The digital age has made the development of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) easier than ever before. The PLN is a network created by an individual learner, specific to the learner’s needs extending relevant learning connections to those around the globe who share interests, passions, and talents. PLNs provide individuals with an unprecedented ability to access and connect with leaders and experts around the world bringing together communities, resources and information impossible to access solely from within school walls. Personal learning networks can be comprised of people you know via face-to-face (f2f) and virtual connections. In the best of all worlds they are people you connect with in both ways.
Personal Learning Networks can be described as 1.0 and 2.0. In the 1.0 stage participants are mainly consumers of information. In the 2.0 stage participants are actually producing/creating information.
Most who are just beginning to build personal learning networks may start by engaging in 1.0 activities. As they begin to get a lay of the land and feel comfortable they may be ready to dip their toes into some 2.0 activities. To follow are ideas to get started.
Five ways to build your personal learning network
1-Face to Face
Although most educators are familiar with face-to-face options, even the most traditional of connection building can be difficult to create and maintain. Some ideas for doing so though include place-based connections with those in your school and district. Here are two ideas for developing such connections.
- 1.0 - Find Classroom Teachers With Whom You Can Connect
One terrific way to build your personal learning network is to find out if there are other teachers in your school and district doing innovative work with which you connect. The hard part, is knowing who is doing what. Here in New York, I’ve developed a site called Innovate My Class. Any school can use this site to showcase the innovative work of classroom teachers who have integrated various tech tools into instruction. Teachers can visit this site to share what they’re doing and learn who is doing similar work within their school or district. This makes it much easier to connect with those interested in engaging learners in similar ways with similar tools.
- 2.0 - Publish the work that is taking place is your classroom
Teachers around the globe have great things going on in their classroom, but in most cases do not share what they are doing beyond their classroom or school community. In the 21st century teachers can share the great work they are doing in their classrooms with sites like Innovate My Class, on blogs, via Twitter, Facebook, and more. Build your personal learning network by sharing what you’re doing and connecting with others who are doing (or interested in doing) the same.
- 1.0 Discover What Other Schools Are Doing
Visiting other schools is another great way to make f2f connections. I developed a site called Innovation Field Trips which enables schools engaged in innovative work to share with other schools when they are hosting open houses. Visiting and connecting with educators at other schools who are pursuing similar work can result in powerful learning. Following the field trips schools post reflections that include narratives, photos, and video that capture what they learned in relation to their selected problem of practice.
- 2.0 - Host an Innovation Field Trip / Open House
An innovation field trip is both a great way for host schools to get better at incorporating innovative practices into their work and for visitors to learn about innovative practices. Use this School Innovation Field Trip Quick Guide if you are interested in hosting one at your school site.
When you want to extend your f2f beyond your personal learning time, here are some additional ideas.
- 1.0 Check out some learning networks
Learning networks provide a terrific way to begin instantly learning about topics of interest. Recommendations:
- 2.0 Participate in a learning network
Once you’ve had some time to look around (also known as lurking), go ahead and respond to or start your own discussion. Learning networks are a great tool to communicate with other innovative educators and leaders.
- Read more:
Classroom 2.0 Blog
- Watch more:
- Classroom 2.0 (for educators using Web 2.0 technology)
- Transforming Ed for The 21st Century
- 1.0 - Read Blogs
Pick 5 Blogs you find interesting and start reading them.
- weblogg-ed: learning with the read/write web
- A Principal's Reflections
- Practical Theory
- The Innovative Educator
- Cool Cat Teacher
- 1.0 Subscribe to Your Blogs
Subscribe to the blogs you selected inGoogle Reader. Caution: Limit your reader to five to start. Keeping up with more blogs will be difficult.
Watch: Google Reader in Plain English
- 2.0 Start Commenting
Become a part of the conversation and start commenting on the blogs you read. You’ll be amazed but how well participating in the read/write web helps your professional growth.
- Read more:
Want to help a principal start a blog? These principals can show how.
- Watch more:
- 1.0 - Read Tweets of Edubloggers
Select 5 well-known Edubloggers to follow and watch all the great stuff they have to share. You'll find out a lot of information that fits into 140 character sound bytes.
- willrich45 / Will Richardson
- coolcatteacher / Vicki Davis
- stevehargadon / Steve Hargadon
- InnovativeEdu / Lisa Nielsen
- penelopetrunk/ Penelope Trunk
- 1.0 - Read Tweets of Search Terms
Pick a topic you’re interested in and do a Twitter search for that term. See who is Tweeting about these topics and follow those who have Tweets you find meaningful.
- 2.0 - Reply to Tweets
Set up an account on Twitter so you can reply to some of those who are Tweeting about topics of interest.
- Read more:
5 Real Examples of Using Twitter for Education
Twitter - It's All About the Conversation
- Watch more:
- 1.0 Join Facebook
Friend colleagues and experts who effectively use Facebook as an educational tool. See what they write. Read and learn.
- 2.0 Interact with Facebook
Update your status. Comment on an update of your of your friends. Use the “@” symbol to tag a friend(s) who you think might be interested in an update. This might be an interesting article you’ve read or something about which you’d like their opinion.
- Read More:
- Watch More:
- 8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening’s First Grade Class
- The Innovative Educator in the New York Times - Friending Students on Facebook
- A Principal's Reflections: Banning is the Easy Way Out
If you’d like to begin building your personal learning pick one or two of these ideas and get started building your learning network. Join a social network, subscribe to blogs, comment and Tweet. If you do, you’ll not only learn a lot, but you will contribute to the learning of others as well.
Cross posted at The Innovative Educator, International Edublogger, International EduTwitter, and Google Certified Teacher. Lisa Nielsen is perhaps best known as creator of The Innovative Educator blog. An outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education, Ms. Nielsen is covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.