Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaching 2.0

Of all the tools I have at my disposal that help me to do my job better, nothing is as invaluable as my PLN! I cannot imagine not having thousands of educators around the world to connect and collaborate with...every day. On Saturday, I gave a presentation at our local CUE affiliate on the importance of having a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and how I found mine. In the weeks leading up to my presentation, the question became "How do I explain the benefits of having a PLN? And how do I convince other educators that in the 21st Century one can no longer teach effectively without having connections all over the world?"

A daunting task, wouldn't you agree?

As I began my presentation on Saturday, I broke one of the cardinal rules of public speaking: I confessed that I was nervous. Really nervous. I explained that the reason I felt so nervous was that this is a topic that I feel very passionate about, and I wanted to be sure to do it justice.

I had created a powerpoint to get us started, even though powerpoint is definitely not one of my strengths. I was hoping that it would help keep me on track of what I had planned to talk about, and maybe keep some of the nervous tension at bay. I think it helped, especially since I was able to incorporate some of my humor into the presentation. At least it helped me remember a couple of the jokes I had planned to say!

I had also created a wiki for our morning together. We were going to have 2 1/2 hours together, so I planned on plenty of time to play! I thought having the wiki would make playing much easier. It definitely was a great idea, but I think next time I should organize the wiki a little better and keep in mind that not everyone who attends an educational technology conference is completely comfortable with technology.

One of the benefits of having the wiki created ahead of time is that I was able to have links prepared for us to use together. One of the goals for my presentation was to demonstrate at least a few ways that teachers and/or students could collaborate on projects. So I created an Etherpad for us to play with, along with a Dabbleboard, which was just plain fun.

But we started off with Twitter. In my presentation, I spoke about the power of the PLN using my seventh grade National Geography Week project as an example. Back in November, my seventh graders created a list of questions that they would ask someone from another region to gather information about geography. We then created a Google Form and then sent it out on Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook. By the end of one week, we had heard from almost 250 people from all over the world. Every continent was represented...including Antarctica! (the form is still live if you and/or your students would like to fill it out.)

The point I was trying to make is none of that would have happened were it not for my PLN! It continually amazes me how willing other educators are to help out a teacher and her students.

So when another teacher asks me "Why do you spend so much time on twitter?" my response is, "Why don't you?!" If teaching is supposed to be about providing our students with the tools they need to be successful in life, then why on earth are we, their teachers, not using the tools we need to be successful in our career?

By the end of our morning together, everyone who didn't already have a Twitter account had signed up for one. They also joined the Ning I created for Saturday, Connecting Teachers. There are so many different ways to connect to our PLN, but I sure hope I didn't overwhelm them.

Overall, I felt really good about my presentation. It was a lot of work getting prepared for it, but being able to spend a day with people who feel the same way I do about technology in education went a long way to restoring my spirit which has been wilting of late. Amazing what spending some time with like-minded individuals can do for a person.

Perhaps it's even more amazing that there aren't more of us!

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