Lisa Jacobs, GPAEA Technology Specialist
What is a PLN? The letters P-L-N might be short for “Professional” Learning Network or a “Personal” Learning Network. Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli have written a book titled Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. The book explains what a PLN is all about and why it is important for every educator to build their own PLN. In my journey, I have found it motivating to take a “personal” approach to building my “professional” network.
First you need to realize that you already have a PLN (everyone does), it just might not be on the internet. Is there a teacher in your building you go to for advice or just to talk about an “idea” you are thinking about trying with a struggling student? Do you ask your spouse for their opinion? Is there a techie you go to when something is not working? These people are already a part of your personal learning network.
There are tools on the internet that will help expand your PLN and increase the power of resources you have access to. Some of the popular social networking tools on the internet are Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and social bookmarking such as Diigo. If you are not familiar with these tools, there is a series of video tutorials (The Social & Interactive Web: Today’s Web 2.0) on Atomic Learning that would be a great place to learn. If you do not remember your school login for Atomic Learning ask your school librarian, school tech coordinator, or send an email to me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I currently use Facebook only for close friends and family, but I can see why schools and businesses are starting to use Facebook to connect to their communities. Instead of maintaining an old one directional webpage with Facebook you can contribute by asking questions and posting comments. I have started posting to a shared Blogspot with Seth Denney http://gpaeainstructionaltechnology.blogspot.com/. I am still mulling over the idea that I have information that is worthy of posting. I have been convinced by others, however, that a blog can become your home base – a place on the internet where others can always find you. I definitely have favorite blogs that I like to regularly read for new ideas and updates.
My biggest roadblock for using Twitter was that I did not feel I had the time for such trivia. But now my I can’t imagine not taking just a few minutes to check in on the topics and people that ARE important to me! By following some “professional” people and other “personal” topics, I find it is a place to get daily inspiration, ideas, and updates. I use Twitter to follow classroom teachers, librarians, technology coordinators, state leaders, CNN news, our local newspaper, and local TV news. I also follow some just for fun sites which for me include Mother Earth News and sites that send daily inspirational quotes.
The motivation to use these tools for me came in realizing that learning CAN occur for the sake of learning! I recently read an article about What Kids Know about the Internet that their Parents Don’t. Here is a quote from the article: “Young people are desperate for learning that is relevant and part of the fabric of their social lives, where they are making choices about how, when, and what to learn, without it all being mapped for them in advance. Learning on the Internet is about posting a burning question on a forum like Quora or Stack Exchange, searching for a how to video on YouTube or Vimeo, or browsing a site like Instructables, Skillshare, and Mentormob for a new project to pick up. It’s not just professors who have something to share, but everyone who has knowledge and skills.”
Creating a PLN is a different experience for teachers, superintendents, principals, and students. A colleague of mine said the first site she began with was http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ . Another great site for principals is http://connectedprincipals.com/.
We have created a Google document for anyone reading this article to share their favorite networking tools, hashtags, sites, and PLN experiences. Please take time to share your own personal journey to creating your PLN by clicking on this link: Shared PLN Google Document. We will publish a summary of the information shared on the PLN Google Document in the May Cornerstone.
If you are interested in expanding the value of PLN’s on a wider scale that will impact your whole school, there are detailed steps outline in the PLN book by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli. If you need more motivation for why everyone needs to be more “connected” consider watching this video from YouTube: Michael Wesch’s “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” YouTube Video.