The Connected Teacher

My Personal Learning Network is the key to keeping me up-to-date with all the changes that are happening in education and how technology can best support and engage today’s students.” Brian Metcalfe

Thrust into a more connected learning environment (thanks to one of my current graduate school professors), I’m finding that technology in education isn’t just technological tools used by teachers to facilitate learning. Up to this point, I’ve thought of educational technology as: a variety of resources, hardware, and software, used in a classroom by students and teachers.

The Internet is, in my opinion, the most valuable of those technological resources due to its “vastness” and its ease of access. It vastness continued to reveal itself to me this week as I read articles and blogs, surfed the web, and watched videos (See some of the places I visited below to follow my trail. I tried to leave a few “bread crumbs,” because I know how easily I get lost on the Internet.). Rather than the usual overwhelmed feeling I generally get when faced with all the information available I stumble across, this week’s articles, blogs, and videos, showed me a way to harness the Internet to become a more connected teacher. The idea of the connected teacher is one who uses the connectivity of the Internet to create a network called a personal learning network or PLN.

According to Kate Klingensmith, in her blog Once a Teacher, the definition of a personal learning network is “the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information.” (2009) Klingensmith lists several ways that teachers are using PLN’s to connect to other professionals, via the Internet, which include: for professional development, to find teaching resources, to get and share ideas with other teachers, to learn more about how best to use technology, to collaborate with others to find solutions to problems, and to stay abreast of the latest in technology and education news. (2009) Everyone of these, for me, is an obvious benefit for having my own personal learning network.

Graffin, in the blog Teacher Challenge, describes the connected teacher as a “…learner who collaborates online and uses a range of social media tools to…interact with other educators.” (2014) He goes on to give a basic step-by-step plan for building a PLN, which includes much of the same suggestions I found on several other sites. These common suggestions include: setting up a Twitter account, attending webinars, joining an online community, participating in Twitter chats or other online conversations, subscribe to blogs, use a bookmarking tool, and start your own blog. (Graffin, 2014)  I find, as I continue in this course, that I am beginning to practice some of these very steps. I have a Twitter (Yes; my own children think this is funny.) and tweet about educational technology news, I have started this blog and read and comment on blogs of classmates, I bookmark items into a group on Diigo, and I participate in online discussions. I hope, then, that I am on my way to becoming a more connected teacher with a growing personal learning network.

Please feel free to comment.  Suggestions and experiences welcome!

“Bread Crumbs” – Places I Visited This Week As I Discovered the Beauty of a Personal Learning Network:

Graffin, M. (2014). Step 1: What is a PLN? Teacher Challenge. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-challenge-1-what-the-heck-is-a-pln/

Klingensmith, K. (2009). PLN: Your personal learning network made easy. Once a Teacher. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from https://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/pln-your-personal-learning-network-made-easy/

Metcalf, B. (2011). My PLN: A teacher’s treasure. Life Long Learners. Retrieved on February 6, 2015 from http://life-long-learners.com/my-pln-a-teachers-treasure/

Thoughts on “Things that have become obsolete in schools”

“To try to teach ignoring technology is to ignore the progress that we have made over the last century. If school is preparation for the real world…then to ignore technology is to become obsolete” (Svitak, 2015).

In his blog post, Ingvi Omarsson, lists “14 things” that he believes are obsolete in the 21st century classroom (2014).   As a classroom teacher, I understand that classrooms, schools, curriculum, strategies, assessments, learning activities, and policies must be quite the opposite of obsolete in order to reach the changing face of today’s student, where media is abundant and technology isn’t just a tool—it’s a way of life. That is, in education, we must strive always to be relevant. It is this relevance that reaches and engages students and brings about the kind of learning needed in 21st century world and workplace.

Can we say then that everything we’ve done is the past is obsolete and to be relevant we must change all aspects of schools and education as it is or has been? I try to answer these questions for myself as I consider Omarsson’s blog post (2014) and his “14 things.” Here I share Omarsson’s list and my thoughts on whether or not I agree with his vision:

  1. Computer roomsDisagree. While I do agree that taking a class to a computer lab once in a while to access a specific site or to complete a specific activity does little to promote technological literacy, I do believe that these rooms serve a purpose (particularly in today’s computer-based standardized testing). I do agree that having more computers in the classrooms is more important for the students
  2. Isolated classroomsAgree and disagree. I agree that parents and other educators and staff should be welcome in the classroom. I also believe that disruptions should be kept to a minimum. If we are to open our classrooms up to visitors, we should establish protocols and appropriate times for doing so, because the last thing we want is to interfere with student learning.
  3. Schools that don’t have wifi Agree. If we are to promote students utilizing their own devices in the classroom, when appropriate and necessary to do so, schools must be equipped to provide the needed wifi access.
  4. Banning phones and tabletsAgree. While I don’t think cell phones and tablets or other devices should be out and used at all times in the classroom, I do believe that there are appropriate times for their use and their use can promote learning in the classroom.
  5. Tech director with an administrator accessAgree. While it is important to have a tech person on campus who can troubleshoot problems with computers and other technology, it is also important to have a person who helps teachers to integrate technology in the classroom.
  6. Teachers that don’t share what they doAgree. We are all in the business of educating students and helping them to succeed at a level that meets their potential. Why then would we not share ideas and strategies that are working for us in our classrooms? Teachers need to move out of their four walls and do more to collaborate with their peers. I have found that collaboration not only helps the students but also lightens the workload of the individual teacher.
  7. Schools that don’t have a Facebook or TwitterAgree. I do believe schools should have a Facebook and/or Twitter presence, where parents can more easily stay informed about the happenings of the school and connect with other parents.
  8. Unhealthy cafeteria foodAgree. I think it’s time to move away from the cheaper, low nutrition foods and toward healthier options. Otherwise, we are encouraging and promoting poor dietary habits.
  9. Starting school at 8 o’clock for teenagersAgree. Having experienced a school district that used research findings about teens and learning to alter the school start times, I have seen students at the middle and high school levels perform better because they are learning at time when, biologically, they are functioning, physically and cognitively, at a higher level.
  10. Buying poster-, website- and pamphlet design for the schoolDisgree. While I believe it is great to get students involved in logo and banner design, incorporating art and technology, I also believe that we can’t necessarily involve our students in everything and that some times the time and cost plays a bigger role in these types of needs.
  11. Traditional librariesAgree. I agree that libraries should be “alive” with much more technology available for students, with the training students need to use such technology. Quiet areas for reading and for research, along with space for student collaboration and rooms for video production and editing would bring the library toward being a true “media” and collaboration center.
  12. All students get the sameAgree. While I do believe in that the current system of students placed in grade levels by their age, I also believe that differentiating instruction is the key to insuring students get the level of content and challenge level needed based on their ability.
  13. One-Profession development-workshop-fits-allAgree. Having sat through mandatory faculty trainings that are more geared toward another curriculum area, I felt frustrated and that my time could have been better spent attending a training of my choice, one that I could actually apply to my own content area. I agree with giving teachers the ability to control their own professional development. Choice alone would energize and engage teachers in professional learning.
  14. Standardized test to measure the quality of educationAgree. One test on one day as a “one size fits all” measure of learning is an inadequate and incomplete picture of the learning and progress taken place over the course of a school year.

I appreciate that this blog post gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs about what is and isn’t obsolete in our schools today.  It was also interesting that not all obsolescence has to do with technology, as we might be quick to think.

Please feel free to comment on my post and offer your own beliefs and insights.

Omarsson, I. (2014). 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://ingvihrannar.com/14-things-that-are-obsolete-in-21st-century-schools/

Svitak, A. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/adora_svitak.html

About me and this blog

My name is Lynn and I am a graduate student at the University of Central Florida studying Instructional Design and Technology, with a focus on e-learning. This blog will chronicle my experiences with learning more about educational technology. My blog title reflects the fact that I didn’t touch a computer until I was an undergraduate student (many years ago!), well before the days of Windows, Macs, webcams, social media, widgets, apps, e-mail, etc. I look forward to learning more about technology, particularly as it relates to education. Please feel free to comment on my posts.