Is Knowing When to Cocoon a 21st Century Skill?

photo courtesy - TheGiantVermin on flickr

Connecting, collaborating, creating, and critical thinking are the 21st century ‘C’ words we hear a lot about these days.  I’m wondering if we need to add cocoon to that list — is it as important a part of transformation as our connectedness?

I guess it’s not a surprise that the longer I delve into understanding learning, and try to find those opportunities to go deeper,  the more complicated it gets.  That’s a good sign – I’m sure.  Last week was a chance to join my colleagues in the PLP ConnectU Community in Australia as they delve deeper into their journey as a connected, networked, learning community interested in deepening their practice with respect to PBL and developing a PLN.

My mentor and critical friend,  Peter Skillen and I both attended the excellent sessions led by  Will Richardson with a focus on networks and communities.   Will mentioned this new landscape of networked learning where we have the potential to be learning 24/7.    Peter and I have had many chats lately about the effectiveness of our PLN and our need to put some checks in place to make sure that, as he puts it, we are ‘zooming out’ in order to see the big picture.

Largely because of this post by George Siemens which I found through Stephen Downes’ blog and because Peter has been pointing me to some other folks who are thinking more critically about connectedness  (and in particular social media),  I’m attempting that zoom out.  Although there has been some push-back about social media, it continues to be a big part of my learning these days and I think some time spent thinking more metacognitively about balance and purpose is where I’m at.   Couple that with the thinking my PLP group has been doing around promoting creativity in the classroom and some questions arise for me:

  • what is the purpose of my network vs my online communities?
  • how am I controlling the flow of information that is coming at me, or is it controlling me?
  • I’m gravitating towards more collaborative work that involves a different kind of connection than something like twitter – what should I be recommending to others just starting down this path?
  • is my PLN diverse enough?
  • am I spending my time where it most benefits my learning?
  • do I set aside enough solitary time?

I’m finding that a big part of learning in this new space where information flows so freely is to know when to cocoon, take some alone time, do some reflecting or solitary thinking and then emerge once again to join in the conversations!

What about you…how do you try to keep a balance?  Or do you?

courtesy of Creativity+TimothyKHamilton

Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Conference

Whew!  I’ve returned from a whirlwind of 3 days of learning at OTF’s latest conference: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century and as usual, my brain is full of new learning, not only from the keynote presenters, Will Richardson and Garfield Gini-Newman,  but from my own network.  I’m a little late getting to this post so I’m going highlight some of the folks who’ve provided multiple perspectives on their experience…special thanks to Peter Skillen who made this such an awesome event!   If you aren’t reading these blogs you should really be adding them to your blogroll – they do a great job of capturing the event.  Others you will find to be a source of professional learning on twitter so check them out!

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Forgrave
  • Barbara McLaughlin shared her conference impressions as well as doing a wonderful job getting educators excited about the open-ended potential of a social network like Bit Strips for Schools.
  • Colin Jagoe always has a smile on his face and a funny story to tell and he’s honest about the challenges and rewards of personalizing learning for folks at Minds on Media.  It’s harder to plan for, but more rewarding for both learners and teachers!  It was wonderful to get to know Jeff Brown, his partner in crime (and photoshop) and I watched time after time as  Jeff’s respectful and patient way with people lifted them up!
  • Rod Lucier and Andy Forgrave ended up at an Apple Store adventure.   These two guys are fabulous with lenses…the photographic kind, but also the critical thinking lens as well.  They constantly (and respectfully) push back and ask good questions and we are all the better for that!
  • Doug Peterson and Kelly Moore ran a fabulous session to provide some more support for the folks who were new to Twitter and to answer questions about Web 2.0 and Personal Learning Networks.   Twitter eggs became real people as Kelly helped people to put their avatars ‘out there’ on the web.  Kelly has inspired me to add some bling to my blog or wiki in the next while! 🙂
  • Lynda Kilpatrick was patiently taking people through tours of Google Earth, smiling all the while, despite the annoyance of bandwidth problems that can sometimes happen with Google Earth.
  • Mali Bickley and Jim Carleton are not twitter users, but are Global Collaborators extraordinaire as co-managers of  They had teachers from Turkey, Russia, Japan and Taiwan video conferencing in to speak with us at Minds on Media.  I’ve been so blessed as a teacher to be a part of several amazing projects…check them out!
  • I think almost everyone got to Creating Media with Kent Manning and Google Tools with Richard Grignon.  These stations were always packed and I heard folks buzzing about their takeaways and I see that people are hunting Richard down on Twitter!  I know he was definitely too busy to be tweeting on Saturday – we swamped him!
  • I always learn more about OSAPAC software from Danuta and she has the understanding of critical thinking that makes teachers question how they use powerful tools.
  • Danika Barker was awesome to get to know and I’ve added her blog to my list of regular reading.  I love how she turns a phrase, and athough she says she’s not exclusively an English teacher anymore, you’ll notice her skill in her exceptional writing.

It’s incredible to stand among these folks who are so generous in sharing their expertise and supporting others.  There are so many others in my network that weren’t able to be here for one reason or another, but I am constantly grateful to all of you for the things you teach me and others around the province and beyond.  These are really good times to be a teacher!

There were some folks who couldn’t be with us (registration filled up really quickly) and we even heard from some of you who were attending virtually on Twitter.  Erin, we will get together again one of these days!

Thanks again to OTF for another wonderful conference about Teaching and Learning.  It has been inspiring to watch the PLN grow over the last two years and to see folks nurturing our new members on twitter and other kinds of social media was really rewarding.  There’s a reason we are all educators – we are ridiculously enthusiastic about life-long learning!