Category Archives: Ed Tech 543- Social Network Learning

EDTECH 543- My Life as a Reformed Lurker: A Final Reflection


As I round the bend and head into the home stretch of my Masters at Boise State, I can’t help but look back and realize that it was social network learning that sparked my interest in Ed Tech in the first place.  I was excited by the prospect of reaching out to people around the world and learning from their experiences.  I was also amazed as some of my early contacts in the world of PLN’s would tweet out a message and receive a flurry of tweets back saying “Hello from Des Moines”, “Hey there from Sydney” and “How’s it going from Saturn.”  Pretty impressive stuff.  I was frustrated, however, when my early attempts at such a feat were met with silence.  Even now, I would get just a blip of response as compared to those bigwigs with their thousands of Twitter followers.

What’s the secret?  I’ve learned about PLN’s and the need to connect with like-minded people.  I recognize the importance of learning from others, no matter where they are.  Reaching out and seeking knowledge in its many forms can enrich my profession and my personal interests.

So what’s the secret to gaining that form of response?  Sharing.  That’s what I have taken away from this class.  In other classes, I have produced many artifacts.  I have made screencasts and animations, video lessons and lesson plans, webquests and presentations.  I enjoyed making most of these and gained something from each of them.  The difference I now see between those types of assignments and the work in Social Network Learning is that one is about “me” and the other is about “us.”  This class was about connection and building ideas in a coordinated, personalized and interactive way.  It forced me to come out from the shadows (a bit anyway) and to share my ideas and works with the world.  That’s a great thing.

Prior to this class, I saw social media as a way to get lessons others had created and to harvest resources in general.  Over time, however, the calls for “does anyone have a resource on…” go unanswered.  The world of the PLN and of social learning is a two-way street.  Those in it want the connections.  They want to learn from others.  They want to be inspired.  The shocking thing for me was that they want that from me,  Jon Freer.

If I truly want to grow a PLN and to learn how to help others to do so too, I have to share.  Share my work through Twitter.  Share my opinion through my blog or in the form of comments on others.  Offer my help where needed.

There were two big events that really brought this home for me.  One was watching the second presidential debate with my Twitter feed open.  I learned so much more about the issues discussed and answers given than I did when it was just me on my own.  Heck, I was seeing “Binders full of Women” memes before the debate was over.  The second event followed the live webinar assignment.  I took part in a Webinar on Inquiry Learning presented by David Truss.  I really enjoyed the experience and tried to express that in my reflection.  I also let seep through a bit of frustration I feel because I seem to understand the theory, but have trouble making it real.  The post wasn’t even a day old when David commented on it asking about what I felt was missing.  Wow.  This showed me that I need to express myself, but do so very thoughtfully and that people want to connect.

As I wrap this up, I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t always have time to really put into my work for this class.  My life is complicated by three kids 5 and under, a high energy dog, grad school, work, a wife that works and is in grad school, power-killing Superstorms and all the stuff that comes along with being alive.  I was so impressed with my classmates, especially Gretel and Fabio, and am excited to have them in my ever-expanding PLN.

Most of all, I am excited to reverse my web 2.0 experience.  I hope, in the near future, to be a regular blogger and to share ideas I have with the world.  My guess is that it is this element that those folks that inspired me early on all had in common.


Ed Tech 543- Development of a Social Media Policy

While many teachers still choose to keep their head in the sand, the fact is that Social Media is in our schools.  Moreover, that’s where it should be.  There is no doubt that dealing with social media in a school setting is tricky business.  Fears about students safety, cyber-bullying, reputation management, distraction in school and the like are real issues that should be addressed by school communities.  More and more, this is being handled by the development of a Social Media Policy for the school or school district.  This is an important part of creating a culture where students learn to use social media,, something they are already doing in the personal lives, in the space they spend so much of their time.  By taking the approach of creating a policy that cultivates an understanding of the proper use of social media, schools not only protect themselves and their students, they also help students learn to better use such technology.

The following was developed as a guideline for developing such a social media policy in a school.  The original document can be found here.

Plan for Development of a Social Media Policy for Holmquist School

With the ever increasing presence of Social Media in the world of our students, it is important that the school take time to reflect upon what it deems to be “appropriate use” of social media in the school setting.  While it is important to ensure the safety of our students, it is equally important to help students develop skills for using social media and a sense of how to manage their online world.  To that end, this plan was developed as a guideline for developing a Social media policy that effectively meets the needs of our school.

Take a Social Media Inventory

Before developing a policy, it is important to first have an understanding of a great many factors.  The following topic/areas should be included in a questionnaire that may be shared with teachers, administrators, students and parents.  Gaining an understanding of the current use and impact of social media on the school is essential to craft an appropriate policy.

  • Definition of “Social Media”
  • Current Use
    • Teachers/Classes
    • Administration/School Communication
    • Student Use (Academic and Non-Academic)
    • Examples of Good Use
    • Concerns related to Social Media Use

Form a Social Media Policy Committee

A committee of representatives from each of the main areas of the school (teachers, administrators, students and parents) should be assembled with the purpose of working through the answers to the questionnaire and crafting the policy.  It is important to include those who are technology literate and those who are a bit more dubious of technology.  Having the spectrum of attitudes represented on the committee will help to build a policy that makes sense to all members ofthe community.

Research Existing Policies

While the goal of this process is to develop a policy that is crafted specifically for our school, the committee should certainly utilize existing policies to develop an understanding of what areas should be covered in such a policy and how schools similar to ours approach social media in their school.  Individuals with their own learning networks via Social Media may also reach out to find guidelines and ideas.  The following are areas that may be included:

  • Type of Usage
  • Web Access
  • Collaboration, Web 2.0 and Academic Policies
  • Personal Device Useage
  • Security
  • Downloads
  • Online Behavior and Etiquette
  • Personal Safety and Cyberbullying

Write a Draft of the Social Media Policy

With an understanding of the school’s current use of social media and policies of similar schools, the committee should turn their attention to crafting their own policy.  Once completed, this draft should be presented to some constituent groups within the school community (students, teachers, parents), school administrators, the school board and, if deemed necessary by the administration, the school’s attorney.  It is important to emphasize that this is a draft of the policy to reduce confusion and to open the way for feedback from those reviewing it.  Edits may be made based on the feedback received.

A policy may include the following sections (as needed):


  • Introduction
  • Rationale for Policy Development
  • Policy Guidelines (broken into sections)
  • Help/Questions Contact Information
  • Signature of Student and/or Parent

Introduction of the Social Media Policy to the School Community

Once reviewed and edited, the policy should be presented to the school community.  The members of the committee should play a central role in explaining the policy and answering any questions that may arise.  This could/should include:

  • Introduction to faculty
  • Introduction to student body
  • Introduction to parents
  • Posting of policy in accessible space

Review the Policy

As social media changes, policies may become somewhat outdated.  Regularly scheduled reviews of the policy should be scheduled to be sure it is up to date and still meets all the needs of the school community.

Resources Used:

Anderson, S. (2012). How to create social media guidelines for your school. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Dunn, J. (2012). It’s time to crowdsource your school’s social media policy. Edudemic. Retrieved from

Johnson, S. (2010). How we used twitter to create our school’s social media guidelines. Ed Social Media. Retreived from:

Schultz, J. (2012). Should we fear children accessing facebook? DMLcentral. Retrieved from:

Smith, L.  (2012). Creating social media policies for school educators- a wise step for a better future. Solutions for Schools. Retrieved from

EdTech 543- PLE Depiction and Analysis

Entering into this class, I was certainly aware of the term Personal Learning Network.  I had been through a professional development ‘workshop’ on web 2.0 and it’s potential uses in education.  I had embraced Facebook as a way to connect socially, Twitter as a way to see what others are doing and various Ning Communities as a way to converse while still be distant.  If anyone asked, I would have said that I had a PLN.  Looking back, I am not so sure.  I had connections, for sure.  I lurked in the background and cherry-picked the good stuff.  I read blogs posts here and there, but never commented.  I tweeted experimentally, but with little of substance to add.

[gigya src=”″ quality=”high” width=”550″ height=”315 ]

So what has changed.  In some ways, not a great deal.  I am still more lurker than contributor…but I am working on that.  More importantly, I have come to gain a better appreciation of the fact that the PLN is simply a portion of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE).  When push comes to shove, this is about my own learning.  For that to happen, I need to have a variety of ways to obtain and process information.  The tools for finding information vary from Google to Twitter to Facebook.  (For the sake of this assignment, I am limiting myself to the online communities, but understand the role of my offline interactions as well.)  From there, learning becomes an interactive process.  I reflect in a blog or comment on someone else’s blog.  The dialogue begins and I build on a base of understanding.  From there the cycle builds and grows over time.  Interestingly, I used to feel like I could “master”  a topic.  I may not have known everything, but I knew everything that was reasonable to know.  Now, it seems there really isn’t such a limit (or achievement?).  With so much to know and so many potential teachers, all PLE supported,  the sky is the limit.

One thing became apparent as I viewed some classmates’ own PLE diagrams- mine showed less distinction about what each tool/community is for.  That is not to say that mine is better.  Truth is I really don’t know.  Distinctions about personal vs. professional seem like they should be distinguished.  But, for me, as I view my own learning, they all blend together.  This class brought my social world, Facebook, into my professional world.  One of my students follows me on Twitter, which I use for Professional Development.  We chat about golf.  So many of the tools could be placed in every category.  Even in my depiction this was true, but I went with what I use it for most.  Heading forward, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.  I have to be aware that my audience is very diverse.  It includes my colleagues, my boss, my students and even my mother.  However, it also brings the opportunity to catch things that might pass by otherwise and to get input on professional topics (or personal ones) from unlikely sources.

I’ll be interested to do this again in a few years.

Ed Tech 543- Curated Topics Criteria Group Assignment

While I have been studying Ed Tech at Boise State for a year and a half, this was the first true group project I have been involved.  There have been opportunities, but it always seemed that it would be easier to work alone.  Something about individual work just seems more efficient.  Much of this comes from outdated ideas that linger in my head.  Collaboration across the internet means creating a document, emailing it to your partners, each suggesting or adding changes and emailing it back, changing the original to reflect the new material, emailing that updated copy to partners, getting an email pointing out errors or omissions  changing the new original to reflect those changes, emailing it out, and on and on.  Frustrating right?

Leave it to Social Networking Learning to disprove that.  This assignment was something of an eye-opener in terms of showing me the ease of group collaboration across social networks.  To be fair, my group was actually a pair and my partner was outstanding.  Both of these facts contributed to the success of the project.

My partner Fabio Cominotti, and I come from different backgrounds.  I teach Science and Fabio’s background is in
English.  Despite this, we seemed to be on the same page from square one.  Our busy schedules limited our time and made efficient work a must.  We quickly settled on Google Docs as our medium and the project on curation came together seamlessly   The use of Facebook for conversation (and the fact that I get updates on my phone and can respond quickly) help ease the process of communicating changes and helped us stay on the same track.  Fabio learned and introduced me to Scoop.It, which is an exciting tool that I will be using quite a bit heading forward.

Overall, this group experience has been excellent.  A great partner, amazing tools and a cool subject all contributed to a positive experience.

EdTech 543- Classroom 2.0 Webinar: Inquiry Learning and Empowering Students

On Saturday September 29, I attending a webinar hosted by Classroom 2.0.  The featured guest was David Truss of the Learning Innovations Network Coquitlam,  Coquitlam Open Learning and the Inquiry Hub.  David has spent a number of years working towards creating learning environments in which the students are able to formulate their own questions and pursue the answers to those questions, with plenty of learning happening along the way.

The webinar began with general introductions and some polling of the attendees on questions like “Have you used project based learning in your classroom?” Once underway, David gave a description of what he does with his classes and, more importantly, why he feels this form of inquiry-based learning is important for students.  Chief among the reasons was the fact that by allowing students to pursue questions they have developed, the students become much more motivated and engaged in the learning process.  David provided a number of slides with images and inspirational quotes from those involved with the transformation of education.  David went on to develop all 7 of his “Ways to Transform Your  Classroom.” As seen in the above screenshot, these include inquiry, voice audience, community, leadership, play and networks.  All of these lead, in one way or another, to a more engaged and empowered student.

As the webinar continued, the chat box was very active (I am a bit of a neophyte, so I assume this is what is referred to as the “backchannel”.)  Attendees spent a good deal of time sharing opinions of what David was saying and admiring his inspirational quotes.  I did feel that the experience as a whole lacked a bit of what I love- “how to” information.  Connections did seem to be made, but for the most part they seemed to be already well-established.  I added my share of comments and questions (see image below), but did shy away from stepping up to the microphone.  Next time.  And yes, there will be a next time.

My initial opinion of this experience (it was not my first) was that it was very interesting and inspirational, but lacked a bit of substance in terms of practical application knowledge.  However, as I reflect on the experience now, I see that I am still so stuck in my “sage on the stage” mentality that I was expecting David to tell me what to do.  I wanted him to say “do these steps and you will have a transformed classroom.”  As I sit here know,I realize that David is the catalyst.  He gets the conversation going around a particular topic and it is the attendees that make what they want and need of it.  From there, they go out and did through the resources, connect with others in attendance (and the connections of those in attendance) and build their understanding and application in a way that is tailored to their own situation.  A tough process for sure, but one that seems to have a much better ending than the more directed “do as I tell you approach.”

Hmmm, sounds an awful like inquiry learning.  Go figure.

EdTech 543- Thoughts on Twitter for Just in Time PD

I can’t say that I am totally new to twitter.  I have been on Twitter for about three years now (I am sure that is considered “new” by many.)   I have bunch of followers and I follow my share of people.  to be honest, I am not exactly sure what an average number of followers is, but I’m sure that Justin Bieber skews that number anyways with his 28+ million followers.  So, yes, my Twitterverse is a small one.  However, as I get to learn more and more about twitter, I am finding it a wonderful place to learn.  For this module in Social network learning, I have set up Tweetdeck and incorporated a number of hashtags.  Because I teach science, I wanted some to reflect that discipline.  I also wanted to include one more related to technology.  As such, I have added columns with the following hashtags:

  • #scichat– This hashtag is dedicated to science teachers sharing ideas, resources and other science related material
  • #edchat– A general education chat that is quite popular.  There are many planned discussions using this hashtag.
  • #edtech– This hashtag has a blend of both education and technology.  There are resources geared more towards education, those geared more towards technology and ones that blend the two together.
  • #plpnetwork– This hashtag helps bring together those who are in Powerful learning Practices (PLP), those who guide the learning and for PLPeeps (those who have been through PLP).  A great combination of resources and thought provoking blogs/articles.
  • #edsci– Presumably a hashtag for discussing science education.  Unfortunately, it seems to be fairly quiet.

Here they are in all their glory via Tweetdeck

Some sample of resources I have connected to through these hashtags are:

I first heard of the idea of “Just In Time” learning in the introductory conference as I began my 8-month journey with Powerful learning Practice (PLP).  Will Richardson drew all of us in with his idea of how learning is happening in the lives of teenagers (and many others, but teens were his focus) everywhere (except in school.)  The world has changed is huge ways and the amount of information that is easily available if simply incomprehensible.   I recall reading something once about how it used to be if a question like “How old is Julia Roberts?” came up in conversation, it might never be answered.  Now, you simply have to reach into your pocket for your phone and BOOM, there it is.  (Here it is if you were wondering.)

Now, not all the information is trivia (or trivial).  A person can learn a foreign language, learn the properties of Neon gas or just about anything else you can think of.  The fact is, all of this potential learning has to impact what schools look like.  I teach Science and often ask students to learn things like the parts of a cell or the prefixes used in the metric system.  The question is ‘why?’  Most of this information can easily be looked up.  So, should I have my students spend their time and energy learning these facts or should I get them working on work that requires deeper thought and assumes that the facts are easily available.  To be honest, I am still somewhat on the fence.  There is a necessary balance if we want our students to be truly ‘educated.’  Having some facts at the ready is helpful when in a conversation.  How could smooth conversation happen otherwise?  However, the easy access also allows the deeper conversations to happen when an otherwise unknown fact or idea is easy sought out.

In the end, I want my doctor to know what my thyroid glands do without heading to his smartphone and my students to know enough to carry on an intelligent conversation without having to Google anything.  However, I also want my doctor and my students to use the resources the world has made available to them.  The idea that my doctor is conferring with his network on my case is comforting.  And knowing that my students can learn what they want, when they want it is downright cool.