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Developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can seem like a daunting task. First, you have to determine which digital media platform you will be using, then research individuals who are experts or knowledgeable in the field which you are a part of, select the ones you feel are worthy of following while filtering out the less useful sources, and only then can you finally jump into the conversation. What I have found though, is that once you get started, creating a PLN is not difficult at all.
Personal Learning Networks are just that: personal. They are personal because you alone decide what and who you want to connect with, and how much of or when you want to view or contribute new material. Every single PLN is unique. My favorite explanation of these networks is described in a blog by Tom Whitby on edutopia.org. In this fancy alliteration, he states, “A PLN is a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate, and create with connected colleagues anywhere at anytime.” Sounds amazing, right? That’s because it is!!
As members of the world of education, I think we can all agree that sometimes it can be nice to be able to bounce an idea off of other professionals before test-driving it in your classroom. PLN’s are the perfect platform for this. Teachers can share things that they know work from their own experience, as well as explain things that haven’t worked so that others might share in this learning experience. This support, encouragement, and constructive feedback is available 24/7 in a PLN.
The wonderful thing about creating your own PLN, is that is can be tailored to fit the exact interests and needs of your unique classroom. For example, if you were a high school math teacher, you may follow more math blogs/twitter users/Facebook pages than an elementary music teacher would follow. If school psychology or counseling is something that intrigues you, you have the ability to establish connections with other individuals in these specific areas. The choices of who is included in your personal web is completely up to you.
After reading and researching this week, I realized that I was already part of a PLN; I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. Several other educators had already followed me or some of my tweets and in return, I had followed them back. Now, I am a part of a personal learning network over 100 individuals strong. My current PLN includes experts and resources from every area of education. While I initially considered focusing on one subject area, I found too many useful resources in areas outside of this concentration to limit my network. You just never know when or where you might find information or inspiration to take into your classroom!
In the process of creating and expanding my PLN, I found so many awesome people who have some really exceptional ideas to share. Each time I found someone new to connect with and follow, I often found myself reading deep into their feed, as I was drawn so strongly to the materials they were sharing. I am incredibly excited to be joining the world of educators that continues to expand every day. Technology has provided us with some amazing capabilities, and using it to make productive and lasting connections with people all around the world is something worth doing.