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Sharing through PNL’s

April 26, 2013

 

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Not that long ago, sometime just before the Renaissance, it was actually possible for someone to have accumulated the entire sum of human knowledge. Today, even the brightest scientists of the world can’t be aware of all the current data on their specific fields of study! 

Now, just for a moment, think about education.

Every day of every year, in most countries of the world, educators are questioning the effectiveness of their methods and adapting to a multitude or learners with different learning styles and challenges. Add to that the reality that society itself is undergoing change at a speed never before seen, and you have but a glimpse of the prodigious amount of new educational ideas and practices brought into existence every day!

Professional development through social media must now become second nature. And what makes social media so powerful? Sharing.

But don’t take my word for it! (Pun not intended, but appreciated none the less!) Recently, Kevin Honeycutt (‏@kevinhoneycutt), a very well respected keynote speaker (if you don’t follow him yet on Twitter, you should!), tweeted: “People who rely only on their own, self contained thinking will not be able to compete with connected people.”, which applies to teachers as well as students, and as well: “Empowering teachers with connections to others who share ideas, strategies, resources & encouragement is a supremely benevolent act.” 

The 21st Century Fluency Project, an excellent resource “designed to cultivate 21st Century fluencies”, has recently published a must read article: The 8 Aspects of Teacher Learning. (If you haven’t yet registered as a ‘Committed Sardine’, read the reason they call themselves Committed Sardines and then decide for yourself!)

Corinne Campbell (@corisel), a public school teacher in Australia (literally on the other side of the world from me!), in one of her excellent blog articles wrote: “For me, sharing is at the heart of what my PLN is all about.”.

And the Personal Learning Network (PLN) is what it’s all about! I’ve only been using Twitter for about 2 months now and I have already learned more than in the previous 10 years, without anyone having to enquire as to my personal development needs or interests. Do a quick keyword search, read a few bios to check for credibility, click on ‘Follow’ and voilà! Instant access to the thoughts, experiences and recently discovered resources of like-minded peers. 

Shared. 

Freely. 

So that we may all accomplish our mandate, which is to prepare our students for their future.

How can this be accomplished by waiting for school boards to organize a series of workshops once or twice a year, to which quite a few will find excuses to avoid and most will attend only reluctantly? How can we prepare for the future when most of us are clinging to what worked in the past as if our very lives depended on it? You know how they say that doctors make the worst patients? Well, teachers make the worst learners. You know why? Because we are asked to change a system that most of us excelled in! And we have university degrees to prove it! Understandably, it’s difficult to feel the need to change something that has always worked for you.

But it’s not about us; it’s about them.

It is no longer possible to develop professionally adequately through self reflection alone. And, at this particular moment in history when communication and collaboration amongst people from around the world have become nearly instantaneous, it is no longer acceptable for an educator to tune out and ignore the wealth of knowledge freely shared by peers, each an ‘expert’ in their field.

Take another minute to read this excellent article by Jennifer L. Scheffer. She writes about her first 10 minutes on Twitter upon registering, which resemble my own as well as those of many people I know. She describes how she went from feeling that it was a waste of her time to wondering how she had ever learned without it.

The Personal Learning Network is the future of professional development. Today, we have access to Twitter, Google + and hangouts, to streaming videos of TED Talks (amongst others), Facebook, hundreds if not thousands of excellent educational bloggers and a multitude of other resources and platforms, not to mention the people working around us. We all have peers and/or consultants in our school boards who can guide us through these new waters. 

In 2013, to look the other way is to not only neglect an opportunity to grow, it is a failure to address our mandate, a failure to prepare our kids.

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