I attended and presented at 2 mini conferences this week, both of which showcased the value of peer-led professional development.
The first conference, put on by SAPDC, was directed towards CTS teachers. Knowing little about the CTS curriculums and programs offered, especially outside of our district, the conference brought some interesting points to light. First, and foremost, these teachers want more professional development opportunities specific to their programs. It also became clear that coordinating opportunities for CTS teachers was very difficult given the sheer number of areas that fit under the category of CTS, the need for specific facilities and the geographic distances between teachers. Through conversation, many of the teachers in attendance appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with other teachers throughout the South. It is perhaps these networking opportunities that could potentially yield the greatest benefit for our teachers.
Speaking of networking, I was delighted by the number of teachers who took up the call to join and use Twitter during our PD Day. Over 10% of our teachers joined in the conversation that happened throughout the day. As the day went on, the conversations began to deepen and push our thoughts as educators. I hope that these teachers will begin to build their PLNs and continue to explore using Twitter as an educational tool. I know that my PLN has helped me in a number of ways. Efficiency is the most obvious benefit. I don't need to search for resources or information because the people that I follow are doing that for me. They act as a filter, sorting through research, current trends, and resources so that I don't have to. And that happens without any participation on my part (other than reading). By participating in the conversation, I allow my beliefs and assumptions to become public, and be challenged by the beliefs and assumptions of others. This process allows you to further your understanding and knowledge of education.
Consider how influential master teachers have been on you. Through conversation they influence your beliefs and teaching practice. They offer timely advice and all the resources you could ask for. How many of these teachers have you known during your career? Five? Twenty? Fifty? Twitter will allow you to connect with this type of teacher worldwide, pushing that number in the thousands. You may even get to meet them in person sometime. Build your PLN.