Sunday, August 16, 2009

Personal Learning Networks

This is a copy of the Guest Post I wrote for Educators' Royal Treatment. You can see the actual post at:

The Educators' Royal Treatment

Originally Written on August 16, 2009

When I was asked to write a guest post on this blog, there were too many topics to choose from.  Where do I start? I have been working in Educational Technology for over 15 years and have seen many different technologies come and go, as well as teaching methods evolve.  So what can I write that won't possibly be outdated or irrelevant in the years or maybe even months to come?  Then it hit me, Professional development.  This is an area that is changing so quickly that we cannot keep up with everything, but the one thing that is going to be here to stay is the Personal learning Network. 

The unique thing about a PLN is that there is no one blueprint for it. It is not a single piece of software, a single club or group, a single page on a social networking site, rather it is a collection of resources assembled by an individual to enhance and enrich their own Personal Learning.   It is just what it claims to be, a Personal network.  The success and efficacy of the PLN is dependent on the individual creating their own network.  There are a large number of variables that will add to the success of a PLN; the tools, the environment, the people in the network and of course the person whose network it is. Lets take a look at each element that was just mentioned.

The tools: this is the most basic part of the PLN and the most varied.  An individual must feel comfortable with the tools they choose and have the ability to navigate through each of them effectively.  Personally I have a large variety of tools in my toolbelt that I use to make my PLN work for me. I use Twitter (microblogging), Several Ning groups (social networking), My own blog (I write this one:, RSS feeds from many other blogs (written by people who I view as influential in Ed. Tech.) and of course there are my personal connections.  I make sure I network at any opportunity and try and connect these people with the online tools that I use so that I have more frequent contact with them.

The Environment: This is simply where you connect to your network.  Do you connect at work? at home? on line? in a physical group or cohort?  No matter where you connect to your PLN, it is essential to be a viable member both giving and receiving information.

Members of your network: As educators we are generally taught to accept everyone, and see the gems of information that everyone can bring to a meeting.  I too agree with this in most aspects of my life.  However, in my PLN, I am much more selective.  It is not that I don't think that there are gems that every educator can bring to the table, rather there is so much information out there, I need to beware of information overload.  Look for people that you feel will bring you the best information in the areas that you are interested in.  This goes both ways, just as you should be selective of the people that you bring into your network, you don't need to join every group you are invited to.

The Person who's Network it is: This is YOU! You need to be an active member in any network you are a part of, but in order to get the most out of your own, you need to be visible and active.  Don't be shy!

Personal Learning Networks are so important because the global community is becoming ever more connected and professional development for educators is becoming more and more essential to keep on top of new trends in teaching.  Gone are the days of after-school trainings that happen one time, and without follow up.  While there will always be in-school professional development, the need for ongoing growth in areas that the individual is interested in and can access at varied times is tremendous.

So where do you go from here?  You are reading this blog and that is a great start!  Get a twitter account and find someone you know or find me, Read others blogs, join a ning or simply just ask others what they do.  Build your network and be active with it and then when you are ready, pass it on.

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