Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Not About Computers - It's About Digital Learning!

I have no idea why I am obsessed with computers and newer emerging technologies. I never had any formal computer education although I did teach basic computer programming courses for a couple of years in the Commodore Pet era. I took the digital plunge and learned on my own. In fact, I'm still learning and look forward each day to exploring some new website or tool to either help me do my job better, or simply for enjoyment.

It used to be I simply used technology for productivity (office tools) and email, but in the past year, I've become somewhat of a digital junkie, with an obsession for expanding my growing network of professionals whom I collaborate with regularly. And I love the transparency and openness of Twitter, Facebook, Ning and soon, Google Wave. On some days, I feel as if I've been transported out of my office and placed in a room full of people all talking at the same time and excited about education or one of my other passions, running. But while the noise of the read/write net is growing, the clarity of what I'm capable of learning is becoming more clear. The simple beauty is that anyone with an internet connection can easily find like-minded professionals to learn from, debate with, and share critical thinking about education and learning.

The internet has transformed my personal classroom and expanded its borders to encompass the entire community and indeed the world. I'm learning everyday about the power of these connections and taking steps to model this type of self-learning with peers, staff, and students. Let's not forget the students! Although they may be digital natives (while I am merely a digital immigrant excited about my new world), they do not necessarily know how to use the power of the internet to expand their own learning and explore new horizons. That's another reason why we as teachers and administrators, and even parents, have to take the digital plunge, and identify ways to use these tools for learning.

I dabbled in Web 2.0 tools (shorthand for the ability to interact two-way with the internet environment, aka, the read/write web) before I even knew what they were. Here are just some of the digital connections I continue to explore and expand each day:

  • For me, it started with a Facebook account (www.facebook.com) many years ago that I have used primarily to keep in touch with staff and students, mostly as an observer. While Facebook has provided me with a social platform that lately has expanded to include more of my former high school classmates and extended family members, I find it most useful in helping observe the struggles and successes of our graduates as they journey into adulthood. It sort of serves as a laboratory and provides me with nearly instant feedback that I share with teachers, administrators and parents. In addition, I have been able to provide mentoring and advice to a number of struggling youth, particularly those who have gone on to military service. Beyond than that, I find Facebook to be limited in expanding my personal learning network.
  • I've explored the use of a number of RSS feed readers to bring the news and blogs I'm interested to me. I use Google Reader (www.google.com) when I'm on the go but Protopage (http://www.protopage.com/ltcdavid) is my preferred desktop (and cellphone) reader. You are welcome to visit this page and look at what I have assembled on the various tabs. In addition, I bookmark Alltop (education.alltop.com) which is a collection of education blogs on steroids! Dozens of the most popular education blogs are contained on one single page and each lists the last five entries. I go to this site at least weekly and always learn something new.
    • Over a year ago, I established a Twitter account (www.twitter.com) but at first didn't quite understand how to benefit from it. Over the winter, I came across examples of how Twitter was being used in classrooms and between educational professionals to provide short, instant collaboration on topics of interest. In the spring, I returned to my Twitter account, dusted off the cobwebs, and have been on an amazing ride ever since. My personal learning network of followers and friends has grown - and continues to grow - at a rapid pace. As of this writing, I am nearing 650 followers, am following 232 others, have been included on 32 lists of educators, and tweeted over 2,900 times, but I am just a fledgling user compared to many of the other professionals I network with. Here are just a few of the prolific Tweetsters I follow that demonstrate the diversity and expanse of my learning network:
      • steelepierce
        M.E. Steele-Pierce | Cincinnati OH - K-12 Administrator. Aspiring locavore. Web 2.0 explorer. Bookworm. Word nerd. Interested in how we learn and how we change.
      • irasocol
        Ira Socol - Universal Design in Education and Assistive Technology and Novelist short-story writer. He also blogs at http://speedchange.blogspot.com/
      • cybraryman1
        Jerry Blumengarten | Florida - Educator & Writer trying to catalogue the internet for students, educators and parents. http://cybraryman.com
      • ShiftParadigm
        Mark E. Weston Ph.D. | Atlanta, GA USA - Education Strategist at Dell Inc. working to enhance learning and instruction for all students by harnessing the power of tech to support proven practices.
      • Edu4U
        Bri Brewer | Round Rock, TX - Updates from Dell's Education blog. Run by EdTech enthusiast Bri Brewer who manages Edu community development. I love food and my husband.
      • JasonFlom
        Jason Flom | Tallahassee, FL - Teacher Advocate. Education Idealist. 4th Grade Instructor. Father. Husband. Cyclist. Climber. Part-time Poly-anna.
      • ShellTerrell
        Shelly S Terrell | Stuttgart, Germany - Edtech blogger collaborating to make educational change. Focus on Edtech, Elearning, TEFL. #Edchat coordinator. Parentella.com, Dir of Edu Outreach. http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/
      • tomwhitby
        Tom Whitby - Professor of Education in Secondary English. Linkedin group Founder/owner Technology-Using Professors + TWITTER-Using Educators+ NING-Using Educators.
      • web20classroom
        Steven W. Anderson | Winston-Salem, NC - Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat, Character at the #140Conf, Winner of 1st Ever NOW Award, Trying to Change The World, One Tweet At A Time... http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/
      • canyonsdave
        David S. Doty | Sandy, Utah - Canyons School District Superintendent, triathlete, BYU & Stanford grad, putting an innovative new school district together one step at a time.
      • mcleod
        Scott McLeod | Ames, Iowa - Associate Professor. CASTLE Director. Blogger. Idea generator. Solution builder. Agitator. Catalyst. "If the leaders don't get it, it's not going to happen." http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/
      • chadratliff
        Chad Ratliff | Charlottesville, Virginia - Dad. Husband. Asst Director of Instruction. Entrepreneur. MEd/MBA. Relentless seeker of a better way. http://www.eduratireview.com/
      • chrislehmann
        Chris Lehmann | Philadelphia, PA - Principal of the Science Leadership Academy. http://www.practicaltheory.org/serendipity/
      • pammoran
        Charlottesville Virginia - Superintendent in Albemarle,Virginia, creating 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people.
      • bhsprincipal
        Patrick Larkin | Burlington, MA - Burlington High School (MA) Principal - I have the best job in the world!
      • NMHS_Principal
        Eric Sheninger | New Milford, NJ - Principal of New Milford High School (NJ) w/ interests in technology, 21st Century learning, pedagogy, resources for parents/students/educators.
      • EdTech4Me
        L Winebrenner | Augusta, GA/Fayetteville, NC - Ed Tech Doctoral Candidate, DL Student and Facilitator, Mom-Empty Nester, retired Army-still serving, Practitioner, TB Bucs fan, and 2 many 2 list here.
      • sanmccarron
        Sandra McCarron | Boston, MA - Lover of learning; Mom to many; Scientist and High School Science Teacher, Earth mother, flower child, geeky intellectual. http://sanmccarron.blogspot.com/
      • lasic
        Tomaz Lasic | Fremantle, Australia - Father, teacher, ed-tech t(h)inker, moodler, ex water polo goalie, endless 'to do' list, bad @ many things. http://human.edublogs.org/
      • kathyschrock
        Kathy Schrock | Cape Cod, MA - District Tech Director, DEN Star, Adobe Ed Leader, Google Certified Teacher. http://kathyschrock.net/
      • BarefootTed
        Barefoot Ted | Seattle - Learning how to flow well in life... http://barefootted.com/

    Ok, admittedly this last guy has nothing to do with education but he certainly has educated me on the joy of barefoot running, something I would have known little about without the internet and my desire to be a self-learner.

    Jump in!