Archive for May, 2015

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

Learning in the Library of COETAIL a visualnote drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Learning in the Library of COETAIL a visualnote drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Let me start at the very beginning…

Back in Course 1, I found the greatest learning was through connecting. (Connect Collaborate Create). Twitter, in particular, gave me an online family to offer support, answer questions and helped me to develop. I have never been so in awe of an online platform to learn from. At times it is overwhelming and there is too much information that I try to take note of. My Evernote is fit to burst, my Instapaper unread and my Flipboard not working, but I try to stay on top of what is important to me.

It was during this time that I asked myself:

“how can I connect students outside of the art classroom?”

During one of the live COETAIL chats, Dane Watts also talked about student connections and it was in Course 1 with the guidance of my mentor Clint, and help from Vivian, Joe and many other COETAILers online, that the seed was sown for what was to be the beginning of the end of COETAIL. It has been incredible to connect with Matt and Anne, both teaching art and members of the COETAIL online cohort like me.

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

As I was preparing for the end of Course 4, my thoughts turned to a bigger concept. I loved the online wikis and websites that I talked about back in Course 4: how art teachers in Asia can connect through the ARARTE ning and IB Visual Art students and teachers can share their work on Mrs Anderson’s wiki.

I marvelled at the way you can be connected with like minded people and share and learn alike on sites like Deviant Art. Much as I love reading others blogs and looking at websites, the real growth comes in the interactions and activity. You learn so much from one another and it was with this thought that the idea evolved.

GOALS

Having posted my plan online, Matt contacted me and asked if I would like to collaborate on Course 5 and also with Anne, both Art teachers in Abu Dhabi and China. Together the 3 of us set out to connect our students to share their art and give and receive feedback online. Matt suggested using Quadblogging, as I explained on an earlier Course 5 post, and I researched its origins and successes.

Photo Credit: SurfGuard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SurfGuard via Compfight cc

For me, my goals were clear:

“for students to connect online and to give and share feedback on their artwork”

“to learn about and apply digital citizenship to their daily practice”

but also:

“to see how far the connections would reach and what developed from them”

Here is the original UBD from the end of Course 4 documenting my idea:

INTRODUCTIONS

As the project kicked off, I introduced it to all of my classes, sharing my thoughts and blog with them. They ALL wanted to get involved! The plan was to only use one class, but who was I to say no?! I had to draw the line at Grade 6, despite their enthusiasm for the project, as I knew that would take the most time and energy in educating them about internet safety, careful and respectful commenting and sharing online. I still have plans to start the new academic year blogging with all classes.

I set up the landing page to connect all classes with one another but also for parents and the wider community to see what we were doing. It think it also helped the students and teachers in the other schools to find their way! You can find it at the top of my blog as a separate page called Quadblogging.

The landing page for the class blogs

The landing page for the class blogs

But as the students got more involved it seemed that the goals were changing:

“how could we share our work with a wider audience and develop a student orientated space online?”

TOOLS

I decided to use Blogger as students already have Google accounts and it synced seamlessly with them. Talking them through the process of signing up and commenting was just the start and beyond that students worked on designing the space asking for authorship rights. This was a new risk for me as they inevitably designed, redesigned, changed layout, logo, headers and labels almost daily!

As the project developed, I found I was pulling from all four courses of COETAIL and in fact the students were beginning to mirror my own experiences.

Mirror Me image drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Mirror Me image drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

I always think far too big, but if I was to give the students a valid and authentic experience I couldn’t help but incorporate my learning from the whole of my COETAIL journey.

The 5 rooms in the COETAIL house drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

The 5 rooms in the COETAIL house drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

REACTIONS

All my classes were excited to be involved in the blogging task. I introduced it in class and sent an email explaining the project to all parents.
Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.25              Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.42                            Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.01

It seemed the right time and place to be addressing Digital citizenship yet in a practical way alongside the lesson work. Students too were eager to get started with connecting as Ashari, Khush and Tamzine explain in my video:

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 16.02.29   Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 16.02.47   Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 16.03.11

Here is the final video of how the project evolved:

From start to finish I have been both impressed and surprised at the students tireless enthusiasm and constant commitment to pushing the boundaries of online connecting. I love that I too learn from them as they find alternative (and better) ways to connect and collaborate.

HITTING THE TARGET

Photo Credit: wizzer2801 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wizzer2801 via Compfight cc

From listening to my students and reading their ongoing reflections it seems clear that they have met the goals of connecting and understanding digital citizenship. We have begun to see a glimpse of what might happen as the connections grow and deepen over time too. Even though Grade 6 were not involved at this stage in the blogging project the aims of understanding Copyright stretched to them as they shared photos on a Flickr site and they discussed using music in their Stop Motion animations. It was great to see the learning flowing into other classes as a result.

Zain talks about starting a Flickr site to share their own photos

Zain talks about starting a Flickr site to share their own photos

Making Stop Motion videos and addressing music copyright

Making Stop Motion videos and addressing music copyright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With youngsters it is crucial to keep revisiting digital mindfulness as they can be lulled into a sense of familiarity the more they connect and communicate. Just the other day I found one of Grade 8 students discussing the reasons why a video should or should not be uploaded due to its unusual style and content: “Might it offend someone in another country?” “Would they understand it” “How personal to a culture is humour?” The video stayed online for little over 4 hours before he decided to take it down and rework some aspects. It is controversial but he wanted to debate the idea too. Is blogging a place for such debate? I believe that it can be if handled appropriately. Often online we are watchful of what we say and debate is rarely seen effectively and openly, so it is important we teach our students how to debate effectively and respectfully.

LEARNING

Did my students learn from the experience? How did my learning change too?

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 16.39.24

Students reflected that their learning had and still is changing due not just to the project but as a result of connecting and sharing. They changed their ideas about how they could learn not just what they were learning. They are enjoying the process so much their thoughts are currently looking ahead to how they can incorporate different types of learning about art online and to a wider audience. I have learnt so much with them about how students learn best and how learning changes as they move up the school. I still want to involve my youngest Middle School students, those eager Grade 6s and, as the academic year draws to a close I would like to integrate them into the process somehow: maybe with just one blog and for interested individuals to post, yet all can view and comment?

Next year as our online learning platform takes off with all classes, there will be ample opportunities to work with students online, sharing and commenting and this may help to develop good practice and start to journey towards the ultimate goal of a more connected space for artists.

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

Antonio and Eric talking about using  rotating teams to connect for ease and diversity of comments

Antonio and Eric talking about using rotating teams to connect for ease and diversity of comments

Reflecting the voices and opinions of Antonio and Eric, it would have been far better to have focussed on just one class. But how could I have chosen and known just how interested and intriguing the process would have been if I had not allowed all 5 classes access and involvement?

I like the idea of using teams across schools that rotate and change as the weeks evolve. This would allow everyone to receive comments and to grow the connections far better. The original Quadblogging site documents a similar process where the “quads” are changed after each 4 week cycle. With this in mind, I wonder if we can set this up online with the help of art teachers worldwide: a more focused, subject-specific version of David Mitchell’s initiative?

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.26.02

Anyone interested in starting this in the new year? Please spread the word online and get in contact with me if you are interested in linking your art students to mine. It would help me and my students to start connecting further afield and bridge the gap to the classroom in the cloud.

Whilst asking the students for feedback towards the middle of the process many students suggested ways to connect beyond the blogs including via Skype. This got me thinking that we could use this more in the classroom to talk to and learn from experts. With this in mind I reconnected with a British painter, Niki Hare, via email who my students had sent questions to last year about her process of working and the meaning of her work. They are excited this year to be able to connect with her via Skype this week to ask her advice when creating abstract and emotive paintings. I cannot wait to see how their thinking changes with this connection and how Skype might broaden our learning in the art room.

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

WHAT NOW?

Right now my students are still in the process of awaiting comments on their second post. This has taken time to await the 4 week turn around and it set me wondering if there was a more natural way for it to progress. Should students work more organically, posting as they wish or would that clog the page and lose the thread and equality? My thoughts slipped back to the idea of the website and how this would give much more autonomy for student choice.

brainstorming ideas for the website

brainstorming ideas for the website

This was where my students thinking really took off. It was only supposed to be a lesson starter, a suggestion of an idea, but they tackled it with gusto. They worked collaboratively and discussed and debated names and designs for the online space as well as offering concepts and suggestions for what they, the participants would want to see included on the space. It helped to show me that if you are thinking for kids, ask the kids! After all it is them who will be using it.

ideas for the nme and concept for a global art classroom

ideas for the nme and concept for a global art classroom

I wish I had incorporated Twitter more into the process with my students. It is difficult as it is to keep up with Twitter but I wondered if I could have created a class hashtag to share and communicate more to a wider audience. I will ask students how this might work but to quote a HS student:

“students don’t use Twitter, we use Facebook”

How can we change this practice, show them the benefit, the swiftness and versatility of Twitter? and what about the under 13’s? How can we offer them a social space that is both easy and safe to use?

Photo Credit: Mike Gabelmann via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mike Gabelmann via Compfight cc

I wish I had thrown down the gauntlet to my students much earlier in the process, asking them what they need, want or would like in order to connect, learn and collaborate. It is always an eye opener to see and hear their opinions. Often, as teachers, we think we have a good idea of what is needed, but involving the students more in the process changes thinking and helps us step into their shoes a little more easier.

Discussion about Learning

Discussion about Learning

SHARING

Right from the start I have shared my learning on COETAIL with my senior team who have supported my journey. The IT department have been a source of help and advice and particular thanks must go to Andrew, Pete, Noah and Ben. Without them I am sure my questions and deliberations would have gone unanswered and my path would have been less clear. Paul Brogden, Vice Principal Curriculum has been following my progress online and was keen to see how the journey evolved. Perhaps now staff can see the value in connecting our students beyond our classrooms and how imperative it has been in teaching digital safety and responsibility.

Just last Friday the Tech mentors at UWCSEA met for a sharing session and I talked about how powerful an experience this had been and how much learning had taken place.

sharing COETAIL blog

sharing COETAIL blog

I would like to offer a session about connecting, to help more teachers to see the value of social networks both for them and students and how blogging can start this process. I offered this a number of years ago and the Languages department have taken it on board. The problem with our school as it is with many schools is TIME! How do you add to the already bursting curriculum without taking anything away? It has been tough juggling so many variables and ideas through the COETAIL journey but it has been worth it to see the growth in both me and my students. With our online platform Teamie coming onboard with all MS classes in August, this could help us encourage discussion, to connect more and may, in time help pave the way for more online connections.

Teamie - online learning platform

Teamie – online learning platform

As the idea continues to evolve I would like to push my learning so I can help my students find the best route through this jungle of ideas. I talked before with Noah about learning some html and with Peter about HYPE but now I am interested in web design and I have found a free online course through ALISON that might meet that wish. I have already bought my domain name, nickihambleton, hosted through Hover, but I am yet to set it up. Perhaps this will kick start that process.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 18.11.25

For years I have looked from afar at the work of The Harvard team’s Visible Thinking and Project Zero. I have read the book, studied the website and resources online and yearned to visit Harvard or at least take the online course. I missed out on a 3 day course with Ron Ritchhart in Asia this month and so I was excited when Matt shared the new MTV online courses. They contain a new concept – learning in teams. I am in the process of discussing this with my curriculum leader to build a team at UWCSEA to pilot this work and then take it into a PLC. Keep your fingers crossed I can participate so that I can work with not only my school but with other educators on what surely is an invaluable curriculum-wide skill.

GREATEST LEARNING

The greatest learning for me in the whole process was:

that the students can have ownership and change your thinking

that is doesn’t matter that you don’t yet know where this is going or what the outcome may be

Talking to Emily Maclean from Chatsworth International School at a recent TeachMeet, I will try in the future to hand the project over to the students much earlier on for them to devise teams of workers to problem solve. Asking the right questions is a crucial part. It is enlightening to see how Emily can get a class of grade 5 students to devise and share an online course single handedly! She too did not know what the outcome would be or how it might evolve. Taking risks as a teacher? We should do this more often! You can read more about Emily’s work at emilymaclean.com

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean

REDEFINITION

Could we have done this without technology? As Nick states, the main benefit of connecting online was the immediacy of receiving feedback and the ease of the connections. It opened his mind to more possibilities and helped to change his thinking. Another student laughed as she explained that we could have sent the artwork by post, waited to receive a letter or some art in return! The project might have taken a year to happen!

Nick explaining how we could not have done this without technology

Nick explaining how we could not have done this without technology

So what does redefinition look like?

Back in Course 4 I drew a seed germinating growing to a plant to represent the process of SAMR, but looking back it should be seen as a circular design much like my application video to Apple Alumni earlier this year:

As students reach redefinition it allows thinking to restart and evolve again. Following the introduction of the blogs, commenting online and forming connections has become second nature, a natural progression to gathering feedback in class and from their peers. So what next, to redefine redefinition?

Reflecting on the process made me question what difference I made to my students’ learning, but also how it redefined learning in the context of the SAMR model. Nick Coulter (TPACK and SAMR) recently shared this infographic by Jackie Gerstein:

SAMR as a framework for Education 3.0

SAMR as a framework for Education 3.0

Looking at the lower area of the graphic, my students redefined their learning about art, by connecting online and began to develop a PLN as a result. They are sharing their knowledge and ideas online and learning from others they have connected with in return. Grade 7 are uploading their demonstrations to their blogs as I speak, in order to share their skills with others and are hoping to see some in return so they too can extend their learning. They range from Photoshop tutorials to how to draw and eye, pulling together their own learning from class and their personal interests outside of school.

Grade 7 uploaded demonstration videos on Google Drive

Grade 7 uploaded demonstration videos on Google Drive

It is exciting to see how much the original idea is growing and how the students are helping to reshape it. We are still a distance from what I envisioned with the connected classroom but we are working our way towards it. With one lesson a week of art, I am not rushing it. Good things take time to develop and this is just the beginning.

WHAT NEXT?

Back in February, Edutopia article by Elizabeth Bostwick, talked about student voice and it was here that I realised the true future of helping my art students to find theirs in a predominantly visual context. She talks about growth mindset through community building and collaboration and about giving opportunities for our students to open up, to connect and communicate in other ways than speaking out in class allowing greater opportunity for the introverts to find their voice.

“the greatest voice in the classroom is the student’s” 

Elizabeth Bostwick (Empowering student voice through classroom culture, February 2015)

Also on Edutopia another article, “Help Students use social media to empower, not just to connect” resonated with me:

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 18.32.42

Even though this article is over 4 years old, the sentiment still rings true. We should be helping our students to use social media not just to connect with one another but to empower them to take an active role, to participate, and to add value. Andrew Marcinek talks about student’s criteria for a PLN and to become an active member for the hashtag or group they follow.

In time I hope to work out how to get the collaborative online platform for connecting Middle School art students up and running. I am testing the water and the technical aspect of the Drawing board/Artery/The Blank Canvas/ Global Palette (or whatever it will be called) in the final weeks of term and reaching out to Twitter in the hope there are some equally keen art teachers out there ready to step in and join me. Once I have some interest the next thing will be voting on a name!

As always, watch this space………….

COETAIL: The swiss army knife of learning drawn on iPad with Adobe ideas by Nicki Hambleton

COETAIL: The swiss army knife of learning drawn on iPad with Adobe ideas by Nicki Hambleton

“never stop learning because life never stops teaching”

by Robert Tew on livelifehappy.com

 

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Connect Collaborate Create visual note by Nicki Hambleton made on iPad using Adobe Ideas

Connect Collaborate Create visual note by Nicki Hambleton made on iPad using Adobe Ideas

“Alone we can do so little but together we can do so much” Helen Keller 

All I have ever wanted as a teacher is for students to be happy and relaxed in my classroom and eager to learn. I wish for them to have the courage to tackle tough tasks and to grow as an individual. When I started teaching back in the UK in the 90’s I was young and keen and desperate for the students to get on with me. I felt, and still do, that students work best when they are comfortable and supported and it is still with this philosophy that I teach today.

Photo Credit: Akamï via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Akamï via Compfight cc

I remember when I first started teaching, older teachers advised me not to smile for the first 2 weeks. How ludicrous does that sound? Do newly qualified teachers still get told that in the UK? Why on earth would we not want to enjoy our job and show students how much we enjoy it. I could never adhere to that advice and always wear my heart on my sleeve. I have been told I am an open book, that is is blatantly clear if something is wrong. I am a rubbish liar and an even worse actor. However, I have always found the greatest rapport with my students and that is why, years later I still love my job.

I still connect online with students I first taught at a lovely school in the UK. Just today one of my 11 year old tutees is a dad of 2 and running the London marathon. Another is about to have an operation after a knee injury playing Premiership football for the past 17 years. Most are regular mothers, husbands, working adults or students at university. Teaching keeps you young, yet connecting with past students makes you feel old as time passes and they become adults themselves.

Photo Credit: carlaarena via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: carlaarena via Compfight cc

Teaching internationally has changed me as an educator and as a person. Connecting has brought the world closer and now we can talk to another person despite their distance. Being an international teacher has also brought connections that have helped me to grow more and Twitter has been at the heart of this. I remember in Ghana when my colleague introduced me to Kim Cofino’s blog Always Learning and it was through Kim that I began to use Twitter far more effectively to reeducate myself in the world of technology and pedagogy. Only when I moved to Singapore did it begin to make more sense through Learning 2 and in particular with Jabiz Raisdana. Being inspired by him to connect and follow, lurk and stalk, I began to develop an understanding of the benefits of Twitter and indeed connecting, but it wasn’t until much later that I had the confidence to give back into the community and form the beginnings of a PLN.

Nowadays my reach is far and eclectic. I have groups of art teachers, sketchnoters, COETAIL groups, International teachers and online friends that have become real friends in life. Joe Teft and I connected first through Learning 2, then COETAIL and eventually met face to face when he moved to Singapore last August to join CIS. We met over wine and talked like long lost friends and this is how powerful connections can be. You develop a depth that cannot necessarily be developed with a classroom colleague or a condominium neighbour. You spend time communicating, asking questions and thoughtfully responding and it is this that I am trying to impart to my students.

The Dating game

I introduced the blog task first to my Grade 8s, believing that they would be the best guinea pigs to try this out on. Most were over 13, keen for some excitement in their day to day existence and active social media participants already. They took to the task, like ducks to water, finding both meaningful learning and fun as the weeks progressed. I still giggle at their funny comments when I introduced the motivational aspect, to encourage them to connect and collaborate with the students in the other 3 schools, when one student asked how many points he would get if he got someone’s number!

But it was with the under 13s that my interest ultimately lies. Those who (legally) cannot connect on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, many of whom do, albeit superficially and disrespectfully.

As Head of Grade 6, the majority of the issues I have had to deal with in my first year with these impressionable 11 year olds has been through misuse of digital media, clashes online and misinformed conversations through social media. Despite informing parents and guiding students through a structured PSE programme they still use Instagram and Skype and many disagreements are through this. One student, let’s call them “X”, vehemently accused other students of reporting him on Instagram, yet he too had blocked another Instagrammer as she was underage. He spouted threats and accusations on Skype, screenshot by a parent and vowed to find out who they were. The irony was he too was only 11 and should not be on Instagram in the first place.

So my thoughts led to developing a programme that helped Middle School students to learn how to connect in a protected environment and to use similar platforms to connect and learn from. Developing this has been the hardest part of Course 5. Quadblogging has been just the beginning and I have plans to grow the connections further.

Motivation

Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Icons made by Freepik from http://www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Looking back I wondered if COETAIL subconsciously included a slight element of gamifying: maximum points for the number of blog posts and connections, encouraging words, being published on Flipboard, retweets, being featured or mentioned on another’s blog or Twitter – this is the kind of incentive that works for adults, not necessarily, points, prizes, rewards. These rewards go deeper and last longer. The knowledge that we have connected and made friendships that do far more than give us prestige that we are top or second on a leaderboard or the fastest poster of COETAIL this week.

These connections have longevity, are real and support and encourage us.

Being part of a PLN

My PLN seen through MentionMapp

My PLN seen through MentionMapp

Before I joined Twitter, I did not know the benefit of an online PLN and I would have probably baulked at someone who said they had strangers online who they learned from. I joined Facebook back in 2007 when we first lived abroad and I wanted to connect or reconnect with friends in the UK and with students we used to teach. It was a fun way to chat and dip into their lives from afar.

But Twitter became a different entity: it became my learning zone. Until I was introduced to Tweetdeck, I was a little overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information coming at me. I could not fathom how Keri-Lee Beasley could track so many things, add them to Diigo, respond, share and create so much in so little time. I watched her, enthralled, at a conference, listening, tweeting, storifying, sharing notes on google docs and all in the blink of an eye! Nowadays, even though I am nowhere near the league of KL, I can see at a glance the groups of people I follow, the hashtags I am interested in and the individuals I want to learn from.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck

As you can imagine, this is just a section of the many hashtags and groups I follow!

I am sure I still miss out on key things but as I was once told, it is like coming into a room: you step into a group and join the conversation as it happens, you do not worry about what was discussed 5 or 30 minutes previously.

Building a tribe

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

COETAIL connections have been more widespread. As I documented in Course 4 (Connecting the Dots) there are often key people in one’s network who you draw most from. Pana, Joe and Matt are the ones I have grown most from as they give so much back to the community and extend my thinking. We often “meet” on Twitter chats beyond COETAIL or in one to one conversations: Pana in #kchatap, Joe in #enviroed and Matt in all things Art. Early on, Jamie, Vivian, Andrea, Clint and Joe helped me gain trust in the system, helping me to believe that I had thoughts and ideas worth writing about, and leaving comments on my posts. Connections I have made often cross platforms, so if I connect on COETAIL I will inevitably search for them on Twitter to continue or extend the conversation. It is through this that we can develop deeper and lasting friendships. Looking back at my activity on the COETAIL page gives me a sense of who I have connected with across the course and beyond the official records on my Gradesheet:

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

My main focus of connecting is through the strong friendships that have grown over the course on Twitter. It is not easy to track all my activity on Twitter but I try to remember to use the #COETAIL hashtag frequently when connecting and sharing.

Searching for a good way to view past connections and tweets I stumble on some clever websites. Liking the look of Visible tweets but not seeing it fit for purpose here, I used Tweetbeam to view my connections and conversations on Twitter. I took a screencast to show these many connections, although presented live at an event they would pop up randomly.

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

I wondered how I could get my own students to learn better not only in the classroom but beyond. It was with this thought that Course 5 developed and is still developing. Students started tentatively commenting on other student’s blog posts and posting themselves, waiting eagerly for their first response and the beginnings of connecting globally.

But the hardest part for both adults and students is to develop meaningful connections and that is what I have been trying to encourage and build over the past few weeks with my classes, just once a week and within the 75 minute lesson alongside their practical art!

To grow a friendship you have to spend time nurturing it. But how does one invite comments without seeming pushy? How do we ask for feedback online? Often we expect another to respond to our comment and reciprocate on our blog when we have spent time replying to theirs. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that. This is a real lesson to teach our students.

I look back at the record of my connections through COETAIL and my involvement in the community. I was not a very good Diigo user and Google Reader ceased to exist so I built on the growing friendships I had through Twitter to help connect deeper, focusing on responding to the hashtag #COETAIL and searching for like-minded individuals through posts from the online2 cohort. I wish I had done more to reach out further beyond COETAIL, but time is tight as a working mother of 2, in a new role as Head of Grade in a very busy and manic school such as UWCSEA. Add on Learning 2 preparations and I reflect that my connections grew considerably, all things considering. I may not have nurtured enough connections beyond Twitter and COETAIL but sometimes it is better to have fewer stronger friendships than many weaker ones. Or so I tell my kids.

Using Twitter Advanced search I can review specific connections with other Twitter users under #COETAIL or conversations between collaborators or friends. Often, I discover, I have tweeted a lot but not necessarily utilising the hashtag and so it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. Here are some screenshots of the types of more recent conversations on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.04.03 Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.06.30

I used to comment diligently each week during Courses 1-4 recording these on my Gradesheet, but within Course 5 it felt more natural to search, comment and connect at particular times and with a wider range of people, some not even connected with COETAIL. I tracked these widespread connections using MentionMapp, a fascinating tool online to see your connections relating to Twitter users and hashtags. Again, I took a video of the screen as I clicked the nodes of connections to show how my reach has developed.

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

I would love to pursue this avenue more in order to track connections and their interconnectedness, reminding me of the 6 degrees of separation and how social media brings people closer.

As our online and offline connections brought us together, Anne in China, Matt in Adu Dhabi and two Art teachers from Dubai began to chat more about our connecting project on Gmail. Matt shared the link to a doc so that we could see how Quadblogging could work and our emails have been going back and forth since February, checking, questioning and clarifying:

Gmail connections and conversations

Gmail connections and conversations

Working closely with my fellow bloggers, Anne and Matt, we attempted to connect on Google Hangouts during Course 5. Our first meet up helped us to see where we wanted to go with the blogging and how it would work in practice. The second was meant to reconnect us visually to review how it had been going and we tried, in vain to record the conversation live. For some reason it did not work out as we had envisioned and we laughed our way through it as I appeared to be talking to myself, watched Anne hear me, although she herself was mute and Matt’s icon with no sound! So much for technology.

Google hangout and Twitter connections

Google hangout and Twitter connections

I recounted this to my students who thought this hilarious but I don’t see them having any success themselves since setting a similar challenge when connecting! However, one such student forged better connections, albeit within our own school community and he evidenced these through his GDrive folder just this last week. He is a quiet and reserved student, keen to do well and he connected with another equally shy boy in another class. Together they talked online about collaborating and even managed a Hangout to talk about possible ideas. I am so pleased that my words meant something and that he was able to connect outside his usual peers. Talking to Pratyay, and viewing his “evidence” we can track back that the connections begun with a comment on his first blog post. They decided to email, then google chat and finally on Hangouts. I look forward to what they manage to collaborate online with art, as other students in China and Abu Dhabi test out Ping Pong, remixing each others artwork. ArtyRemix didn’t really get off the ground back in Course 1, maybe now is the time to resurrect it?

 

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I love that this has followed such a similar thread to how I connect. From initial unknown commenting on COETAIL blogs, to chatting more openly, to video conferencing. Rodd Lucier talked about the 7 Degrees of Connectedness back in 2012 and back in Course 1 I could see how this thermometer of growth could help our students to connect.

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Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton Course 1: Connectedness

I see how the tentative commenting at the start of the project began to grow into more confident and natural friendships, like Arran and Pratyay. If only I could get them on Twitter! I think we can see that connecting takes time, not just for ourselves, fully embedded in a connected cohort and confident on Twitter, but for our students. We need to nurture them in forging friendships and finding their tribe. For some it feels awkward, for others it is fun. For most I wish for them to be able to do this beyond the classroom, in preparation for their life ahead of them, immersed in social media, armed with the skills and knowledge to do so safely and authentically.

Since our own fateful afternoon, Anne, Matt and I have discovered other ways to connect, asking our IT specialists and students who suggested Zoom and Twitch. I love that there are multiple ways to connect and have real F2F conversations beyond the tweet or blog comment.

A problem shared

I had much more luck with Hangouts with Pana and Susan last Sunday as we set out to support one another in our final weeks of the course and in sharing our ideas for our final video. Pana invited us (and David) to connect through Google, we logged on, and it worked. We spent a lovely 30-40 minutes supporting one another and genuinely feeling less stressed having shared our thoughts and worries. Even though we did not record or present the Hangout live, so we have no visual record or evidence, we all felt the conversation allowed us to be relaxed and open, which ultimately moved us all forward with our thinking. Through Pana I have connected with other visually interested Tweeters on #kchatap and had some great conversations back in October. It was good to connect with other COETAILers here too and about a subject close to my heart.

Twitter chat #kchatap on Visual Literacy

Twitter chat #kchatap on Visual Literacy October 14 2014

Beyond COETAIL

From the #C5 Hangout I went straight on to the #COETAILchat about life after COETAIL. I have found much inspiration connecting from Day 1 with Vivian through Twitter and online chats. She befriended me and I am genuinely grateful for her constant kindness and responses over the year and a half. I enjoyed watching and tweeting throughout the COETAILcasts and then listening to her for real later on in the course. She has been a source of help and support and I would love to continue this one day and pay back her kindness into the community as a mentor myself. There have been numerous connections, old and new, mostly through Twitter, that have generated powerful conversations but it is in connection with COETAIL where I feel the most affinity.

#coetailchat slowchat The impact of COETAIL

#coetailchat slowchat The impact of COETAIL

#COETAILchat on life after COETAIL April

#COETAILchat on life after COETAIL April 26 2015

Beyond COETAIL, I have connections with my immediate colleagues, International educators, Art teachers, Learning 2 and the ADE community. I gain so much from the interactions with these inspiring individuals and I continue to reach out to forge new friendships to connect and grow further.

Questions are the answer

Art Alternation: Antonio's blog post inviting critique

Art Alternation: Antonio’s blog post inviting critique

 

Replies to Antonio on Art Alternation

Replies to Antonio on Art Alternation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last week, I invited my students to connect on a deeper level with the art students from the other 3 schools and we discussed how this might work. They tracked back who had commented and who had replied back to comments they had left. They looked for the reasons why they commented and whether they had started to develop a rapport and how. Students at AIS specifically asked for questions and my students, from the beginning, were advised to ask and invite questions as part of their lesson in connecting and commenting. It seems that this is at the heart of connecting. Students were frustrated at the length of time it took and some were without comments so this was hard. I knew just how they felt, as I too found it difficult to know sometimes if what I was writing was good enough, interesting or indeed if anyone was actually reading it! Some found the process took too long and were missing valuable class time to learn the practical skills in art. It was a tough task to complete before the end of COETAIL drew nigh.

Back in Course 1, I wrote:

“How do the youth of today connect and grow as learners? In what ways is this different to how we learnt as teenagers and how we now connect to grow and develop as adults?” (I didn’t get to where I am today… February 16, 2014)

I hope by my final COETAIL post I will have reflected more about how students learn, how they can connect and in turn become better individuals. At this point I do not want it to end but to continue: to begin something new. It has almost been like a pilot for the new academic year when Teamie, our online Learning platform, will launch across campus with all students. Through this students will be able to access information, links and connections far more seamlessly and this may help in the process of timing yet also may hinder it. There will become a day when students go to their own tribe of like minded students online, as I do, without it being a mundane, teacher-led task. There will be a day when students will learn in different ways, outside of my classroom by connecting and sharing practice online with other artists, students and teachers.

Until that day, I want to encourage connections, encourage sharing of resources and demonstrations and to inspire them to develop their own learning networks. COETAIL has helped to plant this seed and over time we will see what it bears forth.