One of the common problems among high school choral director is professional isolation. Many directors serve as the only choral music teacher in a high school with few peers; the situation is amplified if the teacher is geographically located far away from cultural centers. The internet can help keep an isolated teacher networked to the latest developments from experts in a wide variety of fields.
For years, professionals have turned to books and journals as well as traveled to conferences to learn about the latest developments in their profession. In recent years, this activity has been supplemented or replaced by an Internet model where blogs, twitter, wiki’s and podcasts contribute significantly to professional learning.
Recently, educators have become more intentional about the creation of this professional support system and the term “Personal Learning Network” (PLN’s) has evolved to fully describe this activity. PLN’s are defined as “deliberately formed networks of people and resources capable of guiding our independent learning goals and professional development needs.”[vii]
One of the most highly valued aspects of a PLN is “crowdsourcing,” an activity where one person asks questions to the broader community about an issue. Fortunately, choral directors have enjoyed that luxury for years with ChoralNet. Recent developments in ChoralNet have provided additional networking opportunities. In July 2010, ChoralNet released a new tool called “Communities” with the intent of allowing “users to communicate regarding particular sub-topics of choral music and self-identify as a member of a subset of choral musicians.” With the recent merger of ChoralNet and ACDA, these communities and the message boards will continue to fulfill many of the professional needs of choral musicians for years to come.
High school choral directors can emulate the practices of other education professionals for further customization of their personal learning network by experimenting with a variety of online tools, including:
- video (YouTube, TedTalks)
- microblogging (Twitter, Plurk),
- social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn),
- social bookmarking (del.icio.us, Diigo),
- RSS readers (bloglines, Google Reader)
- wiki’s (pbworks, wikispaces), and
- online presentation sharing (slideshare, sliderocket).
All of these tools fulfill the basic functions of a PLN: connecting with like-minded professionals, collaborating on projects and questions, and a vehicle for providing our own contributions to the profession.