Sunday, October 12, 2008

5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network

Many educators in successful schools are involved in their school's professional learning community and perhaps they even collaborate with other schools in the district, city, state, country or beyond, but Innovative Educators also have personal learning networks (PLNs) enabling them to connect with other learners around the globe. If you're new to this world, personal learning networks are created by an individual learner, specific to the learner’s needs extending relevant learning connections to like-interested people around the globe. PLNs provide individuals with learning and access to leaders and experts around the world bringing together communities, resources and information impossible to access solely from within school walls.

This 3:45 second clip from Will Richardson provides great insight into the importance of developing your PLN.

Personal Learning Networks are a terrific way to extend your knowledge and learning outside your classroom. I recommend Innovative Educators new to PLNs begin as a PLN consumer (1.0 skills) and grow into PLN producers (2.0 skills). Here is some advice to get started.

5 Ways to Begin Building Your Personal Learning Network 1.0
1-Join a professional social network. I belong to Classroom 2.0 (for educators using Web 2.0 technology) and EduBlogger World (for education bloggers) and I launched a social network called Transforming Ed for The 21st Century. I have found great value in each of them. I am also a member of Linked In but haven't found much value in that as an educator.

2-Pick 5 Blogs you find interesting and start reading them. In addition to my own blog, I follow weblogg-ed: learning with the read/write web, A Principal's Reflections, Practical Theory, The Brazen Careerist, Cool Cat Teacher, Ted Talks. You may want to look at some of these as well as find other Education Blogs or explore the listing of International Edubloggers.

3-Set up an iGoogle account and subscribe to the blogs you selected in Google Reader. Caution: Limit your reader to five to start. Keeping up with more blogs will be difficult.

4-Become a part of the conversation and start commenting on the blogs you read. I invite you to begin here! (If you're following closely you may note this is actually PLN 2.0 tip thrown in for those who are ready for a head start, and because I'd really love to get to know my readers through comments here).

5-Join the microblogging phenomena by reading Tweets at Twitter. Start by selecting 5 well-known Edubloggers to follow and watch all the great stuff they have to share. You'll learn a lot in minutes that fit into 140 character sound bytes. I'd recommend starting with willrich45 / Will Richardson, coolcatteacher / Vicki Davis, stevehargadon / Steve Hargadon, acarvin / Andy Carvin, penelopetrunk / Penelope Trunk, and because you can, why not follow BarackObama / Barack Obama. Just get ready because once people start following you, you may feel compelled to start engaging in exciting activities worth posting…in 140 characters or less.

So get to it and start building your learning network. Join a social network, subscribe to blogs, comment and Tweet. If you do, I promise you will learn a lot. Once you do, I encourage you to come back here and share your experience by leaving a comment.
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Additional Reading (suggestions from the Philly Teacher blog)
'Creating a PLN' Wikispace
What is a PLN, Anyway? from Teaching Village (Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto)
How to Build a Personal Learning Network from Free Technology for Teachers (Richard Byrne)
Oh, the Adventures You'll Have if Only... from Teacher Reboot Camp (Shelly Terrell)
How to Become a Twitter Teacher in 23 Steps or less by Kapil Bhatia
Why You Should Start Tweeting by Jason Renshaw
How’s Your PLN? from the Ramblings of a Professional Learning Community blog.
Your PLN - A website designed to introduce the idea of what a PLN is and what it can bring to your professional life as an educator.

Tool for further investigation
Questler is an informal learning network with a focus on individuals' experiences and conversations as the information content from which personal and collective connections are created based on shared interests within diverse contexts. Each quest in Questler is a mini-blog, where text, links and multi-media files can be put around several types of an informal learning experience be it a query, a discovery, an observation, research, a story or media. Questlers can create their learning network from individuals they already know; as well as find others who share their same interests. Together they can use Questler's toolset to start conversations about various topics and thus engage in knowledge sharing.
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