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Five Guideposts for Making Learning Connections

by Miguel Guhlin
guide signs with japanese writing on them

How do you connect your own learning with others? One way that I create learning connections involves blogging. It translates into reflecting on my own efforts and setting loose learning goals. These flexible goals allow me to learn at my own pace as I move forward towards measurable growth. But I did not always approach learning this way. It began when I decided to blog for a global audience. In this blog entry, let’s explore what it means to be a learner in a hyper-connected world.

ISTE Standards for Educators: Learner

Though there are seven ISTE standards for Educators, the Learner begins with you. It puts the focus on you and how you can learn from others. The how involves taking specific steps that make you a student. In this way, you, as learner, are able to leverage technology to improve student learning. Here’s how you do that:

  • Set personal, professional learning goals to explore.
  • Apply pedagogical approaches that technology makes possible.
  • Reflect on the effectiveness of these tech-enhanced, pedagogical approaches.
  • Pursue professional interests.
  • Create and be an active participant in local and global learning networks.
  • Stay current with research that supports student learning outcomes.

Wondering how to start your journey? Let’s walk through a road map of steps to start.

Guidepost #1 – Set Professional Learning Goals

Not sure where to begin, where to sink your shovel in? Your goals need to be flexible and reflect who you are and where you are in your career. Teachers have to be able to set their learning goals before beginning any training cycle. For early to mid-career educators, learning goals tend towards curriculum and instruction. For late-career educators, extra-curricular tasks and innovations are more relevant (source).

From a coaching perspective, assist others in this process. Help them set meaningful goals and clarify steps to achieving those goals. Learn more about coaching others in setting goals.

Action Steps: Get a coach that can assist you in setting learning goals. Pick three technology-enhanced actions that you can start with.

Guidepost #2 – Apply Pedagogy That Technology Makes Possible

Making learning and collaboration at a distance serves as one example of this type. Dr. Judi Harris (September, 1998) described activity structures as design tools. These tools assist teachers in using the internet to achieve curriculum-related learning goals. Dr. Bernie Dodge and Tom March (1995) employed activity formats in the same way. In 2017, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis came together and their work resulted in inquiry-based learning and self-paced student-centric opportunities known as hyperdocs. From subject samplers to hyperdocs, technology-enhanced pedagogy has been around for many years. These approaches are inquiry-based, collaborative, and involve self-directed learning. Project-based, or problem-based, students must solve a problem using materials at hand.

Use Dr. Chris Moersch’s H.E.A.T. observational framework to describe students’ efforts. In the best ways, students engage in:

  • Learning or questioning at evaluating/creating levels of Bloom’s
  • Collaborating to define the task, the process. The solution extends beyond the classroom walls.
  • Creating a product with a real-world purpose beyond the classroom that impacts students

Projects and technology work well together. Well-implemented PBL develops students’ critical thinking skills, improves long-term retention of content learned. What’s more, it increases students’ and teachers’ satisfaction with learning experiences (source). How does the teacher gauge success?

Action Step: Embrace PBL, design thinking, engineering design process, or the 5E Model. Then blend in simple technologies where appropriate. Don’t be afraid to try DIY activities.

Did You Know?

A team of trained professionals is available to perform a technology audit. Whatever size your district is, our educational auditors can help. They will provide insights that can help you grow. TCEA is a non-profit association. The cost of the audit will be less than if a commercial entity did it for you. The team of TCEA Technology Auditors is ready to assist you. Make contact now.

Guidepost #3 – Reflect on Success

The HEAT observational framework provides some insight. In activity-rich environments like classrooms, approaches may not impact learning. That is why reflecting on an activity remains important. In these projects, students self-select technology. When designing lessons, teachers can use this simple reflection-on-action checklist:

  • Did students use tech to create something and then test to see if it worked? (Rapid prototyping)
  • How did students use technology to focus their work, how they went about it? Did students use technology to collaborate on a solution extending beyond the classroom?
  • When did students engage in a real-world, real-life problem solving opportunity?

Whether it’s a blog, an audiolog, or vidcast, make the effort to reflect on teaching and learning. Assume the stance of a community member peering into your classroom. What would they see? Without this reflection, we miss the power of transformation. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Alaniz suggest reflection must be active and persistent. How persistent is your reflection?

Action Step: Use a blog to keep track of your reflections. Share what you expected to see and what you observed. Explore the gap between the two.

Guidepost #4 – Be a Global Connector

Ready to get started with social media? You may have a Twitter or Facebook account. How do you move into the role of being a global connector with a worldwide reach? Embrace the power of ideas and change in your life. Find ideas that align to your efforts. Apply new concepts to your work. Share that online via a blog, audiolog, or vidcast. It’s that simple. You build your professional learning network (PLN) one step at a time, one person at a time.

Action Step: Connect with others online, pursuing your professional interests as an educator. Become a hashtag hero. Accept the #OBSERVEME challenge. Start a district Twitter chat. Make connections beyond your current experience.

Guidepost #5 – Curate Content for Yourself and Others

Are you ready to keep up to date with research on what works and what doesn’t in the classroom? You need to make it easy to keep up with learning new things. Building a global professional learning network is step one. Step two involves finding a way to manage the torrent of data and ideas coming at you. To do that, learn to curate content in ways that make sharing it easy.

Action Step: Adopt a content curation tool you can use to save and organize online content any way you want. Learn to automate sharing of content. Align your social media to your learning needs.


Feature image. Available online

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