Tuesday, 29 April 2014

PLN - Personal Learning Networks???

WTH is a PLN????

Personal Learning Networks??

What is a PLN?  Well, I've done a lot of reading today on this.  To put it in simple terms (just like I like it) - it's using your social media tools to create a circle of people "around" you who can help you personally and professionally.  
  • It's the blogs you read by people who are interested in a similar topic.  
  • It's that Pinterest board you look at for ideas for creating lesson plans.  
  • It's your LinkedIn network of pros in your field.  
  • It's the folks you follow on Twitter from your #blendkit2014 course. 
  • It's the Q&A board that you go to.
  • Heck, it's even the YouTube channels you follow.

Social Networks

I love this top 10 list.  Especially #10.  Get to know the people in the office/class/cubicle next to you. You never know when somebody close by may have the answer you need, be a SME (Subject Matter Expert), know how to use Google forms better than you - or be willing to listen to a lecture and give you constructive feedback.  Foster these relationships.  Add them to LinkedIn.  Get an email address for them.  Follow their professional blogs.  I wouldn't suggest adding them to Facebook...you never know what they might post that you just don't want to know!!!

Once you decide to create your PLN, you need to decide how "active" you want to be.  The graphic above gives you that designers POV.  I'm going to share my own with a few tools I use regularly.

LinkedIn - High Profile, Low Communication, Visit as you like

I'm going to admit upfront that I love LinkedIn.  In fact, if you would like to add me to your PLN, just click on the hyperlink.  I've joined various groups.  Sometimes I respond to posts.  More often than not, I don't but I enjoy reading others responses.  Frankly, if more than 1 person has shared my POV, I don't feel the need to share it again.  

What I like best is being able to message one of the professionals in my past or present without having to constantly following up to ensure I have the most up-to-date contact info.  I can ask a question privately, or in a group (like my Alumni group).  I can connect with other people in my field without having to have them in my circle of friends.

The other great thing is that it doesn't have the junk that goes along with Facebook.  No pictures of your colleague drunk at the Holiday party, very few of the chain posts (if you don't share in the next 5 minutes, you will have this happen...yeah right!), and a healthy separation of home and work.

Blogs - Potentially High Profile, High Communication on your part if blogging, Potentially a big Commitment

Following a blog requires little commitment - you can often get an email when a new post has been added and decide from there if you want to read or respond.  Having your own blog requires a lot more commitment - if you are not posting new material that captures your target audiences attention, well, good luck finding it useful - for you or your followers.  It's not only good, new material but also on a timely basis. 

For me to maintain this blog as it is now, I spend read the weekly chapter, write that summary, and then pick 4 topics that I want to explore more.  I allow myself a minimum of 1-2 hours of research and then at least an hour to write.  Yep, 3+ hours a post. But I want to read content, understand context, find relevant information (and great graphics!) to share.  For this post alone, I visited at least 14 sites!

Twitter - High Profile, High Communication, Highly Addictive!

Twitter is my best friend (and you are welcome to follow me there).  It's the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing at night.  I need my news fix before I roll out of bed or before I am incommunicado while I sleep.  I follow everyone that interests me - people who are provocative and love to debate, people who are "in the know" with different things in my city, people who tend to share what I post, giving me a larger group with whom to share my views.

I follow #hashtags (the # sign followed by wordswithnospaces).  Hot topics tend to trend with hashtags (like #blendkit2014).  Sometimes I come up with some great hashtags, generally they are just silly (like #mmmmmbaconandpeanutbuttergoodness about the Nutty Professor burger I had at Flipburger today).

Anyone who favourites or retweets anything I write gets a profile look and if they share similar interests, I #followback. You can create lists to group together anyone you follow by topic (or however you choose to organize it). Then you can select that list and only see those peoples tweets.

Try it and have fun - but don't say I didn't warn you! It's addictive!!

I think this picture gives you some great ideas for growing your PLN.

Don't forget, PLN's are not just for teachers, but for students too!  If you have a guest come into your class, have them share their twitter handle.  Helping students develop a professional network may lead to summer work or internships, a mentor, or even a collaborator on a project down the road!  Networking is as important, if not more so, than strong resume writing skills!

Other Tools

This video talks about developing more than just your social network.  It talks about grouping together the tools you use regularly like:

  • GMail or other Email program
  • Skype
  • Hangouts or other Instant Messaging
  • Bookmarking sites like Diigo
  • Google or other search engine
  • Pinterest
  • Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers
  • YouTube
  • News Services
  • Wikis
  • Google Docs

What tools do you use regularly? What is always open on your computer?  Where can you go for information without asking a colleague?

Just Remember...

The most important thing to remember about PLNs is that data goes both ways.  

It doesn't just flow to you, it flows from you too.  Jump in, join a conversation.  Start a thread.  Write a blog (and share it here!).  When you read, let the author know your thoughts (Does the blog have too many links? Too little content? Is it oversimplified? Do you need a PhD to understand it?  Is it missing a major point?  Did the author brush past a topic that you want more information about?).  I guarantee you that the author would far rather know what their audience wants, instead of guessing! (Yes, it is a bit of a plea - comment below.  Let me know what is or isn't working for you). 

Whatever you do in your PLN, have fun, learn something, and share something. Thank you!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Week 2, Chapter 2 - Blended Interactions

I've just finished reading Chapter 2 - and WOW!  Where do I want to start???

Do I want to talk about Content vs Context?  

Content can be looked at as the subject matter; facts; written matter.

Context can be looked at as the way in which the facts can be fully understood.

Content understanding can be measured in knowledge recall tests.  Context understanding comes from explaining why something is the way it is.  I'm a big believer that content can be learned from reading and watching videos on-line, but the context comes through facilitated means - F2F discussions, webinars, group chats to discuss the topic.  Each is important - equally so...

Maslow's Theory and how the interaction of student and teacher or student with other students is an expression of human need?  

This could be viewed in terms of Safety (gained by having knowledge of how to deal with various situations, a safe environment to share thoughts and opinions), Belonging (as part of an on-line community), Esteem (in terms of building self esteem by conquering new material, earned respect of others based on their work, etc). and in Self-Actualization (ability to problem solve, acceptance of facts).  An on-line community, properly facilitated, can help fulfil many stages of the hierarchy of needs.

That interaction between student and teacher as well as student and other students needs to be kept in front of mind while planning a course.  Sometimes direct dialogue between student and teacher with feedback is best.  Other times, dialogue amongst students will allow for the greatest growth in understanding, rationale, and defending ones position.

How "learners generally value social contact and faculty guidance, especially when entering a new field or course of study (de Laat, 2006)" (quoted from text)? 

Having F2F meetings early in the course provide an opportunity to address fears, explain how the blended courses work (especially for a student who hasn't taken such a class before), and build relationships.  Those F2F relationships put a face to a name in a chat group, helping to create a safer environment in which to share ideas.  It is harder to disrespect someone you have a real connection with versus someone who just exists online (minimize trolling).

About interaction with Experts?  

Having Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) take part in F2F or on-line sessions can give greater context to the content, provide real life experiences and examples, as well as to create a real life contact that may be useful in finding employment later on.

More on Gamification? (Yes, this interests me greatly!) Progress bars, badges for completed tasks, levels of complexity...as long as it benefits the material and doesn't take away from it.

The role of educators? 

I loved the concept of the educator as a Concierge...or Network Administrator. A Network Administrator places students at the centre of their Personal Learning Network, which is constructed by the student with the help of the instructor - ensuring they gain the skills needed to construct the network for learning, evaluating their effectiveness, forming connections in a more holistic and diversified learning environment.

The concierge directs learners to resources of which they might not be aware. Sometimes through lectures, sometimes through self guided learning (i.e. Google it! LOL). This pushes students into learning possibilities that are perfect right now.  This also allows for learner designed programs and the teacher to be more of a tour guide.

The importance of not only what material is placed on-line, but the ways in which a student can interact with it.  Watch, comment, group chats, blogging, various "techno expressions".  Are you just posting a syllabus? Or creating an area for dialogue that allows students to ask questions, comment or state their own expectations? Are you creating opportunities for students to talk about how a class will help them meet their academic or professional goals?  To return to it through self reflection?

Asynchronous learning and it's value 

Especially for ESL students, but the importance of maintaining a connection to the community or class at large.  ESL students have a chance to review, translate, refer to other sources before communicating to the group at large (a HUGE benefit!).  It allows all students time to look up additional sources, draft, and refine before posting.  Students can become more confident in their responses (provided they did their work first!).

Synchronous learning and the creation of a community.

Synchronous activities can provide a sense of community (going back to the Maslow discussion - creating a safe environment for the expression of opinions). 

Encouraging expression - with peers, instructors, experts and potential employers.  

How the expression changes between groups (formal vs informal tones, word choices used if expressing to someone who studies their topic vs someone who doesn't).  Students should be prepared to make their case, state opinions and answer follow up questions.  Audiences should be mixed up to provide the opportunity to talk to many people.  Methods should also be mixed up (Blog, Vlog, Podcast, wiki, e-Portfolio)

What is an e-Portfolio?

To make your own, check out this lesson by a teacher for his class:

Guidelines - why? What? Creating models?

Ensuring your students know what you want is paramount!  If you fail to give clear instruction, you can expect to get everything from garbage to gold back!  In a F2F class,students can ask you questions easily and directly.  In an on-line or blended class, there is a delay in getting a reply.  Sometimes taking days to get a response.  Which is frustrating for a student who doesn't know if they are on the right track!

By creating a model assignment, you can demonstrate to your students what you consider to be good work! Ensure they understand how to submit the assignment and the risks involved in sharing their document in an open forum (others being able to change or steal their work).

Importance of role of interaction between students, teachers. How technology can be used to guide learning or as a method of expression.

Technology is great.  But it adds zero value if you do not take time to provide timely feedback to the student.  That means reading and commenting on their blogs.  Joining in discussions.  Referring to a group chat in a F2F meeting.  

Ensuring your students know you are paying attention to what they are saying and doing.  It adds to the community you are growing!

So that is what I got from the reading and the supplemental research I did to support the reading and fill in my own gaps. I love having a structured environment to learn within that prompts me to research and discover extra things on my own!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Engaging Learners through the Power of Narrative

Yesterday Dr. Kelvin Thompson (University of Central Florida) posted a note on Twitter about a webinar being hosted around my dinnertime. Hap Aziz (Associate VP, Global Learning Initiative, University of Bridgeport) was discussing the power of narrative in engaging learners.  I decided to sign up because I want to gain as much from #blendkit2014 as possible and I need some background information to fill in some blanks for me.

I had a great time.  While I wasn't participating in a 2 way dialogue, my interest was maintained the entire time.  Even my husband (who is not interested in this topic) listened in enough to have an interesting and insightful conversation after dinner (which the kids promptly said was boring!).

One topic discussed was the Gamification of education.

Gamification (n) - use of game design elements in a non-game context.

I've mentioned before that this topic intrigues me.  I am looking into more information and have even signed up on a watch list for an upcoming MOOC through Coursera specificially focusing on Gamification.

To quote a slide Hap Aziz posted:

"Gamification has tremendous potential in the education space. How can we use it to deliver truly meaningful experiences to students?"
Gamification is being used to engage employees and customers.  Is it a new fad or is it just a new take on an old reward system? Are digital badges an update on the old star sticker chart?  I don't have an easy answer.

I like the idea of engaging students who don't love learning by typical methods (i.e. reading) through games.  So many of the tools we use today are very intuitive (like tablets and iPads).  They engage our senses of sight, hearing, and touch.  They allow us to learn more naturally, like we would have in the pre-writing days.  Games often have a story that engages us intellectually and/or emotionally - a good narrative essentially.  They allow us to be Multi-Sensory learners.

Multi-Sensory Learners???

Yep. I thought the same things.  WTH?  I was making notes during this webinar and I highlighted it and the need to look into it more.  But let's think about it.

Learning starts at birth by watching and listening to the people around us.  Putting things in our mouth to taste and feel.  Touching everything.  Smelling things.  We absorbed like little sponges everything around us - naturally, with no technology added.

As we get older we add technology.  Not computers and the like (although we do) but Words.  Specifically written words which must be decoded to read and learn and then coded to write.  Funny, I never thought of letters as a form of technology. But they are and they add complexity to learning.

Simple learning engages our basic senses.  If we can learn by being engaged in a story (narrative), have a skill shown to you, the opportunity to try the task yourself, developing skills as you go, until you can do the act yourself, we will retain more information.  A caveman would have told a story of the hunt, drawn pictures depicting bravery, shown their children how to hunt, worked with them to make their tools, built their skill set, and once they were ready, take on the hunt.

Back to gaming

I was reading an article on a Canadian teacher who allowed his students to either write an essay on a period of history or to play a segment of Civilization.  Their response surprised me at first until I realized that the students didn't have enough information to decide what to do...I suggest you look at the article.

Another article about video games increasing our brain size was also intriguing.  "Those players who were classified by the study as “excessive” gamers showed an additional increase in the volume of their DLPFC, the strategy portion of their brains.  The authors did find that there needed to be a considerable amount of involvement in gaming for the additional improvements to take hold in the brain itself, suggesting that this would make those who would utilize games as a training tool dependent on great investments of both time and commitment." (From http://www.gamification.co/2014/04/17/study-playing-video-games-can-increase-brain-size/)

Framework for Gamification

The following comes from Yu-kai Chou:

Octalysis breaks down motivation into 8 Core Drives, including things like Epic Meaning & Calling, Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, Scarcity & Impatience, etc., and it allows anyone to really create something that is more engaging.
The framework also factors in White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification, Right Brain vs Left Brain Core Drives, as well as the Four Experience Phases of a Player’s Journey and Bartle’s Four Player Types. If you want to learn what is Gamification really about, this is an extremely helpful tool.

I will be adding to this as I review more content and then will revamp this for context...in the meantime, let it engage your brain as is!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bloom's Taxonomy?!?

I'm not  teacher - at least not by formal, education standards.  

I've taken the course to teach English overseas, sure.  I've taken dozens of classes about Adult Learning.  But I've not taken classes on how to write lesson plans, define and design courses or the like until recently.  They have all been MOOC's with no assignments to pass in.  I am feeling at a disadvantage when I compare my experience to those of other participants in #BlendKit2014.


I am a learner.  I am a fighter.  I don't give up because something is hard.  I do break things into smaller pieces and try to figure it out and put it back together. That's where I am at now.  

And I am a sharer. When I started this blog a couple of days ago, my thought was that I would post once a week, a note on the reading.  I can't do that now.  I need to spend a little (or a lot) of time each day trying to master the little skills that I need to take advantage of the opportunities allotted to me by taking this class.  For those who choose to read this blog, you will have a lot more entries to read than I anticipated (I'm sorry, You're Welcome?!? LOL).  You will also discover that I refuse to be uptight in my writing style.  I free flow write.  You get it as I think it.  Not to say that I won't polish on occasion,  but I don't go out of my way to sound all expert-ish or know-it-all-ish.  I try not to use $10 words when a 50 cent word will do and make my writing more readable.  My English profs would probably disown me.  Oh well!  This is to help me (and maybe you too in the process!) understand better what I am learning and to find way to apply it.

Now, occasionally I will need to use those $10 words but I will try to define them.  I am considering an entry that would be a Glossary of sorts.  A one-stop-shop I guess.  Words, abbreviations, whatever.  I think I need it, but I would like to know if you also would be interested in one?  It would be built as I go...a growing and ever changing document.

Now, onto Bloom's Taxonomy.

You may have seen a graphic to explain Bloom's Taxonomy that looks more like this:

Both are good to look at.  I just prefer the top picture.  I get a better understanding of the actions that lead to each stage of learning.

According to the Office of Quality Assurance at Carlton University in Ottawa, ON, Canada:

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is learning model that was first developed in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom. It continues to be a widely used resource among education professionals. The taxonomy divides learning into three intellectual domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Within each domain different intellectual skills and abilities are structured in a hierarchy that ranges from basic to more higher-order capabilities.
 In a typical classroom setting, a teacher downloads a HUGE amount of information on a student.  The student 1) receives 2) may observe and 3) hopes to remember.  If they are lucky and have a good teacher, they might get to 1) model and 2) respond, leading to understanding.  A great teacher will get them to analyze what they did, evaluate it, and develop new standards of HOW to do a specific task better.

From Businessballs.com:

explanation of bloom's taxonomy

First, don't be put off by the language or the apparent complexity of Bloom's Taxonomy - at this basic level it's a relatively simple and logical model.
Taxonomy means 'a set of classification principles', or 'structure', and Domain simply means 'category'. Bloom and his colleagues were academics, looking at learning as a behavioural science, and writing for other academics, which is why they never called it 'Bloom's Learning Structure', which would perhaps have made more sense to people in the business world. (Interestingly this example of the use of technical language provides a helpful lesson in learning itself, namely, if you want to get an idea across to people, you should try to use language that your audience will easily recognise and understand.)
Bloom's Taxonomy underpins the classical 'Knowledge, Attitude, Skills' structure of learning method and evaluation, and aside from the even simpler Kirkpatrick learning evaluation model, Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains remains the most widely used system of its kind in education particularly, and also industry and corporate training. It's easy to see why, because it is such a simple, clear and effective model, both for explanation and application of learning objectives, teaching and training methods, and measurement of learning outcomes.
Bloom's Taxonomy provides an excellent structure for planning, designing, assessing and evaluating training and learning effectiveness. The model also serves as a sort of checklist, by which you can ensure that training is planned to deliver all the necessary development for students, trainees or learners, and a template by which you can assess the validity and coverage of any existing training, be it a course, a curriculum, or an entire training and development programme for a large organisation.
It is fascinating that Bloom's Taxonomy model (1956/64) and Kirkpatrick's learning evaluation model (1959) remain classical reference models and tools into the 21st century. This is because concepts such as Bloom's Taxonomy, Kirkpatrick's model, Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsMcgregor's XY Theory, The SWOT analysis model, and Berne's Transactional Analysis theory, to name a few other examples, are timeless, and as such will always be relevant to the understanding and development of people and organisations.

bloom's taxonomy definitions

Bloom's Taxonomy model is in three parts, or 'overlapping domains'. Again, Bloom used rather academic language, but the meanings are simple to understand:
  1. Cognitive domain (intellectual capability, ie., knowledge, or 'think')
  2. Affective domain (feelings, emotions and behaviour, ie., attitude, or 'feel')
  3. Psychomotor domain (manual and physical skills, ie., skills, or 'do')
This has given rise to the obvious short-hand variations on the theme which summarise the three domains; for example, Skills-Knowledge-Attitude, KAS, Do-Think-Feel, etc.
Various people have since built on Bloom's work, notably in the third domain, the 'psychomotor' or skills, which Bloom originally identified in a broad sense, but which he never fully detailed. This was apparently because Bloom and his colleagues felt that the academic environment held insufficient expertise to analyse and create a suitable reliable structure for the physical ability 'Psychomotor' domain. While this might seem strange, such caution is not uncommon among expert and highly specialised academics - they strive for accuracy as well as innovation. In Bloom's case it is as well that he left a few gaps for others to complete the detail; the model seems to have benefited from having several different contributors fill in the detail over the years, such as Anderson, Krathwhol, Masia, Simpson, Harrow and Dave (these last three having each developed versions of the third 'Psychomotor' domain).
In each of the three domains Bloom's Taxonomy is based on the premise that the categories are ordered in degree of difficulty. An important premise of Bloom's Taxonomy is that each category (or 'level') must be mastered before progressing to the next. As such the categories within each domain are levels of learning development, and these levels increase in difficulty.
The simple matrix structure enables a checklist or template to be constructed for the design of learning programmes, training courses, lesson plans, etc. Effective learning - especially in organisations, where training is to be converted into organisational results - should arguably cover all the levels of each of the domains, where relevant to the situation and the learner.
The learner should benefit from development of knowledge and intellect (Cognitive Domain); attitude and beliefs (Affective Domain); and the ability to put physical and bodily skills into effect - to act (Psychomotor Domain).

Bloom's Taxonomy Action Verbs

So it is all about how you write, what you write...nothing ever changes!!  
I found this chart online designed to help students when studying and trying to figure out what kinds of questions their teachers would ask.

I. KNOWLEDGE (drawing out factual answers, testing recall and recognition)
who where describe which one 
what how define what is the best one
why match choose how much
when select omit what does it mean
II. COMPREHENSION (translating, interpreting and extrapolating)
state in your own words classifywhich are facts
what does this mean judgeis this the same as
give an example inferselect the best definition
condense this paragraph showwhat would happen if
state in one word indicateexplain what is happening
what part doesn't fit tellexplain what is meant
what expectations are there translateread the graph, table
what are they saying selectthis represents
what seems to be matchis it valid that
what seems likely explainshow in a graph, table
which statements support representdemonstrate
-what restrictions would you add 
III. APPLICATION (to situations that are new, unfamiliar or have a new slant for students)
predict what would happen ifexplain
choose the best statements that applyidentify the results of
judge the effects select
what would resulttell what would happen
tell how, when, where, whytell how much change there would be
IV. ANALYSIS (breaking down into parts, forms)
distinguishwhat is the function of 
identifywhat's fact, opinion 
what assumptionswhat statement is relevant
what motive is thererelated to, extraneous to, not applicable
what conclusionswhat does author believe, assume
make a distinctionstate the point of view of
what is the premisestate the point of view of
what ideas applywhat ideas justify conclusion
what's the relationship betweenthe least essential statements are
what's the main idea, themewhat inconsistencies, fallacies
what literary form is usedwhat persuasive technique
implicit in the statement is
V. SYNTHESIS (combining elements into a pattern not clearly there before)
createhow would you testmake up
-tellpropose an alternativecompose
makesolve the followingformulate
doplanhow else would you
choosedesignstate a rule
VI. EVALUATION (according to some set of criteria, and state why)
appraise what fallacies, consistencies, inconsistencies appear
judge which is more important, moral, better, logical, valid, appropriate
criticize find the errors
defend compare

Resources you should check out:

Carlton's Office of Quality Assurance
Humber College
Clemson University
Vanderbilt University
University of North Carolina - Charlotte
Big Dog & Little Dog's Performance Juxtaposition