Educators who are passionate about learning recognize the value of sharing their knowledge and experience with others. They seek out the work of experts in their field and get to know other professionals with whom they can exchange information. They become part of a learning community of like-minded people. The concept of a Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is based on the concept of a learning community. For educators, a Personal Learning Network is made up of connections and resources that contribute to their professional development and enrich their knowledge base.
Thanks to advances in communication brought on by the Internet, a PLN today can include connections in the local community, across the country or around the world. With a PLN, a teacher can expand the classroom walls and gain access to resources and expertise that were not previously available. Education websites, social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, profession directories like LinkedIn, blogs, wikis and forums are all sources for making connections for a PLN.
Tips for building a Personal Learning Network.
- Join an online educational social network.
An educational social network provides links to resources, forums for discussion, webinars, online classes and may even host events in the real world. Classroom 2.0 is one of the most popular educational networks, but there are dozens available and many target special interest groups within the teaching community. The Educational Networking wiki provides a directory of educational networks that includes a link and description for each network.
The educational social network that you join should provide links to interesting blogs related to education. Find a few that you find useful and begin to read them on a regular basis. Most of the more popular blogs will allow you to register as a subscriber and receive daily or weekly updates via email.
- Join Twitter.
This microblogging site is a good source of news and information. You may want to begin by joining an education Twitter group, such as Edubloggers. This blog post entitled A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter provides valuable information for educators about navigating Twitter.
After you’ve spent some time on social network sites and have read some blogs, join in the conversation. Add comments to blog posts and participate in forum discussions. Before long you will meet people with whom you want to communicate on a regular basis. Your PLN will begin to grow.
Manage your time
The sheer volume of information available online can be overwhelming at first and you may find yourself spending a lot of time trying to take it all in. Over time, most educators are able to target the most useful resources in their PLN and to balance time spent online with time spent on the other aspects of their career.
Introduce your Students, too!
Students can also benefit from Personal Learning Networks. Most of them are familiar with social networking, but need guidance in using it safely and effectively as a tool for learning — and of course teachers who have learned how to create their own PLN are better able to provide this guidance to their students.
About our Guest Blogger
Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Masters in Teaching program, which prepares teachers to earn their teaching credential. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.