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!
 
 
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 have finally found a routine that works for my schedule this semester.  I have specific times of the day set aside for certain tasks that need to be completed.  This is the best way I know how to keep myself organized.  For example, I have chosen to blog every night after class/before bed.  I tried a couple of different times of day and found that this one worked best for me in terms of consistency.  I also had the opportunity tonight to listen to the ECMP 355 live session from this week which happened to tie in nicely to what I was thinking about for my post.  I love when that happens.  I feel like there should be fireworks or something.  Anyway, I paused the session to type this post so I wouldn't forget.  You never know when ideas will strike, so I am always prepared with a pen and paper to jot them down, or in this case, a blog and a keyboard.

This week we were asked to follow the #comments4kids hashtag on twitter and find a few classes to follow and comment on.  I went on twitter this afternoon and found a three that I wanted to post comments on.  The first was a news podcast created by 3rd graders in Oklahoma.  My comment hasn't been approved yet, but I tried to give the children specific feedback about what I liked so they knew I had actually taken the time to listen.  The second blog I found was a blog dedicated to book reviews written by the students.  I found a book I had actually read and posted a comment to that student, which you can read here.  I think peer book reviews are an excellent strategy for promoting literacy in the classroom and teaming them up with blogging is magic!  Lastly I visited another 3rd grade blog and commented on a couple of posts that I really enjoyed reading.  One of the posts has since disappeared, but the other one can be found here, along with my comment.

During the live session this week, Dean mentioned the power behind a comment from a stranger who had happened on your blog, and cared enough about what you were writing to leave some feedback.  This is so true!  I have had a couple of strangers comment on my posts and I was so excited that I immediately told my partner about them.  It made my work feel important and made me want to write more.  I guess in a way I payed that forward this afternoon and I hope my comments inspired some youngsters to keep blogging.