Building a (Virtual) Learning Community – #T3Learns

Gotta ask…how are you using social media for learning? If you are teaching in isolation, what steps are you taking to build a learning network? What if your peers are all over the world rather than just in your building?

I spent the day facilitating mini-PD session on social media for 20 of my fellow T³ Instructors.  In the planning session, Kevin Spry (@kspry), Dale Philbrick (@dalephilbrick) and I decided to focus on Twitter and blogging.  How might we use social media in our PD sessions with teacher-learners? How might we use social media to enhance our own professional growth, model reflection, and share our learning?

Here’s the plan…but this is not the actual path…

As our friends arrived, we quickly learned that only a few were already using Twitter.  They chose to come to Atlanta today to learn.  Scrap the plan…teach where the learners are.

One of the hallmarks of a learning community is agreeing on and using a common language.  What if we learn by doing?  If you don’t know what @jgough or #T3Learns does for you in a tweet, then today is the day to learn it.  We learned by doing (tweeting), making mistakes and correcting them.

We discussed how to use Twitter to mashup reflection, brain-based learning strategies, and formative assessment and then we practiced.

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Once we’d worked on hashtags and handles, I wanted these learners to tweet pictures.  The TI-Nspire offers learners the opportunity to embed a photo in a graph screen and graph over the image to prototype functions to fit the object.  Just look at the progress made over the short morning timeframe.

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Wow…progress!

In the afternoon we discussed blogging as a reflection tool and as a communication tool.  If we are working with teachers from all over the country, how do we support their learning after the workshop or institute is over?  What if we learn and share in public? We looked at three examples of how this might look:

What if we modeled reflection and learning by writing one post a week to share an activity that inspired growth and thinking? What if our participants could “dial in” to our thinking and process as the year progresses? What if we share with a wider audience?

So…then we practiced.

If I go back to our original learning plan, we covered everything on the list. We followed the learners to lead them to more understanding and confidence in social media.

Here’s some of the feedback:

[Today] allowed me to explore a new-to-me technology at a relaxed pace, being able to get questions answered, not just see an expert “do their thing.”  So I found out a little about “why I might want to use this” and a lot about “can I personally actually do it?

This opportunity provided the time to explore and practice.  I had tried once before to tweet but did not gain confidence.  I won’t say that I did not have support the first time, but it was not at a time or place where it was easy or convenient to ask for help.  Everyone in attendance at Westminster was so willing to put down their work and assist me with my issues.  That is what I love about good professional learning and collaboration.

I liked the way the day was sculptured to meet the needs of the participants.  Very much like your analogy of the classroom, moving on and “covering” the material does no good if you are leaving many behind.

How might we learn and grow together? What if we leverage social media to communicate and collaborate when we cannot be face-to-face?

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