Since June of this year I have been on a torrent of learning and connecting with other educators and technology creating a massive learning experience for myself that otherwise would not have happened. Prior to this my only interactions with educators were at the middle school where I work. I was limited to the thoughts of this group of people. Over the years I wondered how I could interact with other educators.
With the innovations in technology there will be no excuse for teachers to not find and interact in professional learning communities to find and learn from others. This will be the new professional development experience for all of us within the next five years. While this is not a new prediction, it moves from predictive to absolute for without this absolute truth every teacher will fall behind in pedagogy, technology, and trends in education.
I am involved in many professional learning communities that include: Claco, Google +, Shareist, Connected Educators, Diigo and more. What I learn from these communities is invaluable! With so many presenting new ideas I can hardly wait to read what others have to say and learn from them. In essence, I have created a 21st Century PLN.
A 21st Century PLN involves numerous people from around the world who connect me to new ideas, resources and other educators. This skill of connecting is directly tied to communicating, collaborating, reflecting, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. There is not one educator who cannot afford to have these skills as apart of their daily regimen to think out and create new learning experiences for students. This spawned creativity generates a rush of new ideas for assessment, learning, and problem solving. When engaging in this kind of instructional design it is imperative to differentiate between: curriculum and learning goals, pedagogy and teaching strategies, projects and authentic learning experiences. So much of what happens in the classroom is derived upon inaccurate planning and assessment design. A well honed PLN allows an educator to find ideas, ask questions, and locate current instructional practices that lead to authentic learning. A note here…classrooms cannot offer authentic learning experiences because all learning is contrived by a teacher to meet instructional goals.
To create 21st Century PLN I had to, and you do too, get outside of myself and be willing to contact and communicate with strangers. It is essential that every educator at every level have a variety of professional communities they participate in to diversify their learning and practice. A static approach to learning only leads to an acute understanding of teaching, yet pushing the boundaries of who and what you know leads to a progressive development in professional learning.
I have expanded my PLN to include a variety of online learning communities.