This quarter my cohort for my Digital Education Leadership program is being asked to look closely at ISTE Standards for Coaches #4 which relates to Professional Learning and Program Evaluation. Within that standard performance indicator B looks at technology rich professional learning: “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment (ISTE, 2017).” I wanted to explore the topic of asynchronous online teacher professional learning because I think the options and opportunities that are available in our digital world can have a tremendous impacts on teaching and student learning.
What’s a PLN?
A PLN is a Professional Learning Network. Different from traditional in-person one-size-fits-all professional learning experiences, a professional learning network (PLN) allows teachers to personalize their learning based on their experience, needs, and interests. A PLN allows teachers to take advantage of the tremendous network on teachers online who are willing to share, learn, and build community through a digital platform.
Jeff Knutson has a article on the Common Sense Media website called, “ From PLN to Practice: Tips from 5 Educators on Personalizing your Professional Learning” (Knutson, 2017). I found this interview and the suggestions and different perspectives these educators provided very helpful. When asked to define a PLN one educator (Lisa Dabbs) answered, “In traditional PD it’s often the case that an educator has no choice over the topic or the type of content shared. A PLN is more like a modern, 21st-century teacher’s lounge. A place where ideas can be shared, exchanged, talked about, and transformed. Ideally, a safe place where questions can be presented without judgment. A PLN is a place where an educator at any level can direct and guide their own learning. They can be their own seeker of knowledge.” (Knutson, 2017). This response really resonated with me and I like how she mentioned the lack of judgement and the power of choice in a PLN. Creating a safe learning environment and providing choice in learning activities are two of my goals for my own classroom, so it makes sense that those factors are key in adult learning. Another interview question that was asked was how to get started with a PLN. Some suggestions were “start small”, find a PLN mentor, and “take it at your own speed”. And the final, and I believe most important, question that Knutson asked his panel was how to put what is being learning through a PLN into practice. Because the best professional learning isn’t going to have a lot of value to you unless it is put into practice. My favorite quote here is “take a chance”. It can be scary to try new things in our classroom because, like many of our students, we are afraid to fail. And failing as a teacher can often be a public fail. But what a great way for us to model to our students our own learning and risk-taking.