Current practices in professional development for technology integration do not allow teachers any time or resources to collaborate on their learning and share ideas about the how’s and why’s of integrating technology and what tools are and could be useful.

Most of the “experts” are now suggesting that collaborative learning communities help teachers apply their professional development more effectively as well as providing a venue for reflective criticism and idea sharing. It’s also a great help knowing what worked for someone else before a teacher jumps in head first. I agree. If I had this kind of opportunity it would be beneficial. The reality is this is not happening.

ISTE’s Nets for Teachers specifically mention collaboration in two of their outcomes:

1d. Teachers model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with student, colleagues and others in face-to-face and virtual environments.
5a. Teachers participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

ISTE also sets out specific “Essential Conditions” that they feel are “necessary conditions to effectively leverage technology for learning. One of those conditions is: “Engaged Communities: Partnerships and collaboration within communities to support and fund the use of ICT and digital learning resources.”

From Retrieved March 202009 and Retrieved March 20, 2009

Is this really happening in your schools and divisions? When is the last time you attended a professional development that encouraged you to get together after the session was over (immediately? A week later? A Month later? A year later?) to discuss your ideas about how the information you learned affects your various situations? Have you been to a professional development that had a Ning or Wiki set up for future reflection and sharing and learning? Other than this class, I have not.

In “Business as ‘Un’usual” Will Richardson says:
“And the PD part of our business has to change too. These tools support the need for the relationships and the sharing of real-life experiences around the information transfer so that the “learning” isn’t done in relative isolation. We can create community around the experience, community that is not dependent on time and place but is instead available to the learner when needed or wanted. The tools give us opportunities to add value to the face to face, but only, and here’s the rub, if we know how to use the tools. And that’s why workshops feel so stressed, so mind-numbing. Because the way we approach it right now, we have to get it all in one sitting and then hope for the best.” From Retrieved march 17, 2009.

In “A Vision for Change Part 2” Anne Davies wrote:

“In Julie Coiro’s session at TRLD on “professional development, educational leadership & digital age thinking” she pointed out that “the most successful PD models” engage and empower teachers to have a stronger voice in directing their own learning. Then she went on to say that effective PD models for integrating literacy & technology follow three premises:
  1. They recognize the developmental process through which teachers use technology.
  2. They validate the different attitudes and dispositions that teachers bring to their use of technology.
  3. They employ job-embedded study groups as a means of empowering teachers to take a more active role.
Then she stated that study groups have been proven particularly effecting in supporting technology integration among teachers. The 4 phases are frame, analyze, implement, and reflect.
My thought was that all of these phases are so important yet it is rare that it happens in schools.” From Retrieved March 17, 2009.

Teachers know that collaborating works. It comes naturally to most of us, whether we realize we’re doing it or not. David Warlick says:

What I find, as I get to attend conferences and see presentations from classroom teachers who are doing innovative and captivating activities, is that they did not learn to do these things in workshops. They learned by being creative and by engaging in conversations with other educators through the growing (and sometimes bewildering) array of online meeting places. Blogs and some wikis can serve as avenues. Ning networks (ex: can be especially helpful. Some consider Twitter and other microblogging services to be at the center of their professional development or Personal Learning Network, and others do their professional learning through conversations in Second Life. From Retrieved March 17, 2009.

What is a Personal Learning Network? We all have our Personal Learning Networks (PLN). Those people we bounce ideas off of, and those people whose opinions we value for advice, respectful criticism and great ideas. Below you can see a visual representation of David Warlick’s. If you were to break out the Inspiration program and represent your PLN what would it look like? Imagine if all teachers were required to do this and include it in their Professional Growth Plan, and one of the goals of their plan was to expand and elaborate on their PLN every year. Essentially I’m suggesting that we formalize the process of building a Personal Learning Network and start building collaboration into our professional development right at the start of every school year.

David Warlick's Personal Learning Network (retrieved from on March 17, 2009).
See his explanation of each item in this blog post called Picture of my Personal Learning Network
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About Personal Learning Networks David Warlick says:
“Start small.” Form study groups, set teachers up with RSS Readers (you don’t have to use the term RSS). Suggest a few connections for them, and have them blog (again, you don’t have to call it a blog if that will help) to each other what they’re learning. You have to start the connections. You have to start the conversations. You have to work toward the point to where the learning engine kicks in, and it starts running on its own momentum. From Retrieved March 20, 2009.
I couldn’t agree more, but to do these things that David Warlick suggests, teachers have to actually be aware that these tools exist, time has to be given to them so they can try them out, and we need to make allowances for those who are not there yet (see the next page!).

If you are interested, below find a promotional video for the Wiki OpenPD ( This is a wiki dedicated to professional development in a collaborative setting using online social software. It could help us implement David's ideas.