Thursday, September 30, 2010

PLN's...A New Frontier For Our Students! By Patrick Larkin

By Patrick Larkin, Principal at Burlington High School

I can't remember a better start to a school year! Getting back into the classroom to teach our school's first Web 2.0 class has been a daily highlight. It is so satisfying to help show students how to establish an on-line identity for the purpose of building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and extending their learning on topics that they are passionate about. Selfishly, I also embarked on this endeavor back into the classroom to learn from my students. Thanks to their great insights, this week has been especially fruitful!

First, there is Akash who defined a PLN in one short paragraph in a blog post this week. This is something I have struggled to do in five weeks! He topped that off with a wonderfully honest post on why students cheat in our schools in another post. This post to an article titled American Schools Lax on Cheating from the Washington Post. Then there was Michelle who offered a post on how she feels about "Busy Work" in school. These are just a few of the firsthand examples that have served as a reminder of the powerful addition that our students add to the equation when it comes to discussions that the adults in schools so often struggle with. Clearly a number of the students are starting to hit on one of our two major objectives for this course, establishing an on-line voice.

That leads me to the second major objective for the course which is building a PLN. For anyone who has undertaken this exciting task, you know there is nothing better than connecting with other people who share your passion on a particular topic. During the last couple of weeks, my students have started to realize their connectedness as they have made connections with students from Van Meter, Iowa by sharing blog comments. Getting comments on a blog post is exciting, but getting them from students over 1,300 miles away is even better.

Topping the blog comment, in my opinion, is the Retweet. For those of you not familiar to Twitter, that is when someone confirms the quality of one of your tweets by sending it on to all of their followers. In the last two days, I have seen a couple of posts by BHS students retweeted! It was a proud moment! Check out the retweets above where Akash's post on cheating was retweeted by educators from South Africa, Iowa, Oregon, and Arlington.

All of this and we are only midway through the first term. Opportunities to make connections with students from Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School in Philadelphia and Cam High School in Anita, Iowa are available. But in reality, opportunities to connect with learners everywhere are a few keystrokes away. You can set your own course and if you have something important to say, people will respond. That is what a PLN is all about!

My PLN has allowed me to connect with passionate educators like Shannon Miller, Van Meter High School's extraordinary library/media specialist, and Bill Brannick, the Principal at Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School in Philadelphia. These two have also embarked on a similar journey at their own schools, showing students the power of a PLN and showing the world the power of student connections. Keep checking in at The Student Connect PLN and see what are amazing students are up to.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s More Than Just a Class...It’s a Revolution!

Guest Post by Reanne Maskart, 11th Grader at MBAPCHS in Philly

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

I think this quote truly sums up a PLN ( Personal Learning Network). I believe that a teacher is only an educator when they not only instruct but inspire: likewise, a student is only a learner when they have hunger for knowledge. These two things come together and plant seeds for the future. When a student has a teacher who truly wants to educate them and help them succeed in life, great things happen. I am very blessed that I have two educators like that in one course. Thank you, Mr. Brannick and Mrs. Miller, I hope that you both realize the true impact you have on our lives and how much we appreciate you for it.

I have to say, I had my doubts at first... I wasn't really sure about what the class was about, how hard it was going to be, if it was even something worth my time since it takes place after school. After the first MEETING I was SOLD! I started dreaming up ideas and thinking of all the possibilities that stemmed from this. I was thinking how exciting it would be to work with peers in Iowa, and how great it would be to use the web for everything its worth!

I must say, I am truly inspired by this class... I have been working hard to keep up, and to excel where I can. Recently, I Skyped in to class in Iowa on a day that MBAPCHS had off from school. This may sound crazy but I stayed home on a day off because I was really thrilled about skyping with my class. During the class, I got to talk to a couple of the students face to face and I was starting to really get to know them and put faces to names, and I was so glad that they all got the chance to see and talk to me as well!

Later that night, I was Skyping, texting, Facebooking, Twittering a whole lot of my peers in Iowa and thinking- Wow! This is great! Even better then I expected.

I've also had opportunities to talk more with Mr. Brannick and Mrs. Miller individually and directly through Skype and Twitter, I'm so glad that I know and feel comfortable with both so much! I love my class and all the people in it on both sides, this has been such an inspiring and eventful kick-off I can hardly stand it!

We've used so many cool Internet tools I never even knew about! I made a wonderful video for my goddaughter's 2nd birthday with I taught my classmates how to use Google Docs so we could collaborate on a English essay. I did extra credit in Theology class with I talked with all of my classmates on Twitter, Skype, and Facebook. So many names and sites it sounds like it's almost to much but it's just the scratch of the surface!

I assure you... This is only the beginning, today I must stress to anyone reading this that we are beginning a mini-revolution of learning! Think of Mr. Brannick and Mrs. Miller who met on Twitter! Think of we, the students, who met each other online, not in person, but who we still call friends! Think of all the time, effort, and thought we put in to our projects and blogs, and how this class is making a difference to each and everyone of us. Then, you too, will see us as front line in our evolution of knowledge!

Thank you to everyone who has spoken to the class, Will from Juxio, Maggie from Diigo, and Kimmie from Symbaloo. Thank you to everyone else who has helped with the class, any tech support, twitter followers, and Blog readers. Most of all, thank you to Mr. Brannick and Mrs. Miller, none of this would be possible without you, and I will never ever forget that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

From Concept to Reality....A Very Humbling Journey By. Bill Brannick

Today I am honored to have Bill Brannick, principal at Bonner & Prendie in Philadelphia, and my partner in this adventure add an incredible post from his blog The Constant Learner.

From Concept to Reality....A Very Humbling Journey

My journey into my PLN, Twitter and my own professional development has been documented in this blog. My personal growth on Twitter and a growing relationship with the great folks at the Van Meter Community Schools was highlighted in my first post. My own experience has taken me from one who truly doubted social media in education, while at the same time knowing little about it, to one who embraces this medium on a daily basis.

During my May visit to Van Meter I had a great experience and even better conversations. In one of those conversations, Shannon McClintock Miller and I talked about teaching our students together about PLN’s. She was completing her first year teaching a Web 2.0/PLN class and we discussed what an opportunity it would be to expand this learning experience to students outside of Iowa! (Present me with an opportunity for my students to learn and count me in!) The background of the class has been documented in our first class blog post, written by Shannon.

This post is not to rehash the background of how the class started, rather about the experience I have had since school has started. On the Philadelphia side of this Web 2.0/PLN class, we are starting something new! The background for the class was developed throughout the summer of 2010. Only a few days before the school year started I was officially given the opportunity to speak with my students and parents about the class itself. I had a relatively small yet very spirited turn-out for the meeting about the class. All of those who came to hear about the class signed-up for the class. A great start indeed!!

Our time together has been relatively short. However, I have seen the eyes of my students wide open! I have seen a willingness of each of the students to stay after the “bell!” (I am running the class as an extra-curricular class/activity; therefore, no formal ending.) The students don’t want to run out of the room when I say we’re done. Best of all, we have had some great conversation! Conversation about what they post to the Internet, about what tools they can utilize to use their time more efficiently and how to connect with those around the world.

When Shannon Miller wrote the post about the class, I literally had tears in my eyes. (I am proud to say I can be an emotional person!) The reason for my teary eyes…because I have had the opportunity to see students energized, interested and engaged with others their age about how to grow as an individual!

I am humbled by the willingness of Shannon, the students of Van Meter and the students of my school, Bonner & Prendie, to allow me to experience this with you. Each of you are my inspiration to become better each day! Thank you for your support, trust and respect!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Start of Something Great....Connecting Students 1000 Miles Apart!

Once upon a time, a superintendent, principal, and teacher librarian from a small town in Iowa called Van Meter met a very cool principal from Philadelphia on Twitter. After a little tweeting, the principal from Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School came to Van Meter with his superintendent, technology director, and one teacher. They learned about the 1:1 laptop program, connected with others, watched kids be creative and excited about learning, and most of all...experienced the Walking Taco.

This was the start of something amazing between these two schools.

And the start of something great for me as a teacher, learner, and most of all a person.

My name is Shannon McClintock Miller and I am the district teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa that was lucky enough to be the one in this story. And let me tell you how the story continued.

Last year I developed and taught a PLN course to eight students the second semester. I watched these students find their passions and connect with others through social networking and other resources. Throughout that semester, I thought a lot about ways to create a network for our students in which they could express their creativity, thoughts, and ideas. Someplace that would foster a desire to move outside of the walls of our school and into the world to take their learning to a whole new level.

As the semester continued and the students connected to others, I also connected with my new friend Bill Brannick, principal at this terrific school in Philly. We discussed education, kids, and my PLN course. We talked about ways to get his school involved and decided to connect the two schools virtually and online to create an unique experience for all of us. Over the summer, Bill and I Skyped and worked in a Google Doc writing the course description and expectations. When I went to Philly for #ntcamp in July, we were able to talk face to face and this got me even more excited for school to start. I knew that we were onto something very special.

Our school years have now started at both places. Our classrooms have came together through Skype, Twitter (#vanmeterbpchs), Facebook (Van Meter/BPCHS Connect), and now through newly created student blogs (you can find everyones blog on the right hand side of this post). We have invited several creators of web 2.0 tools into our class in the last few weeks. We learned about Diigo from Maggie, had fun creating a Juxio with Will, and started a Van Meter/BPCHS PLN Webmix in Symbalooo with Kimmie. And we were lucky enough to have Tom Whitby, creator of Educator's PLN Ning and #edchat speak with the students about developing and the importance of their PLN. And it is only September 22nd....I can't wait to see what happens in the next eight months!

This summer I traveled to ISTE in Denver, Colorado. When I got home I wrote this blog post on VOICE called, Are Students Part of My PLN Too? . My students are such an special and important part of my PLN and now I have another group of students in Philly that are just as wonderful!

This might be just the start of something special but just wait....this is definitely going to be one group of kids that will show the world what they are capable of not just inside the walls of their schools, but outside too!