The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

Three years ago I was called into my principal's office only to learn that the teaching world I knew and loved was soon to be turned upside down. "Deb, I want you to create three new technology classes to offer our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders next year," he said. My response? A resounding, "Huh? You want me to do WHAT?" After I picked myself up off the floor (I'd been teaching 8th grade language arts for 20 years) I said, "Ok, what do you want me to teach?" The response? "Whatever you want." So, after 20 years of teaching a subject I loved, I was thrown a curve ball. How I dealt with that ball was up to me. I could let it hit me upside the head and bring me down, or I could swing at it with all my might and hope I hit a home run. I chose the latter. Batter up!

That day, as I sat in the principal's office, I didn't realize that I was being handed a gift that would actually change my life. I was given a teaching opportunity that most teachers would die for - a blank slate to do with as I so chose. A daunting task, yes, but a gift just the same.

I spent the next several weeks agonizing over what I was going to teach. I am a self-taught technology goddess (as I was so lovingly called by my colleagues), but I didn't know the first thing about creating a brand new technology curriculum. I did more web-surfing that summer than I had in the past five years combined, and I came up with a curriculum that I felt was adequate considering the time frame in which I had to plan and the fact that I was given no resources upon which to rely.

When school started that fall, I was scared to death. Had I done enough? Was I ready to dive into these uncharted waters? What did I know about tech ed? Now, three years later, I have a highly successful class that kids love and can't wait to take. (I couldn't say that about the language arts classes I once taught!) But is it enough? Technology changes every time one turns around, so no, it's not enough. I can't do with these classes what I had, for the most part, done with my language arts classes - teach the same basic material year after year.

As a tech educator, I have to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. That's where my PLN comes into play. At first I joined Twitter, but was quickly discouraged because I'd throw out a question and no one would respond. In my mind, Twitter was useless. And then it hit me...Twitter isn't a useful resource for me because I hadn't put enough in it to build a network of those I follow or those who follow me. (That reminds me of the old get out of something what you put into it.) If I wanted to get something from Twitter, I had to take the time to build my network. And boy did it take a lot of time, but the rewards have been well worth it. I've learned more about technology in education in the last six weeks than I have in the past six years! Now I'm doing everything I can to connect with experts and novices (like me) who love integrating technology into the classroom. I am learning so much every day and my students are reaping the benefits! I just hope that, somewhere along the way, my passion for building my own PLN will inspire my colleagues to do the same. I can't imagine a life without it anymore. Teaching is a tough job, so we need to do what we can to lean on and learn from others who are in the trenches with us. A PLN is the first line of defense we can use to face the battles that loom in educating today's youth.

As for the principal who turned my life upside down...THANK YOU!

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