ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
Personalized Triggering Event Question: How can I help continually enrich the learning environment of my elementary school setting through the use of digital tools and resources?
One of the most helpful supports a teacher can have around them is a strong professional community. This can help a teacher grow in their effectiveness through connectedness, collaboration, exchange of new ideas, and constructive feedback they can receive from their community. Now, with the advancement of online technology and digital tools such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teachers have access to even more resources to help extend their network and enhance their professional development (See Figure 1). This helps maintain a positive learning environment refreshed with updated teaching practices and ideas for progressive-minded teachers.
What does it mean for a teacher to be more connected? In the article, The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration by Tom Whitby (2014), we learn about the shift into the new era of online collaboration and what that means for us, as educators. Recent technological developments have allowed teachers to expand their learning into new online frontiers allowing for an inexpensive and effective source of new information and collaborative opportunities. The coined term for this is connectedness, which applies to teachers who are using technology to connect with other teachers for the purpose of collaboration. Ultimately, this allows teachers to use this collaboration to direct their own learning as well as the learning of their students.
The beauty of being able to connect with other educators lies in the idea that there may always be a more knowledgeable educator out there who either specializes or has more experience in a particular topic. Connectedness allows us to access those educators in the areas we desire or need more support in. This self-directed mindset also helps students because they are able to see how we use our digital and network resources to connect and collaborate with others. Collaboration is a key skill for students to learn as they continue their professional development in the 21st century.
In this week’s module a classmate posted about a helpful online information resource that speaks to the utility in each of us developing our own Personal Learning Community (PLC). A PLC is a community network we develop that allows us to access and communicate with diverse sets of learning communities (EdWeb LLC, 2016).
Of course, community networks are nothing new to teachers. Good teachers have always developed effective networks at least within the walls in which they’ve taught. But now, because of digital technology we are able to extend these types of learning networks, even to span the globe due to the reach of the Internet. This opens up a vast treasure trove of informative and collaborative tools and resources teachers can now use to seek advice, exchange new ideas, and build professional community. This advances the art and science of teaching and allows motivated teachers to take leadership in helping develop digital-savvy communities devoted to improving learning opportunities for students across the globe. This clearly supports the objectives of ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership.
One of the most important strengths of an online community network is its function in enabling the formation of a communities devoted to the exchange of contemporary teaching practices and ideas. One great illustration of this can be seen at the website, www.edutopia.org/community. Here, we see a multitude of discussions and blogs that have been posted on a variety of education-focused topics. Each post allows for comments to be made, which allows others to reflect and share their thoughts in response to the post, as well (Edutopia, 2016).
Collaboration is key in the 21st century, not only for teachers, but for students as well. A learning environment that is founded in the positive spirit of connectedness can only serve to help teachers teach students the strength of having a digital community in helping them attain their educational objectives. And in a world with an educational and professional digital landscape that is continually changing, we need educators who are willing to step up and model what it looks like to be leaders in the ever growing world of technology.
Edutopia. (2016). Community: Welcome. Connect, collaborate, and share resources with people who are passionate about improving education. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/community
EdWeb.net. (2016). Join a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Retrieved from: http://home.edweb.net/professional-learning-communities-with-free-webinars/
Whitby, T. (2014). The connected educator: It begins with collaboration. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-begins-with-collaboration-tom-whitby (Links to an external site.)