Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seed Starter for School-wide PLN

In December 2010, my husband gave me an iPad for my Christmas present. I planned to use it as an eReader for the many books I love to read and as my mobile PDA (check email, keep my calendar and to do lists up-to-date). I also was looking forward to being able to get to web sites on-the-go.

Shortly, after I got my iPad, I was lucky enough to attend an iPad tweetup with tech divas @according2jo @DigiLibrarian21 @thetechtiger among others. They shared great apps and I immediately downloaded many of the recommended apps. One of these, Flipboard, was a game changer for me.

Flipboard allowed me to preview web sites mentioned in tweets, my RSS feeds, and facebook updates. The interface put all of this information in one place in a digital magazine format. Honestly, before Flipboard I was not into twitter. Since twitter is blocked within our school system and I didn’t have access to it on my phone, I could only read tweets when I was at home on the computer. I checked my tweets once or twice a month, rarely tweeted my own ideas, and didn’t have much of a network of followers or people I followed.

Flipboard makes it so fun to keep up with my network and learn more from people with interests similar to mine. It can be addicting to a geek / life-long learner like me. (I need to restrict the amount of time I spend online in this fashion.) I have discovered so many new Web 2.0 tools and how they are being used effectively in classrooms across the world. I regularly make an effort to follow the tweeters and subscribe to bloggers who are contributing to my learning. Growing my network with quality individuals is a continuous work-in-progress.
This leads me to my reason for this post. I’d like other (less geeky) teachers at my school to be able to dip their toes into the PLN waters. My teachers are willing to collaborate with each other. Since we have ample laptop carts and interactive whiteboards at my school, teachers already regularly share their lesson flipcharts and student project templates with their grade level teammates. The principal also calls on teachers to share best practices face-to-face at faculty meetings. Every six weeks or so teachers have grade level meetings where they can discuss what’s working and what needs improvement.

I’d like to foster even greater collaboration between grade levels, capture some more of the informal discussions on meaningful school improvement, and reflect more deeply on 21st Century teaching and learning. I’d like to have a school-wide eCommunity where such discussions can happen asynchronously. The discussions can be enriched with links to web sites, book recommendations, and videos relating to the topics being discussed. It could also be a place to share instructional resources across grade levels. The eCommunity would be a place to continue discussions as follow-up to face-to-face professional development activities, a place to discuss professional book study topics, and a forum to exchange impromptu best practices. Since it will be kept online, existing teachers can search it and refer back to it at will, and new teachers can catch up easily be looking back on the discussions. Building this eCommunity would be one step on the path to promoting PLNs for all.

What do you think about this idea? I’ve participated in online forums that worked well and ones that flopped. What would make our eCommunity successful? Since twitter is blocked at school, what environment you’d suggest for implementing the eCommunity?