Connected Learning, Thanks to My Neighbors

We were challenged to answer a few questions this week during the Connected Learning module in #ETMOOC.

One question is “What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?”

First of all, I had to look up PLE  because I had forgotten what it meant. (It’s personal learning environment). I knew PLN — personal or professional learning network. I guess I use these terms interchangeably. My connected learning is professional (it’s all about education) and personal (I choose who and the trails to follow in my learning journey).

This week, though, Ben Wilkoff offered another name for PLN — a personal or professional learning neighborhood. That makes complete sense to me now. After building my PLN for a couple years, I find my most meaningful connections are going deeper.

I have a small eclectic neighborhood that started with the Kick Start Your Blogging Teacher Challenge two years ago. The friends I made through #ksyb were my first tentative connections, and many of them continue today:  Nancy Carroll, Theresa Allen, Tracy Watanabe, Malyn Mawby, Karla O, Tracey Smith, Kathryn Trask and Sheri Edwards.

Now I also have a genius hour neighborhood. Gallit Zvi, Joy Kirr, Hugh McDonald, Robyn Thiessen, Sheri Edwards, Beverley Bunker, Jodi Pulvers, Karen Lirenman, Valerie Lees, A.J. Juliani, Julie Jee, and it continues to grow. Here are more genius hour teachers on my Genius Hour Twitter List.

I have a middle school educator neighborhood, including Laura Coughlin, Joy Kirr, Krissy Venosdale, Scott Boylen, Michelle T.G., Kay McGriff, JoAnn Jacobs. And Sheri Edwards. Again. Thanks to her and #etmooc, this neighborhood is growing, more intentionally growing. I’ve met Lorraine Boulos, Scott Hazeu, and Allison Petersen as a result. This middle school neighborhood has a wiki called Connect in the Middle and a Diigo group. It’s a collaboration place for middle school educators. And you are welcome to join too.

Some questions I am just attempting to answer during #etmooc…

  • How important is connected learning? Why?

Off the top of my head, last night I said connected learning is great for modeling lifelong learning and expanding our world view. It’s so true. I can’t explain it, but it is doing both those things for me. It is a way to make my learning visible.

In the #etmooc session on leadership (scroll down to T1S6), participants gave more reasons for being connected:

Screenshot by Donna Fry

One of my favorite reasons was articulated well by Bernard (that’s all I know of who he is).  “We network by passion rather than proximity.” I love that I have a professional learning environment that includes teachers down the hall like Brenda Ortmann and Kristine Full, but also in Missouri, Illinois, Washington, British Columbia, New Zealand, and more. I learn from many people who push me to greater accomplishments and who share my passions. I don’t have to rely only on those who share my proximity.

  • Is it possible for our classrooms to support connected learning? If so, how?

I am lucky to have access to MacBook Pros in my classroom, so my students are able to be connected with their own Google Apps and Edublogs accounts. These and programs such as Skype and Twitter have been invaluable in our quest for connected learning. However, many teachers and students are connected without a lot of technological support. Sheri wrote a recent blog post about how to connect with limited technology.

  • What skills and literacies are necessary for connected learning? How do we develop these?
    • Of course, basic literacy skills are more important than ever. Critical thinking and reading are imperative to navigate through the sea of information. Good communication with others we are connecting with requires listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
    • Digital literacy – The basics of digital learning, being comfortable navigating around device(s). We develop digital literacy by the messiness of doing, patiently troubleshooting and working in our digital spaces. Here is where students and teachers learn together. I don’t think it is really about digital natives and digital immigrants; it’s about daring to click, grabbing hold of the device and figuring it out. Young and old must learn to do this.
    • Digital fluency – Recently I’ve heard Mitch Resnick and Alec Couros talk about digital fluency. I see fluency as going beyond the basics of digital literacy to become well-versed, able to learn on your own, to tackle new problems and not give up. Fluency is the ability to create content and navigate effectively in the online world.
    • Heutagogy, or self-determined learning. Perhaps this is also known as rhizomatic learning. Or are they different? (I don’t know yet.) More and more, learning is and will be self-determined.

I made a Voicethread trying to share a little of my journey from just using technology to becoming a connected educator.

#ETMOOC Is Starting This Week

I have participated in online learning as both a student and an instructor. None has been MASSIVE before now. This week I will begin participating in #ETMOOC.  It stands for Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course.

What excites me about this course is that I will be able to practice several educational priorities for me.


Although technology is not everything, being connected with other amazing educators through technology has  been a catalyst in my life, changing my thinking and causing me to grow as an educator and learner. I love to learn with technology. #ETMOOC allows those of us who love it, and those of us who are beginning, to use technology to connect with each other and to learn new skills.

Lifelong Learning

Speaking of learning, I have become the chief learner in my classroom. I have met hundreds of other passionate lifelong learners, or learners-in-chiefs. I would venture to say, those who signed up for #ETMOOC are here because they love to learn, and those are the people I want to rub elbows with.


Speaking of rubbing elbows, I have already met new people through #ETMOOC, and the course has yet to start. I look forward to meeting even more new friends and professional contacts.


NOT speaking of grades! That’s right, not at all! Hallelujah! This is a recent area of passion in my professional life. Students do amazing things when we take away the bad practice of assigning an A, B, C, D, or F upon them. I’m experiencing this weekly in Genius Hour. We will experience this in #ETMOOC, because all 1200+ participants are here because they want to learn, NOT to get a grade.

Sound interesting? Why not join us?

Google+ #ETMOOC Community

#etmooc search on Twitter

@ETMOOC on Twitter