Why self-directed learning is a powerful opportunity for educators


My Mom always said that I liked to be in charge of my own time. She would appreciate the irony that my students feel the same way! However, I still think it is vital to set your own goals as a life-long learner and educator. Self-directed learning offers rich opportunities for myself and my students going forward. The affordances of today’s technology (i.e. MOOC’s, open educational resources (i.e. video, screencasts, auto-graded assessments…) and social networking make today or tomorrow (or whenever!) a good time to explore self-directed learning as a vital and useful pedagogy for myself and my students in the foreseeable future. In addition, as a busy educator and parent, the opportunity to schedule my own learning without sacrificing my core focus on my family is critical and makes this form of learning very appealing. In short, my motivation is strongest when I select my own learning goals.

What is self-directed learning?

Self-directed learning is a self-motivated, informal and anytime/anywhere approach to learning using online resources. “In self-directed education, the individual masters all the activities usually conducted by the teacher: selecting goals, selecting content, selecting and organizing learning experiences, managing one’s time and effort, evaluating progress and redesigning one’s strategies for greater effect.” (Gibbons 2008) MOOC’s or Massive Open Online Courses provide an excellent opportunity for self-directed learners to select specific parts or entire courses to meet their learning goals. MOOC’s are offered by traditional and well respected universities (i.e. Harvard, Cambridge, Western, Toronto, London etc.) in an online setting with a capacity for a vast number of students facilitated through websites like Coursera, Udacity etc. At the conclusion of the course, a record of completion is added to your account and a validated certificate is available for a small fee and the validation of your identity. Essentially the experience is free and open to anyone with the motivation to complete all the requirements set by the instructor or one can complete the units relevant to one’s own goals.

My interests in education and technology integration led me to explore online learning resources offered by software companies and other organizations to aid my students and professional practice. Many companies offer certificates, badges, designations and other forms of accreditation that provide an indicator of your competency with a specific technology. Some examples include the Microsoft in Education Expert (#MIEE) designation, Google Educator, Apple Teacher, SMART Exemplary Educator etc. These accreditation opportunities are particularly relevant and significant today as technology is increasingly integrated in education. From both an employer and employee perspective, they can offer validation of a person’s competency with a specific educational technology and their dedication to self-directed learning. In addition, many offer opportunities for learners to connect to a Personal Learning Network (PLN) of global educators using that specific technology with their students.

What is my experience so far with self-directed learning?

  1. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s)

I have had a few experiences with MOOC’s through the Coursera site which were very positive. I completed a course from the University of London called “ICT in Primary Education” which was fascinating as I had a chance to interact with educators from all continents through chat-rooms and discussion boards. I definitely felt privileged by the accessibility of my students to the latest technology and was inspired by resourceful educators integrating technology as powerful learning tools for their students. Many dedicated educators were using all kinds of technology to aid their students’ learning despite facing challenges of equity, infrastructure and lack of support from communities. In addition, to the benefits of connecting with other hard-working educators, the course also included a collaborative and innovative aspect to assessment. As part of each assignment, students (mostly educators) were assigned a few random assignments of colleagues to evaluate using a specific rubric.  With so many students in the course, an average of your scores was used for grading which was an innovative way to “crowd-source” assessment.1 Feel free to read more here from my notes if interested.

In March of this year, I completed a course called Indigenous Canada offered by the University of Alberta which completely altered my thinking and world view on History and perspectives on events in Canada and North America AKA “Turtle Island” . In this course, I was introduced to familiar topics of Canadian History but using an Indigenous worldview and perspective. I was confronted with a worldview mostly hidden or marginalized from my formal education and life in Canada which was mostly taught using a colonial perspective. The intersectionality of aboriginality, gender, sex, culture, place of residence among others combined with institutionalized and informal racism and culture clash has resulted in many challenges for Indigenous peoples today. Yet, their culture and ideas continues to resonant though powerful ideology, their roles as leaders and stewards of the land and environment.  In short, I was forever changed to be more emphatic and understanding towards Indigenous Peoples, recognize their diversity and their triumphs and tragedies (i.e. betrayals by settlers, institutionalized racism, Residential Schools and today less access to equitable health, infrastructure and justice from Canadian institutions.) Yet despite the critical evaluation and acknowledgement of past and present challenges for Indigenous peoples, the course emphasized hope and progress for the future which was inspiring. This course was so invaluable with powerful resources and perspectives to help me create a more inclusive and diverse History classroom for my students and myself as a Canadian. Here is a quick list of 150 acts of reconciliation which is particularly inspiring. 

2. Technology certifications

Many companies including Apple with their Apple Teacher program, Google with Google Educator programs and  Microsoft with their Microsoft in Education offer training videos, resources (i.e. OneNote folders) and even detailed online courses. Many of these resources lead to certifications and can be great for familiarizing yourself with the software and picking up some tips for best practices. However, it is critical that educators adapt these ideas to the specific needs of their students and learning goals in order provide richer learning opportunities. In our school, we have adopted Microsoft products mostly on the strength of the Microsoft Surface, OneNote and its digital inking possibilities and so I sought out the Microsoft in Education certificates and make use of Microsoft in Education portal and related social media for learning resources.

Here is a screenshot of some of the course selections available at the moment. More are added as technology is added or updated.

On the site, there are a number of courses which consist of videos and other learning tools and resources (i.e. OneNote folders and usually end with a quiz. The beginning of each course has the date posted, duration, likes and badges offered for completion. Upon the successful completion of the quiz (usually 80%) a badge is earned which appears on your account and as a record on a printable or sharable training transcript.

Here is an example of my achievements in the program so far. (Still much to learn)

The OneNote and OneNote Class Notebook resources have been particularly significant in our Upper School (G9-12) environment as teachers use OneNote for their professional practices and the Class Notebook with students in each class. I also regularly use Microsoft Forms, Sway, Photos, Flipgrid and Skype to provide unique learning experiences for my students. The benefit of this site is that it provides a collection of learning resources specific to my needs as an educator in my school. I have had heard similar stories from educators using other software companies. (i.e Apple, Google etc.) Finally, I would feel comfortable sharing my designation (#MIEE) with others (i.e.  colleagues, administration, potential employees, parents, resume, LinkedIn and other social media sites etc. to demonstrate my proficiency with this technology.

Another website that offers self-learning possibilities for educators is at Common Sense Media which specializes in educational technology and is particularly effective at promoting and providing materials for educators to teach Digital Citizenship with students. The Common Sense Media site also provides reviews and rates the appropriateness of media including games, movies, television programs and other technology for children, parents and educators. In the past, I have utilized their resources to create a digital citizenship curriculum in my school, develop digital citizenship through a web portal, help train teachers in the integration of tablets in a 1:1 setting and browse the educator reviews to explore the latest educational technology. I have provided app reviews on the site myself and contributed to their blog. Finally, the site also offers accreditation in the form of a badge and a chance to connect with similar minded educators in a PLN focused on digital citizenship and educational technology regardless of brand.

The Adobe Education Exchange is another site that is particular useful to myself and my high school students who use Photoshop, Audition, Premiere and After Effects among many others in their school and personal projects. Our school recently upgraded to the latest Adobe CC platform and I am in the process of utilizing this portal to upgrade my skills from older versions of Adobe that is most familiar to myself and my students.

Learning resources include self-paced workshops to be completed at your own pace, collaborative courses which are offered over a particular time by a facilitator and a great way to extend your PLN, live events which are presented over Adobe Connect (A dynamic online tool which provides an excellent stage for online meetings, courses and webinars) and finally, Adobe offers accreditation called the Adobe Education Trainer to help others use Adobe products. The search option by ISTE and Common Core Standards is particularly interesting as ISTE are a leading organization for students and teachers that provide specific and well established standards to evaluate their technology skills.

So what is next for self-directed learning. ISTE are now interested in providing teacher accreditation for technology skills and coupled with their well-respected standards for students and teachers and technology curriculum. They critically evaluated this question and it is clear they now see the value of offering accreditation for educators as indicated in the tweet below.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Sites for learning to code and developing your computational thinking skills like Codecademy (and many others) are suitable for a self-directed learning approach. Lynda.com (many local libraries offer free access) is very helpful for videos and courses on specific technologies. YouTube of course is helpful but can be “hit-and-miss” if looking for specific skills. Finally, social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are so helpful when educators share links to their teacher-created tools, guides and resources to help your professional practice. (Just like I am doing now.)

Finally, I wanted to mention that self-directed learning should NOT replace but instead supplement more formal learning in educational settings. (For me, after four years completing my Masters encouraged me to continue to learn and establish new goals using the new affordances and online learning environments available today.) I hope this was helpful. What self-directed learning resources have you found helpful in your experience or professional practice? Feel free to add your comments and suggestions below.


Sources

Contact North (2012) A New Pedagogy is Emerging…And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor. Ontario Distance Education and Training Network. Retrieved from http://www.faithformationlearningexchange.net/uploads/5/2/4/6/5246709/a_new_pedagogy_is_emerging_-_and_online_learning_is_a_key_contributing_factor.pdf

Garrison, D.R. (1997) Self-Directed Learning: Toward a Comprehensive Model, Adult Education Quarterly Vol 48, Issue 1, pp. 18 – 33 First Published November 1, 1997 Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/074171369704800103

Gibbons, Maurice (2008) Towards a theory of SDL: A study of experts without formal training. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology (Spring, 1980), pp. 41-56. Personal Power Press International Retrieved from https://www.selfdirectedlearning.com/index.php/toward-a-theory

Herlong, Koh, and Eric Patnoudes. (2015) Are Educator Certifications – Such as Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator – Meaningful? ISTE | Blog. N.p., 27 Mar. 2015. Web. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=355.


  1. I believe that a high and low score were eliminated from your score to help with normalization. Also as a student I belief there was an option to “appeal” your mark if needed. Personally, this course was all about the experience and the grade was secondary.
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New – web based learning tool on creating new learning environments with the Microsoft Surface Pro

Feel like ALL the tablet guides on the internet are about the iPad ONLY. Me too! The iPad is great as a learning tool but definitely does have some limitations. Hello Flash! Exploring this web based learning tool encourages educators explore the benefits of a Windows-based tablet (I use the Microsoft Surface Pro 2.)  as a full laptop replacement.
http://surfaceandbeyond.wordpress.com

This tool explores…

1. Using the Microsoft Surface.
2. Why Tablets? What Surface?
3. Creating a vision for use
4. Resources for communicating that vision  
5. New pedagogies and approaches to learning.
5. Implementation resources (i.e. carts, 1:1, posters, handouts, lesson ideas.)
6. Next steps with tablets.

Thanks in advance for your ideas. Join the conversation!
Click below to begin.

title

My top 3 online curation tools for teachers and students

Traditionally as teachers, before we start a new topic or theme with our students, we collect a variety of educational resources (activities, worksheets, games, posters, models, songs etc.) to share in lessons or provide as resources for students in the classroom. Using technology, we can also provide multimedia and other interactive materials like graphics, slideshows, videos, files, websites, social media  accounts, hashtags etc. to enhance learning in our classroom and perhaps beyond. It would seem then that collecting a variety of traditional and digital materials would be an effective strategy to differentiate learning for students and appeal to our classes full of “screenagers” but not quite teenagers.

Here are three sites to help teachers curate educational digital content for discussion, resources and sharing with students. In online courses or blended environments, variety is important to help the visuals interesting while creating vibrant, diverse and educational rich experiences remain vital. All are useful in flipped classrooms too! All these sites are perfect for sharing by a link but work best when “embedded” directly into an online course/LMS like Blackboard or Moodle.

1. Symbaloo 
One online tool allows you to create a web page of links (as symbols) to sites on specific  theme or topic. (I find that the more specific, the better; (Grade 2 Time rather than Math.) Your symbaloo can be shared to students (or parents) as a link through email, Blackboard, Twitter etc. Your symbaloo page might be filled with links to websites but could also include links to graphics (from Google images), videos (from YouTube), even files (I used a link to a file in Google Drive) or any material with a specific URL.

Below is a link to a symbaloo I created for Grade 4-6 students to practice their keyboarding skills using a variety of tools.

keyboarding symbaloo
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/keyboardingresources1

2. Edcanvas

Edcanvas is a website for collecting and assembling a variety of media (images, Word docs, Power Point, videos etc.) as a single presentation/webquest for students. Your “edcanvas” can be shared by email or posted on an LMS like Blackboard. Older students (Gr.4 and up) might create their own “edcanvas” to research and presentation their learning on a particular topic.

Here is one I made for a Social Studies/ICT project in Grade 5.

http://edcvs.co/XJuKkl

3.  Live Binders is one of three excellent websites (Symbaloo, Edcanvas being the others)  to help you collect, curate and present a variety of digital resources for students. Teachers have used Live Binders to build up a collection of images, resources and links on a specific topic. Students (perhaps Gr.5 and up) might also create an account and have their own Live Binder(s) for individual or collaborative research and presentation. Finally, the final product is easily shared with students (and parents) through our LMS (Learning Management System) AKA Blackboard, or email, Twitter etc.

Live Binders for Teachers


Featured Live Binders
(check out the ‘Binders by Grade (scroll down on right of the screen)

http://www.livebinders.com/shelf/featured

Honourable Mention: to MentorMob for the ability to create learning playlists. Next on my list to investigate. Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions.
~Anthony

My Top 3 Social Bookmarking Sites

Surfing the web for resources for your students is great but is pretty time consuming! How do you keep track and remember that awesome site you found for your students 2 weeks ago?! And which computer/device did I use?!

Thankfully, there are a number of web-based tools that can help you select, collect and share great sites on topics important to you and your students. All these below tools are accessible on a number of browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari…) and devices (like smartphones or tablets like IPads).

delicious

1. Delicious – An oldie but a goodie that was sorely neglected but recently acquired by the YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen so it is more actively support and updated. You can save (and tag) websites so you can visit and access later. I have been using this site for a quite a while and use it often when reading online on the web or (more likely on the IPad with hot beverage at the ready.) Here is a link to my delicious account. Feel free to search through the tags for useful sites. I collect links on this site after browsing through Apps like Zite, HuffPost, TrapIt and the ever popular Flipboard. While reading on IPad, I collect links on my topics of interest for everyday teaching practice or sites to share with colleagues. As for browser support there are a number on Chrome extensions or add-ons for Firefox and Internet Explorer.

diigo

2. Diigo – is similar to Delicious for saving sites with the additional options to highlight and add notes to specific pages.  See this video for more information on getting started.

pinterest

3.  Pinterest – It is impossible to ignore the fastest growing  (and 3rd most popular now) social media site behind Facebook and Twitter. Finding resources is as easy as visiting the site and searching under Education. Many of our kindergarten and primary teachers have accounts (One told me she was the “queen of Pinterest” but I am not saying who) and have been collecting excellent ideas and “Pin” ideas regularly for their classrooms and beyond.

Thanks to everyone for their ideas and advice for this tip and others too. Honourable mention should definitely go to Instapaper too as an excellent app that I use to collect and read articles for specific offline use. Personally, I use Instapaper for a quick and easy and not “internet reliant” way to access articles on detailed instructions on how to do something with a quite a few steps  i.e. A teacher’s guide to using Evernote for portfolios etc.

Two min. tech. tip #8 – Welcome to the Class Dojo!

We are all familiar with the practice of rewarding students and classes with points for specific behaviours and good practices.

Class Dojo is a free website to aid teachers to record and manage specific learning goals and behaviours to extend this practice further. Students can create their own avatars, check their points at home and their progress is easily displayed on a laptop or SMARTboard or tablet with the app.

Below is a video of a teacher using Class Dojo to start his class. At my school, I am using the same model to start my class in the computer lab and it works really well. (I created my own “tribute” video that I shared internally to help staff see this app in action.)Here is a screen capture of the video.
cd transition pic
I chose Independence (1 of 6 my skills) for the class as an area of development. When each student enters the class they immediately login to the computer and open their project. Then, they reward themselves by going up to the SMARTboard without asking and giving themselves +1 for independence and then returning to their project.

Overall, Class Dojo is an excellent tool to manage transitions especially when students are arriving at different times. It is student-friendly and a measurable record of progress and success in the classroom. I welcome your feedback and let me know if I can help get you started.

More visuals – http://www.digitalplay.info/blog/2011/11/04/reward-or-punishment-gamification-with-class-dojo/

Introduction to class dojo video for students

Two min. tech. tip # 5 – Organizing all those emails in MS Outlook!

What to do with all those tech tip messages… Here is a short video on how to take get a handle on all those messages in Outlook. Dragging completed or read emails in folders allows me to feel like I am staying on top of things(!) However, limiting this system to only 3- 5 general folders (i.e. school, coaching, PD, personal etc.) seems the quickest way to drag and find messages easily. This folder system is a quick tip that helps me (feel like I’m) getting things done.
Thanks. I hope that helps.

2 min. tech tip # 1 – screen capturing

 
Purpose: The snipping tool allows you to capture the whole or part of your screen to copy or save as a picture file. (.jpg, .gif .png)

 Ideas for use

  • Snip part of a website for use in a handout, worksheet or other document
  • Take snapshots from a video
  • Export to other software (web to SMARTnotebook, web to Word, One Note, Power Point etc.)
  • Save a student`s work from a website without them having to create an account
  • Create screenshots for your students or parents in CMS or emails

 

Two min. tech. tips

According to Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same could be said for technology these days.

This year I am hoping you will take 2 min. to try a few new  ideas and tips from the ever-changing educational technology world. Some you might know, but hopefully you will pick up a few new tricks to improve your tech. skills.

Goal: Training should be quick, relevant and helpful for teachers.

Delivery: weekly to your inbox by email OR by Twitter. Feel free to follow me at @anthonychuter

Follow up: Up to you! Depending on feedback and interest, I can schedule follow-up sessions if a topic, resource or idea needs more attention.  Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!

Anthony

Presenting at the Ontario SMART Conference 2011

http://www.clker.com/clipart-smart-board-blank.html

Thanks to all those who attended the SMART Ontario conference at the new Crossroads Public School on Saturday October 15th in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake.  In my first experience as a SMART Exemplary Educator, I led a class full of dedicated and keen professionals through an “Introduction to SMARTboards” session. We explored a number of resources and best practices with the SMARTboard to aid student learning and provide educationally rich resources for the teachers in attendance.

In a 21st century classroom, a SMARTboard is one excellent tool to aid teachers design interactive lessons and activities to target a variety of learning styles and promote rich learning. Thanks also to the Crossroads P.S. team, Giancarlo and the SMART team for the countless hours of planning and preparation necessary to make such an important, collaborative and successful conference run so smoothly.
Here are the files from the session. All are in .notebook format.

Module One
Module Two
Module Three
Module Four

Also here  is a file with instructions on the the famous Magic Magnifier.

For more tips and tricks, please feel to browse my web bookmarks at:
http://www.delicious.com/anthchuter/smartboard

Follow me or feel free to contact me with questions or ideas on twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonychuter