Sunday, June 9, 2013

Taking Your PLC To The Next Level

After unplugging for a couple weeks, it is time for my first training session this summer. Blogging before a workshop always helps me prepare and get ready. Our workshop is about taking your PLC to the next level with technology resources. My district has made PLCs a major focus for the past two years and many functional PLCs are working. Others are in neutral and some need a kick start. All of these groups could utilize some of the resources we will be sharing.

Organizing Resources
With so many resources available online, organizing and curating resources is a vital skill for all educators. In terms of PLCs, having an individual and shared space to collect resources can be a valuable tool. Teachers can collect resources individually and share them out or the PLC can save all resources to the same place. Here are some resources that can help in this process.

Diigo - PLCs could create a group where all members could tag resources for further use. Individual members could also collect resources and then share the links to their Diigo library. Using the Diigo extension makes collecting web resources a breeze.

Evernote - PLCs can use Evernote to take shared notes or for resource collection. Notebooks can be shared with all members and collecting resources is a breeze with Evernote Web Clipper.

Pinterest - Pinterest is highly popular inside and outside education. Because many people are using this personally, the learning curve is usually none! This helps get over the initial stage of learning a new interface. Users can jump right in to creating boards to house their online resources.

Google Drive - As my district moves to Google Apps for Education, I think we can utilize this for PLCs. PLCs could setup a shared folder where they can save documents, videos, etc. for use as a PLC. Google Docs could be used for shared meeting notes and there could be shared documents that are used for resource collection.

Best Resources for Personal Learning Networks
The collaboration in PLCs brings the collective wisdom of the group together for the good of all students. While this collaboration is great, it is limited in its scope. Sometimes we only see how things are always done in our schools and it gets hard to see other possibilities. By starting a personal learning network in online spaces, you see other points of view and ideas. Additionally, you now have infinitely more educators to learn with every day. So instead of collaborating with a PLC of maybe ten members, you now can interact with thousands. During the course of these interactions, you can bring back ideas and resources to your PLC. These resources are a great place to get started.

Twitter - The number of educators on Twitter is growing everyday and there is every type of educator to follow. Everyday, educators are sharing resources, journal articles, blog posts, etc. There are also a number of organized chats happening on Twitter. These chats allow educators to discuss ideas and find solutions to the problems in education. PLCs can bring back what they learn from their Twitter use or they can create a common hashtag to use for tweets pertaining to their PLC.

Follow Educational Blogs with Feedly - Blogs are a great source of information on many educational topics. But to effectively use blogs, you should use an RSS reader to collect the newest posts on the blogs you follow. By using a reader, you never need to visit the blog site but instead any new posts are delivered directly to you. Feedly is a great resource for collecting these feeds because it can be used with any connected device. PLCs can use resources from blogs to help solve PLC goals.

Google+ - More and more educators are starting to use Google+ as a personal learning resource. The circles feature has great potential for PLCs. All the members of your PLC could be in one circle. This would make resource sharing among PLC members very easy. PLC members could then follow other educators based on their interests.

Web Conference PLC Meetings
For some teachers, meeting with a PLC group can be difficult. An example would be the middle school drama teacher. He/she might be the only drama teacher in their building. It would be great for them to meet with the other drama teachers but the travel might be an issue. With web conferencing software, these "singleton" teachers can meet their PLC from anywhere. There are many software choices for web conferencing such as Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, or Skype.

There has never been a greater opportunity to collaborate and to find resources to help students learn. These online resources can take your PLC to the next level!

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