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!

Twitter Chats

I just read an article on Zite about school wide Twitter chats in New Zealand.  The “kidsedchatnz” is run by teachers.  The teachers give a prompt and ask questions to get the discussions started, but the students do the talking.  I think that this is a great way to use Twitter.  As our school doesn’t have Twitter accounts for students we will have to look at other options for students to use, but I love the idea.

This idea could be used to have all of the students in a grade level participate in a discussion, but not have to be in the same room or have to “speak” in front of everyone. It would allow for example, EAL students to be with their EAL teachers while the discussion was taking place.  This would help them be in a location where they could get the help the needed without being “seen” as getting help, such as an EAL classroom or with a special needs teacher.

The New Zealand chat gives out a “tweet of the week” acknowledgement to the student who creates the best tweet, encouraging students to think before they post and to compose quality tweets.

This could be a great way to start a unit of inquiry or to end one.  You could have another class/grade ask the students questions about the unit they have completed. Then the class running the chat would be in charge of answering their questions to show what they had learned and how they had found their information.  It would also be a great way to include parents, especially those who can not physically be on campus.  The parents could be a part of the discussion and be able to ask questions from anywhere in the world!

This type of activity could even become a summative assessment with the right rubric if the rules and expectations were set in advance.

Twitter the River of Information

I began my Twitter experience in an effort to see what Twitter was like as I had read in a couple of blog posts that suggested it was good for classroom use. When I first jumped into twitter I hated it.  I couldn’t wrap my head around how to manage it.  Even with only following a handful of people, I found it too much.  Then I attended a Google Apps for Education training run by Ian Addison.

When I mentioned this to him he said “A friend told me once to think of Twitter like a river.  You can stand on the shore and watch it go by, you can dip your toes in, you can wade in the shallows, you can jump straight into the middle, or you can leave the river to flow and not visit it for a while.  The river will always be there flowing no matter how you choose to interact with it.”  This made me relax and realize that I could just dip my toes in for a while until I got used to it.

Twitter soon became my main source of professional development (PD).  I am on Twitter an average of once a day to check to see if anyone I follow had posted any useful information.  I mainly follow educators as my focus with using Twitter is for PD, but I do have a few people that I follow because of my hobbies.  I have found the majority of websites and apps that I share with teachers through my twitter feed.

Because of my time on Twitter, I can now see why many educators see it as a tool that can be used in the classroom.  In a day and age were parents are begging for information about their kid’s school life, this is a great way to communicate that information. I am excited to try Twitter in our grade two classrooms.  The teachers have agreed to give it a go and so I want to see how we can use it as an effective reflection, information transmission, communication, and information gathering tool. At first, we are going to experiment with “protected” tweets.  That will give us a chance to get our toes wet and get used to the temperature before we jump in!

Photo credit: https://abs.twimg.com/a/1382598364/images/resources/twitter-bird-blue-on-white.png