Discovering a Personal Learning Network

I’ve always been just a little techy and was an early advocate of infusing technology into learning. When working with teachers, I usually stress the connection between integration of technology and increases in student engagement. I talk about thinking, reasoning, creating, and collaborating and the many ways that use of technology can enhance those skills. No matter what the topic of the professional development might be, I would find ways to discuss with teachers how use of technology supports learning and engagement. Discuss — not model.

In the February 2o09 issue of Educational Leadership, Bill Ferriter wrote the article, “Learning with Blogs and Wiki.” After reading the article, I was inspired to “do” instead of just “talk.” With no training or previous experience, I set up a wiki to use with a group of principals I work with and began to more overtly preach the message that we (my colleagues) cannot continue to urge schools to adopt Web 2.0 tools as part of instruction if we do not begin to use those tools ourselves as part of our work with school improvement. The modeling paid off; little by little, other consultants began to set up wikis to use with their school groups. It was a beginning.

In an effort to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, I began to explore other tools mentioned in the article then expanded to a general exploration of Web 2.0 tools I saw or heard mentioned as I delved more deeply into edtech. One thing led to another, and I quickly discovered Twitter. Oh my. What a discovery. Without a doubt, Twitter has transformed my learning. I coerced a couple of colleagues into signing up then went on a search for other people to follow. First one person and then another. I explored the “following” lists of the few people I was following and searched key words in my areas of interest. Each day I found more people tweeting about topics I care about or posting resources I would never have discovered on my own. Thus, a PLN was born.

Since I wasn’t getting through to people about the power of Twitter, I started a small e-mail group of colleagues and began sharing links to resources that would support our work with schools, always pointing out that I discovered the resource via my Twitter PLN. It’s slow going, but I’m making progress.  A few more of my colleagues have joined Twitter and begun to build their own PLN’s; still more have expressed interest in joining but haven’t yet taken the step. My hope is to convert our organization into a culture of active learning that takes advantage of the technological tools that support learning — both our own learning and the learning opportunities provided in our schools. I continue to grow my own PLN and need to explore more Twitter apps to help me manage the flow of information. It continues to amaze me, though, how people I wouldn’t recognize in person are so important to my learning and have begun to feel like friends.

Through this blog, I’ve taken another step on my ongoing quest. One more tool has been added to my toolkit. I’m still on the learning curve and need to figure out the bells and whistles of WordPress.com. Eventually, I’ll figure out how to add links and pictures and make it pretty. For now, it’s enough that I’m participating in the online community.

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4 Comments on “Discovering a Personal Learning Network”

  1. Paul Bogush Says:

    Happy to be your twitter follower!
    What helped me keep blogging is making sure I did at least one post a week no matter how long or short, then you get into rhythm. If you ever need help with the mechanics of blogging or your wiki please don’t hesitate to ask.


  2. Hey Nancy,

    I want to highlight one thing from your post. You wrote:

    “With no training or previous experience, I set up a wiki to use with a group of principals I work with and began to more overtly preach the message that we (my colleagues) cannot continue to urge schools to adopt Web 2.0 tools as part of instruction if we do not begin to use those tools ourselves as part of our work with school improvement.”

    There are so many lessons in this one sentence. First, you learned that Web 2.0 tools are not intimidating devices that are impossible for teachers or school leaders to master, didn’t you. With a bit of resilience and moxie, you found ways to learn—and isn’t that what being a teacher is all about?

    Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant was recently wondering whether or not we enable teachers by providing constant support for those beginning to explore digital tools. The tools are not hard to use, he argues, and as such, we should expect teachers to do just what you did: Experiment in the name of learning.

    Second, you also discovered the inherent hypocrisy that I see in many consultants and school leaders—who happily talk all about 21st Century learning but aren’t 21st Century learners. That sends such a negative message to faculty members. It’s the old “Do as I say, not as I do” syndrome, isn’t it?

    As a pretty savvy classroom teacher, I can tell you that you will earn far more respect from those you’re charged with leading when you can demonstrate that you’re actually in the digital waters with them.

    Congratulations on taking the first steps towards being an efficient learner and a credible leader.

    Bill

    • blairteach Says:

      Thanks for the comments. When I recently conducted a workshop on using technology in schools, we enjoyed looking at your classroom blog and discussed the quality of student responses.

      Earlier, when I agreed with Scott’s point and tweeted it, I got some flak back (via Twitter: Mmm…ok tech snobs, how about “here’s a calculus book, teach yourself & good luck y’all”). I responded that I saw it more as “here’s a calculus book, now let me do your homework.” The same person later asked if I was ever actually a teacher. If a person is not the “go to” person, they may not understand what Scott meant. It’s not about objecting to helping people; it’s objecting to being asked to do simple tech tasks for others when they won’t even try first. In an effort to push principals into using our wiki, I’ve posted some content that they can only access through the wiki. It’s the “push” some need to try something new. As I work with them this year, I will sit with those that need it and encourage them to interact with the wiki.

      Another one of my soapbox issues is fighting the “Do as I say, not as I do” syndrome. I didn’t raise my children that way; I didn’t operate my classroom that way; and I don’t work with schools that way. There is real power in leading by example.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    The educators consistantly involved in growth are out there! Educational professionals should dip their feet in the waters but sometimes need to just jump into the deep end to really commit to change. That’s the way to insure there’s no going back; just get into the deep end & swim to the other side:)


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