Chelsi's Educational Musings

A Stream of New Information!

Posted on: October 8, 2011

On Tuesday evening, just prior to class starting, I had an “ah-ha” moment regarding the power of a MOOC.  While eating supper, my husband asked me what that night’s class was going to be about.  I realized that unlike other classes I had taken where the readings predicted what the class would be about, or the professor had provided a summary of the upcoming material, I was unable to predict what our EC&I 831 class would entail.  It was then that I discovered the power of a MOOC even more.  Yes, our course syllabus stated that we would be learning about Personal Learning Networks with Shelley Terrell, but that was simple part of “where we were going.”  Because this class is composed of people of a variety of ages, backgrounds, education levels, and careers from all around the world, there is never any telling what form our class will take, and that is pretty exciting in my opinion!  As I had predicted, during and following Shelley’s presentation, people were asking questions, providing information, and offering tips about a number of topics.  The unpredictability of the class keeps it very fresh and new.  I had to think about what it would be like for Alec to teach a class of this nature.  Teachers are often very accustomed to teaching and leading for the majority of time that the class is in session, and with a MOOC, it seems as though the teacher must facilitate the learning more than direct-teach everything.  I think that for many teachers, it would be difficult to give up the predictability, as not knowing where a lesson will go each night and the shape that it will take might be unnerving to those who like to have control.  It is definitely a more effective learning environment when everyone is learning from each other, guest speakers, and the teacher together.

A second thought that I had before class started was that when I am participating in EC&I 831, I always feel that I’m on the cutting edge of everything new and exciting!  We are constantly introduced to new programs, websites, and ways of communicating.  Each week I honestly feel that I am taking so much away from our sessions, as well as gaining new information and insight from peers’ blogs and Twitter posts throughout the week.  When I leave class, I feel like my brain is completely full!  Listening to the speakers or Alec on Blackboard Collaborate, following the chat feed, and accessing the links is definitely practise in multitasking, but I like the fast-paced way in which we are learning.  I want to “spotlight” a few of the programs that Alec and my classmates introduced me to this week when we were discussing how to manage all of our forms of communication.

Tweetdeck – A couple of weeks ago, I posted about not really “getting” Twitter.  Tweetdeck was suggested as a means to keep track of everything, and I highly recommend installing Tweetdeck if you are having trouble with Twitter.  The program makes Twitter much more graphically organized, and I now use Twitter much more frequently because of the program.

Educational Hashtags – I will DEFINITELY be making use of this site.  It contains over 20 000 educational sites and the hashtags for educational searches.  It’s pretty much the Bible of the educational world online!  Again, this is another site where I’m saying to myself, “How have I taught for seven years and never seen this?  This would have saved so much time!”  Actually, almost ALL of the links that we were shown on Tuesday had me saying the very same thing!

Twitterfall –  Twitterfall is a visual representation of all of the Tweets pertaining to a particular subject, falling down the screen in a queue as they happen.  I used the site to search for news about the explosion at the upgraded in Regina this week.  It is so crazy how we can access information in realtime from people other than reporters in order to gain the news that we need!

Visible Tweets – I LOVE this!  Visible Tweets is like Twitterfall, except it displays the tweets on a particular subject in a more fun, graphic way.  I was at a concert this summer where this was displayed on the big screens before the performance, and all of the Tweets about the Regina concert were seen on the screen.  It was a fun and interactive use of the site.  I would like to try this site in my classroom when we discuss Current Events each morning so that I can show the students what is being said about the topic around the world.

Paper li – This site turns Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds into a nicely organized newspaper format to allow you to read through your information that way.  I love the look of it!

Twitter doc – This site has the same function as Paper.li.  It allows you to make a document out of your Twitter search so that you can access it later.

Google Alerts – Again, another site that had me saying, “How have I not seen this before?!”  This would have made some of my wedding planning so much easier, as I searched daily for some items and ideas that I was trying to find.  Google Alerts sends YOU a message when what you are look for has been posted!  There are many ways in which this site could be utilized for a teacher, such as researching particular subject matter.  I wouldn’t doubt many celebrities use this site daily to see what is being said about them!

CompFight and ImageCodr – This week, I used these sites more than any of the others that I posted.  I have been working hard creating a website for my staff at school (which I will post about very soon).  I hadn’t been using photos other than ones that I have taken in my blog posts because I hadn’t had time to figure out how to find Creative Commons pictures available for free usage, nor had I figured out how to tag them.  One of our classmates, Alison, gave us a brief tutorial about how to give the author of the photo proper attribution using ImageCodr.  I had previously used CompFight when Alec had suggested it.  It is a great resource for finding pictures from Flickr, and you can narrow your search to only Creative Commons pictures.  Image Codr allows you to take the url from the picture, and it generates the code and attribution that you simply paste into your blog or website.  I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by how simple this has become.  When I made websites in my ECMP class in 2005, and when I used to blog and sell items on eBay, posting a picture meant manually html coding.  I was ALWAYS frustrated because one wrong letter or number and my picture wouldn’t show up.  This is simply two steps and voila, the picture is instantly displayed!  (However, if anyone an tell me how to get the license of the picture to be centred along with the picture, please share!  I’ve tried multiple times.  On my website it works every time, but not on here for some reason.)  Everything just gets simpler and simpler!  I think that that is something else that I will take away from Tuesday’s class – we could easily spend all day long online, managing our email, social media, and everything in between, and that takes a lot of time.  However, there are constantly new programs and sites being developed to help save us time.  What I love about EC&I 831, as well as what I am learning about Twitter, is that people are willing to share their ideas and recommended sites to save everyone ELSE time too!  I may not have many new sites to contribute yet, but I’m hoping that I can contribute to other “communities” that I belong to, such as my coworkers, friends, and family.  In that way, I will keep the stream of new information flowing!

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9 Responses to "A Stream of New Information!"

Chelsi, I agree that MOOC’s force the instructor to be the faciliator which in the true spirite of student centred learning should be the case in our classrooms. Unfortunatley, all too often educators fall victim to the “sage on the stage” philosophy! This is something I have struggled with my entire career – maybe it is my A-type personality, or my awareness of our heavy timebound curricula, or the fear that our students are not engaged unless we are entertaining or directing them. Perhaps by experimenting more with blended instruction – its virtual classrooms and integration of social media which remove us from the front of the classroom, we will relinquish some of our control, moving us away from “keepers of the knowledge” and towards “facilitators of student directed – inquiry.”

Thanks for the comment! I would have completely the same struggles as you, being Type-A myself lol. I think that the time bound curricula would be the most difficult obstacle to overcome when trying to move towards a more student-directed classroom. I know that even when I have the class working in partners or groups, those lessons take much more time than a teacher-directed lesson, so I can only imagine the challenges you would face trying to facilitate an entire class this way!

I just recently tried the Imagecodr and LOVE it! I was struggling so much with creative commons photos etc and this just really makes my life easier. I even think that I will be able to explain and demonstrate it to my class next week.

I agree with the previous comments- also A type pesonality. But I do feel that learning of this sort allows the learners to not only direct their learning and learn from each other, but for the teacher, I think it is a type of evaluation. You can see what the students have learned and what they have no yet mastered, giving you a clearer picture of where to go next.

Good point about the evaluation! Your right – when the lesson is teacher directed, we’ve all had that moment where a student LOOKS engaged, but later on you realize that they were not that present or do not understand what you were teaching. I agree – learning such as our class’ style would maybe allow the teacher to see more immediately if students are struggling.

thought you might like this visualisation of twitter as well:
http://aworldoftweets.frogdesign.com/

Thanks Michael! How cool! It’s almost mesmerizing watching the map!

Thanks for the list of these resources – your organization is my gain – much appreciated…

You’re welcome! It’s always good when being Type A comes in handy sometimes! 😛

[…] such as ours, the students are often controlling our learning.  I found it interesting that I posted about this on the weekend, and we discussed it in this presentation, so I was pleased to have picked up on […]

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