In the past two monthly newsletters, I've added a section about Professional Learning Networks. I've shared the benefits of PLNs through social media as well as tips on how teachers can get started with building their own. I mentioned in the newsletter how PLNs help us develop as educators and provide opportunities to create new experiences and approaches to educating our students.
A dear librarian friend of mine, mentioned in an email to me earlier this week about how some teachers comment that they don't have time for Twitter and other social media and are therefore not interested in making an effort to create their own customized PLNs. This response is completely understandable - teachers are extremely busy and time is always an issue, with required meetings and committees, professional development and assessing student data, etc. At the end of the day, teachers are tired and low on energy, so I can see why they would be reluctant to set aside personal time for even more work-related topics.
But this morning one of the many brilliant educational leaders who are part of my PLN tweeted a very poignant comment:
And I realized that this is what I've been neglecting to add to the library newsletter when writing about PLNs. Instead of talking about what a PLN can do for teachers, I should be highlighting the benefits to our students.
This is not to say that I haven't personally benefited from my PLN; it's opened doors for me and has helped me grow as a school librarian. But the benefits don't end with me - it's passed on to the students who, as Brad Gustafson (@GustafsonBrad) succinctly stated, are the ones who reap the benefits of my PLN.
For example, through my PLN, I learned about the Hour of Code, and as a result, the students experienced the challenges of coding. I also learned about International Dot Day, which I shared with teachers, who in turn engaged their students in classroom activities on that special day. I've even discovered new books through my PLN, and some of those books inspired me to experiment with book trailers for the first time. Who are the first people to view the book trailers? The students! This led to student interest in creating their own book trailers/book talks. Some of these student creations are now part of the World Book Talk project.
Brad Gustafson's tweet about PLNs and students is spot on: ultimately the PLN that I have built over the past two years or so isn't solely about me and my interests. It's about creating new experiences and opportunities for the students who enter the library every day. It's about the students in classrooms at my school. It's about creating a safe, positive 21st Century learning experience for them.
The focus definitely needs to shift in the next library newsletter - away from how PLNs benefit teachers to how PLNs benefit students. Hopefully this change in focus will encourage more teachers to explore PLNs, even when they are exhausted and time is limited.