This is the fourth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first three posts:
The idea of the personal learning network (henceforth to be referred to as a PLN) is not new. However, new tools make it so much easier to expand a PLN beyond what it has traditionally been comprised of.
There are at least 4 areas that comprise a personal learning network. The tools are less important than the ideas at this point. The first component is social networking. This is where every teacher becomes the teacher next door. You are able to post links to resources, share ideas, ask for help, and contribute what you know to a growing, global body of knowledge. Messages are generally brief and interaction is fast-paced. It is easy to do this between classes, during lunch, or whenever you have a moment that you want to post something or check what others have said.
The second component is social bookmarking. This involves finding great resources for yourself and making them available to others. This benefits you even if you never share anything because your bookmarks will be available to you from whatever computer you are on. When you do start sharing, you will be amazed at the resources that others find that you can use.
The third component is a deeper interaction that involves reflective reading and writing about our practice. Usually this is done by writing a blog, which is basically an online journal. You do not need to write a blog. The important idea is that you are reflecting somehow on what you are doing. Educators can look at and comment on each other’s reflections. Through this, all are encouraged and enlightened. No one can improve without serious thought about how they are currently teaching.
The fourth component is live event. Often these are in person conferences. They can be expensive or hard to get to, though. There are other means to take part in live events. There are numerous free conferences as well as free online conferences. The reason that these are important is because the interaction is so much more natural and organic. There is a spontaneity and realness to it that is sometimes lacking online. Lastly, meeting people helps to solidify the connections and relationships that you have started to form online.
There are several ways and tools that you can use to develop a personal learning network. There will be specific tools recommended and demonstrated in the upcoming posts. You are most welcome to try these as they are described, but feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.