Teacherpreneurs – Connect, Create, and Collaborate (#flatclass Book Club – Part 2)

Chapter 3, Connection, is the first installment of “The Seven Steps to Flatten Your Classroom“. It was focussed on ways teachers and students can create their own Personal learning Networks, using push and pull technologies to make the enriching global connections which underpin their learning, sharing, and collaboration.

Despite suffering from severe information overload, there were a few quotes and ideas in this chapter which really stood out, helping me to understand a little more about my own (technology enabled) learning habit, and educational mindset.

 Flickr CC Licensed: ‘Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept’

 

“When you know how to connect effectively, you have the power to learn”

Personally, this idea reflects my own experiences over the past year. On March 22, I celebrated the first anniversary of my first-ever global project, the very first time I was able to connect my students with the world.

I have been on Twitter for maybe 14 months, yet my global connections have transformed the way I teach, and the way I learn. My connections have led to wonderful global friendships, amazing educational partnerships, and quite literally impacted on students’ learning around the world.

I couldn’t do the work I do without my wonderful PLN, who support, inspire, and educate me on a daily basis. This is humbling, but it is a fundamental truth.

The Teacherpreneur – My “Ah-ha” Moment

A teacherpreneur is a person who seeks to enrich their classroom learning environment by “forging partnerships with other classrooms with common curricular goals and expectations. They accept the risks and responsibilities for the endeavour, and are accountable for the outcome.” (p. 44).

“Good teacherpreneurs aren’t renegades, they are connectors” (p. 45)

As I frantically scribbled “YES!!” in my notes, I realised that this concept defines what I have become over the past few months. While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to make meaningful, long-term connections within my own school and classroom learning environment, I’m helping to connect teachers around the world

‘Teacherpreneurship” is the idea which underpins the #globalclassroom community – we have created a place where teachers can work together to forge global partnerships, explore ways to extend their curriculum through global connections, and share responsibility for the ultimate success of their projects.

And this is an idea worth sharing.

 

An Important Milestone – #RSCON3

The third Reform Symposium e-Conference has broadened my horizons and expanded my PLN.

It is hard to describe the Reform Symposium e-Conference, but the words ‘inspiring’, ‘informative’, and ‘insightful’ come to mind.

#RSCON3 was a wonderful opportunity to connect, learn and share with new and experienced teachers around the world; and it will have tangible impacts on my teaching and professional learning practice in the months to come, particularly when we launch the Global Classroom 2011/12 project later this year.

And presenting at #RSCON3 was an important milestone in my teaching career, as it was my first ever professional presentation. I’m proud that I was able to share my experiences, and “make my voice heard” on a global stage; and I suspect there aren’t many 2nd year teachers who can say they’ve presented at an international conference! (Thanks Shelly!)


My Presentation: “What the heck is a PLN?”

I shared my personal ‘PLN story’ at #RSCON3; exploring how my “Personal Learning Network has reawakened my love of teaching, supported me in tough times, and broadened my horizons.”

With the help of my wonderful moderator (and friend) @JoHart, I was able to lead a lively, interactive online session, attended by 33 teachers from around the world (although, sadly few Western Australians). And I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was received.

worldmap
After exploring the gradual development of my PLN, and discussing some of the online tools / resources I’ve used to build it, I handed over the microphone and whiteboards to my audience, asking them to share how they “connect, learn, share, and collaborate”. They did so with gusto!

connectandcollaborate


Themes and Takeaways

Having a PLN is a rewarding and transformative learning experience, but actually getting “out there”, and building your network isn’t an easy or rapid process. It takes time, patience, and perseverance – but you don’t have to do it alone.

By sharing my story and experiences,  I hoped to demystify the “Personal Learning Network”, and give ‘newbies’ a few ideas about where to start, and who/where to go for help and advice. With the assistance of the my session participants, this message came across ‘loud and clear’.

takeaways


Thankyou

I hope my “What the heck is a PLN?” presentation will inspire and assist new and experienced teachers to take that critical first step on their own PLN journey. If I can make a difference for just one person, I will have succeeded in this goal.

So, thankyou to everyone who attended my presentation, and all those people who will listen to the recordings. I hope you find it helpful, and I look forward to reading your feedback.

Recording Links

Presentation Slides

I get this question a lot, so I’m attending the “What the heck is a PLN?” session with @mgraffin #rscon3” – @teacherjenny6

Following @mgrafin pressentation #rscon3. My first session. This is amazing!!” – @louvre2012

Great job presenting at #rscon3. So happy to be a part of your PLN and have you as part of mine” – @ncarroll24

Quite a warm wonderful mood in the text chat of @mgraffin’s “What the heck is a PLN?” in #rscon3. Could be I’m just a softie though 😉” – @harmonygritz

Could confirm in @mgraffin’s workshop the power of Personal / Professional Learning Network! Great workshop Michael!” – @SilvioCamposELT

“What the heck is a PLN?” @ #RSCON3 (Video)

This Weekend, we kick off the third Reform Symposium eConference (#RSCON3)!


What the heck is a PLN?: Personal Learning Networks for Educators

When?

8.30AM Australian Western Standard Time
(Please check the schedule for your timezone – this is just before the Closing Keynote on Day 1)

 

Where?

Please click on this link to access my Elluminate room – up to 30 minutes before the scheduled start.

(https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=M.25F4EE183D04E394FA038CA714AA9D)

This will be my FIRST-EVER professional presentation, so I’m hoping and praying things go well!

I’m really excited, and I hope to see you there!

Am I a ‘Techie Teacher’?

I’m a young teacher with a passion for ICT and modest technical skills; and I’m starting to question how my ideas are influencing my classroom teaching practice. 

 

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by austinevan: http://flickr.com/photos/austinevan/2296270551/



 

I’m a teacher.

ICT and Web 2.0 are part of what I do

  • I see myself as a classroom teacher using ICT to extend my teaching practice beyond my classroom walls.
  • I want to teach my students how to share, learn and communicate with a global audience.
  • And I’m more than happy to share my ideas and expertise with interested colleagues.
  • But, does this make me a ‘techie teacher’?


I’m not a ‘natural’ with ICT

  • I enjoy using technology, but I’m not a ‘digital native’ … I’m primarily self-taught.
  • I’m a learner too, drawing upon the collective wisdom and experience of the teachers and ‘techies’ in my PLN.
  • I’m taking significant professional risks, often stepping out into uncharted territory; and
  • I’m learning from my mistakes.


What I do is not “amazing”

  • ICT, Web 2.0, and global projects aren’t the exclusive realm of young, tech-savvy teachers.
  • Effective ICT integration is something that any teacher can do with the appropriate collegial support, mentoring, and training.
  • I’m learning how to encourage and support other teachers’ forays into ICT & global projects, and I believe this can only improve our students’ learning and engagement.  

 

I’m starting to define myself as a teacher, as a learner, as an inquirer.

And, I’m not alone …

Looking Forward to #RSCON3

rsconbanner

Six months ago, I’d never heard of the Reform Symposium Virtual Conference; the fantastic, FREE, online global education conference presented by teachers for teachers.

That all changed when I attended #RSCON11 in January this year; an event which attracted 4 100 global participants, and marked the birth of my Twitter PLN.

And, now to my amazement, I find myself presenting alongside some world-leading global educators at the next Reform Symposium (#RSCON3) in late July 2011.


So, what’s it all about?

The Reform Symposium e-Conference is about sharing, learning, and connecting with inspiring educators around the world. You don’t need to pack a bag, catch a plane, or pay a cent. You can even attend in your pyjamas! All you need is an Internet connection.

To find out more, visit the Reform Symposium website; where you can:

  • Find the official #RSCON3 schedule for your time-zone
  • Meet the presenters, and
  • Download the flyer to share with your colleagues and staff.


My #RSCON3 Presentation:

“What the heck is a PLN?” – Personal Learning Networks for Educators

  • Are you a new teacher, feeling isolated and alone?
  • Are you an experienced teacher looking for new ideas and inspiration?
  • Are you interested in sharing ideas and collaborating with other teachers on global projects?
  • Are you tired of falling asleep in boring professional learning seminars?
  • Have you heard about Personal Learning Networks or PLNs? Feeling lost, confused, wondering where to start?

Then please, join me at #RSCON3, as I

  • Share my ‘new teacher’ PLN story, and explain “What the heck is a PLN?”
  • Explore the technologies which underpin my global connections
  • Explore some of the global projects and learning made possible by my PLN; and
  • Facilitate a global discussion about how PLNs have influenced teachers’ professional practice around the world.

This is an opportunity for new and experienced teachers alike to learn, share, and connect.

I’d love to see you there!


When?

For Australian teachers, Reform Symposium 3 runs from July 30 – August 1, 2011.

I will be presenting on Day 1 (just before the closing Keynote) at 8.30AM – Saturday, July 30 (GMT/UTC+8). 

This time and date will VARY depending on your time-zone. Please click here to find out what time this is for you.

Where?

I will be presenting virtually in an Elluminate Conference Room. To participate, you’ll need to click on the (soon-to-be-published) “Webinar Links” in the RSCON Schedule.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out the Reform Symposium website, follow the #rscon3 hashtag on Twitter, and share the official Conference flyer with your Principal and colleagues.


Please, spread the word!
This is the only serious professional learning which you attend in bed! And it’s worth it!

I’ll be attending #RSCON3. Will you?

A Connected Teacher’s Balancing Act

Over the past 6 months, I have invested a significant amount of time and effort building my online Personal Learning Network.

In recent times; however, I have come to the gradual (and extremely reluctant) realisation that I need to find a balance in my online interactions.

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Attribution: Image from the Daring Librarian.
Image: ‘
PLN_DimSum‘: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43666171@N07/4806404770



This post was written in response to Josh Stumpenhorst’s (@stumpteacher) reflections in “Why I’m Not Following You”.

Too much time online

Twitter & blogs are valuable learning tools, but they can become extremely addictive. I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve been spending way too much time online, and spending too little time having a life.

And I’m not alone. I’m trying to find a balance; trying to put my ‘offline life’ (family, hobbies, and fitness) first. It is just not possible for me to follow 25+ blogs in my Google Reader, and spend 2-3 hours a night online – 7 days a week. 

I already do more professional learning online in a week than most teachers do in a year, but there’s no point wearing myself out. I’m better off curling up with a book, or taking my new camera out for a spin.

So, I may not follow you on Twitter. and I may not read your blog.

Please, don’t be offended or put-off. It’s nothing personal. I’m human.

I can’t read, process, or bookmark EVERY interesting website, blog post, tweet that comes up on my screen, although that hasn’t stopped me trying in my early days.

Finding a balance

I may not be online as often as I used to, but I’ll still be around. I will continue to learn, share and connect – just at a more reasonable, steady pace.

I want to invest my time online talking and collaborating with the real people in my PLN. I don’t want to spend countless hours bookmarking interesting websites and reading too many blog posts. I’ve found friends all over the world, and I’ve been able to tweet-up with a few over lunch.

It is these quality relationships and conversations which underpin the power of my PLN, not its size and scope. It means I don’t have to follow everyone – I follow experts who can put me in touch with other experts – when I need help. This is what it means to be connected.

So, please, if you feel like a chat, give us a shout on Twitter (@mgraffin) or on Skype (mgraffin). I’m a real person too.

Well, It’s My Story …

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid) to share my story about why I became (and remain) a teacher. Overcoming my reservations, and with Edna’s support, I wrote A Teacher’s Story, which was guest posted on the ‘What Ed Said’ blog on May 28, 2011.

whatedsaid

If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. (It was also picked up on the ‘Success in the Classroom’ blog here).



An unexpected response

To be honest, I was taken aback by the level of interest in my story. I received some heartfelt comments and supportive feedback from around the world, which I have permission to share here.

Untitleds

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feedback2

 



 

Thankyou

If there is one message that I’d like my readers to take away from A Teacher’s Story, it is this: If new teachers are to remain in the profession, they need to feel supported and fairly treated by their colleagues and employers. Too many new teachers feel isolated, stressed, and alone, and before I discovered my PLN, I was once one of them.

We live, we learn, we grow. Why should we leave?

Thankyou for your feedback and ongoing support.

 

Why I Connect


I’M A TEACHER

I was once an idealist. Now I’m more of a realist.

I once believed that our political leaders could positively change the face of education in my country. No longer.

I have dreams. They’ve been shattered – twice.

My first year of teaching left me feeling alone and disillusioned.

 

BUT, 2 YEARS ON …

I once believed I could make a difference. I still do.

I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching.

I believe that effective literacy teaching and ICT integration is critical to prepare my students to communicate and interact on a global stage.

I’ve finally had the opportunity to practice what I preach

I’m a blogger, with a supportive global audience.

I’m becoming a more competent and effective teacher.

My teaching and learning is changing because of my global connections.

MY FUTURE

Is unclear.

I’ve yet to have a class of my own.

I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’m not an expert teacher … yet.

That’s why I connect, learn, share, and collaborate with experienced, expert teachers around the world.

My PLN has reawakened my passion for teaching

For this, I thank you.

Guest Post: Classroom Management – Donald Trump Style

guest post succ

 

In today’s guest post, Sam Rangel (@samrangelSITC) from SuccessintheClassroom.com explores some of the key elements of an effective classroom management approach, sharing the benefits of his 20+ years middle school (Yrs 6-8) teaching experience in California, USA. 

As a new teacher, I’ve found the SuccessintheClassroom blog to be an extremely relevant & practical professional learning resource. Sam’s grasp of the everyday realities and challenges faced by new teachers around the world is second to none, and I hope he continues to share his expertise for many years to come.

Now, on that note, we proudly bring you:

Classroom Management – Donald Trump Style.

When I tell people that I teach middle school, I always get thewow-you-deserve-a-medal look or the sorry-you’re-stuck-with-that-job look or the and-you-haven’t-gone-crazy-yet look.

When I tell them that I’ve been teaching 12 and 13-year-olds for over 20 years now, and I’m still loving it, they can’t believe it.

Why is that? Why did my college dean tell the other teacher prospects that I was going straight to heaven when I died, because I wanted to teach middle school?

It’s because we all know 12 and 13-year-olds. We know how they behave. We know how they think they know more than anyone. We know how they want to push the limits. We know how they don’t like rules.

Of course, not all 12 and 13-year-olds act like this, but we know enough who do, and having 35-40 of them in a room together for close to an hour at a time can be scary.

That’s why you will find very few teachers who actually want to be middle school teachers. Most of them want to be elementary or high school teachers, which I totally understand.

When I first started teaching, I looked too young to be a high school teacher, and I didn’t have the patience for elementary kids. They require you to smile too much, and you have to dance and sing and decorate your room in a bright pastel colors, and that’s just not me.

When I got a long term substitute position in middle school, however, I knew I had found my place.

To teach middle school, you have to be an expert in classroom management or else you’ll be eaten alive by these hormone-driven, drama-seeking, argumentative, push-your-buttons, trying-to-find-out-who-they-are students.

So in this post, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned over the years about classroom management, and hopefully I’ll be able to help newer teachers find a little more success in the classroom.

I truly enjoy what I do, and middle school kids are amazing. I know, however, if I didn’t have my classroom management skills, I probably wouldn’t be teaching anymore, and I probably wouldn’t still have all my hair.

 


Here we go:

1. Make Great Lesson Plans

The best way to keep students from misbehaving is to keep them engaged. This will only happen when you have a great lesson. The times when I’ve had the most problems with my classroom management were those days when I just winged it. For some reason, I came to class with no plan. It’s a rarity, but it served to remind me of the dangers of not being prepared. With 8th graders, five minutes of nothing to do will turn into 10 minutes of redirection.

Lesson plan preparation is the most important element in great classroom management. I always plan for more than the time allows. If I have a 40 minute period, I plan for 50 minutes. I also always have a mini lesson, like a vocabulary activity, in my back pocket just in case I have too much period left after the lesson.


2. Remember That They’re Just Kids

I often hear teachers talk about how a certain student made them so mad that they wanted to kick that student out of the classroom, call their parents, place them on the terrorist watch list, etc. You have to remember that these are kids. They are going to do things that we adults know better not to do.

Once we remind ourselves that these are just kids, then we won’t get so upset. We won’t get into a shouting match with a 12-year-old. Do we excuse the behavior? No, of course not. We hand out a consequence and make that a teachable moment. Some kids just don’t know why what they did was wrong.

 

3. Show Them You Care About Them

For a lot of teachers, this is an easy one. You probably wouldn’t get into teaching if you didn’t have a heart for kids. There are times, however, when we lose focus on this, especially when the students are acting out or when we have other more personal issues occupying our thoughts or when  the administration is pressuring us to improve test scores, etc.

Many times the student who is acting out the most is doing so out of a need for attention that he/she is not receiving elsewhere. It would be a good idea to take a look at the student’s records to see if there are any home issues that would help explain his/her behavior.

This takes time. You’ll have to spend that valuable prep period or time before or after school to do the research, but if you can conceptualize a day when that one student is not causing problems in your class, it may be worth the investment of time.

I’ve had many students who are terrors in every other class except mine, not because I’m a better teacher, but  because I’ve made a connection with this students, and he/she doesn’t want to break that connection by making me mad.

Taking time to show some sincere concern to this student will make so much of a difference in how he/she behaves in your class. What I like to do is bombard that student with positive comments. “You’re so smart.” “That was amazing.” “Nice job.” A lot of times, these students have only heard negative words coming from the adults in their lives. They’ll behave better in your class, because they know they’ll get some verbal pats on the back for a change.


4. Act Like Donald Trump

One thing I’ve noticed about Mr. Trump is that he is in charge everywhere he goes. Even when he’s not the person in charge, he acts like he’s the person in charge. It’s all about his presence.

That is what I notice about teachers who have problems with classroom management. They don’t have the in-charge presence. It’s almost like they’re afraid of the kids. The kids will ask them a question like, “Why do we have to do this?”, and they’ll go into a long and confusing explanation describing the reasons why the lesson that they are about to begin is important or they’ll get offended and kick the student out of the class.

Would Donald do that?

When a student asks me that question, I stop and give him/her my I-can’t-believe-you’re-questioning-my-lesson look. Most of the time, the student will say, “never mind”, and I’ll continue as if the question was never raised. It’s all about presence. It’s your class. You are the expert. You know everything, and the students are so fortunate to be spending 40 minutes of their lives learning from you.

This is a change in mindset for many new teachers who are unsure about their abilities and are still learning how to teach. The sooner they get past this and move into the I’m-in-charge phase, the sooner they’ll see a decrease in their discipline problems.

It’s not being mean or tyrannical. It’s being in charge. It’s all about presence. Go ahead and fake it if you have to, but don’t let the students get any idea that you are not the one in charge. By the way, Mr. Trump, if you’re reading this, how about hooking up my students with some new laptops? It’s worth a try.

These are just a few ways to help you with classroom management, and although I’m definitely not the world’s expert in this area, I have been teaching 8th graders for the last 20+ years, so that gives me a little bit of an edge.

I love what I do. I have a great day almost every day, because my students don’t (or can’t) ruin my day. I can see how many teachers leave the profession just after three years. It is an often thankless job with very little pay and little support, and on top of all that, you have a bunch of kids who want to see how far to the edge they can push you.

There are many, many benefits that come with being a teacher, however. You don’t make a lot of money, but you do make a difference. Getting your classroom management skills perfected will help you not only make more of a difference, but you’ll have fun in the process.

I share some more specific tips on my other website: TipsForNewTeachers.com, so feel free to take a look.

I would welcome any comments, questions, criticisms, etc.

Thanks,

Sam

What’s the Point of a Personal Learning Network? (Guest Post)

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I’m proud to announce the very first guest post on A Relief Teacher’s Journey, written by Pooky Hesmondhalgh (@creativeedu) in response to my PLN Voicethread Project. It was first published here.

About our Guest Blogger

Pooky Hesmondhalgh (@creativeedu) represents Creative Education:

the largest independent provider of training for school staff in the United Kingdom, … which specialises in working with schools facing difficult circumstances  (from website).

She blogs at www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog.

What’s the Point of a Personal Learning Network?

We all have a personal learning network or PLN. Even if we’ve not reached the dizzy heights of Twitter and the like our PLN is all around us every day. It’s the people that we work with and exchange ideas with.

Traditionally our PLN wouldn’t have reached very far beyond the staffroom, but these days in the blink of an eye you can be accessing information and answers from a PLN that spans the globe.

But what’s the point?

I know that a lot of people – generally the type who won’t be reading this blog, and certainly won’t be dropping me a line on Twitter to talk about it, think that virtual PLNs are just one big time wasting activity. That we’re all busy talking about what we had for breakfast, or watching videos of dancing cats. Of course, there’s some of that – just like there is in the staff room. But there’s a whole more to it as well.

Michael Graffin, a teacher over in Oz started a great discussion up on Voicethread a few days back trying to encourage an exchange of ideas about what we each get out of our PLN and how it’s changed us both personally and as educators.

Voicethread will eventually appear below – or you can access it here


Participating was a learning experience for me as I’ve never used Voicethread before. It made me examine what the point of my own personal learning network is and I decided that for me, the key elements were being part of an environment which was completely unprejudiced where I could ask any questions I liked without fear of looking silly. And also having the privilege of being able to draw on a huge range of ideas and experiences of educators working in a wide range of roles, all over the world.

Whenever I have a question, idea or problem if I talk to my PLN I always find that I am offered a wealth of advice and ideas which are more wide ranging and certainly a lot more rapid than if I had used my traditional offline PLN.

It’s well worth listening to the other views expressed in the voicethread and adding your own voice too. Some of the standout points for me were that a PLN offered the opportunity to:

  • Talk to like-minded, real people
  • Share and exchange a range of ideas
  • Inject creativity into everyday practice
  • Enjoy a constant flow of ideas
  • Encourage innovation
  • Discuss and consider controversial thoughts
  • Develop enthusiasm and passion

So are you a convert? Do you find your virtual PLN a great resource or do you think we’re better off sticking to the traditional methods of actually talking to people we know and exchanging ideas over the photocopier? I’d love to hear your thoughts.