Monday, September 22, 2014

Personal Learning Network: A Work in Progress

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I've never heard the acronym "PLN" until last year. It wasn't until I joined a book study group with San Diego chapter of the National Writing Project that someone introduced me to the term "professional/personal learning network". The term helped me name and appreciate the informal professional development activities I do. And, just as naming often does, I can intentionally look for more of the same situations - face-to-face and virtual - that enhance my teaching. 

The infographic above captures some of the things I do to keep up with professional development. I have always engaged in "hallway conversations", not fully appreciating how those informal meetings improve my teaching. Several of my colleagues should charge me billable hours for all the consultations they do for me. My peers recharge my batteries, providing feedback and support. Often my peers help me see what I'm missing, reminding me that I cannot see the entire picture. 

In terms of more formal, scheduled PLN activities, I've become an active member of the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) I am attended this past summer institute for K - 16 teachers. Each of the 20 or so participants did a teaching demo, and, if I'm lying, I'm dying, an element of each demo has found it's way into my teaching. Seeing the expertise and experiencing my peers demos' showed me how to improve my craft in ways I couldn't have predicted. SDAWP helps feel like part of a larger community of teachers and reduces the isolation that often comes with being a teacher. Just this weekend, this summer's fellows met for an informal reading group/reunion. We're studying Angela Maiers' Classroom Habitudes. How invigorating it was hearing how my peers from elementary, middle, and high schools, and community college adapt Maier's princiles into their curriculum.  And we've started our own FB group to support each other and share strategies. 

The internet has become a huge part of my PLN. The folks at SDAWP introduced me to Twitter, Pinterest, Te@chThought, Edudemic, Edutopia, and a host of teachers who tweet and blog. Many of the new and productive Ideas I've incorporated this last year come directly from social media. And many of the provocations and questions that I consider when planning lessons and approaching learning problems come from my social media networks. Where I formally  pooh-poohed Twitter and Pinterest, I am now a huge fan. Huge. Obssessive (see yesterday's post). 

This past year has been full of growth and reflection. My experience with calling what I already informally did serves as an important lesson: simply naming a practice, in this case, developing a PLN, can facilitate further growth. Now that I know what I'm actually doing (and wanting!) makes it easier to sustain and nurture these and other forms of professional development.