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Final Reflections

April 9, 2009

ECMP 355 – The Journey

When I was looking for classes this semester ECMP 355 was one that I was really interested in but also had some concerns about. I really was interested in learning more about the way I could use technology in the classroom, but I was worried that there might be some overlap between this class and some IT courses that we offered in third year. Well I definitely had nothing to be worried about as this class was full of new information each week and had me engaged the whole semester. It would be easy to list each thing that we did each week and what I appreciate about them and how I think I would be able to use it in the classroom but I think that that might be a little bit of an overkill. Instead I want to share some of my highlights of this social learning experience.
Blogging – Blogs were something that I had never really paid much attention to before this class began and also something that I will admit I had a pretty negative attitude towards. In my head I had the idea that blogs were a place where people publically shared every possible aspect of their lives. As a result of that thinking I had already decided that blogs were not for me. We were required to start a blog for this class and at first I was feeling a little unsure about it but after doing a couple of the first tech tasks I had changed my mind. One of the early tech tasks had us adding other peoples blogs to our google reader and asking that we read some of the stuff that was out there on these educational blogs. I couldn’t believe how interesting and insightful some of them were, and the amount of resources that they were providing me with. I think I really appreciated though how because I had added some a large number of blogs I was constantly getting to read about a wide variety of educational issues, and a lot of the time they were things I had never thought about before. When it came to my own blog I found that I did not do a lot of postings outside of the tech tasks that Dean set up for us. I think that one of the main reasons I struggled with posting outside of the tech task was that I was now aware of the potential strength of my voice. I knew that at the very least my classmates would be reading my work and maybe people from ecmp 455. I have always been a bit shy with my work and worrying about what people are going to think. What if they hate it? What if I come off sounding dumb? Were just a few of the things that I would and still do worrying about. It is not that I am opposed to constructive critism. I think it is great when people respond and help you expand your learning on a topic, but I just get very apprehensive about what people are thinking and not saying to me. I do want the feedback but there is this part of me inside that is afraid that my opinions are not right or do not deserve to be heard by such an audience. I have always been one of those students who rarely talks in class even if I know the answer and I have also hated publicly presenting my own work. Speeches were the worst day of my life in high school. My anxiety would rise, my face would go red, my palms would be sweaty, and my voice would be trembling. After they were over of course it was never as bad as I imagined it could be, I would receive good marks, but no matter how many times we had to do a presentation I would always be feeling that same way. These feelings continued into university, and I again took the role of a student who rarely puts their hand up and contributes, especially in a class or 200 or 400 people. Now though I am at risk of looking like I am not contributing to class and my silence can be seen as disengagement. Luckily in class sizes that big no one knows your name so it doesn’t really effect you. However as I moved along in university the classes got smaller and the professors became more aware of who each student was in the class. I was now more accountable for my learning and for the learning of others as I was expected to contribute in class. I should mention that any type of group work I was perfectly happy adding my two cents, it was just situations in which I become the focus of the entire class, and everyone is waiting to here what I have to say. I find it too be a great deal of pressure. I never want to let anyone down, and I always feels as though if I say the wrong thing people will think less of me. I’m not sure what the deal with this but it has got better as I have gotten older and I feel more comfortable with my ideas and thoughts. I think that I have a stronger sense of self and that I am more aware that there are always going to be people that do not think much of what you have to say but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t share my thoughts anyways. I speak in class way more than I ever used to and have even managed to get rid of the sweaty palms, red face, and trembling voice. I still feel a bit of anxiety, butterflies in my stomach, but I am comfortable and confident with what I have to say.
There were a lot of times this semester when I would have something that I really wanted to blog about but just never got around too. I often would feel like there just wasn’t enough time though for me to sit down and really express what it was I wanted to share in my blog post, because I knew I would also need to find so quality hyperlinks that related to my topic and a video or picture to make it more appealing to my readers. Near the end of the semester I saw a blog post by Sarah Hill. She had used voice thread in order to get all of her thoughts across. I thought this was a perfect idea because it saves you time as a writer, allows you to give more expression by using your voice, and it also can help avoid having those really long blog post (like this one) that people might look at it and get overwhelmed by the length and decide not to read it.
My favorite posts that I did all semester though were the ones that I was writing more because it was something that I wanted to talk about rather than because it was something that I had to talk about. I also found that those were the ones that I would receive some comments on which would make me feel good about sharing my thoughts and opinions.
Commenting was something else that I know I did not do enough of this semester. We really did have a great class of people who were posting fabulous things but I found that I got into a very bad habit of only reading posts in my reader. Since I was reading every ones blogs in my reader I would often forget all about commenting. I know that sounds like a weak excuse but it was usually only after I saw the word comment on the bottom of the page that I would think about going and commenting. The other reason I didn’t leave a lot of comments was because I kept having difficulties getting my comments to post. I’m not sure why but every time I would use my mac the image that you need to recopy into the box to verify that you’re a person would never load! I would try reloading, different browsers, restarting and nothing was working. I ended up so frustrated after these experiences that I would just shut my computer off and go and do something else. I think commenting on others peoples work is really important though because it helps to validate peoples thoughts (if perhaps they were worried about people reactions), it allows interaction and makes the post a conversation rather than an opinion, and it can also work as a motivator.
I hope that even after this course ends that I keep my blog and that I actually become a better blogger. Right now I am a very sporadic blogger and I would like to do it more regularly. I am hoping that by continuing to blog my thoughts and ideas it will help me gain confidence in my voice and myself.

Social Networking – The chance to create connections between classmates and other educators has been another high point for me. Although I mentioned I haven’t commented a lot on peoples blogs I have been appreciating the information that they have shared with me. For some examples of when I did click here, here and here I feel especially lucky that we have been introduced to so many great educators from around the world we were are now able to make contact with. I have created a twitter account and while I don’t send out that many tweets myself yet. I do follow a large number of the educators from class and I can really see the value in being connected this way. The amount of information that passes through twitter in a day is amazing I have picked up a few resources off of there already. Following these educators on twitter is like having a secret weapon. They are always there when you need them and they are always willing to help. It is great to know that so many people who are passionate about education exist and that they are willing to help each other become the best at what they do.

Image from Technology in the Middle is maintained by Patrick Woessner,\

Image from Technology in the Middle is maintained by Patrick Woessner,"

Mentorship (update and reflection) – My experiences with mentorship left off exactly where they were the last time I talked about it. Maura Mortiz’s class got their essays corrected. I noticed that my groups marks were a lot less than those that Marcy’s received. I couldn’t help but feel responsible and like I should have done more to help them. As I touched on before though I found it very difficult trying to edit a student’s work without know who they are or being able to talk to them. I worried about changing to much of the essay because I didn’t want to do the assignment for them and I also worried about how my comments or changes would affect them. I wanted to be able to edit their work and leave feedback that would show them both the positive and maybe areas for improvement. I really like the idea of their assignment though and how it was a group of students all collaborating on one google document. I appreciate how using google docs would have made it easier for the students to work on their project outside of school because they would all have access to it and any changes that were made to it instantly. With Chad Brannon’s class I never had much contact with them again after the skype call. I think that it was tough on both sides because although he does a lot with his class using technology this was a new unit that he was doing so he was having a hard time finding where to fit us in. For me I had a hard time remembering to go to the class wiki and check out if there was anything I could be doing. Although my experiences kind of dropped off in the end. Participating in this project has opened my eyes to vast numbers of things that you can do using the internet to connect your classroom to classrooms around the world. It also showed me a lot of new ideas that I could try in the classroom as I read what other people were doing with their mentorship classes. I appreciated the chance to talk to some other teachers and see first hand what they were doing and in Chad’s case even see his class and classroom. It truly was a unique experience.

Walking away from this class I know that I am leaving with a lot of resources that I can take to me own classroom and experiment with. I also know that I am leaving with a network of people who I can contact for ideas and help when needed. I have learned a lot about the importance of social learning and how connecting yourself to other can really make a difference and help you grow professionally. To end I wanted to reflect on something Dean said while talking about our online identity in class last week. He said that it is important that we take control of our identity. I never had really given anything thought to what my identity might be and when I used to google myself someone else would always come up. Now that I have changed my name it is almost as if I am starting over because anything I publish online with the my new name is coming up at the top of the google search. Knowing this I hope to take the next steps towards creating a positive online identity and giving back to the community that has given me so much this semester.

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