Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sharing the Passion

In the past few days I've started reading a new book:  Reinventing Project Based Learning by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss.  Chapter 2 is about creating a professional learning community/network (PLC/PLN).  I've often taken these terms to mean slightly different things, for example a PLC I take to mean members of my school community, perhaps also including other teachers in local schools with whom it's possible to meet face-to-face.  A good example of this would be the Project Zero cohort I worked with while at the International School of Amsterdam, where a group of us met for lunch biweekly for a year to discuss things we read and how we implemented new ideas in our classes.  A PLN, on the other hand,  I tend to think of in terms of a group of online educators that I don't meet with face-to-face (many of whom I've never actually met at all) but with whom I communicate on a daily basis.  However the important thing about both a PLC or a PLN is that working together in this way brings immeasurable benefits, yet it costs us nothing at all except for our time.

One of the best things about being a member of a PLC or PLN is that as an individual I can draw on the wisdom of the group.  Any question I have is answered (usually within hours) by someone in my online community who knows more than me.  For example yesterday I got really frustrated with TweetDeck which crashed constantly.  Fortunately I received 2 suggestions for other apps that would work well (Tweetbot for the iPhone, Hootsuite for the iPad) from my PLN (one suggestion was from someone who does actually know me as I used to work with her at a previous school, another is from someone whom I have never met as she lives in Australia).  Everyone is happy to help - it's free to share the passion.

Advantages of having a PLN/PLC:

  • No cost (except time)
  • Learning how to learn together - the focus is shifted from what you teach to what you learn
  • The focus can be on improving what you are already doing rather than adding on something new
  • Valuable peer review for your new ideas - before you try them out at school
  • Professional development - you want to learn something new, someone can always help you
  • Your professional life becomes more satisfying - even if you are working in a place that doesn't value change you can be part of the change that is happening elsewhere.  You (and your ideas) don't have to stand still.
  • Your PLN can improve your self-esteem and support you during tough times when it might be hard for one of your face-to-face colleagues to go "out on a limb" for you.
  • The joy of sharing the passion.
Now, if we see how many advantages can come from being part of a PLN/PLC ourselves as teachers, surely we can see the same advantages of students being part of such a group.  Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss write, "A project-based learning collaboration among students is a lot like a professional learning community among teachers." If we are passionate about learning and collaborating with our peers, it's a sure bet that our students will be too.

Photo Credit:  Sharing by Josh Harper AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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