Does it come as a surprise to anyone who has ever read my blog posts, that I am obsessed with Educational Philosophies?

I find myself constantly learning, considering, tweaking, honing and sharing my educational philosophy within my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Everything I do, whether it be a blog post for CoETaIL, an assignment for one of my Masters courses, or a lesson created for school, becomes an attempt to define and exemplify my thoughts on education. I can’t help but make things relevant to me and the concepts or theories that I am currently grappling with. Moreover, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of my PLN as instigators of many of these ideas. Beyond merely consuming though, I really appreciate sharing my thoughts within my PLN as well to test the waters of my ideas so-to-speak. In this post, I will highlight a few ways that I increase my community engagement within my PLN and how I contribute my own ideas to my PLN.

AIS-R U: Going Global with Professional Learning Networks

A significant example of the ways in which I have increased my community engagement is by helping others to do the same. I designed a course that I am currently offering to a some of my peers as a part of our schools professional learning plan. Our PL plan is mostly comprised of a set of course offerings called AIS-R U. These varied courses are available for selection by the faculty in an attempt to make our PL more individualized and personal for each educator and to experience the benefits of learning over an extended period of time with a cohort of peers. My course is called Going Global with Professional Learning Networks and has been greatly inspired by the CoETaIL courses among many other resources.

In the course, one of the central themes is the process of building, connecting with and contributing to our own local and/or global professional learning networks. Embedded within, are topics such as connectivism, digital citizenship, curating posts for various platforms, the creative cycle, staying relevant with new media and technology and a final session which discusses the need to reimagine education.

Seeing as I believe in increasing the autonomy and agency of our learners, I wanted this course to be relevant to everyone that takes it. Therefore, I encourage everyone to generate a few topics of interest or a few essential questions that they would like to learn more about. Naturally, what follows is some web surfing, researching and rabbit-hole clicking that will expose ourselves to media and content from other experts in the field. Essentially, we begin to network and make connections with people who are interested in the same topic. Essentially, we begin to build our PLN. It is my intention to not only encourage the participants to build those connections but also to emphasize the importance of contributing to them as well.

Throughout the course, we refer to the creative cycle a lot (A.K.A. the LAUNCH cycle or Design Thinking or I have begun to also call it the professional learning cycle). I outline the important steps to include inquiry, ideation, iteration, publication and feedback. However, in one of our sessions we discussed how daunting this can be for some people to publish their work to public platforms. As a result, I have been intentionally implementing structures into the sessions so that we build the confidence to both learn from and also contribute to our PLN’s.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 9.35.24 AMOne structure I have developed is called Diamond in the Rough. Although, I encourage everyone to mine for diamonds every day, I also make time during the beginning of each session to go through the process. I play a YouTube playlist that is comprised of songs that have the word “diamond” in them and everyone goes to their preferred platform to find ideas that interest them, that they want to try or that answer their professional learning questions. We then share them out as a group in order to see the benefit of sharing locally within our PLN cohort and we discuss ways in which we can use them in our own classes or profession.

In addition, I model my own professional learning cycle and include much of the material that I find from my PLN as well as material that I create as the content for the course. I use my own professional learning cycles as an example of the questions I ask, the places I find the inspiration and the ways in which I merge the ideas, hunches, and theories I have with other professionals in the field.

Borrowing Ideas from Others: Most Likely to Succeed Video Book Review

One such example came about during one session when we were discussing the concept of an “idea” and various questions such as where good ideas come from, who owns ideas, and how ideas have spread throughout history. In this session, we talked about Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix and his corresponding contention that remixing ideas (copy, transform and combine) is a “better way to conceive of creativity.”

I really resonate with his theory that ideas are too confluent to demarcate where one idea starts and the other begins and that this constricts creativity. Copyright law in particular, limits the creative use and remixing of content.

To continue with the discussion of what is fair use, appropriate remixing and of course, to embed and model my own professional learning journey, I showed a video that I recently remixed called Most Likely to Succeed Video Book Review. In this video, I copy, transform and combine ideas that I was exposed to during my research and from my PLN in an attempt to solidify and purport my own educational philosophy. Officially, I think that it might be copyright infringement, however I also think that Fair Use Doctrine and Remix theory should apply. If it doesn’t apply, then doesn’t this limit the transfer of ideas? What if sharing content in this way with my local or global PLN might have an effect on someone’s own thoughts and ideas on education? What if the hunch that I share can be paired with and combined with someone else’s hunch? Shouldn’t the sharing of ideas on how we can reimagine education be unbounded by limitations?

Anyways, I digress, philosophically. Most importantly, I wanted to show how I to complete the professional learning cycle by copying, transforming and combining ideas that I have been researching and publish it to my PLN for feedback.

#thisismyschool as a Statement of Educational Philosophy

Another attempt to increase my community engagement by contributing to my local and global PLN, is my most recent project called #thisismyschool. Philosophically, #thisismyschool helps to emphasize my theories on the importance of community, school spirit and rethinking learning. Sharing it locally within our community and publicly on Youtube and other social media platforms is my attempt to also contribute to the global discussions on reimagining learning.

Community, although a rather common term, is one of the prized components of my educational philosophy. Who doesn’t want to be part of a community? If we can’t create a safe environment, how will our students feel supported to take risks and try something new? If we don’t value community, how will we learn to value the interdependence of the collective? In addition, we won’t recognize our own individual and independent contributions to our local and global communities. #thisismyschool helps to emphasize the importance of working interdependently and independently within a community. It values collaboration and community and I hope that #thisismyschool helps to inspire others to build and strengthen their own communities and increase their school sprit!

Integrated within #thisismyschool as well is my attempts to rethink learning. I have blogged many times about my passion for creating interest-based learning environments for my students. I believe that allowing students to harness much of the ownership in their learning will allow them to develop the important competencies that they will require to become life-long learners, inquirers, and creative problem-solvers. #thisismyschool is shaped by the emergent pedagogy that arises from student interest and various phenomena trending at that time. It highlights the importance of project-based and transdisciplinary learning. It emphasizes the benefits of performing arts and communication skills. It is my hope that people who watch #thisismyschool will also try to break down the walls of traditional learning environments in an attempt to give students increased autonomy, learn in various contexts and collaborate on meaningful projects. Finally, #thisismyschool is also one of my attempts to contribute to my PLN with ideas that are powerful and valuable to me.

Increasing Community Engagements: Digitally and In-Person

I continually make attempts to connect with and bolster my PLN. One recent attempt has been to try the app Crowdfire to increase engagement on Twitter. On first impression, the way you set up your account on Crowdfire had me really excited. It reminded me of the movie Her in the way the OS communicated with you. After using it for a while, I have been remained impressed with some of the features including how way it curates posts for me that it thinks I would be interested in. As a result, I have become more engaged in Twitter and tried to connect at least once a day.

I have also recently become the KSA Ambassador in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region of the ASCD Connected Communities. With this, I have been able to increase my connections through Twitter with other educators in the Gulf countries.

Another example was recently during a a coaching cycle, when I was showing one of my peers how to use Twitter to find examples of how people use Twitter to share how they work within their particular content area. While on their, I happened upon the first #isedcoach Twitter chat! While there I was happy to connect with people already in my PLN and meet new people that do similar jobs as well. Of course, some of the things I had been thinking about are also on the minds of my PLN which really helps to strengthen my own thoughts. Take this post for example:

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As much as I recognize the importance of connecting myself to digital professional learning networks, I also recognize the value in making “in-person” connections, whether in be with my students, within my local PLN or peers or by meeting people at conferences. I have really enjoyed the conferences I have attended and I especially enjoy presenting on my thoughts on education in order to fulfill the creative cycle as well. This year, I am honored to have the chance to present both at the ReThinking Literacy Conference in Singapore this spring and at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities this summer. I believe that in this way, I am challenging myself to go beyond the digital PLN and strengthening my community engagement by attending and presenting at these conferences as well.

Reflection

I know for certain that being engaged within a PLN has been paramount to my successes. I have been able to be a passive observer to gain ideas about how people are integrating technology. I have been able to dialogue with people when I need to troubleshoot something. I have been inspired. I have been motivated to try something new. I feel that I have also become a conscious creator and contributor to my PLN in an effort to complete by professional learning cycles and engage in the community discussions about education. I think that participating in the community engagement of a PLN has been one of the most effective forms of professional learning ever and I will always value the support that my PLN offers to me!