Sunday, June 5, 2016

Connecting to Your PLN for Powerful Reflective Practice


I have been interested for many years in the power of connecting with others to improve your practice and this was a strong theme that ran through many of our blog challenges during various Reflective Teacher @TeachThought blog challenges. Reflecting on our connections and the insight they can provide was part of a Thoughtful Thursdays challenge in 2014.  Connecting with others enables you to explore your practice from many different angles and viewpoints.

The following acrostic poem was written in 2011 as we pulled apart what it meant for us to be connected educators.

On Being A Connected Educator and Why I'm Grateful for the Connections

Day 16 of the Attitude of Gratitude Reflective Teacher @TeachThought Blog Challenge...

Why I'm So Very Grateful To Be A...

Connected locally and globally to inspirational teachers and learners
One way to challenge and push your own learning through different viewpoints
New ideas and learning are created through connection and collaboration
Never alone in this fabulous and challenging profession
Energised by conversation, support, humour and collaboration
Constantly supported to be the best you can be
There to support and encourage others
Energising personalities abound!
Developing new understandings about learning and teaching

Experimenting with new thinking and ideas to improve practice
Depending on your connected educators PLN for insight and discussion
Unending learning
Challenged to be reflective about your practice and clear in your thinking
Articulating practice through additional viewpoints and questions
Thankful and grateful for opportunities and connections
Original thinkers and learners inspire and challenge me
Reflective practice is at our core for the sake of our students

I reviewed what I had created as my connections in 2014 and added new ones.

 2014  What Does Connected Education Mean to Me?

2016  My Current Connected Education Connections

The Power of Professional Connections

Choosing only two professional connections to discuss is not easy as they are all so powerful.  The two I've chosen are discussed here because they have been a constant throughout most of my teaching career.

Twitter - PLN and EdChats

I first blogged about Twitter and the power it has a learning platform in 2011 and, on re-reading it, I felt the same excitement I had then.  I'd had an account for a year but never saw the purpose in using it as a learning tool until I was challenged by a colleague to give it a go.  It is honestly the best thing I've ever done.  I had started my Masters and it was a platform in which I could challenge my thinking, share my ideas and be challenged by others' thinking on the questions I was investigating in my research.

From the end of 2013 until the end of 2014 I was not in the classroom as I was recovering from an illness so I had a lot of time I could invest in developing my PLN on Twitter.  Upon returning to the classroom at the beginning of 2015, which was a huge challenge in itself, I found that I didn't seem to have the time I wanted in order to be able to participate in the weekly / monthly Edchats so I had to let that slide and I've really missed the discussions and debates.  Now that I am at home again and beginning my Doctor of Education, I will be fully utilising this platform to test my thinking and gain insight from others.  Twitter is a powerful tool to have as part of a community of practice as you learn from and with others, both locally and globally with a very wide range of experience.

University of Otago - EdD PLN

The majority of my university study has been completed through the University of Otago by distance. In my final year of undergraduate study I completed a paper "Computers in Education" and was completely hooked by the potential of online learning to change how we learn and teach.  Since that time I have been able to see the evolution of a communities of practice style of learning and teaching.

In 2011 I began my Masters where one of the assignments required us to collaborate on a communities of practice project where all the collaboration was online with some face-to-face for those who were in Dunedin.  Three of our group were in Dunedin and I was in Invercargill.  The project environment required us to be clear in our communications and to work in ways we hadn't before.  We weren't always successful and had to work hard on our communication, particularly as one of our group did not have English as his first language.    Our project can be viewed here. 

This year I will once again be learning in a community of practice.  What this will look like is yet to be determined and that is the beauty of a genuine CoP.  It evolves and develops as the community members evolve and develop.  It is about shared practice where all ideas and experiences are valued and help to develop our practice.  We will meet face-to-face for the first time in July so it will be exciting to see who else is in the community and how it will develop from there.


Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W.M., (2002).  Cultivating communities of practice.  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

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