A Personal Learning Network (PLN) has always been an integral part of the educational community. The traditional “teachers lounge” served as a collaborative, albeit informal, meeting place for the exchange of ideas and information. The proliferation of virtual meeting spaces allows the collaborative brainstorming to transcend the physical geographic boundaries of the bricks and mortar buildings in which the face-to-face interactions occur. Even within the same physical space, schedule differences often precludes the ability to brainstorm with other educators. Add to that the demands of after hours responsibilities and collaborative exchange becomes more difficult.
Welcome to the 21C. No doubt the most effective means of collaboration and professional growth does necessitate the P2P, F2F interactions. Nothing energizes me quite like brainstorming with kindred spirits within my bricks and mortar building. What does occur before the P2P, F2F interactions are the integral piece to my growth as an educator. The plethora of virtual PD opportunities available 24/7 enables me to continuously be exposed to new ideas and information from across the globe. In a global knowledge based economy, the ability to interact with educators from other geographic areas whether across the state or across the globe enables me to have a broader perspective of the educational institution.
Steps to en effective PLN:
1. Find kindred spirits within your building
These are those colleagues who energize you, the ones that put that lift in your step and that excitement about your profession.
2. Subscribe to a listserv
Yes, these have been around for decades, but I do not view them as archaic and outdated. Some of my best ideas and resources come across my listservs (thanks SCASL!!).
3. Search for and subscribe to blogs from educators within your fields of interest. In my opinion, EVERY educator should be avidly developing a repertoire of information in the field of educational technology. These are those “experts” who profoundly impact your educational philosophy and change the way you think and teach. Some of mine:
4. Develop “professional” social networking resources
I have “dedicated” PROFESSIONAL social networking sources which include:
My SNR allow an exchange of ideas as opposed to absorption of ideas and many of these interactions direct me to other sources of PD and growth.
5. Participate in webinars and online conferences.
Honestly probably the BEST way to expose yourself to new ideas and information as well as a means of affirming what you are already doing. The beauty of webinars is the flexibility. As a single mom, I love being able to be at home with my teenagers and participate in PD simultaneously. Plus, webinars are archived for future access and reference.
Some of the best conferences I have ever attended are Educon. . The first I attended (F2F) was in 2008. . While circumstances have precluded my physical presence in the subsequent years of 2009, 2010, 2011 and the upcoming 2012 , I have been able to attend virtually. Incredible conversations and interactions amongst both virtual and physical participants every year!
Professional development and growth is no longer cost prohibitive. While I am not maligning the importance of the p2p and f2f interactions, it is not necessary to physically attend conferences and seminars in order to develop as a professional.
At the end of the day, (in my AAR), when I evaluate my effectiveness, I am always struck by how necessary my PLN is to me throughout all of my activities. Educators have always developed professionally by first learning from mentors and peers. Digital technologies allow our PLN to transcend traditional geographic and time constraints so that interactions may occur both synchronously and asynchronously. The immediacy in which information, advice and support is available affords educators opportunities to participate in a multitude of personal learning networks heretofore unavailable.
So I pose the question to myself and others…are we learning and growing? We need to move ahead and lead or move aside to let others lead….
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