Posted by: Kathy Cassidy | July 5, 2008

Learning Networks: My Thinking Thoughts

Kelly Christopherson asked a good question to his Twitter network recently. He asked, “How has your definition of PLN changed since you joined a social network?”  Here are my thinking thoughts.


My school division has been supporting PLC’s for several years.  For the first few years, teachers could choose what to focus on and who to focus on it with.  I spent a lot of time with some other grade one teachers from other schools, dissecting our Language Arts Curriculum, and creating rubrics that sifted through the gobblety-gook and helped to measure standards that were originally written in very imprecise language.   It was a stretching, but satisfying and practical group to be a part of.  Unfortunately, not everyone found these opportunities for learning to be as helpful as I did.  Because some people were not taking advantage of the time, more restrictions were created about where and with whom you should have your PLC.  During the next school year, all PLC’s will be held with staff at our own school, on one of two school division approved topics.


While I appreciate the time to and value of getting together with other members of my staff and discussing ways that we can work together to improve instruction, I feel that my primary learning comes not from my discussions with them, but from my online interaction.


 PLC’s Shouldn’t Be Limited in Time or Place

While I see the other members of my school-based PLC every day, we only discuss our PLC topic in any significant way a few times a year.  On the other hand, I am in contact with the thoughts of people in my online network almost every day.  If I have a question or an opinion, I can count on others to answer or set me straight.  I get input from other teachers every day instead of at pre-ordained times.  It can be early in the morning or late at night and is not limited to being in a building at the same time as someone else.  Many times, I know that there is no one in my school who can answer the question that I have, but I know just the person in another province or country who will know the answer and who will happily answer it, just as I would if I had an answer for them.


PLC’s Can Include Diverse Thoughts

Through online contacts such as my RSS feeds and Twitter (well, sometimes), I am exposed to the thoughts and ideas of people who are really thinking about education and change in a way that I never would without their prompting.  They daily challenge my opinion and help me to be a better teacher.  I am a “how-to” thinker and, like most primary teachers, including those in my school-based PLC, I think in practicalities rather than in big ideas.  My online network allows me to be exposed to those ideas and thinking about how I can use them.


The Topic Doesn’t Have to be Prescribed or Even Clearly Stated

While I understand the reason for prescribing the topic of our school-based PLC’s (data), there are a lot of other things that I want to learn about.  I guess this is the difference between the “P” standing for “Professional” and “Personal”.  At school the topic of discussion is set and we are expected to report to the superintendent what we have discussed and what we will discuss the next time. In my personal learning, I can switch my learning topic with the movement of a finger and come back to a previous topic whenever I want to.


So there you are, Kelly.    My thinking thoughts.  My online learning wins hands down.  



  1. I think my learning would be starved by now if I only had my building. I love my colleagues in my building, they are a wonderful support for the issues that go on daily in our classrooms. However, I rely on my social networks to challenge my thinking and to help me grow. Online, it’s ALL about teaching and learning. I love being able to learn about what ever gets me to click and stay on a page. My online PLC feeds me.

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