Today’s Savvy Teachers are Putting the “Learn” in Personal Learning Networks.
It should be clear to any educator, or any career-minded individual in any field for that matter, that professional development is invaluable to job advancement. Whether you're looking to sharpen and deepen the skill set needed for your existing position, or expand your professional horizons, there's scarcely a better way to do it than meeting new people in your field and participating in an open exchange of ideas.
Fortunately for all of us, there's an informal, inexpensive way to gain knowledge and career connections that has evolved tremendously in the present century. The Internet Web has made it possible to expand your “Personal Learning Network” across the globe via your fingertips!
What is a Personal Learning Network?
In brief, your personal learning network (PLN) is composed of everyone you know who can provide insight, analysis, new ideas or fresh approaches to the challenges of your profession. The primary members of this group are often your co-workers, mentors, fellow students in continuing education settings and other close-at-hand sources, but in the Internet age, this has extended far beyond its prior reach.
To kick your personal learning network into gear, all you really have to do is listen to conversations going on (be they digital or or direct, face-to-face, or second hand). Of course, you can (and should) reach out, ask questions, and participate in those conversations, to get the most from your PLN. As you do so, you will refine your technique for working with your network and become more efficient in your professional development.
Growing Your Circle
We've seen some surprising applications of social media in the classroom over the last couple of years, and students aren't the only ones that can use it to their advantage. Through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and the other players in the social networking arena, your personal learning network can grow by leaps and bounds.
Read an insightful blog post? Follow the writer on Twitter. Maybe reach out and ask them to clear up a question raised by their post, or just thank them for the stimulating content.
Seen a mind-blowing lecture or recorded presentation on YouTube? A quick Google search could turn up more information about the presenter, where you can follow them for more great content, and you could even attempt to connect with them digitally.
Of course, if you have the time and money, don't neglect the old-fashioned method of network building. In addition to your own school and friends and acquaintances, there are plenty of potential contacts to be found at education related conferences and other gatherings of like-minded professionals.
Best of all…
…you've already begun! Odds are pretty good that you're one of the hundreds of thousands of educators who have been developing their careers through personal learning networks for years already without knowing just what to call it. If that's the case, you are ahead of the curve. Others who are just starting out on their own journey of personal learning will really benefit from your experience and expertise.
Even if you haven't been actively learning at work or online for years, the fact remains that the beginnings of your PLN are already in place. Family, friends, co-workers, teachers, fellow students, bloggers, lecturers, mentors, your heroes and other figures who inspire you are already out there, inhabiting the world of information.
Remember, a life full of opportunities for the sort of meaningful career development that can help further your professional life is a journey, not a destination, and every great journey starts with a single step. If you're looking for positive change in your career, your personal learning network awaits.