My Personal Learning Network is what keeps me wanting to learn more all the time. I surround myself with very smart people who inspire me everyday to learn all I can to engage my students in new and (hopefully) better ways. It’s also my lifeline for learning. This year, I am back in the classroom as a regular classroom teacher for the first time in about 16 years. Every day, it seems, I look for new and engaging ways to teach the standards based curriculum differently. I haven’t had time to do many things out of the box, since I’m still learning the curriculum and everything is new, but being able to dream about what is possible has kept me going. I mention this because I have to admit that this year, I’m really not giving back what I get from my network. I contribute when I can, but it’s not nearly enough. But– there’s just no time for much play.
On many Saturday mornings or early on the weekday mornings when I’m taking a break from planning curriculum, I dip my eager face into the firehose of information and take a good long, enjoyable drink. It can’t last very long, but it keeps me going from week to week. I look forward to days off, when I get to play and learn with my online network.
Facebook is my personal network. I connect not only with colleagues from work, but also my family and my old friends from high school. It’s a great place to connect with long lost friends and family, yet also keep in touch with colleagues I’ve worked with in the past and miss very much. Sometimes I share educational resources and insights on Facebook, but most of the time, my posts tend to be more personal. I love hearing about vacations, anecdotes about family, and news about what’s going on in the lives of people I mostly have had conversations with face face.
Twitter, Google Plus (you can only see my public posts), and my blogroll are where I find and share many great educational resources. Once in awhile, I feel like I have something worthy to share, and I post something. Lately, it certainly hasn’t been enough. I also save resources on Diigo and Delicious, and follow other people who share resources I’m interested in. On Diigo, I belong to many groups that share common interests like iPads, History, Math, and Google Certified Teachers. When I gather common resources into a stack on Delicious, those that follow me can get an email. I, in turn, get an email when they share stacks. It’s a great way to keep in touch with all that changes and is new in edtech and curriculum resources. I keep a feed of all I share on FriendFeed. I know Facebook bought it, but so far, they haven’t taken it away. Someday, I’ll probably have to transfer it elsewhere. You can see may Friendfeed embedded on the right sidebar of my blog. I belong to a few Google Groups like Google Certified Teachers, Chromebooks, Google in Education, and a few others. I check my GCT group as much as possible, and the others when I can. I also belong to many other places where I exchange resources with others, from SlideShare to Instagram . All of these sites are what make up my Personal Learning Network.
In our reflection this week, we are to think about when these networks might serve as a distractor. For me, my network is always an intentional distraction. Since most of my network is of an educational nature, I don’t really ever feel it’s a distraction, even if it does feel like play most of the time. I think my network might be very different from the networks my students are involved in, since theirs are mostly social in nature. Even many of my 5th grade students are on Facebook, even though they are not supposed to be until they are 13. Some have tried to friend me, but I don’t allow them into this personal network because it’s not a place I want to share with my students. If they used other tools like Twitter or social bookmarking, I wouldn’t have a problem adding them to my network, but most don’t use these tools. They live in the Facebook/texting world and don’t generally use networks for academic purposes. I want to use Edmodo, a social network for students and teachers, but due to the limited opportunities that students have to use the few computers in my room on a regular basis, this hasn’t been an option this year. I love the way some teachers use Twitter with their classroom, and I might try it sometime, but I haven’t yet. Mr. Verduzco, who is our colleague in the Leading Edge Certification class, uses Twitter often with his high school students. That is awesome!
I think it’s important that students learn to use tools to connect them with others who are interested in learning. Edmodo is a walled garden, but many other tools are available for them to use where they can share publicly, in a respectful and professional manner.
In the Networked Student video, Wendy Drexler represents how her high school students learn by harnessing the power of web based, collaborative tools.
I think that we need to teach students to learn find what they need to know by not only using search engines, but connecting with others using a variety of tools. This can’t be done in a week, but over the course of a semester or a year.
Alec Couros created this diagram of what a networked teacher should look like:
I think it’s important the both teachers and students start developing their Personal Learning Networks, so that they know where to go when they need to learn.