Archive for the ‘Course 1’ Category

A visual summary of my posts for COETAIL so far from both Course 1 and 2. I used a simple gif generator online called imgflip although there are many out there that work just as easily.

What would use to make a gif?

Gifs are also great for making short tutorials using screencasts and there is a great one using animated gifs on G Learning.


Sustaining interest

Food for Thought visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Food for Thought visual note by Nicki Hambleton

The last 5 weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster.

Never one to do things by half, I set my standards high from Week 1, adding a visual note alongside my blog post. It seemed a great way for me to summarise the weeks learning and to communicate it back into the community. But it does take time, being a perfectionist.

Having said that it has generated interest and I enjoy it, and it allows me to work out how well visual thinking can help solidify thoughts and ideas. An idea I really want to put back into my school for the students.

The 2 headed monster

As the first few weeks of Course 1 COETAIL evolved and digesting the readings added to the many ideas of how to use and embed technology effectively on the classroom, I started to use these learnings to figure out what I would like to change about the existing curriculum in Art and through my connections with students. As I grappled with the planning of a new Sculpture unit aimed at helping Grade 7 to understand Sustainability, it seemed crucial to help them to find the information themselves. In turn they will learn about connecting and collaborating, sharing and informing with technology firmly at the heart of their work supporting and enhancing their Art.

But it was also on Week 5 that a simple idea sprung up spinning off from the fun Matt and I were having connecting through Twitter and sharing visual drawing prompts for our students. It occurred to me that we can connect a whole lot further and use the internet connections to help build ideas and gain knowledge.

So I have ended up with 2 Course 1 final projects!

1. The BIG unit: “Food for Thought”, with Technology sandwiching the Art

2. The Art Remix project that is still just an idea but is now starting to take shape.

For the final project for Course 1 it makes sense for me to go with my first thought, Sustainable Sculpture as this is where I believe the technology will really transform the learning, take the students forward and give them a starting and end point to the project. #artyremix will take a slight backseat whilst it is in its development.

Photo Credit: identity chris is via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: identity chris is via Compfight cc

What most affected me throughout Course 1 was the power of connections. How little one might know and how quickly we can grow through the expertise of others.

The unit I am planning is a Sculpture Unit with the umbrella theme of Sustainability. I have always been intrigued by the notion of how far our food travels from field to table and it is with this that the unit evolved. Having lived in Italy, the blog post by Joe Teft reminded me of and how trying to source food locally and ethically in Singapore is virtually impossible!

Back in November I gatecrashed a weekend workshop ran by Mike Johnston at UWCSEA East. Connecting and working with others helped me to solidify how important it was to educate our youngsters in working towards a sustainable future. But what could a lowly art teacher do? I struggled to think how I could make a difference. Ideas were being thrown around the room but it was a particular slide that resonated a strong feeling in me. It illustrated a hamburger and the journey that it had taken from field to table. I searched the internet to find a similar one recently and found so much information, articles and infographics on the impact food has on our footprint and realised I had a lot of research still to do.

How bad are bananas? and tea, and ……
How bad are bananas?

How bad are bananas?

So I started some reading, “How Bad are Bananas-the carbon footprint of everything” by Mike Berners-Lee and chatted to others about the origins of the food on their plate. How much do we know and take for granted? Living in Singapore, nearly everything is imported, with a price tag. The milk in our cereal comes from Australia, the fruit from Malaysia, the cereal from England, the juice from South Africa and the coffee from Italy.  Are students aware of this? Do they understand the impact of their choices on both the environment and their bodies? Our Food Footprint seemed to me to be the focus for my next big unit. What impact are our choices having? I stumbled on an article shared on Facebook by my mother which took me to a link for action. It outlined  the horrific reality of our humble cup of tea and the literal price we are paying and I quickly realised that research was going to be key to this project. (You can read the article in The Guardian with accompanying video and sign the action at Sum of Us.

Photo Credit: dragonflysky via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dragonflysky via Compfight cc

As I started planning my unit for Term 3, young Middle School students at East shared this video regarding Vegetarian Wednesday which contained an excellent slide visualising the journey  and the impact of a lettuce compared to steak. This is exactly what I had in mind and this Vimeo explains why visualisation is so crucial:

The bulk of the unit will be making a sculpture that clearly communicates the impact of food choices, giant plates of food, hung or displayed to gather interest and start conversation. Imagine a papier maché Teacup with people inside or a giant burger, Claes Oldenburg style or an installation of modified labels on bottles or cans.

So where does the technology fit in?

Students do not have the raw data, the base information to draw from. They don’t have the skills to search effectively to gather, sort and use that information. So I figured I would bring that element into the unit early on. Blogging about Twitter and connecting with experts on line in Week 1 helped me conclude that this could well be the ideal forum for the students to pose their questions and get some answers. So my idea is to start a class Twitter account, link with specific experts and try to get some information to trigger their ideas for sculpture. Meeting with Nathan Hunt at UWCSEA Dover and his resident G12 expert, Nima, we struck a plan together that looks something like this:

1. Students brainstorm the origins of their food, daily meals and ideas they have of the impact from what they choose to buy and eat

2. Students research online – where, who, how do we find out; youtube, google (Messing about)

3. Use Twitter to connect with experts (Reaching out)

4. Collate findings, sifting through and selecting

5. Ideas and creation of installation art/sculpture

6. Make video/PSA/animation to communicate the issue

7. Share video with the wider community, social media (Going Viral)

8. Track the results and seeing the feedback

The other side of the sandwich: Going Viral

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Following the practical Art side of the unit, the students will hopefully feel compelled to share their learning to a wider audience. Andrew MacCarthy and I contrived a plan to do this effectively:

Students would use their data and the sculpture itself to trigger a 30 second PSA video, tweet and share it on YouTube to see how far it will travel to go viral.

UbD planner

But what of Artyremix?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it! I am just trying to find the best and most effective way to share, spread and display the art remixes. Suggestions so far are:

Pinterest: a shared board to download and upload to (my favourite option so far) but requires artists to join the board – emailing or adding  issues?

Instagram: great to use the hashtag #artyremix but not the greatest of quality in downloading the image initially

Google: maybe adding to a public folder for upload and download purposes then displaying on Instagram/artsonia/Pinterest?

Thoughts anyone?

I would love to get this second idea off the ground soon. I am sure my students doing the daily warm up would love to remix someone else’s artwork either digitally or traditionally then to see how it journeys and evolves across the world. Paul Fairbrother has remixed my eye drawing avatar to start it all off currently on Pinterest, so anyone else, suggestions, ideas or just get going and we can figure it all out as we go!

Pinterest #artyremix

Let the game commence……..


Global Collaboration - creative projects Visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Global Collaboration – creative projects Visual note by Nicki Hambleton


I promise to write less this week, not just out of respect to others but as a necessity to my sanity. It has been and is the week of all weeks: 270 MS reports are due in and I am slowly becoming snowed under.

So I will be brief……

Thinking ahead to my UBD planning on Sustainability, it was good to read about other projects that involve reaching out globally. As I followed the links to the multiple readings my mind started remembering projects I had followed or read about that focused on creativity and were clearly centred around the Arts.

Bones, bodies, faces and forests

4 years ago I stumbled on an online project called One Million Bones. As I was taking a Grade 8 unit teaching about sculptural materials and some of the students had returned from a history trip to Vietnam talking animatedly about the atrocities of genocide it seemed apt to get involved. The concept of the project was to encourage groups of people to make “bones” and send them to become part of an Installation to be set up in the National Mall Washington. On the website, Naomi Natale talks about how the project and the organisation The Art of Revolution are”dedicated to leveraging the power of art to inspire activism. We believe that art is such an incredible tool with which to engage and mobilise communities around a specific social justice issue. It offers a tangible way for people to connect to things that are not presented to them daily.

As my students learnt of conflicts around the world happening right then and worked hard with modroc to carve an authentic bone the sentiments of the project struck a chord:

“The installation will exist as a collaborative site of conscience to honor victims and survivors, and will also serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much need and long overdue action.”

It was humbling to have been a tiny part of such a powerful piece of collaborative art.

On a lighter note, collaborative projects have been a part of artists work for some time, from Ai WeiWei’s powerful installations built from information and research gathered collaboratively to Spencer Tunick‘s body sculptures. Tunick crowd sources willing participants to offer their bodies to become part of one of his pieces in particular places around the world. He counts on the public to respond, and they always do. One such colleague of mine had suffered with breast cancer many years previously and decided this would be her moment to embrace the situation, her mastectomy,  and become part of history. She said it was liberating and she was proud to have been part of the Selfridges artwork.

On a very different note, the Inside Out project asks the public to share their portrait where the photography project is to take place – London, Georgia, Paris, Karachi, New York and many more. 8572 locations to be exact.

JR, speaking at TED, remains largely anonymous yet he wants his large pastings themselves to speak out so that the viewer can contemplate the story behind them and to raise questions.


It was through searching these projects that I stumbled on a new one, Make a Forest, a collaborative art project aimed at groups worldwide to share an artificial tree and together to build a forest that raises awareness of diversity of our world trees yet also of their fragility on today’s society.

My Grade 6s earlier this year were looking at trees in our school grounds that reflected the 40 years of their existence, the stories they tell and the lives that have passed them by. 40 trees for 40 years is a project spearheaded by Frankie Meehan and Nathan Hunt, both keen on sustainability and who have inspired my direction with art. Reading about the individual projects on the Make a Forest website led me to think how I could involve my young artists in this humble online project.

Will you take part too? Share the diversity of the trees in your country? Let me know if you want to take part and we can share them online through twitter to gather some momentum and interest. Felix Finkbeiner, who founded Plant for the Planet in 2007 when he was just 9 years old, visited our school says:

“If everybody plants 150 trees in the next ten years we will reach 1,000 billion trees by 2020. By working together we can definitely achieve this. It isn’t that hard and it is not impossible anymore.”

It is with this sentiment that I work on my Sustainability unit with Grade 7, with this power of harnessing interest around the world in our common cause to live in a better one that fires my energy to impart important causes to our students, the future citizens of our fast diminishing world. I may be one person but together we can make a difference, if we all try.

Food for Thought - Sustainability visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Food for Thought – Sustainability visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Arty remix

In the mean time, I have a simple art idea to test out this remix society and the importance of creativity. Do you recall artists trading cards? Little baseball sized cards given or sent to be swapped.

I thought in today’s digital world we could create art, on iPad or iPhone and digitally send these to interested artists (or students). There they would remix, add to or change the artwork and send on again. How fun would it be to see your artwork travel the world, change and alter and then be exhibited online?

Do you want to help me start this? If you know an art teacher, artist or someone creative or just keen to be involved tell them.

Tweet me at @itsallaboutart with hashtag #artremix and let the creativity begin.

**update: I don’t think I wrote much less in the end, but I wrote it quicker!



Mark Prensky's "Shaping Tech in the classroom" visual note by Nicki HAmbleton

Marc Prensky’s “Shaping Tech in the classroom” visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Juggling and balancing

It occurred to me that I write too much. The thing is, I have lots to say and many ideas. The idea of making the visual notes was to consolidate my thinking and clarify my thoughts, yet it seems to open many doors to new forms of thinking. My head is like the internet, a web connecting one thought to the next; to a TED talk, an image, a quote, blog post, conversation or link on Twitter. I am juggling many thoughts and ideas this week and wondering how to balance it all. Imagine 28 tabs open all at the same time- that’s my mind.

Have teaching and learning changed with the introduction of new tools?

Whilst reading the final part of  “Living and Learning with New Media” (MaCarthur Foundation) and Marc Prensky’s “Shaping Tech for the Classroom” on Edutopia I was reminded of Ken Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms” RSA animate. We teach in an intensely stimulating world and students are easily distracted from what Robinson calls “the boring stuff”. We need to engage them and understand their world, find out what motivates them and how to incorporate this meaningfully into our lessons without losing the grip on what and why we are teaching this. In a world of distractions to us adults too, I find this choice a minefield!

Waking them up!

Ken Robinson pinpoints that in The Arts students are fully alive, operating in the present moment and that through art, dance, music and drama their senses are on full alert “operating at their peak”. “We should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves”. How can we do this?  What have I done recently that “woke them up”? It seems to be a sad fact that students become less imaginative and lose creativity the further they rise up the school. In kindergarten, students have multiple ideas for any given theme, yet as they move through Middle School they seem to lose this, “as they become more educated,  so creativity deteriorates”. Education knocks it out of them. This week I decided to jump on the imagination bandwagon with Matt McGrady in sharing drawing prompts with my MS art classes. In a nutshell, I start the lesson with a 5 minute observation drawing to literally warm students for doing art up yet calm them down ready for the learning ahead. (adapted from Marvyn Bartell‘s warm up ritual). Matt decided to shake things up a bit and connect with other teachers through Twitter and suggested an imaginative drawing prompt. So from Monday morning my students were given this: Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 17.32.34 From unicorns to doughnut factories, hot air balloons and fire breathing dragons they let their imagination run wild (and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of choice to boot). 5 minutes wasn’t long enough for them, yet it was crucial there was a time limit (we had other work to do too!). But at the end of the 5 minutes it felt hugely important to them to talk about their drawing. So instead of letting them just explain, I tipped it on its head. Using one of Howard Gardner’s Thinking routines (Visible Thinking), the artist remained silent for one minute whilst their partner spoke about what they see, think and wonder. It was hilarious to watch their faces and they were itching to share what they were communicating and the idea behind their drawing. It had truly woken them up, yet had also given them an effective strategy to discuss artwork.

photo 1 photo 2

During our monthly PLN meeting my group (Assessment for Learning) was discussing the power of peer learning and how this might be more effective through technology. It was here that the conversation arose about the “I see I think I wonder” routine. It seems that learning to talk about art can help students analyse and this is a valuable skill across curricula as Amy E Herman explains:

So, how can I effectively incorporate technology in the same engaging and motivating way, yet keep the essence of the learning at the forefront?

Students love to be in control, or at least to think they are in control of their learning. We owe it to them to include them in the planning, the preparation and the process. In order to effectively integrate technology we must first consult the students – what do they use, how best do they learn, what is their passion? It is through these conversations that we unravel what it is to be a middle school learner. In an education world where personalised and Individualised learning is becoming far more necessary we, as educators must search for ways that help students to learn more effectively.

But are we using technology to do what we would have done but in a different way. Prensky highlights the change in our approach from dabbling to innovative methods of incorporating technology into the classroom in a similar way to Blooms Higher order thinking. It was through visualising this process that my mind started to wander into thinking about what we actually do in terms of technology in the art room and is it transformational? As we integrate more technology into our lessons, we need to bear in mind that “it’s not about the device anymore but it’s about the learning going on” (Dana Watts, COETAIL livecast February 11th 2014).

New ways to do old things

In what ways are we trying to redo old things but in new ways? Are these methods valuable as we discover what technology and tools work in today’s classroom and as we experiment with new media? What is new media today?

Sonja Delafosse captures these thoughts beautifully and helps us to understand what skills are necessary in “Teaching in the 21st century”

Collaborating on Google docs, connecting through Twitter, communicating and sharing on student blogs, offering feedback on Picasa. Are these helping to integrate technology effectively and with the desired effect on student learning?

New things in new ways

One way I found that can help develop our thinking is to read Kathy Schrock’s “Bloomin’ Apps” article. She shares multiple suggestions in which technology can be used to support Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy as well as making the crucial link with the SAMR model. Visit the site to see how she visualises which types of apps are best used at which phase in the thinking and it is invaluable as a check for how learning is enhanced by technology.

In my Global concerns group PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare) we meet once a week through lunch for 30 minutes to discuss and find ways to share and learn about animals in danger and students have recently been sharing their PAW passion through a google presentation in order share with the group for a 2 minute “Spotlight”. It seems like a new way to do an old thing so we started to discuss new ways to communicate and engage others in their learning: stop motion, video scribe and animated RSA style visual notes and an ebook to capture their ideas, communicate and share with the community. One 12 year old is developing an app and a group is planning an ebook to share their findings and communicate their concerns with their peers and the community. Surely this is heading in the right direction, isn’t it?


So as usual, I am left with a question – why use technology in Art when traditional media will work just fine? I am faced with this quandary on a daily basis – when is it authentic, useful, worth it? How do we balance the traditional skills with the new?

And so to my planning project, the one about Sustainability, collaboration and connecting. As Sir Ken said, “collaboration is the stuff of growth”. We learn best when collaborating. Students love working with others, “hanging out” and “messing around” with ideas and sharing direction. I want the project to centre around working together to discover, develop and communicate. As it is a difficult subject to research and students may have only a little prior knowledge, we will start collaboratively using Padlet to brainstorm ideas and harness the knowledge in the room. I want students to reach out into the Twitter community and connect with organisations and experts who can help them discover where the food on their plate comes from, hence the title “Food for thought”. Through this process I am hoping they will make connections and find new ways to feed their imagination and find out what they want to communicate through their Art. As their ideas start forming for their installation work I am hoping they will feel compelled to communicate their findings through a short PSA style video and to share this through Youtube. As my plans begin to solidify, any feedback on the process or the development along the way would be very gratefully received!

Just what are we doing differently than before – how are you developing new ideas from new things? or are we just doing old things in new ways? Has my teaching changed – it has, it is and it will, but it will take some time, investigation and experimenting to find out what works best and what will be the most effective. In the mean time, I’m having fun trying!

“I don’t know where the journey ends but I know where to start”. Avicii– “Wake me up” 

Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Out of the mouths of babes……

According to my 14 year old son Piers, there are 3 types of participants on his youtube channel:

The Watcher

The enthusiast who views and follows everything. They give credit to your work and reinforce that what you are doing is valid and worthy.

The Encourager

The encourager who “likes” your video and motivates you to carry on. These followers give you a positive boost with a comment like “Cool video” or “Love this”.

The Giver

These  suggesters ultimately take the time to consider their comment. They take you forward and give  ideas to improve your work.

As a train enthusiast, who makes videos of his model layouts as well as actual train compilations, Piers finds all these dwellers useful in their own way, but he gets the most learning from the suggesters. It reminds me in a way of Rodd Lucier’s model of Connectedness mentioned in my previous posts and how it takes time and energy for followers to connect and truly help in our development.

He says “you go on youtube to learn, to be entertained or to laugh” and the types of channels he subscribes to usually fall into one of these categories. But as his network online grows, he says it is invaluable to him “to have a community of passionate people willing and happy to share and suggest”. As he becomes a seasoned video maker, “geeking out”, he equated this new found confidence in “public speaking” on his videos to being able to present verbally and improvise during class yesterday to his peers in an English lesson character summary from Of Mice and Men. As a mother observing her teenager seemingly constantly plugged in, it was refreshing to hear how his out of school passion could impact so positively on an aspect of his school life.

It is through these conversations that we learn the true meaning and understanding of the youth and how they connect and learn. They were born into this world and sharing online with strangers is not as alien as it may be to some adults. The more we have these conversations the more we can connect appropriately and understand and integrate into their world. By discovering what makes them tick it is only then that we can truly integrate technology into our curriculum areas.

Deviantly artful

My Art students in the International School of Milan in 2006 connected and shared on, the world’s largest online art community, to gain valuable feedback. Through connecting with its participants there was a vast range of specialised expertise and amateurs all ready and willing to feedback positively, ask questions and learn from one another. It seems to be just as strong today but with a different range of focus areas than when it first started out. Now manga, anime and fan art dominate the followers, watchers and givers and Erika in Grade 8 regularly uses it as her go-to learning zone. She says she is still at the “messing about” stage and as she grows in confidence and develops her skills  she says “I am not ready to share just yet, I mostly use it for tutorials.” Posters like Naschi and Ryky inspire her through their illustrations and Concept Cookie teaches her the technical skills through tutorials. Many watchers like Erika, regularly comment on how much they value these “experts” sharing their work and often fall into the “Encourager” bracket. When Erika does post she is encouraged by these smallest of comments that someone has taken the time to post. She says, “I know it’s not a lot, but just those small comments saying “Aww that’s cute <3” or even “I love it” really do make my day. That’s one of the things I really do like about the internet.”

I wonder how we ever coped before the internet?

Erika also regularly uses Tumblr, one of the biggest visual share zones, after Flickr. So too is Instagram an extremely popular portal to view and comment on photos and to be inspired by but not in the same  way interactive way as deviantart. Behance is another visually focused site for showcasing ones art portfolio and is becoming a popular choice for art students for inspiration much like Pinterest. It is important that a community reflects the diversity of its dwellers yet keeps its focus clear. This ensures it attracts the right sort of followers and keeps the passion alive.

Quinci, an IB Visual Art student in Ghana in 2009, was hugely into digital art and at the time showed me an online community he spent much of his time on called neoseeker. There are over 600,000 participants in the neoseeker population with showcases of digital portfolios and an active forum of tips and tutorials.



Quinci spent most of his online time on the Graphics and Animation Forum learning, communicating, sharing and growing as a digital artist. Just a quick dip into one of the posts and I feel completely out of my depth. It is clearly a professional and serious place to be a part of and full of talented and intelligent individuals putting time into helping each other out. Quinci, now in his 3rd year at Design college says, “It saw a big decrease in activity around the time I started university because most of the people that frequented were getting wrapped up in other responsibilities.” His design orientated social network became a real life close-knit family where these forums were not be needed so much with the proximity of a whole university of like minded passionate individuals. There is a plethora of online communities for art to connect and share with: Promoting Art back in 2010 shared their top ones here and I wonder what new ones exist today.

I guess this sort of reciprocated learning is similar to an online forum for a writer or a coder, as youtube is for Piers and deviant art for Erika. It occurs to me, rather belatedly, that our Course 1 reading (Living and Learning with New Media, Macarthur Foundation) reflects exactly what we are doing through COETAIL:  building a network, finding like minded souls, connecting globally, sharing our passions and thoughts and learning from one another. Gradually we hope to develop from the enthusiast and learner to becoming the expert, the geek and the giver.

It is within these connected circles that we will grow as educators, become strengthened as an individual and eventually find our voice to share with to the global audience.

So this all gets me thinking…..

Connecting youngsters

How can the younger members of my art classes participate online as experts in their field – where would they feel confident?

Some of these online forums are not appropriate lounges for 11 and 12 year olds. Where do they go, where do they learn from, and most importantly where can they communicate with like minded passionate youngsters?

Currently they share within the relatively closed and protected communities of Picasa and Voicethread, sharing their photography and visual ideas and commenting on each others work to encourage and suggest with occasionally blogging.

How can we protect yet open them up to a wider network? Do any other schools have links with other classes to share and collaborate with? Would anyone know if their art department would be willing to link with mine in a sharing community.

Going viral

What appealed to me most from 21 things for the 21st century educator was the Virtual Classroom and Collaboration tools. It seems to me that both of these are hugely valuable in today’s classroom and ones that I would like to embed more effectively in the curriculum. So, with this in mind, I am about to embark on a social experiment with my Grade 7s in consultation with Andrew McCarthy, as part of their sculpture unit on Sustainability. It feels like an ideal opportunity and time to introduce the idea of connected circles to them and to expose them to the real world of social media before they throw themselves legally into the world of FB when they hit 13. I want them to reach out to the global community, to ask questions, to find out relevant information and to see how far they can connect. I would love for them to share their findings back to this community and receive feedback on their learning. The idea is only a small seed at the moment and a little risky on my part but I am willing to take it and to chance failure in a bid to utilise the resources at our digital fingertips. But I will need some help…..

Would you be willing as the time approaches to follow the class Twitter handle, use the hashtag and share their questions to your networks?

As I continue to develop the UBD planner for the unit tentatively called “Food for Thought” and the ideas takes shape, I will share the concept online.

Watch this space……



Connectedness visual note by Nicki Hambleton

As the evening of Valentine’s Day was drawing to a close, I stumbled on an article from Mashable that had been shared on Facebook and the title caught my eye:

Instagram Strangers Help Man Plan the Perfect Proposal

The story goes like this: Guy wants to propose, decides on Portland, contacts stranger through Instagram for help, guy proposes, girl accepts. Of course the article tells it much more beautifully than that and with an accompanying digital story. But what fascinated me was this connection and trust in complete strangers on what was probably the most important day of his life. I use Instagram purely as a photography sharing place, more often than not with food shots or stimuli for just great composition or ideas. Strangers follow me, I follow strangers. It is a strange concept to me but it works. However I would never have thought of connecting with others like @iamcartermoore.  When I first joined Instagram I was not sure of what was expected, the etiquette or even the point. This felt a bit similar to the “lurking” stages of the early relationship I had with Twitter. I watched, took note, occasionally posted. Carter found kindred spirit and connection with Branden Harvey, a fellow photographer and film maker  and through this random link they became life long friends.

Getting in touch with my Connectedness

According to George Siemans, “connectivism starts with the individual” and that the  “learner remains current in their field through the connections they have formed”. (A Learning Theory for the Digital Age 2004)

My relationship with Twitter follows not such dramatic or love struck storyline as Carter Moore’s but with a similar sentiment. From taking that first step of observing and reaching out, to connecting and interacting with others and developing friendships that the true power of the internet is clear. By making these connections so we grow, our reach is further and interactions stronger.

It has been a busy week with food for thought. During the COETAIL live cast on Tuesday, listening to the conversations flow, it was a statement by Dana Watts that stood out. ” We learn most by collaborating together with others”.  It got me thinking:

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?

We have always been connected it’s just our reach goes out further these days with the Internet.

Last week’s post took me back to “7 degrees of connectedness” by Rodd Lucier and that how to be truly connected we must work at how we connect and what we actively do as part of these connections. It was by initially “messing around” with Twitter and stumbling on blogs that I grew as an educator and learner – it was the most effective PD I had ever had and one that I was controlling. By scrolling through my feed often an article or link would grab my attention and take me forward. So is this the way my students learn?

It is like those happy accidents when mixing paint or doodling with an idea, or playing with the ingredients of a cake or casserole that new directions are born.
It is when we are looking for something else that we usually find something that becomes the hinge pin, the starter, the turning point. It’s like playing in the sandpit as a kid. No rules, just fun.

Messing Around in the sandpit

Whilst reading “Messing About” (Living with New Media) I wonder how youngsters increase their own learning when challenged by something that they are passionate about.

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

I watch my son Luca, transfixed and thoroughly engrossed in his latest new kingdom on Minecraft. He is in control of his learning, growing exponentially and to think that it all started with a brick, a little piece of lego that evolved into what is arguably one of the most successful games with youngsters. The power of Minecraft- teaching kids to dabble, tinker and mess around, find their way, share and play.

The opportunities for using and developing your creativity by dabbling and playing with ideas is not a new one. As a teenager myself, I messed with ideas and sketches, devoured books and magazines to feed my creativity and spark new direction.  Luca shows me how he is building a pirate ship on Minecraft, following a Youtube video. He is ten and he is not alone. This is the world they have grown up in. Youtube is the biggest and most extensive instructions manual on anything you could ever want.

Hamish app development screenshot

Hamish app development screenshot

In school, Hamish in Grade 7 shows me an app he is building to help support and raise awareness of our Global Concern group, PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare). In order to do this he has had to learn how to code, dabbling with the software and through trial and error discovering what it can do. He says he frequently finds information through Youtube tutorials. My eldest son Piers is passionate about model trains and shares this through his Youtube channel, connecting with strangers to share his passion. Olivia studying iGCSE Visual Art in Grade 9 uses Tumblr as her go-to site. Here she discovers a plethora of visual inspiration and artists all over the world to share and connect with. Nanako, also a Grade 9 Art student, tells me how she first “messed around” with Photoshop and a tablet to create her own art. She backs up MacArthur’s claim that it is only through interest-driven subjects that students will actively pursue and maintain this stage of learning and again her preferred method is to try things out, tinker with the software and, if need be, use Youtube tutorials to steer her in the right direction. Nanako is one of our Apple Orchard students and to whom connections across our region are hugely beneficial as an artist. She adds that this stage of learning only works if the area is self chosen and  one that she is passionate about; teens simply would not have this same level of drive in a subject or topic they are not interested in.

But it is still on Facebook that students work and collaborate together, using FB groups to ask and answer questions about schoolwork. These closed but valuable communities support their learning and give them much needed support through the social media they interact with the most. It is still the most used platform for the youth of today.

Andrew Marcinek says in his blog post, “Students get it. They understand how easy it is to connect with one another, but don’t fully realize the greater potential.” (“Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect” Edutopia 2010). I still wonder why Twitter is so underused as a portal for posing questions from the youth and as their learning zone. I can see the benefit of its use in class but I am halted by the over 13 restrictions with my Middle-schoolers.

I would love to pilot Google + communities with a class or group and see how they could use it to connect and interact. But our school has not switched Google+ on for students yet, so I wonder if anyone has any other suggestions for helping young students to connect? I have ideas to connect students on Skype with an artist in London we are studying as part of an Expressive Painting unit and to link my GC PAW participants with fellow activists and animal lovers worldwide to collaborate to raise awareness.
Is FB the most popular outlet because of its “socialness”, its distractibility; “I can just look at this for a moment so I don’t have to do my science homework”. We have all done that/do this: I’ll just look at that interesting article on Colossal or take that “What city am I?” quiz instead of writing reports… or just read another COETAILer post!

So what is more important – spending time connecting with others to build your PLN and learn from them or to spend that time surfing, discovering and stumbling on something that could be the start of a new direction for you. Clearly both are valuable and we cannot progress without the opportunities for either to occur.

So where do we find the time to dabble and play in the jam-packed 24 hours we have each day?


Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Title quote adapted from “I didn’t get where I am today” from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Book and TV series by David Nobbs.
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Jeff Utecht's Reach visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Jeff Utecht’s Reach visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Hanging Out

When I was at school you had groups of friends in your tutor group who you stayed together with for most classes and throughout your journey up the school. We kept in contact with our Primary friends who lived nearby and I had friends in the Girl Guide group I went to each week (yes I was a girl guide, don’t judge me!) and the dancing school I attended. I had different “networks” of friends who I connected with in different ways. (Reach by Jeff Utecht: Communities and Networks 2010)
As I grew older these groups changed or evolved or dissipated. When I went to Wimbledon School of Art a whole new bunch of like-minded individuals became my confidants, my learning zone, my mentors and my friends. We saw each other every day, socialised and “hung out”. (Living and Learning with New Technology: Genres of Participation by MacArthur Foundation, November 2008). But when I moved away to university that all changed. We only kept in contact by phone or letter or saw each other when I visited home. Some friendships simply fizzled out. As my life changed so too did my friendship groups. What if we had had the Internet? How would we have reached out to others and kept these networks alive? How might we have spread our connections beyond our immediate groups?

But, back in 1980’s, we didn’t have the internet, and it was difficult to connect and wonder, like the dulcet tones of Simon Le Bon, “Is there anyone out there?” (Duran Duran “Planet Earth”, 1981)

Nowadays we can reconnect with lost loves, fallen friends and past students through Facebook. I can rekindle those conversations, relive those moments and revive what made us mates again.
The opportunities are even greater for connecting and maintaining those friendships and developing new ones through social networks. No longer do we seem 1000s of miles away from  families and friends; with just a click of a button we can see hear and communicate through Skype, FaceTime or Google hangouts. We can see their everyday movements, what they’re watching, doing, thinking. It’s like we are still there in their lives just on the other side of the world connected by a screen.

The real thrill of connecting happened when I joined Twitter back in April 2009. Back then I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to tap into the vast network out there. I didn’t use hashtags or connect properly, I just followed and read with occasional tweeting. None of my friends back home used Twitter so I decided that it would become my learning zone, eventually my support network and ultimately my PLN. But it was whilst listening to Jabiz Raisdana present at the first Learning2 conference I attended in Shanghai in October 2011, that really started the ball rolling. He shared how the Internet is a place to watch, take note connect with, collaborate and learn from. Since then, he and Keri-Lee Beasley have published an ebook A Cultural Guidebook based on Rodd Lucier’s  Seven Degrees of Connectedness. During that early stage I was a “Lurker”, a “Novice” and I yearned to move up that ladder towards “Collaborator” and “Confidant”.

Reaching out on Twitter

Reaching out on Twitter

The power of Twitter is clear the more you interact. Just today, Jason Graham reached out to his PLN to ask a question about Flipping the Classroom. We reach out to others in our network for guidance, reassurance or answers. It is a powerful place and we need to participate to be part of it and keep it going. Nowadays I respond, share and connect on a deeper level using Tweetdeck to organise my many lists, hashtags and people I follow in order to dip into the conversations and take part in what is happening whenever I can. I believe that you gain more by giving more.

How is your “connectedness”? What changes do you make in how you participate and respond in order to connect on a deeper level?

Keeping it Alive
I am energised when I talk and connect with like minded individuals. Chatting to Jane Harris over lunch, she mentioned the Sigmoid and Gompertz curves and how she was developing a leadership model that could apply to students behaviours and actions using the SAMR model.

The Learning Activity Engagement Life Cycle by Jane Harris

The Learning Activity Engagement Life Cycle by Jane Harris

Innovators build the excitement and get the project, the group or the task underway with ideation;  the Growth leaders keep that momentum going making the ideas work and the Efficiency leaders plan and deliver these to maintain the process. This same theory  can apply to developing a community and how the participants are crucial in maintaining momentum and ultimately the longevity of a group.

A community needs these different types of individuals to keep it alive. The innovators bring new interest and start the conversation going with new direction or ideas. This attracts the participants to join in. But without  growth and efficiency  the initial momentum and buzz soon wears off- how many times have you joined a group or forum or met new people only to discover weeks or months after that we had forgotten all about it as the interactions fizzled out and other matters took over.

It takes time and energy and work to keep a network alive. (Reach by Jeff Utecht: Building your Network). As busy educators we signed up to COETAIL knowing that we are not alone on this journey. We are supported with a backing of 100s of COETAILers who have gone before us or who are currently on the programme and who validate it’s worth not just as a qualification but for the people we will meet.

Reaching Out

As I finish, the CNY lion dance drums fill my apartment. If the internet had been around when I was in school I could have seen this spectacle live, chatted to other art students from around the world and shared work globally to grow and learn from.

Patrick Green’s The Relevant Teacher visual note by Nicki Hambleton

We take for granted the opportunities for connecting through Skype in the classroom, the lessons we can watch on TED and the blogs we can follow through the magic of RSS. Patrick Green in his keynote at Learning 2 mentions the need to be A Relevant Teacher  in this world where we no longer teach just the content but how to access the content, select and synchronise.

We must “help them to sift through the sea of stuff” (Welcome to the Collaboration Age, Will Richardson) and model the behaviours and actions students should take to survive in this world of digital information overload.

Keeping abreast of all the information and opportunities out there is the challenge. Keeping in touch with others, connecting and building networks and utilising this new media is exciting yet time intensive.

To Vivian (chezvivian) and Jason Graham I thank you for reaching to me and to Scott, Matt, Pana and Joe I salute you for taking the time to read and respond to my initial introductory blog post and joining me on this journey. To everyone else in COETAIL online2 I look forward to connecting with you and sharing the fun and laughter on the way and reading all about your journey and what you do.

All these new friendships I will hold dear to me, my new community of learners, my PLN, my mentors, advisors, confidants and friends. To COETAIL online2 and anyone  who has stumbled on this monster of a post and lasted until the end, I welcome you into my PLN and hope I can share with you what I gain from this experience and travel on this journey together.
Reach out and keep in touch.

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