Saturday, December 26, 2009

If a tree falls in the forest...

I have been blogging sporadically for several years, but sometimes I feel that my posts just go into a black hole in cyberspace.  So for2010 one of my goals is to build up a network of followers to share insights with.  I strongly believe in the power of educational networking and learning through the exchange of ideas.
To meet that goal my first step was to examine the delicious bookmarks on blogging that I have collected over the last 3 years.  After reviewing those dealing with becoming a better blogger, I found two that inspired me.  The first was guidelines for writing good posts.  These are just a few of the tips from Vicki Davis's Ten habits of bloggers that win! that I plan to try to follow:
1.  Get a catchy title.  (I always enjoyed writing titles for essays.  This one should be fun!)
2.  Be brief.  (Not a problem.  I like writing and rewriting to find the best and briefest way to get my message across.)
3.  Add an appropriate graphic.  (I plan to use Flickr photos with appropriate Creative Commons permissions or MS pictures).
4.  Use multiple, relevant tags. (This is tricky.  It's hard to narrow down to the gist of the topic sometimes.)
From Richard Byrne's My Seven Edublogging Secrets I chose these suggestions for finding followers:
5.  Identify a niche audience.  (This is also difficult.  I teach a grad school course online for teachers who want to integrate technology into their k12 classrooms.  I would love to connect with other professors who teach a similar course, but it's hard to do.  The edubloggers I follow usually are k12 teachers or tech instructors in k12 settings.  I learn a great deal from them, but I have no idea how to find others who do what I do. 
6.  Post consistently.  (I read a lot of edublogs and "edutweeters" everyday.  I just have to remember to both comment of their blogs and post about thoughts their entries spark in my mind.)  I'll try for every Friday!
7.  Contribute to Twitter.  (I really must remember to tweet about some of the great blog posts I read so that more people can learn from them too.)
Whether or not these suggestions work for me to extend my "following", they are definitely good suggestions for any edublogger.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Networked Learning for Teachers

Stay Connected

The recognition of the importance of computer technology for teachers has grown steadily in the last few years.  The  Technology standards for language teachers from TESOL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) are a prime example. Actually these goals and standards could easily apply to teacher in all fields  See if you agree.  The goals  are to have teachers:
  • Acquire and maintain foundational knowledge and skills in technology for professional purposes.
  • Integrate pedagogical knowledge and skills with technology to enhance (language) teaching and learning.
  • Apply technology in record-keeping, feedback and assessment.
  • Use technology to improve communication, collaboration and efficiency.
How can teachers educate themselves to meet these goals? Social (educational) networking is one of the most convenient and up-to-date ways.  I remember the days when acquiring new knowledge meant  finding the right articles or books from which to glean information.  This usually entailed a trip to the university library to checkout books or feed the copier all your quarters to copy article from journals.

Today learning can mean finding relevant information from reliable online sources, reflecting on it, sharing the new, personal insights gained, receiving feedback and comment from interested parties and then responding to this feedback with new insights. Steven Downes discusses the importance this type of self-directed learning in his video,  Web 2.0 and Your Own Learning and Development.

Finding reliable sources can be accomplished by starting and nurturing a good personal learning network (PLN).  Personally I find that my own PLN is always in state of flux.  I continually add and delete rss feeds to edublogs in my Google reader, follow and "unfollow" people on Twitter, and check my Yahoo and Ning groups.  I don't stop following others because any of their ideas  are irrelevant, but because there is no way to keep up with all the good learning and sharing opportunities today.

I am in the process of deciding which sources in my PLN I want to keep.  It's really a tough decision, but if I want to reflect on what I read, I need to have a manageable set of items.  I hope that this "weeding out" of my PLN will allow me more time to digest and comment on what others say  and to share my own ideas with them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So You Think You Can Teach with Tech Tools!

Since 2004 I have been teaching a course through the State University of NY at Buffalo presently called Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts in L2.  The purpose of the course is to familiarize pre-service and in-service teachers with various free, online tools that they can use to enhance the teaching/learning experience.  I could feel the excitement of the students as they blogged about how they could use these tools in their own classrooms, but then I began to worry that in their enthusiasm they might lose sight of their instructional goals.  

Judi Harris and Mark Hofer wrote in Grounded Tech Integration in the ISTE magazine Learning and Leading with Technology,  "Most technology integration strategies begin with and focus on the technologies' affordances and constraints - what they can help us do and their limitations.  Unfortunately, this approach does not ensure that educational technologies will be well integrated into instruction that is keyed to specific content-based learning goals".

However, I have decided that the tools I teach about and the teaching goals the students need to keep in mind are like the partners in a dance.  The tools that we as educators have literally at our  fingertips today are recent  developments. Before we can decide  how to use them to meet instructional goals, it is necessary to become familiar with what each tool  can and cannot do.   So I visualize teaching with tech tools  as a continual, partnered dance between new tech tools and teaching goals.  At some points in the dance one of the partners shines more brightly, but at other times the other takes center stage.  However, both dancers are essential to creating a great performance!