ACAL and ACTA Exchanging ways of being.

Introduction

A few weeks ago (7th-11th April 2016) I went to a great conference! The “Diversity: exchanging ways of being” Conference was jointly organised by the “Australian Council for Adult Literacy” (ACAL) and the “Australian Council of TESOL Associations” (ACTA) with the local host organisations being the “WA Adult Literacy Council” (WAALC) and the “Westralian Association for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages” (WATESOL). It was fantastic to have so many LLN oriented people all together in one place, fabulous sessions and incredible networking!

ACAL ACTA conf

As always after conferences/events whether face-to-face or online I like to let my personal dust settle a little before I post my thoughts and reflections on the event. Now a few weeks later it feels like the right time to post!

I rarely attend face-to-face conferences – our own annual local WA Adult Literacy Council Conference being the only one I have attended for many years. There are several reasons for this:

  • I live in regional Western Australia, not too far from Perth but a long way from the Eastern states of Australia and the rest of the world so most conferences are not easy to get to;
  • I loathe flying – being both claustrophobic and not very good at heights – I find it frightening and stressful and it leaves me useless for a couple of days afterwards;
  • Large International conferences are expensive – I work in the public vocational education and training sector and my organisation has only limited funds available for professional development/conferences.

I do find it frustrating that with the multiple streams available in large conferences there are always so many sessions that I can’t attend! Online conferences by contrast usually record sessions so it is possible to catch up with any of particular interest later.

The Conference

I am just so delighted that I had the opportunity not just to attend the conference but also to present a workshop.

The buzz of all those LLN people gathered in one place was phenomenal and very exciting. Strictly it was two places – because sessions were in two Perth hotels just across a street from one another. However the need to move between buildings didn’t prevent the conference running (at least as far as I saw) extremely smoothly throughout, thanks to the efforts of the organisers.

The sessions I attended were all excellent and the Keynotes were outstanding. For me this conference “walked the talk” of “exchanging ways of being”. I think that combining the ACAL and ACTA conferences provided exceptional opportunities for networking and “cross pollination” of ideas and is something the two organisations should consider again, perhaps more regularly, in the future

The only downside for me was all those sessions I would love to have attended but couldn’t because they were concurrent with something else! In my opinion this is a huge and intractable problem with all major conferences. While providing concurrent sessions is a terrific way of catering for varied interests, it does also mean often being unable to attend everything that is relevant. Possible options for large conferences might include adopting some of the practices used in online conferences such as recording of some sessions so that they can be made available afterwards as videocasts or similar.

My own session

I deliver quite a lot of presentations/workshops on using technologies for facilitating learning to colleagues. This is in my own organisation, more widely in WA and Australia and also globally. Most of these in the last 10 years (with the exception of my own organisation and our WA Adult Literacy Council Conference) have been online. In all of these sessions (face-to-face and online I strive to use interaction and activities to keep the content interesting and illustrate the engagement potential of using technology as an adjunct to learning.

There were no computers available at the conference venue for session participants so I needed to make activities feasible for a “Bring your own device” (BYOD) context. A big challenge for me as in the majority of my past face-to-face sessions the participants were using desktop computers that all had the same operating system (ie Windows) and online they were mostly using their own familiar desktops or laptops rather than mobile devices. This made it relatively easy to be sure that everyone would be able to access the same tools, that we were exploring and using in the session. In this session we had a mixture of mobile phones and tablets and Android and iOS – some of the tools I use regularly with students are not compatible with one or more of these others need an installed app to work. So it was important to have illustrations of usage in my slides to minimise the frustrations felt by those who couldn’t easily access the tools via their device.

A further challenge for me was that I wanted the session to do two things: illustrate and provide opportunities for participants to extend their PLNs (ie exchange their own ways of being), and also introduce and explore some “tech” tools that could be used with students to facilitate them in exchanging their own ways of being.

My sessions always include a lot of link sharing – online this is very easy as links can usually be shared in chat boxes and/or on whiteboards. Not so easy in a face-to-face environment! However I have developed an approach that seems to work well – I put all the links I will need to share on a blog page – in this case ACAL/ACTA Conference 2016 – with some narrative, and then create a customised “bit.ly” link for that page so that people can easily type it into their device.

Integrating PLN development with tool sharing seemed to work very well. A lot of participants joined our FSTeach Facebook Group during the session and some tweeted with the #tag #FSTeach.

As is my wont in PD sessions I used a variety of tools and activities to encourage participation including online polling, online sticky notes and social media. I have posted the slides in Slideshare, and links to the tools and to the sticky not canvases are on the blog page ACAL/ACTA Conference 2016.

I really enjoyed doing this session – despite being quite nervous and apprehensive about whether the strategies I had planned would work. The participants were wonderful – so supportive throughout and happy and enthusiastic about engaging with the technologies. The two hours flew by and before I knew it the session was over!

Conclusion

When I was completing my workbased Adult Ed teaching qualification  in the UK over 25 years ago one of our lecturers was always telling us to “take risks” – she gave us a list of strategies and said we should try them all. I felt unhappy with this – my students were studying for national exams and I was unwilling to take risks with their learning. However when I looked at the list I had already used almost all of them! My whole life in teaching seems to have been about trying different things, or the same things in different ways. Always seeking to keep it interesting and to challenge students to get involved in their own learning. I try to do this ie “walk my own talk” in PD and conference presentations as well. For me this is particularly important, with respect to technology, and using the technology to support the learning – not as an end in itself. However, having said that, with the continually increasing significance of digital skills and digital literacy for future workplaces using the technology effectively, safely and critically is itself becoming one of the objectives!

I would love to see your thoughts (comments):

  • on the session – if you were there!
  • on the blog page and slideshare
  • on “taking risks”
  • on the increasing importance of digital skills and digital literacy to foundation skills/literacy/language/numeracy teaching.

 

30 Goals Conference – Bouncing back!

Introduction

Last weekend I was involved (thanks to Shelly Sanchez Terrell) in an online conference for the first time in about 3 years. Shelly has been part of my PLN since 2009 and we met face-to-face for the first time in early June this year when Shelly came to Australia for a conference and was able to take a few days out to stay with us in Western Australia. We talked continuously for the whole time – including about resilience which ended up being the topic for my Keynote at the “30 Goals Free E-Conference

This post is about the experience of planning and presenting a Keynote “Bouncing back! Resilience and survival as an educator.” for the “30 Goals Free E-Conference” through Google Hangout On Air – a new conference platform for me. You can catch the full presentation and the associated textchat through my profile page on the 30Goals website

Planning and preparing

I approached this presentation with some trepidation for several reasons:

  • The length of time available for the session – I have never done a session as short as this (20 minutes speaking, plus ten minutes questions/comment) at a conference before, although I have done a couple of PechaKucha style clips. My sessions are mostly workshops and tend to be a minimum of an hour and often rather longer.
  • The topic was much more philosophically based than my usual ones which tend to be very practice and/or theory into practice oriented.
  • Although I have used Google Hangouts a few times, Google Hangout On Air was completely new to me. So I had no idea how to make it work for my presentation style which is very interactive.
  • I was worried about connection dropout – in my experience Google Hangouts are very bandwidth heavy and I live in a “bandwidth challenged” area
  • I am totally spoilt in that I have mostly been using BlackboardCollaborate (BbC) – in my opinion one of the best platforms – for online presentations and workshops, although I have also recently used Skype.
  • It’s around 3 years since I took part in a totally online conference and I am not doing regular webinars at the moment so I was definitely feeling a bit “rusty”!

Resilience is something I am very aware of – in the educator community, the community I live in and to some extent in myself. I did feel that it was a bit presumptuous of me to talk about it in a global presentation. However once having submitted a title there was no going back! It did take me a long time to prepare the presentation – a lot of thinking and reflecting, and also a lot of time actually putting the words and slides together. For the first time in years I actually wrote down (or at least typed) what I planned to talk about – usually I have just key points or reminders of practical issues. I also tried to make sure I didn’t have excessive amounts of text on slides – having worked so much in BbC and in presenting practical workshops I tend to have more text than I would use in face-to-face and/or purely presentation contexts. Luckily living in rural Western Australia I have an excellent resilience analogy to hand in our native bush which “bounces back” amazingly from severe bush fire events.

Bush resilience 500px

The other thing that exercised my mind during preparation was how to incorporate some interaction. I knew we would have ChatWING but wasn’t sure how easily I would be able to monitor the chat and anyway I really prefer more interaction than just chat. Eventually I decided to use two LinoIt canvases and ask for people to add “stickies”.

The session

Thank you Shelly, Jake and Judy for the huge support before and during the session! You all helped me to feel more confident. After a great introduction from Shelly I was launched on the uncharted waters of “Hangout On Air”.

It certainly felt strange to start with to be talking to an unknown number of people and without the  feedback (through emoticons, chat and audio) that I am able to get when using BbC. Having ChatWING certainly helped to some extent but I felt peculiarly detached from my audience because:

  • I had no idea how many of them were listening/watching
  • I didn’t know who they were
  • I couldn’t tell if I was holding the attention of all, any or none (no body language as in face-to-face or emoticons/audio etc as in BbC)

On the whole I think the session went quite well. I was happy with my slides (now uploaded to Slideshare – although not very useful without the audio) and how I synchronised them with what I was saying. I only had two that were just text, being bullet points about which I spoke in some detail.  I was pleased that I had done my usual things of trying to include interaction and pushing the boundaries in order to do so by using the LinoIt canvases. Including interaction in a very short session was challenging both for me and for participants. I was so delighted that it worked to some extent with some comments being added during the session even though there wasn’t really time to discuss the comments.

I have included the two LinoIt canvases here and would love more “stickies” to be added. The first canvas “Challenges” asks you to add your educator challenges.

The second canvas “Being resilient” asks for your own personal tips on being resilient.
There were inevitably some glitches! That panic moment when bandwidth won and I was dropped out of the session – however I was half expecting that to happen and so I managed to reconnect very quickly. Also I think (although I am not sure) that I got in a muddle with my two LinoIt canvases and gave the second link first.

Aftermath

One of the things that this conference has done for me is to nudge me into reconnecting globally again. This year I have not been doing as much teaching as in the past and have been focussing on doing some LMS e-learning development for my orgnisation and on facilitating colleagues (both in my organisation and across Australia) in using e-tools and social media for professional development and working with students. On a personal basis – I am still recovering from illness last year and am also concerned with a threat to my home community from mining. These factors have led me to look inward rather than outward as is more usual for me. However I am beginning to feel the “outward urge” again and hear the “wild geese calling” me to the wider world.

#Twitterati Challenge – my top five!

I was honoured to be named in company with @cybraryman1 @gtchatmod @GiftedHF @murcha as one of @jofrei ‘s top five “Go to” Educators in the #TwitteratiChallenge. All of @jofrei‘s other top five and @jofrei herself have been part of my PLN for over five years.

I don’t usually do these sorts of “round robin” things but on this occasion I accept the #TwitteratiChallenge and will name my top five “Go to” Educators – the rules prevent me including any of the educators  named by @jofrei, or indeed Jo herself!

The conditions of the challenge are posted on Mary Myatt’s blog at

http://marymyatt.com/blog/2015-05-03/the-twitterati-challenge

Here they are:

Started by by Ross (never known to nap) @TeacherToolkit – “In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support”

There are only 3 rules.

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
    2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on#TwitteratiChallenge.
    3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post.
    What to do?
    This what to do:
    1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.
  2. If you’ve been nominated, please write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm.
    5. The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are.

So here are my choices in no particular order – because no way could I choose a “top of the list” person:

@suewaters Sue was my PLN mentor when  first started to dip a toe in the water of PLNs back in 2008, she is so often my first “port of call” when something online doesn’t make sense, as well as being my edublogs saviour when I have problems with my blog. We do live in the same state (WA) of Australia and do know one another “for real” and not just virtually but we don’t work together so I hope this is OK.

@shellterrell Shelly (based in the US) has been part of my PLN almost as long as Sue! She came to some of our early webinars and also presented several. I participated in some of the early #Edchats the twitter #chats initiated originally by Shelly and a couple of others so Shelly has been a long time colleague and I am so excited that I will be meeting her in real life when she visits Australia in early June  – I only wish she could bring #RoscoThePug with her!

@mgraffin Another WA tweep – we communicated extensively online before we met “for real”. Michael has been in my PLN since about 2010 and has been a real as well a a virtual friend for almost as long. As in Sue’s case we don’t work together Michael is in the school sector.

@penpln Penny is based in Victoria, Australia and has been part of my PLN since around 2010 both on Twitter and Facebook especially through the FacingIT group on Facebook. We have so many interests in common including teaching science and photography.

@poulingail Gail is a Kindy teacher from the USA and  has been part of my PLN since around 2010. We got to know each other very well because Gail was a regular participant in our Edublogs Serendipity FineFocus webinars. Gail shares so many great things!

So these are my top five – this was really hard! My PLN is one of the very best things that has ever happened to me.

 

 

 

Social media for professional development and networking

Introduction

A post for my colleagues who are beginning to consider social media for professional development.

The associated presentation is available on Slideshare

We all have some sort of Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN). In the past this was based around people that we met face-to-face or communicated with by phone or letter. However the growth in online communication and social media has given rise to an immense expansion in the potential for learning through networks.

Personal/Professional Learning Networks

I have a large global network of educators across all sectors with whom I “chat” frequently and acquire links to many excellent resources, websites and articles. The main networks that I use are Twitter and Facebook, but I also use our statewide Adult Literacy and Numeracy Network (a Google Group), Google+, LinkedIn, social bookmarking and web conferencing. These “platforms” constitute my own Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

Much has been written about PLNs and how to develop your own PLN, this can only be a guide! Every PLN is different because it reflects the interests and personality of its “owner” and because the balance of platforms forming the PLE will vary.

PLN

One of the best ways to get started is through someone who already uses one or more of these platforms, who will act as your mentor. Both Twitter and Facebook are good platforms to start with – Twitter has the advantage of brevity, and Facebook the advantage of familiarity for many people. I usually recommend that people use both – they are both relatively easy to manage and it is also possible using one of the available clients to cross-post (this means post the same post on both platforms at the same time).

LinkedIn is a little different from other platforms in that it has more of a job/workplace focus. Many people who use it do so for the purpose of career development rather than professional learning.

Be careful about where and what personal information you share. Keep your home address, mobile and home phone number, private email, and anything similar out of comments and posts.

If you are new to PLN/PLE you can find getting started information in:

 Conclusion

This post and those about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are intended to help you get started. The next step will be actively participating in those networks.

If you have any questions please use the comments on this or one of the other posts to ask them and I will do my best to reply.

LinkedIn for professional learning

Introduction

LinkedIn is a little different from other platforms in that it has more of a job/workplace focus. Many people who use it do so for the purpose of career development rather than professional learning. However there is still potential for joining special interest groups and taking part in the discussions and also for making connections with others in the same field.

Getting started

1. Go to the LinkedIn joining page and join up. Because of the focus of LinkedIn there is little point in using a pseudonym.

2. Once you have signed up it is almost essential to complete at least part of your profile including an image and some career information. Again because of the nature of LinkedIn it is best to use accurate information and a photo for your avatar.

3. Now it’s time to start making connections. LinkedIn will make suggestions and if you have included a profession, a workplace or a school/university in your profile then others with similar interests are likely to be suggested. There are educators from all over the world on LinkedIn. You can tap into ideas and conversations from all sectors however there are several groups related to the VET/Adult Ed. sector in Australia.

4. Use the Search within LinkedIn to find people you may know and Groups that may be of interest for you.

Conclusion

This is a very basic post for getting started with LinkedIn. If you have any questions then please use the comments on this post to ask them and I will try to help.

Twitter for professional development/networking

Introduction

Twitter is a social networking/microblogging platform. The main difference between Twitter and other platforms is that posts may only be 140 characters long – and no, this doesn’t restrict conversations! Twitter is great for quick updates – and yes we do sometimes mention food! Just as we might ask “How was lunch?” when a colleague returns past our desk. As with all networking the “social” interaction “oils the wheels” of the professional relationship. So how do you get started with Twitter as a professional development and networking tool?

Getting started

1. Go to the Twitter website and sign up.

Twitter2 500px

This includes creating a “username”. Ideally your username should be fairly short and should identify you – your name or a variant on it usually works well (my own Twitter name or “handle” is “@JoHart”).

2. Once you have signed up it is important to add an image (avatar) and complete your biography (bio). These will influence people to “follow you” or not. Twitter only gives you 140 characters for your bio so make every word count! If you want an example visit my Twitter page. There is much discussion about what is appropriate in terms of images. If you are using Twitter largely for PD then a photo is probably best, alternatively a cartoon image that you can create with a tool such as Mangatar.

3. Now it’s time to start following people and posting! There is no rush to build a huge list of followers, take your time – there are educators from all over the world on Twitter. You can tap into ideas and conversations from all sectors not just VET/Adult Ed.

4. If you follow @JoHart and Tweet me – put @JoHart in your Tweet and I will see it, I will be able to Tweet you with a couple of lists with relevant people and also some individuals that share interesting content and links.

TwitterChat

Once you have got started – especially if you want to join in or follow Twitter chats – it is a good idea to use a “Twitter Client” to help you organise and manage the flow of Tweets. A TwitterChat is a conversation carried out between any number of people using a #tag so that they can all follow and participate in the conversation. There are some excellent structured TwitterChats that select a topic each week (often using a poll) and then have a designated time for discussion the topic for one hour using Twitter. The discussion is then often summarised and made available online. One of the TwitterChats that I have joined in the past is #ELTchat, this has a focus on English Language Teaching and posts regular summaries of the chats.

As with starting to use Twitter or Facebook there are many “how to” posts available for using Twitter Clients, this “Beginners Guide to Tweetdeck” from “Mashable” is quite comprehensive.

Conclusion

This post focuses on getting started. If you have any questions please use comments to ask your question and I will try to help.

 

Facebook as a professional development resource/platform

Introduction

This post is for my colleagues considering the use for Facebook as a professional development platform. At some time soon I will post on using Facebook with students.

Facebook is used for social connections around the world, however it is also a great platform for professional development. Facebook has the capacity for you to “meet” others with similar interests and come together in “Groups” to discuss and share those interests. It is particularly important with Facebook that you understand and use your privacy settings so that you know who sees your posts. You also need to keep an eye on the Facebook settings because Facebook sometimes reverts things to defaults – especially what appears in your Newsfeed.

Fb1Getting started

1. Go to the Facebook website and sign up. Facebook expects you to use your own name and this is the preferred option anyway if you are using Fb for professional development. I have a second completely separate Fb account (using my work email) that I use for any student interaction.

2. Once you have signed up it is important to complete at least part of your profile ideally including an image (avatar). There is much discussion about what is appropriate in terms of images. If you are using Facebook largely for PD then a photo is probably best, alternatively a cartoon image that you can create with a tool such as Mangatar.

3. Now it’s time to start “Friending” people and/or joining Groups and posting! These are two  Facebook groups for VET sector educators:

  • VET Training and Assessment Networking opportunity for VET trainers and assessors across all Industry groups
  • FS Teach Specialist group for Foundation Skills (LLN and Employability Skills) practitioners

There are many other educator groups globally and a lot of these are cross-sectoral, here are just  few:

  • Educators using Facebook  For educators to share resources ,experiences ,teaching opportunities , educational innovations , best practices and other useful links with other educators
  • FacingIT   A group managed by Australian educators for anyone facing up to the challenges of using information technologies for communicating, teaching and learning.
  • Apps for Education  This group was started so that educators can share any apps that they use for education.

For industry connections look up your own industry area in the Facebook search to find groups relevant to your industry.

Some privacy and security points

I use one Facebook account for personal purposes and professional development. If you mostly use groups for your pd then your personal connections won’t get all your pd type posts. I use a second account to keep my student interaction separate and the two accounts are not “Friends” with one another.

It is particularly important with Facebook that you understand and use your privacy settings so that you know who sees your posts.

You also need to keep an eye on the Facebook settings because Facebook sometimes reverts things to defaults – especially what appears in your Newsfeed. If it doesn’t say “Viewing most recent stories” under the box where you type your post then you will be seeing “Top posts” ie the most popular. To correct this and see all posts from your connections go to the left hand column and look at the dropdown beside “Newsfeed” (top menu item under your avatar). Choose “Most recent” then you will see all posts from those you are connected to.

Your groups are listed on the left hand side, to see posts and to post in the groups you need to be on the group page.

Conclusion

This post is just about getting started and finding some potentially useful groups for professional development and networking. If you have any questions please  comment on this post and ask your question in the comment.

Edublogs webinar overviews Oct 2013

Introduction

Still running behind on webinar overviews. A digest of  our recent webinars over the last few weeks.

Fine Focus – Presenting with Blackboard Collaborate

As always this session was recorded. The session was our last webinar before the Reform Symposium Online Conference #RSCON #RSCON4 and so we decided to provide a further training/practise/question and answer opportunity for presenters/volunteers.

Serendipity 17/18 Oct 2013

In this recorded Serendipity session we talked about the recent Reform Symposium Conference #RSCON #RSCON4. We were a small group and all of us had had some involvement as participants or presenter/volunteer/organiser, so the session provided an opportunity for us to share our thoughts, reflections and ideas.

Fine Focus – “Tech Smackdown”

This was another recorded session the intention was a quick tech smackdown type share of some favourite tools/applications that save time or that we use with students but we ended up discussing a variety of: tried and tested tools, some previously used with students and some new that we plan to try. All in all a great session with many shared links.

Serendipity 31 Oct/1 Nov 2013

In this recorded Serendipity session our chosen topic was “Blended Learning”. We started with a discussion on our understanding of the term blended learning, moved on to share tools that have been part of our best blended learning experiences, considered some of the advantages, and ended with a brief look at how/why we choose tools and strategies for blended learning.

Conclusion

Once again I am finally up to date with posting webinar links. Sorry again for the short session descriptions.

Our Next Webinar

FineFocusSmallOur next webinar will be an Edublogs “FineFocus” session on Thursday Nov 7th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday Nov 8th at 7am West Aus, later in the  morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room.

Where do you get these sites from?

This post is a cross-posting from the West Australian Adult Literacy and Numeracy network newsletter, so apologies if you have seen it twice. I wrote it in response to a query on our network of literacy/numeracy practitioners in WA most of whom are quite new to online tools and strategies.

Introduction

This question was posed in response to a recent post by Phil (@philhart) on our Western Australian Adult Literacy and Numeracy (ALaN) network GoogleGroup – Phil shared a site called Visuwords, an online graphical dictionary that gives a visual representation of associations between words. Phil’s answer was that he gets many of these kinds of links via his Personal (Professional) Learning Network (PLN).

Like Phil I have an extensive, global PLN – mine is in excess of 4,000 educators globally with fewer than 20% of these in Australia and less than 10% in WA. I find this network invaluable in helping me to stay up to date and innovative in my teaching and learning. The inevitable next questions are of course “What is a PLN, how do I get one, and what are the benefits?”

A PLN is …

A PLN is a network of people often, but not always, with similar interests to your own. We all have a PLN of some sort even if it is just the network of colleagues we meet through our daily work. However the most useful and effective PLN is one which extends outside our own day to day physical environment, outside our own specialist teaching area and outside our particular educational sector.

My own PLN is global, cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral. It makes considerable use of social media and online tools in general. So my Personal Learning Environment (PLE) through which I access my PLN is largely electronic. The main point here is that no two PLN’s are the same! We all have our own preferred balance of people and communication environments/strategies. Mine (like most others) has evolved over time and now looks something like the diagram below.

PLN PLE 500I expect that my PLN will continue to change and evolve – I currently use a variety of platforms so that I don’t miss out on posts from people for whom I have enormous professional respect but who don’t use my preferred platform for the majority of their interactions.

Getting a PLN

There are many different strategies for developing your own PLN. Mine started inadvertently, when a fellow e-learning enthusiast who was also a Vocational Education and Training lecturer but in a different college introduced me to Twitter. This is still my “favourite” PLN environment although I now use many other social networks as well. Many members of my own PLN have been introduced to the concept and started developing their own PLN through PD activities. If you are thinking about building your own PLN there are a few strategies that can be particularly useful:

  • Start with one social media platform – find a mentor on that platform who is very experienced and has a medium to large network of their own.
  • Sign up to the platform – make sure you complete your profile and have an avatar, many potential followers/friends won’t connect with you unless they have a little information about you
  • Don’t rush it – allow your contacts to grow fairly slowly at least initially
  • Give as well as taking – join conversations, make comments, share resources and links
  • Be social, be human – the social interactions are important despite the derision you see levelled at some platforms regarding the triviality of some posts, social interaction – the personal relationship “oils the wheels” of the professional relationship.

If you are interested in further developing your PLN then leave a comment here and consider participating in some of our regular webinars because if enough people are interested we could do some webinars specifically on this. If you are going to take the plunge anyway and your chosen platform is any of: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn then please feel free to follow/friend, or whatever the connection label is, me. You can find me as follows:

I do check out profiles before I connect back (because like all online contexts there are plenty of “black hats” out there) although if I already know you from another context I may not. I will usually connect back within a few days.

What are the benefits?

The benefits are many! The list below is just a few of the positive gains shared by members of my PLN:

  • Keeping up with innovation in education
  • Links to great tools and resources
  • Instant help with tech problems and other questions
  • Learning, learning always learning!
  • Support in coping with issues
  • Sharing, sharing and sharing again!
  • Opportunities for global collaboration on projects
  • Opportunities for PD through online discussions
  • Overseas “E-visitors” to classes (via Skype or similar)
  • Broadening perspective from local to global
  • Learning about other cultures
  • Never feeling isolated at a conference (someone from your PLN is almost certainly there!)
  • People (that you feel you already know) to meet up with when overseas/away from home
  • Someone to “talk” to in the small hours – there is always someone awake

Some members of my own PLN have become good friends without us ever meeting! When chance gives us opportunities to meet there is none of the awkwardness of strangers meeting for the first time. This is a huge benefit for me as, despite my advanced age and years of teaching, I am quite shy when meeting strangers.

Conclusion

For more ideas about PLNs checkout this post “What the heck is a PLN?” by a West Australian teacher with a global presence who is part of my PLN and is now a good “real face-to-face” friend that I first “met” online via Twitter.

For me personally the global nature of my own PLN and the opportunity to be involved in learning from such a diverse group are the “icing on the cake”! I have been immeasurably enriched by many people in my own PLN and can only hope that I am able to “pay this forward” in some way.

Recent Edublogs webinars Aug/Sept – summary

Introduction

As has been the case for the last few months I have not been able to post overviews each week. So this one is a digest of  our webinars over the last few weeks.

Serendipity (1/2 Aug 2013)

This recorded session was a Serendipity session in which considered two topics. We brainstormed some way of enthusing teachers to use technology in class and then moved on to think of “5 minute fun fillers” not necessarily involving technology use.

Fine Focus – digital literacy in an adult ed curriculum

As always this session was recorded. The session was based around content from a recent webinar that I did for our Western Australian State Adult Literacy and Numeracy network. One of the main curricula used for Adult Literacy in WA has recently been re-accredited and now includes many references to digital literacy and digital texts. So I have been presenting a short series of webinars to help adult literacy teachers think about how they might come to grips with the new requirements.

Serendipity 14/15 aug 2013

In this recorded Serendipity session we took a look at supporting older people in using technology and learned about an exciting new free online course in teaching maths available through Stanford University. The course itself is now finished but is intended to re-run from March 2014 and resources from it are being made available on the “youcubed website”

Fine Focus – Playing in the Moderator Sandpit

This was another recorded session in which we took a look at some of the tools available to moderators that can be used to add interactivity to BlackboardCollaborate sessions

Serendipity 28/29 Aug 2013

In this recorded session in response to a participant question we took a look at blogging with a class of students, specifically how to get started in doing this with Edublogs.

Fine Focus – PLN? PLE? How have they changed

As always the session was recorded. We discussed and explored the terms PLN (Personal Learning Network) and PLE (Personal Learning Environment) and considered how these have changed for us as individuals over the last few years.

Serendipity 12/13 Sept 2013

In this recorded Serendipity session we looked at two topics. The first was a guided tour from @jofrei of a series of recent posts on her Sprite’s Site which followed the adventures of the Tweetlets during their Work Experience week at the Twitter Stream. Our second topic was a discussion of how we might be able to prepare training materials more efficiently.

Fine Focus – “This house is resolved …”

In this recorded session we did something a little different – I am always trying to come up with different formats and themes for Fine Focus sessions so that we don’t have “just a presentation” each week. So on this occasion I had been thinking about some of the controversial statements related teaching and learning with “e” and decided to present four of these for discussion. The four statements were:

  • Face-to-face conferences are a ‘has-been’
  • BYOD is a fad that wont last
  • You have to have a ‘maths brain’ to do maths
  • Qualifications are outdated, they should be replaced by digital portfolios

All four prompted lively discussion despite considerable agreement on each by the participants.

Serendipity 3/4 Oct 2013

There was no session on 26/27 September so Serendipity was a week later. In this recorded session we briefly discussed four topics:

  • We are Connected Educators. Anyone feeling the need to do more
  • What is involved in acting as a volunteer for the Reform Symposium (#RSCON4)
  • A success story from working for Broadband for Seniors
  • To share or not to share, how do you decide?

Conclusion

Once again I am finally up to date with posting webinar links. Sorry again for the short session descriptions.

Our Next Webinar

FineFocusSmallOur next webinar will be an Edublogs “FineFocus” session on Thursday Oct 10th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday Oct 2th at 7am West Aus, later in the  morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. In this session we will look at moderator tools from the presenter and session facilitator perspective.