Better Together: United as One

Professional Learning Networks In consideration of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), it really dawned upon me what a small world it is. A teacher recently shared with me that she still serves as a reference for an individual that she worked with 13 years ago. Sometimes after you leave a place, you have a tendency to just become focused on the here and now, but it is nice to know that you have great connections no matter how far back you go.

There’s Someone Out There I have no idea how many schools I will work at across a career, but it is nice to know that there is someone out there who understands and can offer support from a building/county/state/or even country afar. I think this will especially be key in these earlier years in the profession and I hope that I will utilize these resources despite the inevitably of being buried in other tasks. “…the loneliness and isolation I felt as a new teacher has dissipated because I have found a community that supports me no matter what I might be grappling with in my practice” (Rodesiler, et. al. 2014). What encouragement it is to know that not only can I find this type of aid online (English Companion Ning, #engchat,) but also with other professionals in-person at events/workshops hosted by (NCTE, GCTE, Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project, etc….) Such can also be accomplished on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn (connect with me there at the link below).

My Past/Present Network
  • Teachers, secretaries, clerks, administrators, and para pros that I met and established professional relationships with during my substitute and supply teaching journeys.
  • My 1st Cohort at Kennesaw State University (I am doing an altered version of the Masters of Arts in Teaching Secondary English program that will provide me with the affordance of having two cohorts…more people to meet/have in my professional network!)
  • Professors from the Department of English and Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University.
My Future PLNs:
  • Professionals that I will meet in the high school and middle school placement of my Year-long Clinical Experience (YCE).
  • My 2nd Cohort at KSU (Fall 2019/Spring 2020)
  • The 2-3 remaining professors that I will have in the final year of my graduate program.
  • Professionals that I will meet wherever I land a job for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Professionals that I will meet from other schools within the county that I find employment (and neighboring systems).
  • Professionals who connect with me on LinkedIn.

Using Technology to Map My PLNs I have captured the above networks using mind-mapping tool, XMind: ZEN (see mine of my PLN below). To use the tool, you must download it from their website. It costs $1.24 (mobile) – $4.99 (mobile/desktop) a month, however, there is a limited free version. This version allows you to add topics (I chose- Schools, KSU, and Beyond), subtopics (here I broke down the names of schools/position titles), and draw relationships between different items on your map (I linked my YCE placement school from “Schools” to grad school under “KSU”). 2 other free features to use that I chose not to employ- summary and notes. While this presents my past/present/future PLNs in a visually appealing/organized format, I personally prefer the straight-forwardness of bullet-point lists.

Strategy to Expand My PLNs: During breaks (maybe not Thanksgiving and Christmas), I would like to evaluate at least one PLN that I am not implementing into my study and reach out or make plans to initiate that relationship. It may be signing up for a seminar or workshop, joining a certain online group, contributing my own writing on teaching ELA (on this blog or at writerswhocare.blogspot.com ), emailing a former professor questions that I have about my practice, or scheduling lunch with a former cohort member(s).

Mind map of my past/current/future PLNs. Created with XMind: ZEN.


Affordances of Mind-mapping with XMind: ZEN:
  • Allows you to add many topics and subtopics.
  • Users can share their work via PDF, Word, or PNG.
  • Program is easy to navigate. Users can go into the “outliner” view to form the map in a more traditional “bullet points” format.
Constraints of XMind: ZEN:
  • Requires users to download the program onto their PC or phone.
  • Options such as uploading photos to your mind-map are not available on the free/trial program.
  • A non-removable watermark is left present on products produced by the free/trial version.
Suggestions for Using XMind Zen in the Classroom:
  • Mind-mapping would be beneficial for ELA activities such as designing character charts/maps.
  • Could use such as a platform to list strengths and weakness of several arguments.
  • Additionally, mind-mapping could serve as a method of brainstorming topic ideas for writing assignments.
Cautions:
  • XMind: ZEN may not be the best program for students as it requires a system download (unless school computers already have the program ready for student usage).
  • It is important that students/teachers save their map sooner than later (I recommend downloading it by sharing it with yourself as a PDF) because if you do not properly save your work, the trial version will not save/recover it.
  • It is probably best that teachers do not mandate mind-mapping and allow for other forms of organizational diagrams to cater to a variety of learning styles.
Questions for Teachers About Mind-Mapping:
  • Have you used mind-mapping in your classroom? If so, have most students found it to be useful? What have been some of the drawbacks?
  • What is the best FREE mind-mapping program that you have discovered?
  • What types of assignments have you used mind-mapping for with your classes? How often do you think this tool should be employed in the classroom?
  • What advice do you have about maximizing your PLNs?
  • What PLNs do you utilize and which ones have you found to be most beneficial in your practice?

Reference:

Rodesiler, L., Rami, M., Anderson, G., Minnich, C., Kelley, B., & Andersen, S. (2014). Transforming Professional Lives through Online Participation. The English Journal,103(6), 52-58. 

Let’s Get Ready to ARGUE (or persuade)!!!

Mr. Michael Buffer all set to announce our opponents in the ring!

Introduction When setting out to review the affordances (the aspects that extend certain parts of us) and constraints (the aspects that amputate certain parts of us) of using GroupMe for class communication, I decided—what better way than to search for a digital tool that would help me to visually distinguish and display these two sides. First, a little bit on GroupMe…

About the Digital Tool of GroupMe GroupMe is a mobile messaging app that specializes in creating group chats in lieu of texting or emailing large numbers of people at a time. For younger generations who are not embracing email and are looking for alternative ways to mediate their relationships through technology by communicating with various groups, GroupMe is certainly a viable option. Jones & Hafner write, “human beings are continually creating and adapting cultural tools to meet the needs of new material or social circumstances or new psychological needs” (2012). Adolescents quickly disregard or seemingly deny the technology of their parents or even the next generation up. The current generation is searching for applications that both simplify systems and create community. Apparently, GroupMe has been quite popular since 2010. I just heard about it for the first time last year…guess I’m getting behind the times….or set in my ways….yikes!

About ReadWriteThink’s Persuasion Map The digital tool that I found to exhibit the two sides of the argument of using GroupMe for classroom communication is the persuasion map, an interactive graphic organizer from ReadWriteThink. This was not the first platform that I came across to outline positions. I looked at several argument map applications, particularly one called MindMup, but really struggled to find one that was not a headache to use, free, and/or visually appealing. GroupMe is such an easy app to use and it felt irregular to review it on a platform that was not.

Compared to some of those other argument map tools, ReadWriteThink’s persuasion map does not allow one to place two sides of an argument on the same presentation. I was really looking for a tool for mapping arguments and not persuasion, but using either tool could be a way to open a class conversation on the difference between argument and persuasion. This improvisation aligns with research provided by Jones and Hafner, “constraints, on the other hand, can sometimes spur us to come up with creative solutions when the tools we have at hand do not allow us to do what we want to do” (2012). Next, some students could create a map with pros or affordances and the other half of the class could create one with cons or constraints. Students could be paired off after individually composing their maps and debate one another using the strengths of their points. Or it can be used as a partner or group exercise where each member comes up with a reason or fact (as modeled in my example where some fields have been left blank). Ultimately, this provides a great way for students to digitally fill in maps to plan out their points for argumentative (or persuasive) writing. Applications such as MindMup do allow the user to control how many stems are added to each side, which makes it a little less restrictive than ReadWriteThink’s product.

It would be best for students to either print out their persuasion map or to share them at their computers because embedding and direct links are not available options. There are options to 1.) email it to the teacher (or classmates) and 2.) save your map as a PDF and upload it to a site such as Google Drive….which is exactly what I have done!

Click the following links to view my persuasion maps on Google Drive:

Affordances of Using GroupMe for Class Communication

Constraints of Using GroupMe for Class Communication

How it Works/Components of ReadWriteThink's Persuasion Map:
  • THESIS- compose a statement that describes one side of an arguable point.
  • 3 REASONS
  • 3 FACTS or EXTENSIONS (to support reasons)
  • CONCLUSION

Affordances 
  • One can compose their own titles/descriptions, creating more of a personal connection.
  • Because different sides of the argument are composed separately, students can use their maps for persuasion/debate exercises.
  • Can share via email or Google Drive.
  • Students could compose while doing other activities. “Because they facilitate new ways of distributing our attention, they allow us to participate in many practices simultaneously- we can work and study and shop and hold conversations with any number of people all at the same time” (Jones & Hafner, 2012).
Constraints 
  • Students may be less likely to complete work as it requires having access to the technology (versus a printed hand-out they could fill out easily on-the-go).
  • There is a limited number of characters available for each field. Therefore, it would only serve the purposes of drafting. It is also limited to the pre-designed format. User cannot add extra stems.
  • Have to create a separate presentation to map out the other side of the argument.
 Questions for Teachers about Using Persuasion/Argument Maps:
  • Is there something lost when activities are digital and students do not have to draw the boxes and write with a utensil (re: research regarding the connection between memory and recording information by hand)?
  • Have you found an argument or persuasion map application that is free, user-friendly, and has many features?
  • What are some of the best “warm-up” activities you have executed in your classroom to teach persuasive and argumentative writing?
  • Do you use GroupMe for communication in your classroom?
My Suggestions for Using Persuasion Maps from ReadWriteThink:
  • Only use for pre-writing. It is a great way to have students map out what they will ultimately write about, but character limitations minimize this tool to that purpose.
  • Keep searching for higher quality tools/applications.
Cautions for Using Persuasion Maps from ReadWriteThink:
  • Students will need to share their work with the teacher (or print it) to verify productivity and appropriateness.

References:

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.