There’s a lot made about the Personal Learning Network (PLN) these days. I know it isn’t a new idea. For years teachers who wish it, have taken personal time and initiative to connect, learn and expand their professional skills. In some schools this is easier than others to do. Many of us work in schools that do not give a lot of personal learning time – and instead favour group Pro-D. Others have the freedom to spend much more time on personally designed pursuits.
Enter Twitter and suddenly, regardless of your school’s focus, the ability to connect and learn on your desktop. Twitter has proven to be revolutionary for many of us -and we enthusiastically search out people, and links to others, that add to our professional lives.
However a PLN doesn’t end with following people on Twitter. I would argue it’s not how you construct it but if, and how, you use it. To me the most important part of the PLN isn’t the Network or the Personal at all. It’s the Learning that is key. And it cannot stop there. To really have a PLN that counts, I believe, you have to be an ‘Active’ Learner. This isn’t about tweets or retweets at all. What do I mean by “Active Learning”?.
Trying Something New You Got From Your PLN: It may be taking something that is shared with you, using it, testing it, maybe even adapting it and then, and this is the most important part, offering up your view/experience with it to the Twitterverse. Would you consider that someone had mastered a skill if they never had to demonstrate that they could use it?
Attending a Hashtag Chat: I admit that some of these chats are so big that the ability to put in ideas, and even see what’s going on is difficult. But there are so many out there that finding one that fits for you is possible – and many lists of them exist if you search for them. For me #langchat, (Foreign Language teachers) on Thursday is the one. It’s an easy first step to lurk at these chats but to be actively participating, even if it’s just tweeting your presence, is activity- and maybe the first step to joining in.
Check In On a Regular Basis : Active also means that you make a concerted effort to check in on your PLN on a regular basis. I find it ironic that so many educators moan about no time to learn but, when it is as easy as following a list on a subject, seem overwhelmed at ‘how much time’ they may need to invest. Yes it takes time, any learning does if it is to be meaningful.
Many teachers are the first to say that they want to expand their skills and try new things. Creating a PLN using Twitter is a good first step…then making it an ALN is the next…isn’t it?