The power of my personal learning networks

MindMup of my PLN

MindMup of my PLN

A personal learning network is the people and platforms a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from.  Examples are colleagues, friends, family, administrators, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Ted Talks, Google+ Communities, Wikispaces, Blackboard Classrooms, Google Classrooms, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and so forth.  PLN’s are replacing professional development, workshops and conferences.  Instead of learning once or twice of year we are learning at every click.  When you are part of a PLN you belong to a worldwide network of learners who can offer perspective and information instantaneously.  PLNs are not passive.  As Dr. Mark Wagner stated in his 2012 article Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips; PLNs require learners to connect, contribute, converse and request.  These strategies; oft employed by teachers to ensure engagement in the classroom, also ensure educators engagement in their own learning.

As early as 2007, Will Richardson acknowledged that our students are already involved in their own PLNs.  We must be participants in these networks in order to guide our students as they navigate these new forms of learning.  As stated by Howard Rheingold in his YouTube interview with Robert Scroble;  curating PLNs is a new form of literacy that we must learn and a skill we must learn how to teach.

Knowledge is being created in enormous volumes at an enormous rate.  The days of a “culminating” degree are over.  We can never stop learning.  Just today I used my PLN to find a great app for Chrome Book Mind Mapping, MindMup.

During my research on PLN’s I also found a YouTube video specifically on Personal Learning Networks for educators by Skip Via posted in 2010 and it inspired me to make my own.


Making the MindMup and WeVideo required me to connect, contribute, converse and request; thereby demonstrating the power of my PLN.


#Veganneeds helped me

So it happened.  The interwebs brought me what I need.  I have posted a few blogs about my search for the perfect, vegan, kid-friendly, high protein breakfast.  This has caused several fellow bloggers to follow me.  Yes, I now have a following… of 3!  More importantly, several vegan bloggers have liked or commented on my post and I followed their links back to their blogs.  Where I found awesome information!  Blogger veganneeds had an awesome recipe for banana bread on her blog.  This is one of those carbohydrate heavy breakfast items but my kids love banana bread and I had no clue where to start making my recipe vegan.
I am not writing this to brag about my overwhelming following of 3 (LOL) but as a realization that I have moved away from the desperate search phase of my NLP and into the collection and curation phase.  I am now searching wordpress for tags similar to mine #Vegan, #VeganBreakfast, #VeganProtein, etc and reviewing other blogs.  I am following a few of them as a way to have the overwhelming amount of information in the Vegan World curated for me.  As Robert Scroble said in his interview about Online Curation, don’t try to beat out Huffington Post on reporting events from the White House.  Pick a niche that you can become an expert on.  I also took Dr. Mark Wagner’s advice from his 2012 article “Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips” and I commented on a blog.  Veganneeds has posted several recipes so I asked for help and received a quick response.  Interacting with fellow bloggers will certainly speed up my ability to accomplish my goal.  Veganneeds has already responded that s/he will try to post more breakfast recipes.  This interaction has also altered my criteria for assessment.  I will now add collecting recipes as a response to my blog interactions as a form of success.

PLN participation

Can an old dog learn new tricks?

How I view myself in the classroom

Image result for one room school house teacher

The reality of my classroom

This week’s ED 7710 readings really impacted my belief system as a teacher.  In my self-view, I am a progressive teacher who shows students the importance of an age-old skill set required for success in today’s world and I incorporate a lot of technology to keep these lessons engaging.  It turns out I have been doing it all wrong.  I should have been using the technology to teach the new skills that are being created on a daily basis and filtering out the age-old skills that have actually become very out of date.  A perfect example is pre-reading.  I spend a significant amount of class teaching students how to peruse a text upon initial contact.  Pre-reading multimodal information is a whole other beast.  You cannot check the index, table of contents and flip through the text to understand the format.  There is no title page to assess the multimodal’s validity.  New forms of literacy can be curated by 100’s if not 1,000’s of author’s (think Wikipedia) and comment options makes them interactive.
Manderino’s 2012 article entitled Reading Digitally Like a Historian showed me the error of my ways.  He accurately states Social Studies classes focus on skills like reading and using primary sources as evidence.  He then posits that a movie will be shown to depict a time period, with no instruction on how to use film as evidence or check it’s validity.  I am terribly guilty of this.  I have done nothing to “teach critical consumption of digital texts” (Manderino 2012).  I expect my students to understand the content of the film and give no thought to the extra burden I have placed on them by expecting them to construct knowledge from this untaught source format.  Kuiper & Volman discuss this burden in Chapter 9 of the New Literacies Handbook titled The Web as a Source of Information for Students in K-12 Education. Hypertext how-to’s are just as important as primary source processing in modern society.  Thankfully, I am now aware of the error of my ways and can change!  The next step is to identify “Where Do We Go Now? as Lawless & Schrader did in Ch 10 of the New Literacies Handbook.  This article gave me the background I need to understand the variety of navigation and navigator types I will come across in my classroom.  Luckily, I just finished developing a Google Search lesson for COMM 7712 and I will  now redouble my efforts on developing lessons that teach the real reading comprehension skills (not age-old skills) students need to be successful today!  First up, how to use hypertext!

This old dog is learning some new tricks.

Side by Side Comparison & Taste Test of Vegan Protein Powders

Plant Fusion 21g Raw Protein 17g Shakeology S/C 16g

Plant Fusion 21g
Raw Protein 17g
Shakeology S/C 16g

The taste taste was a success.  The kids consumed vegan protein at breakfast.  Raw Protein was not to their liking, they loved the Shakeology, and Plant Fusion was ok.  The Shakeology does have double the sugar of Plant Fusion so that may have impacted the kids’ decision.

Taste is a huge factor but I can’t forget about the actual protein.  “The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound (1) (AuthorityNutrition).”  My kids weigh just over 60 pounds so they should consume a little more than 21-24 grams of protein a day.  Plant Fusion offers 21 grams of protein in one serving!

Google+Cost is also a factor.  At $132.06 for a one month supply for one person, Shakelogy is budget buster.  The Amazon price for Plant Fusion ($0.035/g) and Raw Protein ($0.044/g) are much more reasonable for a family of four.

It looks like we have a clear winner on the cost and protein counts with a taste we can handle.  Plant Fusion it is!

What I learned about technology in the classroom from fruit salad

Re-purposing happens all of the time in the kitchen.  In my Cooking TPACK experience, a plate became a cutting board and a knife became an apple peeler.  Better tools existed, but I had to work with what I was given.  My son picked a plate, a bowl and a butter knife and I was charged with making a fruit salad.  These tools were well suited to the task, a hard surface to cut on, a cutting tool and a bowl to in which to serve the final product.  I would have preferred a cutting board, a sharp knife, apple peeler, and apple slicer.  But given what I had, I was able to do an adequate job.  Flexibility, creativity and a clear purpose allowed me to accomplish my goal.

My Cooking with TPACK experience was a great metaphor of what I have been learning through the assigned content.  Technology is the classroom is a historical constant.  The pencil, originally invented to record business and tax transactions in Mesopotamia became a classroom staple.  Students have been taught how to use this business tool for to journal, shade a sketch, curl paper, and so on.  Twitter, a social media and advertising tool has been used in my classroom as a summative assessment of students knowledge of the causes and chronology of the Civil War.  In the classroom and in the kitchen, there are times the tool is inappropriate for the task.  I could not have made whip cream with my bowl, plate and butter knife.  Twitter does not teach students about personal space or eye contact.  Pros and cons; the Cooking activity brought to life the TPACK research.  Make do, make use and create in the classroom.  

VBL TMI: Vegan Before Lunch Encounters Too Much Information

VBL: Vegan Before Lunch Update

The quest for the perfect vegan breakfast has begun.  Initial research resulted in a recipe overload.  The top 3 hits on a Google search of vegan breakfast brings up a Buzzfeed list, Oh She Glows and Forks Over Knives.  The latter two are highly merchandised, oft promoted vegan sites.

The Buzzfeed recipes reads like a bizarre combination of health food and junk food: chickpea pancakes, blueberry oatmeal pancakes, jelly filled muffins and lentils.  This is not what I am looking for.  I am not eating lentils for breakfast and neither are my kids.

Prioritizing my breakfast desires I reformulated my search and tried vegan protein breakfast.  The top hit was a Bodybuilding website and I was pretty excited.  Bodybuilders do not eat jelly filled muffins, this had to be more my speed.  Unfortunately, this site has an unorthodox definition of vegan; as they include recipes that use eggs and yogurt.  I did get some great ideas from the site including protein smoothies (my kids might drink that).  I am definitely going to research protein powders (the list is endless) and give it a try with the family.
Using the concept of the Network in NLP to guide my research I have also joined a vegan Facebook group and found a local meetup for vegans.  The Meetup website lists restaurants they frequent, so I researched a few and reviewed their menus.  Most don’t offer breakfast, but I found a lot of great vegan/vegetarian options for the family.   I also found a good YouTube video by Plant Based Guerrilla that reviews YouTube channels for vegans.  I subscribed to a few, but again, I am concerned with information overload.  How many videos can I watch in a day?

In summary, the information out there is overwhelming.  Narrowing my search has been my biggest challenge.  I have a severe case of TMI!

Aaliyah: Try, Try Again!

The motivation RSA by Dan Pink was just what I needed this week.  I am working with Teach for America prospects this summer and we had run up against a few hard to reach students.  We watched the RSA in our faculty meeting and  I asked my staff to identify the students’ motivation for attending a summer school program in an attempt to increase their engagement.  This lead to a great conversation on Phillip C. Schlechty’s book  Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work (2011).  Schlechty identifies 10 qualities for creating engaging work: product focus, content and substance, organization and knowledge, clear and compelling standards, protection from adverse consequences, affiliation, affirmation, novelty and variety, choice, and authenticity.  Upon reflection, Schlechty’s list of 10 can be seen as the skills and strategies necessary for online collaborative inquiry.

This idea is supported by the research; the Artz (2012) and Castek, Zawilinski, McVerry, O’Byrne, & Leu (2011) articles use many of these same descriptors to elucidate the power of online collaborative inquiry.  Artz identifies blogs and a medium to empower students through an authentic, even global audience.  Additionally, the article references comments that offer affirmation and the use of multimodals to add novelty and choice. Castek, et al links choice and student engagement specifically in a population of students who struggling with traditional forms of  reading comprehension.  I also identify their reference to re-formulating searches to protection from adverse consequences as students can simply try again (Aaliyah reference).

In my classroom, students will need to be taught how to use the internet for inquiry.  Discussion of search engines, boolean operators and source evaluation is crucial to their success.  Just as kindergartens are taught how to use a pencil, I must start at the beginning with my students.  Regular formative assessments of their success in online collaborative inquiry will guide my scaffolding of the material to include looking for bias in sources and incorporation of creativity.  In summary, will rely on the “Try, Try Again” method to get it just right for my students.


This week’s media about “play” in ED 7710 and TPACK in ED 7714 have made me think about Dinglehoppers.  For those of you that are not Little Mermaid fans, a dinglehopper is what Ariel calls a fork.  Scuttle, a wise seagull, shows Ariel how to use a fork…as a hairbrush.

As evidence by the video clip…it works.  You can comb your hair with a fork.  I feel like this video sums up everything we have been exposed to this week in our courses. Image result for scuttle dinglehopper Scuttle plays with technology and creates a use for it, even if it is outside of its original purpose.  Creating a purpose for the technology is as much the goal as creating artifacts using the technology.  To sum it all up: DINGLEHOPPER!

TPACK Revisted

Image result for kahootIn my previous blog post “Using what I have learned, already, “ my enthusiasm for the content lead to a preemptive post on TPACK.  My understanding of TPACK has evolved as I have read more about it these past few weeks.  If tasked with teaching others about TPACK I would say it is what teachers do.  Teachers know how to teach (pedagogy).  Teachers knows subject matter (content).  And teachers know how to deliver pedagogy and content to students (technology).  Pencils and paper are no longer considered technology but at one point in time they were cutting edge.  Today, teachers are using Google Classroom, Edmoto and Kahoot as delivery systems.  Because these forms of technology are new and unproven we have refocused our attention on the delivery systems.  We are learning by design.  We play with these forms of technology while developing our lesson plans and become guides on the side as our students play with the technology to create artifacts that demonstrate their comprehension.

“Learning technology by design also capitalizes on the idea of involving teachers in authentic problem solving with technology,” (Mishra Koehler 2006).  I watched a disheartening YouTube video produced by Best Buy that purports technology is scary for adults and teachers should rely on Best Buy (watch video here) for tech expertise.  In reality tech expertise can not be separated from content or technological expertise.  Teachers have mastered maps, xerox machines and Scantron.  Twitter is a breeze compared to a machine that spits toner and staples.  Teachers have a long history of making do with what they have.  Sometimes the technology we have access to doesn’t fit our objective and we need to bend the technology until it does.  Last year I taught an American History lesson in which students “tweeted” the Civil War.  We did not have access to Twitter so we made a shared Google Doc, assigned hashtags and kept our posts to 140 characters.  Students demonstrated they understood the chronology, causes and effects of the conflict in an engaging manner that related directly to their social lives. They learned a skill required on Twitter, learned how to interact with others on a Google Doc and mastered content.  These objectives could also have been accomplished through creating a Prezi, making a paper & pencil timeline or making causing and effect cards on Quizlet.  Passive learning is a relic of a bygone era.  TPACK forces INQUIRY into the spotlight, highlights the 21st Century skills our students need to succeed and is what teachers do best.
After teachers realize they are already deeply involved in TPACK they may search out additional resources to increase their awareness of how TPACK influences themselves and their students.  I would recommend following TPACK on Facebook, Twitter #TPACK and watching the “What Can TPACK Do for You” video on YouTube.  The inevitable flux of technology requires teachers to continually connect back to their understandings about teaching, content, technology, and TPACK.

My next objectice….investigate SAMR.SAMR_model


Image result for play = learning

This week my IT&DML ED7710 class is focused on the constant change technology is bringing to our classrooms and what we as educators can do to navigate these C’s of change.   The John Seely Brown video YouTube Video on motivating learners discusses how successful learners use this constant change to their benefit.  Brown identifies a “gaming disposition” in which learners want to be measured, strive to improve and embrace change.  Their ultimate goal is to” level up” or compete a phase of the quest so they can access the new/changed “next level”.”  These highly motivated learners are willing to collaborate in order to learn something new.  They have to know how to join-groups and appear to have an ability to absorb tacit knowledge through exposure.

Image result for kids surfing clip art

Seely Brown’s ideas really spoke to me and my recently created philosophy.  Like me, he used a sports analogy (surfing) to express the importance of practice in learning.  His take was slightly different than mine as he focused on play as opposed to practice.  He describes surfers trying new tricks, videotaping themselves and sharing their practice with others.  Another surfer half-way across the globe can watch the video, take the idea for the trick and play with it within their sub-group.

Using this same idea in the classroom to motivators learners can be accomplished by integrating technology into our content and pedagogy as I referred to in my philosophy post.  Rick Wormeli, a standards based grading advocate has a great summary of this concept in his video Redos’ Retakes and Do-Overs.  Technology also ensures INQUIRY will be the focus our Social Studies classrooms.  Inquiry requires students use the 5 C’s; Creativity,Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Comprehension.  As educators we must give our students the opportunity to play and practice inquiry in a meaningful way each and every day.  This is my vision for navigating the C’s of change.