Teachers discuss using the Virtual Learning Network as part of a blended professional learning model and the benefits it has had for their cluster.
The structure of the PEG Cluster is, I think, 12 schools in our local area. We meet possibly once a term, but we collaborate through our cluster group on VLN. Contributing to the PEG Cluster VLN group, to be honest, was a little bit nerve wracking to begin with. I had used VLN before, the previous year. I suppose I’d describe myself as someone that reads a lot and posts a little bit. But, probably the experience I had last year gave me the confidence to post a question within our cluster group, to talk about what we were introducing, Google apps, in education into our school this year. So I really wanted to find out what schools within our cluster were using, that and how were they using it. And so I posted the question and discussions came from that, and again that has led to me getting the opportunities to go in and have a look around other schools, and talk to other leaders in the schools to see what’s happening.
We can share resources which are used and shared at face-to-face workshops and in face-to-face meetings, and those can be made available to teachers who are not able to attend those face-to-face sessions, and often these workshops are not compulsory, so they are free to attend, but that makes it really flexible for teachers and they can go back and access the resources after the event.
It’s the fact that I can access it anywhere, and at any time. And if I’m, you know, reflecting on work and suddenly a question comes up, VLN’s the obvious place to go and to have a look around to see if other people have started discussions on that area. For me, professionally as a leader, it just widens my accessibility to knowledge. To also see what is happening, not just within my local area, but nationally, and there’s the links in to what’s happening internationally. So professionally I feel I’m able to broaden my knowledge and then share that knowledge within my school, and apply it to our context, and use a lot of the video clips that are posted on VLN and examples of discussions, to start discussions in our school, about our children and our context of what we want to achieve.
Doing our teacher inquiry this year, we are looking a lot at ourselves and reflecting on ourselves. So we’ve set up professional learning portfolios through Google Docs. And in that we talk about our day, our lesson, our week, our term, all of those kind of things, and it’s a great place to then hyperlink things into the VLN. So if I was going through it and found something important, or interesting, or useful, so that I wasn’t just reading it and forgetting about it, we can hyperlink it into our professional learning portfolio, that we’ve made as a reference for later on. Or you can write notes into it, so it’s kind of a going in, going out constantly.
I see the benefit of the group for teachers who have come to realise that the sharing is the real positive side of the virtual group and the access, the easy access, they can access resources and discussions asynchronously 24/7, and it goes across the boundaries of schools, and it breaks down the walls of staff rooms, which has been really beneficial in many cases where I’ve met with teachers face-to-face, and I’ve realised that the discussions are definitely going further than just their own school walls.