3 Ways Personal Learning Networks Are Evolving

3 Ways Personal Learning Networks Are Evolving

The concept of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a familiar concept these days. Yet, the nature of Personal Learning Networks is evolving as the range of tools available to support them increases, and our rapport with those tools becomes more sophisticated.

The aim of this post is to outline the changes that appear to be taking shape, and to offer some practical strategies for teachers to supercharge their Personal Learning Networks.

Evolution 1: Sharing is becoming more agile

Agile is a concept that has had a significant impact on the software development community. At it’s core, it is about getting products and ideas out quickly, so that their potential value can tested and feedback gathered to improve them. The products and ideas are then iterated and the cycle continues.

A similar phenomenon is beginning to happen in Personal Learning Networks spheres. Educators are shipping their ideas before they are perfect, and encouraging others feedback and build upon those ideas. PLNs are exhibiting a hive mentality with a common purpose at their heart. Making your Personal Learning Networks more agile is a must.

3 Ways to make your PLN more authentic & agile

1. Write shorter posts or otherwise create more shareable content more often
2. Don’t hold back from sharing half-formed ideas; contextualized properly, this is where Personal Learning Networks can hit their sweet spot. It’s also a part of a growth mindset!
3. Build on other peoples ideas and take them in your own direction while communicating who influenced you and how.

 

Evolution 2: Learning is about challenging yourself

In the past people were content to have a Personal Learning Network that agreed with their views and understood their perspectives. Nowadays, we seeing people follow and interact with those who offer different perspectives and can challenge their viewpoints.

This requires courage, but extending you Personal Learning Network to incorporate people you disagree with will force you to develop a more open mind, and a more robust personal position. In short, it’s a stronger learning experience.

3 Ways to challenge yourself within your PLN

1. Follow people on Twitter who’s ideas you disagree with and don’t always understand
2. Engage in debate, but make sure to go for the ball, not the player
3. Challenge your own assumptions in public

Evolution 3: Personal is becoming professional

In the next few years we’re going to be talking much more about Professional Learning Networks. The differences are subtle yet powerful. One is that professional learning networks are more focussed on the purposes rather than the compositions of their communities. Collaboration is about making change happen at the societal rather than individual rather.

Personal leaning still happens, but as a by-product. Another difference is the role that identity plays in Professional Learning Networks. Educators are finding more sophisticated ways of representing themselves and their reputations online.

3 ways to professionalize your PLN

While a more familiar route may be to personalize your professional learning network, the reverse also applies. Here’s how you can begin to professionalize your Personal Learning Network.

1. Figure out your unique value offering, and build your Personal Learning Network around that
2. Collaborate with others to make change happen as well as share ideas
3. Use multiple platforms to build a richer and more distributed identity.

Pulling It All Together

Personal Learning Networks are here to stay, and they will continue to evolve. The most important thing is to muster to courage to jump it and experiment. Personal Learning Networking is as much about your mindset as it is about the action you take.

What changes have you noticed in Personal Learning Networks? Please share your ideas in the comments – I’d love to know what you think.

[source : teachthought.com]

Avoid the Financial Aid Gap

financial aid gap

Is your child’s financial aid offer enough to meet their financial needs? If not, they may be a victim of “gapping” or “admit/deny”, when a school accepts a student, but does not give a student enough aid to realistically attend.

Is Your Financial Aid Offer Meeting Your Full Need?

Your child has finally received the financial aid offer from their dream school. You are excited for the great experience they could have at this school, but after taking some time to decipher the offer you realize that the money the school is offering has not completely met your need. You are stunned when you calculate the total amount you will owe after factoring in grants and scholarships from the college.

The practice of accepting a student and then not offering them enough financial aid to afford the college is known as “gapping”, or “admit/deny”.

This practice is shockingly common. According to The 2014 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors, over half of college admissions directors practice gapping at their institutions, although it is much more common in private schools. 72% of private college directors and 39% of public college directors say that they use this practice. The majority of private college directors, and about a third of public school directors say the practice both is necessary and ethical.

This is an issue for both need-blind and need-aware colleges. In theory a need-blind college cannot deny a student based on their ability to pay. In practice, however, these colleges know they will receive a greater benefit by accepting more students who have the ability to pay the bulk of their tuition. Instead of rejecting these low-income students outright, they admit them without offering the financial aid they need, which is in effect, a denial.

How to Fill Financial Aid Gap

Families often have a hard time deciphering financial aid offers, and it may not be immediately clear to them that their full financial need has not been met. Unfortunately, many of these students end up taking out massive loans in order to attend a school that is only meeting 75%, 50% or less of that family’s need.

What they should do instead is learn how to interpret financial aid offers, and compare offers between colleges to see who is offering the better deal. To find the true cost of attending a college, you must know your expected family contribution and subtract that number from the total cost of attending (total cost includes tuition, fees, room, board and living expenses).  Unsubsidized loans and Parent Plus loans are available to anyone regardless of need and should not be considered part of your need-based aid.

Colleges also report how much aid they give out, so you can look up a chosen university to see the average aid they award, as well as how many students receive financial assistance. For example, Stanford is more likely to be a pricey school as they only give aid to about 55% of their students.

Gapping is more likely to happen at private schools, and schools that are a reach for the student. There are some schools that are committed to meeting the full need of the students who apply, though these schools may be more difficult to get into, and are often need sensitive or need aware.

The best defense against gapping is to ensure that the student has applied to colleges that are a good fit for them. If a student is attractive to a college, they will be willing to entice the student with a greater share of financial aid dollars.

[source : parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com]

10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers

This afternoon I was asked if I could put together a list of my favorite Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons. In the past I had put together lists of Sheets scripts, but most of those lists are outdated as Add-ons have mostly replaced scripts. Here’s my updated list of my favorite Google Docs, Sheets and Forms Add-ons.

Google Docs Add-ons:
The Tag Cloud Generator Add-on will create a word cloud in the right-hand margin of any of your Google Documents that contain more than one hundred words.

One of the most useful Add-ons for Google Documents is the EasyBib Bibliography Creator. The EasyBib Bibliography Creator makes it easy to properly cite resources and format a bibliography in APA, MLA, or Chicago style.

Knowing the right keyboard shortcuts to type the accents and characters is one of the challenges that students face when learning and trying to type in a new language. Easy Accents is a Google Docs Add-on that can eliminate that challenge. Easy Accents provides a virtual keyboard that enables students to quickly insert the letters and accents found in French, German, Spanish, Māori, and Sámi.

g(Math) is an Add-on for Google Docs that enables you to easily insert graphs and equations into your Google Documents. The Add-on opens in the right side of your document and from there you can insert the parameters of your graph and or generate equations.

Google Sheets Add-ons:
Add Reminders is a Google Sheets Add-on that will set-up your spreadsheet so that you simply enter reminder messages and email addresses then specify a date on which you want your reminders sent. The Add Reminders Add-on allows you to send the same reminder to everyone in your email list or you can send individualized reminders to everyone in your email list.

Save As Doc is a free Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables you to select a series of adjacent cells and turn them into an easy to read Google Document. The Save As Doc Add-on takes just a minute to install. Once installed select the Add-on from your “Add-on’s” drop-down menu and click “start.” After clicking “start” you can choose a set of cells or all cells to be converted into a Google Document. The document will appear in your Google Drive dashboard (it might take a minute or two to appear if you have selected a large set of cells) where you can then view it, edit it, or download it as a PDF.

Flubaroo is a popular Google Sheets Add-on that enables teachers to grade all at once all of their students’ responses to a quiz created in Google Forms. Flubaroo offers automatic grading and emailing of grades. The autograde option in Flubaroo allows you to have students automatically receive their scores after submitting their responses to a quiz you created in Google Forms. The autograde feature will send students an email with their scores and the answer key (you can exclude the answer key). With autograding enabled students do not have to wait for you to run the grading process or wait for you to send emails.

Google Forms Add-ons:
FormLimiter is one of my favorite Forms Add-ons. FormLimiter allows you to set a time for a form to automatically stop accepting responses. You can also use FormLimiter to set a limit on number of responses a form will accept.

g(Math) is a also available as a Google Forms Add-on that allows you to insert graphs and mathematical expressions into your Google Forms. To insert graphs and equations into your Form select g(Math) from your Add-ons menu and follow the directions that pop-up on the right side of the screen.

Form Notifications allows you to create triggers for emails to be sent to you when submissions are made through one of your forms. You can set the Add-on to send you an email alert after a specified number of responses are received or after every submission. The Add-on also allows you to have an email sent to Form respondents after they have completed your Form.

[source : freetech4teachers.com]

Create a Word Cloud Within Your Google Documents

Once upon a time there was a Google Spreadsheets script that would create word clouds for you. When the new (current) version of Google Spreadsheets was launched that script stopped working. This morning I found a replacement for that old script.

When you have a Google Document open, open the Add-ons menu and search for “tag cloud generator.” The Tag Cloud Generator Add-on will create a word cloud in the right-hand margin of any of your Google Documents that contain more than one hundred words.

Applications for Education
Word clouds can help students analyze documents written by others as well as documents of their own creation. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document. Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used the most. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings.

[source : freetech4teachers.com]

5 Browser-based Tools for Creating Audio Recordings

 Earlier this week I featured some tools for creating podcasts across on a variety of platforms. An audio recording doesn’t have to go through the full-fledged production process of creating an a podcast in order for it to be a valuable activity for students. Creating short, unedited audio recordings is a good way for students to record and share their reflections on things that they have learned and observed in your classroom. The following five tools can all be used for creating and sharing short audio recordings.

Clyp.it is an easy-to-use audio recording tool available to use in your web browser. To record on Clyp.it you simply go to the website and click the big record button (you may have to allow pop-ups in your browser in order for Clyp.it to access your microphone). When you’re done recording click the share button and you’ll be taken to a page on which you can download your recording or grab an embed code to post the recording on a blog. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use Clyp.it in your web browser. Clyp.it is also available to use as a free iOS app or as a free Android app.

Vocaroo is a free service that you can use to create short audio recordings. Creating a recording on Vocaroo is a simple process that does not require you to create an account or have any special browser plugins. Just go to the site and click record to get started. In the video below I demonstrate how to use it to create a recording and post in on your classroom blog.

SoundCloud’s Android and iOS apps no longer have the recording features that they used to have, but the browser based version still offers a good recording tool. After recording in your SoundCloud account you can grab the embed code for any of your recordings. In the video below I demonstrate how to use SoundCloud to create recordings and publish them in your classroom blog.

AudioPal is a free service that anyone can use to create short audio messages to embed into blog posts. AudioPal offers three way to create messages. You can record using the microphone connected to your computer. You can record by calling AudioPal’s phone system. Or you can create a message by using AudioPal’s text-to-speech function. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use AudioPal’s text-to-speech function and how to embed your messages into your blog.

AudioBoom offers an easy way for teachers and students to create short audio recordings that are matched to images. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of AudioBoom to create a short audio recording. AudioBoom also offers free iPad, iPhone, and Android apps. AudioBoom’s education section is full of great examples of using the service in classrooms.

[source : freetech4teachers.com]