This week, I spent two days at a PL session relating to my new executive position. This was delivered in the traditional way – PowerPoint after PowerPoint, with the occasional group task that was inevitably cut off short just as the conversation was getting good, which was used in an attempt to lure participants from their semi-comatose state into some type of engagement. It was PL-in-a-box.
Don’t get me wrong – I did learn some things from these two days, and having the time to think and reflect gave birth to some new ideas and new ways of doing things. And it was good to have the opportunity to sit with colleagues at a similar point in our careers and share challenges, successes and strategies. But it was 2 days away from my class and when I’d already found many of the documents/sites/info through my own DIY online learning when I was first appointed to the position, I just didn’t really feel that it we got bang for our buck (and yes – it cost the school $300 plus a casual for me to attend).
But what made this experience even more poignant, was that straight after the last day, I went home to engage in a two hour, FREE, virtual TeachMeet, in which I connected with a whole stack of educators from as far away as Scotland, via Adobe Connect, and got to watch a smorgasbord of presentations from a diverse range of amazing, inspiring, innovative teachers. There were teachers from elite private schools, through to teachers from remote parts of the Northern Territory. And they spoke about how they were successfully integrating tech such as Edmodo, videoconferencing, Google Docs and iPads into their teaching and learning – they demonstrated real world practice and gave me a glimpse into their classrooms. I got more inspiration and more synapses firing in 2 hours than I got in 2 days.
This was supported by ongoing collegial chat online throughout the presentations, in which I could ask for things to be clarified or ask related questions to the wider group, or just generally support one another in our learning. It also provided me with a slew of new links, which were easily popped up into the Adobe Connect interface for me to click on and bookmark. My professional e-library was rapidly populated, and it was a stark contrast to the sharing of links at my ‘old school’ PL earlier in the day, which involved someone sloooooowly and clunkily modelling how to navigate to a website, and people frantically scribbling down pencil-and-paper breadcrumb trails or worse still, massive, non-SEO friendly URL strings.
So these two experiences, paired back to back, really shone a light onto the idea that 21C PL is here, and it’s SO MUCH BETTER. Of course, bad PL will always be bad PL, and good PL will be good PL, no matter how it’s delivered – if it’s relevant, engaging, supportive and purposeful, it will probably hit the mark. But 21CPL has so many more advantages – mostly, it’s free; it’s easy to establish learning communities with a common goal; it’s easy to find innovative models of practice; it’s WHAT you want, WHEN you want (PL in my PJs was BRILLIANT!) and it’s not confined to a set date and time – it’s self-paced and easy to dip in and out at your own convenience.
So I’m convinced. And plenty of other people are convinced too. But judging from the responses of people at the traditional PL session to the question “What does good PL look like?”, I’d say we’re a long way off from hitting critical mass in terms of 21CPL. What a shame – I really want others to be able to experience the buzz I experience from learning a bunch of new stuff every single day, from a global network of inspirational and supportive educators. I want them to discover that there’s a more exciting and connected way of learning than through PL-in-a-box.