Sunday, July 26, 2009

Building Capacity from Within (Part 3) - Digital Learning Networks

An essential part of the teaching experience is the collegiality and teaming aspect that affects overall student achievement. When teachers develop consistency in vision and focus and share resources, they move beyond the “isolationist or island” mentality and become part of a “continent” of facilitators and learners that are directed at doing what’s best for kids.

Technology is making it easier and easier to “bridge the gaps” between teachers and making geographical location inconsequential to the ability to share, collaborate, organize, create, and network. Teachers can essentially develop their own capacity by building networks of like-minded folks that become the catalysts for many important changes. We ask kids to build knowledge bases in order to drive future instruction, why shouldn’t teachers be the model for that?

When one speaks of their go-to group for enhancing their professional practice, they often refer to that group as a Personal or Professional Learning Network, or PLN. These groups, however, are usually face-to-face and may extend only as far as the school or district level. With technology, we can expand that PLN into a Digital Professional Learning Network or DLN / DPLN that includes a worldwide audience. The DLN capitalizes on the many available networking tools to connect educational professionals in ways that have never happened before.

When you decide that you want to maximize your impact on student achievement, collaboration is the key. What you do alone may be good, but team efforts always yield a greater harvest. Additionally, developing your own Digital Learning Network directly aligns to the components three and five of ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS) that describe modeling digital age work and learning as well as using technology to engage in professional growth and learning. (ISTE, 2008).

It only takes one thing to get started. That’s right, JUST ONE THING. I was introduced to Twitter in mid-2008 and it has proved to be my go-to spot for instant help, links, and ideas. I use Twitter daily to find support from my network of teaching professionals, to ask advice, and to get instant links to things I am currently working on.

We are in a new era—a digital era that demands a new digital pedagogy. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert. All it takes is doing just one thing.

This wiki will help you get jumpstarted on developing your own Digital Learning Network: On this site, you’ll find tutorials and resources so that you can pick your ONE THING and start building a professional network that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Once all of this is set up, the only thing left to do is to jump in and get involved. Post your own messages, write your own blog thoughts, create a wiki, add links to your social bookmarks and invite others to see them. From there, become more deeply entrenched in your network by commenting on other's blogs, continuing a conversation on Twitter or Facebook, contributing to someone's wiki, and continuously searching for professionals to bring into your network, increasing its power with every addition.

When you are looking for resources or help, your network may be able to provide you with just the opportunity you need at just the right time!

Information excerpted from THIS article that I wrote with a colleague (Kate Ellis, that I met on Twitter, I might add!). Her blog is HERE.

The next blog post will discuss building capacity by shifting attitudes around what we do as educators, emphasizing Angela Maier’s Habitudes and how we, as professionals, can do monumental things for kids!

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