Thursday, 6 October 2016

#getconnected

Professional Learning Development (PLD) courses can cost the earth.  Not only the cost of the course, but it can cost your school money in reliever costs or Teacher Only Days that need to be added to the school year.  Educators and schools need to get smarter in how they look for PLD - especially when there is so much at their fingertips!

Virtually attending uLearn16 through Twitter
#ulearn16 and #notatulearn16 (5-7 October)
I've just spent a part of my day virtually attending #ulearn16.  Unfortunately I could not attend in person, but through the power of Twitter I got to read attendees reactions and thoughts of the keynote speakers and some of the breakout sessions.  As much as I'd rather be able to attend in person, the $828 registration + travel + accommodation was too much out of the budget for this year.  Although I could never get the full content of the keynotes and breakout sessions, I can still participate in discussions and pose questions to those who are there.  To me this is valuable PLD as I am constantly thinking critically about my own pedagogy and reflecting on my practice.

#edchatnz has been an invaluable source of PLD.  The fortnightly discussions (Thursday 8:30pm NZT) are engaging and make you think deeply and critically about the topic.  There are chats were I just read what others have to say, and other topics that I get really involved with.  These chats are not ones where you walk away thinking, "I'm going to try that tomorrow with my class" - these are chats that will make you reflect and possibly change your way of thinking.

Facebook is another way to connect with other educators from around the world.  I belong to a few different national and international teaching pages.  What I have found through using Twitter and Facebook is that Facebook discussions generally are very practical, classroom/resource based discussions, whereas on Twitter there is a lot more questioning of thinking/pedagogy and reflective discussions.  Both have there place.  Meulhuish (2013) states that "just because one is sharing information in a social network site does not mean that the comments one provides are theory driven or particularly formative in ways that impact on practice" (p 38).  This is true when resources or information is the only thing being shared.  In my opinion, the educational twitter chats are where you are more likely to find PLD.

@paerata8
It has been a focus of mine in 2016 to get my students more connected.  We have our own Twitter account (@paerata8) and each day one or two students tweet about something that they have done that day.  We have also joined the Chapter Chat NZ discussions that occur each Friday at 10am.  We read a number of chapters of a novel, complete a task - which is shared online - and answer a series of questions about the chapters.  A large focus for my class has been to reply to and comment on other students' work.  The joy and excitement of having someone comment on their task is immense, it gives their learning a sense of purpose.

Participating in a Chapter Chat NZ
twitter chat

I have the belief that it is important for educators to display positive digital behaviours for our students to see.  Our students are being exposed to social media at a young age, it is important for them to create a positive digital footprint. I have been lucky enough to hear Kevin Honeycutt speak a few times.  He promotes helping students to creative a positive online presence, and that educators need to allow their learners to explore new technologies in a safe environment.

To teachers that have yet to take the plunge and join conversations online, I sincerely urge you to get connected.  It takes a little while to find your feet, but believe me, you won't regret it.

Online communities that I have found beneficial as an educator:
Twitter: #edchatnz, #ulearn16, #gafesummit, #edchat, #digitaledchat
Facebook: NZteachers(primary), Encouraging Teachers, Genius Hour/20% Time, MakerEdNZ
Websites: MindShift, edutopia, Edtalks, TED talks, VLN


References

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 October, 2016 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han.