Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

A Personal Learning Network for Online Language Educators
I’m learning about new tech tools from my peers!

After listening to a webinar today on PLNs, I realized that I often speak about various facets of personal learning networks but haven’t addressed them head-on. I’m a big advocate of PLNs because of their power to network with peers locally and globally. Additionally, I work from home, so I don’t have the more familiar hangout time with colleagues during breaks or at lunchtime when you would normally spend time discussing various topics. Instead, I’m more likely to attend a Google+Hangout or webinar to interact with peers in my field. Nowadays, I only see my peers face-to-face (F2F) at conferences. I just went back to school for my doctorate this spring, so now I’ll actually meet peers F2f but only during class on Monday nights!

First, allow me to make my own distinction between these two terms: PLEs and PLNs. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are formed to provide a depository or “online treasure chest” of great ideas and tech tools that you or your peers discover. You can have a shared PLE or an individual one. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are formed to guide our independent or group learning goals and professional development needs within a dynamic flow of information from our peers’ discoveries or that of our own. In my opinion, PLEs are more controlled by the individual or group and therefore static, while PLNs are more dynamic with input and output occurring from a networked community of learners.

Secondly, I’d like to share my own PLN because I think it’s critical to provide real examples and not just theory. Are you familiar with Paper.li? It’s a Twitter app that allows you to aggregate your twitter followers’ tweets into an e-newspaper. The possibilities are endless! I noticed that besides compiling your twitter feed and hashtags (#), it also will siphon your Facebook feed . . . that is if you want it to! “Feed” in this context refers to your followers or friends comments, articles, photos, and links. Paper.li could be the next best thing for social networking for learning communities. Imagine what you could do with it for your school or project! Watch my video demonstration on how to use Paper.li to set up your own PLN: http://www.screenr.com/embed/92Ss

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitter, you don’t have to have an account to follow the tweets. Anyhow, I’d like to share some alternative platforms. One example is the use of wikis. I used PBWorks.com to create my first PLE for online English language learning resources: http://mypersonallearningenvironment.pbworks.com/w/page/25570751/FrontPage. Learn how to create a PLE on a wiki from this screencast: https://teacherrogers.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/how-to-create-a-ple-on-a-wiki/. Another idea is to use social bookmarking sites like Diigo.com if you prefer not to collect resources on a wiki. For instance, Dr. Elizabeth Hanson-Smith is curating a Diigo site for TESOL with great resources in all English language teaching and training topics. Here is TESOL’s computer-assisted language learning-interest section (CALL-IS) Virtual Software List that she set up: http://www.diigo.com/user/call_is_vsl

I invite you to subscribe to my e-newspaper, The Online Educator, to become part of my PLN. I follow the EFL/ESL and tech leaders from around the world. Since this paper publishes weekly, it forces me to read about the latest technology tools and how they might be integrated into the classroom. For instance, I’m following the tweets of the Presidents of TESOL France and Chile, as well as IATEFL. Here’s the link: http://paper.li/teacherrogers/1301595898#. Check out these other twitter e-newspapers on similar topics:

  1. This one is by another EVO Moderator, Barbara Sakamoto: http://paper.li/barbsaka/starter-pln
  2. This one is created by the hashtag #ELTchat: http://paper.li/tag/ELTchat

  3. This e-newspaper is created by the British Council: http://paper.li/TeachingEnglish/teachingenglish

  4. This one is created by another EVO Moderator, Jose Antonio Silva for this hashtag, #EdTech: http://paper.li/joseantoniook

Lastly, take a look at these large-scale, professional PLNs to connect with your peers and advance your knowledge:

  1. The Educator’s PLN: http://edupln.ning.com/
  2. aPLaNet: http://aplanet-project.org/
  3. ELT Teachers’ Network: http://celt-athens.grou.ps/home
  4. EFL Classroom 2.0: http://community.eflclassroom.com/index.php

Best Wishes,

Sandra Rogers

Vote for EVO as Top Tech Innovator on The Chronicle

Electronic Village Online

I’ve nominated TESOL’s Electronic Village Online (EVO) for The Chronicle of Higher Education’s competition of top technology innovators in higher education. They’re asking for votes and stories, so please add yours to the event at the link below. If you’ve ever learned with the EVO team, please share your story. As any threaded discussion, they ask that you “like” or reply to my initial post to vote for EVO. (Some site visitors are erroneously posting separate likes of the same person or group.)

Here’s the broad description provided about the competition by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Nominees can come from any area within academe (teaching, libraries, scholarship, admissions, student life, online learning, etc.) or outside of it (companies, government, think tanks, publishing). Basically, we’re looking for people who are thinking big about how technology can change education “and putting their ideas into practice.”

Vote: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/who-are-the-top-technology-innovators-in-higher-education/34638?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

I realize that some of you may not be in higher ed, and don’t need to vote if you are in K-12. Perhaps you’d like to nominate another worthy techie, school or company. Feel free to do so! I just thought that EVO merits a nomination. I don’t feel like I’m voting for myself, even though I’m on the coordination team, because it’s really about the current moderators, mentors and other seasoned coordinators, and the time they devote to make it happen. Many have been giving of themselves professional for the past 10 years!

Personally, my knowledge base for online learning and teaching has greatly benefited from my involvement with EVO for the past two years. I can’t think of any other organization, school or company that has provided such a fantastic menu of learning opportunities, especially for free. EVO is an open source for learning and participants need not be TESOL members to join the sessions.

EVO has provided free professional development on integrating technology into the educational classroom for English language instructors worldwide for the past 11 years. It started as a special project in 1999 by the computer-assisted language learning interest section (CALL-IS) of TESOL. Last year around 1100 teachers participated in the free online training sessions that take place annually in January and February.

Our goal is to allow learning anywhere, anytime, with as little expense as possible. Thus EVO moderators and mentors are all volunteers, and participants need only provide their own Internet access to take part in activities. Participants and experts engage in collaborative, online discussions or hands-on virtual workshops of professional and scholarly benefit. Here’s a listing of our sessions for 2012 with powerful workshops on everything from digital storytelling to video productions on SecondLife to online mentoring and more: http://evosessions.pbworks.com/w/page/48510148/Call_for_Participation2012

3 Basic Tech Tools for Beginning Online Teachers

Ever feel overwhelmed by all the Web 2.0 learning tools available?  I’m crazy about technology; however, a PowerPoint presentation that covers 20 or 30 tools is just too much for my brain to assimilate.  This blog focuses on the 3 most basic tech tools that I use for online instructional design.  Plus, they’re free!  I have 7 more to share in a follow-up blog.

I.  Ever wish you could take a photo of your computer screen to explain something to a student?  Well, it’s actually quite simple if you want to snap the entire screen.  On a personal computer, the keys to use are Ctrl + Prnt Scrn.  It copies the picture onto an invisible clipboard; then you can paste the image into an email or wiki for discussion.  Is the image too large or not precise enough? Then you’ll have to use a drawing tool to edit the section of the screen that you want to capture with Paint or Gimp.  Paint comes with the purchase of Microsoft software.  Check your computer programs under the Start menu to see if you have it.  Otherwise, download these for free.  Once you teach this to your students, you’ll start getting lots of emails with images of what they’re getting stuck on. Here’s an example of my Ctrl + Prnt Scrn (and Ctrl C+ Ctrl V for cut-and-paste) of the TESOL website below. Don’t forget to add alternative text to images shared online for assistive technologies to read aloud for persons with impaired vision.

Screenshot of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages international association's website

II.  Would you like to record your lecture or create a virtual tour for your class?  This could be used for student presentations, too!  Screenr.com has to be one of the easiest screen capturing tools.  You’ll need a headset with a mic to record clearly.  Headsets costs around $20 at Walmart.  A red recording button will appear along with the border for landscaping your video.  The border is moveable; just click and drag it to the desired area.  Screenr provides the option to save your file as an MP4 or upload to YouTube.  Don’t worry, it’s easy to delete if you don’t like what you create!  The basic free version doesn’t have editing features, and you only get 5 minutes talk time. In the following screencast, I introduce myself to a workshop session.  Students can use it for presentations, too.  Notice how I used some low tech ideas like typing on a blank MS Word document without speaking to add variety to my video.

http://www.screenr.com/embed/Jt4s

III. How would you like to embed your PowerPoint into your website or learning management system (LMS)?  Don’t let the tech skill of embedding hypertext markup language (HTML) code scare you off.   Embedding is a simple cut-and-paste task.  With Google Drive, you can upload your PowerPoint or Word document, convert it to Slides or Docs respectively, and then share the content on your website by embedding the HTML code.  That way your students can simply review by clicking through the pages on your LMS  instead of having to download it first.


Personal Branding for the 21st Century Educator

This is Sandra Rogers
Sandra Rogers is Teacherrogers

Have you googled yourself lately?  What does the Internet search reveal about you?  As a 21st century educator, I’m building my online reputation with one search engine optimization (SEO) keyword, blog post, tweet, or online project at a time.  In fact, I’ve been wanting to blog about personal branding for some time because blog posts achieve higher SEO status than static websites.

Personal branding is something that most HR leaders profess as essential in today’s job market.   With the plethora of free and simple Web 2.0 tools, it’s fairly easy to create your own online brand.   Since my name is common, I decided to start building my own personal brand—Teacherrogers.  In fact, if you google my moniker,  “teacherrogers,” you’ll find all of my online projects and activities.

Personal branding for a 21st century educator means showing your work online, posting your teaching philosophy, tweeting resources, and engaging in some type of “open” learning/teaching environments.  Open environments online refer to free training, collaboration, or free information.  I’ve been involved with many open environments as an e-mentor.   My e-portfolio hosted on WordPress is my attempt to share my work online with potential employers, students, and my professional peers.  I personally believe sharing my teaching philosophy with others challenges me to revisit my long-held ideals about teaching.  In fact, it’s a work-in-progress on my to-do-list now, instead of somewhere in the back of my mind.

Are you on the shore or riding the wave when it comes to personal branding?   Perhaps you joined several online learning communities and then never went back to complete your profile or never really got involved.  All these attempts will remain online forever plotting your digital pathway, so make sure you cull your online image periodically.   Set up Google Alerts on your name or any other phrase that is important to you; these alerts are sent to your Gmail account immediately after something is posted online about your topic/name.  Let me know if you need any help.   My About Me page has my contact information.

Best Wishes,

Sandra Annette Rogers

Instructional Design of an Online Course

“What did YOU do?” is a question regarding course design that haunted me after a job interview.  This question came after I described a successful reading course that I created for a developmental studies program.  I’d taken the regular, F2F, course and adapted it to the online format.  I knew the course was successful based on student performance and student opinions of the course design.  However, I couldn’t encapsulate during the interview what I had done besides stating that it took me about 34 hours to create.

Now that I’m studying instructional design and development (ID), I’ve been looking at the various research theories on this topic.  I came across the ADDIE process: Analysis + Design+ Develop+ Implement+ Evaluate.  When I read it, I immediately thought, that’s what I did!  Even if you aren’t aware of instructional design processes, it adheres to an intelligent pathway that you’re probably already following intrinsically; however, it isn’t an ID model. Michael Molinda described ADDIE as “…these processes are considered to be sequential but also iterative…” (In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model, May/June 2003, Performance Improvement).  ID is definitely iterative, in that as you go through the systematic approach, you’re constantly revamping content and concepts in a previous stage or at all the stages of the iterative process depending on your findings.

Acronym: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation

The Wikipedia entry on this topic provides several questions that you would answer at each stage of the process.  However, ADDIE isn’t an instructional design model, just phases in a process. For example, it doesn’t provide what I’d consider the most important question for the analysis stage—What technology tools and platforms would best fit the content to be covered?  For course creation, I was given a textbook and a computerized reading remediation program for instruction and eCollege as the learning management system (LMS).  The topics to be covered in the computerized reading program, MyReadingLab.com, were designated by my administrators.  The rest was left up to me to design and implement.  Since I strongly believe in students constructing their knowledge (see my teaching philosophy), I designed the course to maximize student interaction with each other and with myself as the facilitator of their learning.

I used my background as a literacy coach to first attack the exact reading strategies and skills to cover in a semester from the textbook and computer program.  This entailed correlating the textbook chapters with the MyReadingLab (MRL) topics.  Then I analyzed what was missing to form a rounded reading program given the material provided.  I recognized the lack of consistency in vocabulary development, so I incorporated a project on Dictionary.com to enhance students’ learning.  My course design wove the teaching and learning components (textbook, MRL, Dictionary.com, and eCollege) into a multifaceted class.  For instance, I used the threaded discussions on the LMS to spur student reflection on the textbook topics.  Also, I embedded the MRL and Dictionary.com web pages into the LMS; in that way, students didn’t have to stray far from the online course to log in to various components.

Then I used my training from TESOL’s Principles & Practices of Online Learning to analyze how to design the reading course on the LMS so that it was practical, effective, and attractive.  According to the Wikipedia entry on instructional design, “Instructional Design (also called Instructional Systems Design) is the practice of maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences.”  Once again, I intrinsically knew what to do.  I believe that this is what we all do, hopefully, even when designing our F2F courses.  It’d take me several pages to explain the rest of my reading course design to you.  Nevertheless, I hope that I shared enough to help you understand some of the basic concepts of instructional design and development. Read my blog post about my formal and informal definitions of ID, as I continue to learn about it in my doctoral studies.

Sandra Annette Rogers

Note: According to Michael Molinda of Indiana University, the source of ADDIE is unclear (2003).

Social Networking Websites for Language Learning

 

Do you use a Web 2.0 language learning website? Do you like it? If so, please add your comments and include the links to share with my readers. I have only used Verbling.com for my own personal use—for free Spanish conversation in exchange for an English conversation. I’ve used English Cafe and NiceNet as resources for my students. Generally, I’ve taught from commercial, for profit, learning management systems (LMS) instead of social networking sites.

Here are the social networking sites that were discussed in a recent TESOL computer-assisted language learning interest section (CALL-IS) listserve:

1. Nellie Deutsch, a TESOL member, built a worldwide network with other professionals called IT4ALL: http://www.integrating-technology.org

2. http://www.learncentral.org/

3. http://community.eflclassroom.com/page/name-the-languages

4. http://www.livemocha.com

5. www.connecting-online.ning.com

6. www.nicenet.org

7. http://EnglishCafe.com

8. http://Verbling.com

Web 2.0 combinations include:

1.  Skype (for audio/video chat) and Twiddla (interactive webbased board) as the visual interface.

2.  The Mixxer at Dickinson College uses Skype (for audio/video chat) and blogs at www.language-exchanges.org

3.  I forgot to add Facebook.com to this list.   You can create a class on FB but would need to use other Web 2.0 tools to engage learners on any given topic.

4.  SlideShare has an app called Zipcast, which allows you to share your PowerPoint slides online with participants and also post to FB and Twitter: http://www.slideshare.net/zipcast

5. WizIQ.com is a great way to meet learners online to deliver a presentation for free or for pay.  It really isn’t a social network but worth adding!

Join Your Professional Organization

(This blog was previously posted in 2010 on Blogging4Broke, a nonprofit career advice blog.)

My professional association

A simple and dynamic way to reconnect with your career choice is to join the professional organization associated with that type of job. For example, I’m an educator who specializes in teaching English, as a second language. The professional organization associated with my career is called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). For less than 100 dollars, I renewed my TESOL membership. Since then I’ve been able to learn about the latest research in the field, training opportunities, and job announcements.

When I first joined, they asked me to select from various interest sections, email listserves. I signed up for several and was flooded with emails. Then I went back and revised my areas of interest to get more specific information that pertained to my needs. That’s when I read an announcement from an individual looking for assistance in moderating an online, volunteer TESOL professional development session of the Computer-assisted Language Learning Interest Section (CALL-IS). I responded immediately and took the necessary moderator training to teach the session. I taught the six-week session and felt pleased to be a part of my professional organization once again, even as a volunteer.

Secondly, you often feel isolated from peer interaction when you’re looking for work. By joining TESOL, I connected with peers from around the world via the listserve, training, and now through teaching. I’ve learned from my peers via informal training, and also took a formal course offered for a certificate program. It’s been wonderful to add new technology skills and reevaluate my teaching methodology to include that of the online facilitator. Furthermore, the experience forced me to revise my job search documents related to my teaching philosophy, resume, and cover letter.

Thirdly, professional organizations provide you with access to conferences regionally, nationally, and internationally. Most professional conferences hold a job market during the convention. Last spring, TESOL, offered reduced rates on what they called their “stimulus plan.” TESOL plans to offer membership deals in the future. Perhaps your profession offers reduced costs to attend their conferences or free webinars. You won’t know until you investigate. At least, look into joining an organization and read about their perks on the membership page. Maybe you think that $95 is too expensive right now since you’re unemployed…I’m here to tell you that it has really paid off as an investment in my career.

Furthermore, the mentor of our online training asked the trainees if anyone would be interested in presenting on the volunteer experience and the outcome of the session at the TESOL conference. Once again, I jumped at the opportunity and used my airline rewards miles to travel to the conference for free. While I was at the conference, I also collected free resources, volunteered, and attended as many presentations as possible. Plus, I was able to reconnect with former employers! This series of events came about simply by renewing my membership with my professional organization. I urge you to do the same. Good luck!

Here’s a link to the various TESOL Interest Sections: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=161&DID=550

Sandra Annette Rogers, PhD