Category Archives: Staff development

7 Habits of Networked Academics

7 Habits of Networked AcademicsToday Colin Warren and I were very pleased to be invited by the colleagues who run the Graduate Certificate of Higher Education at Deakin, to come and share our thoughts on the evolving concept of networked academics. As it was a late afternoon session, after a day of student presentations, we wanted to keep it simple and just share some practical tips. Keep it applied. We focused on the habits we’ve seen exhibited by networked academics that can be adopted by newcomers and included some quick activities. SO this is by no means comprehensive. We also emphasized that networking habits are a matter of choice, everyone should decide what’s right for them and where to start. No one should feel pressured to do everything.

We prepared a digital handout for reference, and in case we would run out of time, which we of course did. Some of you may find this useful, so we’re sharing it here.

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A month of #Pomodoro #pom31

“When it comes to interacting with the world of always-on information, the fundamental skill, on which other essential skills depend, is the ability to deal with distraction without filtering out opportunity.” -Howard Rheingold

As knowledge workers, our social (or learning) networks are like oxygen. We need the information streams they provide, to survive. As Dr Inger Mewburn, aka Thesiswhisperer, recently said in her #PLEConf keynote and blog post, these practices are “the work you do in order to do the work you do.” That applies whatever your learning and information environment of choice is; Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or any combination of those. They are indispensable.

However, being dependent on those enticing, rich, abundant, omnipresent, (can we even say addictive?) information streams, does indeed mean that the ability to deal with distraction, as Howard Rheingold says, becomes a key skill.

I find that I am good at one facet of this skill: setting up appropriate filters so I don’t miss out on the opportunities provided. However, I would like to be better at another part: attention or “time on task”. Continue reading

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Digital Curation: What kind of digital curator are you? #converge11

A few weeks ago I was kindly invited by the #ConVerge11 organisers to do a digital curation workshop. First of all let me say that I’m so impressed by how well organised this conference is and how responsive to feedback. Last year they introduced Twitterwalls and this year made some minor tweaks, to further improve the very active conference backchannel. Well done eWorks and particularly the ever smiling Sarah Phillips!

This was a little nervewracking for me, as it was my first time speaking about my new topic of interest, and PhD topic: digital curation for teachers. Over the last few years I’ve presented, workshopped, taught, written and spoken a lot about the Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers, Course Design and PLNs. All of these are familiar territory for me. Speaking on a new topic was both scary and exhilarating. Scary as I don’t have that much “go to” material yet, and went into the workshop more with questions and observations, than answers. Exhilarating because I met others who either are curators or are interested in curation and this led to some very stimulating conversations (thank you @jurgen @tanmac73 and @stickylearning).

I believe that digital curation will be a new activity that academics in higher education will need to adopt. What do you think? Some questions in my mind: Continue reading

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Looking for Interesting Examples of… Blended Learning

In my work as education technologist I’m often asked for examples of blended or online learning. “Just show it to me”. Not an unreasonable request, as it can be challenging for an educator (whether a teacher, librarian, manager or other) who has never had a blended or online learning experience themselves, to conceptualise the options available. Due to several factors, the number of our programmes that use blended learning are likely to increase in the short-to-mid-term. And so I anticipate that the “just show it to me” demands will increase as well.

Casting the net wider
Now, I feel that only showing educators what we are currently doing within our institution, on our Moodle, doesn’t give them a fair idea of the total scala of options. We need to cast the net wider so we don’t get the same meal every day. So I like to show them examples from other institutions as well, often sending people to one site for one course example, and then to another article, blog, journal or YouTube clip for another example. However examples vary: they focus on one course, an entire programme or just a learning activity. Descriptions are highly detailed in a 20 page journal article or a brief 3 paragraph snapshot in a blog post. It can be like comparing apples and oranges.

Blended Learning Possibilities catalogue
So I thought it might be useful to gather different examples of blended learning in one place, to create a ‘possibilities catalogue’ for anyone to flick through. Continue reading
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Anatomy of a blog

This morning I was asked to teach an Introduction to Blogging session to a class of new students in Early Childhood Teaching. As part of their first assignment they are asked to blog for 8 weeks about an “education and society” topic of their choosing. Unfortunately we were unable to book a computer lab (rarer than hen’s teeth on Monday between 10-12), so I agreed to teach a one-hour session and support that with tutorials and a Blogging support forum in our Moodle course site.

There was a wide range of existing blog experience in this class. A few had never accessed a blog (or just didn’t raise their hands) but two students blogged regularly as part of their Early Childhood Centre teams.

In last year’s course we ran a computer lab session in which I introduced blogging and then helped students set up a blog. Eventually this proved a little overwhelming for some. “Too many settings”, they said. So this year I changed my session to allow choice of a blogging tool, ranging from very simple (Posterous)  to a little more complex (Blogger) to more complex but with most options ( In fact, and this was probably a duh-moment, but I think that not doing it in a computer lab, helped me focus the session away from the tools and more on what blogging is about and how they can use it to support their learning.

I began by establishing a common vocabulary, explaining the anatomy of a blog by demonstrating my own and some of Alec Couros’ ECI831 student blogs. I labelled all the parts for them: blog title, post, category, etc. during the session. But then I thought it might be helpful for first time bloggers to have a graphic that labels all the parts in our Moodle course. So I created the graphic below. Your feedback is appreciated and feel free to use it if you’re doing an Introduction to Blogging session.

Anatomy of a blog

I look forward to seeing how their blogs develop over the next few weeks. I may get you, my PLN, to provide them with some comments.

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What My PLN Means To Me: now at #converge10

Gidday! I’d love your help in explaining the use of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for an educator – whether you’re a teacher, librarian, manager or educational technologist.

What is this project about?

This project started in 2009 when we combined our annual e-learning conference eFest with the recently established teaching & learning conference. One of the themes was the changing role of the teacher in the 21st century and us education technologists were eager to show that e-learning is all about teaching & learning, just with technology & access to the web. Of course this can be daunting, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, risky…. So we wanted to let educators new to these exciting possibilities, know that they’re not alone. That others have gone before them and are willing to help. Besides introducing the audience to various existing communities of practice out there (like Classroom2.0), I also introduced the Personal Learning Network concept to them.

This project was inspired by Alan Levine’s Amazing Stories of Openness for #OpenEd09, but my project is on a much smaller scale.

So here at #converge10, I’m asking you to answer the question: “What does my PLN mean to me?” and share your thoughts in a short video/animation/slidecast, about 2-3 minutes. If you work in education, I’d love to hear from you – teachers, librarians, educational technologists and managers. Feel free to answer as you will. However if you get stuck, here are some suggestions to include (use these as guidelines only – remember this has got to be personal!!!):

  • Who you are, where you are & what you do
  • How your PLN has affected your own learning?
  • How your PLN has affected your practice?
  • Something really neat you learned through your PLN recently
  • Which tools you use in your PLN?
  • How you use technology in your teaching or educational practice
  • How you’re adapting your teaching or practice for the 21st century?
  • Your most ‘fruitful’ connection made through your PLN
  • Any words of encouragement for educators new to this 21st century, ‘techie’ way of teaching & learning

After you’ve posted your video/animation/slidecast somewhere on the web, please also embed it on the What My PLN Means – wiki here. And send me (@catspyjamasnz) a tweet to let me know – include the hashtag #mypln. That way I can thank you.

Your task

1. Think about your PLN/PLE and what it means to you. Work together with a partner if it helps. You can then record each other :-)

2. Record your video/screencast. You can do this alone, but probably handier in a pair. Use Flip videos which you can borrow from me, or any iPhones, Flip Videos, digital camera’s etc you’ve got on you.

3. Upload your video to YouTube. Use a title like this: What My PLN Means To Me – @twittername or real name – #converge10.

4. Add the link on What My PLN Means To Me wiki

5. Send me a tweet @catspyjamasnz with a link so that I can thank you, moltas gracies con petons (thanks v much with kisses ;-))

Why participate in this project?

  • For you individually, it’s good practice to reflect on your PLN/PLE
  • For our PLE/PLN community, these videos can act as resources, evidence showing this new personal learning in action
  • For teachers new to technology, these videos can act as encouragement
  • A cross-section of these videos, will be mixed together to create an overview resource
  • The videos will be harvested for themes & ideas to prompt further research into the PLN/PLE concept

Thanks for your help, Converge 10 people! Good on ya, mates!

Here’s my video about what my PLN means to me.

Staff development: reciprocal link between feedback and encouragement

After helping organise a staff development day about 21st C Learning (more about that later), I find myself musing on the link between feedback and encouragement as reciprocal actions.

This was a day with mixed ability and experience staff, all encouraged to take the next step up on their education technology skills ladder. They did this in groups, led by a colleague who is more experienced.

Usually what happens with these ‘traditional-style’ staff development sessions is that a survey is sent the next week to staff (the ‘happy sheets‘). Did you find this useful? That’s interesting but not as interesting as Continue reading

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Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers

A few weeks ago, a Social Media Cheat Sheet was doing the round. A nice visualization of the pro’s & cons of each social media channel, but with a business/marketing focus. I thought I should do one for social media use in education. However for most of the teachers I work with, our Moodle (EIT Online) is still their primary online teaching environment. So instead I set out to create this poster size guide for teachers, allowing them to compare the functionality and pedagogical advantages of some standard Moodle tools, adding a column to indicate how tricky the tool is to set up.

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers (icon)

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers

Hope you find it useful. Would appreciate your feedback.

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers (PDF)

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Gateway Tools for Teachers

This is a post about teaching teachers tools. I know, I know, of course the adoption of educational technology should be driven by possible enhancements in teaching & learning, not by the ‘shininess’ of new tools. But in my experience, there is a group of teachers for who certain tools can work like a gateway drug:  e-learning gateway tools.

If you are a technology integrator, e-learning trainer, ed tech staff developer, pay attention:  introducing these gateway tools can give you some ‘easy wins’ – even better, these teachers can become your most ardent e-learning champions.

Not everyone’s a geek

For those of us who consider ourselves ‘connected’, trialling a new tool or technology comes as natural as breathing. Here are just 2 likely scenarios:

  1. We know the learning activity we want to create. We find one or several tools that will facilitate that activity. These are tools we already know, or discover through our PLN. We test them and pick the one best suited to achieve our learning need.
  2. We encounter a tool, again probably through our PLN, and consider how it can be used in a learning activity. We then either create the activity or store it for future reference.

This week several colleagues and Kim Cofino’s Tips for Technology Integrators post reminded me off the realism of our workplace. Newsflash: not everyone’s a geek like us.

About 65% of of my role as e-learning advisor is e-learning staff development (including pedagogy, Moodle training, instructional design, really everything but the kitchen sink).  Very rarely do I get to work with the innovators & early adopters – those who will play, experiment, tinker, and make tools do cartwheels to see how they can be used for teaching & learning . I chat to them over morning coffee (and via Twitter, Facebook and their blogs), but they don’t need my support. I tend to work with academic staff, managers and allied staff,  in the early & late majority.

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

The Understandably Cynical

In my experience, there is a subset of teachers in that early/late majority category, that we can call the Understandably Cynical.

  1. They are committed to their students’ learning experience,
  2. They are satisfied with their current teaching approach but do experiment with new techniques,
  3. Their computer & digital literacy is low to medium,
  4. The addition of technology in their daily work mix , eg email, has not made their work easier or faster,
  5. Their time is precious, split between teaching, research and a life,
  6. They perceive time spent online establishing social networks or  ‘playing’ with new tools, as wasted,
  7. They don’t want to burden students with new tools unnecessarily,
  8. They appreciate their privacy.

In short, they are great teachers, whatever they are doing is already working, they’re open to new ideas, they’re busy and past experiences with technology have been a hindrance, not a benefit to them.  They are Understandably Cynical.

For this group of teachers, I’ve found that providing them with gateway tools can start them adding the use of technology to their teaching arsenal.

What are gateway tools?

Gateway tools are like gateway drugs – they open the door to the serious stuff.

Characteristics of an e-learning gateway tool:

  1. Solves a problem (eg size or access)
  2. Builds on existing collections
  3. Saves time
  4. Is easy to use
  5. Is immediately useful in the classroom
  6. Has passive social functionality
  7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – although the previous characteristics may fire a teacher’s engine, this is the turbo boost.

Examples of gateway tools

Here are two examples of gateway tools, Slideshare & Delicious.


1. Solves a problem – makes PowerPoint files smaller and easily accessible from anywhere, freeing a teacher from the localised shared drive.

2. Builds on existing collections – you can use PowerPoints files you already have.

3. Saves time – a search on Slideshare can provide you with inspiration for your own lecture or lesson, or even provide you with a complete lesson structure.

4. Is easy to use – to make use of Slideshare resources, takes no more than simple search skills. Uploading your own resources is akin to attaching a file to an email.

5. Is immediately useful in the classroom – once a presentation is uploaded, it can be accessed in the classroom during the lesson and remains available for access & download for students later.

6. Has passive social functionality – unlike some other Web2.0/social media tools, Slideshare does not require you to be socially active,  invest in building a network or give out too much personal information, for it to be useful.

7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – although Slideshare does not require social activity, it will expose teachers to other teachers/experts who share their interest. Those friend requests can be hard to deny…


1. Solves a problem (eg size or access) – many people still save their bookmarks in the browser on their computer. This means when you leave your desk to go teach in a classroom, you don’t have access to those bookmarks. Storing bookmarks online lets you use them wherever you have internet access.

2. Builds on existing collections – it’s easy to import your existing bookmarks into delicious.
3. Saves time – using delicious & it’s useful tags & description function, can really speed up how fast you can refind ‘that one’ site. No more roaming through endless folders. Install the delicious buttons and bookmark new sites with one click.

4. Is easy to use – as stated, the delicious buttons turn it into a 1-click system. And to make use of other people’s bookmarks, takes no more than simple search skills.

5. Is immediately useful in the classroom – you now have all your bookmarks in not just one classroom, but in every room you teach in. And that makes you a lot more flexible. A student asks a question? Mmm, I’m sure I bookmarked a site that had an interesting take on that…

6. Has passive social functionality – like Slideshare, Delicious does not require you to be socially active, invest in building a network or give out too much personal information, for it to be useful. You can’t even upload a profile picture.

7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – again, although Delicious does not require social activity, you can’t help but run into useful resources shared by its many users. And once you find a user who shares links about your interests, you may want to find out what else they are sharing, on their blog, on Twitter, or elsewhere…

I’ve had moderate success introducing teachers to the tools above. If you have had success introducing teachers or colleagues to other e-learning gateway tools, I’d love to hear about it.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective Online Discussion Participants

I’m just starting up a new session of my Online Facilitation course and came across this resource I created over a year ago. Thought I’d share it with you all.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Online Discussion Participants

1. Use the subject line
2. Quote the other participants
3. Check in (nearly) every day
4. Use highlighting & lists for easy reading
5. Use links
6. Use Right Mouse Click
7. Post in the right place

Picture by Flickr user DailyPic

1. Use the subject line
Be descriptive in your subject line. It should be an accurate summary of your post. If you are replying to someone else’s post, also adjust the subject line. “Re: Topic 1” tells others nothing new, but “Re: Topic 1 / My thought” does.

2. Quote the other participants
Quote the particular phrase or part of the post that you are responding to by saying for example: John posted: “Bla-di-blah” and I agree with him because…
By saying only “I agree with John”, you will make the other participants browse through 50 of John’s posts to find out what you are agreeing with.

3. Check in (nearly) every day
It is a good habit to check into the online discussion on a regular basis, particularly if a discussion is only designed to run for a couple of days. For instance, at the beginning and end of a working day, 15 minutes each time. This will help you keep up with what’s happening online. Log in only once a week and you may end up with a MMM (Multiple Message Mountain).

4. Use highlighting & lists for easy reading
You’ve probably experienced that reading from a screen is more tiring and difficult than reading from paper. Spare yourself and your fellow participants the headache, and highlight key phrases & keywords by making them bold. If you are making a number of points, then order them in a list. This will make it easier for others to scan your messages.

5. Use links
You will undoubtedly run across a web page, blog post or article that you want to share with others. Avoid copying and pasting entire sections into your post. Quite apart from the copyright issues, it seems unfair to add to your fellow participants reading load. Instead quote or paraphrase the pertinent parts, relate why you think it is significant or useful and include a link to the original resource.

6. Use Right Mouse Click
If someone has included a link in their post, click on the link with your right mouse button and select the option Open Link in New Window. This will open the link in a new browser window and give you continued access to the discussion forum in the existing window. In newer internet browsers, you can choose to Open Link in New Tab.

7. Post in the right place
Make sure that the forum or discussion thread you are posting to, is the correct place for your post. If it is a social enquiry, it should go in the Social Forum, if it is a request for help, the Help Forum. If it is a reply but the messages have gone a bit off-topic, you may want to start a new topic.

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