Recently, I read a blog post by Steve Dembo asking, "Is joining a PLN bad for morale?" I was captivated by his examples of situations where educators got hyper-connected with a Personal Learning Network (PLN) online, which, in different circumstances led them to greener pastures.
I can certainly understand where this could happen. I've worked in schools that were not the best for my morale and I did move on, but I HAD to share in my comment to Steve that there is an example of another possibility. That example is my story:
In the Spring of 2007, I began reading a few blogs related to education. My favorite blog was by Rachel Boyd, a primary classroom teacher in New Zealand. I felt like by reading her blog, I was peeking inside what was happening in her classroom. I loved the idea, but didn't really think that I could do it until I saw a file Rachel had attached in the sidebar of her blog. It was titled "How to Start a Blog". Five minutes later, I was blogging! I couldn't believe how easy it was! I also noticed that several of the bloggers I followed were on something called twitter, so I joined to find out all about it. My personal PLN was born.
As the last few weeks of school rolled by before summer, I thought I'd offer to show anyone who was interested how to blog so I sent an email out to my colleagues. About 5 teachers met with me and started their blogs. So that handful of teachers and I blogged last school year. As the year went by we began talking about different ways to use blogs: class news, student work, coaching teachers, highlighting best practice and information dissemination. Other teachers became interested in starting blogs. My principal was very impressed with our work and started her own blog for the faculty. In retrospect, I think that was our turning point. I continued seeking out new ideas and learning about Web 2.0 tools through my PLN in blogs and on twitter.
This school year we kicked off the year with a new theme: Around the World in 180 Days, A Virtual Learning Adventure. The first commitment my principal made to technology was releasing me full time from the classroom to create a new position at our school, Instructional Technology Coach. We planned our first day back for teachers as a showcase for the possibilities for the year. My principal purchased the book Web 2.0 New Schools, New Tools for the entire faculty as well as a wristband flash drive. I contacted a member of my PLN, Jeff Utecht, to ask if he would mind skyping in to our first day session to speak a few minutes about why technology was so important to harness for our students. I watched my faculty coworkers look at the big screen in awe as this charismatic educator spoke to them from late in the evening in Manilla about how technology connects us all. It was a day full of fun, learning and new ideas. We were reborn as a faculty.
Where are we now, in the last half of the year? We have over 50 blogs on our faculty. (Which can be found on our website) My principal blogs, our instructional coaches blog, we have a blog for new teachers, grade level teams blogging, resource teacher blogs, many classroom blogs, school mascot blog, a conference blog and a teacher recognition blog. It's a blog BONANZA! Teachers are also using wikis to share their work.
How does this all pertain to my PLN and the PLN of some of my colleagues? Almost EVERYTHING we learned to do was due to our PLN. We techno-evangelized and the work is being embraced on our faculty. Now I realize that this is not the case for many, but I think it sends an important message that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE!
I am still hyper-connected. I power up at work in the morning and spend my 15 - 20 minutes on twitter, checking replies from the night before, joining in on conversations of the day and adding what is going on in my work. This week alone I learned how to record a skype call and learned some more about copyright. Not many are ready to join me on that journey, but my PLN turned me on to Facebook where I have begun connecting with over 35 faculty members there already! That's what I love about being connected with so many educators, there is always a new idea, always something new to learn and always someone to support you as you try to build a PLN for your workplace.
That's my story, what's yours?