Contributing to My Own and Other’s Professional Learning Networks

Stepping out of your comfort zone. One of the most effective and impactful ways to grow. Stepping out of your comfort zone in any area of life can have an immediate and/or long-lasting impact on your future. It might open new doors, create new opportunities, or give you the chance to meet new people. An example of this in my life, is when I took my summer job with Regina Downtown Business Improvement District last summer. It was a job that wasn’t necessarily aimed towards education students and it involved tasks and an area of the city I was unfamiliar with. I ended up taking a chance and doing to job. It ended up being one of the best summers of my life and, because they discovered my background with graphic design, they offered me a Social Media, Marketing, and Graphic Design position with them this year. If I hadn’t have taken that leap, my life would look very different right now.

This impact is no different when it comes to our own Professional Learning Network we developed during this semester. Throughout this course, we were tasked to establish and largely develop our own network through various platforms that would serve us well in our future teaching career. To do this, we set up our own ePortfolios, ran our own blogs, used Twitter as a professional resource, used Slack as a class community, and interacted with our peers from our class in various different ways. Going into EDTC 300, I had heard so many great things about the course and the opportunities, skills, and resources it has to offer. I knew that I would at some point join this class, but I’m sure glad it happened this early on. I feel as though I’m now a step ahead when it comes to knowledge of online tools, technology integration into schools, and of course the development of our own Professional Learning Network. In our lectures, we discussed how well a PLN can serve you and the different ways it can impact your professional development. We discovered that it is a great way to share and find resources or lesson plans, it’s a great way to meet and learn from other educators and other in the field, it is a great way to show off your own personal set of skills and ideas, it is a great way to keep up with the latest trends and current events, it is a great place to find new tools to use in your classroom, and it is a great way to show your own personal growth as an educator and as a professional.

Now, the purpose of this post it to demonstrate how I have developed my own Professional Learning Network, and how I have contributed to the learning of others as well during the duration of this course. In this course, we worked on three main platforms, which included our ePortfolios/Blogs, Slack, and Twitter.

Our ePortfolios and blogs was, by far, the space where I put in the most time and effort. As the semester carried on, I started to realize just how important that space could become. We started to discuss how it could become a space to hold all our collected resources and lesson plans, and that it even could become another version of a resume for us in the future. So, I made sure to develop a professional and in-depth blog, as well as always made sure that I was writing insightful and substantial posts. You never know who made read it one day. However, another reason why I focused on this platform is because of the opportunity it brought when interacting with others. I found the EDTC 300 Blog hub so helpful this semester. I made it very easy to find others posts and blogs, where I could then comment or “steal” ideas from the resources and lesson plans they provided. In terms of commenting, I was reluctant at first to put myself out there like that. I have never been good at giving comments, and I always ended up saying the same thing. But I knew it was necessary for others learning and my own, so I challenged myself to always continually engage with my peers. In one of the lectures, it was suggested we make around 2 comments a week, however I knew the more I commented, the more beneficial it would be. So, I usually tried to comment at least 3 times a week, if not more, on other people’s posts. Now there were some weeks where I couldn’t comment as much as I had hoped simply because I did not have the time, which is crazy to think because we are living through a pandemic. Therefore, when I did post on someone else’s blog, I made sure to make it count. I always tried to make it insightful, thoughtful, and helpful to both of our learning. I tried to touch on the points that stood out most to me, I tried to ask questions where possible, and on some occasions, I tried to give them ideas or suggestions on things they could think about or resources they could look for. Below are a few examples of comments I made on other’s blogs. If you’d like to see all the comments I made this semester, click this document link: EDTC 300 Peer Responses

Comment made on Hannah Magnusson’s post, “Looking Into the Future of Teaching”

Comment made on Tamantha Kirsch’s post, “Finding my Place on Twitter”

Comment made on Brianne Munro’s post, “I Tube, We Tube, YOUTUBE”

Comment made on Mikaela Deguzman’s post, “Does Silence Really Speak Louder Than Words”

Comment made on Caitlin Kendall’s post, “Back to the Basics”

 

Now, the one platform used in this class that I didn’t overly utilize was Slack. I’ll fully admit, I could have been, and probably should have been much more active on that platform than I already was. It seemed like a really great resource and a great tool to help establish a class community. It seemed like it had great resource sharing functions and had various helpful ways to ask other questions. It was one of those tools that could have been very beneficial to the development of others and our own PLN’s. However, I think the reason I did not utilize it as much is because it seemed so similar to other platforms we were already using, and I always forgot I could be sharing things on it because I was too invested into the other platforms. To me, it seemed like another version of Twitter, that was just “less” online and only confined to our class. The only difference I saw is that we could ask question so that only our class could see. But for me, all my questions I had throughout the semester seemed to be asked/answered by other people on one of the three resources or in the class itself. The only thing I used Slack for was to ask our Instructor Katia a few questions to trouble shoot some problems I was having with my blog. So, I admit, Slack seemed like a pretty great resource, and I fully understand I should have utilized it more than I did. But it definitely helped my own learning because I was always sure to keep up with other’s comments on there. I should have just made more comments myself.

The last platform we heavily relied on during the duration of this class this semester was Twitter. This was another platform that I tended to focus on more in this class. As I stated in my Twitter Blog post earlier this semester, I never really thought of Twitter as a professional and educational tool. To me, it was just another social media app that people used. Before this spring, I had only played around with Twitter for about half an hour and became very uninterested very easily. For me, it was just another version of Instagram or Facebook but without pictures to break up the stories. However, as we started to use it in this class, I started to realize it’s potential. It became a great resource for me, and I realize just how much interaction and resource sharing that can happen on the platform. The Saskedchat certainly helped me realize that from the get-go. I was able to find so many great resources from my peers in this class and I was able to meet and follow a bunch of other educators from all across Canada. All of a sudden, I was interacting and sharing with teachers from coast to coast, which would have never happened if we didn’t have the opportunity to use this platform. As for my contribution to the learning of others, I always made an effort to help out my peers. We were originally recommended to do at least two tweets a day, however I quickly realized the benefits this could bring to my own and other’s PLN’s, so I challenged myself to share, retweet, or comment at least 4 or 5 times a day. That happened most days. On twitter, I made sure to comment on classmates’ posts and either give my own thoughts and/or thank them for sharing the resource. I would also share my own set of resources and other interesting articles that I either found on feedly or twitter. These resources always varied in topics, but they usually revolved around promoting new technological tools for education, or how different situations like this global pandemic will affect the future of schooling. I also made an effort to retweet my classmates’ posts that I found very interesting. Our class was able to collect so many great resources, so I made sure to share some of them so others could use them as well. Then the last thing on twitter was promote my own blog and learning project, which definitely increased the traffic and comments on my ePortfolio and posts. Overall, twitter was a really great resource. It helped myself and my peers interact and share with one another and helped us find new people and resources that we can stay connected with as we start our careers. Below are a few examples of the tweets and interactions I had on Twitter this semester. If you want to see my other tweets not included in this post, check out my twitter profile @mojobray20.

Overall, the discussions we had in class, the resources and platforms we used, and the interactions we created amongst peers was very beneficial to our learning. Not only did it help me find resources and other people to grow my own Professional Learning Network, but it also taught me how to contribute to the PLN’s of others as well. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone, out of my own bubble, and gave me the necessary push to share, interact with, and help the others around me. Those are skills that I can now carry with me going forward. I plan to continue those interactions and to further develop my own Professional Learning Network and ePortfolio in the future.

Graphic Design Learning Project Wrap-Up

Wow! Did this semester fly by! Even though it was only like six weeks long, the amount of activities we completed always kept me working and on task. For the semester in EDTC 300, we were required to do a couple different things. Firstly, we began to establish our own Professional Learning Network, where we blogged, tweeted, and commented on others work in order to build a large network of peers, resources, and comments that we could use later as a part of our own future teaching practices and identity.

However, another assignment we were required to do throughout this semester, was to pick a skill or learning project of our choice, and continually attempt to learn as much as we could about it, while finding a variety of teaching resources and tools to document our progress at the same time. For my learning project, I chose to do Graphic Design.

Now my learning project was a little different from others for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it steered away from the “Traditional” skills you have seen others do in this class. While there was a few of the same learning projects this semester, I didn’t see anyone else, this semester or in past examples, do a project on graphic design, logo creation, and digital art. I was proud that I was able to find something unique. The second reason why my project was so different is because it was very time consuming but hard to document. Unlike others who might be able to sit down and do a recording of their performance in one sitting, my project had certain aspects that may have took 4-6 hours to complete for just one week. Then on top of that, it was hard to figure out how to document it, as I couldn’t simply record myself doing something. I had to figure out how to record my screen for long periods of time and then shrink that footage down from hours to a few minutes. The last reason why my learning project was different from others is because I’ve had a pretty extensive background with the skill already. Previous to this project, I have established graphic design as a personal hobby and actually run my own small business called “Mojo Designs.” Although, some may think that is cheating, and that this was an opportunity to try something completely new, I saw it differently. I saw this project as an opportunity to grow in a skill I enjoy and in a skill that is necessary for the things I do. I figured it would be an enjoyable experience for me and that it would help me grow my own business.

Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I believe I made very good progress. Now let’s recap my journey and discuss the resources and main things I can take away from a project like this.

Project Recap

Week 1 – (Re)Introduction into Graphic Design

  • Introduction to my chosen skill
  • Inspiration for the project
  • Established my baseline/starting point for my already existing skills
  • Established my plan and goals for the project

Week 2 – Intro to Adobe Illustrator and Exploring Gradients

  • Downloaded and Launched a professional design program; Adobe Illustrator
  • Followed multiple YouTube tutorials educating me on the different functionalities of illustrator including the toolbar, workspaces, and artboards
  • Followed another YouTube tutorial on exploring and creating gradients within shapes and lines
  • Created a quick illustration using gradient and blending techniques

Resources: “A Beginners Guide to Adobe Illustrator” by Gareth David Studio, “Graphic Design: Fluid: Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop” by Creatnprocess

Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator

Week 3 – Creating Vector Elements and Exploring Design & Colour Theory

  • Explored the meaning, functionality, and applications of Colour Theory
  • Explored the meaning, functionality, and applications of Design Theory
  • Created a Vlog Style video demonstrating my understanding of Colour and Design Theory
  • Signed up for an account on SkillShare and began research Graphic Design Courses
  • Found a vector drawing course on SkillShare and used it as guidance and inspiration to create my own avatar based off of my Mojo Designs logo

Resources: “What is Design Theory? The Only Guide You Need” by Oliver Stevenson, “The Fundamentals of Understanding Colour Theory” by Kris Decker, and “Creating Vector Avatars in Adobe Illustrator” by Xenia Sorokina

Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator, iMovie, Youtube, SkillShare

Week 4 – Exploring Loom Screencasting and More Vector Illustrations

  • Found a new screencasting tool called Loom
  • Explored the various functions of Loom and critiqued it’s pros and cons
  • Found a course on SkillShare and used it as guidance to create a cartoon style plane and background in Illustrator, and also critiqued the course’s pros and cons
  • Combined inspiration from the SkillShare course, the screencasting of Loom, and video editing with iMovie to create a timelapsed video of my process drawing the plane illustration

Resources: “Digital Illustration” by Moy Lobito

Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator, iMovie, Loom Screencasting, YouTube, SkillShare

Week 5 – Creating Wallpapers and Backgrounds in Adobe illustrator

  • Explored the creation of wallpapers and backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator
  • Found two courses on SkillShare, one for creating landscape backgrounds and another for creating patterned wallpapers, and also critiqued the course’s pros and cons
  • Created two landscape backgrounds
  • Used another screencasting tool called Screencast-o-matic to screencast my process when creating the two landscape backgrounds, then used iMovie to shrink it down into a timelapse
  • Created one patterned wallpaper design, drawing inspiration from my hometown history

Resources: “Landscape Background Vector Design” by Jestoni Esteban, and “Digital Illustration: Design a Wallpaper Using a Repeating Pattern” by Sergio Ribero

Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator, iMovie, Screencast-o-matic, YouTube, SkillShare

Week 6 – Exploring the Logo Creation Process

  • Researched and explored the professional process in logo creation
  • Explained my history with logo creation and the clients I have previously worked with
  • Found two courses on SkillShare made by professional graphic designers that explained their own approach to logo creation, giving step by step guidance on the process
  • Found an article that also gave guidance and approaches to logo creation
  • Using a combination of tips and tricks from the three resources, created my own new and improved logo creation process and attempted to create a variety of logos for our class, EDTC 300
  • Showed the most important steps of my creative process and displayed the final product as an individual logo, an app, a phone wallpaper, and a desktop wallpaper

Resources: “The Full Logo Design Process” by Lindsay Marsh, “Logo Design” by Faye Brown, and “The Logo Design Process: A Guide to Professional Logo Development” by Matt Ellis

Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator, SkillShare

Week 7 – Learning Project Wrap-Up

  • Recap of my learning project journey
  • Explanation of the resources used
  • Explanation of the takeaways of online learning
  • Concluding thoughts on the project and assignment

Resources Used

Throughout this learning project, it was my goal to find quite a few useful tools that I could take advantage of, not only to improve my graphic design skills, but also to use in my own future classroom. After all, this is an educational technology class. So in my mind, the point of this project was to not only demonstrate how online learning can be, but also demonstrate how ourselves as educators can create and share online content for our future students. I believe the tools I was able to use for this learning project help me in both of these ways. Although, my learning project was one that was difficult to document, I think the tools I ended up using were very beneficial. Using screencasting tools such as Loom or Screencast-o-matic will greatly benefit my future teaching practices. Who knows, maybe that’s how we are going to teach part of the time in the future. Knowing how to record myself and my activities on my screen not only help me create cool videos and fancy timelapses for my design pages, but it will also be a helpful skill to have if I need to teach a lesson or tutor a student in that way. Even skills such as running a blog and upload videos to YouTube, helped my effectively show my own learning progress and it will help me integrate new lesson ideas and activities into my future teaching as well. Now, as for the resources I found that helped me learn, I believe a found a few useful ones as well. SkillShare for example is such a huge online community, and holds many great courses for different skills. It helped me get professional advice to help improve my graphic designing skills. In terms, of its use in the classroom, you may choose to show its videos in your own class, or you may choose to watch the videos yourself to acquire specific skills which you can then reteach your kids on your own terms. In my opinion, and resource such as SkillShare may be for more high school aged students and for specialty classes such as Home Ec, Shop, Photography, or any other Applied Arts classes.

Takeaways from Online Learning

  • Convenience and Flexibility
    • Online learning is unique in a way that it is a source of education that works around your life. For myself, I was able to do this learning project whenever I had free time and had motivation to sit at my computer and learn some designing. Although there are online learning methods that require certain times during the day, there’s a lot of option and tools out there for students to work their learning around their own agendas and schedules. This advantage might actually help kids become motivated and involved more than normal because they can learn when they want and on their own terms.
  • Affordable with More Options
    • Another advantage of online learning is that it is so broad and huge that it can fit the needs of practically anyone. As long as they have the tools to access the internet, they have the ability to learn and explore using a variety of tools resources and programs. For this learning project, I was able to find teaching resources and use a variety of documentation tools from a large variety of options, and I was able to base my decisions on my own access and financial abilities. This advantage will be very helpful for students, as the possibilities become “virtually” endless.
  • Self-paced
    • Another advantage of online learning is that it can be done at speeds most comfortable with certain individuals. Similar to what I stated previously about flexibility, online learning can be beneficial for those who like to work at their own pace. For my learning project, I found it enjoyable to choose how fast and how advanced I made my own learning on a week to week basis. For those students who feel pressured within the classroom or on tight time constraints, online learning would help them greatly reduce that stress.
  • Unpredictable Schedules
    • The flip side of online learning being flexible and self-paced, is that it can involve unpredictable schedules. During this learning project, I was unable to commit to a strong week to week routine where I’d complete my weekly learning project post on the same day. I found it somewhat frustrating that I would have it done on Friday one week, then done on Monday night the next week. For students who thrive on advanced and predictable schedules, online learning might become stressful and frustrating for them.
  • Individual Access to Tech
    • Another issue with online learning is individuals’ access to technology and the internet. Personally, even though I have the technology to complete these tasks, I was once in the shoes of someone who didn’t, and I also know the feeling of having poor internet connection. This made things like zoom calls, research, and uploading to YouTube a frustrating task. For students who have poor internet like me, or don’t have any adequate form of technology at all, online learning might become stressful, frustrating, or they might miss out on its opportunities completely.
  • Fun and Interactive
    • Another advantage of online learning is that it can be very fun and interactive. Since students take more responsibility for their own learning, it can become a more enjoyable experience for them. Furthermore, it has increased opportunities for interactions and involvement. There are more methods to collaborate with others, and it may even give less confident students the opportunity to chat and discuss their ideas with peers.
  • Distractions and Obstacles
    • However, because it is fun, interactive, uses the freedom of technology, and is based from home, online learning can also be full of distractions and obstacles. Students may either find themselves losing focus and doing other activities on their devices or in their home, or for another reason they become frustrated with online learning and lack “in-person” advice and assistance.
  • Comfortable Learning Environment
    • Lastly, another advantage of online learning is that it occurs in a comfortable learning environment. Instead of students learning the same information in uncomfortable and intimidating classrooms or lecture halls, they can accomplish the same tasks and learning the same material from the comfort of their own home. This may help increase engagement, comprehension, and willingness to complete tasks.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed this learning project. I thought it was such a unique and fun assignment to complete. It was a really different but enjoyable experience directing our own learning. Throughout this course, with the help of this learning project, and with the help of class discussions, I was able to find so many resources and tools that will not only help me continue with my learning of Graphic Design, but they will also help me with my own future teaching practices. I think my generation of teachers will be the generation of “Tech Teachers.” We grew up with it as a part of our lives, so it will be even easier for us to take that chance, that leap, and use it in our own classrooms. I believe education is moving in a digital direction, regardless, so it will give us even more initiative to integrate these tools. I had so much fun with this project, and it was such a nice change in scenery from the typical papers and exams. I posted each one of my artworks and illustrations from this project on my Mojo Designs Pages, and I was always sure to write #unicanbefun in the caption. That hashtag right there sums up my view of this assignment, my progress, and the benefits that came with such a project.

Learning the Digital Language: The Integration of Coding in Education

When it comes to a traditional Canadian Education, most people associate school with the typical subjects such as Mathematics, Social Studies, English Language Arts, and the variety of Science courses available at any given institution. However, as we know, the look, feel, and experience of schools are beginning to shift. This shift began with the invention of digital technology. Teachers and students now have the ability to learn and interact in new, unimaginable ways. Classrooms no longer use chalk boards but use smart touch screens instead. Furthermore, not all schools require paper report cards to be sent home as many have the ability to do it through email or online. Years ago, these opportunities would have seemed like something out of a movie. However, those opportunities are now our reality. Technology usage in classrooms has increased dramatically the last few years, and we will probably see an even bigger spike once this Global Pandemic is over. As schools become more and more technologically involved, the classes, subjects and activities they offer are bound to change.

One of those new opportunities include the exploration of computer coding, which has become a fundamental skill alongside math and reading. Coding is described as the process of using a programming language, such as HTML or Java, to get a computer to behave how you want it to. Within a code, every line has a specific function and tells the program or computer to behave in a certain way. As we discussed in lecture, coding is essential the “language” of computers and computer software.

Source

Now, for our task this week, we were to explore a code building website that could be used in our future classrooms such as Scratch or Codecademy. For me, this was a very enjoyable experience because I had actually had a lot of experience coding in High School. I was actually able to take Computer Science, which was by far one of the most enjoyable class I took in School. In that class we built our own websites, with links to blogs and “About Me” pages, which when I think back, is very similar to how we are using our ePortfolios now. The only difference was, instead of using a website building tool such as WordPress or Weebly, we built all of the same things line by line in code. I remember it being a lot of work, but it was very enjoyable and rewarding to see it all come together. In that same class, we also played around with Scratch and built our own full video games. I remember the variety of games that came out of that assignment. There were alternate versions of Super Mario, Space Invaders, Frogger, etc. Personally, I built a sports style game based off of Quidditch from Harry Potter. Thinking back, I realize how those assignments perfectly show the opportunities for creativeness and critical thinking that can come along with coding in school.

Source

As for my task this week, I decided to hop back on Scratch and make a small game. For the purpose of this blog, I simply followed a given tutorial and created a small chase game shown below. After that I played around with the program a bit and created another pong style game, which ended up having a few glitches and did not work very well. Overall however, I really enjoyed getting a glimpse back into coding. It reminded me how fun it can be and how beneficial it can be for students to learn in school. There are so many possibilities for learning involved in an activity like this.

Here’s the link to my “Jurassic Parrot” mini game: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/403913654/

Speaking of benefits, I truly believe activities such as coding should be more involved in education there are so many good things that can come out of it for students. While doing some research for this post, I came across an article written by Dr Thierry Karsenti titled, “12 Reasons to Learn Coding At School.” This article gave many insightful points and stated how coding is critically important, both educationally and socially, for students to learn. Additionally, of course, it also stated 12 reasons why students should learn to code. These included but were not limited too..

  • increased academic motivation
  • acquisition of mathematical skills
  • ability to problem solve, acquisition of computer skills
  • development of autonomy
  • teamwork/collaboration/mutual assistance
  • development of critical thinking
  • improved self-esteem and sense of competence
  • development of creativity
  • ability to find information
  • increased resilience in the face of challenges
  • and enhanced reasoning, organization, and planning skills.

In my research I also came across another great article titled, “Simple Ways to Incorporate Coding in Enrichment Classes” which was written by Ashley Blackwelder. In this article, the author states how coding can even be integrated into many different subjects other than ones like computer science. The author states that there’s potential for it to even be integrated into visual art, and music because it’s another method to produce those mediums and it harnesses the creativity that are essential for those classes.  Another example of the potential benefits coding offers.

One more resource that I would like to share from my research is a PDF file that lists 11 Apps that will help you teach students how to code. This document, which was put together by Thierry Karsenti and Julien Bugmann, brings forth the idea that if students learn how to code, that means they understand something about the world that surrounds us and that they are somewhat more prepared to occupy it. They also state a good point that technology is everywhere and isn’t going away so we should at least teach our kids how it works. In the document, the apps they chose to include are, Swift Playgrounds, Scratch/Scratch Jr., Tickle, Tynker, Kodable, Cargo Bot, Lightbot/Lightbot Jr., Move the Turtle, Hopscotch, Robot School, and Code.org.

Overall, I am a full supporter of bringing coding into the classroom. I think it has many extra benefits for students and I also think it is essential for kids to explore technology in a digital world. As we’ve been saying in class, if kids learn how to effectively and responsibly use tech now, they’ll be better off when they reach the digital world in the future.