Thursday, January 29, 2009

Make Time to Develop your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

This past week has really been good for me professionally. I have started to broaden my PLN and as a result, I've learned a lot, and more importantly have become re-inspired. It is so easy to get bogged down in the daily task and lose site of the big picture and the goals you set at the beginning of the year.

I started telling one of the teachers about the Educon2.1 conference that I participated in virtually over the weekend. I told her about the conversations, the back channel comments, the Twitter conversations and everything else that happened, and she looked at me and said "who has time?" We all have time. We just have to make time.

Teachers really need to be life long learners and learning can take place outside of the school building and in informal settings. That is where your PLN comes into play. So let's look at some of the ways you can develop and grow your PLN.

How I started developing my PLN. (I took it slow.)

1. Blogs: I started with blogs. I searched for blogs related to what I was interested in. I started out by looking in Google Blogs and Edublogs. I did a search on topics that interested me. After I found some blogs of interest that were being updated regularly, I subscribed to various blogs using Google reader. I began to read and follow the blogs. Some I stayed with and still read, and some I stopped subscribing to when I saw they did not fit my interest.

A word of caution. At times the number of blogs coming in can be overwhelming. You do not have to read everything.

2. Twitter: Now I will admit I was slow to jump on the twitter bandwagon. But right n0w, I love using Twitter. I started out on Twitter following people whose blogs I was reading and then some of the people that I have heard speak at a conference or at district workshops. For a long time all I did was follow these people and read what they had to say. My interaction with Twitter really picked up when I participated in an online webinar. There was a back channel conversation going on, and from that people began to follow me, and I followed more people. My PLN was growing. But now that I was being followed, I needed to be active and participate in my PLN. I was learning from others and I'm sure there were some things I could help them with, so I started using Twitter to learn and to share.

Ning: I found out about Ning by reading the blogs. I set up a Ning for our AP kids at school. I joined a couple of organizations like Classroom 2.o.

All of these have helped me develop my PLN. Does it take time? Absolutely. Is it worth the effort? I think so. I have learned more in the past month than I have in a long time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Everywhere, Everywhere Web 2.0, but not at our school. It's blocked!

Blog post from my old site. I've changed directions with my blog so here we go with a new refined goal with this blog.

This summer our school district brought in Will Richardson to talk to all of the school Instructional Technology Specialist, Media Specialist and more importantly the district IT people. Richardson was here for two days and showed us lots of cool things, he peaked our interest in the possibilities and made some great points about using Web 2.0 tools and even the why we should be using them in k-12 education. It appeared to me like the school Instructional Technology Specialist and Media Specialist bought into the what he was saying, but I’m not sure the district IT people were sold on the whole idea. On the surface it appeared as if they agreed with his premise but in the end almost all Web 2.0 tools are blocked in our schools. So with that in mind what are we to do?

Since the summer I have been spending my time online reading blogs, wikis, articles, participating in online conferences and webinars trying to see what is going on out there in the world of education with Web 2.0. To be honest I’m still not sure how to do all of this in the school setting I am operating in now. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are good things going being done in schools and classrooms with Web 2.0, Ning, and Vicki Davis’ Flat Classroom Project to name a couple. But for the most part, teachers are not utilizing these tools nor do they show the real desire to do so. How do we get past the “cool factor” and move to the “relevance factor”? Web 2.0 tools are cool and have the potential to change the way teachers teach and students learn, but how do we show teachers the relevance of using these tools in their classrooms to enhance learning and participation by if we can’t get the sites unblocked at school?

I’m going to use this blog to talk and think my way through the process of the best way to help teachers incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their classrooms. And along the way share some stuff about what I am reading and learning online. As well as things I am questioning.

Come along for the ride. Let’s see where we end up.