Tag Archives: Early childhood education

How to Draw a PLN – An Exercise in Reflection

After the #etmooc Blackboard Collaborate session Tuesday night with Alec Couros on Connected Learning, I started to think more about my PLN and the prompts that were suggested. How would I define my PLN – in words, in imagery? Being a visual person, I wanted to represent it with a graphic, so I started to think about the best way(s) to do that.

At first, I thought a general mind map might be a good choice. I mentally jotted down “PLN” as the central bubble, expanding outward to three core bubbles of “early childhood education,” “educational technology,” and “global education.” I began to reflect on who and what else belonged in my image but struggled to come up with an accurate depiction. I realized I was struggling with competing wants – trying to arrange my PLN around topics (e.g., ed tech) versus around three W’s: who (e.g., colleagues), what (e.g., Twitter), and where (e.g., at school).

mindmeister PLN

I took a break from trying to name and categorize to search for the best tool to create my visualization. I debated Google Drawings, Mindmeister (which I’ve used successfully before to collaboratively map PLNs among participants in a course I taught – see the image above), and finally settled on trying a new tool, Idea Sketch. I chose this app because I was interested in working by touch (I thought) so I wanted something available on my iPad, I wanted to be able to start with a text list since I had already written out some of my map, and I wanted the ability to color-code.

pln_idea

After exploring Idea Sketch for a little bit, I realized it was still going to be a lot more time consuming to create my map there than on paper. A perfect example of when technology can become more of a hinderance to efficiency than a tool  supporting progress. So, I went “back to the drawing board” both literally and figuratively. I started fresh with a piece of paper and decided to re-think the idea of a central “PLN” bubble.

What was really at the center my PLN? I realized that at its core, it was connected learning, teaching, and sharing – with people. I reflected how, at times, I am also at the center of my PLN, drawing connections between three fields that I am passionate about and rarely see intertwined (early ed + ed tech + global ed) but many other times, I’m simply another node, as Joichi Ito suggests, floating in and out of other nodes and networks in my PLN.  I’m not just making connections, I’m looking for them, I’m learning from them and others and at times I can become backgrounded in my own PLN, there as an observer, to “lurk” or shadow conversations that allow me to break down the already thin walls of my PLN and see through into other people’s networks. Sometimes I have the privilege of helping to create ties between someone else’s network and my own, which is always exciting and inspiring, and sometimes I simply have a chance to be a participant in another person’s network and try to support that person as much as I can.

With that in mind, my image of my PLN took on a new form. I knew I couldn’t fit every person and community in my image but I wanted to have enough examples to give a general representation. I created one large circle to define “My PLN,” one with a fuzzy outline because it’s pretty nebulous, at times even transparent or non-existent, as I connect and intersect with others. Then I added three interconnected circles inside, one for each topic that I’m passionate about, allowing for overlaps because many of the W’s I’m engaged with are related to more than one topic. For example, my job as a Lower School Tech Coordinator, allows me to work with students and teachers in early childhood education while focusing on educational technology and using it for global collaboration projects. From there, I began filling in each bubble with organizations, chats, and other types of networks that represent people and communities (e.g., #Kinderchat, SIGELT, Global Classroom Project, and the Tech Team at my school). Outside of these three bubbles, I placed more of the generic “where” and “what” labels that are the environment and home for my PLN, such as “Twitter,” “conferences,” and “Skype.”

I’m confident that this depiction is a) a work-in-progress and b) still not a perfect representation of how I’d like to display my PLN, but it comes pretty close. I also appreciated how much reflection I was able to engage in simply by trying to create this drawing of my PLN. I thought much more about the difference between communities and networks of people and the layers they add compared to the tools and environments that help me to connect. I examined the boundaries and my own place within my PLN more closely and took time to step back and consider where various pieces live within my PLN map.

My_PLN_circles_final

I (re)discovered that there are many more intersections between global education and educational technology than early childhood and global education, due I believe, to the necessity of technology to connect people across time zones, languages, and countries. I hope that with this awareness in mind, I can re-focus my own energies on seeking out more networks and communities who are integrating ed tech and global ed into early childhood education to add to my PLN.

Ultimately, now that I have my PLN sketch, I want to think more about how it looks and how I see connected learning, teaching, and sharing as the center. Those are the ideals I have built my PLN around and I want to keep them in mind as I consider the idea that there is “strength in weak ties” and in new perspectives. People who are not immersed in my PLN (weaker ties) and who have different passions, can add so much to my own learning and I want to think more about how I can make sure to value that and make my network permeable enough to see, hear, and share their views too.

The Best Laid Plans …

Some rights reserved by Luke Andrew Scowen 2009

When my winter break began I told myself I would sit down, reflect, and write a thoughtful post to close out the year. I had the best of intentions to write a nice long post, maybe even two … and then, my winter break came to an end. At first, I felt guilty about relaxing so much and not making the time to post but I slowly began to reconsider those feelings.

I started to reflect again on how nice it can be to take a break from the pressures to write, reflect, and post and how it’s even nicer to allow yourself to take that break. As my winter break progressed and I let myself enjoy the simple pleasures of reading, visiting with family, and walking around the city, I began to feel refreshed and I could feel my energy and excitement around work and learning naturally rejuvenating. I decided that while it would have been nice to post during my break, I could be happy with posting after it as well. So now that my break is over, here’s my attempt at looking back at 2012.

iPad_blog_photo2

The past year has been a year of change, full of endings and new beginnings. To start, after a winter and fall jam-packed with coursework, I finished my masters program in International Training and Education in the spring of 2012. I also had the opportunity to expand my consulting work and in addition to managing websites and facilitating Twitter chats and webinars, I led an online summer book club and traveled to Senegal. During my second trip to Africa, I saw less of the countryside but met many more people (over 300 in fact!), as I managed the social media and online spaces for an international conference. I learned a great deal about child protection systems and had the opportunity to connect with some great new colleagues.

After my African adventures, I moved from D.C. back to Philadelphia and into one of my new favorite spots in the city. I had a chance to explore some more of the local parks and restaurants before heading out to my first NAEYC Professional Development Institute (PDI) as a Lasting Legacy Scholar. It was an educative experience and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with so many other professionals in the field of early childhood education. I was also able to help facilitate the first Tech Play Date and share in technology explorations with other early childhood professionals. The PDI was followed closely by my first ISTE conference, which set the stage for our new Early Learning and Technology Special Interest Group (SIGELT) that just recently launched.

ISTE and the Tech Play Date were the perfect prelude to my new position as a Technology Coordinator at a private school, working with Pre-K through 2nd grade, which I began in late August. Since then, I have been engaged in technology explorations, troubleshooting, and collaborations with the students and teachers at my school. I have introduced a range of new tools and apps and together we have explored their applications in the classroom. For example, to start the school year, some students used Skitch on the iPad to annotate photos showing what they like to do in first grade. I have also worked to facilitate some cross-class collaborations, such as a Voicethread exchange among the kindergarten classes, where each student added an audio recording as an introduction to her or his photo and then left a comment on a photo of a new peer in a different kindergarten class.

Not long after our initial projects were finished, I traveled to Atlanta for my 5th NAEYC annual conference. I had a wonderful time talking technology and networking with new friends and colleagues at Tech on Deck and enjoyed attending sessions with people who I had only “met” before on Twitter! I returned to my school with new inspiration for Reggio-inspired, maker-based technology explorations and since then, I have continued to integrate new tools for student expression and creation into the classroom.

DNLE

As the year came to an end, I looked back on all of the posts I had written, here on this blog as well as the tech tips on my school blog, and I felt renewed excitement about all of the things I have learned and experiences I have had. I tried my first MOOC (Standford DNLE) this year, working with partners in Singapore, South Korean, and Iran for our final project and I had the chance to moderate some #Globalclassroom chats to make even more global connections. I continue to learn constantly from my PLN on Twitter, Google+ Communities, and other social media networks, as well as from new friends and colleagues who I get to see in-person.

After giving one small workshop and with another under-review, I have made efforts to begin sharing more of my knowledge and experience with technology as a tool for global learning.  Meanwhile, the small collaborations and global connections that are just beginning to blossom at our school via Skype and Twitter feel like they are a great foundation for future collaborations and the tech projects that are underway are beginning to feel truly integrated with classroom work and curricula. All in all, I think it has been a year of successful change, a year of growth and transition that I hope will lead to even more learning and discovery. Up next, I want to do some forward thinking about the future and what I want to achieve in 2013!