Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Response to a Comment on Mentoring Young Teachers on Building PLNs

Considered just posting a comment response to this comment from Reader Tom, but decided it was really worthy of a post -- both to get his point of view in front of your eyeballs and to better present reasons why I'm sticking by my original post.
Aside from generally taking this too seriously, I feel like you're being a little less confident about the future of social media than you should be. That is, there is no rush, because this stuff isn't going away. If you're getting ready to retire, you'd better figure out Twitter now, because it would be a shame to wait until you're in the nursing home to do it. But if you're in a nursing home in 10 years, you'll be twittering (or the equivalent). All these new teachers will be too. There is no rush. This stuff isn't going anywhere. Let people get comfortable.

For as much as I often get accused of being a Utopian, I think Tom's got me beat.

I agree with Tom that social media isn't going away, but I'm not so convinced that young teachers -- particularly in the range of 18 to 25 years old (i.e. those who grew up with social media, but never have experienced it modeled in the classroom, let alone for the purpose of PLN building) -- are going to suddenly 'get comfortable' with contemporary ed uses of social tech without a bit of guidance and mentoring.

As for whether or not I'm rushing this, let me just put it in this sort of perspective: young teachers are paying tens of thousands of dollars for ed school programs which by-and-large are failing them in delivery of the most successful professional development paradigm that perhaps has ever developed: namely, the PLN. I would think that after two years in a teaching program or a Master's track, most grads would have built a substantial and useful personal learning network. I was very surprised upon entering the ed school classroom as a teacher to find that in fact this is not happening.

If I were a young teacher, I'd be peeved.

And so, though I agree with Tom's general enthusiasm for social media, I don't think this situation is just going to fix itself by itself. We now have a very large community of teachers throughout Twitter who have years' worth of experience building and getting the most out of professional social networks. I say it's high time we make a conscious push to mentor young teachers in the ways of PLN building; it's time to give young teachers the tools they need to take control of the fate of their own professional development.


  1. PS: my first blog posting. And I'm an old one... a work in constant progress.

  2. Quite honestly, you are both right... New teachers are not imbeciles. Just as we are figuring out how to build our virtual PLN's, so will new teachers...but it takes time.

    The point of mentoring, professional development, grad classes, etc., is to shorten that time -- by interacting with more experienced colleagues, new tachers can get over the hurdles that result in a lot of them leaving the profession and put them in a position to reach higher.

    I'm trying to put this into practice by working with early-career science teachers in f2f workshops, webinars, and a Facebook group - to give them positive experiences with using social media professionally.

  3. I'm a new teacher (just into my second year) and have found the three months using a PLN of more value than my entire time at Uni. To have the knowledge, expertise, experience, ideas and thoughts of innovative educators at my fingertips is incredible. I am learning so quickly and have now found myself teaching my colleagues.

  4. The only problem we have at many schools is that we can't get to Facebook, Twitter, Ning, or any other social networking site.

    What I have done to get around that is create classroom blogs that all the students subscribe to and we have discussions on there. I also post assignments, tips, resources, and more.

  5. I hear what Tom is saying and understand that change takes time. As a teacher, though, I wonder what price current students pay when they're under the guidance of teachers who're taking their sweet time in integrating technology into the classroom. Maybe they need those skills in the workplace and/ or in post secondary classrooms? Maybe being uncomfortable or taking a risk for the sake of student learning is not too much to ask?


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