Was there anything that wasn’t new for me in this course? I don’t think so!
I learned so much throughout the past few months, and my previous stance on limited use of social media and technology has been consistently challenged throughout this term. My view and understanding of technology in the classroom has changed and grown, and will continue to do so over the course of the future.
I tried to encapsulate this enormous amount of learning and growth in the video below, explaining how I was before this class, and how I am now after having shared in all the learning over the past twelve weeks.
It starts with what I knew before this class – common social media outlets like Pinterest, WhatsApp, and Skype – and moves through the biggest hurdles and lessons I took out of this course: Twitter, my WordPress blog, participatory culture, connectivism, rhizomatic learning, student blogging, open education, our role as educators, and digital citizenship as a whole. I consistently questioned my own personal digital footprint I was leaving on the world, and the online connections I was lacking. I learned that connections, learning from others, and creating a network of people from which you can grow as both a learner and as a person is essential in any educational system. This is what I plan to take with me as I move along with my future studies and career opportunities.
The biggest difference, as you can see in the before and after picture, is everything I learned and was encouraged to do in this course:
If you are interested in the specifics, the following is the transcript for the audio of the video above:
Before this class, I realize now that I lived in my own little box in regards to learning and technology. There wasn’t much in this box with me; I had a few apps I used regularly, like Pinterest, Skype, and WhatsApp. I knew of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, although I never used them. I had just recently made a classroom website on Weebly and Google classroom for my students this year.
Then I was introduced to this class, and not only did my whole viewpoint on technology in the classroom shift, but so did the digital footprint I was leaving behind me. I was pushed out of my comfort zone many times, which was uncomfortable at times, but led to a greater and rewarding journey.
It all began with the introduction to Twitter. I had never realized the benefits of Twitter; I was pushed out of my comfort zone many times, which was uncomfortable, but led to a greater and rewarding journey. The amazing amount of resources and connections you can make in but a few months is astounding. You are constantly presented with new articles, videos, and ideas that enhance your teaching and help you question what you know and do on a daily basis. Although it may seem minimal to many Twitter veterans, I have grown from an audience of 0, to an audience of over 100 people, making connections through those I am following and those who are following me. I have learned so much from these connections, and my network continues to grow on a daily basis, giving me a sense of responsibility in my posts and digital footprint; one I hope to share with my students. Through the use of Twitter chats I was able to hear what others were and are doing, and learn about new resources to incorporate in the classroom. These Twitter chats were overwhelming at first, but in the end, were incredibly beneficial in the development of a new educational network. I hope to continue using this resource in the future, participate in more twitter chats, work on balancing my tweet vs retweet ratio, incorporate new and different hashtags into my tweets, and to grow my following/followers network. Continuing to model online responsibility to my students.
I feel this same responsibility with my WordPress blog, another new tool I began using at the start of this course. This blog allowed me to experiment further with the digital learning footprint I was leaving on the world. For the first time ever, I openly shared my opinions, reflections, struggles, and misunderstandings online. The incorporation of hyperlinks, pingbacks, widgets, categories, embedded material, correctly cited photos and material, as well as the inclusion of vlogs were all new ways of expressing myself, and were a constant area of growth a development over this semester. This experimentation pushed me out of my comfort zone and placed me in a line of possible critique; it was definitely an area that was never in my little box in which I found myself before this course. However, this exploration also gave me the opportunity for important feedback and sharing amongst colleagues, which grew my social connections. Reading their tweets and blogs and commenting on them was one of the items that helped me through my own struggles and reflections, and enhanced my learning.
As I was blogging and tweeting, I was also reading articles that presented me with opportunities to challenge my previous viewpoint on technology in the classroom, like Michael Wesch’s TED Talk about the move from knowledgeable to knowledge-able in the creation of a new participatory culture. The concept that we need to prepare our students to think more critically, to develop a culture of learning to be, rather than learning about, and to learn where to find knowledge and how to acquire it, is something I need to push more in my teaching, which I realized as this course progressed.
This related well to the idea of connectivism which is learning that occurs through a series of social connections and ties. Through this, I began to question what our role is as teachers. Our goal as educators should be to guide students toward finding ways to be successful in our modern age; to help them acquire the skills they will need to do well in the future. Knowledge is ever-present in our modern age; students need to acquire skills to find this knowledge appropriately.
This is, in a sense, the idea of Rhizomatic learning. The idea that all learners come from different places and need different things. We need to move from solving complicated to more complex problems, where students use their creativity, adaptability, and ingenuity to learn from deeper place. In these circumstances, there is no exact right answer. Rather, there is a process being learned, where students become the leaders of their learning, and they become active citizens in our society because of the learning process skills they acquire in school. Then you can be a contributing part of a community, and learn within this community.
A question I often asked myself throughout this term was how can I help my students learn how to learn? Five words: orient, declare, network, cluster, and focus. How can this be achieved? By blogging. Letting students be curious, finding a passion, and writing about it, just like Ory Okolloh. Clive Thompson noted that thinking out loud with a network of people can create connections and move things forward. There is an impact when students have an audience; it doesn’t even need to be a big audience, just like my own twitter account. Michael Drennan, similarly, noted that blogs help students visually see their progress, pushing them to achieve new standards. I learned this, personally, through my WordPress blog as this class progressed and I became more comfortable with posting my ideas online.
Opening up the world of education into this new technological era also opens up the possibilities of resources. Open education, open courses, and MOOCs are a few ways to bring quality education to everyone. Students can access learning materials for free, consistently revised and improved. They can learn to properly give credit when credit is due, learning responsibility all the while engaging in their learning. My hope, which grew tremendously near the end of this course, is that students will be able to change the future, all become proponents of open resources, and change the way we see openness in both school and university. They can learn from inspiring people like Aaron Swartz. They, perhaps, can help reduce the digital divide that exists in our world, where the rich have more access to internet than the poor. Perhaps we can help develop citizens who understand the true importance of Free Access Internet and net neutrality. We can help them discover things that I did not even know before this course.
But we have a role to play in this as educators. We need to engage learners in their education. We need to be aware of what they are doing and what’s out there; social media venues like Snapchat, Yik Yak, 4chan, and Ask FM. Outlets, at times anonymous, that have given space for self-trolling, which is when someone attacks himself or herself online. I fought it heavily before, but now I understand the value in acknowledging the existence of these social media venues instead of ignoring them. We need to further teach digital citizenship for our students to not only understand online safety, but to engage in it, and to demonstrate it for their peers. This is essential to stop the online harassment, the bullies, and the trolls that are particularly targeting women. We should be addressing important technological issues in class, such as safety vs privacy, to further have students develop their social justice goals. This may start with simple slacktivism, but at least it’s a start.
What else can we do? We can present ourselves online as digital citizens. We should have an appropriate digital presence as a role model for our students.
Which brings me back to myself and my presence. When I google myself, practically nothing pops up. My digital footprint is essentially non-existent. That is almost as bad as a negative presence. I don’t even exist online. There must be a balance between nothing and everything.
So what have I learned? It’s all about people, connections, learning from one another, and growing in a modern technological world together.
So. Remember that little box at the start? Well, it’s gotten a little bigger now.
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