Flat Connections

‘Break outside your friends list and join a community of internet strangers. You will be surprised at what you will learn from them.’
Imgur founder Alan Schaaf

For the past few months I have been working with a group of educators globally as we fine tune our learning about being connected educators in a global setting. One way of coping as an online learner involved setting up a page on my SandBox Wiki and dumping all the links that flew at me. This included any contact information and all the important pages. This page helped me hugely and allowed me to quickly access anything I needed. There might be a better way of doing this but I coped regularly by reverting back to what I know.
A whole pile of events aligned for me as part of my FlatConnect learning and these have eventuated in the following outcomes:
There have been 5 of us in the Flat connections cohort. @julieswords1 @AnnRooney6 @mblanrun  @BonnieHermawan.  We come from four different countries and have time zones as one of our biggest challenges. To address this Julie Lindsay @julielindsay our mentor uses Timebridge to coordinate an agreed time between us. Between us we have a combined level of expertise that is astounding.
Julie uses Fuze which is a free online video meeting service  to communicate with us synchronously. This works like elluminate but appears to be more stable. However I am unsure if this can be live streamed as I have had a play but need to learn more about this great tool.
For our current assignment we were asked to work collaboratively together on a common theme and create a video artifact. We were asked to use our team wiki to create all our notes and learning.
One huge learning from me this week was that I can copy and paste directly from a google doc straight into the wiki and all my images tables links etc all come across beautifully. The only challenge is the photos need resizing but it is easy in a wiki, because I can just drag across. I should have done that at the start of advertising my google hangout. I was focussed on trying to pull the group together quickly for a hangout and resorted back to what I know which is twitter and google docs. A second learning was coping with the time zones particularly as I was coordinating the hangout and I used World Time Buddy because this is a tool I have used before. I learnt that there was a half hour time difference between my two Australian Colleagues. I sort of had already guessed that there might be. In New Zealand we have no time difference between any city because of our small size.
As I prepare for a collaborative project with our sister school in China I need to take into consideration the Great Firewall of China that blocks twitter, Facebook, Google and recently Instagram. I am aware that several schools and local citizens bypass the wall using a different system. But in China this is an illegal activity. I could have directed the current cohort to the Team wiki and I could have used the Flat Connections Ning for asynchronous communication. There is no way I can use a hangout with our sister school but we can use skype for school as this gives us a similar number of access if I brought in several classes to work with our school. I could screen cast a skype session but that would bring up legalities about capturing images with minors.
After the Google Hangout session was over I realised that I could have had each team member share their learning around our recently completed assignment and I could have had them create a single slide about what they had learnt. I could have then given them the second lesson of sharing their own screens and they could have talked about what they have just completed. I underestimated abilities and I could have covered a lot more in the session. Even though most of my global colleagues were new to a hangout, they are not newbies to collaborative tools.
Instead I wonder if they would be willing to join me again in a follow up session and give a brief reflection of their learning as being part of FlatConnect Global Educator 14-2 group. We could use the same idea I do with TeachMeetNZ project and I would wiillingly cut the video so that they could have a reflective page on our Team’s wiki.
Where am I up to? I need to interview a teacher gamer and complete my part of the collaborative assignment, create my slides about our sister school project in preparation for our final session with Julie and count down to our summer holidays as we only have two weeks left of school but there is still so much to do. 
WOWEE, I have also just learnt that I can copy straight from a Goole Doc into the Ning too. Even better I just spotted the editing tool for corrections and even better the HTML tool for embedding. 


Connected Educator Month has been and gone here in New Zealand.
The vision of the New Zealand team was for educators to strategically access, collaborate and share across national & global networks to inform schooling designed around students’ needs and strengths.

As I look back over the past few years, this is the third year that  I have been part of Connected Educator Month. In 2012, I was lurking and watching what was happening via @JulieLinday’s tweets. In 2013 I lead a Global Chat Sharing Stories of our Global Connections with #GlobalClassrooms. I attended a few online sessions run using Blackboard Collaborate.

At Newmarket School I am conscious of giving our teachers and our students the same opportunities that I have been a part of. So as I read the Ministry of Education Future-focused learning report, and Core Education 10 Trends in particular Trend 8: Global connectedness I am looking to 2015 and have identified how we can ‘effectively connect, communicate, collaborate and co-create across classrooms.’ I have been given the task of designing an EFL experience for learning using a global focus and I am excited at the possibilities. I have been learning so much from the #FlatConnect course and credit Julie for exposing my thinking to ideas that I had not even thought of. I will be using some of those ideas in my design. 
At SOLOtaxonomy design is extended abstract thinking. I am thankful that I have been part of Connected Educator Month and have created learning opportunities for teachers because now I can bring those ideas back and inform my school and design the learning opportunities for our staff and children based on their needs and strengths to connect and collaborate at a global level.
This year Karen Melhuish Spencer @virtuallykaren approached me and asked if I was interested in aligning one of the TeachMeetNZ sessions into the Connected Educator Month. I already knew about Connected Educator Month so of course I said yes and I would run the first session earlier in the month than I had initially planned. I then agreed to coordinate and run two events as I was sure that Matt Esterman  of #TMSydney  would join me because we have been speaking for a while about a combined TeachMeet event. The third event which was a collaborative book project was not really planned. However the work I have been doing with Julie Lindsay  around teachers working together on a collaborative project was the incentive I needed to say ‘Let’s do this.’ As a SOLO taxonomy educator I am aware of where I need to go next with what I do online so the book project was like the beta test.

So those were the three events I committed to for October. At the same time because of my teacher inquiry, I was working with staff who were preparing for their first ULearn presentation. In addition Wendy and I agreed to work together and co-present using my inquiry as the springboard for the presentation. But ULearn14 was only one of three events that my principal and I prepared and shared at. The second was sharing for the Springboard Trust and the third being part of the collaborative educators team who wrote the #EdBookNZ.

Highlights for Connected Educator Month are all listed below.
But what you can see is the product.

I know Pam Hook  and Virginia Kung  would say to me, “Where’s the rubric Sonya?” and “The process is more important.” and ‘How has your thinking changed?”  I am also really conscious of not allowing this reflection to just being a multistructural description. So if you are reading this, then please respond below as this allows me to think more at a relational level.

So where to next for me.
“Politeness is the poison of collaboration,” said Edwin Land. My collaborative friend Bridget Casse  was prodding working with me as we wrote the chapter on connected educator blog post. I was more excited in the working document. The challenging discussion was stimulating and thought provoking.
So thinking along the learning of #flatconnect I would have each collaborators work on a wiki page next time. This allows the interested educators to see the process. We could use an unlocked google doc too, however am unsure of how secure the history would be and how long it is archived. If I was working with children under 14, I would probably use Edmodo because it is a more like a walled garden for our children.

Thanks to all the amazing educators who took part, supported, proof read, gave feedback, broadcasted etc to the events below. Special thanks to the staff at Newmarket School who have joined in and are sharing their learning. Special thanks to Wendy the head learner who is willing to walk the talk, special thanks to Karen who was visible in all the events and to Julie for my global learning. To my SOLO mentors Pam and Ginny none of this would happen without your ongoing disruptive thinking.


October-spring is here

October is usually a crazy busy month for me.

It is my mum and dad’s birthday. In addition it is my youngest son’s birthday and also my birthday.

This October I have probably taken on far too much but because I have been in the world of education for 30 years, I know that sometimes it just gets like that and helps with the sprint to the end of the year for our New Zealand summer holidays. Plus it is the learning that ignites my education fire and I find it exciting and stimulating. I am passionate about teachers and their learning too. To help give you a bit of an overview, here is what my October looks like for me, without those important four family dates and all the practises in between.

30 Sept
Minecraft Hangout
Google Hangout
1st Oct
Launching CENZ
4th Oct
TeachMeetNZ google Hangout
Google Hangout
9 Oct
Present Ulearn with Wendy
10 Oct
Present Ulearn with Ginnie
Eduignite Citizenship
20 Oct
Complete my chapter on educator
Blog Post
28 Oct
TeachMeetNZ /TMsydney
Google Hangout
31st Oct
Publish a book

I am also aiming to complete my Flat Connections Global Educator Certificate with Julie Lindsay. Already I have learnt that I do not give enough opportunities for my teams to get to know each other with a handshake. I have immediately remedied that by setting up a padlet for my #TeachMeetNZ project.

In addition set up systems to support our RTLB with the next roll out of iPads for their teaching and learning with students. Currently I am reading around minecraft as I believe we need to explore this programme further.

Sometimes I am asked why do I take on the extra outside of my school life, however those of you in my PLN who read this, you will fully understand when I say all the extra benefits me, my learning and therefore benefits my school. How else do I know how to help our teachers create videos, help them with reflective blog posts, help them with their inquiries and presentations and know who to ask for help or call in to skype with our children and share their expertise. Ultimately this helps them  This is because I am right in the middle of it all.

PS: I aim to visit Eden Gardens too these holidays and I hope to get my garden planted for the summer.