Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Communicating, connecting and networking

So I'm still in reflection mode about my own learning so you'll have to bear with one more clmooc reflection. And it's not really so much a clmooc reflection as it is a reflection about 2013 so far, my "mooc" year. Since we're supposed to be blogging and sharing I've had a bit of time to review what I've been writing this year. And I've noticed a trend. I write more when I am making than I do when I am supposed to be thinking. In fact, I am beginning to think that all of my writing is dependent on making. I use the make as a springboard to further my understanding of the process of making, the resulting make and how it has impacted my learning. I use the make as a tool to communicate my ideas, and use the sharing of the make as a way to build connections. From my connections, I receive feedback and new ideas for makes, which increases the number of products I make, which foster new communication and new connections. Loop upon loop. Eventually, the connections become a network.

Now, as I am relatively new to the idea of networking my network is not extensive but it is there. And while three months ago I was nervous that I would not maintain my network I realize now that while I might leave my network to go on vacation or because of computer issues or work pressures I will always return. Being connected has become necessary. And that connection requires communication and making to be maintained. Make and share, make and share. My new mantra.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Using the tools of the web

I am continuing to reflect on my learning within the clmooc environment. The learning curve in clmooc has not been as steep as either MoocMooc or ETMOOC as indicated by my prezi contribution of a few weeks ago. I'm not feeling guilty anymore because I don't post on everyone's contribution, I don't always do all the work, and I am more forgiving of my mistakes. I used to feel guilty though.  It's hard to break old ways of thinking and doing.

2013 has been a year of tremendous growth for me. I`m much more comfortable in the socially networked communication environment and more willing to take the risks of creating and sharing. I want to connect and I am willing to make those connections. As George Siemens says "Our connections are now global," (Thanks Diane Samson for sharing this video.) I don't think it is because I have removed my super-ego from the equation, but that I realize that much of the negative views I have of my work are my own. So while I am still very critical of what I make, being in this environment gives me the push I need to produce work that is NOT perfect. In this environment it is not expected. And that is so freeing.

I'm more willing to try a variety of tools that the web has to offer now. Since starting clmooc I've used Animoto, Prezi, and Infinite Monkeys for the first time, gone back and used Popcorn Maker again (which has already been updated since I used it last! That was only four months ago!), tried my hand at Thimble again (baby steps, baby steps), and attempted to attach my blog RSS, which I have 50/50 chance of doing successfully- who knew this would continue to plague me after all these months! Perhaps it is because I don't want to create a new blog just for clmooc. But that's ok too. I'll get it eventually. And when I get my new computer, I will make a stop action film!

I love learning the new ways of making, but that is because I enjoy the process of learning how to use a tool as much as I love the creation that results from the use of the tool. It melds both my analytical nature of "How does this work?" with my creative side of "What can I make?" And what finer type of learning is there? Thanks clmooc for giving me a summer of makes!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Connected Learning and reflections on making

Well I've hacked Chad's Thimble page. Unfortunately, I am not thimbley enough to be able to alter the map so I've added in what I thought originally was superfluous information (my children, my siblings, etc.) However, on reflection, my place in the family as the eldest of five, and the impact that my children have had on my growth and learning over the years had to be included. It's connected. It's connected to my emotional well being as well as my need to learn. There was no spot for my husband specifically but he is the long pink line (and I included the times he was away that impacted most heavily on our family- not all- my tube map would then run out of London and into the country side.) Sometimes I wonder why I have invested so much into formal learning, since financially it hasn't always been the smartest thing for me to do. My resume is littered with incomplete transcripts from universities I've attended but left because we've moved. I've commuted over 6 hours a week to get to class and then had to pack it in because we've moved yet again. Thank goodness I am stubborn. It took me over 15 years to get my Masters at more than three universities.

What is the power of making? The power of understanding. The power of reflection. To create this map I started first with Sara Green's titles and filled them in. But I hadn't entered more than three titles before I realized I needed to think and reflect on my learning, not Sara's. Not to treat this as an exercise/fill in the blank opportunity, but as an exercise to study how does everything I do (pottery workshops, moocs, classes, cooking with my mother) impacts on everything I teach and learn. How has my personal life impacted on my professional life? They are intertwined and cannot be disconnected, just as my interactions in moocs cannot be disconnected from my work as an instructional designer.

For me, I pursue both formal and informal learning opportunities for a number of reasons: employment, curiosity, enhancement and/or exploration of new skills, and for the needed external push to keep on improving. But why connected learning? Because I am someone who recognized early in my life that I need feedback, conversation and exposure to different perspectives to make my learning happen at the highest level. It is when I connect the most, that my brain is firing the fastest. I literally could spend my life just conversing about ideas with others. In the end though, while my learning is socially driven, the satisfaction is always personal. And perhaps, that is why it is so important to me to share. Wouldn't it be nice for all of our students to be connected and have that sense of personal satisfaction from their learning?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Infinite Monkeys: Part III

Well here it is: My first app.

Feedback welcome!

I ended up making a document with links to my YouTube playlist and a number of blogs so that I could add some more information to the app. Publishing the app is very easy.

So my overall rating for using the program is mixed. There is an assumption of knowledge (like how to submit RSS feeds) that did make it challenging, but having created the app if I had a particular subject I am interested in sharing I can see using this again.

If I was teaching this (and I did use this video for support) I would have structured it differently. I would have talked about the gathering of resources a little more and perhaps how to choose resources (since your limited to nine icons) and different ways to stretch out the content through the use of documents, etc. Many of the resources that are used in the video were not relevant to the building of my app. As you work through the video, you can see how he is embedding already made content (calendars, etc.) with the words, "Real simple." I loathe those words as it always makes me feel 'real dumb' as I struggle to build the content required to make the app at least somewhat useful. This would be an extremely useful app builder if I was a business owner.

All in all, I learned a lot!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Infinite Monkeys: Part II

So yesterday I was writing about creating an app (short for software application) for teachers using MS Paint for Grade 1. I'm still working on it and since Kevin asked for a debrief on the software I thought I'd write another post on the process of building this app.

So far, there have been two areas of concern for me. The first has nothing to do with the software, but with the surprising lack of good lesson plans for MS Paint at Grade 1 that are on the web. Honestly, I feel we should have a mooc just to create quality technologically based lesson plans for other teachers.  Lots of teacher websites saying that MS Paint will help improve fine motor control and using the software is part of their technology plan but nothing that actually guides/informs other teachers about how you can accomplish that using Paint. (And what happens if you're in a district that can't afford a technology specialist?) So other than the ICT curriculum documents saying "Thou shalt use Paint!" if you're not comfortable using technology where are the resources?

Now onto the app building program Infinite Monkeys. It is easy to use, if you know how to attach RSS feeds from your various websites. I eventually found the solution to solve my YouTube RSS problem. You need to create your own channel with a distinct user name. This means you have to disconnect your Google+ account from your YouTube account and create a user name for your channel. It is that user name by itself (nothing else- no http, no www, etc.) that hooks your channel to the app builder when using Infinite Monkeys. The down side of it is that when you hook your channel to the app, it is only going to show the videos you've created not the playlists you've compiled. So all that work to attach my channel and none of it has anything to do with teaching MS Paint skills.

The other aspect of Infinite Monkeys I find frustrating is how quickly it becomes unresponsive. While I'm searching for solutions to various problems like locating an RSS feed the platform shuts down and you have to log back in. Not that this is difficult, just a click of a button, but when you are attempting to fine tune and see exactly what each link displays this can be a real time waster.

Finally, lets talk about the different links you can attach. You can only attach 9 elements and you get to choose from a variety of different links- Twitter, YouTube, your blog, documents, websites, etc. so there is a wide range of options. If you were to use this for self promotion for example, this is a great tool. If you have lesson plans already created with documents, forms, videos, a specific website, etc that can be downloaded, it is also amazing. But if you're trying to create a compilation of other work that is out on the web (because do you really wish to reinvent the wheel every time?) this is a difficult platform to use.

So if I was going to do this again ( and I might- I now have my own YouTube channel!) I would structure the process differently. Much like creating any unit plan, I would have to decide what specifically the app would teach, design the assets separately and use the app to compile all the links as a whole. A lot of creating/making to do to make a truly worthy app.

On reflection, to make a solid MS Paint unit, I would need to create a video for students and a video for teachers. My choices are limited right now to my channel on YouTube (no Animoto, GoAnimate or PopcornMaker for instance, unless I found a way to link directly to what I have created using those platforms), my blog, the creation of a Word document where I could compile all the links, a web link to a curriculum document (but which province or state?), probably a Thimble page on the topic and perhaps my Twitter account if it was relevant.

However, you can just build a website using Thimble or Weebly to compile all the necessary elements that already exist and spend your energy creating good quality lesson plans. It may be the easier route for creating, displaying and managing content.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Microsoft Paint and my first app

So as part of the clmooc, I've decided to build my first app (I'm using Infinite Monkeys) and I chose Microsoft Paint as my subject. Why? Because in the ICT curriculum in Canada and the US, Grade 1 is where you start using Paint. Those of us in the Educational Technology field are often playing with the latest and greatest new tools. We have a tendency to forget that not everyone is as comfortable with just the basics. And that's where you start with any learning isn't it? At the beginning? So if we're not teaching our teachers the basics of how to create on a computer, how are they going to do the same for their students?

So back to Paint. Paint is a simple program but you can do some very sophisticated drawing and editing with if you spend some time getting to know the program. There are not too many lesson plans for Paint out there only 3 million+. In the land of the internet that's not a huge number and it was already starting to give me Grade 3 lesson plans within the first 10 hits but I'm hoping to compile a list of the better ones for the app.  While there are lots of videos on how to use Paint for adults, I have yet to find a video designed for Grade 1 students on how to use Paint, which really surprised me. (So I will be making one soon I expect.) But should it surprise me? I think we're still dealing with the myth of the digital native and some resistance at the Primary levels to technology integration. And how many schools in Canada have a dedicated technology teacher? (If anyone knows, I really am interested in the answer.)

So for Grade 1, what can you do with Paint that you can integrate into the curriculum? Drawing and painting of course! Understanding colour for another. Shapes as well for math (very, very good for that!) Story writing, remixing images, fine motor control, the list goes on. While it is easy to find examples of student work in Grade 1 created with actual paint online (and the lesson plans that guided the creation), finding examples of student work created digitally in Paint is not so easy. I would love to see us create art using Paint and then transferring the idea to a paint/drawing project for instance. Perhaps have the students create a primary colour wheel/drawing in Paint and then do a similar project using paint or crayons in class? The possibilities for integration are there (the link is to a Blackboard session where a teacher is explaining how she integrated technology into her classroom for the first time.) We just have to become comfortable with the tools and use our imagination.

As to Infinite Monkey as an app tool? I'm working my way through it. As the video mentions you do need to have all of your links ready to go ahead of creating the app (and that is always a lot of work!) And it's not as intuitive as they make it out to be ( and isn't that always the case? Someone builds something and says, "It's easy!" and you're scratching your head, thinking, "Oh, I must be stupid?!") I made my first mistake on the first page when I wrote the title for the app (which automatically saves it as the url) and then realized I needed a different title (but the url remains the same even after you've changed the title.) So my advice, if you use this program, is to really think about what you want to name the resource and what it's purpose is, rather than do what I did, which is jump in with both feet (violating all of the rules of backward design! Designer, heal thyself!) I had also created a playlist for my app of YouTube videos but finding your RSS feed for You Tube is not as easy as you would think. (Hopefully my Twitter PLN will get back to me shortly.) However, I successfully attached my blog feed to the app and as many of you know, that's a big deal for me. So, as usual, one needs to play with a tool first, make mistakes and keep trying, before you can master it. Learning in action!

I'll post the link to the app when I am finished.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Maps! I have a lot of maps in my car, stuck into the pockets of the door. Maps of states and provinces, maps of attractions, museums, historic sites, maps of army bases. Some of the maps are in map books, some on the large sheets of paper that you try to fold back into the proper shape after using but never quite succeed. Indeed, in the trunk of the car is a plastic tub with all of the extra maps that we've picked up and may need again. In fact, the first thing I do when I move into a new area is buy a map. I have my husband drive me around the area for the first month we move to a new community so I can get the routes into my brain and off the paper. I don't like GP systems, often because I get lost using them and I don't have a cellphone either. When I drive, I drive and I really don't like being distracted.
I've moved a lot as my husband's job requires it. We'll be moving again this year but this time I've moved to the community ahead of time. We've moved to a place where we've lived before, which means I already know where I am going. I don't need to rely on a map as much. Not that there isn't anything new in the community since the last time I've lived here. Things do change. So there are still places to explore and see. But there is also a great deal of comfort in coming back to a place that you're familiar with and to not have to constantly rely on a map for the first few months after moving.

So, because I do know where I am going in this community I've made a video and a Google map of my visit to the library. What's great is I've learned to do two new things this week. Splice a video and to use Google maps to trace my movements. Thanks clmooc!

Off to the train for my weekly trip home to Montreal.