Learning to Learn: The process of an online learning project

Context…

It is a bittersweet feeling coming to the end of this learning project. If you have been following my progress on my blog, you have learned about the struggles and successes I experienced over the past 13 weeks of my learning project.

Participating in the learning project rather than focusing my major project on something I could integrate into my teaching and I knew I would be successful at was a risk. But as the saying goes, high risk, high reward. This term I was able to experience authentic life-long learning, something that is often preached about in education, but also something that is often neglected in undergraduate and graduate studies. Engaging in the learning process was a bit uncomfortable at times, but it reminded me that the process of learning is far greater than the product.

If we think of the SAMR Swimming Pool, I was able to use technology to transform my learning experience through this project. It is very easy to get caught in using technology to enhance learning. I hope to use the skills I have learned as a learner to impact how I teach.  It is my hope I can use a similar process to transform the traditional learning process for my students through the effective use of social media and open educational resources for learning and the ability to use technology to support and document learning.

Where it all began…

The first thing I had to do was choose something to learn about. I appreciate the freedom and openness of not being told what to learn, but rather to choose something that I was passionate about, interested in, and was of substance. My learning outcome was to study and practice prenatal yoga to increase my flexibility and prepare myself both physically and mentally for the birth of my baby.

Prenatal yoga fit all the criteria of the learning project as it was: complex to learn, worth learning, and of great interest to me.

Before I could jump into my learning project, I had to do a pre-assessment to see where I was at. This allowed me to look at how pregnancy was impacting my sleep quality, hip and lower back pain, mindfulness, and anxiety of childbirth.

Over the past 13 weeks I have not only learned a great deal about prenatal yoga, I have also acquired knowledge about labour, delivery, and postpartum. As you can tell in my post assessment, I have also grown physically and mentally in that I am able to use my new found skills to treat the aches and pains of pregnancy and I am more mindful.

post assessment

In addition to meeting my outcome of learning yoga, I have also learned a great deal about the process of learning online.

Learning Prenatal Yoga Online…

I was able to find a plethora of learning resources online related to prenatal yoga, but finding a learning community that went further than following, liking, watching videos, and reading was challenging. I tried to find some MOOCs on prenatal yoga, but was unable to find any on the topic that were free. So I worked with what I had and I found the PLN I was able to create was quite instrumental in my success of this learning project.

In my PLN I was able to use social media, online communities, videos, websites, and face-to-face resources to transform and enhance my learning. Here are a few of the highlights:

Social Media

  • Instagram: Instagram was by far the best place for me to develop my PLN. I felt like my Instagram account kept me accountable to my learning project and allowed me to follow others who are going through the same experiences and gain support. Even though the extent of my connections were through a like or small comment, I really felt supported and felt like I had developed a community. I have 47 followers and am following 90 quality accounts. The key to this was using appropriate hashtags. Once I started using powerful hashtags, I was able to connect with many more people. I feel quite happy with where I ended up on Instagram as I started a new account and all these people are new followers who are following me just to see my prenatal yoga process.
  • Other places I tried: I tried Twitter, Facebook pages, and Google+ community to connect with others and build a community. Although I was able to gain some resources through these networks, I didn’t find them instrumental to my success. They were just another place for me to extend my learning.

Online Communities

  • Pinterest: Although some might argue that Pinterest is not an online community, I found this as a key resource in developing, following, and managing my learning resources. Pinterest allowed me to keep my resources organized, follow other boards who were interested in prenatal yoga, it also allowed me to contribute to the community by pinning resources I found useful.
  • Other places I tried: As I said earlier, I also connected on Twitter and Instagram. I also joined an online community through Prenatal Yoga Center, but unfortunately it wasn’t what I expected. Basically, it was a blog hub for all the blogs they produced. It was a good source for information, but I found the community aspect missing.

 Videos

  • YouTube: The best place for prenatal videos and sources was YouTube. I subscribed to a few channels and I found myself visiting YouTube often during my practice. It was nice to be able to practice and learn something without having to leave the house!

Other Sources

  • Face-to-Face: I really enjoyed connecting with others through my Face-to-Face resources as well. I participated in yoga at Everyday Sacred and my gym Anytime Fitness. Although I was able to find many sources online and was able to do the majority of learning online, it was nice to connect with people on a more personal level through my Face-to-Face resources.
  • Other places I tried: As I went through the learning process, I visited many blogs and websites which I then pinned on my Pinterest board. My top two places for yoga resources were PopSugar and Prenatal Yoga Center.

Reflection and Process…

During this project, it was hard for me to focus on the process of learning and not an end product as I was going through this learning process, but in the end I am quite satisfied with how it all turned out. I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time, but throughout my whole process of learning and the documentation of my learning project through my blog, I was creating an end product. In making my learning visible, sharing my struggles and successes, and reflecting on the process of learning I was creating a portfolio that demonstrates what I learned.

This reflection on the process of learning and the learning itself was instrumental in my success of this learning project. It helped to keep me accountable, gave me a direction on where I should go next, shows where I have been, and allowed me to connect to a community of learners.

Continuing the Learning Process…

Although this learning project is coming to a close as my pregnancy is almost over, I plan to continue my learning in an online setting. It has been life changing to have this opportunity to engage in the learning process as it has reminded me that life-long learning can be related to things other than professional goals. So where am I going to go next? On top of continuing my yoga practice… I would really like to train my dog how to greet people at the door politely. I sure hope there is a strong online community for this topic as I think in training him, I need to train myself first!

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It’s a double-edged sword

My learning project is a bit of a double-edged sword, but first a look at what I accomplished this past week…

Last week I was a bit worried about my process on my learning project. I would consider myself an overachiever, which can sometime be problematic. I am also very product motivated and look forward to the end task, so it is sometimes hard for me to focus on the process, even though that is what I encourage my students to do and is one of my foundational beliefs about education. With that being said, I set some goals for myself last week that would emphasize the process of what I am learning and make my learning visible.

My goals were to:

  1. Practice prenatal yoga 3 times this week (one face-to-face session, one YouTube session, one session on my own). SEMI-ACHIEVED – I was able to practice more than 3 times; however, I did not make it to a face-to-face session. The timing for the Bodhi Tree prenatal yoga class was not working with my schedule, so I decided to look elsewhere. I am signed in for a class tomorrow at Everyday Sacred and look forward to giving it a try!
  2. Play music when I am practicing on my own to help with mindfulness and focus. ACHIEVED – This really helped me focus on the task at hand. It also told my husband that I was busy and he shouldn’t bug me :). 
  3. Videotape at least one of my sessions and post onto my Instagram account. ACHIEVED – I did 2 hyperlapse videos this week and posted them to my Instagram account. This was WAY out of my comfort zone, but a very neat experience!
  4. Post at least 3 times this week to my Instagram and Twitter account using the hashtags: #eci831, #learningproject, #babybootsyoga. ACHIEVED – I posted more than 3 times this week. I also tried to grow my PLN by following other yoga accounts and using hashtags… more below on this one.
  5. Complete a vlog at my check in next week that includes my week experience and 3 new poses I have learned. ACHIEVED – See below!

Now back to the title of this post… There are two reasons I would say this project is like a double-edged sword.

Reason #1

As I mentioned above and in a few of my other blog posts, I am trying not to get caught up in the final product aspect of this project. It would have been way easier for me to choose the other option of the major project and integrate social media in my teaching practice or integrate/develop open educational resources related to my practice. I have some experience with both of these routes and have been successful implementing them, so I could have just continued on that path and know I was headed for success. However, I chose the other option where I am expected to learn and share online. Although this process has proven to be a struggle at times, I am very thankful I chose this learning process and experience the learning process while thinking critically about it. I believe through this learning process I am examining the idea of rhizomatic learning and I am connecting though social media in my “classroom”. It may have been easier for me to participate in a MOOC, integrate social media in my teaching practice, or develop OERs, but to actually go through the process is a learning experience I will never forget.

Reason #2

As I mentioned before, making learning visible has been a challenge for me in this learning process. Last week I made a goal to ramp up my online presence on both Instagram and Twitter to build a new PLN. In the past my PLN was solely for educational purposes. The people I followed on Twitter and through other networks all dealt with my teaching practice. If I was learn something new, it would be limited to the course and the people in that course to find my information. How hypocritical of me! Here I am preaching to my students and fellow course mates about the importance of a PLN, yet I limited my PLN to only education. So this past week I began following yoga accounts through various social media tools.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo Credit: qp1977 via Compfight cc

I also learned firsthand about the power of the hashtag. I wanted to build my network on Instagram and gain more followers, so I tagged my posts with some key hashtags. I have been getting more ”likes” on posts and I now have 22 followers! This may seem small to those people who are Instagram famous, but this is a huge accomplishment for me! Using appropriate hashtags is essential to your online presence when trying to connect online.

Now here comes the double-edged sword… I am feeling nervous about sharing this process online and with my new PLN. I am usually quite reserved, don’t post many photos, and keep my identity (online) quite neutral. I have my privacy settings high and don’t overshare. So to be sharing this vulnerable learning process with the whole world is a huge learning curve for me! Additionally, I don’t really know who is following me and there is always the risk of people “stealing” your identity. But at the same time we face these risks whether we are private, public, online, or offline. It is better to take control of your online (and offline) identity, know the risks, and be aware.

 

EC&I 831 Survival Kit

path
Photo Credit: Over the bridge – and beyond

Before I get into my survival kit, I thought I would share a little background… I am currently in my first year as Teacher-Librarian this year at Sacred Heart Community School. I am really enjoying the challenges and new experiences I am gaining with a new position and being able to be an educational leader within my school. Prior to that I’ve taught grades 3-6 (in a variety of variations) with Regina Catholic and Calgary Catholic schools. I am lifelong learner and began my graduate studies in January of 2015. I am currently taking class 4 & 5 in my course route.

I also have a passion for health and wellness. I enjoy running, biking, and being active. Additionally, I have been a group fitness instructor since 2006 and currently teach and manage the fitness classes at Anytime Fitness. I am hoping to use this passion to guide my major project… stay tuned for more details.

I am thrilled to be taking EC&I 831 this semester. Carla and Amy have expressed many of the same feelings as me after taking EC&I 832 last term. I experienced a lot of growth last tem and left feeling refreshed and renewed. I look forward to continuing this journey over the next few months!

The survival kit…

Last term I experienced like many others (as I stated above) a very steep learning curve of getting back into the groove digitally. I thought I could share some the key things that helped me stay in the loop in EC&I 832 so that you can experience a smoother transition than I did!

 

 google plus 1. Google + App

I didn’t download this app until partway through the course and it was a game changer! It made it so much easier for me to stay in the loop with the conversation and not feel overwhelmed. I usually checked this app whenever I had a free moment to make a quick comment. However, I preferred posting my own links, etc on the web version.

 tweetdeck 2. Tweetdeck

I had used TweetDeck when I took ECMP 455 (back in 2009), but I signed up for Hootsuite as well to check it out. I preferred TweetDeck as my main use was for twitter. It was a great way to keep my tweets organized and allowed me the ability to multi-task while tweeting.

 Capture 3. Twitter App

I tried to check my twitter app a few times a day and made an effort to tweet something relevant and meaningful every day. I followed hashtags such as #edchat, #edtech, #digicit.

 o365 4. Drafting blog posts in O365

I would always draft my blog posts in my O365 account (google docs would work too). I found it easier and calmed my mind to draft my posts outside of WordPress and then transfer them in when they were ready. I would include the hyperlinks in my draft, but would add my pictures and videos once I transferred it over.

 

pln
Photo Credit: My Sharing Loop (Updated)
5. Grow your PLN                                  

What is a PLN? A PLN is a Professional Learning Network. The more people you follow, connect with, and engage with the better your experience will be. This is a highly collaborative course and by being engaged with others, you will gain more from this course. You are in charge of creating your experience.

 

Summary of ECMP 455

journeyWhat a journey! Wow – it is hard to believe the semester is coming to an end and that it is the last semester in my University career. I found ECMP 455 one of the most engaging, informative, and inquiry based classes I have taken in my entire university career.

The major concepts I have learned through ECMP 445 are:

1. Develop a PLN – Twitter and my PLN has taken away the ‘4 walls’ and has allowed me to use open education to the best of my ability. Twitter allows me to grow and learn with many other educators around the world. My network has constantly grown, every day, which means my bank of knowledge and resources are growing every day. Twitter is such a valuable resource! Once you have your PLN you have a variety of resources at your fingertips. These resources will guide you in your professional development. Here is a documentation of my PLN from this course.

2. Capitalize on Open Source Education – There are so many valuable resources out there. These resources can help you as a professional and your students. Through our synchronous sessions I have learned about digital story telling tools, google docs, delicious, second life, smartboards, visual design, digital video, podcasting, and much more! We have had so many experts visit our class and I think you can do this in your classrooms too.

3. Focus on the process, not the product – Through my blog, twitter, and mentorship project I have been able to focus on the process. Learning is not a linear process, it is a cyclical process. By focusing on the process in my own learning I have grown and developed a great deal, so this would play true with my students as well.

Along with my colleague, Sarah Hill, I was able to create a teacher resources for using Twitter in the Classroom. This is a comprehensive resource that explains what twitter is, how to set up a twitter account, how it benefits your PLN, how to use it in the classroom, FAQ, and testimonials. As an undergraduate, I have found Twitter to be such a beneficial resource and I think it can be used to enhance learning in your classroom. One of the barriers I had when making this project was using Jing. I think Jing is an awesome resource, but without Jing Pro, there are some restrictions when trying to upload your file onto the internet.

Overall, this class has been an amazing journey. My philosophy of education has developed a great deal since the beginning of the semester. I have grown so much as an educator and I am looking forward to my continual growth with the help of my PLN.

Who are your TwitterSheep?

I was browsing through my GoogleReader and I came across David Warlick’s post on Who are your Sheep. I thought it would be interesting to see who my ‘flock’ of followers were.twittersheep

Twittersheep, with your Twitter login, captures the profiles of all of the Tweople who follow you and then generates a tag-cloud representing the most often used words in those profiles sized by frequency.

It is similar to Wordle and many other applications that formulate tag clouds.

I also thought I would check out who my Twitter BFF’s are. I have been seeing this around in presentations and on blogs. So I thought it would be interesting to see what my social network looked like and who I talked to the most.

bff I guess the whole purpose of this was to see what my social networks look like right now. I would be interested to see how they will change in the next year. They are fairly small right now, but it is a quality network.

In a mere 4 months I have created a network that helps define who I am as a professional. followers

Philosophy of Education – Updated

Well, this semester has been a huge learning experience for me! At the beginning of the semester I thought, why do I need to come back to school after me internship… I have already been out teaching, why do I need to come back and be a student again? Well, I have to say that I have grown the most as a professional this year! I was able to use my internship experiences and my new experiences from school to reflect and come up with new philosophies (and I am sure I will continue to develop new philosophies of teaching each and every year!).

So, I was tweeting with David Truss and he mentioned he read my Philosophy of Education, he also shared his with me. As I was reading his post I was inspired to re-write my philosophy of education. He mentioned I should keep my old one to look back on and see the growth, so I have it archived away. While I was putting together my philosophy of education, I looked back through my blog and pulled from different reflections to formulate my final product. So here it is:

Every student should have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their greatest potential. I believe in using various instructional strategies and a variety of settings in order to teach to the whole child. My role as an educator is to know my students and their strengths and challenges so that I can adapt my lessons, so that all students are able to be successful.

Society is changing at such a quick pace, so I need to find out what my students need to learn today, to prepare them for tomorrow. I need to capitalize on those serendipitous moments my students encounter. It is my role as an educator to find out what is important and interesting to my students and incorporate their funds of knowledge into my classroom and lessons.

In order to prepare students for this unknown future, I need to foster interactive engagement, so students experience meaningful learning and intellectual development. My role as an educator is to promote student learning and critical thinking skills.

I believe in using inquiry based learning, where teachers are no longer teaching information, but rather facilitating learning. The teacher is there as a guide, to set up learning experiences for students to ask questions and shape their own learning. Ensuring my classrooms focus on the process, not the product.

I think the classroom should expand beyond the four walls of the classroom. Students are growing up in an open source world and know all about having access to the world and we need to apply this access to the world in our classrooms as well. This can be done by teaching students how to use technology to find information and with the information the ability extract and synthesize it to formulate new meaning.

Classrooms should be considered studios, a comfortable environment where there are few lectures; the students work collaboratively in groups to learn, the students are engaged in their learning, and become independent lifelong learners.

I believe it is important to include daily physical activity into the classroom. Physical activity helps children focus on what they are learning. I want to help my students develop positive daily physical activity habits.

School is preparation for life. I have the opportunity to guide and create good citizens. I want to foster an environment where my students are learning together and thinking together long term.

Special thanks to my PLN who has helped me develop this into what it is today! 🙂

I appreciate your feedback!

My PLN

Well, I have talked about Twitter and my PLN a lot in my previous posts:

The best thing about my support team is that it comes from experts of the topic. I was able to build this ‘network of experts’ through Twitter. I think Twitter is a great application that has helped me build my PLN, but it is not about the application that makes my PLN, it is the people!

Today, on Twitter I came across a post called: Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter. When I was reading this post I couldn’t help but think, YES! YES! YES! Twitter has greatly impacted me as a teacher. I have seen so much growth in myself as a professional over the past few months and I have to attribute part of that to my PLN. I have grown so much that when I looked back at my philosophy of teaching I realized, I need to update that!

My PLN consists of so many intelligent, engaging, and innovative people! The people I aspire to be someday. I think the following quote will help you build your PLN:

Remember, your experience on Twitter is only as high quality as the people who you follow and the information you share.

I am following high quality people and I feel privaleged when these high quality people follow me in return. The people you follow and the people that follow you are what make Twitter the great resource that it is. 707625876_46aa44851f_o

I know now the importance of filling in your bio of your Twitter account. A lot of educators won’t follow you unless they see you as an asset to their PLN. I have a commitment to my PLN that I will contribute thoughtful, relevant, and interesting information.

The world is a big place, but it seems that we are able to know more about the world and collaborate with so many more people because of technology, in this case, Twitter. I was reading a blog by Jeff Utecht called I don’t like learning alone and I have to admit, I too do not like learning alone. Twitter and my PLN has taken away the ‘4 walls’ and has allowed me to use open education to the best of my ability. Twitter allows me to grow and learn with many other educators around the world. My network has constantly grown, every day, which means my bank of knowledge and resources are growing every day.

Twitter is such a valuable resource! Once you have your PLN you have a variety of resources at your fingertips. These resources will guide you in your professional development.

How has Twitter impacted you as an educator or other professional? Please give us a testimonial via Voicethread on our Twitter in the Classroom wikispace!