Networks : Connecting our learners

YourEduStoryThe #YourEduStory challenge for this week is What is connected learning and WIIFM?”  (WIIFM = What’s in it for me?) and I realised that I had an unpublished post from 2013 (among many others) that could partially address this topic.


In 2013, I wrote:

As our world of information overload expands, the use of our networks is getting more and more valuable.  Happily accepting that we cannot answer all questions, but that we can help our learners (whether students or teachers)  connect with someone who can, is an important mindset of a modern teacher and learner. I gain solace when I am able to connect people, use my online or face to face Professional Learning network (PLN) and say “I don’t know anything about that, but I just might know someone who does !”

I am grateful for the people in my network and I believe the power of these connections is hugely amplified when we each act as ‘nodes’ or connectors to each others networks.  On Twitter I regularly see people requesting information from their PLN as they are trusted sources and people willing to help.

My experience indicates that many of our students have yet to see or be exposed to the value or purpose in networking beyond their school environment.  We often read that they are already using the power of networks in their social lives, in online games etc but schools are not mirroring this activity.

School must embrace this and model the value of connecting. Class and student blogs, class Twitter accounts, Edmodo, shared Google documents etc, are some of the wonderful vehicles for this connection.   Recently one of our students published her work from a Positive Education program on her blog, another school picked it up and used her content for class discussion.  The excitement from the young blogger was palpable – she was contributing to other students learning and they were adding value to hers.

Relevant and timely exposure to the value of connecting as learners will provide our students with essential skills.  

That was 2 years ago and it still stands.  In a few hours at work last week, I spent time getting the nuts and bolts sorted so that our students have access to their own blogs, their Google Apps for Ed accounts, Edmodo accounts.  It was tedious administration but vital to exposing them to this type of learning.

The ‘What’s in it for me?” question is partly a no-brainer as Heather so well describes but also a bit awkward.  The essence of being connected implies a mutual benefit – sometimes the balance goes one way more than another, but we are more in to the “What’s in it for us?”

Reading Nancy’s response to this prompt, I connected in numerous ways to her story and in particular to “These connections did not happen accidentally.”   Like any relationship, they have to be worked on, cultivated and allow to mature and change.


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.

Reform Symposium 2011

It isn’t over yet, but I like to reflect by writing and so here I am…. tap, tap, tap.    I just finished listening to the Couros Brothers entertain and inform up to 200 people whilst drawing a comparison between schools and a family restaurant.   These brothers have a beautiful ability to get meaningful messages in a very user friendly package.   I won’t paraphrase because you can see the recording if you like and I would not do justice to their message.     Instead I will ‘steal’ a few quotes and explain how they fit into my reality or how they connect to other RSCON3 experiences.



Who is going to argue with this ?  No teacher I know would say that they want to teach a class of the same child x 24.  No principal would want a staffroom of  teachers with the same skills, interests and passions.    Thankfully we have many processes and methods in place that allow students and teachers the flexibility to apply their skills, expand their passions.  No doubt we could improve these opportunities and I think this weekends conferences have focussed on the many ways Web 2.0 can work towards that goal.   Pernille Ripp’s inspiring session on Blogging was the best summary I have heard of how the simple KidBlog application can change lives.



Mingling virtually is easy and this weekend has been a great opportunity.  I admit to probably preferring to hide behind the keyboard when sharing my thoughts, letting my fingers do the talking.  My stuttering nervousness comes out when face to face and I am often left with regrets that I “should have said that” or wish “I did not say that”.     Twitter is a great place to mingle and thereby catch up with what is going on out there.   Henrietta Miller exposed us in her presentation to her Teachmeet idea and from within that room and new #TMmelb was born.  The concept here, is that ‘Twitter friends’ actually arrange face to face meetings in local areas (Henrietta lives in Sydney so she hosted one at her school).   They agree to share something with the others attending but in general it sounds like a great chance for a chat that informs as well as affirms.    What happens with TMmelb will remain to be seen.

Blogging is also a great way of mingling – reading other blogs is like walking in between conversations at a party, dipping in, staying if it interests or tuning out and moving to the next group.  Stop and stay and chat and leave comments or just listen in, read and move on.



I guess this is similar to the previous idea – learning does not occur in isolation.  Chuck Sandy in his keynote spoke about the MASHCollaboration Site – A professional development for teachers.  The motto being, Meet, Ask, Share and Help.  This seems to embody George’s comment about learning being social.   (I really want to listen to that keynote again as it was very powerful).    Both Henrietta Miller’s TeachMeets and Pernille Ripp’s student blogs are also evidence of learning being enhanced, even driven, by socialising, connecting with others.   Personally, as many know, last year I participated in an on-line course that deepened my understanding of Web 2 tools.   It was very successful and I believe that was mainly due to the interactive nature of the course, connections between myself and the other learners (many from my own school).      The days of walking in to a classroom and judging the success of the lesson or the skills of the teacher by the level of the noise are long gone – learning is messy and noisy, due to it’s social nature.

You can almost feel the passion when the Couros brothers speak – when they draw an analogy between their family history and their work as educators, it is passion driven.     Hearing Pernille speak about her classes concern for blogging buddies in Egypt during the time of civil unrest, there is nothing but passion.  The emotions are involved and that creates motivation and hopefully that leads to great learning.

So that is how I am connecting what I have heard so far ……. thanks to all those passionate speakers who inspire us and keep us on our ‘educational toes’

In case you have not heard of this Symposium it is 48 hour feast of Professional learning conducted entirely on-line, relying on volunteer presenters and organisers, Details here.

Anyone else had interesting RSCON3 experiences ?




News in Melbourne Australia this morning is that mobile phones will be banned from an upcoming TV awards night.  This is a reaction to previous years’ ‘night of nights’, where inappropriate texts and more particularly, inappropriate Tweets emanated from the ceremony audience.  It actually lead to the sacking of a journalist from a prominent newspaper. 

logie twitThe news made me wonder again about our maturity as a society in the use of Social Media.  I wrote about this before in relation to the devastating floods in Queensland Twitter, The Good, the Bad and the ugly

I wonder, Will the children in our schools now, grow to become more savvy users of these tools than the current set of adults, or are they already?

Of course, as a teacher, I have to say ‘Yes’, or at the very least “I hope so”.    I spend my professional life trying to instill in children good cyber behaviour.    Our students interact with each other on-line, via blogs and in some cases Twitter in an environment that is modelling appropriate behaviour.    Today’s adults have not had this introduction, and they are making the mistakes that the next generation can learn from.   The mistakes are very public and unfortunately, tools like Twitter are getting a bad name because of this learning curve.    As teachers, we have all too many examples of the consequences of ‘bad’ cyber behaviour to quote to our students.

Despite this, I really don’t think that banning the phones at the ceremony is the answer.   We know that human nature will just see this as a challenge.   Just as in schools, banning the use of Web 2 technology is not the answer.  Students quickly work their way around bans – we need to teach them how to behave, not control the tools at their fingertips.    

I have the answer for the award night events manager – allocate a primary school child per celebrity to chaperone them – I really believe our kids already have a better idea.

Twitter – the good, the bad and the ugly

Living in the southern Australian state of Victoria, we have all been watching with great concern the recent dramatic events occurring in our northern state of Queensland.   Life changing events created by nature – phenomenal floods, some so quick they were described as inland tsunamis and others creeping slowly into Brisbane suburbs over a period of days.   The result is that now I believe, two thirds of the state have now been declared a disaster area.  For those of you not familiar with Queensland, have a look and see, that is an enormous region.

The night before the worst struck, I was watching the Twitter hashtag #qldfloods and was amazed by the traffic speed.  It was such that it was impossible to read all the tweets (especially till I worked out how to pause a Tweetdeck column).

What struck me was the power of this communication forum – people were being warned to leave certain townships in the face of a “wall of water”.   I wondered about the veracity of the comments and went in search of verification on other sites.  Sure enough, the warnings were true and unfortunately the ‘wall of water’ did hit.    Continuing watching, I felt uncomfortable and growing concern as the tweets chronicled the developing disaster.

What then started to concern me was the misinformation starting to filter through – warnings of damages, road closures, deaths that later turned out to be untrue.   Tweets then came warning readers not to believe all the information – hoax donation sites etc.    People were using Twitter as a forum to air their grievances and lay blame.   Later on, after the worst had hit, Twitter provided (and still is) wonderful insight into the best of humankind, the willing offers of assistance etc – the stories of survival.

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The conclusion I came to, is that as  a society,  perhaps we are not mature enough yet to handle the potential of this medium – are we all savvy enough to realise that we need to validate information, verify sources ?   Why are there people out there tweeting and re-tweeting information that has little or no credibility?  In most cases they were probably trying to be good citizens, feeling they are helping out by passing on information.   Queensland Police and all media outlets have used Twitter very effectively as a means to disseminate vital information in crisis situations.

So despite the power of the potential of this amazing tool, I think we need to teach caution when it is being used in circumstances such as the recent disasters.  The potential for information sharing by trusted sources is wonderful, but as with all use of the internet, it needs to be filtered.

An interesting summary of the use of Social media in the current disaster is available here.

The good – amazing potential for valid information sharing

The bad – potential for mis-information

The ugly – forum for nasty grievances to have a public airing