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The beginning to the end is the beginning

August 17, 2009

A short 6 weeks ago, this blog was started as a result of course requirements for a university course I am taking.  While the course has been demanding in terms of the amount of time it has taken, the learning has been invaluable.

What I have found more interesting than anything though is that all ( like 90%) of the learning that took place was on my own.  I didn’t have a professor sharing his thoughts on a particular topic, I didn’t have a long list of articles to read (there was a text, but it was fairly easy reading), in fact, other than my fellow classmates giving me information in the form of comments or their blogs, the rest of the content that I learned was through readings that I discovered myself and the knowledge I gained experientially through using the tools I was learning about.

I am sure that our instructor, Jenn, had a relative goal in mind for where we should be now.  Unlike the archery target that has a bulls-eye, a specific location to hit, the learning that my fellow classmates and I experienced was lead by our interests, our own goals, and our experiences through the course.  For me, much of my attention was focused on K-12 education and how teachers can use web2.0 tools in the classroom and develop their own skills through professional development.  For others in my class, their focus was much different.  Heather looked at how these tools can be used in a post secondary environment and specifically looked at how they can be used in cooperative education programs, such as the one Heather works directly with.  Gerta is an instructor of adult students and was looking to see how she could incorporate her learning into an adult learning environments.  Each one of us had a different target, but through our own discoveries and learning, we have come close to our bulls-eye, even if it is not at the center of the target.

Of all of the topics that we learned about the past six weeks, the one that I was not as keen on was the virtual library information.  I fully understand that this course is being offered as part of the MLIS and that content related to libraries is part of the course, but this was way outside of my area of interest or expertise.  What it did get me to do, however, is look at the school library system that we have.  Our school librarian, who is awesome, always talks about it, but it is one of the things that I put on the back burner.  Now that I have had a chance to see it, I think I need to ensure that I remind my students about it.  It is programmed by Follett and the school library site can be found here.   The system is very easy to use with its graphic interface and I am sure that students would be able to find resources quickly.  There is a book catalog component, but the best feature is the links to appropriate websites for the students.  All of the websites have been moderated.  This ensures the safety of students when they are using the Internet and doing research.

When I reflect upon the six week journey I have been on, I keep coming back to blogging as my favourite part.  While I didn’t enjoy the deadlines, I enjoyed the process.  The free flowing nature of the writing was a breath of fresh air.  My fingers seemed to dance across the keyboard as the words I was thinking appeared on the screen.  I was writing about topics that interested me and I was able to turn the readings I had read and the musings floating in my head into tangible thoughts and ideas that could be implemented in the classroom when I head back to school in just a few short weeks.

I recently read a blog posting by Avinash Kaushik on the benefits of blogging.  Kaushik (2008) described 8 benefits to blogging.  I will describe a couple that I think relate well to educators in general.  Kaushik describes that he gained “friends” from his blog.  I am comfortable with the friends that I have, but what is more important is that you are developing a network of like minded individuals.  By blogging and sharing my thoughts with other teachers who are interested in technology, I am able to learn from these teachers as well.

A second benefit of blogging that Kaushik identifies is the ability to influence others.  Influence is not really a measurable quantity, but as a blogger, your ideas are going out to a larger audience.  The people reading your blog may be challenged by the words on the screen.  For me, I am excited about the chance to share my opinions and am not concerned with whether or not anyone actually agrees with me or is moved by what I am writing.  Over time, however, I am sure that I would be very proud of myself to have people who I have never met comment on my blog with phrases such as, “I totally agree with what you are saying and I will have to try that in my classroom.”  To have a teacher change their practice for the benefit of students because of my blog would be a great accomplishment.

The final benefit of Kaushik’s that I would like to share is the idea of creating a legacy.  I have 3 little girls and taking my masters and and trying to be the best teacher I can be takes time away from them.  I want them to grow up and be whatever they want to.  But, I would love for them to be able to read my writing and get to know Dad a little bit better.  I want them to see that I didn’t just do all of this for a better paycheck or to get a better job, rather I did it to improve myself and become a better teacher for my students.

Now what?

With all of the learning that has occurred in the last 6 weeks, I am not the same person.  I have the desire and need to share the ideas and knowledge that I have gained with others.  I hope that my colleagues at school know what they are in for, if they don’t, they soon will.  The last couple of weeks, more than the first four, I have started tagging websites, videos, and other content on the net.  As I tag it, I think to myself, “that would be good for Joclyn”, “that would be good for Amy”, “that would be good for Shara” amongst all of the other teachers at school that I have found cool resources for.  I feel that it is almost on obligation on my part to share the weird and wonderful things that I have learned.  What is comforting to know, for myself, is that I work with a fantastic group of teachers and teaching assistants and they will be very excited to take the information that I share with them and put it into practice.  For every time I say, “that would be good for…”, they have a student in mind, “that would be good for”.

I envision myself helping my colleagues use web2.0 tools to enhance their teaching.  As I expressed in my previous post, using a tool such as Ning can be a benefit for teachers and students.  This one tool could have a big impact on student learning, engagement, and achievement.

How my fellow classmates have taught me…

The first thing I know I have learned from my fellow classmates is that I can be a stronger writer.  I read Shirley’s blog and I am amazed at her ability to develop a theme related to what we are learning and thread her ideas and opinions into it.  Not only does Shirley develop themes, but she shares herself in her writing.  Through her writing I have come to know a lot more about her personal life and her likes.  As a result, I can relate to the words she is putting on the screen.

From Heather, I saw her passion come through on the page.  Knowing Heather from our time together in Undergraduate Student Services and taking another class together, it was awesome to see her love of her new position with the U of A and how she was trying to better herself and the program she works within.  I continually need to share my passion for teaching and technology with my students and staff mates.  It is easy to get into a rut and simply teach from the text.  The text is old, the text is boring, and the text is not the be all and end all.  As a teacher, I can inspire and with the use of technology, I can engage, and I can be a phenomenal teacher with phenomenal students.  When I am feeling down or not quite excited to spend 3 or 4 hours online planning a lesson or activity that involves technology, I will remember Heather’s commitment to her students and will Google my way across the Internet and blogs in search of ideas that will engage my students in the classroom.

As I wrote about at the beginning of this blog posting, the learning that took place was highly independent.  The Trailfire sites gave us direction, the Richardson text gave us background and insight, but the real learning occurred through the reading that each student did on their own.  From the websites, blogs, videos, slide shares, articles, reports, and all of the other content available online, I have developed a tool box of web2.0 that I will be taking to school with me in September.  This course was demanding in terms of the time it took to complete the blogging (the word blogging was word number 18,701), but I honestly think this course will have as much affect on my teaching as my two field experience courses that I took as part of my undergraduate degree.

To all of my classmates and to Jennifer, thank you for sharing in my learning.  Please continue to keep track of this blog, it will be morphing I am sure into a blog that is more reflective of the teaching I am doing and what I see occurring in education related to educational technology.  I may change the internet location of the blog, will have one final post to share the new location if that happens.

I can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=747316141 – please be my friend.

I can be found on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dancoles/ – please follow me.

Thank you all again so much for all of the learning and sharing.

Here is a video – cheesy, I know! but we did talk about video sharing!

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2 comments

  1. Hi Dan,

    Great learning with you again this summer!

    Thanks for the kind comments. I will look forward to keeping up with your blogging future and am confident that you will leave a virtual legacy that your girls will become very fond and proud of in the future.

    See you in facebook and be sure to look me up the next time you make it to campus! Hi to Meghan!

    ~ 🙂 Heather


  2. Hi Dan,

    I am so glad to hear that you “hit the target” – this course is about your own learning (and playing) with technology with your own goals, needs, contexts and experiences as the foundation.

    We did have a clear idea where we wanted you to go – to learn about some of the tools and imagine them in your life, in your work, and with the other people you work and teach with.

    A pretty simple goal for us but a lot of hard work and thought for each of you.

    Enjoy the rest of your summer and drop by if you are on campus!

    Jenn



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