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Reflections on Topic 1 … Newton’s First Law. January 27, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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my ple

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/4096836848/

Some of the questions posed during this #etmooc topic are ones I’ve explored before. Given the affordances which today’s communications technologies provide, it would be remiss (negligent?) not to reflect on how we might leverage the potential they might offer. So my explorations of the issues raised by “What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?” began a while ago. Here I settled on the term Personal Learning Ecosystem to describe the network I had assembled from which I could learn and to which I might contribute. I explored that two-way flow further in this post, then began to consider some possibilities of how that might extend into our schooland begin to answer “How important is connected learning? Why?”.

What I haven’t yet got to grips with is “Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how?” In the strictest sense, of course it’s physically possible to support this kind of learning; none of the elements in the above diagram are inaccessible in school … depending on your filtering policies! However when I’ve tried to introduce colleagues to the potential that social networking might offer, I think it would be fair to say I’ve not enjoyed unequivocal success. I often wonder why that is. For some, the barrier might be the technology, though given the familiarity all have with email (excessive, many claim!), is it such a big step to a slightly different communication tool? Others do in fact use social networking tools … but for social communication, rather than learning, and perhaps resent the intrusion into their personal lives? Others may have concerns about their ability to manage the online safety issues, though that’s surely a matter of personal development? However I suspect all of these, whilst valid, are peripheral concerns; the actual reason why our ‘classrooms and institutions’ largely haven’t supported this kind of learning is because they are just that – classrooms and institutions. Associated with those terms are specific practices and expectations which bring with them historical baggage and introduce a degree of inertia. Learning in this way was simply not how classrooms and institutions ‘do’ learning … at least not until recently. Increasingly we are seeing individuals and schools pushing back the boundaries through initiatives like The Flat Classroom, Quadblogging, the Digital Leaders Network and through the connections made by individuals between schools and across international boundaries. There isn’t a day passes when I don’t see several posts on Twitter from educators looking to link their classes with others across the globe, or casting for comments on blog posts their students have made. I admit that setting out on learning this way might indeed be rather intimidating. I guess it’s like asking for date – you just need the confidence to give it a go, be prepared for the occasional knock-back and to develop the resilience to stick with it.

Earlier I used the word ‘inertia’ which to a physicist has a particular meaning I’m going to distil down as ‘resistance to change.’ Objects with a large mass have more inertia. Classrooms and schools are ‘massive’ objects with quite some inertia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change; inertia can be overcome. It’s just a matter of applying a force, albeit it small in the great scheme of things, but keep applying it and change will come. The longer the force is applied, the more noticeable the change will be.

No laws of Physics have been violated in the making of this post!

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Let’s get the party started . . . July 19, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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Last night on EdTechRoundUp, Doug raised the question of #ukedchat and what people felt they got from it.  There were plenty of the moderators there to respond (@colport, @dughall, @janwebb21, @ianaddison), in addition to others who also take part in these weekly Twitter unconferences/discussions.  Without wishing to put words in Doug’s mouth, I guess he was asking whether it’s possible to draw value or sense from the cacophony of tweets . . . or whether it’s just like coming into a noisy room where everyone’s talking (shouting?) at once.

I guess I look at it a bit like a party.  Being there from the start allows you the chance to acclimatise, perhaps start off a few conversations.  If you walk in when it’s underway however, the room can seem incredibly loud and perhaps a little intimidating; difficult to pick out threads from the general hubbub.  But then you join a smaller group and chat with them a while, become more comfortable and settle into the ambience.  If the conversation in the group isn’t to your taste, or you want to speak with other folk, you politely move on.  Maybe you find a group in which the topic is particularly stimulating, so you linger a little longer.  Whilst nibbling from the buffet, you might ‘lurk’ on the chat from a group nearby.  It’s pretty much the same in #ukedchat – you might lurk for a while, add a contribution, follow those of others, reply to them and follow up replies to yours.  A bit less relaxed than a party perhaps and there’s a lot to squeeze into an hour; I know I find it tough:

Tweet

My Tweet after the session on 15-07-10

It’s certainly a jam packed session, but is all the effort worth it?  For me, yes.  I’m exposed to issues and standpoints I might not enjoy during a normal working day.  And I’m exposed to a discursive form which demands a different approach to the lingering discussion I might otherwise have over a cuppa or a pint.  So it challenges me because it’s not my preferred way of working. . . and I like that!

Credit where credit’s due . . . June 13, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Management, Web 2.0.
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Earlier in the week, I had quite an important meeting with the Senior Management Team in school. Following a previous session during which we had been undertaking a self-review, it became clear that there were many issues concerning ICT that I was familiar with, that they weren’t (enjoying the support of my PLE doubtless helped here). So, rather bravely I thought, they asked if I would put together a session to help inform them what’s available and possible – recent developments and where things are moving. A wonderful opportunity!

A major influence on my professional development over the last year has been Twitter, so to try to get across a flavour of that, I thought I would try my first ‘shout-out’ to my network and feed the responses into the session. The question I asked – “How does Twitter help your professional development?” I was delighted to get any replies at all, but incredibly grateful for the thought that people had put in. Certain threads began to emerge and Twitter clearly provides professional development which:

  • connects with a diverse range of passionate professionals
  • surfaces a wealth of resources, tools and ideas
  • inspires and stimulates
  • achieves more (for some people) than other forms of PD
Gift

From MarcinMoga on Flickr

We covered many other areas during the session: the Cloud, progress in mobile and games-based learning, intelligent searching – enough for a dozen blog posts!. For me though, what Twitter (and other networking tools) offers ought to be the most significant message to take away . . . . and it’s not just me saying that, it’s other professionals who are much wiser than me too. They took a few moments out of their busy lives to respond to my request; they gave a ‘gift¹.’ Perhaps that’s the true power of the community I enjoy on Twitter?

Full responses and the wonderful people who responded are listed here.

¹Godin, S., 2010. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to Drive Your Career and Create a Remarkable Future, Piatkus Books.

Thanks to @whatedsaid‘s post for pointing me at this book

PLE . . . the best of things, the worst of things? May 20, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, TELIC.
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One of the final tasks of this module of study on my Master’s course is, as you might expect, the reflective element. IC2 requires us to take on the role of change agent, charging us to plan, deliver and evaluate a project for a notional ‘client.’ I chose to undertake a pilot study in preparation for a year-long project we’re undertaking next academic year.
Multiple roles

More than once during this project I’ve felt some measure of discomfort, struggling to retain a degree of perspective and feeling I’ve lost the handle on what I’ve been trying to achieve. Now that I look back on my role, I can begin to appreciate why that might have been, for I’ve been wrestling with multiple personalities;

  1. Change agent – the person tasked with moving ‘us’ forward as a result of adopting this innovation
  2. Client – I’m the one who conceived and commisioned the project.
  3. Project Manager – the person who marshals the resources (human & technical) to realise the project
  4. Researcher – someone who determines the success (or otherwise) of the project and suggests routes forward.
Specs

From Denise Cross on Flickr

Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to say that these roles conflict with one another, each demands you view the project from a slightly different perspective; that you slip on a different pair of specs. And anyone who wears specs knows that requires a shift in focus . . . which can be quite disconcerting! I’ve often found myself working in an area of the project whilst wearing the wrong specs., for instance trying to view elements of change whilst wearing the project manager’s specs – it doesn’t work and I find my thinking going round in circles. But why so many roles? Why client and project manager?

In school I’m involved with the ‘nitty-gritty’ like getting classroom projectors working and providing, supporting and guiding colleagues with ICT CPD. I also lead the ICT Support Team, manage the ICT budget and ensure our estate is fit for purpose. I advise the SMT on ICT strategy and have the role of school ICT Leader, helping find and map out possible future directions. It’s not that that’s too much for a single individual; swapping a hard drive one minute and writing a development plan the next provides an excellent overview. No, my worry is that in looking for opportunities to explore innovative uses of ICT, I’m on my own; there’s no-one to bounce ideas off or set me a target. I blame my PLE for causing me to feel like this. Many of the people within my PLE are incredibly innovative in how they use ICT in their classrooms and with their pupils. They work at the bleeding edge. They’re inspirational. They provide a constant stream of stimulation from which I draw ideas . . . like @tombarrett‘s Tweet which lit the spark for this project.

Unfortunately there is a small part of me which hopes for a similar experience back in school as that which I get from my PLE . . . and it’s disappointing when that doesn’t come to fruition. There are (to my knowledge) no other colleagues who use Twitter as a learning tool, who blog as part of their professional development, who use social networking tools of any aspect of their work . . . despite my best efforts of encouragement. But then should I be surprised? I’ve come to the conclusion that people in my PLE are quite unusual; they aren’t found everwhere and in fact are spread few and far between. The more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m unusual too; I think differently from other people in school. Is there something particular about edtech enthusiasts that sets them apart?

Anyway to return to the point, multiple roles. In this unusual position, I find I’m the one who taps into channels which provide inspiration for new ideas, but then I also have to explore the possibilities and potential pitfalls, devise a plan, form the necessary coalitions (is that word still allowed in this post-election environment?), execute the tasks and evaluate the outcomes. This isn’t a whinge at all; I love doing it . . . but is it best for our organisation in the long run?

The Stream . . . did I miss something? May 8, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Web 2.0.
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I often see @doctorjeff‘s Tweets; some I read and think, some make me smile, some just float by in the stream. One containing a link to a blog post passed by last night, but I left the link untouched.

Tweet fom @doctorjeff

A short while later @whatedsaid tweeted what a great post about Twitter @doctorjeff had just made.

Tweet from @whatedsaid

Because I know and respect what Edna has to say, I went back to @doctorjeff’s post. It was indeed an excellent post, and one I might have missed, but for the recommendation of someone in my PLE. Consequence? A new and firmer connection has been made in my network and therefore new opportunities for learning. Is this what connectivism is about?