PLCs and Technology

One thing that I have been having a hard time with is integrating technology into teaching and having a PLC. I found two blogs that have mentioned integrating the two (I admit, I haven't looked too hard). Doug Johnson at the Blue Skunk Blog posted about it last May, before I started reading the blog. He was kind enough to let me know about it today. The other one is L. Gaffney's personal blog. I think Gaffney is in the same position that I am. My problem is that in my graduate school courses, they talk ad nauseam about Professional Learning Communities, but never about using technology. In all our school meetings, we talk about PLCs, but never about using technology. All the people in my education/tech network (blogs I read, Twitter network, Facebook, etc.) never mention PLCs. It seems that there are two forces pushing through the education world that I am exposed to and they are not together or linked. This really bugs me, because I really like both the ideas. I think that collaboration (a major component of PLCs) is extremely important. When I was in college, I was the academic activities adviser, and my sole purpose was to get academic classes and colleges to collaborate with other people. I think one of the best and most efficient (and sometimes most effective) ways to collaborate is by using technology. Technology here can be defined as email, instant messaging, blogging, wikis, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other number of things that would help us collaborate.

So, Jethro, what are you going to do about it?

Great question, I am glad you asked. Doug Johnson's blog post made some great suggestions for how to integrate technology into PLCs. The only problem, though, is that I think he went too big for what I think teachers would go for. This is what I want to do. I want my team that I collaborate with to use technology. I want to be able to access the worksheets, handouts, and everything else we use on the web. I think this is important, because if I can access it on the web, my students have an opportunity to as well. I already try to do this on my own here. I want all my students to be able to do the assignments when they are absent, and I want my students' parents to know what is going on and be able to take their part in helping their children succeed. With my team, I want us to be able to meet without "meeting".

My Goals for My Team:
  • I want us to be able to update each other on the fly with how a certain concept was received with a certain teaching style or approach.
  • I want us to be able to work collaboratively on documents (worksheets, common assessments, lesson plans, etc.) in close to real-time without having to set up a meeting time after school.
  • I want us to be able to have a place to store data so that we can access whenever we need it.

Doing a wiki would make it so we could do more than just our one-hour weekly meeting. Finding other resources on the web would allow us to be more innovative and resourceful. Blogging about our experiences would help us know what others are doing that could help our students learn better. Using Twitter with other English teachers could help us find more ways to teach what we need to teach. Using YouTube would help us record instructions for class assignments so that students could watch us explain what to do. There are many more possibilities. As Doug pointed out (or someone on his blog pointed out), the point is to use technology as a means to accomplish a goal, and not as the goal. We want our students to learn, let's do everything we can to make that happen.

So, what am I going to do? I am going to make a wiki for my 7th grade team and then invite my team members to add to it. As of right now, they are both against the web stuff, but I will work on them. Wish me luck.


    Best of luck with your team members. If I can help in the quest, please let me know.

    So, I'll tell you the truth. Wikis are tough with a small community. I put together a good size wiki at my last company (1300 pages when I left) and it was like pulling teeth. The biggest problem is that a wiki isn't where information is; it's a great place for storing information, but usually the information I want to store/share is no where near the wiki.

    So, if I want to add something to the wiki I have to:
    1) Remember that a wiki exists
    2) Get past the fear of 'is this important enough to share?'.
    3) Go post the information

    And, the worst part, remember to update.

    The truth is, from a learning point of view, there are a lot of skills that are pre-requisite for a wiki. For example, a wiki user needs greater understanding of a web page than your common web user. "But!" you say, "I have a wiki with a wysiwyg editor, it's just like Word!" That's great, but the power of a wiki isn't in the words and sentences and paragraphs. The real power of the wiki is links, just like the web at large. And although we all click them, you have to know that information exists and 'think' in a web page state of mind to create links. This is usually a new skill for people that takes practice (like a motor skill; so coaching is often necessary).

    So, although I commend your desire to start a wiki, it's not an entry level technology. For example of entry level, look at what Facebook does and I would love to see a 'digg-like' website for educators (maybe built with Pligg?), but I haven't found one yet with a good community.

    Anyway, I have a lot more thoughts on this, (if you care to discuss) but I need to go get my blog back up so I can respond properly and not in your comments. :-)

    Darren, thanks for your support. I am glad that we connected through Twitter, and I hope I can find a way to have you help me.

    Chris, thanks for your well-stated point. I agree that it is not entry level, but I feel that it is the most practical for our purposes. What do you suggest would be better? I am not against changing my mind based on better advice.

    Hi Jethro,

    Thanks for the mention. As you and many of the comments on my original post suggest, my plan was too ambitious. In our district this year, we are getting people into just two resources - wikis and - through PLCs.

    Keep up the good work!



    Thank you for your great blog. Your good example of responding to each commenter has inspired me to respond to comments as well, so thanks for that also.

    @ Doug is a great way to get people to share information; it's easy ant the model makes sense. With a small team I work with, we had success with Google Notebook.

    Also, I'm sorry if my earlier comment seemed harsh (I'm not mean, just excited :-), but I think people forget the intimidation factor of a wiki. Sure, we all use wikipedia, but how many of us actively posting/editing wikipedia?

    There is a very true learning curve separating the general participation and active use of a wiki. I think there are a lot better services for small groups to use for collaboration; a lot mentioned here (, Google Notebook, Zoho, etc.)