As administrators transition to 21st century models of learning for students, they also need to transition to 21st century models of learning for teachers. Online PLEs are essential to the future of education for both groups. Our current students and our future students engage with their academic passion areas ONLY online. They obtain news, leisure, and almost all communication digitally, and even when they’re in a room of friends or family, they are sharing their digital engagement with that group—even their face-time is digitally driven. Many of our instructors have transitioned to the digital lifestyle, and as a result, their professional development no longer matches their real-world model of learning. If we want to see changes in their practices with students, then we must model the change with our staff.
Savvy principals should begin using PLEs with their staff to share all important information and even to drive group discussions to model the sorts of activities, which they need to see in classrooms. Savvy principals can foster acceptance for this change by sharing leadership, power, and responsibility throughout the building, a leadership style which establishes a climate where change is more likely (Teague & Anfara, 2012, p. 61). Sharing leadership also provides every hallway/team with a change leader nearby. Most teachers build effective collaborations during passing periods and transitions; we don’t have to force them to cooperate with one another in this era; we merely need to provide the content, which should drive collaborations. As a result, PLCs should transition primarily to PLE meetings; busy instructors don’t need to meet face-to-face more than weekly in the digital era. This effective model of digital PLCs saves time for all instructors and is contagious to teachers even though it often requires a change in instructional planning (Bambrick-Santoyo & Peiser, 2012, p. 25).
Principals don’t need to attend team meetings more than weekly, either. These face-time meetings should be driven by digital data displays and ONLY serve two purposes: ensuring that all digital materials are understood and fostering productive relationships between colleagues. We usually bring staff together for large, lecture-based trainings, which prevent relationship-building and which fail to meet most teachers' needs; we should be “bringing staff together regularly to celebrate successes that teachers are experiencing as they implement” the changes we want to see (Hord & Roussin, 2013, p. 17) so we are supporting change, fostering relationships, and wasting little time.
If we want to see effective use of technology in transformative ways, then we need to stop taking teachers’ time for inauthentic cooperation and/or trainings. They can email student programming needs MUCH faster than discussing them in daily meetings, which do not reflect the collaboration models of the new era. Instructors can also review digital materials on change initiatives and seek smaller meetings for clarification MUCH faster than attending large trainings, which do not meet the needs of all teachers; these meetings are often viewed with resentment by most veteran teachers specifically because they do not meet any need.
Veterans abhor time-wasters more than any other aspect of our field, and now that we have the digital environment in which to share MOST information with one another, we should use it. We will always need face-time meetings for observational feedback, for discussing data, and for ensuring clarity on essential changes, but we spend entirely too much time in catch-all meetings where we cant share information mutually, where we can't build stronger relationships with our colleges, and within which we won’t even listen out of resentment when re realize our time is once again wasted. How can we expect our teachers to work harder for a better instructional model when we won’t?