It is hard to believe our spring semester has come to a close.  I still have a couple of things to wrap up before I can officially declare my completion of my last University classes ever.  Or at least for a little while.  But it feels good all the same as the assignments will be enjoyable to do.  One of them is a summary of learning on how I contributed to the education of others and how they contributed to mine.  I have decided to make my summary as transparent as this entire experience has been for me thus far, and so consider this post my recap of the semester.

In my very first post, Dean made a comment about my "voice" and how glad he was to see that I was comfortable with mine.  Writing is always a laborious process for me.  It's a bit of a love/hate relationship in that I usually love the product but hate the process.  It took me hours to write most of these posts because of the time I take to make sure they are properly edited, they are well resourced, and that they are enjoyable to read.  So I appreciated that Dean noticed my effort to let my personality shine through as that was something that was important to me.  One is always a little nervous about the first time he/she puts him/herself out there because, as they say,
someecards.com - You only get one chance to make a first impression
So his feedback let me know that I was heading in the right direction.  And over the next seven weeks, comments are what continued to let me know how I was doing.  I had a classmate take note of my map widget and express an interest in using one herself.  She used the word "steal" and in any other University program that would be an appropriate term.  But in the Faculty of Education, and this class in particular, we were always encouraged to share our ideas so I was happy to have someone take an interest in mine.  On the other hand, I also appreciated the feedback when someone wasn't digging what I was doing.  I received some not-so-nice realities about the lackluster appearance of my posts but put the criticism to use and made sure to add some type of media to the majority of my work.  This also happened to coincide with the syllabus so kudos to my sister for laying it out for me, otherwise I may have missed that one.

Disagreements or having someone challenge your point of view can also be a great way to learn.  Sometimes having someone point out an opposing stance can help us to either reconsider our initial thoughts or solidify our position on a topic.  One article that had everyone chatting was the story of an Edmonton teacher who was suspended for not abiding by his school's No-Zero Policy.  I wrote my own post on the topic and also engaged in conversation with others about their views on the matter, both classmates and strangers.  This was a challenge for me as I often think of my views as "irrelevant" or "uninformed" because I am not working in the field yet.  But as I took chances and publicized my opinion, I received some positive feedback as well as some alternate perspectives, all with my professionalism intact.  These are learning opportunities I would have missed out on if I had remained safely on the sidelines.

I did the same on twitter where, after several failed attempts, I  finally participated in an #edchat.  It was there that
I received a suggestion for posing questions to increase the likelihood of receiving a comment or starting a conversation, so I began trying to incorporate them into my posts.  I found some interesting conversations ensued after a question was asked, like one another classmate posted about homework.  As I was checking my Google Reader one day, I saw a similar post from an educator in Alberta and shared the link for Jane in her comments. She checked it out, posted a comment for Joe about her own blog, which then brought him into our discussion.  If you look at the conversation there, lots of different ideas and resources were passed around.  A great example of collaborative learning and Jane has since started following Joe too.

Another thing I found with questions, are that they can be an actual call for help.  I noticed many of my peers asking for assistance with some aspect of technology and I always tried to respond because I know how frustrating it can be sometimes!  I read about a classmate struggling with the size of something she was trying to embed in her blog.  Since we both use Weebly, I played around with it in my own blog first and then sent her the instructions so she would have them for next time. I also provided Jane with some assistance with embedding her survey in WordPress and directed another classmate to Jane on twitter when she was struggling with the same issue.  I've even extended my helping hand to people outside the class with technology troubles like my friend here.  I am a problem solver by nature, so I love responding to challenges.

Throughout the semester I tried to remain conscious of the positive feelings and motivation I got from knowing that people were reading my posts.  For me, comments are a measure of reader engagement so I made a point of sharing my thoughts with fellow bloggers.  I did it for children and I did it for adults and both made me feel great.    Part of a teacher's job is to inspire, inform, share, and collaborate with students and other educators.  I consider myself lucky because, in my chosen profession, I will get to do this kind of stuff everyday.  And Dean, my classmates, and everyone else I have connected with along the way, have all taught me that technology has expanded the audience with which I can do those things.  I think I really embraced the collaborative style of this class, which is so critical because as Dean wrote, "You can't be a lurker in [this] class".  I value all of the input and resources I have received over the semester and I hope that my classmates feel the same way about my contributions.

Education is changing.  What an exciting time to be a teacher!       
I would also welcome any comments below about how I might have helped in your learning process.

Thank you everyone for a great semester!
 
 
I am admittedly a little behind in watching the live sessions for my ECMP 355 course.  I am just coming off my mid-week that was full of papers, presentations, and exams and just haven't had a chance to sit and watch for an hour. Tonight I watched the session from last week which featured Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina.  He presented on the topic of Digital Citizenship and Identity. He talked about lots of things like the scare ads put out to encourage children to be safe about what they post on the internet, because you never know who might be looking at the content.  Here is one I found:
Picture
Picture courtesy of http://www.softwarewithstyle.com/guides/13?page=5
This always reminds me of the cautionary tales the Faculty of Education pass down to us about school boards searching for new teacher hires on Facebook to see what they are up to.  This seems to cause some panic amongst my classmates which makes me wonder what they have posted on their profiles.  Personally, I am friends with my dad so I always think about whether or not it is something I would want him to see.  If the answer is no then chances are it isn't suitable for the internet.  Plus, I am partial to posting things like good recipes and prompts to encourage people to read this blog.  And every once in a while I do what I refer to as a "friend cleanse" where I go through and delete people that I don't actually consider a friend.  I have one criterion and that is if I would look the other way if I saw you in public, then we are not friends and I do not think you need to be updated on the happenings of my life.  Or the delicious things I made for supper.

Alec also talked about some of the positive things that have come from the accessibility of the web and one was a website called the It Gets Better Project, which is a site dedicated to giving hope to youth from the LGBT community who face a great deal of harassment.  It all started with one video by Dan Savage and is now something much larger with inspirational videos from US President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, and Lady Gaga. Here is a short video that Google Chrome put together about the initiative:
I had never seen this video before Alec asked us to watch it tonight, and it almost moved me to tears.  Then he mentioned the video that a young man by the name of Jamey Rodermeyer contributed about his experience. Unfortunately, Jamey ended up committing suicide a few months later due to the bullying he was experiencing because of his sexual orientation.  I watched his video and you could tell that he was trying to stay positive but that the hurt he was feeling was cutting quite deep.  It made me sad to think that his life had come to be so unbearable that it had become not worth living. But when I scrolled down to the comments on YouTube, it all seemed so blatantly obvious.

I have never read such hateful and ignorant comments about something so serious.  Some had been written hours ago, some days ago, but they all had the same message of intolerance and were all being posted by the same user. I was astonished that no one was doing anything more then engaging this person in banter, so I took matters into my own hands and reported him/her to YouTube.  However, this was not as easy as it should have been.  It took me nearly 10 minutes to figure out how to report the inappropriate comments. I had to search in a number of places before I found the form here.  I am trying to stay positive about the situation by thinking that maybe other people had as much trouble trying to report the comments but weren't as persistent as me.

This whole situation reminded me about how easy technology has made it for people to spew hateful words at or about another human being.  It is much easier to say those things when you aren't confronted with the pain and emotion on the face of the other person.  Would that person have said those things to Jamey's face?  Or to the face of his grieving parents?  I doubt it.  I think I did the right thing tonight.  What would you have done?

“Always stand up for what you believe in…even if it means standing alone.” ~ Kim Hanks
 
 
You might remember reading the above comment a couple of weeks ago from the link in my post, Dear World, Read My Blog.  I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I decided to go back and see if any of the blogs had responded to my initial comments.  And low and behold, Jordan had.  I think it is really neat how people all over the world are able to connect through the internet.  Imagine how excited he must have been when he saw that someone from Canada had stopped by and commented on his book review.  Feedback is a very powerful thing. As a future teacher, I strive to focus on the positive feedback.  I hope that my comment stays with Jordan a little while and inspires him to write a little more.

I encourage all of you to go back and check on a blog you commented on, and see if the recipient provided you with some thanks.  Share those words of appreciation below!
 
 
I had plans all week to participate in a chat on twitter, but coordinating my interests with my schedule became a bit of a nightmare.  Perhaps I need to hire an assistant; preferably one who is familiar with the time zones.  My hope was to participate in a live conversation, so this afternoon I picked one from this list my professor posted.  It was scheduled to start at 8:00 CST and so I conferred with my father on the location of CST in relation to us.  He confidently replied that CST was in fact Alberta's zone.  This evening I eagerly signed onto twitter at 7:59pm only to discover I had missed the whole thing.  It is safe to say that if I do end up hiring an assistant, my dad will not be in the running.  Sorry, dad!

The chat I semi-engaged in was under the #blogchat hashtag which I thought was fitting given my recent startup. Tonight the conversation was around commenting.  Topics ranged from spam comments to comment censorship. Some bloggers felt that social sharing (Facebook, twitter, etc.) were more powerful than comments because the shares reach a wider audience.  I have posted my blog on my Facebook and have tweeted the address and have seen a direct correlation between my post and the number of views I receive on those days.  So, I am going to take this a step further and invite my friends and followers to share/re-tweet my post with their friends and see how this impacts my traffic.  I am hoping that I can increase my following and get more people posting comments, feedback, and questions because unlike some of the participants tonight, I do enjoy the comments.  They are what motivate me to write, and the last few days have been a bit of a dry spell for me.

So under the advice of @problogger, I pose this question to my readers:  Do blog comments matter to you?