Off to Alaska For #HETL14

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Tomorrow our team of PennGSE doctoral students & alumni heads off to Anchorage, Alaska to present at the annual International Higher Ed Teaching & Learning Conference (#HETL14). Three out of the nine of us who spent a week in Finland in March 2013 will physically make the trip, while others will join our presentation LIVE Sunday (12PM EDT) via a Google Hangouts stream.

Our presentation will focus less on what we learned in Finland about teaching and learning, but shed more light on “how” our team used social media to explore, connect and build relationships well beyond our visits to schools and the community. We’ll offer ideas on how today’s higher education programs around the world can create glass walls to the world around their classroom now matter where the brick and mortar of their institution is grounded. To learn more about our Finland trip, check out the full archive of our trip found on this Edutopia post: Penn Finn Learnings 2013 – A Wealth of Resources. You can also find resources on the #pennfinn13 hashtag we used before, during & after the trip.

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Official #HETL14 Conference Session Abstract:

“Learning across Platforms & Landscapes: Using Social Media as a Tool to Explore the Finnish Ed System”
Presenters: Dr. Michael Johanek, Dr. Susan Feibelman, Dr. Brandon Wiley, Dr. Martha Richmond, Dr. Joe Mazza, Jennifer Botzojourns, Verone Kennedy, Paul Solarz and Kavan Yee – University of Pennsylvania’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Ed Leadership (@MCDPEL), USA

How does a hashtag serve as the nexus of a global learning community that invites educators to bring their questions and perspectives to universal inquiry about preparing learners for the demands of an increasingly connected world? Extending place-based practitioner research in U.S. public, charter and independent schools, a team of doctoral students, alumni and faculty from the University of Pennsylvania planned, facilitated and continue to reflect upon a week- long study of innovative education models in Helsinki, Finland (see Using multiple lenses, which included instructional innovation, teacher leadership, and home- school partnerships, the team employed social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Skype, YouTube and Google Hangouts to engage fellow U.S. and Finnish educators in a ubiquitous dialogue. Site visits were extended through real-time and virtual conversations with educators from K-12 and higher ed institutions. This preliminary exploration has served as a catalyst for partnerships with Finnish educators and serves as a launching pad for further university work. The PennFinn research team will take you inside the synchronistic conversations that emerged through the research trip and sustains the conversation. This initial investigation provides models for today’s university by stepping outside the brick and mortar of classrooms in order to maximize resources (human, virtual, experiential, text-based, etc.) to expand the capacity for collective investigation. *Official Penn-Finn Learnings website:

HETL Social Media Lounge

Outside of our presentation on Sunday, our PennGSE team will facilitate the HETL Social Media Lounge, encouraging connectivity across the globe using the #HETL14 hashtag, building capacity with anyone who has an interest. For a full rundown of the sessions, see the Conference Program and follow the hashtag over at We’ve also set up a digital directory for educators at the conference to share their contact information here.

Alaska and Youth Suicide

Following the conference, our team plans to visit with educators and leaders around Anchorage working to reduce Alaska’s highest per capita rate of suicide of any state. We’re specifically interested in how the state is working to proactively work with young males, as male Alaskan natives ages 15-24, have the highest suicide rate of any demographic group in the country. We’ll be sharing our learning via blogs, podcasts, Youtube and Twitter.  Please connect during this trip to add to our learning.





  1. Tara Smith says

    I love the idea of Voxer! I believe that texting, while useful, is impersonal. Adding the voice feature with Voxer would create a greater sense of community. I also love the idea of using Voxer to provide immediate feedback to teachers after a walk through. What a great way to use technology.

    I also think it would be valuable to create a Voxer group with your staff, as a way to make comments, ask questions, or even vent frustrations(in a respectful way) to gain ideas from colleagues. It is impossible to create a school-wide common planning time so this would give teachers an opportunity to collaborate with their non-grade level peers. I know that I have been in a situation where I loved a piece of student work in the hallway or had a question about a project, but the teacher was in class with students so I left and never went back to communicate with the teacher. Voxer would be a great way for me to share with teachers, for them to listen to when they have time.

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