Carol Dickinson (AP, Senco and class-based practitioner) initially posted comments in FORUM: New technologies and collaborative processes | An Enabling e-Learning event as part of a NAPP thread, which in turn prompted a response from Hannah Simpson. This prompted the online facilitator to ask some more questions around engaging online.
Q: When did you first engage with the VLN/EEL community groups?
A: I’ve previously used the VLN to search for e-learning related support; especially around ways to encourage collaborative learning with juniors, so I found some useful community posts on iPads with juniors - in particular apps like Book Creator. I was wanting to making learning opportunities personal for my students. I wanted to do some research and see if it resonated with my class and find out more about how to be more effective in the classroom. For example, Book Creator now ties in nicely with Google docs and our e-portfolios, so new collaborative ways of writing have since been developed using these tools.
Q: How do you find navigating the conversations?
A: Sometimes I found the threads (especially NAPP) could get a bit big or some comments might not be relevant to my needs, so I’d set the emails to come into my inbox and 'starred' those that interested me most. Sometimes they'd end up going on the backburner, but some I would revisit and come back to. Emails are quite good like that, so rather than going through all the threads, you can flick it open and get a quick insight. For example, I have enjoyed watching the comments in the NAPP threads on how different schools are addressing break times. Some aspects of the conversations interest me more than others. This way I can sort through and see if it’s interesting, rather than looking through the whole thread and then getting lost in it and giving up.
Q: What has inspired you most?
A: Seeing someone else engaging with your comments online is really exciting. For example, Hannah’s comments back about my thread - she thought enough about making a comment to me. I was really excited and I wanted to respond to her, but the timing was around the holidays, so I didn't end up doing that yet. That’s why I’m managing these alerts in my inbox, so that can come back to comments and threads later.
Q: Have you done anything differently in school based on your interactions online?
A: One of the links in the EEL/NAPP threads was talking about appraisals and one person responded with a link to Story Hui which ignited my interest because it fitted so nicely with everything we’re doing in our school for teacher inquiry, appraisal and PTCs. I clicked on link to Story Hui, read through it, downloaded it and went ‘great’ and did some more research. We’re now about to embark on this journey looking at appraisal in the school, so I’ll shared what I’ve discovered with the rest of the team. I’ve also started a drive to use Facebook in our school to connect with parents more. This was triggered from seeing conversations online about, how do you reach your parents?
Q: Will you continue to use the VLN/EEL community groups? Is this something you’ve set up for yourself?
A: What the NAPP programme has done (which has been really good), is made us use this space more. I’ve gone in here, looking for something else, got sidetracked and wondered around. To get the most out of it, you really need to narrow your focus. After NAPP ends I know I can continue my learning in here. What it’s taught me is that I have to be quite selective; it’s got to be something I’m really passionate about. If I go to those links, they’re going to be a really good incentive to help me find out more. If I’m not interested in it, I’ll get those emails and think it’s a bit too much. It has to be something I’m passionate about, and think that I can do, change, and implement within the classroom or on the wider scale. I think that’s going to help me now and in the future.
Q: Any advice for others?
A: People might be a bit like me...where you can be a bit apprehensive wondering if others will comment negatively on things; so we can feel a bit timid to dip our toes in the water. But when you get comments from people like Hannah, it makes you think, 'oh actually this isn’t too bad', people aren’t going to laugh or respond nastily or put me down. It’s like putting yourself on show really, but if more people have positive experiences, then they’ll share more. It’s now up to everyone to sow the seeds with each other – and model a safe and trusting place.
A big huge thank you to Carol for taking the time to reflect and comment on the virtues of engaging in the VLN/EEL community groups.
Ngā mihi nui.
for sharing your experiences about engaging with online communities. A few years ago I was in a similar position, my biggest problem was thinking I had no time to go into online groups and I didn't know where to go either. I might have been rather naive, but at that time I didn't worry too much about negative feedback.
While it can feel like a chore when community participation is a required part of a course, I have found that engaging with online communities actually has made my life much richer and my work easier. Especially when you live and teach rural, it is nice to know there are places online where others understand you and are willing to support you. It's a bit like when we work with our students, some are reluctant to try something new but eventually they wouldn't want to miss it.
All the best with the rest of this term!