Thursday, December 22, 2016

PLNs and SAGs

Whether on the bike or in the educational setting, all of us can benefit from support. On large, group rides that involve distance such as a century (100 miles), a metric century (100km) or multi-day rides, cyclists are supported by SAGs. SAG is an acronym for support and gear. SAG “wagons” patrol the route and offer water, food, and mechanical or medical assistance to riders. Although the majority of cyclists on these rides stay alert to their surroundings and frequently conduct self-assessments, even the most experienced riders can experience a bike malfunction, get lost or crash (sigh). Having the confidence that SAGs are patrolling the route and can offer assistance is reassuring.

Likewise, as educators in the 21st century, it’s critical that each of us have a personal support system. I love this quote (paraphrased by me), “Working toward peak performance is a little like [riding a bike or teaching a class] -- it may become routine and you may even flip on the cruise control every so often. But it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and adapt to them [shift] when necessary. Pay attention, ask yourself some questions, and take control of your success” (Garnett, 2014). IMHO, the best way for educators to do this is by establishing their own PLN. A PLN is a personal/professional learning network. Here is a 90 second video explanation of a PLN (Lalande, 2012).

By creating your PLN, you become part of a network of connected educators. Whether you remain a “lurker” - you view but do not contribute, or a collaborator, your PLN offers you a place to connect with other educators, share ideas, gather resources and ask questions. As you do so, reflection and ideas for more engaging activities occur frequently. Here are some ways that educators are using their PLNs:
-    Professional development – learn from content-area specialists
-    Locate resources for your classroom, such as free websites and software
-    Get lesson plan ideas from master teachers
-    Learn about new technology and how to integrate it into your teaching
-    Find collaborative solutions
-    Find interesting links to education news  (Smith, 2009)

I like to think of my PLN as continuous, personalized professional development. The network you establish can be thought of as your educational SAG - always there to lend a helping hand.