Episode 4: Building a personal/professional learning network



Over the past few years I have been on a journey of my own in my experimentation with technology in my classroom, and I remember so well the scary and frustrating moments where I questioned my own motivations for incorporating technology.  There were many stopping points for me along the way where I spent a lot of time searching for answers to questions and for solutions to problems.  And it is in reflection of this that I’m offering the topic of today’s show: building a educational technology professional learning community that can surround and support you in your own journey.

The reality is that motivated teachers need to find ways to work more collaboratively and efficiently to train themselves on the use of technology that will enhance the education of our students.   So let’s look at a couple of tools to get you started to help you build your professional technology network.

Popular podcasts

The most important piece of my professional learning community has been the podcasters that I have adopted into my life.   I want to share a few great starting tips that will get you on the road to implementing this essential element into your web of professional growth.

  1. Find someone you like listening to.  Someone where you like the sound of their voice, and the quality of their advice.

  2. Find someone who updates regularly.   Podcasters start and stop their podcasts every day, and as a result, their isn’t that guarantee of longevity.  Finding someone who has invested the time and the effort to produce regularly over a long period of time is the best bet you will find in the podcasting world.

  3. Find an aggregator that you feel comfortable with.  The two aggregators that I use are: 1) Itunes and 2) Juice.


And here are a few of the shows I strongly recommend for teachers who are truly interested in finding more ways to get technology into your classroom instruction.

  1. Ed Tech Talk Weekly Round-up:  This is a show for those of you who want a lot of links to new instructional technology tools, resources, and articles.

  2. The Tech Teachers by Ray and Holley:  I like this show because the hosts are passionate about the use of technology in their classroom and in their daily lives.

  3. Tech Chick Tips:  These ladies are fantastic, practical and tech savvy, but they always focus on how the technology can solidly integrate into the classroom seamlessly.


Best blogs

Another way of connecting on the Internet is through the more standard use of text.  Here are a few links for those of you looking for recommendations.  However, searching for blogs is something that anyone can do, and you really need to find a blog that speaks to you and that you will actually keep up with.

http://www.jameslogancourier.org/ 2007 Winner for the Weblog Award for Best Education Blog

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/02/AR2007010200468_pf.html This is a list from Jay Matthews, a Washington Post Education Columnist, in which he compiles links to his favorite education blogs.

Finally, I’m inserting a link to the 2008 Edublogs Awards page.  There you can search through the nominations and categories to find blogs/resources that you really like and could learn something new from: http://edublogawards.com/2008/

Join an online community

In the Web 2.0 world, there are communities of educators and educational thinkers and decisions makers that are uniting in one piece of online real estate. By becoming an active member you gain the “networked” status that so many professionals attend time-sapping conferences for.
Classroom 2.0 :  This is an online community of nearly 15,000 members focused on the uses of technology, specifically web 2.0 tools, in the classroom.

Twitter

Essentially, Twitter is a type of social networking tool. I “grew”my network and found that the people I followed were doing interesting things and were adding interesting content to Twitter. As a result, I was getting interesting links each day.

I’ve dropped a link to a list of some of the top people to add to your Twitter network into the show notes.  This is one place to go right away after signing up for a Twitter account. Trust me, Twitter is useless without a network, so that is really one of the first things you want to do. http://blogs.msdn.com/alfredth/archive/2008/11/29/top-10-education-people-to-follow-on-twitter.aspx

If you are interested in following me on Twitter, you can add me: brianyearling

Tech Trials: Wetheteachers.com

This week in tech trials, I want to share a resource that I’ve just found and that I am experimenting with as we speak.

We the teachers was founded by a couple, Nate and Amy, who saw a need for a free online community where resources (lesson plans and files) could be shared between teachers.  From the description on the page, it sounds as if the couple is committed to keeping the resource free and open for teachers to collaborate online.  It is free to join, and there are many benefits to being a member of the community.

Members of the community can upload their best lesson plans, can join groups online, and can upload their best files for all to share. They can also download those same files from people across the country and across the world, so it is a site that is definitely worth a look for any teachers interested in gaining an instant community of teachers to connect with.