Wednesday, May 2, 2012

We're All Connected

In a span of five hours this evening, I took part in the following activities:

1)Had a Google+ Hangout conference call with the members of my Critical Friends group. We meet once per month to take up a new issue that one of us may be experiencing in our schools, and we are now moving these conference calls onto Google's wonderful group videochat platform.

2) Skyped with two fantastic educators from San Francisco about a panel that we will be participating in next week (sadly, I am skyping into the panel - no jet-setting travel for me this time).

3) Took part in this week's Jedchat, which had roughly 30 participants, many of them joining in on Jedchat for the first time.

In total, in five hours I used three different platforms to be in significant and meaningful contact with roughly 40 Jewish educators located from Boston to Florida to Cleveland to Memphis to San Francisco to Lord only knows where else. We discussed topics ranging from difficult school leadership crises to the role of technology in education to bullying in the Jewish Day School.

If you are wondering why professional development is changing in schools, it is because we no longer need to cart in a recognized "expert" or "guru" to provide us with exciting ideas that we will soon forget and ignore. Instead, by being able to have constant and consistent communication with so many of our colleagues from around the world of Jewish education - what is referred to as a Personal Learning Network (PLN) - we are able to have rich and meaningful conversations that we can continue at any time through a wide variety of applications (and from almost anywhere - I did all of these from my computer, but I could have done the same from my smartphone or a tablet). When I started teaching, I communicated with my colleagues in my building and perhaps occasionally with friends who were teaching elsewhere. Over time, email (or listservs)became a useful tool for connecting with people in far-flung areas, but it still required asynchronous back-and-forth, often depending on having time to right long and thoughtful letters. We have moved now to real-time conversations, and I believe that they are not only easier to carry on, but that they are richer, deeper, and more meaningful, and that they allow us to include more and more people in our PLN's due to the inclusive nature of social media.

We often say that technology is merely a tool to be used towards attaining our educational goals, but it should not be confused with the goals themselves. In the case of PLN's, they rise to a slightly higher level, as without the technology, all of this communication would not be possible.

No comments: