I’m pretty active on twitter and one of the things I love about social media is growing your Professional Learning Network (PLN). A group of us that are a part of my PLN collaborated and put this #passthescopeEDU project together (If they didn’t know they were in my PLN, they know now). We’ve just completed our second #passthescopeEDU. The event took place May 19, 2016 all day on the social media app called periscope. We shared some really cool information. I want to write about this for my own learning and to share with others the importance of having a powerhouse/heavy hitting PLN. As my PLN already knows, I am having some challenges with the periscope app on my phone but somehow a solution will be found. I wasn’t able to do the full periscope I planned but I still learned through my powerhouse PLN. This blog post will be about the three things I learned from the May version of #passthescopeEDU.
Grow Your PLN
This is probably the most straight forward learning for me. I’ve done close to 100 periscope broadcasts (okay 87 but who’s counting). For many of you on periscope, you understand what it feels like to have zero people watching your live broadcasts. I often wondered how I would get more people watching and sharing my broadcasts with their followers. I had a hunch that growing my PLN and sharing my plans of doing scopes with them was the answer. I thought I could share my plans to broadcast on twitter and facebook. Sharing future broadcast times on my social media sites are still best practices that I will continue doing. However, this project really allowed me to join a network of educators and increase my periscope followers. I increased my twitter following and engagement as well through all of the messages and conversations I had promoting #passthescopeEDU. It was really cool seeing my colleagues jump on my scope and share my broadcast. I recorded long enough to see that happen. Honestly this might have been the first time I had my broadcast shared that many times. I instantly gained a bunch of periscope followers just from my fellow #passthescopeEDU participants. Now when I record a broadcast, I’ll have more interested followers to share and learn with me.
Our group is also a very encouraging bunch. I think educators in general have to be encouraging because of what we do on a daily basis. I had challenges with my periscopes, but my growing PLN gave me feedback and encouraged me to try new things. I was especially encouraged to hear others having similar challenges with their periscopes. Sometimes when things aren’t going the way you envisioned, it can be very lonely. You don’t have the solution and you feel that you are the only one going through that specific challenge. That takes a big hit to one’s self-efficacy. We know that social interaction and vicarious experiences are ways of increasing self-efficacy. My growing PLN helped me talk through my challenge and seeing them successfully post their scopes helped my self-efficacy tremendously. I have to be honest, I was really bummed that my scope didn’t record to the fullest. I adopted a growth mindset and seeing my PLN successfully complete their scopes made everything better. That’s a lesson to other educators. When you’re not feeling efficacious about a specific task, lean on your growing PLN to help increase your efficacy. It’s research based and I’ve seen the benefits personally.
We know that learning is a social construct and having that PLN to bounce ideas off and lend encouraging words is a big deal. Many teachers feel alone and frustrated in this profession because of the lack of support. Your PLN is a great place to turn when you don’t feel the support. I wish I stumbled on the idea of growing my PLN earlier in my career. I would have been better equipped to deal with frustration and isolation.
Authentic Learning Opportunity
I am currently an instructional coach and one thing I really love about my job are the coaching conversations I have with teachers. I had a fabulous conversation with a teacher (I need to get her in my online PLN she’s that dope) and we discussed this idea of authentic learning. We talked about how important it is to give students the opportunity to apply their learning to solve an authentic problem. To me, the essence of learning is applying what was learned to solve a problem. If I can teach my students about gas laws and they apply their learning to solve a real problem, then I know my students learned the content.
How many times do educators (and students for that fact) get to transfer their learning to solve an authentic problem? Educators go to great PDs and get fired up about the PD but never get to apply the learning. It is very common for teachers to get turned off from PD whether it’s good or not. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really bad PDs that are planned (I’ve been to a bunch of them). But when we come across really good ones, are we ready to apply the learning?
Application of learning is where the power of growing your PLN becomes clutch. I’ll take you through how #passthescopeEDU got started and how we applied our learning. We were having a discussion in our massive @edu_match voxer group about trying periscope. Many of us didn’t really use periscope and thought this might be a great opportunity to just learn the app. We discussed how we would use the app and discussed how to implement its use. It took us a few weeks to plan it and five of us started with our first #passthescopeEDU. The beginning was that simple.
In a traditional PD setting, we would have learned about the use of technology in our classroom and the purpose of periscope. We may have discussed how we would use periscope in our classes and even planned a future lesson. As soon as the PD was over, the ideas and implementation may never happen. Maybe a few brave souls would have tried implementing periscope and report back to their colleagues. With #passthescopeEDU we actually discussed a really cool application of the app, designed a project integrating the app, actually implemented the project, reflected together, and iterated. The application of our learning came in actually implementing, reflecting, and iterating the project not just discussing and planning. I believe if more educators grow their PLN on their campus and virtually, PD’s can become impactful because you have others to share and try new things like we modeled.
The most important parts of the project to me was the implementation, reflection, and iteration. The second time you do something is always better than the first. Implementing our first #passthescopeEDU was really cool but we reflected and decided we wanted to get more people on board for our next iteration. We also wanted to include graphics and do more social media advertising. We created a logo, a video, blog posts, and tweeted and retweeted the event. We actually got more educators on board (over 20 and increasing) and had an even better showing for our second broadcast because we implemented, reflected, and iterated. If you don’t already have a PLN, I would suggest building one or join some existing networks and implement all of the learning you will be doing.
Iron Sharpens Iron
Nothing in life is ever accomplished alone. You need great people in your network to be great yourself. I’ve been looking to grow a team of folks around my venture Pivot-Ed. I have this internal dialogue about what a super star team would look and how I would attract them to join this journey with me. I think that’s the main thing that attracted me to @edu_match. I liked that I might join a group of people that might raise the bar in the education landscape and push me to be great. Really look to make a difference.
I signed up for @edcampvoxer over Christmas break and continued to interact with people through an online app called voxer. @edu_match was everything I thought it was going be. There are so many people doing really remarkable things. We are all open to trying new things and push the envelope. I think that is what makes the group so heavy hitting. We don’t look to follow the status quo. We’re always looking to innovate and engage in high level conversations.
Once we decide to try something new, we get interested people on the bus and we get to work. We discuss the projects, we plan and design the projects, we implement the projects, we reflect and iterate. The projects we discuss are always TOP LEVEL learning opportunities for ourselves and our students. If you’re familiar with Depths of Knowledge (DOK), our projects are always at DOK 3 and 4. For example, this #passthescopesEDU was an idea to integrate more tech into our practice. We did a snapchat project where we learned, implemented, and reflected on the different applications of the app.
Talking about application and growing your PLN, I met an individual on a twitter chat from Wyoming named Darin (If he didn’t know it, he knows now that he is a part of my PLN). I did a snapchat video showcasing my student’s work for him. The only reason I did the video in snapchat and not another platform was because I wanted to showcase the power of snapchat so others might integrate it into their practice. I also wanted to apply my learning from our trial snapchat videos to showcase student work for Darin in another state. The only reason I even use snapchat now is because of my powerhouse, heavy hitting PLN
The learning that happened from watching the broadcasts from #passthescopeEDU of our heavy hitting educators was amazing for me. I learned how to use student voice to highlight the learning that is happening in the classroom. A few of our #passthescopeEDU participants had students reflecting on their learning. We had a few of our #passthescopeEDU participants introduce learning products and services. This gave me some ideas about how I wanted to brand Pivot-Ed. It also made me keep my eye on the prize and continue to work on my business. We had many of our #passthescopeEDU participants talk about conferences they were attending and presenting at. This made me conscious of getting my conference game up and continue growing my PLN and learning opportunities. I really appreciated all of the out of the box ways folks presented in their scopes. Stacy Lovdahl made a prop to highlight her activities for the summer. Valerie Lewis always has tons of energy and she made me consider how I was going to brand by purchasing a domain name.
Without a heavy hitting PLN, it’s so hard to grow. Heavy hitting may mean a lot of different things to people. A heavy hitting PLN pushes you to grow, try new things, and reflect on your practice. That push is what makes you want to be a more effective educator and really hone in on your talents to take your career to a new level. The saying goes you are only as good as the people surrounding you. It is never too late to start and grow a heavy hitting PLN. Check us out in June for our 3rd edition of #passthescopeEDU.