The discussion for today post will involve how I can utilize Professional Learning Networks for the revision of my Lesson Plan 1.0. Over the last few post I have revised my lesson, based on my understanding of classroom discussions and readings about educational theory and practices. So how is a PLN a theory or educational practice? Some educators my not believe that it really is, as a matter of fact I didn’t. Although I believe I have strong online PLN, I‘ve participated in a few edchats, had discussions through Schoology about lessons, and routinely reach out via Twittter to a wide variety of educators across the globe. Before our classroom discussion I had a perception that these “online” interactions were the only thing that made up a PLN. There was a disconnect between the personal interactions I had every day with my colleges, educator friends, parents and mentors. Which in fact, were the means I started connecting with others online. So how than, do these people not constitute a PLN. The fact is they do and really always have just not in the way my perception of a Professional Learning Network worked. These individuals and their own personal practice shape many of the ways I learn and teach. Why would/should this practice be any different than the ways in which my students would learn. Now here I am contemplating what connections I can make about how a PLN has helped me, and how this same concept can help my students. One very powerful way in which my PLN has helped me grow is through clarifying or leaning new concepts. Early on in my teaching career working as the buildings technology teacher, in which constraints of budget did not allow for many opportunities for Professional Development I was expected to implement and new school management system with out formal training. Whole learning the ins and outs of the new system, I received notification that the software was purchased, installed and ready to be implemented. Knowing that I had a rather large task ahead of me learning the new system and having to train staff I reached out to a former college. After hours of processing and creating modules for the staff, I still simply didn’t understand a key component to the system. I meet with my college and within about 30 minutes many key components that I was unable to learn through the software’s tutorials, became crystal clear.
What does a PLN have to do with students?
Almost each time I open up my Google+ account I have been added to one of my students circles, now keep in mind that this is not a PLN I use often, but I am surprised at how inter-connected my pupils are. I see that many of their brothers and friends are friends with other students that I have had in the past or younger students that may know one another outside the school setting. This brings me back to my realization that PLN’s have always existed; it is the format that has changed, or rather grown with the use of the Internet. I am in no way saying that my students have even developed a PLN yet, unless ninety percent of them are musicians connecting with Salina Gomez and One Direction. Although what the student have built is the beginnings of what will determine their own future PLN. As a blog I recently read relates, “ But I don’t really listen to a person until there is a relationship of trust” (Spenser 2014). What I am saying, is that what I once believed to be two separate things, is the main way in which students interact and can be one of the same. Just as in the case with how I reached out to my past college for advice and understanding with learning a new management system, so do my students to one another. What am I teaching these same students when I leave out this daily interaction that we all participate in and learn from. To make changes within my lesson that can utilize appropriate networks for the assignment can indeed help to clarify and enhance learning experiences.
In this understanding, I can now see professional Learning Networks as a practice for teaching content. One of the ways in which I can change my lesson is by utilizing my PLN in exactly what I have been doing, blogging and considering the comments to changes on my lesson. I could have my students connect with a 3rd grade classroom, from my PLN and share out their paint pictures in order to provide feedback. The other class could comment on if the they can read the “key” built into the picture. Knowing that we could work together with another classroom that had no knowledge of what the student’s room looks like can provide insight to student’s work and if they have met the objective of understanding how to build a key on a map.
So if you get a chance and are interested in helping this lesson grow, I can start the work of utilizing my PLN, by asking for your feedback and input for Lesson 1.0.
Spencer, J. (n.d.). A sustainable start : develop a PLN. Retrieved June 28, 2014, from http://www.educationrethink.com/2011/07/sustainable-start-develop-pln.html