Monday, November 25, 2013

Thinking More about a Personalized Learning Network

Time to think more about using Web 2.0 tools to build your Personalized Learning Network!  

First, what is Web 2.0? The Google definition is...
Web 2.0
(web to͞o point ˈō/)
1. the second stage of development of the World Wide Web, characterized especially by the change from static web pages to dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social networking.

Second, what Web 2.0 tools could you use to build your Personalized Learning Network?
1. Twitter
2. blogs
3. wikis
4. RSS feeds
5. Google +
6. YouTube
7. LinkedIn
9. others

One or more of these can provide the perfect framework for building a PLN.   Are you already using one, two, three or more of these? If so, you are ready to move forward with a PLN.  If not, let's get you established with at least one.

For example, if you have a Twitter account (or you create one now) but you aren't comfortable tweeting yet, that's okay. Here's a suggested progression for moving into the world of Twitter....

1. start by observing, "lurking" if you will, watch/read what others are tweeting without worrying about tweeting at all
2. read about Twitter, research how to tweet or use @ or #,or ask for help (I am readily accessbile)
3. check out who others are "following" and follow them too
4. Try it....tweet one comment about what you find interesting or what you are currently reading
5. Retweet (RT) something that you find interesting or worthy
6. Encourage someone to follow you on Twitter
7. Search for (or be on the lookout for Twitter info) for leaders in your field and follow them
8. Reflect on the process

Keep your eyes open for more info on building a Personalized Learning Network coming soon!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Google Chrome Bookmark Bar

If you are not using a Bookmark Bar in Google Chrome then you are missing out on a great time saver!  It's simple to create! Just follow the steps in the video tutorial and you can clean up your desktop, speed up your access to your most used pages and make your life a lot EASIER!!! Everyone likes EASIER!

Check out this video tutorial for setting up a Bookmark Bar
Google Chrome Bookmark Bar

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time to Think About Your Own Personal Learning Network

Who do you learn from on a regular basis?
Where does your learning take place?
How do you make time for professional learning?
Who do you turn to for professional development opportunities?
Is money a consideration for your learning and professional development?
How do you pay for this learning and professional development?

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a free, powerful, professional learning opportunity that you participate in at your own pace and on your own time schedule. 

Are you plugged into a global network of like-minded professionals, who will broaden your experiences and challenge your thinking on an ongoing basis?

If your answer is yes, then you are off to a great start.  If your answer is no, then it's time to make it happen!

Either way, join me on this blog for a six month journey to creating, growing and promoting your own Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Check back often!  Also, watch for Google+ posts and emails and join in the process of building a powerful learning opportunity!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

For EDU5506EA FA13 PLU Requirement

Synopsis: My action plan for the remainder of the 2013 - 2014 school year is to use this blog as "homebase" for providing training, assistance, tips and tricks for creating and growing Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) for educators in the Cullman City Schools System.

Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, Twitter, podcasts, etc) will be used for these PLNs.  Information about the use of these tools as a vehicle for growing a PLN will be presented here.  Invitations to receive assistance and/or training in one-on-one, small group or whole group settings will be issued through this blog, system emails, and face-to-face meetings.

Please read my previous post for more information about this PLN initiative.

ACTION PLAN     Sharon Drake

GENERAL INFORMATION                                                               
Name of Organization: Cullman City Schools 

Project Title: Personal and Professional Growth Through a Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Project Location: Cullman City Schools, Cullman, Alabama 

Contact Person: Sharon Drake 

Contact Information: Cullman City Schools
          301 1st St NE #100
          Cullman, Alabama 35055

Project Timeline:  November 20, 2013 - May 20, 2014

Amount Required: $0 

Educators in the Cullman City School System will be provided with an opportunity to create or further develop a Personal Learning Network that will allow them to be deliberate and focused in using Web 2.0 tools to connect and share with others to grow personally and professionally.

Working through the massive amount of information (and the incredible number of resources for accessing that information) can be overwhelming and time consuming.  Educators often feel overwhelmed when trying to weed through information/resources that help them grow professionally. Educators need guidance in using Web 2.0 tools to create a Personal Learning Network that is deliberate and focused on their specific professional learning needs and interests. 

The Blog “12 Other Ways” will be used to provide assistance, information, training, and resources for using Web 2.0 tools to create and refine a PLN.  

By May, 2014 a minimum of 10 educators will use the blog to gain information for creating and/or refining their PLN.

Page views, comments, follow-up email contact, Google Calendar and documentation from face-to-face meetings will be used to measure success. 
In addition, those involved will be surveyed to determine the efficiency of a refined PLN and whether that positively impacts the use of the educators time.

Once time per week, new entries will be posted on the “12 Other Ways” blog site.  These entries will include instruction, tutorials, examples, etc. of the various Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used within a PLN.  When appropriate the specific tool will be used/embedded within the blog (i.e., podcast).  

The blog posts are automatically posted to Sharon Drake’s Google + feed, which is accessible by all employees within Cullman City Schools.  

Follow-up emails will be sent to educators and messages will be posted to members of Mrs. Drake’s Google+ Circles encouraging them to take advantage of invitations for individual, small group or whole group training on specific Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to improve a PLN. 

Blog post page views, comments, follow-up email contact, Google Calendar posts and documentation from individual, small group or whole group meetings will be used to measure success. 

In addition, those involved will be surveyed to determine the efficiency of a refined PLN and whether that positively impacts the use of the educators time.

Progress of this action plan will be posted to the “12 Other Ways” blog site. Mrs. Drake will blog and others will be encouraged to post their own personal results with their PLN.

Total cost - $0

Personal and Professional Growth Through a Personal Learning Network

If you asked a group of people whether teaching and learning go hand-in-hand, most would say "of course!"  You could also expect to hear "not always" or "it depends" from some in the group.  This prompt may lead to discussions about the quality of the teaching and the motivation (or lack of it) of the learner.  But, in general (and in a perfect world), most would say teaching and learning go hand-in-hand....or at least they should.  

Now, to borrow from the old "chicken and egg" conundrum, which comes first teaching or learning? Be careful how you answer!  As an educator your first reaction might be that without quality teaching there cannot be quality learning.  You're right, of course....BUT....where does the quality teaching come from?  It comes from the quality learning you have done (and continue to do) in preparation for teaching.  Educators are life-long learners so that we can be life-long teachers. 
It's a beautiful cycle when implemented effectively.  We learn.  We teach.  We learn. We teach. 
In addition, those we teach shall learn, then teach. They become empowered to share their knowledge with others! 

So, think about your learning.  You had your "formal" schooling and perhaps you continue to grow your knowledge through enrollment in an institution of higher learning.  You participate in professional development.  You read.  You research.  You seek to find the information/skills you need to become a better educator.  And, yes, sometimes you are overwhelmed.  Sometimes you are underwhelmed because you invest your time, energy and often money into an activity to improve as an educator and you end up thinking "well, that was a waste of my time" or "that PD had NOTHING for me."  

So, how can you construct a method, or build an avenue, for learning that is tailored specifically for you?  You can create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Think about that label....

Personal - yours, designed just for you BY you.
Learning - opportunities to assimilate the information/skills you need
Network - you're CONNECTED to others who share your areas of interest and who have more (or less) knowledge about topics than you....and they are willing to share and eager to learn

My participation in, and understanding of, PLNs has evolved over time.  Before our abundance of technology my PLNs were typically educators in my subject area, on my hall, in my building, in my system.....and maybe if I really pushed it...across my state.  But, with the boom in social networking platforms, my opportunities for building a PLN have exploded.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasting, YouTube and more bring a worldwide personal learning network into easy reach.  
With the number of opportunities and avenues available for us to create a PLN, we need to be deliberate and focused in our purpose.  Time is valuable.  We need to use the PLN tool(s) that allow us to share and learn in the most effective way.  

I hope to share with you examples of my PLN in upcoming blogs.  As you read about my PLNs keep your eyes open for where yours could begin to grow....or where they might be developing already. Feel free to share YOUR methods for developing a PLN and the tool(s) you have used to cultivate it.  

If you would like to begin building or refining your PLN, please let me know.  I will be glad to share with you some ideas and tips for creating a PLN that ensures that you remain a quality teacher, a life-long learner and a powerful contributor knowledge to other educators. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What's Happening Around Cullman City Schools

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Positive Action or Distraction?

We live in an age of almost infinite information and learning opportunity and so the key here is we have to inspire people to have a sense of wonder and curiosity and if we do that, they have what is essentially the world’s largest knowledge machine at their fingertips. If we fail at that they have the world’s largest distraction device.  
                                                                                                                     ~Michael Wesch

Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture.

I saw this today after pondering my journey with technology just last night.  I was thinking exactly what he is saying here. I remember when accessing information was limited to the set of encyclopedias my family owned, textbooks, searching in the school or public library, newspapers, magazines, TV and/or radio or asking someone I knew (i.e. parents, teachers, professionals,...and occasionally my peers which was always risky!).  With the exception of the last few on the list, the information obtained was pretty static.  Now, we have seemingly limitless information right at our fingertips.  I feel lost without my smartphone.  I use it to find the answer to any question I might have..... "how do I change the burner element on my range?" or "where can I find purple shoes with a 2 inch heel?"  These days anything we can think to ask has an answer on the Internet (or several million answers)!!!!  So how do we avoid the distraction Mr. Wesch mentioned above?  We have to stay focused on our purpose.  We have to mold our digital resources into a shape that fits us best.  We can't expect to use every resource, all the time...the distraction becomes too obstacle that will hold us back instead of a tool to move us forward.