“For the first time in history, we know now how to store virtually all humanity’s most important information and make it available, almost instantly, in almost any form, to almost anyone on earth.” – Gordon Dryden
The world is now smaller than it was ever before; thanks to the phenomenal development of technology. Within the vast extent of the online community, no person or information is ever truly far away, and that is what drives the concept of a personal learning network. Educators have always preached that we should strive to go beyond the four walls of the classroom, and I cannot stress enough how helpful this can be when we now see how big yet so close that world outside is.
What is a Personal Learning Network?
n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online.
n. – an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from.
Having a PLN is about making connections and building personal relationships with teachers, school administrators, university professors, and experts around the world.
There’s always someone online available to answer questions, share their expertise, and simply chat about what’s happening in their lives and classrooms.
Having a PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaboration, and learning. We may share our learning, ideas and expertise in different ways; using different media and tools.
The defining feature of the PLN is that it is a global learning network, enabling people to tap into and share diverse, global perspectives on teaching strategies, educational issues, and technologies.
One of the best things I like about having a PLN is that no resource is ever truly unobtainable, which I have proven countless times. With a reliable PLN at your disposal, if there’s a resource you do not have, chances are that someone in your network either has it or knows someone who does.
Building your PLN
If you’re interested in expanding your PLN, here’s a directory of some of the best web 2.0 tools:
|Category||Value||Examples and Guides|
|Social Networking||Keeping up with personal, more social contacts like friends, family, and former students||Facebook, Myspace|
|Microblogging||Populated with educators from around the world who share best practices and resources in short bursts||Twitter, My guide to Twitter, Plurk, Utterli|
|Professional Profiles||Find other professionals and experts in your field||LinkedIn, Brightfuse|
|Wikis||Community-monitored sites that can function as websites or for group organization and projects||Wikispaces, pbwiki,wetpaint|
|Blogs||Great sources of information such as classroom best practices as well as personal opinions; Blogs monitor the heartbeat of new trends in education and the commenting back and forth leads to many great ideas and relationships||WordPress, (check out my ‘Blogroll’ to the right – they’re my favorites),Blogger, Typepad, Alltop – top blog headlines by subject, Technorati – a blog search engine|
|RSS Reader||RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” – an RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with many of your favorite blogs, all in once place
(see this video ‘RSS in Plain English’)
|Netvibes, (My Netvibes),PageFlakes, Google Reader|
|Nings||Communities of people interested in similar topics, with forums and messaging||Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, Ning|
|Social Bookmarking||Share bookmarks with others, see what others are bookmarking; you can join groups and get email updates on new bookmarks||Diigo, Diigo Groups,Delicious|
|Webinars||Live, on-line presentations or conferences, with real-time chat, hosted by experts on specific topics; Great way to learn about new things and to meet new people||Classroom 2.0 Live!,EdTechTalk Live,Elluminate – host your own!, Dim Dim|
|Backchanneling of conferences||When there are neat (and expensive) conferences that you can’t attend, follow conversations and links about the highlights||Twitter search – use acronyms like ‘NECC’ or ‘SXSWi’|
Tips for Building your PLN
CONNECT and CONVERSE
The growth engine of your learning network is your willingness to reach out and make connections with new people. Leave a comment on a blog post, reply to a question on Twitter, or share a post on Google+.
Merely reading, listening, or watching is not connecting.
Your expertise (and even your struggles) are valuable to others who don’t have your experience. Anything you create for work (or your own schooling) might as well be shared, and might be valuable to someone else.
If you’ve made and cultivated connections over time, then when you make requests, they are more likely to fall on fertile soil. You’ll find that you’ll receive much higher quality answers and support by asking your network, than you will by simply searching online.
SET A ROUTINE, BE PATIENT
Choose a time to do this daily or a few times a week. It takes time to make connections and build relationships. It’s takes perseverance to continue when you receive no replies to your requests, and it requires patience to build up social capitol before you begin to feel part of a community. But it is well worth the investment to one day have a 24/7 global network to tap into whenever you’re in need.
Like all of us, we all started without Facebook yet now we barely move through the day without at least checking a post or liking one comment. I myself now holds 2 Facebook accounts, one for personal ties and one for professional use, simply because my professional network became too large and active that it literally swallowed my personal account content. Believe me, your PLN will always get bigger than you dreamt it to be, it all starts with a little time, and a lot of patience.
Wagner, M. (2012). Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips – Getting Smart by Guest Author – edchat, EdTech, PLN | Getting Smart. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://gettingsmart.com/2012/01/personal-learning-networks-for-educators-10-tips/
Ronnie Burt et al. (2014). Building your PLN | Edublogs Teacher Challenges. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/creating-a-pln/
PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from https://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/pln-your-personal-learning-network-made-easy/