Sunday, March 11, 2012

Personal Learning Reflection

Today I would like to post on my learning over the last few weeks in CEP 810.  Early in this course I created a plan which included some objectives for improving my personal technology skills and possibilities for using my new skills.  I would like to address my progress towards these goals specifically, my ongoing goals, and other areas of growth during this course.

One of the objectives I set out was become familiar and proficient with the various productivity tools offered by Google and to at least familiarize myself with some alternatives.  During the past few weeks I have made quite a bit of use of these resources.  While I would still describe myself as “becoming proficient” rather than “fully proficient”, I have become both much more aware of the choices and limitations in the Google family of applications and more comfortable using them.  Both for this class and for some projects outside of this class I have begun using Google Docs regularly for collaborative work, including collectively creating minutes during an online meeting and other real-time co-editing.  For an upcoming conference, I learned how we could use Google Doc forms to accept and manage paper submissions.  I have also learned how to use Google+ Hangout to have an online meeting and did so as part of some publication work.  I set up new gmail accounts to help me manage my professional communications, and then to help me manage my various email accounts I learned about and started using Thunderbird (from Mozilla, not Google).  This latter one, besides managing several accounts from one mail client, has one particularly helpful additional feature for me of reminding you to attach documents when you have written that you would but still haven’t!  Back to Google, I have also learned to use the calendar, YouTube, Blogger, and Reader.

The latter two Google applications are tied directly into the other two objectives I set, becoming efficient at online information gathering and becoming adept at setting up and administering a blog and website.  Similarly to the first goal, I feel I have made significant progress but still have much more to learn.  I am now able to subscribe to and sort through RSS feeds, something completely new to me.  I am also now able to use diigo for keeping track of and sorting information I have found online.  Related to gathering information efficiently, I also set a wider and ongoing objective of establishing a wider community of practice.  Accessing diigo, the MACUL Space, the ISTE site, and even learning to use Twitter have given me more tools to continue work on this objective.  As for administering a blog and website, while I have learned to use Blogger to set up and maintain this blog, and have learned how to have multiple contributors, and have even set up a basic website, I still feel like I have just scratched the surface of possibilities for both of these.  For example, one of the other SIGs for this course gave me a good introduction to the possibilities of using Moodle, which might be quite good for much of what I would like to do.  However, I do feel confident enough that I could now set up online spaces to help with classes I will be teaching in the future and learn to do more as I go.

Turning to other elements of my learning in this course, I think that one aspect of this course was that just proceeding through the various learning tasks in an online environment gave me a better sense of the possibilities than just sitting through a lecture or reading a book about it might have.  I was engaged in actually doing what I was learning about and it reinforced an old adage that the best way to learn to do something is by doing it.  I felt that the way this course was delivered provided both excellent scaffolding and great opportunities for individual growth.  One negative to this mode of delivery however was that when I got swamped with some unexpected work in the last couple weeks of the course, it was unfortunately much easier to not go online because I was too busy than it probably would have been to choose not to prepare for and go to a scheduled, face-to-face class meeting.  This let me get further and further behind in the course and left me scrambling to catch up at the end.  Overall, however, the combination of the flexibility and the hands-on nature built into the online mode were quite good for me.

I think that one of the most important concepts I encountered in this course is that technology is just another tool and the creative ways we can come up with for applying the technological tools we have at hand to fostering greater learning opportunities is what is important.  The TPACK concept, that posits that good teachers make use of a combination of technological (T), pedagogical (P), and content (C) knowledge (K) in order to teach effectively provided a useful way of looking at how developing and using these skills is important for Education.  I was also exposed for the first time to the ISTE NETS standards for students, teachers and administrators.  While these standards aren’t clearly encouraged in my teaching context, I still think they are useful concepts and I hope to find ways to apply them both in my classrooms and in faculty development settings.

Finally, I would like to address my continuing goals beyond this course.  Rather than having come up with new goals, I think I see moving forward to continue on the specific objectives noted above and the wider goals I had also set for beyond this course.  As set out in my growth plan, I would like to build stronger and wider connections in my areas of teaching practice.  I think this will be an ongoing goal which I will always be able to improve upon.  However, I am already starting to use the tools provided in this course to help with this.  I also hope to share some of these tools and, as mentioned above, standards with my colleagues in the future, thereby strengthening my contribution to the education community.  Finally, while I have not been teaching much during the bulk of this course, our new academic year is about to start in Japan and I will be taking on several new courses in a new position.  I look forward to starting to apply some of the skills and techniques I have picked up in this class in these courses.

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