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My Personal Learning Network

With technology continuing to evolve, it is slowly becoming impossible to be a functioning member of society if one does not advance alongside this progression. Prior to my ECS 210 course, technology definitely played a dominant role in my every day life, however, certainly not in the same light as it does now. Limited to communication, recreation, and document formation, my use of technology had little to no significance in respect to my personal learning network (PLN). Looking back, this was most likely rooted in two causes; the first being that, on a personal level, I had never had an interested in expanding my PLN beyond recreation, and the second reason being that, as a future early childhood education teacher, I was apprehensive about integrating technology into my classroom. However, my eyes have been opened to the possibilities and advantages of developing a strong and diverse PLN.

At the beginning of the semester, as part of the course requirements, I was asked to create this blog. I will be honest with you, originally, I was not overly fond of the idea of having to start and maintain the use of a blog as a way of representing and tracking my knowledge and growth. It seemed like a lot of work that I had little interest in doing. All of the social media sites that I was already an active member of were personal accounts in which I used to share things with friends. However, I will admit that majority of theses posts provided little substance of valuable information and contributed even less to my growth as an educator. In spite of my initial resistance, I now realize that this blog provides me with a space to share my perspectives and interests in a manner that supports my professional development and productively contributes to an online community of those who are aiming to do the same.

Along with the assigned posts required for the course, I also turned to my blog as an outlet to share information about things that I hold of high importance. One of these things is the topic of inclusive education, specifically, special education. I took the time to share two videos addressing this topic. The first one was about a campaign in which I support called Spread the Word to End the Word and the second was a heart-warming message to an expecting mother of a child with Down Syndrome. Although the responses I was required to post prompted me to think critically about the course content and allowed me to share my perspectives, being able to share the type of post like the these two videos increased my interest to continue blogging. It was motivating to think that even if only one person were to view the post, that is still one more person who could potentially help spread the messages that the videos expressed. Similar to this, beyond my own posts, being able to read and respond to the blogs of others has allowed me to further share my perspectives as well as challenge them with those of others. I am thankful for this, as I have learned how important it is to challenge my own thinking and consider the views of others. I plan to continue stimulating my own mind and the minds of others in hopes of creating deeper thinking, similar to this post. The empowering feeling I receive from sharing these posts and provoking thought in the minds of others is definitely my favorite part about the blog.

The questions and comments that have been left on my blog posts is yet another reason why I have come to appreciate having this online space. Any and all of the comments that have been left on my posts, much like this one, have forced me to think deeper into what was said and consider how others may see the topic or issue at hand. This is something that I think is very important to do as an educator. I was also able to further my professional development and my PLN this semester beyond this blog through the use of other social media sites. I created a twitter account that allows me to easily share my thoughts as well as links or quotes in which I think are beneficial for others to see. I have found twitter to be a fun and interactive site that allows me to reach out extremely effortlessly to have my questions answered or to answer the questions of others. It is a great social media tool that allows me to contribute to my own PLN as well as a much larger online community.

Although I feel as if I have already come a long way in developing my PLN and have contributed far more to the online community compared to prior to this class, there is still so much more I could have done, and thankfully, still can do. I wish I had contributed more in a sense of commenting and asking questions on both the blogs of others and on twitter, rather than predominantly sharing my own views and interests. I hope to continue posting on my own blog and updating it to become my professional portfolio, as well as exploring and commenting on other blog posts in hopes of stimulating someone else’s PLN growth. I would like to learn more about other online communities in which teachers commonly use as a way of staying connected and guiding each other through this ever-changing profession.

Through this course and my new and evolving blogging experience, I have learned many things about technology and the overwhelming world of the online community. I have learned that social media is extremely powerful, which can be both positive and negative. It is crucial to explore these sites and perspectives with a critical lens as my own PLN continues to grow and develop. It is also important to remember that a very large audience can view the contributions I make to the online community. This audience will interpret what I say in a variety of different ways and because of this, I must be cautious and conscientious of what I am putting out there. I am aware of the possible problems associated with having a personal learning network, and I have come to appreciate the opportunities that the extensive online community provides to supporting the growth of my PLN, and in turn, my career as an educator.

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Curriculum as Equity, Social Justice, and Diversity

This week in my ECS 210 lecture, Julie Machnaik shared her personal stories of working in Northern Canada alongside members of an Inuit community. Through her own lived experiences, she provided the class with a background on Inuit culture, possible tensions we may encounter when teaching in communities other than our own, and how to adapt and learn from these tensions to teach towards equity, social justice, and diversity. Although I found all of the stories and lessons she shared to be helpful and encouraging, what I found most profound was the passion that hung from her every word. The genuine joy and the deep impact these experiences have left on her was evident through the way she spoke. I admired that greatly.

With Julie’s passion as my inspiration, and the themes of equity, social justice, and diversity in mind, I would like to take the time to share a video with you that reflects one of my own greatest passions in life. The powerful messages that can be taken from this video will forever hold a special place in my heart. Enjoy!

Dear Future Mom

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A Critical Lens into my Autobiography

In my ECS 210 course, I was asked to write an autobiography illustrating the people, places and experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. At first this assignment challenged me to consider the influential moments and people that have impacted my life, however weeks after writing it, I have been further challenged by having to acknowledging the things I left out. I failed to mention anywhere in my autobiography that I am a white, heterosexual female belonging to upper middle class society. Why? I did not recognize these identifiers as being important to my identity. Perhaps this is because I have never faced issue for these qualities as they reflect the dominant society. However, is it not fair to say that fitting so conveniently into societal “norms” has impacted and privileged me greatly, contributing to my identity far more than I ever considered? As a future teacher it is important for me to be aware of the lens I am looking through and to be aware of the things such as those that I left out of my autobiography, as they may have a more direct impact on others.

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Curriculum as Online Community

With the technological advances of modern society, the nature of learning is evolving. The online community so readily available to teachers and students provides a diverse and extensive opportunity to retrieve information. Students no longer need to rely on teachers as their sole source of knowledge. With endless amounts of obtainable information at students’ fingertips, they are able to explore variety of resources providing them with multiple perspectives on any given topic. This opens up a window to social justice and anti-oppressive education as it allows both teachers and students to not only receive widespread information, but it also allows them to form their own opinions. With that being said, it is important for teachers to instruct their students on how to be critical thinkers, to find credibility in their research and to always consider whose story is being told. Technology in the classroom allows for diverse teaching methods as well as the opportunity to engage in sharing and contributing to the online community.

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Chopping Down the Traditional Family Tree

After contemplating how to get past my uneasiness of approaching family diversity in my future classroom, I decided to start with one small solution. I considered ways in which children can represent their idea of “family” without using the traditional family tree. With Hofmann’s definition of family in mind, I came up with the idea of “Community of Caring”. Visually, it can be created in many different ways, using actual images, drawings, symbols, etc. However, before the children create their own Communities of Care, it is important to discuss family diversity prior. Here are a few questions that can be asked to form discussions amongst the students in order for them to learn about and appreciate different family structures:

Who are the people in your life that mean the most?

How do these people care for you? How do you care for them?

What does “family” mean to you? Who can be a part of a family?

These questions are open for interpretation for each student, allowing for many different and diverse answers. They provide opportunity for discussion of different types of family structures and all those who can be a part of a family, including pets, friends, those who have died, and so on. After discussing these questions, and perhaps creating webs or charts to help answer them, allow the students to write down those who they consider to be their family. Throughout this process, it is important to reach out to each student to make sure they are comfortable with the task and if they need any support. After they have completed their list, allow them to make a visual representation of their family. Once all the students’ representations are finished, display them in the classroom so they can recognize and appreciate their classmates’ families and family structures.

Here is a copy of my own personal Community of Caring.

Community of Caring

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Digging Deeper into Family Diversity

The concept of a family is universally known around the world. Although it’s meaning may vary among cultures and individuals, a family is a support system that is cherished and valued. However, there is no norm of what family structure is, and nor should there be. Families are beautiful because of their abundant diversity and uniqueness. From a young age, we are called to be proud of who we are and to celebrate the lives of those who are important to us. Placing ideals and restrictions on what a family should look like can result in feelings of exclusion and insecurity. Sudie Hofmann provides insight into how schools can foster family diversity and help students recognize and appreciate not only their own family structure, but those of others as well.

As I read “Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Student’s Family Situations” I was immediately able to make personal connections to the stories it shared. Family has always been the most important thing in my life, and this appreciation was only deepened after my sister died. Looking back, her passing and the topic of family in general was a very sensitive subject for me after the accident. For a long time I even struggled with knowing how to answer the question, “how many siblings do you have?” From the age of fourteen to sixteen, any conversation focused around family, with friends or in school, was overwhelming and stressful. However, I am now comfortable and extremely open to talking about my family and my sister whenever I am given the opportunity. I truly believe that the stress I experienced could have been significantly reduced had I been provided with more support and had my teachers and friends approached the subject with more sensitivity.

Hofmann describes family as a grouping of people who the child perceives to be their “family”. I found this very interesting as it leaves room for each individual child’s interpretation. This is important, as it places no restrictions on the children’s view on what family is to them. With family structures being vastly diverse, whether the child may be adopted, be of a same-sex marriage, have stepparents and stepsiblings, or, like me, have experienced the loss of a family member, it is important that all types are recognized and cherished. Hofmann explains that teachers need to alter traditional activities like family trees and Father’s Day gifts to accommodate all family structures. As a future teacher, it has never crossed my mind that issues could arise from small activities such as these. I strongly agree with Hofmann’s notion of teachers and parents supporting each other by being well informed of each child’s family situation and what activities and events will be structured around this topic. For those students who may feel anxiety or embarrassment in regards to their “unconventional” family structure, teachers need to be supportive by using inclusive language and altering activities to reduce these feelings and to promote acceptance.

Although Sudie Hofmann’s story has taught me to be more aware of subjects like family diversity that require a great deal of sensitivity, as well as many strategies to go about this, I am left pondering the grey areas of this topic. During the time in my life when discussing family was stressful, it is difficult to say whether I would have preferred someone to try to talk to me about it in a sensitive way, or to not address the situation at all. As a result of this, I am left wondering whether or not it is best to force this subject on to children who are uncomfortable with it. I agree that it is important to be proud of our family, but is it possible to approach this task without crossing any boundaries, or worsening a child’s anxiety? I strongly believe in acknowledging and appreciating family, especially in schools among our peers, however after reading, “Framing the Family Tree” I am left slightly apprehensive about addressing the situation in my future classroom.