Connected Learning: Improving LSL Outcomes, Part 1
By Hearing First Team November 2, 2015
Online communities and learning networks can provide ideas and answers, reduce isolation, and give “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. Learn why the Hearing First team chose digital tools to equip parents and professionals — and see what Connected Learning can offer the LSL community.
The way we approach professional learning and development has changed dramatically in recent years. Once upon a time students entered school for a fixed-point-in-time education in the profession of their choice. They took their classes, read their books, wrote their essays — perhaps did an internship. They graduated believing they knew everything they needed to know.
Many of us remember those expectations — and remember the moment we realized that graduation was just the beginning of our learning. Every child presents unique challenges. Each is a learning opportunity of its own. When we talk to hearing loss professionals, they often mention that learning curve and say they miss the classroom days when there was an opportunity for peer support and peer learning.
21st century professionals have moved from a point-in-time learning model to a continuous learning model. In this model, we are perpetually learning from our experience and sharing what we learn with others.
It’s quite possible that you are doing aspects of this already. Connected learning has always been around. Think of cavemen sitting around the campfire sharing things they’d discovered about hunting or trapping. We’ve always had human connections and learned from our community. That is nothing new.
What’s new is the digital age, which has given us the opportunity to connect with people outside of our local context. Some hearing loss professionals and early interventionists work in a setting where they may have limited access to others in their specialty. They may labor alone, trying to solve problems and come up with strategies to serve their clients.
In this day and age, there’s no reason to go it alone. The Internet offers opportunities to solve problems, cross disciplines, and break out of our silos of thinking. Online communities and learning networks can provide ideas and answers, reduce isolation, and give “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. The world is becoming more participatory and the hearing loss community has a real opportunity to benefit.
When the Hearing First team began discussing how best to help children who are deaf and hard of hearing reach their full potential, we knew that a digital approach was the only way that would allow us to equip parents and professionals everywhere. Meaning that regardless of geography, those who work to improve outcomes for children with hearing loss will have the support that they need.
“Professional learning communities (face to face) take a team focus, personal learning networks (online) take an individual focus, and communities of practice (face to face or online) take a systemic focus. It takes all three to provide the do-it-yourself, 21st century teacher learner with the experiences needed to become effective in today’s fast-changing world.”
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age
What is a Connected Learner?
A Connected Learner is someone who collaborates online, uses social media to connect with others around the globe, engages in conversations in safe online spaces, and applies what they learn online to the places where they’re providing their services. (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach)
These three facets of Professional Learning will help ensure your development is well-rounded.
Your professional home is the place where you work everyday — and the people you interact with there. For some, it may be a whole team of LSL professionals. For others, you may be the only one working with that child. Whether there are others of your discipline or across disciplines, you have the opportunity to learn from one another.
If you’ve ever had a great session with a child and run across the hall to tell someone you work with — or if you’re feeling really stuck and looking for someone to commiserate with, then you know what we’re talking about. The people in our professional home can provide support and learning.
2. A Professional Learning Community (PLCs).
For many LSL professionals, this is the missing piece. It’s a place outside of your professional home, where a community of people solves similar problems, collaborates, connects, and co-creates. PLCs were limited to face-to-face interactions. They were wonderful, but they were not accessible to many hearing loss professionals.
Today, the Internet allows more professionals opportunities to grow together to improve outcomes for children and their families and advance LSL practice. An online PLC provides an opportunity for you to log in, learn from other professionals, and take it back to your professional home. There you can practice what you’ve learned — try it out, reflect on it, or even teach someone else your new skill.
3. A Personal Learning Network.
Think about this network as concentric circles of influence. You may learn from social spaces (like Twitter), from bloggers (in your Feedly), or in small community groups. You might learn from your book club or even an online course you’re taking. Each of the people in these spaces would become part of a network that helps you grow in your learning.
Something really amazing happens when you’re active in all three facets and can move between the spaces — constantly learning and sharing. Poll your Personal Learning Network and share what you heard back in the Learning Community. Share an experience in your Professional Home with the peers in the community — or share it on Twitter. You can learn from others while others are learning from you.
Our goal is for HearingFirst.org to be a place where parents and professionals can connect and collaborate — working together to improve outcomes for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. In the days ahead, Hearing First will be developing more ways for LSL professionals to become connected learners, including a LSL community of practice. But you can begin your connected learning journey now by engaging in social spaces. If we all work together, we can ensure that children everywhere — no matter where they live or their family’s educational or socioeconomic background — would have access to reach their full potential.
See more resources for learning networks on our Community Page