#EdCampNOV8

Click on the #edcampNOV8 Thinglink (at date of post Thinglink cannot be embedded in a WordPress blog)
The Northwest ISD IT team, that I am a part of, hosted our first #EdCamp.  It was an exhilarating experience and I was amazed at all the new #EdCampers that attended.  I created the Thinglink above as a celebration, curation and brief reflection of the event.  Additionally, I have a fun 20 second video that I took capturing our autonomous learning #EdCampers moving to GoNoodle a free dance/exercise based online program for situations like indoor recess or incentive built physical education activities.

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When being connected is more than a PLN…

My one year anniversary as an active participant on Twitter just passed.  In that time I have become a regular participant in several Twitter chats, began the very blog I am writing this post for, read “Teach Like a Pirate” and did my first online book chat, attended my first #edcampHOME, launched Genius Hour in my own classroom, encouraged others to embrace the idea of Genius Hour, entered into a new position as an Instructional Technology Coach and wrote my first educational magazine article (see my previous post- Genius Hour- From Another Perspective).

While I give oodles of credit to the impact of being connected through the formats of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Hangouts…. Twitter having the greatest influence; the whirlwind of growth stems from much more than just being connected through Social Media.  Being virtually connected is an exercise in vain if the learning/knowledge gained isn’t carried back into the live learning environment of classrooms and colleagues.

It amazes me that when the senses are heightened with learning and growth how every contact, conversation and connection lends itself to strengthening and affirming that process. The articles that are shared with me, conversations of collaboration, current events, books, a sermon, and/or reflection, without intention, will present a common thread or threads of truth about this process of learning, teaching and connectedness.

My church’s recent sermon series is one such example of how being aware of our personal learning and the affirmation of the process comes from a multitude of formats.

The series was called: The Red Zone (it’s Texas and it’s Super Bowl season)

While the implications of this lesson were an inspiration and challenged me, I immediately saw the application of the five key words (Connect, Grow, Honor, Serve, and Share) in the realm of the professional educator.

Connect- To be effective we must connect through Social Media, in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and with our professional associations. We can no longer be an island on our own.  We need each other, we need the knowledge; our students deserve a well-connected educator.

Grow- We must have a growth-mindset.  Learning is vast and inexhaustible.  At every turn new learning/knowledge is being created.  What was once a hard and fast rule has more than one way to get to the same solution.  We must be divergent in our thinking, flexible in our learning and adaptive in our approach.  There is nothing static in the instruction provided to our students. Why should we think our own professional learning would be static?

Honor- As we connect and grow it can be messy.  Honor the process.  Reflect often and celebrate the successes as well as the learning that resulted in the midst of adventurous risks that didn’t turn out as planned.  Honoring the risks, the learning both in the instruction and the reflection are essential.  Often this piece is overlooked. If educators don’t take time to honor and reflect on their practice nor give their students the opportunity to honor the process of learning, the significance of the growth that may have occurred is lost.  Honor gives learning significance; it provides a marker point.

Serve- Servant leadership has been given a substantial amount of attention in recent years.  How one serves as an educator is an individual choice, but this profession, as a calling and serves a greater purpose.  We serve to develop life-long learners, and grow future leaders.  Our presence and partnership with stakeholders impact community.  We understand our outreach, to be effective in the classroom, must go beyond the classroom.

Share- To be truly effective as an educator we have relied on the collaboration and mentor-ship of others. We in turn share our humble craft. Transparency is key as we share relevant strategies, effective interventions and innovative ideas.  To support one another we must be a willing, available and essential resource.

This job, that is a calling, brings its own set of challenges, celebrations, and surprises.  The beauty of a calling is that it is connected to every aspect of who you are, to the core.  While most who are educators agree this is a job like no other, I believe it is our connectedness that makes our individual way in which we approach the craft perfection. It’s not an easy craft, but when it is our passion intertwined with all aspects of life, the difficulties pale in comparison to the joy of the journey.

Content, Collaboration and Curation… Part 2

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A Curation Epiphany

As I reflect upon the last week and the start of school in the district I am privileged to be a part of, it struck me how curating has become a method of improving not only my practice but supporting other educators in theirs.  In a day and time when there is more accessible knowledge, content and practices out there it makes me wonder. Can a teacher remain effective, relevant and current in his/her practice without being connected? Even more, can a community, organization, company, etc. remain current, relevant and plan for the future without being connected? I cannot answer for others, but I know for myself, my own children, the teachers I coach and the students on the campuses that I impact, being globally competent is paramount.

To that end I address the idea of content, collaboration and curation again.  I addressed this in an earlier post “Content, Collaboration and Curation.”

First, since I last posted I have realized that there are levels of curation.  Secondly, curating ultimately is meant to facilitate learning and collaboration. Finally, if you do it well, people in your circles of influence and PLNs will bring information to you to add to the curations you have created.

In regards to levels of curation it is much like Blooms. There is knowledge level curation- it is done for remembering and understanding (the “Learner Level”). Another level is applying and analyzing- it is curated for use or been used and is a proven tool for using whether it be your tool or a tool you have discovered from your global connections via Social Media, blogs or simple internet searches (the “Facilitator Level”).  Finally, there are curations that go to the level of evaluation and creation… these are the curations that become invaluable tools to others.  It takes the most work, but the result is most thorough and the resource it provides to others can be invaluable (the “Designer Level”).

The “Learner” Level:

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On the “Learner” level… remembering and understanding, curation would be in the way of Twitter.

It is how I and all those new to a concept learn.  When I first began curating this was the level at which I curated.  I “retweeted”, emailed links for continued contemplation or bookmarked sites.  It brought me knowledge and I shared the knowledge.  It is a great way to step into curating.  Honestly, its a great place to stay.  I still curate this way; especially when I am collaborating with those that are not yet fully involved in the connectedness of social media as a means for global competency.

If you are still not connected through Twitter and want to ignite and infuse your professional development with passion refer to the earlier post in my blog “From Creeping to Curating” where I include a link of a great step by step process to Twitter from @bcurrie5 ‘s blog “Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself”.

The “Facilitator” Level:

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On the “Facilitator” level of curation.. the curator begins to analyze and apply the content they have curated.  This often is where a person will truly digest the content. Often many resources about a particular topic, idea or concept will be collected and organized.  Often this content comes from PLN (Professional Learning Network) chats.  I participate in multiple chats and follow a couple of dozen hashtags (#), participate in professional networks through LinkedIn, follow amazing educators on Pinterest, and keep my eyes open for great content. Also, by reputation for my curating many in my circle of influence share content with me that I then curate. Once I latch on to the content I go through a process with information I want to assimilate for myself and/or others.  In my position as an Instructional Technology Coach I take the coaching part very seriously.  For that reason I curate not just for my personal professional development, but for my teachers, students, administrators and parents.  I take the content and analyze where it should be curated and who it should be curated for. Then I determine the best place for the content so that I can access to share and/or those that follow me can note it and utilize it.  I also try, when appropriate, to learn how I can apply what I curate so I can share with others.

At first, this may seem tedious, but over time it becomes almost automatic.  Typically over the course of an hour chat I will end up curating half a dozen ideas, links, and/or blogs into either my Flipboard, Pinterest account or ScoopIt pages.  I will have also shared with that same PLN chat content from those curations that apply to that chat.  I haven’t done this long.. maybe six months, but it is so automatic now that I may be out getting groceries, waiting in line to check out, looking at my feed, and see a great link that has been tweeted. In a matter of seconds, after reviewing the content, I will curate the link and retweet with comments on how to apply so that others can add to their learning.

The “Designer” Level:

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The “designer” level of curation is probably the most involved form of curation.  It is where you take content that you understand, apply and analyze and then evaluate and create a method of sharing the content where it has become uniquely your own content.  There are multiple methods for this to be done.  It is where you truly digest the content, assimilate it, evaluate it and then create a way to deliver the content after it has been through your filters, experiences and processes.  In many ways you are the designer.

The “designer” level is probably the most satisfying because it reflects most deeply the designers philosophies and beliefs. It carries with it a certain kind of personal stamp of approval and is purposefully crafted to collaborate and help others.  The “designer” level of curation most reflects the tenets of the mindset of #geniushour and #passionbasedlearning .

At the “designer” level I use the method of blogging.  There are several different sites out there that offer free blog accounts.  I use WordPress my 8 year old son uses Blogger (http://minecraftcreeperlovers.blogspot.com/).  To create online experiences that curate content I also, for focused educational purposes such as webquest experiences or lesson experiences, use my district’s Moodle that allows limited guest access and password access for teachers and students.   Additionally, you can create/build a website.  My 10 year old daughter created a website through www.wix.com to curate kid friendly information about Greek Mythology (website: http://embug101.wix.com/myth).

Final Thoughts:

As I continue to collect content through curation and collaborate with others the depth with which I understand curating grows.  I urge those of you that read this to start at the “Learner” level with Twitter like I did. Then start curating at the “Facilitator” level.  The “Designer” level may never be your course… that is definitely ok.  However, I do encourage all who are growing and learning as connected educators and becoming globally competent to curate in some way.

Whatever level you choose to curate, Learner, Facilitator or Designer, the key is to continue a spirit of open Collaboration.  In this world of immediate access and available content make every effort to honor the source of your curation, inspiration and/or springboard for design.  Those that do curate at a “Designer” level and in many cases are the first in their field of expertise to find a new “method” put hours into the development and design.  What a gift to learn from their genius and be gifted the time we don’t have to spend figuring it out on our own.  Protect the integrity of open collaboration and of course, share your curations!

All comments welcome.  Please let me know your thoughts and how you are curating and collaborating!