Monday, November 19, 2007

Personal Learning Network

Crossposted at learnconnect

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people who have influenced me in my learning and those who play a part in my learning now. It has been an interesting journey.

I taught for 18 years at a private school in Montreal where I was the computer teacher. I am grateful to my colleagues there and to the environment that was fostered by the administration. We talked education frequently and they became a part of my learning and growth. We debated whole language, grappled with what it truly meant, planned and implemented many projects together and always questioned our practices and approaches. However, as the only computer teacher in the school, there were areas of what I wanted to know for which my colleagues could not be my mentors. I had to go elsewhere. There were books and certainly Seymour Papert was a huge influence in my becoming a more constructivist educator. But I did not have contact with him directly except on a rare occasion when I heard him speak at a conference.

I often think of Frank Greene, a professor at McGill who encouraged and nourished me. He spoke of walking the floor at a conference - that the contacts and conversations were as important as listening to the speakers. So true.

As I attended and spoke at conferences, I met people from outside my city and, through e-mail was able to start expanding my circle of mentors. I learned that people, even those on the conference circuit, are approachable and are truly happy to share what they know. People in the education business seem to want to share, to see the changes they are hoping for multiply.

When I left teaching and started my current job, my new colleagues were as collaborative and supportive as those whom I had left. Our conversations have forced me to think and rethink about my beliefs and to read and reflect about what I would like to see in education. As we do not meet often face to face, our conversations were often through e-mails and my personal learning network expanded.

However, it has been through the advent of web 2.0 that I have been able to have access to the people in my field on a regular basis and my own growth has been exponential as a result. I regularly read blogs (though I have learned to limit the number), listen to some podcasts and through online communities have come to know people as friends and collaborators whom I have never met face to face. I have many people I can call on to answer my questions, reflect back my thinking and to expose me to their explorations and ideas. Now I can walk the floors virtually and carry on conversations or just listen in on them to nudge my thoughts and point me to articles, new applications and exemplary student work. It has been an exciting time.

I know that teachers have limited time, but I also know that we want our students to be lifelong learners. I feel we have to model this and continue to learn ourselves.

So here are my questions
Who have been your mentors?
Who is part of your personal learning network (face to face or virtual)
How can you use the people in this group to expand your knowledge, share your ideas or create community?
Choose one new thing to learn this week.
Where are you going to go to learn it (real world or virtual?)
Who can help you?

Don’t keep the answers to yourself. Share them by commenting on this entry.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Travel Through Space and Time

Sylvia Tolisano, in her K12 Online Conference presentation, described an interesting way to open up the world to the students in her school. Two teachers were funded to go to China and communicated with the school along the way. She tells the story of this experience and talks about the importance of story. The school started a global studies curriculum with the objective of introducing the students to a new country in each of their years in the school.
Travel - 2 Faculty travelled for two weeks and collected artifacts and data
Connections - students connected with the travelling faculty through José the Bear as well as through blogs and podcasts etc.
Interdisciplinary Studies - units designed to teach conceptual and procedural information to bring all subjects together.
The teachers tried to make a connection for the students. Based on the book "Letters from Felix" they brought along José the Bear. He spent a few days in each class before going away. Each grade participated in different ways. How could they make the experience almost synchronous for the students so they would feel they were travelling along? They recorded sound-seeing tours, videos etc. Blogs, comments - gave students a lot to learn and to connect with. A virtual connection was made through the use of technology. A blog on which videos, audio files and text were shared. Images went to Flickr and the slide shows were shared. Skype was used for some video-conferencing. You can learn more about the global studies program here.

I think it was great that the students learned about another country. How much better it would be to contact people in the country and learn from children their age. I also found some of the activities rather directive. Nice to be a teacher there - with travel opportunities! However, global understanding will happen more when we reach out and learn from each other.