New approaches for VicPLN in 2013

For a few years now, the Victorian Personal Learning Network (PLN) course has provided professional development for school library staff and educators. The twelve-week course was presented online by the State Library of Victoria and the School Library Association of Victoria, and hundreds of people have participated in the course over the years.

Through the Personal Learning Network participants can:

  • Engage in personalised professional development with educators across Victoria and beyond
  • Build their own personal learning network through a self-paced online learning system
  • Connect with hundreds of colleagues who share resources and support their learning
  • Use the web in innovative ways to enrich their teaching and learning experience.

VicPLN alumni have gone on to create a thriving online community – a PLN in action – which provides support, resources, inspiration and great ideas throughout the year.

2013 sees a slight change in approach for the online courses, in response to feedback from participants and our sense that it’s time to move beyond focus on “shiny new tools”. Following last year’s trial of a short course on research skills and tools, the 2013 program offers a range of shorter courses for people at different stages of their PLN experience:

  • Personal Learning Network introductory courses are now a more achievable seven units: the first course in this format begins March 12. Course materials focus on concepts and skills and a core set of web tools that we all need in our toolkit
  • PLNPlus is a four-unit “advanced” PLN experience, based on a more collaborative online learning model – presented for the first time from July 15
  • The Research Toolkit is a four-unit course focused on research tools and skills, offered this year from 14 October.
  • Shorter modules are in planning on topics such as digital storytelling.

We’ll keep you posted about course opportunities in the coming months and we’d also love to hear your ideas or feedback on past – or future – PLN courses. Leave us a comment here or tweet us via #VicPLN.

 

Bookish

Bookish website

Bookish is a new book recommendation and e-commerce site competing with the likes of GoodreadsLibrary thing and Amazon. Although some question the effectiveness of these sites, Bookish promises a different experience based on the resources and expertise available to publishers driving the project.

Bookish is a collaboration between a group of major publishers  claiming their recommendations engine, with input from real editors, is the best yet. With publishing heavyweights like Penguin, Random House and Scholastic on board, the site has already collected an impressive list of contributors, 400 000 author profiles and 1.2 million books in their catalogue.

At this stage, Bookish is leaving the social aspect of recommendations to established sites like Goodreads although they do link to Facebook. Their focus is editorial content – delivering magazine style essays, articles, news and reviews written by authors and professional editors.

Bookish represents an interesting commercial model for publishers to position themselves as an alternative to community based book recommendation sites. Whether Bookish stays impartial, only time will tell.

Mapping your PLN

In 2010, I read David Warlick’s Gardener’s Approach to Learning: Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network and was inspired to map out my PLN (personal learning network). I’m glad I did because it gave me a different perspective of my learning landscape. I saw how I was connecting with colleagues and professionals, what places were most productive for me, and I was able to identify gaps worth exploring for future growth and weed out connections no longer meeting my needs. Growing my PLN became more purposeful.

Remapping my PLN a couple of years later, gave me further insight; I became aware of how the tools were shaping me, how they were shaping my online relationships and that I was growing from being a consumer towards being a collaborative, creative producer in my network. The activity was inspiring, rewarding and produced concrete evidence of professional growth. The map is a highly visual artefact that can be used in professional development plans and performance review conversations.

If you have never mapped your PLN before you may want to start simply with:

  • Face-to-face associations – eg. Teaching faculties, school/organisation learning teams, professional organisations you meet with in person.
  • Online associations – eg. nings, online organisations, Twitter hashtags you follow like #vicpln, groups on social media sites like Facebook
  • Access/aggregation – places you go to for learning and things you subscribe to eg. blogs, newsletters, curation tools like Diigo

Concentrate on your cohorts and the types of connections you have developed, don’t worry about naming individuals.

Once you are confident mapping your own PLN, why not take it a step further and have your students try mapping theirs? Most young people already have informal networks for learning, especially those involved in online gaming. Mapping then discussing as a group places they go to obtain information could help them to see connections between informal and academic learning. It might also be a great way of introducing them to a broader range of resources and ways that cultivating their PLN can help them achieve at school.

What it takes to be a DIY Learner

Maria Anderson on Free Range Learning

With so much educational content now online for free, many educators are turning to DIY or free-range learning to support their professional development. It’s a great idea, but having limitless information at your fingertips does not equal learning. And simply consuming content does not mean that skills or knowledge will develop.

In this illuminating TED Talk, “Recipe for Free Range Learning”, Maria Anderson takes the audience through conditions and elements vital for successful self-directed learning.  Participating in online programs such as the Personal Learning Network can help learners meet many of the conditions Maria speaks about in her TED Talk. You can check out details of the next PLN course here.

Maria also highlights some of the common pitfalls in managing one’s learning such as info-whelm, decision fatigue and optimism bias.

This video could also be well worth viewing and discussing with students, perhaps as a springboard for further talks on time management, learning habits or future pathways learning.

Storify: Changing the way we tell stories

While technology is often used for getting work done and staying organised, sometimes the most interesting tools are those that lead us to new ways of doing things. The digital storytelling tool Storify definitely falls into that category. 

Storify allows for the creation of stories using a range of different elements. It can grab content such as pictures and video from many websites and also allows for text to be added. Perhaps the element that sets Storify apart is that tweets and public Facebook posts can also be added to a story. These elements are gathered together in a ‘storypad’ and can then be dragged into the story timeline (on the left of the screen). Have a look here for a quick demonstration of how it works. The great thing about Storify is that all content is linked backed to its original source.

Add  elements by searching in the storypad and then dragging into the story.

Storify has become a popular tool for recording reactions to news stories and current events because of the ability to add tweets to stories. It is also perfect for summing up professional learning events, like this example here of a recent SLAV conference. As YouTube videos can also be added it’s a nice way to put together a series of tutorial videos or screenshots. In fact, all of the tutorials featured on Bright Ideas are built in this way using Storify. You can follow our Storify account to stay up to date with new tutorials. Storify stories can also be easily embedded into your blog or website and there is an iPad app with a nice interface (though I’d recommend building long stories on your computer as I’ve found the app has crashed on me in the past).

Elements can be imported from a range of sources. You can also search Google or use the link icon to manually add content.

Storify also has applications in the classroom. It could be used to create digital stories with pictures sourced from around the web. It would also be perfect for recounts of events such as excursions; particularly if students are also tweeting during the day or taking pictures and video. The linear nature of the story also lends itself to procedural writing, or it could be a nice way for students to present research projects.

Being able to bring in social media elements also means that Storify could be perfect for issues analysis. Students could link to annotated articles and news stories, but also include analysis of tweets by those involved or those observing. It would also be perfect for media analysis of shows which generate buzz on Twitter, like Q & A or Big Brother (that’s the first time those two shows have been mentioned in the same breath!).

Storify has been around for a little while now and a recent redesign means it is well worth exploring. The editor is great fun to use and the wide range of media that it can import lends itself to a number of exciting possibilities.

PLN update – week five

As Victorian teachers enjoy a well-earned holiday, many participants in this year’s Personal Learning Network course are instead taking to Twitter, adding widgets to blogs, and pondering issues of digital citizenship.

As many readers of Bright Ideas know only too well, the first few weeks of the PLN course can be bewildering and sometimes a little scary, as people are faced with new terminology, concepts, tools and seemingly endless numbers of new accounts and passwords.

Happily, there’s plenty of support available from the ongoing PLN community, especially on Twitter through the #VicPLN hashtag – if you don’t use it yourself, check  it out. You don’t need to be Victorian to get benefit from the constant stream of resources, links and ideas from teacher librarians and educators at every level.

You’re also welcome to join in the discussion on our facebook group.

 

Meeting of the Minds 2012

Meeting of the Minds 2012

The inaugural Meeting of the Minds Unconference (#MOTM12)  was held over the weekend of February 25-26 at the Quantum Victoria facility. Educators came together from all over Victoria and from interstate to discuss the role of technology in learning.

The guiding motto of #MOTM12 was  “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” Participants were invited to create their own digital story before the event and then to share them on the Meeting of the Minds website. This was just one of the interesting ways that participants were encouraged to share their thoughts and meet each other. Attendees were even tasked with making lunch for their partner!

The organisers of the event had obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about how to have attendees collaborate and guide the content of sessions. A shared display area and sticky notes were used to collect ideas and suggestions, which were then grouped into sessions that were then run by participants.  Shared notes were collected in Google Docs and sessions were streamed live with many people joining in the discussion on Twitter using the #MOTM12 hashtag.

There were lively discussions about using technology in the classroom and the importance of self directed learning, not just for students but also for educators. Many participants discussed the way professional learning might be improved and encouraged within their schools. One great idea was to gather for a coffee at the start of each day for a 5 minute sharing session.

Have a look at a Storify of the event, produced by online attendee Roland Gesthuizen, to see how it all unfolded. You can also visit the #MOTM12 website to find out more. Shared notes from each session can be found in the Spaces menu.

Congratulations to the event organisers Jess McCulloch, Tony Richards and Andrew Williamson for putting together an event that allowed educators to get together and collaborate in such an interesting way.

Edublogs blog directory

Edublogs has a community and blog directory, making it easy to find blogs that fit your area of interest:

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You can add your own blog to the directory, there is a Curriculum Corner for ideas on using blogs in the classroom as well as information on cybersafety and more. A great resource for any teacher who uses blogs either for professional learning and/or writes their own blog.

Xtranormal

I’ve been checking out Xtranormal for a long time now and think it’s a great way to introduce scripting, digital storytelling and film making to students.

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As the website says, “if you can type, you can make movies…”

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By selecting a collection and then characters, begin typing and away you go. Being able to select camera angles is a bonus.

As the website says

Xtranormal.com is a web-site powered by Xtranormal’s text-to-movie™ platform—a web-based application used to create short 3D animated movies from simple text-based movie-scripts. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script, just like smileys in IM/chat. Movies can be shared through e-mail, blogs and online video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube™, MySpace™ and Facebook™.

Xtranormal has its own YouTube channel and you can get updates from their Twitter account. Xtranormal could be a terrific way for students to interpret historical events or to present an assignment.

I’m thinking of using it for library orientation and as a fun way to introduce professional learning to teachers.

Verona Gridley’s blog

Verona Gridley, classroom teacher at St Luke the Evangelist School has developed a very good blog for reflecting on her professional practice.

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Verona explains how she views her blog:

I am happy to share my blog. I am into my second term of blogging and can’t believe my learning curve. It has become an invaluable tool for collaboration and learning in a contemporary world. Blogs are purposeful and flexible and definitely deserve greater attention in the classroom.

On my journey through blogging both personally and with my class many benefits of have become apparent over time. There are growing connections with readers that show the great advantages of being part of a network and receiving feedback from contributors within a broader community.

It’s always informative to read about blogs used for different purposes and Verona’s blog is a terrific example of a learning and reflecting journal. We are all the richer for her sharing it with us. Thanks Verona and congratulations on your achievements with using blogging with your students.