The personal learning network for educators
Most professions have professional journals. Professional journals have long been the method by which innovations to professions have been introduced. Lengthy articles explaining the: who, what, where, when, why and how of an innovation in the profession was spelled out for all to read. Follow-up journal articles weighed the pros and cons. Journals historically have been a form of print media, but with the advent of the internet many are transitioning to a digital form in addition to the printed version.
The process for innovators to get things published in these professional journals can be long and arduous, but the pay-off is usually worth the wait. These journals have readerships of great numbers of people in the very profession that specific innovators want to reach. There are: journals for Medicine, journals for Law, and journals for Education just to name a few.
At one time, to keep up with the journals was to keep up with the profession. That was true when change came slowly and people were able to adjust to change over longer periods of time. With the advance of technology, things began to happen more quickly. Innovation began to explode. The process and the trappings of the print media began to fall behind. More and more innovators took to the digital alternative of websites and blogs for their; who, what, where, when, why and how of an innovation in the profession. The professional journals began playing catch up. Innovation exploded in every profession and the print media has proved to have many more limitations than digital publishing. Why struggle with the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature when Google is at hand?
Now, let us go onto education and its professional journals and their impact on teachers. Contrary to what is often said about education, currently, there are many innovations affecting the education profession. Technology is the driving force behind most of the education innovation. It is impacting not only what we can do as educators, but it is also changing how we approach learning. These innovations may have not all reached the education journals yet, but they have been presented and are being discussed digitally and at great length in social media.
A few of the recent topics include: the Flipped Class, eTextbooks, PBL approaches to learning, blended classes, Edcamps for PD, BYOD, Digital classrooms, Tablets, 1:1 laptops, digital collaboration, Social Media, Mobile Learning Devices, Blogging. Some of these topics have made it to the print media, but all are being delved into at length through social media. It is a disadvantage to be a print-media educator in a digital-media world. I can understand how a majority of educators whose very education was steeped in print media is more comfortable with that medium. The technology however, is not holding still to allow educators to dwell in a comfort zone. Just as the technology of the printing press got us beyond the technology of the scrolls (Parchment & Quill), Technology is now taking us beyond print media to digital publications and boundless collaboration.
In order to take a full measure of the advances of technology, there are certain adjustments to be made and skills to be obtained or reanimated. This requires a change in behavior, attitude, and most importantly, culture. Information from technology may be easily accessed, but it is not yet a passive exercise. It requires effort and an ability to learn and adapt. These are skills that all educators have, but many may not always be willing to use. The status quo has not required educators to use these skills in a long time. Using these skills requires effort and leaving a long-standing zone of comfort in order to learn and use new methods of information retrieval. Waiting for the Journal is no longer a relevant option. Educators are driving the changes, but technology is driving the change. The need for reform may very well come from the need for the changes in education to keep up with the rate of change.
Professional Development is the key to getting educators to access dormant skills. They need to be the life-long learners that they want their students to be. It is the practice of life-long learning that separates the good teacher from the great teacher. They need to be led and supported in this effort. They need to be coaxed from those damned comfort zones which are the biggest obstacles to real reform. This must apply to ALL educators regardless of title. If administrators are to be our education leaders then they should be leading the way for the teachers. Professional Development is not a teachers-only need.
In order for teachers to better guide themselves in their learning, they need to know what it is that they need to know. They need relevant questions about relevant changes. Being connected to other educators, who are practicing these changes already, is a great first step. Using technology to do that is the best way to develop these Professional Learning Networks. Connected educators are relevant educators. That is how we can begin to change the culture and move forward to real education reform.
Connecting with other educators is easy through Social Media. Twitter is a mainstay of information for thousands of educators. Ning sites provide great collaborative communities for educators to join groups and share sources. Blogs provide the most up-to-date information on innovations and current practices. RSS feeds and iPad applications like Zite, and Flipboard carry blogs directly to you to read and share. I could add many more things to this list, but the sheer amount of things technology offers educators is in itself a deterrent to those who are overwhelmed with how much they think they need to learn. Educators need not know all of this, but by focusing on one, the others will begin to come into view, and the need to learn as a life-long learner will take control.