Saturday, March 7, 2009

TLN-PLN as PLC (Professional Learning Communities)

There has been a lot of talk recently about PLNs (Personal Learning Networks). I have been reading and listening, but not really thinking about how much this really has to do with ME. Right after coming off of my year traveling as Florida's Teacher of the Year, I was invited to join a listserve, TLN (Teacher Leadership Network), and they have been my PLN for years. TLN is made up of educators across the country - many are Nationally Board certified, many are former state and national teachers or the year, many are published, many are well-known in the field. They regularly invite new educators to join the group and I have been inspired by their expertise, energy and enthusiasm. TLN has evolved from a listserve to an interactive platform that is collaborative, allowing for conversation, questions, and projects. For several years now they have kept me informed and have pushed my thinking on a regular basis. If I needed to know about almost anything, I could post a question or my thoughts about a series of subjects I am interested in and get in deep, thoughtful responses. As the years have passed, I have felt like some of these educators that I have never met, have become good friends. When the idea that the world is flat became popular, I felt like I knew exactly what they were talking about because of this connectedness.
At the same time that I was growing through TLN, I began sharing an office with Melanie Holtsman, our Instructional Technologist, and Suzanne Shall, our Instructional Coach. Talk about learners! These are teachers who have a thirst for knowledge- who refuse to be satisfied and who are risk-takers. They had become involved with Twitter. I had listened to them for quite some time as they twittered back and forth between friends at school and across the world. Melanie is a Google Certified Teacher, so her network has become even more impressive of late. They have both tried to encourage me to get involved with Twitter, but... on a recent trip when I tweeted "Time for Ed" instead of "Time for bed!" and couldn't take it back (my husband of 39 years is Jim!), I decided that maybe this just wasn't the right medium for me! However, on Friday my thinking changed. I had been working for about a week on merging lots of different e-mails of book recommendations from our County Teachers of the Year. I had also been adding pictures of the book covers. I was in a time crunch. To make a long story short, I had added a recommendation that had corrupted the file. I went to school on Friday and asked if Melanie could help. She tried a few things, but basically said she didn't think it could be recovered. As a last resort, she offered to put it out on Twitter. Within two minutes she had two responses from two different people in other parts of the country describing how to fix the problem! Not that's what I call a PLN. That simple tweet saved me hours and hours of recreating a document!

Dont get me worng - I still LOVE TLN for its thoughtful, in depth discussions of issues that make me think, but I have come to believe that you just can't beat Twitter for a quick, concise response. Maybe I'll just have to visit "Ed" again!


Melanie Holtsman said...

Whooo Hoooo! Another one bites the dust. It really is an amazing thing when you can share the minds of others across the world. It changes your thinking, inspires you, makes your work easier and solves problems! And I've met some really amazing people. Can't wait to see your regular tweets! :) <3

Sean Nash said...

Honestly- I am more than inspired by your local group of colleagues. The mere fact that I can even "associate" with any of them is inspiring for the times as it is.

I notice also that you mention both your "instructional technologist" as well as your "instructional coach." Well, in my high school.... that be me. Mmmmm hmmmm- all in one burrito. (perhaps that should be one corned beef & cabbage if it were to be culturally correct)?

My official title is "IC." However, at the district level, as strength was noted- and thus the "ok" to take off down the path of technology integration was handed down this past year. Fine by me, but it does make it much tougher to schedule more traditional coaching cycles. In one year, it is easy to see that my teachers are not nearly as lucky as those in your school.

You are so right about the immediacy of Twitter. Very cool that Melanie could pull you in like that after your faux pas ("time for ed") -hilarious.

So in a nutshell, your post mad eme reflect on how a person's PLN is not only a function of how many folks they connect to on Twitter, (and yes- I am one of Holtsman's twitterpeeps) but also how many they have in their pocket back home. Perhaps that is worth a blog post of my own, eh? I love how that works.



Suzanne said...

You make me laugh! (I'm surprised you didn't further explain that Ed is your current superintendent!) :) I'm so glad to hear that you are giving twitter a second look, because it is such a part of my daily learning, and I just hate that you are missing out. You'll be up and running in no time.

Patricia Wallace said...

dayle, I admire your willingness to try again even when you think technology is not your strength. Good luck to you with your 're-visit' with "Ed". ;-)

Bill Ferriter said...

Hey Dayle,

I think what you're on to here---along with some of your commenters---is that a person's learning network should be diverse, including a range of different tools and strategies.

Where TLN fills an important role for you----providing in-depth exploration of key topics and a place for you to practice articulating your own positions and ideas----Twitter fills an equally important, yet different role: Quick access to information, ideas and minds that you can trawl through for help and sparks.

Combine that with a local network of bright thinkers and you've got resources to learn in every way imaginable.

Your TLN v. Twitter debate isn't an either/or. They're both important and they both serve different purposes.

And neither replaces the people who you work and learn with every day----they simply provide external sources for challenge and ideas that you will bring back to your local groups.

Any of this make sense?

PS: I'm @plugusin on Twitter

Anonymous said...

As always, well said--I'm keeping an eye out for your tweets for help! BTW, they cut my position for next year---and I was just getting into it!