So I will admit to have been putting writing this blog post off – for a while! When I read the subject matter for this post, my heart sunk. Indeed, the last 2 years of Coetail have been a wonderful opportunity for me to be part of a learning community. It has allowed me to learn and reflect on my teaching practices, with as the website states ‘provides input and feedback from a community of participants on a global level.’ I have learnt, pushed my thinking, been introduced to new ideas and experimented in my own teaching, all in online learning engagements that I had considered myself lacking in. This journey has been a long one, and as I read through my previous blog posts, much has been achieved. But when it comes to discussing how much my PLN has actually grown, here I continue in the eyes of many, to stumble.
As a teacher I believe that it is part of my job to constantly reflect on my teaching, and look for ways to build upon, and improve my instruction and the students learning, on a daily basis. For these reasons, I constantly look for resources on line, read articles about a math idea or look for strategies on small group reading sessions. I download resources offered up on elementary blogs (Wild About Fifth Grade) that I follow, and love the resources and ideas that they share. Even my own school has a great professional learning blog on which weekly, posts & shares ideas that my colleagues are using just down the hall, but I might not get to see or know about. Here videos can be found on a range of educational issues, including technology that I can refer back to, ask questions about and learn from.
Yep – I am a taker. Life is busy, and I am a homeroom teacher with a life outside of school that also requires attention! Research & reading all takes time. Blogging with fellow Coetailers has been an excellent opportunity to have my world opened up to a wealth of ideas and resources that would never have come about had I not been a member of this community. I too, have ideas and activities that I use in my class, but do not necessarily feel people would be interested in seeing or hearing about. I am not sure why. Am I just sharing for the sake of it? Am I just reinventing the wheel by using a different coloured paper in the activity I have chosen to share? Is it in fact, just the same idea as what is already out there? I am just not ready for that step on this staircase to the global platform.
So what am I doing with regards to my PLN? I believe it is important that during this process, parents and the wider community are aware of the learning that it is taking place. Instagram is my major player in how I share on a content sharing platform, make personal connections with the students and their families within the immediate community, and globally. This social media, an article by Forbes states, enables ‘an in-the-moment experience’ , its simple and a visual that makes the connection immediate. With 52 followers, I do feel like I am ‘sharing’ by using this form of social media.
I read my colleague Bettina Meyers post on her PLN journey, and she spoke to how she regarded Pinterest as being part of her PLN. I would agree with this. This is a platform that I too use on a regular basis, in order to provide me with my own personalized learning and sharing platform. As is the case of Bettina, I have followers, and follow others. This site is a hidden gem for me with regards to connecting with ideas that are current, authentic, engaging, appropriate and for the most part, tried and tested by teachers who are in the trenches. Yet was it not for its very existence, I would not be able to connect with.
Where do I go next, I wonder? What is it that I see as truly meaningful and useful on a regular basis? I have considered having a Twitter account several times over these last few years, but always come full circle on it – back to the answer of no. I look around at my colleagues in elementary and the only ones who are using it on a regular basis, are the coaches. I get it, it makes sense – their job is to work one-on-one and in small groups with teachers, provide guidance, training, and other resources as needed. Twitter is a great way for them to connect with others on a global platform and share the ideas that they see working for us. In the meantime, I am looking for and finding resources in other areas that work for me and that I need now. And I am ok with that. I am still at that beginning stage of my PLN, but the difference is, due to Coetail – I now know what’s out there, or at least who to reach out too. Due to my school’s involvement in Coetail, I am aware of opportunities that will help me build my PLN. My school facilitates monthly NESA CHAT (using tweetdeck) that I can be part of. A PLN plan is no longer something that sounds ‘alien’ to me.
My colleague Lindsay Lyons blogs about the ‘Importance of giving back and participating in a community of sharing’. Wikipedia refers to the Leap of Faith as the act of believing in accepting something that is intangible or unprovable. The thing is, I am surrounded by great people who can and have proven that building a PLN through sites such as Twitter, Crowdfire and Google+ is possible and is useful. I don’t want to be that person who joins something for the sake of it, because it ticks the box, or it sounds good. Coetail has taught me to think carefully about what my objective is, to look closely at what options and what benefits are being offered, and to remember – it’s going to take time. And I know, I really need to take that leap of faith.