I spent two hours in back-to-back Zoom meetings this morning and feel refreshed and inspired. Yes, you read that correctly. Refreshed and inspired.
Online communities have been forming even before the Internet as we know it existed, with their roots in the early bulletin board systems. This fall, I have joined two groups with two very different purposes that represent my current professional and personal interests. They both met this morning so I moved from a task force discussing AI with colleagues at my university to a meeting of the Handmade Book Club.
The AI group is blended with attendees both face to face and online. I appreciate the online option being offered as I otherwise would not make the hour-long drive to the city to participate. The monthly group is loosely led by one of the faculty development staff, but three people signed up to talk about what they have been doing with and learning about AI. I am on for December and plan to talk about my experiments with my students as well as finding ways that it can support my assessment and evaluation course. For now, I am spending time with MagicSchool. We also have access to a ChatGPT clone with a small balance so I’ve been exploring that as well. Report to come.
The Handmade Book Club is fully virtual as there are attendees from all over the world including two women today from Ireland and the UK. They meet every Friday morning to discuss various topics. The last meeting of the month is where members share the books they made for that month’s challenge. This month was Pamphlet Palooza, and we made books with long “pamphlet” stitches that could then be used for weaving. The books they shared were reflections of their lives and interests with many including handmade paper and fabric. My own is fairly simple although I did include pages from a coloring book as a personal touch.
One question that was often asked was what they planned to do with the book. Some had an answer: one woman had started a common place journal while another planned to use it as a daily art journal to keep track of her work. But most really didn’t have an answer: the joy for them was in the making. I know how they feel as my own pile of handmade books continues to grow. I can’t wait to find out what the November book is going to be!
One of the reasons I love to teach is because I love to learn. During my ed tech class last week, one of my students introduced me to Alice, the programming language, and also talked about Storytelling Alice, the programming language geared towards middle schoolers, particularly girls. I had only a vague knowledge of Alice and none at all of Storytelling Alice. I had hoped to spend some time with both this week, but my own programming got in the way. I also stumbled because Storytelling Alice doesn’t have a Macintosh version. Using it would mean dragging out the Windows machine. But, I ended up doing that anyway since I loaned it to a student so it is up to date and ready to go. So, maybe this weekend…
Meanwhile, in one of those serendipitous events, I got an email today highlighting webinars being sponsored by Georgia Tech that focus on Alice. I was going to email the link to my students but thought there might be a wider audience. Here’s the link to the Tea Party website and the link to the webinar schedule.
I head to campus to begin another semester. I am teaching a course called Designs for Technology Enhanced Learning. I have taught some version of this course to pre-service teachers for the past five years. It began as a one-credit class that focused on technical skills, but as the students have become more familiar with the tools, the course has morphed into a two-credit class that focuses more on how to use the tools in the classroom. I am more excited about teaching the course this semester because I really feel like I have hit my stride with it.
The one area where I am a little concerned is with the additional of a online personal learning network component. This is clearly something that others are thinking about as well since my first look at Twitter this morning led me to Will Richardson’s post on the subject. I am going to have my students join a the VSTE Ning network and participate for the whole semester. This assignment replaces the blogging they used to do as I grew discouraged with that assignment over time. It became increasingly quantitative (x number of posts and x number of comments) and few students seemed to ever realize the potential power of blogs to support their own learning and reflection. The Ning assignment is much more open ended: get involved in the community on a regular basis. I have invited Sheryl Nussbaum Beach to come in as a guest speaker since she’s my hero when it comes to these communities. I’m hoping she can provide some motivation for them to get involved AND stay involved even after the course is over.
The other part of this assignment is that I am hoping it will motivate my own learning and involvement in an online community. I tend to live on the peripherals of these groups. I was never much of a “joiner” in the real world and that habit has remained in the virtual one as well. Like Will, I am very much in the midst of examining my own practices and also looking towards life after my degree is completed. So, while I am nervous about this assignment, I am also excited to have an opportunity to really engage in an authentic activity with my students. I’m just hoping they will feel the same way!
And now it’s time to get ready…I’m walking to campus this morning to benefit myself and the environment but that means an early start. Class begins at 11 and if you want a sample of what we’re doing, here’s my agenda.