Blogging, tweeting and being a #PGCE student

This post forms part of a blogging carnival organised by Danny Nicholson. I haven’t taken part in a blog carnival, but I really liked the idea (and seems a good way to thank Danny for the inspiration I get from his whiteboard blog).

I am a primary PGCE student. Before I started my transformation into a teacher, I worked in educational technology, particularly the field of plagiarism detection. I started blogging for my EdTech work and due to the reflective nature of teacher training seemed natural to carry on. I had thought I would put my weekly course reflections here, but in fact I’ve discovered that much of my reflection as a trainee feels distinctly personal and so I’ve been selective in what I have shared publicly. My experiences as a learner (see the perils of electronic note taking as an example) have had quite an effect on me. The course has made me consider the nature of learning and how uncomfortable it can be to recognise that you don’t understand something.

My personal learning network is massively important to the way I learn. The people I follow provide support, inspiration, encouragement and challenge me to reflect on my learning. Serendipitous discovery through twitter is an amazing way to find out things you didn’t know you needed to know (like this fabulous list of blog post prompts for teachers from Alec Couros @courosa). My PLN give me feedback on my understanding and interpretation of everything from teaching theorists to assessment for learning. I have shared reliance on twitter with my fellow students.  I am organising a TeachMeet  with Josie Fraser, which I never would have dreamt was possible whilst I was still a PGCE student.


I’ve been thinking about using different online tools with children in my next teaching placement. One idea is a to use! as way of curating sources of information and posing questions for children to hunt for the answers from the links. I’ve started with some ideas for the Terrible Tudors, I’d love to hear how other people are using! in the classroom.


Why I’m going to TeachMeet Midlands #tmm11

I work at Leicester University promoting the use of eLearning to academic staff and students in the School of Biological Sciences, most of my research has been in the area of plagiarism and it’s electronic detection, so why am I going to TeachMeet Midlands this weekend?

Most of the people that read this blog will already know why, it’s because I’ve finally had my place on the Upper Primary PGCE course at Leicester University confirmed and I’ll be starting a new life as a trainee teacher in September. I’ve been using twitter since late 2007 and it has long been an invaluable tool. It provides access to a wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom from a network of enthusiastic, passionate people that stimulate and challenge me every day. I can’t imagine being a teacher without it, so I’m starting as I mean to go on and taking the opportunity to build my teaching twitter network as soon as I can. I’ll definitely need all the support and encouragement I can get, I’ve lots of skills to bring to teaching, but I’ve even more skills to learn and put into practice. I would love to hear if you have a teacher you follow that particularly inspires you, let me know in the comments,  or via a tweet @jobadge.

I’m also coming to try and pick up some practical tips from real practitioners and start to think about what sort of teacher I would like to be. Why did you decide to come to TeachMeet Midlands?

PLE evolution part 4

What started as an exercise to show students what a personal learning environment was has turned into a way of me tracking how I interact with people and information online. I’ve commented on the evolution of my PLE before but I thought it would be worth expanding on it for a meeting we have coming up next week.

This is how my PLE has evolved over the last two years.

PLE in Jan 2008
PLE in Jan 2008

then twitter came long and changed everything, by July 2008, twitter crept in

PLE in July 2008
PLE in July 2008

 Then by the end of 2008, twitter was becoming more central to everything I was doing.

PLE in December 2008
PLE in December 2008

Flock was one of the main ways I kept track of lots of sites and services, but I stopped using it earlier this year when it stopped auto-updating and broke horribly. Looking at my PLE today (december 2009) I think it has become more refined and is beginning to reflect the different audiences I communicate with online. Facebook is isolated in this diagram as I took a decision over the summer to keep this for friends and family, with only a few work colleagues in my friends list. Just as I have a twitter community and a friendfeed community, facebook has developed as a third space.

The other main difference which has influenced my PLE this year, is the use of an iPod Touch. With wifi at home and work, mobile apps for twitter, modile access to friendfeed and services like evernote have changed and probably extended the way that I interact with these services.

PLE in December 2009
PLE in December 2009


I was introduced to SocialToo by a direct message from a new person I followed today.

We have a couple of projects running at the moment using Twitter for support or for creating networks (smallworlds and PLEs) and having struggled with ways to keep track of new people signing up to the service at the beginning of each project and automated way to do this would be great.

SocialToo allows you automatically send a DM with a message (written by you) to anyone who follows you and can be set to automatically follow them back. This was the first time I had had a DM from someone I had followed and it made me feel all warm and happy and wanted, especially as David followed it up with a DM of his own asking me something simple about my work based on my twitter profile statement. Very smart, great way to build a network.

I could see this working with our students, if they have just signed up to twitter and accepted the default settings, a DM would generate an email to them, pulling them back to twitter and it would be a personal contact.

You can only associate one twitter account with each socialtoo account, so haivng created multiple twitter identities for our different audiences, we would need matching social too accounts. Having said that, it is a one shot deal, set up the account and leave it to work automatically.

You can also set the account to automatically unfollow anyone who unfollows you, though I am not sure we would want this with students on our undergraduate course. SocialToo also has a survey tool which can be used to post surveys to twitter, could be useful for getting quick and dirty feedback on topics, issues etc.

TouchGraph is very pretty

AJCann touchgraph

TouchGraph is very pretty. I came across it whilst wandering around online (I find I regularly suffer from obsessive link-clicking until I forget what I came online for). I wondered into the Science 2.0 friend feed room, got distracted by the edubloggers room and saw a link for a list of PLE maps and diagrams (posted by Mike Bogle), and was amused to find Alan’s diagram on there. I saw beautiful one created by D’Arcy Norman and just had to see how it had been made (see how one things leads to another?).

Anyway, a quick play determined that it probably wasn’t the tool I had hoped it would be. Initially I had thought it could be used for students to quickly create a map/ visual representation of their personal learning environment, but it is powered by google search, so not as specific as it would need to be. I tried several different searches (jobadge/ Jo Badge with and without quotes) but none of them really represented what i was using. I tried ‘ajcann’ instead, and got a fairer map – the one shown above, it includes Alan’s slideshare account, twitter, microbiologybytes and technorati ID’s butmost the links coming off these centres are not related – for example, from twitter, the links are not to the people who follow Alan or are his friends.

Blogged with the Flock Browser


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The evolution of my PLE

Alan set me some homework while I am frittering my time away at home this summer. He wanted to know if my PLE at work and at home were different. I have actually concluded that they are not different from each other at all. I am not sure what to think about that. Perhaps it tells me that I need to get some interest outside of work!

However, it did start me thinking about my first ventures into thinking about the tools I used online as a PLE. I started a wikispaces wiki, jople (natty name eh?!) mainly to play with wikispaces, but mostly in response to Alan’s tutorial on PLEs. I came up with something that looked like this:

Jos PLE in January 2008
Jo's PLE in January 2008

I thought I would redraw it. Only 7 months later, I was quite amazed by how it had changed…

Jos PLE July 2008
Jo's PLE July 2008

When drawing this second PLE, the main thing that struck me (and that I had trouble conveying in the diagram, I am a bulleted list kinda girl), is that there are many more connections between the tools I am using now. Flock has been instrumental in this, helping me to bring lots of different strands together. Start ingof this blog, and others, has also changed the way I use delicious to create RSS feeds on particular topics. Pulling an RSS feed into google reader from my delicious network has been extremely interesting and provided a real wealth of information that I haven’t accessed before.

Of course, the biggest change has been using twitter. Without it, I doubt I would have discovered or used half of the new tools I now use regularly.

p.s using Zemanta Firefox extension for WP on this post. It is tremendously cool. I found it reviewed on Doug’s blog that I started reading because I followed Doug on twitter.

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