Thursday, 27 October 2011

Social Media: Personal Learning: Practical guidance on how to do this - Planning/Brainstorming a session idea

In the post Social Media Supporting teacher CPD - 2 I talked about an idea for a session designed to give educators practical guidance on how to use social media for their learning. It would sit alongside 21st century tools for teaching and learning which I run about internet-based tools for use in teaching and learning. The rationale is that if educators start using social media for themselves and find value in this process they will naturally start thinking about how to use it within their teaching. It's a logical train of thought. It's difficult for educators to use tools in their teaching which have no relation to everyday practice. Part of this is to do with the dominance of sterile VLE features which look like they belong in 1995. But it's more about the concept of communicating in a fashion alien to them.
I've fleshed this out a bit more in the above mindmap and divided it into personal and collaborative. The key with this type of session is making sense of these tools, stating clearly what they offer in their context and talking about it in types of activity rather than tool names. The aim is to reach those who don't have a clue, don't know where to start. The great mass of educators who are left behind and annoyed that no one is telling how to make sense of it all in easy to understand terms. Papers like tweeting for teachers won't have an impact without sustained initiatives of this type. I guess I'm trying to fill this gap albeit in a very small way.
Under personal I've got:

Aggregation
Knowledge seeking - micro-blog searching, browsing, slideshare - this is about the process of finding relevant information. Once you have your twitter people nicely followed and RSS feeds set up, it's just a matter of tweaking. However, if you start from scratch it's difficult to know where to start. I'll have to think about how best to advice on this because learning technology information flies out and grabs you. Other subject matter might well be different. There'll be information here on browsing too.
Knowledge storing - rss, twitter, social bookmarking - about storing the stuff you find by twitter following, rss and bookmarking. I could also talk about cloud storage here but this might not fit very well.

Sense-making/learning
Note taking and highlighting - the various social media options for this activity which many would do by pen or word processing. So this would include tools like evernote, bounce, diigo, also I'll need to check out stand alone highligher tools. I used to use awesome highlighter but I'm sure there are better examples. I'm looking at website notetaking and dedicated notes tools like evernote which I use and like.
Brainstorming - This one's easy - mindmapping tools principally but I could also do drawing tools and things like thoughtbox and other task management tools.
Written Reflection - The culmination of everything for me is to blog and reflect.

I could take participants on a journey by creating an account in google and then proceed to create and practice using areas for all the aggregation and sense making areas. It might be that a half day session on the personal side of things would be enough for one learning experience.

However, if I wanted to go further and teach about collaborative learning in relationship to educator peer communication/collaboration, I would cover:

Synchronous Discussion: chat tools like titanpad or sync.in
Aynchronous Discussion: I'm not clear yet how this could run. I want to teach educators that, by engaging in discussion with peers they can learn lots. So it's about finding peer networks and having those discussions. More thinking to be done here on how best to teach this.
Collaborative document/text creation: Wikis and tools like google docs. Combination tools like google hangout need to be investigated.
Sharing: Sharing is one of those activities which don't seem valuable until you do it. So talking about the sharing ethos via twitter/slideshare/blogging with focus on twitter.
• Group creation: Covering the ability to create private social network for groups using tools like google sites, ning, grouply etc.

That's enough detail for talking about it to my colleagues (and specifically my boss). I would only need to prepare properly if it were to run. No doubt I'll reflect on it here if that's occurs.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Social Media Supporting teacher CPD - 3


More on Tweeting for Teachers although it's more using it as a launchpad for my own reflections.

National and local policymakers should:

1.  publish guidelines and support for teachers and leaders to help them use social 
media in schools;
There are various social media strategies out there.  The emphasis should be on the potential for teaching and learning.  Most guidelines I've seen are about control and read like rules and regulations which put teachers off and fit with the "danger" ethos as its mantra.  It's true that to write informed guidelines about potential for the various types of tools but it doesn't have to be detailed just give encouragement and a green light to this area.  I drafted some guidelines myself which hopefully will be used by my institution in the future.  I share them here for anyone to look at.

2. consider how they will begin to unfilter social media sites for use in schools;
Consider!  Just do it.  It highlights a contradiction in the way we educate.  In formal education it's necessary to control communication - quiet in class, no chatting, pay attention.  Social media is extra communication channels.  So we control it.  The problem is we need to use them for teaching and learning.  Banning social media is like banning talking in schools.  Sure you have to control inappropriate use but we cut off all that learning potential by banning it.

3.  recognise and celebrate self-directed professional learning by teachers using 
online tools, and the role of social media in this learning;
Building a culture where this is valued is important.  There are lots out there but they are isolated and poorly known in the mainstream.

4. create a common online space where the whole education community can find each other;
This is a bit vague and I have visions of a controlled, unwielding space with poor usability if something is done at a national level.  In the case study about Edubuzz, I was hoping for some information about how to do this for myself because it's this kind of purposeful initiative that I could see working for groups of schools.


5. ensure that all Initial Teacher Training courses demonstrate a strong focus on the use of social media tools for ongoing professional development.
Yes, make this law.  Can't see this happening any time soon.

Social Media Supporting teacher CPD - 2

This post continues discussing the newly released report Tweeting for teachers.  They list 5 recommendations for school leaders and 5 for policy makers.  My first thought is how many school leaders will read this?  Probably very few unless they have a strategy for promoting it beyond a website.  I'll discuss each recommendation which you can read about on p30-33:


1.  School leaders should learn about and engage with the social platforms that their teachers, parents and pupils are using every day;
Yes, indeed.  The idea that springs into my mind is that what we need to do is get teachers in general using social media for themselves.  By using it for themselves ideas will spark about how they can use it in their teaching.  Trying to teach using something alien to the rest of their lives isn't easy but this is what we are often asking them to do.  Social media are ways of communicating, they are new communication channels.  Ways of communicating SHOULD be of interest to us in education.
The logical next step for me is to try and conceive of a training event which caters for this need.  This could be a sister session to my 21st century tools for teaching and learning session and would concentrate on how educators can use social media for themselves, in their own learning.  This would also fit nicely with the sentiment of this report.
As a bullet point to this recommendation, there is the old chestnut of justifying them using these tools themselves to understand the kids' world.  I remember saying this to National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) participants 10 years ago.  It's true enough but many argue against it.  Practicing what you preach applies and it all comes down to a human beings unwillingness to learn after a certain age.  It's incredible how many resist it.

2. School leaders should use a social media tool as part of their communications with the school
community;
This would be a good way of establishing it's validity.  The problem is that the only relationship much of social media has with formal education is to be banned, it's associated with negative things.
  You have to stick your head above the paraphet to alter this.

3. validate and support their staff in using social media tools for ongoing professional development;
This is a positive strategic move which also give the mode validity for learning.  This could start with one tool that some people have good experiences and understanding of within the school or institution.

4. turn online activity into offline actions, in order to harness the benefits of face-to-face interaction alongside those of online interaction;
This is about using technology within the classroom.  Tablets will impact on this in the future.  However, this is whole new area in itself.  In the classroom or for homework there is scope for both but shouldn't be blurred together as both need carefully planned learning design.

5. implement robust systems for evaluating the impact of CPD on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes
No comment on this one.

The next post will consider the recommendations for policy makers.

Social media supporting teachers CPD

A fews days ago I went to an interesting event promoting a new report published by the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning here in London.  It is called:  Tweeting for teachers; how can social media support teacher professional development?  I'm going to use it to reflect on the social media and education.

I'm going to give detailed analysis of the parts that interested me to help me reflect and articulate my thinking.

Overall, it's a useful and worthwhile read but it promises more than it delivers.  The overall message is noble and it could act as a inspirational call-to-arms for educators to start investigating social media. I saw some of this at the event and I hope the message can reach out there.  The recommendations are sounds although a little obvious.  There are also some interesting case studies about initiatives I wasn't aware of.  There is a deliberate link to teachers' CPD which is good and the review of research is interesting.  However, there's a distinct lack of 'how to'.  More on this later.

Firstly, the event I attended was well organised and free.  Their #tweetingforteachers worked well as they had dedicated people looking after it.  I ended up participating quite a lot as things occurred to me.  The usefulness of micro-blogging to facilitate communicate in events cannot be disputed.  It's a pity they didn't have the stream setup on the screen but there was a fair bit of interaction.  It helped that I got a good 3G connection.  Interestingly, most delegates didn't participate in this showing how far we have to go.

Next, the title - tweeting for teachers.  I don't like this.  It's catchy yes but it's a marketing phrase which is misleading as the overall scope of the report is social media. It's true that lots of the examples were about twitter but if the report wants to be about social media in general then it's not an appropriate title.  Tweeting for teacher is a great title if you were to extrapolate the bits about twitter and add practical guidance on the processes involved in twitter.

Overall, it's a report that can only scratch the surface of this subject.  Social media is a huge, huge area.  In a 36 page report it's not going to happen.  Also, the contexts with which it can be used a numerous.  The case studies consist of 3 people that blog and tweet for their own learning, a local authority blogging facility that worked well, a video competition, #ukedchat and Teachmeet.  Of these, #ukedchat and Teachmeet are the most inspirational.  They are both established synchronous events which can be engaged in.  The others are interesting but they would benefit from guidance on how to act if you're inspired to setup something similar.  Also, where are the dynamic image creation and sharing tools, the video creation, use of audio, mindmapping tools, social bookmarking, multimedia posters, social networking/group sites etc.  I worry about teachers will read this report and think that the case studies cover everything that's possible.

Finally for this post - categorisation.  with some about self-directed learning and personal learning networks and others about sharing, reflective learning and still others about synchronous event, the report is crying out for careful categorisation so that content is made "meaningful to teachers and manageable within the context of teaching practice."(p20 of this report).

This is the massive gap we have in education with learning technologies.  We have to make things easier for our teachers and academics.  We need to show them how and in their context.  Something like http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/ and http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ are more useful in this regard.  There is a wealth of policy advice and a wealth of how to use tools advice but it's the middle ground of putting it in our context which is lacking.  I believe that largely teachers can do this for themselves but only if we promote and facilitate it.

In my next post, I'll reflect on the key recommendations from this report.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Externalisation of pedagogic principles

“The first step in redesign often entailed the externalisation of pedagogic principles which had previously been tacit."
This quote is from report on the PREEL (From Pedagogical Research to Embedded E-learning) project which ran at the Institute of Education a few years ago. It was one of those initiative which tried to help educators with their e-learning design. Interestingly, there were deliberate attempts to link research and practice through the promotion and incorporation of IOE's own e-learning research output.  This post and the above quote is about educator knowledge of their own pedagogy, the way they teach.

The quote promotes the tactic of asking educators to verbalise how they are teaching a particular course.  In articulating this out loud it helps clarify for themselves how they teach.  We are not talking learning theory here just how they do things.  For some how a session is structured and taught may have evolved over the years.  A particular educator may have a natural default pedagogical stance and the reasons why are not clear even to themselves.

I've talked in the past about how some educators don't have an understanding of their own pedagogy stance or indeed an understanding of pedagogical theory in general.  I've speculated that this hinders moves to talk about internet-based communication/collaboration tools in terms of pedagogical affordance.  The above tactic is instructive because it suggests that this doesn't really matter as the knowledge is there albeit latent and not externalised.  It's your job (as a learning technologist) to bring this out of them.  They know how they teach and why they do it.  And you don't need to be judgmentally about this, you just need to listen and teach them how, and to what end, they could use what's available.  What this also says is that it's not about lack of understanding, it's about lack of time and sometimes about lack of learning design.  For the former, an educator doesn't have the time to think about their learning design.  They are too busy. For the latter, they can't be bothered.  This is rare but there's good and bad in every profession.