This quarter, as part of Seattle Pacific University’s EDTC 6106 course, I investigated the question: “What would modern professional learning look like regarding using educational technology within a PLC setting? ” My goal for this investigation was to find information on different tools, programs, or advice educators have been using to make professional learning communities more modern within their schools. I am hoping to learn more about how educational technology can help connect educators with professionals and/or other schools to enhance their professional learning and create a possible professional learning network.
Through research, my focus for this investigation was to cover the following ISTE Coaching Standard:
4. Professional Development and Program Evaluation
b. Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.
Professional Learning Communities
When beginning my research I felt it appropriate to look at the ways in which we define Professional Learning Communities. One definition I found defines PLCs as “a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.”(Edglossary, 2014) Another definition I felt was relevant was “A PLC is made up of “a school’s professional staff members who continuously seek to find answers through inquiry and act on their learning to improve student learning.” (Huffman and Hipp, 2003) Both definitions emphasize on collaboration, student learning/performance, and the need to improve professional skills.
In modern times educators are finding more resources, devices, and opportunities to meet with one another digitally as well as solving the challenges they have faced with PLCs prior to the modern age. Davis identifies four main struggles PLCs have had in the past as:
- A limited inflow of ideas
- Being a closed network including only those at the school
- Limited in real conversations about real problems by school politics
- An unwillingness to try new things or accept new ideas
Ed Tech Resources
After identifying the main struggles Professional Learning Communities were experiencing, I decided to focus my research on how to fix these challenges using Ed Tech resources. I recognized that many of the struggles identified above had to do with making connections and feeling confident to try something new. Many schools in which I have participated in PLCs had educators meet face-to-face within their grade-band and discuss their struggles and try to come up with solutions. The idea of getting educators together to try to support one another is great, but resources were limited based on the experience the teachers had at that school. With new technologies and resources available to educators, I felt there had to be a way to connect PLCs with modern technology. I have included some of the resources/technologies I found below:
Digital Communication Platforms
The following platforms help connect educators near and far and allows them to share ideas and/or projects:
Other Digital Tools
While researching, I also found different types of digital tools educators felt that help share ideas or questions among one another. These included educator blogs, virtual conferencing tools such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom, and social book-marking tools to collect resources such as Pinterest.
Reaching out to others and sharing ideas is such a strong professional development technique. I personally love connecting with educators I have taught with in the past through the platforms listed above as well as save great ideas and inspirations through websites like Pinterest. I see a multitude of benefits that come from educators connecting with one another as part of professional development, including the four benefits Serviss points out:
- PLCs allow educators opportunities to directly improve teaching and learning.
- PLCs build stronger relationships between team members.
- PLCs help teachers stay on top of new research and emerging technology tools for the classroom.
- PLCs help teachers reflect on ideas.
Throughout my research I have learned how much educators support and impact each other. Through technology devices and programs, educators can continue to grow and share ideas that help support student growth within their schools and begin to change/enhance the norm of face-to-face PLC meetings.
Davis, Vicky. (November 11, 2015). Modern Professional Learning: Connecting PLCs With PLNs. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/modern-professional-learning-plc-pln-vicki-davis
Serviss, Jennifer. (November 6, 2019). 4 benefits of an active professional learning community. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/professional-development/4-benefits-active-professional-learning-community
Trust, Torrey; Krutga, Daniel G; Carpenter, Jefferey Paul. (July 2, 2016). “Together we are better”: Professional learning networks for teachers. Retrieved from https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S036013151630135X?token=F8C51802E2F49BC20892A32A40BAE74DA8225A50232245B5963559D60FD52B3FDBD3F60D73D725EDE72FF94E27D4638B