Tag Archives: participatory culture

Connections Between Flat Classroom Certification & PLENK2010

As I scramble to catch up with the readings and modules for the Flat Classroom Certification, which I seem to be doing in out of order, hackneyed style, I am kind of fascinated at how many convergences there are with the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge (PLENK2010). While participating in both can be grueling at certain points, particularly PLENK2010 with its widely distributed format and curriculum that acts more as a field of research and exploration, the international flavor dovetails nicely with the Flat Classroom material.

Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay, like captains voyaging from the Old World to the New, have charted a very reliable route for safe passage and reliable trade. In contrast, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, and Rita Kop have each boarded separate vessels and, like four separate Magellans, are bent on circumnavigating the globe to prove that it is both round and see what all kinds of interests may be found along the way. Each course relishes the international appeal and implications. One provides a proven map for teachers that want a specific experience, while the other invites you to launch on a loosely guided exploration where serendipitous indulgences are both encouraged and even add to the charter.

One of the greatest assets of students participating in a Flat Classroom Project is that they begin to acquire some of the skills and understanding to begin building a PLE. This is a boon for any serious student, especially at the secondary level. Few high school instructors have neither a solid grasp of what a PLE actually is nor how to begin building one. This somewhat complicates the prospects of teaching students how to begin creating the ecology of tools and content that comprises one.  By all indications,  Flat Classroom book will guide educators through the fundamental concepts and primary tools that can easily be assimilated, providing a sold foundation for later development.

PLENK2010 also provides a lot of extraordinary resources and investigation of PLEs from theory to practice. Yet a MOOC, particularly this one, is even more overwhelming and complex than a Flat Classroom Project. The scale alone is enough to scare all but the most ardent. PLENK2010 has easily eclipsed 1000 participants at some point during its run so far. Moreover, the distributed nature and loosely defined structure lacks prescriptive guides. Each participant is on their own, relatively informal investigative journey. Any formal elements of the course are submitted of each participant’s own volition.

Neither is school as usual, however, which may be the coolest aspect of their similarities. Both are highly demanding, requiring great patience, self-discipline, and perseverance. Both are fraught with obstacles and challenges that provide extraordinary opportunities for learning. Both offer insightful glimpses into a more multidisciplinary, engaged, connected, and collaborative culture of participation that learning can be, even in a school setting.

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Examining the Craft of Connection & Global Projects

Reading the chapter Connection, from the forthcoming Flat Classroom Book, took a little adjusting to the format. Since it is being prepped for publication, it is filled with   page layout mark-up, which threw the sequence off a bit. Still, it is ambitious and covers a lot of ground.

With the early focus on the tools and technology to build the foundation of personalized professional development that will get any educator connected, I did not find a lot of new material. Then again, this is information that is more targeted for the newbie. I did find a few interesting wrinkles and some new terminology however.

Having long been onto RSS, I am someone who reads a lot. In fact, I harvest enough websites that I regularly stare at the bold All Items (1000+) unread posts in my Google Reader. This fact made me pause a little bit longer on the Mark Hurst quote from Bit Literacy about the need to “say ‘no’ – early and often and to say ‘yes’ rarely.” Regardless, I think starting off with RSS is particularly shrewd. I too advocate that if there is one technology tool that any educator should understand it is RSS. It simply opens up the world, bringing it right to the desktop or portable device.

Some new terms to me were Classroom Monitoring Panel (CMP) and Brand Monitoring Platform (BMP). Ironically, I have been employing these strategies for some time but never really thought there was a name for them. I have more readily used Pageflakes to build a CMP each time I led a class through a Flat Classroom Project. My forays into brand monitoring are a bit less formal, but the way they are presented in the chapter makes me rethink investing a bit more time into the practice, as well as discussing it in more depth with some of the administrators at my school and district.

I wrote a whole lot more about Personal Learning Networks and Personal Learning Environments recently as part of the massively open online course (MOOC) PLENK10, in which I have been following and participating concurrently.

Additionally, I liked the way the text both breaks down a lot of the jargon and provides a lot of definitions, which would be enough to make any newbies head spin. More than anything, I like the general kind of call to action that is present with the challenges and steps that would enable any reader to get themselves connected and build a network with themselves squarely at the center. I also liked the testimonials and knowing that I wrote some material for their potential use a while back, I am wondering if it might make an appearance in any of the chapters. Beyond that, reading the reflections of T. Salim al Busaidi and Anne Mirtschin, a teacher I worked with on one of the past projects, inspired me to write my own testimonial.

Yet, without question, I think the most valuable information in the chapter is the section on Taxonomy of Global Connection. Presented as five levels, it is an easy to understand and very applicable framework for designing an interconnected project with hopes of international connections. This is the kind of information that can and likely will get cited by others as foundational knowledge.

Finally, I was glad that the references were included as endnotes for the chapter. While I was familiar with some of the resources I am interested in taking a longer look at some of the others. The work by Sadoski and Paivio, Rizzolatti and Hurst were all new to me and piqued my interest. I was also glad to see how prominently the work of Henry Jenkins in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture featured, which for me is a keystone text for anyone trying to get a handle on all of this.

Discussing Participatory Culture on Teachers Teaching Teachers

During the summer I attended the Boston Writing Project’s Summer Institute which made me a part of the network of education professionals that is the National Writing Project. As a representative from the Boston site, I also travelled to my first NWP Annual Meeting, in San Antonio this year.

While there I made it to a host of presentations and workshops, which will likely provide material for some time to come. All of them were fantastic. One specific session I attended,  Reading the Research: Media Education and Literacy in the 21st Century, was focused on on a white paper published by the New Media Literacies Project at MIT titled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. It proved to be fascinating conversation with teachers of all different levels from around the country, encompassing media, technology, and 21st century literacies. There are even some photos from the session.

When asked to create a visual representation of our table’s thoughts on the article, we engaged in much metaphorical deliberation. Eventually, we settled on a rather creative synthesis that I sketched out in a hurry. It involved Harold, purple crayon in hand, creating a world where a king that had no clothes weighed scales of judgement, while his fool, Socrates, lectured on the unworthiness of living the unexamined life. As pretentious as it might sound out of context, it really was a rather nifty fusion of the table’s wide variety of viewpoints, which was no easy task.

The white paper that inspired all this semiotic silliness, although fairly lengthy, is definitely worth the read. In it are an array of interesting observations about challenges that education faces in addressing some of the emergent needs of living and working in the world today, with the ever-evolving new media developments. As a follow-up event, I was part of a panel discussion on a webcast episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers. Considering the fact that my listening to TTT on EdTechTalkis one of the primary reasons for my becoming involved with the National Writing Project in the first place it was a real treat. The podcast of the episode is now available for everyone to hear. Have a listen and let me know what you think.