It's the day before Thanksgiving here in the US and it seems like an appropriate moment for me to show a little gratitude to my ever amazing PLN. In January of this year, I joined the proverbial "dark side" and became Lead School Library Media Coordinator/Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist in my district. Basically that big long title means that I now support all of the school librarians in my district. And a big part of that role is professional development. Now... here's where I'm going to get geeky, but I love PD. And when I say I LOVE PD, I mean I loooooooove PD. Seriously. I get totally geeked out over the chance to learn something new and become better at my job. The only thing better is helping others do the same thing. And I say this as someone who has sat through some pretty bad PD! But those less than stellar experiences have only made me more determined to make sure each and every professional development opportunity that I'm involved with provides the folks attending with:
a voice in the direction and expected outcomes.
practical resources they can implement right away.
a legitimate answer to the question "why are we doing this?"
Still, even though I do my best to knock it out of the park whenever I step in front of a group of librarians, classroom teachers or principals, I also know that people in my district get tired of hearing from me. This is where my PLN comes in. This year instead of leading all of the PD I offer in my district myself, I decided to ask members of my PLN to help me. Honestly, I thought for sure I'd get some polite "thank you for asking me, but...." responses. However, everyone I have asked so far has said yes AND they've delivered some of the best sessions we've ever had. Here are some examples: Example 1:
Once per month, I offer an hour long PD opportunity for the librarians in my district. These monthly workshops are called Labs with Librarians. They are held after school and are entirely optional. Starting last school year, I began inviting members of my PLN to join/lead these monthly conversations. And because we use Google Hangouts on Air to conduct the sessions, they are all archived so those who cannot attend can watch later and those who did attend, can review the session later (which many, many of the librarians I work with have told me they do). Everyone from Joyce Valenza to Jennifer Northrup and Sarah Justice to Nikki Robertson to Elissa Malespina(plus MANY OTHERS) have led sessions for us! Thank you all so, so much! The experience has been incredible, and I am so very grateful to everyone who has shared their time and knowledge with us.
Over the summer, many of the librarians in my district took part in a bookclub study of Doug Johnson's The Indispensable Librarian. Their conversations were rich and resulted in real outcomes for their practice. However, the experience was made all the more powerful by the fact that Doug agreed to meet with the group for an hour long Q/A once they finished the book. Again, we archived the whole thing via Google Hangouts on Air. Doug made an already wonderful learning experience that much more meaningful by being incredibly generous with his time and I continue to be grateful. Thank you, Doug! You're the best!
Recently, I was tasked with creating a session on using Twitter to build a PLN for my district's principals. I personally believe that while Twitter can be an effective communication tool, its real value is as a collaboration and story telling tool. And whenever I talk about Twitter, I try to focus on my own stories and how using Twitter resulted in real outcomes for my students. However, for this session, I wanted to be able to share more than my story, so I turned to... Twitter! There I asked members of my PLN if they'd be willing to record a brief (30 - 60 second) video in which they share how being a connected educator and using Twitter resulted in real outcomes for students. And boy did they deliver! Many, many people contributed (and there's more to come!) videos including rock stars like Brad Gustafson, Todd Nesloney, Steven Weber, Greg Garner, Gwyneth Jones and so many more! These "other stories" (as they are called on the webpage) tell a powerful story of how being a connected educator is important because, ultimately, students benefit from the learning we do with our colleagues from around the world. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am so, so grateful.
In the end, I know this much is true: I couldn't do my job without the support of many, many people. This post is, at least in part, a big sloppy thank you to everyone who helped me as part of the three examples I shared here and countless others. YOU ALL ARE AMAZEBALLS and I am so lucky our paths have crossed. THANK YOU for helping me accomplish whatever crazy idea I came to you with and for ultimately helping to create even better learning experiences for students in my districts. *mwah!*
And to those of you who are reading this post but have yet to become a connected educator, I have just one question: What are you waiting for? If nothing else, your students need to understand how to leverage tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine and WhateverComesNext to connect with experts, grow their own networks, contribute to conversations in meaningful ways and even engage with elected officials and participate in their government. YOU need to know how to do those things too if you're going to help them. Clearly, Twitter is a tool of choice for me, but the tool isn't nearly as important as the act of connecting itself. If you're still on the fence, now is the time to jump off and get started.