Following on from my post about taking up the Ten Tool Challenge, I have just started reading and taking part in a virtual book club for a fabulous book, 'Professional Learning in the Digital Age' by Kristen Swanson.
From the start, this is a book that resonates with me on many levels and builds on approaches I was beginning to develop in my own practice. Its exploration of the ways adults learn and how educators can approach professional learning confirms and expands on many of my current beliefs - that we need to collect, consider and evaluate and share. One of my pet hates has always been professional learning that is outdated, repetitive, not relevant and a waste of my very precious time. Swanson states that "for adult learning experiences to be successful, learners should be aware of the intention of the activity. Instruction should be problem-based instead of content-based, and planning should be collaborative. Succinctly, adults must be engaged with the content and one another to accomplish vital tasks." No different to our classroom learners then.
I think that ALL educators ready to move into technology and ready to take charge of their own learning need to read this book. I would like to recommend it as a text that is user-friendly and not too packed with jargon for those who want to venture into the wonderful world of online learning for the first time, as well as those who need a bit more help in where to go next and how to fully utilise some skills already honed. It explains clearly and simply how to "become a curious learner who researches and collaborates with teachers at large" to build a professional learning network, curate resources, reflect on their suitability and begin contributing to complete the cycle of collaboration that the Internet now allows.
Week 1 asks us to read and think about 'Curation', one of the three elements of User-Generated Learning - the others being 'Reflection' and 'Contribution'. It posits that as educators, we have always been curators but our need to harbour every scrap of paper, worksheet, newspaper clipping and article we came across, saw us as curators working alone, unable to share effectively or find out what else what out there easily. As an international teacher, I had to surrender these curated files as I moved from one country to another, yet I feel more resourced and connected now than ever - due to the Internet. Swason suggests that the "most successful teachers learn from a combination of resources, including local communities, virtual communities, and research". It was the GAFE Summit Singapore last September that opened my eyes to PLN proper, and since then, Twitter has become my go-to for learning. Google Reader was something I also learned to use at the conference along with Flipboard, a brilliant tool that subscribes to Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter etc - all my go-tos in one easy place, creating my morning commute read. 'Professional Learning in the Digital Age' explains all these tools - and more - and is allowing me to take things a step further - in one afternoon in my hammock.
Conducting the launch of the book with a virtual book club is a brilliant idea that brings into practise what the books advocates. Appendices with useful links and tools make it a really useful jumping off point for newbies to the wonderful world of online learning networks. Each chapter also provides a to- do list of a few easy to manage tasks that can get even the most worried technophobe into the ether. From these first few chapters, I have already started building a list of new tools that I want to try out - and anyone taking part in the Ten Tools Challenge will easily find ten useful tools to trial that will have you curating, reflecting and contributing in no time.