The New “Professional Learning Network”
A few months ago, I decided to join Twitter, not in the hopes of hearing the latest thoughts from my favorite celebrities, but for building my professional knowledge by following educators and those concerned with the plight of education. I wanted to see teachers using Twitter. I was, at first, pessimistic as I thought to myself, who would be on Twitter speaking on education that is saying things I don’t already hear when I go to PLN meetings in my area? And if there were people, I thought that the pool of teachers, educators and those concerned with education would probably be so small that I would rarely learn anything new. I thought it would be a waste of my time. I have never been so wrong in my life.
Social media, specifically platforms like Twitter, have not only increased my awareness about certain movements in the educational world, but they have opened my eyes and ears to people who are changing the very profession that I work in. From Twitter, I’ve learned about new teaching techniques and strategies for classroom management. I’ve questioned my own practices due to educational chats that occur on a nightly basis. One hour of engaging in a chat on education feeds me more than a month’s worth of in-face meetings put on by my school board.
The reason in large part is due to the fact that these virtual platforms and meeting sites are 100 percent voluntary. The people chiming in are those educators that want to improve the practice in every way possible. Instead of following an endless amount of television programs from the time they get off work until bed time, they commit part of their free time to investing back into the profession that pays their bills. This is the reason why there is so much (more) to be learned from our new professional learning networks.
These platforms not only increase the breadth of available professional learning that one can accomplish, they explode it. There is no subject off limits, no one particular thing that a teacher cannot find when surfing the channels of Twitter. Educational initiatives of tomorrow are being discussed, improved, and put into action in “the cloud” today. The cyber soldiers of education are consistent and diligent in their growth in order to ensure that we serve our students better.
Without Twitter, sites like edutopia and the synapse, we would be stuck in the mud with our wheels spinning. The educational world is too integral to continue to hinge it to traditional modes of communication. Staff meetings, TLNs, local meetings, and the such, are all integral to improving educational practice. But social platforms, places where I can connect to a teacher that works in the same city as me, another that works in Idaho, and another one that works in Australia, take it to another level. The ability to connect in such a vast manner, so we can all dialogue, share ideas, question each other and come together, is a move that only benefits teachers, educational practice and inevitably our students.
During the summer, aside from taking an additional professional course or reading a book on education, there is little to no learning going on for teachers. Yet we subconsciously expect our students to come back from their summer breaks better and smarter students. If you are not on Twitter yet, get with it. Engage with others who are invested in the same interests. Use these platforms as other tools to improve on your own skill. They won’t fail you. You can still follow your favorite celebrities if you’d like as well!
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