Personal Learning Network

Twitter data infographic with avatar

If there was ever any doubt that I was in the right profession one would only have to look at my avatar’s bubble of most used words on Twitter. Before this semester, I did not have an outlet for professional interactions online and spent all of my time scrolling through Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram. Each of these sites/apps has their place in my life, but Twitter has recently shoved its way to the front of the pack and I think it is going to stay there. The EdTech community on Twitter is creative, supportive, and inspiring in turns. The site has also become a place where my personal academic interests intersect with my professional interests. I am easily wooed by article sharing and I could scroll for hours through posts spanning from The Royal Shakespeare Company to MindShift. Looking back on my own tweets (as represented in my edited “Visual.ly” infographic), I feel pretty good about how my web presence has developed on the site over the past four months. Clearly, I’m still starting out, with only 52 tweets and 29 followers at the moment. But with time and cultivation, I think my PLN on Twitter can become an important asset in my professional life.

Without a specific goal in mind I do not think the development of my PLN would have been as successful. I let an early quote in Curtis Bonk’s The World is Open (2009), lead how I wanted to build my community and guide my research, “Technology by itself will not empower learners. Innovative pedagogy is required. And the approaches will vary with the type and age of student” (p. 33). It is getting easier every year to become a 1-1 classroom, but it is a whole lot harder to make teaching choices that allow the technology to enhance student learning and comprehension. We know that having technology in classrooms is a good idea, so I did not want to spend my time reading articles trying to convince me of the obvious. Instead, I want to know what activities, apps, and assessments work in a tech-based classroom, and I want to hear it straight from the teachers who tried it. Diigo came in handy while I was collecting these articles. I will probably continue using the service as I find it far more useful than bookmarking in my browser. Diigo is not pretty, but it does its job well. Many of the articles I saved I found on Twitter, and eventually I started feeling guilty because I was not doing much research of my own. But the EdTech community on Twitter provided much of what I was looking for in terms of contemporary pedagogy. What I appreciate most is their dedication to progress without being completely focused on the equipment. We all love our shiny new tech tools, but those are rarely what we are working on in the classroom. Joining the conversation with teachers on the front lines of EdTech has already had an impact on my classroom, and I hope in continues to in the future.

References

Bonk, C.J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Podcasts

Episode 1/3

Link to Episode 1 Transcript

Episode 2/3

Link to Episode 2 Transcript

Episode 3/3

Link to Episode 3 Transcript

Podcast Reflection

Every time I try and create something in Audacity I develop a keener appreciation for all the regular podcasters out there, whose work seems downright flawless after wrestling with the envelope tool for an evening. What they do on a weekly basis is no small feat. Even though I use Audacity fairly regularly for my classwork, there’s always a new trick to learn or issue to overcome. I definitely spent some time re-watching screencasted tutorials for this assignment. Podcasting, or at least audio editing, is something I made a point to build into my curriculum. My crowning jewel of assignments last year was having students create radio plays from the text of The Quick and the Dead. It was pretty incredible what they were able to put together after a few basic editing lessons. Once I brought sound into the assignment, I had the highest level of engagement I’d had all semester.

This time around, making my own podcasts, I branched out and used Garage Band for my intro and outro music. I had never used the program before and it was an enjoyable time-suck to layer loops for hours. I am not particularly creative when it comes to music, so there was no original jingle or miniature masterpiece. What I did find was how quickly my podcast could sound dark, energetic, or silly. At first I just picked out loops I liked, but eventually I had to consider how my voice would sound following the intro, and if the tune was appropriate for the content of the podcast. This, of course, made it seem like a Herculean task. At first I had big dreams for piano music that became “techified” after a few bars to represent our transition from traditional to online education. But this was beyond my Garage Band ability, so I opted for a simplified version. I wanted the music to sound peppy, have a beat, but still convey that it was not the intro to a children’s show. I think the strings I ended up with almost make it sound like the beginning of a TV news segment.

I played around with the format of my content in a couple different ways. I admit I like a good gimmick, and if my cohort has to listen to all three recordings in a row, then each episode should catch their attention anew. While my first episode is straightforward in its delivery, Episode 2 is framed as an open letter (an homage to the recurring McSweeney’s column), and Episode 3 takes list form. It did not take long for me to realize that recording a recitation of my more formal writing was not going to create the most interesting podcasts. Changing up the format allowed more of my personality to come through the podcasts and be more creative with how I was writing about edtech.