Education in 2015 looks a lot different than it did even just five years ago. Today, schools are implementing blended learning into their school’s learning infrastructure, with more districts going 1:1 for students and devices. With this change comes the challenge for educators to find new ways to engage their students with so many distractions available to them; social media, streaming video services, tablets and smart phones, etc.
A frequent question I hear from educators that I associate with is how can they adapt to this change in education with limited professional development opportunities? The answer is as simple as taking out your smart phone or tablet, or opening your laptop and taking to your personal learning network (PLN).
A personal learning network is the combination of all the communities you follow and the contacts you associate within those platforms, with its origins stemming from George Siemens’ connectivism theory, which focuses on social context and altering foundations. The Personal Learning Network group on Pinterest provides several resources for educators on various topics. Teachers can take to social media and search for specific answers to questions they might have, or Tweet out a particular question and most likely get instant feedback from their followers. The Internet serves as our best resource for searching and sifting through content. Teachers can connect with other teachers all around the world within seconds, fostering a global collaborative working environment for educators.
Dr. Mark Wagner discusses in his article, Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips, that Educators should not only connect with others, but also contribute to their PLNs by posting information for others to see. We do this now in our IT&DML classes through blogging and sharing our blog within our Google+ community. If the information is valuable to you, then chances are it might be valuable to someone else. He also explains that educators should converse with the people they connect with on the web and request information through your network rather than searching online, fostering positive relationships that could end up in faster results when seeking help on the web in the future.
In his video on Personal Learning Networks, Will Richardson talks about how teachers need to show students how to effectively search for information using the PLNs that they already have. If teachers create a Google+ community for their class, students can have a forum for communication with their classmates. This can be very helpful, especially if students have questions on assignments or particular topics from class. Students can post their question in the designated space within the community and get feedback from their peers, which is personal learning networking at its best.
This year I will make it an objective of mine to show students how to take full advantage of their personal learning networks, becoming solid contributors in our global network as they continue to develop their digital identity. Please check out my own personal learning network below. I created this mindmap using popplet, a free mindmapping tool for learning. You can click here or on the image for a full size view of the image.