Nov 19

Games and Simulations: Leadership Development for Distributed Teams

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Introduction

Leadership is a vast and difficult topic with multiple perspectives and definitions (Guthrie, Phelps, & Downey, 2011, Jang & Ryu, 2011).  Added to this complexity, is the fact that the world is becoming more distributed (Lisk, Kaplancali, & Riggio, 2012 p. 145) and globalized (Ee & Cho, 2012, p. 25). This has led to an increase of distributed teams in the global marketplace (Hinds & Bailey, 2003). As the world changes and teams become more distributed, new leadership skills are needed (Ee & Cho, 2012). These new skills include the ability to communicate with others who are geographically separated using technology assisted communication tools, and the ability to communicate effectively with little to no social cues (Ee & Cho, 2012, p. 25). This complexity, and the changing environment, makes it difficult to teach others leadership skills. Aldrich (2003) suggests that it is difficult to learn management and leadership skills well in a linear environment.  Many educational environments are structured in a linear fashion. When considering the complex dynamics of a leadership role, a linear structure might not be the best option for teaching leadership skills for distributed teams. The leadership skills needed in this distributed environment might be best met through an online gaming environment, where the players have the opportunity to develop and practice skills similar to the ones mentioned above (Ee & Cho, 2012).  In fact, Lisk et al. (2012), suggest that studying certain online games and the types of teams that exist within these games might be the best place to gain valuable insights into the needs of these new distributed teams.  This paper will present reasons why certain types of online games and simulations are useful to the development of leadership skills needed for distributed teams.

Distributed Teams Defined

As the concept of distributed teams might not be clear, a short discussion on distributed teams follows. Distributed teams are defined by Hinds and Bailey (2003), as teams that are geographically separated, a team whose members live in various continents, in different countries and cities. As the world becomes more interconnected, based on changes in the global economy, organizations are faced with several factors that are fueling the creation of distributed teams (Hinds & Bailey, 2003).  These factors include pressures to increase production, the expansion of business into the global marketplace and increased mergers and acquisitions (Hinds & Bailey, 2003). These types of teams, ones that are distributed, are the focus of this paper.

Learning Theories To Support Game Based Learning

Before discussing whether or not games and simulations can assist in the development of leadership skills for distributed teams, this paper will delve into the educational theories, which support the type of learning that occur in certain games. There are several learning theories that support the various types of learning occurring in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft (WOW). Social cognitive theory (Ee & Cho, 2012), situated learning, and experiential learning are a few of these theories (Guthrie et al., 2011).

Learning through observations is the basis for social cognitive theory. (Ee & Cho, 2012).  These observations usually take place within social interactions with others, where three factors are customarily in play: behavioral factors, environmental factors and personal factors (Ee & Cho, 2012).  Online gaming worlds, such as WOW, offer an environment where social skills are practiced through observations of and interaction with other players (Lisk et al., 2012).

Social interaction is also an extremely important part of situated learning where learning happens in response to action within a particular group (Guthrie et al., 2011). This group is much like a community of practice, where social interactions and collaboration assist in building knowledge (Guthrie, et. al, 2011).  Deeper exploration into virtual worlds reveals this type of community within guilds and other groups formed in the game (Guthrie et al., 2011).

In experiential learning, people learn as a part of a process where four levels exist. These levels include experimentation, examination, evaluation, and then planning of action. Experiential learning is a process of learning gained from experiences (Guthrie, Phelps, & Downey, 2011). The interactive and collaborative nature of the gaming environment allows players to engage in a process similar to the levels mentioned above (Guthrie et al., 2011).  In the learning theories discussed above, learning takes place because of social interaction and observation (Guthrie et al., 2011).  Online gaming worlds, such as WOW, offer players a chance to work in teams and solve problems. These open types of environments provide multiple ways to succeed and offer benefits for the development of distributed team leadership skills (Lisk et al., 2012).

Games Support Learning

In order to better understand how games can help to support the development of distributed leadership, game based learning and the educational environment that games can create will be explored.  Games and simulations are becoming more accepted as educationally viable ways in which to learn (Guthrie et al., 2011).  This is evident in the fact that many important organizations such as airlines, the military and Wall Street, all make use of simulations for training purposes (Aldrich, 2003).  Game based learning is effective because it spurs participation, is very interactive and provides timely feedback, all of which assist learners in retaining the information they have just learned (Lisk et al., 2012).  This feedback also provides participants the opportunity to analyze the situation deeper, make adjustments and then try new approaches or styles of leadership (Guthrie et al., 2011).  A problem with learning leadership in a typical educational setting is that most educational environments work in a linear fashion (Aldrich, 2003).  It has been suggested that one cannot learn management and leadership skills well in an environment that is only linear in nature (Aldrich, 2003).  In fact, Aldrich (2003) states that all three types of content, linear, cyclical and open-ended are needed.  He also suggests that games offer a learning environment where all three types of content exist (Aldrich, 2003).  Games create an open environment, which is structured enough to offer players a chance to practice using the newly gained knowledge in various ways (Lisk et al., 2012). This situation offers a safe environment to make errors and learn from those errors, without concern for the consequences those mistakes might create outside the game (Lisk et al., 2012).  In regards to improving on errors made during game play, games can also be replayed using different methods allowing for improvement on mistakes (Lisk et al., 2012). This safe practice environment provides the cyclical content mentioned by Aldrich (2003) and can strengthen the development of the skills being practiced.

Games, Simulations and Distributed Leadership

Simulations and online virtual worlds offer the opportunity to gain experience in leadership skills (Guthrie et al., 2011).  This experiential learning experience can assist in the development of leadership skill because participants can watch others in leadership roles and can also participate in leadership roles themselves (Guthrie et al., 2011).  Leadership is an important aspect in online gaming worlds such as WOW (Lisk et al., 2012).   These online game environments allow players the opportunity to participate in tasks, which are similar to those carried out in real life situations (Jang & Ryu, 2011). These tasks include searching for and gaining new members, motivational aspects for the maintenance of the team and other organizational duties (Jang & Ryu, 2011).  The research of Jung and Ryu (2011) showed that players within games who demonstrate a preference towards team playing had more chances to experience leadership within the game. This same study suggests that these game based leadership experiences might improve leadership outside the game (Jang & Ryu, 2011). According to Jang and Ryu (2011), the possibilities for gaining leadership skills and then transferring them to actual life situations are highest within MMORPGs.  However, the authors of this study also maintain that the level of transfer from the game to real life has yet to be researched at a deep enough level and suggest this for further studies.

As the world changes and teams become more distributed, it is clear that new skills will be needed (Ee & Cho, 2012).  These news skills include the ability to communicate with others who are geographically separated using technology assisted communication tools, and the ability to communicate effectively with little to no social cues (Ee & Cho, 2012). The leadership skills needed in the distributed teams might be best met by an online gaming environment, where the players have the opportunity to develop and practice skills similar to the ones needed for effective distributed teams (Ee & Cho, 2012).  One study suggests that studying certain online games and the types of teams that exist within these games, might be the best place to gain valuable insights into the needs of distributed teams (Lisk et al., 2012).

Issues and Concerns

While it appears that simulations and other online learning environments such as MMORPGs may offer greater insights into the leadership needs of distributed teams, there are other concerns which have been raised which might hinder their use for leadership skills development.  First, these types of online learning environments are complex and this complexity makes them difficult to learn (Lisk et al., 2012). This learning curve or inability to use the program may hinder usefulness of the simulation or game. In one study, a participant stated that they were unsuccessful at leading, not because they lacked leadership skills but because they lacked the ability to use the technology well enough (Lisk et al., 2012).

Another reason simulations and online games might not be considered for use in leadership training is that research on this topic, while trying to advocate its development and heralding the potential and applicability to real life situations, fails to examine the actual process of its development (Ee & Cho, 2012).  This is an overly generalized approach, which needs to be balanced by opposing views on the subject (Ee & Cho, 2012).

Finally, while games provide an environment where players can experience learning with all three content types, practice skills development in a safe place where it is okay to make mistakes and can gain experience in things similar to real life situations, there is no evidence that these skills will transfer in all situation (Lisk et al., 2012).  In fact, according to Jang and Ryu (2011), more research is needed to discover the level of transfer of leaderships skills developed in the game to real life leadership situations.

Conclusion

While it is clear from the limitations discussed above, that the use of games to assist in the development of leadership skills is not perfect, it is this author’s opinion that the positive aspects give strong enough weight to continue research in this area. Most of the areas of concern deal with transfer to real life situations. However, the purpose of this paper is to connect the use of online games to the development of the skills needed in distributed teams. There is a difference between distributed teams and the traditional face-to-face teams in the leadership skills needed (Lisk et al., 2012).  Ee and Cho (2012), suggest that as the world becomes increasingly distributed it is the leadership skills players experience in MMORPGs that might be the most similar to the skills needed in these new distributed teams. Therefore, in the area of leadership studies, the role of MMORPGs cannot be overlooked (Ee & Cho, 2012).

References

Aldrich, C. (2003). Simulations and the Future of Learning: An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning (1 edition.). Pfeiffer.

Ee, A., & Cho, H. (2012). What Makes an MMORPG Leader? A social cognitive theory-based approach to understanding the formation of leadership capabilities in massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture, 6(1), 25–37.

Guthrie, K. L., Phelps, K., & Downey, S. (2011). Virtual worlds. Journal of Leadership Studies, 5(2), 6–13. doi:10.1002/jls.20214

Hinds, P. J., & Bailey, D. E. (2003). Out of sight, out of sync: Understanding conflict in distributed Teams. Organization Science, 14(6), 615–632.

Jang, Y., & Ryu, S. (2011). Exploring game experiences and game leadership in massively multiplayer online role-playing games. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(4), 616–623. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01064.x

Lisk, T. C., Kaplancali, U. T., & Riggio, R. E. (2012). Leadership in Multiplayer Online Gaming Environments. Simulation & Gaming, 43(1), 133–149. doi:10.1177/1046878110391975

 

 

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Oct 09

No, you can’t use Google!

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Image source:http://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2013/01/29/01/02/google-76522_640.png

Is Google a bad word?  Is it a negative aspect of the Internet?  Do you use it?  How many times do you use Google or another search engine to help you solve a problem or answer a question?

The other day I was listening to a teacher, who I highly respect, talk excitedly about a class activity she was having her students participate in. The students were having to solve a problem where they were only able to use the materials in the bags given to them. The task at hand, to build a structure that stood in one circle but suspended some objects over other circles. It seemed like a great activity, one that would require problem solving.  Being the guy I am, I immediately asked if any of the groups used Google to look for a solution to the problem. The teacher said no and that even if a group wanted to she wouldn’t let them. My first response was, “Why?” We didn’t get into a conversation about this as we were beginning a meeting but it got me thinking.

In real life are we presented with tasks we cannot use the Internet to help us solve?  Shouldn’t the use of the Internet be used as a tool for learning?  Shouldn’t we train our students to be able to make use of the Internet in meaningful ways?  Shouldn’t students be trained to search for and find information, evaluate the information to check validity and then make use of it in some manner to assist in their own synthesis?

I am reminded of the article I read from Sugata Mitra where he states, “When they (students) complete their schooling and start a job, they are told to solve problems in groups, through meetings, using every resource they can think of. They are rewarded for solving problems this way – for not using the methods they were taught in school.”

If school is not going to teach students skills they need in the real world what will they teach them?

I think it is time to rethink what we are teaching. Students should be taught to use all resources available to solve problems not prohibited from their use.

Thanks for reading

Shannon

 

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/jun/15/schools-teaching-curriculum-education-google

 

 

 

 

 

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May 07

Mobile Devices and Blogging

I recently watched a video on the web about how to add a PDF to your blog post using an iPad. See link below. I must say, it was a fantastic way to add a PDF to a blog post. It worked! Thanks to Martin Ruthaivilivan for the excellent tip! Even though it works it is comprised of a convoluted mess of steps to actually get it on the blog and requires you to use Dropbox in order to make it work.

This got me thinking about how the same thing could be accomplished with another mobile device running the other operating system. Below are the steps I took.

Step 1: Create document in Quick Office or Kingsoft Office

Step 2: Save document

Step 3: export as PDF

Step 4: Login to my blog dashboard from any browser

Step 5: upload PDF into media library

Step 6: insert into post.

Here is my test PDF. Test document

Because Android gives the user access to a file management system, users are able to add documents to blogs directly without need of a third party cloud storage service.

As mobile devices continue to become a staple in education, and more institutions move towards BYOD, it is good to know that the major mobile operating systems have the means for young bloggers to share documents on their blogs. This is great news for students choosing blogs as a vehicle for their electronic portfolio.

Thanks for reading.

Shannon Doak

Link to video about how to put a PDF into your blog using an iPad

http://youtu.be/kEwp9JdUXBI

 

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Apr 13

Taking charge of your digital life

I am currently reading a book titled “Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator’s Guide to User-Generated Learning“. In this book I just read a story of a new high school teacher who had a negative online experience. Some students of hers posted a picture of her in the “Hot or Not” website and over time other students on campus began rating her. The school couldn’t do anything about it. She couldn’t erase it. If anyone searched for her name this site would come up in the search results.

This got me thinking about how important it is for educators these days to take charge of their own digital life and control how the world sees them on the Internet. Think about it, would you rather be the one posting things about yourself so that your digital appearance is positive, or would you rather leave it up to others to post whatever about you?

So how do you take control? Begin using social media for professional purposes. Tweet about great things your class is doing. Join professional groups on LinkedIn and join in the conversation. Share resources you find with others in Google +. Of course, the choice of social media tool is yours, so use what works best for you. If you have a continual, positive digital existence controlled by you, the way others perceive you when they search for information about you will also be positive. Don’t fear using social media for professional means, embrace it!

Thanks for reading

Shannon Doak

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Jan 07

Mobile devices in the classroom

Change is inevitable

In April of 2011 I wrote a blog post regarding the future devices of the classroom.

http://www.greentigercreations.com/intechgration/2011/04/11/the-future-devices-of-the-classroom/

Some time has passed and it is very clear that these devices, when used properly can help to make the learning environment more authentic.  It is becoming more apparent that these are the devices of choice for many schools.  The school I am currently employed at is 2:1 iPads beginning in preschool (aged 4) to grade 3.  We are also 1:1 in grade 4.

Back in 2011 there were several companies trying to enter the education market such as the school tablet called the Kineo.http://www.tabletpcreview.com/default.asp?newsID=1945&news=brainchild+kineo+tablet+school  The Brainchild Kineo was designed specifically for use in schools, it was supposed to have controls built in that would prevent students from downloading and running programs not meant to be used for instruction and was run about $300.  If you visit the Brainchild website now there seems to be no mention of the Kineo anywhere.  They now offer iPad software.

This might have to do with the fact that many people did and still do think that iPads were really the only option available for school who wanted tablets in the classroom.  This might change in the near future as Google is now making a push towards Android tablets in the educational environment.  Recently, Google Play for Education was released, http://www.google.com/edu/tablets/ . This is a clear push from Google to enter the education market.  It is worth a look too, in my opinion!  Considering price alone can make this move more feasible than going iPad, in schools that already have limited budgets. Starting at $229 it is hard to argue this point.   On the management side, it appears to be a much easier process as well.  In fact this is what most IT departments gripe about when they talk about iPads.  It is a pain to manage these things.  In a document about this program it states,

“Introducing tablets with Google Play for Education, the content destination
designed just for schools using Google’s classroom-ready 1:1 tablets. Tablets
with Google Play for Education give teachers access to approved tools and
content that help them meet the individual needs of today’s students.
Administrators experience easy deployment and management: set up a
classroom of tablets and content in just minutes.”

I am not saying the iPad is not a great tool for schools, on the contrary I think the opposite.  I have had experience with these devices in the learning environment and have seen how they motivate, inspire and empower students to do things they couldn’t before. I know that the iPad is a fantastic tool for learning.   I am a big believer in competition between technologies.  What I mean, is that when the competitor does something and it is noticed as a threat, then the other tech improves.  Competition basically spurs innovation and is in the long run better for consumers.  It is through this competition that the product will get better for all consumers.  This will ultimately have a positive effect on the types of apps created to make the functionality of the devices better.  This is a good thing for schools because as the tablets get better the possibilities for improving the educational environment also increase.

What about apps?

For now, the iPad offers a considerable amount of applications which are fantastic for use in schools and sadly, not available for Android.  Of course this might change in the future. At this moment in time the iPad offers students a better array of applications for creation.  Apps such as iMovie lack any real competition on the Android side of things.  Also apps such as PuppetPals, Sonic Pics and a slew of other digital story applications are also available for iPads and no equivalent for Android.

There are however several applications that are available on both platforms such a Explain Everything, iAnnotate, Animoby.  All fantastic apps available for both platforms.

No matter what platform your school has chosen, it is clear that mobile devices are the future device.  Checkout the websites below.

Great websites

http://android4schools.com/

http://ipadapps4school.com/

Thanks for reading

Shannon Doak

 

 

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Jan 07

Real Change in Practice Through Online Communities

I have just completed my first few courses for my Doctorate in Educational Technology from Boise State University.  The final project for my Emerging Trends in Educational Technology course was to write a literature review.  To do this I needed to read literature on a topic of my choice and synthesize what I read. The literature needed to be made up of a majority of peer reviewed articles but could also include other sources.

Introduction

The Internet and access to technologies which allow for connection to the Internet as well as other people are gradually becoming pervasive in society (Holmes, Preston, Shaw, & Buchanan, 2013).  The idea of learning is transforming in correlation with this change.  Richardson & Mancabelli (2011) state, “In fact you could say that at this moment, modern learning is shifting to the web”(p.3).  Easily accessible information, available through the Internet, has affected the role of teachers and raises questions regarding maintaining currency.  In line with shifts mentioned above, many web-based professional development (PD) opportunities now exist for teachers. These online learning environments take multiple forms, including online repositories of information, formal online courses, web-based communities, online learning networks, and online knowledge building networks (Laferrière, Lamon, & Chan, 2006).  These environments can be broken into two categories, formal and informal.  Informal online learning environments have a variety of forms including specially designed communities, self-generated communities (Hur & Brush, 2009), virtual worlds (Derby, 2008), social networking sites (Boyd & Ellison, 2007) and virtual office spaces (Havelock, 2004). These provide opportunities for teachers, to discuss areas of interest and improve their teaching practice.

Formal online learning environments have enabled teachers to obtain Master degrees and Doctorates. These programs are costly and take a considerable amount of time to complete (O’Shaughnessy, 2012).  Not all teachers can afford to participate in programs such as these, due to financial and time limitations.  Professionals attend formal workshops where information is gained but does not impact daily practice (Baker‐Doyle & Yoon, 2011). Schools and districts provide formal PD workshops where topics may not be relevant (Derby, 2008); there has to be a better way. Social media has played a large role in keeping educators connected to others they met at conferences or online.  These connections enhance their knowledge and help educators gain a greater understanding about their professional interests. Being a connected educator is seen as an important step for professional educators of the 21st century (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011).

Online learning environments are often constructivist in design and form, which influences people who use them to participate in the construction of knowledge (Anderson, 2011).   Other aspects of online learning, specifically in regards to informal learning networks, are supported by communities of practice (CoP) and social learning theory (Hur & Brush, 2009).  CoPs are groups of people who share interests and interact to share knowledge and expertise (Ranieri, Manca, & Fini, 2012). Recent technologies has allowed the creation of CoPs in a virtual environment (Hur & Brush, 2009). CoPs are supported by the social theory of learning.  Social learning theory views cognition in three ways, situated, social and distributed. These three ways support CoPs as the learning is situated in the community, learning is a social activity where the knowledge is spread across all participants.(Hur & Brush, 2009)  Online CoPs are environments where people gain new knowledge through reciprocal participation in a group that shares resources and ideas related to their profession (Hur & Brush, 2009).

This review will look at the different types of online environments which support teacher learning, why online learning environments are needed in this day, what effective PD looks like and ultimately which types of online learning will create most change in teacher practice. A short discussion about existing frameworks which could possibly assist the integration of formal and informal teacher PD will also be discussed.

Types of Online Learning Environments

The Internet provides many environments for learning.  These opportunities are broken into two distinct types based on the various iterations of the World Wide Web.   Technology used in both Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 can be connected to communication and learning (Gunawardena, et al. 2009).  Learning in Web 1.0 is considered formal and structured, top down controlled, content is created in a central location, use is scheduled and planned and created by experts (Gunawardena et al. 2009).  Example environments include online repositories of information, courses and programs, which provide more PD opportunities to teachers, formal online courses offered by universities, which allow for development as well as improved practice (Laferrière, Lamon, & Chan, 2006).

Learning in Web 2.0 is characterized as informal, collaborative, blended and grassroots controlled, content is created by users or experts recognized by the community (Gunawardena et al., 2009).  Example environments include web-based communities and online learning networks, which promote learning by sharing ideas and resources, online knowledge building networks, where teachers, administrators, researchers and students contribute to the community (Laferrière, Lamon, & Chan, 2006).

Both formal and informal online learning environments support teacher learning but why are they needed?  The next section of this paper intends to answer this question.

Why Online Environments?

The foundation to sustainable and transformative change in teacher practice is effective professional development (Holmes, Preston, Shaw, & Buchanan, 2013). This raises issues, especially in this technologically rich, digitally connected world, where most people who are currently teaching, were born before these technologies were available (Robinson, 2012).  The world is changing.  In How is Technology Transforming Education? 2012, Sir Ken Robinson states, “The digital tools available are changing the planet.”  He continues, these “technologies have changed the whole context of education.”  Educators traditional role as the sole source of knowledge has disappeared because of access to the Internet.  Holmes, et al. (2013) state, “The transmission model of teaching, common throughout the 20th century, is rapidly becoming archaic (p 55).” Educators today cannot ignore Web 2.0 (Albion, 2008). In fact,  the development of these essential skills will be an expectation of society (Albion, 2008). With these changes occurring, teacher PD that is continual will be required to maintain currency (Holmes, et al. 2013).  This raises questions regarding best practices in teacher PD in this transformative environment.  In the past, teacher PD consisted of face to face workshops (Holmes, Preston, Shaw, & Buchanan, 2013), which are expensive and require travel to participate (Sherer, Shea, & Kristensen, 2003).  Districts offer PD driven by policy makers, which teachers find do not meet their real needs (Derby, 2008). Research shows that while information regarding the art of teaching is gathered at these workshops, it is not where this information is shared, understood, organized, examined or sustained (Baker‐Doyle & Yoon, 2011). This is where online learning environments play an integral part and are considered viable means for supporting teacher professional development (Havelock, 2004), for they provide an online outlet to support individualized, relevant, professional learning and offer access to resources without limitations of location or monetary constraints (Booth, 2012).

Effective Professional Development

Before discussing which types of online learning environments support teacher PD best and allow for change in actual practice, the question regarding what type of PD is most effective needs to be considered. Teacher PD takes many forms, including face to face workshops, conferences, summer programs (Holmes, et al. 2013) and district initiated development opportunities which may not meet all teachers needs (Derby, 2008). Physical PD opportunities such as these, allow professionals to meet and form connections to one another but are expensive and require travel to participate (Sherer, et al. 2003).  These one off type gatherings may not be enough. Often these forms of PD do not offer enough time to effectively follow up or consolidate learning (Holmes, et al. 2013). Research shows that while teachers gain valuable information about their field at these workshops, it is not where this information is shared, understood, organized, examined or sustained (Baker‐Doyle & Yoon, 2011). In fact Sherer, Shea and Kristensen suggest, “They are not sufficient for today’s faculty, who are faced with massive information overload through the Internet (p. 184)”.   In order for teacher PD to be effective it needs to be continual, intense, related to teacher practice, directed towards learning and teaching of specific content, related to school initiatives and collaborative in nature (Gutierrez & Bryan, 2010). Another study suggests that teacher learning is best administered in a community of practice (Wenger, 1998).  In regards to teachers, the goal of the CoP is to provide continual, sustainable place for teacher learning (Parr, 2006). Online CoPs are environments where people gain new knowledge through reciprocal participation in a group that shares resources and ideas related to their specific professional area (Hur & Brush, 2009).  It is not the intention of this paper to suggest that formal PD options hold no place in teacher development but that they are not enough and more research needs to be conducted to suggest possible ways for the formal and informal learning modes to become integrated in order to support greater change in actual teacher practice.

How to support change in practice

Research has shown successful teacher professional development relies on continual support and interaction between educators (Hur & Brush, 2009). Another study suggests that teacher learning is best administered in a community of practice (Wenger, 1998).  Online CoPs allow for connection without need for travel and can be directly related to specific areas of expertise.  As stated by (Booth, 2012), “ Online communities create a new type of social space in which members can learn together across boundaries of time and place (p.4)”.  Based on these statements, online CoPs are able to offer professional development that can be continual, intense, related to teacher practice, directed towards learning and teaching of specific content, related to school initiatives and collaborative in nature as  (Gutierrez & Bryan, 2010) suggest.  Another study found, online CoPs are viable vehicles for teacher PD because they allow sharing of resources, the ability to reflect on teaching practice, knowledge gain in their subject from peers and improved lessons (Wang & Lu, 2012). This study further stated, the use of these types of online CoPs will, over time, transform the way teachers teach and improve the lessons they plan (Wang & Lu 2012). It appears from current research, that Web 2.0 type online learning communities have the greatest means of affecting actual teacher practice. This, however, is reliant on how successful the community is. Research states that in order for an online community to be successful, two things must exist, trust and knowledge sharing (Booth, 2012).  To do this, the community must establish guidelines which stipulate behavioral expectations, identify clear purpose, and provide opportunities for sharing of expertise (Booth, 2012).  Another aspect of technology-based knowledge sharing relies on how the user views the technology.  According to Hung & Cheng (2013), “however, a user’s subjective acceptance or rejection of the technology becomes the key factor in technology-based knowledge sharing (p.8).”  This raises a possible hurdle for the effectiveness of an online CoP.  If teachers perception of the technology being used for the CoP is in anyway considered too difficult or time consuming, this could affect its usefulness (Derby, 2008).   As a way to improve the amount of sharing occurring in the online CoP, Hung & Cheng, (2013) suggest, if one improves their ability to adapt to technology then the intention to share in a virtual community would also increase (Hung & Cheng, 2013).  Some studies found that one reason teachers did not participate was because the tool used required too much time or was perceived as not useful (Derby, 2008),(Parr, 2006).  Both these studies were based on specifically created teacher communities that did not take place in familiar online environments such a social networking sites.  According to (Brenner, 2013) 72% of online adults use social networking sites.  The use of social networking sites might provide the familiar tool that could improve the success of an online community.  The next section will discuss the use of Web 2.0 tools, including social networks, as a framework to assist the integration of formal and informal learning.

Best of both worlds: combining formal and informal learning

It is clear from the above discussion, one of the most effective means for improving teacher PD is to make use of online CoPs.  However, formal online and face to face learning are also viable means of PD.  There has to be a way to integrate what is learned in formal ways with the informal learning that takes place everyday. While research is slim in the area of integrating teacher formal and informal learning, several other studies have been conducted that could be applied to the area of teacher PD. Gunawardena et al. (2009), present a theoretical framework which depicts a spiral heading upwards beginning at context and ending with socially mediated metacognition as a CoP.  The framework includes these levels, context, discourse, action, reflection, reorganization and finally socially mediated metacognition (Gunawardena, et al. 2009). This theoretical framework is based upon Web 2.0 tools and helps to clarify the collaborative process of learning which takes place in the CoP through interaction of the members using social networking (Gunawardena, et al. 2009).  Zhao & Kemp (2012), offer a “Web 2.0-based workplace learning and training model” (p.240), where Web 2.0 tools are used as a means to integrate formal and informal learning in the workplace. While this model is not directly related to teacher PD, through analogy it could be applied in teacher training programs and professional development.   Dabbagh & Kitsantas, (2012),  present the idea of using Web 2.0 tools to create a personal learning environment (PLE).  The framework presents a PLE where self-regulated learning is supported by social media use (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012).  According to this framework, a PLE is managed and modified by the learner to fit their specific needs (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). Learning that takes place at conferences can now be shared with others in their PLE.  Because the teacher is the one in control of their own PLE, the PD obtained from it will be continual, intense, related to teacher practice, directed towards learning and teaching of specific content and collaborative in nature as Gutierrez & Bryan, (2010) suggest is effective PD.  More research in the use of PLEs for teacher PD is needed but it appears as one possible method for providing effective PD that will change teacher practice over time.

Conclusion

Change in the world has caused a shift in teacher PD from just face to face, to web-based opportunities, including formal online university courses, to informal social networks, where individuals connect to learn from each other.   Many professional development opportunities teachers are currently engaged in may not affect actual teaching practice.  Research has shown successful teacher professional development relies on continual support and interaction between the participants of the PD (Hur & Brush, 2009).  Online CoPs have been shown to support teacher learning through resource and knowledge sharing and have been shown to change practice over time.  Most of the studies in this review focus on online CoPs that have been created specifically for teachers and do not include already familiar social networking sites. While research in the area of integrating formal and informal teacher learning is slim, there exist several theoretical frameworks which could provide a foundation for further research in this area. Exploration into how a personal learning environment, using social media tools, to support teacher PD by integrating formal and informal learning would provide teachers more options for maintaining currency in their profession and would support a greater number of subjects.

References

Albion, P. R. (2008). Web 2.0 in teacher education: Two imperatives for action. Computers in the Schools, 25(3/4), 181–198. doi:10.1080/07380560802368173

Anderson, T. (2011). Networks, web 2.0 and the connected learner. In Robert A. Reiser & John V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd ed., pp. 299–308). Boston,  MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Baker‐Doyle, K. J., & Yoon, S. A. (2011). In search of practitioner based social capital: a social network analysis tool for understanding and facilitating teacher collaboration in a US‐based STEM professional development program. Professional Development in Education, 37(1), 75–93. doi:10.1080/19415257.2010.494450

Booth, S. E. (2012). Cultivating knowledge sharing and trust in online communities for educators. J. Educational Computing Research, 47(1), 1–31.

Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210–230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x

Brenner, J. (2013, August 5). Pew internet: social networking (full detail). Pew Internet:Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Commentary/2012/March/Pew-Internet-Social-Networking-full-detail.aspx

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

Derby, J. C. (2008). Applying online virtual worlds to informal professional development: A study of rural teachers participating in Second Life (Ph.D.). Walden University, United States — Minnesota. Retrieved from Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (UMI No. 3320290)

Gunawardena, C., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3–16. doi:10.1080/09523980802588626

Gutierrez, C., & Bryan, C. (2010). Online community becomes a pathway to teacher leadership. Journal of Staff Development, 31(1), 42–47.

Havelock, B. (2004). Online community and professional learning in education: Research-based keys to sustainability. AACE Journal, 12(1), 56–84.

Holmes, K., Preston, G., Shaw, K., & Buchanan, R. (2013). “Follow” me: Networked professional learning for teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(12). doi:10.14221/ajte.2013v38n12.4

How is Technology Transforming Education? Sir Ken Robinson Video Series from Adobe Education. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYk91jzv1jg&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Hung, S.-W., & Cheng, M.-J. (2013). Are you ready for knowledge sharing? An empirical study of virtual communities. Computers & Education, 62, 8–17. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.09.017

Hur, J. W., & Brush, T. A. (2009). Teacher participation in online communities : Why do teachers want to participate in self-generated online communities of K-12 teachers ? Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(3), 279–304.

Laferrière, T., Lamon, M., & Chan, C. K. K. (2006). Emerging e‐trends and models in teacher education and professional development. Teaching Education, 17(1), 75–90. doi:10.1080/10476210500528087

O’Shaughnessy, L. (2012, June 10). 12 reasons not to get a PhD. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/12-reasons-not-to-get-a-phd/

Ranieri, M., Manca, S., & Fini, A. (2012). Why (and how) do teachers engage in social networks? An exploratory study of professional use of Facebook and its implications for lifelong learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 754–769. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01356.x

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Understanding the power of PLNs. In Personal learning networks: using the power of connections to transform education (pp. 15–32). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Sherer, P. D., Shea, T. P., & Kristensen, E. (2003). Online communities of practice: A catalyst for faculty development. Innovative Higher Education, 27(3), 183–194. doi:10.1023/A:1022355226924

Wang, Q., & Lu, Z. (2012). A case study of using an online community of practice for teachers’ professional development at a secondary school in China. Learning, Media and Technology, 37(4), 429–446. doi:10.1080/17439884.2012.685077

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://ebooks.cambridge.org/ebook.jsf?bid=CBO9780511803932

Zhao, F., & Kemp, L. J. (2012). Integrating Web 2.0-based informal learning with workplace training. Educational Media International, 49(3), 231–245. doi:10.1080/09523987.2012.738015

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Nov 25

Hootsuite Posting to Social Media Sites

 

hootsuite

I have recently hooked up my blog to Hootsuite so that it will post to my social media presence automatically.  I got this information from this website.  http://techblog.tv/auto-post-to-google-plus-from-wordpress/

This is a test post to see if it works as it is supposed to.

 

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Mar 20

More Authentic Use of Technology

To continue on with my discussion of tablet computers in the educational environment started in my last blog post Authentic use of the iPads I would like to talk a little more about

Sample annotated image made with Skitch.

how some of the teachers have begun to use these tools in the classroom.  We have been very lucky this year to have 10 iPads available in the ES Library for teachers to check out and make use of to enhance the instructional activities that occur in their classrooms. The use of these iPads began with a few Grade 2 teachers checking them out and using them to have the kids create digital puppet shows about one of the current learner profiles.  As time progresses, it seems that the iPads, which we have made available to teachers in the library have been gaining popularity.  A few teachers in the 3rd Grade and a Chinese teacher have used them in connection with various learning activities.  In these activities, the iPad was used in the most authentic way as a tool to help in the learning process and was not used just because of the “Tech” aspect of it.

In 3L, Mrs. Livingston’s class, the students were studying about glaciers. To make the

Miniature mountains with model glaciers on top

study more authentic, they actually made miniature glaciers using water sand and pebbles mixed together in milk cartons and then frozen.  The students placed these glaciers on miniature mountains made out of sand.  As the glaciers melted and moved, depositing the rocks and sand, the students made use of the iPads as cameras to take pictures of these changes and recorded information in a journal.  Later, the students used Skitch to annotate the images with words, boxes and arrows.  They then used these annotated images in a scientific report about the experiment.

In 3G, Ms. Greer’s class, the students deepened their understanding of angles they have been studying by using the iPads to take pictures of angles they found in the real world.

A right angle found in the real world!

The children then used Skitch to annotate these images with arrows highlighting the angle and words telling the degree of the angle.

In Ms. Lei’s 5th Grade non-background Chinese class, the students used the iPads to create digital stories using Puppet Pals.  These stories made use of the various sentence structures, grammar rules and vocabulary they had just been studying.  The Puppet Pal app gave the student’s a chance to create a digital environment with characters and backgrounds they had complete control over.  This digital environment allowed them to take the various language aspects they had been studying and apply them to a fictional, but life like conversation.  Not only was this use of the iPads an authentic way for them to show what they have learned it also created more motivation and spurred better results.

In Grade 1, the students have begun using Sonic Pics to record “How To” videos from books they had already created.  These videos served as an introduction to the apps they will be using in their next unit about plants.   The Grade 1 teachers want to make use of the iPads in their room just as they would any other tool.  When the kids are doing plant-growing experiments, they will use the camera on the iPad to record the growth of the plant.  These images, combined with their written notes, will be used later on as a part of their summative assessment, an informative digital brochure about what they have learned about plants and their needs.

Below, I have included more examples of student work.  I hope you enjoy looking at them.

Thanks for reading

Shannon Doak, ICT Facilitator

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Jan 15

Authentic use of the iPads.

When you mention iPads in the classroom you will invariably get many differing opinions.  Since there is very little research to back up the use of tablet computers in the classroom you will undoubtedly find many who are against their use at this time, saying that they are a fad.  This, in my opinion, is far from the truth.  Tablets hold a very important place in the

Grade 1 students use Google Earth to learn about “Gestures” on the iPad.

educational environment, especially in the Elementary school as the user interface is much more intuitive than that of the normal computer.  In this case, students are naturally more able to use these devices and can, in my experience, learn how to use them without much assistance from the teacher.  Of course, more research is needed in this area to back up  my claims.  However, I do see a future for tablets in schools and am interested in learning as much as I can.

Many people, when told that a classroom has iPads, immediately think that they are used as a skill and drill type of activity.  While this may be the case in many instances, the iPads are much more capable of more authentic activities where the students use it to actually create.

Recently, the Grade 1 teachers have begun collaborating with Mr.Doak in a way, which will help teachers and students make use of the iPads in their room in more meaningful ways.  It began when Mr. Doak discussed with the teachers that he would like to move away from bringing the Grade 1 students into the lab for “Tech” time and would like to focus on the fantastic tools they have in their room.  They decided that it would be a good idea to have a team teaching “model” lesson, where the technology tool was used, just like any other tool, when it was needed, not because it was “Tech” time.

To begin this process, Mr.Doak had to explain to the students why we were doing this.  When asked if they went to a special room to use a pencil during math time, they all laughed.  When asked if they were ready to write, but it wasn’t “paper” day, did they not write, they all giggled and said, “No!”  It was easy for them to understand that the iPad was just like these other learning tools and should be used like the others, when they, the students, needed them, not because it was “iPad” time.

Puppet Pals Screenshot

An application that allows students to create digital puppet shows.

The students have planned a puppet show centered on a celebration they celebrate at home.  They are made a detailed plan and created storyboards.  They then used regular materials to create backgrounds and puppets.  After all the materials were done they used the iPads to digitize their backgrounds and puppets.  Once digitized, they used Puppet Pals to create digital puppet shows that were saved as a movie file.  Everyone is excited about this authentic use of technology.

Some examples of these puppet shows can be seen below.

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Thanks for reading

Mr. Doak

 

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Oct 19

Flattening the World One Classroom at a Time.

The Flat Classroom® Project is a global collaborative project that joins together students from around the globe. According to the Flat Classroom® Project “One of the

Grade 4 students posting to Edmodo.

main goals of the project is to ‘flatten’ or lower the classroom walls so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, 2 or more classes are joined virtually to become one large classroom. The project is designed to develop cultural understanding, skills with Web 2.0 and other software, experience in global collaboration and online learning, awareness of what it means to live and work in a flat world, while researching and discussing the ideas developed in Friedman’s book.”

At the end of September, the 4th Grade classes began their participation in the Flat Classroom® Project known as A Week in the Life. In this project the students will cover the following essential questions:

  1. What are the similarities and differences among children around the world?
  2. How can we connect with each other through our commonalities?
  3. How does your geography where you live impact your topic?

What is most noteworthy about this project is that the students will work in groups of kids from different schools to research on a week in the life of children in thier schools around the following topics:

  • School time
  • Languages & Clothing
  • Housing & Transportation
  • Leisure time
  • Holidays & Celebrations

They will then make a collaborative project demonstrating their learning to others in the project. They will do this using various on and offline tools. One of these tools is the online collaborative tool and social networking platform known as Edmodo. Each class has begun the process by putting together a classroom “handshake” which was shared with other participants on Edmodo (see video below). What is great about this project is that it helps our students make more meaningful use of the technology already provided at AISG.

More information regarding this project can be found at the following URL http://aweekinthelife.flatclassroomproject.org/

The Flat Classroom idea has spread in the Elementary school and the Middle school, with

Looking at a Twitter feed by the United Nations regarding water conflicts.

5th Grade and a Middle School class are entering the Eracism project. This project is on an online debate about the following debate topic “Global management of natural resources will cause conflict between cultures”. Various tools are also used in this project but the main collaborative tool used is Voice Thread.

More information can be found about this program at the following URL http://eracism.flatclassroomproject.org/

It is great to see that our 1:1 laptop initiative is beginning to move towards deeper levels of integration. Way to go AISG!

The other Grade 4 classroom handshakes can be seen at the following URLs

http://video.aisgz.org/media/4b-handshake

http://video.aisgz.org/media/handshakeflv

Thanks for reading

Shannon Doak.

sdoak@aisgz.org

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