A story about collaboration

How a group of five teachers came to present at ICTEV Conference on #TMMelb

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I am passionate about the Teachmeet movement.  My involvement has opened many doors to me and one of the most significant things has been the people I have met.

Earlier this year, at a de-brief session after a Teachmeet, one member (OK it was Mel) suggested that we could present about TM’s at the upcoming ICTEV conference. Everyone thought it was a great idea and as is customary in any group – one person was appointed, duly delegated, or dobbed in to the task of submitting the application (OK it was Mel again).  Well it must have been done well as it was accepted and the proposal became a reality – we were set to present, but that was in May, that was ages away.   A ‘planning session’ was allocated but the beautiful Japanese cuisine got in the way of the ‘planned’ planning, barring a few careful notes on a napkin. (Thanks Mel)   The only real decision that night was that it should be a joint presentation.  Teachmeets are after all, a shared, social  event, so the presentation would reflect this.

So, it came down to a few weeks before the event and opportunities for a group planning session were getting slim. A face to face meeting was getting difficult to manage.  Emails were flying to and fro.  After all, these are busy educators and women, there are lessons to plan, reports to write, essays to complete etc.   So what do any innovative, well rounded and resourced networked educators do ?  They ‘hang-out’.   Monday night, a fortnight before the conference, from lounge rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms across suburban Melbourne a ‘virtual’ gathering occurred. Google Hangout proved a perfect arena for this chat and planning session.  After the bestowing of fake moustaches, crowns and tiaras (a fun feature of hangouts – now I am wishing I had some screenshots to share!) we were down to the important business, working on many screens switching between a shared Google Presentation.   A fine oiled machine soon had a set of ideas, designed and ordered.  A plan was constructed!   Elements were allocated to each member  and that was that.  We all attended to our allocated tasks and trusted that in the good old show business fashion, it would be alright on the night ! (or afternoon as was the case).

ICTEV tweets
I am pleased to report that it went very well.  We stayed within our allocated 7 minute speed sharing limit, which is a practiced skill for any TeachMeet attendee.  We shared our message and passion.

It was a delight to be part of this small piece of collaboration.  Thanks to all involved. I wonder what we can do next ?

Come along to a TeachMeet event and become part of a wonderful group of people who want to share, question and challenge.

Our presentation – not the same without Brette’s questioning techniques!

Jump on board

As I browse Twitter and read blogs I am inspired and amazed by the enthusiastic members of the teaching profession who take the time to share their feelings, knowledge and skills.  I know there are wonderful teachers who do not appear in my Twitterstream or RSS feeds, but I am struck by those that do.   I realise that the ‘on-line’ world is not familiar to everyone, confidence and interests vary from person to person.   People make their own personal decisions about how to spend their time.   Many wonderful words of wisdom cross the staffroom tables everywhere, and wonderful things happen in every classroom.  But the world has changed, teaching is no longer private.     It is common place for staff to observe  each other, work collaboratively, share challenges and successes.  Different school communities make this happen in different ways but I notice it IS happening everywhere to some degree.  Our school world must mirror the world that our students inhabit when they walk out the school gate.   Teachers being involved in connecting and communicating is a vital cog in the wheel.  

Anyone who knows me, will know that I am far more introverted than extrovert.  This has not stopped me from feeling quite comfortable in an on-line professional world.   In fact, it is probably why I enjoy this learning style – I can lurk, browse and choose to contribute when I feel I have something to add.   At a face-to-face meeting with strangers, I will not be the quickest one to add my 2c worth to a discussion.  Although, I am developing confidence as I become more passionate and experienced on some subjects.

Every teacher I know has something to add to the conversation, how can we make those more reticent feel more enthusiastic to join in? I know that writing a blog post is not the way some people reflect (although I heartily recommend it), but I believe everyone could benefit from joining in, even if it is by simply reading and adding odd comments.   In a world, where we are encouraging, if not requiring our students to become more overtly reflective learners, I believe teachers can benefit from this too!

I don’t think it is going too far to suggest, that teachers who do not pursue some form of connection, further education/stimulus, awareness raising or self directed inquiry learning are doing themselves and their students a disservice.  The level of that involvement will naturally vary according to interest and time.   The time element is often the excuse, but when I see the involvement of those I follow and read I think, “If they can do it….”

As discussed in previous posts, Twitter is a tool that takes time to learn and master, but I think you will have resounding agreement if you ask teachers who have taken the time about the benefits.    Blogging, similarly can take time, time to develop a core library of relevant writers, time to feel confident to post your thoughts.

How do we convince those not yet convinced to jump on board?  I get frustrated that it is all here and could be much richer with an even wider contributing audience.  I prepared this graphic a while ago for another purpose but it summarises the benefits I receive from my involvement in an online network.

2000 Tweets

If anyone had told me a few years ago that as of December 2012, I would have accumulated a story of 2000 tweets, 1166 followers and be following 883 others, I would have seriously doubted it. But here I am today, and these are the statistics.

It has been an amazing journey and I have enjoyed every bit. I followed what appears to be the traditional route – sign up, lurk, follow a few, a few retweets and then getting in to the full swing of it and encouraging others to participate too.  As a professional, I think differently because of the potential Twitter has opened up for me.  I now have connections and in some case new friendships with an amazing network of educators – educators from all over the world, from all sectors of education and involved in leadership, as well as all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. I follow a few of the ‘celebrity’ educational tweeters, but draw more support from the every day teachers who so generously participate in this global staffroom.

It has been very encouraging over the past few months to see positive stories about the use of Twitter as a tool to enhance our learning.  Hopefully this is un-doing some of the bad reputation Twitter has accumulated by the poor use of a few celebrities.

When you are so convinced that something is great, it is easy to be evangelistic and suggest that everyone should get involved, but I will not be that idealistic.  I do hope however, that all teachers in some way accept that our profession is no longer private, we should be looking for opportunities to share our questions, or ideas and our passions. Whether they join a Ning, read blogs, participate in online learning opportunities or at the very least talk to the teachers in their school and share ideas and thoughts. We owe it to our students to model this style of learning.

There are many other posts on the value of Twitter – a few below

Again; Relevance, Why Twitter by Tom Whitby

Are you ready 4 Twitter? Another wonderful post by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.

Does Twitter improve education? or “Does the USE of Twitter Improve Education?” by George Couros

A video from AITSL’s Teacher Feature Collection

Finally a wonderful post by Bec Spink, about her use of Twitter with students as well as a professional learning opportunity.

Thanks to all those who have been part of this journey and in particular to the State Library of Victoria’s PLN program that was the instigator for my original connection. I wonder what I will be tweeting about in 2 more years or 2000 tweets away?

Twitter – starting to get there

Interesting day in today’s newspapers – three positive articles about the positive use of Twitter by teaching professionals.   I am heartened as it was only last week that I found myself having to defend Twitter in a room of educators.   I am very aware that teachers are busy, that they are often overwhelmed by the pressures of the classroom and  they cannot see an opportunity in their lives to open the window to this opportunity.   I am also very aware of the many who do open the window and wonder why they took so long to join this amazing group of people.

 

Articles like these in today’s national press (SMH and The Age and again The Age) can serve to whittle away at all the negativity that a few poor users of Twitter create.

Blogging as part of the learning

Any reader of this blog will know that I love blogging and often use it personally to ask questions and explore issues.  I have been lucky enough to introduce personal blogging to a group of 10 – 12 year olds and used the Student Blogging Challenge to launch this process. They very quickly applied new skills: adding widgets, commenting, navigating the dashboards and adding posts.  Most did only what was required while a few seemed to ‘click’ with the notion that their blogs could be an added tool in their learning.  The ‘showcase’ element of blogging is easy: create a product, publish it, get feedback (always positive).

Listening to and reading the work of Ideas Lab, I was keen to explore another facet of blogging.

Rethinking Transparency

Communicate the whole learning process not just student achievements.
Schools also need to reimagine what students publish. Rather than simply showcasing student achievements and reflections upon the process as a whole, students should be encouraged to share the entire learning process.
Schools should teach and encourage students to share their project ideas, their reflections, their progress and their achievements. School should also consider whether every student should have a blog, a journal where they have the freedom to plan, share and reflect.

http://www.ideaslab.edu.au  – Understanding-Virtual-Pedagogies

An opportunity arose recently when a student published his ‘unfinished’ narrative.  He put a note on the class Edmodo page,  explaining that it was not finished.  Having developed a wonderful PLN (including one author), I immediately thought, here was an opportunity for our young author to connect, to get feedback during the process.  I contacted an author (thanks Kelly) and within minutes, the student had a beautifully written commentary on his draft story.  Lovely feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement from a credible, experienced writer.
It remains to be seen, as this was only yesterday, how this translates directly to the piece of work in progress.  But I cannot see, how this intervention cannot have a positive effect on the young writer.  He knows he has an audience, he knows there are people with skills that can assist his growth and that they are not all in his classroom or school.

At a recent day with other educators including Alec Couros, we discussed how teachers can be the nodes for our students learning, how we can create a network around ourselves and consequently around our students.  This was a perfect opportunity to prove this concepts value.

How can we help our students to develop their own Personal Learning Networks?