Connectivism, CoP and PLN

For this past week’s module in my EdTech543 Class, I found some great articles from fellow classmates. If you want to learn more about collaborative learning is re-shaping learning itself, check out these great articles.

Connectivism and Communities of Practice courtesy of Emmett Wemp

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge courtesy of Ryan McDonough

Educators Will Never Be 100% Connected courtesy of Tsisana Palmer

Connectivism as Learning Theory courtesy of John Potosnak


EdTech 541- Social Networks: Inital Reaction

When I saw our first assignment was to sign up for Facebook and Twitter, I wasn’t very surprised as they are probably the two most popular social media platforms. I have been using Twitter personally for over years and love it. It is definitely something I check daily (and by daily, I mean all day). However, I had never ever posted a single thing on Facebook. Facebook is something I have always avoided, not because I dislike social media (obviously, I have a Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram) but because it seemed like too much. There were too many people trying to invade too much of people’s lives. I do know there are educational benefits to using it and there are literally billions of people on it, so I bit the bullet and posted on Facebook today.

When I first began using Twitter, it was completely personal. I then thought, why no try to use this for school? I set-up a Twitter page for class homework. To my surprise, very few of the kids really knew what Twitter was and they weren’t using it. Flash-forward to this fall and it has completely changed. Most of the kids have an account and are active on it. That is when I decided to create a Twitter account for general school info. So over this year, I have run the Twitter account and Instagram for the high school I work at. It was very effective at disseminating information: snow days, late starts, athletic events, fund-raisers, etc. This year we reviewed the dress code and code of conduct, I was able to use the Twitter account as a way of creating a conversation and getting student input, but also explaining to the kids why some policies are in place. It has been a success overall, despite not receiving any support from any other staff member in the entire district. I can’t advertise it in school, nobody will give me information to put on. None of the other teachers have contributed. It has the potential to really expand on the sense of community that is important for schools to build, but right now, there are too many roadblocks for it be much more than just basic information and the occasional conversation.

Twitter is the only social media that I use for what I consider professional development. However, it has really increased my level of knowledge and awareness in areas such as science and current events. In every discipline, math to English, I follow people/organizations on Twitter that post interesting articles, podcasts, pictures, and thoughts that are engaging and enlightening. The power to slide my thumb an inch across the my phone screen and find an endless source of entertainment and information to be staggering in both its simplicity and its complexity.

I hope to learn more ways I can utilize social media so that I can hopefully change the minds of people I work with. The administration needs to be won over on the potential. Other teachers and coaches have to buy in as well or it to really reach it’s potential. I would like to learn more about other forms of social media that I may not know exist. Also, it is important to learn rules to teach the kids for how to safely and productively use social media. Many of the kids have no training on social media and end wasting it’s potential on bullying others, sub tweet arguments or selfies. Finally, I guess I would reluctantly like to learn how to use Facebook.

Reflection on 541

This summer’s course on Integrating Technology has been one of the most rewarding courses I have taken. The projects created in this course are actual projects that I foresee myself and other co-workers using in class. While the assignments were often challenging, they were also very rewarding. Unlike just taking a test or writing a paper, when every module was completed, I believed that it had concretely improved myself as a teacher in how I will be able to integrate technology into my classroom.

By being forced to sit down with a concept and an area of technology and making them combine for a cohesive lesson, it opened my eyes to ways different types of technology can be used. The screen capture videos demonstrating how to use certain apps/software is definitely something I will be doing regularly this school year. In addition, I plan to grow a social media network around algebra. Of all the tools I have learned about, those are the two that will have the greatest immediate impact on my teaching.

When I received my teaching certificate in 2007, I was excited about the constructivist approach to teaching. I loved the ideas of collaboration, interactive learning by problem solving, etc. However, once I entered the classroom, I found reality strongly challenging my ideas of the constructivist classroom. After this summer (where I also took EdTech 504, Theory of EdTech), I find myself re-energized to rework my classes to bring the constructivist approach back. Much of the research into the theory that I did for 504, coincided with some of the more practical applications I was able to discover during 541. The study of the theories of educational technology really pushed me to try and use the assignments for this class as a way to increase interaction and discovery from my students.

While designing the various assignments, multiple levels of AECT Standards were addressed. For example, the final assignment on adaptive and assistive technology required us to choose use instructional strategies appropriate for individual learner needs. While creating most of of our assignments, were forced to consider who the learner was and how our use of technology would motivate them towards the particular goals. We also had to relate the content with the context, tasks, and motivation for using particular forms of technology.  This course gave us instruction on how to find technology to produce effective and efficient learning environments. The resource page and the multiple lessons created reflect that goal. We used web pages, software, and mobile apps to capture and share multiple levels of media.

Blogging Self-Evaluation
Content: I believe most of my posts were deep, detailed, on-task, and an honest evaluation of my experiences. In most cases, the blog made me realize something about what I had learned that was not originally at the surface. Score: 90

Readings and Resources: I did regularly reference and cite sources. However, I could have directly referred to the many of my resources more often. I definitely could have referenced specific readings from the course text more often. Score: 20

Timeliness: I made all of the required posts. However, many of them were not posted with enough time for their to be a conversation with other students about the entries as the posts usually made at the end of the week. Score: 15

Response to Others: I addressed at least two students every week. I made sure to offer comments on specific points from there blog. I wanted each comment to be something constructive and useful. Score: 30

Overall: 155/190

Obstacles and Solutions to Integrating Technology

My role at my high school is as a special education co-teacher. Due to my unique situation, I have taught in nearly every content area. My experiences with the obstacles of integrating technology have been the same across all content areas. I find that there are three main obstacles:

1. Physical
There are only a limited number of computers available at my school. The labs book up quickly so it can be difficult to schedule the appropriate amount of time needed. Teachers will sometimes have to fight over lab time. This means that sometimes the lab just isn’t available when it would be convenient to incorporate a certain technology into a lesson. Sometimes, when the lab is available, the amount of time is limited and assignments have to be rushed. This means the technology is not being utilized to it’s fullest capabilities.

The digital divide also is a very real thing where I work. Some students have smart phones, tablets, and high speed internet available at home. Some students do not have access to any. Other students sometimes have a working phone, computer or internet, but due to their financial situations, they go through periods where it is not available. This also creates a gap in the students’ abilities to utilize the technology. Students that have regular access are much more well-versed on how to use the technology. This does sometimes make it challenging to require students to use technology outside of school.

2. Administrative
My district is a “walled garden”. Many useful sites are blocked. In addition, there is a strictly enforced, “no cell phone” rule in place through the entire school day. This means that when I do have access to a computer lab, many of the activities I would like to do are not possible.

Also, all core classes are mandated by administration to have common unit assessments. The assessments are also traditional tests. One of the great benefits of technology is the use of projects in representing and assessing learning. However, if a common unit test is required, it does not allow room for the level of creative project based learning that I would prefer.

3. Student resistance
While most students do enjoy using technology, they are also very much accustomed to the idea of direct instruction. When teachers move away from “giving” the students the information and instead require the students to discover/research the information on their own, it is often met with resistance. Students may complain about the difficulty or insist they just would prefer the teacher gives them the information they need. Students will sometimes not be self-directed enough to keep themselves on task and on target so it leaves the teacher with the dilemma of moving ahead despite some students not having had the proper exposure or slowing down the pace of class to allow all students to finish. In doing the latter, it results in less material being covered. Based on common standards and common assessments, teachers are obligated to start and end at certain points. It is much easier to keep pace when the teacher is directing the majority of the teaching.

Possible Solutions
The most feasible, realistic solution is district wide education and professional development. Teachers and administrators should be trained on how to use technology. If they can understand the benefits, they may be more apt to revise policies. Administrators may loosen up restrictions. Department chairs may be more willing to drop some common standard tests for project based assessments. I believe that the benefit and power of technology is self-evident. It is just a matter of exposing administrators and educators to it’s full potential.

Internet Safety for Students

All parents teach their kids how to be safe. From a young age, kids learns to look both ways before crossing the street or never to talk to strangers. Parents teacher their kids how to get a long with others, mind their manners and treat others with respect. While these tips will keep kids safe when they are out of the house, it won’t keep them safe when they are sitting at home on their computer or tablet. If the child has a smartphone, they are constantly connected to a potentially dangerous would. The internet is like an exciting big city, full of life and possibility. The internet is fun and it never sleeps. Though, ike big cities, the internet comes with danger. There are criminals, con artists and conflict abound. It is important that we teach kids today how to be safe in this powerful and fast growing virtual world.

There a few basic guidelines that we as teachers should review with our students on an effort to help them understand internet safety.

1. Privacy on the internet doesn’t exist. Even if Twitter and Facebook are set to private, there are always ways around it. There is always the risk that someone you have allowed in will pass on something you wanted private. You never know who is watching you on the internet so keep private information off the internet. Don’t Tweet your phone number, don’t post on Facebook that you are home alone for the weekend. Also, don’t tweet out a picture of any important documents (believe it or not, there are people Tweeting pictures of their new drivers license).

2. Be Nice. Those are real people out there! It is easy forget that every Tweet, email, blog post, and Snapchat was sent from a real person with real feelings. Be nice to them. Before you hit send, think to yourself, “is this something I would say to their face?” “Would I be ok if my mom or dad read this?” Remember, there is no privacy on the internet and someday you your parent may end up reading it.

3. You can’t delete anything from the internet. Regret the picture you just posted on Instagram? Embarrassed by something you posted on Tumblr? You can remove it from your account, but that doesn’t remove it from the internet. Someone else could have already saved the message/image/video or used a screenshot to capture it. Which brings me to the next point…

4. If in doubt, don’t do it. If you have any sense or inkling that something you are about to download or post might be a bad idea, than it probably is. Play it safe and don’t do it. You may want to speak to a trusted adult about their opinion. Just don’t rush into it. You can always send an email later, but once an email is sent, there is no unsending it.

5. The 5 R’s
or How to stay safe from online predators:

One of the greatest dangers to children on the internet is dealing with con-artists and sexual predators. i-Safe is a company that specializes in providing information and curriculum to help make children safer on the internet. They have a guide that they call the 4 R’s. I have posted that below, but I have added what I believe is a 5th R. I-Safe is a great place to visit for information on internet safety specifically geared towards children.

RECOGNIZE techniques used by online predators to deceive.
REFUSE requests for personal information.
RESPOND assertively if you are ever in an uncomfortable situation online. Exit the program, log off or turn off the computer, tell a trusted adult, or call the police.
REPORT to a trusted adult any suspicious or dangerous contact that makes you feel uncomfortable (“Internet safety tips,”).

and the fifth R is to REMEMBER that not everyone online is who they say they are. A online predator isn’t going to tell you that he is a predator. They often make fake names and ages and post fake pictures of themselves to gain your trust.

Remember that staying safe is a team effort. Teachers, parents, students, friends, and siblings all should work together to keep each other safe. If you saw a young person close to you playing in a dangerous street or being approached by a stranger person, you wouldn’t hesitate to step in and help them. Don’t hesitate to help them be safe on the internet.

Internet safety tips for students and parents. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Degnan, T. (2013, March 04). Internet safety library. Retrieved from

Below are some other fine resources where teachers, parents, and students can learn more about internet safety through videos and interactive tutorials. videos

Acceptable Use Policy

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a constitution between a school district and it’s participants. It should lay out a clear justification for the document itself. The AUP should define in understandable language the jargon that it will present. It is important that the document is in language that is clear to students and families. The AUP is not meant to be a trick. The AUP should clearly indicate the circumstances and uses for which the network is available. This is essentially, when, where, how, and why the network is available. Finally, it should also provide for the specific uses that are prohibited and how will violations be dealt with by administration (“Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies”).

Like a constitution between a government and it’s people, the most important element is buy-in from all sides. Otherwise, it will end up nothing more than a piece of paper. Do students and families fully understand the reason and regulations involved? Are staff and schools throughout the district uniformly enforcing the policies? From my experiences, it is used as nothing more than a safety net for schools. There is not time being spent explaining the details or rationale of the document. Most kids sign it without looking at it because to use the internet, it is required. It also seems to take the assumption that students will misuse the internet and that all polices have to be restrictive. Sadly, I think this is denying the students learning opportunities and access to an important wealth of information.

Can AUP be more than another list of things kids can’t do? Acceptable Use Policy should be a balance that school districts achieve between access and protection. Districts must protect themselves and their students, while still allowing access to the resources available. James Bosco, the principal investigator for Participatory Learning: Leadership and Policy, believes that the ideas of protection and access are not in direct conflict. He views two current models of practice. One that errs on the side of caution, the other believes that students learn best by being given the opportunity to learn responsible practice for themselves.(Bosco).

Here are four links to AUPs that area schools are currently using:


Bosco, J. (n.d.). Rethinking acceptable use policies to enable digital learning. Retrieved from

Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved from

EdTech 504 Vision Statement defines “technology” as:

“the total knowledge and skills available to any human society for industry, art, science, etc ”

This an all encompassing view of technology. This is graduate school and quoting the dictionary seems less than graduate school level. However, there is an importance to the simplicity of the dictionary and it’s explanation of technology. Technology is everything. Technology doesn’t have to be new. Technology doesn’t have to be flashy. Technology is the mountain of practices,processes, methods, devices, and knowledge that humans have built through history. Each generation has more technology at it’s fingertips than the prior because it is human nature to constantly learn about, evolve, question and cultivate the world around us.

If technology is the mountain of human achievement both scientific and industrial, cognitive and physical, abstract and applied, organic and manufactured, than educational technology is the application of that mountain for the purpose of maximizing human potential. Educational technology is using the most appropriate (per the learning target, student,etc.) of these accumulated resources to guide other people towards a goal.

Our technology was developed through thousands of years of human education both formal and informal. Education built the mountain of technology. As educators, we use the mountain to push others up the mountain itself. However, unlike most mountains, there is no summit. Everytime we push up the mountain, it grows larger. In this way, education and technology are coessential.

Ultimately, Paul Saettler, put it more eloquently and succinctly, when he said:

It is clear that educational technology is essentially the product of a great historical stream consisting of trial and error, long practice and imitation, and sporadic manifestations of unusual individual creativity and persuasion.


Saettler, P. (1990). The evolution of American educational technology. Englewood, COL Libraries Unlimited.

technology. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved June 13, 2013, from website: