Tag Archives: hashtag

Reflecting on Technology as a Global Learning Tool

It’s been about two weeks since I taught my first graduate course at American University, entitled Technology as a Global Learning Tool (or as you might have seen on Twitter, #T4GL12). I wanted to wait a little while before writing a post about teaching the course to give myself some time to reflect and review all of the learning that occurred.

The stated learning objectives for the course were as follows:

Skill — To practice new technology skills and use new technology tools (e.g., Tweeting, Voicethread)
Skill — To build a collaborative online workspace to serve as an ongoing resource (i.e., wikipage)
Skill — To engage in dialogue with other educators and trainers around the globe
Skill — To begin building or further enhancing a virtual, personal learning network (PLN)
Knowledge — To examine how to use a PLN and related technology tools to connect your students/clients to other students/clients around the globe
Knowledge — To identify ways you currently do and could globalize your classroom/organization/trainings
Knowledge — To build a wider repertoire of technology tools and strategies to globalize your classroom/organization/trainings
Attitude — To expand your willingness and interest in using technology for global collaboration
Attitude — To develop a sense of community with other members of the skills institute
Attitude — To be empowered to use new technology tools and skills in innovative ways

I am happy to say that I think each of these goals was achieved during the course and further developed in our online spaces (Wikispace, Twitter) after the course ended. I was a bit concerned about how easy it would be to establish a course community in such a short time span (the class was taught in an intensive two-day workshop-style design). Luckily, participants were willing to open up and engage with one another and I think some of the course activities helped to facilitate the connections that were made. For example, we used a shared MindMeister to map each of our existing PLNs and then took time to use the connector tool to make connections within and between our PLNs to visualize how we are all connected and can help one another network.

Throughout the course, I asked students to be active in editing and adding to various pages in our wikispace with the hope that it could become a collaborative,  community resource. It was exciting to see students learn this new tool and apply their new knowledge so quickly. I felt like they really took ownership of the space, especially as they returned after the course to post their final reflection projects.

We covered numerous different web 2.0 tools, such as Lino, Pinterest, and Prezi but we also took time to talk about sustainability and ways to overcome existing and future barriers to their ongoing tech learning. I think this was a valuable part of the course because it allowed everyone time and space to step back from the tools themselves and reflect on the specific steps they could take to integrate these tools into their organizations and classrooms. The concreteness of this activity seemed to really facilitate students’ understanding and was named as something the students appreciated in light of the almost overwhelming amount of new tools they had been exposed to in the course.

One surprising result to me was the popularity of Voicethread. I had imagined that various students would be taken with or attracted to different tools depending on their professional context (e.g., nonprofit, classroom) and learning styles but a majority of students all ended up focusing on Voicethread for their final reflections (in addition to citing Twitter as a new favorite). I wonder if the multiplicity of applications and various modalities it allows for (e.g., video, picture, audio and text comments) are what make it such an appealing tool. I think students appreciated that whether they were planning to work in study abroad/exchange, create global learning in their K12 classrooms, or work globally through their nonprofits, they could use this tool to communicate and collaborate.

As a teacher, it was truly exciting to see students begin to engage with Twitter through our course hashtag and to see them start to explore many of the new tools we discussed, creating step-by-step plans for how they would implement them in their professional lives. It was also great to have students share their own resources using these tools (e.g., sending out a symbaloo of websites they currently use for homework the first night) so that I could also learn from them and be exposed to resources they were aware of that I might not know.

We also documented our learning throughout the course on a page of our wiki. Some of the things that were recorded included:

  • How to create a new wiki page
  • How to create a personalized Google Map
  • I sent a tweet!
  • How to grow your PLN using Twitter
  • Voicethread connects people on a more personal level – more genuine
  • How to create a professional presence and how to cross-pollinate all of your interests
  • Process for setting up a sustainable global project
  • Creation of mini-teams/groups for support and guidance
As one student said,I learned so much in this class, mostly about trying new things and thinking about how to use technology in ways I had never really thought of before.”

I too learned a great deal through the course. In addition to gaining more experience with course design and implementation, I learned more about what works best in introducing new technologies to different audiences. I was reminded of how important “play time” is when exploring new tech tools and when I showed some technologies being used for global collaboration projects, the value of relevant, meaningful examples was reinforced. It was amazing to have an opportunity to work with this great group of students in thinking through ways technology can be used as a global learning tool. Through students’ final reflection projects, I was able to observe their learning in-action and students were able to demonstrate their growth in tech knowledge, skills, and comfort. I hope they all now feel better prepared to explore how technology can be used in meaningful and relevant ways for global learning and collaboration in diverse professional contexts.

Global Tech Courses Are Not Built in a Day

Everyone has heard how “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I can now confirm that graduate courses on Technology as a Global Learning Tool are certainly not either!

I have devoted an inordinate amount of my time recently to creating and preparing for this grad course that I will be teaching on March 3-4th. I knew that designing my own course would be time-consuming but I underestimated the amount of time I would want to put into building the course wiki, where I have compiled related articles and resources for at least forty different tech tools.

The longer that I work on the wiki, the more I realize that there is just so much content that I could cover! There is a seemingly endless number of technology tools on the web that teachers, trainers, international development and exchange workers and others in the field of global education could use for global collaboration. I want to share them all! But I know that’s not possible. So I have worked to streamline the content to include tools that I feel will be most valuable for the participants, based on a needs assessment I conducted about their learning goals, and based on the ease and usability of the tools.

I want to prepare and empower my students to begin using any of the new tools we will discuss (e.g., Voicethread, Google Docs, Lino boards) as soon as the course is complete and yet I also do not want to overwhelm them with too many new technologies and websites. I have struggled to balance the more boring “how-to” type aspects of learning new tools with opportunities for student participation and involvement, and active discussions of the practical applications for these tools. Additionally, I have scheduled time for us to discuss sustainability and ways for course participants to continue using their new skills and tools after the course has ended.

I think one of the things that I am most excited about is the course community I hope to establish with students and then keep alive via our newly formed digital networks. The course is built around a private wikispace that will house all of the resources and assignments but it will also be a space for collaborative exploration and learning. The hope is that the wiki itself will be a new tech tool which participants can learn and practice with and then use with future global learning projects. By using a wiki, which everyone can add to and edit, students will have an opportunity to truly take an active role in shaping our course space and contributing to the content and discussions. Additionally, I will be introducing the class to Twitter and using a hashtag (#T4GL12) throughout the course so that students can begin to explore the vast, global network that a platform like Twitter provides. Through class activities and tweets, students can begin learning more about the sharing of resources, support, and ideas that can occur on Twitter. Since both Twitter and our wikispace are virtual platforms, even after the course is finished and students are no longer together, my hope is that we can continue sharing and exchanging resources and building on our new relationships with one another through these mediums.

To me, those relationships are what help shift a standard exchange of knowledge and resources from a single “sage on a stage” to the students below to more reciprocal exchanges of teaching and learning. I am eager to see what the participants of my course can teach me about different technologies they use or new ways of seeing and using the tools that I teach them. By forming a community of learners who want to find ways to use technology as a global learning tool in diverse setting around the world, we can ideally create a group motivated by curiosity; united by our goals of global exchange and education; and inspired by one another.

Now, back to making the final touches on the course schedule and wiki!

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

This week during #ecetechchat we discussed different tech tools that can be used to help create and sustain parent engagement in your early childhood program. I think there are a number of great tech tools (many listed below) that are available today to help teachers easily connect and engage with their parents on a regular basis. And as we discussed during the chat, engaging with parents and building those relationships is vital to creating a strong, connected class community because it allows for a whole new level of home-school collaboration.

One of the key points I took away from the chat was the power of tech tools to help teachers engage parents in starting a cycle of engagement that facilitates learning at home and can then replenish the classroom community with new energy. Basically, by engaging parents, you are providing them with new ideas and activities for discussion with their children at home. Parents are then able to engage with their children about what they are learning at school and talk about new topics and ideas, which children can then bring back into the classroom, completing the cycle.

To get that cycle started, it’s important to check in and survey the parents in your classroom to learn about their existing tech knowledge and comfort. Something emphasized in the chat was to provide multiple venues for engagement (e.g., phone, email, social media) and to meet parents where they already engage. So if all of your parents are on Facebook and that site is allowed at your school, look into creating a private group for your class that you can update with pictures and notes about your classroom activities throughout the day. @Matt_Gomez shared a great piece about using Facebook with his Kindergarten class.

For parent engagement to be sustainable, especially through technology, we agreed that there needs to be support from the administration so they can model appropriate engagement and endorse the use of specific tools or websites. Unfortunately, many schools have blocked social media sites and other online spaces that make sharing easy. One way to work with that issue is to talk to your administration about creating an Acceptable Use Policy as @cybraryman1 suggested and think about what type of specific Social Media Policy you want or need for your classroom. With young children, you cannot be too protective of their privacy, so think carefully about what permissions you set on any social media sites you use and before you create a social community for your class, build a social (personal) learning network for yourself so you become comfortable with the tools and online spaces.

That said, social media and other tech tools will likely be foreign to some/many administrators, colleagues, and parents so you may experience some push-back from trying to introduce something new. Take calculated risks and if you believe the tool will help foster meaningful engagement, ask your administrator if you can at least have a trial run. Some parents might just be afraid of the technology, which is why teacher-parent tech nights can be a great way to build strong relationships with your parents while also helping them learn some new skills. During #ecetechchat we also discussed this idea as a way to help bridge the digital divide and help parents learn and use technology that they may not have access to at home. Another idea is to invite volunteers from a local college or organization to come teach the children, parents, and/or other teachers about new tech tools they can use to engage with one another.

Ultimately, the teacher-parent relationships are the most important piece and technology remains just one tool to facilitate the development and support of those relationships. So, make your engagement proactive instead of reactive and contact parents in as many ways as possible, as often as possible, to share child photographs (worth 10,000 words when it’s your child), videos, notes, work, and more with parents!

Here are some of the tech tools we discussed to engage with parents. If you have more ideas, please add them to our shared #ecetechchat Google Doc!

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

  • School Website – post updates about your class
  • Class Blog – post about classroom activities and pictures/videos
  • Social Media
  • YouTube – upload videos of children in the classroom
  • Voicethread – digital slide show tool, allows parents to comment
  • Podcasts – of children working, classroom activities, etc
  • Music Playlists – send playlists home of songs you listen to in class
  • Digital Photographs – posted on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, child portfolio, etc
  • PhotosCaps & Skitch –  let you caption your photos and quickly share and save them
  • Evernote – create individual child portfolios to share with parents
  • Skype – video chat with parents
  • Symbaloo – share mixes with sites for children to play/practice skills
  • Tungle.me – schedule meetings with parents
  • Digital storytelling tools (e.g., Storybird) parents can view or make at home
  • Email 
  • Text Message
  • Phone Calls

Explorations with #edchat & Storify

  1. Twitter: It’s an immediate, endless, stream of opportunity and professional development, free for educators and anyone willing to engage their time in “drinking.”
  2. RT @2footgiraffe: Twitter is like a waterfall. Hold your cup under the water when you need a drink. Don’t worry about the rest. #edchat
    November 15, 2011 9:44:27 PM EST
  3. And by embracing Twitter and other technologies, educators make a commitment to relevant, forward-thinking, 21st century teaching strategies that can allow students to take the lead.
  4. RT @jillsiefken: Embrace Technology or Students Will Leave You Behind. tinyurl.com/78a25am #mnwcougars #edchat #gtchat
    November 15, 2011 9:31:55 PM EST
  5. Already, tools (#hashtags) and organizational processes (Twitter lists) have been developed to make tech use more meaningful and facilitate drinking from the waterfall and embracing these new technologies.
  6. Hashtags are powerful folks. Show others how to use them. They don’t have to be a Twitter member to reap the rewards. #edchat
    November 15, 2011 7:25:35 PM EST
  7. Yet, even with these tools, there are and always will be, bumps in the road where the water falls too fast and you get carried under by deluge of the learning opportunities, potential resources, and messages.
  8. #edchat I opened my blog…got writer’s block. Don’t know what to say about both today’s chats…just feeling a little overwhelmed or grumpy
    November 15, 2011 9:49:54 PM EST
  9. And this is where I think the idea of “Don’t worry about the rest” comes into play because …
  10. When teachers step back, students step forward. It’s not losing control. It’s sharing responsibility. #edchat
    November 15, 2011 12:32:39 PM EST
  11. It’s easy to think that as a teacher, trainer, educator, or leader of any sort, that you have to shoulder all of the responsibility but when you “recognize learners are decision makers” (Vella, 2002), a greater sharing, collaboration, and creative learning can occur.