Expanding your professional learning network
Building an arts-oriented professional learning network (PLN)
In his Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network, David Warlick defines a personal or professional learning network as a set of practices and techniques for attracting and organising a variety of relevant content sources selected for their value. These sources help individuals accomplish a professional goal or personal interest. If your interest is in gaining and utilising expertise to assist you in delivering a vibrant classroom-based arts program that can implement the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, then developing a professional arts-oriented PLN may be a useful approach.
Long gone are the days when your professional learning network was constrained to those teachers within your immediate school, school district or occasional conference that you attended. In our internet-connected world, teachers have access to global networking with colleagues through groups and forums (Arts Education 2.0 and Teaching Ideas), blogs (EduBlogger), and social media and social bookmarking (Twitter and Diigo). Developing and maintaining an arts-oriented professional learning network with other teachers is a very useful strategy to assist in implementing the Australian Curriculum: The Arts. In their recent introduction to research literature on professional learning, Mayer and Lloyd (2011) underscore the integral role of online environments in advancing teacher professional learning networks.
To get started, explore the most popular PLNs in use. Three very useful and very popular places to start include Edmodo, Classroom 2.0, as well as the Educator’s PLN – Art Connection, which is an active community of primarily American-based educators. These PLNs are described fully in an article by Torrey Trust (2012): Trust argues for the value of PLN's stating:
In the information age, students must learn to navigate and evaluate an expanding network of information. Highly effective teachers model this process of information analysis and knowledge acquisition by continually learning through collaboration, professional development, and studying pedagogical techniques and best practices. Many teachers have extended their learning by developing online professional learning networks (PLNs). PLNs connect teachers to other individuals worldwide who can offer support, advice, feedback, and collaboration opportunities. PLNs also allow teachers to collect information from various websites and access it in one organised area so they can efficiently stay up to date on the latest teaching techniques, pedagogies, and changes in the field of education.
Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, vol. 28, no. 4 © 2012, ISTE ® (International Society for Technology in Education), www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
Australian education-specific (PLNs) are also being developed. Scootle Community is an online information hub PLN where educators can share ideas and access high quality teaching and learning resources including lesson plans, resources and research relevant to the Australian Curriculum, as well as peer perspectives on classroom challenges.
Through the Scootle Community social network educators can:
set up a profile as they would on a social network and join discussion groups, read and write blogs, ask questions and share expertise
connect with teachers from all over the country, bringing together education experiences from diverse communities
find classroom resources from the Scootle website, relevant sections of the Australian Curriculum, and teacher conversations on a topic of interest
create a teacher network on the topic of their choice
join teacher networks, enter discussions, create wikis and blogs on topics of interest.
For David Warlick’s book on PLNs see David Warlick's website.
Mayer, D and Lloyd, M (2011). Professional Learning: An Introduction to the Research Literature, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.
Edmodo, Classroom 2.0, and the Educator’s PLN are discussed in detail by Torrey Trust at 'Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning'.