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Tag Archives: Online teaching

In Solidarity – I am Saving Universities a Ton of Money

This post is quoted in its entirety from my online colleague Dr. Kay Lehmann‘s blog posting. Since we work together online, and I share the sentiment, I am reposting it in solidarity.

I am saving universities a ton of money as an online adjunct

An Important email message today about sick leave policy from one of the universities I work for starting me thinking. I am saving these universities SOOO much money by working at a distance. As an online adjunct very little is provided to me… thus was borne this open letter…

Open letter to University administrators and human resources personnel who have adjunct instructors working at a distance:

I am the faceless, nearly nameless, person teaching tens, if not hundreds, of students for you each year via your online courses. Since I never set foot on your campus and in fact probably live hundreds or thousands of miles away, I am saving you a lot of money. Clearly I am saving you money when compared to tenured faculty but even compared to the meager existence of a local on-campus adjunct, the saving from my work is substantial.

For clarity’s sake let me define who I am since you probably don’t know me at all. I teach online courses via my own computer from my home. You pay me by course, or by student. This is my full-time job but I work for several universities in order to earn a full-time income. And following this rant about how much I am saving you, I will detail the benefits gained by working as an online adjunct.

Like most adjuncts face-to-face or online you likely do not pay me any benefits. No insurance costs or pension fund contributions must be funded on my behalf. Sick leave doesn’t apply in my world, nor does paid vacations or holidays. My courses do not close because I am laid up with the flu, I cannot close the course site and say ‘take the day off’ and I cannot ask someone to cover my class and teach it for me because of illness or injury. I teach from my sick bed, and while on vacation, and over holidays. In fact graduate students in online courses tend to do more work and ask more questions over holidays, weekends, and during traditional vacation times because they have extra time for their coursework. And I cannot even imagine a scenario where I would file an L and I claim for injuries sustained on the job.

There is no physical classroom to be provided for myself or the students. No utilities to be paid, equipment, furnishings, or physical presence to be maintained. In fairness you do pay for a learning management system where my course is housed. I have no idea what the balance in costs is between a physical classroom and the cost of one course on a learning management system so perhaps this is a fair trade.

No office space, even office space shared with other adjuncts, must be provided. You don’t provide a computer or Internet access for me to do lesson planning, grading, or other teaching functions which require electronics. I provide my own equipment, keep my software up-to-date, use my own phone for calls to students, and pay for my Internet access while at home and on the road. Some universities do offer discounts on software or reimbursement for phone calls and postage. The hassle of filling out your paper forms and mailing them to you with receipts to get reimbursed isn’t worth my time.

You have no costs for meetings or professional development. I have not consumed a cup of coffee brewed by your staff during a meeting because there are no meetings. And rarely is any professional development offered to online adjuncts. A few offers to audit a class are just about the only costs for PD that you have incurred for me.

You may offer technical support to help me with media creation, troubleshooting, and other issues but I usually figure things out on my own with the help of my PLN. To be honest your technical support people often assume a level of digital stupidity that takes so long to dispel it is easier to figure things out on my own. One does not teach online without some level of competency using a computer and Internet-based tools.

To summarize, I earn few, if any, benefits. I don’t get health insurance, take sick leave, or get paid vacation. You don’t have to provide a parking spot, chair, desk, or a light bulb. I don’t eat doughnuts at meetings or run off 20 copies of a 10 page syllabus. I do provide excellent service to your students and take pride in doing so. Perhaps you should thank me for my generosity and willingness to teach online courses in your institution.

Instead, for this excellent customer service, you continue to spam my inbox with email about local face to face meetings, policies, and politics; none of which have ever applied to me. I am your ever-growing future workforce…it is high time you figure out who and where I am.

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Posted by on December 28, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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eLearning Instructional Design

My 10 Commandments*

BibleImage via Wonderlane

Thou Shalt:

1. Engage, engage, engage.

eLearning can be a cold, lonely place. Interactivity, graphic images, audio/video, and even themes are fun and motivating, making abstract concepts more concrete and increasing learning. Use of games or game-influenced designs, based on exploration, problem-solving, and trial and error, where students get lost in the fun and forget they are learning, work well even in higher education.

2. Chunk – in bite-sized chunks.

Research shows, time and time again, online students resist long “anything” – long passages of text, long modules, long tests, (long blog posts), etc.

3. Create/use authentic, meaningful, and relevant content.

Even more so than the f2f classroom, online and hybrid courses need to justify the real world application of skills and activities to motivate and engage students. Designing activities so the connection to the real world is integral to the activity (like simulations) is even better.

4. Discuss, with guidance.

Students need open-ended, thought-provoking, relevant prompts to get discussions going. We can do more than post “Discuss Chapter Two”. Gently elicit more from students who simply post “I agree” by replying “Tell me what you specifically agree with and why?” or a similar response.

5. Measure and assess with alignment.

Are your objectives measurable? (Can you visualize someone performing the task stated in the objective – if not, it is due for an upgrade). Does your assessment measure what your task is asking students to do? Alignment between the objective and its assessment is critical to student success. And speaking of assessment – let’s get creative. The real world doesn’t check knowledge in ten question quizzes – it does so through the application of learned concepts. Student engagement goes through the roof when assessments become authentic.

6. Use more than text.

Students score significantly higher with audio and/or visual cues embedded within the content, audio feedback on work turned in, visual feedback (i.e. screenshots) on submitted work or for further explanation, than text alone. Providing formative feedback in an audio format prior to a summatively graded activity is a highly effective method of improving student performance.

7. Know your audience.

Today’s students are mobile (as in phone). And as such, they are less apt to use email as their first or even second line of communication. They text, they chat, they Facebook. They are social. Give them an opportunity to form a community in your course like they would f2f in a class. Provide a “lounge” forum for non-course-related discussion. Incorporate other social media that is course-related like Diigo to have students collaboratively research and share notes across the web. Research consistently shows student perceive courses as more meaningful when authentic, problem-based, collaborative activities involving learner-learner interaction are the norm.

8. Be accessible

Design courses for accessibility from the beginning. It is easy to do it then. It is much more difficult to retrofit a course on the fly. Assistive technologies alone cannot remove all the barriers in a badly designed course site.

9. Provide opportunities for your students and yourself to reflect.

Reflection gives students the opportunity to explore course ideas deeply, make cross-curricular and real life connections, as well as express fears and concerns. It is one way asynchronous courses are able to connect learner to content and learner to instructor effectively. In addition, being a reflective practitioner gives you an opportunity to explore what is and is not working about the course, to generate new ideas while topics are fresh in your mind, and to note areas in which you need to do more research.

10. Eliminate tedium (yawn).

Being an online student is challenging enough. The least we can do is try to make the process more interesting than reading the IRS Tax Code.

*Inspired by The 10 Commandments of eLearning

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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ADDIE and ITIP – Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Having come up through the K-12 ranks in education, my course design background has been, until recently, almost entirely based upon face-to-face educational theory models like Madeline Hunter’s ITIP and Grant Wiggin’s Understanding by Design (UBD). These methods of course design and lesson planning have served me well, even as I transitioned to hybrid teaching and, finally, fully online.

Now, as my teaching (and OpenPhD studying) has branched out into online professional development and educational technology, I am working with many trainers, corporate instructional designers, as well as teachers, and I’ve repeatedly been exposed to the ADDIE model used by instructional systems designers. At first glance, ITIP and ADDIE appear to be different models for different purposes, but the more I compare and use them – the more they seem two sides of the same coin.

ITIP

1. (Learning Objective) Select an objective at an appropriate level of difficulty and complexity, as determined through a task analysis, diagnostic testing, and/or congruence with Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy.
2. (Anticipatory Set) Motivate instruction by focusing the learning task, its importance, or the prior knowledge/experience of the learners.
3. State the lesson objective(s) to the students.
4. (Input) Identify and teach main concepts and skills, emphasizing clear explanations, frequent use of examples and/or diagrams, and invite active student participation.(Includes Modeling).
>5. Check for understanding by observing and interpreting student reactions (active interest, boredom) and by frequent formative evaluations with immediate feedback. Adjust instruction as needed and reteach if necessary.(Can be Closure at the end of lesson as well).
6. Provide guided practice following instruction by having students answer questions, discuss with one another, demonstrate skills, or solve problems. Give immediate feedback and reteach if necessary.
7. Assign independent practice to solidify skills and knowledge when students have demonstrated understanding.

 

When designing lessons, the teacher needs to consider the seven elements in a certain order since each element is derived from and has a relationship to previous elements. Also a decision must be made about inclusion or exclusion of each element in the final design–NOT ALL ELEMENTS WILL BE INCLUDED IN EVERY LESSON. It may take several lessons before students are ready for guided and/or independent practice. When this design framework is implemented in teaching, the sequence of the elements a teacher includes is determined by his/her professional judgment.

“Planning for Effective Instruction: Lesson Design” in Enhancing Teaching by Madeline Hunter, 1994, pp. 87-95.

 

ADDIE

I found this simple explanation of ADDIE to be most useful in comparison. The five phases of ADDIE are as follows – with the ITIP comparable added in blue:

Analysis

  • During analysis, the designer identifies the learning problem, the goals and objectives, the audience’s needs, existing knowledge, and any other relevant characteristics. Analysis also considers the learning environment, any constraints, the delivery options, and the timeline for the project.

1. (Learning Objective) Select an objective at an appropriate level of difficulty and complexity, as determined through a task analysis, diagnostic testing, and/or congruence with Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy.

2. (Anticipatory Set) Motivate instruction by focusing the learning task, its importance, or the prior knowledge/experience of the learners.

Design

  • A systematic process of specifying learning objectives. Detailed storyboards and prototypes are often made, and the look and feel, graphic design, user-interface and content is determined here.

Development

  • The actual creation (production) of the content and learning materials based on the Design phase.

Implementation

  • During implementation, the plan is put into action and a procedure for training the learner and teacher is developed. Materials are delivered or distributed to the student group. After delivery, the effectiveness of the training materials is evaluated.

3. State the lesson objective(s) to the students.

4. (Input) Identify and teach main concepts and skills, emphasizing clear explanations, frequent use of examples and/or diagrams, and invite active student participation. (Includes Modeling).

6. Provide guided practice following instruction by having students answer questions, discuss with one another, demonstrate skills, or solve problems. Give immediate feedback and reteach if necessary.

7. Assign independent practice to solidify skills and knowledge when students have demonstrated understanding.

Evaluation

  • This phase consists of (1) formative and (2) summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process. Summative evaluation consists of tests designed for criterion-related referenced items and providing opportunities for feedback from the users. Revisions are made as necessary.

5. Check for understanding by observing and interpreting student reactions (active interest, boredom) and by frequent formative evaluations with immediate feedback. Adjust instruction as needed and reteach if necessary (can be Closure at the end of lesson as well).

*********

As I see it, the real differences between ADDIE and ITIP are 1)semantics and 2) a slight shift in focus. ITIP’s focus is on the instruction and ADDIE’s is more on design. While a designer (course or training) could use ADDIE to create the training/lesson, ITIP can be used like an outline to actually teach the course/training. These models are more complementary than competing, and online course developers, trainers, OER authors, should look into both models to better improve their teaching and opportunities for student engagement and learning – face-to-face or online.

As always, I look forward to your perspectives and commentary!


 
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Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Teaching Online, Year One

 

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The Value of Digital Teaching…

When people ask what I do for living, I answer, “I teach.”

Most people are usually very supportive when they hear I’m a teacher, just like when they hear someone is police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, soldiers, and other service professions.  I can almost read their mind as I watch the expressions flicker across their faces: That’s a tough job. Wow, I wouldn’t want to do that.  She had to go to a lot of school.  Glad it’s not me.

The cocktail conversation inevitably gets around to question #2:  “Where do you teach?”

I know they are expecting me to answer XYZ Public School or University of XYZ.  In fact, I used to answer that way.  I spent 15 years in public education, face-to-face.  Traditional.  Hotdogs, Mom, and Apple Pie.

Now I answer, “Online.”  Oh my, you should read those expressions now.

Disbelief. How does that work? Is that really even teaching? (and my favorite look) I hate computers *shudder*.

Not so traditional anymore.  In fact, I do still work for land-based schools – I just do so from a distance.  And it works quite well, thank you very much.  And yes, it is really teaching.  Some studies argue students are even more successful online than face-to-face.  This is not your grandmother’s education anymore.  You hate computers? (Here is one caveat to the revolution – online learning may not be for you then).

In the blog post There’s No Such Thing as Virtual, It is All Teaching, The Intrepid Teacher explains the fallout of a two week school closure due to the swine flu.  He further explains a comparison between his school (without a CMS platform) and his wife’s (with Blackboard), and how they are managing to cope with educating their students despite the closure.  He comes away with some interesting observations:

Teaching online, or being a virtual teacher, is more than a skill set; it is a mindset and a philosophy. Teachers who are well versed in a variety of tools, not just Blackboard will fair [sic] much better in times of crisis and will be better prepared for finding ways to reach their students than say teachers who rarely use technology at all. Teachers who themselves are connect and use many tools for their own learning will barely miss a step. While I understand the unease these teachers are experiencing, I think their apprehension speaks more to the limitations offered not only by blackboard, but of school philosophies when it comes to technology use and pedagogy.

This crisis has clearly illustrated that creating a valuable web-friendly ethos/community of teachers well versed with technology, is the first step in creating a sustainable system to deal with not only emergencies, but in helping to maintain strong ties between teachers and students beyond the classroom.

My online teaching partner and I strongly believe what The Intrepid Teacher has come to realize.  To that end, we even opened our book with 26 reasons (supported by research) why online learning successfully reaches beyond the traditional classroom:

  1. Students must be active learners.
  2. Course materials remain current.
  3. Instruction engages learners with the content through multiple channels.
  4. Learners are engaged with each other as well as the instructor.
  5. Online learning is pandemic proof.
  6. Exploration of ideas builds one on another through discussion boards.
  7. Discussions are captured in perpetuity for later reflection.
  8. Anonymity of the online environment frees students to disagree and question.
  9. Learners benefit from discussions that build cyclically over time.
  10. Asynchronicity allows for students to work during convenient times and to use conducive working styles.
  11. All learning styles and disabilities can be met to allow for learners to thrive.
  12. Education is not bound by geographic constraints.
  13. Issues of gender, race, or physical characteristics are invisible to the online classroom.
  14. Economic issues are lessened.
  15. Time for the learner is maximized.
  16. Class sizes are smaller.
  17. Students (in well designed courses) showcase their learning in authentic tasks.
  18. Students have access to best schools, guest speakers, or instructors despite the distances.
  19. Online learning is a green industry.
  20. Global diversity of ideas are shared.
  21. Technology skills are further developed.
  22. Communication skills increase.
  23. Feedback is meaningful, timely, and expected.
  24. Instructors are able to devote more time to teaching and less time to administrivia.
  25. Successful online communities can feel “closer” than large scale traditional courses.
  26. Successful use of social learning theory and communities of practice create transference of learning beyond the immediate course in a positive, impactful way.

I have seen and experienced every aspect of that list of 26.  What’s not to love about online teaching?  It’s a great profession and more valuable every day.

“I teach online.  Yes, really!   Sure I can explain how it works…”

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2009 in Teaching Online

 

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Twitter, Twibes, and Tweeple…oh my!

I tweet.  I tweet on Twitter.  I’m in a twibe.  It’s twue!

Er, I mean, it’s true!

It’s taken me a while to get into Twitter.  Not to understand it.  That I got right away.  In fact, after just a few minutes of checking it out, I was quickly able to explain it to my friends by saying it was like the status update on Facebook only without the rest of Facebook.  That was almost two years ago.

I also remember thinking I had no use for this micro-blogging thing.  I had my smart phone.  I had instant messaging, texting, mobile email, my blog, Facebook, a website, my course sites, and numerous other ways I was technologically connected to my students, my colleagues, and my friends.  I was burned out on innovative ways to connect, and I didn’t need one more to add to the pile.  So I embraced my future shock and ignored Twitter.

Twitter didn’t ignore me, or to be more specific, it didn’t go away despite my best efforts at giving it the cold shoulder.  A very purposeful UnFollow, if you get my twift.

Instead, Twitter grew. Ten-fold.

Or perhaps one hundred-fold over the next two years.

And it kept tweeting to me….the same post over and over.

(Forgive me, Gene Roddenberry)

“You, too, shall be assimilated.”

And I am assimilated.  Sort of.

Now I am struggling to find practical uses for Twitter in my busy world.  Oh, sure, I can find many impractical uses – the same as all the other tweeple on Twitter.  I can babble with the best of them, and I can waste precious time online when I want to procrastinate – just ask any of my Facebook friends.  Apparently, that is what most of the Twitterati are doing as well according to this 2009 research:

San Antonio-based market research firm Pear Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets (originating from the US and in English) over a 2-week period from 11:00a to 5:00p (CST) and separated them into six categories:

  • News
  • Spam
  • Self-promotion
  • Pointless babble
  • Conversational
  • Pass-along value

The firm found that “pointless babble” accounted for most of Twitter’s content making up 811 tweets or 40.55 percent of the total number of messages sampled.

Conversational messages accounted for 751 messages or 37.55 percent, tweets with “pass-along value” i.e. retweets – accounted for 174 messages or 8.70 percent, self-promotion by companies made up 117 tweets or 5.85 percent, spam was 75 tweets or 3.75 percent and tweets with news from mainstream media publications accounted for 72 tweets or 3.60 percent.

-Kelly, Ryan, ed. (2009-08-12), “Twitter Study – August 2009” (PDF), Twitter Study Reveals Interesting Results About Usage, San Antonio, Texas: Pear Analytics

That’s a lot of background noise.

So how can online educators find some educational value in the midst of all this technological spam-babble-hype-chat?  I did a little searching (Bing!) and came up with some more promising Twitter tools and apps that makes micro-blogging a bit more educator-friendly.

  1. Twitrans: Twitrans can translate your tweets to any language using human translators.
  2. Tweeteorology: Tweeteorology will show you tweets about the weather.
  3. Book Price Check: Check prices of books from your mobile device through Twitter using this tool.
  4. twiggit: Let your students know about the articles you digg by using twiggit.
  5. SI-Messenger: SI-Messenger is a service that integrates IM, Twitter and more in Second Life.
  6. TwitterBox: Use Twitter from within Second Life with this tool.
  7. LoudTwitter: Send tweets to your blog and keep contacts updated even if they don’t read your Twitter.
  8. Twit2Do: Use Twitter to manage your to-do list using Twit2Do.
  9. twtvite: This event management Twitter app can help you plan classroom events.
  10. TrackDailyGoals: TrackDailyGoals will help you keep track of your productivity and goals.
  11. Tweetizen: You can start your own group, or find groups with specific interests on Twitter.
  12. HappyTwitday: Celebrate classroom birthdays on Twitter by using HappyTwitday.
  13. twtpoll: Take classroom polls and surveys with the help of this app.
  14. GroupTweet: Make twittering in your classroom group-easy using this tool.
  15. Tweetworks: Tweetworks offers groups and threaded discussions on Twitter.
  16. tweetparty: Communicate directly with your Twitter group by using tweetparty.
  17. TwitOrg: TwitOrg offers a great way to create, manage, and join organizations.
  18. StrawPoll: Get tiny polls from StrawPoll.
  19. ConnectTweet: ConnectTweet will help you combine the voices of your group.
  20. Twibes: Create your own groups on a specific topic and let others follow it.
  21. twitority: Perform Twitter searches that offer authoritative sources by using twitority.
  22. TwiST: This Twitter search tool will help make your searches more efficient.
  23. Just Signal: Using Just Signal, you can create a filter to only get tweets that discuss keywords you choose.
  24. Twups: This Twitter news aggregator makes it easy for you to follow all of your favorite subjects.
  25. QuoteURL: Quote a number of different tweets at once on one page with this app, great for presentations.
  26. TwitPic: Share photos on Twitter, or find photos from all around the world using this service.
  27. TweetCube: Share files via Twitter using TweetCube.
  28. SnapTweet: Use SnapTweet to post your latest Flickr photos to Twitter.
  29. TweeTube: Share videos on Twitter using TweeTube.
  30. Twitxr: Send photos from your mobile phone using this app, great for teachers and students alike.
  31. Annotated Links: Put a bunch of links and a note into one URL to share on Twitter with Annotated Links.
  32. LiveTwitting: During lectures, events, and more, you can use LiveTwitting instead of liveblogging.
  33. Twubble: Twubble will help you find people who have interests that are compatible with yours.
  34. Twits Like Me: Find other users in education through Twits Like Me.
  35. Splitweet: Get multi account management, so you can separate your educational and personal accounts.
  36. Followize: Use Followize for a fast and efficient way to read your tweets.
  37. Qwitter: Find out when students and other followers stop following you.
  38. The Tourism Twitter Project. The tourism industry group shares experiences from around the world.
  39. Black Friday Twitter Project. Learn how this experiment uses Twitter as a real-time news alert system.
  40. WiZiQ and a twitter experiment. One man gathered a Twitter community to test an educational program.
  41. twittories. Create a story where each person can add 140 characters to contribute to the greater story.
  42. twitterbookgroup. Participants leave their thoughts on the book in their 140-character answer.

– Most of the list was garnered from these resources (plus Bing!):  100 Tips, Apps, and Resources for Teachers on Twitter and Top 100 Tools for the Twittering Teacher .

This is a great  link to all things Twitter on Wikipedia…does that make is Twikipedia?

Another link to 25 Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

Post a comment if you have some great ways that you use Twitter teaching online, hybrid, or face-to-face.  Or if you just want to commiserate with me as I stumble my way through the Twittersphere trying not to babble.

Oh, and you can always follow me online @chambo_online.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2009 in Teaching Online

 

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Where do you Work when you Teach Online?

Last year a commercial about a businessman who works with his customers both virtually and face-to-face across America got me thinking.  The commercial’s salesman said he worked from a place called something like “Newcaliwisdakota”.  According to the ad, he needed a network that kept up with the demands of his job. This network was the product being hawked in the commercial.

What does this commercial have to do with online teaching?

The state of “Newcaliwisdakota.”

We who teach online are the virtually-nomadic, 21st century version of the traveling salesman.  This year, for instance, I will have lived physically in Washington State and Virginia while teaching virtually to students enrolled in the University of San Diego (California), the University of Wisconsin-Stout (Wisconsin), and Walla Walla Community College (Washington).  An my students are scattered throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The reach of online learning is global, and yet my students are as close and “real” to me as any I’ve taught face-to-face.  The classroom interactions are as diverse and as meaningful.  And the exchange of ideas has been equal to and often surpass the traditional classes I’ve taught due directly to the asynchronous environment in which the course takes place. But I still don’t have an easy answer to the question of where I work?

I suppose I could always say “my office” or “my living room”  – but that doesn’t really represent this rich environment of “everywhere”  all at once online.  So I think I will take a page from the commercial and give my work place a name: “Virgiwiscaliwa.”

Where do you work?

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2009 in Teaching Online

 

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PLN, PLC, CoP – An Edtech Rose by Any other Name…

On a recent stroll through the edtech blogosphere, I stumbled upon a new acronym.  Well, it was new to me.  And, as 20 year veteran teacher, that doesn’t happen very often anymore. The acronym?  PLN.  First I saw it in a Twitter post, then in one blog post, then another.  Based on the context clues, I pretty quickly figured out the letters stood for Personal Learning Network.

Hmmm.

I’ve written and taught extensively about the use of Communities of Practice (CoP) and also heard of them referred to as Learning Communities or Personal Learning Communities (PLC).  In effect, both of these are the same thing – this is how my writing partner and I describe them, with a nod to Wenger, in our book:

…a group of individuals with a shared interest and a willingness to participate in a dialogue about that interest for purposes of learning…When a community of practice has been formed and individuals are truly engaged, a synergy of learning begins to happen. While individual learners concentrate their responsibility of contributing to the discussion, the group also begins to reciprocate by providing the learner with multiple viewpoints, challenging questions, and taking left turns in the discussion that the individual learner might never have considered on his or her own.

In this way, the individual learner has served the learning community, and the community, in turn, has brought out the best in the individual learner. The give and take becomes something larger than any one discussion prompt, and the intangible benefits of a vibrant learning community pay off big dividends long after the discussion thread ends (pp 139-140).

It wasn’t until I did a bit of the old search engine two step to discover how these two terms CoP and PLC differentiated themselves from PLN and why educators felt the need to add one more acronym to the pile.  In Beth Still’s Nebraska Change Agent blog, she clearly anticipated my confusion.  In a recent post called “What the Heck is a PLN?”  Still clarifies the difference.

“Anyone who is actively engaged in learning online is part of a PLN. If you are reading this then I am part of your PLN. The people I follow on Twitter make up the vast majority of my PLN. These are the people that I learn from and interact with on a daily basis. A PLN is an incredibly powerful tool to have at your disposal. The flow of information is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.  It has been said that the more time you invest in building and contributing to your PLN the more you will get back from it in return. This is so true! A PLN does not form on its own; you have guide it and direct its growth.”

So there it is – the big difference.  The word online. A community of practice does not require it’s location to be online – your CoP can be your neighborhood scrapbooking group, or the guys who meet once a week at the local coffee shop.  Or it can be a group of teachers who discuss best practices at lunch one day and continue the discussion via email for the remainder of the day.  However, a PLN, as I understand it, may not even have a  personal interaction (in the sense of a two-way conversation) attached to it.  For instance, I can read an idea from Twitter, grab more information about it from a blog, and confirm what I am thinking from a  wiki…all of these sources (and the people who create them) are then part of my PLN.  This is exactly what happened for this post.

And I want to thank Beth Still, Jason Schrage, and the ISTE Connections blog for becoming part of my PLN because of it.

UPDATE: A further update on the term PLN (and its origin) can be found here at David Warlick’s $.02 Worth blog.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in Teaching Online

 

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