Working Together: Collaboration in Practice

Collaboration

Baroncini, L. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1099064

I am sensing (and it is not taking any great level of intuition) that the overarching themes of this blog is the degree to which I am impressed (and overwhelmed) by the sheer volume of amazing digital tools that are free and at our fingertips. The problem really does seem to be one of knowledge: I did not have a clue as to the depth of my ignorance prior to taking these two digital courses.

Each week I attempt to stay abreast of the learning, make note of the applications I like, bookmark great sites (in Diigo!) and play, at least a bit, with a variety of applications. I had thought that I was reasonably technologically literate before; that reality has been shattered! The Prezi presentation that we viewed as part of our learning was truly loaded with invaluable information – so many worthwhile tips and sites that can be revisited.

We further explored the collaborative process as we worked on a mini presentation in our learning teams. The number of collaborative tools available is incredible and will definitely require more exploration when time permits.

This week the tools that I put into practice included TodaysMeet, a so-called “backchannel tool” that is designed as a sort of instant chat for classroom use. It is meant to enable and to foster classroom chat in an interactive format, but without the traditional raised hands and wait for acknowledgement by the teacher. The beauty of this tool is that it can easily be transcribed for submission and later review. It is limited in characters (similar to Twitter so you need to edit yourself).

The other tool that worked very well was Google Drive in which the presentation or document etc. can be shared and worked on together in real time, or when it suits individual group members, in an asynchronous fashion. The asynchronicity of this tool is what appeals to me – as an online learner, I like to structure my time as it all fits into my timetable, but there is a very good chat tool that allows you to work on the document simultaneously while discussing the work with your partners.  This will definitely be an aspect of team learning that will find its way into my classrooms going forward. As this semester progresses, I am increasingly impressed with many of Google interfaces – more learning needed here too!  Google will likely have a prominent place in my amended PLE – it fits into the collaborative and exploration categories that I had identified, but my PLE will clearly need a significant rework.

Many of you might have stumbled upon this site, but in my Feedly this week, I found this summary of some of the most valuable edtech tools for the month by Blogger Richard Byrne. This is fast becoming a go-to site to keep myself informed of educational applications for all of the very cool tools that we are examining. For example, he provides a nice link that shows how to clean up YouTube clips to make them more appropriate for classroom use. Take a peek and see what you think.

Cloud Computing: Collaboration Simplified

Cloudscape

Cloudscape. Krappweis, A. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1405908

One of the serendipitous joys of completing my own educational journey while I am teaching occurs when there is a truly meaningful convergence of the two worlds. This week it is in realm of collaborative learning. We explored Evernote which is a software suite created to help an individual archive collected work in much the same way that a traditional notebook/binder might, but that has applications in the cloud that make sharing and collaboration possible.

My own learners regularly bemoan when I assign them group projects (for all kinds of reasons that resonate at many levels), but one of their key complaints is their inability to easily connect with their groupwork partners. This week was no exception.

Voila! – based on my own learning in the session  I created an assignment in our college LMS where they have been charged with finding collaborative methods in which they can be asynchronous and remote from each other. Our own exploration of these tools meshed perfectly – I can now discuss this better with them with some degree of knowledgeability (limited at this point, but give me a week or two). As students who are very much digital natives, I am hoping they embrace this as a valuable resource. Duncan (as cited in Ribble, 2011) notes how important cloud computing is to digital literacy for learners in schools today.

Further, even more opportune was the arrival of a well done SlideShare presentation in my Feedly stream this week, entitled, “Making Learning Collaborative. It references TodaysMeet which we will be using in the next week or two to connect with our own learning groups. This gives the us the chance of connecting with our members in real time.

As part of our own assignment we are creating a slideshow. While I have used SlideRocket and am a fan, we are starting with a presentation in Google Drive (formerly Docs).  This gives me another opportunity for sharing a) samples of work product b) stories of the collaborative endeavor (no pressure Digital Literacy team!); these are real-life and not just theoretical which is a very authentic way to teach.

time

Time Distortion. Kohne, F. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/lightboxes

Time management continues to be a key challenge for me. Our learning cohort has suggested some great tools and apps that sound very worthwhile in our Great Tools forum. I just need to carve out some dedicated time to really discover their capacity and the ways that they can perhaps contribute to my personal and professional lives. The idea of simplifying me PLE is very attractive – but I have not yet tried IFTTT tool – another task onto the “to-do” list.

Our learning team is working on Digital Literacy this week – anticipating another week of new and enhanced learning – clearly, these are educational directions in which all classrooms, remote and otherwise, are moving. I need to be ready.

PLN’S Here I Come!

network

Networks.
Zeusmedia. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1379237

This week we explored the impact of expanding our personal learning networks (as opposed to my personal learning environment). Until I started this course, I had not considered that I use or access any sort of formal (or informal for that matter) network from which I expand my knowledge base.

But in fact, even without the advent of digital technology, I used a series of tools to connect with colleagues, peers and others to help me increase my knowledge base for my own teaching and learning. This week, we discovered a number of tools that made this exponentially easier (I think – LOL!)

By creating digital connections and using specific digital tools, I can now access the power of the internet in a logical and systematic way – to reach fellow learners, others in education and experts in the disciplines in which I teach.

One of the observations that I am making as we go through these exercises, is that in some cases I feel an initial resistance – often based on an erroneous assumption about what a tool might offer – then upon exploring, I find that tools that offer so much more than I had assumed.

twitter_logo_grande

Twitter Logo. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaxperts.co.uk/?page_id=1141

Hello Twitter!

Mu initial response to Twitter was probably similar to others – what can you say that I would have any interest in in 140 characters or less? Further, I know a number of people whose (innocuous) Twitter accounts were hacked – so skeptical would be a fair assessment of how I felt. However, once again, upon reading and viewing our course resources (including Ribble, 2012, Chapter 4, p. 25, eversion), who catalogues some really good opportunities for using Twitter in education; I am forced to reexamine and change my perspective. Used in the ways that it is described for connecting groups, Twitter seems to have some amazing properties. Of course, like everything else, the long term applications and implications will determine if it is something with which I stay, or ultimately opt out.  I am a fan of TEDTalks – I think that they have some excellent resources. I found this video clip of Twitter founder Evan Williams discussing the ways that Twitter users employ the tool – interesting as always. I also found Brad Flickingers’s YouTube guide to Twitter very good – realistic, short and good explanations to the steps that we might need to use.

Can I see connecting with my own students via Twitter? I am not sure – there would have to be some clear ground rules and I am already feeling a bit overwhelmed by constant communication, but perhaps when my formal learning is not so intense, I can explore new and highly relevant connections with them.

I do think that in a business context, Linked In might provide some very relevant connections, but my ever expanding digital footprint makes me a bit wary of continually expanding my web presence. If there are some compelling arguments by my learning colleagues I will rethink this position. I am going to have to go in and make sure that I am checking on my digital presence once we are done our courses to make sure that the digital markers that I am leaving are current and reflective of the impression that I want others to have.

BTW, did a podcast for my other course this week. Also very good learning so listen for a minute or 2 and let me know what you think. As part of that course we watched a very enlightening video clip on copyright and the internet – very timely and current in our ever-expanding online journey.

(I am following Chris Hadfield on Twitter – what a fascinating guy – so multi-talented – makes me proud to be Canadian)

Working next week on online collaborative assignments – another new(er) venture.

Awash on the Tides of Information (AKA Week 4’s Reflection)

tide

Saavedra, M. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1046827

To mix some metaphors, on the information highway this week, I feel like I have been run over by a truck! Donna Papacosta (2012) refers to the information firehose, or the constant flood of information to which we are exposed. Well, right now I picture myself at the business end of that hose, flat on my back as a deluge of information washes over me. I usually love new learning but this week I am finding that I need to be a little more discerning in terms of nice to know versus need to know.

The concept of content curation or what Papacosta calls “finding, selecting, organizing sharing, the best of relevant content” in a “structured and thoughtful” way spoke to me from a very attractive place, philosophically (not so much when I looked at ALL of the tools). The notion of having a systematic way of categorizing information (and using a tool like LiveBinder) is very appealing. However, I feel that I need to step back and critically analyze all of the various sites to determine what I will actually use and what is interesting, but not beneficial for me.

On the plus side, thumbs up for:

Google Alerts – used this several times for another paper this week already.

LiveBinder – appeals to my personal organizational style

Diigo – great! – just need to learn all of the very useful (and fun) applications a bit better, but already using it regularly. I am always bookmarking sites and then wondering where they are. We transition computers every 2 years at work and with several at home, having this in the cloud is a huge bonus.

Still not sure about my Google Reader, but tried Feedly (thanks Dave!) and its visual impact and way of organizing is much more appealing. I can see this being a lasting tool.

A couple of my classmates liked the features of Paper.li, so I will go back and revisit, but I didn’t think it was quite right for me after a preliminary view.

Vis a vis, my PLE – well, this week I learned to make and edit a video and post to Vimeo (my other course). I discovered the concept of content curation; I am in the process of blogging via a podcast. I think that I need to add a “collating” category to my visual representation of my PLE. I can see that I am not capturing well enough all of the data management practices that we are learning.

All in all, not a bad week (for a digital immigrant)!

BTW, I have been following with interest a series on the digital world in the The Toronto Star. I mentioned it last week as it examined the impact on our neural networks. This week the series continues as it reviews the phenomenon of internet addiction. Interesting and controversial, but I snuck a peek as I am afraid that if I tallied my weekly online hours I would be appalled.

RSS Feeds: The Jury is Out – Weekly Blog Post 2

Print

Ghodke, S. (2010).
Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1252503

At the close of another session of sampling the benefits and advantages of the digital world in which we live I am wondering if I am streamlining my processing or merely adding layers to my connectivity.

This week we explored RSS readers (one piece of new learning was that RSS means Really Simple Syndication –hmmm). We set up a Google reader and added a number of feeds. I liked that at least I knew what an RSS feeder actually was.

Given that I take another digital course where we are required to connect with fellow bloggers, (and cite from their work) this felt like a simplified way to follow them. For example, here is a link to a fellow learner/blogger that I cited this week in my musings about copyright and creativity. I also added a couple of blogs from our own ADED1P32 cohort and one from a Canadian “home cook” with this drop-dead delicious recipe for ButterCream Icing   (not that I can eat much of this anymore!). I also added a couple of news sites as I am a bit of a news junkie.

I was left questioning the inherent benefits of the reader. I know that in the video we watched Welcome to RSS in Plain English we were told that the old way of surfing the net is old and slow. In using a reader we are changing the information flow from outward by us, to inward, for us (if that makes sense!). As this relates to my personal learning environment I see that I have placed the reader icon in my information exploration category.

Well, I also see this – my reader is rapidly filling with new information. But I am also left to wonder if the constant influx of information is helping or hindering me. I added the Toronto online newspaper The Toronto Star to my reader, as one of my sources of current events. Today there was an article that examines the impact of 24/7 connectivity on our brains and on our stress levels. Tapper (2013) cites research that demonstrates our immersion in all things online is altering “our relationships, our brains and sense of self.” Further, he notes that our ability to process information through hyperlinks such as that which we obtain when scrolling through our readers, is hindered because we are retraining our neural networks to absorb information in a “distracted, piece-meal” way while we are diminishing our ability to “read deeply” and potentially “not very clearly” (Carr, as cited in Tapper, 2013).

Right now my reader contains 313 items, all of which are sent to me. In the very short term I am not sure that I am finding this tool better than my bookmarks. I can see that I need to live with it, play and learn more.

However, in terms of my digital literacy, truly understanding the underlying use of an RSS reader means that I am continuing to grow and develop in my knowledge and skill base as they relate to my PLE.  This means that I can stay current to the digital world around me.

Right now the jury is out – let’s check again in a few weeks!

Tapper, J. (2013, January 26). Turned on, tuned in but tuning out? The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/living/health/article/1319796–your-brain-online

Digital Footprints: Great Learning, Indeed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CC image courtesy johnnyberg http://www.sxc.hu/photo/769316

Once again, I found myself at an intersection between my learning (formal) and my professional practice. This session, in both of my own courses (in which I am enrolled) we examined our online or digital footprint. The digital footprint is defined as the “information left in cyberspace about someone (Ribble, eVersion, p. 29).I reflected on the why’s or why not’s as to how much or how little I engage and how I try to protect my online persona. This blog posting in my New Media course captures a great deal of how I feel in terms of digital communication, especially around the challenge of incorporating basic netiquette in our interactions. Read here and you will get a sense of the online me and how I am somewhat conflicted in what I disclose.

However, I strongly believe in the correlation between fundamental Netiquette as a practice and being a ‘good digital citizen’ (Ribble, 2011)  in the online world in which we are now living. We have been asked if we want a digital footprint. I believe that if we engage in any sort of dialogic online communication, it is inevitable. Ainslie (2009) does an excellent job of synthesizing the merits to educators of the value of staying engaged digitally in order to enhance personal, and therefore, student learning. He also gives excellent suggestions as to how to easily set up ways of monitoring our own digital footprint – something that I have not yet done (and find a wee bit daunting!)

Ribble (2011) states that all of us must learn and practice within the norms of the digital society (eVersion, p. 3). I agree. How then can we continue to promote the inherent advantages of managing our online presence? Once again this week, I was confronted with overt Facebook bullying between my (post-secondary) students. Of course, this engendered a multitude of feelings and conversation from all sides, without any judgments being applied.

To me, this is understanding the digital footprint in action. Our Netiquette readings this week (which BTW, should be required reading for anyone engaging in online interactions) ask us to “remember the human.” If we consider the impact on those around of us of what we say in person, then we should consider the impact of our digital interactions. We must also consider the impact on our own digital footprint when we engage in a way that may not represent us in the best possible light.

In a world where cyberbullying is receiving widespread attention and where misdeeds can be transmitted with the forwarding of a screen grab, or a Tweet or a smartphone photograph, maintaining a positive digital footprint should be something to which all of us ascribe.

Great learning and development for me, indeed!

PLE’s: A New Concept

My Personal Learning Environment. That is a term with which I had been unfamiliar until completing the readings and the viewings for this session. I work on a regular basis in a learning management system (LMS) in order to post work for my own students and to interact with them, albeit less in a less dialogic fashion then I would like. This has been made abundantly clear as I view the embedded tools in our own Brock LMS system, Sakai, and the work done in the courses  in which I am currently enrolled.

Cann (2007) defines a personal learning environment as “a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to set their own learning goals, manage their learning, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning.” His slidecast, (in Slideshare) provides an excellent overview of the rationale for the examination of one’s own personal digital  practice, but what resonated most with me was his assertion that learner control of learning in the Web 2.0 world in which we are currently situated needs to be a foremost consideration for today’s educators. Given that I am a post-secondary teacher, I can see that the two digital literacy courses in which I am enrolled are not a minute too soon! One of the points that Cann made that was highly instructive, was the flexibility that a personal learning environment afforded learners (and less control by the teachers). One of the reasons that I have completed most of my degree in an online format is the flexibility that this type of learning has offered me

The tangential benefits of this review of my practice as a student of this Learning in a Digital Context course are not lost on me. The various tools and activities which we examined as a part of this lesson are excellent resources.

This PLE was constructed in good, old Word. I explored both Popplet and Gliffy and did not feel comfortable in either one. I will need to go back and examine them to see if I can better master what they offer. It shows the type of digital activities in which I engage; primarily communication, research and information collection and dissemination and my somewhat more nascent attempts and curriculum development and project management using a variety of online tools.

PLE Image

Callaghan, A. (c) 2013.  

 

PLE references