PLN as Crediblity Test

This week I sat through a six hour ESL training that was painfully presented. The presenter was a university professor. We were given a book co-written by a husband/wife team who were her colleagues at her school. The intended audience of said book was student teachers in a college ESL program.

She presented with “Death by Powerpoint” the whole day using almost 300 slides. It was a canned presentation of the author’s work with many slides being identical text to the handouts sitting in front of me. I am positive that she did not create the powerpoint presentation herself. She was working for the publisher of the book.

Now you can probably already guess I was not engaged or overly impressed with this professional development. During a break I went up to the presenter and asked if she knew Larry Ferlazzo from my PLN. Larry is in my opinion one of the top educational bloggers and sources of ESL resources in the world.

She said, “No.” When I explained who he was she said, “I am not good with technology.” (I already knew that I am watching your Powerpoint for hours) Later is her preso, she shared his name with the whole group again telling everyone, “I am not good with technology.”

This was unacceptable to me. Now I have lost all credibility with her. How can a professor, paid speaker, “expert” tell us that she “is not good with technology”? How can she not know other experts in her field? How can she NOT be connected with other ESL teachers from around the world? I do not teach ESL but off the top of my head I can name 5 ESL teachers located around the world that I could tweet at anytime and have answers in less than 24 hours.

What if I told her, “Oh, I don’t teach ESL” and dismiss her whole session as not relevant to me. That would not be professional of me. I am expected to learn new teaching strategies, and rightly so. Of course it was repeated over and over that the reason she was brought in was because our ESL students were our greatest weakness on the state standardized tests.

Since I have been involved in building a PLN on-line, I now feel that this is a new standard to evaluate speakers in my professional development. So am I being too harsh? Is it fair/right to judge people based on whether or not they are connected to other experts around the world? Should a professional speaker lose some credibility (notice I am not saying all) if they do not have a PLN who pushes them philosophically and keeps them engaged in current discussions in their area of expertise?

3 thoughts on “PLN as Crediblity Test

  1. johnfaig

    I feel your pain. I have been to some excellent professional development seminars and conferences. It is rare where the speaker knows their area of expertise AND technology. My most recent low-point came at a recent seminar. I have embraced backwards curriculum design (ala Understanding by Design). Our speaker was very knowledgeable, but her pitch was a mostly a lecture. How can gurus push for reform when they themselves don’t embraces elements of project-based learning and constructivism.

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  2. johnfaig

    One additional thought occurred after I hit POST. I just completed a grad class on educational reform. I believe that teachers who do not have a vibrant PLN are not lifelong learners and it is a yellow flag. After reading through many whitepapers, I believe schools most ready for change are thous with active professional development and administrative-supported PLNs.

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  3. concretekax

    John, I agree it is a yellow flag, although I would have fallen in that group a year ago. I don’t want to judge, but sometimes it is hard for me.

    I have to remember that many teachers, at least in my district, have never been exposed to the concept of PLN.

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