Monday, September 2, 2013

Nothing Like a Forced PLN

So to help us prepare and begin to implement the Common Core and work through our first year of the new Multiple Measures Evaluation System here in PA, my district is trying to do a lot of things to support us. While I appreciate everything that's going on I feel like once again education is taking something positive and making it more of a chore than a help.

Over the past three years I have developed a pretty substantial Personal / Professional Learning Network. Through the connections I've made on Twitter, the chats I'm part of, and the blogs that I read I am finding many teachers to learn with and from, and I'm learning so many new strategies to help my students explore and learn topics more successfully. I share what I've learned with colleagues, even going so far as sharing important blog posts and books that I'm reading with administrators, including our superintendent. The work that I do on my own, informally, has helped me learn and grow as a professional in ways that college courses and district provided days never have.

So what's with the title of my post?

Even though I am actively connected with people from around the world, my district has purchased licenses to a website called pd360. The idea is straight forward - you go in, watch a video, reflect, and discuss in a community; what's frustrating is that these are things that I am already doing on my own - but I'm not just analyzing video made by the School Improvement Network. I'm reading and watching blogs and videos made by other teachers, by people in the classroom, by students. I get to decide what might be valuable and might be the most helpful for me and my teammates and our unique group of students. In this program I am given a list of videos to watch (although I can browse the additional videos and choose ones of interest to me if I want to watch more), I'm given questions to answer, and I'm given tasks to complete in the in-program community, which right now is made up of the people I work with at school. Sounds so much more like a college course than a PLN to me.

Here's what I'm wondering: since the huge emphasis is differentiating instruction and mindfully planning for the different student needs in our classroom (the fact that this is only an emphasis now could be a whole other blog post -- are we really not doing this??) why is our administration not differentiating this professional development for the teachers? I feel it's because our administrators don't really know enough about each of us and the work we do in the classroom to truly differentiate and point us in the directions we each need to grow. I wonder what answer they would give. I'm definitely going to ask that as soon as I can.

But just like I tell my kids when there are skills we only have to learn for the tests (yep - we all know it happens), sometimes there is just stuff you have to do even when you don't like it. So I will plug ahead and complete the tasks that I'm required to do in the hopes that I will gain some new knowledge from it. I just hope that, at some point, the website will stop freezing and logging me out so I can actually accomplish the course I'm supposed to complete!

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