Monday, November 18, 2013

PLN Takeaways

I found these articles about developing a PLN incredibly interesting. I liked that both articles discussed how social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook can be used beneficially - I think sometimes people disregard these sites as a means to procrastinate or waste time, and I appreciated that both authors wrote about how these sites can actually enhance teaching methods and educational philosophy. That being said, I think it's easier said than done in discerning the useful from the not-so-useful, and think that it will be a process in of itself simply trying to find good educational Twitter or Facebook accounts. Another slight concern I had was that I recently deleted my Facebook account, so I would be unable to use that social media site as a means to connect with other teachers or educational organizations to develop a PLN. I don't think this is too much of an issue, though - there are similar social media sites (such as LinkedIn or Google+) that I can use instead. 

I really like the idea of developing a strong PLN, because I think teaching, as a profession, is one that should involve continual collaboration and feedback. Teachers should be constantly working to better the quality of the education they are providing for students, and so PLN seems like an obvious way to fulfill this goal. Personally, the idea of PLN appealed to me because I really love talking and listening to other people, especially if we are discussing a similar or shared topic. I like the idea of collaboration, of sharing personal experiences (good and bad!) with other individuals involved in education, as a means to both improve our teaching, and develop new relationships of trust John Spencer (or Chad Segersten) write about. 

Overall, I would like to learn more about the how-to of developing a PLN. These articles served as a great introduction into the idea, and I'm excited to discuss this more in class. 

Technology Integration Lesson Plan

Below are the different components of my Technology Integration Lesson Plan:

PLN Reading Takeaways

I was struck by the author's emphasis on the authenticity of how you get your ideas on He emphasized that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of ways to access information to aid your professional development, but the important thing is that it feels useful, natural, and authentic to you. He mentioned sharing a pint with his friend at a local bar and discussing their ideas casually in conversation. This informal method can be just as informative and useful as going to a conference or attending a class, and it works with who he is and what he is trying to achieve. 

I really liked that both sites emphasized that you can customize your PLN to suit your interests and needs. I was a little intimidated about planning a PLN until I read these articles and realized that yes, a PLN will require me to reach out to other teachers and possibly social media more than I currently do, but the extent and the types of outreach are all up to me. It's all about choosing what I will actually use and how I prefer to access information. I would never have thought of facebook or twitter as opportunities for professional learning, but it's definitely something that I will consider. 

Technology Integration Lesson

I have attached the lesson plan, artifact, and reflection for my technology integration lesson concerning the feudal system.

Lesson and artifact link

Reflection link

Technology Lesson Plan

I have linked my concept map, lesson plan, video, and presentation. 

  1. How do you address one or more UDL principles in the lesson to meet the needs of diverse learners?
In this lesson plan I incorporate many principles of UDL. There are varied means of representing information, multiple means of action and expression, and also multiple means of engagement. Information is presented to students through multiple representations: there is a power point presentation (showing original images of the texts and giving students a sense of what they looked like in their original context), a video (combining audio and visuals, as well as providing a historical narrative), and images as well as documents (there is also a glossary following the documents). These various methods of representation allow students’ to use their individual strengths, while also providing them with challenges. For example, one student might do really well with reading and analyzing historical documents, but struggles with learning from and interpreting images or video. Multiple means of action and expression are available through the concept mapping tool that we will use as a class, discussion, and creative writing. The creative writing activity “Write your own Declaration of Independence” establishes authenticity and individuality to come through in the lesson. The group work throughout the lesson allows for collaboration and communication. Putting the students into pairs or small groups invites collaboration, but also enables students to take on individual roles – perhaps one student is confident in their writing skills so they take on the role of the ‘writer,’ another student in the group is good at public speaking and so takes on the role of the group’s presenter, and the third group member might have the best understanding of the various sources and provides leadership and facilitates discussion.
All of these various methods are included to create a dynamic and interesting lesson, and to provide students with individualized means to learn and express their knowledge.

2. How do you see the use of technology connecting with the content focus?

I think the technology I chose to use matches the content focus well. My learning goals in this lesson were for the students to understand the colonists’ motivations and arguments for separation from Britain, and to analyze the documents and make evidence-based hypotheses explaining these motivations. The introduction video highlights the difficulty the colonists faced when deciding to separate, and also the emotion and humanity of the Founding Fathers. It is a stirring, emotional, and engaging video and I think that it will help the students look at these documents in a new light, as well as understand the high stakes that were placed on the question of independence. The presentation does not contain a lot of content, it’s true, but I think that having the visual of what these documents looked like in their initial printings is important. The larger, colored version of the engraving might also be easier for the students to see and analyze, as the smaller version in their document packets is a bit blurred. Finally, the mindmup concept mapping website is a great way to visually map out all of the student hypotheses that they will generate after reading each document. Mapping out their ideas on the chalkboard would take up too much space, and it would be more difficult to show the interconnection between their ideas. The website makes maps that are streamlined and easy-to-read. They are also easy to manipulate, which is essential as I will be adding to it, editing, and deleting items as the class progresses. This technology will help students brainstorm, compare hypotheses, and see the connections between ideas in a way that non-digital technology could not.

3. How do you see the use of technology connecting with the pedagogical approach you’ve selected?

I think the technology connected well with its respective LAT. For ‘view presentation’ I have a presentation of slides that show the central question that the students will investigate and images of the texts that they are working with. For ‘view images’ I included both an introductory video and an image that they will use as a source. Then the students and I will work together to ‘develop a knowledge web’ using the concept mapping technology. As I said in the answer above, the concept mapping site manages to hold a great deal of information and present it in an orderly, clear display. It is easy for students to read what others included, come up with new ideas or build off of another’s response, because it is easily visible.

4. How do the content, pedagogy and technology all “fit” together in the lesson?

I thought of the content I wanted to teach first. This lesson plan is based on one I produced for my methods class, so the learning goals/objectives were already in place. My next step was figuring out how to best teach my students the learning goal and how to interact with the texts, while also being engaging and interesting. For example, I knew that I wanted the students to theorize and try to answer our historical question, and that led me to selecting the ‘developing a knowledge web’ LAT. I decided that producing a web of the complexity and size that I hoped the students would develop would require some sort of technology. So I really tried to consider the LAT and the technology and how they would help students accomplish my learning goals and objectives. I think I managed to incorporate technology in a way that makes sense and does not distract from the point of the lesson.

5. What is the relative advantage of the technology(ies) used in the lesson?

Certainly one of the advantages of using technology is that allowed me to give my students different visual representations of the material. The video serves to give background, create an emotional connection to the material, and includes dynamic audio and video. Using images of the engraving shows a larger, clearer image, making it easier to analyze. The images of the documents help students gain a perspective of the past and the effort that went into making these documents. Finally, the concept mapping website has several advantages in this lesson: it’s fast, efficient, easy to use, shows a great deal of information, shows the connections between ideas, and helps students visually understand how their ideas relate to our central historical question.

6. What was your overall experience like designing this lesson using the Learning Activity Types approach to technology integration planning? In other words, how, if at all, did this process help you to zero in on appropriate and effective technologies to approach the lesson?

As I mentioned previously, I already had the idea for the learning goals and objectives from a lesson plan I made earlier. That gave me a good place to start. After that I used the LAT chart and typology to organize my ideas on what I would like to have students do during the lesson. I knew I wanted to start off with an interesting video to hook them in, and that I wanted to incorporate discussion (in small groups and as a class), so that was easily determined. After that, however, there were so many choices that it made making a decision rather difficult. This is not a criticism, however. I am glad that there are so many choices to consider – it means that I can use this in the future to avoid boxing myself into a set of three go-to LATs.
I returned to my learning goals and had to decide how I wanted students to hypothesize and answer our historical question. I had decided on incorporating discussion, but I also thought that using something visual would help students theorize freely, pay attention and remember what other students had said, and then be able to return to those ideas after reading the next document. Once I looked at the LATs again, it seemed clear that developing a knowledge web would work well with this lesson.
Overall I think using this LAT approach to lesson planning was useful. It helped me understand different categories of activities and how/where I might want to fit those into class and how they would help me achieve my learning goals for the lesson. I also liked that the LAT provided various ways of learning and communicating learning, and then even more examples of ways to integrate technology into that LAT. It was systematic and is definitely something I will use in the future. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Developing a PLN

To me, developing a PLN seems like a bit of an obvious step. Of course teachers communicate with one another about best practices and the difficulties of their jobs. And in the modern age, of course they do so in ways that are not always directly face to face. So much of the learning I have already done has taken place in networks such as this, so why wouldn't the rest of it? For example, when I was working on the newspaper in college, the only ways we had to learn about how to actually make a newspaper were through one another and an extended PLN. We read blogs, watched videos, attended conferences, spoke to other journalists, interacted on social media, and did really anything we could to access the wide world of information out there about how to be successful journalists. One of the most interesting things about the teaching profession is how vibrant, long-distant communities exists already. There are so many teachers out there who are willing and excited to share what they know and ask questions of other people that not engaging in these networks would feel like I was not doing my job to its fullest. As Katie hinted at below though, there is the paradox in education in which we have so many possibilities to share information online with other teachers but are expected to keep this absolutely hidden from our students. I think that we have all grown up with social media (not that it has been there since we were children, but that it has matured as we have) and know a great deal about the dangers of using social media incorrectly. I think the important thing is making sure that you are appropriate in what you are sharing online and that you have very high privacy settings. Also, having a name that is difficult to search because it is a very common word is helpful.

Some key things I took away from these pieces:
- I already have the resources to engage in most of these PLN platforms mentioned. Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc. are all parts of my social media world and I could very easily add an educational aspect to my usage of them.
-It is important to keep in mind that a network is not just one thing and not always two-way. What I mean is, a network does not just refer to a twitter conversation, but could also refer to a conversation in real life. And engaging in a network does not always mean creating something to add to it, but can simply mean taking it in.
-A PLN will never happen if you don't start somewhere! As hard as it might be to start a PLN because of all the information that is out there, finding a way that works for you and implementing that is the first step to creating a useful PLN.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I think to have a successful PLN we have to commit to a certain vulberability. What I mean by this is that we have to make ourselves and our thoughts available to others both in our workplace and outside our workplace, and online. We have to be willing to engage in academic talk while also maintaining a certain level of professionalism and honesty. I think that developing a PLN can be extremely helpful for new teachers as it is essentially a support system; it is a way to help us build confidence, learn from more experienced educators, and be inspired by great teaching. However, I think that developing a PLN takes effort and carefulness. As new teachers, we are being most "watched" by other teachers, our administration, and our students' parents (or so it feels). Therefore, we need to be on our best behavior; in my opinion, we should fulfill our Principal's expectations of us as teachers, professionals, and respectable adults. I am slightly worried about engaging in online PLN such as twitter because I do not feel comfortable with my middle school students viewing my activity. For this reason, I stay away from blog-type social media sites. I know that there are ways to up privacy settings however, I know my students will likely know more about these types of things than I will. I want to know how to engage in private online blog groups--is this possible? Also, I am truly aloof when it comes to searching the web--I do not really know how to find a meaningful blog. How do I find teaching blogs and how I do sort the good from the bad?

Key Takeaways:

  • Step 2 is focused on creating a list of professional development needs that we feel are not being met. However, currently, we are not really "hired" new teachers. Therefore, I would likely want to make a list of needs that I would like to be met as a first year teacher--i.e. the kinds of supports I feel I will need or want. 
  • As far as meeting with other teachers to talk about school needs, issues, or concerns, I would like to include a variety of teachers in this social group--teachers outside of my discipline and even of diverse grades (elementary school teachers and high school teachers)
  • As a new teacher, I would like to integrate my learning goals for the school year into my PLN so that I can reflect periodically. This would allow me to self-monitor my progress and make changes as necessary to meet my goals.