Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

My reason for writing this is to highlight how PLANE, the online Professional Learning Program for teachers, has been affected as a viable Online Learning Community (OLC) and to draw attention to those who might be unaware of this.

PLANE's landing page

PLANE’s landing page

For the uninitiated, PLANE stands for Pathways for Learning, Anywhere anytime – A Network for Educators. It offers a series of resources and professional learning in ICT for teachers. Learning comes in the form of short skill snacks that take a matter of minutes, to lengthier and more involved quests and courses. There are forum boards, a twitter feed, an activity stream, a virtual world based on Second Life to name but a small number of interactive content. Overarching all of this is the user’s Passport, which sees you accrue points as you journey about the site and take part in a range of activities. Simply, it is an engaging form of stamp or badge collecting. Here is a shot of my Dashboard from late August 2013:

I first came to PLANE earlier this year, during my first trimester of a Masters of Education, specialising in eLearning. A colleague had made a passing mention that I should check it out, and having signed up, I spent about an hour having a click around at this enticing site. This was in March and, having made a comment about it on a Forum panel to my university cohort, my subject lecturer mentioned in a Reply post that it was worth a look, but perhaps after the looming assignment had been completed.

As a result, I did not get back to have a look at PLANE until several months later, in July. It seems that, during this time, substantial changes were taking place that would see this OLC in a very different realm. The first thing I noticed was that the Twitter login seemed broken, so having sent an email from within itself (having managed to connect ‘again’ via Facebook), I heard nothing back from Admin. Later I managed to locate a comment to this effect – and that the Twitter Login would soon be fixed; as yet it hasn’t.

Having logged on, one arrives at the News Page. Here the warning bells start to ring. Firstly there is the current statement, that has been up for many weeks now:

PLANE will cease to validate professional learning or issue certificates for completion of PLANE courses after Friday 27 September 2013. Any registered PLANE professional development completed before 27 September will remain on a teacher’s Institute of Teachers record for the purposes of maintaining accreditation. PLANE will continue to offer the current range of professional learning experiences. Teachers will be able to use this professional learning as Teacher Identified Professional Development only, which is logged by the teacher on the NSW Institute of Teachers website and validated by the school principal or their delegate. Teachers can export evidence pages from PLANE as a standalone HTML website to show their school principal or delegate to have the learning validated on the NSW Institute of Teachers website. For more information regarding Teacher Identified Professional Development, please go to http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/.

Adding to this concern, the Twitter Feed (#planePL) seems stagnant, with no content from PLANE itself since late June and the Educator spotlight has remained the same during this time (this might be intended). By a sad contrast, the Activity Stream that occupies the right of the screen is scrolling continuously. A quick glance indicates that, for the most part, those “scoring” the achievements are probably new to the site, based on the types of activities that they are being credited with.

Going further and exploring the site in detail only appears to confirm one’s concerns. The events calendar has nothing coming up (the last event was June), the Virtual World is empty when I’ve visited, apart from the three virtual characters at Boot Camp (again, with no events scheduled), the Ask an Expert is similarly stalled in June. Other areas such as the Groups (which boasts a striking 162 groups) reflects stagnation through the lack of activity in Forum posts and outdated page information. One area which seems to buck the trend is the Share Club, where participants have managed to keep the content up-to-date.

In trying to study PLANE for my university assignment as an Online Learning Community, I attempted to do some research as to its status. My Google skills might not be the best, but even I found it difficult to find much in terms of what was going on. What I did manage to locate, in a Forum post inside of the site, was a Google Doc that raised worries about the future of the PLANE website and ongoing viability. Additionally, it highlights particular concern about the loss of accreditation for new scheme teachers, which PLANE offered. There were a number of other concerns raised in a detailed and thoughtfully constructed letter.

The pertinent parts to the response is printed below.

As part of my Masters coursework, participants are asked to take part in Forum Discussions. One exercise asked students to explore the for/against of the statement If you build it, they will come. In writing this post, this seems apt. Perhaps more pertinently is that “they” might well come, but will they stay, or even come back? Are they expected to take on the maintenance of the site thereafter?

It would be nice to know if this last observation is the case. Perhaps this might go some way to helping maintain and foster PLANE’s base. I understand that many of the “pilots” who helped administer the site have gone and that it resembles more of an empty shell today. A lot of money has been put into this and it would be unconscionable to see this drift,  rudderless, towards oblivion.

In closing, take a look at this photo. It is from PLANE’s Facebook page (also with last post in June). For me it captures everything PLANE can and should stand for – the energy of a range of dedicated practitioners who have come together to create a fantastic OLC. Please feel free to forward and disseminate this post in your own social and educative circles. Perhaps it can be steered to a more appropriate course for all users.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.15.26 PM

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!

iBlog – uBlog – we… Blog  luring

This post might seem to preach a little to the converted, and for that I apologise from the outset. If you are already writing a blog, what I am about to say may well be obvious. For those who are considering starting one, or want to know more about the aspects that you might not even be aware of, this will have pertinence to you.
Firstly, I should mention that I have been running a mini-unit in my Year 9 & 10 English classes in the wind down towards the end of the year. It has been the first time I have run something like this and many of the students, with the “post exam afterglow” were initially resistant to doing something “on blogging”. For those in Year 10, who started this first, the word blogging equated to some journal writing; something they had no interest in. Step one in amending-as-you-go-teaching saw me do away with the word blog and look to use site more generally. This (Year 10) is not a highly graded class, but there are a lot of students with specific interests and abilities. Some of them hope to play higher level/professional sport. Suddenly, the nomenclature changed, a few souls could see the worth of such an enterprise. The Year 9s, following a week later in the process, were far more amenable from the outset. For many of them, the ‘hook’ took quickly.
So what is the lure?
For them (and me), the hook to addiction comes in several parts. The first comes in determining your site name. The bit that will come after the old “www” part. Because it is what I have worked with, I have used WordPress as our key format. I am sure that other blogging sites use similar systems, but for now, bear with me.
Seeing students assume that (and at this point, I didn’t know how many sites there are hosted by WordPress – now I am aware that, as I type, there are over 58 million worldwide) they can walk in to “basketball.wordpress.com” because basketball is their thing and (because WordPress is in the title, so it’s not like “basketball.com”) no one else will have thought of it as a title, is amusing. What they thought would take 1 minute to do, ends up taking half a lesson or more, as they want to get the website title just right… not settling for something that’s too obscure. And why not? Wouldn’t you rather stumble upon something memorable and feel like you’ve staked your claim to that title? They certainly did.
The next two things came in quick succession. Before I could get round the room in the case of the Year 10s, most had already put up their first post. It was only after this that I was able to steer them back to considering why their “About” page might be worth a little bit of thought. This, along with working out what the site title would be (and the summary subheading that sits underneath this) made sense, when they had got past the excitement of setting the whole thing up. Helping me to ‘sell’ this idea, was the concept that this might well be the start of their ‘digital’ identity – one that they would like to develop and promote. Suddenly, students weren’t that keen to link their site to Facebook. It wasn’t about their friends seeing their efforts, it was more about creating something that went beyond the quick here-and-now that FB offers. As one student in Year 9 also offered, Even if we did connect our first post to FB, we all have so many ‘friends’ that the feed goes by so fast and no one would necessarily see it. 

Suddenly, substance took priority over immediacy.
While this was going on, the real hook was about to catch. I had been showing the class my own site (this one) in the form of its Dashboard. This has some compelling pieces of information embedded into it. Amongst them are the “site stats”. I’ve copied the scene that you would see, were you to have access to my Stats page.

The snapshot for the last week

The snapshot for the last week

Jokes aside regarding the (relatively) small breadth of my readership from the boys, they soon made some striking realisations. The most telling of these is that, for whatever reason, someone in Venezuela, came across my site. This came to prominence when, after several days, a few students realised that they only had ‘stats’ from Australia and, to be frank, these probably came from friends in the class who were ‘clicking’ on their site. A few boys had managed to get some views, mostly from the United States and these were held in high regard. However, even these were ‘trumped’ in days to come, as a couple of students managed to establish their first “followers” – mostly linked to the blogs that were sport based and had a broad appeal. But the seed had been planted in many minds. How and why would someone in Venezuela be in a position to be clicking (by the way, hello there in Venezuela!) “on Sir’s site!!”. I was reminded of an excellent blog by Daniel Edwards on The 10 Stages of Twitter – as the students  “Sit waiting for a response – feel unloved.” – highlighted in Stage 3!!

And so, the hook ‘takes’. For those not new to blogging, I wonder how accurate the following is: how often do you log on to see if you have ‘more hits’ and, perhaps even more compelling, whether you have new countries in your Stats? Isn’t it both satisfying and addictive, in equal part, to discover that there IS an audience out there for your efforts? For those contemplating starting a blog, this (and so much more, such as how people type phrases and questions into search engines and, by doing so, end up ‘clicking’ on your site) is a fascinating side to the form that you might not be aware of.

It certainly makes the process and the thought behind what I do, all the more considered. Even if I know that many coming to my site might be there by accident, and so, not hang around for long. Who doesn’t appreciate an audience?

Anyone else got any blogging lures?

A short post from me this time, and I start with a confession:
I have not used Prezi as I feel I ought to have done. Never being a PowerPoint aficionado, I thought that I would rectify the deficit – but now looking back, I see that time and application has been lacking.
And so I am proposing building a bank of teaching ideas and strategies with (in particular, new iPad) apps.

Presents
At present, it feels a bit too much like Christmas, and I am a six year old. I’m looking at posts on Twitter that promote “the 5 best apps for the classroom” or “50 Edtech tools” and I’m eagerly reading about them, often downloading them and using them – briefly. Then, unless I persevere (and going back to the Christmas analogy), I tend to become entranced by the next present in the pile. I’ll give the instructions a cursory glance at best and some of these items deserve a little more attention. A good case in point was the ShowMe app – I had a quick look, dreamed about it for a little while, and have not got ‘back’ to it since.

So, working on a few premises; that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, that education is still about content, content, content before technology, that the way it operates in the classroom and the way a class ‘operates’ (and is taught) cannot be replaced with a gimmick or something only half utilised, I am looking to make amends. No death-by-powerpoint by reducing a resource to its most mundane level.

And so, the idea is that I will road test a number of apps in the (predominantly) English class room. I’m thinking that spending about half a term (five weeks) would be about right, starting after our September school holidays (Australia). From this I hope to:

  • Review those apps that are most useful to teachers, those for students and those that work for both
  • Compare those that are similar to other apps out there (and perhaps, where an app falls short in the classroom)
  • Collate any other information that is out there that you can offer.
  • And after all this, I hope to Create a series of lesson ideas and strategies that help utilise an app to the fullest extent.

Currently, I’m not sure where to start – suggestions gratefully accepted, as will be re-tweets to a wider audience and pointers to places where it may have already been covered. Only relatively new to blogging, so am not looking to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel!

I’ll look to provide a later blog per app, with any and all appropriate information and resources collated. Hopefully it’ll stretch beyond the English classroom to broader teaching and learning use.

Looking forward to hearing from you in the meantime…