Digital Collaboration for Learning
In this day and age, educators must take responsibility for their own professional growth. Taking time to fully develop your personal learning environment (PLE) and your personal learning network (PLN) is tantamount to attending state conferences, local workshops, and edcamps, and the price is right!
How many times have you been asked,
“I always wonder… when do you sleep?”
I get this quite often from folks who imagine that I must consume and regurgitate all things tech ALL THE TIME. I just play around in my PLE during my spare time. The fact is, those who have a great grasp on instructional technology are either naturally inclined, or inclined spend extra time practicing with tools until they get it. I’m a good mixture of the two. We must remember one thing: for the sake of education, it’s time to shift the focus. It’s not about the technology or devices. It’s about the information one can find and the products one can create with them as a result of learning.
I’m here to tell you that you can acquire almost any skill or knowledge you so desire with a just a little bit of searching. It won’t take the place of a formal certification or degree, but you can read various blogs, watch tutorial videos, search for certain hashtags on Twitter, or look for innovative ideas on Pinterest and Facebook. In other words, be resourceful; you can do this all from the comfort of the couch, the deck, the beach, or bed at any time that is most convenient for you!
One misconception I’d also like to clear up, is the true definition of a personal learning network (PLN). Do not be thrown off by the word, personal. Some believe that it is learning that pertains to matters outside of work. Not so. It is learning that belongs to you. It is prescribed by you, by your own means, and consumed in your own time.
I recently realized that I have trouble selling teachers on developing a strong PLN, because I have not shown them the components of a stable PERSONAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT (PLE). Your PLE is the environment that you afford yourself to use technology to learn from the web and trusted sources, and exchange knowledge with other professionals both within and outside of your local area. Below are the components of a PLE and some examples.
It is not suggested that you have a membership with each outlet shown above, however networking is about learning and sharing. Therefore, you should try to establish a well balanced system for doing so. Your PLN is the people with which you interact with, using the tools above. They are your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and the people in your Google+ circles (to name a few).
For example: Take a look at the TechChic’s PLE and the tools she uses to interact with her professional learning network.
How I Facilitate My Own Learning
Technology: I use my HP laptop and Chromebook, an iPad, and my Samsung Galaxy note 3 to set up my environment and network (not all at once, of course…but I’ve been known to on occasion).
Web 2.0: A revamped interactive web experience that allows users to share and comment on information. Before (Web 1.0, users could only read information that had been posted to HTML sites, and little else).
Social Media: I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit, and Voxer. I look in these places for valuable information that may help me with instructional technology, often. If something catches my eye, I will retweet, share, or repin the information. Whenever I blog about something that I think is newsworthy, I share it to those platforms. People who see that material, and think it deserves to be shared with other people in their networks, do the same.
Specifically on Twitter, I create lists of influencers who tweet about certain subjects. For instance, I created an instructional technology list comprised of professionals around the world. When I want to see what’s new in my craft, I pull up that list. Most posts are loaded with helpful links and graphics that assist me in my quests. There are certain chats that I follow like the Breakfast Club (#BFC530). That chat starts at 5:30 am, but I can search the hashtag later in the morning, and get caught up on the question of the day, and everyone’s responses. Simultaneously, there’s a spin-off Voxer chat going on where people from the group are sharing voice recordings of their philosophies regarding the topic of the day. It comes straight to my phone. Sweet!!!
Blogs/News/Feeds: Huffington Post, Mashable, The Bible App, Free Technology for Teachers, and Fantasy Football Today are my favorite places to go for information. Again, when something valuable appears on my screen, I send it to Evernote or add it to Pocket to read again later, and share it with my PLN (the people in my network). Personally, this blog is a WordPress.com site. I think it’s user-friendly, the themes are great, and the mobile app is highly functional for editing and sharing on the go.
Productivity: Evernote is my favorite note-taking tool of all time. I can use the Web Clipper, or the Clearly extensions (find them in the Chrome Store) to send materials directly to my notebooks. It’s just plain awesome!
Online Searching: Google is the engine that I use most frequently, however it’s wrought with Wikipedia articles. There is a alternative to this. You can go to specific sites and search within the site for the information you’re trying to find. Encyclopedia Britannica has a hefty amount of information available to kids looking for trusted research materials. For the record, NC Wiseowl is just deep. When you search for resources in this space, it chauffeurs you directly to legitimate sources.
Bookmarks: Diigo is a great bookmarking tool that allows you to annotate your findings before saving the source to your list. I use the Google bookmarking tool and save the icons only to my bookmark bar (edit the bookmark and delete the title. The tiny icon appears on the bookmarks bar. When you hover your pointer over it, the name of the site is revealed). Information that I want to pull up later, I’ll send to my notebook or add to pocket.
Collaborate: This year, the instructional technology facilitators in our district will run our professional development sessions through Schoology this year. Like in Edmodo, not only can we flip our PD by providing the materials early, but we can post discussion questions for our teachers to ponder, based on the materials. There are also several groups and communities that we can join to share ideas with and learn from.
Online Video: There are three online video sources that I go to for learning. YouTube (anything you can think of), TED Talks (inspiration, philosophy), and iTunes Video Podcasts (graphics and photography).
Online Audio: Stitcher Radio is my favorite place for radio podcasts. You can make playlists and find experts speaking on just about everything. Audible.com is my go-to when I want to get in some reading, but I’m just too busy (or just plain lazy) to hold up my iPad or Kindle Fire to read the words. Besides, sometimes when I listen to an audiobook as opposed to reading an eBook, I can catch things I may otherwise miss, or hear things read in the proper context, whereas I may have read it with a different context in mind.
Take the time to build your personal learning platforms. Teach your students to do the same. It will all pay off, by and by.