Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Offline and Online Connected Learning


On Monday January 26, 3-4:45pm Cairo time, Maha Abdel Moneim and I will be facilitating a workshop at Nile TESOL (so audience are mainly teachers of English to speakers of other languages, whether in school, higher ed, or informal learning) at my university campus. The workshop is entitled “Becoming a Connected Educator for Professional Development: Why & How”.

I’m posting my ideas openly here to solicit feedback and ideas from you – and isn’t that exactly what this whole connectedness and openness is all about? Helping each other make our practice better 🙂 well, one of the things, anyway 🙂

Maha and I met and made some decisions and we would like to make the workshop experiential and to cater for different levels of participant needs and comfort with technology.

So our plan is to start with a completely offline activity, because even though connected learning is often affiliated with the affordances of social media, the spirit of connecting is much wider, isn’t it?

So here I am, in the spirit of openness and connectedness, sharing some of the ideas Maha and I have for the offline portion, which we plan to begin with.

Self-reflection on learning needs & expertise
First, we’ll ask participants individually to do something like an “ingredients of me”, which will be both a way to introduce themselves to others, and a starting point for a professional development plan ( this is loosely inspired by the work of my colleague Sherif at CLT, and also by Lee Skallerup Bassette who suggested or inspired me to think of how unconferences as professional development were similar to social media learning).

We could ask participants to write out a short list of the following:
1. What are some areas where you are an expert?
2. What are some areas where you would like to learn more?
3. What are some areas you’d like to seek advice on with colleagues still learning?
4. What are things you care about most in your teaching?

We’ll give them examples with diff levels of granularity, like ed tech, teaching verb-subject alignment, critical pedagogy, classroom management, teaching writing, researching learning, etc.

Unconference-like Session
We’ll then ask people to share (not sure how yet – post-its?) their areas and see if we can, in the class and try to find “matches” of interest where a mix of expert and novice can have a short discussion where they can:
A. Share something recent they read about the area
B. Share something recent they tried in their own teaching or practice in the area
C. Ask a question in the area and maybe have a discussion about it

We could give them 15 minutes to do this on one topic, then move on to another “table” for another discussion for another 15 minutes. (Gosh we need to check the setup of the room – well at least we can have “corners” in the room?

Ways of connecting online
Another thing we could do that will give participants choice is to have them show interest in the different forms of online professional development Maha and I are able to discuss, and they are:
1. Facebook groups (most likely many have it)
2. Twitter (hoping some will choose this so we can invite colleagues from our PLN to engage with our workshop – need a hashtag!!! Maybe #edtecheg which i had used for my class a year ago)
3. MOOCs (one of the plenary speeches that day specifies MOOCs in EFL, so we could explore those and more)
4. SecondLife
5. What else? Blogs?

Our Stories
We agreed to discuss connectedness as a state of mine, and openness as a way of being… Connecting with people and ideas.

I think before they choose one of the 4 above Maha and I might need to tell some “stories”, such as:
A. How we met 🙂 maybe we need to talk about this one early on
B. Stories of connectedness and sharing that are low tech as we used to do at Rice University when I taught ESL there… This is a paradigm shift for some ppl, not just a tech thing, after all
C. Ways connecting has influenced our teaching e.g. Teaching with other ppl and connecting students globally – great for ESL/EFL
D. Inspiring our teaching: Ways connecting can take an idea to a different level – e.g. ingredients of me when Alan Levine shared it with me, i posted on my blog, and some ppl used it with their students, both offline and online versions of it
E. opportunities to collaborate on research
F. Supportive communities to help us work through problems we are trying to solve

And then.., we would give them opportunities to explore, hands-on, the ones they are interested in after we have demonstrated a little of each on the screen.

We plan to invite participants to share potential challenges they expect to face, and to augment this with some of our own

Professional development plan
We hope to encourage participants to come up, at the end of the workshop with a plan of how they want to work on their prof dev for rest of the year or so, such as MOOCs to sign up for (and i will share some tips for this, maybe in a handout that will have space for them to write their notes); hashtags to follow, facebook groups to join, and most importantly: ways of benefiting from potential local connections as well, like creating their own facebook or google+ group, of having a monthly reading circle at work, or even an email list, etc.

Some Resources We May Use

This infographc on 21st century teacher

This video on Connecting educators thru Twitter by Dina Moati

Btw here is our abstract for the conference
This workshop will engage participants in exploring creative free/low-cost opportunities for teacher professional development via open/online connected learning experiences. Both facilitators consider themselves to be connected educators, and have actually met online through a connected learning experience.

Being a connected educator offers free, fast, continual professional development, where teachers keep learning and keep sharing that learning. Among the different reasons we share for becoming connected are: building a supportive community of educators, getting new ideas for your teaching, brainstorming solutions to cross-contextual educational problems, gathering useful resources, and finding ways to connect your students with others worldwide. Academics also gain potential collaborative research and publishing opportunities.

Facilitators will demonstrate specific examples of connected learning experiences that have benefited their own practice, and participants will also have opportunities to explore hands-on some connected learning opportunities.

By the end of the workshop, participants will have learned about ways to leverage social media (e.g, twitter, facebook, google+, blogging), virtual worlds (e.g. Second life) and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to boost their own professional development.


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