The Power of Personal Learning Networks
I was thinking about writing a post on Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s). I wanted to go beyond just reviewing the literature and giving my opinion so I tried a little informal experiment. I created a Google Form. Here is the link: Personal Learning Network Survey. I posted it on Twitter and Google+. By the next morning, people in several states and in three different countries had completed the form. One of the beauties of using a personal learning network is that the tools we use allow us to seek information from places and people we have never encountered before.
A PLN allows us to engage in and guide our learning without the constraints of geography or time. The fact that we guide our own learning with a PLN is crucial. I remember being excited about the first time I got to mow the lawn. It was awesome! However, when it became a task that I had to complete on a weekly basis, the fun quickly dissipated. Guiding our own learning can be rewarding, but it is difficult to find a teacher who looks forward to district driven professional development. Teachers often find district required professional development to be tedious and lacking in relevance (Elliott, 2014).
Although I see the importance of district driven professional development, I also understand the desire for teachers to guide their own learning. However, the use of PLN’s goes beyond desire. The use of PLN’s for professional growth based on reflection about one’s needs is significant and important (Warlick, 2009). The ISTE standards for teachers call on us to “participate in local and global learning communities” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008). In addition, it is not very hard to build and use a PLN. If you use a social network like Facebook or Twitter, then you can build a PLN.
Acknowledging that it was a short and informal survey, all of the teachers who responded to the Google Form mentioned previously use some form of social network. In the order from most to least mentioned; they were Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Research supports these results (Way, 2012; Woods, 2013). I have an account for each of these, but I only use Google + and Twitter for professional reasons. I like to use Facebook socially with my friends and I do not like to mix the two.
Another option for building a PLN includes blogs. RSS feeds and aggregators can be used to drive posts related to these topics to us without going searching. There are also other types of networking sites relating to specific mediums. Examples include Instagram for pictures, YouTube for video, and Slideshare for presentations. Although there are no formal rules for the use of PLN’s here are a few general guidelines. I should say, however, these guidelines are subjective and open to debate.
- PLN’s are about give and take: It is great to get sources, but somebody had to supply the materials too. Share your great ideas also.
- Keep it appropriate: If you do post information, be sure to follow the guidelines of the forum, community, or service you post to.
- Do not mix business and pleasure: I said previously that I do not use Facebook as a PLN. I use Facebook to connect with friends and share pictures of my family. I use Google + and Twitter to seek and share new ideas to improve my professional practice.
- Be social: I know, it sounds like a contradiction. However, we do not go to work and act like robots. We have relationships with the people we work with. It just has a more professional dynamic. A social aspect in the workplace is important so we continue to enjoy what we do. The same concept applies to the use of Personal Learning Networks.
- Do what works for you. The user controls the structure of the PLN just as they control the learning. If you prefer a certain resource (Twitter, Google +, blogs, etc.), then use it. You do not have to go all out either. Go as far with it as you want. Mandating how much you should use a PLN takes away control, which is one of the biggest strengths of using it.
Try using a PLN if you have not done so already. If you do use a PLN, share your knowledge. Show others how to use them effectively, and share what you know on your own PLN. In the spirit of sharing ideas, feel free to contact me in my PLN’s. My information is found in several places on this site. This includes Twitter and Google + along with several others.
Elliott, J. C. (2014). Online professional development: Criteria for selection by teachers and evaluation by administrators (Order No. 3648274). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Phoenix; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. (1649170860). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1649170860?accountid=35812
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National educational technology standards for teachers (Educational Standards). Retrieved from www.iste.org: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers.aspx
Warlick, D. (2009). Grow Your Personal Learning Network: New Technologies Can Keep You Connected and Help You Manage Information Overload. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(6), 12-16.
Way, J. (2012). Developing a personal learning network for fast and free personal learning. ACCESS.
Woods, B. (2013). Building your own pln. T +D. 67(11).