Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

“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 small

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

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.


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:


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. I 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.

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?”


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

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.

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


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 15.57.01

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.


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.


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

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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.


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?

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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


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

How do you learn discussion


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.

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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.


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

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean


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.


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:

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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


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.


Icon made by Freepik from is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Icons made by Freepik from 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.



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:

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.

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:

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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.

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?

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


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.

Connecting and Linking on the web by Nicki Hambleton

Connecting and Linking on the web by Nicki Hambleton

Back in 1968 Andy Warhol was quoted as saying “everyone in the future will be world famous for 15 minutes” at an exhibition of his work in Sweden. 46 years on and there are countless websites referring to this quote, whether he actually said it and who else has referred to it since. Photographer Nat Finkelstein claims Warhol originally said in a photo shoot with him “Everyone wants to be famous” to which Nat replied “Yeah, for about 15 minutes”. Whatever the truth, the phrase is firmly fixed in our minds and none more true in today’s society.

“Looking at the proliferation of personal web pages on the Net, it looks like very soon everyone on Earth will have 15 megabytes of fame.” ~M.G. Sriram (Aditya Todi – Living Outside the Box)

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond via Compfight cc

It seems today almost everyone has a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram or Youtube account. Achieving your world wide famosity for 15 minutes, or at least 5 minutes, is not as difficult as it might have seemed back in the 60’s with the Internet at out fingertips. I wonder what Warhol’s Instagram would have been like had he been alive today.

We search online for everything and everyone, through LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, on Facebook to reconnect with lost friends or colleagues, micro blog on Twitter and share with like minded individuals, and watch or post videos on Youtube to learn or entertain ourselves. Anything is now just a click away, or a few clicks at the most, to take you to another place, to discover a new skill, read about a topic or learn about the world around. Facebook is becoming a place to spread news, stories, awareness as well as images. Just this week I have clicked links that have ranged from an artist recycling trash (Gregory Kloehn) to make homes for the homeless, read how Sarah Milligan fights back against her haters on Twitter, shared a story and image of a couple’s lost SD card from their honeymoon (Richard Pussell says he has reunited them now thanks to the online network!) and how James Aspey in Australia (Voiceless365) has given up speaking for a year in support of animals who cannot speak up for themselves. The Internet is an amazing source of intriguing, informative and often downright weird resources and it is easier today with such prolific sharing social media trends that we can find ourselves reaching far out around the world at the drop of a hat. Be my guest and click the links if you have the time or the inclination!

The World Wide Web dates back to 1990 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, first created what we know as the Internet today. The first web site is a very humble version of what we casually stumble on today yet it was here that history was written. With simple links to other information the whole concept of Click and Learn was begun. Now it is easy to get lost in the links that transport you in different directions from your original search and intention. There is a nice visual on Behance on the History of the Internet.

Photo Credit: Frank Wuestefeld via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frank Wuestefeld via Compfight cc


Hyperlinks are the keys that unlock a whole new world of possibilities. They take you deeper into the subject or to a new connection to expand your knowledge. Berners-Lee called them “the heart of the web”. In my 23 tabs open world,  this chaotic state is often a result of clicking a link posted in a blog or article that literally opens up new ideas and possibilities for me. There is so much information out there now we can (and do) lose hours just browsing. Twitter is a constant source of links for me. I can scroll down the feeds and see something of interest, click the link and find new learning in a flash. It is through these connections online that we grow and share the most and I am constantly interested in how these connections develop. Searching online I see visualisations of connections and try out the LinkedIn visualisation to spot the groupings. I am relatively new to LinkedIn and have a different set of connections than on Twitter or Facebook but nonetheless the imagery is fascinating:

LinkedIn connections via LinkedIn mapsLinkedIn connections via LinkedIn maps

You can make your own by following this Youtube video:

Paul Butler, on Facebook says ” Visualizing data is like Photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.” Visualizing Friendships

Paul Butler’s Visualizing Friendships

I love visualisations, Infographics and would love to know of any other forms you have managed to do with regard to Twitter or Facebook, Youtube or other social media involving connections or friends. Please reply in the comments with a link if you know of any!

Hyperlinks and Copyright

Recently I read about the case of Barratt Brown and copyright infringement through the use of hyperlinks. It amazed me that this even went to court as the use of links are so ingrained in our culture now and imperative in referencing a source. However, the dispute centred around a subscription company, Retriever Sverige AB, who link to articles already available on the web. According to

“The problem came when Retriever published links to articles published on a newspaper’s website that were written by Swedish journalists. The company felt that it did not have to compensate the journalists for simply linking to their articles, nor did it believe that embedding them within its site amounted to copyright infringement.

The journalists, on the other hand, felt that by linking to their articles Retriever had “communicated” their works to the public without permission. In the belief they should be paid, the journalists took their case to the Stockholm District Court.” Andy, Torrentfreak February 13, 2014

The Court queried whether the “clickable links” were illegal if permission had not been sought from the copyright owner. In this case they would be illegal. A complex issue that resulted in the following report: “The Court of Justice decided two things. First, it said that it is legal to hyperlink works that are freely available on the open web. In such cases, the logic goes, people who stumble upon the hyperlink could just as easily have stumbled upon the original work, so they are all members of the same “public”. Second, it is illegal to hyperlink material in a way that gets around a firewall, subscription or key. This is because the hyperlink will involve communicating to a “new public”, broader than the original public for which the communication was intended.”

Julia Wiles on asks the question: “But what if you don’t know if it is authorised or not? The legality of uploaded content is far from clear in many cases, particularly when you consider content on hugely popular sites such as YouTube,BuzzFeed, and Gawker. The decision also assumes that the hyperlink will be to the exact same work, and that it will be in the same format as the original communication. It is hard to say what would be decided if there were an alteration on either of these points; though the implication from other cases cited in the decision is that there is a large risk of illegality.” “Copyright needs a drastic rethink for Digital Realm“,, February 14, 2014

It leaves a lot for us to think about, as we happily add a hyperlink to our blog posts in the thought that we are helping others to track our research and build their own understanding. I am sure what we are doing is fine, but it has put a little uncertainty back into what we do. How do we know we have the authority, the right or the legality to link to another? Teaching our young students the correctness of posting, sharing and linking has become more complex that we originally thought.

Photo Credit: t r e v y via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: t r e v y via Compfight cc

A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain. William James

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……..


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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