This is the tenth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first nine posts:
- Introduction to the New Professional Development
- Old and New
- What is a PLN?
- Parts of a New PLN
- What’s all that tweeting about?
- Why Twitter?
- Instant PLN!
- Investing in the Follower/Following Relationship
- Differentiating Development with the Educator’s PLN
There are a plethora a tools that can help teachers to build and develop their personal learning networks. Some of the most effective are Twitter, the Educator’s PLN, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, wikis, and listservs. Before the professional development 2.0 series moves on from social networking, I wanted to spend some time looking at how it can concretely benefit your students.
The obvious first reason is that as you grow and learn, you become a better teacher, which in turn helps your students. This is certainly true in my case. My grasp of pedagogy and my comfort level in trying new approaches has increased manifold since I started utilizing social networking. When you are constantly exposed to new strategies, ideas, techniques, assessments, etc…, it is much more likely that you will be able to adeptly utilize them with your students.
Second, it becomes much easier to answer a question to which you do not know the answer. You can say, “I do not know, but I know who to ask to find out,” or “I know where to look. Let’s find out together.” While new teachers often feel like they are supposed to know everything, teachers have to realize that this is impossible. When we stop using this facade, we can be more human with our students and build a more trusting relationship. Social networking helps alleviate this burden by making you a node, so to speak, in a vast network of resources that work together to fill in each other’s gaps. There is a very good chance that someone in your network will be able to help you and your students directly or by pointing you in the right direction.
Third, you are better equipped to put the students in contact with experts. Instead of talking to students about an engineering concept, for example, you can use Skype or another tool to have an actual engineer talk to the students, either individually or as a class. This makes the concept much more relevant to the students and releases them from a dependence only on you.
Fourth, once you have started building your own network, you are better able to help students make their own. Personal learning networks are not only useful in education. Personal learning networks help educators to become better because education is our passion. Part of our job as educators is to help students find and grow in their passions. Helping them to build their own personal learning networks will be invaluable to them throughout their lives.
How else do you feel building a personal learning network can help students?