Studies suggests that online groups can provide a thriving participatory system that enables educators to engage in an informal kind of professional learning, focused on immediate concerns and contexts, in their own teaching and leadership situations (Melhuish 2013).
Following on from my last post, promising as it seems, ICT and social media are still not without their challenges, especially when they can be more distracting than helpful to students and teachers alike. While teachers can use ICT and online social networks to seek information, share ideas and even contribute to the development of deep knowledge, effective learning will always vary according to their own (and their students) knowledge and competence of these platforms.
The Ministry of Education has introduced an initiative to enhance professional development via online social networking. The Virtual Learning Network is a platform where educators can engage in professional dialogue around the use of these platforms. VLN Groups can enable an informal type of professional learning for teachers and support those new to the available tools.
Edutopia also have a great page, called Social Media in Education which has a toolkit that both outlines and links to blogs, articles and the unbelievable number of resources available for educators to explore and support the process of using Social Media in their teaching practice.
Web 2.0 Tools
Web 2.0 tools are essentially online software and web-based services that let users create, collaborate, edit and share content online. I have already been using Web 2.0 tools by writing in the cloud (GAFE), creating my own digital resources (blended learning) and again now by creating this blog!
One of the first social media platforms that supported engagement with my own professional development was Pond. This Network for Learning portal, is an online environment that aims to unite teachers, school administrators and students with providers of educational content and services. Its basically a place where I can discover content, share knowledge and engage with my peers. By actively engaging in the Pond environment, I can connect with the wider education community – not just peers I already know and have contact with, but new people I discover inside the environment. Discussions with other educators are some of the best resources I have found in Pond and groups like #ULearn15 have been invaluable.
Digital tools can also be used to scaffold students to think deeper about their learning, organise their thinking and to communicate and collaborate with others online. Pam Hook’s HookED Wiki Solo Taxonomy and Web 2.0 shows how Web 2.0 apps can be used to enhance differentiated learning outcomes.
Another great digital resource to use is Yammer, a social network much like Twitter or Facebook, but only available to people who belong to your school. All of the postings are intended to allow collaboration between teachers and students to work on projects, share files and co-edit documents. You can explore 5 Ways Yammer is Improving Communication, Connections, and Learning in our Schools or watch Build Classroom Community with Yammer to learn more.
There are also some great readings about future-focused teaching and learning.
Using Mobile Web 2.0 to Transform Pedagogy and Engage Learners by Dr Thom Cochrane on integrating Mobile Web 2.0 technology into learning environments to enhance learner engagement, is an interesting read. So is his Post Web 2.0 Pedagogy: Mobile social media
Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective – This research project draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education.
Future-focused learning in connected communities – This report from Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye’s 21st Century Learning Reference Group aims to help inform government planning around 21st century skills and digital competencies.
Melhuish, K. (2013) Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Retrieved November 5, 2015 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y