In response to a recent blog post that I wrote about Twitter as a tool for learning, Pauline—a college student following my blog as a part of a class project—wrote:
I'm still working on my PLN, but I'm failing to see the importance of it. I think that most of the time when people have questions, they just research and read blogs and websites and so forth when the question arises.
I could be wrong, of course. I know that's how I think. I'm following a few people on twitter for my EDM class, but again, I'm failing to see why it's so important. Maybe you can explain it better?
Good questions, Pauline—and for many people who are new to building a PLN, their benefits might seem sketchy at best simply because we've become so comfortable with our current learning practices and processes.
I can tell you, though, that my own digital learning network has changed the way that I work. In fact, rarely a day goes by that I don't learn something—a teaching technique, how to use a new tool, what's happening in the world of education beyond my own building—-from the people that I join together with online.
Let me point you to a few posts that I've written that might convince you to invest a bit more time into your PLN building efforts:
Twitter as a Tool for Professional Development
In this post, I give several practical reasons why I've decided to use Twitter to build a PLN. It's a great post if you're interested in an overview of why digital forums can be sources for real learning for teachers.
Lathered Brilliance, Superman Underoos and Social Media Spaces
In this post from my blog—which started with a few thoughts in the shower—I give a tangible example of how my own personal learning network made my life easier by pointing me immediately to thoughts and resources that I needed. It's connected to the idea that environments that build walls stifle innovation. PLNs are the ultimate wall-busters.
Why Teachers Should Try Twitter
In this article for Educational Leadership magazine, I work to explain how Twitter has served as a tool for customizing my professional development—tailoring it to meet my own professional needs—-which is something that rarely happens in the typical school setting. I also introduce some of the nuts and bolts details behind how to go about building your PLN.
Technology Facilitates Connections
As I explain in this post, I believe that all true learning depends on connections between individuals. I push your thinking. You push mine. We both learn together. Those are skills that are enabled when one builds a PLN using digital tools because we can make our thinking transparent to more people, more often. What really drives me is a desire to start teaching my own students to use digital tools in the same way.
Twitter Hashtags for Educators
One of the reasons that I think many people underestimate Twitter is because they haven't figured out how to use hashtags to search for content that might be valuable to them. Even if you aren't actively networking in Twitter, you can still quickly find content connected to your work by searching through the links that I share in this post and in this post.
Does any of this make sense to you? I think if I had to summarize the importance of building a PLN, I"d say something like, "PLNs help teachers to refine their core beliefs, to test their newest hunches, to find likeminded peers, and to efficiently access a constant stream of valuable resources."
Radical readers, do you have any additional thoughts for Pauline? Why is your PLN important to you? What steps or strategies should someone interested in building a PLN take first? What other resources on PLNs can you share with her?
Let's fill up the comment section with a collection of our best thinking on the role that PLNs can play in the learning of today's teacher.