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Who owns the learning?

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Recently, Alan November wrote a thought-provoking book titled “Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.” November shares how the traditional strategies of teaching and learning will not prepare students for the world they will enter following graduation. This week, I reflected on the question, “Who owns the learning?” Traditionally, educators have waited for a state conference, a webinar or a school improvement team meeting to discuss education issues and to grow as a professional. As I reflected on my recent attendance at a conference, I reviewed my calendar to see whether or not I had owned my learning.

I had attended the annual North Carolina ASCD (NCASCD) Conference where over 1,000 educators were in attendance to share their research, highlight best practices from their school districts and learn from face-to-face conversations. This is the premier conference for
K-12 educators in North Carolina, and I have benefited from attending this conference for several years. While I was at this year’s conference, I had the privilege of connecting with David Stegall (@davidstegall), associate superintendent for Newton-Conover City Schools. Typically, Stegall and I connect with each other via Twitter. The conference allowed us to discuss curriculum integration, professional development and developing teacher leaders. I also met with Jayme Linton (@jaymelinton), director of teacher education at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Linton and I shared ideas about education and supporting elementary teachers. We also mapped out a plan for professional development in February. Linton is going to lead professional development with teachers at my school via Skype. The topic will be “How to Use VoiceThread to Meet Your Learning Goals.” Prior to the NCASCD Conference, Linton and I had only connected via Twitter.

While attending the conference, I had some down time that I don’t normally get when I am at work and home. I took advantage of the time and read “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. In December, Darin Jolly (@drjolly) highly recommended that I read this book. I was able to read half of the book while I was out of town. While I have never met Jolly, I consider him a mentor and friend. He supports my learning goals and offers advice when I encounter challenges as a principal.

I recently was able to join the #atplc Twitter Chat. This is a staple in my learning diet and professional growth plan. The topic was “Digging Deep Into the Culture of Great PLCs,” hosted by John Wink (@johnwink90). If my schedule permits, I try to join #atplc every Thursday night from 9-10 p.m. EST. The thought leaders that join that group challenge me to become a better leader and educator. There is no registration. You simply enter #atplc with your questions, answers, ideas, resources, websites, or other items you wish to share. Everyone will see your post and you will be able to connect with educators from across the U.S.

In order to continue growing, I search for videos, online articles, and blogs. Having a smartphone has allowed me to continue learning as I wait for a parent conference, wait for my son’s baseball game to begin, or at the end of the school day when I have a moment to reflect and grow. Recently, the following resources resonated with me and will help me continue to grow: “Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap in Leadership” by Surinder Kahai; “The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice” by Jaime McGrath and Drew Davies; and “PLC Teams Discussing the Common Core” by Laurie Robinson.

Who owns your learning? You can join a Twitter chat for educators, watch a video, read a blog, share one of your resources, design your own blog, read a journal article, attend a conference, co-write an article with an educator six states away, or listen to a podcast while you exercise. Once you discover a network of educators, you will find that your growth possibilities are endless. You will be encouraged, challenged, supported and inspired by your professional learning network (PLN). Professional learning no longer takes place exclusively at the annual conference, summer retreat or faculty meeting. Learning is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process of growing, evolving and developing.

Steven Weber is the principal at Hillsborough Elementary School, located in Hillsborough, N.C. He blogs at ASCD EDge. Recently, his blog, A Bucket List for K-12 Students, made the Top 10 Blogs of 2012 on ASCD EDge. Connect with Weber on Twitter @curriculumblog.