PLN…tick!

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Twelve weeks ago I had no idea what a PLN was so, as you do, I googled! I came across this article on what a Personal Learning Network is and found it interesting but also daunting. I was being asked to set up my own PLN for the online unit of study I was doing and as I am a bit of a technology ‘dinosaur’, I went into a mild panic.

But look at me now!

I have completed The Six Learning Spaces assignment, added to my PLN.

I am just about to complete my Future Learning Space assignment, added to my PLN.

I have written regular blog posts to my PLN.

I have learnt so much about the design process of this site through trial and error but I have also been wonderfully supported by my online lecturer, Mr Adam Staples, my eCoP, in EDFD459, my colleagues, my friends and especially my family. Amazing what two tech-savvy children can do to help their Mama when she is stressed out and on the verge of tears!

As I was searching for an image to place at the top of this post, I found this wonderful one and I must admit, I smiled when I realised that all 10 reasons were now very applicable to me.

sd-blogImage retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/sylviaduckworth/

I am very proud of what I have achieved this semester. I am connecting with wonderful educators all around the world and I am looking forward to continuing to blog so I can…

LEARN  SHARE  INSPIRE

PLN…tick!

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Every space is important

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I’ve been thinking a lot about The Six Learning Spaces I researched previously as I work on my current assessment. When I first began this unit, I thought of learning spaces in a very literal way. I have now learnt about the different learning spaces that both teachers and children inhabit and I have a deeper level of understanding of each individual space.

The most important thing I have learnt is that ALL the spaces are important, valuable and have a place during anyone’s learning. The fact that they are all connected is proof that any one space is no more important than another. As educators we have to guide our students through each space, dependent on their needs. This unit has now given me an understanding and a vocabulary to be able to recognise when a particular space is relevant and how it will improve the education of my students. It has also made me realise the importance of children having a voice in their learning, to be able to articulate their ideas, their successes and also their concerns when they are working within a particular space.

I am both an educator of and a student in 21st Century education. I must have a solid grasp of these six spaces to be able to use them effectively with my own students, to be able to acknowledge which space a student can comfortably work within, to introduce them into a space they were not aware of and to guide them in moving between spaces. I have to be a good role model to my students and articulate my own ideas, successes and challenges when I am working within a particular space.

This unit on The Learning Space has equipped me to do all of the above with confidence and knowledge. I can do it!

A moment to reflect

reflectionI couldn’t agree more with Confucius on this one. As I near the end of my first unit towards upgrading my qualifications, I have been asked to post a reflection. I have likened the past 12 weeks as obtuse angle learning rather than a steep learning curve! But I must say, I am proud of my achievements to date.

Week One saw me very much as being in Stage One according to Salmon’s Five-Stage Model (Salmon, 2016), a ‘lurker’. This was a term that sounded quite terrible but aptly described my position as I began studying after a long absence. screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-1-58-01-pmI was also very hesitant in getting involved in the online forums. In fact, my first reflection in Week One saw me write this on post it notes…img_3963

Now at Week Twelve I think I’ve made my way through Stage One to Stage Five, although each ‘step’ was taken slowly and tentatively and I’ve moved up and down them in various weeks. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the wonderful lecturer I had in this unit, Mr Adam Staples at the Australian Catholic University, and the amazing eCoP of fellow students who were supportive, and encouraging and most definitely helped me take each ‘step’.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained they say.

Salmon, Gilly. E-Moderating. : Taylor and Francis, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. Web. 30 October 2016.

Getting back to nature

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I have been interested in discovering schools that take ‘outdoor education’ to the next level. 21st Century Learning advocates that we need to allow children time outdoors, not just to ‘get dirty’ but also to educate them on the world beyond the classroom. And with Web 2.0 technology we can go anywhere in the world and be ‘outside’ our classroom. We can ‘visit’ and connect with other spaces that are not within four walls.

Here in Melbourne we have Fitzroy Community School and Candlebark.

And today I came across Forest School, north of Auckland, NZ.

I thought this quote from Head Teacher, Tennille Murdoch, was quite apt…

“How can we expect the future generations to save the environment if they haven’t first learned to love it?”

Murdoch goes on to say…

“Everything is tailored to the individual child – if they need to spend half the day up a tree, then that’s okay. Once they’ve satisfied that urge, they will move onto the next thing they want to learn.”

The school is based on the model of Scandinavian Forest Schools, which began in the late 1950s.

Maud Hyde, pedagogue at Stockholmsgave Centrum describes what happens when 3 year olds start at a forest preschool…

“They come in pink dresses but a month later, they have worms in their pockets.”

I thought their Operation Spring Chicken was very innovative.

In Australia, I’m certain there would be a lot of planning meetings involved in getting that to be considered part of the curriculum!

But I am encouraged to think of possibilities to move beyond the classroom.

Can I hear an “a ha”?

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Over the last eight weeks I have certainly tried to “Keep Calm” although I  felt a few ‘flat line’ moments along the way! But over the course of these weeks of study, there have also been some great “a ha” moments.

They included…

  • recognising myself as a learner who understands how I self-direct, and self-reflect but needing to change my thinking of having a weak sense to a stronger sense of self-efficacy.
  • discovering Twitter as an educational tool and finding that #edchat opened up a whole new world of connecting with interesting people doing amazing things all over the world.
  • delving more deeply into group, collaborative and cooperative learning and being able to see that each had strengths and challenges and that it was not always about “doing” something together but about “learning” something together. (Slavin, Robert E. (2010),“Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work?”, in Hanna Dumont, David Istance and Francisco Benavides (eds.), The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing.)
  • understanding how important it is to give a voice to students when designing classrooms and learning spaces. They have great insight into what they like, what they don’t like and why. When speaking to my 11year old son about what he’d like in an ideal classroom he said, “a space where you can move around where it fits you best”.
  • challenging myself to think of “Beyond the Classroom” to not just mean an excursion or two with students but trying to think of meaningful ways we can connect with the outside world, anywhere in the world, to enhance our daily classroom activities.
  • explaining what I understood a ‘Liminal Space’ to be to others then helped me gain a clearer understanding of it myself. I can now use the terminology with students and have ideas of visual cues to help them make sense of this space when they are in it themselves.

I think those “a ha” light bulbs have been well and truly lit up!

Are you comfortable in your Liminal Space?

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Student responses, gathered through a combination of qualitative interviews and questionnaires revealed states of ‘having no knowledge’, ‘little knowledge’ or ‘guessing’.

Meyer, J., Land, R., & Baillie, C. (2010). Threshold concepts and transformational learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

In my experience with teaching young students, I often find it helpful to give them a visual cue to help with their thinking.

It helps them with the “I don’t know”, with the “what do I do?”, with the “can I guess?”.

Learning in the ‘Liminal Space’ made me think of explaining to them about stepping stones.

Being in the ‘Liminal Space’ when learning is to be unsure. It is to be uncomfortable because you are unsure. It is being confident of taking a risk to find out how you can be sure. And it is being comfortable in knowing you gave it a go.

I thought of stepping stones because you can take little steps to make your way across. You might fall off  but you can get back up and try again. You can go back to where you started, regroup and have another go. You can also reach out to others to ask them to help you step across or you can hold out your hand and help others to step across.

Some liken it to walking across a bridge…you know what is on one side but you are unsure of what will be on the other side. Be adventurous and find out!

I think it is important that teachers and students use the correct vocabulary to explain how they feel when they are learning. The ‘Liminal Space’, although a challenging space to be in, also allows for wonderful “a ha” moments when success has been achieved in any form, big or small.

I’ve often been in a ‘Liminal Space’ throughout my new online study and have certainly fallen off those stepping stones. But I’ve also found my way across with the help of others and by taking a risk myself.

It’s actually a kind of comfortable space.

Beyond four walls

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Nothing excites students more than hearing they are going on an excursion or that they are having an in-school special activity/visitor.

Nothing stresses teachers more than knowing they have to organise the excursion or incursion.

Not because teachers don’t enjoy being out of the classroom but the amount of planning and permission required is often daunting, time consuming and can carry an element of risk when taking students outside of the school environment.

When having an outside activity come into the school, it also requires the same amount of planning but with a little less risk.

Here is some information that you may find useful when planning, including checklists.

https://owfc.com.au/Childcare.asp?_=Excursion%20Risk%20Assessment

http://www.acecqa.gov.au/sample-forms-and-templates-now-available

http://www.bpc.vic.edu.au/images/Incursionpolicy.pdf