Unit 7: Continuous learning

The concept

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.

– John Cotton Dana

For many people, the PLN course is an introduction not just to a set of cool new tools, but also to an expanded range of possibilities for future learning.

Finding and managing information well, participating in shared learning with an online network, publishing our own learning reflections and tapping into the collective wisdom of our web community are all parts of an ongoing commitment to learning and developing.

That’s what a PLN is designed to support, whether you connect to the existing PLN or establish your own; whether you gather information from a range of sources and quietly process it or throw yourself into social media discussions; whether you do further study or see the entire web as a sourcebook designed just for you – or all of the above.

This course is simply part of your continuous learning process, and although this is the final unit in the course, it doesn’t stop here.

We’re just your training wheels.

You’re part of the VicPLN community now. That means you have access to each other, past participants and a much wider cohort of people who care about education and school libraries.

All you have to do to connect with them on Twitter is to use or follow the ongoing hashtag #VicPLN or keep an eye on the VicPLN Facebook group. Of course, by now, you’ve probably noticed a few other great hashtags or Facebook groups or Google+ circles to follow as well. You can find VicPLN people sharing resources in the Diigo group, and you’ll also see us at conferences and events.

(Remember to switch to using or following #VicPLN, rather than #VicPLN13, on Twitter now, which puts you in touch with the wider network.)

Now let’s look at a few other options that you can pursue to continue your web learning.

The tools

The web is a gold mine of professional development resources, but frankly there’s sometimes too much to choose from.

Here are just a few avenues for you to follow up – see what appeals to you.

Podcasts

Podcasts are themed series of audio or video (though they may be called vodcasts – a name that’s never really taken off, and we can’t say we’re surprised).

You can listen to one or subscribe to a whole series, and they are found in places from libraries to ABC Radio to major universities and alternative media. From podcasts you can learn a new language, listen to lectures and debates,  hear authors and experts talk, or focus on quite specific areas of interest.  Here are a couple:

The Ed Tech Crew is a weekly podcast about technology in education, hosted by Darrel Branson and Tony Richards. You can either start with the most recent content (which appears on the homepage) or you can use the custom Google search engine on the page. Maybe try searching for some of the tools or topics that we have explored so far in the PLN.

If you’re looking for live webinar sessions to participate in, try the TL Virtual Café. It’s a collaborative group offering online PD sessions especially for school library teams on topics such as library systems,  changes to the profession, technology updates and industry innovation. You can see the calendar of upcoming events on the website, as well as archived recorded sessions (showing participants with audio and visuals) and will launch automatically through Collaborate when you click on the link. A window will open launching Blackboard Collaborate (just like our course web conferences).

Like TL Virtual Café, Teacher Training Videos has a series of videos for educators, including a whole section on Videos for learning ICT. The creator, Russell Stannard, also groups videos on tools that can be used for all languages.

Great for scheduling a regular time for your professional learning, the Tech talk Tuesdays blog posts a new topic at the beginning of each week. Sessions run on Tuesdays during the Victorian school term from 4 – 5pm EST (GMT +10) and topics include issues with using technology in classrooms, mobile apps and practical sessions on great new tools.

By now you may have noticed several links to the Bright Ideas blog in the PLN, which is no surprise considering this is another joint venture of the State Library of Victoria and School Library Association of Victoria! With regular updates about web tools and resources, posts particularly relevant to PLN participants are tagged for easy searching.

iTunesU is a vast reservoir of recorded lectures and other material from universities, schools, colleges and institutions around the world. You can listen to or watch leading educators on topics of interest to you, either in a series or by selecting particular talks. You can even do an entire course if you want to. You don’t have to have an iPhone or mobile device, but you will need to download the free iTunes software.

Online courses

Over the past couple of years, the range of free courses available online has exploded. You may have read about MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), which are offered by some of the finest universities in Australia and around the world. In fact, one has just announced a range of courses specifically for teachers.

A MOOC is usually a free short course, although you may have to pay a small fee to get a accreditation at the end, and can have tens of thousands of participants. But a real MOOC isn’t just a course, it’s a different way of learning and is very much about connecting people together – just like a PLN.

Here’s a quick overview.

Many top-ranking universities offer their own MOOC courses, but many more are provided collaboratively on a shared platform. Some major MOOC providers or platforms include:

Coursera (mostly US)

Open2Study (Open Universities Australia)

FutureLearn (UK)

Udemy (especially for technology skills)

It’s a rapidly changing field, so keep your eye on the world of MOOCs.

Of course, we’d love you to keep in touch with us, too, and work with us on one of our future PLN-style courses.

 

Go to the final task – Where to from here?

Return to Unit 7 overview