Skip to main content

PWN'ing PLNs


The conversation surrounding PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) continues to grow, both from the perspective of the student and the teacher. A member of my blogroll (and thus, tangentially, a member of my PLN) made a post that prompted some reflection. Since I can't see my school working towards a more liberal approach to boundaries involving subjects, teachers, instruction, etc I'm trying to focus on, and advocating for, the professional PLN aspect. I'm sure there's a cool graphic of PLNs somewhere that encompasses everything I think PLNs are... I scrolled through a few and the best is this one from another tangential-PLN-member Alec Courous but I still don't think it's a complete visual description.
The topic is close to my heart - I began my teacher career as the only math teacher in the school -- 100 kids 7-12. For five years, I did the senior math courses while the rest were picked up by the science teachers. We were the only independent school in the province and it took considerable time and money to get to PD opportunities elsewhere. Isolated geographically and socially (most public school organizations would have no truck with us) I used gopher (does that date me?) and the web (which eventually includes pictures!) to communicate with digital colleagues. However, protracted discussions were slow, it was difficult to share content and the people involved were few and far between. The first ten years of my teaching found me isolated geographically, linguistically (teaching in France & Switzerland) and professionally (most math teachers wanted to teach from the textbook, emphasizing on algorithms. Most still do, unfortunately).
Nowadays, the situation is much changed -- the venues in which we can communicate are legion. There are so many bright and inspiring people out there posting opinions, content and ideas. I regularly do Skype conversations with colleagues in the States, I read and engage in discussions on mathematics and technology from people (friends?) from around the world. The professional isolation I so clearly felt during my first decade is evaporating as I progress through my second. While there are still closed communities, there are so many open ones that you can always find someone to hash out ideas with. With twitter, you have opinion-polling on ideas that can branch out into larger discussions through blogs or online meetings. And I'm loving the regularly-scheduled podcasts/videocasts available through resources such as EdTech Talk, Classroom 2.0 and the growing Ontario Educators Meetup. While my department colleagues are excellent (they are truly amazing) they are not always present and not always interested in what I'm after. There are many people "out there", though, who are!
While I'm not a fan of avatar-based technologies (I'm me and I like me), Second Life and other sim-programs are bringing a virtual-world aspect to these conversations. I'm waiting for the web-based holodeck based on technology like FaceGen that will let me be me and engage in real-time conversations involving digital content in a CoolIris-like environment. Why not video-conferencing? Well, for one, it doesn't let you easily bring in the digital content of an applet or a video. It's a medium not an environment in the same way that chalkboard is a medium, classroom is an environment. But more on this later. For now, I want my PLN! (okay, that 80s metaphor likely dates me too.)


1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

learning mathematicsreflection on practice (RoP)becoming a resource to others.I'm part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven't written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule…

OneNotes upon OneNotes...

We're just prepping for the start of the school year (we don't start teaching until the 12th) and I just thought I'd run through how enmeshed Microsoft OneNote is to our school.

1) Class OneNotes -- this is where it all started five years ago, so we have over 2500 Class Notebooks in our archive.  Each year, we run a script against our timetable and a Class Notebook is created for every class, with a Teacher Content Library section group (including a private planning space), a Group Collaboration Space section group (with a wide-open collaborative space along with the opportunity to add additional small-group spaces at the teacher's whim), and a section group for each student (with appropriate student assignment dropbox, private teacher marking space and a returned section which the student can't edit for marked work.  This is all spelt out here here and here.

But then there are all the other places we use OneNote that I thought we should mention.

2) Department OneN…

Five reasons to learn Math with OneNote

So, Alice Keeler - @alicekeeler- who is an amazing blogger and an incredible resource for those using Google products, posted 60 Ways Math Teachers can use Google Classroom last April.  It came across my desk the other day and, since school hadn't started yet, I thought it might be a good reflection for me on how one could do similar tasks with OneNote Class Notebook.

I went through the list and checked that I could accomplish them all with OneNote and re-wrote her post with those modifications ... but it was looking a little "plagiarism-y" so, just to check, I emailed Alice to see if she was okay with it.  She was not, but encouraged me to do my own brainstorming.
So... Math Teachers & OneNote (including OneNote Class Notebook).  My top five... 
1) The Under-valued value of scribbles & notation
If you really want to be "paperless" (and that should never be a goal - you want to be digital so that content is no-cost) in a mathematics classroom, it's n…