This evening we were blessed with guest speaker Sheryl Nussbaum Beach who discussed being connected teachers. She began by posing the question of how connected we are in our professional lives. Thought provoking to say the least! I had always viewed myself as somewhat connected socially through things such as Facebook and of course my Blackberry! But once I step foot into a classroom or professional environment…. did that practice for me still continue?? I guess I hadn’t really thought of that until I began this ECI831 class. A visual that Sheryl used referred to the look of a connected teacher. This was originallt created by our professor Dr. Alec Couros and drew some interesting thoughts on what a connected teacher might look like.
Probably one of the most powerful tools I am learning to use to becoming professionally connected would be Twitter. It has been an eye-opening and amazing experience to have started to develop a network of colleagues that I can call out to and have meaningful, almost real-time communications with. This connected group of colleagues act as a great resource and mentors as I work through this course. Not to mention I feel more “globally” connected than ever before thanks to the vast geographical range of my Twitter mentors.
I also really enjoyed listening to Sheryl’s three-pronged approach to PD. She described the PLC (Professional learning community) as face to face or groups of individuals whom have regular conversations to grow and learn in a local context. The Global Community of Practice who learn socially in a wider context and PLN’s (professional learning networks) that promote the continuation of learning as directed by the individual learner whom will grow professional just as we expect our students do. In the past and based on the descriptors, I believe I have participated in a PLC environment but it was very much directed and not necessarily learner centered.
I then began to think about just how these communities and networks can be built especially on-line? Which might I add we had a great discussion on the difference between a Community vs a Network! From the discussion I took away that a network is used to pull people together, while a community is more personal and usually is a branch of a network. A community binds people together who want to share in a more centralized topic or set of ideas. In one of Sheryl comments she mentioned that those begining to build on-line communities should “start loosely and build for evolution to develop and create the community” . This will allow for flexibility in how the members of the community can participate and encourage growth. I later followed up our class with a vist to her blog and found she posted some great ideas on how to begin to build a community. You can read more about this in her blog post Community Building – Powerful Learning Indeed. I particularly like the point she makes in that regardless of the type of community you might be building, you need a plans. Sometimes I think plans can be overlooked or in some cases to rigid. As in the case of my PLC experience, our plan was dictated rather than discovered. 🙂
After all was said and done, I began thinking about the types of networks and communities I am currently a part of and just how connected I truly am especially in my professional life. What exactly was MY plan for building my “connectedness”?? I wonder if this could lead to a project for ECI831??
Based on my current experience in our province, we have a lot of teachers using interactive technologies. As part of my new career path I have noticed that many of these teachers are connecting more on a global scale rather than a local one. Thus I think they have built networks but not necessarily a community of local learners. I am wondering if there is a way to support/encourage local teachers to connect with one another whom are using interactive technology? Perhaps some of my mentors/blog readers will have some feedback on this and if it would make for a viable project in this class???
Thanks bunches for the anticipated feedback!