Assignment 2: Network literacy evaluative report

PART A: EVALUATIVE STATEMENT

It is incredible how my networked learning experience has developed over the past semester in the INF532 subject and how it has changed over the past few years. The subject required me to create a Thinkspace blog  to show evidence of my development and how I would meet the different course learning objectives. Over the past 14 weeks, I’ve managed to meet the different requirements, even though not always in a timely fashion, but this has been partly the result of opportunities and challenges of being a full-time connected educator. I have completed the majority of the learning activities, explored a range of the digital tools and spaces, and really appreciated the depth of knowledge that was shared in module content.

The key aspect to consider for this evaluative statement is whether or not I have managed to meet the seven learning objectives, particularly the last three:

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The entire course allows coverage of these objectives on multiple occasions through blog posts, Twitter chats, sharing links on Twitter with the hashtag #inf532, Forum discussions, and especially the design and creation of the digital learning artefact in the first assignment. Many of the tools and spaces I have become aware of over the past few years via my own exploration and through my PLN, but there were a few new ones that have been added to my list in a Blog post (du Toit, 2016f) to explore deeper. I also had the opportunity to work with Kelli Hollis, where we collaborated over a Google doc and via Google Hangout to come up with a summary about Module 2 -The Connected Educator (Forum post).

The first assignment required me to use a new digital tool, build an instructional artefact and write an exegesis on it (Access it here (du Toit, 2016a)). This allowed me to demonstrate many of the learning objectives because it required me to investigate, locate and evaluate a range of different tools; then place it into an instructional design format to allow my audience to interact with the information being shared, as well as utilising a PLN.

 

In my opening blog post I explored De Saulles (2012) ‘New models of information production’, looking into how social media has grown exponentially and reflected on the fact that, “As an educator the challenge is making sure students understand the role these sites will play in their lives, but also how they can manage the information they share and receive.” (du Toit, 2016c). This linked in well with the 2nd Blog post on Thomas and Brown’s ‘New culture of learning’ and my own experiences on this new paradigm (du Toit, 2016d). I’ve enjoyed exploring the work of Thomas & Brown these past two years and one of my favourite quotes from them is, “as information is also a networked resource, engaging with information becomes a cultural and social process of engaging with the constantly changing world around us” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 47). This is certainly a fact of life for me now as I engage with my PLN and a wider community, creating new global connections.

The Future of Learning, Networked Society’

In the networked age relationships, collaboration and being an active participant will be primary in being connected, and I always focus on the power of connected relationships when speaking to other educators. I delved deeper with the activities on The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, in my blog post; their point “that teachers must first understand what it means to be a learner within a connected world before they can examine their practice as an educator” (2012) is another key message I shared at a Conference in August. The activities allowed me to reflect and realise that I still need to develop my own skills and knowledge to become a globally connected educator.

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Presentation slides from ACHPER Conference

The modules had me revisiting the work of Rheingold, Wenger and Siemens; with a focus on Connectivism, Network literacy, Peer-to-Peer learning, Information curation, and Communities of Practice. I had a few short posts on these sections (du Toit, 2016b & du Toit, 2016e), but look forward to exploring it further. One of the readings that I really connected with was that of Mark Pegrum, as he echoes a lot of my own thoughts with regards to the networked age. Pegrum’s quote, “In a networked age, your influence depends on your degree of connectedness” (2010) is extremely relevant with our own PLN’s, but even more so with educators like George Couros or Will Richardson and their wider influence

 

The case studies were fantastic as I have long been an admirer of the work of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and Shannon Miller; I ended up spending hours exploring their websites, and especially reading Tolisano’s blog. The Global collaborative projects is an area that I’m so interested in, but have yet to get involved in. Reading in the case studies from the Global Educator, especially Michael Graffin’s, has encouraged me to look at how I can become involved. (I’ve even ordered the book here). MOOCs is an area that I’m very familiar with, as I have completed several myself, but also integrated it into my senior business class, where they have completed MOOCs through Coursera and are doing one this Term.

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My next Business class MOOC

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Some of my completed MOOC courses

The approaches to online learning were interesting, and I particularly found the video interview of Richard Culatta (2009) insightful. The discussion of Michael Moore’s three interactions for online learners has made me reflect how well the CSU units have done this so far, but also challenged me to redesign my own online classroom. In the past, there has been very little interaction between my classroom students and distance education students, but in Term 4 I have redesigned their unit so that there is collaborative discussions and group assessment task.

I believe through my exploration of the course modules, writing blogs, designing an artefact, critiquing an artefact, conversing on Twitter, further readings and sharing about connected learning at Conferences, I have met the learning objectives of this course and have set further areas to explore.

PART B: REFLECTIVE STATEMENT

In January 2012 I began my journey to become a connected educator after being introduced to Twitter. I started exploring it slowly over the next 18 months, and in August 2013 I discovered my first Twitter chat; #histedchat. These history teachers immediately welcomed me into their community and I finally realised why Twitter could be such a powerful tool. These new connections would set me on the path to becoming a fully connected educator, introducing me to others, new ideas, new platforms and challenging my thinking. Over the next three years, my online PLN would exponentially grow as I shared, conversed and developed my own online voice.

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I was introduced to TeachMeets by Matt Esterman, started presenting about Evernote, and then was selected for the Google Teacher Academy in 2014. I started running TeachMeets and Google Educator Group training sessions in the Fraser Coast, to support teachers in my region and help them to become connected. In 2015 I collaboratively presented at EduTECH with Matt Esterman and Simon McKenzie, two PLN friends from the #histedchat community. This showed me the power of being a connected educator and utilising knowledge networks.

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EduTECH 2015

 

Google Teacher Academy 2014

Google Teacher Academy 2014

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GEG Summit Singapore 2016

TeachMeet Sunshine Coast 2015

TeachMeet Sunshine Coast 2015

Reflecting on being a connected educator made me re-look at my own blog, where I have reflected and shared over 80 posts these past few years. I can see my initial thoughts, events that shaped my learning and PLN, and how my own connected journey has unfolded.

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Some of the posts that showcase this are:

Becoming a 21st-century teacher

MOOCs & Me

Why do I Blog

EduTECH & TeachMeet Reflections 2014

Twitter Momentum Question

What a journey – Google Teacher Academy 2014

The 28 days of Writing Challenge
2016 has been an incredible year for me as I have had the opportunity to speak at a number of Conferences and utilise a lot of the knowledge gained in this Masters course. I have spoken on teachers professional development that needs to change, connected educators, realising the potential of PLN’s and how to take charge of their connected learning. At the start of this course, INF532, I considered myself a very connected educator. I’m connected on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIN, Blogger, TeachMeets, utilise a range of different technology tools for curation and learning, and I have developed a close group of trusted PLN friends (just a few of them below).

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My further development as a connected educator because of INF532

I’ll be honest, the majority of concepts were not that new to me in this subject, as I had come across them before over the past few years. However what I did learn, is that I’m most definitely on the right track and it consolidated much of my thinking of being a connected educator. Figuring out how to connect with Forum posts, blogs, discussions and more was a challenge in a period where I was incredibly time-poor. I was away from home eight times over the past four months for educational reasons, travelling to Conferences in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore. I came to realise that my workflow and curation has not been done well this semester, and I can see some issues in my process, and the readings made me become more acutely aware of this. I will definitely be referring to Good’s article on Content curation tools: 21 criteria to select and evaluate your ideal one (2014) and look into Rosenbaum’s book, Curation Nation.

I have developed my thoughts on instructional design for online learners, and the course has opened my eyes to how I could design my content differently to connect with online learners. I realise that it needs to be designed so that there is interaction, collaboration, dialogue and social nature to the learning. I need to consider the point by Davidson and Goldberg (2010) that networked learning “operates on the logic of participation, expecting interaction, correcting through exchange, [thus] deepening knowledge through extended engagement” (p. 189). And this I want to make central to designing my educational experiences for my students.
Even though I considered myself as being very connected, I had not given enough thought on the tools to manage and maintain my connectedness. My reliance on twitter and Facebook as my main PLN tools is lacking, and the course showed me new ways to improve in this area.

Implications for my future as a ‘connected leader’

The one thing that I came to realise this year is this point by Eric Mazur he made at EduTECH (2016),” The more of an expert you become in any field, the more difficult it is to understand the struggles of first-time learners”. Being a connected educator is who I am now, but there are still many that have no idea about the importance and opportunities that connectedness brings. We need to mindful of the fact that people are only now discovering connectedness now, and for many, it is a new world and we need to be able to support them.

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I’m a connected leader in my school and I have looked at how I can play a leading role with TeachMeets, Tech training sessions, GEG events and sharing resources. As I keep on developing my role as a connected leader in education I have set my sights on how we can connect teachers across the whole of Queensland with TeachMeets. This is already starting to take shape with creating the Twitter account and being part of the QLD TeachMeet Facebook Admin. My next step is to invest some more time into this, but to have more educators on board in developing TeachMeet QLD.

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As a connected leader, I want to be part of the discussions at my school on integrating digital citizenship and 21st-century skills into all aspects of the College. Unfortunately, the school is only looking at this type of role at the end of 2018, but I hope to convince them of the urgency of the importance of being connected learners in a global world and how we need to be focusing on it now. One of my passions is working with teachers and students in helping them develop their digital literacy and understanding the pedagogy behind using technology in the classroom for learning. As a connected leader, I want to be able to support them, assist with coaching and open up their worlds to the endless possibilities of a knowledge networking through being connected. Through this, I want to be able to explore how I can become a global educator by connecting my students and teachers to other countries, groups and organisations. It is time to take my connected world and move it towards a globally connected world to serve the learning of my students.

 

Being a ‘Connected Educator’ is an endless journey where learning, growth, opportunities, friendships and life-changing experiences will always create new network paths to explore.

Down the rabbit hole we go…..

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REFERENCES

Culatta, R. (2009). Designing online learning. YouTube. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv-_GCFdLdo

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2010). Ch 7. (ln)Conclusive: Thinking the future of digital thinking. In Future of thinking: Learning institutions in a digital age (pp. 175-199). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262513746_Future_of_Thinking.pdf

De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and consumption(pp. 13-35). London: Facet.

Du Toit, J. (2016a, September 20). Digital artefact & exegesis [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/09/20/digital-artefact-exegesis/

Du Toit, J. (2016b, October 5). Establish a knowledge network Title [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/10/05/establish-a-knowledge-network/

Du Toit, J. (2016c, July 19). INF532 Module 1.2 Reflection [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/07/19/inf532-module-1-2-reflection/

Du Toit, J. (2016d, July 18). INF532 Read & Reflect Module 1.1 [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/07/18/inf532-read-reflect-module-1-1/

Du Toit, J. (2016e, October 5). Network Literacy [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/10/05/network-literacy/

Du Toit, J. (2016f, September 22). The 6 Digital tools to experiment with Reflection [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/riverflows/2016/09/22/the-6-digital-tools-to-experiment-with-reflection/

Ericsson. (2012, October 19). The Future of Learning, Networked Society [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/quydkud4dmu?list=plrkedff8mneyjgj4mivjzsfgcobqrdbty

Good, R. (2014) Content curation tools: 21 criteria to select and evaluate your ideal one. Retrieved from http://www.masternewmedia.org/content-curation-tools-selection-criteria-to-evaluate/

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). Defining the connected educator. In The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age (pp. 3-24). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Mazur, E. (2016). Rethinking Assessment Keynote. EduTECH 2015, Brisbane, Australia.

Pegrum, M. (2010). ‘I Link, Therefore I Am’: Network literacy as a core digital literacy. In E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(4), 346-354.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change, Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Conference Presentation Slides

I spoke at a Conference in August on the topic of being 21st-century learners; focused on PLN’s and connecting. It was part of the learning process in seeing the power of being a networked teacher, new challenges and opportunities.  Have a look and please feel free to use any of the slides.

 

Establish a knowledge network

Blog Task
In the video clip Shirky states:
“the hybridisation of the network and the real world is changing the way that educators and their students deal with one another and there is no way things have always been that we can rely on to figure out what we should do next”.

How would you establish a knowledge network? What would be the purpose of the network? Write about this in your blog.
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I have been building and connecting with a broad range of individuals and organisations in my network over the past few years. Initially my interactions focused on collecting information and reading a few links – Not much sharing or knowledge networking from my part. As I discovered the #histedchat (history educators on Twitter) I started gaining more confidence, but more importantly building connections. This first knowledge network of history teachers would continue to push my thinking, encourage me to share, and eventually lead to collaboration with some. One of the #histedchat educators, Matt Esterman, would introduce me to TeachMeets in 2014 and a new network of educators to interact with. Following on from this was the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, where I had the opportunity to meet teachers from around Aus & NZ face to face, taking virtual connections to in-person conversations.

Since then a lot has changed and developed, but the start of creating a Knowledge network is probably the biggest step to take. Signing up for Twitter, Google+, etc. is the easy part, starting to follow and read links is still quite easy to do, but when you gain the confidence to start conversing and sharing, then the magic starts happening. A network is there to interact with, to grow with, to learn from, to share with, to encourage, to support, to challenge, to question, to find ideas, to discover opportunities, to make friendships, to create, to collaborate; and to ultimately make you an informed active 21st century educator.

Growing & Connecting

It has been a journey from a basic understanding, to an enlightened disposition on digital citizenship over the past 12 weeks. I have been an active participant online with using PLN’s, managing my digital footprint and recognising the role of creative commons. However, the course has managed to extend my understanding significantly with regards to school leadership and vision, and I have been fascinated by the readings and resources in the course.

I have only made 2 blog posts thus far in the course this semester, and my intentions to do more have been consumed by being a full-time teacher and barely keeping my head above water at times. Being constantly connected and interacting with a PLN has made me use that as my main areas to reflect and question course material. My first blog post introduced some of my thoughts and a link to my personal blog, which has over 80 reflective posts from the past 3 years. The second blog post introduced how I’m introducing my students to twitter and the concept of PLN’s. I have always encouraged using social media for learning, but now I’m actively teaching my students how and why it is important to understand digital citizenship concepts.

Initially, the course introduced concepts that I was very familiar with, DLE, PLN, Information overload & curation; but then the move to understanding global digital citizenship issues really challenged me to explore it more deeply. The group assignment paired me with three educators that come from very different backgrounds, and locations. Working collaboratively through Hangouts, Google Docs and the Wikispaces platform was challenging; but ultimately rewarding with our final product that we produced. Besides the group task, being able to chat on a regular basis with fellow students online has allowed us to push one another and assist each other on this journey.

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One of my favourite quotes from the modules was this one, “21st Century skills harness not only the power of technology but the power of people” from ‘Flattening classrooms, engaging minds’, (Lindsay & Davis, 2012, p. 2). Connecting with fellow students on Twitter has been a great way to share ideas and resources, including the Twitter chat myself and Jordan Grant ran on digital citizenship (Storify of chat).

Being passionate about connected learning and forming a wide-ranging PLN has allowed me to explore many opportunities. This course, previous units and various readings have formed the basis of some of the presentations I will be doing at a number of Conferences over the coming months. Creating positive professional networks gives me access to a variety of experts, but also allows me to share with others.

 

The last 3 modules put the school vision and leadership clearly in the framework and how important it is to have strong leadership. My knowledge has grown in understanding that the whole spectrum of digital citizenship needs to be embedded in all areas of school. My own research and readings have confirmed that teachers themselves need to be better equipped to teach digital citizenship, and that many schools do not have a clear vision on digital citizenship beyond cyber safety.

Moving on from this course I hope to create more awareness at my school on the range of digital citizenship areas, especially student digital footprint and creating global connections. To accomplish this it would involve getting the school leadership on board with a number of key stakeholders to determine the school vision for digital citizenship. There are a number of key resources shared by educators and organisations, from Christine Haynes’s post, to the Common Sense Media (2016) website. As I pursue to bring about some changes I know it will need to be a collective effort, but an absolute necessity in preparing students for the connected future.

Connected Learning

Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub (CC BY 3.0)

 

 

 

References

Common Sense Media (2016). Common Sense: Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/digital-citizenship

Haynes, C. (2016). Digital Citizenship: A Community ApproachRetrieved from http://christinehaynes.me/digital-citizenship-a-community-approach/

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. (2012). Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time. New York: Allyn and Bacon.

 

At long last a Blog Post

With all my intentions to be more active in blogging this year, and focus on this one in particular, it has just not happened. The teaching year started off with such a bang with an increased workload and my little girl starting Prep, and now I’m trying to find my blogging voice again. Over the past 4 years I have been a regular/infrequent blogger on my personal site: The Teaching River. Here I have about 80 posts, almost 15,000 views and great recap of my thoughts over the years. Writing does not come naturally to me, but I realised how powerful blogging is as a reflective tool and I have persisted. Some of my posts have been enlightening for myself, others have been badly written, and others have inspired some of my readers. Please have a look if you would like to know more about me.

I have found beside blogging, Twitter as my go-to place for all information and sharing. I started slowly, but over the past 2 years I have become fairly active on Twitter and my PLN has grown exponentially, and herein the power of a PLN has created many opportunities, sharing and collaboration.

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This quote I found last night on Twitter sums up beautifully the potential of a connected PLN allows on Twitter:
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I’m loving this unit ETL523 on Digital Citizenship. It is an area that I love exploring and reading about. It is part of my daily life, and I’m hoping to integrate more of these ideas into my school over the coming months.

Now it is time to catch up on the Forums, a few readings finish the modules and delve into the first assignment with my group.

INF530 Reflection Blog

I started this course with a great deal of energy and excitement, after all I had been waiting a few months for it to start. Immdeiately the topics, the concepts and format felt so natural to me. From my 1st Blog post “The Start” I wrote: “There will be a learning curve, there will be challenges and there will be frustrations, but the growth that lies ahead is so inviting” and “I’m looking forward to this journey; Learning alongside so many wonderful educators and being challenged in my thinking by the incredible lecturers involved.”

My Blog Post on Connected Potential & Changing Mindsets set me on a journey of discivering a few new concepts like the debate about ‘Digital Natives’. This is one area I have defintely changed my viewpoint over the course and by observing it first-hand with students at my school. So many are struggling with technology, and we need to be teaching digital literacy and how to use the tools much more explicitely. The course has really opened my eyes to this concepts through the modules and readings.

I also made the point in this Blog Post, “The new innovations of the past two decades have created a digitally connected community of learners. Yet, many educators are not embracing the potential they hold and are thus becoming more disconnected with their students and communities. This is part of my own personal aim in this course – to learn new ideas, skills, knowledge and understanding, so that I can support my students, staff and parents in embracing the Digital Age.”

This became the driving force behind my digital essay. trying to come to an understanding of what 21st century skills are, why we should be modelling them to students and the reason why they are not, have been constant nagging questions over the last few months.

Along with this image I posted in the blog it started my thinking on mindsets, and how important they are in a digital landscape.

The Profile of a Modern Teacher by Reid Wilson (CC BY-NC-ND)

 

Two comments on the Blog started my thinking even further regarding mindsets and networks.

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The theory of Connectivism was completely new to me, and once again it started appearing often in my posts and in my final digital essay. In my Blog post ‘Connect to Live’  I was able to explore the concept a bit further and started linking it with personal learnring networks. As George Siemens (2015) decribed is as the “amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network”.

My biggest issue throughout was time, between family and school commitments I felt strectched to capacity often. Even now as I write this I’m trying to finish it early as I have other edcuation commitments for the weekend and next week that are pressing. Time is often a factor for changing mindsets, it is a good excuse and an easy one to use. I realised with my first assignment that being time-poor can be detrimenntal in studies and school.

My views of edcuational professionals in digital environments have changed, and are constantly evolving. From my digital essay I have realised how important a PLN is, a growth mindset, modelling good digitila citizenship and supporting others in their journey. I hope as I progress in this course I can apply some of the education theories, build on my understanding of the changing nature of learning in the 21st century and be able to leverage this to serve my colleagues and students more.

References

Siemens, G. (2015). elearnspace. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.Elearnspace.org. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Wilson, R. (2014). The Profile of a Modern Teacher [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.coetail.com/wayfaringpath/2014/10/14/the-profile-of-a-modern-teacher/

Digital Essay Proposal

I’m looking forward to exploring this topic over the next few weeks and developing a digital essay.
Any links, resources, readings that you might know of, please feel free to pass them along 🙂
Proposal topic
Educators also need to become 21st-century learners
 
Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used
Digital tools selected will be either Tackk or Storify. Both platforms allow for seamless integration of multimedia from a variety of sources. As I develop the essay with research I will explore both platforms to determine which will serve the topic best.
 
Rationale for topic focus for the multi-modal essay
The majority of teachers grew up in an educational system before the advent of social media, mobile technology and Google. In just over 2 years we will never have school students again born before the year 2000. With the changing dynamics of technology, access and networks, it is becoming imperative that teachers develop a growth mindset in themselves and leverage the power of digital tools to increase their skills. By doing this they will be able to serve their school and students, and be able to model digital citizenship to students. I’m passionate about connecting teachers, sharing ideas, resources and having discussions to improve our education settings. In being involved with Twitter, Blogging and TeachMeets my PLN has widened and I have grown as an educator. Many teachers are still not engaged in directing their own personal development and realising the potential that technology offers. What restricts them? Why? Many questions to look at, and to explore what research says about this area.

Scholarly Book Review of Digital Leadership – Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger

Assignment: Scholarly Book Review of Digital Leadership – Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger

Published by Corwin Press, California, USA, 2014.

 

Integration of digital technology into education has come to the forefront this century and it has become clear that educators of all levels need to adapt to serve learners in this new digital age. Change is required and Eric Sheninger explores in Digital Leadership – Changing Paradigms for Changing Times how educators can successfully and practically use technology to transform school cultures and create sustainable change. In Digital Leadership he shares personal experience, insights and examples of how educators have harnessed the power of technology to transform schools, and he establishes a framework to guide educators in becoming digital leaders. This review will focus on Digital Leadership’s role in providing a compelling argument and methods to initiate sustainable change, simultaneously acknowledging trends in information and knowledge environments that are created by social and technological changes in the digital age.

 

Eric Sheninger is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education. At time of publication of this book he was Principal of New Milford High School, New Jersey, where he had extensive experience in developing and implementing innovative practices with tremendous success. The practical examples lends to the authenticity and strength of the book. The book is aimed at school leaders, however the framework can be applied to classroom teachers too. It is broken up into two distinctive parts; the first part focuses on why a change is required, whilst in the second part he shares his ‘Seven Pillars of Digital Leadership’ in separate chapters. They are: communication, public relations, branding, professional growth and development, increasing student engagement and enhancing learning, rethinking learning environments and spaces, and discovering opportunity. These pillars are aligned to the 2009 International Society of Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Standard for Administrators and provide the framework for technological changes in the digital age.

 

Sheninger believes that school leaders need to acknowledge that modern learners are ‘wired’ differently, and their learning styles are in conflict with traditional teaching methods (2014, p. 15). There has been a societal shift in technology use, with social media, mobile devices and online communication driving a new knowledge ecosystem (O’Connell, 2015). This is supported by research from the PEW Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that finds, “92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online almost constantly” and that the internet is a central and indispensable part in the lives of American teens and young adults (Lenhart, 2015). He utilises research from Childwise, Bloomberg, Strategy Analytics, mobiThinking, MacArthur Foundation, and others to explain the changing dynamics in accessing technology.

 

A new culture of learning is developing, where information is networked and where participation is reshaping the way individuals learn (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Technology is driving this change, and this is why Sheninger believes it is so important to create learning experiences that are flexible, adaptable and that creates new skills in students for the twenty-first century. The Digital Media and Learning Hub supports this with their model of connected learning; which contends that connected learning involves an equal, social and participatory culture (Connectedlearning.tv, 2015). Sheninger explains that understanding how learners in the twenty-first century use technology is key to developing a school culture that will best meet the needs of students. Patricia Collarbone (2009), in Creating Tomorrow, supports the view that managing and leading the modernisation is required through an effective process for substantial, beneficial and sustainable change. Sheninger’s message here is about laying a foundation for students to become critical consumers of content, develop digital citizenship, and promote the ability to create, analyse and interpret media (2014, p. 35). Professor Yong Zhao (2012) also acknowledges in his book, World Class Learners, similar skills for students, the skills are effective communication, curiosity, and critical thinking.

 

Eric Sheninger reviews how the education landscape has changed, and the importance of school leaders taking charge in leading change management; highlighted with these quotes, “leaders must be the pillars of their respective institutions and focus on solutions rather than problems” (2014, p. 31) and “it is our duty to be agents of change” (2014, p. 36). Using examples from Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Ian Jukes, Pam Moran, and Michael Fullard he highlights some of the reasons for change and why embracing digital leadership is key. Leaders need to join online conversations and take responsibility for the actions and education of future leaders, the students (Ahlquist, 2014). Sheninger blends into Chapter 4 the work of Michael Fullan (2008), a change expert, and discusses Fullan’s ‘Six Secrets of Change’ and how they are applied to Digital Leadership principles. Alongside this he deals effortlessly with obstacles that many schools face, and ways that they could be overcome with various strategies. Obstacles such as Wi-Fi, networks, budget cuts, government regulations and others are great concerns for many, and is an area that could be explored further. Each school situation is different, and Sheninger (2014) does make a point that “Each school is an autonomous body with distinct dynamics that make it unique. It’s the small changes over time that will eventually leave a lasting impact.” (p. 70). The constant message is that it is a shift in mindset that is required for schools. Scott Klososky points out that education leaders today are becoming transitional leaders, “who are responsible for managing the transition to teaching and learning in a different way, preparing very different students to go into a very different world” (O’Brien, 2015). As part of the transformation process, Sheninger highlights the importance of students having their voices heard in transforming school cultures, and this is an area of strength for the book.

 

In leading into the Seven Pillars, he shares some of the key areas of change at his school, New Milford, and his own personal journey. Points raised centre on how connectedness acted as a catalyst for change, importance of sharing a vision, supporting and empowering staff, establishing the value in changes and allowing students to be part of the process.. The driving question according to Sheninger is how we should use the technology that is available to us to improve what we do, instead of why we should use it to improve what we do (Sheninger, 2014). Chapters 5-11 explore this through explanations, how to accomplish it and showcases examples of educators that have paved the way. Social Media tools play an important role in almost every single pillar, along with the idea of ‘Connectedness’ being the conduit for supporting each of the pillars.

 

Communication, Public Relations and Branding are the first three pillars and they can be considered to be interdependent upon one another. Sheninger (2014, p. 86) says, “Educators must be experts in effective communication techniques, especially when it comes to parents and other key stakeholders”. Communication at the same time needs to be a two-way form, not a static one-way transmission, and social media allows this to take place. He uses examples from how to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate, plus discussions of Joe Mazza’s ‘eFace’ concept where technology is used to support Family and Community Engagement initiatives. Ribble and Miller (2013) also agree that technology and social networks provide a tremendous avenue for communication and building relationships. This is also noted by Bouffard (2015) that communication is at the heart of family–school relationships.

 

Communication is seen in both the next two pillars, Public Relations and Branding. Using the story of Van Meter Community School District under the leadership of John Carver, he explains how they used social media tools to establish a global footprint and craft their own message. This showcases the powerful message that, “If we do not tell our story, someone else will.” (Sheninger, 2014, p. 99). Digital Leadership allows schools to create a solid foundation for positive public relations using social media that complements communication efforts (Sheninger, 2014, p. 99). Branding allows educators to leverage social media and other digital tools to establish their professional brands in education. This is done through building connections, sharing, trust, and relationships with students, parents, teachers and stakeholders. These three boil down to establishing a schools message, communicating it and building a positive identity for the school. Sheninger mentions that communication is the most important thing he does every day (2014, p.89).

 

In the Pillar for Professional Growth and Development, Sheninger discusses the power of creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and how to do this. He uses research from Alec Couros to showcase how an online PLN is crucial for modern educators. One of the key reasons why online PLN’s are so powerful for learning is that “Knowledge is shared, and not just taken” (2014, p. 119). Connectedness is becoming the standard for teaching professionals to grow, and “Digital leadership require connectedness as an essential component to cultivate innovative practices and lead sustainable change” (Sheninger, 2014, p. 122). The learning model of ‘Connectivism’ acknowledges the shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity, but rather deriving competence from forming connections (Siemens, 2004). Educators can now learn anytime, anywhere, and with anyone through leveraging the power of social media networks.

 

Increasing Student Engagement and Enhancing Learning Pillar ties together how leaders can support learners in developing knowledge, skills, and confidence to be successful in the twenty-first century. The key concept that Sheninger (2014, p.134) shares is that this new learning requires a constructivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning. Jackie Gerstein (2013) also explains that teachers, learners, networks, connections, media, resources and tools are creating a unique entity that has the potential to meet individual needs. Students want their learning to be authentic and meaningful. Students need to be at the centre of decision-making, and the strength in this book is how Sheninger constantly refers to utilising students’ voice to support the change. Students become educated on digital citizenship, responsibility and creating positive digital footprints; something that many schools are failing at. Students have a wide-ranging set of technology skills, this is changing teaching methods, as well as when and how students learn and many schools are integrating digital citizenship training as part of their school improvement efforts (Ribble & Miller, 2013). He often refers to pedagogy first and tools second in creating sustainable change, making it clear that devices and technology always come second.

 

 

Learning environments and spaces pillar links in well with creating learning areas that are flexible, foster creativity and facilitate learning. He demonstrates this with the Gahana Jefferson District example of how they re-imagined spaces and how they could be utilised. The issue of school redesign he believes should be part of any educational reform process. Discovering opportunity rounds up the Seven Pillars, and once again he links the pillars together and summarises how they are interdependent on one another. Through working on the first six pillars it will allow leaders to find innovative solutions, share their stories and model digital leadership. This will then result in countless opportunities for schools, educators and students to open up.

 

Connect, collaborate, share, create and communicate are cornerstones for the 21st century educators and through Digital Leadership – Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, Sheninger provides an informative and practical guide on how to initiate the change. He addresses the paradigm shift that is taking place due to connectedness, ubiquitous nature of information and accelerated changes in technology. Through his own story, that of other innovative educators, and supported with various external sources, he showcases how they have responded to the change. He acknowledges that at the heart of digital leadership, the human interactions will always remain the key component in changing education (Sheninger, 2014, p. 191). For school leaders there is no longer a debate on whether or not to be a digital leader, Eric Sheninger successfully provides a clear framework on why and how to initiate the change.

 

References

Ahlquist, J. (2014). Trending Now: Digital Leadership Education Using Social Media and the Social Change Model. J Ldrship Studies, 8(2), 57-60. doi:10.1002/jls.21332

Bouffard, S. (2015). Tapping Into Technology: The Role of the Internet in Family–School Communication / Browse Our Publications / Publications & Resources / HFRP – Harvard Family Research Project. Hfrp.org. Retrieved 17 April 2015, from http://www.hfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/tapping-into-technology-the-role-of-the-internet-in-family-school-communication

Collarbone, P. (2009). Creating tomorrow (p. 11). London: Network Continuum.

Connectedlearning.tv,. (2015). Connected Learning Infographic | Connected Learning. Retrieved 14 April 2015, from http://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gerstein, J. (2013). Schools are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning Education 3.0. User Generated Education. Retrieved 16 April 2015, from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/schools-are-doing-education-1-0-talking-about-doing-education-2-0-when-they-should-be-planning-education-3-0/

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved 13 April 2015, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

O’Brien, A. (2015). School Leaders: Guiding Teachers into the Digital Age. Edutopia. Retrieved 15 April 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/school-leaders-guiding-teachers-digital-age-anne-obrien

O’Connell, J. (2015). 1.3 Trends in Technology Environments. Lecture, Retrieved March 20, 2015, from Charles Sturt University website: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-249312-dt-content-rid-635255_1/courses/S-INF530_201530_W_D/module1/1_3_Trends_tech.html.

Ribble, M., & Miller, T. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks,17(1), 137-145. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1011379

Sheninger, E. (2014). Digital leadership. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Siemens, G. (2004). elearnspace. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.Elearnspace.org. Retrieved 17 April 2015, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning. [Lexington, Ky.]: [CreateSpace?].

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners (p. 8). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press, a Joint Publication with the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Connected Potential & Changing Mindsets

The new innovations of the past two decades have created a digitally connected community of learners. Yet, many educators are not embracing the potential they hold and are thus becoming more disconnected with their students and communities. This is part of my own personal aim in this course – to learn new ideas, skills, knowledge and understanding, so that I can support my students, staff and parents in embracing the Digital Age.  Students may be assigned the term ‘Digital Natives’, but many are far from being proficient or aware of their own learning and interactions in the digital world. The reading about Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Prensky 2001) reinforced some of my views on the topic of ‘digital natives’ vs ‘digital immigrants’ perspective. Even though my students are all born in the Digital Age (current Year 12’s born in 1998), many are unskilled in utilising technology as a an effective way to learn, create, connect and communicate.

The concept and practices of the Digital Age is the driving force behind enrolling into the CSU Masters course. The Digital Age is where I’m working, living, learning and interacting in, and thus it is essential as an educator that I’m acutely aware of my own understanding and knowledge of this area. My teaching context involves being the Head of Humanities for an independent Christian College in a regional town in Queensland. The region is one of the lowest socio-economic areas in the state, with some of the highest unemployment figures across all areas of society (a challenge in itself). My role involves teaching Senior Modern & Ancient History, as well as Business Management for Year 11 & 12. Since changing careers from Logistics to Education I have been amazed by the connected world for educators and I love engaging in discussions with educators from all sectors.

There is a digital convergence taking place with regards to media, literacy, communication and sharing of knowledge. The ubiquitous nature of technology is allowing for new practices to emerge and requires new methods of engaging learners to develop. However it does not come down to technological skills alone, but rather the mindset changing amongst educators and students. This is well supported in this image by Reid Wilson on ‘The Profile of a Modern Teacher’:

The Profile of a Modern Teacher by reid Wilson (CC BY-NC-ND)

Another reading I came across was on ‘What is 21st century learning? by Amy Heavin that was published on Fractus Learning:

“What is 21st century learning?

  • It is collaboration.
  • It is creativity.
  • It is critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • It is research and information literacy.
  • It is digital citizenship.
  • It is responsible use.”

Immersion into the developing these skills to connect and share knowledge will become key for educators and students. The ease of access to information and possibilities to share knowledge has resulted in a paradigm shift that needs to be embraced, fostered and utilised to realise its full potential.

The  Connected Learning Research Hub discussed in Module 1.6 really reinforced my beliefs, and challenged me to develop my own thinking further to serve my students.  The infographic I find incredibly powerful, and is a wonderful model of learning in the information age. This leads me into my own goals and challenges with making connections between the different groups, allowing digital tools to be utilised to their potential and developing my own knowledge and understanding through this course.

Connected Learning

Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub (CC BY 3.0)

 

References

Connected Learning Infographic | Connected Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Educators Need to be 21st Century Learners Too… (2014, July 15). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.fractuslearning.com/2014/07/15/educators-21st-century-learners/

Prensky, M. (2001, 12). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816

Sheninger, E. C. (n.d.). Digital leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times.

Wayfaring Path. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.coetail.com/wayfaringpath/2014/10/14/the-profile-of-a-modern-teacher/