2011 was a year where I have really begun to integrate technology into how I do what I do. As someone with a background in technology I didn’t, and don’t, have a fear of technology but I don’t think I really ever used it as I should. Like all of my colleagues in LIT Tipperary I’ve used Moodle etc. over a number of years and as a Maths lecturer I’ve always been aware of the potential for using technology in my class, but I’m not sure that I’ve leveraged the potential of technology as much as I could, or should have. Due to a number of seemingly insignificant changes during 2011, I really feel like I’m now beginning to exploit the real potential of technology.
I didn’t sign up for Twitter in 2011 but really started using it in anger in 2011. Now that I’ve connected with so many people on Twitter, and am learning so much in the process, I’m really looking forward to where 2012 takes us all :-) Through my interactions with educators on Twitter, I’ve become involved in initiatives like #edchatie, #coderdojo and #ccGlobal. These initiatives have pushed me out of my own comfort zone but have enriched my interactions with students in many ways. I’ve also used Twitter to source presenters for the ICT in Education conference, http://www.lit.ie/Tipperary/Schools/default.aspx, which I believe has really strengthened the breadth of sharing that happens in Thurles in May every year.
2011 was also the year where Google+ came on stream. I couldn’t wait to sign up during the summer, frantically trying to get an invitation and waiting for the window of opportunity to use the invitation. I must admit however that I haven’t been bowled over by G+. I find I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that is to be found there. I think this is partly my own fault, because I haven’t really organised my connections into coherent circles, but for me twitter reigns supreme. I know that there is a huge volume of information etc. also to be found on Twitter, but I seem to have found a way of working with Twitter that works well for me. I suppose the beauty of Twitter for me is that, the brevity of the message focusses my own and other peoples thoughts. What I do love G+ for are the hangouts, which allow you to connect via webcam with others on G+. I have used hangouts to connect with others to discuss various #ccGlobal projects and to connect my daughters class with Michael Thornton’s (@mthornton78) class in Virginia USA.
2011 was also the year when I started this blog – I was shocked to be both nominated and shortlisted for the Edublog Awards in the best new blog category. What has really surprised me though is how much I enjoy writing the blog posts. I suppose what finally persuaded me to start the blog in 2011 is the fact that I’m hoping to start a PhD in 2012. The write up holds a particular terror for me, not to mention the rest!, so I decided to start blogging to get me into the writing habit. Hopefully I’ll be writing about the start of my PhD journey during 2012 :-).
My first blog post was my academic New Year resolutions http://pamobriensblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/new-years-resolutions/. The resolution I made, was to do what I do differently, and, as a way of focussing my mind I made a list of three ways I was going to do this – start the blog, use a wiki with my class and create podcasts to supplement my notes for my students. Unfortunately I’ve really only stuck to one of these, this blog which I’ve kept reasonably well updated. The other two haven’t worked out as I’d hoped thy would. To be honest, I think it’s more a discussion forum than a wiki that I wanted to use with my students. The aim of the discussion forum, is to encourage a greater understanding of the importance of Maths concepts in various areas of Computer Science, so this is where I’m going to focus my attention as I start a new academic term. Regarding the podcasts, it didn’t really happen for various reasons last term, but I will right that wrong in the forthcoming term. The equipment I was using, a Logitech webcam, really wasn’t fit for purpose so I acquired a Livescribe pen during last term. Once I complete the end of term corrections during the coming week, I will focus my attention on producing pen casts which will include audio with my notes. I hope these will be of benefit for my students. While I didn’t produce my own podcasts during the last term, I did source podcasts on YouTube for various topics, which seemed to benefit the students. The other use of technology I used in class, which worked very well last term, was Java programming. The feedback from the students was very positive, so I will continue to reinforce the very strong connections between Maths and programming by including more programming in my tutorials.
My final resolution is to submit a proposal to present at the CESI conference (http://www.cesi.ie/conference-2012) which is to be held in Portlaoise on the 24th and 25th February. As an organiser of the ICT in Education conference I’m quick to ask others to present but have always shied away from presenting myself. 2012 is the year where I push myself out of my comfort zone and share what I find useful from a technology perspective. I’m very aware that a lot of teachers can find technology very intimidating simply because of the sheer volume of tools and different technologies out there. I’m thinking of proposing a workshop on Twitter and Google+ hangouts, not as an expert but as an ordinary user of these technologies. As always, any thoughts etc. gratefully accepted.