My 21st Century PLN – You Should Have One Too

We are to become educators of the future being community driven.

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.

community at nightA 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.

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Worth the price of the front cover?

If the schools in the U.S. are really as bad as reported, is going worth the price of admission?  
 

How much does it really cost public schools to educate children?  I admit that I don’t know the answer to that but the price tag adds up quickly.  One category of expenses that I happen to be looking at right now though for no other reason than out of curiosity.

Textbooks cost a lot and the big publishing companies make a fortune.  Making money isn’t bad but does it really have to cost so much?  It probably does by the time you add up all of the man hours and wages to pay.

I am a proponent of not using a textbook because all of the information you need to learn is all online and teaching kids how to search effectively and efficiently is free because Internet and technology are ubiquitous. Once the kids get the hang of finding information, compiling research and creating learning gets much easier.  In addition, there isn’t a worry that the information becomes dates or about another textbook adoption.

What if teachers could pool together resources to create their own textbooks?  It is already happening, but rather than one teacher try what if we pull a bunch of us together and put together an amazing digital book with relevant links and videos published through iBooks or other forum?  Use the concept of crowdsourcing to achieve that and I think the book that is created is usable, scalable, and flexible.

Making such books keeps the costs down in a district and the funds can be used for other things.

Make sense to you?

u a noun (n) or a verb (v) ?

Are you a noun or a verb?  Maybe this isn’t something you think about often, or at all but I was thinking about this after I attended the first ever ISTE Leadership Forum in Indianapolis, IN.

(n) vs. (v)

When I think of a noun I think of it being heavy and by heavy it mean it doesn’t move; it just sits there without really doing anything other than naming itself.  In contrast, a verb is busy doing something or being.  It is active, charged and poised to do something.

The concept

Being a noun or verb depends on how you see yourself as an educator.  Are you there in place naming yourself as a teacher?  Are you waiting for someone to do something for you or to tell you what you are being?  Is it a comfortable place?  Are you up and moving about your building talking to other teachers getting new ideas to teach with and having conversations about education?  Are you busy on the Internet finding new ideas and reading up on teachers who are blogging?  Are you a Connected Educator?

In light of the questions above, I think of myself as a verb.  I am always learning something new, reading blogs, posting on Twitter, connected with other educators around the globe, and see myself as never quite reaching the level of teaching I want to attain.

Being verby

As an educator for fifteen years, half way through a career, I still shake things up.  This is important as it causes me to think beyond the next lesson I teach or the next teacher I work with to integrate technology.  What I want for myself is to be actionable at all times so that I engage others around me in high quality and deep conversations that bring meaning to me and them causing us to reflect on what we do and where we are going as teachers.  It isn’t about just the face to face conversation.  The conversation I have as a connected educator brings me new ideas and strategies to use.  My thinking and creativity are stretched in new ways and this stretching and creativity moves me in new educational directions.

To be verby means to see yourself as a catalyst in your environment and changing it and yourself.  Answering the questions above helps you to gauge if you are verby, but what does it look like.  Being verby is to:

  • ask questions you don’t know the answers to.  Tom Whitby recently wrote a blog post about teachers not knowing what PD they need.  Do you know what you need to develop to be a better teacher?
  • seek out people who know the answer.  I have had a hard time doing this myself, but I have pushed myself to do it because it is better for me.  Be willing to ask others who have a better understanding for what you want to learn.
  • connect with other educators.  Being a Connected Educator is making connections with a wide variety of people and learning from them.  As you connect, be selective of people to connect with.  Not every educator will have something to offer you, so find and follow those who offer you what you are interested in or looking for to improve you.
  • share your thoughts.  I remember the days in school when I was asked to write journal entries.  Honestly, I loathed it.  Today, I see blogging as a journal that reflects me, what I do, and how I am being changed as an educator.  Blog and Tweet.
  • let others know your opinion.  Commenting on other’s blogs and Tweets is a great way to see what you think, and by doing so, you will come to your own verby thoughts that move and change you.
  • reflect on your own learning.  A best practice for any teacher is to think back about what they have done, or not done, to use it as a platform of personal and professional change.

verb.ize – What can you change to be a verby teacher?