Benefits of a PLN

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This summer, as you may know if you have read my earlier blog entries, I have been exploring the use of digital media. This has lead to my building and continuing to build a PLN. The catalyst for my PLN journey was the Short Course which I participated in early in July at UBC.

What is a PLN? It is a Personalized Learning Network.

It is Personalized because you choose what you want to learn about, how you want to learn, when, where and with whom. For me this has meant connecting with teachers, administrators, professors and leaders from around the world. People participate in discussions about what is going on in their country, city, classroom, lives. They share expertise and post comments or links to educational articles and videos. This network of people is available at any time throughout the day, every day and you decide when and if you wish to participate. Sometimes you may wish to simply read comments, other times you may wish to join in, either way, its your personal decision.

The Learning involves sharing ideas, resources and stories through the use of various media. This may involve platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, blogging, TedTalks, Webinars…the list goes on and on. Regardless of the tools chosen, the key to the learning is collaboration.

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The Network is the global community of people that are available to share their diverse perspectives. Different time zones can pose a challenge at times but the effort to establish connections is well worth it.  In George Siemens’ article on Connectivism, he cites :

We derive our competence from forming connections. Karen Stephenson states: “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”

I have been in education for over 20 years and I have attended my fair share of Professional Development seminars and workshops. Some have been very helpful but many have left me feeling that my time could have been better spent. The most valuable lessons I have ever learned about education and leadership have come from listening to colleagues talk about what has worked and what hasn’t worked for them. Building a PLN has enabled me to blow this concept wide open. I now have access to resources, links, websites, videos… through colleagues that I interact with from around the world.

The platforms that I have been focused on is Twitter. I enjoy the social element and the opportunity to participate in live chats with people who are eager to share ideas and are looking to grow within their profession. I understand that some people may view this as too much of a time commitment in their busy lives. Some people do not like the idea of joining a social network such as Twitter and putting their words out there for the world to see. Some people will dismiss the idea of building a PLN altogether and perhaps call me a nerd. But, to these people I say, give it a try. Sure, building a PLN is not a one time thing, its a mindset. It does take a time commitment, it does take courage to put your words out there for potential criticism, it does take the willingness to learn new skills, but isn’t that what we ask of our students all the time? Shouldn’t we be willing to take risks and by doing so, encourage others to do the same?

If you want to know how to go about building a PLN there are many sites which will help you to start and see the process through. For myself, I gradually became an active member of the Twitter community. I started out by simply reading Tweets and following people that seemed to share my interests: education, professional development, didactics, pedagogy and leadership. This led to retweeting, writing my own tweets, designing my own twitter posts using apps such as Canva, participating in live chats, reading blogs and writing a blog of my own. 

I have learned so much through the experience, personally and professionally, and along the way have developed so many skills in digital literacy. I encourage those of you who want to take part in a positive learning culture and benefit both yourself and others along the way, to give it a try. The sharing of struggles and successes is an empowering experience.

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