Sunday, March 20, 2011

Note of Thanks! (Power of a PLN)

This past term, one of the courses I taught was Internet for Educators. This course is an elective course in Brandon University's after degree B.Ed. program. The students are in their last year & last term of their program and are generally in the middle years or senior years stream, they have a variety of teachable areas. This is the second year I have used an approach using ideas I have 'borrowed' from members of my PLN, in particular Alec Couros and Dean Shareski. The major assignment for the course is to keep a blog, there are required weekly posts, based on the topic of the week, usually presented by a special guest speaker. The students explore the idea, bring in own experiences and reflections. I started this last year, and grew and refined the idea this year. From both my perspective - and from the students, it was a huge success. The responsibility for learning was theirs, while I set the general topics, along with the speakers I invited, the learning took the direction the students wanted to take it. Many added extra posts, sharing resources, ideas and commenting on each others blogs. I want to publicly acknowledge the invited speakers - members of my PLN - who took time and effort to join us, in person and digitally. I learned as much from the presentations and interactions as my students did. The presenters were:

John Evans (@joevans) - a former Principal and now a consultant with Manitoba Education, presented on PLNs - and on the first day of classes. What a great way to start. John got us off with a bang talking about the power of a PLN and demonstrating some tools for building a PLN. John shared his wiki on PLNs.

Howard Griffith (@HowardCDN) - Howard is one of two educators who coordinate & develop Web Based Courses for Manitoba. Howard led a discussion about the whys of online learning and showed the resources and courses available in Manitoba. Student teachers are able to sign up for courses so they may use the materials as resources and to explore.

John Finch (@jfinch)  - a former teacher and Technology Consultant, John is also with Manitoba Education and is on the Literacy with ICT team. John led a hands on session looking at using social media in the classroom, sharing ideas and issues.

Glen Gatin (@ggatin) - was next, Glen is an ed tech researcher and delivers a graduate level course for Brandon University, and other Universities. Glen presented a session looking at learning in a networked world. In particular he looked at various learning theories, including constructivism, constructionism and connectivism. He also discussed MOOCs and MUVES (second life). He finished with some good advice for beginning teachers.

George Couros (@gcouros) - Principal of Forest Green School in Stoney Plain, AB skyped in from his school. This was a treat as a Principal in the field talked about "Unintended Benefits" and shared his experiences as his school embraced social media. Here is a Principal with an amazing philosophy who lives what he says. He also gave advice for beginning teachers seeking their first teaching job. His presentation is embedded below, with his permission.

Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) - Darren is a high school Math teacher on secondment to Manitoba Education (in the  Literacy with ICT - French language side). Darren is a very sought after speaker and presents around the world. He presented on "What can we do now?". Darren talked about how people learn and talked about assessment and illustrated many ways to use technology in the classroom. His presentation is below.

Dean Shareski (@shareski) - well, we did not actually have Dean speak to us directly, however, I assigned his great K-12 Conference keynote "Sharing - The Moral Imperative" for viewing. His presentation sparked some great blog posts. I thank Dean for reading & commenting on a few of the posts.

Alec Couros (@courosa) - having the famous Dr. Couros, University of Regina, join us via elluminate is always a treat. Alec truly lives his 'open doctrine'. As busy as he is, Alec joined us for an hour right after his own class finished at U of R. Alec was a perfect final speaker and he summed up his thoughts on 'Open Learning in a Connected World' and spent about fifteen minutes answering questions and discussing ideas. Just the week before, I had the honour of introducing Alec on his first foray into Manitoba when he delivered a keynote to WestCAST - an annual conference for pre-service teachers, held this year at Brandon University. His slidedeck is below:

Of course, I did hold a few classes myself ;-) and we spent the last class together discussing and pulling together the themes from the course & speakers. The student blogs were amazing, and their final reflections were outstanding. Links to their blogs, including the reflections, are on this wiki - so please take a look & comment! These folks will make fine, thoughtful teachers (anyone hiring?). It is also gratifying to see a few of them continue posting to their blogs in the few weeks since classes finished.

Once again, I want to thank all these educators for their contribution to the development of these new teachers. I met & got to know some of these people on twitter, and they did not hesitate to take part. This success shows the power of a PLN (or whatever term you want to use)! This experience was valuable to both my students and to me - and I hope for these fine presenters as well - I know some have some new twitter followers and blog readers from this class!


  1. Mike,

    It was an honour and a privilege to be a part of the learning that took place with your students. Hope I can help again in the future!


  2. Always a pleasure, John. I will be in touch for a return visit!

  3. My pleasure as well - glad this model is working for you, as it's been very successful for us at the U of R, and students really appreciate the many voices they get to hear.

    Take care, Mike.

  4. Quite the post Mike! Listening to any one of the above is always an education.