Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Developing Mentors from Your Personal Learning Network

I recently commented on The Brazen Careerist post entitled How I got my current favorite mentor. Many readers wrote to ask how they could go about getting mentors along with questions about how to ask someone to be your mentor. This made me reflect on who my favorite mentors were, further question the actual meaning of mentor, and wonder about the relationship between personal learning networks and mentors. I realized that my fav five mentors had never been formally named as such and I had not told any of them the role they played in my life. Instead the relationship developed organically through their role in my personal learning network.

A personal learning network (pln) can be defined as a collection of people and resources that guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions, and give you the benefit of their own knowledge and experience. In the 21st Century there are many tools to help these networks along including websites, social networks, rss feeds, and podcasts that allow you to have advice and guidance from your personal learning network mentors delivered right to you.

Even though I had not formally defined these people as my mentors, I realized that at any given moment they were with me in my daily life as my advisory committee who guides my actions, reactions, decisions and writing. Here is a peak into my PLN mentors (listed alphabetically), how they mentor me and what I hear them saying to me that influences my work.

My Top Five Personal Learning Network Mentors

Alan November

What I hear him saying: How are we helping students develop skills that will enable them to succeed in a global society?
How he mentors me: Through reading his book, articles, attending his workshops, great conversations, and email communication.

Lucy Calkins

What I hear her saying: It is important to develop purposes for authentic writing/reading and model this in our own practice. It is important for teachers and students to know they are experts and help them find their motivation to read and write for authentic reasons. How are we publishing and celebrating our work?
How she mentors me: Through reading her books, attending workshops, and lively emails that push my thinking.


What I hear him saying: IMMERSE yourself in a topic and spend TIME growing to see multiple perspectives on a topic. Whenever ANYONE makes a public statement they are claiming some expertise in the matter they are talking about. I learned this in Bible college -- every time a preacher gets up there is a degree of arrogance, a degree of conviction, and a subtheme that includes proclaiming to be an authority in the area.

How he mentors me: Through reading his blog, Technology and Learning column, tweets, heated conversations and debates in person and via email.

The Brazen Careerist

What I hear her saying: What's your point? Who's your audience? How will you get them to hear you?

How she mentors me: Through reading her blog, books, and tweets, emailing, texting, and talking.

Will Richardson

What I hear him saying: What is your digital footprint? Who do you want the world to know you are?

How he mentors me: Through reading his blog, book, and tweets, hearing his keynotes, email communication about thoughts and advice.

As I write this I wonder who considers me one of their personal learning network mentors? Do any of my mentors reciprocally consider me their mentor? How have personal learning networks impacted others? Coincidently, as I was writing this I received an email from one of my PLN members with a link that readers can visit to see the impact of PLNs on other innovative educators.

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