Creating my Professional Learning Network (PLN) has been a challenging but perhaps the most rewarding activity thus far in OLTD 502.
At the beginning I was at a bit of a loss as to where to start. My twitter account was a bit of a mish-mash. As I have diverse interests, I was fine with that. I was worried, however, that my professional learning might be diluted in a sea of eclectic tweets.
I was inspired by my fellow students to make my PLN purposeful. I borrowed the idea of creating a second twitter account for the sole purpose of following and tweeting about professional issues. After some consideration I decided on the handle @Connected2Learn. This reflected my intended person of continuing my professional learning and discovering innovations to help my students learn.
My next move was not original. I looked at who my colleagues were following and selected individuals and organizations that I believed would fit with my professional learning needs. And there were lots! I had to remind myself of my intention to remain purposeful. Some I chose to follow out of a sense of professional responsibility to remain informed, such as @BCEdChat, BC’s Education Plan and School District 68. Others I chose because they reflected my areas of interest as an educator, such as Edutopia. Still, the more people I “followed” the further I travelled down the yellow brick road to this strange Oz-like land.
Very quickly I began being inundated with tweets. Initially I was tempted to click on all the links. And temptation is a powerful thing. As I was led further and further down the yellow brick road I became more discriminating. I was especially discriminating about those tweets I opted to retweet. I wanted to be respectful of other people’s time and not waste it with a tsunami of incoming tweets.
As I retraced my steps out of OZ I reflected on all the tweets, articles and videos I had viewed. I had chosen to read the articles or click on the video links because they had intrigued me. As I examined them more deeply I questioned the value of some. There were articles that made me reflect on my practice or led me to tools that I might not have otherwise explored. Others, in hindsight, seemed to serve more as a means for showcasing an individual, group or trendy practice. Celebrating success serves a purpose. Does that purpose include my professional learning? For me, the answer is probably not.
The world of twitter has the potential to be all-consuming so I reminded myself that there is more to a PLN than posting and following tweets. There are many professional organizations created for the purpose of connecting dedicated professionals. My teaching schedule made participating in live webinars impractical so I chose to view a recording of a webinar from the Global Education Conference.
The session I selected was Preparing Teachers for Instructional Best Practices Within a Devolving Digital Society, presented by Crystal Neumann, Imani Akin, and Tenika Broussard. The webinar was presented using Blackboard Collaborate, a platform that I am familiar with as a result of OLTD. There were some issues with the quality of the audio due to multiple microphones being open at once but overall the session served as a good introduction to those not familiar with teaching online or blended classrooms.
The webinar lasted approximately 30 minutes. It began with an interactive activity requesting that participants place a marker on a map to identify their location. A good way of involving participants, however, either the required tool in Collaborate was not activated or participants struggled to use it because only the presenter was able to mark her location. As all educators do when a demonstration flops (and it happens to all of us) she moved forward.
The presentation addressed some of the challenges, such as cultural differences and access to technology before discussing some of the tools available and their applications. The presenters again made an effort to involve participants by using the polling feature to discover which tools participants had experience using in their classrooms.
The presenters did not go into detail but touched on applications such as Jitsi, Google Classroom and Edmondo. I was not familiar with any of these so was pleased to have something new to explore in my free time (I understand that I will discover some eventually.)
I feel that had I had the opportunity to participate live I might have felt more connected and derived more from the presentation. Being able to interact is definitely more engaging. With the intention of participating in some future webinars I have registered with EdWeb as they have some webinars scheduled for the future that look to be of interest and practical for me.
So as I “follow” Twitter into strange new worlds, I am reminded that I have the power and responsibility to determine the path of the yellow brick road.