Sue Waters Blog

December 4, 2008
by Sue Waters
20 Comments

Here Are The Results From My PLN Survey!

So far there has been 196 responses in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) Survey since it was created in October.  And I know a lot of people are interested in what it all means and how I am using this information so let me explain.

About the PLN Survey

I’ve been doing a few presentations on building your own personal learning network (PLN) and wanted to demonstrated the power of a PLN in action. My focus on PLNs was for two main reasons:

  1. If our aim is to use online tools with our students we first need to be using these tools for our own learning to appreciate how they benefit our learning and to ensure we use them effectively with our students
  2. Ability to receive and give advice in our normal f2f interactions is mostly limited.  Personal learning networks greatly enhance our ability to get assistance, increase our learning, reflection and innovation.

Originally I asked my network to help me by sharing their advice by responding in the form of comments on a blog post. While it worked extremely well analysing the information was hard due to the number of comments.  This is when I decided that an online survey was the better option.

So in October I created a PLN survey using Survey Monkey and promoted it using Twitter and blog posts.  The questions asked in the survey are:

  1. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your PLN?
  2. Rank tools in terms of importance in your PLN
  3. What 5 tools would you recommend as a starting point for building a PLN?
  4. What are your 5 tips for new people to help them get started building their PLN?
  5. What country are you from?

Thoughts on The Survey Design

The main design flaw in the survey is Question 1 where respondents were asked to rank 10 types of tools in level of importance in their own PLN. I decided to use ranking of tools that I provided rather than allow respondents to name their top 10 tools because I felt it was more likely they would miss an important tool and it would also make responses harder to analyse.

While the concept of ranking was a good idea unfortunately I missed two important tools – wikis and virtual worlds such as Second Life.  It also meant by supplying the tools to rank potentially I was biasing what options people choose.  Also it would have been good if the survey design provided greater flexibility for respondents to replace the supplied choices with their own options.

Other challenges were with 196 responses analysing short answer questions such as your 5 tips and most important thing learnt from your PLN became harder to analyse.

The Results

Due to the number of response it was necessary for me to pay to use Survey Monkey which was great in terms of the fact I was able to download and analyze the responses using Excel. If you would like a copy of the raw data please leave a comment and send to you.

Most of the people who responded where from USA, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Canada.

For Question 1 about ranking the importance of tools in your PLN I used a weighted formula to determine the relative importance of each tool.  The following diagram shows the importance of each tool in their PLN with size indicating relative importance.

Based on these results microblogging tools was the most important tool in a PLN.  Would be interesting to know if how the survey was promoted (i.e. via blog posts and twitter) influenced this result.

For Question 3 “What tools would you recommend as a starting point” responses were not weighted and it was based on counting the number of responses for each type of tool.  The top 5 tools were:

  1. Set up your own Twitter Account
  2. Start your own blog
  3. Subscribe to blogs
  4. Start using a Social Bookmarking tool
  5. Join a Ning community

Please note the order above doesn’t indicate order of priority as respondents weren’t asked to rank.

There was lots of great advice and it’s impossible to provide all the tips for building your own personal learning network however these are the main points:

  1. Start slowly and find mentor(s) to help you.
  2. Use the same username across tools
  3. Share as much as you take
  4. Ask as much as you answer
  5. Try new TOOLS before you decide they’re not worth the time
  6. Comment on other people’s blogs
  7. Life long learning is the key!

How I have Used The Survey Results

I used the survey results for form the structure of my presentation and I have created a PLN Yourself site to help new people work through setting up their own Personal Learning network.  Hopefully people will find my new PLN Yourself site useful. All feedback welcome as to any changes required.

One concern I now have is while thePLN Yourself site site explains how to work through setting up your PLN based on the top 5 recommended tools I think it is lacking in terms of top 5 handy tools.  Why handy?  Well there are some tools that are everyday tools that are important to us all that aren’t necessarily as important for building a PLN.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Would love to have your feedback on my new PLN Yourself site:

  1. Have I missed anything important?  Is the information too hard?
  2. What about including top 5 Handy tools?  Will it overwhelm?
  3. And if I did have Top 5 Handy tools what would your 5 choices be?

Let me know if you would like a copy of the survey results.

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November 29, 2008
by Sue Waters
39 Comments

My Edublogs Award Nominations for 2008!

Image of Edublogs awardsThere’s only a couple of days left to submit your Edublogs Award Nominations for 2008 — you only have until midnight November 30th.

And if you’re like me nominating is excruciating because so many amazing people have helped and supported me this year yet only one nomination is allowed for each category.

For me the most important of the Edublogs Awards is the opportunity to introduce helpful resources to my readers. Which is also the reason why this post is long.

Your nomination post doesn’t need to be this long – here is how you could write the post and then submit here!

So here’s my nominations and reasons:

1. Best individual blog – Steve Dembo’s Teach42

Becoming a better blogger, which lead to my role as The Edublogger, is directly related to my participation last year in The 31 Days To Build a Better Blog Project.

Steve Dembo’s adaption of this Project into 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger have been inspiring, and no other posts this year, besides Michele Martin’s 31 Day Comment Challenge posts, have engaged me and challenged as much as these posts.Image of Portable PD

2. Best group blogNathan Toft and Jane smith‘s PortablePD.ca

Nathan and Jane both use technology in their classroom and their PortablePD.ca blog is designed to share resources and tips for educators new to using technology.

3. Best new blog – Miss Wyatt’s Technology in the classroom

Sue Wyatt’s been absolutely inspirational this year since she started blogging in January. She’s an incredibly supportive blogger to both other student and adult bloggers. The Student blogging Competition she has run for over 200 student/class blogs during the past 10 weeks has touched the lives and inspired so many students from so many countries.

I, like all the student bloggers and teachers involved, would like to say thanks Sue (and please don’t tell me it’s over!).

4. Best resource sharing blog - Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day

Larry’s dedication to sharing websites and information is astonishing. People often ask if I don’t sleep (I do) but I’m sure Larry doesn’t. If I want to know which online tool is “The Best of….” his site is the first place I visit.

5. Most influential blog post – Al Upton’s Order for Closure

As Graham Wegner’s says “What other post gathered 271 posts and created such a ripple in the edublogosphere this year.”

6. Best teacher blog – Anne Mirtschin’s On an e-journey with Generation Y

If you even spoken to Anne you soon realise she is softly spoken (as opposed to me) but her posts are packed powerful advice on blogging with students drawn from her classroom experiences.

7. Best librarian / library blog – Judy O’Connell’s Hey Jude

Image of HeyJudeWhat other librarian lets you help with a make over (in Second Life)? Mind you Judy now looks way better than me in Second Life. I’m sure I speak for all Aussie Educators when I say thanks Jude for all your mentoring and support.

8. Best educational tech support blog - Silvia Tolisano’s Langwitches

Both Silvia Tolisano and Claire Thompson both write posts similar to my “how to” type posts. For example Silvia has done an excellent series on Digital Story telling. If you like my style of posts you will enjoy both Silvia Tolisano and Claire Thompson blogs.

9. Best elearning / corporate education blog – Tony Karrer’s eLearning Technologies

Often feel that elearning in my education sector (vocational, education and training) is between K12 and corporate elearning; where it contains components of each but is different.

Tony’s blog provides me an insight into corporate elearning world while his posts provoke me to respond more than to most bloggers.

10. Best educational use of audio - Joe Dale’s Integrating ICT into the MFL Classroom

Image of ipodDon’t believe I’ve met anyone more passionate about podcasting than Joe Dale. If you’re interested in podcasting and how it can be used with students definitely check out Joe’s blog.

Alternatively if you looking for podcasts from the vocational, education and training sector visit Talking VTE podcasts.

11. Best educational use of video / visualKathryn Greenhill‘s Murdoch University Island in Second Life

Kathryn’s created an excellent video explaining how Murdoch University uses it’s Second Life Island with their students. She’s been an important mentor for me, and I’ve learnt so much about blogging from her. She’s also one of my favorite conference presenters.

12. Best educational wikiFlat Classroom Project 2008

The Flat Classroom project coordinated by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay has been running since 2006 and continues demonstrate the power of classrooms connecting with each other to collaborate in global projects. I like, many edubloggers around the World, am grateful for all the mentoring support Vicki Davis has given me.

13. Best educational use of a social networking serviceDean Groom’s Teen Second Classroom

While Classroom 2.0 and Oz/NZ Educators are important communities for educators to network with each other, communities like Dean Groom’s Teen Second Classroom demonstrate how these networks can be used with students in an educational context.

14. Best educational use of a virtual worldJo Kay’s Jokaydia

Without Jo Kay and Jokaydia I would still be looking like a Second Life newbie. Lucky we have people like Jo Kay to look after us!

15. Best class blog – Paul Bogush’s Collaboration Nation-A Middle School BlogImage of Bamboo

Whatever Paul’s doing with his students I think we should bottle it as it is definitely worth money. Never seen so many students inspired to willingly want to write posts and comment, before and after school, and on weekends.

16. Lifetime achievement – Michele Martin’s The Bamboo Project

Michele has helped, mentored, supported so many people in such vastly different ways. And her reach has included edubloggers, non-profit, elearning, workplace literacies and corporate learning.

November 27, 2008
by Sue Waters
4 Comments

Have Added Your Voice To My Personal Learning Network Survey?

Next week I will be in Melbourne (from 3-7th December) for Converge 08 and will be doing two presentations:

  1. How Tweet IT is! PD in the 21st Century
  2. The Connected Trainer – presenting with Simon Brown

Image of a stickyEmphasis of both will be on different aspects of personal learning networks (PLNs). I will also be sharing the results of my PLN survey (which I created in October) to demonstrate how my PLN extended my ideas beyond what’s achievable by me working individually.

So far there’s been 149 responses and if you haven’t taken the survey here’s your chance to add your voice! Here’s the link to my Personal Learning Networks (PLN) survey – there are 5 questions and it takes a max. of 10 minutes to complete.

Looking forward to catching up f2f with people in my personal learning network:

  1. Please come up and say hi if you see me at the conference.
  2. Sue Tapp’s organizing a blogger’s meet up for lunch on Saturday — if you want to join us please leave a comment on her blog.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please leave a comment if you would like a copy of the survey responses (in Excel format) and I will send it to you via email.

Image was created using Superstickies.

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November 16, 2008
by Sue Waters
17 Comments

Tips For Making Virtual Classroom Sessions More Interactive

Jo Hart facilitated an amazing session on tips for making virtual classrooms such as Elluminate more interactive at this week’s free online PD. Here is the link to the recording if you want to check it out.

Our next Friday session will also be on virtual classrooms but this time participants will be given the opportunity to take turns moderating the virtual classroom and developing their own skills. We’re hoping that participants take a concept(s) that Jo covered during the session to create resources suitable for their own teaching and bring them to the next session.

To aid this process here is a summary of some of the tips covered.

Some Background Info

Virtual classrooms are essential aspect of training at Jo’s College as their students are spread across the Wheatbelt region (155,000 km²) of Western Australia.

Always remember that there is a social dimension to learning and this aspect is even more important for online learning because students can feel more isolated. Virtual classrooms are one of the tools that can help reduce this sense of isolation for online students.

Keeping everyone awake in a virtual classroom is a challenge because unlike a physical classroom you can’t read student’s body language. It’s important to provide students with things to do other than just listening; build interactive tasks into the session.

PowerPoint and Whiteboard ToolsWhen you upload a PowerPoint into Elluminate any text or images on the slides are fixed in place and can’t be moved. However any text or images you add to those slides from within Elluminate can moved around on the slide. This aspect can be used to create a wide range of activities.

Labeling Activities Using the Whiteboard

Image of MicroscopeInsert an image or list of terms you want the students to define on a PowerPoint slide. Once uploaded, prior to the start of the session, add text to serve as labels to the bottom of the slide.

During the session get the students to drag and drop the text labels to the right locations on the image. Alternatively get the students to type the labels themselves.

If you want to re-use this same activity for other groups of students save the Whiteboard as a wbd file (File > Save Whiteboard > Save as wbd).

Image of Wordsearch

Wordseach

Create a Wordsearch on a PowerPoint slide and upload. Get the students to use the pen tool to highlight the terms.

You can choose whether you do/don’t provide a wordlist.

Wordstorms

Wordstorms are great for exploring ideas/opinions, developing concept maps and checking understanding. On your PowerPoint slide write the task in the middle and upload. Get the students to type their ideas/thoughts onto the whiteboard.

Image of a Wordstorm

What is Activities

Examples of What is Activities are getting students to define terms in pairs, find information using the Internet.

Jo did a clever trick of asking us all to put up our hands and using the order we put up our hands to pair us with partners e.g. Number 1 partnered with number 2 etc. Then she put a question on the whiteboard and partners had to text answers to each other so only the partners and moderator could see the responses.

Image of activity

We were all given 45 seconds to text our answers then she put the answer up on the board and asked us to text our partners name to the room if they got the answer correct.

The activity was finished off by participating searching for images relating to the question — Which was what is a bobolink? Images were saved to our desktop then uploaded onto the Whiteboard.

Alternatively you can distribute the participants into break out rooms and get the to brainstorm ideas or research topics in their rooms. Set a time limit using the timer and bring them back to the main room to present their results.

Poll Tool and Quiz Manager

Image of a pollCreating polls and Quizzes are good for revision, assessment activity or reinforcer of learning.

Choices in polls are Yes/No or multiple choice options such as A, B, C. You can choose to hide their responses so they don’t know each others vote until you choose to display.

The Quiz manager allows you to create multiple choice and short answer questions. Both the poll tool and quiz manager are accessed through the Tools menu.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Definitely worth taking the time to listen to the recording from the session. If you are looking for “How To’s” guides for using Elluminate you will find them here on the Elluminate website.  Don’t forget anyone can get their own Elluminate Vroom.

Our next session is this Friday 21 November from 9-10 AM (Perth, Western Australia). Anyone can join! Doesn’t matter if you missed the last session we will be taking that into account. Remember – If you get a chance – create some material to test during our next session.

If you attended the session:

  1. What ideas did you get from it?
  2. And how could you use it with your students?

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

November 12, 2008
by Sue Waters
15 Comments

Subscribe To Our Calendar for Free Online PD!

Image of A CalendarJo Hart (from C.Y O’Connor College of TAFE) and I have been running free online professional development every Friday since 31 October from 9-10 AM (Perth, Western Australia time). Anyone can join us and each week we cover different topics based on input from the participants.

This Friday’s topic is techniques for making Live Classrooms such as Elluminate more interactive. Both Jo and I have been using Elluminate for several years with our distance learning students. Elluminate is also really good for hosting meetings. You can get your own free Vroom here which is handy when you want to hold discussions or doing training with a small number of people.

I’ve set up a Google Calendar for this PD and will be adding online PD/Conferences to the calendar as they are brought to my attention. If you would like to attend our PD and be automatically notified please subscribe to our calendar. Google Calendar will automatically converts our time zone to your time zone. Read this post to learn more about using Google Calendar to make your life easier.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I will be writing up a review of what was covered in the last two sessions — soon!

This online PD session is free for anyone to attend. Please leave a comment:

  1. If you’re considering attending
  2. Have ideas of topics you would like covered
  3. Need any assistance setting up Elluminate on your computer

Click on this Elluminate link to join the session on Friday. If you have any trouble using the Elluminate link on Friday please email me at suewater{at]gmail[dot]com or send me a tweet using twitter.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

October 27, 2008
by Sue Waters
8 Comments

Interested In FREE Online PD This Friday?

Image of Team workInteresting in joining us for some “hands on” online professional development this Friday? Free, online and ANYONE can attend!!!!

Jo Hart (from C.Y O’Connor College of TAFE) and I will be running online professional development this Friday 31 October from 9-10 AM (Western Australia time which is UTC/GMT +9 hours – check this time converter for the time in your location – thanks to Carla Arena for creating the link for us) using Elluminate (a live classroom). This will be a “hand’s on” session designed for participants to share their knowledge/skills and help each other increase their skills in using web technologies for elearning.

At the start of the session we will be asking for participant’s input on what they would like covered during the session. All suggestions welcomed!

Here are some examples of topic ideas that we could cover during the session:

  • Using various features of Elluminate to make it interactive
  • What is a ….. wiki/blog/podcast/digital story etc and how can we use them with students
  • Using ARED or Hot Potatoes (only one feature at a time)
  • Using Photofiltre to make images appropriate size etc
  • Creating Toondoos

To get the most out of attending the session we recommend you have a headset with microphone so you can talk to the other participants. However you will be able to hear and write text messages if you have external speakers.

If you’ve never used Elluminate we recommend that prior to the session you go to Elluminate Product Support and complete:

  • Step 1 Java software check – If not installed follow the instructions to install
  • Step 2 Complete your set up – Join the Configuration Room to test your connection and configure your audio.
  • Step 3 Learn more about Elluminate Live! – Check out the online tutorials

Click on this Elluminate link to join the session on Friday.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This online PD session is free for anyone to attend. Please leave a comment:

  1. If you’re considering attending
  2. Have ideas of topics you would like covered
  3. Need any assistance setting up Elluminate on your computer

If you have any trouble using the Elluminate link on Friday please email me at suewater{at]gmail[dot]com or send me a tweet using twitter.

Image by Lumaxart licensed under Creative Commons.

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October 20, 2008
by Sue Waters
22 Comments

The Love Twitter Meme

Image of Twitter heartTwitter users fall into 3 distinct categories:

  1. Rarely use because it doesn’t suite their style;
  2. Like using it but in moderation;
  3. Really love using it and will twitter almost anything.

Those who follow me on twitter know I fall into third category and frequently share the funny aspects of my life. Probably the only person who has tweeted (with photos), for a week, about living with a household of blocked toilets and plumbing nightmares.

As twitmunky tweeted that truly deserves a meme and since it shows how much I love twitter I’ve decided to call it “The Love Twitter Meme”.

The Love Twitter Meme rules are:

  1. What is the most amazing/usual tweets you have shared on twitter? And why? How did your followers respond?
  2. What is the most amazing/usual tweets you’ve read? Why? And who by?
  3. Title your blog post “The Love Twitter Meme” and link back to this blog entry.
  4. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 5 people and list their names, linking to them
  5. Send them a tweet or leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

So to get it started I tag:

My selection is sheerly based on tagging people from a range of locations throughout the World. Consider yourself tagged if you like the idea and want to share stories of your twitter love.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While you are in the mood for twitter love make sure you check out Martin Weller’s A Twitter Love Song. If you haven’t used twitter or new to using it — My Quick Start Tips For New Twitter Users may help!

Would also love to know:

  1. Which twitter category do you fit into?
  2. How much information do you share on twitter? And why?

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October 18, 2008
by Sue Waters
30 Comments

Life IS LIKE a Box Of Chocolates AND Blogging IS LIKE…

Ashley (from the Student Blogging Competition) comment on what blogging means to her really says it all! And worthy of being WAY more than a comment!

Hope she doesn’t mind me turning it into a picture to put on my easel?

Image of an easel

FINAL THOUGHT

Off course like all artists I’m always looking for inspirations for my easel. Can you think of topic(s) you would like me to write about?

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October 15, 2008
by Sue Waters
9 Comments

Blog Action Day – Let’s Help Make A Difference!!!

Today, 15 October, is Blog Action Day where the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters are encouraged to post about the same issue on the same day. This year the theme is Poverty.

The hope is by starting a global discussion we can all help bring about both personal actions and a raised awareness for global poverty action going on (read more about it here).

I decided writing about poverty isn’t enough and, for me, today has to be about taking action because Miss Wyatt’s Poverty post made me recognize I should be doing more. As she says so many of us spend a dollar per day on lollies, chips, soft drink, comics or other non-essential item while large percentage of the World’s population live on less than $1 per day.

So tonight, as a family, we worked through the World Vision Australia’s website and signed up to sponsor a boy from Bangladesh.

If we each work to change one person’s world together we can make a different to the lives of many people.

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October 7, 2008
by Sue Waters
19 Comments

Twitter and Building Your Personal Learning Network

Image of twitterIt’s well known that I’m a self confessed Twitteraholic and twitter is an important part of my personal learning network. I’ve even written a Quick Start Tips for New Twitters.

Yet I’ve never been comfortable with recommending twitter as a starting point to build a personal learning network.

Maybe I’m too conservative?

Twitter is currently ranking the highest from 128 response in my Personal Learning Networks survey question “Which five (5) tools would you recommend as a starting point to build a personal learning network?”

My thoughts are twitter must be freaky and intimidating to people new to using Web 2.0 — especially given the etiquette involved in using twitter. Let’s not forget there are numerous very experienced elearning professional who aren’t comfortable using it.

So I’m interested to know:

  1. I started as a podcaster — where did you start?
  2. What was the first tool you used to build your personal learning network?
  3. Is twitter a good starting point to build a personal learning network?

Also there’s still time to add your responses to my Personal Learning Network survey!

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