Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ning: Connect, Share, Learn

Ning: Connect, Share, Learn

I've been facilitating adult learners for more than 20 years and I have always valued the relationships I have built with other educators. When I started my career in adult ed I had a wonderful mentor, Jane Mills. Jane was there as my sounding board and resource person. She willingly gave her time and provided support as I was learning the ropes. Through her example, I learned the importance of sharing, listening, responding and seeing things from new perspectives. Over the years I have done my best to follow her example.

I work at building relationships with educators I have met along the way. I am eager to share resources, network and help when I can. The great thing is that the more I give, the more I receive!

Flash forward to 2009-2010: A year ago I joined Twitter and I am amazed with the Personal Learning Network (PLN) that I have developed. I am connected with educators from around the world and what a professional development gift that has been! In the past year I have discovered Ning and have expanded my network even more. A Ning is a place to connect, share, grow, ask questions, discuss, post videos, share events, post photos and so much more. The best news is that all of this is free, free, free!

The Educators' PLN is a Ning created as a "personal learning network for educators". This dynamic space is ripe with discussion on education, full of thought-provoking videos and so much more. I encourage you to check it out.

The Classroom 2.o Ning is a social network for those interested in Web 2.o and social media in education. One of the reasons that I am promoting this Ning is for their offerings of free webinars on a variety of subjects. They also have discussion forums, groups and a range of other activities. My time exploring Classroom 2.o has been time well spent.

You can also build your own Ning. One that I have helped out with is the CNIE 2010 Conference Ning. This conference takes place in Saint John this May and I am working on the planning committee. We set up the Ning for participants to connect before, during and after the conference.

I also created my first Ning for my students, PROG 1093. This group of students are exploring Web 2.0 and the Ning is our meeting place.

If Jane could see me today I know that she would be proud that I am continuing to connect, share and learn with my colleagues via tools like Nings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's Get Visual!

Let's Get Visual!

I don't know about you but I love images, that is why I enjoy spending time taking photos and trying to tell a story through a picture. In the traditional classroom and in the online world I use images a lot. Why?
  • An image, screenshot or video can save me a lot of time explaining. If students can 'see' what I am talking about they are more likely to understand.
  • A picture or graphic is a nice change of pace from the written word; it can break the monotony.
  • Images are perfect for PowerPoint presentations. One of the unwritten rules (OK it is written somewhere) for PowerPoint is "Do not read your slide to your audience!" A way to avoid this mistake is to use an image and just a word or two to prompt you during your presentation. In this way the audience is not reading ahead of you and the image helps them remember the key point.
  • The Human Development Department at NBCCSJ is known for creating and facilitating online courses. All the people involved in instructional design are asked to put an image, graphic or chart on "each" page of the lessons they are creating. This breaks the fatigue or eye strain from following the written word, adds interest to the content and gives another dimension for the participant to connect to in the learning process.
If an image works for you as a teaching aid, then imagine what a video can do! The students who come to our college are accustomed to seeing videos on YouTube, on TV, in games, and online via Facebook and other media. They can take video and images with their cell phones; video is commonplace.

Let's use that to our advantage. There are so many websites where you can find a video to suit your purpose: YouTube, TED Talks, and Forum Network. As with finding the right image it does take time to find the right video to get the point across. The good news is that you will get better at searching and finding the one you want with practice. As with any skill, you need to do it a few times to gain proficiency.

I have been using more videos this year and I have discovered a few things about their value:
  • Short is good. A 2 to 5 minute video can pack a wallop of information.
  • Videos can break up your lecture and change the pace which is refreshing for the learner.
  • They can be used to do a demonstration (hand washing for example), to start a discussion (show the video and then have some questions ready for small or large group discussions), to introduce a topic (a stimulus for what is to follow), a case study (watch the video and then do an assignment to apply learning), or as way of using humour to provoke thought (you will see an example of this in the video that I am embedding below).
  • Although I said that short is good that does not mean that longer is bad. If the video is high quality, well presented and interesting it can go much longer. Don't use poor quality video - you will lose your audience!
Here's a video that I used for my Presentation Skills class. It is 4 minutes long, comical, warns of all the mistakes that people make with PowerPoint and it was well received by my students.

The owner of Flickr image that I used at the beginning of my blog stated that the photo could be used for noncommercial purposes as long as the attribution was provided. This is one of the choices that people can make when they offer photos for others to use under the Creative Commons license.
Attribution -