Beginning the Journey
Rouse (2016) defines social networking as the “practice of expanding the number of one’s business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals”, using the analogy of six degrees of separation. My access to (digital) social networking or “social-media” has largely followed me throughout my teaching career, from playing GNE in 2002/3, prior to completed my PGTch remotely through Wellington Teachers College; until today using G+, Twitter and Facebook during the completion of this course. GNE, which rose out of the5k competition, itself morphed into Flickr, the social photo-sharing site. Butterfield (Mindjack, 2003) described GNE, not as a game, but “a social space designed to facilitate and enable play”. GNE wasn’t my first foray into social media. Working as a designer in London during the mid-90’s I used FirstclassBBS to communicate with, and learn from typesetters and others in the industry.
By 2004 I had wangled a Google account invitation, and was trialling various Google social tools 1, 2, 3 before they settled on G+. In 2007 I joined Facebook, and by the yearend Twitter, and now I probably spend far too much time Pinning resources I will never use! In fact, I can’t think of a recent online tool that isn’t ‘social’.
Redefining a professional learning path
Things began changing when I became aware of the idea of Personal Learning Network (PLN) around 2008 (via Classroom2.0). Wenmouth (2015) suggests that teacher professional learning (PL) to be effective needs to be in-depth, provided over time, related to practice, contextually relevant and collaborative. Dwyer et al. (2009) says teachers will embrace social networking only if there is evidence of effectiveness (cited in Melhuish, 2013).
The “one-size-fits-all” (i.e. Teacher only D) approach to PL can be problematic, and can be mitigated I believe by teachers beginning to use social media independently, yet collaboratively engaging in multiple contexts (such as “tweeting the meeting” 1, 2, 3), allowing for the differentiation of their own specific needs.
Another limiting constraint on individual professional learning can be a schools operational budget. With little or no funding, teachers using social learning networks can source their own PL, engage in professional discussions, finding and sharing specific digital themes or resources, blog and collaborate without geographical constraint.
Teachers often describe themselves as time poor, subject to an overloaded curriculum, a lack of expertise or a reluctance to change. A socially networked PLN supporting ‘just in time’ rather than ‘just in case’ learning can overcome many of these concerns, allowing PL to be teacher-initiated, rather than an exercise in compliance and box ticking.
What will I do now
In the immediate future, I intend to reintroduce myself to Pond by N4L, a collaborative social media environment that I have largely neglected since joining, but could potentially serve teachers well in the coming months as we rollout the new Digital Technology curriculum. I am involved with the NZACDITT (the national association), Cognition and the Ministry, trialling and consulting on the standards, developing new resources, and generally ‘spreading the word’, and soon there will be many teachers at all levels looking for support. There are some drawbacks with the platform, not least the overly childlike design, and small user-base, however, it does include all learning areas and all educational levels from Primary to Tertiary. It’s worth having a look and a trial.
Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. p.36-44. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf
Mindjack – Stewart Butterfield Interview. (2003). Mindjack.com. Retrieved from http://www.mindjack.com/feature/gne.html
PPTA Publication Library. (2013, October 1-3). Professional Learning and Development (PLD). [pdf] ppta.org.nz. Retrieved from http://ppta.org.nz/publication-library/search/2013-Annual-conference-Professional-Learning-pld
Rouse, M. (2016, September). What is social networking? – Definition from WhatIs.com. WhatIs.com. Retrieved from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-networking
Wenmoth, D. (July 12, 2015). What makes for effective PLD?. Derek’s Blog. blog.core-ed.org. Retrieved from http://blog.core-ed.org/derek/2015/07/what-makes-for-effective-pld.html