User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Social Networked Learning Course Reflections

with 3 comments

During Fall, 2012, I developed and taught a graduate course entitled, Social Networked Learning, for the Boise State University’s Educational Technology Program.  Most of the students were in-service K-12 educators. I provided an overview of the learning activities for this course in two previous blog posts.

Sample student projects from this course can be viewed at http://learni.st/users/jackiegerstein/boards/4710-social-networked-learning.

This was a new course in educational technology.  As is true for many of us using educational technology in the classroom, we are experimenting with how technology can enhance the learning experiences of our students.  Sometimes we have failures, often times we have successes.  Yet, in this age of evidenced-based education, educators, administrators, and other decision-makers are depending on and using the data gleamed from large studies often completed by companies with vested interests, e.g. Gates Foundation, book publishers, and testing companies.

Educators can easily conduct action research about the practices they are using in their own classrooms especially given the ease of creating online surveys and data collection methods.  Yet, it seems that it is rarely done.

So if educators want to influence what occurs in not only their own classrooms, but in the classrooms of their co-teachers, then they need to invest the time and energy to demonstrate best practices.  In a related blog, I discuss Every Educator Has a Story . . . Just Tell It.

In order for students to reflect on the course activities and for me, as the instructor, to get feedback about what elements of the course were valuable for the students, I asked students to engage in two end-of-course activities: a survey of open-closed ended questions developed specific for the course and final blog reflection about the course.

End-of-Course Survey

19 of the 22 students in the course completed the survey.  Some of the results of the survey follow.

First, they were asked to rate the course projects using a type of Likert Scale.

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Next, they were asked a series of open ended questions.

Question: We used a lot of social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Moodle, shared documents for your small group projects, Diigo. Which types of social networks did you find most useful in your learning process?  Sample student responses:

  • Twitter was a social network that I really “grew up” with during this course. At the beginning of the course I was a “newbie” but now I am very confident with it and use it A LOT (and TweetDeck) to find materials and talk to other people!
  • Facebook and Twitter were the most beneficial social networks that I used in this course. The connections made here are those that can be maintained long after the course is completed, and I have already discussed keeping in touch with one of my group members after completing the program for continued professional development.
  • I find Diigo to be the best of these platforms. The way you can bookmark, comment, and share all at once saves time and is extremely useful. I also gained an appreciate for Facebook and Twitter as educational resources. I will likely use Twitter in my future learning.

Question: What was the most valuable aspect of the course? What made it valuable? Sample student responses:

  • The most valuable aspect of the course was to be able to explore new social networking tools and further investigate those I have used previously but to also be able to apply their use to my current work situation. The ability to immediately use what we have learned in this course has made it a very valuable learning experience.
  • Curation was the most valuable part of this course. I have bookmarked for a while now, but I had never envisioned how much more powerful I could make bookmarking by creating a curated library. By teaching my students how to curate, I believe they will develop many essential skills. This includes the ability to organize information, determine the accuracy of a source, developing resource libraries and summarizing. All of these skills are essential literacy skills that could be developed in any subject area.
  • The most valuable aspect of this course was definitely the PLN and postivie digital footprint lessons. I have long ignored social media and this course has given me a great appreciation of the benefits of these tools. Moreover, the positive footprint lesson taught me how to keep my information and name safe.
  • The most valuable aspect for me was learning how to use social networking for professional development. Before teachers will try using it in the classroom as a tool, they need to first realize that it can be a tool for them also.

Question: How have your grown professionally? Sample student responses:

  • I have gained an even greater appreciation for professional learning communities. I have always believed in sharing and working together as professionals. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and a good team compliments one another and works together to compensate for each person’s weaknesses. However, I had never considered that my professional learning community could extend beyond my school and district. I was excited to take part in online webinars that made me more effective as an educator.
  • This course is by far the one that has helped me the most professionally and it’s the one I didn’t really expect to get much out of. I kind of thought I “got” social networking but I had no idea. I have grown my PLE/PLN in ways I had never envisioned before. I’m consistent in my “brand” and intention and I am out there much more than I was before. I have certainly grown myself and my network. This will be a class that I remember, value, and will look back on as being immensely helpful and practical.
  • I have grown in acquiring a deeper understanding of the importance of my digital footprint and PLN. Before this course I had become a member of many different social networking sites, both personally and professionally, but my contribution to many of them in a professional context was minimal. I have learned the benefits of really becoming an active contributor to these social networking sites to expand my professional contacts and learning network.
  • I am finding out that I am not alone and that with all these amazing resources out there for me, the sky is the limit on what I really can do in my classroom.

Question: How your own teaching practice or thoughts about teaching have been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course? Sample student responses:

  • I love having a great conversation with students. What I have found is there are a certain number of students who really struggle with participation in front of a class. I think that social networking can provide an opportunity for those students to come out of their shells and teach us all. I also feel like I have changed how I view the reflective process for my students. I have determined that it is important for me to allow students to evaluate and reflect on their own work and the work of others.
  • I see how helping students build a PLN will help them become lifelong learners. If I can help spark an interest in a topic during the course and teach students how to keep finding resources, their learning experience will not end when the semester is over.
  • This has deepened my resolve about connectivist activities in the classroom.  I can now talk about how the journey often times can teach as much as the destination.
  • I learned that there are so many tools out there that our students are already using that we could start using in the classroom that would get more participation and excitement about the class.

Highlights of Student Final Blog Reflection

The final course assignment was for students to reflect on the course activities using the survey questions to guide them, if needed.  Some commentary from their blog posts . . .

I’ve enjoyed the various social networking tools that we’ve used and the information about digital footprints.  It’s been a great course and I’ve loved every minute of it.  Social media and networking have such powerful sharing and community building platforms already in place.  It’s silly that mainstream education has not fully harnessed their power yet, however I see improvement and the road heading that way. Fabio http://edtech.cominotti.net/llog/2012/12/10/social-network-learning-course-reflection/

I’ve learned about PLN’s and the need to connect with like-minded people.  I recognize the importance of learning from others, no matter where they are.  Reaching out and seeking knowledge in its many forms can enrich my profession and my personal interests  Sharing.  That’s what I have taken away from this class.  In other classes, I have produced many artifacts.  I have made screencasts and animations, video lessons and lesson plans, webquests and presentations.  I enjoyed making most of these and gained something from each of them.  The difference I now see between those types of assignments and the work in Social Network Learning is that one is about “me” and the other is about “us.”  This class was about connection and building ideas in a coordinated, personalized and interactive way.  It forced me to come out from the shadows (a bit anyway) and to share my ideas and works with the world.  That’s a great thing. Jon  My Life as a Reformed Lurker: A Final Reflection

I find it interesting that the class I expected to learn the least in is the one that has enriched me the most. Such has been my journey this semester in EdTech 543 Social Network Learning. We’ve all got the first two words down – it’s that last one: learning. This course has opened my eyes to the powerful learning tool that social media and social networking can be.  My digital life is deeper, richer, and more meaningful – and it’s only just begun! Gretel  http://gretelpatch.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/social-network-learning-a-reflection/

As with most things in life, we truly seem to be limited mostly by our imagination and drive to accomplish that which we set out to.  While it seems terribly cliche to say so, frequently all that is required to take a commonly used, pedestrian tool and convert that into a powerful educational tools is a touch of creative thinking… generally outside the box! Ben http://benmooreedtech.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/edtech-543-course-reflection/

One of the most valuable aspects of this class was the time and effort put into getting our hands dirty in the various social networking resources.  Not only did we learn about them but we also had to be a participant and really dive into them.  I am not really good and comfortable with some of them yet but the experiences I gained in this class will help me as I try to do better.   Being made to get me hands dirty really helped.  I probably would not have done as much in the various tools if it was not required for a grade and for that I am grateful. I started out in this class thinking that I knew a lot about social networking.  That was a big mistake.  I learned so much.  Not only about social networking but about how I can present myself professionally online and in these different networks.  I learned that I can use these tools not just as resources in my classroom but as professional development that will help me stay in the hunt with all the technological choices out there.  I am much more professional and aware of what I put out in the online networking land as it pertains to me and my reputation and the perception that others have of me as a person and as a professional. It has been an eye opening, wonderful learning experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it.  I will be able to take this and be a better teacher and social networker because of it. Christina  http://christinawjorgensen.wordpress.com/543-2/

One surprise for me was the power of Twitter.  I had no idea it was being used to share learning.  I thought it was a celebrity craze and a way to demoralize society.  My hesitation in joining the Twitter world was quickly replaced with enthusiasm.  I found several organizations and groups to follow.  Twitter was a way for me to learn!  I admit that I don’t tweet often but I definitely lurk.   Overall, I feel that I have learned to be a better social citizen.  I have experienced how to manage and incorporate social network learning.  I have created new ways to organize and share information.  And most importantly, I appreciate the relationships that I built and the communities that I have become a part of  Andi http://andiarnold.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/ed-tech-543-a-final-reflection/

I really had my eyes opened in this class. I learned that Facebook could be very beneficial as I was able to social network with others who had the same interests and ideas. I could collaborate and keep up-to-date with technology or other things that I could use in the classroom. I learned that Twitter is an amazing site in which you can join groups and also add invaluable ideas and information to and from theworld. Pinterest is more than just a crafty idea place. It can be very educational and has great resources for the classroom.  I found that PLNs were the most eye-opening experience in this course. I didn’t realize how many I already had that I was unaware of. I now need to refine what I have and turn them into valuable resources. Debi

Conclusion

Given that the students were mostly K-12 educators, who are majoring in and integrating educational technology into the classroom, I was a bit surprised that, as a group, they didn’t know about and use social networking as part of their educational practices.  For the most part, their experiences in the course were positive and demonstrated that a course of social networked learning can be valuable for educators.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 2, 2013 at 1:22 am

3 Responses

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  1. Hi Jackie, can I follow your course also online?

    ronaldvoorn

    January 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    • Sorry, Ronald – it is a for-credit course for Boise State University. The platform is a closed Moodle site. But I have posted several blogs about the course.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      • Thanks for answering Jackie! Well I will cherish them then :). Have just had a look at yr PhD program. Who knows?

        ronaldvoorn

        January 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm


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