Establishing Your Personal Learning Network

February 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Personal Learning Network?  What in the world is that? That is exactly what I said the first time I saw this term or PLN. As I began a research project for a class I was taking, I began to see research articles mentioning this new term. All of these educated people with Doctoral Degrees and years of experience in the field were telling their readers to “Go Out and Build A PLN!”. 

Well my normal curiosity triggered me to get side tracked from my current research and go out and find out what exactly these three letters stood for in the education community. All I knew at this time was that it was some type of learning system. I was wrong, it is much more.

Defining A Personal Learning Network

Personal Learning NetworkThe PLN is a network that you build that consists of individuals, groups, and websites that will contribute to your learning. This connection is made solely for the purpose of learning from that person or group. This is not saying you have to be friends with this person, but you will be an acquaintance of their’s and listen when they speak.  The goal is to make connections with as many people in your field that can contribute to your learning and advancement. Your field can be career, hobby, religious or research based. Basically any area in which you can benefit from learning more.

You should never stop learning. I should not have to say this since I am writing this on a site dedicated to help educators. A Personal Learning Network is the perfect format in which to continue learning about your area of interest. I am firm believer of learning from others. We can learn so much from peer tutoring, teamwork, mentoring, and collaboration. A PLN is a way to learn in all of these formats. Think about it… how much could you learn if you surrounded yourself with some of the smartest, most knowledgeable “gurus” in your field?

What a Personal Learning Network Offers

  • A new perspective
  • Mentor
  • Additional resources
  • Shared common practices in your field
  • Answers to common problems
  • Encouragement and motivation

Where To Find PLN Members?

It use to be that your Personal Learning Network included just the people you worked with or people you knew that worked in the same field as you and lived close enough allowing for you to meet together. Now that we are digital and social networking sites have exploded in recent years, we have an unlimited amount of sources to find awesome PLN members.

I will provide a detailed list of sites I use to build my personal learning network soon. To get you started, I suggest you start with Twitter.

Twitter is simply amazing in that it allows you to view how much a person is contributing to the field you are interested in learning more about. You can view their “tweets” and make a pretty good judgement call on whether they can contribute to your learning. Plus, if you choose the right people, you will get a constant stream related to your field of interest.  Keep in mind that the people you follow will often “retweet” other posts from people they follow allowing you to make new connections.

Another source to get you started is to simply follow Blogs that are related to your field. Subscribe to their RSS, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +. Get involved in their discussions by commenting on their articles. Add to their community and get your name out there too.

Who to include in your PLN?

This sounds like a simple question. Who should you include in your PLN? Well for most this is not really a problem. Some people often make the mistake to include friends in a similar or related field. Some are quick to add people in their network that bring little value. I’m not saying you can’t add friends, but I do want to emphasize is that you understand that your Facebook Friends are usually what we call experts in our fields.  You may have some very close friends that share the same careers, or you actually have friends that can contribute to your learning. But remember that we should separate our “friends on Facebook” and our Personal Learning Network.

When deciding who to add to your PLN, check do a little homework. Read up on this person by visiting their Blog, website, or online profile. Ask others in your field if they know this person. When researching or just reading on the Internet, notice author names and see if they can contribute to your learning.

Personal Learning Network Web-Properties

There are so many places to begin building your PLN.  I will provide  a detailed list here soon, but until then I urge you to search the web for information on your area of interest.  Here is a general listing or the type of web resource you can use to begin building your Personal Learning Network.

  • Social Network Sites
  • Wikis
  • RSS Feeds
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Blogs

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