Sunday, November 30, 2008

Professional Development...Made for Me

This morning Beth Still's post, PD Cafeteria Style, popped up in Google Reader and her thoughts on PD and Social Networking really struck a chord. Particularly this observation of why we turn to Ning, blogs and other social media to learn from:

If you have ever sat through an inservice that had absolutely no meaning to you then you already know the answer to that question. When we are part of a network we get to pick who we learn from and we get to pick the topics that we want to learn more about.

For me, my online PLN is eseential to my continued professional development. Without the scope of subject areas, years experience, global location my learning would be limited largely to within my immediate school community. My ability to extend my awareness of available tools, to find new tools, new projects, new classroom activities would therefore be limited. My PLN is still growing, it's tiny compared to other peoples, and already I find something new everyday to learn, to try. Everyday my pedagogy is enriched by social networking tools.

So, I'm with Beth...

By blocking access to social networking sites schools are depriving teachers of legitimate opportunities to grow and become better educators.

Making me sit through yet another PD session aimed at those people not yet using our virtual classroom tools (generally without my laptop, just so I look like I'm paying attention) isn't helping me grow as a teacher. On the other hand, giving me time to access K12Online to catch up on presentations (without half the hosting sites being blocked), or the chance to Skype a call with a colleague I'd like to run a joint project with next year, or time to read those educational blogs (again without blocking them) I get so many ideas and inspiration from - those are things I'd find useful, productive even.

At the end of her post, Beth speaks about how the blocking of sites from people's base of operations is stopping so many voices being heard, acknowledges that this needs to change and finally asks, how?

First of all people need to get over their fear of the term - "Social Network". Just because it implies connecting and sharing with people you've never met face-to-face does not mean they're about to rob/cheat/destroy fact I've rarely come across malicious people in my social networking experiences and those few interesting characters have promptly found themselves removed and blocked.

How we help people overcome this fear, I'm not entirely sure just, modelling, and sharing our experiences is important. I regularly email my colleagues with links that I think they'll find interesting and make sure I tell them I found it through my PLN. I'm at least not getting strange looks when I explain I participate in online net meetings with people from around the world, or when I reference a blog I came across over the weekend.

We're probably still a long way from our online social networking being recognised as official Professional Development - it's too...informal for many administrators to cope with just yet. How would they measure our productivity?

So, Beth, my apologies I have no magical answer for the question, but I'll stand up in support - something needs to change!

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