Just go with the flow….

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Yellowstone National Park, this picture is representative of the eerie yet beautiful vistas you will encounter.  I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood summers there and learned to love and appreciate the forces of nature.

This image is of the Firehole River, aptly named for the relatively warm water temperature generated by the scalding water dumped into it by the geysers along its shore.  There is a particular swimming hole along the Firehole that we would visit.  It was our “beach” during the summer.  There I would swim against the current, even through some rapids, in order to turn around and ride the current back down.

In reflecting back on this semester, I can’t help but compare my summer swims to the adventures offered up in this course.  It really did feel like I was fighting the current, struggling against the technological applications and platforms.  I knew the reward was going to be worth the trek but getting there hasn’t been a leisurely paddle through calm waters.  Fortunately, I have had the encouragement of classmates to keep me going and help guide me through the undercurrents that threatened to exhaust me.

There are so many “take-aways” from this course.  I know that this will be one that I look back on in order to reference a mind-shift, a before and after view of how I address learning in libraries.  First and foremost, learning is a constant and learning is everywhere.  I’ve stopped fighting that “current” and now I just kick-back and go with the flow.  I know that I don’t need to catch-up; I just need to pursue a course that will enhance my goals and be prepared to keep adding to it.

Second, I can teach concepts to many people by setting up a simple blog.  What a fantastic tool and one I plan on using in the future in my career!

Third, I now have the means to wrangle all of the information I glean from the internet into a PLN that is not just useful but more importantly, it is not overwhelming.  AND, I have my permission to change it up as often as I need to.  Thank you, me.

Much like finally getting to the end of that swimming hole, I can now relax, put my feet up and let the river take me for a ride.  I’m no longer straining to understand the transtech environment.  Instead I’m embracing the experience and enjoying the fact that the knowledge gained has been well worth the exercise.

My Personal Learning Network

I want to start by presenting this YouTube video. Not only is the presentation fantastic but it talks about great ideas that come together over time by finding that “missing piece”. The focus is on creativity, and most importantly, connectivity which is what our PLN’s are all about.

When various topics and tools are presented to me and I start thinking about all the different ways they could be incorporated into my job, I tend to get a little overwhelmed because I want to do it all right now.  I’ve actually been much better about it but I still have to stop myself on occasion.   This exercise helped me to compartmentalize the various subjects and zero in on those that were worth my immediate attention.

For the past few months I have been the Volunteer Services Coordinator for Sacramento Public Library.  Prior to that, I had a part-time job with several duties including Adult Literacy, Computer Tutor and Volunteer Coordinator etc.  I bring this up for the sole purpose of pointing out that not too long ago (3 months to be exact), my PLN focused on Adult Literacy almost exclusively.  But now, I spend 100% of my days in the world of Volunteer management and engagement so my focus has changed.  Thus my PLN has changed.  I plan on staying in public libraries in northern California and I know that my PLN will need to adjust to whichever position I take on.

This particular PLN focuses on volunteers, public library and this TransTech class.  I have used these resources to expand my knowledge in Volunteer Management and to stay well-rounded on issues that affect local, state and national interests concerning public libraries.

After viewing a few other PLN projects, I chose to use Netvibes to build my PLN for viewing.  Once I got the hang of it, I really liked it and plan on utilizing it even after the class ends.  I organize best with color and tabs and this site provided both. Here is a link to my site:  Cathy's Personal Learning Network
Each page of my PLN includes a “pink” box that explains the page and, in most cases, gives a brief description of the content and why I chose it.

I have used my PLN in several instances, mostly for my work.  As I mention under my Twitter tab, I am very much in the “observer” mode and am still warming up to be more “participatory”.  Linkedin seems to be the exception to that rule.  I joined the Volunteer Coordinator’s Group and have given and received some great feedback.  It became apparent early into my new job that there was a great need for systemic procedures for the Volunteer Program.  The first thing I looked for and could not find was the Volunteer Manual.  The second thing I realized was that without that manual, whenever a new coordinator was appointed at a branch, there wasn’t much for them to look to for guidance in maintaining the program.  So I started a discussion and received great inspiration on steps to be taken.  I also received copies of manuals and other sources I could look to for guidance.

I’m finding myself doing more trainings.  I aim to make people laugh as opposed to sleep, so I’ve included a couple of sites that address presentation improvement.  I know from my experience with Adult Literacy that storytelling is far more effective than reciting statistics so I try to improve my trainings by incorporating storytelling, humor and good graphics (Brainshark, SlideRocket, and any TedTalks on Storytelling).  It is definitely a work in progress.  (I get much inspiration from Michael’s presentations.  I really like the images he has chosen to represent his concepts :).)

Maintaining a PLN is like cleaning out a closet.  When it becomes unbearable you just have to dig in and firmly get rid of everything you haven’t used for “X” amount of time.  I don’t “do” clutter so this is an easy one for me.  As my career path changes, (and it will as I move within the profession the public library) so will my PLN.  I already know that if I ever find myself as the person in charge of Children’s programming, I will need to rely heavily on Pinterest and all the “craftiness” that lives there.  (So far, I’ve been able to hide my un-craftiness quite well by sticking with Adult Programming.)

Having a PLN and knowing how to build one gives me the confidence to take on any assignment both professionally and personally.  I don’t have to be an expert to get the job done; I just need to know how to skillfully tap into the vast amount of knowledge and experience that is out there waiting for me to find it and from which I can learn.

After all, being a librarian isn’t necessarily about what we know, it’s about what we can find.

“My role is to be a storyteller.”

Having been raised in an affluent, conservative community that banned any business from having video games within the city limits (yes, this is really true and in southern California!), you can probably guess that my exposure to gaming has been a slowly evolving acceptance of the inevitable.  Keeping in mind that I was raised in the 70′s, it exemplifies the lack of acceptance of video games as a worthwhile pastime.  And here I am many, many years later, wrapping my mind around the fact that today’s gaming can be used as an effective teaching tool.

Through one of my PLN blogs, Learning 2.0, I signed up to be part of the Global Education Conference which started today and lasts all week. Go to http://www.globaleducationconference.com/ to check out the conference.

I found a session titled “Video Games for Global Education” put on by Terry Heick from Teach Thought and Betty Ray from Edutopia.  It was excellent.  The session addressed not just the reasons to incorporate gaming into the class room but went through how teachers could use games to help teach the required “standards.” Terry Heick argued that gaming provided “powerful opportunities to test transfer”, which he defines as the ability and understanding of how to use different media forms effectively.  This leads to excellent preparation for high-level test taking.

The discussion covered the evolution of on-line gaming noting 5 points:

  1. New interaction
  2. New narrative style
  3. Social Justice Themes
  4. Global scope and simulation
  5. Required Collaboration

I was particularly intrigued with the social justice themes as my very peripheral experience with gaming has been to assume they all deal with full-on warfare (destruction and mayhem) or Disney type scenarios (princesses and fluffy animals).  One game peaked my curiosity and led me into further exploration.  The game is called Papo and Yo.  According to the creator’s development diary, he developed this game to excise his demons of surviving an abusive childhood where his father was “the monster”.  I thought to myself, “How can a game about child abuse be a ‘game’.”  Then I watched  a couple of YouTube videos about Papo and Yo and read some of the comments.  I began to see how this imaginative world could help someone see some alternatives in dealing with such a horrific experience.

Check out the Developer Diary #1 on YouTube. http://youtu.be/Slrw_tvwZ-A

Vander Caballero, a co-founder and Creative Director for Minority Media, explains that as a game creator, his real role is that of a storyteller.  The difference is that the story/experience can be different for everyone who plays/interacts with the characters and themes.

Coming at it from a public library point of view, this is an easy one.  In the broadest sense, aren’t we all about bringing learning and stories into our patrons’ lives and experiences?  It seems like today’s on-line interactive, collaborative gaming does just that while teaching important skills such as teamwork, “transfer” and appeals to different learning styles due to “experiential platforms”.

So, dust off the Playstation, Wii or whatever device will work and get busy interactively learning.  Game ON!!

References:

Heick, Terry, #VideoGamesForGlobalLearning. Global Education Conference, November 2012.

 

Personal Learning Networks – Context Book Report

Personal Learning Network:  Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli, explores the class room of the future and argues that changes must be made in our current teaching patterns in order to prepare our students for the 21st century.  The book can be used as a guide to implementing this systemic change.  It takes into consideration the barriers that will exist to such a shift in thinking and practice and offers solutions for initiating the process.  To prove their theory, the authors use case studies, personal experience and plenty of current data showing the shortfalls of the current scholastic focus.

“The days of the static paper textbook are numbered as each student will soon access dynamic content in real time, often in immersive environments of virtual reality.” (p. 140)  Richardson and Mancabelli refer to the fact that students of all ages are currently embedded in the world of the web and have been creating their own personal learning networks (PLN’s) based on the topics that interest them.  Since students are already gaining information from this format, teachers should take advantage of this knowledge, not discourage it, by teaching the students how to not just create entertainment networks but make the creation of learning networks part of the curriculum.  “The fact that our students are engaged in social networks is a natural building block for the use of the web for learning, but they need our help to make this critical transition.” (p. 88)

The authors cite several schools that have embraced the PLN model through the pioneering of one teacher on campus that wanted to have their students collaborate with another classroom across the country.  Usually this innovative teacher stumbled into the process by focusing on the specific need for putting the project together but then, through the process, realized that the students were gaining far more from the experience than with the traditional methods that had been used.   These educators appreciated that learning had become “less about memorizing and ‘doing their own work’ and more about content creation and collaboration and doing so in the content of their passions.” (p. 10)   These successes led the teachers to further their efforts and introduce more opportunities into their lesson plans for collaboration, curiosity and exploration.

The book begins with a compelling story of a young man who taught himself the guitar through an impressive PLN that he put together to improve his knowledge about how to play the instrument.  The authors then develop their theory through real-life examples of PLN’s implemented in school environments which showed successes for the teacher, the students and the community.  Knowing that they are proposing a drastic change to the way our education system teaches our children, they outline a plan that addresses the barriers that will arise and the attainable outcomes that school systems could put into play.  They are concerned that the educational system is blindly following a path that has been in place for over 100 years and missing the fact that “…an evolution in the role of the teacher…from a content specialist who disperses knowledge as a commodity to a classroom facilitator who helps students grow the skills for their own learning” needs to take place right now. (p. 140)

Personal Learning Networks allow their creators to continue learning regardless of their level of participation.  There are five levels of participation:  spectator, joiner, creator, inactive and critic.  Regardless of the level of participation being employed at any given time, there is still learning that is taking place.  Effective 21st Century learning does and will continue to center around curiosity, exploration, transparency, innovative thinking, connected collaboration, flexibility and the concept that play is the equivalent of learning. (Stephens, M., Lecture 10/20/12)  Richardson and Mancabelli prove that this new way of learning, through on-line collaboration and exploration will and should become the teaching standard for this century’s educational system.  By creating Personal Learning Network’s students are not just prepared but eager to employ this type of learning into the classroom as it defines and develops the skills they will be using in every aspect of their lives.

References:

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal Learning Network: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

Stephens, M. (2012, October 20). Transformative Learning: Personal Learning Networks. Retrieved October 20, 2012, from http://hanakoa.sjsu.edu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=91771f1e-dd76-41b0-9abf-500d297c9a52

 

There is no “I” in TEAM….

This is a pic of my Trans-Tahoe Team that swam across the top (not the length!) of Lake Tahoe.  Yes it was chilly but we were all there cheering each other on.

     I think every Coach’s manual starts with the adage, “there is no ‘i’ in team”.  I grew up hearing this knowing that it served the dual purpose of keeping the prima donna in check and encouraging those not quite as skilled to keep pushing hard.  In my professional life, it served the same purpose but I was ambitious enough to not let it hold me back.   And who hasn’t heard, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

     So, here I am once more, being reminded that in order to succeed I need to remember my TEAM.  The difference here is that I get to create my “team”, or personal learning network, and this team can be made up of as many or as few participants as I choose.  I get to check in with them as often as I like and I can control the size and participation level.  They don’t even need to be interested in the same topics!  But all will contribute to my intellectual growth and help satisfy my curiosities in a world that is moving faster and faster.

Philosophically speaking, I’m encouraged that I can dredge up the lessons of the past and apply them to the present.  They may have been meant in a different context but can be applied to our new way of learning, communicating and understanding.  With so much information available at our fingertips, we really only have two choices:

1.  Get overwhelmed and ignore the flood of information.  OR

2.  Set up a Personal Learning Network to funnel the information.

I choose number two.  If we don’t control the flow of information, we will miss out on all the evolving discoveries and thoughts put out there by the “team” because we’ve been distracted by the deluge of all the internet has to offer.  I can no longer solely rely on my own research to stay on top of subjects about which I want/need to have more knowledge.

We’ve been using the “personal learning network” throughout our lives even before the onset of the internet.  We have joined groups, shared intellectual information, developed professional networks and have essentially stayed in touch with those that have added worth to our existence.  The difference now is that the technology enables this contact without having to leave our homes.  The reach of our network is now global, not just within our physical community.   So now we are all Coaches of our own PLN teams.  And just by this team’s nature, it proves the old adage is even more applicable in today’s networked existence.

 

Splish Splash….

I’m not sure why this happens (without fail) every semester, but I always seem to be surprised when a course starts to come together in my mind.  All of the concepts that seemed “out there” or just “interesting” seem to gel and mold until I realize that the professor really is on to something here and what do you know?  It all kind of makes sense!

My realization came upon me over this past week with the launch of our team’s Learning 2.0 module, the wrap up of Char Booth’s RTEL text, my continued reading of my selected book for review (Personal Learning Networks) and the start of “A New Culture of Learning”.  The theme that hopped off the pages and slapped me in the face is that no longer can we rely on the passive ways of teaching and learning we were used to, but that we have to be ready to interact, collaborate and contribute.  In other words:

Dust off that complacent brain and get out there and PLAY!

Although not an on-line gamer, I am definitely an athlete of yore (it’s all about the game) and have always been a team player.  So this new strategy of learning through play is not just appealing, it is downright refreshing.  As Thomas and Brown pointed out in our text, A New Culture of Learning, “In a world of near constant flux, play becomes a strategy for embracing change, rather than a way for growing out of it.” (p. 48)

Finally, some scholastic justification for my on-the-job philosophy in training and learning.  If you have followed my blog you will know that taking in all of these new platforms has been a bit of an uphill climb.  I am still climbing.  But now, I’m going to stop and play a quick game of, well, anything!  Because that is how I’m going to best learn the strategies and interact with the concepts so that I can apply both in an engaging and constructive manner.

Diving in!

First of all, just looking at this picture makes my stomach queasy.  And in retrospect, the first few weeks of this course generated a similar sensation.

But now, after launching our group’s 2.0 Project, I feel like I’m actually going to make it through.  Maybe not “Gangnan style” but at least with far more confidence than when I started.

For one thing, I know I can rely on my team to help me figure out the things that stump me and that with further exploration and calm (refer back to my previous post about breathing) there is a good chance that I can move through the process fairly quickly.

So, off the cliff I go!  Now I know that the tech world isn’t quite so intimidating.  I am markedly more confident that with all the practice I’m getting, there’s a good chance that I won’t completely belly flop :).

Just…breathe

For those who have worked in Public Libraries, or perhaps any type of library, you know that there is no such thing as “not my job”.  If you plan on getting ahead, you have to be willing to do just about anything.  This became abundantly clear to me when I was put in charge of the main branch’s Computer Tutor program.  Have I mentioned that I am NOT a techie?

In the article “Teaching Technologies”, Professor Stephens asks, “How many librarians have found themselves the “accidental” tech trainer for their libraries in recent years?”  I mentally raised my hand.  Because even though I wasn’t doing the actual tutoring, I was training the tutors that would be.  As I normally do, I dove in head first and figured that what I couldn’t show them, they could more than likely show me.  I ended up being the most effective trainer in the system because my trainings turned out to be a combination of teaching and learning which helped allay their fears of taking on the responsibility of teaching someone about how to use computers (since, you know, they were teaching me).

In turn (and with time), the feedback on the trainings gave me the confidence to start exploring and playing around with different sites and tools that would help our learners in their quest to “catch up” with the rest of the world.  Me?  I’m still catching up.  But I now have the confidence to know that I can figure it out if I have to and pass along the information in a friendly, non-threatening way.

The top 3 things I learned while running the program that I was able to pass on to new Computer learners:

  1. You can Google ANYTHING!
  2. Although well-meaning, it’s best not to rely on family to teach you the basics. :)
  3. Take a deep breath and reboot.

The Deep End; an uncomfortable but attainable place.

So, I had a couple of thoughts this week for my Reflection blog.  First was based on the following video.  I wanted to find one about humor and teaching but frankly, they weren’t very funny.  I zeroed in on Adult Learning and, again with the swim theme, thought that this was how I was feeling about this class and how others feel about topics that cause them some distress.

And yes, I’m wary of the “deep end”, or various on-line social tools,  but I know that with a patient teacher, group support and lots of humor, fun and persistence I’ll get my face in the water and slowly but surely make my way to the “scary” place and eventually feel comfortable.  As our professor so aptly put it in the Library Journal article, “Seek a Challenge” on Feb 15th, 2011, “…the minute I stop learning, I need to pack up my office and go sell tomatoes on the highway somewhere.”

And on that note, I’m already making progress!  As I mentioned before, I started a new job this past week which has so much potential for implementing different aspects of this class that it just makes me want to learn more!  I found out on Tuesday that I will be presenting at the All Staff Meeting next month.  I’m not sure what all I will need to cover but I’m looking forward to putting much of my learning into play.

Char Booth’s “nerd enabler” analogy made me laugh out loud because it is so true.  And her exercises on pinpointing the methods that did and didn’t work for me throughout my educational career was a great exercise not just in defining effective methods but also in reminding myself that all students have different style’s of learning so what may have worked for me may not have worked for someone else.

So much to think about out!  It’s getting a bit addictive :).

Treading water; a good alternative to “sink or swim”

I’m going to apologize right now for all the swimming analogies but as a “recreational” swimmer, I tend to miss it a lot once school starts.  (I say “recreational” because I only really enjoy distance swimming and it’s just too cold in the winter to jump into a lake.)

Not only did I have to wrap up my job last week (I start a new one on Tuesday) but I had to wrestle with all the new concepts, layouts, communication methods and, well, “techie” type stuff which makes up this class.  Yesterday I came to the conclusion that it really will make sense once I relax and just go through the paces.  That’s the “treading” part for me.  I won’t give up (sink) and I’m far from being able to freely swim through it.  So right now, I’d say that I’m treading water in this class.

The good news is that each day it has become a little clearer.  I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s posts and blogs.  Those give me a good idea of what I should be doing or even thinking about.  Coming from an Adult and Computer Literacy perspective, I’m really enjoying the readings and the in-depth studies on how we learn.  All of the new Family Literacy programs and Homework Help programs going in at Public Libraries are emphasizing PLAY based learning which is what this class is all about.  It’s great to see it all in action.

So, into the 3rd week I go.  My head is still above water but it’s not looking very calm ahead :).