It All Takes Work

What’s a PLN you ask? Well, a Personal Learning Network is an essential part of being an educator these days, in my opinion. I can’t imagine how I would have survived the last 5.5 years without one. PLN’s allow you to connect with other educators in your field or just other like-minded educators. They are not always in similar jobs but generally have similar styles. My PLN journey started out small. A few contacts I had made through professional development (PD) that I would regularly email and ask questions. It began to grow when a Google Trainer told me this story about how to use Twitter. This started a journey that is continually developing as I wrote about in my post “It’s all about the PLN

One of my goals in that post was to become less of a lurker and participate more. I can’t say that I have made huge progress with that but I did try to make more effort during this course.

Staying involved in my PLN is what helped me complete my Course 5 project though. Without my PLN I would not have been able to move the project into Redefinition. It all started with this tweet to my PLN. This tweet resulted in two teachers working with me to help complete my project.

Another place that I am active in my PLN is Facebook. At first, Facebook was only for personal stuff. But now there are some very good PLN groups on Facebook and I find myself engaging with them more and more. For example, this one for Book Creator. Instead of traditional twitter chats, they have their chats online in a book. So instead of answering questions in posts, you answer questions by making pages in the book. Now with their new collaboration tool, it is even easier! I wasn’t going to be awake during this online discussion so I snuck in and added my answers to the book the morning before they held the chat!

 

I also try to share my expertise when I can through my PLN. I try helping out teachers who have questions when I can. My one caveat is that I make sure that I read the comments to see if my answer has already been stated. I hate nothing more than repeating what someone else has already said! That is what the “like” button is for!

Here are a few more examples of how I have participated in the Book Creator Facebook group.

 

 

My PLN is also a place for me to grow and develop. I learn new things every time I engage with my PLN. I am constantly forwarding myself posts to reread and review. I use Pocket to help collect articles to review at a later date or just collect ones that I may want to reference in the future.

My inbox in my school mail is full of articles that I want to re-read or share with my teachers. Sharing information with my teachers is actually one of the main reasons that I stay on top of latest changes. If I can give teachers information that will help make their lives easier than that is one of my goals!

One way that my teaching partner and I have been doing that is through interactive Google Drawings. I totally stole this idea from one of my PLN Peep Carrie Zimmer who creates Tech Tidbits. My teaching partner and I started creating our own. Here is one example, if you click on the link underneath you will be redirected to the interactive image (click around, though the cursor doesn’t change pretty much every image is a link).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another way that I have begun to help my teachers develop their PLN skills is to create an in-house Seesaw Chat group. It is starting out with a few select teachers as a place that they can go and help themselves if needed by asking each other questions. It will also be a place where I share Seesaw information that I think they may want to see from my other sources. I think this has a lot of potential, but I will need to see where it goes in the future to see if it fully develops!

When the Going Gets Tough!

I recorded this podcast about a week after our Rigorous PBL training. Since then I have had more time to explore using the idea of Surface, Deep, and Transfer in actual planning. One of the things that I have noticed is that just like trying to get to the R in SAMR is difficult, trying to get to the Transfer level is also difficult. This makes me wonder if this is why teachers struggle so much to get to these levels? Is it because it is one more difficult element in a long list of difficult elements that make up education?

Is it similar to why some parents, even though they know better, do things to make their lives easier, like letting their phone be a babysitter? Michael mentions John Hattie’s Meta-Analysis and that basically having any teacher in a classroom is on some level effective. I wonder if this isn’t why education has become so stagnate. We just keep doing what we have always done because it isn’t ineffective. I think this is part of the reason why I have stayed overseas. Other than the lifestyle and travel which are personal reasons. The professional reasons are that I am not interested in spending my time in a school that is just doing the minimal effective techniques to teach students.

I do know that I don’t have to go internationally to be able to be a part of the change that I think education needs, but I do know that international schools do play a role in leading some changes. I also know that there are many international schools out there that are doing just the minimal to get students education like any other school system.

I like to think of myself as someone who is motivated to be a part of the change in education. I am actively participating in my school’s research and development teams. I am actively staying on top of trending changes in my field. Do I do this because I am a single subject teacher and I have more time? Do I do this because as part of any technology job you have to stay on top of the tech and it changes so often? Do I do this because I am self-motivated and this is just my personality? I really think that it is a combination of all of the above and I hope that the drive never changes. I do know that the drive has become more developed with the development of my digital PLN. Until I started developing my PLN through social media, I was only able to stay on top of things through face to face PD and information from other teachers. Now I am getting information nearly as soon as it happens and am part of discussions sometimes from the very beginning.

I also feel that a huge part of doing this effectively is being collaborative. Working with others either in your field, school, grade level, whoever. Find someone who can help you and work with them to bat ideas around. When I was trying to come up with how to move projects that were apart of my Course 5 project along the SAMR model it too me and my teaching partner both batting around ideas before we could figure out how to move things along. One of us was not enough, doing things in isolation for me is not enough, I need to bounce ideas around with another person so that I can think through them more thoroughly and work out all of the elements needed. That is one thing I like about the international schools that I have worked in. I have been very lucky to have always had colleagues who are willing to collaborate with me!

I think that this is a great time to be in education because of the rate of information sharing and the speed at which change can happen, there is no excuse for not being a part of change if you want to be. You only have to take the leap and challenge yourself to do the hard things. Like, try to figure out how to take lessons involving technology to Redefinition and how to move your students into a place were Transferring their knowledge is normal and just part of what they do.

Is it hard? Yes! Should we do it anyway? Absolutely!

 

It’s All About the PLN

This week I am writing a reflection after reading Reach by: Jeff Utecht. While I was reading many things came to mind about the connectedness of the internet and the communities that we make because of the internet.

My first connection was from the quote “We thought communities trumped content” (Mayo & Newcome, 2009). This quote from the first chapter made me think back to reading “A More Beautiful Question” by Warren Berger. Berger made stated that the value of knowing answers is decreasing while the value of asking good questions is increasing. Content knowledge is something that is easier and easier to obtain with each addition to the internet, but having a community and network of people that you can ask questions of is still an active part of the internet.

This is how I use my Personal Learning Network (PLN). My PLN has always been my first stop when I have a question that I can’t find an answer to. I am a Tech Integrationist which is a job that can be hard to find colleagues who are close enough to your location to actually meet and talk with. Having a PLN that is virtual is essential and virtually impossible to function without. The internet community that comes with a PLN allows me to ask questions and receive answers from other teachers and integrationists who, without the internet I would never be able to connect with.

This is part of the reason that I don’t understand people who say that social media isn’t actually that social. They have obviously never been to a conference and had to have the conversation with themselves that goes like this, “Hmm, that person looks familiar. Yep definitely someone who is familiar, but have I met them before? Were they in Munich? Zurich? Or… do I follow them on Twitter? Oh, crap, have I actually ever talked to this person in real life or have I only interacted with them online? I need to figure this out!” Then once you figure out where you know each other you end up hanging out several times both during and after the conference before heading back to your home and continuing your relationship online. While yes this example includes some actual real-life contact. The majority of this relationship will probably remain online and has the potential to be just as fulfilling as if you were able to spend physical time together learning from each other.

This brings me back to my PLN. I recently participated in an interview for doctoral candidate Kay Oddone. She asked me to map my PLN. At first I thought, how well this won’t be that hard. But once I got started I realized A. how complex my network is and B. how interconnected it is. I also realized that I use certain parts in certain ways. For example, I use Twitter to communicate with specific people who are inA More Beautiful Question.jpg two or three different parts of my PLN but Twitter is the way that I communicate with them 1:1 if needed, even though I know that Twitter may not be their main communication tool. In my head Twitter is the PLN communication tool!

I also realized that I spend a lot more of my time on my PLN as a Lurker/Sharer than an active participant. While I do participate, I do not do it as much as I could/should. I have also realised that on different parts of my PLN a more active participant and on other parts I am more of a lurker. It sort of depends on the social media element that I am in!

I also wonder if there are times when you can be too active. I find that there are times when I could totally answer a question for someone but when I read the comments I find that either the question has been answered or someone is starting a two way conversation that will lead to an answer. I hate when people don’t bother to read comments to see if the question has been answered before posting a repeat. So I try to avoid that. I guess that is me being active because I am choosing not to respond since my response is no longer needed.

I also find that I tend to go in cycles. I will be very active for a period of time and then there are periods of time when I am very inactive. Mostly depending on stresses at school with workloads.

Another thing that I find that I need to do regularly, usually after a conference, is to cull my PLN. I know that there are certain types I can’t handle in my PLN. The main one being the person who posts someone on Twitter every hour of the day. But also I find that if I am not opening articles or reading a person’s feed then I will delete them from at least part of my PLN. I have some people who I follow in one social media sphere but not others because of the way they interact in one or the other.

The last thing I will comment on is Jeff’s comment about fear of self promotion. I think there are many teachers out there who are very fearful of seeming like they know it all, which I find is very common among teachers. I think that I struggled with that at first but then when I came to the realization that my blog was going to be for me to have a place to write out ideas fully and archive them, I realized I didn’t care if anyone ever read it. Also it gave me a way to share with my family what my job is since they can’t really understand it as it didn’t exist in school when they were in school. I think when teachers realise the personal benefits of having and participating in a PLN they will feel less like it is self promotion and more like it is self growth that they direct.

Taking the Professional Development Initiative

In the last two years I have gradually begun to take more initiative in finding professional development (PD) for myself.  Some of this was due to a lack of permission to go on PD courses but more so because PD in my area is so widely available online and so under represented at conferences.  I started slowly by following some blogs that I stumbled upon through a couple of groups that I am in.  Our librarian told me of a few IT related groups that she followed, so I joined them as well.

Then I moved to Twitter and following a few selected blog posts from other educators.  Twitter has now become my main source of information and PD.  I still visit a few blogs regularly but I have found that many of the blog posts that I have found useful, ended up on Twitter within a few days of me reading the posts.  Spending time doing this PD has made me realize that with the increased use of the web, the time for teachers waiting for PD to come to them or waiting to be sent to a training is over.  There is no reason that as teachers can can’t improve our practice with ideas gathered instantly from the internet.  There are teachers, trainers, facilitators, and companies posting good ideas and resources online at an amazing rate. It’s like having access to all of those great ideas from the Mailboxes magazine instantly at your fingertips at once.  It is also good because you can get current ideas and resources from some of the top people in education instantly.
All you have to do is decide whose ideas you find the most helpful and follow them in some way.  Be it on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, emails, their website, whatever you like best.  It doesn’t matter how you get the information, just get it.  You don’t even have to check it daily, because it will always be there waiting for you to access it! Use the internet to your advantage.  Don’t shy away from it, embrace it.

This quote from a “you may be a 21st Educator” list pretty much summes it up.  “One of your most trusted and reliable colleagues is in another state or country and responds just as quickly via social media as the teacher next door.”

Here are a few of my favorites from twitter:
@bookcreatorapp
@TeachThought
@rmbyrne
@CaileanUK
@ICTinEd
@MubaiMaggie
@jutecht
@DeputyMitchell