When it comes to integrating technology into teaching and learning, I have come to realize that we have to teach each other. Teachers must become learners, and students must become teachers. I was reminded of this simple but powerful concept during recent visits to Gennifer Birk’s fifth grade classroom in Olpe, Kansas. Gennifer and her students graciously let me be an observer during several writing sessions as they worked through a project in which students designed an invention intended to help people. The project entailed brainstorming ideas, organizing and planning, drawing, writing, and creating, all of which were done using technology. Throughout the school year, these students have been part of a one-to-one iPad initiative. By the time I visited them in May, the students had much experience with using technology to facilitate the writing process; of course, however, there is always more to learn. And with the ever-changing nature of technology, it’s a challenge to keep up with all there is to know. In fact, it’s impossible! We must rely on each other when it comes to figuring things out. Gennifer’s students had been taught to ask their shoulder partner first, when they encountered a technology stumbling block; then they would take the question to the other members of their table group. If they still needed assistance, they would call on their teacher, Gennifer. At times, it was Gennifer who needed help with a technology challenge, and she turned to her students first. During these exchanges, it was clear that the classroom atmosphere promoted the idea that all are learners and teachers. I was even in on the learning act when Gennifer and two students huddled around an iPad, helping me figure out how to convert a Keynote presentation into a PowerPoint and send it in an email.
A personal-learning network is a collection of resources, whether they be people or visual tools (such as a blog or video) that meet a person’s learning needs. Consider the people and resources who comprise your own personal-learning network. I have added Gennifer and her students to my personal-learning network. Maybe this summer break is a good time to add to your own learning network.