Tag Archives: global 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.

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Taking Time Between Your Timelines – Because #YouMatter

Pocket watch, savonette-type. Italiano: Orolog...

Pocket watch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time again, time for one timeline to end and another to begin. We’ve all experienced these transitions, probably over and over throughout life but this time, I want to pause.

I want to take time between the ending of one timeline and the beginning of another to reflect on all that I’ve experienced, accomplished, learned, and shared.

Just a few weeks ago, the timeline of my master’s program came to an end and with it, the even longer timeline of my formal education (for now!). With that ending, came the end of my timeline living in Washington D.C. and the beginning of a new timeline in Philadelphia. In parallel to those timelines, I have been adding experiences and learnings to my professional consulting timeline, which has become the main frame for my work in Philly. And of course within each timeline are smaller timelines, such as Capstone projects or trips to Senegal, and when I stop to think about it, there is truly a lot of change, growth, and learning happening simultaneously in one’s life!

With that in mind, stopping to think and to reflect is exactly what I want to do. It’s so easy for one timeline to fade into the next. For me, transitioning from college to work to graduate school was almost seamless. There was not time (I thought) to pause and celebrate what I had done, consider the change I had created through various campus projects or to record hopes and goals for moving forward during the actual transitions. I often take time throughout my timelines to plan in advance, reflect on my experiences, and think deeply about larger professional goals, which has helped me bring together my various experiences and studies in early childhood, global education, and educational technology in a meaningful way. Yet rarely have I allowed, in addition to that planning and goal-setting, a bit of time for myself between transitions. Now, with the end of another academic timeline and the beginning of new professional experiences, I want to make the time to consider where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going next. I want to carve out time that in the past I have allowed to be so easily eaten up by other priorities (because doesn’t it seem like there’s always another task to finish, bill to pay, or idea to explore?).

Especially in our connected society, I succumb to the pressure to constantly check my email, chat with my Twitter PLN, finish that lingering project and then start a new one because it’s sitting there on my to-do list or popping up in my browser and I don’t want to fall behind. But what if we all take time to put that aside for a little bit and just think about why we matter, about what we’ve done and where we’re going next? As Angela Maiers says, You Matter, and by “mattering”, she suggests you should remember (taken directly from her blog):

  1. YOU ARE ENOUGH
  2. YOU HAVE INFLUENCE
  3. YOU ARE A GENIUS
  4. YOU HAVE A CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE
  5. YOU HAVE A GIFT THAT OTHERS NEED
  6. YOU ARE THE CHANGE
  7. YOUR ACTIONS DEFINE YOU IMPACT
  8. YOU MATTER!

These eight ideas are a lot to process, so that’s why I hope to take the next week or so to actively reflect on each one as I mark the ending of one timeline and the beginning of another. I hope others can take time to pause and notice their own timelines, big and small, because like me, you matter and together we can all encourage one another to remember that and to recognize the value of reflection in times of change.