Two subjects in the summer: What was I thinking?

Having finished all modules and assignments for ETL503 & INF506 I’m feeling somewhat relieved that I’ve gotten through them this summer.  I had thought, initially, that the summer would lend itself to a more stress-free time frame to complete these subjects.  In a way it was true.  School was about to finish.  Ah yes, there were those reports to get out but I managed to get that done without too much anxiety.  Then the assignments started!  I had begun my first ETL503 assignment in the middle of reports and managed to get on to it quite quickly.  I forcused on a topic, Australian Colonialis – Year 5 History, that I was going to be teaching in 2013 (although it wasn’t certain at that point being a contract teacher).  Researching and writing about a topic that was relevant to what I would be doing was beneficial.  I also made sure that I understood, exactly what the assignment was asking me to do.  This meant reading over the Assessment information meticulously, listening to podcasts/vodcasts several times, posting questions on the forum and reading posts from other students on areas that I too was unclear about.  As a Distance Ed. student, these things are imperative.  It is too easy to lose your way by not keeping up to date with all that is going on in the subject.

Over Christmas and into the New Year, I stressed about receiving my first ETL503 assignment back.  I went to Melbourne with friends and told them later than I was inwardly stressing abou the return of my assignment.  Well, my stress was unwarranted because I actually did quite well on that one.  I received a Distinction but only missed out on a higher mark due to my lack of including references other than those provided.  In hindsight, I did read other authors but the ones I used for the assignment (after a lot of culling) were from the modules.

INF506 is a differently structured subject.  Social Networking for Professionals is just that: it’s a training ground for those of us who have either used social networking for personal use or for others who have never used social networking at all.  As the former type of social networker, I was encouraged to start using a variety of different social networking tools on a professional basis.  My project, create a social networking group for an group or organisation, was designed to meet the curriculum resourcing needs of teachers in South Australia towards the Australian Curriculum.  I was optimisitic even though I was about to launch the Facebook group about a week before Christmas.  I knew I needed about 10 people to make it feasibly.  In the end it has proven to be very rewarding and professionally satisfying.  The group, as of today, sits at 89 members and is constantly growing through members inviting members and so on.  This is the true organic nature of social networking at play.  I have made a conscious effort to post regularly and always welcome each member as they are invited.  Although I am still waiting for more active participants (most are passive) I feel that this will just be a matter of time as individuals slowly get used to how the group works and are more confident in what they have to share.

After a good start to both subjects, life’s harsh realities took me into a tailspin.  News of one of my closest friend’s health decline and sudden passing has brought me to reflect much more deeply into relationships, management of time and keeping connected no matter how far apart we may be from one and other.  One begins to realize that time is precious with the ones you care for and love and keeping those lines of communication alive is extremely important.  Had it not been for social networking (Skype), I would not have had the opportunity to say these things to my friend.  I also used Facebook to communicate with her sister and her husband blogged to inform their friends from all over the world of her condition.  Because I couldn’t be in Canada for the memorial service, I also made a Slideshare in her honour and sent the link to her family.  I had never dreamed that social networking tools would ever be used in this way.  I have learned and experienced a lot througout this subject.  Some intentional and others by pure necessity.

Now it’s the waiting game.  Two more assignments to get back.  This is the stressful time.  I’m not completely confident in my Collection Development Policy as to this day I am still thinking of things I would add/delete/change.  I can see how beneficial it is to have a policy such as this.  The school where I am working does not have  a colletion policy so I’m hoping that what I have come up with could be adapted to suit the school in some way.  I’m not getting my hopes up but I hope it was good enough to pass with.

As for my Social Networking Evaluation and Reflection, well, all I can say is that I have learned so much. this subject has been well worth it.  Lyn Hay has been a wonderful leader and incredibly generous with her time and her amount of sharing.  I loved using Facebook as a means for communication with our group.  I found it to be much more conducive to discussions that flowed and actually went somewhere.  All in all, a very difficult, memorable, rewarding, and emotional summer; kind of what life is all about, I suppose.

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INF506 – Reflection

INF506 – Part B – Reflective Statement

(The following reflection was copied from my Wiki from INF506 which was an elective subject in the Teacher Librarianship Master of Education course)

When looking over the Abstract of INF506 I was reminded that students would need to ‘immerse themselves within a range of social networking environments’ and ‘evaluate their learning experiences throughout the session as social networkers and information professionals’ (CSU, Handbook 2012). There is no doubt that what I have experienced over the course of this subject has been a complete immersion into the online world of social networking. There wasn’t a day that went by that I did not blog, Facebook, or check my ‘Daily Scoop’ to see what was going on in the information environment where I now reside. Although I had always considered myself to be a fairly regular Facebook participant I had not really capitalized on its ability to work for me professionally until the launch of my social network project. As I commented on the INF506 Facebook group page, ‘Seeing how my Facebook Group is starting to take on a life of its own, I can really appreciate how the social media ecosystem works now.’ (January 31st at 10:36pm). This statement was referring to Fred Cavazza’s article, ‘An overview of the social media ecosystem’ in which ‘conversations and interactions’ (2012) all become interconnected and grow organically. The growth and development of my Facebook group had clearly taken off about midway through January when other members of the group began to add members causing the group to grow exponentially. It became quite evident that to maintain a healthy ecosystem, the addition of ‘value-added content’ (Cavazza, 2012) was essential to keeping the ecosystem alive, active and sustainable.
Planning, developing and maintaining the Facebook group, The Share Network for the Australian Curriculum SA, (SNAC SA) has been a satisfying and rewarding professional experience. It has achieved exactly what was intended: to be an online environment where educators can ‘share resources, information and ideas about teaching and learning with the Australian Curriculum’ (http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/384597188300408/members/). As someone who is new to using social networking professionally, I am encouraged by its potential: the creation of collaborative environments that bring likeminded members of communities together. What began as an assigned project has now become a routine part of my day and something that I enjoy maintaining and developing for the benefit of teachers and students alike.
Utilizing social networking tools with students has led me to consider ethical and potential cyber-bullying issues at school. With the advent of one-to-one computers/devices and increased access to online learning there exists the potential for abuse and misuse of social networks. Being fearful and resistant of social networking is not the answer. Rather, a proactive approach is needed in conjunction with education of staff and students with the development and implementation of clear objectives in a social media policy (Cybersmart, 2013).
As a social networker I have expanded my horizons to include a variety of other platforms with which to engage. As seen by the concept map in my ‘Developing a Personal Learning Network’ post, my own social network has developed into an immersive, meaningful and informative web including Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Second Life, blogging and microblogging sites. PLNs have become the new wave of professional development and as Luca states, many teachers have ‘developed the fine art of sharing and benefit from the reciprocal generosity that pervades these spaces’ (2012). In my own school, this has also translated into becoming a more valuable member of staff; someone who can provide leadrship in helping others become professionally socially networked online. What has become evident over the course of this subject is that for every type of social need, be it sharing teaching resources, articles, recipes, favourite books, photos, there is either a social network or online community that can fulfill our human drive to share and build relationships in meaningful ways. This subject has lived up to its promise. It has allowed me to immerse myself in a variety of social networking environments and assisted me in my development of the information professional I aspire to become.

References

Cavazza, F. (2012), Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/fredcavazza/2012/03/12/an-overview-of-the-social-media-ecosystem/
Cyber[smart:] (2013), Retrieved from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Schools/Cybersafety%20policy%20guidance/Holistic%20approach%20to%20cybersafety.aspx
Department of Education and Child Development, (2013) Retrieved from http://www.decd.sa.gov.au/socialmedia/default.asp?navgrp=185
Farkus, Meredith, (2008) Retrieved from http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2008/01/24/the-essence-of-library-20/
Fleet, David (2009). Social Media Policies E-book. http://www.slideshare.net/davefleet/social-media-policies-ebook
Hay, L. (2012). Library 2.0 and participatory library services [INF506 Module 3] Retrieved February 2, 2013, from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/INF506_201290_W_D/page/84cf677e-ec91-4f08-8080-0f7dd953df21
Luca, Jenny, (2012) Retrieved from http://splash.abc.net.au/teachers/blog?id=40029
Mallan & Giardina, (2009) Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2445/2213