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Archive for the ‘Personal Learning Network’ Category

The freedom to learning anything, anytime, anywhere and with absolutely anybody is a gift that today’s online world affords educators.  It is a gift which empowers educators to create their own learning opportunities and challenges and enables them to meet up with other like-minded people who have similar interests.

Writing about the process of learning within the safe boundaries of a Personal Learning Network is an opportunity which has been given to me by Education Technology Solutions, an Australian based publication.  This, the third in a series of articles I have written for this magazine around the theme of lifelong learning: Develop a Personal Learning Network to inspire lifelong learning in which I describe the nature of PLNs, how to create one and what can be gained from participating in one, has just been published – Issue 67, August/September 2015.

ABSTRACT: Encouraging teachers to become self-starters, who are able to take control of their own learning, design its path and learn based on their own interests and needs should be the aim of all school professional learning programs.  Participation in Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) is a resource which can liberate teachers from the confines of traditional learning opportunities such as those offered in staff meetings, curriculum days, workshops and conferences. PLNs in which connections with other learners is a key component is the perfect vehicle to attain this aim. Participation in a PLN is both exhilarating and inspirational and is the essence of lifelong learning!

Also published online on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Develop a Personal Learning Network To Inspire Lifelong Learning!

pic1By Bev Novak.

Encouraging teachers to become lifelong learners should be the aim of each school’s professional learning program. Learning success inspires a sense of achievement, self-satisfaction, increased confidence and motivates continued learning, leaving teachers feeling empowered to set their own agenda and pursue knowledge just for the sake of it.

To motivate this kind of learning, there is perhaps no better resource than that of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), a resource which can liberate teachers from the confines of traditional learning opportunities such as those offered in staff meetings, curriculum days, workshops and conferences. PLNs, in which connections with other learners is a key component, are both exhilarating and inspirational.

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I feel both frustrated and saddened.

Frustrated because I don’t know how to change the situation I’m faced with and saddened because I know that unless change happens, others are not only missing out but those they teach are missing out too.

What happened?

Yet another professional colleague gave me that irksome, fixated, glazed stare as I rattled on about the joy of learning and all that I have learned by talking, reading, writing, listening and sharing along with the immense pleasure I constantly gain by acquiring new knowledge and knowing that I am part of an amazing never ending chain of knowledge.

Why doesn’t everyone get it?!   Why doesn’t everyone understand that all educators – young and old, experienced and less experienced – need to continuously learn?!

If you’re reading this blog, you’re already hooked.  You already know how important it is to constantly reach out for new thoughts, ideas, pedagogy and technology.  It’s something you do on a regular basis.  It’s something that feeds your joy of being.  It’s something that helps you grow and perform as a better teacher.

Unfortunately though, not everyone feels the need for ongoing professional learning.

How can we change this mentality?   How can we excite our colleagues who haven’t yet discovered not just the need to continuously learn, but the inherent joy derived from learning?

What processes are we putting in place to bring others on board, to make them recognize how important it is to stay fresh and to maintain their relevancy in the eyes of their students and their work colleagues?

A shift toward centralized teacher registration in Australia is attempting to formalize this.  VIT registration renewal now requires each of us to complete 20 hours of professional learning each year.   But, it can be argued, forcing people to learn doesn’t necessarily translate to learning and growth actually occurring.

It’s the learning culture we need to change!  

Just as we aim to instill a love of learning in our students, so too we need to instill a love of learning in educators.   Just as we grow weary of the many students in our classes who complete the bare minimum to prove competency has been gained, I grow weary when I see professional colleagues just step through the ropes to earn that ‘Certificate of Completion’.

Just recently I was telling my son about an awesome online program I had recently ‘attended’.  In between sharing details of the course, I mentioned that while I enjoyed the weekly readings and took the opportunity to play a little with some of the tools to which we were being exposed,  the weekly assignments were not to my liking, so I didn’t complete them.   In saying this out loud, I realized that this is the first time I haven’t actually completed all those ‘required tasks’ which I knew would disqualify me from receiving my ‘Certificate of Completion’.  And, furthermore, I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt!  The many hours I had spent poring over readings of websites and the comments and thoughts exchanged by all of us participating in the program was sufficient for me.  As this realization popped into my mind, I realized that gaining the certificate was not the reason I had even enrolled in the course!   And then, I was blown away when my son’s response came swift and clear:

We learn what we want to learn, not what we have to learn.”

Funnily enough, just last week,  a senior member of our teaching staff popped into our workroom confessing that he had never been interested in learning details shared in one of the mandatory sessions conducted by our eLearning teachers, never, that is, until now – because now he needs to know how to apply that learning!   A brief exchange between us deduced an eerily similar comment to that of my son:

Successful learning most often occurs on a need to know basis.   

So, could it be that herein lies an unexplored path to ignite a love of learning among the teachers in our schools?  Could we perhaps create instances in which needs are manufactured, needs which would compel teachers to step into that glorious world of learning so that they could reap the rewards and experience first hand the joy of learning?

As I said earlier, my learning is constantly propelled by

  • talking: predominantly on Twitter and face-to-face with work colleagues
  • reading: thoughts, comments and links found on social media and the blog posts of others
  • writing:  reflecting as I write posts for my two blogs
  • listening: when attending conferences, workshops or meet-ups with other professionals
  • sharing: by presenting at conferences which encompasses much thinking and planning

So, is it possible to bottle some of the experiences and dividends I’ve described as being inherent in my style of learning to create situations from which our work colleagues could gain much.

So …..

  • what if teachers had to create a Twitter account so they could regularly receive shared information from the Principal?
  • what if teachers were then required to follow 10 thought leaders and share those they follow with their followers?
  • what if teachers had to tweet their response to at least 10 links found and read on Twitter?
  • what if teachers had to RT good tweets read?
  • what if teachers had to send an agreed minimum number of tweets a week?
  • what if teachers had to read at least six recommended blogs a week?
  • what if teachers had to view at least six videos (TED, Youtube) a week?
  • what if teachers had to create a blog on which they share reflections of their own learning journey?
  • what if teachers had to write at least one blog post a week?
  • what if teachers had to leave comments on the blogs of at least three other colleagues a week?
  • what if teachers were required to attend a school based TeachMeet where they had to present for 7 minutes?
  • what if teachers were required to attend one online learning program a year?
  • what if the above cycle was a professional learning requirement for a set number of weeks each year?
  • what if each teacher’s participation in this program was monitored by an experienced mentor?
  • what if learning time – at least three hours a week – was scheduled into each teacher’s weekly timetable?
  • what if schools underwent some rethinking and redesigning to overcome the kinds of situations illustrated here which saps the time and energy of the time poor teachers in our schools?!
The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

Is it possible that by implementing these practices into our staff professional learning programs that we could, at last, instill a love of learning into the hearts and minds of all our teachers?

 

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Unable to attend the 2013 EduTECH National Congress, I enjoyed reading a brief article by Chelsea Attard, which I’m unfortunately unable to find online:  Gadgets, gizmos and plenty of world-class speakers on show.  This article gave just a glimpse of some of the inspirational presentations given over the course of the conference.

Amongst a review of a number of different presentations, this quote piqued my interest:

“Education is an exciting place to work right now because technology is pushing us towards self-directed learning”

Quote of Kynan Robinson at EdTECH National Congress 2013 as reported in a review of this Congress
by Chelsea Attard in Technology in Education (Term 3, 2013)

With a passionate interest in teacher education and how educators today are able to benefit from the incredibly rich online learning environment which surrounds us all, I was hooked by this short quote.   Eager to put these words into context, I  was pleased to very quickly locate a video of Kynan Robinson’s presentation at the 2013 EduTECH National Congress.

As it turns out, this quote, which feeds into my own belief that technology is pushing all of us to self-directed learning, was really part of a talk which focused on how the playing field for students in our schools has and is dramatically changing.  The thoughts, experiences and examples shared were interesting.   Taking Robinson’s words a step further though, it is without a doubt that the altered learning environment being experienced by our students in our classes is also being experienced by educators across the entire education sector.

Many of the points Robinson made, can be applied to teacher education:

  • education today is an incredible place to work because it is empowering and inspiring;
  • the Internet is reshaping how educators learn;
  • technology is making learning and teaching better for both the educator and the student
  • modern technology is about communication and connectivity
  • communication is enhanced by social networking
  • adjuncts of social networking such as liking, rating, tagging and sharing diverse opinions facilitate shared knowledge
  • connectivity enables the sharing of ideas
  • ideas are being shared in online networks
  • active participation in online networks allows members to become co-creators of new knowledge
  • online networks are developing new knowledge
  • knowledge resides in online networks
  • network learning is becoming the norm

In short:

  • connectivity allows educators to take responsibility for their own learning
  • connectivity allows educators to determine their own learning paths
  • connectivity empowers educators
  • connectivity inspires learning

In other words, where the symbol –> means ‘leads to’ :

technology –> communication & connectivity = social networking –> networking –> network learning

For those of us who are already active online network learners regularly joining hands with those in our Personal Learning Network in the pursuit of new learning and new knowledge, this kind of thinking is not new.   So good is the experience, it is not surprising that we are keen to share with those who have not yet discovered this incredibly easy way to enrich our knowledge and our lives!

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It’s my Twitterversary!!

I just turned four!!

I just turned four!!

Time has flown by so quickly!   It’s hard to believe ….. but it’s now four years since I first signed up to Twitter!

Even though my initial steps into the Twitterverse were quite wobbly, I did get there – eventually as I noted in my post: Twittering to my heart’s content!  Recollecting those ‘heady’ days when I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into – I remember taking little faltering steps, being extremely nervous and not really knowing why I would want to use what seemed like an abbreviated way to communicate.

Four years on though, I still get a surge of excitement when I log onto Twitter!  It’s a bit like opening the front door to see who’s there.  Instead of just one person though, it’s a whole room full of people vying for my attention.   With so many short messages awaiting my attention, I enjoy the lack of pressure to peruse them all – a ‘bugbear’ that invades my soul each and every time I tackle the never ending stream of email in any one of my four email accounts – 3 work and one personal.  With a constant flow of ideas, thoughts and links awaiting me in my twitter stream, it’s exhilarating to be able to pick and choose what to focus upon.

Twitter has opened  a flood gate for me of new knowledge.  Being able to connect with others, to learn with and through them, has been a joy that far surpasses any of the professional learning sessions I’ve attended throughout almost all of my career.   Perhaps this is because lessons learned and shared on Twitter tend to be more relevant and ‘of-the-moment’ than so many of the professional learning programs I’ve been ‘required’ to attend.

Today I’m totally hooked on learning – the thrill of conquering the new and the fun of experimenting, discovering and lifelong learning!  Twitter has set new directions for me in both my professional and personal life allowing me

  • to meet new people
  • to locate new information
  • to learn online
  • to initiate new programs
  • to get answers to questions
  • to explore new working fields
  • to engage with world leaders
  • to feel inspired
  • to gain encouragement
  • to expand my PLN – my Personal Learning Network!

Thanks Twitter – you’ve changed my life!!

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As often happens, it was a comment to me by another, this time on one of my recent blog posts What happens (to you) when you blog?  that gave me the impetus for this post.

In response to Jill’s comment:

Thanks Bev – I am retiring at the end of the year and this is one thing I am looking forward to!   The time to explore ideas without feeling guilty!

I wrote:

Totally understand Jill!   One of the things that I find an absolute joy in my present job is having the freedom to explore ‘personal learning’ on the job.   While I don’t always get the uninterrupted time to ‘think’ through issues (such as blogging!) the days of feeling guilt for looking at something of interest online have gone!    I now think back to the days when I did feel guilt at pursuing my own professional learning on the job and think how wrong that guilt was …..

Jill’s words reminded me how terribly guilty I did used to feel.  Congruent with wasting time, guilt would eat away at me, preventing me from venturing too far beyond work related tasks at hand.   Jill’s words also prompted me to reflect on a post I wrote eighteen months ago – The fine line between work and play! –  a post describing the liberation I then felt at having moved on and learned that exploration on the job was not as bad as I had previously thought.

I also took another look at the video I incorporated into that post, an RSA Animate: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.  Eighteen months later, I find myself focusing on a message in this video which I totally missed back then.  Flip to 5.15minutes into the video where this screen shot appears:
RSA Animate - Drive - The surprising truth about what motivates us

How true these words are!!

Autonomy:   Synonymous with self-discovery and self-direction of what we do and what we learn,  leads to a sense of satisfaction and engagement with tasks at hand.

Mastery:  Learning to do something just for the hec of it, just for the pleasure of feeling that sense of achievement is a joy like none other and is in and of itself an incredible motivator!

Purpose:  The combination of mastery and self-direction are, Dan Pisk purports, the hidden truths behind what really motivates us both at home and in the workplace and is the ‘stuff’ that makes our working for the organization a bigger and more satisfying venture than that of just being employed.

What really jumped out at me this time though was this screen shot which can be seen at 8.09mins into the video:

RSA Animatte - Drive etc... - This is the essence of a PLN!

Focus in on these graphics:

You got a bunch of people from around the world
They do highly skilled work
But are willing to do it for FREE
But then ….. what they create
They give away rather than sell it!

While Pisk goes on to conclude that it is a combination of challenge and mastery along with making a contribution which motivated the developers of Apache, Linux and Wikipedia who, while holding down jobs, created, not for their employers, but for someone else, for free, tools for the benefit of people throughout the world, my thoughts flick to something more basic which falls into my field of interest!

Are not the attributes identified in this screen shot the very essence of PLNs?!

Just stop for a moment and take a look at what we constantly do on Twitter and most other Social Media tools we use.   Each time we share a link to a blog post, a tool, a discovery, a new thought, a workshop given or to be given via a SlideSare, a GoogleDoc or a Prezi – each and every time we add to our collective knowledge base.  Indeed, as Pisk outlines in this RSA Animate, we are a bunch of highly skilled people from around the world who willingly and freely share bodies of knowledge which we create – for free!

It is this sharing and exchanging of information and ideas that is the cornerstone of PLNs.

And what’s more ….. the notion that we guiltily explore, experiment, discover and learn just on ‘work time’ is actually turned on its head – for here I am, sitting in the comfort of my own home, on a Monday morning, in the middle of a term break, cogitating, researching and reflecting on thoughts and ideas of my own and others so that I can embody them here in this post and thus share my reflection with others!

Like so many of you out there – learning for me has become a joy, a treat.  I relish the time to read and explore the world via the many avenues I’ve forged in cyberspace.  While there are times during the day in my work place, there are more times in my own time – night time, weekends and as now, term breaks – that I hunger to purse professional learning.

Leaning begets learning

How great it is to be part of the 21st Century where giving and sharing is synonymous with learning and growing!

Truly amazing stuff!

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Many of you will know that I am passionate about the joy of learning.   And when I say this, I am not just talking about students learning but about the joy of learning ‘full stop’!!

The absolute joy, exhilaration and inspiration to be gained by learning new skills, new tools and new knowledge at any age of life is, I believe, beyond compare!  And this is the reason why I so passionately enjoy sharing with others the challenges I’ve experienced through my own learning journey of recent years.   Because I have been able to embark – and still do embark – on learning so much that is new, I feel invigorated and charged with a new kind of power.  It’s what I call the ‘I can’ power!

When presenting at a conference recently, I was trying to light that spark in others about the joy of learning and the power of Professional Learning Networks, by sharing with them a clip from a video I’d come across recently about Santiago Gonzalez – a child prodigy who dreams in code.

Apart from his inspirational story of educational prowess, Santiago’s description of why learning is important to him is every educator’s dream!

Watch the video, but pay special attention to his words at just 34 seconds into the video!

Fantastic – no?  Santiago encapsulates exactly what it is we try to ignite in our students and in each other – the sheer joy of learning!!

I really enjoy learning ….. to me I find it as essential as eating ….. either you die ….. or you are pretty miserable without learning.”

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How awesome it is to feel invigorated, rejuvenated and exhilarated!

I feel just that after attending the IWBNet Seventh National Leading a Digital School Conference which was held over the last few days in Melbourne.  Not only did I get  to attend the conference, but I also had the privilege of presenting on a topic I feel so very passionate about – the power of PLNs.

Being able to attend a conference of this calibre provides an opportunity to not only meet other educators ‘out there’ but to absorb some of the fabulous programs being driven by an amazing bunch of educators.  I feel so very lucky to have had the chance to attend and listen, absorb and be inspired by so many.

Just some of the outstanding presentations included:

Peter Crawley, Head of School, St Hilda’s School on the Gold Coast, Queensland who, after giving an inspirational and motivational talk about what and how we should be operating as leaders in our schools, went on to showcase the incredible achievements of the teachers in his school who have embraced iTunes U.

Elizabeth Howe, Director of Staffing Administration, Catholic Regional College Sydenham, Victoria, who gave a riveting analysis of Gen Z – a new generation of learners!  With lightning speed, we traversed the stand out characteristics of the current generation of kids presently in our schools while participating in a number of ‘activities’ which had each of us focused, engrossed and numb with realization.  Powerful stuff!

Lois Smethurst, Leading Teacher of ICT, Berwick Lodge Primary School, Victoria, highlighted, with an array of media presentations, the amazing achievements of students in her school.  Her presentation, titled Students making IT happen – a model for professional development, outlined a powerful way to not only empower students but a viable way to help teachers get ‘on board’ with IT.  So many powerful ideas to engage students were presented.

Having the chance to chat with so many of the other presenters as well as rub shoulders with a wide range of attendees from schools across Australia is a rare opportunity.  Enjoying the back channel chats is of course an added bonus.  A couple of sessions I attended used TodaysMeet as a back channel – such a powerful adjunct to the sessions.  A constant twitter stream gives a conference an incredible depth which is hard to believe by those who are yet to dive into the Twitterverse.  Using #k12digital, I’ve now got heaps of thoughts, ideas, links and contacts to explore!

And talking of Twitter newbies ….. Noticing I had just collected a new follower, I did what I always do ….. I checked the profile and some of the tweets that this person had made.   Blow me down ….. her first tweet was just two days ago on the first day of the conference!

Tori's first tweet (2)Realizing that this person had been really inspired by the conference, I couldn’t help re-tweeting her tweet with my added comment to which just a few minutes later I got a response:

Tori's excitementThe opportunity to present at this conference was amazing.  Having experienced first-hand the power of PLNs on my own professional learning journey of the last few years, has seen me become passionate in wanting to spread the word and encourage others to take the plunge to develop their own Professional Learning Network.  I truly believe that PLNs are a game changer in how teachers can embrace professional growth and rekindle the intrinsic spark that fires desire, imagination and drive – the very seeds we try to plant into the hearts and minds of the students we teach.

Notes and links which I provided to conference delegates attending my sessions can be found on the above Resources tab .

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