Day 16 – #AprilBlogADay PLN and PLC

Why are PLCs and PLNs important? Different? Contribute to school success?

My day starts early and is ending as some of you in North America are just getting started. I usually wait until evening to write my #AprilBlogADay post because I need to wait for the topic to come out. No excuses, it’s just that I don’t have very long for the idea to simmer!

Anyway, here is a quick PLN post before I sleep!

First of all, one of my dear friends, Sheri Edwards, has done a lovely post on PLN. For me, I think of them as synonymous, but Sheri and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach know more about it. I’ve also heard of Community of Practice (CofP) and Personal Learning Colllaborative (PLC) from them. It’s in Sheryl and Lani’s book, The Connected Educator. I think Sheri wrote a post about it, but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, that was a lot of words so far without saying much. I think I wrote this same post yesterday when I wrote about social media. My Personal (or Professional) Learning Network consists of people face-to-face and far away, those I’ve personally met and those I only know through social media. My personal learning network definitely contributes to school success, again I wrote yesterday about the many benefits for my classroom. This is a result of the connections I’ve made with educators far and near.

OK, that’s about it today. Chalk this one up for trying to stay the course in my #AprilBlogADay Challenge.

True both in schools and on Twitter


RSCON4 Coming Soon

RSCON4 Attendee Badge

In a few days, thousands of educators from various different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON4.  RSCON4 will be held October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. The entire conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide.

Some of the sessions I’m looking forward to are Gallit Zvi on Genius Hour, Jason Levine on Call and Response Tunes to Practice Verb Tenses (sounds fun!), Michael Griffin on Working in the Global Classroom and Chris Wejr on Education Leadership: Creating the Conditions for Passion and Innovation. And I haven’t even begun to look at all of them!

I will be facilitating a session on October 13, Sunday, at 6 p.m. It is called: The World Needs Your Contribution–Really! How My PLN Changed Everything.

Three years ago, I joined in the world of connected educators and learned new ways to teach and learn—things I had not learned in 15 years from other educators around me. Everything changed (and is changing) for me. It wasn’t just about using technology in the classroom; I had always done that. This was much more significant—rubbing elbows with amazing educators in my PLN taught me a whole new set of skills, attitudes, and behaviors in the classroom. Five changes for me and my students include issues with choice, trust, learning, grading, and homework.

I’ll tell my story and leave time for others to tell theirs. Please join us if you have a story to tell, or if you don’t yet and want to learn how to transform your teaching for the better.

I’ll also share a reading and viewing list of the resources that have been most significant for me.

Many friends in my PLN say this with me–we are better educators as a result of our connectedness. I hope you can join with me in this session to share how your teaching has been turned upside down! Stories shared will help others who have yet to experience these significant growth opportunities.

Useful links (click on any item for more information):

We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Steve Hargadon, Clive Elsmore, Chiew Pang, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Paula White, Bruno Andrade, Cecilia Lemos, Greta Sandler, Peggy George, Marcia Lima, Jo Hart, Phil Hart, Dinah Hunt, Marisa Constantinides, Nancy Blair, Mark Barnes and Sara Hunter.

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

My Journey to a PLN

For Connected Educator Month, Sheri and I are leading a webinar called “Extend the Conversation.” We will be sharing our own stories of how we became connected educators. Becoming a connected educator for me was a steep learning curve, but it was well worth it. I’m a slow and steady learner, but like the tortoise, that is sometimes a good way to be!

As a teacher, I have always been a lifelong learner, but since I became a connected educator, I now have the joy of learning and growing with an incredible group of people in my PLN. Not only am I learning and growing from them, but I am also now a contributor and collaborator. My PLN has given me courage and confidence to be a leader in my classroom, my school, my state, and the world. I am no longer afraid to “share my genius with the world.”

I made this timeline to show my journey to a PLN. (Click on the speech bubbles for more information.)

The Benefits of a PLN at a Glance

Thanks to those who took time to add to my Linoit about the benefits of your PLN. I love reading what people are saying! You can read and add to it here.

The Tagxedo word clouds below show at a glance what others are saying about the benefits of joining the conversation. I will be sharing the Linoit with a group of educators next month at the Iowa Reading Conference.

What benefits do you and your students get from being part of a PLN?

Again, I’d love for you to share your benefits here. Thanks again!




Students Benefit Too

Ah, Friday! Australia Treats

I’ll never forget about six weeks ago when three girls came running up to me, telling me about their next genius hour adventure. “We are going to send chocolates to people around the world, so they can taste our chocolate. Then we are going to ask them to send us some chocolate from their country. We can compare the tastes and packages.” So, they were off!

Thanks to some of the students’ friends and relatives, plus members of my awesome PLN, the students have received packages from South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, and, the latest, from Australia.

I met Lyn Howlin last year when we completed the teacher’s blogging challenge together. Later my seventh graders hosted her third graders’ Flat Stanleys. Now we’ve been Flickr photo friends and email penpals. She’s now retired, but she’s still a teacher. Look at the beautiful letter she wrote, engaging my students in learning about the world.

Thank you, Lyn!

(Students are still working on their comparison and taste test.)

This post is also published on The Global Classroom Project blog, “A Letter From Oz.”

The 2011 Edublog Awards

The 2011 Edublog Awards nominations are open. I’ve really enjoyed writing this post because I’m sure I don’t tell others often enough how they help me. This is the first year that I knew about the awards, so I am happy to add my nominees, for each one helps me to become a better teacher. It was difficult to choose just one nominee for each category. I hope as you read this blog post, you will meet someone new to add to your PLN!

Best Individual Blog
Color Wheel Symphony By JoAnn Jacobs

My favorite individual blog is a new one by JoAnn Jacobs. I like blogs that do one thing and do it well. Color Wheel Symphony always makes me ooh and ahhh and smile. It is a place where JoAnn shares her beautiful photography from Hawaii and writes captivating prose to go with it. I always look forward to her posts.

Best Individual Tweeter
Tracy Watanabe!/tracywatanabe!/tracywatanabe/

Tracy is a thoughtful blogger, a technology integration specialist, and an encourager through Twitter, where she shares resources and retweets about 21st century learning. More importantly, though, she develops and maintains professional friendships. She thinks of individuals and mentions them by name in a tweet when she knows something is relevant to them. She is warm and friendly, and makes my PLN more human with her sweet tweets and comments.

Best Group Blog
eltpics Take a Photo and…Blog

The international community of English language teachers has an incredible online social network going on. Now they also have a new blog, where teachers share lesson plans to go with their beautiful photography collection. I am not an ELT, but I love reading and learning from these passionate educators. (In fact, their camaraderie has made me more than once think it would be a great field to go into!)

Best New Blog
Love::Teaching by Laura Coughlin

Laura is a new blogger, having just started this past June. She is a passionate educator, clever, creative, and funny. I love reading her posts, for, like me, she is a middle school reading teacher.  Everything she has written so far has been helpful to me or thought-provoking, so I continue to go back.

Best Class Blog
Eagles’ Write

I have a special place in my heart for the Eagles and their teacher Sheri Edwards. This year my students and I have had the privilege of working together with the Eagles. Currently, we are all writing novels together–her class and mine, and Mr. Boylen’s and thousands of other classes. The Eagle writers are geniuses, contributing to the world, and at this blog you can see them in action.

Best Student Blog
Em’s Canvas

Oh, there are so many to vote for in this category! So many students are stand outs in their classes, and I’m so happy for them to have a worldwide audience. My own students’ blogs are awesome too, but today I nominate Em’s Canvas, which is about the sweetest student blog I’ve seen this year. She’s just five years old, and her mom helps her share her genius with the world.

Best Resource Sharing Blog
Teaching is Elementary by Nancy Carroll

Nancy has a way of identifying a need (or even anticipating a need) and writing a blog post about it. One of the first posts of hers I remember was last January. It was about a snow day her school had (actually it sounded like most of her state). I was reading it on my own Iowa snow day, and I was having so much fun looking at all the resources for snow day activities she had shared. Since then, she has shared resources about hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and more–many times coinciding with what’s happening in the news. Nancy has vetted all the resources, sharing them just in time for when children start asking questions. As a fourth grade teacher, Nancy also shares many great literacy strategies with her readers. Overall, this is a great resource sharing blog.

Best Twitter Hashtag

I love many Twitter hashtags. In fact, I just counted 21 hashtag columns open on my Tweet Deck. (I wonder how many columns one can have open at a time.) It was not easy choosing the best hashtag, but I wanted to share this one. Last summer I learned about the #eltpics hashtag from Chiew Pang and Sandy Millin. I was involved in a photography challenge for teachers, and they noticed and invited us to participate in #eltpics. (My “thank you” post.) There are over 5,000 Creative Commons licensed photographs for you to use in your classroom, and these aren’t just pictures–they are beautiful artworks from all around the world! You can also contribute your own photos and make it even better. For the last fortnight the theme was parties and celebrations. Starting today, until December 3, folks will be adding pictures to a set called Shadows.

Best Teacher Blog
Drama Teachers Network by Karla O

Karla is a passionate and smart drama teacher who is busy building a program all by herself in her NSW, Australia, school. Although I am not involved with high school drama, I do read her posts and learn so much for my junior highers. I also try to bring some of her posts to the attention of our high school drama person. I’m impressed that Karla initiated this blog to build her connections with other drama teachers. She didn’t bemoan the fact that she was the lone drama teacher. Instead, she became a global leader by creating the Drama Teachers Network.

Best Free Web Tool

Without Twitter and my new PLN, I would not even have known where to start with nominations for the Edublog Awards. In fact, I hadn’t noticed the Edublog Awards nominations going on in both 2009 and 2010, even though I was already blogging, having created my Edublogs account in October, 2009. Perhaps in 2009 and 2010, I may have read about the nomination process in a blog post, but I didn’t stop to listen. Twitter helps me to listen to important happenings in education. In addition, Twitter revolutionized my world when I allowed my blogging to become a conversation and not just my one-sided posts. Twitter has helped me build my PLN. Since it is a wonderful forum for amplifying important resources, Twitter makes it easy to pay attention to the voices of my PLN.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
Kevin’s Meandering Mind

Yep, I’ve seen all of those things on Kevin’s blog. While participating in the Edublogs teacher challenge last January, I met many wonderful teacher bloggers. Kevin is one of those who was light years ahead of me in using cool media on his blog. He is a musician, writer, poet, artist, and he shares his genius and that of his students with the world. He blogs circles around most of us, so I don’t always keep up with reading all his blog posts. However, there is always a treat when I stop in, and I am sure to learn some tool to make my life easier, more collaborative, more beautiful, or just more fun. Visit! You won’t be sorry! Kevin’s class also has an incredible web page at The Electronic Pencil. Don’t miss it!

Best open PD / Unconference / Webinar Series
The Reform Symposium, worldwide e conference

Perhaps I’m partial because last summer I attended my first online conference–Reformed Symposium 3, which is my nomination for the best unconference. Thousands of people came together to learn and grow. This conference was inspiring and transforming for me as an educator. How delightful it was to spend unpaid professional development time with so many passionate people who wanted to be there. What a great experience!

Best Educational Use of a Social Network
#sschat & #sschat Ning

A wonderful community of social studies teachers exists online! (Try #sschat on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. ET) When I joined Twitter, Greg Kulowiec and Ron Peck were warm, welcoming, and helpful. I have become just a tiny bit involved in #sschat and the corresponding The #sschat community is much more than just a once a week Twitter chat. Greg, Ron, Susie, Becky and others are connecting, collaborating and contributing, and making others feel welcome. If you are a social studies teacher of any kind, I would highly recommend joining #sschat (or even lurking about, like I still do).

So there you have it. I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop there.

These are my nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards.

Thanks to all those who have made this past year one of my best teaching years ever!