My PLN (Professional Learning Network)

I believe that one of the best ways to grow both professionally and personally is to interact with new ideas on a regular basis.  I often tell my students that when we stop learning new things, we get crusty, stale, and stagnant.  This applies to teachers as well as students.

Luckily, in this day and age, it is so easy to find new ideas! Over the years I have built a wide network of professional contacts and quality resources that I rely on to help me encounter new things. In education jargon, this is called a professional learning network (PLN).  Sometimes I’m looking for a specific activity or lesson idea; other times I just browse and see what catches my eye.

This week, for my CEP 810 course, I used a new tool – Popplet – to create a visual representation of my PLN.  I found Popplet very easy to use.  It would be a great tool for students to use to make mind maps.  You can embed images and YouTube videos, but it is currently somewhat limited in the ability to customize fonts and colors.  The font is small on this image, but if you click through you can see the full size image.


As I made the Popplet, I realized how much I rely on digital resources in my PLN.  I do read printed resources like journal articles, but those come infrequently, and often sit on my desk until I find time to get to them.  And I do learn a lot from face-to-face interactions with colleagues and at conferences, but again, new ideas come relatively infrequently from these sources.  But I can get a deluge of information from my online sources.  In fact, if I go a couple days without checking them, I get overwhelmed by how many emails, tweets, and blog posts I have to catch up on.  I’ve gotten good at skimming them, gleaning the important information I need at that time, and then not worrying about missing out on other things.  I’m always looking for new additions to my PLN, so feel free to suggest some for me!

Being a Professional Educator in the Flipped Classroom

sage on stage

One of the Pillars of Flipped Learning is “Professional Educators”, which refers to the changed role of a teacher in a flipped classroom.  No longer is the teacher a “sage on the stage”, but rather a facilitator of learning.  I’ve heard of teachers and parents who think the flipped classroom enables a teacher to sit back, kick up their feet, and take it easy.  Which I admit is actually possible to do in a flipped classroom (just as it is in a traditional classroom)!  If they are motivated learners, your students can watch the videos, do worksheets, check their answers, and take assessments without a teacher in the room.

feet up

However, this has NOT been my experience! Flipping my class has been a lot of work.  Of course, I spent a lot of time outside of class making my videos.  But the biggest change has been what I’m doing IN class.  Instead of sitting or standing up front and lecturing, I’m constantly walking from student to student, group to group, listening into conversations, guiding discussions, and helping struggling students.  This is the reason that I flipped – not so my life would be easier, but so that I could better help my students learn.  I have gotten to know my students so much better as learners and as individuals since I flipped, because we actually have time for conversations in class.  My room may look a bit more chaotic, but there is actually more learning happening amidst the chaos than there was in my quiet, orderly, but traditional classes.

Goals for the school year

Where I’d like to grow as a professional educator is actually OUTSIDE of the classroom.  I have benefited so much from reading the blogs and tweets of other professional educators, from hearing them speak at FlipCon, and from participating in a Google+ community with other Flipped educators.  I plan to stay connected to these networks throughout the year for support, encouragement, and new ideas.

(Here are a few of my favorite Educators/Bloggers, in case you want a few ideas on where to start):

Another coworker and I have been asked to present at the Illinois Science Teachers Association’s fall conference, where we will be sharing about how the “Living by Chemistry” curriculum addresses the Next Generation Science Standards.  That curriculum is already kind-of flipped, as students are actively engaged in labs or activities in class, and get direction instruction by reading the textbook at home.  We also plan to create some videos to support or replace some textbook readings.  I’m excited to share the concepts of flipped learning with other educators!

I also want to support other teachers at my school who are interested in flipped learning (and who are interested but just don’t know it yet!)  Some other science and math teachers have expressed interest or asked questions about it, and I’d like to support them in whatever ways I can.  Whether they need help with video-making, or figuring out how to use class time, or just reflecting on how to help students learn, I want to be there as a sounding board and to direct them to resources that have helped me.

Finally, I plan to stay connected through this blog, where I will share my experiences and reflections as the year progresses.  I love reflecting and analyzing my teaching, but my busyness often prevents me from doing it as often as I’d like.  Hopefully the accountability of having a public blog will motivate me to reflect more frequently (And hopefully you are not reading this months or years down the road, as my last published post! If you are, perhaps you feel compelled to leave a comment to motivate me to come back?)