Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PLN - aka Powerful Learning Network

Day 22 of our TeachThought Reflective Teacher Blogging Challenge!

What does your PLN look like? What does it do for you teaching?

My research for my final part of my Masters is all around changing teacher professional learning to make it more relevant, connected and sustainable through Communities of Practice.  The journey to this research focus started when I began to develop my PLN online through Twitter and Facebook and face-to-face through my colleagues back in 2007.  I was frustrated with the way we seemed, as teachers, to be moving very quickly from one professional learning initiative to another with little chance to embed changes, examine our practice or sustain the learning and changes.

Many of the long-term projects we were involved in were incredibly valuable but difficult to sustain once they were finished and we moved on to the next one.  There had to be a better way to sustain the excitement we'd built up and the changes we'd made.  We also needed to be able to have a way that supported new staff into these changes or they would be easily lost.

My PLN had been the source of sustainability for me.  New Zealand educators are fantastic at creating and sustaining online PLNs so I've taken this idea along with my learning about Communities of Practice and turned it into my research.  Ownership of the learning is key and leads to motivation, excitement and engagement about learning.  These ideas are adaptable for all ages, especially our students but that's a whole other story, and research focus!

So what does my PLN look like?    
It is everything to my learning and teaching.  Some people might be surprised by the inclusion of my students but they are an incredibly important part and a conversation a few years ago when we were setting up their individual blogs taught me a valuable lesson.

We were adding their individual blogs to the sidebar of the class blog and they asked why mine wasn't on there.  I said to them that I didn't think they'd need mine on there and that they may not understand what I was writing about.  Not my smartest assumption.  Their reply, (they were 9 and 10 year-olds):

"We might not understand it all the time but you're a learner too and it should be on there."

This was so true so it is on there and quite a few of the students are still followers of the blog and I receive comments / questions from them.  The power of Student Voice can never be underestimated.

My initial research on Communities of Practice for teacher professional learning has lead to the following presentation.  It's just initial research at this stage but I want to change what we do and how we learn and our PLNs are a powerful way to do it.

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