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Connectivism revisited… February 12, 2009

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Over the past week I have begun to see, much more than ever before, the value of connectivism. I have found blogs from colleagues to be enlightening and a powerful resource to share support and ideas with one another. My initial experience with Twitter was lackluster at the best. Initially I saw little value in a 140 letter message to be of any good. How can this connect people to anything worthwhile? Did I really care so-and-so was going into a grocery store? How about what’s his name he was going to the city?

As first impressions went I was struggling with how this would affect me in a practical manner to take within my classroom. However that has greatly changed in the last two weeks. Google Reader has been at the heart of this change and two particular people in general: Stephen King and Sarah Hill. These two people through their blogs have inspired me to push me in directions I have never even thought of. Through reading about their attempts at trying new things or interpreting things in a different manner I have felt the urge to explore some of what they have been trying.

Today is a prime example of such an connective sharing process. Waking up I read Stephen’s blog entry on Google Docs and Forms, which was inspired for him by Sarah’s blog (a cyclical process to quote Steve Kemp). In reading both blogs I was inspired to take a stab at exploring Google Docs. This exploration led me to create a Form for my Law class to try Journaling online. Entering their name, a small poll, plus their journal reflection, sends that info to a spreadsheet document for my perusal. This allows me to connect to students via my blog (where the Form is embedded), technology, and enables me to collect info in a much different way. This info I can turn into graphs that can be used to further class discussion. I am truly excited by this. Oh yeah, I save some paper too! A five minute read in the morning has lead to a change that I hope to turn out positively for myself as I explore more options to connect to my students. The cycle continues as I had to share this newfound knowledge with two of my colleagues (Jim and John) who I am sure will use this knowledge in their own classes and blogs.

Twitter as well has born some fruit. I am still a little overwhelmed with the amount of traffic that occurs on it. Perhaps Tweetdeck might assist me in sifting through the chatter, but I have as of yet found the time to explore that option. However as I have been sifting through the info I have found some useful links to blogs, news, and articles. Perhaps the use of Twitter is to find info that you may want to look for but simply do not have the time to do so. I have already used some of the articles and info within the classroom. With more time I am sure Twitter will become clearer to me.

Connectivism is becoming an integral part of my daily experience. I look forward to waking up each morning reading about and sharing with my colleagues ideas, thoughts and the learning experiences that each of us are having. This sharing strengthens us all, turning us into a virtual professional learning community. Thanks Stephen and Sarah 🙂

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Is this an example of the future? January 26, 2009

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In viewing the video “The Networked Student” I stumbled upon these two videos from Abilene Christian University.  Though at times seeming like an ad for iPhones or for the university itself you have to wonder is this the future (though there are clear examples of the here and now).  Just to throw a quick warning though is that over the last week or so there has been increasing warnings of prolonged usage of cell phone technology.  How is this going to change this idea of being “Connected”?

Feel free to watch the videos below, but just a warning both videos together total about 18 minutes.

“Connected” (Part 1)

“Connected” (Part 2)

A Connected Student… January 26, 2009

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I just finished watching “A Connected Student” on You Tube and I found it very exciting and truthful as it captures what I think many students today encompass.  I was just yesterday saying to Johnny Mac on a drive down to Lloydminister how I found it interesting how people “communicate” via the social networking site Facebook.  A lot of youth seem to update their lives daily with pics, updates, movies, quizzes, etc.  The “older” generation seems to update it with less frequency.  Perhaps we like the more tried and true forms of communication more.  How many times have you heard colleagues and friends our age or older complain about the complexity of texting and how they would rather simply phone someone.

I had an English teacher back in high school and later on as my supervisor for my teaching degree once tell me that teaching involved 5% knowledge and 95% communicator/entertainer.  He espoused trying to connect with his students on their level and this has always stuck with me.  I do try and communicate on their level (bridging the generational gap that seems to be inherent) with whatever tools I have at my advantage.  Yes I tell the students I have a Wii and an X-Box (old school one).  I do text, I have an mp3 player, and I have ripped music (legally) as well as DVDs.  This to me allows me to communicate on another level with them, making me seem less out of their loop.  However am I as well versed as they are?  No!  I am just a neophyte in their eyes but I believe in trying to communicate with them I am more “human”.  If you just take a moment see where technology has come into our culture; read this paragraph again and see how many words have emerged and taken a whole new context with the advent of computers.

Now how does this relate to the teacher? Are we obsolete with students being able to get information readily in this day and age?  No.  I think teachers are at an exciting time to be able to help students with technology.  I understand that many of us are not as readily comfortable with technology and how to use it, but that does not mean we cannot influence students’ use of it.  As the video points out, do students have the capacity to understand how best to use and evaluate technology?  Do they understand a “good” informational website from a “bad” one?  Do they know some of the legal issues with information?  Etc.  Teachers can pass these skills along to assist students in making smart choices with how best and evaluate emerging technologies.  Teachers will never become obsolete…we simply adapt to the information we teach and how we teach it.  However where do we get the time to adapt?  Within a teacher’s day do we have the time to do this in an ever-increasing workload?

Connectivism… January 24, 2009

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This past week was an interesting lesson in their ideas of connectivism.  I find in amazing since my foray into computers way back in 1995 (with the first computer in Sydney with Windows 95) and the Internet how far we have come.  I find it interesting how much new social network sites change how people network.  Back in 1995 these were hardly mentioned let alone thought of yet.  Now with network sites like Facebook its amazing how connectivism works.  Since joining Facebook about a year and a half ago I have reconnected with people I have not seen since 1985 or earlier.  As an Air Force brat this has been a blessing in connecting with those people from my childhood that I have a lost over time.

With Facebook comes a negative as well as I am swamped with requests from students left, right and centre.  This opens up concerns of professionalism.  However I see at times how something like Facebook, blogs, etc., could be used as a potential tool in order to connect to students on their level.  Perhaps in sharing their “world” with them I can connect in new and exciting ways that will take me further in communicating with them to succeed with learning.

Hopefully within this class I can find that balance in using technology to connect and communicate with students and their parents.  I have since started a blog that will update students/parents on the daily activities that occur in the classroom.  However I feel I could do more to harness this power to an even great extent.  I feel like the apes from the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Looking at the monolith wondering what it is and how it works.  Hopefully once I begin to understand Hal won’t toss me out the airlock.