A Personal Learning Network (commonly referred to as a PLN) is one of the most popular ways for modern teachers to reach out and get connected to other educators, whether this means keeping in touch with colleagues and friends or making new connections with other talented teachers across the globe. The very best PLNs facilitate wonderful information sharing, learning opportunities and gateways to collaboration between classrooms. Read our recipe for the perfect PLN and start cooking yours up today!
- A large handful of existing colleagues
Adding your school colleagues and other teachers you know from training or conferences is a great way to get your PLN off to a flying start. By populating it initially with people you already know well, information sharing will be easy and rapid, allowing your PLN to grow and flourish quickly and you will then benefit from all the great educational contacts those colleagues have to offer.
- Two scoops of unknown educators
Though it’s great to connect with teachers you already know and work with, there would be little point to a PLN if it didn’t include connections to new educators across the world, from whom you will be able to learn fantastic new resources, ideas, classroom techniques and more. Don’t be afraid to use the internet to find great new additions to your PLN – Twitter is a great place to start, as is the Educator’s PLN, a great place to meet like-minded contacts looking to connect.
- A generous splash of information
Remember that the whole point of a PLN is to ensure that everybody gets something valuable out of it. If you start off by offering up some great articles, lesson plans or resources of your own to share, you will be likely to attract some great educators to your PLN, by showing that you have information to give and are ready to collaborate, not just looking to take from the experience and learn from everybody else’s ideas!
- A sprinkling of variation
PLNs work best when the information shared is fast, free and fun. Constant exchanges of long, dry articles expounding the hypothetical merits of various philosophies of education might bring things to a grinding halt! That’s not to say for a moment that philosophical debate isn’t a fantastic ingredient for your PLN, but try to keep things varied, exchanging shorter links, longer articles, resources, websites and other different media to keep your PLN fresh and engaging for other educators.
- A pinch of community
It is crucial to remember that a PLN is a community first and foremost – not a domain for you to govern! Make sure everybody is as involved as possible and encourage others to have an active input into the direction in which your PLN develops. Remember, the more they feel involved in your PLN, the more they will invest in it! Organising weekly events like web chats, and asking other educators to guest-host with ideas and topics is a great way to get everybody in on the action!
1. Take a large mixing bowl…
As with any recipe, you need a sturdy, clean receptacle to mix all your ingredients together. In the case of a PLN, this takes the form of a solid platform to give you the tools you need to connect with other educators. Ning is a fantastic place to start, but LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook are also popular options.
2. Taste some similar recipes others have made already
Before you actually mix your ingredients, you may wish to take a look at some fantastic existing global learning networks like Classroom 2.0 or the Discovery Educator Network. All the best recipes grow out of tasting other people’s versions and deciding what you want to add more of, what you want to leave out and which special ingredients of your own you want to bring to the flavour!
3. Combine all the ingredients and stir thoroughly!
Adding new educators to your PLN is easy, with Twitter providing a particularly efficient way to source new contacts. Use the search bar and hash tags to find educators who are interested in the same specific areas of technology and information sharing that you are, or to reach out to those with expertise you’d be interested in tapping into. And I’m not kidding about the stirring! The more of an impact your new PLN makes the better the connections you will be able to form. Don’t be afraid to create a stir by putting out a statement about your new PLN (tweeting about it, for example) and inviting new colleagues to introduce themselves – you’ll be surprised how many other educators are out there just waiting to jump in!
4. Season to taste
After the first few weeks, take stock of what’s happening with your PLN, what kind of information and resources are being shared and what kind of people you have enlisted. Do you need to add a few more edtech wizards? Are you a little short on K12 experts? The greatest thing about a PLN is that it is always growing and changing – it’s never too late to add a sprinkling more of something here or a pinch of that there.
What are your key ingredients for a fantastic PLN? Let us know using the comments box below.
Image courtesy of Flickr, visualpanic