlier in the week, I visited with Ms. Rhonda Taylor’s Earth/Environmental Science Classes. Their task was to research an event relative to human’s impact on the environment, and summarize their findings (on paper). This assignment needs some pizzazz, I thought. TechChic to the rescue! Continue reading

10 Takeaways From ISTE 2014


20140701_102350The 2014 ISTE conference in Atlanta GA, was indeed an eye-opening experience. If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the #ISTE2014 on your feed for the last seven days. I got off the plane ready to take in all of the information, and I boarded the flight home afraid that my brain was going to ooze out of my ears! Therefore, it’s taken me a few days to wrap my mind around the many things I learned while in attendance. So, here are 10 takeaways from this amazing national conference!

1. Technological Savvy requires a personal commitment.

Let’s face it. After attending ISTE 2014, it became very clear to me that there are far too many tools and strategies for one to ingest and regurgitate all at once. If I were to rely solely on the presenters and materials I encountered during the conference, and tried to remember every word spoken, I’d fail miserably at retaining valuable knowledge. Thus, it is my personal responsibility to go back into my notes, research the many links I’d written down and QR codes I’d scanned, and embed those concepts mentally, according to the needs of my school district. Continue reading

Twitter For The More Advanced


Use a Dashboard and Expand Your Twitterverse!

Are you still trying to follow along with various Twitter chats, stay abreast of all the breaking news, and keep a watchful eye on your kids’ tweets all on the official Twitter website? It can be mind numbing trying to flip back and forth to all of those pages. This is when a dashboard comes in very handy! Today’s post features TweetDeck, prefered by many to use specifically with Twitter. Unlike Hootsuite, you can only manage your Twitter accounts and no other social media like Facebook or Instagram. However, if you are only looking to supercharge your Twitter experience, this may be the dashboard for you! Click here to see a Thinglink graphic with tags and explanations!

Just a little tidbit as we move into summer conference season. Be armed with a dashboard and Tweet Like A Boss!

Share this and subscribe! As always, thanks for stopping by!

Go Wild With Social Media In The Classroom! Sort of…


Are you tired of constantly being on the prowl, looking to reprimand students whom you catch using social media during your class time? Unless your school has strict digital device policies, or the ability to block all connectivity to the outside world, it’s an everyday task. However, today I’ve got a couple of tools for you from Classtools.net that your little social media enthusiasts will love! So, let’s take a traditional research paper/PowerPoint (substitution) assignment, and move it into the Modification/Redefinition levels of technology integration.

MJ Cover

Continue reading

Twitter Basics for Educators


A few years back, some of my colleagues regarded Twitter as something quirky that I was just really into on a personal level. The truth is that using social media for education is one of the top trends today. There isn’t a conference around which does not host tweet chats during an event. There are loads of Twitter chats for education every night of the week. Alternatively, you can find lists of chats on everything from A to Z on Twubs.

What I’ve discovered however, is that here in Northeastern North Carolina, the issue is tougher than what one tech facilitator can handle alone. While we’re all learning to implement the Common Core and Essential Standards (still), there are cultural and generational divides between technology and traditional education. The reason for this is summed up best in the following quote:

“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.”
― Andrew Smith

Well fear no more! Below is a screencast to simply help teachers, principals, and district personnel learn what Twitter is, how it can be best used in education, and mostly…how to get started, and get the most out of tweeting to grow your PLN!

I hope this helps. The next screencast will focus on hashtags, tweet chats, and dashboards (Tweetdeck). Stay tuned! Meanwhile, share this and subscribe to the Social Juggernaut.

5 Reasons Every Educator Should Blog


Blogging is so…

16010_wpm_hiresTherapeutic! I blog because I’ve got a lot to say. I can write for hours on end and no one butts in, begs to differ, or tunes me out…on paper. The crazy thing is, blogging has unlocked a talent that I didn’t even realize I had until recently. I was going through some old school certificates, which were mainly athletic. I came across the most rewarding one in the bunch!  It read, “This certifies that Joan Sharpe made a perfect score on the North Carolina Eighth Grade Writing Test…”

Wait… You mean to tell me that I’ve searched the world over to find my calling, find my ideal career, find myself, and find my purpose in life, and the answer was filed away in a drawer all this time??? This explains why I could often times spit out a 10 page paper in college the night before it was due and make an A (but more on that later)!

Why should all educators blog? I’ve got a few reasons that apply to all, regardless of your writing skills, or your level of desire. 

1. It’s Good Reflective Practice

One of the major parts of the basic lesson plan is reflective practice (RP). This is where teachers reflect on the effectiveness of, and the areas of improvement needed after a lesson has been delivered. RP is an essential part of the planning process because if we learn to critique our own lessons and make changes for the better, then we improve as we facilitate instruction. We can also research trends and discover ways to stay current in the profession. For example, because I blogged about social media in the classroom, it actually opened my scope further about ways to use various platforms in my lessons. It also led me to find Today’s Meet, for the tweeting impaired. Administrators may also reflect on their philosophies of education, trends they see in their buildings, and initiatives under which their school may operate. Blogging is a great way to build your digital portfolio. Continue reading

Are Schools Losing the Social Media Race?


social-media-logosThe thought recently occurred to me that in order to prepare our students for the future, school districts have to implement social media technology into the curriculum.  Recently, one of my eleventh grade anatomy students (we’ll call him Andy) raised his hand to be acknowledged and said frankly,

“Mrs. McCullough, you do know that today’s student’s are smarter than you all are, don’t you?”

In an attempt to fight back the adrenaline rush and avoid the onset of steam spewing from my ears, I replied,

“How on earth did you come to THAT conclusion, Andy?”

His answer was simple, but painfully obvious.  “Teachers are not ‘up’ on technology like we are.  If you all hook up a new device, you have to read the directions.  Y’all don’t even really know how to use Twitter or Instagram. The stuff we’re learning in school is really not preparing us for real life.” Continue reading