Posts Tagged 'PD'

21st century mentoring

I just completed an independent inquiry on the implications of Web 2.0 on mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers. The project spanned two semesters, and I learned a lot.

I am posting the final report in PDF. I also have a companion wiki, which is still in development. Stop by for a visit and tell me what you think!


My two wikis

Over the last several weeks and months I have been compiling two wikis to showcase my work as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. They are:

  • eMentoring Toolkit-a site for sharing 21st century tools and strategies to enhance mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers, and
  • Lubke’s Multiliteracies Site-the virtual home for coursework completed in my reading education classes, Spring 2008

I am using Wikispaces. In an earlier post titled Choosing a wiki, I explained how I ultimately selected this application out of the several dozen wiki platforms available online.

In very “wiki” fashion, my sites are continual works-in-progress. In very “un-wiki” fashion, they have been a solo effort, lacking input from peers, fellow students, or instructors. I wish I could say I have experienced the transformative power of wikis as forums for collaboration and consensus building, but at this juncture, my overall impression of wiki software in general, and Wikispaces in particular, is that of quick-and-dirty web authoring tool.

Oh, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun, too!

If you have an interest in eMentoring or multiliteracies/New Literacies, I hope you will drop by my wikis and tell me what you think.

Education informatics and the teacher/learner

It’s been more than a week since Clarence Fisher delivered his K-12 Online Conference keynote about web-based tools and their potential impact on relationships, pedagogy, curriculum, and information access in the classroom.

Arguing that “technology is not about skills, it’s about connections,” Fisher concludes his presentation by calling for reform of technology assessments that are too narrowly focused on the acquisition and demonstration of skills. Fisher says that what is needed instead is a tool for generating “education informatics.” This application would allow teachers to track students’ actions and activities on the Internet and to monitor and assess their progress as they build out virtual networks.

I’ve been thinking on this for several days. Now, as I am currently immersed in the Professional Learning Networks strand of the K-12 Online Conference, the concept of education informatics is growing more relevant and urgent.

By all accounts, the old model of “sit and get” professional development delivered by high-priced outside experts is on the way out. Like student learning, teacher professional development has the potential to become more personalized and self-directed within the new Web landscape.

And, as with students, education informatics for teachers could provide invaluable feedback and transparency about the breadth and depth of their online learning.

In my community the local school system recently reduced the number of systemwide professional development days and tripled the number of hours (from 6 to 18) that teachers must document unscheduled inservice learning. There is a tremendous opportunity here for teachers to set aside time for unstructured experimentation with the many cutting-edge, web-based tools and receive credit for their effort!

But how many of our administrators are equipped or even willing to acknowledge learning pursued via wikis, webcasts, chats, forum discussions, and so on? I think documentation and accountability would be huge issues to overcome, unless they had access to a state-of-the-art technology assessment such as Fisher describes.

If teachers are to be the models of lifelong learning, we must be willing to allow others to examine that learning under the microscope of education informatics.

And that’s what I think.

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Are you a good community member?

As part of my ongoing investigation into web-based tools to support teacher professional development, I recently moved into my free “office space” at Tapped In. Here it is:

Tapped In office

Tapped In is a virtual learning environment that is one part social network and one part collaborative conferencing tool with capabilities for real-time, text-based conversation (chat) as well as asynchronous discussion boards maintained by a sweeping array of public and private special interest groups. There are groups for alternative/correctional educators, math educators, and “cybrarians,” to name a few.

You can browse the calendar to get a sense of which groups are most active and vital.

SRI International launched Tapped In 10 years ago so school systems and other professional development providers could train teachers online at minimal cost. There are a number of “tenant” institutions, such as Pepperdine and the University of Memphis, that lease space on the Tapped In “campus” for purposes of supporting teacher education. (The site relies heavily on the campus metaphor to help users make sense of its elaborate interface.)

Individual membership is free to anyone over the age of 18 who is interested in education. Today there are more than 20,000 international members.

After completing a simple registration process, new members may join as many Tapped In groups as they want, and they may create two groups of their own. Other membership privileges include an editable professional profile viewable by all members as well as “office space.”

Jeff Cooper and David Weksler’s slide presentation about Tapped In, which they presented at the 2006 National Educational Computing Conference, answered many of my questions about Tapped In, including what is the purpose of the office. They recommend the office feature for individuals who do not already have a “virtual presence” on the Internet: “Hold office hours, meet with parents, peers, etc. ‘Decorate’ your office to reflect and express your professional self.”

Yet, with pages at Classroom 2.0 and School Matters as well as this blog to keep up, I was a little leery about setting up yet another virtual space to look after and keep tidy.

I edited my membership profile, uploaded a photo, participated in a virtual orientation of the interface, and joined in on a lively group discussion. All were positive and meaningful experiences, done without need for an office. So why bother creating one?

Tapped In veteran and community support representative BJ Berquist shed some light on that subject in a recent online encounter. She described editing the professional profile and setting up the office as minimal first steps for “taking ownership” of one’s Tapped In identity.

That phrase, “taking ownership,” really got me thinking.

I’ve spent some time in recent weeks trying to get a handle on the moderator’s role in these virtual learning communities. Some good discussion resulted at a Ning in Education forum, with moderator extraordinaire Steve Hargadon contributing some thoughts. And at the TechLearning Blog in a post titled Virtual Communities as a Canvas of Educational Reform, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach offered some helpful guidelines for what she calls the “community organizer.”

But in my quest to define the moderator’s role, I had completely overlooked the minimal standards for individual membership. What are they?

And I don’t mean codes of conduct, netiquette, or guidelines for appropriate use. I am talking about minimal expectations for participation and attitude to ensure each user a meaningful learning experience within the network (in addition to a safe, ethical and responsible one).

Is it possible to articulate these expectations, perhaps building upon Berquist’s suggestion?

What do you think?

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Update on eMentoring tools

I am knee deep in my assessment of eMentoring tools. So far I’ve explored the Ning platform and the Tapped In web site. These explorations, combined with feedback from some helpful folks and my own background reading, have led me to reconsider and reshape my rubric for assessing eMentoring tools that I posted a few weeks ago.

First of all, issues common to traditional software assessments — licensing, cost, system requirements, usability — seem to fade in importance when the focus is on web-based tools. It’s still good to consider these factors (and I am), but here is the kicker: start up is amazingly accessible and affordable with this new generation of tools. It’s an important aspect of what drives the phenomenon that some call “Web 2.0.”

As concerns for installation, hardware upgrades, and user manuals recede into the background, the users (in this case, teachers representing all levels of technical expertise, from non-existent to superior) can really focus on the features that best ensure collaboration and innovation.

This is really exciting!

So, on the one hand, we have these tremendous platforms for creating virtual “hubs” or learning communities to support mentors and novice teachers. A school community might choose Ning, Tapped In, or one of the many course management, blog, or wiki applications currently available online.

Or, a school might elect for a combination of these.

On the other hand, each platform includes a variety of user features. It is this menu of customizable components or “accessories,” if you will, that will figure most prominently in the choice of platform.

A post by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach at the TechLearning Blog titled Virtual Communities as a Canvas for Educational Reform includes a number of helpful tips, tricks, and questions to guide a physical community in their virtual journey. I used her list of questions along with some input from Sarah Stewart to tweak my rubric. Sarah reminded me that user features must be judged by the degree to which they foster collaboration and relationship-building and by how well they enhance the moderator’s role. (Nussbaum-Beach provides an excellent description of how virtual communities live or die by the quality of the facilitator/moderator.)

As I mentioned before, all the other factors for reviewing software are still up for consideration, but I’ve fleshed out a more thorough checklist for user features. Here is that checklist:

  • demos or online tutorials for new users
  • secure login, privacy settings, and passwords
  • user-generated content and interactivity (reviews, forums, chats, discussion threads, blog posts, file uploading and sharing, etc.)
  • link sharing
  • file uploading and sharing (documents, movies, photos, slideshows, etc.)
  • archives for webcasts, chats, discussions, etc.
  • search by categories, keywords, or tags
  • customizable layouts, themes, and templates
  • member profiles
  • polling or surveying capability
  • voice capability for synchronous events
  • support for multiple languages

When a community of educators, bound together by a common interest or passion (such as nurturing the next generation of teachers), decides “to go virtual,” they should think long and hard about what they want to be able to do, see, create, and share online. Then, they should select the tool (or tools) that will allow them to accessorize their virtual home accordingly.

What do you think?

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Are you a knowledge “seeker” or “meeter”?

I was browsing through discussions at Classroom 2.0, and saw this in a post by Cindi Danner-Kuhn:

You are encouraged to be a Knowledge Seeker rather than a Knowledge Meeter, i.e., You need to add education to your course rather than add a course to your education.

Cindi teaches pre-service teachers at Fort Hays State University, but this statement, which is from her syllabus, would apply to students of all ages. I love it!

Classroom 2.0 is quickly becoming my go-to place for ideas and help on all things ed tech. It is a network of teacher/learners with varying levels of expertise, from novice to guru.

Come by with a question and search the discussion forums. You don’t have to be a member. If you decide you want to post a question or participate in a discussion, it only takes a few seconds to register your user name and password. You will not be disappointed!

And that’s what I think.

Assessing tools for eMentoring

As part of an independent study this semester, I am assembling an eMentoring tool box for teachers, teacher trainers, and others who are involved in facilitating the professional growth of novices.

Using Kathy Schrock’s Software Evaluation Form along with the NETS Educational Software Evaluation Form, I cobbled together my own little rubric for assessing tools that might enhance teacher-to-teacher induction and mentoring activities. Since my focus is on web-based tools, many of the common evaluation criteria just didn’t seem applicable.

I recast bits and pieces of both forms into a series of questions. But I wonder if there are new questions that I haven’t even considered? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

So far, these are the factors I will consider when reviewing tools for online mentoring:

  • Technical quality: Is it accessible, installable, operational? What is the start-up/registration process like? (simple, difficult, time consuming)
  • Documentation: Where is tech support?
  • License terms: Do they apply?
  • Cost: How much to acquire and to train/support staff?
  • Scalability: Does it scale by numbers of users, documents, posts, etc.?
  • What are the system requirements (memory, OS)?
  • Are there any additional requirements (hardware or software)?
  • Design: Is the user interface attractive and intuitive?
  • Reliability: Is it bug free?
  • Usability: How “friendly” is it? How easy to use? What is the learning curve? Basic? Intermediate? Advanced? Are there testimonials?
  • User features: What are they?

What do you think?


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy