Monday, November 19, 2007

Personal Learning Network

Crossposted at learnconnect

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people who have influenced me in my learning and those who play a part in my learning now. It has been an interesting journey.

I taught for 18 years at a private school in Montreal where I was the computer teacher. I am grateful to my colleagues there and to the environment that was fostered by the administration. We talked education frequently and they became a part of my learning and growth. We debated whole language, grappled with what it truly meant, planned and implemented many projects together and always questioned our practices and approaches. However, as the only computer teacher in the school, there were areas of what I wanted to know for which my colleagues could not be my mentors. I had to go elsewhere. There were books and certainly Seymour Papert was a huge influence in my becoming a more constructivist educator. But I did not have contact with him directly except on a rare occasion when I heard him speak at a conference.

I often think of Frank Greene, a professor at McGill who encouraged and nourished me. He spoke of walking the floor at a conference - that the contacts and conversations were as important as listening to the speakers. So true.

As I attended and spoke at conferences, I met people from outside my city and, through e-mail was able to start expanding my circle of mentors. I learned that people, even those on the conference circuit, are approachable and are truly happy to share what they know. People in the education business seem to want to share, to see the changes they are hoping for multiply.

When I left teaching and started my current job, my new colleagues were as collaborative and supportive as those whom I had left. Our conversations have forced me to think and rethink about my beliefs and to read and reflect about what I would like to see in education. As we do not meet often face to face, our conversations were often through e-mails and my personal learning network expanded.

However, it has been through the advent of web 2.0 that I have been able to have access to the people in my field on a regular basis and my own growth has been exponential as a result. I regularly read blogs (though I have learned to limit the number), listen to some podcasts and through online communities have come to know people as friends and collaborators whom I have never met face to face. I have many people I can call on to answer my questions, reflect back my thinking and to expose me to their explorations and ideas. Now I can walk the floors virtually and carry on conversations or just listen in on them to nudge my thoughts and point me to articles, new applications and exemplary student work. It has been an exciting time.

I know that teachers have limited time, but I also know that we want our students to be lifelong learners. I feel we have to model this and continue to learn ourselves.

So here are my questions
Who have been your mentors?
Who is part of your personal learning network (face to face or virtual)
How can you use the people in this group to expand your knowledge, share your ideas or create community?
Choose one new thing to learn this week.
Where are you going to go to learn it (real world or virtual?)
Who can help you?

Don’t keep the answers to yourself. Share them by commenting on this entry.


1 comment:

  1. My Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Lewis, for allowing me to read in class, for letting me take part in the public speaking competition (which I won, against grade 8s), for letting us create the 'Mad Mod Portable'. Grade 5 was a banner year for me, and made me realize what I could become.

    To Jamie Bell, my Grade 10 English teacher, for allowing me to write a journal containing absolutely anything (and which was turned in containing crossword puzzles, murder mysteries, art and cartoons, street maps, and more.

    To my co-conspirators of the Movement for Autocratic Organization (MAO) - especially our non-violent overthrow of the social studies department and occupation of the office - Jane Cooper, Chris Cooper (not related), Susan Rogers.

    To Dave, the red-headed scruffy-faced poet of the Sugar Bowl in L'Esplanade, in Ottawa, where we were routinely kicked out of federal government buildings. It is always a kick to return to those buildings from which I was so unceremoniously escorted.

    To Jim Stanford, Jean Munn, Dona Baines, Mike Old, Ty Reynolds, Scott Partridge, Holly Porteous, Bob Armstrong, Stewart Cunningham, Robert Cook, and the many other miscreants, socialists and rebels who were the Federation of Alberta Students (FAS) and who produced the Gauntlet, the University of Calgary student newspaper, where I cut my teeth as a writer and social commentator.

    To Jon Bordo, who took was probably a couple of hours correcting two pages of my writing - and thereby taking me to a whole new level. John A. Baker, who taught me philosophy of mind and introduced me to computer conferencing. Gordon Greig, who taught me to be analytical. Verena Huber-Dyson, who showed me that mathematics and logic have foundations.

    To Steve Mather, Mary Meister, Andrew Sparling, Susan St-jorre, Luba Slobajy, Shelly Russell, and the many other miscreants, socialists and rebels who formed and helped out at the Graduate Students' Association of the University of Alberta.

    The philosophers - Paul Viminitz, Susan Crandall, Ou Yang Guangwei, and the rest, who let me give crazy talks like 'A Zen Critique of Transcendental Phenomenalism' and 'An Empirical Foundation for Mathematics'.

    Gene Semchych, who hired me at Assiniboine, Jeff McLaughlin and Istevan Berkeley, who built MUDs with me, Conrad Albertson, Shirley Chapman, Jeff Kerr, and the others in Brandon who helped me build a career. Terry Anderson, Rory McGreal and James Morrison (of Innovate) who believed in my work and helped me a long with a lot of encouragement and just the right opportunities. Rik Hall who was - and reminds me always that I need to be - "one of the good ones".

    And today, the people around the world I work with and talk with - the people from DEOS and WWWDEV and the other email lists, the bloggers (so many of them), Tim van Gelder, who invited me for three months in Australia on a whim, Robbie Weatherly, Rose Grozdanic, Marie Jasinski and the other crazy (wonderful) Australians, my good friends from NewsTrolls (yay Cyberdiva), the three Amigos (D'Arcy, Brian and Alan), Scott Leslie, Scott Wilson, George Siemens, and the other edubloggers, Dave Cormier. Teemu Arina and the Other Teemu and the rest of the FLNW New Zealand crowd. Diego, who invited me on a whim to Colombia. John Concelius on the Beiring Sea in Alaska. The Women of Web 2.

    And the people in my life here in Moncton - Rod Savoie, Helene Fournier, Sophie Leblanc, Luc Belliveau, Ken Tessier, and the rest at work; the good people at Yuk Yuk's comedy, and of course, my wife Andrea.

    I have missed some people, I'm sure, but that's only because I'm getting old and bad at names, not because they weren't important.

    And nobody is more aware than I how much I have benefited from people who, for no personal gain of their own, have believed in me, helped me, and given me the gifts of knowledge and insight.