Summer vacation has been over for a little over a month now. If you are like me it is (and always has been) my favorite time of year. I hate being cold so as soon as it hits the end of March my quality of life improves greatly until Thanksgiving when the temperatures being to drop again (I’m from the south we get to defrost longer). Summer break was great, I got to relax some & spend more time with my kids, but was, as usual my busiest time of year.
Summer is when I catch up on reading books and blogs that make a better teacher and help me reflect on changes I need to make for the next year. I also spend a lot of time at conferences either presenting or learning, lots of times I do both. I get to spend more of my day on twitter learning from my PLN and bookmarking links. Many of my friends, family, and coworkers make fun of me for spending my time and money at conferences or blogging, yet when they need to know how to use a new technology or want to know the best site to use for a lesson, they come to me. Heck, Tuesday I spent my daughter’s gymnastics class helping a teacher/mom decide on best response system for her classroom (we decided Socratic was way to go since had class set of Chrome books).
One of the conferences I attend every summer is my district’s “Tech Camp.” This year the sessions were great & so was the attendance. It was nice seeing some of the talented people in my district step up. But I noticed something in my sessions and a session from one of my coworkers, a lot of the attendees did not know about some of the web 2.0 tools most have been using for years. He asked who has used Google docs and since no one had, he ended up doing an impromptu Gdocs lesson. In my session when I would mention a common tool or app and ask if anyone had used it before I would get crickets. I recently was pretty upset that conferences focus so much on tools and not higher level learning, but this was an awakening moment for me reminding me there were still those needing to learn the basics. But the “why” there are many who do not know these basics was what has really stuck with me.
I work in a very large district, over fifty schools and in those schools around 2,500 teachers. But we only have one technology specialist and one technical coach. The schools have “tech reps” that are teachers in the schools that have some knowledge and are asked to do some tech PD, but one person is in charge of this for the district. They do not get a dime for this, it’s strictly volunteer and do all they can (found out a week ago most get a free day off, but I’m sure that comes with guilt of taking a day). The one technology specialist we have is awesome and totally gets it but no way she and one coach can do PD and support all 2,500. So how are these 2,500 teachers supposed to learn about the newest trends in educational tech as well as feel like they have support with this tech they are not familiar with? I’m sure you have heard the saying “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime,” that saying totally fits here.
You see, we can do these quick one hour “here are a bunch of tools and here is a link to find them in September after school starts” or we can spend time teaching them how to take control of their own PD. I doubt anyone reading this blog post said “Hmmm, I think I am going to start right now reading educational blogs” and went to the right place and automatically filled up their Reader. Or did you randomly said I’m going to use twitter for educational purposes because following just celebrities is lame. No if you use those tools someone showed you either how they used it or told you why it was beneficial to them. Not only did someone show you how/why/what of these tools, they also gave you the information to allow you to decide which is best for you, or your took the trial and error route. Either way, you probably have found some connecting tool that works best for you, and others need that opportunity. Twitter may not work for some but a teacher may be already addicted to Pinterest easily can see the benefits there. Maybe a teacher on your hall needs that one on one time from the team PLC you think is a waste of time, so don’t blow it off and remember this is how they learn.
As teachers we dream of our students taking charge of their own learning, but as teachers we don’t always do that. Today’s world is so much smaller than it was 5 years ago, we have more options than ever before to share ideas and learn from each other. Whether it is from just going to a few conferences a year, reading blogs, or taking the plunge and connecting with others on Twitter. Everyone’s PLN is different, but it is your “Personal” learning network. Without it you only know as much as you know, with it you only know as much as all of the others you connect with, and to me that is a lot of smart kids I get to hang out with and learn from. The definition of PD is changing drastically, if you are in charge of it and taking advantage, than PD becomes an everyday experience not just a PowerPoint with handouts. It becomes real. It becomes personal.
October is Connected Educator month. It’s when we celebrate the learning and relationships that happens online. It’s also a time to encourage those around you to connect with other teachers in a way they feel comfortable. Take the time to do so, everyone should get the opportunity to sit with the cool kids.