‘Personal Learning Network’ (PLN) is a term that’s every where at the moment, but really it only captures half the story – the half that’s about the individual and what they want from their network. The other side is what the individual can contribute to their network, and how that whole network grows stronger as a result. That’s why I probably prefer the wider term ‘community of practice’:
“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006).
Sounds like a perfect description of #AusELT to me 🙂 So, anyway, when Karen Benson (@eslkazzyb) and I heard that the theme of the UECA PD Fest 2013 was communities of practice, we obviously had to put our hands up to present.
In our presentation, ‘The networked teacher: Making PLNs work for you’, we wanted to explore the notion of a PLN as a personalised community of practice. We wanted to help attendees clearly visualise their current PLN, and not only to identify ways in which it could be developed, but to get a sense of why it’s worth developing, both personally and professionally. On a more practical note, we wanted participants to be able to explore what a PLN (this one!) looks like in practice via a range of online platforms and talk over some of the issues involved. And we wanted them to leave with a) some concrete ideas for how a PLN could help them in their individual situations (you can read some of their ideas here), and b) a plan for how to get started.
We humbly offer up our workshop Powerpoint, teacher’s notes, and summary handout here in the hope that it might help people running similar sessions in future. Feel free to use it and adapt it as you wish, but please credit/link to us where appropriate and remember to retain the original copyrights on other images used. And let us know how you go!
Acknowledgements & further reading
Several #AusELTers have already presented on this topic, or something along these lines, and their advice was invaluable in putting together our session. In fact, ours looks pretty shoddy by comparison 🙂 Please take a look at these presentations if you get a chance, there’s plenty more to explore:
- Michael Griffiths (@trylingual) ‘Constant’ PD
- Kyle Smith (@elkysmith) Catching Up & Getting Ahead
- Kyle Smith (@elkysmith) and John Smith (@JohnAtGELI ) Connecting Teachers
- Lesley Ciocarelli (@cioccas) and Andrea Wade (@worldteacher) Connect with Teachers Around the World (CamTESOL2013) [and Lesley’s lovely overview on her blog here]
If you would like to learn more about communities of practice, Etienne Wenger’s website is a great place to start (the definition of communities of practice in this post is taken from there).
Jacqui McDonald at the University of Southern Queensland has done a great deal of practical exploratory work with communities of practice, and actually used #AusELT as an example in her plenary at UECA PD Fest (#pride!) It was great to see her ‘view from above’ of many of the stages we have experienced in our evolving group, and to learn what we might expect in our future. A version of her presentation is available online here and is recommended for those who want to learn more about the inner workings of communities of practice.
This post by @sophiakhan4