Why building a personal learning network is important
Lately I have been thinking a lot about personal learning networks and why they are important. Since writing a book with my class I have actively used my own personal network to promote the book and get attention. It has been great to have a vast and diverse list of educators as my Twitter and Facebook contacts. That has helped me and my students in the process of writing and then promoting the book after it was written and published online.
A personal learning network is just like the network of teachers you work with at your school every day. If you are a student, it is the other students in your class. Every day you meet up for work or school, and most days someone will help you in your learning. You could say that in a traditional school, the colleague sitting next to you is the one you ask for help or the student sitting next to you is the one you work with. With social media the picture changes. Now you can ask almost anyone regardless of where they are. I assume students do this when they are doing homework. When they hit an obstacle, they ask a classmate or friend. They do this on Skype, one to one, or on Facebook, one to many. It is the one to many model that really is the personal learning network we want. If I’m planning a lesson at home and need help, I could call or email a colleague or someone I know. That might work but it is not likely something you would do. When you are at work, you can share material and teachers are usually great at sharing lesson plans and ideas. The personal learning network online is taking this sharing up a notch. It is being able to dip into this vast universe of experts in every imaginable field. It is being able to listen to conversations and use only what you think will work in your class. For students it is just as important. It is expanding their horizons getting different viewpoints on difficult issues. Being able to see what others are talking about. When there is a conflict somewhere, why not follow what people are talking about in the country where it takes place. You can listen to the radio online, yes, but why not talk with someone there? There are so many possibilities for both teachers and students today. Together we should be able to open the world. Thirty are smarter than one. In addition, imagine being able to ask thousands of experts when you need to!
Follow others as they follow you
I’m letting you in on a secret here: some educators you follow will never follow you back. I’m not sure why but some have a policy of only following 100 people. That means they most likely will never get many new ideas. That is my theory anyway. Of course they are most likely following lists popular hashtags. That is a way to get many great ideas from people you do not know. Many times you find an interesting conversation and try to join, but get no answers. Don’t give up, they will discover you eventually. And if not, their loss! It seems to me that finding smart educators to follow, listening to the conversations and contributing with writing on your blog and sharing links is a great start.To really get to know people you have to join workshops and seminars and actually meet the people. Mingle and connecting at international conferences really pays off. But you have to be brave and speak to strangers! If you go with a colleague from your school and stick to yourselves you will not broaden your network nor meet new people! I’m guessing this is a problem for Norwegians not so much for Americans! Probably why I love to attend ISTE and look forward to going there next week! Talk soon!
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