Professional Learning Networks

CategoriesEDLD 5302PLN's

My name is Bryan, and I’m a member of several Professional Learning Networks.

(*group responds in unison* “Hi, Bryan.”)

I tried to start this thread by making a list of the PLN’s I’m already a part of:

  • The Performing Arts Department of my school (I teach guitar and music technology, and we also have a band/orchestra teacher, a chorus teacher, and a theatre teacher.) 
  • The Leadership Instruction Team of Excellence (LITE), which is my school’s acronym-friendly term for department chairs 
  • The Instrumental Strings PLC for our county 
  • The (much smaller) Music Technology PLC for our county 
  • National Association for Music Education (NAfME)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE)
  • Twitter (follow me at @BryanHarrisJRHS, if you’re interested, and optimistic about me increasing my tweet frequency soon) 
  • Edmodo, which used to be a very heavily-used platform by our district but was mostly pushed aside a couple of years ago in favor of G Suite for Education; I use it now as a member of the district’s Website Contributors PLC–it’s our primary method of staying connected 
  • The Teaching Guitar Workshops group on Facebook. There are many, many, many FB groups devoted to guitar lessons, but this one is specifically targeted at guitar teachers in a classroom environment 
  • And, hey, we’re all in a PLN right now, aren’t we? Welcome. 

As far as new PLNs go, last week, in a lovely moment of serendipity, I went to training on Canvas, the LMS that my district is adopting this coming school year. Canvas has a built-in PLN called The Commons, where users can share class modules and materials with one another. Since I’ll be one of the people in my building specifically tasked to help with the transition to this new system, I’m intrigued to put my DLL coursework to good use. If this isn’t authentic learning, I don’t know what is.

Thanks to the recommendations of some of my classmates, I’m following The Teaching Channel and the Teach With Tech groups on Facebook. Also on Facebook, I’ve recently come across the I Teach Music Technology! group, and the enthusiasm in their group name alone convinced me to join. Beyond that, though, it has a lot of great discussions on both the philosophical and the practical aspects of music technology instruction in a school setting.

To be honest, when it comes to the online PLNs, up to now I’ve been much more of a consumer than a contributor. I get a lot of tips and a lot of food for thought from what I find online, but I’m not as interactive or contributive as I am in person. Part of that might be the size of the “pond” I’m swimming in with the offline PLNs–I’ve been chair of my department for 10 years and in my building for 16, I’m one of only a handful of specialized guitar teachers (most guitar teachers in my district teach orchestra or band and have 1 “extra” section of guitar), and one of a very small group of Music Technology teachers (plus I designed the class). So I feel like I have both the expertise and responsibility to put my two cents into the discussion in those settings. It’s harder to feel like you have a contribution to make when you feel like you’re surrounded by people who know so much more than you (at least at the moment). 

Anybody else feel like that?

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About the author

I am an instructional technologist for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in Richmond, VA. Before that, I spent more than 20 years as a public school music teacher in Chesterfield County, VA, primarily teaching guitar and music technoogy at the high school level. I hold a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Richmond, and a Master of Education degree with a focus on Digital Learning and Leading from Lamar University. I believe that every person has the need, the desire, the ability, and the right to learn, and that as educators we must meet our students wherever they are, and help bring them to where they want and deserve to be.


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