Bringing Together a Group of People Passionate About LSD by Chris Johnson

Bringing Together a Group of People Passionate About LSD by Chris Johnson

A reflection by Chris Johnson on the power of personal learning networks.

ACCESS – Does regular access to other individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives challenge your definition of access and what it means? If so, how?

Admit it.  When you read the title that this was about LSD you thought it was about the drug. But actually it’s about a group of people passionate about physical Learning Space Design for K-12.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the largest technology organization for K-12 teachers. ISTE currently sponsors 31 professional learning communities that cover a wide variety of topics. Some are small  and others with close to 5,000.

I am the founder and out-going Chair of the Learning Space Network. When we began three years ago, we had 200 members by the end of our first year. As of today, we have 2,300.

The growth in the PLN is mirrored by the increased interest in how physical space impacts learning. Through the PLN we have sponsored webinars, book studies, twitter chats, and maintain a healthy number of postings where people from around the world share their comments, questions, and concerns about changing everything from an individual classroom to building an entirely new school.

Using these various channels of communication allows us to share ideas with other creative people around the world.  Since ISTE is an international organization it allows access to those outside of the US. This is important as much of the innovation in school design is being done outside the US. Therefore, the international nature of the PLN, and the fact that it is online, has exploded access to experts around the world.


FACULTY SATISFACTION – How has your participation in the PLN benefitted faculty and colleagues at your home institution?

As mentioned, this PLN is part of an international organization. So the only faculty at “your home institution” is myself.  I can say from talking to our members at our annual conference, that they find a great deal of satisfaction with the experience and find the opportunities to discuss ideas with others as a valuable resource.

Speaking for myself, my connections to others in the field has grown exponentially through my participation.

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS – When you reflect on your work, how has meeting and learning from individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives helped you to clarify or re-define what it means for learning to be effective?

I am constantly learning about how space impacts the learning environment. From discussions online or in sessions at our conference I am exposed to a vast variety of really creative ideas on how to address the issue of space design.

SCALE – Is the PLN scalable and/or replicable by others at other institutions/organizations? If so, how? What challenges do you encounter?

As mentioned above, ISTE’s PLNs range from a few members (36 is the smallest) to 4,800, so the model certainly can scale.

The challenge for each PLN is finding the leadership to keep activities going. ISTE has several structures that range from one leadership team of a few members to PLNs with multiple committees. Finding the right balance of people, especially keeping in mind that we are all volunteers with real life jobs, can be challenging.

STUDENT SATISFACTION – Do you feel that your involvement and/or collaboration with the PLN has helped you create better student experiences at at your institution?

From my own experiences, and in discussions with others in the PLN, I believe that my involvement has had a significant impact on my ability to impact student learning. The ability to share ideas with others around the world has broadened my horizons and I have been able to bring that back to directly impact students.

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