Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How’s Your PLN?

It’s spring break and I’ve been spending some time reading, fiddling with my new iPod Touch, relaxing and hanging around with friends and family. I can’t remember the last time I had hours on end to do what I wanted, educationally related or not.

We’re pretty fortunate in this day and age to have so much information at our disposal, all of which started me thinking about how I am developing professionally as a teacher. Learning looks very different to me now than it did several years ago. For instance, just yesterday I spent an hour with Don Tapscot, the author of Growing Up Digital. A free hour mind you, no fee attached. I happened upon a webinar sponsored by Discovery Learning through a social network called Twitter. I’m learning and staying abreast of all sorts of educationally related issues via my new “friends” who happen to live all over the world. I’m instantly connected with many well-known and respected individuals who have a wealth of information to offer in all fields of education.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) have been around for a while. Now, thanks to the development of Web 2.0 technologies, they have become stronger and more relevant. The trouble as I see them, is that so many organizations haven’t figured out they exist. Despite emphasizing a 21st Century approach, their models of growth feature 20th Century Learning. Sure they have jumped on the bandwagon (and a good bandwagon it is) of online learning, but most have ignored the mounds of information social learning networks like Twitter and Diigo offer, in addition to the interesting and rich insight blogging provides.

It would be great for educators to receive credit and recognition for the countless hours spent reading, listening, and implementing what other educators and experts have to say about Pedagogy, Technology, Science Education, and 21st Century Teaching. The resources providing free professional development are immense if educators are aware of them.

So exactly what does my Personal Learning Network (PLN) look like? Here’s a sample of how I spend the first half hour of every morning learning before I go to work:
  1. Check my email.
  2. Check in with Twitter and Classroom 2.0 to see what people are saying, blogging, what websites are being referenced, or what webinars may be available later in the day.
  3. Visit interesting bookmarks shared through the Diigo groups I belong.
  4. I’ll check into Facebook to see what friends and relatives, some personal some professional, are up to this day.
  5. I’ll check my school and student email. (Students use a unique email to access me.)
  6. I’ll check my blog to see if I need to respond to anyone or perhaps I’ll add a new post.
  7. I’ll review the new posts of the many blogs I follow.
  8. Whatever new comes my way that day, I’ll click and check it out.
All this before I even leave the house. Of course, I follow up at work when and where I am able. My expanded PLN is fairly new. I can’t imagine what this list will look like in a few months.

If you're interested in developing your own PLN, check out this blog page by Lisa Nielsen, author of The Innovator Educator. She does a nice job of summing up PLN's. She includes a great video by Will Richardson that will easily get you on your way.


  1. I am loving the book "Growing up Digital" I think we need to do a book study on it. It is great. I think our school needs to get serious about PLC's. How can we get more people on board?

  2. I'd add, for blog ownwers, looking on Technorati to see who's linked to you, and then commenting on their blog :))) Thanks for sharing some insights on personal learning networks. I plan to share via a link on my PLN blog post.

  3. This is probably due to the fear of taking risks and experimenting in the classroom.

    professional development for educators

  4. Interesting article! Thank you for sharing them! I hope you will continue to have similar posts to share with everyone and makes e-learning education a fun