This weekend, I’ve been part of one of those experiences that just cements my idea of how crucial my PLN and online learning in general are. As usual, I didn’t scrape up the funds to make it to ISTE in Atlanta, but knew that there would be some sort of online opportunity for learning.
Gone are the days of yesteryear though, when ISTE webcast their keynotes and shared out sessions for those educators not able to be there in person. THOSE days are over! I even considered paying for the virtual pass so that I could participate a little bit–but that seemed fairly expensive, and I wasn’t convinced that it would yield that much learning.
Then came Jen Wagner’s tweet, the hashtag and a G+ community! Now, I’ve not yet made complete friends with G+, but I figured as long as Jen was there, she would help me if I needed it! From that community has come a wonderful weekend experience of learning and connecting with a completely different set of folks than I usually run into online!
We all joined a Voxer community, which is a tool that I’ve used just a little bit personally, but haven’t ever used in a group. I was ready to see it in action with a large group, and it has been an interesting experience! I’m wondering if I could talk some of my colleagues into participating with me in one next year. Sometimes I feel like these tools are a hard sell for busy teachers, even if they might make their lives easier and richer! Anyway, now I have an example of how it worked. So that is a big win! After the nitty-gritty of setting up the community, Jen (being Jen) got down to the fun stuff and we all created #NotatISTE14 name badges, complete with ribbons. She set a list of challenges to all who wanted to participate. The weekend was off to a great start! Vicky Sedgwick posted a (much better) overview of our #NotatISTE14 experience, and did Ann Oro’s reflections from today are insightful too.
The real learning piece came in with Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast Live webcast. For three hours each morning, he’s interviewed amazing and inspiring leaders in education and tech, like Angela Maiers, Todd Nesloney, Steve Hargadon, Adam Bellow, Steve Dembo, the EduVue ladies and Paula Naugle. And there’s more tomorrow! As always, his interviews were easy going and fun, but filled with great information for all of us watching. He even surprised everyone’s favorite mentor, Peggy George with a tribute honoring her for her uncanny ability to make all of the Internet (educators, at least) feel welcome and empowered and ready to learn! Glad I was “there” to take part in that!
I know that, among the people that I’ve spent my weekend with, I am far from the most adventurous online learner or leader out there! I’m a real outlier! However, this type of learning is so valuable to me, and it recharges me in a way that I wonder how I did things before online communities! Among the teachers that I know in real life, so many of them have no inkling that this kind of community learning even exists! I’ve had little success in spreading my enthusiasm to my own local colleagues, and it is such a frustration to me! This situation is, of course, complicated by the roadblocks….oops….I meant safeguards…that our district employs on our network. It is very difficult to encourage professionals to even begin seeking a rich online PLN when the very tools that are required to do that can’t be used at school. The audience is lost before we begin! But that’s another rant, I guess.
Today, I’m just thankful that I’ve been at home #NotatISTE14 , and that I’ve had the opportunity to learn and play online with such amazing and dedicated educators! It’s been an experience that I know I will draw on in the months to come. Thanks friends!