Growing My PLN

Prior to this class, I assumed myself to be fairly technologically literate. I used many forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep current on what was happening in my friend’s lives. I enjoyed using Pinterest and reading blogs to find ideas to use in my future classroom. I was open to including technology in my future teaching. While I assumed that I was technologically literate, I still hesitated when asked to build my Personal Learning Network. Why? I think my biggest fear was that I would be judged based on what I put out into the world, or that I would have nothing intelligent to contribute. Looking back, my reluctance seems silly. While the Internet can seem intimidating, it is a place where an abundance of learning, both professionally and personally, can take place. Through the use of Twitter and blogging, I feel like my Personal Learning Network has grown significantly.

I have had a Twitter account for over two years, and while I have always enjoyed reading my followers’ tweets, I rarely created my own. When we were first asked to use Twitter for this class, I knew that I wanted a fresh start. For this reason, I created a new Twitter account. This gave me the opportunity to change my attitude regarding Twitter. Rather than just reading other people’s thoughts, I started to create my own. After a while, it just became second nature for me to post on twitter any time I found an interesting article, or thought a certain quote was especially meaningful during lecture. Instead of being a duty, it became a way for me to share my interests with the world, and learn from others doing the same.

One of my strongest interests is disabilities awareness, specifically Autism. I am always eager to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, and therefore many of the articles and videos that I posted, such as this video on the Autism Resource Centre, and people that I followed were based on this interest. During seminar, Julie talked about how eventually what you post can influence others who you do not know to follow you. I had never experienced this before, until Autism Meetup started following me. Autism Meetup is a UK account, and is a platform for families, professionals, and volunteers to unite and “provide platform for helping our community.” I had never heard of them before, but it was just so amazing to me that they would choose to follow me based on my posts! This was the moment where I realized just how beneficial twitter could be. It is a place for people to connect and learn from one another, no matter their geographical location.

What I really enjoyed about using Twitter during ECS 210 was the sense of community it created within the class. In a class of over one hundred people, it would be easy not to get to know anyone or even interact with each other. Through Twitter I was able to read the opinions of people that I did not have the chance to talk to during lecture and seminar, and voice my own otherwise unheard opinions. For example, during lecture I often tweeted out quotes that I thought were important to remember, such as this quote from Bonnie Morton. I was also able to learn from the tweets of my classmates, including this tweet made by Curtis. Through this tweet, I was able to understand oppression in a way that I had not previously considered.

Twitter not only helped me better understand class concepts, but provided me with a space to voice any concerns that I had regarding assignments, and receive immediate feedback. An example of this feedback is this exchange between Katia and myself. I asked a question regarding assignment four, and within minutes Katia had the solution for me. Prior to this class, I had never considered how much using Twitter could teach me.

Another way in which my Professional Learning Network has grown is through my WordPress blog. When we were first asked to blog, I’ll admit that I was extremely doubtful. I had blogged for a class during high school, and it seemed like I just spent the whole time summarizing novels. I assumed that’s what I would be doing on my ECS 210 blog, and did not see how that could benefit me in any way. I am happy to say that my opinion on blogging has completely changed. I now understand that having a professional blog means creating posts based on carefully thought out opinions that stimulate thoughts and questions. By creating posts, as well as reading and commenting on others’ posts, I was able to fully reflect on the content of this course, and engage in meaningful conversation regarding the content. An example of this type of meaningful conversation is one that occurred between Christine and I regarding a post I wrote on standardized testing. Rather than just complimenting me on the post, Christine asked thought provoking questions on standardized testing that allowed us both to understand the topic more clearly.

While I really enjoyed blogging throughout this class, I found that I did not comment on others’ blogs as much as I would have liked. Between readings, assignments, blogging, and twitter, it often slipped my mind to not only read a large number of my peers’ blogs, but comment on them as well. In this way, I think blogging both helped grow my Personal Learning Network, while also keeping it at a standstill. It’s not that I do not think that commenting on others’ blogs is important; I just wish that I would have commented more often.

I am so thankful for this class for pushing me outside my comfort limits. Now that I have started my Personal Learning Network, I intend to keep on growing it. In order to do this, I plan to continue my journey through Twitter and WordPress. They have proven to be exceptional learning tools. I also plan to incorporate technology into my future classroom. Considering how much I have learned through the use of my Personal Learning Network this semester, I cannot even imagine how much my students will be able to learn!

 

Standardized Testing: A Form of Oppression?

Standardized testing is an often talked about, controversial topic in the education world. Some are in favor of standardized testing, saying that it is a way to better understand a school’s performance. Others, on the other hand, view it as the opposite. Prior to joining the education program, I had no opinion at all on standardized testing. I completed these tests throughout my school career, and still did not consider how they were affecting me as a student. Since coming to the U of R, I have formed a very strong opinion on the subject, as have many of my fellow colleagues. My opinion now is that I strongly disagree with standardized testing.

Throughout our time in the faculty of Education, my colleagues and I have learned so many beneficial practices to take into our future classrooms. So far, all of these practices centre on seeing each child as an individual person. This means implementing practices that do not discriminate based on race, gender, age, or ability level, and celebrating all students for the capable learners that they are. Inquiry, exploration, and play based learning are popular topics in class. We are taught to be inclusive to all, and teach each child based on their learning styles and strengths. I believe that the practices I have learned while at the U of R have been fundamental in shaping who I am as a future educator, and I also believe that standardized testing goes against every single one of these practices.

Standardized testing does not focus on the learner. It uses one form of testing to judge every student, regardless of outside circumstances. It enables students to believe that if they cannot complete the test, they are not capable. It does not focus on multiculturalism or inclusiveness. I could go on and on about the reasons I do not believe in standardized testing. If there are so many downsides to standardized testing, then why is it still happening?

The Heart of a Teacher

“The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching,” by Parker Palmer, is a must read for all educators and future educators. The article really made me consider what makes a successful teacher. It is not the students or content that make teaching difficult, but realizing that one’s identity shapes their teaching. Luckily, identity is also what can make a teacher successful. When teachers are able to critically examine their inner beliefs, thoughts, and ideas, they are able to bring their identity into their teaching and actually enjoy the content they are teaching about. The article defines this identity as “the teacher within.” Our students will not remember the teachers that stood at the front of the room, lecturing in a monotone voice about content that they felt detached from. They will remember the ones who were passionate about their subject matter; the ones who felt a genuine internal connection to the content and their students.

Reconsidering My Autobiography

During Katia’s lecture on March 3rd, my classmates and I were posed with the question “What hidden messages are now visible to you in what you could offer as your autobiography?” When Kumashiro says that “we need to be examining our lessons and lenses, their political implications, and possible alternatives,” he is urging us to look at our own experiences and views and how they may have been influenced by things like race, sexuality, and gender. When writing my autobiography, I did not touch on any of these things because I felt like they hadn’t influenced me. I only considered the way that the experiences I have had and the people around me had influenced me. When Katia posed the question in lecture I initially disagreed with her because I did not feel like these things are what make me who I am. However, after taking some time to reflect on the question, I realize that by not touching on things like race, sexuality and gender in my autobiography, I was ignoring the fact that they may have helped shape the experiences that I wrote about. I am a white, heterosexual, middle class female, and because of this I have been given certain privileges throughout my life. By not writing about these things, I ignored this privilege. I think this type of ignorance is common because privilege based on things like race, gender, sexuality, and social class is a form of what Katia described as “troubling knowledge.” People know it is there, but do not want to think about it. If we are striving to be anti-oppressive educators, we need to understand that this troubling knowledge exists, and educate others about it.

Your Words Have Power

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I came across this picture while researching inclusive education for our inquiry project. In order to promote inclusion, students need to understand what inclusion is. Part of that is realizing that the language they use can have a profound impact on others, even if they do not mean for it to.

Curriculum as Narrative and Community

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While reading the ten assigned stories in my “New Teacher Book,” I was continuously reminded of one word. That word is Acceptance. Even though each story has a diverse plot and problems, the underlying message is that people should be accepted for who they are. I find this message to be especially prevalent in stories such as “The Brown Kids Can’t Be In Our Club,” “Framing the Family Tree,” and “Heather’s Moms Got Married.” In all of these stories, students are faced with situations that cause them to be outside of the supposed norm. Whether their situations are based on skin color, family life, or sexual orientation of parents, it would be common for these students to become the victims of racism, judgment, or discrimination. However, good teachers know and understand that these differences are not what form the individuals. While these differences might contribute to their individual personalities, they are not the only things. These students deserve to have their differences accepted, and it is up to the teacher to realize and teach others that we are all made and shaped by an assortment of traits and experiences.

My views on the importance of acceptance are what inspired my visual representation. People should be treated equally regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Celebration of individuality is crucial when teaching, as long as students are not treated any lesser based on their individuality. This visual representation exemplifies the importance of seeing someone as a whole person made up of an unlimited number of components, rather than just judging based on one component of his or her make up.

Curriculum as Online Community

How might the changing nature of learning and increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice and anti-oppressive education? What is made possible by these tools and types of learning?

In modern day society, there is almost no avoiding technology. Many shy away from the use of technology in their teaching because they are unaware of the positive effect that using it can have on learning. Technology is just another medium that can be used to get students interested in what they are learning about, and allows them to have some control and say in what they are doing. It is possible to incorporate technology into every subject, including topics of social justice and oppression. The use of technology when teaching these topics could increase the students’ interest in learning about them, as well as open a new world of information. Social justice is a topic that is not always covered accurately in textbooks, so the use of technology means that more information can be found and discussed. Social media forms of technology create a platform for voicing opinions and viewing the opinions of others. They allow society to band together over an important cause, such as social justice. Technology brings people together, and hopefully this united feeling will help put an end to oppression. People are more likely to join a movement when they know that they are not the only ones.

Walk & Talk Activity

During seminar on February 5th, Julie set out objects on each table. She proceeded to ask each student to pick an object they identified with and tell a story about it, while walking with a partner. I chose the teddy bear. I loved playing with toys when I was younger, but never had one stuffed animal that I was attached to while at home. However, my favorite auntie had a stuffed dog that I loved carrying around with me while visiting her. After my auntie passed away, I was given the stuffed dog and slept with it for many nights because it reminded me of her. Although I no longer sleep with the dog, I still have it, and plan on keeping it forever in memory of her. I really enjoyed this activity.  I find it amazing that one seemingly random object can stir up so many memories.