Professional Learning Communities…did your stomach churn when you read that phrase?
Like “21st Century Learning” (see my last post), PLC is one of those buzz words that has been used ad nauseum. And it implies that teachers sharing ideas with one another is a new thing…in fact, it is not a novel modern-day concept at all. Teachers have always depended on each other for support and new ideas. It’s how sharing occurs that is changing.
In Rethinking How Students Learn, Richard and Rebecca DuFour explore the role of PLCs in the evolution to a 21st century learning environment. One of the early charges the PLC gurus and the Partnership for 21st Century make is for educators to share knowledge in three ways:
- Via face-to-face interaction.
- Through “virtual” communications.
- By “blended” communications.
In this blog post, I would like to discuss the second method, virtual communications, because I know teachers here on our campus and all over the world already collaborate via face-to-face interaction.
As referenced by the DuFours, Ken Blanchard (2007) writes:
There is no reason that time and distance should keep people from interacting as a team. With proper management and the help of technology, virtual teams can be every bit as productive and rewarding as face-to-face teams.
So, what would a virtual team look like? It could be done locally, but through technology; the Charger Ning is a great example of local virtual sharing. Or your team could be a global group; are you part of the virtual team of educators using the “Twitterverse” to share resources, news, and ideas?
I also love this passage written by the DuFours, which references the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell:
The tipping point is reached when a few key people in the organization who are highly regarded by and connected to others (the Law of the Few) present a compelling argument in a memorable way (the Stickiness Factor) that leads to subtle changes in the conditions of the organizations (the Power of Context).
This has me excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for this team of pioneers and our colleagues. And, I can’t wait to witness the resulting explosion of educational transformation on our campus when crest the “tipping point”.
In fact, I think that’s the tipping point I see now on the virtual horizon…
Have you ever been to a concert or sports event where you were invited to text or Tweet messages to a public screen?
Wiffiti is a company out of Boston whose technology allows anyone, from corporate sponsors to teachers to the average Joe Internet User, to create a public wall for the purpose of gathering text and Tweet “graffiti”.
How is this useful in a classroom setting?
My level 1 Spanish students have been reading a book in which the main character has to make a choice between following his parents’ rules or doing what he wants while they are away. I wanted the kids to discuss the pros and cons and take a side, in Spanish.
Without technology, this is just a discussion and some kids might tune it out, but when I instructed kids to take out their phones (which most of them had and were thrilled to be asked to use them in class) and had them text their advice to the character, they were on board immediately. And on the board – literally – immediately! In seconds, their messages started popping up on the SmartBoard for all to see.
It was fun to see what they wrote, and to see the auto-namer assign them all such funny names, like CinnamonToucan, and SteelSeahorse.
Most of them stuck to the assignment but a few did get carried away with the excitement of being able to communicate something and have everyone see it… without teacher clearance.
Which is EXACTLY why I welcome this type of activity, because it provides an opportunity for teachers to get involved with how students represent themselves online. Their digital expression of themselves is often private, but when they do this in the classroom, the teacher can moderate the discussion. Which I did.
“Perdón, who is MintParrot8?” A boy grins smugly from the back of the room. I use his post as a negative example, and he quickly sends a new message which follows the assignment.
We’ll continue to build on that success with other projects. I’ll send an update next time we use it. Check it out!