Yes Traditional professional development
is by nature founded on a “just-in-case” model.
I’m talking about the typical time-constrained,
geographically limited, tool-based “workshop” that
has been the norm in our field since—well, at least
since I’ve been in it, and that’s a decade and a half.
You all know the drill:
1. Show up, usually after school hours or on an
2. Watch a PowerPoint preview of what you’re going to “learn.”
3. Watch someone demonstrate a tool or teaching
technique that a committee or office has deemed
the next new salvation for
teaching and learning.
4. Maybe get some time to
practice using it.
5. Hear the presenter encourage you to use it.
6. Leave, knowing you won’t
have the time, energy, or
support to incorporate it
into your regular practice.
I teach a social media course at a com-
munity college, and my subject relies on informal
networks for continued learning. I have a PLN, and
that fact surely lends some sparkle to my résumé.
But if I did not have further learning via workshops
and conferences, my job would have gone to some-
one else with more proof of expertise in teaching
social media. And I have no problem with this. I
would not want to visit my dentist either if his con-
tinuing education consisted solely of his learning
network at ipullteeth.net.
A PLN does not constitute a full professional development plan. Instead, educators must view their
PLNs as a complementary tool they use to sharpen
PLNs are definitely a powerful way to broaden horizons,
develop ideas with peer feedback, and receive answers to
queries. Every day, thousands
of education professionals take
advantage of the bright minds
of potentially thousands of
other educators to get ideas,
check out new websites, or