One of the things we’ve been challenged to do in many courses throughout the education program is to develop a Professional Learning Network. This is important for a number of reasons. By engaging with other education professionals on spaces like wikispaces, twitter, Pinterest, and blogs, I as an educator have access to a much broader knowledge base. When these social platforms are accessed properly, they become a free marketplace for the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Developing a Professional Learning Network has given me access to all sorts of resources for everything from anti-oppressive education, to classroom layout ideas. Throughout my time in the education program, there have been a few impacting moments that have convinced me that a PLN is absolutely essential to maintaining growth and relevance in the 21st century classroom.
The first moment of impact came a year ago in ECS 100. Julie Machnaik was one of my instructors and she gave a lecture on how she had recently begun to use Twitter as a platform for her professional learning network. She described Twitter as being like your own personalized magazine. You get to pick and choose which people, organizations, and topics you want to be current on and the accounts you follow will post photos, share news stories, articles, videos and more. Up until then I didn’t really see the point in twitter, but her analogy of a magazine is something that always stuck with me as I’ve been on my journey to develop a PLN. She challenged us to ask ourselves what kind of magazine should we be building for ourselves as pre-service teachers?
Another moment of impact for me was when Madam Kreuger came to give a lecture to the class on treaty education. She spoke on how her established PLN was instrumental in developing a dynamic approach to treaty education in her classroom. Not only was a PLN carried out on Twitter a resource for her, but she was also able to teach her students to develop a PLN of their own, by starting a class twitter account and networking with other classes to see what they were learning about.
A PLN is also an important tool to pass onto students. Learning how to use the internet responsibly has become such an important thing to the younger generation, and schools definitely need have a greater focus on that. Madam Kreuger sees a PLN as a great way to teach her students some 21st century skills on how to use these digital spaces to expand their knowledge. It can also serve as an excellent spring board into inquiry based learning because a PLN serves to rouse one’s curiosity.
PLN enriched that class’s experience with Treaty Education, but Treaty Education also enriched their PLN because they were able to contribute stories from their own classroom to their network. Many teachers are hesitant to get too deep into treaty education because they feel like they don’t know much about it. I learned that a Professional Learning Network is also a good way to learn more and become much more equipped to deliver treaty education into the classroom.
Her inspiring presentation lead me to include her in my own professional learning network. I have found her class blog to be a very beneficial resource in shaping the imagined practices I intended to use in my future classroom. For example she has used her planning network to interact with teachers from across the world, and has even had her class Skype other classes to discuss common things they were learning, which blows my mind. See the picture I pulled from her blog below. I can only imagine beneficial outcomes that come from a class interacting with another class across the world to share ideas over common themes and content.
The final moment of impact I want to discuss has not really been a moment but a running thread throughout the journey. ECS100, EMTH217, ENLG200, and ECS210 are just a few of the courses that have modelled the PLN, and I hope future courses continue to do so. But in some ways I have been stubborn to the realization that PLN’s are useful. Perhaps I’m more attuned to the methods of instruction I was brought up with, because I tend to lean in more to the lectures as a source for learning than the internet. However, since so many of the lectures have been about developing a PLN, or a PLN has at least been consistently modelled throughout lecture time, I now find it hard to imagine not being heavily dependant on a Professional Planning Network. I’ve had a difficult time engaging in conversations on twitter and through blogs, and it’s something I know I need to work on. But all in all, the I feel very equipped through my PLN. It’s also given me a far greater understanding on how to be an anti-oppressive educator. The Professional Learning Network has made me so excited to get into the classroom and put everything I’ve learned into practice!