Monday, December 28, 2009

What's the Big Deal about PLN?

What's the Big Deal?

I was talking to a colleague recently who told me that they have been teaching now for over twenty years and that everything they could possibly need is filed somewhere that is easily accessible. We were discussing the importance of developing a PLN and networking with teachers around the world. Her question to me: "What is the big deal about PLN?" since I already have everything I need. She didn't quite understand the impact of what having access to great teachers around the globe can provide! Although she thinks she has everything she needs, she is living and teaching in the past. Her students, unfortunately, will not be given the same opportunities that other students will be given when a teacher provides access to the world!

What is a PLN?

Before getting deeper into why developing a PLN is so crucial, we must first understand what a PLN is. A PLN is a "Personal Learning Network." This is a place where people can collaborate together about a specific field of study, profession, or just about anything they choose to focus on together. My educator PLN had grown exponentially over the past week simply by seeking out great resources. My PLN, The educators PLN ( is a great place to start if you are looking for teachers who are striving to incorporate technology into their practice. I also have begun using twitter with the specific purpose of sharing resources and comments with other teachers around the globe.

I have found that a PLN provides more than just people to chat with on the same level as you. It gives an invaluable resource at your fingertips. If I have a question or if I am searching for something specific that I want to use in my class, I simply put it out to my PLN and I have access to thousands of people instantly. It is awesome! Also, I have the opportunity to share what I find to assist people daily. A PLN is a network where you concentrate on helping people in the same profession as you in order to help them become better at what they do. In return, you will find that these same people will be helping you every step of the way!

Why is it Crucial to set up a PLN?

With technology on the rise and information changing so quickly, we as teachers must adapt as well. A PLN provides a resource where we can get instant feedback in "Real Time" from people in the same profession as us. A PLN provides constant learning which in turn helps us to become better thinkers, more creative, and overall great at what we do. People without a PLN are very limited in their resources. Yes, they can "google" search just about anything, but imagine the time wasted using that simple tool alone. With a PLN you have thousands of people who can give you what you are seeking in many different ways... instantly! It is crucial in today's day and age to embrace this concept and understand that without a PLN we are limited in many areas, trapped in an old way of thinking, and not quite ready to move into the 21st century as teachers. A good teacher never stops learning and can adapt to the students they have. I think it is time for us as learners to adapt and be great!

How do I Set up a PLN?

A PLN is very simple to set up and there are many ways in which you can go about doing it! Here is a great video from one of my PLN teachers Shelley Terrell where she explains a simple approach to setting up your first PLN. Shelley is an avid tweeter as well and can be found giving out great information on twitter daily ( Another post by Shelley giving a simple explanation of what a PLN is can be found here, thanks Shelley! One last link on How to Build a PLN This is a good slide show that gives ideas and step by step instructions! Hope this helps!

Once you set up your PLN you will see how quickly it grows and how impacting it will be on your professional growth! I encourage EVERY person reading this blog to set one up immediately.

Where do I go from here?

Instead of going into great detail about where to get started I decided to simply list a few of the tools I use and I would LOVE for those of you with advanced PLN skills :) to comment and let me know what you are using as well!

Twitter: A great site when used properly (Don't worry about what the celebrities are doing! Instead worry about what those, with common goals as you, are doing!) Complete Guide To Twitter:

Delicious: A great training video, explains it all :)

Educators PLN: A networking site using NING to bring people together!

Blogspot: There are many other blog sites you can use as well! The key thing to using a blog is to find a niche, don't use it as a personal journal. Remember, a blog is about your readers not you! :)

Classroom 2.0: Another good NING networking site for educators interested in technology and the future of education!

Friendfeed: Similar to twitter and facebook but if used properly can be great! There is a good explanation video on the homepage (just click on the link)

Plurk: Post to multiple networks from one place, fewer users than twitter, and no third party clients.

Final Thought...

I have found that a PLN is like a family in a way... people who truly care about the same things you do and are looking to help make you better at what you are interested in and what you do...

You can follow me on Twitter as well here: cpoole27

Thursday, December 24, 2009


This is a fun way to share the concept of "Team Work" to your students or peers! Enjoy :)

We MUST teach our students about "Digital Footprints"

Are our students online often?

Yesterday I polled my classes and found out that 98 percent of my students have a facebook account that they update daily, 80 percent have a twitter account that they check ON THEIR PHONES daily, and about 65 percent upload photos to some sort of page (either facebook or something else) weekly.   I asked them "what kinds of things do you discuss on these pages and what types of photos are you posting?"  They proceeded to explain that they talk to friends about "stupid stuff," they swear or use slang in almost every post, and the pictures are usually of them doing something stupid or "fun," as they put it, because that was was what people like to see.  The students I polled were in sixth grade...

Imagine if their "digital footprint" is starting out in this way, what will it be like when they are ready to join the real world?  Isn't it time for someone to take charge and teach our students exactly what they are doing wrong?  They do not understand the impact of how what they are doing right now at age 11 or 12 may have on them in the future depending on which road they choose to go digitally.  Our job as educators is to prepare them for their future... why are our schools not catching on to the importance of this simple concept.  We seem to be so bogged down with teaching to the standards, which are important as well, but we forget that no matter how good our students score on a test, it may come down to their digital footprint when it comes time for them to be hired into the workforce.  This video is a great simple explanation of some statistical information regarding the importance of our digital footprints.   Imagine if if employers are using this technology now to hire candidates, how much more impacting will it be in six years?  I feel it will be a tool all companies will be looking to when hiring new candidates for a job.  (Thank you to my PLN network for providing this video!)

Find more videos like this on The Educator's PLN

 It is time for educators to stand up and teach our kids about the benefits of technology and the importance of using it to their advantage...

Further Reading on this topic...

A great essay regarding "Digital Footprints" by Will Richardson...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What is our true goal?

An Educator's Goal

As an educator, as well as in any area in life, to be truly successful we must have a clear cut goal in which we are trying to achieve or strive for.  I believe that every teacher, every good teacher, does have a goal of some kind coming into each year, as well as an encompassing goal that is being reached throughout the year.  My fear however is that the goals we are striving to reach may be the wrong ones completely.  It reminds me of a person who is taking a long road trip.  They have destination, a goal, and they have a plan in which to reach that destination.  They have a map and guidelines in order to assist them in finding all the wonderful places they seek.  Yet in all the driving and all the planning they seem to miss the true beauty of what  the actual goal of a road trip is, to explore and see new things along the way!

Our teachers today continue to have a focus and much of it has to do with what the district or school is forcing them to do.  Too many teachers use the "Test" that the state provides as the ultimate standard on which to base their teaching, and therefore they "teach to the test."  (After reading this article I was saddened to see that this continues to go on  

When will "teaching to the test" end and true learning and teaching begin?

Times have truly changed as demonstrated here:  It is so crazy to think that after only 10 years it is like we are living in a completely different world.  Our technology has advanced one hundred fold and continues to do so everyday! What will our world be like 10 years from now?  If we continue to "teach to the test" than our students will be great test takers, however they will not be able to function in society or in the future world that is ahead for them.  Most of the jobs they will seek do not even exist yet, so how can we as teachers prepare them for what we do not know?   That is a difficult task, but if we teach them to think, create, and set goals than they will be able to achieve just about anything they put their minds to.

What should our goal be? 

 I think that depends on the teacher, however I do not believe that our goal should be based on funding or old fashioned ideals.  I believe our goal should be to train our students in a way that will make them successful in the world they will enter, to teach them to think outside the box, to help them utilize their true potential and embrace the technological minds they possess, and to provide opportunities for them to explore and understand that the sky is the limit for them, all they have to do is take the initiative to grab it!

It is an exciting world we live in and I am so happy to be living in it!  

Monday, December 21, 2009

Just a quote that struck me...

"There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different."
                                                                                                                                            - Albert Einstein

Today I was reading a book titled "It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be" by Paul Arden and this quote ended one of the chapters.  How profound a statement and how true it is!  Einstein, one of histories most amazing thinkers, knew exactly what it took to foster success.  Why is it than that in America no matter what path life has taken us we seem to think that success is achieved by doing the same thing over and over again until we reach our goal.  In business, we go to work everyday and continue to "crunch numbers" or network to gather a client base, yet we refuse to think outside of the box and take risks.  It is the risk takers that truly succeed and head out in front of the pack!  In education, teachers are comfortable with teaching the same things in the same manner everyday with the thought "Repetition will force them to understand!"  In reality, the repetition is simply squelching the creativity that is dying to get out and be exposed.  Repetition is forcing them to memorize instead of internalize. We, as teachers, need to understand that our students our creative, intuitive, intelligent, and bored!  Why not take out the mundane, "same old thing," and replace it with fresh new ideas and ways for students to express their knowledge.   Learning has changed and therefore teaching must do the same.  Our students are ready to explore their learning and achieve their goals in various ways, therefore we must provide variety and thought provoking opportunities for them to learn and in turn, succeed.  If we do the same thing over and over again, day in and day out, we will know the outcome every time.   Imagine taking an idea, a concept, and exploring that concept in various ways to achieve numerous outcomes... the possibilities would be endless!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Something to think about...

Is this what we really strive for?

Using backchannel tools in the classroom!

After reading about some of the newest innovations out there I thought... "How can I incorporate some of these things into my classroom?"  I began to research some of the backchannel tools and decided to begin using them.  One of these backchannels is Live Audience Polling.

Live Audience Polling

   I have talked briefly on this before, however this is a great tool to assist in discussion and a great way to get instant feedback!  The other great thing is that it is completely anonymous and the students have no fear of failure or embarrassment when answering questions or commenting.  I found that when I used this, my students were actively engaged and were able to express themselves in the conversation/discussion in a comfortable way.  Every student was involved, not one student refused to answer... it was awesome!  In an age where 90 percent of our students are texting instead of calling and feel more comfortable chatting with their fingers as opposed to chatting with their mouths this was right down their alley!  When class ended they wanted to continue with the work we were doing and did not want it to end.  They took so much out of the class and learned so much through the use of technology.   Imagine being able to take the things that our students are passionate about and using that to help them learn!  The link to the site I used for my polling is below... and it is free so check it out!

Todays Meet

  Todays Meet is a terrific tool to use in different situations when you are looking to begin an online chat.  This is something that can be used to discuss a movie for instance while it is playing in class.   As I walk down the halls of my school I often see movies being shown for education purposes.  The teacher often uses the movie to enhance the learning.  The problem is the students will have a question sheet to answer during the movie or they will be asked to take notes during the movie for a discussion afterward.  How many ideas and how much insight is lost in the process???  I say plenty!  Using this tool you have the opportunity to put up a chat room designed specifically for your class.  You can open the chat for one day or one year or anything in between and the students can discuss DURING THE MOVIE!  They can give insight and ideas and you as the teacher can discuss simultaneously...  This is just one way to use this tool however I feel there are many ways to incorporate a class chat room and it can be very beneficial in the classroom! Imagine the possibilities and the student participation with something like this!  The link for this site is below... try it out!

I will be posting more backchannel ideas that can be used in the classroom and beyond.  These tools are often used in college as well as business presentations everyday!  Why are we not preparing our students to be comfortable with them?  It is exciting what is out there and I am excited to continue researching and finding out new ways to explore the technology we can use!  Hope this post was helpful to many of you...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar: Glimpse into the future of technology?

 I saw the movie Avatar and I have to say it was pretty amazing.  The visual effects and the "alternate world" was very interesting.   The movie itself had a good story line and kept me very interested for the three hours I sat and watched, but what was even more fascinating to me was thinking "how did they do that?"  The technology used in this movie must be cutting edge and it was great.  

The reason this amazed me was because while people like James Cameron are creating these amazing technological breakthroughs in their area of expertise,  our schools refuse to teach kids how to surf the internet properly.  How do we expect our students to become pioneers, experts, or even inspired to do something great when we do not give them the tools they will need to function in the society they will enter six years from now?  I am not saying that our future leaders cannot achieve great things without the use of cutting edge technology but just imagine how the tool of technology could enhance their endeavors.  

Life skills such as reading and writing would never be overlooked in school.  If they were,  people would be in an uproar and want all teachers fired!   In our world today, and their world tomorrow, we need to realize that there are a few things that need to be added to the list.  I do hope that teachers become more comfortable with using the tools we have to teach the kids.  Just bringing laptops into the classroom for word processing is not enabling them to tap into the full potential of what they have at their fingertips.    We need to fully engage ourselves in the world we live in now in order to totally understand the world our students will be entering in the future.  There are too many teachers "stuck in their ways" and therefore the students they teach are becoming crippled in their education.  Hopefully we will find a happy medium between teaching them the "essentials" that are needed as well as embrace the fact that technology is our future...  Once this happens across America, I feel we will be taking the first step toward true greatness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Just some thoughts for today...

The simple things in life seem to always be the things that are most important or most impacting!  Why is this?

Simple inventions have made us think, "why didn't I think of that?"  Something so basic yet at the same time something we cannot live without.  Simple gestures or acts of kindness can impact us for a lifetime.  Things that people choose to do everyday for no reason at all can be that one thing that changes lives.   Simple memories, things that are forgotten in the short term, but in time come back as the best times of our lives, are the memories that last forever.

I was reading an article currently discussing the need for people to be the best no matter what the circumstance.  In the article it spoke of a man who put all of his time building a business and in turn became extremely wealthy.  The price he paid however, to me, was not worth it.  He ruined his marriage by cheating, never spent time with his children, and his family was not known to him anymore.... but he was rich and therefore successful?   I do not understand the way America defines success but I do think we need to get back to being simple.   Jack Johnson says it best in his song Banana Pancakes: "It's just so easy when the whole world fits inside of your arms..."   I think we need to understand how important it is to put those we love first and show them each day how much they mean to us.

 So why is it that being simple seems to be a concept so difficult for people to understand.  We try in our society to be the biggest, the richest, the most intelligent, or the most successful when in the end the core of who we are is really what matters.  Too many of us have become superficial, looking for the things beyond simplicity.  I do not feel it is wrong to be successful, rich, intelligent, or strong but if these are the things that define us than I do feel we are missing the boat.  When I look back on my life I do not want to be defined based on the superficial but rather on the person I have become, the people I have impacted, and the time I took to appreciate the simplicity in life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where do we start as educators when it comes to infusing technology?

I constantly am trying to convince my peers of the importance of technology infusion...

As I converse with my colleagues on a regular basis I find that many people are willing to infuse technology if given resources or a direction in which to go. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that some people just need that little push in order to take the step needed to "teach the future of our world" to the students.  "Web 2.0" seems to be what I have found in many educational technology circles to be a trend coming to the surface over the past few years as I read blogs, articles, and books. This includes social networks such as facebook, diigo, and delicious where people can connect to each other and find out what is happening.   The sites are not just information transfer but rather a two way forum that can have endless possibilities.  These are terrific sites and can also be infused into the classroom if you are savvy enough to do so. There is a site however that can be a great resource for teachers (although navigating through it to find the right thing for a specific classroom may take time) and I have found that many of the Web 2.0 applications are great!

The website is:

Go2Web20- The Ultimate Web 2.0 Directory

This is basically a directory where teachers can search through hundreds of applications and see which ones fit best. I feel as educators it is our responsibility to seek out and research the possibilities that are out there. Too often we get "stuck in a rut" when it comes to educating and in turn we fail miserably in preparing students.  How can we prepare students if we are unwilling to prepare ourselves?

Today was a great day in my class because I decided to use a "real time" polling software to discuss what we are learning.   The students absolutely loved it and took so much out of class that I was simply astonished!  The maturity and honesty in their answers were fantastic and would not have been the same if we had discussed in a "normal" way.  Just by incorporating a piece of technology into class the learning that took place was out of this world!  I was pumped!

(Website used:

Again, to me this demonstrates the importance of moving forward in our thinking, teaching, and learning in general.  Simple ways of adding technology, such as websites, programs, computers, or wikis can sometimes be the best ways to reach the students where they are.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Education needs to embrace the shifts that are happening

“At ACU it’s like they see [the iPhone] is the way of the future and they might as well take advantage of it,” Stratton said in a phone interview. “They’re preparing us for the real world — not a place where you’re not allowed to use anything.”

In colleges across America today we have technology being infused because it is inevitable that technology is not going anywhere.  It is our job as educators on all levels to prepare our students for what they will be facing when they are expected to lead our world.  In our schools today we are being told (as teachers) that we are not allowed to use this device or that site but "here is a book that looks good to use in class."  Do not get me wrong, textbooks are great depending on what they are, however why are we using books written in 2001 when we could use technology that was updated two hours ago?  I think that leaders in education need to realize that the way our students think, learn, and function is different than when we were in school.  We, as teachers, need to adapt to this and embrace it.  There are too many teachers stuck in the "old school" ways of teaching with the idea that "if it isn't broken.."  when in reality it may not exactly be broken but rather it has changed.  We must change with the times or we will be doing a disservice to our students.  

A great teacher never stops learning, researching, and adapting.  We must research the newest trends, learn how to infuse them into our classrooms, and adapt in order to prepare our students for the future...