Friday, 2 March 2018

Have you jumped in yet...or are you still peeking over the wall? Mindlab Activity 5

Reflection on the role of social online networks in my professional development (Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M., 2001).

Figure 1. Wall of overwhelming Stuff. (Abbott, 2011)


Recent research has identified some models of Professional Development to be less effective than others, e.g. one-day workshops or conferences not directly connected to a school’s academic programmes or teaching practises.

“Spontaneous, experiential, and unplanned” (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009, p. 122) informal learning driven by the urgent ‘just in time’ desires of teachers (Timperley, 2011) also seem to lack the impact of sustained professional learning with clear outcomes, driven by evidence and inquiry.

Contemporary ideas about teaching and learning endorse proactive participation of the learner in the learning process (Das Gupta, 1994). Therefore, it could be argued that social online tools fit within this practice. Blogging helps learners to express their ideas and collaborate with others, supporting both individual and social learning activities (Minocha & Kerawalla, 2010) as we become ‘Produsers - a hybrid of producer and user” (Bruns, 2007), and the boundary between consumers and creators of content is blurred. The greater the social capital (investment of time) of an individual or community, the greater the chance for improved practice and gain (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 21).

Figure 2. On-line Learning and Knowledge Building (Harasim, 2014)

My professional online networks include Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Weebly, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, TeachersPayTeachers and Teachers Notebook which I use to connect with teachers from around the world.
My use of online social media changes with my role and interests in education.

So What?

Teacher-authors who write about observations in their own practise can be highly informative and motivating. The more you engage, the quicker you can weed out the weaker content and find deeply reflective practitioners willing to share ideas and findings, or expose you to diverging ideas and practices.

But how much influence does it have on student achievement? And how much quality control is there from the site moderators of the content being shared? Is this a place for poorly thought through ideas and responses not based in theory, nor considerate of impact on practise, (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010)? Perhaps that role of moderator falls on us - the knowledge community!
Figure 3. On-line Learning and Knowledge Building (Harasim, 2014)

Most educators look for 'affirmation of practice, advice on experiences within the classroom, new resources, and mentorship' in their online communities (Melhuish, K., 2013). Geographically separated or single subject teachers like me, working in isolation, can develop a collaborative, participatory model with others who were previously inaccessible, as I did this week to connect with Hamish (Betts, 2017), an art teacher from Singapore. Through our online profiles, I was able to contact and meet up in person with this expert in the field during a brief trip to New Zealand.

Online communities are comprised of mostly anonymous members connected by a communal interest and attending by choice. They range in experience, background and perspective which will challenge your preconceptions or provide support with an issue in your practice.

What Next?

Currently, I use my daily commute for independent online PD. A great way to tune in/front load knowledge is by listening to podcast channels recommended by my social networks.

My Podcast Channels (Willemse 2018).

I also engage with focused Google+, Twitter, and Facebook groups which trigger personal investigations or keep me informed about evolving conversations in my areas of interests.

My Twitter Feeds (Willemse 2018).

People engage to the level of their comfort or need but is 'lurking' a legitimate way of learning (Melhuish, K., 2013)? While this doesn't appear to contribute to community building, followership numbers boost the participation of active members, and learning through reading replicates print resource material from the past. But those that engaging in practice based discourse find this leads to more effective professional learning.

My Facebook Groups (Willemse 2018).

As connected 21C educators, we need to at least raise our heads over the walls of our classrooms and experience that cognitive dissonance to drive reflection on our practice. Melhuish, K.(2013) recognises the value of networking with educators beyond your own environment and vital for experiencing divergent thinking, that external voice is crucial to effective professional development (Ministry of Education, 2008; Timperley et al., 2007).

So jump in and enjoy the view!
Figure 4. Jump!!  (AnneCN, 2011).


Abbott S. (2011). Customer Crossroads. Wall of overwhelming Stuff image retrieved from

AnneCN (2011). Jump!! image retrieved from

Betts H. (2017). Creatively Hamish. Retrieved from

Bruns, A. (2007). 2nd ed. 'The Practices of News Blogging', in Bruns, A. and Jacobs, J. (eds)  Uses of Blogs. United States of America: Peter Lang.

Das Gupta, P. (1994). 'Images of childhood and theories of development', in Barnes, P. Personal, Social and Emotional Development in Children. United Kingdom: Blackwell/The Open University.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). United States of America: SAGE Publications Inc.

Greenhow, C., & Robelia, B. (2009). Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 119–140. doi:10.1080/17439880902923580
Heap, T.P. (2011).  An Investigation into the Blogging Practices of Academics and Researchers. Centre for Research in Education and Ed. Technology (CREET). The Open University, UK. Retrieved on 1 March 2108 from

Harasim, L. (2014). On-line Learning and Knowledge Building.  Retrieved on 1 March 2108 from

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). Developing an online community to promote engagement and professional learning for pre-service teachers using social software tools. Journal of Cases on Information Technology, 12(1), 17–30. doi:10.4018/jcit.2010010102
Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 28 February, 2018 from…

Minocha, S. (2009a). 'A case study-based investigation of students’ experiences with
social software tools', New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 15(3), pp.245-65

Minocha, S. & Kerawalla, L. (2010). 'University Students’ Self-motivated Blogging and Development of Study Skills and Research Skills', in Lee, M.J.W. and McLoughlin, C. (eds) Web 2.0-Based E-Learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching, IGI Global.

NZ Education Council. (n.d.). What is social media . Retrieved 28 February, 2018 from

Rolfe et al.'s reflective model, (2001). Adapted from: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user's guide. Retrieved from

The Glossary of Education Reform (n.d.). Professional Development (2013). Retrieved on 1 March 2108 from

Timperley, H. S. (2011). Realising the power of professional learning. England: McGraw-Hill Education.

Weller, M. (2006). VLEs and the democratisation of e-learning' [online]
(accessed 1 March 2108 ).

With Love


Thank you for visiting,


  1. I really enjoyed reading your informative, well researched blog post. I also recognised myself in it, as the 'lurker', and I do agree that my social media activities, although mainly passive in nature, still serve to make me feel connected to the education community, expose me to divergent thinking and different perspectives. Being new in the profession,I usually feel that I have nothing to contribute, but I am slowly starting to realise that my point of view, especially when backed up by evidence, is just as worthy as those of others and that by contributing my perspective I might have an impact, however small, on other educators.

  2. Hi Micaela, thank you for your comment. Being new to the profession is exactly what makes your opinions matter. You are the one that questions why the profession does things a certain way and makes experienced teachers reflect and re-examine the status quo. You bring a fresh perspective to the profession that is highly valued. Please jump in and collaborate away :)

    1. Thank you Timea. What you are telling me makes a lot of sense and empowers me to jump straight in with my perspective. Thank you.

  3. Hi Timea,

    as someone still lurking and peeking over the wall, I enjoyed reading your blog. You certainly left me with much to think about, and your well crafted blog has given me links to follow when I reconceptulise my thoughts about social media. I don't follow blogs regularly, but am a member of a diigo group which means I have a curated list emailed to me that I can dip into at my leisure. Do you think there is a place for social media use in the classroom as well as for staff PD? How can we ensure a quiet space for the introverted and insecure to be heard in social media? What social skills and cues do we need to teach in real world to help ourselves, our colleagues and our students to participate in social media?

    1. Hi Ms Wright :)
      Thank you for your kind comment and thoughtful reflection. Hopefully this scenario hits all your questions. I teach K-6 and we use social media with them. K-0 use Story Park and 1-6 have recently transitioned from Blogger jnr to Seesaw. Of course there are teething problems and you can't always predict what the issues will be until that one student crosses the line. One teaching point I have given the classroom teachers is about 'likes'on Seesaw, after they were being driven to distraction by having to approve a gazillion likes and deleting 'naf' comments.
      I limit my classes to 3 hearts each after a class post. The first is to the piece of work you really love the most(they usually picked their friends for this in the early days). Then you need to comment on why you liked it with feedback and even feedforward if you can think of one (older students) - link to the learning intentions here. Next scroll through and see who still needs a like and repeat. Finally your 3rd heart again goes to someone with no hearts.
      By making them justify the like, it reduces the 'like everything 'habit, by limiting it to 3, you make them choose wisely and really look at the work, by making them find the ones without likes, you make them extend their observational, thinking and empathy skills further.

    2. kia ora
      Our school has also just made the change from Easy Blogger Jnr to Seesaw because we wanted to engage our whanau in more meaningful ways. We found that there was too many inconsistencies in what was being posted by children and that most parents weren't activity going onto their child's blog to comment on the learning. With Seesaw currently we are working through with the children what makes a good post and how to critically reflect on their learning, we are going for the quality not quantity approach. However some teachers want to still post everything and anything! I myself haven't gone into commenting on others posts with my class, but really like you idea of scaffolding their comments. I think its important to guide children into the process so that begin to understand the implications of their words online. Thanks again for your thoughts, I have a personal teaching blog I have recently started but am to shy to really put it out there!! My goal is to stop sitting on the fence and value what I have to offer other educators.

    3. Hi Trudi, thank you for your comment and your honesty :)
      As with any school wide initiative, the way teachers deliver Seesaw content will also vary widely. Perhaps sharing positive examples each week with staff as subliminal exemplars, can help to guide teachers toward a more unified output? Including Seesaw sharing into home learning (if you have a homework policy) could also help to build a parental following. Have you joined the Seesaw Facebook group yet? A great place to ask questions and share ideas too.
      Congratulations on starting a teacher blog. I agree that it is not easy to put yourself out there, mostly because there is always someone who will criticise you for doing something that they have not tried themselves. I too found it challenging at first as I am quite a private person so I compartmentalise it. I think of it as chatting with a colleague in the staff room. Just as I would expect them to challenge me if they disagreed or had a stronger idea, so I would expect it online too. This helps me to grow and reflect on my standpoints.
      Please keep going and journalling your ideas. If nothing else, you are building a great 21C resume :)

  4. Hi Timea and Ms Wright! I too am enjoying reading your blog and the comments. I found the discussion with Ms Wright very interesting because we are looking at the quality of feedback on Seesaw and have a plan to model to our parents how to make meaningful comments on Seesaw about their child's learning. We want to help empower parents/whanau to make educationally powerful connections by forming relationships about learning, not just relationships. This is what our Inquiry Plan is about. The 'likes' are a good start but I want to extend this further and really enhance the parent/whanau/teacher/student relationships. Social media has power, and I want our students and parents/whanau to use this power for relationship building about learning.

  5. A powerful and relevant inquiry Sharon. My suggestion would be a very clear "caption" about the LO of the post by the student posting. For example: "This is my Painting about making friends. I painted my friend and me playing soccer together. I worked on painting smoothly and staying inside the shapes by using the point of my paintbrush. (Y3/4). When the posts are up, run the scenario above with the 3 likes and have students comment with LO's specifically. e.g Hi X, I really like the happy smiles on your faces playing soccer to show friendship. Maybe next time you can use less paint on your brush to make it easier to stay inside the smaller shapes.
    By modelling from within the classroom, parents start to see a pattern and will be guided by the comments from the students.
    You can also have your students share their Seesaw with parents in the evening as part of home learning and ask for specific feedback related to the learning outcomes. Perhaps a set of sentence starters with some examples glued into the homework books could help too :)
    All the best

  6. Hi Timea,
    Yet again a very well informed blog. Clearly you're so well entrenched in your practice and have superb time management skills fitting in podcasts during your commute to work. I believe the Mind Lab experience has opened my eyes to the rapid rate of change that appears to be taking place across New Zealand. When I look at blog posts like yours, I have deep concerns that we as secondary school teachers may not be prepared and may therefore may disengage the student body that joins us from feeder schools that have fully embraced the Digital and Social Media world. How can we address this quickly, i simply don't know.
    Andy D.

    1. Hi Andy, I wouldn't say I am your typical educator, I just have an interest in anything visual so was hooked on digital stuff early on. This blog is what I submitted for my current job instead of a CV and a verbal referral to seal the deal, so it does have value beyond itself. As for podcasts, I started listening to them because I got fed up with the prattle on morning radio. I run the app off my phone, plug into the car, and start up a channel. Heard this one recently on Ted talks about innovations and was so fascinated had to go and watch the video when I got to school. I think you will enjoy it too (future trends and innovations)