July 17, 2014

Use a personal learning network to keep up with instructional technology

Given the pace and breadth of technology innovation these days, keeping up with the latest in instructional technology is difficult to do alone, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. Establishing a personal learning network (PLN) can keep you on the cutting edge of instructional technology, creating many layers of support that you can access when necessary.

There are countless ways to connect with peers on technology issues. However, a few key strategies will help you establish your connections more quickly:

  • Teachers.net is an online chatboard where teachers ask questions and rely on other members to share experiences, challenges, and insights into solutions.
  • Tech & Learning is a free online magazine that offers the latest news in instruction technology.
  • The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) welcomes new members and offers a leading publication, Learning and Leading with Technology, which provides a national and world view of the latest and greatest applications on instructional technology.

On a smaller scale, your PLN could include your social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, and Pinterest to stay connected with colleagues and like-minded peers. The colleagues within your district or school offer an even more intimate network of associates who teach under similar circumstances and will know your needs and challenges best.

Let’s look at the example of a PLN within a school. Learning any complex and evolving discipline can be done with perseverance and teamwork. One of the best ways to learn how to employ new technologies in the classroom is to see them in action. A network of teachers can share the responsibility for learning new instructional technologies by assigning roles and sharing their knowledge through demonstrations, peer observations, and team teaching. The network can be made up of individuals who champion specific topics and applications. For instance, a reading specialist may keep her eye out for technologies that can be used for student learning interventions when students are assessed at lower than grade level in reading. She might try using Fast ForWord with students and find that it works quite well in improving reading ability. She then shares her results and demonstrates its use at a staff meeting, along with other ELA educators who champion and demonstrate their own instructional technology domains.

You will never learn it all when it comes to instructional technology, but if you leverage your PLN, you can stay on top of it. How could you build a stronger PLN? What are some other aspects of a PLN that I have not mentioned?

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Dr. Matt Kuhn works with districts and schools to improve STEM instruction. He conducts professional development in instructional technology integration, technology leadership, and curricular design and pedagogy in mathematics and science. He is a Google Certified Teacher and a co-author of the first and second editions of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Prior to joining McREL, Matt was a secondary science/math teacher and principal.

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