Thursday, January 8, 2009

Your PLN

How do you learn?

That's a good question for every teacher in your school. Teachers are learners as well, and if they aren't learning, they aren't effective. Consider this snippet from Thomas Guskey:

I often suggest to principals that they stand outside of school at the end of the day when students are leaving. As they walk by, that principal ought to stop students randomly and ask, "Tell me, what did you learn today?" If the student says "Nothing", the principal ought to send them right back into the building. That child just spent 6 hours in a learning environment. Is it too much to expect that each child should have at least one successful learning experience each day? I don't think so!

I also suggest to principals that they stand at the teachers' parking lot on Friday afternoon. As teachers walk by, the principal ought to stop them randomly and ask "What did you learn this week as a teacher?" If the teacher says "Nothing!", the principal ought to send that teacher right back into the building, too. That teacher just spent a week in a learning environment as well.

We desperately need to change our definition of professional development, away from the top-down model where a principal (or the new en vogue term "building leadership team") has decided what everyone needs to and will learn. Move it towards a personal learning environment, or a personal learning network (PLN). The clip below is by Will Richardson:

Suffice it to say, there's a lot to learn out there. There are so many great thoughts by teachers throughout the world, and now, the tools of the 21st century can connect you and teachers in your building with those people and their thoughts. And best of all, the tools are two-way; it isn't the old internet where you just gather information, it is the two-way internet where you share your thoughts as well.

Where should you start? Below, I've highlighted 4 steps, each with a tool, that will best connect you:

1. Start using Delicious to share your bookmarks, and make sure to describe them by using tags. Use Delicious to find other people who are bookmarking the same sites or using the same tags, and expand your breadth of knowledge.

2. Create a Google Reader account and start subscribing to feeds. I'd recommend several blogs to get you going, including Karl Fisch, Wesley Fryer, and the aformentioned Will Richardson.

3. Use Twitter, a microblogging tool, where you can post updates of things you are doing, reading, or thinking about. And of course, use Twitter to follow what others are doing, reading, or thinking about as well.

4. Join a Ning, which is an online community, where again you can collaborate with other educators, sharing ideas and thoughts. I'm a member of Classroom 2.0, perhaps the largest educational Ning out there.

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