Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Conundrum of Connectedness

CC Image - "Time" by Alan Cleaver
As I write this post, I am once again reminded that time is our most precious, non-renewable resource. 
Don’t we all wish we had enough time to do the things we need to do, as well as, the things we want to do. Like most educators, my daily task list keeps me busy throughout the day. So much so, that I can expect to bring at least a few hours of work home with me each night. The challenge becomes balancing the time needed to complete work-related tasks with time for family, friends, exercise, and rest.

Oh, and there is one more thing, time to learn, converse, and collaborate, with my personal learning network.

My growth mindset, and my desire to serve others means that I am comfortably suited to work my current job as a school technology coordinator. Every day presents exciting new challenges along with several intrinsic rewards. However, I feel that my efforts do not get fully utilized, or at times, even recognized. This is where the conundrum comes to light. My conversations and exchanges with my PLN members are almost always enriching, validating, and rewarding. So, do I attend to my task list from work, which typically generates little confirmation, or do I engage with my network, which I find energizing and supportive?

Time is limited, how do we balance our growing list of professional responsibilities with the seemingly infinite opportunities for personal learning?

This is not to blame teaching colleagues who are equally busy and seldom have a few minutes to themselves, let alone an hour per week for face-to-face professional development. This is also not to blame administrators that have their own agenda, and their own leadership matters to wrestle with. So, where does this leave room for professional development and digital literacy training? For me, it’s a recognition of the value that my personal learning network returns on my investment of time. Like many other educators, I have found social media, such as Twitter, to be very time efficient. Just ten to fifteen minutes per day is enough to scratch my learning itch while also contributing to the learning of others. An effectively managed, one-hour Twitter chat usually provides dozens of resources and conversation-provoking ideas. Keeping content fresh on my blog is a bit more time consuming, but still efficient, and effective, as thousands, to potentially millions, of readers can be reached by a single post. I also find that blogging helps to synthesize my learning while also providing a forum for sharing experiences and reflections.

Is there a solution to this challenging situation? One possible answer is to invite and engage colleagues in personal learning networks. The professional development activities could then be delivered using a blended model; face-to-face, and virtually. Additionally, educators and students typically invest more into learning experiences that are personal in nature. PLNs can certainly support this personalization. Bringing additional voices into the learning experience adds multiple perspectives, along with a depth and creative richness, seldom achieved individually or in small groups.

Attribution - Jackie Gerstein Ed. D.

Balancing time demands is a skill that learners of any age benefit from. On most days, I would rather use free time to connect with my PLN than attend to my “to-do” list from work. This may seem like putting play before work, but I view both activities as essential in remaining a relevant contributor in education. Likely, there are other answers out there. What do you think? How do you solve this conundrum of balancing the time demands of work with the time demands of being actively connected with a personal learning network? 


Luke said...

Simple organization skills I learned form my fateher. Make two lists (one for PLN, one for work) and detail all items that you need / want to be accomplished within a specified time frame; whether it is a week, month, etc.

Then, on each list, number each item based on importance; #1 being the most important.

This simple and commonly-used methodology allows me to visualize where I need to spend the most of my time. For example, knock out #1,2,3 on your work list and reward yourself to perform #1 on your PLN.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thanks Luke, this certainly makes sense. Now, if only my work list was as interesting as my PLN list. Thanks again for the tip - I will give this a shot.

David Hochheiser said...

This is a great post about a really new issue. I at first felt guilty about checking in on conversations and streams while at work but soon came to the conclusion that I could strike a balance by avoiding the pitfalls of getting involved in all things interesting, which I left for time outside of contract. I also found that the few minutes we have for lunch worked well for me.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thank you for your comment David. I am finding that just as a person might use Google to provide information, I am relying more and more upon "the streams". And after thinking about it, I don't see the harm in having learning opportunities available 24-7, even at work. Thanks again - come back soon!

John McDermott Neill said...

Very interesting post. I'm at the start of the connected learner/teacher journey and find myself spending so much time reading great posts from people like Tom Whitby and Stephen Downes that I cannot find the time to comment or even write on my blog. I have to be satisfied with curating posts rather than creating.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thank you for the comment John. I like your reading list. It helps me to either voice record or make a note of blog post topics as I am out and about. I also try to block off an hour or two each week to write and publish a post. It took about a year for me to get into a comfortable blogging groove. This and Twitter are now my primary channels for PLN communication. Thanks again - let's chat again soon. Bob