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Teachers’ Personal Learning Network (PLN)

“For the first time in history, we know now how to store virtually all humanity’s most important information and make it available, almost instantly, in almost any form, to almost anyone on earth.” – Gordon Dryden

The world is now smaller than it was ever before; thanks to the phenomenal development of technology. Within the vast extent of the online community, no person or information is ever truly far away, and that is what drives the concept of a personal learning network. Educators have always preached that we should strive to go beyond the four walls of the classroom, and I cannot stress enough how helpful this can be when we now see how big yet so close that world outside is.

What is a Personal Learning Network?

n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online.

n. – an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from.

Personal

Having a PLN is about making connections and building personal relationships with teachers, school administrators, university professors, and experts around the world.

There’s always someone online available to answer questions, share their expertise, and simply chat about what’s happening in their lives and classrooms.

The Learning

Having a PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaboration, and learning. We may share our learning, ideas and expertise in different ways; using different media and tools.

The Network

The defining feature of the PLN is that it is a global learning network, enabling people to tap into and share diverse, global perspectives on teaching strategies, educational issues, and technologies.

One of the best things I like about having a PLN is that no resource is ever truly unobtainable, which I have proven countless times. With a reliable PLN at your disposal, if there’s a resource you do not have, chances are that someone in your network either has it or knows someone who does. 

Building your PLN

If you’re interested in expanding your PLN, here’s a directory of some of the best web 2.0 tools:

Category Value Examples and Guides
Social Networking Keeping up with personal, more social contacts like friends, family, and former students FacebookMyspace
Microblogging Populated with educators from around the world who share best practices and resources in short bursts TwitterMy guide to TwitterPlurkUtterli
Professional Profiles Find other professionals and experts in your field LinkedInBrightfuse
Wikis Community-monitored sites that can function as websites or for group organization and projects Wikispacespbwiki,wetpaint
Blogs Great sources of information such as classroom best practices as well as personal opinions; Blogs monitor the heartbeat of new trends in education and the commenting back and forth leads to many great ideas and relationships WordPress, (check out my ‘Blogroll’ to the right – they’re my favorites),BloggerTypepadAlltop – top blog headlines by subject, Technorati – a blog search engine
RSS Reader RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” – an RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with many of your favorite blogs, all in once place
(see this video ‘RSS in Plain English’)
Netvibes, (My Netvibes),PageFlakesGoogle Reader
Nings Communities of people interested in similar topics, with forums and messaging Classroom 2.0Future of EducationNing
Social Bookmarking Share bookmarks with others, see what others are bookmarking; you can join groups and get email updates on new bookmarks DiigoDiigo Groups,Delicious
Webinars Live, on-line presentations or conferences, with real-time chat, hosted by experts on specific topics; Great way to learn about new things and to meet new people Classroom 2.0 Live!,EdTechTalk Live,Elluminate – host your own!, Dim Dim
Backchanneling of conferences When there are neat (and expensive) conferences that you can’t attend, follow conversations and links about the highlights Twitter search – use acronyms like ‘NECC’ or ‘SXSWi’

 

Tips for Building your PLN

CONNECT and CONVERSE

The growth engine of your learning network is your willingness to reach out and make connections with new people. Leave a comment on a blog post, reply to a question on Twitter, or share a post on Google+.

Merely reading, listening, or watching is not connecting.

CONTRIBUTE

Your expertise (and even your struggles) are valuable to others who don’t have your experience. Anything you create for work (or your own schooling) might as well be shared, and might be valuable to someone else.

REQUEST

If you’ve made and cultivated connections over time, then when you make requests, they are more likely to fall on fertile soil. You’ll find that you’ll receive much higher quality answers and support by asking your network, than you will by simply searching online.

SET A ROUTINE, BE PATIENT

Choose a time to do this daily or a few times a week. It takes time to make connections and build relationships. It’s takes perseverance to continue when you receive no replies to your requests, and it requires patience to build up social capitol before you begin to feel part of a community. But it is well worth the investment to one day have a 24/7 global network to tap into whenever you’re in need.

Like all of us, we all started without Facebook yet now we barely move through the day without at least checking a post or liking one comment. I myself now holds 2 Facebook accounts, one for personal ties and one for professional use, simply because my professional network became too large and active that it literally swallowed my personal account content. Believe me, your PLN will always get bigger than you dreamt it to be, it all starts with a little time, and a lot of patience.


REFERENCES:

Wagner, M. (2012). Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips – Getting Smart by Guest Author – edchat, EdTech, PLN | Getting Smart. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://gettingsmart.com/2012/01/personal-learning-networks-for-educators-10-tips/

Ronnie Burt et al. (2014). Building your PLN | Edublogs Teacher Challenges. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/creating-a-pln/

PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from https://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/pln-your-personal-learning-network-made-easy/

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Graphic Tools for Teachers

Nowadays, students and children are highly visual learners. They get bored if majority of a teacher’s discussion is plain text. Whenever I prepare a lesson, I make sure that I include images that not only give them clue to the text presented but also make them think and process some puzzles embedded in the pictures.

When I was a high school student, we only have 4 macro skills namely, Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Now, one macro skill is added, and that is VIEWING. My students always request me to have a film viewing once in a while for I incorporate short films to my class whenever possible. I accompany each viewing session with guide questions about the film. The guide questions are divided into 3 parts: pre-viewing, while viewing, and post-viewing questions. This way, there will be processing of what they are going to watch, watching, and have watch, and not just a film given to them to kill time. I always make sure we have a discussion of what transpire during the film viewing and I answer questions of the students about things that aren’t clear to them.

Since almost 65% of our population are visual learners, I make use of GRAPHIC TOOLS to aid me in producing instructional materials for my daily lessons. Here are some tools that can help you in pouring some artistry in you work:

PAINT.NET / GETPAINT.NET

The interface of Paint.net is easy to pick up, and it has an unlimited undo function that makes correcting your learning-curve mishaps in a snap.

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM

Lightroom is a tool you can use to process huge batch of images from a photoshoot that need to be cropped, corrected, and made print ready as soon as possible.

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP

Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Systems for Windows and OS X. Photoshop was created in 1988 by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, it has become the de facto industry standard in raster graphics editing, such that the terms “photoshopping” and “photoshop contest” were born. It can edit and compose raster images in multiple layers and supports masks, alpha compositing and several color models including RGB, CMYK, Lab color space (with capital L), spot color and duotone. Photoshop has vast support for graphic file formats but also uses its own PSD and PSB file formats which support all the aforementioned features. In addition to raster graphics, it has limited abilities to edit or render text, vector graphics (especially through clipping path), 3D graphics and video. Photoshop’s featureset can be expanded by Photoshop plug-ins, programs developed and distributed independently of Photoshop that can run inside it and offer new or enhanced features. (Source: Wikipedia)

GIMP

GIMP or (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image retouching and editing, free-form drawing, resizing, cropping, photo-montages, converting between different image formats, and more specialized tasks. (Source: Wikipedia)

PICASA

Picasa is an image organizer and image viewer for organizing and editing digital photos, plus an integrated photo-sharing website, originally created by a company named Lifescape (which at that time may have resided at Idealab) in 2002 and owned by Google since 2004.

There are still a lot of graphic tools available online. The top 9 online picture editors are featured in this blog >>> TNW

Pixlr

Fotor

PicMonkey

BeFunky

Ribbet

FotoFlexer

LunaPic

Sumo Paint

Photoshop Express

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Game-based Learning

 

In effective teaching, getting the attention and interest of students has always been fundamental need, and keeping that interest an even bigger one. With the ever increasing upsurge of interest on recreational games, some educators may feel threatened in this development; but we don’t have to be. In our quest for a more effective and modern day classroom, we can now ride this development by employing a new and innovative teaching approach – game based learning.

Game based learning describes an approach to teaching, where students explore relevant aspect of games in a learning context designed by teachers. Teachers and students collaborate in order to add depth and perspective to the experience of playing the game.

Within an effective game-based learning environment, we work toward a goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions along the way. We make mistakes in a risk-free setting, and through experimentation, we actively learn and practice the right way to do things. This keeps us highly engaged in practicing behaviors and thought processes that we can easily transfer from the simulated environment to real life. 

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Obviously, not all games are suitable for use in the class room environment. Although the main force in games is “fun” and “play”, there is a vast amount of physical and mental variables/activities involved. Which is why in choosing the right game for your class, it would be best to characterize what principles we can follow in gauging a games effect.

Good Game-based Learning Environments

SUBSET PRINCIPLE: Learning, even at its start, takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domain. it must be a simplified version that omits unimportant details, so that players can focus on aspects of the simulation that are relevant to the learning objective.

Remember Pac-ManThe space ghosts were named Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. They were red, pink, orange, and cyan. You can’t win at Pac-Man by remembering facts; you win a game by being able to assess phenomena, recognize systems, interpret possibilities, and iterate solutions. The ghosts’ names are decontextualized facts. Playing the game involves systems literacy.

ACTIVE, CRITICAL LEARNING PRINCIPLE: The learning environment must encourage active and critical, not passive, learning. players do not merely watch correct and incorrect examples, followed by a quiz—they actually think, act, experience consequences and pursue goals in a variable game environment.

PROBING PRINCIPLE: Learning is a cycle of probing the world (doing something); reflecting on this action and, on this basis, forming a hypothesis; re-probing the world to test the hypothesis; and then accepting or rethinking the hypothesis. The goal is to find the right course of action via experimentation—making choices and experiencing the consequences.

Remember Space Invaders? Players learned very quickly to hang out at the sides, shooting the approaching aliens before they advance to the next line. The player learns, through trial and error, which responses are most effective, most efficient, and most likely to yield the desired result. In the process, the player becomes intimately acquainted with the system, understanding it comprehensively.

PRACTICE PRINCIPLE: Learners get lots of practice in a context where the practice is not boring (i.e. in a virtual world that is compelling to learners on their own terms and where the learners experience ongoing success). Games gradually increase in difficulty level, this keeps players engaged and encourages them to continually hone their skills.

Another major factor in game based learning is your learning scope and time. Is this game good for one lesson only? Or could I actually use it in the course of the whole curriculum? There are specific games that can satisfy specific needs and time constraint.

Short-form games tend to resemble the kinds of casual smartphone games that even adults tend to fiddle with during idle time. Short-form games tend to work best for learning when they’re focused on a specific skill set or concept.

I personally use these types of games as quizzes or evaluation after the lesson proper. Short games not only end a lesson on a vibrant note, but they also tend to reinforce the student’s interest on the subject. Examples of these games are mini-trivia challenges (tons of choices on app stores) with my favorite being the classroom “Pinoy Henyo” (played on two Android tablets J).

Long-form games tend to be more open-ended and intricate. These games often start simply and expand over time, so they can easily form the backbone of an entire curriculum. In addition, long-form games tend to foster skills like “critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, and communication.”

CROSSOVER CREATIVE GAME-BASED PLATFORMS can fit into either one of these categories. They are flexible in the way they can be implemented. Teachers can create short one-time simulation-based assignments, or longer multi-period projects.

After establishing your time frame, you can then choose form a variety of game genres available.

GAME GENRES

Puzzlers are probably the most familiar kind of game. They involve identifying a pattern or system and arranging objects according to a certain set of rules.

Ex: Tetris, Solitaire, Sudoku

DRILL AND PRACTICE. All video games, like puzzlers, are about pattern recognition. And once the player understands the pattern, the challenge comes from either more intricate puzzles (more complicated levels), or from changing the speed or circumstances in which the player needs to solve the puzzle.

STRATEGY GAME. When developers add compounding puzzles to be solved through a series of moves. Strategy games are also often multiplayer. And when it comes to learning games, it’s common for them to be focused on history. When students control the armies, key moments in geopolitics suddenly feel substantially more dynamic than just a chronological account of battles.

Ex: Historia – core curriculum aligned, social studies simulation and strategy game.

ROLE-PLAYING GAMES. Strategy games that ask players to embody individual characters.

Ex: “Mission US: Cheyenne Odyssey” – players become Little Fox, a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and U.S. military expeditions from 1866 and 1876.

SANDBOX GAMES. Games that offer a world of experience without clear objectives.

Ex: MinecraftEdu – a pixelated world of blocks that users manipulate with tools — plus the ability to add customizable maps, educators can drop students into a world of ancient cultures, Chemistry, English, and more.

These genres mentioned highly encompass digital games, but they are not exactly exclusive to virtual mediums. Despite the abundance and availability of digital games, we are not restricted to them and I highly encourage the integration of physical or manual games as well. Numerous times have I employed the use of simple “buzzer” and “dice-roll” games to my classes (where participants need to run towards a buzzer to answer trivia questions and rolls a dice after to get either rewards or losses Smile); and I have never seen them have so much fun.

Practical Steps to Get Started

Step 1: Assess Your Resources

What platforms do you have available in your class? Is yours a BYOD (bring your own device) classroom, or do you have school-owned hardware to work with?

This is especially true to the Philippine context where our resources are not yet standardized and sometimes even insufficient. Use what you have. Games need not be to be high-tech to be fun.

Step 2: Find Games

Once you know what kind of hardware you have at your disposal, you can begin to search for games. But you probably already know from trying to find apps for your smartphone that searching the Google Play Store or the iOS App store can be overwhelming.

Graphite — a crowd-sourced, teacher-sourced site full of listings and ratings of educational apps and games.

Step 3: Play Games

The goal is not just to add games; it is to integrate learning games into existing curricula. It means investigating the world of the game and feeling the frustration, flow, and fiero that goes along with playing it. When you engage with the game, you not only try to see the game from the perspective of your students, you also understand how the game presents the material.

Step 4: See How Others Do It

Get an idea of what other teachers are doing with games in the classroom.

Ex: Teaching with Games: Video Case Studies

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA3C69D48D4FFE87E

Step 5: Find Support

For more general support and resources, there are a number of websites cropping up specifically for the purpose of providing teachers with resources around ed-tech.

Playful Learning and Educade. Both are full of articles, videos, and other resources that can help you think of creative ways to integrate games into your teaching.

References:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-stories-heather-wolpert-gawron?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=blog-kids-speak-out-question

http://www.newmedia.org/game-based-learning–what-it-is-why-it-works-and-where-its-going.html

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/09/using-games-for-learning-practical-steps-to-get-started/

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/06/games-in-the-classroom-what-the-research-says/

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Social Networking Sites

We all know that the social media/network is an instrument of communication; not only that, social media/network can also be a platform where students and teachers interact on a daily basis. A teacher can twit his/her student their next assignments or other announcements. Even short quizzes and trivia can be twitted. I for example have a twitter account and I sometimes post announcements thru twitter.

Facebook , a another social media platform is very useful to me since most of my students are active facebook users, I grabbed the chance to add them as friends not only to monitor their grammar on their posts but also to connect with them and add them to our classes’ group where I upload assignments and links to educational sites.

The social media offers an avenue for giving a flipped-classroom experience where students learn content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and homework is done in class with teachers and students discussing and solving questions. Teacher interaction with students is more personalized – guidance instead of lecturing.

Source

Social media can indeed be an instrument for teaching. However, there are still issues and impact of social media that teachers should be aware of in order to provide a positive class experience to students and parents.

Issues and Impacts of Social Media:

–          Can take an inordinate amount of internet bandwidth

–          Takes time

–          False sense of privacy

–          Scams targeting teens

–          Spyware and adware installation

–          Screen acts as a moral disconnect

–          Marketed

–          Avoids face-to-face conversations

–          Make friends only online

–          The meaning of the word “friend” is changing and it puts children at risk

–          Cyber bullying

–          Cyber cheating

–          Cyber stalking

–          Age appropriate exposure

–          Internet safety

–          Student behavior

So before you post anything online, be sure to ask yourself:

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Website Building Made Easy

Before I decided to teach in public, I have made a website for my online store. I made it using wordpress website template. I found it hard to do and time-consuming maybe because I have a lot of stuff for sale or maybe because the website building process is new to me.

Now that I am a teacher in a newly established high school, I wanted to help the school be known to others by building a website for our school. Good thing the reporters in our EDUC 294 class have given me ideas on how to start my own website with ease.

 

Dos and Don’ts on Building a Website

Make a First Impression

Ask yourself:

–           Is this site credible?

–          Is this trustworthy?

–          Does it look professional?

–          How can I find what I want? (navigation tools)

–          Does this site make me feel welcome? (intro page)

–          Am I in the right place?

 

Great Design

–          Proper use of colors

–          Use appropriate animations, gadgets, and media

–          Have an organized layout

–          Proper typography (use of font, size and colors)

–          “Design is important but great content is the ultimate goal.”

 

Maintain consistency

–          Be aware of color combination and elements

 

Use the right images

–          stock images tend to me irrelevant use real image

 

Create solid navigation system

–          make it easy for the website visitor

 

Limit Flash and animation

–          HTML5 has no need for external plugins

–          Puffin supports flash in IPad

 

Make it accessible

–          Anyone visiting your website can view it no matter what device they use.

 

A recommended website builder is WIX.com which is a cloud-based web development platform that allows users to create HTML5-based (drag and drop) website.

 

 

What are the features of HTML 5?

–          Makes videos and audio accessible

–          Document type (drag-and-drop)

–          Customizable

–          Better interactions

–          Smarter storage

–          Legacy/cross browser support

–          Mobile ready

 

 

When the group of reporters recommended WIX.com, I immediately started building our school’s website there because I found it user-friendly and very easy to manipulate because of its drag-and-drop feature. There are also hundreds of website templates to choose from. The website I produced is customizable. Wix.com also has a mobile editor which makes it easy for me to visit my site and edit it using my cellular phone or tablet. 

 

 

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Data Analysis Software

It is tedious to do grade computations manually. Good thing we are introduced to the different data analysis software in my MA Edtech (Educ294) class.

Data Analysis Software

  • a software designed for analysis and interpretation of data using statistical measures
  • Allows ease and convenience on the part of the user since it will not require manual calculations
  • User shall be well versed with the basic statistical measures and inferences to use the software

 

Excel

  • A spreadsheet software developed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS
  • It features calculations, graphing tools, pivot tables and macro programming language

 

SOFA Statistics

  • Statistics Open for All
  • SOFA is a user-friendly statistics, analysis, & reporting program.
  • It is free, with an emphasis on ease of use, learn as you go, and beautiful output.
  • SOFA lets you display results in an attractive format ready to share.

 

PSPP

  • A program for statistical analysis of sampled data
  • A free replacement for the proprietary program SPSS, and appears very similar to it with a few exceptions.
  • It can perform descriptive statistics, T-tests, ANOVA, linear and logistic regression, cluster analysis, reliability and factor analysis, non-parametric tests and more

 

My life as a teacher got easier when I learned about these tools. My sister who is conducting her thesis is even amazed when I computed for her research’s data which requires ANOVA with ease. She didn’t know I used PSPP to compute it! *wink*

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LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

For my first year of teaching in a science high school, I wanted to impress my students by providing a quality education and better class management so I decided to incorporate technology in the classroom. Aside from the pen and paper activities and actual performances, I incorporate Edmodo to my class at first then I switched to Quipper when I found out it is more user-friendly and provides a very hands-on technical support (Filipino experts sends me text messages and tips thru facebook on how to use Quipper.) Quipper helped me a lot because it , made it easy for me to monitor my students’ progress because it gives a chart of my class’ scores in the quizzes I posted. Students find it easy to memorize concepts that boosted their confidence in grammar because they can retake timed quizzes if they got the answers wrong at the first try. This way they can gain mastery of the subject matter by learning it as if they were playing.

What is a LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS)?


A learning management system (LMS) is a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process.

Source

I have learned a lot from the report and the discussion that followed. Here are the points I want to share with you:

LMS offers a lot of benefits:

–       Cost effective

–       Efficient training

–       Centralized

–       Tracking/reposting of students’ grades

–       Immediate feedback

Here are the list of LMS you can choose from and their respective description:

Moodle

–       Is a complex system

–       Free but must be hosted by a server

–       Has lot of community support

–       Links open up to new sites

Sakai

–       Operates on Java

–       Integrates Google drive and dropbox

–       No broad community support compared to Moodle

Edmodo

–       Has facebook interface

–       Can post assignment

–       User-friendly

–       Timed set for visibility

–       Add teachers in community

Class Jump

–       user-friendly

–       easy and colourful interface

–       easy setup

–       good for beginners

–       fast upload

Edu 2.0 / NEO LMS

–       has discussion forum

–       has calendar

–       has group and individual messaging

–       gives assignment reminders

–       easy to operate

Schoology

–       has google drive

–       offers public courses

–       has cloud apps

–       no private messaging

Quipper School

–       user-friendly

–       has group and individual messaging

–       gives assignment reminders

–       good for beginners

–       offers k-12 courses for Filipinos

–       has colourful interface

–       add teachers’ community

ISSUES

–       no equal access for all

–       resistance to online teaching

–       not everyone learns the same way

–       often confused to be a teacher instead of a manager

–       training on using the LMS is required

If you are to use LMS in your class or school, you need:

–       to know how much you manage

–       what you want to track

–       budget

–       support

–       training and monitoring

–       school administration’s screening and approval

Here are the Criteria for choosing LMS:

–       user-friendly

–       computer system requirement

–       customization

–       work load for teacher

–       has/can provide parent’s account

–       gives access to apps and mobile ready

–       gives access to course content

–       has assessment and documentation feature

–       offers interactivity

–       has a supportive feature

–       sustains user’s interest

–       has time-saving feature

–       has a great visual design

–       has reference tools like dictionary, etc.

Here are the Benefits we have discussed about LMS:

For Parents: They may monitor their children’s progress, and they are updated.

For Teachers: They will have easy access to files, and it is efficient.

For Students: It is easier to monitor their performance, and it gives randomized items for quiz.

For the Administrators: They can customize the LMS. It has management reward system, and it helps in research.

Here are the Issues we have discussed about LMS

For Parents:  They may or may not have access to the account. There might be a digital divide. They may have no time for LMS. LMS may not be applicable to all because of parents’ variability and socio-economic status could also be an issue.

For Teachers:  LMS may give additional work. It may not be successful because of digital divide. Technology may sometimes fail and teachers are susceptible to being dependent to technology. IT support is always needed.

For Students: Digital divide and connectivity are also issues to consider in putting up LMS.

For Administrators: This may require large budget allocation.

Thanks to Prof. Que and my classmates for they have given me ideas that I could apply to my own teaching. My students really enjoyed our online and offline classes.