As an educator one of my goals has always been to help students find a path that not only intrigues them, but also sparks their desire to become a lifelong learner. There are only so many hours in a day and days in the school year, but if I can help students to find their passion and teach them how to educate themselves and grow on their own, I’ve done something that I can be proud of!
Reading about personal learning networks made me think of this bridge of support that has the potential to guide students from what schools have to offer them and what they choose to pursue on an individual and personal level. PLN earned my support for other reasons as well.
Not only is creating lifelong learners a personal goal of mine, but also to show students that learning and studies are their right in our country! Yes, they must learn to read, yes they must learn to write, yes they must learn math skills…however once you have the roots, you can take the reins and explore those ideas that ignite passion within you. When I teach, I try to show my students how learning the foundational skills has helped me soar to beautiful places that I governed and labeled as significant myself, not because a teacher told me to. In other words, I found that PLN were a great motivation for teachers and students alike to learn the basic skills so you can get behind your own wheel and take the journey that you map out for yourself based on your own passions and interests.
That said, I was also very relieved to find that Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli in their text, Personal Learning Networks – Using the Power of Connections to Transform Edcuation, were also advocates of teaching the necessary skills to succeed in this digital age of over-stimulation and constant distractions. They advocate teaching students skills such as, attention, evaluating, reflection, networking responsibly, and the differences between social networking and learning networks (2011).
In addition to these skills, I would also like to add that it is necessary in our world today to teach students how to effectively communicate with one another. This is one of Tony Wagner’s seven survival skills to prepare students for the work place in his book, The Global Achievement Gap (2008). Communication skills as well as how to unplug and become quiet and centered in a world that tends to keep us spinning all hours of the day and night are going to be essential to educate the whole student and not just a student who will succeed in the work place!
I have to be honest, I am a bit critical when it comes to technology. There is a whole student that needs to be considered when we enter classrooms. There is the student who must earn a living, enter college and become a responsible citizen. However, there are other aspects that we must consider when we teach. How successful are our children going to be if they are strung out and over-stimulated day after day?
We must also teach students the benefits of tending to their other needs, such as de-stressing, laughing, unplugging and enjoying simplicity in life as well. I hope to lead students to success not just in their job, but also as happy participants in their own lives; lives that they have control over. I hope to share with students how to unplug and nourish other aspects of their lives as well. Teach to the whole, not just the future employee. Teach students the joy of writing beyond the opportunity to hold a job. Teach students the joy of reading for the fulfillment of personal curiosity, not just to satisfy a job requirement. Teach for the whole person and their healthy balance in life. There’s the joy of teaching!