Friday, July 8, 2016

Professional Learning Networks for the Music Teacher

When it comes to the world of technology outside of the classroom, I’ve always considered myself transitional. When I was a young kid, technology wasn’t really a part of my life. As I got a little older, we had one “family” computer that stayed in the living room and my brother and I occasionally played with our gameboys, especially during long car rides. I’ve witnessed first hand the development of technology taking on the seemingly indispensable role that it currently holds in society. And I still feel transitional. Although some of my friends are self-proclaimed social media “addicts” and don’t ever put down their cell phones, other friends the same age reject the pervasiveness of current technology, holding out on getting smartphones for as long as possible and forgoing the use of social media. I imagine that several others in this class find themselves in a similar transitional position between the digital natives and digital immigrants. I believe that this insight can be incredibly valuable when it comes to incorporating technology into our own classrooms. Although much may be new to us, we are eager to learn about the available technology and implementing it effectively. We can relate to the students who have grown up as digital natives and rely on technology in every aspect of their daily lives, but we are well enough removed from reliance ourselves that we are not out of touch with the so called luddites that we will inevitably be working with in our respective schools.
Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) are an excellent way to use technology to inform teaching, even without advanced technological skills (Bauer, 2010). Before reading Bauer’s article, I had never heard the term “PLN” before. However, after reading the article, I discovered that I have already been participating in an informal PLN of sorts without realizing it. Some of my most valuable teaching resources have been shared via Facebook groups comprised of Music Teachers which were formed to create a community of support. These groups acts as a forum to ask and answer questions from fellow educators, post valuable teaching resources, share new research in the field, and even to vent and/or share the occasional humorous tidbit.
Throughout this course, I am excited to develop my personal PLN through the use of Feedly and Twitter, which are forums that I have not explored before. I think that PLNs can be especially valuable for music educators, as many of us are often the only music teacher in our building, and therefore do not have as many opportunities to collaborate as our grade level peers. It has also been my experience that “specialist” teachers in my district are not often provided with relevant professional development in their fields. PLNs provide a means to share resources, materials, and experience in an easy and accessible forum when other face-to-face opportunities may not be available..

Bauer, W. I. (2010). Your Personal Learning Network: Professional Development on Demand. Music Educators Journal, 97(37), 37-42. doi:10.1177/0027432110386383

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