Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Thing 39: OER – Open Educational Resources

This was such a useful and fun assignment!  I just spent the most delightful hour exploring the resources, and I'm pleased to say, I found some really good "stuff"!

I decided to start by checking out the "Understanding OER" introduction, and then I went right for the search tools.  I explored the first four, OER Commons, CK12, OpenEd, and Curriki.  I decided I would look for resources to enhance an upcoming 2nd grade unit I'll be starting next month on fables.  In the unit, I introduce the history and key characteristics of fables, then we share 3 examples focusing on characters and morals.  Next, we practice listening for morals, which can be tricky.  I have found that to a 7 year old, when asked to identify a moral in a simple story, they frequently just retell a summary of the plot.  Once we've gotten the hang of morals, we explore common human characteristics associated with certain animals, such as a lion being a ruler, a fox being sly, a turtle having perseverance, etc.  And then we put it all together by writing our own book of fables.  Teams of 2 use writing planning sheets to determine what moral they want to teach and which characters to include that would make sense.  They also plan out the basic plot through problem and resolution.

OER Commons came up with just four results when I searched "fables" in lower elementary, two of which were excerpts from EngageNY, a third being a lesson plan, and the last being a video clip from PBS's "Between the Lions".  Not a bad start, but I thought I could do better.

Next I tried CK12, but was disappointed that nothing came up for fables in elementary.  The six results were all for grades 7 and up.

By far, OpenEd gave me my best results.  I had 66 results, and although not all of them were relevant to my needs, a lot of them were!  There was a nice mix of video clips, mini lessons, and assessments.  I was really impressed!  I will be incorporating some of this content into my unit for sure.

Finally, I checked out Curriki, but this was my least favorite.  When I tried to search "fables" with the K-2 filter, the majority of the 48 results were geared towards pre-school.  I'm not sure why.  I double and triple checked my filter, and it was definitely selected.  Furthermore, of those 48 results, most of them did not provide topic specific resources, but instead focused on general Common Core Standards.  That said, there was one gem that I had not found in any of the previous three OER sites: a link to Library of Congress' "Aesop for Children" interactive book which "contains over 140 classic fables, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and interactive animations".  That could be very useful indeed!

So in summary, this was a great assignment that really gave me some new tools for my arsenal!  I'm excited to see how I can incorporate some of these OER resources into my teaching next month. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thing 38: Online Learning & DIY PD

I am a huge fan of online learning and DIY PD!  I absolutely love everything about it - that you can customize your learning topics and goals, that it is can be so flexible, that there is an endless variety of resources and formats.  This is really the ideal form that the internet can take; connecting a world of avid learners who can share and grow together in ways that were not possible even 25 years ago.

I already do a ton of online learning and PD, but really enjoyed exploring some of the articles and resources in this assignment.  From Building a Personal Learning Network – 10 resources to add to your professional development toolbox, I was intrigued by "Unconferences and Camps", which is one of the few resources I have not yet explored.  I investigated this topic even further in Edcamps: Remixing Professional Development.  In this article, the author, Andrew Marcinek, hosted edcamps for colleagues, and they sound amazing!  This is something I will definitely keep my eye out for in the future.  I love the concept of turning "meetings into conversation" and leaving the agenda open for organic learning opportunities.  Some of the best PD I have ever participated in has been more of a conversation; although it must be said, some of the worse PD I have participated in lacked any kind of prescriptive teaching and lead to confusion and frustration during the break-out work sessions.  So it's a fine line between guided exploration and all-out free range learning!

This year I have enjoyed participating in a new online learning venue: "Tell It On Tuesdays", organized by my area BOCES SLS.  So far I have attended two of these online webinars and am scheduled for a third on February 14th (I just wish it weren't on Valentine's Day!).  These were supposed to be opportunities for member librarians to share areas of their own expertise with each other, but so far the first two I participated in were facilitated by professional organizations - and CDLC.  The next one will be the first facilitated by a colleague, so I'm excited to see how that goes.  The first two had only myself and 1 or 2 other participants, which I think is really sad.  I wish more people would make time to support this great opportunity, because otherwise, I fear it will not be continued next year.  I do earn PD credit for participating, and I really enjoy the informal feel of these local events.

I have also taken two online post-grad classes through SUNY Buffalo.  They were both a lot of work and required significant time and participation.  One actually assigned hundreds of pages of professional reading each week!  Both required daily participation in discussion boards, and both had written assignments, too.  I would say these courses required MORE effort than a traditional grad class, but the trade-off was being able to log in from home when time allowed as opposed to having a designated meeting time and place.  I will endure a lot of extra work for that flexibility!

I'm also a big fan of YouTube learning and just general online searching for professional information.  Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to chart your own course and to become the professional you aspire to be! 

And the biggest thank you of all goes to you, Polly, for putting together these Cool Tools workshops!  I do some of my best learning in this forum, and there is always something new to explore.  Here's to many, many more tracks of Cool Tools!!