There are so many different ways that we, as educators and learners, can keep informed about new teaching practices, strategies, tools, and resources. To be honest, I think that most teachers are always looking for more ideas to use in the classroom. With the Internet, we have so many endless connections and opportunities to learn, it can honestly be a bit overwhelming!
I think the biggest thing is developing your own Personal Learning Network. Below are two youTube videos I came across discussing PLNs and Educators.
The first one (below) is by Kelsey Wilkinson, a student, and is called Importance of a PLN in Education. In it, Wilkinson (2010) outlines the importance of developing an Online Personal Network so that you can learn collaboratively with others and share your own ideas. She emphasizes how we can use online tools such as twitter, blogs, wikispaces, and podcasts to become networked teachers by connecting not only with other teachers, but parents and students (Wilkinson, 2010). She outlines what Twitter, blogs, wikispaces, and podcasts are, describes how they can be used, and highlights their benefits (Wilkinson, 2010).
The second podcast (below) is by Skip Via (2010) and is called Personal Learning Networks for Educators. In it, he describes how having a PLN with social networking tools allows you to create a network of colleagues and mentors, who can then provide you with help when you need it, provide for your own professional development, and help others (Skip Via, 2010). He explains that PLNs can look a number of different ways, depending on how you create them (Skip Via, 2010). Some elements of his PLN include ways to find answers (i.e. youTube, Wikipedia, Atomic Learning), reading blogs/news to keep up with developments (i.e. Google Reader, Instapaper, Diigo for social bookmarking, and Evernote to aggregate images, videos, and text), publishing and sharing his own works (i.e. flickr, youTube, PBWorks, WordPress), communicating (i.e. email, Skype, and Google Wave), collaborating (i.e. Diigo and other social bookmarking sites, Google Wave, IlluminateLive, PBWorks, Wikis), and following colleagues (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) (Skip Via, 2010). He then outlines the importance of combining resources into only a few applications (i.e. HootSuite for Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, Google Mail for email and chats/messaging, Google Reader for blogs and newsfeeds, Diigo and Evernote for capturing and annotating resources he wants to keep) (Skip Via). He then cautions that a PLN is only as good as the people you have in it, and suggests looking for colleagues in one’s field, seeing who they follow, and becoming an active participant (Skip Via, 2010). Please bear in mind that some of his PLN elements no longer exist (i.e. Google Wave), but the core of his message is very relevant (i.e. reading blogs/news to keep up with developments, publishing and sharing works, etc.).
Thus, if I want to continue my learning and growth, I need to make sure I have set up my own, unique personal learning network. From the above youTube videos, the first thing I will have to do is start being more active in my participation on networking programs, such as Twitter and Facebook. I need to seek out colleagues who are active, innovative, and who also share ideas/strategies they have learned from others. By “following” some colleagues, they will lead me to “follow” others and so on until my network has grown and transformed. The caution will be in making sure I do not get overwhelmed with all the people I am following.
There are, clearly, many ways to stay connected with others. Below, I have outlined several ways that I have come across, during my inquiry, to stay connected and informed using the Internet. By the way, this is my first time trying Piktochart and it was super easy and fun to use! I loved all the templates and images/icons you could select from.
Because there are so many ways that we can use the Internet to stay connected and informed, I think, to begin, I will narrow in on a few areas and expand as I get comfortable building my PLN. I am already fairly comfortable using search engines and online databases to find out information and get ideas informally through searches. The areas I would first like to focus on is to more effectively use Twitter, Facebook, my Blog, and Pinterest. Because of this course, I now have a Twitter account (wahoo). I had always been skeptical about Twitter, largely because I didn’t know exactly what it was about (and how one can use it effectively). However, even from just following a few different people, I am quickly seeing how many ideas one can get from it! As Olaf Elch writes, “I have found more resources and got more useful advice for professional development in 3 months on Twitter than in the previous 5 years without it. I’ll go further. The more I use it, the more useful it gets” (via Mark Anderson, 2011). I also came across “10 Ways Teachers can use Twitter for Professional Development,” which emphasizes the importance of creating a strong, professional profile, knowing who to follow, using hashtags and twitter tools, and sharing what you read. The author provides great links to lists and tutorials for you to refer to on your Twitter journey.
In regard to Facebook, I would like to use my local union’s Facebook members page more and would benefit from joining groups that highlight new ideas in education. The Educational Technology and Mobile Learning site has a great list of 14 different Facebook groups to check out here.
In the context of blogging, I have done some personal blogging in the past (more related to my family as opposed to work). However, doing a blog for this course (and a blog for LLED 462) has inspired me to keep going. I really enjoy the process of writing a blog and sharing ideas and would like to continue this journey even after this course ends.
As for Pinterest, I do have a Pinterest account, but I haven’t actually started pinning anything. There are so many amazing resources on Pinterest that I would like to start collecting, organizing, and sharing. Again, it is important to find the right people to “follow.”
In addition to Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and Pinterest, I would like to explore some social bookmarking and content curation sites, such as Diigo and Evernote. I really haven’t spent much time exploring them, but as I delve more deeply into creating my own PLN, I will need to start organizing and accessing my resources and contacts better (especially as I continue to come across interesting blogs and websites, such as Mark Anderson’s blog, which I discovered on this inquiry project). I would also like to spend more time exploring podcasts, webinars and MOOCs, as I really haven’t spent a lot of time with them thus far in my learning. Edutopia even provides a great list of webinars and MOOCs here and a list of podcasts here. I’d also love to spend more time utilizing our very own BCTLA webinars and online professional learning sessions here.
Ultimately, however, I think I need to block in a specific amount of time (perhaps an hour a week to start with) to dedicate towards networking and learning online. It can be easy to go to both extremes (either neglecting it or spending too much time on it). If I dedicate a specific amount of time per week, then I will ensure I continue my learning without burning myself out.
Shifting gears, below are possible ways to stay connected and informed in person.
Although our world has opened up exponentially with the Internet, it is important to stay in contact with our in-person colleagues who also offer much learning and mentorship. Our District has several lead teachers (i.e. Technology Lead Teacher, Math Lead Teacher, Literacy Teachers, etc.) who can provide amazing insight, ideas, and strategies to implement in one’s teaching. They are often available to come in and work with you in your classroom and many also offer workshops or book clubs after school periodically throughout the year. I should definitely make better use of their expertise.
We also have specialist associations in our district, such as the Library Specialist Association. I know in the past I have attended some of our meetings, but they have started dwindling the past few years. I should really try and reignite this, as I found the time we met (even if it was once a month) quite productive and interesting. It is amazing how much a small group of people can share in a short period of time.
There are also many other ways to continue to connect and learn locally, such as in staff and curriculum meetings, through lunch room chats, and in collaborative planning. Many of these are simple, every day activities, but they all contribute to staying connected and informed.
Thus, I have many future avenues to stay connected and informed, both in person and online. The expertise of others is rich and spread throughout the world. By building my own PLN, I can better access their ideas and knowledge so that I can implement it in my own teaching and learning.
Anderson, Mark. (2012). Teachers use Twitter as their preferred CPD tool. ICT Evangelist. Retrieved from http://ictevangelist.com/teachers-use-twitter-as-their-preferred-cpd-tool/
BC Teacher Librarians’ Association. (2015). The BCTLA Professional Development. Retrieved from https://www.bctf.ca/bctla/info/pro-dev.html
EdTech Team. (n.d.). 10 Ways Teachers can use Twitter for Professional Development. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/10/twitter-for-professional-development.html
EdTech Team. (n.d.). The 13 must know professional development websites for teachers. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/07/the-13-must-know-professional.html
EdTech Team. (n.d.) 14 Great Facebook Groups Every Teacher Should Know About. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/11/14-great-facebook-groups-every-teacher.html
EdTech Team. (n.d.) Top 8 web tools for teacher’s professional development. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/07/top-8-web-tools-for-teachers.html
Leoni, Elana. (2013). Ten tips for becoming a connected educator. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/10-tips-become-connected-educator-elana-leoni
Oxnevad, Susan. (2013). [Why Blog? Wordle image]. Retrieved from http://d97cooltools.blogspot.ca/2013/03/why-blog.html#.Vhb7lhFVikp
Parkinson, L. (2013). Why Twitter is essential for every teacher. Mr. P’s ICT Blog. Retrieved from http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.ca/2013/04/why-twitter-is-essential-for-every.html
Ray, Betty. (2015). Best Education Podcasts. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/best-education-podcasts-betty-ray
Rheingold, Howard. (2013). [Image of How to Cultivate a Personal Learning Network]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PLN.png
Tait, Jon. (2012). [Infographic of To Tweet Or Not To Tweet]. Retrieved from http://www.edutait.co.uk/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet/
Unknown Author. (2015). Weekly Update: Educational Webinars, Unconferences, Conferences, and MOOCs. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/events
Vaswani, Praveen. (2015). [Why Blog? Wordle Image]. Retrieved from http://www.dattamsha.com/2015/07/working-blogging-for-collabera/
Via, Skip. (2010). Personal Learning Networks for Educators. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6WVEFE-oZA
Wilkinson, Kelsey. (2010). Importance of a PLN in Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9eqkWbjbbE